Category Archives: Local Plants

Tying up the Loose Ends

With the house built and our furniture and belongings in it, it was time to type up the loose ends on our homestead. The first major project for our new house was to build a porch across the front of the house and a small porch at the backdoor.

 

From the very beginning Charlie has had the desire to have porch along the front of the house along with extra wide steps for the kids to sit on when they come to visit. We have rockers, chairs, and a porch swing up there right now. We are in the waiting process of letting the wood season, or dry out, so we can stain or paint the porch. We’re still debating what to do. The porch at the backdoor is a smaller porch but larger than I planned. I was thinking of a more utilitarian porch but Charlie was determined that it should be bigger. It was a good choice. It’s large enough for several chairs along with my gardening things. Sometimes it is cooler back there in the mornings for our coffee since it faces away from the sun.

The next step was to have a road put in from the county road on our property up the house. The choice was to put in a limestone and caliche stone road. The road man was worried about the huge oak tree that the road was to run under.

 

Rather than having the road crew trim the tree’s lower branches, we decided that it was time to hire a trim a bona fide tree trimmer. Along with the oak tree needing to be trimmed, there was a tall dead tree at the entrance of the property along with a few stumps to grind.

While all of this work was going on, Charlie decided to work on the chicken coup. The property had a well-worn and well-used chicken coup on it.

Since I would really want chickens and fresh eggs, Charlie decided that it was sturdy enough to use but the exterior doors and wall on one side needed to be replaced. The reconstruction of the house has begun as well as the yard is being worked on to get it ready to be fenced. Once it’s finished, we’ll paint it and make it all pretty for the chickens.

It was finally time for the road crew to come in. The crew brought in 10 truckloads of rock to build the rock.

They leveled the path and added and smoothed out the rock. We now truly have The Wheeler’s Country Road.

There was one last thing we needed to do to finish cleaning up the homestead. The trash pile that was here when we bought the property and that we kept adding to was ready to be burned. Outside conditions were right and we were ready to get rid of the pile! After a steak dinner, Charlie and Jason prepared the burn pile and the bonfire began.

Danielle, Raya, and I stayed on the porch watching the flames. Raya decided that she needed to dance to the country music that was playing! It took several days for some of the large pieces of wood on the pile to finish burning and smoldering.

Charlie kept a close and careful watch until he knew everything was finished burning. Since then, Charlie has run his magnetic roller over the ashes to pick up any pieces of metal that were left behind. I spread some grass seed there also to hopefully get it growing and turn the area green soon.

Although it was late in the season, I wanted to put in a small garden. I planted a few tomato, jalapeno and green pepper plants along with seeds for cucumbers and okra. I also planted some watermelon and cantaloupe seeds using different varieties to see how they grow. I’ve never had the room to grow melons before so it will be interesting to see what happens. 0523181729dSo far, the vines with blossoms are growing very well. Only time will time how well they produce. In the meantime, we have eaten blueberries right off the bushes, sampled the pears from the trees, and are watching to see how well the pecan trees are producing fruit. We are in the midst of harvesting figs now that I will be making preserves out of this week.

Exciting news for the next blog posting:

We’re not just leasing out of property now and babysitting a herd. Charlie and I have purchased five of our very own beautiful black angus heifers.

 

 

 

Learning to be “Producers”

The last six months have been like a whirlwind for us. The last post on this blog was of our weekend long celebration of being landowners for one year. 20170809_063633.jpgSince then Charlie and I have participated in several learning experiences to prepare us for a cattle business. We attended the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course first. This week of courses is said to be the “largest cattle educational event in the country.” There were over 1600 cattle producers there. Notice that we are “cattle producers” rather than just ranchers. The focus of the short course this year was the role that export markets play for cow-calf producers. That’s our plan – producing calves!We attended sessions on beef cattle management (health, nutrition, genetics, reproduction), ranch management, and forage management (that’s anything plant related.)

There were both classroom sessions and demonstrations. We chose to watch chute-side calf working, cattle handling (the safe way), 20170809_073505beef carcass value determination, branding, and castration. (Yes, castration!) I figure that I need to know what is going to happen with our cows every step of the way. We’re already making plans to return to TAMU to attend the 2018 Beef Cattle Short Course.

