Our friend, the rat snake

When we first moved to this Texas dream ranch of over one hundred acres, we saw it all through idyllic, rose colored lenses.  Then you realize there is a whole other microcosm that exists, with or without you. 

A recent Craigslist ad from someone begging for snakes after he killed all of his he saw and realized they ate the  mice that now overrun the barn, reminded me of our encounter with snakes here on our place.  We saw our first couple of snakes and did a little research before doing anything about them.  Actually, I freaked out a little when the first snake I saw was on the outside of the house on the window screen, wrangling it’s way down towards the ground.  Later, I figured it was getting out of our attic, and had come out the gable vent, and down the side of the house.  We soon realized that they do have a purpose and if you see them, then there is a problem they are handling for you.  In our case, the mice were living in and around the house, which mice do. Not in unruly numbers, and that was the reason: the snakes kept their numbers regulated.   In the past couple of winters two or three mice, usually during a wicked cold snap, have made their way into our house (entries are almost impossible to plug up completely; they can squeeze through the smallest opening imaginable).  Luckily, our dog April has turned into a fantastic mouser.  She is on their scent trail as soon as they get in and she finds them, does a quick kill without any bloodshed, and we easily dispose of the critter.   Additionally, last summer we found one snake curled up in the attic.  We know we have had a few problems up there in the winter, so if they can help us out up there, then so be it.  We know that they are not aggressive to us,  will move out of our way, that they are not venomous, and that they are helping keep nuisances “in check”.  We actually like our snakes and rejoice when we come across one slithering across the yard or alpaca pasture.  We just step around them and let them go on their merry way.

Easter Sunday and Alpacas

A happy Easter to you.  Although rather windy, it is a nice day.  The rain  that was predicted has so far not shown up. 

Since we moved to this 104 acre northeast Texas ranch it is interesting to note how the weather impacts our daily life, where it never was of much consequence when we lived in the city, other than maybe needing an umbrella to go to work or shopping.  We tune in to the weather daily and our schedule of activities is determined by the weather.  The old adage “make hay while the sun shines” is most appropriate.   We are contented where we are, and understand more fully the lives our grandparents had on their farms since we were city folk and only visited a few days at a time.  As children, you don’t see the whole picture and so our memories are very selective and idyllic. 

Yesterday, since rain was predicted today, we mowed the large expanse of lawn (a larger tractor is next on our list of budgeted necessities), the remaining 20 bales of hay was rearranged and securely re-tarped, the alpaca dung piles were scooped and disposed of (to reduce parasites), some rose garden clean up was done,  some evaluation done on some additional pasture fencing for more rotation access, and our neighbor sprayed ten of our acres for weeds as he helps us develop this acreage for coastal bermuda grass for hay.    The wind was fairly calm which helped make all the chores more enjoyable.   We also were expecting company for the weekend, so once evening settled in, we moved indoors and worked to make ready the house interior.  It was a most productive and enjoyable day.  It is also a nice assurance to see the animals enjoying their grazing and lounging, watching us work.  They are contented where they are too. 

Sunny day

We got back from a week in Colorado where the ski resort had nearly 500 inches of snow.  We sometimes dream of retiring there, but when we hear the locals say they are sick of the snow, then we rethink it and decide that Texas and the lovely weather will keep us here, with an occasional visit to Colorado to satisfy that desire. 

I am sure everyone goes through the same dilemma, of maybe going to live somewhere new when they have the time and money.  We moved to this one hundred acre ranch in the country just 30 minutes from where we were in the city, three years ago.  We have lots of goals for this place and so I think it will keep us busy and interested throughout retirement.  We have six alpacas  and two guard llamas right now to enjoy, plus our lab mix dog, April; my husband the architect now has his woodworking shop with dreams of starting up a side business of building and selling custom furniture for others (he has successfully made furniture for family members over the years); and I would like to expand the ranch with other critters, especially looking into the rare breeds and heritage breeds.  Chickens, ducks, fainting goats, Navajo Churro sheep,  could all live here. We have the acreage, more than we had ever anticipated having; we just need to invest time and money in putting the right accommodations in place and be sure we have the time to manage everything and do it well. 

I am currently researching the best type(s) of chickens that will lay eggs for us and be easy to manage in our North Texas environment.  We have the interesting animals that visit us here: coyotes, red tailed hawks, rat snakes, various beautiful butterflies, hummingbirds, and diverse birds (swallows, owls, dickcissels, meadowlarks, etc.), rabbits and of course the field mice.  They are all interesting to watch and also understand their habits.

So we will stay where we are and enjoy this place; we can always dream, but reality is that I think we have actually found our ideal retirement home.

Winter in Texas

We had snow and some ice; twice this week, Monday and Thursday.  Rather unusual to have two systems come through in such a short time.  It was a nasty day yesterday weatherwise and today it’s the opposite; sunny and warm.  The alpacas huddled in the barn all day yesterday.  They ventured out into the snow today.  I was raking hay out an area of the barn and discovered some very young bunnies huddled in a 3″ deep hole the mother had made in the soft and warm sand.  I left them as I found them and covered them back up with the bunny fur and straw the mother had lovingly covered them up with.  She must visit them at night when it is dark and quiet.  How sweet.

A late Texas snow

just one of the girls  It’s a beautiful cloudless day in northeast Texas; the snow is melting quickly. Yes, we had a late storm yesterday.  It was predicted but we always wait to see if it will really turn out as predicted.  Sleet moved in first and then soon turned into a nice fluffy, wet snow. It snowed into the night.  This morning we had a soft coating of white; it was lovely.  Usually we get ice but not this time; it had been in the 60’s so it was too warm to ice.  The alpacas darted into the barn when the sleet arrived and stayed in during the snow.  I feed them in the barn each evening so they always feel warm and safe there.  Today they ventured out as the snow melted to graze the new sprigs of green.  The dwarf apple tree has just bloomed.  Spring has sprung.