Hill Country Beauty

Flora

There is no end to the beauty of our native vegetation at UBarU. The following description of the plantlife of the Edwards Plateau describes UBarU perfectly:
  

"…beautifully rugged land with live oaks, Texas (or Spanish) red oaks, Ashe Junipers (which form the eastern cedar brakes), mesquites, and lots of wildflowers.  Curly mesquite grass and buffalo grass abound….In the winter the grasses are a rich gold, the rocks are white, and the junipers, live oaks, and evergreen sumacs, Texas mountain laurels, yuccas, stools, and agaritos are a welcome green.  In the spring there are two waves of color—our famous bluebonnets come first, followed by everything else in reds, pinks, oranges, purples, blues, and whites and dominated by various kinds of yellow daisies."

- Sally and Andy Wasowski in their book Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region

Poor grazing practices have divested much of the land of the diversity that wildlife thrive on.  Humans have destroyed predatory populations in favor of grazing animals.  The result is an infestation of cedars that has practically cover the landscape. Examining the land in the fall discloses that the most diverse oaks run along the ridges: bur oaks, post oaks, Spanish oaks.  The Quakers planned to free these oaks from the live oaks and cedars that are choking them out.  UBarU is on track to continue this reclamation process.  We will harvest desired seedlings and spread them around to benefit the wildlife and add diversity—and along the way make the view more interesting.

 
Fauna

Wildlife in Gillespie County include whitetail deer, turkey, squirrel, bobwhite quail, dove, cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, numerous kinds of non-game birds, raccoons, foxes, ringtail cats, skinks, opossum, bobcats, and coyotes.  Although imbued with grace and beauty, the deer present certain problems.  The Quakers were deer-neutral.  They neither encouraged deer nor allowed their destruction.  They noted in their web site that where deer are encouraged, “they become like marauding gangs, devastating the landscape.”

Although a dry creek, fed by the western slopes, runs during flood times, generally the only open water source at UBarU is a stock tank.  While water-loving ducks and geese do migrate through the area, they are rare sights at UBarU except in-flight.  The only large birds visiting the stock tank are hot work party volunteers taking a quick dip to cool off.

No tigers, lions, and bears, oh my, but yes, we have creepy crawly things!  Lizards, spiders, and scorpions abound.  However, there are few flies and mosquitoes.  The visitor is forewarned to take notice that this is, after all, the Hill Country:  The natural predator of field mice is the western diamond back.  We know they are here,  but they are rarely seen.  Oh yes, we have fire ants.  This is Texas.  Fire ant control is part of our Wildlife Management Plan.

One might conclude that it would be better to wear boots than sandals at UBarU.  We would do nothing to discourage such discretion, especially in what the Quakers called the Wildlands—now known as Rivendell, Mirkwood, and Barrow Downs.  While something short of a wildlife refuge, these areas (especially Rivendell) are to be restored and renewed to make them suitable wildlife habitat for native and migratory wildlife.  This is a consistent theme and commitment through the Quakers’ watch and runs so through ours.

Land

UBarU sits on rocks with more rocks underneath them.  The soil layer is thin.  The land is hilly and rocky, covered with live oaks and cedars with the cedars predominant.  There are two types of soil—Tarrant and Speck (Redland).  In many places one walks on large, flat rocks with vegetation seeming to grow right out of the rock.  This is Tarrant soil.  In other places, especially beneath large groves of cedar, is a reddish soil which one might dig into.  This is Speck.

While neither Tarrant nor Speck is particularly hospitable to diversification of vegetation, Speck offers more promise.  As one wanders over the surface, one must watch where the feet go.  Cactus is bountiful, and “Slide,” a large resident rattler, loves to lie in the sun.

Rocks come up out of the ground all around.  Native stone has been used for generations for buildings, fences, and pathway definition.