Whenever friends or family start discussing our winter weather, I always remind them that some of our worst weather in North Texas often happens in February. Well, February of 2021 certainly proved that to be a fact!

We were almost to the middle of the month when the North Pole came for a visit. For almost a week the temperature did not get above freezing. In fact, it stayed in the single digits most of the time. I have never been so cold for so long in all my life.

Usually, our cold spells last only a couple of days. The temperature may even get down into the teens, but after a short spell, the sun comes out, and we are back to comfortable. Not this time!

Add to that the sporadic off and on of the electricity. This power is crucial to operating our heating systems. Need I say more?

But this post is not about the weather. It is about the dichotomy between what we might have expected from such severe weather, as opposed to what actually happened.

From an early age I have been told that we need a quick, hard freeze to kill off pesky insects, such as flies. This was the quickest, hardest freeze I can remember, but if you ask our animals who live outside, they will tell you it didn’t work. There seem to be as many flies this year as ever.

Maple Tree

The other strange effect was what happened to our plants. We expected many of our plants would not survive such a long period of freezing. We did, indeed, lose some plants, but the plants that survived, seem more robust than ever.

Elderberry Bush

Our Live Oak trees that have been around for over ten years struggled to recuperate, whereas a very young Maple, and an equally young Elderberry flourished. The pollinator habitat in front of our house was cut back after the freeze, but its recovery is remarkable.

Pollinator Habitat

The more involved we become with nature, the more amazed we are. There are definite strengths and weaknesses to be sure. As soon as we think we understand, Mother Nature says, “Oh yeah, watch this.”

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LIFE AND DEATH – The Ultimate Cycle

“Life goes on.” “Death is inevitable.”

Our relationship with the Texas Master Naturalist organization, as well as our continuing process of re-wilding our little corner of the world, has made Regina and me more aware of this constantly recurring cycle in nature.

2020 was a year filled with stories of death, both natural and unnatural. More than half a million people died in the United States, and I don’t know how many died worldwide from this nasty virus. People were needlessly killed by other people who had no business owning a gun. Natural disasters took their toll as well.

Here, at Song & Dance, we had our share of sadness, also. BJ, one of our two remaining horses, died from what first appeared as Colic, but later was diagnosed as growths in her intestines that were blocking the natural process of digestion and elimination. She had lived with us for 25 years. That was a huge loss.

Then there was Rosie, the younger of the two miniature donkeys. The cause of her death is still unknown. She just stopped eating and pooping. She spent a week in the vet clinic, but the vet could never determine what was wrong. We brought her home to see her mother, and several hours later, she just laid down and died.

Gabby, the Basset Hound, had been on her “last leg” for some time, and finally had to be put down. That is always a tough decision to make, but one we believe is necessary, if you really love an animal and realize when they are ready to stop hurting.

But, as inevitable death is, it can’t exist without life, and right now we have life happening all around us.Spring is here, and despite the damage done by our record setting freeze in February, plants are slowly beginning to return to life.

But wait! There’s more!

For the first time (as far as we know) we have a pair of Great Horned Owls who have taken up residence in the top of our arena. She has been sitting on the “nest” for quite awhile. We have no idea how many owlets there might be, but figure there must be some by now. Neither of us is brave enough (or stupid enough) to climb a ladder to see.

The Bluebird house under our big Pecan tree is sporting six blue eggs, and a pair of Canada geese have a nest of three eggs out by the lake in the back pasture. We are sure there must be baby bunnies, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, etc. that we may never see.

Regina spotted these frog eggs awhile ago, and last week spotted some frogs in the same area. Were the frogs the parents or the babies? Who knows.

In Regina’s closet, there were 126 eggs in an incubator that have begun to hatch. This is part of the Quail Project for LLELA (Lake Lewisville Environmental Learning Area) in which we participated last year. We have no idea how many have successfully hatched so far – the little guys won’t stay still long enough for us to get a good count. When the hatching is done, we will count the eggs that haven’t hatched, and do the math. The sad part of this is the fact that new life and death happen at the same time – some of the chicks just don’t make it. The struggle to get out of the egg is just too much for a few.

