Lots of Bales and Stormy Skies

Haying continues. We really made a bumper crop on our second cutting. Before we started yesterday, we had 241 rolls or about 7 rolls per acre (3.85 tons). That is about as good as it gets. Karl's vision of the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch focused on forages has come true.

It was cloudy yesterday and we still had 30 acres of hay on the ground to bale. South of the ranch at the house we had a 1 inch rain, but it was dry there. We brought in a tedder to fluff and toss the hay about to get it to finish drying and started to bale about 4:00 p.m. With any luck they baled most of that field before the dew set in.

I love to see a field full of hay bales. Of course, in our case we have to store them and need a better plan than what we have. We have two hay barns and are partially full. Since you never know if the next few years will be drought years, we need to save this hay for ourselves. The plan we have hatched is to take out of the barn old hay for that will be fed late this fall and in the winter. That is about 120 tons of hay or 175-200 rolls. This will make a lot of room. We can stack this hay so it can be covered and the rain will stay off it. We can then fill the barns with the new hay and any left over we can store outside covered.

At this point we have no plans for a third cutting, but will let the standing hay be available in the field for the cattle to graze on after frost until it is gone, then start to give them hay.

Mulching Blueberries

Blueberries are acid loving plants. When you first plant them it is best to have at least a foot of soil and mulch mixed in the plant bed. Every year you add more pine bark mulch around each plant. This serves several purposes; 1) provides insulation to the roots from the hot summer sun and cold in winter, 2) retains moisture from rain and drip irrigation, and 3) helps maintain the correct ph balance in the soil.

We add the mulch by hand and and put two large scoops on each plant.

We get our mulch from Baily Bark in Nachodoches, TX. An 18 wheeler carries 110 cubic yards. The first challenge is to get the truck to back off our one lane county road into the berry patch. Javier keeps a close watch so the driver does not hit any water pipes or plants.

The truck has a live floor and the movement of strips causes the load to move forward and the entire truck to empty. It is pretty amazing to watch.

It will take a while, but in time this load will be under our blueberry plants. One reason we use this supplier is the product they sell is all bark and not filler. Some companies shred used pallets and waste wood and mix it into a load sole as pine bark mulch.

Latin Proverb Speak

Hay is more acceptable to an ass than gold.
Latin Proverb

Haying Continued... Making Bales

The haying process continues at the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch. All of the fields have now been cut and a small part has been rolled into hay bales. The first 95 bales were finished by 5:00 p.m. today, but I expect that by the time the crew stopped tonight we had close to 200 or more. You can bale until first dew hits the hay.

I am told that our hay is the best this crew has worked with so farm this year. It is abundant and looks good. We will have it tested to determine how good later on. Thus far we have not had to fluff any cut grass and it has dried naturally. The millet is taking its sweet time, but maybe later tomorrow it will be ready.

The following pictures were taken this afternoon. Basically, the dried hay is wind rowed by the yellow and red rake into uniform rows. The baling machine runs over the row and the hay is picked up and rolled inside. When it reaches the size we have selected, it comes out the rear of the machine wrapped in netting. These are very tight bales and will weight about 1,100 pounds each. They are 4 feet deep and 5-1/2 feet wide.

The first photo was taken Sunday afternoon and the second today, Tuesday. The lush green grass has been cut and some converted into a bale.

Preserving Time In A Bottle (or jar)

I love to spend part of my day reading the New York Times. When they went live online with an edition that looks just like the newspaper I subscribed. You can get a lot of news and interesting articles from a lot of places, but The Times makes it more interesting. Since we do a lot of food preservation here on the farm I liked this article and hope you do to.

