Friday, March 12, 2010

Down but not out...

Do you live in Central Texas?  Then by all means please take a look at any live oak tree close to you.  If you live here, there will doubtless be many to choose from.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

You see?  Watch for longer than 30 seconds and I guarantee you're seeing leaves dropping to the ground like sand in an hourglass.

It is "that time" again.  Live Oak Leaf Fall comes first.  Then the airspace under each tree will be filled with inchworms dropping on their silk lifelines and then BAM!  Central Texas will be coated with pollen just as surely as if Emeril himself had been seasoning our world.

I am preparing as best I can, stocking up on tissues and reserving loads of books from the library because starting, oh, about RIGHT NOW and lasting as long as it takes for the leaves to come back and the pollen dangles to go away, I am on indoors quarantine.

Not that I can't leave the house, but every time I do try to be outside for any length of time I begin to sneeze, feel flushed, nose drips like a faucet, heart speeds up and my body adrenalizes like I just ran a race.  I know it SOUNDS like fun.....

And yes, I do the whole allergy medicine dance.  Faithfully.  But I grew up here, I developed my allergies here, and solong as I stubbornly choose to live here I will simply have to take my seasonal knocks.

I'm just saying (OK - it sounds like I am whining and maybe I am - just a little) that my garden will have to fend mostly for itself for a while.  I'll be out, briefly, in the late afternoons when the pollen counts are down, or those days it mists rain and I can work for a bit in rain washed air, but mostly I'll be in.

It won't keep me from taking photographs occasionally of things like this.  The first bluebonnet of the year for us.

And Daffodils!

It may not be official by calendar dates yet but the
thermometer and the oak trees and the bluebonnets (and my nose) never lie.  It is by golly SPRING!

Happy happy Spring, y'all!  Be sure to fully enjoy the mildness before the death star heats back up and the Season of Complaining and Ducking Into Shade is upon us.

This is what we pay for, annually, this is our trade off, the sunny days filled with wildflowers.  Enjoy, be merry, if you do venture out and about, please don't trample the bluebonnets.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If I'd known then

what I know now, I'd never have planted those autumn blooming chrysanthemums under a then leafless pussy willow tree in Salt Lake City, Utah because I would have realized by the time they were blooming they'd be in near total shade and would be leggy things hanging waaaaay out over the sidewalk hunting for sun.

If I'd have known years ago how prolific and how productive loquats are at reseeding under their canopy I would have devised a better mulching under those trees as they began to fruit, rather than carelessly allowing a miniforest to sprout.  Four different times.

Fact of the matter is, after years of trying to grow things, we all make mistakes, we all make good choices, and we all have a little luck, good and bad, along the way.  If we are paying any attention at all, we learn as we go along, and at least make new mistakes, rather than repeating old ones.

Occasionally though, a long hard summer drought like last year will knock me backwards in my estimation of myself as a gardener.  Confidence shaken, I begin to personalize the failures, begin to think I have a brown thumb, that I simply can't get things to thrive and produce.

Blogs are sometimes helpful to help me hold perspective, but typically bloggers (and I include myself in this number) tend towards showing their successes, displaying those near perfect blooms in close or narrow shots that only give a glimpse of Nature at her finest.

It can be daunting.

Today however, I went out and noted that not only have the bulbs in the collection I received from Gardening Gone Wild started coming up ("stem side up....root side down" I kept repeating as I sorted and tried to get those various sized knobs at the appropriate depth), but they are showing signs of actually wanting to bloom.

The bluebonnet patch is finally exerting itself in a truly reseeded, densely packed way that is, for once, not the result of my caving, buying and placing actual plants there.

The tomato seeds I stuck into pots, watered and dragged in and out of sunshine and cooler nighttime temperatures have sprouted.  As they should, yes, but I have put seeds carefully and carelessly into play that have not shown any signs of germination.  Entire packets of them (that means YOU, Anthriscus cerefolium!).  

[Now you are wondering if I am aware others have full fledged tomato plants already, in sufficient numbers to generously share with other gardeners?  I am but shhhh- please don't interrupt me while I am gloating posting.  Like a three year old it will only encourage me to start over, breathlessly, at the beginning of my story....]

