This post is part of a new series – my journal as we start our adventure to establish Humblebee Farms in the heart of the Lost Pine forest in Paige, Texas.You can start with Day 1 here!
Making the move from Seattle to Paige, Tx usually elicits one of two responses. The first is “oh, wow! That’s a big move, tell me why Texas?”. The second goes something like “Oh, wow! Why the hell would you want to move there?!”
Texas carries with is a certain stigma – at least if you live on the West Coast. People from around Seattle often envision Texas as a stark landscape filled with dust and dotted by cacti. And why wouldn’t you think that? That’s what old western’s like the 1956 classic “Giant” and John Wayne would have you believe. But while Giant was indeed filmed in Texas (Marfa to be exact), many of those old Western’s were actually filmed in California. The bleak picture of a Sahara-like landscape is deceiving.
So when I explain that our property is 96 acres of pine and oak forest with multiple streams streaking across it people often take pause. And when I further explain that Paige averages the same annual rainfall as Seattle – 38 inches to be exact – it induces further shock. Paige, Texas is even categorized in the same USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 8b. Even that one surprised me.
Texas Rain Vs. Seattle Rain
So what’s the difference between the harsh image of “classic” Texas and the reality of our humble abode? Rain. Moisture makes all the difference. And while much of Texas is certainly on the dry side, I find that there is lots of land that is lush with trees and sprinkled with ponds and creeks. This is exactly why we chose Paige to stake our new home.
But during our first week’s stay in our new little log cabin things felt a bit like the stereotypes I’ve been fighting. It has been hot and dry. An unusually warm summer left the land parched. And since goal one is to clear the land of excess brush, I got to experience first hand just how stifling the heat can be. Here I am just Day 7 on Humblebee Farms and I’m busy dragging logs with the kubota 4-wheeler. And while I wrestled logs, Todd took up arms against the dreaded yaupon (a relative of holly). He worked steadily, slicing and cutting down large swaths in the “back yard”.
After a little time, both of us were hot and sticky and covered by plant pieces. But then as I bent down to pick up a pile of brush a big drop of water landed on the back of my neck. Splat! Soon, more raindrops started to pour down. This rain was much different than the rain in Seattle. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but this rain was wetter. After less than a minute my shirt was soaked through. Realizing defeat, we both retreated to the cabin. Inside the rain rattled like a snare drum on the metal roof. The gutters gushed out water. This was Texas rain!
The Power of Rain
As quickly as the rain started, it stopped. The trees dripped all around us. The air transformed from hot and stifling to cool and refreshing. I stepped out of the cabin and breathed it all in. But as I exhaled, a piercing noise erupted the peace; coyotes. They seemed to be all around me rather than in any one spot. A chorus pealed through the now dark sky. The coyotes sounded both far away and right next to me. The experience was something entirely new.
And that wasn’t the only surprise. At my feet I caught a glimpse of movement. At first I thought it was some monstrous sized bug. But when I bent down for a closer look I realized it was a little toad. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was the Houston toad, Anaxyrus houstonensis. If that name sounds familiar, don’t be surprised. The Houston toad is the first amphibian to make it on the Federal Endangered Species List all the way back in 1973. The Houston toad is no longer found in Houston. But it does make its home in the Lost Pine forest that our little log cabin happens to sit smack dab in the middle of. Apparently the rain not only evoked the coyotes, but also these little toads to come out too.
Since the rain put a halt to our work, we decided to make a trip to the hardware store. Todd and I loaded up into the minivan we rented and started off. But it didn’t take long to run into trouble. Halfway down the drive and we ran into another Houston toad. This one sitting in the middle of our path. It didn’t budge. I put the car in park and Todd jumped out to usher the little toad out of the way. From there, we made it out onto the road without issue. But this is when the trouble really started. There was toads on the road practically every 50 feet. And with no street lights out this far, it was hard to see. I flipped on the high-beams and found myself in the middle of another completely new experience: dodging toads.
Once we left the embrace of the forest the toads cleared. And on our way back from town the toad rush hour seemed to be over. But we weren’t so lucky as we pulled into the driveway. During the 1/4 mile drive we stopped 3 times, taking turns to gently persuade more Houston toads that the road was not the safest place to be. Fifteen minutes later we finally pulled into our parking area.
Between a bloody moose head holding up our luggage, scorpions crawling out of the sink overflow hole and now toads taking up residence on the road, I realize this adventure at Humblebee Farms has just started.