Our next learning adventure began on a foggy morning. Charlie, Jason, and I attend the Cow Country Congress at the Santa Rosa Ranch in Crockett. Global trade impact on the cattle market was the main topic. Other topics included herbicide and forage management, 20171015_081437strategies for winter feeding and bull selection. There were several demonstrations at this event also. We were able to participate in several bull selection activities. All of the participants went to the bullpens where the bulls were being herded into a chute being prepared for the selection viewing. 20171013_154325.jpgThe young bulls were not very patient with being herded into a narrow chute and being told to wait. There was a lot of pushing, shoving and bucking! One of the bulls was determined to climb out of the chute and had his front legs over the top of the pipe fence which was about 10 feet high. 20171013_154127We felt a bit uneasy since we were standing inside the pen next to the chute! After that excitement, we were ready for testing our bull selection skills. Two bulls were released at a time into the selection pen. Using a reference page, we looked at their genetic background along with physical attributes. All of the young Black Angus 20171013_154313bulls were very handsome but some of them did not appreciate being on display. There was just a single pipe fence between us and them and some were pretty aggressive. Even the speakers from Texas A&M at one point pinned themselves against the wall of the barn trying to stay out of the way! Such pretty and power! We met outside under a large tent which was a little warm with the unusual weather we faced during the Fall. It was fun watching the cook team preparing our lunch (rib eye steaks) and dinner (fajitas) all day at the outdoor kitchen.

There are so many resources out there and so much for Charlie and I to learn. We’ve both completed our BQA certifications (Beef Quality Assurance) both for Texas and at the National level. Charlie is currently enrolled in a pesticide course to prepare him for the state license test. He needs this license to be able to purchase pesticides and chemicals for our property and livestock. I’m working on finding resources to help with growing plants. I’m looking at raised bed gardening right now and what types of plants that I want to grow. We have quite a few pecan trees on the property and I need to learn more about how to take care of them. There is an East Texas Fruit and Vegetable Conference at the end of February but we may be in the midst of preparing to move to the property.

More on our preparations for setting up our new home in the next post…

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Spring Is In The Air

 

 

Since almost a month has passed since our last trip to the property, we knew this would be a work trip. However, that was fine since the weather was so beautiful that it made you want to be outside!

Charlie began by taking the weed eater to the gate area by the road. Jason brought his mower over since the battery on Charlie’s mower was dead . Jason cut the grass around the trailer, chicken coop, storage building and the pine trees. I’m trying to decide what color to paint the chicken house after we get it all cleaned up. Any ideas?

While it might be nice to put some tiki torches out by the pine trees and table, I’m thinking some white solar lights wrapped around the trees would be nice too.

Since Friday was a regular work day for me, I worked inside the trailer until I felt the need to go outside. 4It was nice working from the lounge chair on my computer while Charlie and Jason trimmed the oak tree. (I love being able to work remotely!)

At the end of my workday and Charlie’s day of yard work, it was time to wander down the road to “walk the pasture.” The pasture was covered with bright yellow wildflowers which the cows apparently do NOT like to eat!

First, we checked out the pond which was almost full due to the rains we’ve had recently. The vines with white flowers around the banks were dewberries. We’ve already had several friends volunteer to come over for dewberry cobbler when it’s time! It amazes me how these cows will choose a path and all of them will walk it over and over – notice the path by the pond. You can see these paths in different places in the pasture as they move from one location to another while they graze.

Looking from the other side of the pond and toward one of the feeders and the working pens, we decided to head up the hill still looking for the cows.

Charlie was inspecting the gates on the working pens. Jason has actually worked cattle on this property for the previous landowner. It’s amazing how tall this tree is at the pens – that’s Charlie walking away from it! It makes me wonder how old the tree is.

We headed over to the other fence line still looking for the cows. They were definitely there! We spotted them and they spotted us and they came running toward us. This is a frisky herd of heifers! Once the excitement to have company was over, they began grazing on the fresh spring grass again.

