No City Water at the Ranch!
by Cheryl L. McClure
Out at the ranch, we have a little cabin that Jan Paul built back in 2003. He spent time enjoying nature and clearing part of the property. There were a lot more trees back then and between his work and nature taking it's course with wind, drought and even flooding, the foliage at the front of the property is thinning. Every year there is deadwood to clear away and let more light in for future growth. We have Crape Myrtle and Vitex growing near the old homestead, Cedar, Osage Orange and many other types of trees growing on the property.
When Jan Paul built the cabin, he decided to feed it with rainwater, so installed gutter on the roof that captures and sends rainwater to a 1300 gallon tank next to it. The water is treated with chlorine bleach per guidelines from the CDC. This will prevent algae from growing and making green water. Then the water is sent through a filter and pumps into the cabin for sink, toilet and shower use. He is so handy, and yes, he did all this himself. It is a challenge in the winter because certain fittings can freeze, so when the temps stay below 32 degrees for an extended period of time, he disconnects the pump, drains water from the lines and carts the water in with a bucket.
Yes. Like the in olden days.
We also have two 600 gallon tubs that we utilize. One is on the other side of the cabin and it has an additional gutter running to it's own large barrel filter, circulating water into the tub. This one also serves as our summertime swimming pool. I like this one because it has a large hose that I can use to fill a bucket in no time! The the second 600 gallon tub catches water off the roof of one of the barns. This will capture water for the piggies' automatic watering trough and other animals... And there too, is an extension going to a barrel that has spigot he uses over an outdoor sink to wash up after working or to get extra water for the barn cats. They can go to different ponds to get water, but we like to provide fresh water for them in the barn too. They're not spoiled!!
The cabin is very small, so the shower is on the porch! Not bad in the summer - but in the winter time, we do the old fashioned wash-up from the sink. Yeah, like in the olden days - haha. We don't drink the water though, since we can bring filtered water from home.
Yes, we like it when it rains!! Especially when it fills up our tanks and ponds. We had a really good rain the first week of February when I took most of these pictures, but it looks like this about every time it rains an inch. Water, water everywhere!! It helps to have a good rain gauge to keep track. We have Blackland Prairie gumbo soil at the ranch and by the time you get back to the cabin from a walk, you're 2 inches taller! LOL
On a particular weekend, we had this one inch rain and it flooded what we call the homestead pond. You can see how the water backed up into the trees and Jan Paul went down to the dam where he has a pipe installed for overflow. The pipe was clogged up with a turtle. Poor turtle got stuck, so he had to dislodge it and put a screen on the pipe to keep other debris from getting clogged in there.
Jan Paul works the prairie grass field on the other side. That's the native grass field he cleared and planted about seven years ago, the one he mows and bales to feed the cows.
He periodically builds up the low water crossing with concrete to make a passage he can travel on while using the tractor and mower. The power from the water is so great that eventually the concrete breaks off in little pieces and he is back down there filling in to secure the crossing. You can see the water surging, carrying logs and limbs with it. You'd be surprised at the size of the trees that come down our little creek. Sometimes they get lodged next to the crossing and after the water recedes, he will have to move the piles of wood and discard or burn it before patching.
By the way, our creek is a branch upstream of Pickle Creek and that is how we came about naming the property Pickle Creek Ranch. We had taken a walk down to the low water crossing where the creek is but I didn't have my camera, so I went back and got it. It's a long walk from the cabin!! But I wanted to capture the force of the water and show that there has been a lot of erosion over the years that has caused the creek to enlarge with twists and turns. It's an astonishing phenomenon to witness in its process.
Heading south for several miles, our creek and then Pickle Creek, flow into the North Sulphur River. It is a good place for people to travel and hunt for fossils. We have even found a few! A good rain like this cleans off the rocks and makes it easier for the hunters to find great specimens to add to their collections.
The Sulphur River is a great example of what the forces of nature have done after man's intervention. Prior to being considered somewhat of a swampland, it was altered and after many decades, erosion has exposed fossils from millions of years ago. This is an excerpt from an article about the history of the North Sulphur River.
"In an effort to improve water flow during heavy runoff and curtail erosion, a 20-foot wide, 10-foot deep river channel was dug in the 1930s. No doubt water flow drastically improved, but erosion accelerated, eventually collapsing the railroad bridge. That 20-foot wide channel is now well over 200-feet wide in places."
There are plans to dam up this river and make what they will call Lake Ralph Hall. The water from this lake is intended to be received in Flower Mound and Northeast Texas. That is the plan anyway. In the meantime, we will be hunting for more fossils down in the river!! Woo hoo!!
We have a garden that is fenced to keep the animals out, where we grow perennials and annuals that will attract butterflies and bees. It's a nice place to take a break and just relax every now and then. This is also a place to experiment with different plantings. Everything is trial and error and survival of the fittest!
A lot of my photographs of butterflies were taken in this garden.
The pathways here came from gravel that was washed down the creek near the low water crossing. Jan Paul surprised me one week. He filled buckets and carried all this gravel up for me to position in the garden because he knows how much I like this sort of thing. He also hooked up a watering system from one of the ponds so that we can keep things alive during the summer. It gets pretty dry and hot in the Texas summers here. Thank you rain and thank you Jan Paul!! I sure am lucky!
With spring showers on the way, this is a perfect time to get started collecting your own rainwater! You will need gutter and a rain barrel and once it is filled, it will supply you with fresh rainwater. Also if you will put a Mosquito Dunk in any standing water vessel or container you will not have issues with mosquitoes.
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