Archive for April, 2012

Wild Dewberries

Thursday, April 26th, 2012
Ripe dewberries ready for the picking on the ranch.

Ripe dewberries ready for the picking on the ranch.

One of the reasons we love the springtime at Cross Creek Cattle Company is the enjoyment we receive picking berries. The kids love the hunt and their love for the berries is evident all over their faces and hands. Purple lips and purple hands signal a successful outing.

Some years we have bumper crops while other years are lighter than normal. Last year was different. Due to the drought there were no berries to pick at all. The blooms shriveled up into nothing. I would not quite call this year’s season a bumper crop, but there are plenty of juicy berries ripening all over the place. Fortunately we had so much rain over the winter that the berries certainly benefited from the precipitation.

Dewberries ripen sooner than the more well-known blackberry. The plants lay closer to the ground or love to grow up a fence row. The berry itself is smaller and more tart than a blackberry, too. If you don’t mind teeny tiny seeds characteristic of most berries, then you will love dewberries.

Cooked they make beautiful deep purple dishes from dewberry jam to dewberry cobbler. For instructions on making dewberry jam, please read my article at Texas Homesteader. Eating them straight from the vine washed only with the morning dew is my children’s favorite way to eat them. Like other berries, you only want to wash them when you are ready to use them. Otherwise, they mold easily.

Dewberries freeze well, too, so that you can enjoy them year round. Simply wash them and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Lay flat in a freezer for an hour or two. When frozen, transfer the berries into a freezer bag. This method allows the berries to remain separate instead of being frozen into one big blob.

This season does not last long so you have to take advantage of it while it lasts. Freezing, canning, and eating them by the handfuls is our family’s method. What is yours?

Getting Ready to Move

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

When the owners of Cross Creek Cattle Company purchased additional land in order to expand our ranch and the provide room for business expansion, we knew the property would require many hours of physical labor in order to be ready for our herd.

Our primary concern is fencing. Without proper fencing, you cannot contain your cattle nor can you keep out neighboring herds. After years of neglect, the perimeter fencing was in bad repair. Trees had fallen in some places like a game of pick up sticks. My husband and some hired men worked long, hard days removing the trees and limbs, clearing the fence lines, and repairing the fences. In many places, it was easier to completely rebuild the fence from scratch.

I am pleased to announce that the perimeter fencing is complete. Our borders are secure. Now my husband’s focus has been the cross-fencing. Pasture rotation requires good cross-fencing whether it is a sturdy 5 string barbed wire fence or a fence made with hot-wire. My husband reports that the cross-fencing is now 95% done.

Unfortunately, this new property has a infestation of feral hogs. We have them on our home ranch, but not near to the extent of the new ranch. In some places, the hogs have disked up the earth. Weeds then come up instead of grass; therefore, the wild hogs are posing a threat to our livelihood in the grass fed beef business. Cattle have to have grass in order to survive without grain.

I have written before about this problem and how my husband built a hog trap. The trap has been very effective. In the last three weeks, we have killed 37 hogs. Monday alone we trapped and killed 21 wild hogs. Not only are we feeding the local community and filling our own freezers with wild pork, but we are making a small dent in the feral hog population.

Now that the pastures are being taken care of with the removal of wild hogs and with the sturdy fencing, our next concern is water. There are many lakes and ponds on the property. One pond’s dam had broken. It has since been repaired with a bulldozer. Now all the waterways are accessible and full to the brim thanks to all the rain we have been receiving.

The next project that my husband must tackle is repairing the existing cattle pens. Once we take our herd of mama cows and the bulls to the new ranch, we will have to have a way to work and pen them up. Our plan is to use our home ranch for the sole purpose of finishing out our grass fed beef.

We are not quite ready to move our main herd just yet, but we are laying the groundwork. When we do eventually move the herd, this will not affect our customers at all. The grass fed animals will still be at the home ranch and you will still pick up your orders from the home ranch as well.

We are so excited about the expansion of our ranch and of our business. As the demand for grass fed beef increases, we are trying to keep up with the demand. We thank our customers for making this possible.

On the Trail

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Last Saturday, we went on a trail ride around our new ranch. We saddled up six horses and packed up a picnic lunch. Then we headed out for an adventure.