May 27, 2009

Preserving Time in a Bottle (or a Jar)

The Sun Grows In Your Smile

"When you smile, the air grows warm and soft, the earth is watered with gentle mists, seeds sprout and spread leaves above the dark, damp soil, earthworms pierce the crust and frolic across the surface to the delight of fat, happily hunting robins, lilies of the valley unfurl beside purple, grape-scented irises, fat pink and maroon peonies, and gay California poppies, damask roses hurl their rich fragrance to the wind, the crazy-with-sheer-joy song of the Northern mockingbird echoes above other chirps and sweet winged notes, gardeners join the worms in the warm, rich dirt, children gallop across yards and grab handfuls of dandelions to present to mothers who will set them in glasses of water in kitchen windows or on dining room tables, weeds glorious after the dark of winter with the color of the sun that grows and warms and heals in your smile."
"The Sun Grows In Your Smile" by Linda Rodriguez, from Hearts Migration. © Tia Chucha Press, 2009

The Week That Was: August 16-22

I am getting some feedback that many enjoy knowing what we do every week. Some say we are living their dream and this makes it even better.

We had a great week on the farm.

The new barb wire fence that had been nothing more than end braces and a gate is finished. It lasted all of a few days until a steer hit the top wire and broke it. So tomorrow we repair that and see how it holds up. It looks great and is a lot better than the electric wire we had run there to keep the cattle from invading the cabin area.

The cabins were partially full during the week and all full this weekend. The only incident was Peppy, our sheep dog, grabbing a steak off a guest's picnic table before it was cooked and swallowing it whole. He got sick in the night. Nothing like this has ever happened.

We had a few rain events, but nothing heavy. There was a lightening show one night that stretched from horizon to horizon and lasted perhaps six hours. It was amazing. This was the first cool front of the season.

We evaluated (and weighed) the steers we are selling for beef and separated those that will be 100% grass finished and placed them in a fresh paddock where we can also feed them alfalfa. The steers to be grass and grain finished are in another fresh paddock where they get alfalfa and grain. The grain we bought last year has been changed and they added antibiotics. I hate it when they do this. In any case, we located another grain that is all natural and has no additives except minerals.

The never ending project to restore wireless internet to all of the cabins is not finished yet. One cabin still has an access point/router not working. More odd, all of the cabins have a 1.1 speed on downloading, but two have .3 up loading and two no upload at all. Can anyone explain this? They all get the same common DSL feed.

We have finished hand pulling weeds in the blueberry patch and also finished weed trimming every row. We have started to add pine bark mulch to each plant, over 3,000 of them. This will take some time as we do it only a few hours each day.

If you read our blog you know we have started to cut hay. The weather forecast is perfect for the hay to cure and dry quickly. With any luck the cutting will be finished late today or tomorrow and we will bale what was cut yesterday Monday afternoon.

The coming week will be busy. One of the significant things to accomplish is to move hay bales from Rocky Branch to the home place hay barn and fill it. This will make room for the new hay. We will continue to work on the berry field mulching and of course building fence.

Saturday we had some nice folks from Dallas drop by to see the farm and make reservations for a cooking class. We always look forward to visitors.

A Hole In One

Golfers live a lifetime trying to hit a hole in one. All our cows have to do is break the electric fence around the barn to get into a bale of Alfalfa hay to make a "hole in one".

Cows At Rest

We are in the middle of the Dog Days of August, but it is really not so bad this year. June was the month that caused many to lose their religion. Someone in Longview baked cookies in their car during work it was so hot. Days that are in their mid 90's are great. Perfect to do whatever you need to do.

Our beautiful Fullblood Maine-Anjou cattle know exactly what to do on a hot afternoon.....nothing. Under the shade of the trees by their pasture they have fresh cool well water, tasty minerals to snack on and a place to chew their cud's without any worry.

"Chewing a cud is a process by which some animals, called ruminants (camels, goats, sheep, deer, and cattle), thoroughly digest their food.
The cow, for example, has a stomach organized into sections to take care of hard-to-digest food. When the cow first takes in food, it chews it just enough to moisten it. Once swallowed, the food goes to the stomach's first section, where it is mixed with chemicals and softened. This softened food is called the cud, small balls of food.
Next, the stomach's muscles send the cud back up to the cow's mouth, where it is re-chewed and swallowed again, this time going to another section of the stomach, where moisture is squeezed out of the cud.
Finally, the food enters the last section of the stomach, the true stomach, where digestive juices mix with the food and start it on its way to the intestine to be completely digested."
Big Site of Amazing Facts ©

Haying (Is that a word?)

