Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shhhhhhh I'm Hunting Rabbits

Rabbit hunting with Son and Grand-son. Well...more like 2 and a half hours of chasing rabbits around. You know how it is. You walk around as quiet as you can...two feet ahead of you a rabbit suddenly appears and then runs off before you can say "Bugs".
The ranch has quite a large cotton tail population. Not to mention an abundant assortment of other rodents, mice, rats, and other ground dwelling critters. The hawks and Owls are very healthy.
I've never seen any coyotes but I've discovered their scat and seen their prints in the mud on occasion by the pond.
Eric and Zep wanted to go rabbit hunting. Eric had discovered a rather appetizing recipe for rabbit and was anxious to try it out. I needed to recover a ladder that I had left at the shed because I needed to clear out my gutters before winter rain hits and I promised the dear wife that I would hang Christmas lights up this year at the house.
So...we got a bright early start on Saturday afternoon around 2pm. That put us at the ranch around 3pm. By my reckoning that gives us about 2.5 hours of daylight left.
We had lots of fun. At dusk, I decided to grab my ladder and take it to the truck. Now, you need to understand that the distance from the shed to where I parked my truck is about one quarter of a mile. Later on that fact will become more clear.
Once I had stowed my ladder securely in the bed of my truck and tied it down, I decided to go look for Eric and Zep. My now it was getting pretty dark. I found them about 800 feet away, still hunting.
Eric had just taken a shot and asked me to go to the truck and get his LED flashlight so he could track the blood trail. I went to the truck to retrieve the light.
Back in the brush, there was no sign of a blood trail so we began our walk back to the truck. Along the way, Eric heard a rustle in the brush, shined his light on it and saw a single glowing eye. He handed me the light and asked me to keep in on that spot and he took another shot. We saw the rabbit hop about 3 feet and stop.
(Now, I'm going to pause here and mention that Eric was using a .177 pellet gun that he had just bought at Wal-Mart. We had zeroed in the scope previously and he was really chomping at the bit to use it to get a rabbit.)
Okay, back to the story. I kept the light on it while Eric took another shot. Down went the rabbit right at the spot. Upon further inspection, we learned that the first shot had gone through it's ear. The second shot in the head. It was a fully grown rabbit about a year old based on what it's ears and teeth looked like.
We walked back to the truck, there was a small table nearby that would be perfect for quartering the bunny.
Eric started skinning it and then asked me if I had any water. I answered, "I have some water back in the shed. Do you want me to go get it?" He replied in the affirmative. So...I headed back to the shed. Remember how far I said it was? By now it was pitch black outside. The sky was clear and there were so many stars visible that I couldn't identify anything. The milkyway was visible and I was looking heavenward as I walked.
When I was about 800 feet from the truck, I heard a pack of coyotes going wild, the howls and barking was awesome. I can't help it, I love that sound. I thought to myself, "They must be feasting on rabbit or something. They sounds like they are quite happy." As I turned a curve, it got suddenly very quiet. My mind immediately raced and I realized that the coyotes were much closer than I must have thought. Then after a moment, I told myself that the sudden silence at my approach means that I'm the predator here. So, I turned on my flashlight and shined it around the woods and kept walking to the shed to retrieve the water. On my return trip, I saw a huge owl swoop down from overhead to retrieve something on the path and vanish into the trees. To be honest, at that moment, I was having the time of my life.
When I got back to Eric and Zep, He was almost done with the process and needed the water to rinse off the meat and his knife. He packed it in ice and went were on our way back to the city.
All in all, I got a pretty good amount of walking done. It was a very nice night.
I hope you enjoy the pictures that I took.

The Shed is Up

Me and my sons all went out to the ranch and finished building the shed. It now has four sides, windows and a door. We'll have to wait for Todd to get back from his TDY assignment before we put up weather proofing, siding etc. The pitch of the roof isn't much but I think it'll be alright. The center is 12 inches higher than the edges. Todd is planning on getting regular siding installed when he gets back. After that we'll work on wind and/or solar power for electricity. It may not look like much but it is solid and has already held up to some very high winds. Since none of us are carpenters, I think we did a good job. Here are some pictures.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Framing has begun

We hand carried every single stick of lumber through the trails we cut. So every piece you see here was carried 1200 feet from where we park. Once we got all of the lumber hauled back to the site, it was time to start framing. We all managed to pick a free weekend (labor day weekend) and we got busy. I loaded up everything into the RV and hooked it up. It is always a good time when I'm able to work side by side along with my sons. The worse thing about the whole thing was that I realized that the sun was simple sucking all of my energy out of me. If I moved into the shade I was fine or if the sun was blocked by a cloud. The second that the sun was directly on me, I would almost black out. I realized that my blood pressure medicine specifically says "avoid direct sunlight", but I didn't think it would be my Kryptonite. The pictures below will tell the story and you'll be able to see how things came together. Not too bad for a couple of guys that really don't know anything about carpentry. Laying out the first section. Two walls up and braced.
Me and Eric standing under the only shade available.
Four walls up and braced.
Ok, not much of a pitch to the roof, but what can I say? Did I mention that I'm not a carpenter? That is a 1 foot rise over 8 feet.
Todd did reveal a talent for trying to kick over the ladder while he was standing on it. Now I know why his ladder is bent. Ha Ha!

