These past weeks we’re been making smoke- a lot of it. In May we obtained a piece of raw land adjacent to our Hidden Falls Ranch. I claimed at the time when we closed on the property that it was the WORST piece of property in the county. My less than flattering description resulted from the intensely thick cedar that covered it which had choked out the grass necessary for raising cattle. Being an eternal optimist, I secretly believed that with lots of TLC and bulldozer clearing, the property had the potential to return to the pristine grazing land that once it had been.
We have now spent three months clearing the land. Two part-time bulldozer operators have been working. The land is opening up dramatically and I may yet realize my fondest hopes. To my knowledge, the land has never been cleared. For centuries this land had few trees and consisted of rolling prairies with native grasses. The land changed over the decades due to over grazing and an influx of non-native trees. During the cattle drives from south Texas in the 1800s the mesquite and cedar (actually two varieties of Juniper) spread into our area and in some instances even choked out the native Live Oaks, Cottonwood, and Pecan trees. What is now our new piece of land became forested with thick cedar groves. By doing so, the cedar sucked up vast amounts of precious water and the thick canopy prevented grass from growing. For at least the last 50-75 years, the land was used solely for hunting purposes that did not require clearing of the land.
My wish is to return the land to the prime grazing land that it once was. With luck and good weather we may finish clearing the land by the end of the year, and then spread native grass seed, and have the land in shape for grazing within the next several years.
Along with the bulldozing has come a new animal on the ranch. Meet Dozier Dog. One of the bulldozer operators comes to work with his Australian shepherd. To my amazement, the dog rides in the bulldozer with Coy, moving side to side in the bulldozer to observe its progress. The dog’s name is actually Remy, but to me he is “Dozer dog.” Despite the racket of the bulldozing, loud crackint of the trees being felled, and the ever present dust, Dozer dog rides happily along intently checking on the progress being made. Apparently the only dislike he has is going up very steep slopes and having branches fall over and into the cab of the bulldozer. Can’t say that I blame Dozer dog for disliking falling branches or steep climbs. At these times Remy seems content to wait in the bed of the pickup.
One outcome from dozing so many cedar trees has been huge piles of upended trees. Over the last several weeks and for months in the future, we will be burning the piles of trees and limbs. Hence, we are making lots of smoke. Vast plumes of gray smoke coil into the sky along with a scattering of ash over a wide area The acreage is opening up and revealing lovely nascent grazing land and striking vistas. We light the fires in the morning and burn huge piles of cedar all day. We take precautions to limit the spread of the fire by weed whipping around the burn pile, and stand by with rakes, shovels, and large water containers to deal with any unwanted spread. So far, so good. The bulldozer pushes trees and limbs that are standing in piles nearby. All has gone well thus far.
I’ve been asked by friends who have moved from cities to the countryside whether a permit is required in order to burn. The answer is no so long as the county doesn’t have a burn ban in place. It is assumed that caution will be used that to me means low wind and wet conditions.
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