These signs of success (and yes!  I fully realize bulbs and seeds are supposed to sprout and bloom and this is not some sign of specialness on my or the bulb's or seed's part), have me feeling all warm and well,  cocky at this moment.  Signs of new and returning growth have encouraged me to believe that, in some reasonable sort of climate, with mostly moderate temperatures and acceptable amounts of rain, I too, am totally awesome moderately capable when it comes to gardening.

Let it be said here and now however.  If I eventually end up with actual tomatoes this year, there will be no living with me.

You've been warned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Waxwing Invasion

Yesterday in the midmorning and throughout most of the afternoon, I was delighted to host an invasion of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum).

Not only was I thrilled to have identified them correctly on sight (this does not happen all that often for me folks, cut me some slack) but I had great fun working on getting a few photographs of them devouring the berries on the weeping yaupon in the back yard.  While resting up from mobbing that small tree, they flitted to other fruiting yaupons in the back and occasionally hit a fruiting ligustrum which is just over the fence from us.

I was careful not to try and get so close that I spooked them from their feasting.  We planted fruiting trees for the birds, not for me to get photos of the birds, so I snapped away from a distance and then put my camera aside to watch and enjoy.

I'd guesstimate we had a flock of 20 or so working the trees around our house yesterday.  Predictably enough, though the trees are not completely stripped, today the birds seemed to have moved on.

I felt fortunate to have been home and paying attention for their several hour visit.  Not a shabby way to start a week, says me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Promises, promises...

All kinds of promises.

Spring has marched in more or less, even if we are technically supposed to wait until the 20th to declare so. The last typical freeze date around here is March 15th, folks are already sporting sunburns around town even as they remark upon our wonderfully brief snowstorm recently, and if I had no idea from my own experience, a quick glance at garden blogs would reveal it is time to get ready for SpuhRINNNNG!

Spring gets a lot of virtual ink in terms of hope and promises.  And to me, the idea of Spring does carry with it big buckets of promise.

There are bulbs that finally (finally!) have sprouted and/or bloomed, assuring me my efforts to get them buried at the correct depth, root side down, were not in vain.

There are bluebonnets showing in numbers adequate to assure reseeding in an area I've been working on for oh, about five years now.  In my mind's eye this corner has always been filled with bluebonnets.  Reality dictated otherwise.  Until this year that is, when some wonderful conspiracy of germination, temperature and moisture seems to have finally turned the ignition on for my Bonnet Patch.

Despite the loquat trees insisting upon blooming and trying to set fruit during a winter of abrupt dips below freezing, there is evidence there will yet be loquats in a few weeks.

The cilantro plants are beginning to look like they might not only survive, but thrive with a bit of warmth and continuing moisture.

I have tomato seeds ready to start indoors, with my determination that THIS will be the year I get another bumper crop. It has to happen sometime, the lesson of my Bluebonnet Patch (don't give up!) is not lost in the shift from flower to fruit.

Spring also promises a shift in our horizon view soon.  These lovely oak trees that are all over our property, indeed all over Central Texas, have survived wilt threats so far, have survived that long hot hell of a summer, and now are readying themselves to shed their leaves and get busy making baby oaks.  A process I would not begrudge them if it were possible for them to do so and for me to simultaneously be allowed to breathe while outdoors.

Sad to say, it is a respiratory showdown, and I come out waving (and sneezing into) a white handkerchief year after year.

Spring and it's promises, promises, all kinds of promises.  Some, like the bluebonnets, bearing the satisfaction of long sought after goals, some, like the tomatoes, bringing guarantees of flummoxing yet to come, and others, like the oak pollen, simply needing to be survived.

And what will summer bring?  Who knows...summer is still far enough away that any potential bullying of the death star seems a faint threat, especially in the cool of a sunny Spring morning.

So off I go to enjoy precisely that, a cool sunny morning out of doors, before the oak trees try to kill me with their slutty awful pollen making.  For now I can garden AND breathe, a victory I'll take while it lasts.

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.