"One of Two"

"The Perrin Refuse History"

by Brad Michael Moore




 A really great aspect about living in a, 'River Valley,' - where only a few other residents live - are the opportunities you engage on a daily basis that most Americans never know about - or experience themselves. People, who live on rural farms, scattered throughout the country’s rural regions [some are very close to me,] - they get near the same general picture as I do. We both share isolation from the hub-bub of Metropolitan Life... What makes my life even a bit better, for me - is that I'm not tied down to agriculture, or raising Livestock - both for which - with the near-same synchronism, scar the land, and its natural habitat - during, and even long after these ways of making a living are no longer practiced... 



   I was pretty lucky, in the spring of 1993, when - after nearly 6 weeks of diligent looking – searching for just the right place - I found one! It was not even on my list! While driving to another destination, I just happened to notice a small, linear, hand-painted sign - dangling on a barbed wire fence, reading: For Sale - [with a local phone number]!!! I had just found a slice of seemingly, unimproved land in a, 'River Valley,' - hemmed up on its east, and west sides, by ridged plateaus that pretty much meet in the northern middle. The valley was open-ended facing towards the south. It was only a handful of miles from the Watershed Basin of the Keechi Creek - an every-growing waterway that eventually empties into the mighty Brazos River of Texas! This valley is narrow [several miles wide] and has a paved F-M [Farm to Market] Road that runs from the east [out of Perrin] and centers into this valley - as it turns from west to north - running smack-dab through the valley center - before exiting and turning westward again, over the northern end... Another nice quality of this property is that it is more linear than square - which allows it to touch that, 'prayed for, paved two-lane roadway,' which kisses its western boundary! Anyone looking for even more beautiful, or isolated, tracts of land, in these counties around here, will be disappointed... They must be prepared for miles of traveling both - long, and winding, crushed rock roads - and some are along steep cliff edges!!!] The other great aspect of this linear property is that - it is long enough to dip its opposite boundary into the Keechi Creek - on the 'wildest' eastern side of this valley - flush with steep land gradients, old woods, and unique flora, that surround the Keechi - which runs all along the Eastern Plateau's Basin!



 When I purchased this property, from two elderly descendants of the original [White] family settlers - they had owned the eastern half of this valley for over 100 years! Long ago, they had cleared the front 22 acres of what is now, my property, and even more adjoining the highway of nearby properties. The plowed field stretches back towards the woods - stopped by the plateau, ponds, and creeks. At that point, the gradients of the land, the waters, rocks, and trees - were far too foreboding to scrape any further... From that time, this field had grown wheat - to feed local cattle for the next 40 to 50 years... After purchasing the place for a, "Cash Price," - I hired a farmer to begin growing different kinds of crops. I decided against growing peanuts and cotton - both labor-intensive crops to raise... So, at first, I grew Sudan, Oats, Maize, and finally - Giant Sunflowers! I always had, Volenteer Wheat, that grew in and outside the field! As I grew wiser, through lots of reading, Web-browsing, and talking with the good folks at my County Appraisal's Office - I learned I could still get a tax-break [on my Property Tax!] I only needed to allow myself the time to plan, and pay for - the work to convert my, 'Wheat Field,' back to what we call here: "Texas Native Grasslands!" I allowed the old field to sit fallow for several years, and then mowed its weeds down to the ground one early winter, in 2013 - after digging three more ponds into the fields… By the next spring - I hired out a Triple-bin Seed Drill, and a Tractor Man! The U.S. Department of Soil Conservation, and the FSA [Farm Service Agency,] ordered out about $2,000.00 worth of mixed Native Grassland seeds [I paid for, but couldn't choose] - to grow Texas Native Wildflowers, other flowering plants, shrubbery, many native grasses, and even some Evergreen Sage! Coming each New Year - I am always finding, and recognizing, new species of flora - growing where I had never noticed it the previous year! It takes at least 5 to 11 years, for the native plants to overrun any 'unnatural' species, or, 'predatory,' species of plants - that grow where land is over-grazed, and not properly taken care of. You know it when you see it - Cactuses, Stinging Nettles, Mesquite Tress, and such... When you are looking to rebirthed Natural Diversity - it take a good bit of dedication, time, and hard work!



