Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Imitation is Never as Good as the Original

David Bamberger writes:

Margaret began this blog at the beginning of 2008 when she no longer had the energy to participate in our ranch programs. It was her way of staying connected to the natural world here on Selah as well as continuing to educate others. At the beginning she said to me, “David, I am now the CEO of Selah!” “Wait a minute,” I said, “We don’t need any more managers.” “Forget the business world term,” she said, “I’m the CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL OBSERVER!” And what an observer she was, noting the tiniest of things whether it was an insect, flower or fossil.

I’ve preached to the staff that we should not initiate anything that we are unable to sustain. So, a lot of discussion took place over how we could continue Margaret’s blog. Everyone here, as well as some of our volunteers, has agreed to participate.

When I arrived in Texas 58 years ago, I was most impressed by the flowering trees. Here on Selah, Margaret and I so enjoyed the springtime, driving the Jeep around the ranch looking for new discoveries. We found and recorded many.

Due to the events here we missed quite a few this spring – namely, the Mexican Plum (Prunus mexicana) which very dependably displays a fine petaled white flower very early in the spring; the Prairie Crab Apple (Pyrus ioensis) ours has a flower that is mostly white with a touch of pink; the Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana), which I introduced here 30 years ago, puts on a spectacular show, the whole tree is covered with white. Those of us here at the ranch saw all three of these, but failed to photograph them. We did manage to see and photograph the following.

Huisache (Acacia smallii) pronounced “wee satch” has this beautiful yellow, somewhat ball-shaped flower. The tree is more common south of here and there are only two of this species discovered on the ranch. In reading about it for this posting, I was impressed by the many listed uses of the Huisache. From Texas Trees by Paul Cox and Patty Leslie: “The pods were formerly made into ink, the juice was used as a glue for mending pottery and the bark for drying skins. Various parts of the tree have local medicinal value. Decoctions from the green fruit serve as an astringent and the roots were used as a treatment for tuberculosis. Wound dressings were made from the crushed leaves and the flowers were used as an infusion for indigestion and as an ointment for curing headaches.” Isn’t this interesting? I don’t know if you could find this plant in a nursery or not. One thing about it is that it has sharp spiny twigs which can scratch you pretty bad.

Texas Madrone (Arubtus xalapensis) –
 This is among my very favorite trees! Some refer to it as the Naked Indian because of its very smooth bark. I tell visitors “it’s evergreen, it flowers, it fruits and it sheds it bark from red to white.” Jim Rhoades, our tree Aggie, adds that it’s a self-pruning tree. New growth wraps around dead limbs. It was 40 years ago when I first saw a Madrone, but as we began clearing cedar, many others, mostly small, were discovered. These we protected from deer and livestock by putting a sturdy corral (cage) around them. I don’t have an accurate count but I’d estimate that we have 150. They are very difficult to transplant, my success rate being less than 50 percent. Few plant nurseries have them as they are somewhat difficult to propagate, but Medina Garden Nursery in Medina, Texas has them available. You can call Ernesto at 830-589-2771.

Texas Redbud (Cercis canadenis var. texensis) –
 Talk about prolific color! We have places here on the ranch where 10 or more of these grow close together in motts or groups. The red flowers appear before the leaves and I have cut branches at this stage to decorate the dinner table. They last a surprisingly long time. You can’t go wrong using the Redbud in your landscaping. They are fast growing and the buds can be eaten in salads and would surely make the salad attractive! I’ve never tried this, but if you do, let me know if you liked it.

Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundi flora) – 
There were no Mountain Laurel growing on the ranch when I arrived here 40 years ago, even though they were native. I have been criticized for introducing them. If land is overgrazed, this is a plant that can be invasive because it likes the limestone soils of the hill country and deer, goats and other livestock don’t care for it. Although, it can be pruned to form a nice, classic tree it is most often a shrub or multi-trunked small tree. The violet colored flowers are quite fragrant, but my observation is that they don’t last very long. Since it is an evergreen, it’s a nice complement to the landscape. The fruit pods contain shiny red and very hard seeds and are considered poisonous causing nausea, confusion and even death.

Photography ©2009 Colleen Gardner. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Upcoming Workshops

David Bamberger writes:

On April 4th we are holding our valued Land Stewardship Workshop – from 8:30 to 4:30. Lunch is served. Part of this day is spent talking about and demonstrating how to successfully plant a tree.

On May 17th we’re holding a workshop on Water – it could be titled “How to Get Water Where There Isn’t Any.” On this day, you will learn about and see things that I've been told have never before been done in the U.S. – things that work. Don’t wait to sign up as we will only accept 35 registrations.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Debra Mann's Class at Selah

Colleen Gardner, Executive Director of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve, writes:

Science teacher and good friend of Selah (and new Education Advisor to Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve), Debra Mann, has been bringing out her senior classes for a 5 day science-based field trip to Selah for more than 7 years now. These groups of young thinkers have always impressed us at Selah – they are articulate, sensitive, deep thinkers who also come with many talents, such as musical instruments, or in this year’s case, a young lady who performs dance-like movements hanging from tall objects with silk scarves. Until this year, the students have visited in October, but this year they tried a new season: early spring, the first week of March. Typically each year’s class will do insect studies, plant surveys and a hybrid study of Post Oaks and Black Jack Oaks, but, because this visit occurred so early in the spring, leaves, flowers and insects were hard to come by.

