Saturday, August 24, 2013

East Texas Black Panther

        Around the the end of the school year my two kids and I were headed out to school, near the end of our 1/4 mile crumbling dirt driveway I had to stop the truck and sit quiet for a minute.  My oldest daughter saw the same thing I did a large black cat about fifty feet away.  This is no house cat.  Our drive way has two ruts separated by a grassy patch down the middle. The cat was crossing the road and had  the grassy patch between its feet, but what really jumped out was the long waving tail that seemed like it was three feet long.  The cat paused for just a second, looked at us and then darted in the woods.  My youngest was fiddling with her school stuff in the middle of the truck and didn't see it but my oldest had her eyes fixed on the cat.  I couldn't believe my eyes I hadn't seen anything like it before. 
       According to some of the old timer that I have talked to these cats were more common thirty or forty years ago and that they them-self had seen on or that there father or uncle had seen these while deer hunting.  According to the ol' internets there are no black panthers in Texas and much of what I found was related to cryptozoology, which according to my spell check is not even a word,  and the study of the Bigfoot.  After a quick internet search I just put it out of mind and went about my day.  What brings this back the front this morning is my wife saw the cat last night.  This time the cat was down the county road a couple miles, between the deer hunting camps and main county rd. SHe was headed back form work and saw the cat about 7:30.
       Last night I began looking again and considering if there is some sort of wildlife agency that we should report it to just in case someone is studying large cats in East Texas.  After reading a little more the probability is that this is a Jaguarundi, an endangered species that does exsist in this area.  If I ever happened to get a chance to shoot at this fellow, then it will be personally endangered,  although in all fairness I am not that good a shot so it might have nothing to fear.  There is an interesting blog relating to these things Texas Cryptid Hunter, which I will definitely be reading.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Alternative Deer Bait

Hunters have different reasons  to take deer, some are after a big rack of antlers so they can have the head stuffed and mounted.  I don't really understand sport hunting, I partially understand bow hunting because of the skill involved, but for me anything I shoot would be about economics and meat. I am usually out of town working during deer season,  but this year I should be home so my goal is to take my limit and fill all my tags.  When everything is finished the meat has to cost me less then it would to buy at the store.  Most deer hunters in East  Texas use a feeder to spray corn once or twice a day for the deer to eat which not only helps bulk them up a little, but conveniently gives the hunter an idea of what the deer are coming to dinner.  I have a small five gallon bucket feeder that takes less then one bag of corn to fill up.  Each bag is around $8 so each fill costs about five bucks.  For a cheap feeder it has worked well and lasted a long time, but I have also had problems with corn.  Once I filled my feeder with a fresh bag and it was swarmed with bees.  They flew into the cone and their movement quickly drew all the corn out and by the next day I had a pile of corn on the ground swarming with bees.  This was later in the winter when there is little pollen and the bee keepers have brought their bee hives down from Wisconsin for the winter.  About a week ago I filled this same feeder with corn and the squirrels went insane.

The corn is funneled through a cone down to the spinner which distributes the corn into the surrounding area once or twice a day.  A couple days ago I went and checked the area to look for tracks only to find the cone was completely gone.  At first I thought some hunter had come onto my land and torn it off, but a closer look revealed the teeth marks.  They had chewed the through the cone and eaten every last kernel of corn.  If I can find a new cone to buy I will fix my feeder, but the drought does provide an easy alternative. Stringing together three hundred feet of hoses, half of which are covered with electrical tape to try and hold them together, I filled this old turtle sand box  with fresh cool water.  The first time I did this everyone goofed on it, but I have seen tons of deer drink from this source.  Everything is bone dry around here creeks, branches, springs. Any animals have to go all the way to Big Cyprus creek to get a drink until now.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

DIY Biodegradeable planter cups.

          I am one of those people that will go the cheap route whenever I can, and when it comes to my garden I am no different.  I want to grow my own vegetables, but it has to be economically beneficial.  That means watching every dollar, to make these cups all you need is newspaper, a tube from paper towels and some newspaper.

Step 1:  Take a newspaper and cut it into strips in which every direction makes the strips the longest.

 Step 2:  Roll strip of newspaper around the card board tube leaving one inch hanging off the tube.

Step 3:  Tuck the rolled newspaper into the tube, slide the roll off and tuck the other end.

Step 4:  Place the tubes in a small box that will hold them tightly together.