   Another issue I quickly found a solution to deal with concerned my woods... I had some great woods with some great trees, but, I quickly noticed - all my trees were great large trees! There were no trees that were of any other size but tall & large! Jack County, the Texas County I live in, is what they call a, "Free Range County." That means it is governed by a law my Texas State Legislators passed at the beginning of Texas State History - to benefit Cattle Barons and ranchers! It was meant to allow cattle, - to freely graze anywhere, on anyone's personal property - [even State Lands] wherever they are not kept fenced out! So, for those 40 to 50+ years before I got here - my property [which, in the past, was part of a larger property] - was only fenced at the vallery's center - to keep the cattle of one cattleman, on the western side, from getting his cattle mixed up with the cattleman's cattle, on the eastern side of the highway. In-between, by the way [before my time here], it was more likely a dusty old trail back in the early years [when it wasn’t wet and sloppy!!!] When fences were felled, and cattle were mixed - that's what cowboys were for, to round up, and separate, the cattle - according to each Cattle Baron's Brand - burned into the hip-hide of every head of one's herd. Cowboys had plenty of other duties too, but they generally respected the land they worked so hard upon. Since the woods were not fenced off, and the plateau was a natural barrier - cattle, for years, and decades, were allowed to graze in what would, eventually become, 'My Woods!' Therefore, once that practice began - the cattle, who ran loose in the woods, would eat every new sprig that sprang out the earthen ground - each and every New Year - before they could ever have a chance to grow up properly! I immediately recognized this issue, and found only one of my neighbors was taking advantage of the State and County’s, 'Free Range Law.' So, I immediately fenced him out - along with his munching cows! Meanwhile, in the intervening years, after the automobile became common - laws were amended to make sure anyone with livestock - on any property adjoining a State, or local County Road, must fence the side of their property - preventing livestock from wandering into highways and byways - but it was left to the neighbors - who’s properties adjoined one and another, at one or more common boarders - to work their own issues out amongst themselves...



   When you walk in my woods in these present times - you still see the old giant tress, but you also see trees that are anywhere from one year-old - up to 31 year's old! In the timber business, that is called - 'Taking an, "Even-aged Wood," and converting it into a natural, "Varied-age Wood!" That's the way Nature had intended it to be. So, as a Ward of my land - I have returned both, my woods, and my wheat field, back to 'nearly' the conditions they would have been in naturally - had not the hand of man touched, and altered, them to begin with!!!




   While my property stops at the east end of the valley [furthest from the west gate entrance at the F-M Paved Road] - that is where the East Plateau begins its near-immediate rise - north to south. With all the sharp gradients of the surrounding landscape - this is where the, 'Wildlands,' spread on up, and out - towards the valley opening to my south, and up to the watershed - less than 5 miles to my north... For all natural intents and purposes - my eastern boundary is uninhabited by humans [excepting a Hunter's Camp - used during Deer Season,] and it extends in all directions - like a great, 'Greenbelt,' covering the hillsides, woods, and waterways... Coming back westward - towards my grasslands [and main gate entry,] the Greenbelt narrows - funneling down from rocks, woods, creeks, and ponds - into pastures as well as into my Texas Native Grassland Fields - where small mammals, and many ground, and grass type birds thrive! Turns out - 'My Property,' is the only property in this valley where wildlife [Turkey, Quail, Ducks, Doves, and Deer] can survive, unhunted - year-around - although they are so close to molestation... Only my Texas Mountain Lion, "whom I have faced once - in a night-encounter,] has the right to hunt here, as it does - routinely, every year... In my early days here, there were still some, "Old-timers" around for me to talk to - all about the history of this region [Find and read my story, titled, "Big Red," in, 'Life Stories...' section, & "Brazened {the last story on the page}!]" Every passing generation has it's own memories, and tales, of this region's history - all saying that this Mountain Lion, and its kin, have hunted the Keechi Creek, and these ridged plateaus, for a thousand years and more...



