The Next Chapter

It is time once again to update our progress on the conversion of our property.  We still feel very strongly about the need to return our pastures to their original, natural condition.  Come along with us as we detail our process.

We have now prepared two additional areas for wildflower and native grass production.  Agustin “scalped” and aerated the area in front of the large Pecan tree in October.  Regina followed behind him to spread Poppy Seeds and Sideoats Grama Grass.  I then put the sprinkler out and hopefully watered in the seeds before the wind blew them away.  We will see in the Spring.


The other area is over by the fence of the southwest pasture.  Part of this area had already been left natural, so Agustin had a little more difficulty mowing it. In this plot Regina spread Native Wild Flower Mix and some Sideoats Grama Grass.  That was also watered with the sprinkler.

These two areas are not regularly  watered, so we will be relying on Mother Nature to do the honor.  It will be interesting to see how theses areas develop as compared to the first plot that is on the sprinkler system. We are not getting any rain right now, only a little less than 3″ in the last three months. What we need is a good all-day three inch soaker, but that doesn’t show up in the immediate forecast. I know she is angry now, but I keep hoping Mother Nature will smile on us.

On November 17, we had a pasture consult. This was a very helpful event.  Three gentlemen came to our property, free of charge, to look at our pastures, listen to our plans, and make recommendations.

Ricky Linex, author of “Range Plants of North Central Texas,”  wildlife biologist, and representative of USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service was basically in charge of the consult.  With him were Steven Ray, the District Conservationist of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, and T. J. Helton, NPS Program Coordinator for the Denton County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Needless to say, the information we received that day will be invaluable as we continue on our journey to return our pastures to their natural state.  As we walked through our pastures, the gentlemen identified many plants and trees that are already growing and thriving.  We were pleased to discover that most of these plants are native.

One of the first recommendations was to not cut the dead and dying plants in the first area we planted last year.  Letting those plants decompose and drop seeds where they stand will be beneficial.  Another recommendation was to close off the southeast pasture, and allow no animals in that pasture for grazing.  That pasture has been available to our two big horses in the past, but the southwest pasture that has also been available to them, and still is, has ample room and forage for grazing.  The only down side to that limitation is that BJ will not have access to her favorite scratching tree. She does have another scratching tree in the front pasture, but, as with her mom, she needs options.

As the consult progressed, there were recommendations for native tree species. Almost immediately, we went to Meador Nursery in Denton, and purchased one Red Bud, two Mexican Plum, two Sumac, and two Persimmon trees, which are now planted in the southeast pasture.  We also purchased a 15 gallon portable water tank, and rigged it with a soaker hose, for the weekly watering required.

The southeast pasture will now be our largest experiment for converting our land to its natural state.  Wish us luck.


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Pasture Management

As part of our commitment to keeping our environment as healthy as possible, we have, for many years, rotated our fiber animals (plus two donkeys and a miniature horse) between two pastures.  This rotation helps each pasture recuperate for a few months while not in use.

The “back pasture” is used during the warm months, so the Alpacas can go into the large pond, also known as “Lake Regina,” to keep cool.  Our miniature horse will also get in the lake from time to time. This pasture is about four and a half acres. There is plenty of good grass for grazing, and the animals have access to the shade and fans in the round pen for afternoon naps.

When the weather starts getting cooler, like now, we move everyone to the “front pasture.” It is fun to watch the Alpacas on the first day.  They love “new digs.”   There is a lot of hopin’ and boppin’ – or as we call it “boinking.”  There is also a pond in this pasture, but the entry into the pond is steeper, and the boys don’t feel the need to go for a swim.  This pasture is about three acres.

Because we have not done any mowing in the “front pasture,” it has grown up beautifully with grass and wildflowers galore.  In fact, the foliage is so deep the baby doll sheep can easily get lost.  Luckily, they have Philipe (our single goat) to follow.

So, this morning, Regina drove the Gator ( a small four wheel utility vehicle) and marked trails for paths through the tall grass.  Agustin followed right behind her on his mower, and paths were created, including one to the water trough.  Agustin was in “heaven” – he loves to mow.  It was really great to see all the bugs, bees, and grasshoppers who had taken up residence in the tall grass.


We will keep these paths mowed, and sometime this Fall we will aerate them and spread the cuttings from the wildflower patch in front of our house along the paths, in hopes that some of the seeds will catch and grow.

Stay tuned.  We are just getting started.

