Wednesday, January 28, 2009

wednesday's shots from the homestead: ice

A little ice storm blew through last night, and left a glistening sheen over everything. The sun is out and now all the baby icicles are dripping. That mockingbird perched on the chair has been haunting the prickly pear and moved over there when I appeared with my camera. He has decided that this is his spot. And the paperwhites are just beginning to bloom, stinky fragrance and all (actually, I kinda like it).

Monday, January 26, 2009


Above are my sweetpea seedlings tasting the rain, and below is my new "Champagne Bubbles" poppy doing the same.

Just a little, but more than we've had in months. A steady drizzle all day. Hopefully enough to push some of those wildflowers along, and to wash away the mineral deposits from that hard water I've been irrigating with.

Spent the morning at an impromptu rainday playdate and will spend precious naptime surfing here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

i am so on board with this!

We are busy installing our orchard (four pears, two persimmons, two pomegranates dug in and mulched--and two jujubes and one olive on the way!!!), now the Pres (bless him!) should do the same! Check out the campaign here.

The Garden of Eatin': A Short History of America's Garden from roger doiron on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

what a blessed day

photo borrowed from BBC UK, Obama taking oath of office

"Pineapple" Pear, planted by us all.

Gorgeous day. Watched the inauguration with friends and babies and planted trees. I hope they will grow and prosper along with our beautiful nation.

And here is a copy of the gorgeous inaugural poem, by Elizabeth Alexander.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Elizabeth Alexander

Friday, January 16, 2009

fruit tree frenzy

If anyone else is hankering to plant some fruit trees for their children to munch on in the coming years, after some searching I found THIS great list of adapted cultivars for the Greater Austin / Central TX area. Another really useful link on growing edibles in TX can be found here. And I happen to know that The Natural Gardener will get their persimmons in Monday morning . . . Go go go!

To add to the list, I have heard that good persimmons for our area are:
Fuyu, Hachiya, Saijo, and Chocolate
and good Pomegranates are:
Cloud, Parfianka (sold as Garnet Sash), Granada, Sirenevyi, and Ambrosia

Above is a shot of my Moonglow pear, planted a couple months ago, and some swelling buds on my Arapaho blackberry! OOOH.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

a love affair

New Rochelle, NY circa 2000. Our house.

I fell most deeply in love with plants the first full year I spent in the Northeast, living in a little duplex just up the street from the YMCA, where I taught swimming and dance, in New Rochelle, NY. We had the tiniest little stone front porch with iron trellises, a row of boxwood hedges, and a little patch of dirt, fronted by a small stretch of white post and rail fencing. Our landlord's son, Russell, and his family lived next door. Russell had been in the nursery business and the backyard garden that I got to look out on from our kitchen window was nothing short of spectacular. The hollyhocks were seven feet tall and the birds all visited the birdbath under his enormous tulip tree. Behind the garden he had trellised apples along the fenceline. Tall, gorgeous phlox grew in abundance. Being able to look out on that garden, without having to care for it, was an enormous treat.

And quickly my little front patch grew by means of containers and baskets and climbers. I loved that tiny garden as much as any I have ever had. It was completely disorderly, haphazard, the result of a series of obsessions, unsupervised visits to the nursery, and nights spent reading gardening catalogs. After my front yard garden began to explode, Russell studiously placed out on his front porch three heliotrope, three red begonias, and mandevilla growing up the posts. It was gorgeous. I think he was quietly trying to teach me something. I still haven't learned.

I guess the truth is that I am not a gardener really, or a landscaper, but just a person who loves plants. I like to watch how they grow and change. I love to crush the leaves to see how they smell and sprinkle the seeds out into my palm to see what they look like. That's what gets me excited. The details and peculiarities of the living.

My littlest and I were heavily bundled and walking around the Home Depot this morning, in search of persimmons. Texans think we are crazy. But this is a great time to plant dormant fruit trees here. The best time! It brought me back to freezing days in the Northeast, when I was particularly in love with african voilets and scented geraniums. I would haunt the local nurseries on Rte 1 in search of varieties I did not yet have sitting on my windowsills. There is something about walking into a warm greenhouse on a freezing day that is just wonderful. Below I'll post a shot of some of Grandma G's african violets, geraniums, impatiens, christmas cactus, and begonias, which bloom like damsels in her south facing window, even on the coldest of days. What winter pleasures do you enjoy?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

save the croc hunter's land!

My kids recently discovered the late Steve Irwin via a library DVD entitled Croc Files. They are both in love. Me too, really. I miss the guy. What energy, enthusiasm, and love for his calling in life! I wish I had such clarity about what I wanted my days here on earth to accomplish. Anyway, there is a 135,000 hectare wildlife preserve in Queensland, Australia that was set aside in his name for perpetuity. It is entitled the "Steve Irwin Wildlife Preserve," and some folks want to strip mine it! You can sign a petition to stop them HERE.

How many beautiful places in our world have been mangled in the name of progress? I'm sure this is one of those "mineral rights" issues, which all home-owners can be subject to if they are not careful. Do you own the mineral rights to your land?? Probably not. Look into it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the morning moon

The moon stayed out for quite a while this morning before disappearing into the sunlight. A cold day.

Apparently the 10th, just a couple days ago, was the brightest moon we are going to get in 2009. We were at the "perigee," when the moon was the closest it will come to us on its elliptical travels.

I was just reading about lunar gardening in my new Texas Gardener magazine. Apparently the best time to plant crops that grow underground (onions, potatoes, and such) and perennials is during a waning moon (right now!) and the best time to plant annuals and leafy veg is during a waxing moon (in a few weeks!). I am disobeying, (I guess not entirely, because I did just plant some Arapaho and Navaho blackberries, which are of course perennial--but I'm also about to plant some spinach . . . ) but it's interesting to note anyway! Here is a link to the TG article. Enjoy!

