Friday, January 22, 2010

Reflecting on our latest trip to the Texas Hill Country

As often as possible, we like to get out of the city and spend time on our 30 acres of land. There’s nothing like the Texas Hill Country’s breath-taking views and crisp, fresh air to feel refreshed and alive again. Every time we go, I am reminded of the things I love most, and I become more determined than ever to preserve, conserve, and recycle.

This time of year, when it is cold on the hillside and sometimes damp, I am awestruck at how some living things sleep while others thrive through the season. I notice the structural beauty of the bare Spanish Oaks. I marvel at how the brown native grasses are still standing tall and proud. I am surprised to see the scrub jays squawking at each other. When I spot raccoon or fox tracks in the caliche soil, I get tickled imagining their nightly forages. Moving a dead branch on the ground reveals creepy-crawly things that quickly find other hiding places. Noticing a field mouse with puffed cheeks scurry into a mound of Indian grass tells me that the oak trees put out enough acorns and the native grasses bore grains in the fall. The dark red and tan fallen leaves at the edge of the wooded area make me think of the natural composting process and how the nutrients are put back into the soil. The buds on the wild Texas persimmon trees are a sign that this season is just another season, and that too will change in a few months.

Seeing life on this level helps me make the decision go the extra step to preserve the ecosystem. One example is the decision to boil water with garlic to kill fire ants rather than spray harmful toxins. Knowing that the wildlife will eat the persimmons and peaches affirm my decision to spray the precious buds in the winter with canola oil instead of conventional, petroleum-based dormant oil. Being aware that scrub jays no longer nest 15 miles north of our land, like they did previously, prompts me make suet for them and preserve the trees that they prefer for food and nesting. Hearing the hawks and coyotes at night encourage us to continue managing the land without herbicides and pesticides that might affect predators in the food chain.

Western Scrub Jays found in the southern part of the Texas Hill Country