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The Rationale For Change

Last week I wrote about the changes we are planning for our little piece of the Earth, but I failed to mention the rationale for such a change.  We understand that we cannot make a huge impact on the whole mess of global warming, environmental distress, or any of the other many problems that face Mother Earth, but we believe, as individuals and as a couple, we can do our little part.  Through these changes, we hope to make our small contribution to improving the environment.

Aside from the damage I was doing to our pastures by spraying herbicides, spreading fertilizer, harvesting hay, and burning a lot of fossil fuel, which I discontinued many years ago, there is another, underlying rationale for the changes we propose.

Age – Both ours and that of our animals

We are at a point in our lives where certain tasks are becoming more and more difficult.  It is not that we are getting old, we are getting smart, and selective. For instance, when an animal dies on our property, we grieve, we celebrate their life, but we don’t replace them.  In most cases, we couldn’t replace them if we tried.  They each have very unique personalities.

We currently have nineteen  animals grazing our pastures.  For the most part, these animals are getting to the limit of their expected life span.  Certainly, the animals living at Song & Dance are well cared for, and most live well past their prime.  We like that, but we also realize they will all be gone someday.

Our largest group of animals is our alpacas.  We have eight.  The life expectancy for alpacas is 15 – 20 years.  At the present time, they range in age from 10 – 17 years old.  As you can see, they are creeping up on that time.  Without their protection from coyotes, every other small animal’s life span on our property may decrease.

The next group is the horses.  Two quarter horses and one miniature horse have an estimated life span of 25 – 30 years.  That seems like a long time, until you realize that their ages are 20, 25, and 26.  Oops!  How time flies.


We have two angora goats that are both on the outside of their expected life span of 9 – 11 years.  One is 11 and the other is 14.  They both seem healthy now, so don’t count them out just yet.


The four Southdown Babydoll sheep and the two miniature donkeys will most likely outlive them all.  The average life span for a Babydoll sheep is 15 – 16 years.  Right now, they are 5 and six years old, but a couple of them are already suffering from arthritis.  The miniature donkeys are expected to live to between 25 and 30 years.  They are currently 10 and 6 (mother and daughter), and if loving has anything to do with it, they have a long way to go.


I realize that all this talk about age and mortality may seem a bit morbid, but planning ahead has its benefits.  It was interesting for me to put all this in perspective.  By the time we have no more grazing animals, our entire property will be eco-friendly, and we will be happy to sit on our porch and watch the wildflowers, butterflies, bees, birds, and dragonflies do their thing, and be thankful that we don’t have to feed, shear, trim nails or treat ailments.

We will miss all of the animals who have graced our property through the years, but, at least, we will still have our chickens.





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Change 2

Back in March of 2014, I wrote a post about change.  In that post I said there are some changes that we cannot control, and some that we can.  Waking of the Bear is going to take on a new direction.  It is going to change.  In fact, it is going to be about specific change.

A couple of years ago, Regina and I decided to begin a process that will eventually change our twenty acres of hay producing, grazing pasture into a natural, wildlife environment that welcomes birds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies, rabbits, frogs, moles, possums, skunks, – well you get the picture.



This year we applied for, and were granted the designation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, from the National Wildlife Federation.  The plaque on our front gate states, “This property provides the four basic habitat elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover, and places to raise young.”  We will honor that designation.

Little by little, we are changing our little piece of the earth into something very natural.  Wild flowers, weeds, and natural grasses will be living together, as they were meant to be.

So, this blog site will become a chronicle of the process and progress of this change. We will continue our practice of no chemicals – herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers –  on our property.

We started with the small area in front of our house, an area that was watered and mowed on a regular basis.  First we mowed the grass very low, almost to dirt.  Then we aerated it and spread some wild flower seed mix.  After that, we just let nature do whatever it wanted.  The result, as you can see, was very pleasing.


In the Fall or Winter, we will cut back all the growth, put the remains in the spreader, and spread it in the northwest pasture.  We will also scrape, aerate, and plant another area in front of the big tree.  These areas will not be watered regularly, and will rely solely on nature’s rains.  It will be interesting to see the difference.


This year we had an unusually large amount of rain during the Summer.  Other years may not follow suit.  We will try to keep up with that bit of information also.

Stay tuned as we go through this long process.


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Seems Like Only Yesterday

I read today that the Greatest Show on Earth is shutting down.  What?!  Yes it’s true. According to the report, The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will no longer exist after May.  That is disturbing.  What kid has not been mesmerized by the circus?  I realize they have come under a lot of criticism regarding the animals used in the circus, but what about the performers who defy death under the Big Tent?  And the clowns that both terrify and entertain?  There are other circuses still in existence, but this was “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

circus-logo                                   circus-act

After sharing this news with my wife, Regina, we began talking about all the things  we remember in the past, that no longer exist.  Our list is probably a lot like yours, but I would welcome additions to the list in your comments.