Monday, January 12, 2009

what in the devil to do with kohlrabi???

I had about nine pretty kohlrabi plants in the garden, they were already too big, and they needed to come on into the kitchen. I will miss their purply sheen, though!

I found a good recipe for Kohlrabi Puree here. That was last night's dinner! It was really pretty tasty, surprisingly sweet. The one thing we decided might make it better was a little parmesan cheese!

Oh--and I have begun to veer from my original gameplan for this blog--where specific days were devoted to specific things. I'm just more spontaneous than that, I guess. So come along for the ride!

Friday, January 9, 2009

bee condo!

The fantastic idea below came from my Select Seeds newsletter! I plan to try it:

Home-Made Sweet Home

It's easy to build a "Bee Condo" for native bees!
This information comes from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (

gift certificate bee box 2

Create homes for native bees!
Many of the wild bees you may encounter in your backyard garden make their burrow homes in the soil. Some bees create hives in snags (a dead or dying standing tree, often with its branches broken off), or in holes in trees. You can also encourage bee-residents by providing man-made nesting blocks or "Bee Condos."

A 4"x6" or 6"x6" dried pine or fir post (or
you can try a weathered fence post or
other scrap wood) Drill and drill bits, a variety of diameters, ranging from 1/4 in. to 3/8 in.
Paper straws - not plastic (available
at some hardware stores, or through
a scientific supply store), or small
hollow sticks, with one end sealed
A warm location protected from rain
and predators.

1. Cut the wooden posts into blocks 8-12 in. long.
2. Drill holes into the wood blocks using a variety of hole diameters from 1/4 in. to 3/8 in.
Drill holes 3-5 in. deep, and at least 3/4 in. apart. Smooth out ragged edges of holes.
3. Alternatively, a bundle of paper straws or hollow sticks, with one end sealed, will make
an attractive bee home.

4. Bees prefer dark colored homes, so consider charring the front of your "Bee Condo"
lightly with a torch.
5. Mount your "Bee Condo" on a post or attach to the side of a building. Place nesting blocks so that tunnels are horizontal. Make sure they are in a warm location with southern exposure and protected from rain. A good place could be under the eaves of a garage or shed.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

indian winter?

Not quite sure what you call it when it's 80 degrees in January . . .

Aren't the lavender pretty? And the butterflies found them in, like, milliseconds after I brought them home from the HEB.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

the garden god

If you love gardens and plants and pictures, you must check out this guy's website. It will make you salivate. And the photo above is borrowed from this delightful spot.

fave new cheese--and a sea monkey update!

Hubby purchased the queen of cheeses the other day. By chance, or because he's cheap, he came upon something that looked like Parmesan but costed about half as much:
Zerto Reggianito, from Argentina, made of skim cow's milk. It is a delicious aged cheese, and does in fact have that toothsome wonderfulness of Parmesan. Look for it!

And the sea monkeys are up and at 'em! There are at least three growing, thriving shrimp in our tiny little tank! Miss A loves to watch them swim in circles, and asks them, "Hey, what you doin'?"

And here's a picture of a real sea monkey! (actually, it's Grandma G's dog Heidi, who swims no matter what the temp . . . )

Friday, January 2, 2009

welcoming the new year


Welcome 2009! I am so oddly tired, woozy, penned in by fog. I've started drinking only a single cup of coffee in the mornings . . . hadn't realized how incredibly I had been bolstering myself with that stuff. Have you made any New Year's Resolutions? Are they fun, painful, optimistic?

The shots are from Grandma G's house in CT, on the one day the sun shone for us, and fell so delicately across everything.

Here is a Mary Oliver poem for you, to usher in the first weekend of 2009:

Am I Not Among the Early Risers

Am I not among the early risers
and the long-distance walkers?

Have I not stood, amazed, as I consider
the perfection of the morning star
above the peaks of the houses, and the crowns of the trees
blue in the first light?
Do I not see how the trees tremble, as though
sheets of water flowed over them
though it is only wind, that common thing,
free to everyone, and everything?

Have I not thought, for years, what it would be
worthy to do, and then gone off, barefoot and with a silver pail,
to gather blueberries,
thus coming, as I think, upon a right answer?

What will ambition do for me that the fox, appearing suddenly
at the top of the field,
her eyes sharp and confident as she stared into mine,
has not already done?

What countries, what visitations,
what pomp
would satisfy me as thoroughly as Blackwater Woods
on a sun-filled morning, or, equally, in the rain?

Here is an amazement--once I was twenty years old and in
every motion of my body there was a delicious ease,
and in every motion of the green earth there was
a hint of paradise,
and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.

Above the modest house and the palace----the same darkness.
Above the evil man and the just, the same stars.

Above the child who will recover and the child who will
not recover, the same energies roll forward,
from one tragedy to the next and from one foolishness to the next.

I bow down.

Have I not loved as though the beloved could vanish at any moment,
or become preoccupied, or whisper a name other than mine
in the stretched curvatures of lust, or over the dinner table?
Have I ever taken good fortune for granted?

Have I not, every spring, befriended the swarm that pours forth?
Have I not summoned the honey-man to come, to hurry,
to bring with him the white and comfortable hive?

And, while I waited, have I not leaned close, to see everything?
Have I not been stung as I watched their milling and gleaming,
and stung hard?

Have I not been ready always at the iron door,
not knowing to what country it opens-----to death or to more life?

Have I ever said that the day was too hot or too cold
or the night too long and as black as oil anyway,
or the morning, washed blue and emptied entirely
of the second rate, less than happiness

as I stepped down from the porch and set out along
the green paths of the world?

by Mary Oliver, from West Wind