Finally we had a break in the weather and have started our second hay cutting. The moon, stars and sun are lined up right for the next week and before it rains again the hay will be in the barn.

This is what the fields look like just before we start to cut.

The grass is thick and lush. A lot of rich nutrients is stored in it to feed the cattle and the baby calves in the winter.

The cutting is a time consuming process. Once all of the grass is cut, you go back over it and fluff it up so it completely dries. Hay that is baled with too much moisture will create enough heat to set the bale on fire.

The cutter is going through a field of Pearl Millet which was planted as a rich supplemental forage for the beef steers we grass finish. It has done its job now and what is left has seed heads forming. This will make great hay, but we will have little of it since this was planted on only a portion of our hay fields. We will set it aside and feed it from time to time as a treat.

Once the hay is cut it is in neat rows (This is the millet). The millet hay rows look smaller that what you would see in the regular hay meadow as the leaf volume is less. This will dry for the next few days, get fluffed and then wind rolled before the baler passes over each row. I will have more pictures in a few days.

Creamed Corn on the Farm

I do not recall when we started to cream corn, but it was some time in the past 15 years after my parents died and left us a corn cutter. The Lee's Corn Cutter is one of those simple, low cost kitchen gadgets that can not be replicated. Our family loves a dish of hot steaming cream corn. We plan our garden season around raising at least one good crop of corn just to cream and freeze.

This year the heavy rains really set back our garden and the corn we raised was not full and we could not cream much. By luck a friend, that has a green thumb in any weather, told me he would have corn available this past week. As luck would have it, Eva was down on the coast when he called and I was saddled with several bushel baskets of corn to work. We also got a big sack of okra which has been frozen.

The process below is pretty easy to follow. We brought in the corn and Jovita helped me by shucking it and cleaning the silk off the ears. I used the creamer and as the tray filled it went into a big stainless bowl. We froze 11 quart bags from 100 ears of corn. This is less that we need and in the next week out friend will have more we hope.

This is the recipe to follow. A corn cutter costs less than two can eat at Sonic. You do not have to buy 100 ears of corn, but can buy 8-10 or whatever you need a tthe grocery store year round and make it one dish at a time.

If you have never had this dish you will be amazed how wonderful it is. It is especially nice on a cold winter evening or for Thanksgiving dinner.


For 4 people use 8 large ears or 12 small ones. Corn needs to be as FRESH as possible. Cut corn CREAM-STYLE getting ALL THE JUICES. Butter a souffle dish and fill 3/4 full to allow for expansion. Stir in one tablespoon of butter for each ear used. Add a dash of salt. Set oven at 325 degrees and do not preheat. Place dish into oven immediately with no cover. Bake slowly for 25 minutes. Then stir thoroughly. Then go for an additional 25 minutes. Brown the top using broiler about 3 inches above your dish just before serving.

The Week That Was: August 9-15

This was a week where the reality of hope struck hard. The major "money makers" that we planned to get done were pushed aside by other tasks we we did not know even existed as the week started. A "money maker" is a task or effort that has a positive return on investment. It is something we do that will help pay the bills in time or reduce expense. Hope and reality are individually very different concepts. One recognizes where you are today and the other is the reason you keep on doing what you do.

We have not been able to cut hay. The days are hot , but the humidity is high and the cutting crew is bogged down on the job before us. The grass continues to get taller and deeper and a bit past its prime. It will still make good hay, and lots of it, if we get to it in a few days.

Fencing took a back seat to a hundred other things. All that got done was installing one gate. The hogs have taken a vacation, so we saw no new pasture damage this past week. For certain, fence is a priority. We need to get barb wire up by the cabins so we can graze our steers, heifers and a a few cow/calf pairs on the lush grass there. They have eaten the paddocks down where they are now and it needs time to re-grow.