Traveling Carnivals

During the Summer, I can remember traveling carnivals pulling in and sprouting into life on a vacant lot at the edge of town. There were bearded ladies, snake charmers, sword swallowers, two headed animals, contortionists, and a wide variety of other unbelievable things to see in the side show.  Games of skill and luck, rides of pleasure and fright.  Cotton candy and taffy. The Tunnel of Love.

carnival                                        freaks

Now, I realize that a lot of this can be seen and experienced at various state and county fairs, but it’s not the same as the carnival that came to your own town.

Soda Fountains

Who didn’t love going to the drug store soda fountain for a malt?  Then some genius invented something called a “fizz.” You could get a fizz version of just about any drink at the fountain. I’m sure that what ever it was that made the fizz was very healthy.  It was probably kin to Alka Seltzer. My personal favorite was raspberry fizz.


Five and Dime Store

We shortened the name to “Dime Store.”  They actually had things that could be bought for a nickel or a dime, or even a penny.  Small toys, bubble gum, hard candy, and plastic jewelry.  With a fifty cent allowance, a kid could really stock up on some neat stuff.


Ice Cream Truck

Have you seen one of these lately?  When you heard their happy tune coming down the street, you pulled out your hard earned cash (15 cents) in order to purchase your favorite flavor.  Mine was Rocky Road, or sometimes Banana Nut.  What a treat on a hot summer day!  If you were lucky, your Mom or Dad would buy it for you, and you could save your allowance for other important things.


Balconies in the Movie Theater

No need to go into the specifics of the lure of the balcony.  It certainly wasn’t so you could see the movie better.  Enough said.


Drive-In Movies

And while we are on that subject, how about those fogged up windows.  But there was another fun thing about drive-in movies – $1.00 per carload night.  It was amazing how many people we could fit into one car (including the trunk) for a trip to the drive-in on dollar night.  I think our record was 15.  We were very friendly.

drive-in-movie                                     speaker

And how about those speakers?

Cartoons and Serials

Every movie experience was enhanced by a cartoon and a serial.  Sometimes you might even get a double feature.  My favorite cartoon characters were Elmer Fudd and Mr. Mcgoo, and my favorite serials were Lash LaRue and Flash Gordon.  Now we get infomercials.  And that movie experience cost a very small fraction of what we pay today.

mcgoo                                                     lash


I know, I know.  Typewriters have been replaced by computer keyboards, which are much easier to use, but how can a person consider writing the Great American Novel without the clackety-clack sound of the typewriter, the dinging of the bell at the end of the line, and the zip of the carriage return?  Have you written yours?


Things change, nothing stays the same.  Change can be good, but sometimes I still miss some of the things that have vanished with change, like my hair.

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There are some things in this world of ours that are bewildering to me.  I just simply don’t understand bigotry, misogyny, narrow mindedness, stupidity, bullying, politicking, spouse bashing, and packaging, just to name a few.

Did I say packaging? Yes, I did.

Packaging is in a world all its own, of which I have very little understanding.  Yes, I realize it has something to do with marketing and sales, but the absurdity of it has me baffled.

First of all, why are some packages ten times larger than they need to be to hold the merchandise? Well, “ten times” may be a slight exaggeration, but they are often one half to one third full.  Who ever designs these larger than life packages must think the rest of the world is stupid.

If some products were packaged in a container appropriate to the amount of product inside, we probably would seriously question the exorbitant price. So, maybe we are stupid, or just gullible. I vote for gullible, since I dislike stupidity.


And it seems that fewer and fewer products are coming in packaging that is recyclable.  Or, perhaps it is recyclable, but doesn’t have the symbol on it. That is very disturbing to me.


How about the packages that require a cold chisel and sledge hammer to open.  I especially like the packages that have a little arrow pointing to a particular location with a statement saying “Easy Open.”  Are they kidding?  I have never encountered an “easy open” point that was actually easy.  By the time you get the thing open, you have forgotten why you even wanted the item in the first place.

hard                                                      hard2

The most amazing part of the packaging situation to me is how often a product changes their packaging.  There is often a note on the new packaging that says, “New Look, Same Great Product.”  What was wrong with the old packaging?  They probably think the new packaging is going to attract new customers.  In reality, they may lose some old customers, like me, who can’t recognize the old product with the new “dress.”

tide                   chips

Recently, a product I use every day changed its packaging, indicating that it was much better.  I find the bottle much more difficult to get into, and certainly not any better than the old bottle.

