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  • J.F. Rowan

Winter in Texas


Winter in Smithville, TX. Oaks are bare, the only green comes from Cedar and Yaupon

I'd say it would be a safe bet that this was the longest house sit we’ve ever done so far. And though its far from being over, we both agreed it will probably be our last long term house sit without a bit more vetting and scrutiny. Not that there are a lot of "surprises" thus far, but six weeks is a long time to be off the road. Little things that might not be a big deal in a week long house sit, can be a bit more important during a longer period. We don’t get down about it too much, we don’t talk about it that much at all. Instead, we take it as yet another learning experience and for the majority of our time, we make the best of it. One way to put a positive spin on things is for us to dig deeper in understanding our surroundings better. As Yvette always says, "Life's about learning."

Aerial view of the 13 acres that surround us. I designed, and created a 1/2 mile loop trail for the homeowners while they were away. A challenge considering the terrain ia a bit wet at times.

Lots of fence line in Texas. Different wire for different jobs.

We’re house sitting in a good sized home on 13 acres of land about 10 miles outside the city limits of Smithville, Texas. The home is located on a "Dead End" dirt road (or should I say clay) with other homes with as much, or more land. The land is mostly flat and cut up into properties with 5 strand, stock fence, or some combination. “No Trespassing” signs decorate some of the landscape, some have participated in the “Purple Paint Law” where homeowners can paint their fence post tops with purple paint, the universal sign that states, “No Trespassing or Hunting."

Purple topped fence posts signify "No Trespassing / No Hunting"

Why purple paint in lieu of signs? The law came about because signs we're being shot at or ripped down.

On our particular road, everyone has at least one dog. Interestingly, the Great Pyrenees breed is used quite a bit here guarding livestock, especially goats, sheep, and chickens. Some dogs are left with the stock 24 hours of a day penned up with the animals, some are left to roam independently. Yvette and I have friended a crew of three next door.

Romeo and Cotton competing for attention. Life is a struggle. Bella being older, rarely showed up for a photo op.

Though not all Pyrenees, Cotton, Romeo, and Bella all take on the role as property guardians next door. Once they get to know you, it’s clear they’re only toll payment request when you pass their property is a good scratch behind the ear. We know this because most of our walking is done on the roads here, it’s difficult to just walk off into the woods.

"Romeo" Indeed, once you get to know him is a sweetheart. One of the 3 Amigos.

To “bushwhack” here, that is to say, walk randomly through the woods, can be rugged. The composition of the soil where we are is mostly clay and erosion is common. Even an inch of rain can make a muddy mess for several days. Before we arrived, the area received up to 4 inches of rain, and we’ve had an additional three inches in the last few weeks. Walking up any kind of grade or embankment is comical to be sure, slicker than goose grease! Imagine an entire forest floor covered with a thick layer of cream cheese. Yvette hikes the roads and I’ve hiked through the woods on few occasions. Muddy boots are always the order of the day after walking, but not the kind of mud you simply stamp your feet to eliminate. And god forbid you make the mistake of letting that clay dry.

Another grand sunset courtesy of Texas.

The upside to all this clay is that wildlife tracking can be done more easily. We’ve tracked everything from Armadillos to feral pigs! Deer, Raccoons, Bobcat and Gray Fox are present. Though not something we've tracked, I have even come across the elusive Texas Coral Snake, extremely poisonous so distance is highly recommended. Anitvenom is rare if non-existent in these parts. Here is a link as to what can happen if a bite is experienced. Symptoms.

Texas Coral Snake as it slithers into the leaves, about 10 feet from where I was sitting.

Front Paws, Racoon. (L. Racoonis Muddious Footus)

We’ve set up trail cameras and always catch something interesting lurking around at night. Coyotes sing at every sunset and the sunsets themselves are just like Texas, big and bold. And though some things are such a contrast to New England, other things seem to be exactly the same.

Yaupon Tree. Part of the holly family. Leaves make a great tea.

Wild birds like finches, titmouse, wrens, and robins all live here. Squirrels are a bit different in color and size perhaps but seemed to be wired exactly like their northern cousins. The greenery here is different enough. Juniper (Cedar), Oak cover most of the landscape filled in between with something called Yaupon, a tree of the holly family.

This is "Parker." Probably the coolest cat we've had the pleasure to house sit for. He's so cool, he insisted on a release form before I could take this photo.

I could write on and on as to our experience here. Considering that our only responsibility was to watch the house, a cat, (Parker) a bird (KiKi) and feed the tropical fish, it’s pretty much a walk in the park. And we will come away with a deeper appreciation of what people in this area have to contend with. The water quality here is probably as much of a challenge as in the middle of Detroit. The highly treated tap water has an aroma of Chorine mixed with something that smells like lighter fluid. And it’s color can be slightly off as well. And though we’re in Texas, the weather can be just as fickle as in New England. Lows in the teens in the winter and highs in the summer of over 109 are not uncommon. And then there’s the humidity! The next blog I'll talk about the town of Smithville. Remember "Hope Floats?"

In Other News...

At the suggestion of some of our viewers, we have set up a GoFundMe page. The purpose of the page is to help cover the cost of keeping up the blog page, domain name and other miscellaneous costs. In exchange, we provide regular blog posts and also YouTube videos of places we see and things we do. It's not mandatory but even $5 helps offset the costs. If you would like to donate, please click HERE. It's totally up to the individual.

...and a video...

I did manage to get a video or two done while we were here.

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