So, life does, in fact go on, and death is, in fact inevitable. However, as I write this, I am reminded of and comforted by these lyrics of a Zac Brown Band song. “They say that it’s gone before you know it. Quiet your mind. Soak it all in. It’s a game you can’t win. Enjoy the ride.” We are definitely enjoying our ride.

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When Nature Comes to Visit

“Be careful what you wish for.” Most of us are familiar with this phrase. Most of us also have first-hand knowledge of the hard truth of the phrase. And yet, we still wish.

If you have read my previous posts, you may have realized that Regina and I have wished for a more meaningful connection with nature, and have tried to make that wish come true by how we are treating our land, as well as both becoming Certified Texas Master Naturalists.

However, the truth is we do not control nature, and we need to be willing to accept what nature does.

For instance, we have placed several bird feeders in our backyard in order to attract a variety of birds. We can enjoy watching the birds at the feeders, and Regina can take her amazing photographs. There is another species that also likes to watch the birds at the feeders. This species is known as a Cooper’s Hawk. Her purpose in watching is somewhat different from ours. She needs to eat.







Or consider this mystery. One day we had three chickens. The next day we had only two. The question is, who helped themselves to the chicken buffet, and how did they get in over the eight foot fence, catch the chicken, get back out, and leave no remains? We don’t have a clue!

A Couple of days ago, Regina noticed a hole in the outside wall of the garage. She promptly pointed it out to me, and I promptly covered it with a piece of sheet metal. My intention was ill advised, and I apologize. However, the next day there was another hole beneath the sheet metal. Whoever chewed their way in, had chewed their way out. That makes sense. I’m thinking it is probably a squirrel looking for a safe nesting place.







Even plants can bring issues to the table. We have been told that Chinese Tallow trees are not native, and can be very invasive. Agustin and I have removed several from our back pasture. In fact, he got a little carried away one day, and removed some nice native trees he thought were the “bad” ones. I have to admit they did look similar. However, it is hard to remove them when they look this pretty at this time of year.








On a positive note, take a look at this Eastern Red Cedar sapling that just decided to start growing right next to our barn. We have several large trees on our property that we refer to as volunteers. They have sprung up by themselves, and some have grown into wonderful trees.

The bottom line about nature is it isn’t restricted by the same rules of morality and ethics as we are. (Well, most of us) The rule of nature is about survival and procreation. Nature has no malice. It has no free will. It has no choice but to do what it is intended to do. 

Our welcome mat is out.



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Since this process is a leave-it-alone-and-see-what-happens sort of thing, it occurred to me  (right after Regina suggested it) that some observations might be in order. So here goes:

We seem to have fewer butterflies and dragonflies this year. That is perplexing. Part of the purpose of this process was to increase these numbers, but I guess they haven’t read my blog posts, or maybe it has been such a long time between posts they have forgotten what this is all about. Seriously, we have no idea why this reduction has happened. It may coincide with the reduction in wildflowers, which is also perplexing.

There was a family of skunks on our driveway, moving from one pasture to another. It is encouraging that some wildlife have found this environment to be conducive to birthing babies. Actually, we don’t really know if they were born here, but at least they felt comfortable here. And they can be assured that we will not bother them. I even saw a small skunk in our back yard a couple of nights ago. I gave him/her plenty of time to decide where to go.







The pear tree growing in our pollinator area has put on an enormous amount of fruit this year. It’s too bad we don’t particularly like to eat these pears. The grasshoppers, however, find the leaves to be one of their favorite meals. They have literally stripped the limbs bare, which makes it much easier for the birds to get to the pears. It dawned on me that we may have created a very large bird feeder. The birds like the grasshoppers, as well as the pears. You’re welcome.

As a part of our continued interest in participating in environmental data collection and reporting, I have joined an organization called CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network). I purchased a special rain gauge and located it in the space between our house and the arena – away from any buildings or trees. This rain gauge  can measure rain to .01 inches. That is much more precise than my old Lowes gauge. Each day, at a specific time, I report how much rain has fallen in the last 24 hours, even if there is .00. It is important to keep record of where rain has fallen, as well as where there has been none. Plus, I don’t have to keep the totals in my little book – CoC0RaHS does that for me.








Getting back to the fauna observations, it seems that I have seen more Texas Spiny Lizards this year. They are very shy little guys, but every now and then, one will stop and pose for a quick photo.





