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Friday, July 15, 2011

#53 - Our Farm and Our Forest

I've never lived on a farm, and I've never lived in a forest, at least not full-time. But, I HAVE spent a LOT of my life in the forest since I was a small child. However, we are fast approaching the time when we will be doing both, living on a farm with the backside of the property left as a forest.

For ten years, we've camped out on our land in various ways and for various stretches of time. But, sometimes it's difficult to imagine the camping coming to an end as the full-time living on the acreage begins.

This is how we camp in a tent on our land.
Often, I only contemplate the part of living on our acreage that involves farming. I will be so grateful to have a huge vegetable garden where we can freely use our tiller and not worry about hitting one of the many electrical or gas or cable lines that run through our yard. I think about having farm animals that will contribute to our daily dinner table in a healthy way. I ponder the fun times that I will be able to have most days with my dogs as they are able to run around without worrying about being confined to a four-leg running stretch. I look forward to the privacy and to the room outside for us to better savor nature.

Then, I began to truly consider the part of our land that I don't write about enough, but that is a massive part of our land. Our acreage is part of the Big Thicket. What is the Big Thicket Preserve you ask? Well, for starters, according the the National Park Service, it encompasses more than 105,684 acres of preserved land that winds its way through Texas and is managed by the National Park Service.

What is the difference between a National Park and a National Preserve? Again, according to the government's website for the National Park Service, their answer is surprising and opposite of what is probably guessed, "Most national parks do not allow consumptive use of the resources, such as hunting, trapping, timber harvesting, and mineral extraction. All of these activities are allowed in the preserve by permit."

We're close to the part of the Big Thicket section that is known as the "Big Sandy Corridor Unit" and this corridor has a trail dubbed, "The Big Sandy Trail" which is an 18-mile round-trip trail designed for horse-back riding, hiking and all-terrain bicycling. This trail meanders through upland pine forests and beech-magnolia-loblolly pine slopes before crossing Simmons Branch to a floodplain forest of basket oak, sweetgum, hornbeam, and holly. It provides a great opportunity for bird-watching and nature absorption.

Actually, The Big Thicket Preserve is just across the street from us and this means that our land is part of an amazing eco-system. It is teeming with wildlife. Our acreage has a picturesque spring-fed creek; it adjoins a good-sized spring-fed lake; we have an area of run-off from the Big Thicket zone and our soil is rich from an earthly lifetime of natural composting. Our land is full of trees. We don't just have trees, we have a true forest. So, I won't just be moving to land that we will only partially farm for private usage and enjoyment, I will be moving to the forest.

Since Deputy Dave and I currently live near the Gulf of Mexico, less than five minutes from the bay, we are in a culture that is vastly different from one involved with forest living.

One of our trips to the beach this summer.
My entire life, I grew up going to my family country place in the Big Thicket, which is also part of the Piney Woods. This part of Southeast Texas is gorgeous. There are gentle rolling hills with a sea of trees as far as you can see. Wildlife is abundant, greenery is lush, and fresh air is an every day treasure.

Moving to the forest will involve a different way of daily life. For one, the early morning to late day sun won't be beating down upon our house any longer because our cabin will be tucked away in the woods. We won't have a concrete driveway leading up to a two-car garage, we'll probably have a graveled road leading up to a nice covered carport...we won't really need a "garage" since we'll have storage buildings for all of the gardening tools, wood-working tools and such. And, we won't have neighbors within eyesight of every window from inside our home; instead, we'll be looking out over the land and the views will certainly be breathtaking.

On the flip side, the darkness at night will be different. Country dark IS dark. In the city, there are always lights flickering to shut out the darkness from enveloping you. In the city, you trade starlight for twinkling artificial lighting. However, on our land we will be privy to a more visible starlight show. Maybe I'll get a chance to actually SEE and to learn the constellations by actual SIGHT instead of from textbook photos. In the country, I'm sure there will be more sounds that will be freaky...maybe an animal, maybe a pine cone hitting the roof, maybe BIG FOOT lurking outside the bathroom window. Everyone knows that Big Foot lives in The Big Thicket. I saw the movie when I was a child and it took me a long time to feel comfortable out there again. But, I did.

I know that the animal kingdom will be part of our lives. Even if we do get neighbors thirty years from now, the fact that we will be living in direct proximity to the Big Thicket Preserve pretty much guarantees that our land will remain a hot-bed of animal activity. Probably, deer will be the biggest obstacle because our vegetable garden will likely appeal to their taste. Deputy Dave will have fun with that matter. We will have to learn techniques to keep the "Big Buck" restaurant off-limits.

A scary fact that many of my blog friends already live with is that bears may be making a return to the area where our acreage is located. The National Park Service states on their website the reason behind this return of black bears to the region: "The last southern black bear in the Big Thicket region was killed in 1928. These gentle herbivores may begin migrating back to southeast Texas due to reintroduction programs in Louisiana."

Did I mention that I am terrified of bears? For you blogger buddies out there who are checking on your gardens and livestock as bears are visible along your property lines, I issue you a Farm Life Lesson Bravery Badge. If it were me in that situation, I'd need to be hosed down and disinfected.

If you love nature, visit the National Park Service website at http://www.nps.gov/ and enjoy.

