Friday, June 21, 2013

Road Trip: Destination Deep in the Heart of Texas

Every time we decide to make the trip to Texas, we have the same discussion. It goes something like this: 
       Me: I think we should fly this time.
       He: I thought we'd drive.
       Me: If we fly we could get there in just a couple of hours.
       He: But then we wouldn't get to see the country.
       Me: We've made the trip before. We have seen the country.
       He: I'd rather drive.
       Me: But it'll take at least 18 hours.
       He: We'll stop for the night this time.

Somewhere in the middle of New Mexico. 

More New Mexico.  My plan was to blog along the way, so I used my iPad to take photos, as you can see in the mirror.

Texas: a windmill farm. I thought about blogging about alternative energy sources--some day. 

After 18 hours we arrived at our destination. 

We had an opportunity to visit a Texas Ranch. The rancher and his wife have a small herd of cows. Big Mamma with her long horns looks pretty docile as she rest in the mid day heat. She is a corriente, not a Texas a long horn, but a descendant of Mexican wild cows. 

Our hosts were quite proud of their garden, especially their corn. The rancher began work on the garden in January by tilling virgin grass land and fencing the acre plot with a fence strong enough and high enough to keep the deer out of the garden. For their first time garden, their results are impressive. They planted the usual garden fare: tomatoes, squash,  pumpkins, a varitey of peppers, okra, cucumbers, and sweet corn. They planted strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. They also planted 21 fruit trees. And potatoes. Have I left anything out?  They planted 7 rows of sweet corn, 22 feet long.

This gardener spent weeks designing and installing a rather sophisticated automatic watering system. Drip for the fruit trees, and sprinklers for the corn. Timed to water at the same time every other day, the sprinkler system helps the garden thrive, though the Roma tomatoes suffer from end root. We discussed the cause of end rot: not enough calcium or irregular watering. Any other suggestions?

Lucky us. The corn was ready to be picked. With raccoons lurking in the woods just waiting for the corn to sweeten, this  rancher was determined to pick his corn before the varmints did. Raccoons can ruin a corn field in one night. They are picky eaters, too, generally taking one bite from each ear, ruining the whole ear. 

So we helped husk corn. I believe the count was 287 ears of corn. 

Did I mention the zinnias? At the end of the tomato row was a beautiful stand of pink zinnias covered with butterflies. This one is the gulf fritillary.

Next week the gardener and his wife will probably harvest their potato crop. He dug 4 while we there and I think he was surprised at the size and quality of potato.His wife served us a Texas style dinner entirely prepared with food that they had produced in their garden, including their own range fed beef, a cross between the corriente and Angus. No antibiotics, no chemicals, no processed food.

 The ranch has a lot of wildlife, especially deer. I caught this fawn darting across the yard.

The deer are so beautiful, not too tame, curious, and cautious.

Turkey vultures silhouetted against an evening sky. 

Who does not love the cardinal? We don't have cardinals in Colorado, so in all of the trips that I made to Texas over the years, my one goal has been to photograph a cardinal in the wild. 


This bucket list item can be checked off. Not only did I get a decent photo of the male in the wild, but photo is even in focus. I used my 70-300mm lens and sometimes I don't get the image focused.

The first cardinal is in a tree near the house, while this photo was taken in the woods. We drove the gator (a small 4 wheel drive unit) down into the woods where they fill a feeder with corn to feed the deer. We park the gator, release the corn in the feeder and wait. When the feeder dispenses the corn, the wildlife slowly begin to come in a bit of snack.

This cardinal sits on top of the feeder to get his corn. Not a very focused shot because we were losing daylight.

And who do you suppose this little miss is? We toured the Blue Bell ice cream factory one afternoon. If you haven't ever had Blue Bell ice cream, it beats Ben and Jerry'S.

Just as the sign says, the world's smallest Catholic Church. Located on a busy highway in the middle of  pretty much nowhere.

One last look at the ranch. It was hard to tell our friends goodbye. I wanted to stay. There is a peacefulness and tranquility that Texas country life offers. While we think we live in the country here in Colorado, there is the constant highway noise, barking dogs, the continuous trains that rumble through town, so it really isn't as very quiet here. But at the ranch we hear the breeze, the cardinals announcing their territory, along with a whole host of wild birds. We hear the grasses rustle in the late evening, the locusts in the woods. We see abundant wildlife: armadillos, possums, raccoons, and fire flies. I saw fire flies for the first time--golden flashes of fairy light in the darkening forest. I felt like a kid again.

