While there are many things that need to be taken care on the ranch, it is simply too hot outside. I guess you could say we are in the maintenance state – mowing the grass around the house and tending the small garden early in the morning. Our list of things to do is growing but Fall will be here soon and it will be more conducive to cleaning fence lines, trimming trees, working in the pastures, renovating the chicken coop, and painting the fence.
We have been keeping busy though with other activities that we can relegate when we want to inside and outside Here are our top 10 dog day summer activities:
- Buy a Truck: Charlie needed a ranch truck. When we moved to the country, we sold my cute little sporty coupe. She just wasn’t going to do well on these caliche rock roads. We’ve been a one car (truck) family since the middle of April. This wasn’t such a big deal until we started having separate activities in town. Charlie started looking for a used, well-taken care of ranch truck.He and Jason looked through a multitude of social media sites and Charlie finally found one in Karnack, Texas. It’s a nice Ford F-350 already with a diesel tank in the bed of the truck! We had to drive several hours to get there to check it out but what we found made it worth the trip. Low mileage, excellent condition, and formerly used as a truck to check on dozer jobs the owner had going. Jason came and helped Charlie put a filter on the diesel tank and then they went and filled it up – 100 gallons of diesel! Finally, we’re a two-vehicle family again.
- Kimmie’s Cow Candy: It is our goal to have cows and heifers that are accustomed to being around us to make it easier when we need to handle them. We began by having hay on the side by side when we would go check out the pasture and we’d drop some hay off for them. Then, we began holding the hay and they would eat it out of our hands. Next step was to train them with candy. No, not real candy but that’s what I like to call it. It’s actually mineral cubes that I put in a small tin bucket that I have. We go out on the porch and if they are close I holler “Hello girls” and they all perk up their ears and start watching us. Then we walk over to the fence and give them some candy. Again, at first, we dropped it on the ground so they knew what it was. Now, most of “the girls” will eat it out of our hands.
- Day Trips: Charlie and I have taken two days trips into East Texas so far to explore our new surroundings and landmarks. The first trip we drove up to Lindale (The Cannery Entertainment Center with the Love and War Music Arena which have ties with Miranda Lambert and East Texas Country Music) and back through Tyler (the Rose Garden, of course) and Rusk. The Heritage Museum in Rusk was closed so we walked down to the Mexican Restaurant on the Town Square and had lunch. On the way home we stopped at the Caddo Mounds and explored the sites there.
The second trip we drove up to Caddo Lakes Wildlife Refuge at Karnack to see the lake and swamps (no wildlife). It was an interesting place since it had originally been a privately-owned facility that made TNT for the Army. The next stop heading back to Lovelady was the Train Depot and Museum in Marshall. In Carthage we stopped at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and then drove through Nacogdoches to head home. We have put lots of miles on the truck for these two trips but it’s been great learning more about this part of Texas.
- Fruit Trees & Preserves: After the blueberries were gone, the figs ripened and we picked several batches of them. Some Charlie ate fresh from the tree and the others I tried my hand at making strawberry fig jelly. The first batch was really messy – well, I was really messy. It was fun though so I tried a second batch after I bought a new canning pot with all of the canning utensils that I needed (and more.) After having fun with fig preserves, I decided to try pear preserves.
Charlie picked some pears for me and I made one batch of pear preserves with pears, sugar and fresh lemons. After I found another recipe, I went out and picked some more pears. This recipe had LOTS of sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. Basically, these are spiced pears! I’ve even been looking at a local nursery to see about planting some peach, plum, and maybe cherry trees in the Fall. Just an idea…
- Gardening: I couldn’t resist putting in a small (very small) garden this year. It was late April so I was limited in what I could plant. The soil here is sandy and something that I’ve never experienced before. We have always had clay soil where we lived – gumbo as it is called. Even though it was late in the season, I put in a few tomatoes and peppers but didn’t keep up with my watering as well as I needed to so they didn’t do vey well and I finally let them go. The okra seeds however have sprouted and are beginning to produce nicely. My goal is to have enough to pickle but so far we’ve only have a few pods to harvest.
