There's a new photo book out now by David K. Langford about his family’s Hill Country Ranch, and if you look back at the ranch’s history, it’s clear that their ranching philosophy is an extension of the property’s founder, Alfred Giles, a well-known South Texas architect in whose buildings you may have stood.
As Langford explains, when Giles established his ranch outside Comfort, his ranching philosophy has two themes.
“Always plan for drought. Always. And the second thing is if you have to feed, you have too many. Water is everything.”
That core land management view has kept the land healthy and the springs flowing. Langford goes into detail.
"It’s a three livestock herd. Cattle, sheep and goats," he said. "Albert Giles also had all the cedar cut from the ranch in 1890. There is no cedar on this ranch; it’s all been controlled.”
Langford’s just published "Hillingdon Ranch, Four Seasons, Six Generations" documenting the flora, fauna and people of his ancestral ranch through the seasons. Langford started shooting just as 2011’s record drought hit.
“We didn’t realize when we started that it would be the driest seventeen months in the history of the ranch.”
I asked him about an age-old city/country friction: “What is it that environmentalists don’t understand about ranchers and vice versa?”
“Actually, I think the environmentalists do understand," he said. "I believe it’s kind of the general public that doesn’t realize that open space…that is the water catchment.”
The ranch’s two creeks empty in the Guadalupe, which eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Langford extrapolates the effect of his land management's practices has on coastal bird populations.
“What happens on Hillingdon Ranch has some bearing on the survival of the whooping cranes.”
For more on Hillingdon Ranch and the book: http://hillingdonranchbook.com/hillingdon-ranch-book/authors/david-k-langford/