Category Archives: Hill Country Happenings

Hill Country Happenings

Try, Try Again

The April 7 freeze had set back this year’s garden two, or more, weeks. The almanac’s April, good planting days and my schedule, didn’t agree, so I postponed planting my remaining above ground crops until May 7. Nature interceded again and on Monday, April 27, our area was blessed with three and a half inches of rain. Some of it was real hard – the hail variety, with OO buckshot to nickel size!

My Texas 1015Y show the spotted, scars of the hail. Texas A&M horticulturalists developed, for the Texas soil and climate, the 1015’s from Granex onions from Spain. One variety was sent to Georgia and became the famed Vidalia onion, now the State Plant of that state.

The hail also scarred the garlic, Bermudas and Vidalias. Everything took a beating and it ruined my three rows of spring, spinach, clipped leaves off of the tomatoes and peppers and pounded the black eyes!

May 7 I planted crooked and straight neck squash; cucumbers, Kentucky wonder beans and cantaloupes. Everything is now up and growing!

There is one pleasant surprise, some “excuse me” dill has popped up in the wild garlic patch and both are doing fine!

The wild garlic is blooming and the hail scars are quite visible.


The “excuse me” dill too. I’ll pick the blooms, dry ’em, separate the chaff, grind ’em up and have dill seasoning.

The tomatoes are growing as are the marigolds planted beside them.


The jalapenos are blooming.

Marigolds, dill and basil are interspersed throughout the garden as an aid in predator control. They don’t work on deer!

The black eyes, Kentucky wonders, cantaloupes and squash are growing and left to plant this week are three bell peppers and six okra plants. These last two are going in where the three rows of spinach were planted.

My 2009 Garden – A False Start

After the deer’s wanton destruction of my 2008 garden and peach crop, see my post on [Depredations] of June 18, 2008, my solution was an eight, foot, fence around my current, and planned future expansion, garden area.

The completed fence and my “second edition”, 2009 garden.

The fence was completed in February, just after I had planted my onions. In first were two and a half rows, each row being seventy-five feet long, are Texas 10/15Y’s, Vidalias, Bermudas and shallots. The other half row is my wild garlic “patch”. Next to the onions were three rows of spinach that would be harvested by May 15.

In planting my garden each year, I have faithfully followed four things; the Farmers Almanac planting dates, the arrival of hummingbirds, the arrival of barn swallows and most important, the blooming or “coming out” of the large mesquite trees. The mesquites are most accurate of the four! By March 26, all of the preceding had taken place, my peach trees were blooming too, but peaches are the worst of the worst predictors, but I was busy planting this year’s edition of my garden.

My eyes being bigger than my garden and I had purchased twelve tomato and jalapeno pepper plants, so I planted them in two rows, six plants of each, sprinkling dill, basil, marigolds and black eyes among the plants. Luckily, I saved the other twelve plants and kept them alive indoors. Then I planted a long row of black eye peas and sat back with a big grin on my face. This year I would have a good, early garden!

The morning of April 7, it was awfully cold, twenty-eight degrees, with a heavy frost, almost ice on the ground and even though I had covered everything the night before, all my plants that were up, tomatoes, peppers and peas were frozen, history, even my peach blooms! My spinach survived and by April 15, I had paid my taxes, cheered along with all of the tax protesters and replanted my garden.

This was the first time that I have ever heard of mesquite trees being wrong!

Morning Walk, 5-19-09

What a beautiful day, I thought as I stepped outside for my morning walk. The sun just coming up, no wind and a brisk, cold for late May down here, 52 degrees, our record for today is 47.

I’d have company this morning, my wife, Layla, our dog, Spike, and cat, Bo, would be accompanying me. Having told Layla about Monday’s exciting walk, she was going along today.

We marched out on to the county road and for almost a half, mile saw nothing but two cows. Providing some excitement, the cows rushed the fence trying to get at Spike. These cows hate any dog, or coyote looking animal and, if not for the fence, big trouble for little, Spike!

Nothing, no deer, ‘dillos or skunks showed up on this walk. Just Spike and Bo, tagging along.

We did sound like a traveling, circus going down the road!