One more day of work will get us completely across the blueberry patch pulling vines and woody undergrowth. We have weed trimmed almost half of the field as the second step after that. Next is to apply a weed and grass herbicide licensed for blueberries and then mulch all the rows. I hate to use the herbicide, but until the plants get six feet tall and can sustain themselves, we have to limit competition. All of the blueberry and blackberry plants were fertilized this week using water soluble fertilizer in the drip irrigation lines. This also did not go without difficulty. the high priced injector pump we recently bought started to give us trouble half way through the process. Apparently we needed more water volume to make it function properly. With a bit of adjusting the zones to be fertilized we increased the flow and finally finished.

I did a row by row check of all the blueberry plants and we need to replace 116 plants late in the fall or early winter. I have located plants very close to the size that we will be replacing. This is about 3% of the total plants we have. When we started in 2005, after the drought, we had to replace 20 %. I don't think you ever stop doing this. We had a very nice four foot plant break off at its base last week for no apparent reason.

We were blessed with a full week in the cabins and bunkhouse. This also means making the effort to ensure all is perfect for our farm stay guests. The rain of a few weeks ago had washed out one end of the bocce court. We have packed this off with hard clay and replaced the sand, so it is ready to play on again. Bocce is perhaps the oldest game know to man. One of our guests this weekend is 101 years young. He wanted to get away and do some fishing.

We were in luck and were able to get two bushel baskets of sweet corn Friday. Creaming corn is a tradition on the farm and normally we raise our own. This year the heavy rain messed up our crop and we only got a few bags off our patch. l will do a blog on creamed corn.

We found time to tattoo the ears of the heifers we weaned a few weeks ago. Now that the numbers are set, I can register them. Those that were dehorned healed well.

I already wrote in a blog about the cat in the fan belts of our work truck. We still need to get one belt off and twisted correct and put on a third. It is time to get the live trap out and catch some cats and move them along to other barns on the place where they forage for their own food.

Javier suddenly had the itch to roast a goat yesterday evening. He took one from the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch and started his fire about 6:00 pm. That is a late start, but before midnight he had some good roasted meat.

What will next week bring? I hope we finish the weed and grass work in the berry patch and get a lot of the mulching done. We will use all the mulch we have before buying more and hopefully have enough on hand to cover all the rows. Again, fencing is a priority, but we shall see how everything else goes.

Greene Speak

"Chips of time, floating up from the ground, left by man to remind the earth that he once owned it. Never relinquishing his claim, the hand-ax there to witness, the flint scraper saying an Indian name we cannot pronounce but hear, the broken liquor bottles laughing through time, those nails that put up doors and walls and rafters to last forever, the brass with its white flame and its lettering. And the gravestones. Every one of the owners thought he would never part with what he owned, and what he had made; never thought that what he parted with might endure beyond even the memory of him."

A.C. Greene, A Personal Country, 1969. Dobie Paisano Fellow, 1968.

Do Cats have Nine Lives?

Say hello to the pretty kitty cat that lived in our barn, but liked to play under the car. Is he looking around?

No...... He is as dead as a door nail. Eva is extracting the cat under her engine at a service station.

She left the farm to go to Houston with Max and Gina behind her in their car. They stopped to get fuel. Both of them had seen something hanging from the car. How many wives would get under the car and pull out a dead cat? Is that the end of the story? No...

No more pictures, but last week we put all new belts on the engine of our faithful 1086 Chevy farm pickup. The truck was in the hay barn overnight Monday. Tuesday morning when it was started I was in the shop. I heard a loud screech, scream, clung and a sound like the engine going wild.

Well you already know. A cat was sleeping under the hood laying inside of the three belts. There was not much else to do but get a bucket, shovel and gloves and pick up the pieces. All of the belts were off the engine.

Such is the life of cats on our farm and why some do not have nine lives.

Mixing Up The Calves: What Not To Do When Working Cattle

When we worked the cattle this summer we had a few funny mistakes that were not so funny at the time.

The longer you are standing out in the hot sun the more tired you get and the more mistakes can happen. As each animal exits the chute you have to determine where it is going. Are you moving it to the home place, keeping a calf with its mother, taking a bull to be castrated and so on? We had three cows with calves only a few months old. We were going to take these back home to a pasture near the house. We had already separated the mama cows into holding pens and we were working the calves. We released a calf by mistake into the pasture by the pens rather than back to its mama.