Of course, the worst thing about changing packaging is the cost.  I don’t have any figures, but I know that changing a product’s packaging must cost a lot of money.  There are people who design the new look, companies who have to reset the structure or printing, etc., and all these folks want to get paid for their work.

So, who pays for all of this?  We do.  The cost will most likely be passed on to the consumer.  Yippee!!!!


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Be A Lion

When I started this blog several years ago, I chose the Bear as my guide. I sited the characteristics of introspection, new beginnings, and protecting what we believe in as powerful tools for writing and reading this blog. In fact, the title of my very first post was “Be A Bear.” Now I would like to say, “Be A Lion.”

A little over a year ago I joined the local Lions Club. I remember hearing someone say during my induction, “Today you have joined the Lions Club, and someday you will become a Lion.” At the time, I really didn’t understand the true meaning of that statement. Now I do. I have actually become a Lion.


Lions Clubs International was founded in1917 by a Chicago businessman named Melvin Jones. Mr. Jones saw not only the importance of going beyond promoting good business practices and creating an organization based on selfless service to others, he also saw the importance of a network of such organizations, and the increased impact they could have on their community. He invited members from several different organizations to a meeting where the organization as we know it was established.


Lions live and survive in groups called prides. Appropriately, pride is what I feel when I talk about being a Lion. Through my association and service within the local and district  organizations, I have experienced excitement and satisfaction beyond my wildest dreams.

Lions Clubs International is the largest service organization in the world.  That’s what I said – largest in the world.  We have over 45,000 clubs around the world in over 200 countries and geographic areas.  Our membership exceeds 1.4 million worldwide. I’m not sure Mr. Jones foresaw these kinds of numbers in 1917, but he certainly had the right idea about an expanding network of people.

At the International Convention on June 30, 1925, Helen Keller addressed the attendees and offered this challenge, “Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness…Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”  Since that day, the men and women of Lions Clubs have embraced that challenge through numerous activities, striving to prevent and alleviate vision problems.


Along with vision, we also participate in programs for youth, disaster preparedness and relief, environmental issues, international relations, and a multitude of service activities within our own communities.

I could go on and on about the enormous impact Lions are making around the world, but suffice it to say, if you are interested in making a difference in your community, find your local Lions Club and join the fun. Our slogan is, “Where there’s a need, there’s a Lion.”  Our promise is, “We Serve.”


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A Child’s Gift

Yesterday afternoon at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, there was an event in which I was honored to participate. The name of the event was “A Child’s Gift…A True Living Legacy.” It was co-hosted by Cook Children’s and LifeGift, a federally designated organ and tissue recovery agency.

The purpose of the event was to introduce the families of children who had donated organs or tissues to the families of the recipients. There were 15 families of donors and 19 families of recipients in attendance, for a total of about 250 people, making this the largest event of this sort in the State. Some families brought as many as 15 members.


My invitation to this event came as a result of my membership in Lions Club, and also my association with the Lions Organ and Eye Bank of our district. There were six of us in attendance. Our responsibility was to host and guide one of the families through the steps of the afternoon’s event.

Cooks Childrens Donor

After the initial registration of the families, there was a general session in the auditorium where two recipients and two family members of donors told their individual stories.  These were powerful presentations, complete with struggles and tears. Keep in mind that all of the donors represented by these families were children.

After this, the families were taken to a large meeting room where the two families could meet and talk.  For most of these people, it was the first time they had met the donor and/or recipient. There was a lot of hugging and crying. This large room became very crowded, but no one seemed to notice or care. There were mixed ethnicities involved, but again, no one cared. It was all about the loss of life and the resulting gift of life.


I have been exposed to emotional and heart rending situations before, but this one ranks right up there at the top. If you are not a registered donor, please think about the possibility. If you are a donor, make sure everyone in your circle knows your wishes. To pass up the opportunity to give a part of yourself to another struggling human being at the time of your death is a great loss.

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Center of the Universe

Thousands of years ago, most people on this planet considered the Earth to be the center of the universe. The sun, moon and stars revolved around our stationary position in space. We were the all important existence. As religions developed, they readily adopted this theory, because it afforded their god(s) more implied power.