 Step 5:  Fill with soil, water and plant seeds.

          I used these for tomatoes, peppers and zucchini this year ad I won't be buying seed cups ever again.  Some gardens recommend saving all your toilet paper rolls, but that makes me feel like I am going to end up on an episode of Hoarders and it doesn't help if I  want to plant right now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Begining Growing Indoors

       This is the second or third summer of drought or near drought in here in East Texas.  The long hot dry summer is rough on the plants and with on old well compressor it is difficult to get enough water on the plants to sustain a large garden.  I have a rain barrel and in normal weather conditions this would give me enough water to supplement the rain and I would rarely have to turn on the hose except for a deep soak.  This year all the plants are struggling to survive with intense sun baking down every day.  Even still I can feel the days growing shorter and the air is light and cool in the morning.  The unseasonable temperatures may allow me to grow a full crop of tomatoes and peppers during the winter if I prepare for the occasional cold snap.

       Starting plants out in the heat might be too much so I put up the grow light my wife got me for Christmas and set up an area to grow.  Hopefully I can get nice thick well grown tomato plants growing in the house and keep them inside until the temperature drops enough to plant them out in the garden.  Using some pipes that I already have in the garden for tomato stakes I have a plan to build a simple green house and all I should have to buy is one roll of clear plastic sheeting.  If I buy some quality compost and mulch it will keep the soil temperature higher and help them last longer.  By that time the bee keepers who winter their hives down the road will be back and the area should  be full of bees again, currently the bee problem is as bad as the heat and the drought.

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        With the weather as bad as it is and according to the current US Drought Monitor there is no end in sight.  Rain water collection will have to be increased out here at the Longbranch Ranch, but moving some growing indoors may be necessary.  If I live all the way out here in the middle of nowhere and can't have fresh home grown tomatoes I am gonna be mad as hell. I don't know much about growing indoors, but at least I wouldn't be sweating to death in the heat of the summer.  The grow light is the first step in turning to some indoor growing in the summer and some green house work in the winter. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

19th Annual Pine Country Gem and Mineral Show

The 19th annual Pine Country Gem and Mineral show in Jasper Texas Aug. 24 & 25

I never had much interest in this type of event until I moved here and even now my interest is in learning about what can be found locally. I would like to talk to local gem hunters to find out what to look for so the kids and I can go gem hunting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bottle Hunt Part Two

       Inspired by my first creek find I decided to head back to the creek and walk a longer section.  I couldn't resist, the weather the last couple years has been so dry we I could have plenty of chances to hike the creek, but even a little rain would make this a much harder journey.  Even now, between the downed trees and small pools of water I had to hop op onto the bank to get through certain areas. Up on the bank the brush is so thick that without the machete I would have had to turn around.  Amazingly this trip I didn't see a single snake.  Monday I saw one Copper Head, but  the snake was up ahead of me and moving fast. As often is the case for me I found the only really good find on my first trip.

       I picked up these three even though they weren't that interesting and all of them were screw tops. If it hadn't been on our property I probably would have left them, but I will drop notes in them saying when and where I picked them up and add the three to our collection.  Since getting through the creek is rough going I picked them up in order to get a chance to clean them up.  When the bottles are covered in dirt it is hard to see if there is any embossing on them.  The jug only says Half Gallon and my wife thinks it is probably a syrup bottle from the 70's.  The brown bottle says W92 Purex on the bottom, but I couldn't see it until I washed off the dirt.  I didn't expect to find bottles these large on my hike and was unprepared for there size and weight.

  • Machete
  • Backpack
  • Plastic Grocery Bags
  • Canvas Shoulder bag
  • Water
  • Shotgun with Shoulder Strap
  • Small Trowel
       There is probably more I would bring next time, but this is my revised list of things to bring while bottle hunting in a creek bed.  I took a machete, a shotgun and a plastic grocery sack. The machete has a sheath to hang on my belt so carrying the shotgun wasn't a problem until I had to hack through some brush.  In my excitement I had hoped to find more small medicine bottles so I hadn't planned on finding anything large and filled with sand. After carrying around the jug for a while the grocery bag ripped and I found my self carrying three bottles and a 20 gauge through the terrain which of course got thicker as soon as I found myself in this situation. If I had a pistol I would bring it instead just in case I stumble upon some wild pigs which is why I brought the shotgun.  I am happy to have found anything and I am glad I went, because any day the rains could refill the creek and cover everything.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bottle Hunting the Creek

