Hill Country Landowner’s Guide

Whether you own several acres or the lot your house sits on, I’d highly recommend the book, “Hill Country Landowner’s Guide” by Jim Stanley.  Mr. Stanley writes about the issues that might face any landowner here, from deer to cedar to songbirds and a whole lot more.

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The book is generally available at the Riverside Nature Center on Francisco Lemos St. or at Wolfmueller’s Books on Earl Garrett.  It’s also available on Amazon.com, but you won’t meet any nice people that way!

 

The Hill Country’s Dirty Little Secret

Allergies.  Good grief, I’ve been worthless for most of this past week because of allergies.  The word “debilitating” has often come to mind.

Floating in the clear blue Hill Country skies – at certain times of the year – is enough pollen tIMG_1093o choke a mule.  Some folks aren’t bothered by it.  I am.

“Cedar fever” hit in late winter.  Not entirely sure if that’s what was irritating my sinuses, but I was miserable for about a week in February.  Now,  the oaks are the likeliest suspect.

I tried Claritin.  I’m sure it works for most people, but the western side of my head stayed jammed up while the eastern side was a torrential downpour. On someone’s recommendation, I finally went to a local health food store and got a homeopathic spray (pictured).  Within an hour or two, I felt better.  Not great, but better.  I’m a little surprised so far.  I’ll keep you posted.

* Day 2 – Much improved.  Two thumbs up.

 

 

Wolfmueller’s Books

If I go into an area business and either don’t like it or don’t have much of an opinion, I won’t mention it here.  However, if I really like a place, I want to let others know.

IMG_1030Wolfmueller’s Books is one of the coolest bookstores I’ve ever been in.  I hate to call it a “good, old-fashioned” bookstore, but they sell books. There’s no cappuccino or video games.   They sell books, and the particular books they sell are what what make it – to me – a special store.

Wolfmueller’s has the best selection of books about Texas I’ve ever seen in a store.   There are also large sections on the Old West, American Indians, firearms, the Civil War, wildlife, books by Texas authors, cookbooks, and much more.

 New books, old books, rare books, signed books, old books that are rare and signed – I’m still a little overwhelmed any time I go in there.  If you’re in the area and haven’t been in, go visit.  And if you happen to be reading this from afar, email or call them.  They ship books all over.  They’re on Earl Garrett just off Main in Kerrville and their website is http://www.wolfmuellersbooks.com .

Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

“… eradication is thought to be impossible once CWD becomes established in a population, …”

 from Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/diseases/cwd/

Chronic Wasting Disease affects whitetail deer and related species.  As the name implies, affected animals simply waste away and the disease is always fatal.  Furthermore, as said above, TPW  isn’t sure it can be controlled once it gets started within a given area.

At the last monthly meeting of the Texas Master Naturalist program here in Kerrville, two key staff members of Texas Parks & Wildlife spoke on the subject of Chronic Wasting Disease as is affects us here in Texas. Wildlife Veterinarian Bob Dittmar DVM (a local vet whom many in Kerrville will know) now works for TPW primarily on CWD.  He was joined by Mitch Lockwood, TPW’s Big Game Program Director and they gave attendees an overview of the problem.

I’m not any sort of an authority, but here’s some information from my notes and from other reading I’ve done on the issue.

What Is Chronic Wasting Disease?

CWD is a TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy).  Scrapie in sheep, mad cow disease in cattle, and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans are similar.  Without going into detail, it affects the tissues of the brain and ultimately leads to confusion, lack of coordination, and loss of body mass.  An animal can have the disease without showing symptoms, but, as per Dr. Dittmar, it is always fatal.

How Common Is CWD In Texas?

It’s not common at all.  TPW started looking for CWD in 2002 and the first cases appeared in far West Texas (Hueco Mountains) in 2012.  These affected animals were mule deer, and it was previously known to exist in elk in southern New Mexico.

It has also been found in a mule deer northeast of Amarillo and, seemingly from nowhere, it was found last year in Medina County in a captive whitetail population. Over the previous five years, this breeder had legally transported more than 800 deer to 140 facilities in 16 Texas counties.  As of April 1, 10 cases have been found that originated at breeding facilities.  Approximately 10,000 free ranging deer were tested – most from this past hunting season – and all tests were negative.

Overall, CWD has been found in 23 states and 2 Canadian provinces.

How Do I Know If Deer On My Property Have It?

Unless you can examine brain tissue under a high powered microscope (and know what you’re looking for), you don’t.  This is the only method thus far deemed 100% reliable. At the meeting we were told that, if you see a sick deer, chances are good that it’s sick with worms or some other fairly typical malady.  You don’t need to call anyone.  However, if you see 2 or 3 that look too thin, too disoriented, or stand with “saw-horse” appearance, call TPW, a game warden, or the Texas Animal Health Commission.

Should I Be Worried?

Probably not, but some folks like to worry. CWD appears to be transmitted between deer by direct contact – blood, urine, antler velvet, or saliva.  In other words, it doesn’t float through the air, though it can remain active in the environment without a host animal for many years.  There seems to be a species barrier.  It hasn’t been found in Axis or Fallow deer.

There are NO known cases of it being transmitted to humans.  This disease was first observed in Colorado in 1967.  Since that time, no sign of its transmission to humans or cattle has been observed.  Still, the CDC and WHO think it’s in our best interest that we not eat any part of a deer that might have it.  As Mr. Lockwood said, “Don’t eat sick looking deer.”

