Cowboy Political Speak

There are many quotes attributed to cowboy's in the 1800's. Some appear to me to be appropriate during this political season.

"A wink is as good as a nod to a blind mule"

"When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty"

"Never miss a chance to shut up"

"Don't corner someone meaner than you"

"A cowboy is loyal to his brand"

The Times are Changing

I have a routine every day that I seldom change. I wake up in the dark, perhaps an hour before the sun rises, and lay there thinking about what I need to accomplish; making priority lists in my mind. The items on the top of my list are what I call "money makers". Tasks that affect our farm bottom line. Getting my self exhausted thinking about all that needs to be done, I get out of bed, change and head to the kitchen. I have one of those wonderful coffee pots that brews at a set time so my coffee is ready a bit before 6:00 AM. I ground the beans every night so it's really good coffee. As I walk from the bedroom to the kitchen, I carry my laptop which is downloading a set of news and financial feeds plus some daily newspapers. By the time I get my coffee, I have lots top read. I also do not have to listen to the senseless "talking heads" on the 24 hour news channels. I do turn the television for a moment to the BBC just to see if the world might have ended while I was sleeping and being where we are have no knowledge of the event. In warmer weather, I sit on the porch listening to NPR, having coffee and reading on my laptop.

Beside all the "free" news you can get off the internet and those bothersome newspaper links that make you register, I subscribe to the New York Times and get the complete newspaper every day. It even looks like a newspaper page without ads. Even if you do not agree with the Times editorial content politically, you have to admit it does have a lot of well written articles covering lots of different subjects and broad international news. You can not get that anyplace else in one paper. Its articles are also not written in 7th grade English. Having access to a dictionary while you read the Times is helpful.

I also read the online version of USA Today. It is what I call a shotgun paper. You do not get much depth as it covers lots of subjects "skin deep". That is about all a lot of its readers need or want I guess.

For more than 30 years I have read the Wall Street Journal print edition every day, but that is going to change. Normally I read it in the evening when I have more time and sometime read several days at a sitting. The WSJ is radically right wing politically on its editorial pages and now that the owner of Fox news has taken over it's even more extreme. the WSJ gives me a good dose of that perspective just to get my blood boiling, but it also the best financial news and some international news you can get in an American newspaper. The Financial Times (London) is really the best newspaper for global financial perspective. Now that they have new ownership, the WSJ has gotten greedy. The have more than doubled the price of a subscription, to more than $340 a year. They try to make you feel good telling you that is half of the news stand price. So what! You can get their online edition by subscription for $80 a year, so I will be making that change in November.

I do not read it often, but one of the nation's most respected newspapers in this country, and one often quoted, is The Christian Science Monitor. It has a reputation of solid reporting and is in actually "fair and balanced" which FOX news will never be close to. Very soon this newspaper will no longer be available in a print edition. The times are indeed changing and rapidly for newspapers that are seeing their advertisement and circulation numbers drop monthly. Being online, they can have reduced staff, less cost and still attract readership and advertisers. I would bet that in time more people will read some or all of the Monitor because of this change. I like very much the statement by their editor when making the announcement.

This new, multiplatform strategy for the Monitor will "secure and enlarge the Monitor's role in its second century," said Mary Trammell, editor in chief of The Christian Science Publishing Society and a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors. Mrs. Trammell said that "journalism that seeks to bless humanity, not injure, and that shines light on the world's challenges in an effort to seek solutions, is at the center of Mary Baker Eddy's vision for the Monitor. The method of delivery and format are secondary" and need to be adjusted, given Mrs. Eddy's call to keep the Monitor "abreast of the times."

Americans as a whole are not too aware of the world around them and most do not even know what is going on in their on city. The 24 hour news channels have only worked to diminish our awareness of "real" news. Many Americans think that the right wing radio talk shows are actually factual news.

My case-in-point here is a piece by Sean Hannity. When the price of gasoline was at or above $4 a gallon for days on-air he hit hard on those that opposed offshore drilling in sensitive areas (California) and wonderful beaches (Florida), and Alaskan wilderness areas. He repeated over and over that if we drilled in these areas the price of oil for Americans would drop to $15 a barrel. Hog wash! All of the assumed oil in these areas would amount to less than a few percent of a global supply at peak production. That is the best case.