       Since we moved here to East Texas I have been collecting old bottles.  My interest is really only in collecting from this area and I collect bottles the same way I collect coins, if I find one I keep it, but I don't buy any. I have gathered bottles form all over our property and have a couple good spots to hunt, but rarely get a chance to go because they are down by the gulf.  In the way of advice for the beginning collector I have only two words, Low Tide.  Look for places where people congregate near water and search that area when the water level is low. I found my best place while we were crab fishing with the kids down by the gulf.  You need some good rubber boots, a small shovel and willingness to tromp through some mud that smells rotten eggs. Bring a bag to put the boots in or the drive home will unnecessarily stinky.

         For a while now I have wanted to search the small creek branch that runs behind our house but haven't had the chance.  With almost no rain again this summer I finally had a chance yesterday.  The branch is completely dry except for two spots with slightly deeper holes, so after bringing my wife home from the hospital I hopped in the dry bed and walked the section that is on our property.  Right on top of the sand was the bottle of Chamberlin's Colic Cholera and Diarrhea Remedy.  Still corked I am guessing the liquid inside is just creek water that has soaked through, but there may be a bit this miracle treatment left behind.   Next time I get a bad case of the Cholera I will check it out.

         This bottle can sell between three and thirty dollars on Ebay, which is the only pricing guide any collector seems to need and great source of info.  One of these bottles that sold on Ebay had the original pamphlet and a label on the neck listing the ingredients; 59% alcohol, 19 minims of chloroform, and six grains of opium, so it would get you high long enough for the snake oil salesman to get out of town.   Now a hundred years later we can't even buy cold medicne without showing our ID.  For me the excitement is  imagining the history of the bottle I found. Did the person who bought this bottle pass away from  cholera or did he just get high on the snake oil and wait out a bad case of diarrhea. Either way it amazes me that it could be in our creek a hundred years later still corked and unbroken.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Everyone Loves Treasure

       Living out here in the woods I can't help imagine this land as it was before Europeans came and settled here, displacing the native population.  The old growth pines trees would have created many areas where the forest would great provide great hunting and nice shade in the summer time.  One thing I am dying to do is find an arrow head or other stone tools.  I know that they are here somewhere, but so far I have been unable to locate anything.  This site has a great collection of artifacts and information, and make me want to run out right now and start searching.

East Texas Indian Artifacts

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Battling the Southern Army Worm

        This  morning as I searched through the tomatoes I pulled this one because the side I was looking at looked just about ripe, but when I pulled it this critter was hanging on the back. Unfortunately for this guy his fate was sealed and he perished shortly after being photographed. According to Google, this seems to be a southern army worm.  After identification I searched "what to do about Southern Armyworm" of course the first result is link to Bayer Crop Science  and their Belt® insecticide.  Uh, no thanks, besides my general distrust of insecticides I once rear ended a guy in a Corvette who gave me his business card while we were exchanging insurance info.  Below the line that read "Vice-President Bio-Technical Division Bayer Corporation" I am pretty sure it said something to the effect of  "I have enough money to have you killed".
         So rather than turn to science or even the bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) that some recommend, I just can't bring by self to spray food my kids are going to eat with pesticide, I go all organic and just smoosh the little guy. Then  I remove a large portion of the tomatoes to ripen inside. This has made me realize that I need to find ways to fight these pests in the garden. This year my main bug control was simply to keep things as neat and nicely weeded as I could, but I will have to break down and spray with a little soap and water.  From here I need to work to increasing the beneficial insects like worms and ladybugs.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Seeds of Doomsday

              Summer is more than half over, but in East Texas the heat is capable of lingering for a long time and we have been able to wear shorts on Christmas more than once.  I am trying to get another round of summer and fall veggies planted,  hoping the weather will be right for a second harvest.  I pulled up my green beans two days ago and my cucumbers have take a a very quick turn downward.  This has happened before where I am ready to throw a few things in the ground, but the seeds aren't carried locally because the store have cleared out isle space for school supplies. Being the ultra cheap perpetually broke gardener that I am, I have broken into the sealed pouch of  survival seeds I was given to write about by  I wrote about these a couple years ago when I first started gardening and blogging in a sponsored post.  Now four years later I will bust them open and use them for my mid summer and fall planting.