The only way to get it back was to get the horses and rope it.

This was not all that easy and took several attempts. Once it was roped the calf was not in any mood to go anywhere. We had to go get the cattle trailer and with a lot of effort get the calf inside so we could reunite it with its mama. Then it was a short happy trails ride back to the barn.

After this we thought we had things under control. We also thought it best to leave the cow and calf where they were in the corral for the night and get over the stress of the separation and roping. We took the other two cows and their calves home and left them in our corral/holding pen there.

The next morning we had two calves and one cow and a knocked down fence. The sheriff called and said someone had seen one of our cows (they all have our name on their ear tag) on a road about a mile from the house. Javier went one way and me the other and no cow was found. Eventually we found tracks off into some woods that had been recently clear cut. It looked like a snake den, but we went in and found nothing.

In time, a ranch hand from the place next to ours showed up and said he had our heifer on his place. We went there and finally got it in a horse round pen so it could be taken home.

What caused all this is we had our paperwork records wrong and had brought the wrong calf home. The cow that ran away was looking for her calf and the one we had penned at Rocky Branch was having nothing to do with the calf we left there.

Putting everyone on a trailer we went to Rocky Branch and got everyone in the same pen at the same time and figured out which calf belonged to what cow. It was easy, they were all hungry for milk.

Another day of waste effort and a lesson learned.

Working Cattle

Twice a year we round-up all our cattle and do what is called "work" them in the cattle business. Normally this is done in early summer and the fall. They get various vaccinations that are necessary to keep them healthy. We palpate heifers and cows to determine if they are pregnant and if so for how long. Calves are weaned and bulls castrated into steers. Calves not polled are dehorned. Some times it goes without problems and other times there are nothing but problems.

We use our horses to round-up the cattle. This reduces the stress on the herd.

After the cattle are in the corral, we sort them in to working groups separating out the bull calves, heifer calves, cows and bulls.

After we sort them, we run them individually through the squeeze chute for shots and all the work that needs to be done on each.

To palpate a female (determine if she is pregnant or not) you have to stick your arm far up her intestinal track through her anus. Once in as far as you can reach you use your fingers to feel through the thin skin wall the uterus to make a determination. This link explains it in detail.


Working cattle is a lot of work, but it is a necessary task if you have a cattle herd. Me and Javier look forward to it.

Greer Farm Pottery

There is a local potter that is developing several pieces of pottery in various sizes that reflect what we do on our farm. The first four pieces have arrived and are available. The two bowls have raised blueberries on them. Coming soon are ones with blackberries and larger pieces. Available at the farm.



By The Boab Tree

Eva and I watched the very long film Australia a few evenings ago. A lot of the music we all love and appreciate has its origins in film or stage. By the Boab Tree is a great song, but without seeing the film and understanding the deeper meaning of the lyrics it may not seem so. A good way to enjoy this is to hit the link and hear the song on Your Tube and read the lyrics.

Sing and I will hear you no matter where you are
A song to light the darkest night and guide me from afar
And I will never be alone now I know you're somewhere
You're everywhere to me
You're the colour in the sky, a reason to believe
And when the rain falls down you tell a story
And I will hear you, always near you
By the boab tree

Lay your arms around me like the falling rain
Let the feeling drown me and life begins again
And I will never be afraid now I know you're somewhere
You're everywhere to me
The warming of the sun upon the earth beneath my feet
And when the rain falls down you tell a story
And I will hear you, always near you
By the boab tree

Oh you are somewhere
You're everywhere to me
You're the colour in the sky
And you're the earth beneath my feet
And when the rain falls down you tell a story
And I will hear you, always near you
By the boab tree

Farm Visited by the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture

Last week our farm had a great opportunity. Todd Staples, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, visited our farm. We are part of Go Texan and Texas Rural Community Community programs. The commissioner was making a tour of northeast Texas to see for himself what members were doing.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has come a long way in the last decade. It hit bottom under now governor Rick Perry when he was Commissioner, but has been on a steady and impressive upward direction since then. Staples has done much to continue and build on the department's accomplishments and appears to have a strong interest in doing more.