The price of oil is set on the world market by supply and demand plus a degree of speculation on the future's markets. America has little to no role in impacting this on the supply side. Hannity's followers I am sure believed every word he spoke and thought that even if the world price of oil was $140 a barrel, we could artificially be insulated and our price would be only a fraction of this. Radio talk shows are not news folks, they are entertainment.

Local and national newspapers have been our window to world and one by one they are shrinking, closing and changing format. With all the changes surging around us, I hope that we still have talented journalist that continue to have a venue that "shines light on the world's challenges in an effort to seek solutions".

Garcia Speak

"Somebody has to do something and it's just incredibly pathetic that is has to be us"
Jerry Garcia

Frost On the Pumpkin

This morning it was 32 degrees and we had our first frost of the year. It was more than three weeks early from our average frost date. The last few days we have collected flower pots and trimmed them placing each in the greenhouse to over winter. Yesterday, Eva and I took cuttings of some of our favorite plants and started to root them for next spring. Having a greenhouse is a wonderful. For six months of the year to stands idle and blazing hot inside. Then in the blink of an eye, it is full of plants and flowers, cuttings and in time seedlings. I love to go in there on the coldest of days and see the summer flowers still in bloom.

On the farm we have almost finished insulating water pipes that for some reason every year loose their protective wrapping. Water boxes are closed and insulated and outside faucets covered. The release valve on the back of the lake is serviced, valve opened to flush the stand pipe releasing a gush of water from the 16 inch pipe, and then we close the valve to just a crack allowing water to flow all winter and hopefully avoid freezing. Did you know that water expands 11% at 27 degrees. That is enough to bust a valve.

James Whitcomb Riley (1853-1916) has been attributed to the phrase we often hear this time of the year; "We had frost on the pumpkin last night". His seasonal poem is appropriate on this day.

When the Frost Is on the Pumpkin
WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don't know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me—
I'd want to 'commodate 'em—all the whole-indurin' flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.


It Time for the Dallas Hoedown Again!

Once again the Greer Farm has donated blackberries to one of Dallas' finest chefs for the Friends of the Dallas Farmer's Market Hoedown. They will be turned into some wonder and tasty dish that you can sample Thursday November 6 in the Food and Fiber Building within the State Fair of Texas fairgrounds.

We will have a table to advertise our farm stays, lakeside rental cabins and Chef Eva's cooking classes.

Please put it on your calendar and come on down. We will be happy to visit with you.

As a word of caution, do not eat before you come. There are so many tasty samples to chose from that you will go home feeling like you have been to a seven course dinner in a gourmet restaurant. Hopefully the Irish Society will be there again with their best of Ireland cuisine: Irish whiskey shots.

Tickets are $45 for members of the Friends of the Dallas Farmer's Market and $55 for non-members. If you live in DFW area, this is an excellent way to support a group that works all year to make the farmer's market a success.

Thursday November 6th
6pm til 9pm
Food & Fiber Pavillion Fair Park

Honorary Chairperson: Mayor Tom Leppert

Please Thank & Support Our Sponsors Mrs. Trammel Crow Hardies Blue Mesa Grill Medical City Heart
Downtown Dallas Coca-Cola Budweiser
Architexas Belclaire Realty Combs Produce Culinary Concierge Greater Dallas Restaurant Association Merriman Associates/Architects, Inc. Ida “Mama Ida” Papert Schepps Dairy The Beck Group Whizzbangg/Lisa Bolin
AIWF Centerplate @ The Dallas Convention Center Roy Gene Evans Glast, Philips & Murray, P.C. Pamela & Jim Graham William H. Lively

Each year, the Friends host an annual “Hoedown” which is our largest fundraiser. In partnership with the Texas Department of Agriculture’s program “Go Texas”, farmers from around the state donate ingredients that are used by local chefs to create unique and delicious samplings for event participants. In addition, local Specialty food producers sample products from cheese to salsa to tapenades and dips. To round out the experience, local wineries contribute wine, and local artisans bring their products. This year’s event will be held in early November. The event will honor our rich heritage while anticipating a thriving future for the Market.
Put in on your calendar. Tell your friends. But most of all, COME HUNGRY! Click on the "Hoedown" Button on the left for more details including directions as well as ticket information.

