Category Archives: Farm

Meet Chappie

So a few weeks after Bosco died, we decided to get another pup and become a two-dog family again. Actually, I was kind of pushing the idea, while Christi had understandable reservations since Boo, our remaining dog, still is only half-trained and semi-wild. But we pressed ahead and put a deposit on a male Catahoula from the same breeder who sold us Boo.

That pup was born in December, in a litter of six. Five were males, and we had first pick among the boys. Some consider the more well-known leopard-spot Catahoula coloring to be most desirable, however, we chose a black-and-tan pup with brindle trim. Catahoulas either are born with one merle gene, two merle genes or none at all. Those with no merle genes are mostly solid-colored, like ours.

chapsit1.jpg

We picked him because he appeared to be the largest in the litter, with an inquisitive disposition and kind of leader of the pack. I wanted Boo to have a larger companion to keep her safe at the farm. We’ve had coyotes in the side yard, and fresh signs of wild pigs, and our farm neighbors tell us there’s a pair of cougars living along a creek system a few miles away. So if Boo has a run-in with a critter bigger than she is, it’ll be good to have a buddy watching her back.

The kids wanted to name him Chappie – after an artificial intelligence-enhanced robot in the 2015 movie by the same name – and we were OK with that. We brought him home a week ago. He’s 9 weeks old, and I’ve been spending the better part of most days since then refereeing dog wrestling events and working using a dog crate as a housebreaking tool.

I wish I could augment his canine brain with enough AI to skip ahead past the potty training, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Nonetheless, we’re pretty happy with the little guy so far.

Also posted in Country Life, Critters

Water Feature

While most of the Texas Panhandle and much of the rest of north Texas still is struggling to cope with a severe drought that began in 2010, the Divine Universe has sent our part of the state so much water this spring that our personal and local drought has literally drowned.

Here at the One-Acre Ranch in Fort Bend County, my rain gauge registered an unbelievable 19.25 inches of rain over a recent span of eight thunderstorm-filled days. To put that into perspective, that is more than the average rainfall for Phoenix, Ariz., and Albuquerque, N.M., combined – for an entire year. It’s been crazy, and difficult to grasp the magnitude of our wet blessing knowing that simultaneously, across the country, California’s collective suffering is increasing, from yet another year of horribly dry weather.

As one might expect, a lot of water from the recent rainstorms here ran off into the Brazos River, which has been swollen for most of the month of April, along with the Colorado River to the west. But a significant amount of water also soaked down into the ground where we needed it most.

Coupled with a cooler-than-usual spring, the result is, among other things, tomato plants chest high, and weeds almost as big. Every tree, bush and plant is on full-tilt grow mode.

backyard.jpgbridge_flood.jpg

At the Polka Farm in Lavaca County, 90 miles west, we’d faced hotter, drier weather and more prolonged drought than Fort Bend, but that also has changed dramatically. On Sunday I traveled out, ironically to reprogram and activate my little irrigation system. I found that our usually dry stream, affectionately named Lost Bridge Creek, had been raging, and flooded its banks, pushing so many logs downstream that they clogged both ends of our steel-and-concrete bridge. Then the creek roared right over the top of the bridge.

At the other end of the property, the creek stacked more dead logs against the barb wire fence we share with a neighbor. The rushing water’s force snapped each wire. When I inspected the still-running “dry” creek a couple of days later, I found that the 30-foot fence section that had crossed the creek now was relocated and ran parallel to it, with the posts firmly stuck in place amongst the flood debris, and the wires strung tight, as if humans had installed it there.

While it’s wonderful to have the rain, I’m wary, as the destruction from the drought still kind of haunts me. I wish I could afford to put gutters on the farm structures and build a water catchment system of tanks to hold the run-off. Maybe I can’t afford not to.

In the meantime I’ll take what nature gives me and be super grateful for it.

feijoaflower.jpgfiggy.jpgmater.jpgpeaches.jpg

Also posted in Brazos River, Garden, Nature, Self-reliance

Glory Days

I ventured east along the mighty muddy Brazos River the other morning, hoping to capture images of a few buildings of historical note before those structures crumble.

Booth and Thompsons are two tiny communities tucked into a river bend so isolated that they appear to be suspended in Time. Both are named after the wealthy men who carved them out of the woods in the mid 1800s. Both rose to some prominence before the turn of the next century, only to see their respective populations nearly melt away today.

Freeman Irby Booth established a school in his town in 1912, taking its place alongside his other ventures, including cattle, sugar cane, a general store, hardware store and lumberyard. It was this Booth Public School I came for – a distinctive stucco Mission-style building long-abandoned and standing in decay in a field of weeds. I found it surrounded by barbed wire fencing decorated with numerous No Trespassing signs, and even signs along the tiny country road nearby warning that parking was not permitted. If you want to catch a glimpse of this piece of history, Booth denizens apparently prefer you do so from a moving vehicle.

Another village road a few hundred yards east led me to the Booth Trading Post, although it appeared trades and exchanges have not taken place in some number of years. Grass had begun growing on the store roof, yet the place gave off a comfortable feeling, and I would have liked to sip an iced tea from the porch had it not been so early in the morning and me with other stops to make.

The next one was supposed to be Thompsons, but first I found a former horse ranch whose glory days obviously had come to an end. A very large sign topped with a very large equine statue stood curiously bereft of letters, such that one was left to guess at the identity of the place.

I daydreamed of designing a faux ranch logo and applying it clandestinely upon this landmark signage, while driving the scant few miles to Thompsons, at the end of Richmond’s Thompsons Highway, a.k.a. FM 2759 (for those unaccustomed to Texas, the FM stands for farm-to-market road, which is what most country roads were most often used for back in the day). The photo gallery below includes the Booth School, the trading post, the anonymous horse ranch sign, and what once was the Thompsons General Mercantile – now abandoned but in pretty good repair. Just a short trip back to another era; in 15 minutes I was back in 2015.

Meanwhile, the height of the Texas bluebonnet season is nearly upon us and, while bluebonnets are rare here in Fort Bend County, you can travel 90 miles west to Lavaca County and view wildflowers such as most humans have only dreamed of. The last gallery shot is from the Polka Farm hayfield, taken just two days ago.

Happy Trails.

booth_school_bw.jpgbooth_trading_post.jpghorse_sign.jpgthompsons_general_mercantile.jpgbluebonnets_close.jpg

Also posted in Country Life, Photography, Texas

The Awakening

The clammy “cold” of what passes for winter here nonetheless gave us a little taste of cabin fever, as it rained and remained below 50 degrees for much of the first part of March, including most of the kids’ “spring” break.

Yet the heavy rain was just the blessing our portion of this drought-battered state needed to recharge the groundwater and bring the reservoir levels up. The Polka Farm rain gauge was overflowing at 6 inches when we showed up last week, normally dry Lost Bridge Creek was flowing, and our seasonal pond has filled. The peach trees are in bloom and new bluebonnet plants have sprouted around the back yard.

At home I managed to carve enough time away from puppy potty training to plant some fine tomatoes and watch as the figs and the persimmon tree sprout anew. Out back, the Brazos River rose from 9 to about 35 feet, swollen from half a state’s worth of rain, yet remained within its banks, behaving itself except to drag a neighbor’s boat under water because he left it afloat with too little rope.

With luck the warming weather will hold, although the pecan trees have yet to show leaves, which the old men over at the feed store say is the surest sign that winter truly has passed.

Peach BloomsLost Bridge CreekTomato BloomsFig TreeDill and OreganoFarm Pond

Also posted in Brazos River, Garden, Nature