Thursday, May 22, 2008

Begin - A Poem by Rumi

[Northfield Yellow Day Lily]


This is now. Now is,
all there is. Don't wait for Then;
strike the spark, light the fire.

Sit at the Beloved's table,
feast with gusto, drink your fill

then dance
the way branches
of jasmine and cypress
dance in a spring wind.

The green earth
is your cloth;
tailor your robe
with dignity and grace.

~ Rumi ~

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Whoever said "bloom where you are planted" must not have lived in Texas. Last Wednesday evening we had the worst hail and wind storm (at least in my lifetime) ever to move through the Austin area. The damage estimates are still rolling in. Not a Katrina-sized event, that was epic, Old Testatment proportions surely, but this unnamed storm was big enough and bad enough for me.Here we are 6 days later and the temperatures have climbed past the mid 90s for the second day in a row. Blooming in Central Texas is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

That said, we do have some lovely sights to behold (especially if you get out into the garden early, before the sun is up very high). We have some very determined bloomers. A reminder that beautiful doesn't necessarily mean fragile.....

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Time Marches (or Aprils or Mays)..

We took out almost all our St Augustine grass this past year and moved that territory into various garden beds. Friends of mine who have heard me go on endlessly about the work involved have offered to come by and check out our progress.

"Not this year" I tell them. "Things are just getting established. Come next year and then I'll look like a genius. Right now I think people are driving by and whispering 'do you think they know their grass is dead?!".

Truth be told I hate waiting. This is making me nutso. I already spent weeks going around my back yard imploring things to grow. Faster! Then, to bloom.

This is not so much "talking" to my plants, although I do a bit of that from time to time, it is more like a regal command, which is every bit as nonsensical as it sounds.

It is my patience that is the sticking point, and not anything the plants are doing or not doing. The wild flowers in our back yard were planted very late because their beds were not ready when the seeds ordinarily would have been. This late start is certainly not theirs to lay claim to and it was not reasonable of me to think that they could skip steps in their growth and bloom along with the rest of the flowers that had been seeds in the ground, over wintering and getting ready for a "normal" season. Which is why I take photographs (besides the sheer fun of stopping and looking so closely). When I look back at the photographs of what the garden beds USED to look like, I am much better able to appreciate how very far they have come.

Garden beds are a lot like kids. You think those children of yours will never EVER learn to...tie their shoes, cut up their food, appreciate practicing the piano, get over going mute around other grown name it. Then before you know it, they are calling you to offer advice, correcting your own gaps in information, and holding out your chair in restaurants. Once the garden beds fill in they will always be filled in. This stage, as frustrating as I might find it, is transient and won't occur again without enormous effort on my part or some sort of a freak killing frost. So maybe, just maybe, I can slow down, look closely, and ENJOY this time of gradual expansion, rather than fretting over the varieties of plants that naturally establish themselves earliest. Most of these are plants which people consider weeds, but in permaculture there is no such thing as a "weed". There are plants that naturally take advantage of disturbed soil, but they will be eventually replaced by a well balanced culture of vegetables mixed with fruits, herbs and flowers, all beneficial to the soil and local fauna.

And to the local gardeners.

I love my children. I would not ever try to take them back in time. Along the way I hope I appreciated the stages in their lives and was not always in a hurry to get them to do that "next thing".

I enjoy my garden immensely. I will try to appreciate the stage it is going through now, and not only be in a rush to see how it will look "next season".We have come such a long way together, already.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Love Bites - Everybody Eats

It has been interesting watching the activity in our back yard this past week. As we head into a season of plenty, fueled to some extent by the unusually high rainfall totals last year, we are experiencing something of a population explosion.

The two cardinals we've watched year after year are now four, and it appears they are  in the midst of settling some territorial uneasiness as they establish nest sites.  The Carolina wren nest on the front porch is already empty. Mom, Dad and at least one young wren are busy playing a call and response hunter gathering game all around us.

The squirrels this year are enjoying an abundance of loquats - we are still uncertain if they are eating the fruit pulp or going for the seeds.  They drop many to the ground with the seeds still inside.  Other dropped fruits have a tunnel gnawed in with the seeds neatly removed.  It could be they are careless in the midst of so many other easy food choices.  They wouldn't be alone in that behavior, certainly.  
Speaking of easy food choices, it is no wonder the birds are happy.  We have loads of bugs this year. As we are attempting to get organic vegetables to our table I've been made aware of how shockingly uninformed I am about the various six legged companions I have out in the garden.  I have found a few sites to try and help identify bugs, but most of those are focused on insects discovered indoors.   I suppose farmers know from experience.  Helpful predator or potential crop destroyer?  Mostly I watch and guess. 

I had other chastening reminders this week of how the natural "everything eats" train can so easily get shoved off the rails.

My husband and I are enjoying weekly baskets of locally grown organic produce from Tecolote Farms this Spring.  It has been a challenge (in a good way) to respond to the surprise of what was in each week's basket, to plan menus and find recipes and preparation techniques for vegetables we had not tried before.  

We are not alone in finding this a challenge.  One of the other members of the "baskegation" as purveyors Katie and David Pitre refer to us, wrote in, wondering if Tecolote Farm would tell folks further ahead of time what to expect for planning purposes?

Katie and David responded with a reminder that the surprise of what was ready to harvest was not a result of their being coy, but rather a reflection of the quickly changing conditions of the vegetables and fruits they grow in response to weather and infestations.  Quoting from their response: "We will try to do a better job guessing what's coming up, but all we can do it try.  It's harder to predict exactly because of the nature of this farming game.  Many crops are super-sensitive to the weather, and Texas weather is no genteel dame.  Arugula for example, was beautiful last week. We had some heat, it bolted, and now it's too hot and peppery."

The Pitres had written previously about some of the hazards of organic farming in the newsletter they send out with our baskets each week. They'd tried corn again this year and were promptly reminded of why they'd previously vowed "never!" to try to grow organic corn again. Corn, as a prevalent agribusiness crop, has become so entirely dependent upon chemical support to overcome the large number of pests targeting it, that organic farmers are finding it impossible to grow any longer. It is simply too vulnerable in light of the large numbers of infestations that will attack any unprotected source.

We were also reminded to think, if we were to notice holes in the collard greens, of the 90 percent that were discarded as unsuitable for market due to the high numbers of harlequin beetles this year. 90 percent discarded. That is a huge margin for a small family farm.

I am finding it daunting to try and get a few plants going organically in our back yard this year. If my family were dependent upon those crops for their own dinners, and further for the financial support to make house payments and buy gas? We'd be in desperate times, that is for certain.There is a saying, "just because you do not take an interest in politics, doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.". A stark reminder that political policies that would promote outdated agricultural price supports, ignore climate impact and fuel costs, will eventually hurt everybody except for the very, very, rich among us. Everybody eats, or at least NEEDS to....

About Me

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Rollingwood, Central Texas
Family historian by default. Oldest surviving matriarch on my branch of the Family Tree. Story teller, photo taker, gardener, cook, blabbermouth.