The Bewick’s Wrens gave us two clutches and the Eastern Bluebirds gave us three clutches in our bird houses. The Bewick’s Wrens used the house that is close to the side porch, and the Bluebirds used the house under the big Pecan Tree. Every time I would go out to use the grill, which is located on the side porch, the mama Bewick’s Wren would sit in a nearby bush and fuss at me.











We also had three sets of Mallard ducklings. Naturally, the Red Tailed Hawk thinks these are very handy little snacks. Thankfully, he/she doesn’t get all of them. Although this happens all the time in nature, it still is difficult to watch.

All in all, we feel like our process is showing some success. At least we are happy to be on this path.


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Leave It As It Is

The title of this post is part of a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which in its entirety says, “Leave it as it is. The ages have been working on it and man can only mar it.”

This is our new philosophy, not only for our own property, but also for all things natural.

We actually had professionals come out to consult with us on our pasture restoration. After two such consultations where the professionals advised us to do all sorts of cutting, plowing, and planting, we decided that leaving it alone was the better solution. We are also adding the pasture in the north west portion of our land to the process, giving us approximately 8 acres of natural land.

Unfortunately, a few months ago we had a Black Jack Oak die in our back pasture. When the tree company came and cut it down, the foreman of the crew asked if I wanted it cut up, mulched, and hauled off. I said no, just “leave it as it is.” So, with the exception of a few chunks cut off for possible woodturning projects, the whole tree is now the possible home to numerous insects and small animals. As it decomposes through the years, it will also offer organic substances to the ground.







Douglas W. Tallamy, professor of Entomology and Wildlife, has written two books which address this very concept. “Bringing Nature Home – How you can sustain wildlife with native plants” published in 2007 and “Nature’s Best Hope – A new approach to conservation that starts in your yard” published in 2019 are both worth reading. They are very helpful to the average homeowner who has limited acreage, but is interested in participating in conservation and preservation of natural resources. In his latest book, he refers to a concept he calls “Homegrown National Park.”

We also read an interesting article today, written by Olivia Boyd, and published in the Huffpost. The title of the article is “Here’s what happens to nature when humans get out of the way.” Here is a link, in case you want to read it.

In order to understand more about how to be better environmentalists, Regina and I are each pursuing training and certification in several areas. Regina has already completed training and is certified as a Texas Master Naturalist (Elm Fork Chapter), Water Specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Texas Stream Team Water Quality Monitor for the City of Denton. (She likes to play in the water).







I am slightly behind, but have been accepted in the 2020 classes for Cross Timbers Urban Citizen Forester and Elm Fork Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist. The forester training will begin in March, and the naturalist training will begin in August.

Since 60% of the land in the United States is privately owned, it is up to us as land/home owners to do everything we can to preserve the natural resources that are ours. There is no Planet B.





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Various Up-Dates and Statistics

I realized recently that it has been a while (10 months) since I have written in this chronicle. I have no excuses, but I do have some reasons. When you are writing about the growth of vegetation and the development of a wildlife habitat, these things don’t happen quickly. Consequently, there is a certain time span that is necessary for the collection of interesting information. Maybe not 10 months, but certainly longer than one or two months.

That being said, here are some up-dates and some interesting statistics.


I have been tracking and documenting our rainfall for two years. I started in August of 2017. Today I went through the totals that I have recorded, and was amazed at some of the amounts and comparisons that I discovered.

Here is the most amazing comparison. Between August of 2017 and July of 2018 we received 24 7/8 inches. Between August of 2018 and July of 2019 we received 66 1/2 inches, almost three times as much. It probably is even closer to three times, due to the fact that my rain gauge only holds 5 inches of rain, and on September 21, 2018 the gauge overflowed, so I am not sure how much more rain we receive on that day.

In October of 2018, we got 17 inches of rain in one month. We usually think of April and May as our most rainy months. For those two months in 2017 we received only 2 3/4 inches, whereas in 2018 the total for those two months was 17 3/8 inches. You can begin to see why the total was so much higher this year.

It was so wet this year that a marsh developed in the south-east pasture. It was soggy enough for Regina to get the Gator stuck as she tried to make her way to the back of the pasture.