Now let’s talk about the melon patch! I’ve never really had luck with watermelons before but with lots of space and sandy soil (which they like), I decided to experiment. I chose three varieties of melons to plant and two varieties of cantaloupes. This has really worked out well since the watermelons have been ready to harvest at different time. The Klondikes (the large oval striped ones) still have a way to go since they were the last to fruit and are larger to grow. The smaller round ones (striped and solid green) have been harvested with more on the vine. The cantaloupes had lots of flowers but are just now really producing fruit. There is one that is so close to harvest time that I can hardly wait. So far, the melons we have harvested have been so sweet. There is such a feeling of accomplishment for me to know that I planted those tiny seeds, took care of them when they sprouted, tended them as they flowered and fruited, and then harvest and eat them.
- Camp Kimmie and GranDad: We’ve been able to have all of the grandkids over at different times this summer. We’ve had birthday parties, family dinners, and family coming in to visit.
We even had two of the younger ones spend the night with us and they (we) did great!
Benjamin helped Charlie drive the tractor, feed the cows and drive the ‘truck’ (which is what he calls the side by side). Scarlett and GranDad were up a little later than Benjamin and I one morning, so they had to wait on the porch while Benjamin and I were driving around in our PJs! After bath time, they sat on the front porch with us eating pop tarts!
The big girls were able to spend about a week here also and we had lots of fun.
- Cattle Schools: Learn more about our herd and building it in size. We attended the Cattle Short Course at Texas A&M again. It was a little different for us this year. Last year almost everything was new to us. Our experience with cattle was limited to being around those that were on our property from the fellow leasing the pastures. It’s different now that we have five head of our own. Some of the information from the professors from TAMU was the same as last year but it had a more personal meaning this year. We had questions based on what we doing and what we needed to do that we can ask the presenters. We also had a better feel of which sessions to attend and were probably a bit more judgmental of the skills of the presenters. The focus on the last day of the Short Course is always on hands on demonstrations. Last year, we watched how to handle and move cattle, give shots, brand, and castrate. This year we went to the carcass demonstration. Yes, carcass! We watched videos of four different cattle and graded them on their appearance and potential beef yield. Then they brought the carcasses into the classroom! The next part of the presentation was a cow that had been butchered. The professor had a skeleton of a cow and would place each cut of meat on the skeleton as he described how it was cut, where it came from AND how to cook it. Very interesting. We have also been attending local workshops put on by the Houston County Extension Office. These sessions have been on forage of the pastures, feeding and caring for the cattle, feral hogs, and pond management.
- Nightly Wildlife Checks: Each night we go out and check for wildlife. You can always hear birds singing, but now we hear the cicadas and frogs making noise. We still have evidence of an armadillo or two but we’re not seeing them as much. Occasionally we see cottontails in the early evening or morning. We had a single boar a few weeks ago that was rutting around. Jason brought his rifle with a new night vision scope on it and now we do not have a boar under the pear trees. Instead, we have deer. The deer have been more active lately. Sometimes we see two big bucks and other times we see a group of does and fawns together. One night this week the entire herd was in the pasture close to the house. They tend to come close in the evening and then again in the early morning. Several nights ago when I went out with the spotlight, I found two does bedded down under one of the trees right next to the fence close to the house and some of the others under the pear trees eating the pears that had fallen to the ground. We may have to put some corn out for them so they will stay close enough for us to see them every evening and morning. Last night Charlie spotted two hogs close to the pear trees. It may be hog hunting time tonight!
- Train the Animals: Mia Bella is getting up in years and has always been an inside cat. In the city, she might go out to sit on the patio and chase a lizard to two. At first, she would come out to the back porch while we sitting having our morning coffee but then go right back in the house. Then she started going to the front porch to sit with us. Now she runs to the front door after breakfast and dinner so she can go out to the front porch, down the steps, and chase crickets and grasshoppers in the grass. She has also discovered Shadow’s hiding spot in the cool dirt underneath the front porch. Their new game is for Shadow to sit on the porch at the top of the stairs and Mia Bella to sit two steps down after they have finished playing. I will go to the porch to call for them and they just sit there and look at me…and won’t come in! They are just like spoiled little kids sometimes!
- Movie Nights: At the end of a long, hot day we enjoy sitting in our recliners and watching a good movie on TV. The dog is on the couch and the cat is usually in a lap. It feels so relaxing and we realize that this is our new home and right where we want to be.