You may believe, as I did, that this theory existed without questioning until about 500 years ago. Not so. As far back as the 9th century BCE, there was a Hindu text written by an Indian philosopher named Yajnavalkya which stated, “The sun strings these worlds – the earth, the planets, the atmosphere – to himself on a thread.” Not only did this thinker understand the solar system, he also seems to have had a rudimentary understanding of gravitational pull. Unfortunately, he did not attract a lot of followers.

In 200 BCE there was a Greek astronomer named Aristarchus who maintained that the Earth rotated on its axis and orbited around the Sun. His theory was met with fierce resistance. People just don’t want to be told that what they believe is not true. Even the great thinkers and teachers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Ptolemy remained staunch in their belief that the Earth was the center of the universe.


Fast forward to 1543 AD when Copernicus finally published his findings that the Earth was just another planet circling the Sun. Out of fear of the Church, he waited until he was on his death bed to publish his works. Galileo was not quite so smart, when he published  “The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” He was promptly arrested, convicted of heresy, and spent the rest of his life in prison. Then along came Sir Isaac Newton and Edmund Haley, whose works solidified the scientific facts.


Now we know that, not only is the Earth not the center of our solar system, we also know our solar system is not the center of our galaxy, and our galaxy is not the center of the universe. We are way off center.

So why is it, with all this knowledge and fact, some people still think they are the center of the universe. You know the people of whom I speak.

  1. The person who parks their grocery cart in the middle of the isle, completely oblivious to other shoppers.
  2. The family that brings their small children to a nice restaurant and lets them play as if they are at McDonalds, simply because they want a nice meal.
  3. The lady or man who wears way too much perfume or after-shave into a closed space.
  4. The person who zips in front of you in traffic or cuts in front of you in line, believing they and their time are more important than you and yours.
  5. The person who enters a public place talking loudly on his/her phone, as if all of us want to hear their whole conversation.
  6. The person who arrives at the cashier totally unprepared to finalize the transaction, while 14 people wait behind them in line.
  7. The person for whom you opened a door, who goes through the door wihtout saying “Thank You,” because they just “deserved” such treatment.

Feel free to add your own favorites in your comment.

I am reminded of one of my favorite poems by John Donne – “No Man Is An Island.” If you don’t know it look it up. It is worth reading.





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You Don’t Know Jack!

That title is not meant to be derogatory in nature, it just seemed like an easy way to segue into this topic of how well we know each other. I am intrigued with the idea that there are several levels we experience as we “get to know” each other.


Unless you are a recluse, you see people every day. Some of them you may see often in places you frequent. Suppose you go to Starbucks frequently (I go almost every day). You probably see several people who also go frequently. You know these people by appearance. You have made certain observations about these people. Approximate age, gender, height, weight, hair color (or lack of hair), attire, and ethnicity have been established in your mind, and from that list of characteristics, you have formed an opinion.


One day you walk up to one of these people, (probably one for whom you have a favorable opinion) and you introduce yourself. Through this brief encounter, you will learn the identity of that person – “name, rank, and serial number.” Even though you know a name, you don’t actually know this person. You have, however, built on your original opinion.


The next time you see this person, you feel a little more comfortable in asking a few questions in order to start filling in the blanks. “Where do you live?” “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” “What does your husband/wife do?” Now you have some facts and can begin to develop a more comprehensive picture in your mind of who this person really is, but you know you have only begun to scratch the surface.


The day finally comes when you sit down at the same table (still in the Starbucks scenario) and have a cup of coffee or a frappuccino together. You talk about all sorts of things happening in your life. The two of you share information about problems at work or home, tough decisions being faced, traumas or catastrophes, likes and dislikes, and positive, happy events. You may even hear about some health issues this person is facing. This information gives you a little more knowledge about what is influencing and shaping this person’s life.


If you are a good listener, and have established yourself as a person who is worthy of this person’s trust, he/she may share with you the emotions resulting from some of these events. You may hear about heartbreak, elation, fear, love, hate, and anger. All of this helps you understand why this person is who he/she is. However, you still “don’t know Jack (or Jill).”

Private Information

There is still another part of this person.  There is private information that may or may not be shared with very close friends, or even spouses. Information that may be extremely hurtful or embarrassing. Information that, when shared, can alter the person’s life completely. This is a part of this person you probably will never know.

Real Self

Now, we will take an abrupt turn inward, toward knowing ourselves. Inside all of us is the person we really are. Call it our soul, our spirit, our real self, our conscience, or any number of other terms. We probably don’t yet know who this person is, but we want to. This is the person who shows up in our dreams and sends us messages every night. The more we listen to this person, the more we will learn about ourselves.

Think about it. Do you know Jack?

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