Farm Hazzard..... Ground Wasps

Javier called me mid-day and said he had a big problem in the horse paddock and to come quick. I met him and Jovita, his wife who is 8-1/2 months pregnant . She was sitting on a stump. I immediately imagined it was time to go to the hospital. That was not the problem. The truck was sitting by the fence with the motor running and the doors open; and radio blaring Mexican music. Javier's hat was across the pasture.

He had gone to get a piece of scrap iron from our private dump and the truck tires ran over a ground wasp nest. They were lucky it was not ground hornets that have attacked me before and are very nasty. Jovita apparently dived out of the truck before Javier knew there was a problem and ran getting only one sting. He was slower, being a man, and got a number of bites on his head.

After looking things over from a distance, we went to the house and got Jovita some anti-itch cream. I dressed Javier in heavy winter overalls, a winter coat, pull over mask that only leaves a slit for your eyes, leather gloves and then tied every opening with bailing twine. He looked quiet the sight. I sprayed him with both tick repellent and OFF.

He walked up the truck and got in with hundreds of wasps, drove off the windows open and the wasps departed for their nest. He did not get any stings. Back at the nest, the wasps were raising holly hell and a swarm of them looked like a small black cloud hanging over the hole in the ground leading to their nest. They better enjoy the rest of today, for tomorrow they will have been dispatched to wasp heaven.

You just never know what is going to happen on the farm.

Ground Nesting Wasps:
Many species of wasps are also solitary and nest in the ground. They have a life cycle similar to that of the mining bees. After preparing a burrow, the female wasp stocks it with provisions (which consist of insect or spider prey rather than pollen and nectar), lays one or more eggs in it, seals it and departs. Some species don't permanently seal the nest, but instead return repeatedly with additional prey as their larvae grow. These wasps range in size from extremely small forms to the large, fearsome looking "cicada killers."

Cicada Killers (Specius speciousus): Cicada killers resemble large yellowjackets. They are mostly black with pale yellow markings on the abdomen, and about 5 cm (2 inches) long. Despite their appearance, these insects are inoffensive and usually will not bother people even when provoked. Their sting is meant for paralyzing their prey and normally does not cause a reaction in humans. They are considered beneficial because they reduce cicada populations. However, they may cause lawn damage if there are large numbers of them nesting in close proximity to each other.

Adult cicada killer. Image copyright Ronald F. Billings,
Texas Forest Service

Another group of ground nesting wasps are the Scoliid (family: Scoliidae) or Tiphiid (family: Tiphiidae) wasps. Scoliid wasps are about 16 mm (5/8 inch) long and blue-black, with blackish-purple wings. They have a yellow stripe on each side of the abdomen. Their bodies are fairly hairy and the back part of the abdomen is covered with reddish hairs. Tiphiid wasps are black and somewhat hairy with short, spiny legs. Both wasps are generally seen flying over the lawn during the day, leaving in early evening. Scoliids and Tiphiids are beneficial wasps in that they parasitize grub populations. They are not aggressive and generally do not attack humans. Adults are often seen on golden rod flowers in the late summer.

Working Together Works

It is funny how things just happen to fit together sometimes.

As the first light was coming up in the east this morning, I was having coffee on the porch. Suddenly I heard a familiar sound I expect to hear later in the fall. Three groups of Canadian geese, in their flying-V pattern (we also had a late moon just like in the photo today) were flying low over the house. I realized they were headed to our lake and making their approach for a smooth landing. I don't know how nature instills in birds, insects and animals the the instinct of migration and how that road map of thousands of miles traveled by each generation is passed along. These geese were honking loudly to each other, so I assume that is how they stay together.

Flying in the V pattern reduces drag on the flock and allows them to move faster with less energy. Now I sure you wonder how this relates to things fitting together.. Last night, I was at a local political party county meeting. We had two speakers talking about why it is important to vote and what voting means to them.

One just had his 80th birthday, is a naturalized American and endured as a boy the last days of the Nazi Germany and war reconstruction. His view was that every person makes a difference, especially if they participate in our democratic processes. Together, no matter what party or candidate they support, collectively this causes our nation to continue to enjoy the freedoms so many fought to preserve. So to him it all boiled down to participation. It is critical you play in the game, win or lose.

The second speaker was in his late 80's. He had served 20 years in the military and went through the trials of segregation in a "white man's" world. His voting theme was working together works. He used specific examples in his life in the military, during the civil rights era and as one of the first black workers in a local steel mill. He said nothing can be accomplished alone. You have to work with others. He gave specific examples of times in his life where working together with others allowed much more to be accomplished than trying to do things alone. His years of wisdom were linked to the current political campaign for President, but also he had a message for those of us that want our community a better place to live.