We headed back to the trailer to fix dinner with me lagging behind taking pictures. I thought this was a neat picture of Charlie. 18(Beware: No one is safe when Kimmie has her camera!)

We had been told that there was a patch of blueberries plants in a certain location but we thought it was just a patch of yaupons. However, on our way back to the trailer 19we stopped by the patch again and, sure enough, those blossoms we saw last month had turned into blueberries! More cobblers to come!

On Saturday we drove over to Wixon Valley (Bryan) to see Natalie, JT, and Audie. 20It was a great visit and yummy hamburgers for lunch. We came back to Lovelady and Jason, Danielle and Raya came to see us. Raya wanted to sit up on the grapevines so GranDad took her over there. After grilling steaks for dinner, we headed down to visit the cows.

The first time Jason, Danielle and Raya went down, the cows came right up to the four-wheeler and were nudging Raya. When we went back with them, the cows came up to Raya again.

The adults were talking to “the girls” (aka heifers) and they were pretty well ignoring us. Then Raya let out a long conversation of baby talk and all of the cows stopped and looked at her! Charlie says the brown heifer looking at Danielle and Raya looks like the Blue Bell cow. She’s marked by arrow in the second photo. Look at her sweet eyes!

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The sun was beginning to set so we headed back to the trailer to sit out on the deck. The cows just stood there and watched us leave. The kids left first on the four-wheeler and then Charlie and I walked back to the pasture gate.

We closed the gate and headed down the road back to the trailer. We walked for just a few minutes and heard a loud noise. We turned to see the herd running toward the gate! I guess they weren’t ready for us to leave!

On Sunday we attended church in Crockett with the kids. It is such a friendly congregation! We enjoyed lunch at a local Mexican restaurant and then went for a quick trip to Wal-Mart. After we made it back to Lovelady, 31 I trimmed one of our Confederate Roses and Charlie hauled those branches to the burn pile. (I foresee a big bonfire in our future after all of the clean up from this weekend!)

When we first began this journey, we were ready to head back to the “big city” as soon as lunch was over – we definitely didn’t want to be driving in heavy traffic. Today, we were still sitting outside on the deck enjoying the sunshine, cool breeze and watching the birds play at 4:30 in the afternoon. It seems that each Sunday that we head back home, the time gets later and later!

We can’t wait to head back to the Wheeler’s Country Road soon!

February Findings

 

 

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Charlie and I traveled to the country in February after being away for almost a month! We flew in from Washington DC on Friday from a business trip and made a straight shot to the country on Saturday! Danielle, Raya and I drove over to College Station for a baby shower for Natalie and Jason and Charlie took care of business on the property. Jason has been working on building a fence for the entrance from the road. It is looking really nice. It will lead from the road to where we will put our house.

We made a second trip to the country a few weeks later and discovered that we had a new herd of cattle in the “Back 50.” The fellow that is running cattle on the property had replaced most of the cows with a younger group. This group is smaller and much friendlier. Natalie convinced one of the new heifers to eat hay from her hand! There are a couple of the “originals” there – they are loud and bossy!

At the end of the month, we made another trip to Lovelady. We had some family business to take care of that week but had some time to spend on the land the weekend before and after. Unfortunately, it rained most of the second weekend but I was able to get out and take photos of the trees that were budding out.

Earlier, the narcissus and daffodils were blooming but now with the others budding, I am hoping to be able to identify the trees that I don’t know. Some of the plants and trees I can identify but there are others that I’m at a loss about. I am starting a “plant journal” to help me identify the plants and chart growth. The land has a large number of pecan trees and we were told there are three peach trees (somewhere).  I’m excited about being able to plant some fruit trees in the future.

I also found a few paw prints along the way! Can you tell which animal they belong do?

One of our favorite things to do is “walk the property.” (That’s what they say in the country.) I love going to the pond and seeing how it changes with the seasons.

We also have a creek running through our property. It’s difficult to get to right now – we need to clear out some of the underbrush. Here are a few photos from our last visit.

We made some good memories in February. Be on the lookout for details of the next trip down the Wheeler Country Road in a few weeks! 20170211_174249