   Since the valley on the west side of the F-M Road is higher than the land on the east side of the road [the Creekside of the road is on the east side of this valley] that means all the water that runs, in rainy times, will cross under the F-M Road through a series of 5 Culverts, that are built alongside, and up to, and beneath the roadway - to get those waters from the west side - to the east side - where it can meander eastwardly - toward the creeks. I'm also 'situated' at the southern end of the valley, and because of the way water networks - all of the 2,000+ acres, of this valley’s water, drains directly into the growing Keechi Creek's parallel sister, through a series of ponds, and then pours into the Keechi Creek, itself, via my last pond's spillway! That secondary wash [sister creek] that runs on the upwards of 3 miles - moving north to south, and near parallel, to the primary Keechi Creek. This 'Sister Branch' of the 'Keechi Creek,' begins as a small stream, and quickly becomes a larger creek - that terminates into my man-made pond, along the near back end of my property. There, the pond's dam turns the water's overflow a full 90 degrees - to merge with the Keechi - 75 to 100 yards short of its natural path. This dam creates the largest of my five ponds. Since this is not the natural course for the water - a course that nature carved into this land over centuries of unsullied natural history - it breaks my heart in a small way that the water’s natural route was blocked, and dammed... This, 'rerouting' is the result of landowners - at the turn of the twentieth century, damning up the overflow creek [wash] to create a large family, "fishing and 'Swimming Hole.'" It’s was an unregulated, and unsanctioned, creation which cut off, and dried out, the last stretch of natural pathway that once merged these two natural waterways together on - what is now, another person's private property [and out of my control]. I have offered to allow my pond's partial destruction - to afford for the, 'Historic Path of the Keechi Creek System to be rebirthed," but, sadly, the neighbor next door would have nothing of it - fearing it would flood her property! But, actually, it would not change the amount of water in her portion of this creek at all - she still gets that same water presently [and all along], as it merges, unnaturally on my property - about 30 yards upstream, and just north of her northern fence line! She gets the same amount of water - either way... 



   History has been written - at the turn of this past century - only one family owned the whole side of this valley. They did to the land what they saw fit for themselves… Through the following three generations - with that local family's members passing away - this parcel of land began being carved up, and inherited by the younger kin generations of that family. As the large original ranch got carved up, new kin-owners, then, began selling off bits, and pieces, to outsiders, and thus my property shares its eco system with five neighbors in this valley - none of whom treats their land, most fairly, according to its historic and natural tendencies. But, at least, I got what I got! So, now, just another one-half mile, or so, downstream from my southern property boundary - is where the two original waterways once merged naturally, but, now, cannot meet, naturally... Instead, these two waterways merge, unnaturally upon my property. I guess I shouldn't complain - the secondary flow - dammed up on my place, makes my second, "Live Pond," - way much larger than my first pond - [that sits closer to my home...] Also, the pond's inlet is the, 'complete secondary wash,' - the Keechi Creek's, 'Companion Stream,' - making my inlet stream stretching out for nearly 3 miles north - beyond my Property Line, and holding a whole lot of water, and wildlife, that is always wadering on along with the flow - down towards to my place… So, when I have a 3.5 inch rain - that’s the, 'Magic Number,' that starts all the valley's ground water running in this Valley - it all will end up at my big pond's spillway! My spillway is about 75 yards wide, and I have seen it covered with more than five feet deep of fast running overflow water – as it funnels down about 100 yards east to the Original Keechi Creek - more than doubling its size - just inside my property line! It is so remarkable - you can feel the ground rumbling beneath your own feet from a half a mile away - I kid you not! I have five ponds on my place, and two are live running - meaning they are spring-fed, and will run even a trickle in drought [even if it must flow several inches below the ground surface - in the hottest, or driest, stretches of weather. That is why this area was popular to the Native Americans that lived here hundreds, and thousands, of years ago! They had water resources, high points to scout, and send signals, and the lush woods that were full of wild nuts, fruit, berries, and game - to hunt for food, and hides... The Native Americans have now - long ago left these woods - this place that became part of the 1st Republic Nation of Texas [Republic of Texas,]  before it was annexed as a, "Slave State," on December 29th, 1845... Texas became the 28th State of the United States Union! Still, the name, "Keechi," holds on to represent the heritage of a small group of Native Americans - who once inhabited this land… 


"Big Rock Overlook - Just South of my Property Line (Keechi Creek is just below - to the right!)"


