The Texas Hill Country was originally rolling prairie intersected by canyons with old growth cedar, oak and madrone trees. Fires occasionally burned across the prairies that killed the underbrush and provided nutrients for native grasses. As property was fenced, landowners had to suppress natural fires and the cedar trees took over much of the natural prairie.
Our land management program focuses on restoring natural prairie in those areas where we have good topsoil. In rocky areas, we leave the cedar and underbrush for wildlife. We took several land management classes years ago at Selah, David Bamberger’s ranch near Johnson City, Texas. David had developed a protocol for restoration that we have adopted and enhanced. It’s a multi-step, multi-year process.
First, we bulldoze the cedar trees. You can only do this when there is adequate moisture in the soil. We prefer this method because we are able to remove the root systems, giving us the ability to plow.
After the cedar is pushed, we pile it and wait for a rainy day to burn it. Burning requires several fires, because you have to re-pile the wood to get a complete burn.
We haul off the remaining rubble with our old military dump truck.
After the fires, we go through the pasture with a Vemeer rock picker. This is a critical step because we pick up debris larger than one inch – giving us the ability to mow the pasture in later years to control small cedar seedlings. If you do not mow once a year, the cedar will reclaim the land in less than five years.
Then we aerate the soil with a heavy aerator shown with the dump truck picture. The next step is planting native grass seeds, which we purchase from Native American Seed.
For the first two or three years after planting native grass we aerate the ground annually to improve water penetration.
The result is the emergence of amazing native grasses as well as improved ground water. The entire process takes one to three years depending on weather conditions. As a result of this program we have seen improvement in grazing and natural browse for all our animals. This year we have seen bobwhite quail for the first time in many years.