First we selected a perfect setting for a picnic lunch. We sat in the shade of a tree in a meadow that was once a hay field. The grass is just beginning to grow to the point were it slumps over by the weight of its head. The gentle breeze stirred the grasses into a swaying dance. Butterflies fluttered around, checking out the wildflowers and even landed briefly on Cathey’s arm. We sat overlooking a tree-rimmed duck pond with still water. Picturesque is the only word to describe it.

After eating a light lunch of apple slices, grapes, nuts, and cheese, we each mounted our horse. Isaac and Andrew, our youngest boys, rode in tandem saddles behind my husband and myself. We began our ride through wooded pastures, across mud, through standing water, by a large lake, down creeks, and through pastures painted with tons of wildflowers.

I personally could not get over the latter. Even so close to our home ranch, the new property held different flora than we are familiar with like red honeysuckle, Indian grass, and Texas stars. There were a few more flowers I did not recognize, but will need to consult my Texas wildflower book in order to properly identify them. The open pastures were filled with a mixture of different wildflowers. I have never in my life seen so many wine cups or such big butter cups. It was like walking through a sea of purple and pink.

We also ate our first wild dewberries of the season. Sweet and tart, the juice bursts in your mouth between your teeth. Cathey dismounted her horse, Shania, and began picking them for all of us to eat. We have one horse in particular, Cheyenne, who loves a berry or two for herself.

In addition to the flowers and berries, as we walked through the woods, wild ferns skirted the path filling the empty spaces between the trees along the ground. The bright green foliage was a beautiful contrast against the orange pine needles littering the ground.

Isaac, who rode behind me, asked me, “How does PawPaw know what everything is?” His question was sparked because my dad was a walking flower and plant guide on our ride. He easily identified most of the flora we came across. I explained to Isaac that it comes from being observant and inquisitive and that he too can learn the names of the plants and animals, too.

In fact I began pointing out plants, flowers, and trees and asking him what they were. He surprised himself when he realized that he knew a bunch of the names of the flora already. Names like pine trees, bluebonnets, wild onions, butter cups, etc.

As we finished up our ride, we climbed a high hill to survey the view. The view was breath-taking as your eyes scanned the treeline, the pastures, and the waterways from on top of the hill. You felt like you were on top of the world. My only regret of the day was not bringing along my camera, but the images I saw are forever etched in my memory. What a beautiful day!

Wild Boar

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Wild Boar and my husband, Lane.

Wild Boar and my husband, Lane.

A few weeks ago, my husband and son, Jake, set up a hog trap for wild hogs. Feral hogs have been destroying pastureland on Cross Creek Cattle Company. Since our livelihood depends on grass for our herd, we cannot sit back and watch as these wild nuisances wreak havoc.

Jake and Lane building the hog trap.

Jake and Lane building the hog trap.

The wild hog trap is a simple design meant to capture as many hogs as possible using cattle panels and t-posts. The trap is almost heart-shaped as the last two pieces of panel curve back inside creating an entrance. The hogs push their way between the two panels to get the corn inside. Once in, they cannot get out. The trap works well as we have trapped several hogs since then.

We have driven up on numerous hogs, but never seem to have a gun when we do. We have named one boar, The Bear, because he is so big that he looks like a black bear. He is the largest wild boar we have seen in these parts.

We have some men working for the ranch in fence repair. My husband sent them ahead early this morning to get started while he finished checking the cows, feeding the horses, etc. A few minutes later, Lane received a phone call from the employees informing him that a huge pig is trapped and trying its hardest to escape. They went on to say that its back is as high as the panels, which are 4′ tall. Lane let me know so that I could finish his chores as he sped away. We just knew it was “The Bear.”

Well since there are fish stories, I should not be surprised that there are hog stories, too. And in defense of the men who called, they were situated on top of the hill looking down into the trap. Maybe the pig’s back did in fact look that tall. It quickly became very obvious to Lane that the hog was certainly not “The Bear.”

My husband is not a huge man. He stands at 5’9″ and weighs 145 pounds. In comparison the hog is really a big boar. It outweighed my husband by twenty pounds. Wild hogs are mean and have sharp teeth and tusks. I am glad that the hog was trapped when my husband saw it.

So Lane ended up spending a good part of his morning cleaning a large wild boar for the sole purpose of making sausage. It just goes to show that as a Ranch Manager you never know what your day will bring. Never a dull moment at Cross Creek Cattle Company, and we are still on the hunt for “The Bear.”


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