Tick Seeds & Hobby Farming

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Finally, it feels like autumn in East Texas. The air is crisp in the morning, the afternoons tolerable. Our yard is graced with hummingbirds darting about, drinking from the feeders or feasting on the rosebuds. Soon they will head south, and the blackbirds will arrive, if last autumn and winter were any indication. We are hopeful waterfowl will find our pond this winter. Some rain would be helpful, as an unusually wet August has been followed by cloudless skies for several weeks. I am holding off planting ryegrass until rain arrives, though I plan to hook up the borrowed disc harrow and get the ground ready for planting this weekend.

I bushhogged the fence line of the Back Forty last weekend, likely for the last time until spring. That’s when I discovered a glorious display of yellow flowers, some taller than me — which admittedly isn’t saying much. I stopped the tractor to take photos, marveling at the total silence. Then I remembered I was wearing the noise-canceling earbuds my Beautiful Mystery Companion gave me for my birthday. I pulled them out of my ears and heard the sounds of the forest — birds chirped warnings of my presence; the woods rustled with the sounds of unseen critters.

The flowers stretched along the edge of where I bushhogged for more than 100 feet. As I took photos, I noticed dozens of butterflies and small honeybees feasting on their nectar — an unexpected treat for them this autumn. My phone app identified the flowers as a type of coneflower, but I was skeptical and posted a photo on Facebook.

Several educated guesses were made. Then a fellow with whom I have a passing acquaintance wrote the flowers were coreopsis, also known as tickseed. He works as a landscaper and said the heavy rain in August, combined with cooler weather, resulted in spring-seeding flowers coming up now. This was confirmed by several other folks. This is such a pretty flower to have such an ugly name. It earned the sobriquet because the seed shape and color resemble ticks. Whoever oversaw naming this beauty must have been having a bad day.


The other day, my BMC and I headed to the feed store to get square hay bales for Pancho the Donkey. It was another beautiful morning. When we got back, I loaded the three bales in the tractor’s bucket.

“Here, you drive the tractor, and I’ll get the gate,” I said. Pancho saw us coming and galloped up to us, brayed, sniffed the hay, and then led the way as we took it to the back to his homemade hay pen. I pulled the bales out of the bucket and dropped them in the pen, then cut the strings off while he eagerly began chomping away at the hay.

We headed back out, me walking slowly ahead of my BMC on the tractor, her beaming at being outside and driving the tractor under a glorious blue sky.

“That was so much fun,” she said. Indeed, it was.

This hobby farming is a lot of work. I devote at least one full day a week to mowing, pulling fallen tree limbs off fence lines, piling up mulch with an ancient tractor rake (also borrowed), or something. Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming.

But then a morning comes along where we’re carrying hay to Pancho the Donkey, or I spy a stunning display of wildflowers, or a pair of bucks amble through the pasture. Some nights when I get home from work at the library after dark, I stop in the middle of the driveway, turn off the headlights and look up at the stars, which are exponentially brighter in the country. I listen to the night sounds, the tree frogs and crickets, the distant baying of coyotes, the steady hum of traffic on U.S. 259, a mile away.

Indeed, this is fun. Now if it would just rain so I could plant the ryegrass.

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