Thursday, July 6, 2017


The temperature in the shade reads 98 degrees Fahrenheit.  The heat index reads 108 degrees.  The heat index is what will kill you along with scores of birds and even some of the larger animals.  On days when the index hovers around 110 degrees and there’s not a hint of breeze you’ll start feeling woozy then sleepy then outright sick.  Your vision will blur; your reflexes will slow; and as your core body temperature climbs beyond reasonable limits you’ll fall to the ground and drift into that long, dark sleep.  A couple of weeks ago a woman’s body was found at a state park about 65 miles south of us.  The park is frequented by human smugglers.  I’ve seen groups numbering over twenty dashing out of the woods and into vans and SUVs just after sunset at the park’s entrance.  I’ve also chanced upon lookouts hidden in the brush near the Rio Grande.  The lookouts relay messages back into Mexico where the smugglers are waiting for an all clear.  Park authorities determined the woman had been abandoned by smugglers and had died of heat stroke.

Here in the woods we do everything we can to ensure that the animals around our place have water to drink.  The front has several watering stations for songbirds, quail and doves.  For the past six or more years we’ve run a line from the well into a secluded spot where a trickle of water flows into a depression.  As long as the hose is left on there’s water on the ground.  If, however, we turn off the water the little pond disappears in less than five minutes.  In my newest book, The Sand Sheet, I go into more detail about these wildlife ponds and the water (or lack thereof) facing those who live in this region.  In one instance I showed a geologist that the South Texas Sand Sheet has no surface water.  Along the coast about 100 miles to the east there are spots where small ponds have formed but they exist only because the sub-surface water does not allow the transient surface water to easily drain.  But in most of the Sand Sheet the ground water is too deep to make any sort of difference.

A year or so ago we decided to set up a quick and more permanent pond at the same spot where we’ve been running water for the last six or seven years.  Some have suggested to us that we simply pour bentonite on the ground and allow that to impede draining.  The problem with bentonite, however, is that it attracts wild hogs that look at it as a place to lather up and make a huge mess.  Others have said it would be a good idea to pour a concrete pond.  Concrete ponds become filled with green slime and then they start smelling and I’m not all that enamored with any of that.  Our idea was much simpler.  It was also easy to maintain, and alter and replace when need be.  We acquired a small plastic wading pool and nudged it into place where the water trickled from the hose.  By the way, as the water falls from the hose it creates a sound reminiscent of a stream.  The wading pool fills and the water then runs off onto the sand.  Large animals like deer and javelina drink directly from the wading pool while smaller critters like tortoises and birds (both large and small) drink from the clear water collecting beside the pool.

In this hot weather we see deer ambling up to the pond throughout the day.  In fact, the deer don’t go far but remain in the thick woods nearby.  Raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, coatimundi, rabbits, skunks…the list is long and we are happy to serve.

Perhaps later we’ll run a half-inch PVC pipe from the well to the pond.  For now, however, we’ve got a lot of cheap hose that’s been placed into commission and as long as that lasts all will be well.

 You can create an inexpensive pond around your homestead by doing something along the same lines as we’ve done here.  A trickle from your well helps keep your water clean and does not harm your pump.  Besides, if you are a nature person you’ll think of this as a way to give back what’s been so kindly given to you.


  1. That's image bearing done well

  2. What a great sentiment (a way to give back what's been so kindly given to you). I wish we had water at our place that could be done that way. I know that windmill overflow ponds have a good amount of visitors. We don't have that resource either.

    We had an additional road bulldozed through our property several years ago. At least three water drainage routes were crossed. We asked the dozer operator to pile some of the brush on the upstream side of the road to create an elongated pond when it rained. My brother and I took pickaxes and shovels along and added a bit of capacity, also allowing some islands for birds to land and not drown.

    The grass that accumulates along the bank requires some cutting back or it becomes unusable for birds that refuse to walk. We recently spread some salt to hopefully cut this chore out - no idea if this was wasted effort or not. We have had some hogs use these as wallows, but thankfully, they haven't created too much chaos (yet).

    Thanks for the post - getting a bit warm out there in South Texas.


    1. JR,
      I think you had a pretty good rain out your way a couple of days ago. Maybe you might try a rain collection pond?

  3. great idea!

    my son uses a 100 gallon stock tank which dumps into a rigid kid's pool which dumps a "bird bath" which dumps onto the ground

    the only downside is some younger birds imagine they can walk on water

    1. That sounds like a good idea. I imagine your bringing in small animals as well.