Country Goes to the City: Attending the State Fair of Texas in Dallas

While we had cabin guests that had escaped the city, we all loaded up and headed to Dallas for our annual visit to the State Fair of Texas. Big Tex is all fancied up in new clothes, but I did not really like his yellow shirt. The auto show has too many expensive cars that average 20 MPG.

We stopped by in the livestock exhibition building to say howdy to our heifer, Miss Kaya. She will be there for the entire fair to be an example of our breed. We thought she was the best looking one there. If you go to the fair, be sure and see her.

One special treat was a sneak preview of the Cotton bowl now that is has 92,000 new seats. The gate was unlocked to the tunnel and of course everyone made a dash like the UT Longhorns to make a grand entrance heading into the arena. About the time the grass was touched, a warden called out, "shame on you" and ran everyone out and she locked the gate.

As everyone does, we had our fill of fair food. I think the song in Charlottes's Web, A Veritable Smorgsbord is very appropriate for food at the fair. In our case we were not the rat, but we did have a great variety of fair food. Let's see.... Turkey Legs, Sausage on a Stick, Tamales, Fresh Lemonade, real Root Beer, fully loaded Funnel Cake, Tacos, Fletcher's Corny Dogs, fresh roasted Corn-on-a- Cob, and so on. If you have never been to the fair, or have not been recently, consider going. It is one of the best entertainment dollars you can spend in Texas.

Uncle James

My uncle is in his mid-80's and has been a farmer, warrior, union pipe fitter, rancher and cowboy in his life. He was bucked off his horse a few days ago and they turned off the life support yesterday. His was a life fully lived.

"Death is sad because it takes away the great gift of life, but it be not sad if the gift was well used".

Uncle James used his gift well.

Happy trails.....


The poem Hardware is perfect to describe in large part my dad. He would have been 100 years old in February, but at 88 slipped away in a restful somber never knowing what I did with the collection of tools and shop stuff that he collected for over a lifetime. As I packed boxes and sorted tools and things that looked similar I wished I had paid more attention when I was in the shop with him.

He has been gone 13 years and I have my own shop now with my own stuff (which I know the names of) and his stuff (some of which is still a mystery). I wonder what my kids will do my treasure. I am sure they will look at some items and say. "what hell is this for? or why did dad keep this?".

Some items of dad's I kept just because they were his. It did not matter if I did not know what they were for, or if they were in a state of disrepair or broken. I can look at them and see his tracks; well worn smooth wood handles or grips worn down by use. It makes me feel every so close to him and it causes my to miss him more.

by Ronald Wallace

My father always knew the secret
name of everything—
stove bolt and wing nut,
set screw and rasp, ratchet
wrench, band saw, and ball—
peen hammer. He was my
tour guide and translator
through that foreign country
with its short-tempered natives
in their crewcuts and tattoos,
who suffered my incompetence
with gruffness and disgust.
Pay attention, he would say,
and you'll learn a thing or two.
Now it's forty years later,
and I'm packing up his tools
(If you know the proper
names of things you're never
at a loss) tongue-tied, incompetent,
my hands and heart full
of doohickeys and widgets,
whatchamacallits, thingamabobs.

The Goat Eater

Over a year ago we experimented in pasture management. We added a small herd of male goats to graze with our cattle at the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch. The theory is that goats eat weeds that cattle will not and together they provide forage balance without having to use chemical herbicides. Multi species grazing is a somewhat new concept.

It worked pretty well, except several just up and died during the summer. I assume it was from too heavy a load of internal worms. We started to round-up the ones that remained and have a regular chemical worming schedule.

Last month, we took out all the young males from our herd at home. One-by-one they disappeared. Yesterday morning we were there unloading alfalfa hay off an 18 wheeler early and saw a coyote out in the middle of a paddock eating. I then noticed we had no more young goats running around.

Having taken the rifle out of the truck, I called a neighbor to see if he could get a shot off. The coyote scented that danger was near and ran away. Since it is a few days from the start of calving season, taking out that coyote is a priority.

Javier has a rifle with scope and will be stalking every morning for a few days to see if we can make out farm safe for goats again. I hate to kill anything, but I can not be in the business of feeding a coyote.

Hurricane Ike Blessing

Two of our children were in harms way when Hurricane Ike roared onto the Texas coast. One has a home in Houston that was undamaged and they never even lost electricity. The other has a home on Galveston Island near the seawall and yesterday got to go back to check it. NO damage or flooding, except for two feet of water in utility room and garage. At the farm we lost a number of trees, had fences down, and no power for three days, but nothing serious. We were blessed as a family.

We took in five families from the Port Arthur area for several days. One lost their roof and everything in the house got wet and two had five feet of flooding in their homes.

Baby Chicks

Twenty days ago I put 60 or so eggs from our barn chickens in an incubator. This morning, the first chick emerged while I was having breakfast. It is interesting to set eggs, turning them three times a day, being sure there is some water in the base and then three days before they are due adding lots of water and not turn them at all. Just letting them sit there at 99-1/2 degrees F. I can move any chicks after 24 hours and they are fully dry to a brooder (in our case a water trough with heat lamp over it). They do not need feed or water for 24 hours. Mother Nature delivers them ready to go. I will leave the eggs to incubate three more days to see what comes out. After that it is over.

