Amazing Adventures Near Junction, Texas

I think my idea of Junction, Texas was that it was some kind of wasteland with some gas stations in it. I was wrong, and I’ll always be grateful for this year’s Bennett Trust Women’s Conference: “Building A Legacy of Environmental Stewardship”, which concluded today with the field trips. We went to three very different places in the Junction area. I learned a ton, PLUS I got to add a bunch of observations to the 2022 Texas Pollinator Bioblitz over on iNaturalist!

Look at all the moths!

Native American Seed

Our first stop was a visit to a place I’d never dreamed I’d actually get to visit: the farms for Native American Seed, one of my favorite catalogs. Not only that, we got greeted by Bill Neimann, co-founder of the company. He comes very close to being one of the coolest humans I’ve ever met. He lives his life principles every single day, and spreads a great message across the world.

Listening to Bill Neimann orient us to the business

The farm is located in a beautiful spot on the Llano River, and they have places where people can stay and have programs, etc., too. Plus a friendly guardian dog. Was I in heaven? Yes.

Hi, Alfred!

The view from the main house was spectacular, as it overlooked an area planted with native plants that spread out to acres and acres of native grasses under cultivation. Mind-blowingly beautiful.

While we were there, we had three presentations, one on bird-watching that resulted in one loggerhead shrike and a loud but hidden chickadee. That’s OK. There were so many great plants that I was fine. There were many I’d never seen before, so I was in Suna Happy Place.

The second presentation was on doing ecotourism, and I learned some good tidbits about making money from people who want to look at birds on your property. I wish I could bring the storks in on cue!

Our speaker on bird tourism doesn’t actually like birds.

The third presentation involved going into the growing fields. We were short on time for this, which was too bad, but I was in awe of the people who work there and have figured out ways to grow these now-rare plants for seed to distribute all over the place. Plus, I got to watch harvester ants, you know, harvesting.

Silver Farms

Next, we went to lunch, but it was much, much more than just lunch. It was a farm-to-table lunch with all the aspects of it prepared by women. The farm raises show goats and sheep, as well as some meat lambs. We had the best roast lamb I ever ate for our main course. For the salad, a company that consists of two homeschooled teens prepared it. That was one of the best salads ever, too, and I’m not making that up. There was goat cheese in it, home-grown greens, local pecans, etc., in it. I had two helpings and was not alone in this. There were also cheesy potatoes, homemade herb breads, and a chocolate dessert.

Getting ready for lunch. No lunch photos because we were eating!

Oh, and there was wine from friends of the owners, and it was all delicious as well. When we finished eating, all the people who brought the meal together spoke to us about how they came to do what they do. It was really encouraging to see all these new businesses cropping up in rural Kimble County.

Once that was over, we got to go look at the sheep and goats! You know that was a highlight for me! They were Hampshire sheep, which are nice and big. There was one pen full of ewes getting worked on by one lucky ram. You can tell which ram got to a ewe, because they put paint on his chest and it rubs off on the lucky gals. The ram in the pen had red paint, but a blue one had been there earlier.

There was another area where the show animals were. They all wear little outfits to protect their coats. I was not aware of this practice. They were a hoot to watch, though, but we had to leave.

Texas Tech, in Junction

Back on the buses we went, to find the Texas Tech campus in Junction, which looks mostly like a summer camp. That was fine with me, because we got to go look at the river. Hooray, I love the river. The presentation here was by folks from Texas Parks and Wildlife and AgriLife. It covered managing riparian areas and dealing with axis deer.

It was shocking to see how badly the deer had grazed the area down, compared with an area they had fenced to keep wildlife out, which had lovely long grass and a variety of kinds.

I learned a lot about how to tell if your land is holding a good amount of deer or is being over-grazed, depending on what plants they have eaten. I am happy to report we have plenty of the stuff deer like to eat, and also that there aren’t any axis deer on this side of I-35 yet. Whew.

We’re pretty but not welcome in Texas. You can shoot us any time of year, if you pay someone enough money. Sniff.

What are axis deer? Imported animals native to northern India and the area around there, who have escaped and gone crazy breeding in Texas.