As for other forest awareness issues, we've had to deal with armies and armies of ants. These aren't city ants. Once upon a time, we had an RV on our land. It sat there for about three years in a row and we'd stay in it nearly every weekend. Ants would migrate into the kitchen area. The solution? Deputy Dave's pee-pesticide. Every afternoon and evening, he would do his business outside along the perimeter of the RV and it works. I believe it's all about the ammonia in urine. I learned this from my distant Native American background...it was a solution passed down through generations, and I was told that this technique was embraced by tribal members. Makes sense because there was no "Peter the Pest-Man" to call out to the tee-pee that was full of ants. Hmmmm...I won't question this, but my husband has been assimilated fully into this tribal tradition. And, we no longer have a problem with ants.

All of the differences in daily life that come with living in a forest will be ours to experience and I am so eager that I cannot express or suppress my excitement. There's a side of me that's a little frightened to be out there permanently, but the goodness, wholesomeness, naturalness, and the beauty of life in a forest cannot be compared to how we are currently living in the midst of refinery land.

This is within a few miles from our house. Some of the refineries are
so close to our home that we can hear the whooshing of the
stack-pipes releasing their chemical-laden pressure.
One of the most wonderful aspects of our land is that the air is so clean. The Environmental Protection Agency puts the cleanliness of the air around our property as clean, clean, clean. The heavily forested area is, of course, a powerful natural filter for the air. But, the house we currently live in, located in an industrialized area of Greater Houston, has air quality that is very disconcerting. So many of our family members live in this area, but we simply can't continue living here much longer. The day of having grand-children is fast approaching and we want to stop the cycle of living in the polluted area so that the ties to the area are lessened.

FOREST...Here We Come!!!

Here is part of the land, a very small portion, that we had
cleared, but it is now re-claimed by the forest. The cabin
will be built toward the back part of this forested area.
Actually, are area in the outskirts of Houston is very industrialized to the point of us being surrounded by chemical plants and refineries. We are in the center of constant smelly releases and every time we travel out of town and come back to our house, we hit a pollution boundary strong enough to make you gag. The pollution gets so thick that it's nearly tangible.

View as we are passing over the 610 Ship Channel Bridge. Deputy Dave
sees this every single day on his way into work every day, along with
the scenes in the above photographs.
I grew up hearing phrases such as, "Smell that? It's the smell of products everyone in the nation uses and that means money."

Well, I think I'd rather live in a tent, but then again, a tent is surely comprised, at least partially, with the assistance of a product made at one of the nearby plants. For example, DuPont makes products that are in many of the items that are in the same room you are sitting in. Such is life.

In fact, Wikipedia describes the Bayport Industrial area in which we live and that I share with you on my blog as follows: "The Bayport Industrial District is a large commercial real-estate development located in southeast Harris County, Texas, within the Bay Area of Greater Houston." This same source confirms that our area has over 60 chemical plants. Whoa Mama!
Headed over the 610 Ship Channel Bridge. I can never get accustomed
to this bridge, but there is such a bustle beneath us that I am mesmerized.

Heading into downtown Houston - seen in the distant horizon.
This view is from the 610 Ship Channel Bridge.
It takes about 30 minutes to reach downtown from our house.
So, of all bonuses that a life in a forest brings, breathing clean air is probably the part that I most eagerly anticipate. Clear air? After all these years in polluted air, maybe I will be unable to function with clean air every day of the week. Now that I think about it...that third arm that protrudes out of my back from the chemically-filtrated air I've breathed for most of my life won't know how to function without oxygen that is laced with chemical residue! And, everyone needs a third arm...Right?

4 comments:

Mike said...

Nice to know the land surrounding you will be protected from the land-grabbers, realtors and developers. This post brought back my childhood memories of country living. I was never on a huge farm but, we had gardens and animals to tend and were taught to respect others and their property. The cities don't have that kind of living and I miss it. I'm holding my breath until I can get back out there. Until then, I'll gladly read about your adventure.
Now you can actually say, 'I'd give my third arm to move away from the city.'

LindaG said...

I've heard that's the way to get rid of fire ants, too. That's where they got their nick name. ;)

I learned something new. I did not know that Louisiana had re-introduced bears.

Hope you all have a great weekend! :)

Lana at www.FarmLifeLessons.blogspot.com said...

Mike --- I never feel too safe from developers, etc., the properties running alongside us might be grabbed up. It's a concern. I agree with you about country living teaching a different set of values...we need more of that today. And you crack me up...Yes, I'll give my 3rd arm, gladly, to get re-located to the country!

Linda --- Yes, the urine works beautifully. For a couple of days, however you can get it there, just pour pee around the perimeter around the areas outside that allow for the ant intrusion and it will fix the problem. About the black bear re-introduction...I don't know how I feel about that. It only seems logical that they would eventually make their way our direction because of the dense forest and wild blackberries growing everywhere, etc. I guess it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the black bears to become regulars in our forested zone.

Anonymous said...

Third arms are really over rated. Except for the being able to scratch EVERY inch of your back or anywhere else.
Just think you will also be able to lie on your back and see the stars without having to weave that pesky third arm through the hole in the lawn chair. :)
YOU ARE GONNA LOVE IT IN THE COUNTRY !! Beth