In my opinion, Chronic Wasting Disease is something we should be aware of, but not worried about.  It’d be a bad deal if it ever became prevalent in Texas, but it’s my impression that some good people are legitimately worried about it and working to keep that from happening.

A&A Tire

IMG_1024I want to call attention to and commend A & A Tire Service on Junction Highway (Highway 27) in Kerrville.  On my old Suburban (that’s the “even older” one), I had some tires that looked fine but – come to find out – were well past their useful (safe) life. What I thought was an out of balance problem was actually a tire that was out of round.  I got a little education and good service that I almost enjoyed spending the money on a new set of Goodyears.

After that, I took my wife’s car  in, ready to buy a set of tires for it.  They told me it wasn’t time yet.  I appreciated that.

Like a friend of mine told me, old tires get bad slowly, but new tires get good right quick!

What’s a Sunday House?

Simply put, a Sunday house served as a home away from home when farmers and their families came to town.  It was usually fairly simple, but served as a place to rest and eat when in town for church or buying supplies.  The Pioneer Museum in Fredericksburg is home to this Sunday house, the Fassel-Roeder house.  The top photo shows  the interior in its entirety. The accompanying historical marker is also shown.

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Oak Wilt

Oak trees in Texas, along with those in much of the Midwest and Eastern part of the country, are suffering from a disease called oak wilt.  Oak wilt is a tree killing fungus  that might be likened to hardening of the arteries. Nutrients within the tree aren’t able to travel to feed the tree.  It can be spread through the roots of interconnected trees – and live oaks are often connected to other live oaks – or with help from a certain beetle that spreads the fungus from an infected tree.  If you’ve got leaves falling off a live oak sometime other than in the spring or if something “just isn’t right”, go to texasoakwilt.org for ways to get help.  However, you’re not exactly looking for help with an infected tree.    Unless the timing is just right, it’s probably too late to save it. The object is to save other trees nearby and to keep the disease from spreading.

If you’ve got a spot that needs a tree, please consider planting native species.

Enchanted Rock

 

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Enchanted Rock’s been a special place to people for at least 10,000 years.  Based on arrowheads found in the vicinity, it’s probable that people have been present in its vicinity for at least 2,000 years more than that.  At least some American Indians believed the dome help special powers, and at least one Texas Ranger might have agreed (see inscription below).In the middle of what’s already beautiful country, the pink granite dome is a striking sight.

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Know Someone Who’s Just Moved to Kerr County?

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If you’d like to do something nice for a new Kerr Co. resident, here’s a link to Kerr County Greeters.  These nice folks will make sure a gift basket containing local tips and info is delivered.  I’ve heard there may be cookies involved, too.

http://kerrcountygreeters.squarespace.com

Texas Water

Texas has about 80,000 miles of rivers and streams.  Over 11,000 are named.  As of 2010, Texas had approximately 8.4 million acre-feet of surface water and 8 million acre-feet of groundwater.

The bad news is it’s probably not going to be enough in the future.  Considering the number of people projected to move into the state over the coming years, measures will have to be taken to avert shortfalls.

I’d invite you to take a few minutes to look over a report from the State Comptroller, Susan Combs, published in early 2014.  It’s a very interesting read, and even I could understand most of it!  Despite the attention-grabbing first few paragraphs, it doesn’t seem overly pessimistic. It presents the facts from Texas-based sources and talks about where we are and what we can do to get where we’re going.  By the way, Kerrville is mentioned on page 14.

http://www.nacubo.org/Documents/BusinessPolicyAreas/WaterReportTexas.pdf

3,000 Years Before the Pyramids…

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This sign sits at the entrance to Saddlewood Estates in Kerrville.  Saddlewood is a gated neighborhood just south of Spur 98.  When we talk about arrowheads and spear points, we usually think of Apache or Comanche artifacts but, as this marker indicates, sometimes the history goes a little deeper.  Here in present day Kerr County, folks were enjoying the views at least 3,000 years before Imhotep did his thing in Egypt.

Here’s more detailed information from Dr. Joseph Luther :

https://kerrvilletx.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/first-peoples-on-the-upper-guadalupe-river/

 

Yes, There are Lots of Deer in Kerrville, TX

As a matter of fact, I’ve heard that this area is home to the largest herd of deer in the world.  They’re downright ubiquitous.

Driving home through town, we’d been seeing more deer than usual.  My wife decided to stick her phone out the window and hit record.  Yes, they’re cute – until they eat your flowers or run out in front of your car.

Baby Head Cemetery

Just a few miles north of Llano on Hwy 16 lies Baby Head Cemetery.  The Historical Marker barely scratches the surface of the story (or stories).  Below, there’s a link to “The Mystery of Baby Head Mountain”, an interesting read by Dale Fry.

Baby Head Cemetery Sign

 

 

Baby Head Cemetery Historical Marker

http://www.texfiles.com/texashistory/babyhead.htm

Ball Moss

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This sorta’ otherworldly looking stuff is commonly called ball moss, though it’s not really moss. You’ll see plenty of it in the Hill Country, though it’s most noticeable when the trees are bare.  It’s an epiphyte – a plant that grows outside of/on another plant, unlike mistletoe.  Mistletoe’s a parasite that gets nutrients from its host whereas ball moss gets what it needs from the air.  While it’s not dangerous to a tree, some say it can get so overgrown that it’ll break weak branches.  Watch where you park.