Organic Consumers vs. Monsanto

Sometimes persistence pay off for consumer protection groups. The Organic Consumers Association declared war on Monsanto and after 14 years have influenced the company to sell off its Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) division. The association issued the following release

"Monsanto announced on August 6 it will "divest" or sell off its controversial genetically engineered animal drug, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Monsanto's divestment of rBGH is a direct result of 14 years of determined opposition by organic consumer, public interest, and family farmer groups. Since its founding, the Organic Consumers Association has campaigned against this cruel and dangerous drug, pointing out to organic and health-minded consumers that rBGH-tainted dairy products pose unacceptable dangers to humans from increased antibiotic residues and elevated levels of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1. OCA's "Millions Against Monsanto" campaign has generated over a quarter million emails and petition signatures on the topic of rBGH, helping make rBGH one of the most controversial food products in the world. We'd like to thank you and all our allies for taking part in this 14-year campaign and helping to bring one of the world's largest and most powerful corporations to its knees. Now let's break Monsanto's stranglehold over seeds and take away their mandate to force-feed genetically engineered food to an unwilling public. Help us push through federal legislation to require mandatory labeling and safety-testing of GMOs (genetically modified organisms.)"

To learn more about GMO's, the effects of round-up, PCB,s and other products view the 27 minute video Millions Against Monsanto Campaign.

I am as guilty as the next farmer when it comes to using round-up under my fences and other places I do not want weeds to grow. I will look for an alternative product to do the same thing that has less impact on the environment. I saw a demonstration in Oklahoma this year using goats penned in a narrow strip of fence by the fence to eat the weeds and grass. It worked, but if you have miles of fences that would take a lot of time to move and a lot of goats. If anyone knows an organic way to keep fence rows cleaned, let me know.

Aslicornia aka Sea Beans: Much More than a Weird Vegetable

Eva and I were in Dallas a few weeks ago and stopped at Jimmy's Italian Market to load up on wonderful Italian cheese, lots of different salami and their homemade Italian sausage links.

Next door to Jimmy's is the "hole-in-the-wall" gourmet vegetable and fruit shop Spiceman’s F.M. 1410 of Tom Spicer. Tom searches the world for unique veggies and fruits for the chefs of Dallas and other's that appreciate good food. This year, he also started a chef's garden at the Mansion on Turtle Creek.

We tasted some very unique mushrooms including Lobster which has the color and texture of lobster meat and a similar taste. I think they were from Mexico. He also had Salicornia (aka sea beans) which were really different. It is a plant growing on the west coast that takes in the sea salt giving it a very distinct flavor.

In addition to his produce shop, Tom is an accomplished musician and plays the Dallas music scene.

Tom has helped us out when we had a surplus of blackberries and blueberries. If we can ever hire or partner with someone that likes to garden of a large scale, Tom has lots of needs that we could fill.

James Speak

"Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an emptiness we don't even know we have"
Thom James

Are You a Deep thinker?

Yesterday it rained all day, and all night, and it is still raining, but not heavy at any time. The passing of the tropical depression gave me a chance to do a few things I would not normally have time to do. Including listening to all of NPR's morning show broadcast by Red River Radio (Shreveport, La). Today on Earth & Sky, a segment they use as a spacer each morning, there was a brief report by Jerome C. Glenn, Director of the- Millennium Project. I guess when your local news is dominated, not by the Republican Convention, but by the destruction and struggle of the Louisiana, it was an appropriate subject.

Living on the farm, I have learned to appreciate the limits of our physical and technological capabilities. Some things I would like to do are not possible. Practicing sustainable agriculture limits yourself more as you do not use every chemical available on the shelf to solve a problem. You have to be more innovative and use Mother Nature to some extent.

The Millennium Project is a decade long effort to identify the global challenges to humanity. What is out there that affects everyone today and tomorrow? A summary of the 2008 report has 15 global challenges. Each is worthy of reading and consideration. I know individually we are not going to affect them, but collectively if we consider our actions we can influence them on a micro basis.

The director of the project is Jerome C. Glenn. In this link, which is 21 minutes long, he gives an overview of the 2008 report and its implications globally. I found it interesting that outside of the developed world, and India and China, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. I thought we had a bit more economic diversity today in developing countries.

I know this is a deep subject to tackle, but if you have an interest in the lives your children's children and beyond may live, it is worthwhile to consider the findings of the report.

Rain, Rain Go Away....

Hurricane Gustav has left the Louisiana coast and within a few hours its much diminished eye will pass through Daingerfield as a tropical storm. We have been getting non-stop rain since the middle of last night and steady wind. If the eye keeps moving, they say we will only get rain for 48 hours or so. The storm blew in several families that were part of the evacuation and they stayed in our cabins. They have left and headed home to see what the situation is with their houses and businesses. We are grateful that we could be of service to these families, baking them cookies and blueberry muffins, and trying to ease their concerns.

To whom much is given, much is expected. - Luke 12:48

Labor Day

Today is Labor Day. A respite from the every day world of work set aside in 1882 by someone that is very much appreciated for their foresight. To celebrate this, I found a few quotes from both a Republican and a Democrat president.

Far and away the best praise that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. Theodore Roosevelt, Labor Day 1903

No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more that a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of descent living. Franklin Roosevelt