Yesterday I told you about the classroom day of the Bennett Trust Women’s Conference, which I just discovered was called “Empowering Women — New Stewardship Traditions.” I went to this week. Now for the real fun, when we got on a bus and road out into the sunrise for hands-on fun! (I do wish I hadn’t been so sick; I slept on the bus a lot.)
Day 2 was called the Wine and Roses Tour, and we took a nice bus to a ranch outside of Kerrville. It has typical Hill Country terrain, and there were typical Hill Country angora goats grazing nearby (but out of the way of projectiles). We spent a very enjoyable morning rotating through introductions to ranching skills: archery, skeet shooting, animal tracking, and range grass identification. I did fine, but didn’t shoot because of my precarious shoulder situation that I’m about to start physical therapy on (thanks, Carlton the Dogman)
I got a real kick out of some of the women who were very proud that they turned out to actually be good at the archery or skeet shooting. There were a couple of experts among the attendees, too, including one woman who brought her own shotgun. She got to go for two clay birds at a time.
The woman who showed us all the animal tracks was obviously a true lover of all living things. Not only did she bring along her pet scaled quail (oh so cute), but showed us a large, black tarantula she found on the side of the road, and one of the big ole brown lizards that live in the Hill Country. We loved her asides!
Of course I got most excited by any new plants I saw, and tried to hide my disappointment when the guy showing us the plants was only interested in which grass makes for better grazing, not what interesting flowers were blooming (or re-blooming, like the Mexican Hats). The white wild petunia was the one that excited me the most, since I didn’t know they came in white (all ours are purple, and all the ones I’ve seen sold commercially are purple).
He identified the grasses so fast that I didn’t get a chance to write down the names. Ugh. All I can remember is that bluestems are good to graze on. Ta da. I did see these extra-large oleander aphids, though. Can’t miss them!
Off to Hunt
When we finished all our viewing and shooting, we headed off down one of the prettiest roads in Texas, beside the Guadalupe River, to Bridget’s Basket, which is a farmstand, restaurant, venue and more.
We had a really amazing lunch made from local vegetables and sustainably harvested meats, including quail! Plus they served two wines that were nice; I even bought a bottle of the J pinot noir blend. After that, Bridget and another lovely speaker talked to us about using ranchland for different kinds of events and empowring ourselves.
The gardens there were beautiful, and we were entranced by the numbers of butterflies we saw among the zinnias. The original buildings on the property were beautifully refurbished, too. You can bet I’m returning here next time I’m in the neighborhood!
But Wait! There’s Dead Animals!
Once again we drove on the bus, this time stopping at a shopping area in scenic Hunt (really, if you’ve never been on the drive between Kerrville and Hunt, DO IT). There stood a beautiful, brand-new building claiming to be the headquarters of the Exotic Wildlife Association.
After getting over the sensation that I was in an African animal graveyard, I found the place pretty cool. Probably the additional wine these folks handed out helped, too. A very distinguished gentleman wearing his pistol next to his knife on his silver-buckled belt proceded to tell us about how exotic wildlife has positively affected the ranch economy, especially in the area around Kerr County.
You may know that I am not real big on personally killing animals, but I found the organization’s ethics reasonable and their rationale for harvesting surplus exotic game made sense. I was happy to learn that not only did ranchers in Texas supply restaurants and economically disadvantaged people with meat, they also raise animals that are endangered in safety, so that their genetics can be taken back where they came from, when possible.
We’re probably not going to set up the Hermits’ Rest for exotic animals (though there are some nearby), but I now understand much better what kind of options that would provide. I wasn’t the only attendee who started out dubious, but ended up impressed with the organization. I have a lot to think about.
And by the way, almost all the animals in the headquarters building were collected by the man who donated the money for the building and the outreach it enables. It would be great if I could find out his name, but I’m not coming up with it. They also have a Facebook page and a blog, if you’re interested.