Added to their seasonal challenge of finding oak leaves and butterflies, was that their visit coincided with Margaret’s last week with us. The students and their teachers were intimately aware of Margaret’s daily decline and the grieving that the Selah staff had to endure, while still trying to be good naturalist-hosts. Rather than having a pall over their week, these students all embraced the circle of life, surrounded evidence of drought and death with fresh spring greens, and migrating bird calls indicating new life and new beginnings. The students had fabulous nature writings over the course of their stay and in the last conversation I had with Margaret, I told her that we had 22 of the most fabulous young naturalists running all up and down the hills with butterfly nets and binoculars and that she would be so proud of the legacy she helped start. She smiled and said “I am proud.”

“Hello World”
Hello World! (my voice echoed through the hilltops and crevices around me)
Here I am, and there you are.
You are much bigger than I, no doubt,
except somehow, when I climb you,
I feel so powerful.
Thanks for lending yourself to me,
I am quite comfortable in my spot
next to the big rock.
Your vastness amazes me.
These hills are covered with grasses
and trees,
with life and with death.
These hills and slopes are my ladder
to the sky, and I can almost touch the clouds.
The cows come too,
though I don’t think they understand
where they are.
The land is thirsty,
I feel as if everything I touch I will break,
except for the big, strong rocks,
and of course, I trust you dear Earth,
to not crack beneath my feet.
Look at how time has tried to wear you down, Earth,
but you have still prevailed,
and continued to rise up.
You are a wonderous home to many things.
Sunlight, please do not go away,
You are the only thing keeping me warm,
And I would like to stay out much longer.

Elise – AWS class of 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

This Blog Will Continue

A note to our readers from David Bamberger: This blog will continue, and you may expect the first of the new postings next Monday, March 23. Without a doubt, the style and content will change somewhat, but it will continue to tell the story of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Message from Margaret

The following was written by Margaret Campbell Bamberger the day she received the diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer, Friday, September 24, 2004.

I sit, feeling alone and cut off from God. I close my eyes and let my mind wander.

Why? Why me?

I try to remove my close perspective and move out to where I can feel the life force around me. I think of all the life, past, current, seen and unseen, human and not human . . . each individual going about the business of living—and dying. Which is part of the same cycle. I am comforted by this and again I try to quit thinking and let my mind wander. I think of all the healthy cells in my body and then of the cancer cells—all made of the materials of my body, the stuff of “me.” Why the difference? I imagine all the worldly influences accumulated in my cells in 65 years. Chemicals, viruses, radiation, some of it natural, some manmade, some ubiquitous, some I’m personally responsible for. All of it, carried in the memories of my various cell lines, all are now are “me.”

I travel in my mind and see the trillions of atoms that make up my cells, all of it, every atom, born in the guts of a large star, either during its life or in the explosion of its death. “I am stardust.” A phrase I’ve heard before but now I feel every atom of every part of the earth, living or non-living is stardust, and of course that includes me, my healthy cells and my cancer.

God, no matter how we see him or her, is the creative force of the universe—which includes the galaxies, the stars, the planets, the earth and everything, every life form—all is God. I feel full of God, full of love, full of peace and grateful for my life which must end in death, a good thing, a natural thing, a God thing.

I will stay here as long as I am able, and I pray it is a long time—but however long or short, I am so grateful for this wonderful life, this gift of God. I have so many wonderful loving people around me: blood relatives, ranch family, and all the friends of a lifetime. To all, thank you and I love you.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Margaret Bamberger, 1938-2009

Margaret Bamberger

Margaret Campbell Bamberger passed away quietly in her sleep this morning, Friday, March 6, 2009. Early Wednesday, shortly after completing an exhausting month of cancer treatments, she fell asleep, never to awaken. A green burial will soon take place on the ranch that she loved so well. Attendance will be limited to immediate family and the ranch family.

Margaret was born December 13, 1938 in New Orleans. Over her seventy years, she was twice a wife, three times a mother, once a laboratory technician, repeatedly a crusader in environmental causes, periodically an artist shown and published, occasionally a writer, routinely an educator, and always a warm and generous friend to too many people to count.

She met and married J. David Bamberger in the early 1990s, and became an equal partner in the ongoing creation of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve as we know it today. She is credited with creating the ranch's educational programs and giving the ranch its credibility as an educational institution. The ranch became a routine destination for everything from groups of elementary school students, to university researchers. She won national awards for conservation, and had university awards, and even a middle-school greenhouse, dedicated to her. It was her idea to add the observation room to the design of "Bamberger's Folly", the largest artificial bat roost and observation facility ever created. With David's son, she named the structure, and in doing so officially added a new word to the English language: "chiroptorium".

She is survived by her husband J. David, sister Mary Greene of Paris, France, daughters Margie Crisp and Frances Sharp, son Chris Campbell, and numerous grandchildren as well as the thousands of people she touched over a richly-lived lifetime.

Margaret Bamberger was not merely a good person, but a person who did good. Thus her loss is felt doubly. There is, nonetheless, consolation to be found in the quality of her work - it is too good to be lost with her. The education programs she set in motion will be continued and grown by the dedicated members of the current ranch family, and those who will, in time, follow them. Margaret's impact will thereby be felt for generations to come, like the ever expanding ripples from a pebble dropped into cool, clean waters.

If you'd like to help Margaret's legacy live on, the family suggests contributions be made to the Margaret Bamberger Education Fund which she established in 2007. Donations can be mailed to:

Bamberger Ranch Preserve
2341 Blue Ridge Drive
Johnson City, TX 78636.