Sunday, January 8, 2012


Let's do some math.  For the sake of my numbers-challenged brain, I'll keep it simple.  We live on a 160-acre ranch.  There are 6,969,600 square feet in 160 acres.  There are just two of us living on this chunk of earth, yet Kel and I persist in what one local calls "handwork."  That is, relying on our own arms, hands, legs and energy to do both light and heavy lifting around those 160 acres.  We do not own an ATV nor a bulldozer nor a back hoe.  We have shovels, rakes and various kinds of clippers and saws.  There is a big John Deere tractor in the barn and a couple of lawnmowers, but they are employed only occasionally. Kel and I really prefer to walk the ranch and get after some kinds of work without benefit of machine.  Ask us how we feel about that idea in ten years...

One of the things we do by hand is cut down cedar trees.  I know, it sounds sacrilegious to hack down trees and in many instances, that is the correct assumption.  Here, however, cedars are considered an invasive species.  They pop up like, well, weeds - with the help of birds snacking on the blue berries that appear in the fall.  There are clusters of cedar trees in various stages of growth around older trees: birds sit in the branches and the seeds drop and the seeds germinate.  Cedars are also water gluttons.  In a parched land, the water needs to go to the species that really need it: the grass in the pasture, the stately oaks and the elegant pecans.  And finally, cedar trees harbor ticks.  There shall be no safe harbor for ticks while we have something to say about it.

So we are making our way around our 160 acres.  On foot, with clippers in hand.  Kel and go around snipping little cedar tree babies and sawing down the older ones.  Luckily for us, once snipped a cedar does not grow back.  We've made noticeable progress, but the work is never-ending.  I find it strangely satisfying - not only cutting the trees, but seeing the piles of dead cedars which become dens for rabbits and opossums and armadillos and who knows what other creatures.  And now Kel and I both intimately know each and every one of our 6,969,600 feet.


  1. 160 acres? {*becomes sick with envy and falls over*} How absolutely delicious. Is it quite flat? How far to your closest neighbor? I mean, I know you're not talking about 160 square miles, but still. Yum.

  2. Yeah, we're dang lucky. It's not completely flat, actually. Some nice dips and small hills. Combination of trees and pasture.

  3. 160 acres - that's nothing! And, anyway, let the old folk mutter - doing it by the sweat of one's own brow is a lot more intensive in the end! Tractors and ploughs just rake up the roots, spread them and the whole process starts all over - in spades (pun intended!)

    If you get satisfaction out of doing it the hard way, you and Kel carry on doing what you're doing! I'll just sit back and enjoy hearing all about it.

    What's this about pecans? Pity the international customs authorities won't let you send us some! I just love nuts - some say I am that already!


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