   The last note I want to record is that - as the Keechi Creek runs - here, on my farm. My property is the second to the last, 'private property,' before it meets its first [Man-made Bridge]!  So, I call my portion of the Keechi a, "Pioneer's Creek," from its headwaters the water shed, upstream - all the way down to that first bridge - first established as an wooden bridge, over 100 years ago, [you can still see remnants of it in the soil beneath today's concrete bridge!] The very important point I am making here is that - a Virgin Creek is a Virgin Creek no more - after its first encounter with a, 'Man-made Bridge.' People sometimes presently, and certainly historically, will, have, and do illegally use a bridge to dump their trash, mattresses, tricycles, shingles, carcasses, washing machines - you name it. These are the ignorant and lazy people of this land, who will do anything - to hell with the consequences, just to get out of a paid trip to the County Dump! That’s why I feel special about my portion of these waterways - they haven’t met mankind yet!!!  Before that bridge - the creek is still much the same as it was hundreds, even near thousands of years ago, or much longer than that! There are Wild Plum Trees that grow on one side of this creek that you must walk a bit up the hillside on the other bank of same-said creek - just to pick their fruit! There are many Native Pecan Trees, and Oaks of all flags, that have been untouched throughout their lifetime of one to 300+ years!  Topography tells the historic story of this area - where, for thousands of years, all the waters ran free and unfettered. Where the Keechi runs through my property - it lies at the bottom of gorges some 20 to 30 feet deep - meaning, historically, some mighty ferociously wild waters have run through this terrain - in the days and times going back to its creation! Maps show my area of Texas to be at the very top of the region better known, hundreds of miles south of here, and called, "The Hill Country!" I am at the top of the Hill Country! That region includes well-known & historic Texas Towns & cities down south - such as Austin, Dripping Springs, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Marble Falls, San Antonio, Wimberly, & New Braunfels. Maps show my region, 70,000 years ago - 'Was' the Gulf of Mexico's Northwestern Coast! My valley was just an inlet, in those times, before the waters receded - while the Earth's Polar Regions grew… When you take the historic view of a place through time - you realize your own region - like all other regions, is continuously shifting into newer chapters in Earth's terrestal never-ending story...



"Lucy," by Brad Michael Moore (C) 2017


Field and Pasture Health - by Brad Michael Moore


I may be a layman, but when it comes to, "Field and Pasture Health" - 30 years of working a specific 25 acres (at the west end of my property) has taught me a whole lot about Nature's Reclamation Process. Beginning as a 60+ year-old Wheat field (when I found it) - I began transitioning these acres to a, "Texas Native Grassland!" It has been a rewarding process - requiring hard work, time, money, and vision. It is still not yet fully matured - but it is getting closer to complete restoration - then, "Certification!"

The first, and earliest, goal was to halt applications of, (and any further use of) Pesticides, Insecticides, and Herbicides. A field must live a completely, 'Sober Life,' for about ten years - before becoming certifiable for producing anything you could sell and label, "Natural," or, "Organic!" However, I didn't want to grow crops on this beaten-down piece of Earth - I wanted to forever store all of the carbon already in the field's soil, by never tilling it again! This is considered another type of, “Carbon Farming.”




With help, and direction, from the Texas Soil Conservation Office, in Henriette, Texas - I re-terraced my Wheat Field, and dozed three different sized ponds to capture directed running surface-waters - after big rains visit. About once a decade - I'll see an 8-inch rain fall in less than 36-hours! I would spend some thousands of dollars to purchase a variety of seed stocks of Texas-native wild flowers and grasses, food-bearing blooming shrubs, and flowering plants that attract bees, butterflies & insects. I reserved a special old Truax 3-box Seed Drill/Tiller that could cut a field-row only several inches deep - spit the seed, and cover the row all in one fell-swoop! Seeds come with a wild assortment of physical attributes - from small & hard - that look like they came from an apple's core - to very fluffy seeds having - like-appearances to Dandilines & Cottonwood. The tiller's three seed boxes were design for these variations of, 'Hard, lighter, shafted seeds - to Fluffy Seeds,' and could plant all three types together simultaneously! Then, time, and Mother Nature, are allowed to do all the rest!

The field began growing out right off in its first Spring! However, the, 'Seed Maze,' of everything I planted were not all going to pop up together. It seemed like the field's variety of different identifiable Flora Species would double every year - for about four years. Nothing was too uniform... Different plants and flowers chose different areas of the field to prosper. Some like the outsides of the terraces - some the insides. Some flowers engage the higher, dryer portions of the field, while other Flora cling to the wetter areas around, and leading up to the ponds. Then there are some grasses that will not be so choosy, and will grow pretty much dang-near everywhere. The soil, on planting day, was higher in moisture content than was preferred (an overnight misting of 25 traces) - so, not all my precious seeds were covered properly - as the soil clumped in some areas - leaving the seed exposed in those rows.