I never miss an opportunity to market our family farm or to make known issues or opportunities to those that may be able to influence them.My "elevator speech" to the Commissioner had just a few points.

1) Texas is far behind our neighboring states in promoting agritourism using the TDA website and the internet. On a nationwide basis we are near the bottom compared to what many states are doing. Tourism is the third largest industry in Texas. Rural Texas needs a state supported agritourism effort.

2) The Department of Public Safety is disregarding state law and has issued administrative law regulations to disallow H2A seasonal agriculture workers in
Texas on legal work visas to obtain a driver's license while here. The state says its okay for them to drive on a foreign license, but U.S. insurance companies will not issue policies to persons under this rule. This has a broad affect on the agriculture industry in Texas and needs to be addressed. I was told by those that know the decision to do this was political.

3) The TDA has several sites on its website where information can be posted. It would be good to have an employment site where those that need workers can post their need and those looking for work can post their availability or find an open position. It would also be a good place for interns to find summer jobs.

4) TDA has been focused on traditional agriculture. To a larger extent Texas' land grant university Texas A & M, does not even give lip service to anything but traditional agriculture. Most of the state agriculture departments in the nation and land grant colleges are refocusing so they spend part of their resources on the emerging area of sustainable agriculture. Texas does not need to get behind in this area and can be a leader if it wants to.

My final point was to share a success story regarding Northeast Texas Community College where I am on the board of trustees. This community college is moving quickly to change the environment in which it educates and operates focusing on green actions that are more in tune with nature. This includes its pilot biodisel project, use of alternative fuels in its Shelby automotive program, going green on campus in many ways, using well water thermal chillers, building green buildings and more. The Commissioner was invited to the dedication of the $2 million sustainable agriculture center the college is building.

It is hard top judge a politician running for re-election, but Todd Staples by his actions at the TDA and with the legislature appears to be doing a good job as Commissioner. I was impressed that he did not arrive with any members of the press, nor did he have a herd of staff supporters. He came by himself with a single assistant and separately the director of Go Texan marketing from Dallas came.

He came, looked and saw what we do on our farm. I hope he took away some information that will support what we do.

Blackberry Jam: Slow Food Dallas and More

We try to find ways to get people to come to our family farm and have a good time. During the berry season this year we had a tremendous turn out of berry pickers and almost every pickable berry was picked. Eva had two great cooking classes that focused on using fresh blackberries and blueberries, and also peaches from nearby Pittsburg.

She also had a jam making class for the Slow Food chapter in Dallas. A very nice group drove down on a Saturday, had a picnic lunch under the great pecan tree in our yard and then settled into blackberry jam making. It was great fun. There were several in the group from Italy. Everyone participated and got to take home some jars of jam.

A few weeks later, near the end of the berry season, we started to strip the rows of the last of the berries and either freeze them to be used in cooking or jam later in the year or making jam now. Eva's cousin Caroline from Germany was visiting and with a friend they made 90 jars of blackberry jam one afternoon. It was quiet a production line.

When you stay in a cabin or the bunkhouse, you will get to enjoy a small portion of this wonderful jam with some of Eva's homemade bread. We also sell jam if you are interested.

The Week That Was: August 2-8

A friend from Canada called last night to talk about cattle and said he thought we should include more in our blog about what we do all the time. He said that is it amazing that the older we get the more we take on. I suppose many do start to unwind from their active life at they near our ages, but Eva and I just seem to keep on thinking of more and more things to get involved in. Of course, our farm is our paycheck so if you want a pay increase you have to do more or do things different.

This has been a week where the plans we had did not match reality.

Wild feral hogs are a big problem in rural Texas and once again they visited us in the night.

