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From the Pen of Louie Bond

For the love of the land … Sometimes a simple headline sticks with you like a perfect song lyric. After all, what could be more elemental than our passion for the fruits of that blessed combination of land, water, sunlight and the sweet air we breathe? Those “fruits” feed more than our bodies; they sustain our hungry souls as well.

Every November, this magazine features one amazing Texas treasure — a piece of hardscrabble land, strafed by agricultural use and choked by invasive species, lovingly restored to sustainability by a dedicated family. This month, we visited Richard Taylor and Suzie Paris at Blue Mountain Peak Ranch, 830 acres of land in Mason County that now serves as an example of what focused efforts can achieve in land conservation. Last year, East Texas’ Leopold Conservation winner, Doc McFarlane, entertained and inspired us with his message of learning through failure. And who could forget 2009’s iconic winner, J. David Bamberger, who transformed a 5,500-acre Blanco County ranch into a living classroom, showing us all how it can be accomplished?

We’re not all lucky enough to own a large Texas spread, but most of us have the privilege to oversee our own little slice of heaven, whether it’s a small urban yard, a larger suburban property or a small acreage in the country, like I enjoy with my husband. Even with far less land and little money, you can do your part to preserve Texas’ landscape as Mother Nature intended it.

Luckily, there are many resources to assist you in this pursuit, online and in print, through governmental agencies, nonprofit groups and commercial businesses. Even social media is a learning tool these days. Our neighborhood Facebook group discusses rainfall collection, native plants, how to deal with “varmints” without poison and more on a daily basis. Some neighbors are longtime horticulturalists, others are experts on wildlife — all are happy to share what they have learned.

A trip to your local nursery or feed store, particularly those locally owned ones, affords an opportunity to pick the brains of local experts in person. At least, that’s how it works in my little town. Or you could try books like our own Kelly Conrad Simon’s newly updated Texas Wildscapes with a searchable DVD and a connected TPWD webpage, tpwd.texas.gov/wildscapes.

I enjoy posting social media photos of the bounty of wild things our little Hill Country acreage reveals on my sunrise strolls in our deep woods, including some pretty extraordinary insects, much to the amazement of my urban friends. Of course, they swear they couldn’t possible coexist with these “frightening” creatures! I was as fearful of spiders, scorpions and snakes as any city girl, but my decades on this land have helped me see them in a different light. This land is a picture of sustainability due to their contribution to the circle of life here. After a few times of not “nuking” everything that seemed scary and surviving the experience, my fear dissolved and my delight blossomed.

So often, the common thread is patience. You never really “know” the land until you’ve watched it through the seasons, through the floods and droughts, through the rampage of disease and pestilence.

Inspiration, knowledge and patience are the first three ingredients; hard work is the fourth. My scarred arms and legs bear witness to dewberry brambles and devil’s claw and cedar prickles. My freckled skin and ragged fingernails are testaments to long hours in the sun and dirt. I wouldn’t trade them for all the facials and manicures in Hollywood. They are badges of honor.

We know our loyal readers share our love of the land of this great state. Thanks for helping us preserve and restore our wild places so that the Texas wild rumpus can continue forever.

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