Monday, June 21, 2010

Building an Institution

Institution as defined in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary – “an organization having a social, educational or religious purpose, as a school, church, hospital, etc.”

In modern day practice we think of an institution as some thing that’s been around a long time, such as a university, a museum, or perhaps even a restaurant. An institution also has to be recognized as delivering a dependable product or service and as a respected source of information.

We’re building an institution here at Selah. Although 41 years is not a long time, the ranch has been legally set aside in perpetuity for the natural world, education and research. Photograph taken by J. David.

Photograph taken by Margaret Bamberger.

Our Institution’s Goals

To maintain Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve in a natural state of grasslands and wooded canyons, which provide healthy habitat for native and endangered species as well as domestic plants and animals, and to protect it from development.

To demonstrate through a working example of grass-based agriculture the practices of good conservation and their value to the entire ecosystem.

To educate visitors by providing facilities and programs which enhance the visitor’s experience and encourage appreciation and awareness of Selah’s and their own natural and cultural heritages.

To provide a place where visitors of all ages can experience the beauty of nature, learn the importance of good conservation and land stewardship, and leave with a sense of power that the individual can positively impact his or her environment.

To manage the resources and facilities of Selah in such a way that agriculture, education, recreation, and “People ranching” will come as close as possible to meeting its costs of operation while preserving it for future generations of people, plants and animals.

Statement of Philosophy

We honor and respect the natural world and its biological heritage.

We recognize that good stewardship maintains a diversity of healthy habitats, and therefore the diversity of plants and animals that are able to exist in them.

Good land management provides clean water in greater amounts than in poorly managed land. In the Hill Country’s climate and type of land it is extremely important to maximize water conservation (both surface and underground), because with population growth we experience increasing demand on limited resources.

Integrating human needs into the natural world involves:

  • teaching the public about the importance of good stewardship,

  • providing a place to experience the importance of good stewardship,

  • teaching conservation of resources,

  • and instilling a love and appreciation of the natural world in children and adults so that the desire abundant healthy water, land and habitats around them.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve is to protect the 5,500 acres of land, keep it in good health and balance, and educate the public about stewardship of the land, as well as awakening and nourishing a passion for learning about nature in both children and adults.

Here at Selah we spend so much time “people ranching” - (that’s the education part of our mission) – that the true ranching activities of Selah are overlooked. . . . We believe that a well-managed ranch can have cattle, horses, sheep and or goats and still be a protector of all species, large and small, flora or fauna.

Photograph by J. David.

Photograph by J. David.

Photograph by J. David.

Because of a nice cold winter with good rains we were able to harvest surplus grass . . . hay . . . It’s been a few years since this was possible. This harvest has always been among my favorite times. To walk the field behind the hay baler as the evening sun goes down, picking up the bales and taking them to the barn. There’s a nostalgia to this. I’m too old now to do the lifting, but I can walk, see and smell and enjoy this harvest that some call work!

If you believe as I do that all of the things I’ve talked about on this and past blogs are important for the future health of our nation won’t you please help us build this institution?

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

“This is Ranchin”

Most old time ranches had horses, cattle, sheep and sometimes goats. Anything to generate income. Of course, too much livestock on the land had a lot to do with the problems we’re experiencing today. Overstocked land made conditions just right for woody species to take over from grass. It made conditions just right for soil erosion and these conditions caused our water sources to produce just a little less each year as these practices went on.

There are still many cattle herds in the Hill Country but not many sheep and goat herds. It used to be that goats, angora, were raised for their mohair, but then synthetics arrived and took that market away – Later, globalization took even another share as this product could be produced cheaper in other parts of the world . . . However in the last ten years I have witnessed a positive change in the market for Spanish goats. Both for meat, due in large part because of the increase in the Muslim populations in our major cities of the Midwest and East. The other reason is that the Spanish goat is becoming more and more popular when used to control some of the very woody species that took over from grass.

Here at Selah, included in our mission is to show a working example of grass based agriculture and the value that all plants and animals play in the preserving and protection of the ecosystem.

These are Ranch Operations Manager Scott Grote’s horses. You wouldn’t see a goat round up in a Marlboro ad, but the horses are not for play. Our goats are rotated in and out of hundreds of acres and without the horses gathering them up would be very difficult. Those fancy 4-wheelers in our country can’t compare to a good horse. Photograph taken by J. David.

Once penned, the baby goats, called kids, are separated or weaned from their mothers called nannies and all animals are checked closely for any health problems. Photograph taken by J. David.

Our county agent, Todd Swift, is here today helping to pick out a few good candidates for our boys to raise as a project for next year’s stock show. Photograph taken by J. David.

One of the wonderful things about ranching is the life it offers. Poncho Cornilla, in the red shirt, has been working here for thirty some years. It’s his son, Javier, who has his first contact with the goat that he will nurture until show time next year. He will have to pay for the goat and any feed or health issues should they arrive. He will learn about economics and the free enterprise system. He will own the profit or suffer from the loss should his goat not judge well . . . That’s Todd Swift in the green shirt and Poncho’s older son, “Nacho” in the blue shirt. Photograph taken by J. David.

Yes, The Following is Ranchin, Too!

I don’t know how to tell this story ~ I can only say it was funny and fun to watch and it all starts with Steven and his air boat, which he constructed. Here he is arriving at the scene. Photograph taken by J. David.

I’ve written so much about the drought and its affects on our trees. It’s estimated that we lost over 2,000 Spanish Oaks but why did most of our Bald Cypress survive? All of them were around our ponds and along our creeks, so perhaps there was just enough moisture underground to keep them alive. All had shed their leaves early. A survival mechanism. This one, however, didn’t make it and had to be taken out. It was 50 foot tall with a 28 inch diameter trunk. That’s Eastern Gamma grass in the foreground and that’s Ranch Biologist, Steven Fulton, in his “toy” and all the following is his idea! You had to be there to really enjoy all that happened. Photograph taken by J. David.

Here’s an attempt to pull the Cypress over into Madrone Lake. No luck, the tree doesn’t budge. We’ll have to saw it down. I’m sorry I wasn’t present to photograph that. Photograph taken by J. David.

I planted this Cypress in 1989. It grew to 50 foot, nourished by the waters of Madrone Lake. The widest point of the stump is 28 inches. Steven is an accomplished carpenter and he wants to see what he can make from the Cypress wood. Photograph taken by J. David.

We can’t get a truck or trailer in to haul out the brush, so Steven and Poncho load it onto the air boat. Photograph taken by J. David.

Here Steven goes, taking the brush to Madrone Lake spillway where we can easily unload and take it to a brush pile. Photograph taken by J. David.

Steven’s 6’8”, but even he can’t see over the brush to where he’s headed without standing up. Photograph taken by J. David.

Everything you see here was pulled down by Steven’s air boat. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Scott Grote has brought another “Tonka Toy” to lift the main trunk onto the trailer. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Next stop will be to a local sawmill to see if there is some useful lumber that can be obtained from the trunk. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

The job is basically done as Steven “rides off into the sunset!” Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Both of these episodes happened on the same day the goats were worked in the morning when it was cooler and the tree was taken out in the afternoon . . . Just another day at the ranch!

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636.