They root up pasture to eat grubs and sweet roots and make large holes to wallow. This week they moved down the road along the berry patch and crossed over onto the house side of the road digging up a pick-up size wallow in our fruit orchard near the shop. That was in addition to the regular digging near the cabins messing up nice lawn and the pasture by the cabins. We have set out traps with little success and on one night this week Javier and I were out with our search light and spotted nine hogs. Javier got over excited and jammed a shell in the rifle.... again. so no shot was fired. The next night we saw none. Something had to be done.

We have already started a massive project to re-build every foot of exterior barb wire fence to make it hog proof. This requires moving the barb wire up and adding a 39 inch woven wire (Class 3 galvanized high tinsel wire) over the fence and laying Gaucho barb wire (4 point, class 3, high tinsel, barb every 3 inches) one inch above the ground. Of course, this also means every fence row has to be cleaned of brush and thick grass to make the change. This covers 6,000 ft of fence to rebuild and 500 feet of new woven wire through the woods where we had no exterior fence, and 1,300 ft if interior barb wire fence by the cabins.

Hogs so close to the gardens and house caused a strong reaction. We abandoned the first project and started to fence the area west and south of the house. This will be about 4,000 ft of re-built fence. We have finished the section next to the road which was critical and this week tackle the rest on this side of the road. I suppose we will have to bring back the gates on the driveway so hogs do not go down the road and come into the yard.

In doing this work, we discovered that we had failed to put a Gaucho barb wire on the bottom of the berry patch fence along the road and there were gaps we had not noticed due to the build-up of pine straw. We added a wire on half of the length exposed and will also finish that this week. We will then check the rest of the fence around the patch on the exterior side.

The grass we fertilized before a month of rain is doing great and we may be able to cut and bale hay later in the week. There are some weeds that we have been removing by hand, but no herbicide use is needed. Our hay should be very clean.

Our goats at the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch are on the hay meadows and those have no weeds. They have eaten what was there. The only weeds are on the side where we have cattle and they are too selective in eating and prefer grass. We may hand pull more of these before we bale.

Our steers we sell for grass-finished beef are doing great. We weighed them a few weeks ago and two are nearing the point they need to be and the rest will be by the fall. The heavy rains in July and early August, plus fertilizer/minerals, have given the cattle more lush forage than they have had in a long time this time of the year. The pearl millet and lab-lab we planted is doing well and is offering an additional protein kick. We have not sold all the beef available and there is still time to order.

During the week, we determined that the butcher we normally use may not be available when we harvest this fall. We called all of the area butchers that harvest beef and have settled on one that is about an hour away (we still need to make an on-site visit). This is not too far to take animals and not stress them. This butcher is USDA inspected and direct beef customers of ours will get packaged beef similar to what they are used to. The price is slightly more than last year for processing and packaging. We are also, for a slightly higher price, going to have some beef harvested that has the USDA label on each package and we can re-sale it here at the farm. We plan on having a lot of ground beef available. Totally grass-finished lean ground beef is fantastic with a wonderful flavor.

Speaking of flavor, Eva had a great cooking class Saturday focused on Gifts of the Garden: Cooking with Summer Vegetables. Every one of her classes are so unique and offer such a variety of items on the menu. If you have not attended one you should consider one of the remaining ones offered this fall.

Using cucumbers and apples from the farm and a store bought pineapple, she created a wonderful fresh Aqua Fresca beverage. Her two appetizers were Baked Zucchini Sticks served in a Smoky Romesco dipping sauce and rolled baked Eggplant strips filled with Artichoke Pesto topped with Goat Cheese.

Two Mediterranean entrees included a fantastic Shrimp Saganaki baked in individual serving dishes.

Chicken Souvalaki was served with grilled onions and yellow squash and a Tzatziki sauce.

Everyone left happy and completely satisfied with this special summer menu.

Eva is planing her September 19 cooking class this week: Artisan Breads and Soups. This menu will pair artisan breads with appropriate soups and will be a great class.

Our week included repairing farm equipment which is a constant pain in the back and expensive. Our Troy Build garden tiller may have seen its last day in the garden. The main seal on the transmission is leaking. We will try a heaver grade of gear oil to see if we can get it to hold, but I have my doubts. It was bought by my dad in 1973, so I guess we got our money out of it.

