Monday, March 26, 2012

Texans are proud of a lot of things, some even justifiably. One thing most are crazy for is bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis, the state flower of Texas. It's not our only flower, but it's OUR flower and we have a long history with it.  Newspapers hold contests on best bluebonnet picture, websites are devoted to Texas Wildflowers, motorists stop on busy highways to put the toddler and puppy in the flowers for a glam shot (never mind the fire ants, snakes and empty PBR cans...), and TV reporters use the blue backdrop for every story they can, even if it has nothing to do with being outside. We don't mow the highways until the flowers have dropped their seeds for next year, ensuring a tradition. Even I fell victim this year, creating a facebook album of the first 'bonnets on my new land at El Rancho.

Despite the catastrophic drought last year, the heavy winter and spring rains have brought up a swelling ocean of floral color this spring. Indian paintbrush, daisies, beebalm, black-eyed susans, Texas toadflax and more, all here for our delight in every shape, color and size (check this out for photos to identify your favorites).  Even wild onions add to the landscape, as do the Texas redbud trees and lantana.

Last year after I bought El Rancho, there was no water to be found and things were pretty brown and dusty and just plain hot. We had several established trees die and hope the rest aren't too weakened. But right now, those grim thoughts are far from my mind as I sit at El Rancho and just, well, sit. Flowers are blooming, the trees have burst out their canopies and even the grass and clover are green, green, green. All of the birds are singing rather loudly and looking for mates, from the lovely cardinals, to chickadees, and even including the turkey vultures (I guess there IS someone for everyone...). In fact, the birds were so loud I could hear them through my hearing protectors while on the tractor Saturday!

Dan and I drove to Waco for lunch with friends on Sunday. About a mile from the house, he stopped the truck and rolled down the window. He thought the truck was making an odd noise, when it was just the birds, happy to have spring. The drive up Highway 6 to Waco was gorgeous and I realized how much I love driving across this state. Sadly, this morning the Infomaniacs on WTAW reported a sharp decrease in butterflies due to the heat (it's already 80+ here). So, it's a little less colorful, but hopefully the rains will continue this year and we won't be facing more drought.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Placing" El Rancho

Anytime Dan and I go out to El Rancho, we typically check-in at fb with our phones, sometimes including pictures. So, we had a "place" on fb and could tell friends to follow directions to el rancho. Then we made a facebook page for el rancho. Dan went to merge the two and the fb gods asked him for a copy of a utility or phone bill, address, incorporation papers, vendor lien and whatnot. I've been trying to merge the page and place for my office for three months, so I knew it might be a battle.

I figure a digital presence can only help show intention and be helpful. I'll whip up a webpage and later I can use it to market my goatlings. In my research I learned that when doing taxes, feed, fence, tractors are deductible if it's a farm with a business plan that occasionally makes a profit but it's a hobby if it doesn't make a profit and you can't deduct a hobby. (Thanks, Purdue!). 

In true Severn fashion, he fired back a missive to the fb gods about why he could supply none of those things for his goat farm.... (goats do not answer the phone, it's legal to farm in Texas without a license, I don't wanna...) and it worked!  So, we now have a complete fb page, a webpage and this blog!

El Rancho is definitely a work in progress, literally and digitally, so my work is cut out for me (had to throw a needlecraft idiom in here somewhere!). Keeping this blog will keep be on task, kinda like if you don't tell anyone you're working out or on a weight-loss diet, you can procrastinate. Once you throw it out to the world, you're committed!  

UPDATE:  Read a story in The Eagle this morning about a sinkhole in Bryan. Need to keep an eye on our 'water feature' at el rancho and definitely not put a house there!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Owning land in the country that you plan to live on  is different than buying an 1800 square foot ranch-style in a cookie cutter neighborhood. Most city folks don't give a thought about water most days, but we will have to drill a well and keep our water potable. We have neighbors on two sides with different water in their wells. One has good, sweet water; the other has water full of rust!  I have contacted a couple of well drillers and can't wait to find out what they project on costs... probably a five-figure amount. 

Electricity is readily available on our property, so that's a wonderful thing! Plus, it's an electric co-op, Bluebonnet Electric.  But first, water.  

It's Spring (or is it a spring?)

Spent St. Patrick's Day at El Rancho, burning off a pile of brush and trees that has been siting there since last year when the severe drought and burn-ban were in effect. It's near the center of the property and where we began our initial clearing last year. 

While on Spring Break, we priced fencing materials and I phoned some well drillers to give us an estimate on putting in a water well, so we can put up a fence, so we can get our goats to start our agricultural operation. At the end of the day, we were ready to go home and Dan started dumping dirt on the remaining coals to smother the fire. 

Well, he struck water! Wouldn't be so odd except we were at the higher elevation! 
And he was only down about a foot..... We've had a lot of rain, but it was pumping out. He used the backhoe to dig deeper and we found some huge tree roots (water logged) and some stinky slime. He dug a little bit further downhill and found zero water... So the mystery remains. We'll let it sit a week and check it out later. We heard from neighbors that water is close to the surface, but this is close!

Who's lookin'?