Annual Report redux

Posted: January 18th, 2009 under Activities, photography, Plantlife, Wildlife.
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Yesterday was the “nose to the grindstone” day for putting the annual report in final form, including choosing which  pictures to include to show the story of the year on our place.

The official form has nine pages.   Add to that a cover sheet with our names and other useful information the form itself doesn’t have space for, and three pages of supplementary notes referencing specific points of the form (which, for instance, does not have a check-box for “check-dams/gabions” under “erosion control”–just ponds, dykes, and levees, so I have to add a note about our check-dams and gabions every year) , and then 14 pages that I call the Activity Report, detailing (well, outlining, but in more detail than their Annual Report Form makes possible) the activities we’ve done in each of the seven management areas with (where possible) photographs.

(Photos beyond the break)

Everything’s in the same order as the official form.  Some bits can be carried over from year to year (since we do some of the same activities every year–maintenance on the supplemental water facilities, supplemental feeding of migrant and winter-resident birds, noting wildlife mortality by species and–if possible–cause of death, etc, etc.) but some things do change.

We built a lot of check-dams and gabions early on, because the place was washing away in every rain back then–now we check  them after hard rains to be sure they don’t need more rocks (some do, some don’t) but we don’t need to build many more, so the pace has slowed–to things that seem more critical now.  As more of the land recovers from erosion and overgrazing, we need to do less planting of barren areas…they’re no longer barren.    Now it’s interplanting more desirable native species,  removing invasives, trying to manage the grass/forb ration in the prairie part of the project,   trying to anticipate the effects of climate change on this particular place, so we can plant things that will survive after we’re gone and it’s hotter and drier.     (We’ve already put in an  oak species that grows several hundred miles south and west of here,  for instance.)

Anyway–trying to make it clear that we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, though doing it in our own way–and the proof of the pudding is in the pictures.

Female Stagmomantis on Eustoma flower

Female Stagmomantis on Eustoma flower

Above is an example of showing a new species found on the place (not new to science, but new to us.)   If you want to do any kind of land management, wildlife management, etc., a good digital camera is an invaluable tool.  You can document plants, animals, weather, effects of weather, animal behavior, interventions you’ve done, etc.

Richard and the dead pump

Richard and the dead pump

We’re often too busy to take pictures of each other (and often not in the same place at the same time anyway) but I was there when we discovered the pump at Owl (the second “rain barn)  was jammed with roots of the water plants we’d put in the lower tub to help use up the nitrogen added by the wildlife that drink from the artificial spring and stream.   Yes, there’s a small electric pump inside that mass of brown stuff.

Back to topic:  the report’s finally done and I’ll drop it off on my way to choir practice Wednesday.    A final treat for those who’ve read this far:

Gray fox on a winter afternoon

Gray fox on a winter afternoon


  • Comment by Barb Frivance — January 20, 2009 @ 7:22 am


    Just wanted to say “thank you” for all of your 1)hard work, 2)lively and informative updates and 3)gorgeous photos. I especially love the armadillos: so much better to see them alive and upright than as roadkill. And your fox (above) seems to be saying “yes, I am beautiful. I will gladly pose for you so that others might gaze upon my beauty”.

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 20, 2009 @ 9:11 am


    Thanks for enjoying it!

    I get a thrill when I see wildlife just doing what they do, not realizing I’m there or unworried by the human with the camera (very rare, admittedly, for the vertebrates.) I wish I’d had a camera along the time I saw a mama armadillo and four still-pink babies who could barely toddle along (watching a baby armadillo trying to get over a stick lying on the ground raises cute to a whole new level.)

    The fox–I was photographing birds at Owl that afternoon, using a monopod to steady my best lens, and just about to leave when I saw “something” move across the meadow, then a glimpse of bushy tail–and so had the camera pointed at where I thought he’d go, and almost focused in. I have one shot of the fox before it alerted, nosing the ground where birds had been seconds before, and then it came around the cedar and spotted me. I have a few other fox pictures, but this one’s definitely the best. One more click and Fox ducked into the cedar and quietly made its way through and out the other side.

  • Comment by Mike Munsil — January 20, 2009 @ 11:21 am


    Good stuff. We hope to retire to the area north of San Antone some day. I’m sure we won’t be able to afford much acreage, but I would like to manage it to restore as much habitat as possible. So, for the present, I’ll learn from you.

    By the way, do you have any maps of the property that you can put online (not location) to orient your readers to the locations you refer to?


  • Comment by elizabeth — January 20, 2009 @ 11:57 am



    A lot of material on my personal website will migrate to the 80acresonline website when we get the Paksworld site in operation–as that one’s connected to an upcoming book, it takes precedence.

    Right now, the rest of the 80 acres material can be found here (for text, but includes link to map):

    or here, for photographs:

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 22, 2009 @ 11:08 pm


    And now the report is in–turned it in this afternoon at the county tax appraisal district office.

    We had received no notification that they wanted one this year (last year they also did not state that they wanted one) but since they can choose to require an annual report…I don’t trust the lack of reminder.

    So they got the whole multipage package. The clerk who took it seemed a little surprised, but accepted it.

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