How does all this fit together with geese. Well the Canadian geese have to work together to migrate and they have to participate if the flock is going to survive. This brings up my final thought. There is a child's book called Lucy Goose Goes To Texas.

"When the others went east, Lucy always went west. She never seemed happy to stay with the rest. Curious and independent, Lucy is a Canadian Goose learning the ropes. Her Mom instructs her and her siblings about the big trek to Texas that will occur when the first frost appears. Lucy decides to fly alone to Texas, and although she's enjoying the sites and sounds below her, she begins to get cold, tired, hungry, and lonely. She believes she has made a mistake by flying alone. She hears a honking sound in the distance and then notices the V! It's her friends and family! Lucy then receives a lecture: "

"We all get a lift when we fly in a V;
We don't get so tired; we fly easily.
It's all about teamwork; we all stick together,
So we get where we're going, no matter the weather.

We honk at each other to say, 'You can do it!'
When we work as a team, we know we'll get through it.
So let's go to Texas where we all get to rest!
Let's all help each other to each be our best."

"This engaging story reminds children that it’s great to be on one's own, but even better to be part of a flock."

It also is a lesson today in the last days of this election season. Someone will be elected our new President in a few weeks. Whomever that is we need to remember that they will not be successful unless we all work with them together and participate in what every way we can.

All this from going to a meeting and getting up early to have a cup of coffee... amazing!

Fall Is Settling In and Other Thoughts

We have had 24 hours of rain on the farm. I think the last vestiges of Summer are over except the the first frost in November. Our nights are moving into the 40's and you can even think about jacket or sweater early in the morning on the porch having coffee. More and more color is appearing in the forest. What a wonderful time of the year.

We had our first calf of the season Sunday, a girl! That is good for our farm as replacement females are the backbone of our cattle herd. It is always better to "grow your own" than purchase from outside so long as you diversify your genetic base on the male side. We have two herd bulls currently; one we raised and one we got from Montana that brings a different set of genetics. Our yearling bull is also from Montana. You need one bull for every 30 cows that need to be bred.

Soon we will have baby goats. It looks like every female is ready to give birth. Unlike our cattle where we have select three month periods when the cows are exposed to the bull, we have a billy goat with our female goats year round. This fall we need to buy a ram for our sheep. It is time for them to breed.

If you live in an urban area, have you ever noticed how much noise there is. 24/7 there is no end to it. As I write this I am in my study, with the French doors open, looking out across the lawn into the forest. The only sound is that of birds and insects. A crow is calling and calling. I hear so many natural sounds. It is a chorus forming its own music. Since early morning I think only two vehicles have passed and one of those was a tractor.

If you over by the cabins you do not even hear the vehicles; just the occasional train passing in the distance. I wish I had more time to go over there and sit on a porch in a rocker and just do nothing, or read a good book. Many of our cabin guests say that is the best part of being here. They enjoy the down time from what they are normally doing, they like the privacy and the silence.

It's Thursday and it feels like the fall on a farm.

The Cows At Night

We raise all kinds of animals on our farm and are surrounded by birth, life and death throughout the year. All of the animals are precious to us and we celebrate their life cycle in our own way with them. Each, whether a sheep, goat, goose, duck, chicken, pig, horse or cow, have their own distinct characteristics. The poem below is about cows, but also about farms. Most of you never give a thought as your drive at high speed during the night in rural ares to what might be me just outside of the road's edge. Too often all you see is the glare of a security cutting the night.

If you have ever been to Vermont, you can appreciate a night with little light and the miles of farms in the valleys laying there waiting for the sun. There are few people in rural Vermont and the distances, while short, seem to be longer due to the isolation of each farmstead. Meadows and corn fields, growing or cut, and dairy cows are the totality of the landscape.

Here in East Texas it is different. Land fragmentation has subdivided the pastoral scenes with the intrusion of one house after the another on 1-2 acre lots to larger pieces of land. Long vistas of rural landscape are seldom seen. Our farm is unique in that is is a bit isolated and we own enough to allow us to control what we see. At the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch we have long vistas, but in the distance the are spoiled by civilization. Karl planted trees to create a living screen in time.