It took a few days for me to notice this, but then, suddenly, I had hundreds of the smallest field-birds I'd ever seen - some smaller than Luna Moths. While I was initially upset with this unexpected turnabout, time would prove out - it would all come out just fine.... Birds prefer eating seeds, but, they'll also eat sand and gravel! While they may have pilfered some my expensive seed from the till-rows - they usually just shat it elsewhere in the field - since that was were they all were temporary staying - for about a week anyway! As a result, my, “borrowed,” native grassland seeds were just being transplanted from one location to another! Some wound up sprouting up along my fence-lines, or other areas where I hadn't planted any seed at all! My neighbors also benefited a bit as well - at least near-always within, 'spitting range,' of my property line, & the highway row along my west boundary.



Occasionally, loose cattle - out on the highway, get into my field (or are driven there by Sheriff Deputies) - since my west fence-line is porous along the highway facing-side. Jack County has been a, "Free Graze County," every since our Republic joined the American States back in 1845! That means if you don't want your neighbor's livestock feeding on your land - you must fence them out! It is a, "Land Owner's Responsibility," as unfair as that might seem... (*) Most of our densely populated Texas Counties have abolished this Provision. However odd as it may seem - you only have to imagine back 175 years ago - where, “The Republic of Texas,” was a land of Cattle Barons, cattle drives, Cowboys (and Indians) - but not very much Barbed-wired fence! I didn't rebuild that western section (30 years ago) - only the three fence-lines along my other three boundaries - separating my neighbors and I…. So, as is - occasional 4-legged transgressions into my field are quickly rectified within a day or two, and whatever the cows eat - they also leave behind something like a raw compost - vitamins for the field...

I continue to mow crisscross trails from field-corners to field-corners - as well as a surrounding field border trail (except on the home road north side). This allows me to walk, and monitor the field's maturity processes more conveniently. My farm is easily seen on Google Maps since, "X" marks the center-spot - and is very visible from the air.



There are many growing signs of my field health I have been able to easily ascertain. Firstly, "Field Mouse Highways," began being revealed after re-mowing the trails every Spring and Summer. A healthy field will first attract the smallest rodents - who develop small communities and create their little narrow, "Highways (much smaller than a typical animal trail)," to link up one community to another... When the ponds fill, frogs begin festive days of rampant singing – presumingly to quickly find a mate, and make a mud-hole together! The evening music not only goes on for nights - it makes for great stereo soundtracks. Throw in a mature Mockingbird - not shy over sharing his rapport, and you have a whole natural chorus line that is so delightful to hear... I knew my field was really getting healthy when I began seeing it territorialized by Armadillos.

The mice are at the bottom of the mammal food chains around here, and so that attracts other small mammals such as Raccoon, Skunk, and Opossum. The Armadillos root and grub the soil - keeping it aerated. Armadillos are also voracious diggers - leaving more dens than they use - which then attracts rabbits that love to eat the surrounding grasses between making baby bunnies! Even small female coyote can easily amend the Dilloholes to create birthing shelters. Coyote also primarily survive on field rodents. This leads to the flying circle of predators - all variety of Birds of Prey - from the smallest of Sparrow Hawks, to the largest Red Tail Hawks, assorted field & barn owls, and every sort of Falcon - including the beautiful Peregrine Falcon. Oh, and I forgot to add - where there's mice - you are going to attract snakes - near all of them... Water Moccasins have yet to find my new ponds - preferring my very well-established old ponds, and the creek & washes. Rattlesnake, Copperhead, and the nicer types of snakes - Coachwhips, Corn, King, and Rat Snakes may be found with an occasional Hognose, Milksnake, and a few variety of native species I am still busy trying to identify.

Bottom line - my field is now 11 years healthy - very healthy - having near perfected it's Eco-system of both Flora and Fauna - and let's not forget the Whitetail deer, Feral Hogs, Bobcat, and Cougars - who still range along the creeks and hills, but may occasionally survey the new game-filled terrain - which, normally, is receding at an alarming rate - but in my neck of the woods - it is expanding!


Brad Michael Moore