Friday, July 20, 2018
Thursday, June 28, 2018
|Predominant grass in the field in June 2018|
|Fields in June 2018 after 1.6" of rain|
|Asian Crabgrass in a previous summer|
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
I'm going to return to posting on this blog site to document the prairie restoration project taking place at the Creech Farm this year. Tall grass prairies once covered twenty million acres of the Texas landscape. Less than one percent of those prairie lands remain. The loss of the prairies means the loss of habitat for a variety of creatures, such as the Bobwhite Quail, which was once plentiful in the state, wild turkey, dove, white-tail deer, and others. Prairies play a vital role in preserving water, both in quantity and quality, in conserving soil, and in attracting pollinators as well. So we are taking our pastures out of production and converting them to prairie.
This year we received a Pastures for Upland Birds (PUB) Grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW). TPW is providing us with the consulting services of our local wildlife biologist, Jamie Killian. They also supply the necessary herbicide to use in preparation of the land to remove invasive plants and to give the prairie grasses the best chance to survive when they are planted. They will also provide a no-till seed drill and a mixture of about forty varieties of grasses, wildflowers, and forbs that were native to prairies in this area. We, the land owners, supply the land (80 acres in this case) and someone to operate the machinery for the herbicidal treatments and the planting. We've hired a neighbor to do that, the young man who has been leasing the place to farm for the past ten years. I'm pretty certain he thinks we're crazy, but he has been willing to play along.
We have already made two applications of herbicide to the fields this spring. A third will be done in late August. Admittedly, this has been the most difficult thing to do. Melinda and I are not fans of chemicals. With this project, however, we will only get one chance to plant, and we want to give the desired flora the best chance of success with as little competition as possible. So right now, our fields look like the dead of winter, or like the product of extensive drought. Very little green appears anywhere.
In September we will plant. The no-till seed drill is used to keep from stirring up the seed bed of other plants that has accumulated over the years. Tilling would bring them up and give us a good crop of plants we are not interested in growing. Then we will pray for good fall and winter rains to provide the best germination. We hope to see the beginnings of a prairie in the spring.
To a casual observer, a prairie might look like a field someone neglected to mow. But it is a rich and diverse ecosystem. About 20 minutes from here is a 200 acre restored prairie created and maintained by the Kirchoff Family Their photos and story can be found on the Native Prairie Association of Texas website.
Once we have begun establishing the prairie, the work is not done. Prairies require maintenance. Invasive species of plants have to be identified and removed. Every few years it will need to be mowed, grazed, or burned. Places where germination does not succeed will require more planting. We will be setting up guzzlers to provide water for wildlife. Annual bird counts will be needed. The list goes on, and it is an exciting list to us. Volunteers will be welcome along the way.
Melinda came across this poem by Emily Dickenson, and we like it very much. Dickenson named it "To Make a Prairie (1755)."
Sunday, June 21, 2015
I have confused memories of the turmoil of the 60s. Riots in Watts and Detroit mingle with the peaceful, but violently resisted marches of MLK. Assassinations of the Kennedy's and King troubled me because they were troubling the world around me. I had no adult to interpret and untangle it what was taking place, presumably because they did not know themselves. The war in Vietnam and the protests against it showed up in my living room every evening at 6:00. We didn't talk about these things at church or school. Mostly I felt a fear as a result of it all. But I had no concepts of the issues of civil rights or peace for that matter. I have often wondered, had I been ten years older at the time, whether I might have gotten involved on the side I would now consider right.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Just before leaving Houston yesterday I stopped by Alan & Kat’s to pick up the dogs. The family was attending a birthday party and was not yet home. Alan sent me a text asking me if I could hang out for a while until they got back because Madison had something to give me. It was a Father’s Day greeting consisting of an original, signed painting on canvas entitled “Wheat” by two artists named Madison and Austin. In a somewhat Impressionistic style, it presents our recent wheat crop and the huge oak tree behind our farm house. It’s value is inestimable.
In addition to the painting, I was given a coffee cup with “Papa” bear on it. Madison explained the connection between the bear on the cup and my association with Baylor University. I get it.
I was greeted by other things when I arrived at the farm late on Saturday night. Two deer bounded away from the house as I drove up. I performed my usual initial inspections of the place. Before entering the house I took a flashlight and walked around outside. I checked out the X-Garden and discovered that the row of corn plants had run their course and were wilted and brown, just like the entire field of corn across the road. The ears that grew on the brown stalks had been devoured by our pet rabbits who operate the garden in our absence.
Two small eggplants hung on a bush. I planned to get them in the morning. Several large green tomatoes were also enduring the heat of the summer. A few butternut squash were available for harvest. Purple zinnias, orange zinnias, and wild sunflowers decorated the place. The biggest surprise was the melons. Just three weeks ago the watermelons were no bigger than my thumb. Now seven large melons were lying on the ground in the garden. This is encouraging, since I went to Bush's roadside produce stand in Stockdale to buy a watermelon this morning only to be told they had none because of the drought. I'm not sure what I will do with rabbits that decide watermelons are on their diet.
(This morning I returned to the garden to get what I could – the squash and a bouquet of flowers. The eggplants had become rabbit food over night. And one of the big green tomatoes was on the bunny buffet as well.)
Inside the house another surprise awaited me last night. I entered the utility room to switch the water heater from “Vacation” to “Hot,” and found myself stepping into two inches of water. The water heater had sprung a leak in the last two weeks. Water had run into the garage and out the garage door. I spent an hour and a half mopping up the mess. Cold showers only until it is replaced.
When I stepped into the garage I found that John, my new lawn tractor, had flats on both front tires, a consequence of encountering mesquite and cactus thorns during his last workout. Fortunately, I knew about a magic solution called “Slime” that repairs and then prevents such leaks. I picked up some today and will repair the tires tomorrow.
This morning I was greeted by the usual wildlife – our pet rabbit checking out the garden, the cardinals gathering to devour the sunflower seeds and to enjoy the birdbath, hummingbirds checking in periodically for a refill of the sweet, red nectar I’d hung for them, and Mexican eagles patrolling the field.
Then I received the new version of Father’s Day cards, text messages from my children with embarrassing evaluations of my performance as a dad. Leaks, flats, and rabbits are nothing compared to such things as original artwork, coffee mugs, and Father's Day texts.