The DR Brush Mower had a new transmission installed. Ouch, they do not give those away.

The John Deere Z-Track mower tossed off a $65 belt and got new $95 blades. This mower has more horse power than the original Volkswagon bug and travels cutting 15 mph.

This seems to just go on and on. If we only mow what needs to be mowed once, it is 17 acres a week. The berry patch normally gets mowed twice as we mulch the grass there and do not blow it on the rows of plants. This cuts down on spreading weed seeds, but you can not let the grass get too high to cut.

We finished all of the seasonal work on the blackberry rows this week. Every cane that produced a berry has been cut, removed and stacked to burn. We then pruned, a task that is needed every 3-5 weeks), all of the new growth that will produce berries next year. We are pruning slightly higher as an experiment to see if we can get more berry bearing growth.

We started pulling by hand the vines and woody weeds in the blueberry rows and will follow that up by weed trimming between the plants. this will take a few more weeks.

A power surge or lightening strike knocked out the wireless internet system we had at the cabins and one of the electric gates. There are no electrical engineers on the farm and no computer geeks. Javier and I finally got the electric gate to work after replacing the power arm and transformer. I had hopped it would be easy just to replace the parts, but there was a lot more involved including a good dose of logic to make it work again. For the wireless WiFi in the cabins I had to hire an expert that got all up and running except for one cabin that needs an access point we will buy this week. For some reason the speed in the cabins had dropped to .250. We contacted the phone company and its is back to 1.3 now and faster than most have in the city. Our effort to put wireless in the shop is still a failure. We have the Cat 5 cable in place and and operate there hard wired, but when the access point there works it knocks out the system in the house. It is back to the drawing board on that.

So, that is how we spent our week. I left out much, but this covers the major items.

What is on the table for this week? We will fertilize the berries, mow and mow, cut and bale hay maybe, work on fence re-building, tattoo heifer calves weaned a few weeks ago and probably a number of things we do not know about today.

Williamson Speak

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3

Marianne Williamson

Lennox Woods Preserve

About an hour from our farm is a unique piece of land preserved by the Nature Conservancy. The Lennox Woods Preserve covers 325 acres and is "one of the most beautiful and pristine old-growth forests in the state, Lennox Woods Preserve is a vital refuge for several rare species of plant and animal communities supported by the waters of Pecan Bayou, one of the largest undammed watersheds in northeastern Texas. Visitors can hike, bird or take advantage of a self-guided nature trail. The old-growth timber and cathedral-like canopy of these woods are thought to be typical of the undisturbed floodplains throughout the state prior to the arrival of settlers."

A guest at the farm sent us the following note:

"We stayed with you on Sunday on our way to the Preserve -- and you
said that you would be going up there with a group.  It is beautiful -- but
hard to find.  Below are the directions from the Nature Conservancy.  Not
only is the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church sign hard to find -- it is
non-existent because it appears that the church is closed.  There is a
number on that road --- it is Co 2227.  Hope you enjoy the preserve."

Northeast Texas offers a lot of interesting things to see and experiences to have. This may be one that only a few would be interested in but it is an opportunity cole by.

All Cattle Are Not Equal: Mini Cows

We raise real cattle. The kind that make a trailer sit down when they get on-board. Jack In the Box is pushing mimi sirloin burgers. Well, you would not expect these to come from normal cattle would you? Nah! Enjoy the this ad.

For those of you interested in real beef. We still have available on an order basis grass finished Maine Anjou beef.

These are real cattle and pretty too.

Changing of the Guard: A New Tractor

Since 1993, we have gotten by with a small two wheel drive 55 h.p. John Deere tractor. It has served us well and will continue to do so in a more limited capacity in the years ahead. We have a new John Deer, 4 wheel drive, tractor that has a cab. This point forward things will not be quiet the same.

It will be nice not to get stuck feeding large hay bales in winter, being covered in dust when shredding or disking, and not having to fear ground hornets you might disrupt. The air conditioner must have been designed for a home. On its lowest setting, you get chilled. Oh I love that. Even Eva is willing to use the tractor now!