Anyway, it was all extra interesting, and I had a grand time, all the while taking more and more pictures of wildlife. I got into the top 50 of the BioBlitz just by taking all these pictures. There really were lots of butterflies and moths. There was one plant I saw four or five types of moths on at once!

Enjoy just a FEW of the photos I took, including some of the new things I saw.

The only negative thing is I have to get up early and drive home in the morning. But, that’s not the end of the world!

Learning to Be a Land Steward

I’m so glad the Bennett Trust conference for ranch women is back at last. The conference started at 7 am and the wine hour was still going on when I left to watch football, along with my new friend, Mim, who’s originally from Rockdale. We bonded.

Post conference relaxation, with pumpkins.

Not only did the legacy of the Bennetts (very nice people who left a trust to pay for these events) pay for excellent food, but there were really interesting speakers on various aspects of taking care of your land. the keynote was on women and land stewardship, and April Sansom was inspiring to all of us who want to leave the land better than we found it.

She’s helped women use small agricultural projects to better their lives all over the world thank you the Peace Corps, and now educates people at the Selah Bamberger Ranch preserve (including Master Naturalists!). Her love of the planet shown through every word.

I heard a lot about how cost effective goats are to raise and sell. The speaker, David Anderson, even explained what all the types of livestock sales mean. Now I’ll understand the livestock report on KMIL better.

One fun segment was by a ranch land lawyer. She answered so many questions about fencing, trespassing, and the usefulness of forming LLCs.

Tiffany Dowell-Lashmet and her list of topics

Then, I learned more than I ever thought I would about wells and well water. Luckily, since I can’t remember it all, Joel Pigg gave us lots of excellent printed material that I can’t wait to read and share. Major learning: wells should be uphill from septic systems.

Also, your well should have a log.

Probably my favorite speaker was Morgan Treadwell, whose husband is from the family that owns a historic Texas ranch. She knows her brush removal and how to use fire. What I learned, though, was how to get rid of brush cost effectively.

Great quote.

Morgan really had a lot of information that was new to me. For example, weaken mesquite with a controlled burn, then bring in goats to eat new growth. Huh. Goats again. Also fire won’t kill them when over 3 years old, so do small maintenance often rather than a huge effort every decade or so.

Rules to live by

The final talk was by a woman named Megan Clayton. She talked about how newer land owners may want to do different things with their land, and that women play a huge role in new things like agri-tourism and farm-to-table operations.

How reasons for owning land change by generations.

Clayton shared a lot of fun websites with us, including a cow poop analyzer, which I must try out at home. She then paired people with mentors and mentees. I ended up being a mentor because no one wanted to admit they knew anything.

This made us laugh.

Anyhow, this was a lot, but I learned so much. And the food was so good! I enjoyed meeting a lot of interesting women and was pleased to see the diversity of attendees. I’m looking forward to a day of ranch tours tomorrow!

Ranch Management for Women, Part 1

Where have I been? It’s been a combination of being really busy doing interesting things, along with having a pretty rotten virus attack me. Let’s concentrate on the first of those!

SueAnns
Sue Ann K and Sue Ann U! Hey Sue Ann! What, Sue Ann? Women with twin unusual names can be silly.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I attended the third Bennett Trust Land Stewardship Women’s Conference. I’m glad I signed on to the Texas Parks and Wildlife email list for events, because I didn’t hear about this remarkable opportunity until a couple of weeks before it happened. After talking to my spouse and boss (the outdoorsman), I got pretty excited about the opportunity, even with some sort of sexist language in there. After all, it’s Texas.

The conference was divided into two halves, with one day of classroom work and one day getting out and looking at places. Today I’ll talk about what I learned the first day.

There were 40 or so women in attendance, mostly older, but a lot were young, too. All own ranch property around Texas. Some were very impressive women who’ve been on their land for generations, while others were just starting and even less experienced than me.

Most important, there was another woman there named Sue Ann (shown above), so we hung around a lot, so we could say, “Hey, Sue Ann, what about this?” It made us happy. Of course, I learned a lot about her business working with folks to get appropriate tax advantages form their land. A bonus.

Continue reading “Ranch Management for Women, Part 1”

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