Friday, June 25, 2010

A weekend of blood, sweat and no tears

These are pictures from June, but I never posted them. I'll try to catch up. The three of us have been trying to stay ahead of the rapic growth this summer and it has been a losing battle. That combined with everything going on in our lives, it has been a real struggle getting anything done. That said, Todd bought a lawn tractor and we have been taking advantage of it and really doing some clearing. We went nuts when these pictures were taken and cut down a pretty good roadway.
We cleared a good area for relaxing.
It's always a lot of fun camping out here. Of course, we're "boon docking" the whole time. All running on generators, propane and water tanks.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Trying to stay ahead of the growth

After a month of being involved in other aspects of life, finally able to get back out to the ranch and resume the work. Little did we know that things were growing as fast as ever. Here I am, getting my boots on. The typical routine is to put on my work boots and then dust myself with sulfur to keep the chiggers away. Here is Ann getting ready for a day at the Ranch. Since the ground now has 2 feet of fresh growth, she's not about to step away from the truck. So...feet propped in one hand and soda in the other, she's all set. When I bought the weed whacker at the Tractor Supply, the guy asked me how much I was going to be trying to clear with that thing. As it turns out, not that much. After making about a 20' swipe, I was pretty much wiped out. I'm sure the 98 degree temp had nothing to do with it. So, time to fire up the old lawn mower and see if I can clear a path back to Todd's cabin site. It's only 1290 feet from the front driveway. Of course, pushing a lawn mower through high weeds and grass isn't as easy as it looks. Here's a couple of pictures to show the path that I cut. My poor shed after the beating it took from the high winds of the storms that came through. Todd and I had to pack all of the flooring back to the site because we don't have a driveable path that goes that far back. However, we got it put in and after a month, it's held up just fine, in spite of the heavy rain that we've had out here. We started bringing lumber in and staging it. Once we have enough to frame up the walls, we'll put it up in a weekend. The real hard work is just hauling it back through the woods.
A picture I took before I mowed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The beginning of a new foundation

We burned alot of brush between January and March but still have piles of it to go. The rain finally cleared up enough for us to go out on a weekend and get some work done. My oldest son decided that he wanted to get started on a cabin so we went out and finished clearing up the spot. I brought a lawn mower to cut a path through the thick ground cover. There was no way, I was going to walk through waist deep weeds to get back to the cabin site. Along the way, I saw some beautiful bluebonnets. Lots of six and seven feet tall milk weeds, nettle and dandilions. Here are some pics of the greenery and a few of the building site. We drilled 8inch holes, inserted tubes and poured concrete into them along with "J" bolts to fasten the beams to. It was lots of work.
Here are some pictures that show the cleared area. Round up does wonders. It kills everything.
The work involved measuring the corners, putting in stake markers. Squaring up the corners using the 3-4-5 rule. Drilling the holes, inserting the tubes, running a stringline with a level. Only about a 7" drop over 14' .
The picture of the tube shown is the lowest end, shown with the "J" bolt in the concrete. The beam bracket will fasten to this.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Irony of it all

It strikes me so ironic that the last couple of months of summer last year were so dry and hot that every county in Texas had a burn ban in effect. We were in the process of clearing trees for our driveway and couldn't burn any of it and the volume was quite large...we just started dragging everything to the side and piling it up.
There was more to work on than just the road too. There was a fence to build, gates to install, the fenceline to clear of all the saplings that were destined to grow into the perimeter fence and ruin it.
The month of May was mostly dry but when it rained it poured and it was impossible to get anything done.
In June, Eric got a staph infection and was in the hospital and Ann had a kidney removed. So, June was out of the equation. We did some work in July but when August hit and the 100 degree temps were everyday. We had more than 69 triple digit temps in 2009.
But...once it hit triple digits and stayed was almost impossible to get much work done.
When it's so hot that water is dripping off of you in the shade, trust me, you don't have much energy to be clearing out trees.
Everyone was tired of the heat. Everyone was wishing for some rain to end the drought.
Well, we got our wish. When it started raining, it kept raining. It rains most days now. Fall was cold and wet, winter was colder and wetter. This winter has been colder globally than it has been in 30 years. I've had to wear a coat everyday since the week before thankgiving. The mud is so deep at the ranch that every step is a squishy one. There are streams running across our driveway path. At least I know where to lay culverts now. I also know a couple of good spots for stock tanks.
I would love nothing more than go out and finish burning the brush. But, it keeps raining. I guess I'm just used to the old fashioned Texas Winters where it's cold for a day or two and then it's sunny again. Well, not this year. I'm just going to have to wait until Spring comes. Maybe since we have had a cold winter, we won't have such a dry hot summer. We can always hope, right?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Burning

So...we finally have a couple of nice days in the middle of Winter. Time to start burning all of the brush that we've accumulated. Here is a picture of Ann feeding the fire. After almost burning down the woods, we decided it would be safer to use the "burn" barrels for what I bought them for. In about two hours we had reduced a pretty good pile of brush to ash. That's me, feeding the flames. Once we had the first brush pile going and under control, we didn't want to add more to it because it was starting to get late and we needed to let it die down before we left. We decided to go for a stroll. Below, I'm pacing off a potential building site.
While we waited for the fire to die down, we took apart the blown down cabana and stacked the pieces. Here you can see what was left. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to rebuild it.
Fire! Fire! We had some serious heat going on.
After a full afternoon of burning brush in a barrel, we drove off into this sunset. It was a good day!