Butterflies and Birds

In the last post, I reported the number of birds and butterflies that we had spotted. As of this date the number of butterflies has increased from 17 species to 35. The number of bird species has increased from 25 to 49. These numbers are based on those species that have been photographed by Regina, and verified through the iNat website.

There are several explanations for the increase in numbers. There may not actually be that many more, but we are becoming more aware of what is in our environment. Also, Regina has become increasingly prolific and skilled with her photography, and probably spends more time hunting and photographing as time goes on. The other possibility is that we are actually seeing an increase because of the environment we are creating.

Pipevine Swallowtail

Cedar Waxwing















There was a time when baby ducks born by the lake would be killed rather quickly by the turtle population in the lake. For some unknown reason, that changed this year, as we have had three different groups of babies which have survived. They all come up in the afternoon at feeding time, and have learned to come through the fence in order to get away from the larger Canada Geese. Regina gives them their special spread of food. The babies even have their own Canada Geese escorts that guard them on their trip from and back to the lake at feeding time.

Baby Ducks with Escort








Most of the native trees we planted in the south-east pasture have thrived. I think only one of them has died. We also planted a Maple between our house and the arena. It seems to be doing fine, except that it is now looking stressed by the summer heat. Hopefully we can help it along with extra watering.

Due to the abundant rain this year, vegetation in all the pastures has flourished. Now that summer is here, and the rain has lessened, growth has slowed accordingly.

Activity and Education

Regina has gone through training and has become certified through the Texas Stream Team to perform water monitoring on one of our ponds. Her monitoring is performed and reported monthly. She is also volunteering for Benthic (invertebrate) monitoring with the Texas Master Naturalist Elm Fork Chapter. Later this month she will begin her training to become a Texas Master Naturalist. She is very excited about this organization and about her training.

I am trying to hone my birding skills, and have begun to use the eBird app, which was developed and is monitored through Cornell University Ornithology. This app allows you to report all your bird sightings through a world-wide network of birders. The information is collected, analyzed, and made available for observation and conservation purposes.

Life is good!

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That’s What It’s All About

This gallery contains 10 photos.

As a result of our efforts to restore our acreage to a more natural state, we have been blessed with an abundance of living creatures, and Regina has been able to capture most of these in her photographs. In case … Continue reading

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Some Progress

A little more than a year ago (August 18, 2017) I began this chronicle type of blogging to keep track of the purpose, processes, and progress towards changing our property from a manipulated and manicured piece of land back to its more natural state. If you have kept up with my entries, you will recall that Regina and I have decided to slowly allow our little piece of the Earth to become what it wants to be.

The progress has been slow, and I realize my entries may have been even slower, but now I would like to catch up a bit, and share some of the changes that have happened, as well as some of the failures.

As you might imagine, Mother Nature, and especially the rain she provides, has a profound influence on the amount of progress. Since my last post at the end of March, we have had some rainy times and some dry times. In April and May, which should be some of our best rain months, we had only two and three quarter inches of rain total. June, by itself, gave us more than the two previous months combined, with three and a half inches.

Then came July. Boy, did we suffer during July. It was seasonably hot, with temperatures hovering around 100 for a lot of the month, and only three eighths of an inch of rain, and that was a generous reading of the rain gauge. Sometimes you want to see more rain in the gauge, so you just fudge a little.

August, so far, has been a pleasant surprise. During one eight day period around the middle of the month, we actually had seven and one half inches of rain. I know, that is hard to believe, but it was a very welcome relief, and the plants showed their appreciation as well.

I do think that our lack of rain during April and May hampered the growth of the wild flowers we tried to seed. There were also a couple of windy days before the rain when a lot of the seed was probably blown away. We need to plan this better next Spring.

The plot in front of our house has done very well. Of course, that area is watered. As you can see in the photo, the Sun Flowers have grown tremendously tall and dense. Somewhere in there are the two Plum Trees that we planted. I am afraid the Sun Flowers have stunted their growth a little, but they do look healthy. That area also had a lot of wild flowers, which have already been through their cycle of blooming. The Peach trees did themselves proud again this year. I think we need to be a little more aggressive in our bud-thinning on the those trees next year.









Our experimental pasture has really become quite a field of natural beauty, and the trees we planted out there seem very healthy and happy. Even the Northwest pasture has grown a lot, since we have not had any animals grazing it this Summer. We continue to water the new trees in the experimental pasture on a regular basis.











