Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dog days of summer

The kids go back to school in a few days which means fall camping trips down here in Texas are coming soon! But it's still the dog days of summer around here.

August is typically one of our driest months and this year it's out to prove that! We had a few drops fall the other day, just enough to trigger the rain sensor in the van's roof vent and close it, but not enough to register in the rain gauge. We have 10 more days to go, but at this point rainfall for the month has been one big fat goose egg.

Fortunately we have otherwise had a pretty good year and are actually 3 inches ahead of normal since January.

So this August things are looking better than they have for several years now.

And looking back at Debra's barn, the white doors just peeking through the trees out there in the upper center of the photo, things are looking downright lush for this time of year. Of course the drought-killed cedar sitting out there is a stark reminder of drier times.

And we've been flirting with 100 degree days with high humidity and no rain for a couple weeks now, but even the sun flaring all over the lens can't hide the fact that I'm going to have to get out here on the dam this fall and clear out the saplings before they turn into dam-busting trees.

When it's this hot, even if it doesn't feel like it, it pays to take extra measures to stay cool, like this handy neck scarf soaked in water. It would be a bad thing to get a touch of heat stroke while up at the back of the property!

And I see there's a fair amount of trail maintenance waiting on me out here. This one is no big deal and I just step on over it,

but this tree which has come down across the trail is a bit more bothersome and requires a scrtchy, pokey detour into the brush to get around.

Up near the top of the hill (The highest point in the county is on our place.) even these fungi are looking a little crispy around the edges. They're growing on a chunk of fallen oak. Watching out for falling oak is something you learn quickly out here.

While some of the old hardwoods, I think this might be a Hackberry, stand tall and long,

When the Water and Post Oaks die they quickly get very brittle and start shedding bits, sometimes large bits, with no warning. Just a single crack followed by a ground shaking thud. We try to stay out from under them, and stay out of the woods altogether when the winds are high!

I see the fence at the back of the property could use some TLC

It was originally built using split cedar posts, but even cedar eventually rots in the ground and the posts end up just sitting on the surface, held up by the wire, like this one. But I don't worry much about the back fence. They run cattle on the property back there and cattle aren't too inclined to go wandering into our heavy woods, even if the fence is down.  And if they do they''re no big deal unless you happen to be carrying a bale of hay! It's the rescue horses and donkey on the north side that I pay attention to. They're a little spooky and have been known to just come on over after a storm has taken down part of the fence. It's a bit startling, for all parties involved, to run into one of them back there in the woods!

The 72 year old rancher to the south of us also runs cattle, but he keeps his fence in top shape.

Years ago when I was first cutting trails out here I discovered that that dark spot in the center of this photo under the log was the opening to a ground-bee hive, yes, with a few stings thrown in as I was preparing to chainsaw a chunk out of the middle just to make sure I got the picture! The trail still detours around that log today, but I haven't seen any bee activity for several years now.

I was distracted this morning while trying to catch the light glowing through this bit of seed fluff

and it took a moment before I noticed this guy sitting just a couple feet away. I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure it's a Diamond Back Water Snake (We weren't too far from the pond.) which is not venomous, but they are pretty aggressive and will bite the crap out of you if you aren't careful.

Which is exactly why my snake boots come out every time I head up the hill.

Later in the day several young hawks were having a noisy rumble in and around the Live Oak at the base of the dam. Mostly they stayed pretty much out of sight but this one obliged by perching on top of a nearby dead oak for a moment.

And then this evening I stepped out and found this guy bedded down in some shade right out in the open a few feet from the barn!

In fact I just checked and she's still there. Ah the dog days of summer when nobody wants to do much of anything except ride it out to cooler days.

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