We said our goodbyes, hoping to return some day.

Somewhere in the middle of the Texas prairie, headed north  before we stopped for the night, I announced: Next time we will fly.

The hardest part really about traveling whether you drive or you fly, is leaving your garden and home behind. Luckily we have a college student who lives with us, and though she is taking summer classes and working, she did have time to look after the chickens and Sundance and she did some watering too. We also had our nephew stopping by to water the garden. We stopped in Dalhart, TX for the night. I woke up in the middle of night panicking over the gold fish in the front pond. The little water garden is over crowded right now and with the hot weather I worried that the water would evaporate and the fish would die. What if no one watered the hens? And Mo cat. He doesn't like dog that has come stay for the summer so he hides out in the barn. What if he ran off? We had just lost our dog Max; I couldn't bear to loss another pet.

We got home about 2:00 in the afternoon to find the grass brown, the weeds knee high and taking over, but everything was alive an well. The fish were good, Mo eventually showed up, the horse greeted us right away, but only because he wanted to be let out in the pasture. 

I was afraid that I'd miss this lovely miniature lily bloom. Isn't it just the sweetest little lily?

I dead-headed the roses today. They are at their height of their first bloom. Hubby mowed, watered, and weeded. I went shopping for a birthday gift. 

We are getting back to normal.

Tomorrow we will hit the garden--wage war on the weeds.

We will end the day with little Lily's birthday party. She will be one June 25th. 

I am sure that you have seen the news. Colorado is on fire again this summer. Currently twelve wild fires are burning. We came through Wassenberg, CO down in the southern part of the state yesterday as the fire at there at Spanish Peak was just getting a good start. But we are all praying for the small village South Fork population 500 with two fires headed toward it. There is little hope that the town can be saved. 

Well, dear readers, I hope in my absence you have not forgotten me. You will find me now in the garden and at the garden centers bargain hunting. I'll be catching up on my blog reading in the next few days. I hope that your garden is thriving. Have a fabulous week-end.


  1. When I read this I think how wonderful blogging is. I can enjoy your beautiful trip to Texas while I'm in Europe and......we can find people with same interests all over the world. Thank you for sharing this, especially the Cardinal bird is a beauty, I know this bird only from bird zoos. When I saw the corrient cows I was thinking of a fuchsia. Do you know there is a fuchsia called "Texas long horn" ?

  2. Enjoyed seeing your pictures. My BIL lives outside San Antonio, in Bourne. The first time we went I thought..Texas,ok big deal. The next trips I began to find the beauty of the hill country. Like you it take us about 14hrs from St Louis, we leave at 6am and always hit Dallas at rush hour no matter what we do.
    Have fun in your garden, too hot here now to get out there, hate the heat.

  3. Hi Ann, I had been wondering about you and hoping the fires weren't anywhere close. Glad you are not affected and am so sorry for all those who have lost their homes. Your trip to Texas sounded like fun and the photos you took were really pretty. I love the ones of the cardinal. Happy Gardening now that you are back home! Egretta

  4. Thank you for sharing the trip momma. What a great job they have done. As I have said, it is just in our blood. There is nothing better than earthly pursuits. My heart breaks at another summer filled with drought and fires. People losing their homes. There are so many fires I can't keep up with them. And I keep this the norm now? The cardinal is wonderful! And dad, well, he needs to better a better and smarter traveler. A trip to Texas is a flight. Driving the California coast in a convertible is a road trip. Or up the easy coast. But driving to Texas? That is not a great road trip.

  5. We LOVE to drive! You see so many neat things along the way and you really have some wonderful photos to share! I love that small quaint church! It's always nice to get back home, too! Enjoy your day!

  6. It looks like you had a good trip with good weather and some good photos. The corn looks really healthy. A really pretty cardinal too. A shame about the forest fires again this year, such a horrible thing to happen.

  7. Beautiful photos! Mr. Cardinal is gorgeous. Looks as if you're having a great trip. So glad I found your blog! -- Jan

  8. I would have flown, too. :o) We have tons of cardinals here. I didn't realize CO wasn't part of their native range. Your trip sounds wonderful. My son was born in TX and I ate a lot of Blue Bell ice cream when I was pregnant. All that calcium must have done the trick: he's 6'5"!