Morning Walk, 5-18-09

Still suffering from the pulled groin muscle (from five weeks ago) I have begun a regimen of slowly walking for up to a mile, not straining the muscle, but just warming it up. When finished, I sit coldly, on an ice pack for twenty minutes. It takes up to eight weeks for a groin to heal, maybe this will speed it up?

Early yesterday as I was going out the side door to begin my morning walk, I noticed movement on the other side of our old house. A closer look showed a skunk was prowling about.

Grabbing my .22 Mag. rifle, carefully staying up-wind, and charging the varmint, two shots later it was done!

After walking down the county road for about four hundred yards, behind a tree stood a big doe. “Oh boy,” I thought, “This will make a great picture!” As I fumbled with the on/off switch, the big girl trotted off into the thick stuff. I’ll be ready next time!

After walking not quite a hundred more yards, with the camera still “on”, there was movement in the brush along the road, “Another skunk” was my thought, as out rushed, of all things, an armadillo.

’Quick drawing’ my camera and ‘firing’ several shots, I got a blurry one of the little armored guy.

It would be something if each mornings walk would be this exciting!

Deep Freeze

Our latest norther, cold snap for non-Texicans, came in on Tuesday and really let itself be known overnight. A north wind, with light rain and chilling 23 degree, temperatures put the deep freeze on our part of the state. Because of the ice, school openings and business activities were delayed, and folks like me that had plans for outdoor work, postponed those until later in the day

A thin coat of ice covered every thing; our cars, the mesquite trees and even the gutters on my house froze up! One good thing was the moisture. We didn’t get any downpours of                                            rain but we did have a steady mist all day                                                              Tuesday and early Wednesday morning that gave us the ice.


This kind of weather is unusual around here, but it’ll be back up in the mid 60’s by tomorrow. Just think, we didn’t even get any snow!





The Fire Pit

Early in my life I had learned that if you are out in the ‘wilds’, cooking a meal or having a night, time fire, they worked best if you had a fire pit. Always living where there was a copious amount of rocks, Texas, Arizona and Georgia, material for a pit was readily available.
In 1993, after Layla and I acquired our ranch, one of the first things I did was start collecting rocks for a fire pit. We have lots of rocks so, real quick, I had enough and quickly finished our pit. Our cooking tools and techniques are relatively simple. Our grill is one piece of expanded metal held over the fire by 2 steel, fence posts, cut to size for our pit. We use a special long handled, with a sharpened curly hook on the end, turner or a long handled flipper. The mesquite smoke and hot fire really adds to steaks, chicken and burgers!
Last Saturday afternoon it was shirt sleeve weather, so Layla and I decided to crank up our fire pit, defy our local burn ban, and cook us up a couple of rib eyes.
Adding garlic pepper and Bill’s Seasoning, our steaks were ready for the fire. I might add that Bill’s Seasoning is manufactured in San Saba, 18 miles south of us and is available in central Texas and is not nationally distributed.
Wood is no problem since our ranch is covered up with mesquite, mesquite being the State Nuisance Tree of Texas and also the State Cooking Wood Tree of Texas! Building a Boy Scout style fire and adding a little starter, I soon had a nice one going.
The coals were ready, so on went the steaks and one turn and 6 minutes later they were done to our preference.

The finished product, rib eyes cooked medium rare; a sturdy glass of Shiraz wine, excellent with steaks and good for your health when not taken to excess; home made bread with Falfurrias butter (only available in Texas); covered with green chilies and onions and we had a meal fit for royalty! The recipe for the green chilies and onions will follow shortly.

The Ace

The coveted title of ‘Ace’ is bestowed on fighter pilots that have shot down a minimum of 5 enemy aircraft. Would you believe this honor could be attached to a Suburban?

Pulling out of Lawrence Marshall Chevrolet in Hempstead, Texas on my way to Goldthwaite, I was admiring the new Chevy Suburban that I had just picked up for Layla. It had everything but 4WD – cargo doors, leather, trailer pulling package and I even had them put on a heavy, duty cattle guard.

I was picking her up in Goldthwaite and we were heading 80 miles west to Millersview to open Quail season. The hunting that day was fabulous, near limits and no rattlesnakes and we packed up and headed home.