Since we have stopped the weed eating around the ponds, the dragonfly population has grown exponentially. This morning, Regina went out to get some photos, and I went along to get some shots of her doing her thing. They are really fun to watch.










Incidentally, we have applied for certification from Texan by Nature, a conservation organization dedicated to developing projects just like ours. This is an organization which is endorsed by Laura Bush. I will let you know soon about our progress with this certification.

Meanwhile, just remember, none of us is responsible for fixing the entire environmental situation, all we can do is take care of the little bit we own, and encourage others to do the same.

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And The Beat Goes On

Well here I am again with my latest update to the process of changing our environment. It is now the beginning of April, and things are beginning to happen. Green is becoming more prevalent all around, birds and bees are showing up in larger numbers, we are able to open our windows to breathe fresh air and sleep with the sound of the wishing well fountain, and we are excited that Spring has sprung.

Honey bee on clover blossom

Regina picked up four native trees from the Denton County Soil and Water Conservation District – two Mexican Plum and two Vitex (Chasetree Berry), which I planted in the experimental pasture. These are small, but are already putting on growth.





Manual labor

Last month we cleaned out some dead stuff from the section in front of our house and planted three elderberry trees. Elderberry Wine anyone? Regina also spread some new wildflower seeds in the area.

Elderberry tree – look closely







Back in the Fall, D&L Feed hosted a honey tasting event. It was an enjoyable evening with good food, wine, and plenty of honey to taste from local beekeepers. Several years ago I thought it would be a fun hobby to have bee hives and collect the honey.  I found out quickly that beekeeping is not a hobby, it is a job! It was very interesting to learn about bees and their behaviors, however the hardest part is suiting up in your overalls, gloves, and veil when the temperature in July is 100 degrees.








But I digress.  At the event at D&L we met one couple who have a bunch of hives in the area close to us. The conversation eventually came around to exploring the possibility of putting some of their hives on our property. The first hive arrived on Thursday, with two more coming soon. The bees seem to be very active and happy. Now this is the way to have bees!

New bee hive









We also hope to have some native bees (honey bees are not native) to help with the pollination. Their accommodations are ready and waiting.

Native bee habitat




Native bee habitat












So far, there is not much activity from the wildflower seeds we spread in the fall, but it is early, and we have to be patient. We had seven and a quarter inches of rain in February, but only two inches in March. Hopefully, we will have the “April showers that bring May flowers.”



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The designation we received from the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat can mean many different things.  It can mean you just have a sign posted on your front fence, it can mean you have good thoughts toward wildlife, or it can mean you have honorable intentions toward creating a habitat that is actually beneficial for wildlife. But none of that matters unless you actually have wildlife taking advantage of this new habitat.

Learning how to make an area beneficial and attractive to wildlife is a process. It involves such things as planting trees and flowers that are enticing, but it also involves leaving the environment as natural and untouched as possible.

The area just in front of our house is a good example. We purposely left it “messy.” It was a great temptation to get the weedeater and mower out there to clean that area, but we resisted the need for tidiness that we have been taught all our lives. It was not what we would have done in the past, but things are changing.

Yesterday, we bought two plum trees to plant in that area.  It was necessary to clean off the  spots where the trees were to planted, so out came the weedeater.  While I was digging the holes and planting the new trees, Regina took advantage of the fine weather, and decided to prune the two peach trees.  They produce better with some careful pruning.

Since the grass was thick around the base of the peach trees, Regina got into a bed of fire ants. These little guys can inflict a lot of pain very quickly. In order for her to be able to see and avoid the ants, I used the weedeater to clear away some of the grass. Lo and behold, I uncovered a burrow under one of the trees.  I regret that I exposed that burrow, but in my defense, I just didn’t know it was there.

For some time we have had another burrow under the driveway behind our garage. We are fairly certain it belongs to a skunk. Now skunks are not our first choice of wildlife, but one can’t dictate who does and doesn’t pick our habitat. We just have to be careful, and devise creative ways to keep it out of the chicken yard, and keep our dog from discovering it.

I don’t know whose burrow I uncovered yesterday, but it just proves that we are on the right track.  Someone else has decided that our habitat can offer safety and comfort. I hope I didn’t scare it away.

Welcome little one.


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