I enjoy most our cattle and at night they are huge animals breathing slowly in the dark. Maybe all cow eyes are on the sad side, but none sadder than on a Jersey cow.
In any case, I hope that you enjoy Hayden Carruth's peom and in your mind's eye see what he saw.

The Cows at Night
by Hayden Carruth

The moon was like a full cup tonight, too heavy,
and sank in the mist soon after dark, leaving
for light faint stars and silver leaves of milkweed
beside the road, gleaming before my car.

Yet I like driving at night in the summer in Vermont.
The brown road through the mist of mountain-dark,
among farms so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I was the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those great breathings so
close in the dark.

I stopped, and took my flashlight to the pasture
fence. They turned to me where they lay, sad and
beautiful faces in the dark, I counted them-forty
near and far in the pasture, turning to me, sad
and beautiful like girls very long ago who
were innocent and sad because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were sad. I switched off
my light

But, I did not want to go, not yet, nor knew what to
do. If i should stay, for how in that great darkness
could I explain anything, anything at all. And then
very gently it began to rain.

"The Cows At Night" by Hayden Carruth from Toward the Distant Islands: New & Selected Poems. © Copper Canyon Press, 2006

Rodgers Speak

"Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement"
Will Rodgers

Chick Update

On September 9, I reported that the eggs we had in the incubator had started to hatch. We ended up with 26 chicks and 25 have survived. We left the baby chicks in the incubator for 24 hours until they dried and then placed them in a 100 gallon water tub with a warming light over it keeping one end of the tank 100 F degrees. Chicks arrive with at least 48 hours of energy and after that start to drink water and eat chick starter (fine ground high protein grain). We left them in the tank for two weeks and then moved them over to the old barn.

We have a special area fenced in quarter inch wire to protect them where they have room to run around in the day and sticks to roost on. We still have to use the warming light as many of our nights are in the low to mid 50's. The little chicks huddle in a circle under the light avoiding the middle where is ti most hot. they adjust where they sit based on their need for heat. Our little chicks are very spoiled and have lots of TLC.

If you want to compare how our little chicks are raised versus what happens to the chickens that turn into your dinner or lay your eggs, it is not a pretty sight in either of these videos. Thank goodness someone shares these videos to educate us.

Our chicks will graduate in a month to the chicken yard and start enjoying the search for bugs and worms and grass seeds. They are free range and at night snuggle against their mom's on the roost waiting to grow up and lay eggs.

Necked Ladies

Necked Ladies have been appearing all over the farm. This is because this is a pretty old place and over the last 160 years they got used to having their own way Actually these dainty ladies are flowers that suddenly appear in the fall from dormant bulbs that have waited all year to do their thing. Like all ladies, you have to treat them respect.
The bulb is very deadly if eaten.

Formally known as a Red Spider Lily The long slender stems host a delicate red lace like flower that lasts perhaps a week. After they die back, green foliage appears and lasts over the winter until spring. We have these flowers along the road, near old barns and juts here and there across the farm.

Falling Slowly

If you have not seen the film Once, please do. It was made in Dublin on a wing and prayer succeeding beyond all expectations in 2007. Falling Slowly won an Oscar as best song. All the songs are good, but the lyrics for Falling Slowly below are special.

I don't know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can't react
And games that never amount
To more than they're meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You've made it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can't go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I'm painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You've made it now

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You've made it now
Falling slowly sing your melody
I'll sing along

Song by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova

Fall Has Arrived

I am sitting on the porch of one our our lakeside log cabins as I write this. Fall has arrived on the farm. Acorns are starting to fall off the oaks and a few pecans shucks are ready to release a nut. The hardwood trees have a touch of color in them now and the maples by the house have a few red leaves. It is after lunch and the temperature is a pleasant 78 degrees. Last night it was 52 degrees. I like the spring, but I think fall is the best time of the year. We have generally sunny days and almost no rain. It's great to be fishing or just porch sitting. We have finished the work on the berry patch. Tasks that were put off when it was hot like re-working the corral chute at Rocky Branch have been finished also. There is always something to work on on the farm, but its a lot easier when its in the fall. Daingerfield has its fall festival this weekend. Pittsburg had theirs a few weeks ago and the pumpkin glow feast in Hughes Springs is the end of the month. Winnsboro will be having a month long Autumn Trails festival. This is a great time to visit East Texas and our farm.