A few miles east of Millersview we noticed large herds of deer in the fields on both sides of the road and one doe was rapidly changing positions, and we were right in her sights and, ‘crunch’, she slammed into the rear panel of the new Suburban! She went spinning off, dead, on to the shoulder of the road. We stopped and checked the damage and it was minimal. We called USAA and set up a repair job for the next week.

The repair job went quickly and the next weekend, after a morning’s deer hunt we, Brad, Mike Mitchell and I, hooked up the Jeep and headed out to Millersview for some Quailing. Results were excellent again and heading home, in exactly the same place we had hit the deer the week before, here came another one and she nicked the rear bumper and slammed into the Jeep. Another dead deer, rear bumper problems on the Suburban and a small dent in the Jeep. Another call to USAA and they cheerfully took care of the problem.

Deer 3 was another doe, in the same place, east of Millersview, that we hit, head on as it crossed the road. The cattle guard saved us, but we still had almost $4,000. in damages! Another call to USAA solved the problem.

Deer 4 was recorded on Hwy. 16, north of San Saba, early on New Years Day. We had attended a party down there and I had 2 drinks and because of this, Randy said he’d better drive home. Relenting to his request, I cautioned him that on this dark night there would be a lot of deer out, so slow down. He didn’t slow down and at 70 MPH we hit another one. Another call to USAA and they passed on to us that it appeared that we were in a high, deer impact area.

The coveted ‘Ace’ title was achieved when driving to Houston, Layla, was routed around some construction and on the shoulder of the road where a group of buzzards was cleaning up a dead coon. Passing them, one flared toward the Suburban, hit the right rear view mirror destroying it and crumpled dead.

Calling USAA, they took care of the problem and the representative quipped, That makes 4 deer and one buzzard. This Suburban qualifies for ‘Ace’!


Sampling The Beauty

Fall is a beautiful time in our part of west central, Texas, our hill country. The leaves don’t turn on with oranges and reds that make an entire mountain, side explode with color. And, we’re still a month or more away from our first frost, but our mornings in the high 50’s or low 60’s are refreshing, but in the middle of the day in the low 90’s, sweat comes easy and shade is still welcome! Sometimes, while I’m out on my ranch working, I’m reminded of the beauty that is all around us, if we’ll just take the time to appreciate it.


Our prickly pear cactuse , Opuntia engelmanni, the State Cactus of Texas, is blooming now and, you ask, “How could a prickly pear cactus be beautiful?” Easy, just look at the blooms!


These blooms, or tunas, also can be made into great jelly!

Blooming near the prickly pears are some gayfeathers or blazing stars, Liatris spp.These wildflowers are scattered around west and central Texas and give a real contrast to the brown, native prairie, grass.


Our Porta Potty Blind is pictured in the background of some more gayfeathers growing


among some white daisies, Asteraceae.

Back to work! Deer season won’t wait.












The Writin’ Spider

Mowing the grass around my garden, right beside the shed, I spied a “spidey”. The large, almost 2’ body length, and vivid, orange, black and white coloration, made my identification easy. A Garden Spider, probable better known as a Writing Spider, Argiope Aurantia, in Texas, better known as a Writin’ Spider.

These large guys aren’t dangerous to humans and build their nests in and around gardens and use their webs to catch insects attracted to the garden. A Writin’ Spider will usually make one egg sack and then dies before winter.


It’s easy to see how the heavy portion of the web looks like writing. I wanted to get a picture of the Writin’ Spider on the “written” portion, but when the lawn mower approached, the spider retreated to the upper part of its web. Since the Writin’ Spider is one of the garden’s good guys, I ceased all mowing operations in the vicinity of its web.

However, I can’t mention this sighting or the location to Layla, because 8 years ago, she was bitten by a Black Widow Spider, and still hasn’t forgotten her painful recovery and 3 day ordeal in the hospital! Now, she is quite insensitive toward ALL spiders!

Morning Walk, July 29, 2008

Packing my camera along for yesterday morning’s walk, I was rewarded with a couple of nice pictures. “Hitting the road” before the sun came up, one deer was watering and I snapped a good “shot” of her.

Walking along, I noticed one of my neighbor’s goats had come up to the fence, wondering what was this “thing” walking along the road.

The goat was somewhat photogenic.


Mills County prides itself in being “The Meat Goat Capital Of Texas”! These goats are sold to Muslim countries.