Monday, February 20, 2017

Springing into spring

Look! The golden groundsel is blooming! So pretty! We've had a couple of good rains this month so hopefully it's going to be a beautiful spring.
 Our daffodils took a beating from last night's rains.
Since the weather turned pretty this afternoon and I felt better (James and I for the past week had variations of the flu that's going around), I tackled more pruning jobs in the yard. James mowed my debris piles. I figure I'll prune as I can when the weather's nice, and I'm able. And oh, James took down the wooden arbor that had been covered with passionflower vines and stood over the concrete bench (above). The wood was rotting. Bummer.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Purple martin chapter done

Heavy sigh. It's true. My years of trying to attract purple martins and start a colony have officially ended. We bought the three-story house in 2009 to celebrate my big 50th birthday. Finally, a pair built a nest in May 2013 and laid FOUR EGGS! I was so excited. Right before they should have hatched, the eggs vanished, likely the victims of a rat snake (yes, we had a predator guard up). I was devastated. In 2014 and 2015, we added gourds to the house, hoping that would attract new martins. Nada. Last year, I didn't bother to put up the house. Between fighting sparrows and not seeing much martin interest, I gave up. My heart wasn't in it any more.

Today, James and I met the new owner of my purple martin house (yes, I sold everything). Michelle, who's had martins before and owns Red Sun Landscape Design, said she'd keep me updated and send photos when she gets martins. That'd be so wonderful to see the house full and busy with happy purple martins! I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for you, Michelle! Good luck!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Welcome, spring?

Gulf fritillary on last of quince blooms
Hi! Remember me? It's been a while since I've blogged. Typically, I go into hiding when the temps drop and the sun disappears. But lately, we've had a few nice days, and I've ventured outside to begin my pruning tasks. This afternoon, it's 84 degrees out there! Welcome to spring in Texas! It could be blustery and cold one day, and the exact opposite in 24 hours. 

Speaking of spring, it's begun for sure..... 
Tenpetal anemone
First daffodil!

Maximilian sunflower stems need my attention

Rusty blackhaw viburnum leafing out!

American robin
Fragrant mistflower needy, too.

I've tackled most of the inland sea oats.

Mexican hats ready to get growing!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Farewell, Lovely Assistant

Gabe 2003-2017
We have three cats. Wait. We used to have three cats. Yesterday we had to let Gabe go. And my heart breaks as I type this.

I rarely, if ever, post photos of our cats on this blog. That's because the Texas Wildscapes program frowns on domestic cats in a Wildscape. Which I have always completely understood and accepted. We're not indoor-cat people so they live outside and in our garage. Thus, I sorta kept Gabe, Abe, and Mandy a secret.

But today, I must share. Because, I realize, that by sharing I can pay tribute to a creature that I loved. And perhaps the sharing will help ease the hurt. 

Because all I really want to do at the moment is cry for my loss.
Gabe and Abe, 2003
My daughter and I adopted Gabe and his brother Abe as kittens in 2003 (they started out as Abby and Gabby 'til a rear-end view straightened THAT out several months later). They were born across the street and replaced a sweet calico named Macie who came into our lives in 2002. But someone shot her with a pellet gun, which left her paralyzed. So we had to let her go. In the meantime, Macie had taken a feral gray kitten under her wing. I named her Mandy (Lindsey wanted to call her Bundy...I'm sorry, Lindsey). Owl eyed and fluffy, Mandy wouldn't let us touch her for years. She'd sleep with Macie in her cardboard box in the garage. For only a short time, she was an only cat. Because then Gabe and Abe came along.

For all these years since, we had three cats. 
Gabe, Abe and Mandy
Until yesterday. Unbeknownst to me, Gabe had been losing weight for probably the past month. It was hard to tell because of all his fur! But Lindsey caught it as soon as she petted and held him last week. "Mom, you gotta take him to the vet!" she exclaimed. "I can feel his backbone!" And so she and I drove him over to the vet clinic. He'd lost nearly half his body weight! Surprisingly, his blood work came back clear. We were stumped. Maybe he'd just decided not to eat his dry food any more? So I decided we'd fed him wet food and turkey meat and plump him back up. 

For nearly a week, we tried. But every other day, he'd throw everything back up. While we were gone overnight on an magazine assignment, Gabe stayed in the hospital. Fighter that he is, he ate. But sooner or later, it'd come back up.

And so, yesterday after we returned home, James and I made the sad decision. 

We had to let Gabe go.
All that said, what I'd really like you to know about Gabe is that he was my Lovely Assistant in our gardens. Wherever I'd go, there he'd be, right by my side. Sometimes he'd just show up out of nowhere. "How did you know I was out here?" I'd ask him when I was out in the Meadow or in a corner of the yard. And, oh, how he loved for me to pick him up in my arms and carry him around the yard! After awhile, he'd get too heavy, and I'd have to set him back down.

The funny thing is, I'd get SO FRUSTRATED because he often wouldn't get out of my way when I was trying to take a photograph or prune a plant. He lay down right in the way! 

"Gabe, MOVE!" I'd say with exasperation. Because I couldn't work, I'd pick him up and plop him out of reach. But he'd come right back. He was stubborn that way. "MOVE, Gabe!" I'd tell him. "Yes, I know I'm going to miss you someday when you're gone, but right now, I need you to MOVE!" 

Yes, I said those very words. I know I did.

And I do. I miss him. 

He was right there just two weeks ago when I pruned the Mexican bush sage in the front yard and the sawtooth daisy stems in the back. He must have been feeling bad then, but still, he had to be my Lovely Assistant. How can I go back out in the yard now without him?

But I will. Soon. There's a lot of work to be done out there. For now, I grieve. Soon I'll heal. That's the cycle of life's seasons. 

Thank you for listening.

Gabe and his brother were also our "yard art."

James, Lindsey and me with Gabe
Abe and Gabe

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Frostweed performance

Any one else spot some frostweed (Verbesina virginica) this morning? If you did, then you know how it acquired its common name. We took a short drive in town this morning, and when I saw some white stuff at the bottom of some plants, I blurted out, "Spittle bugs!" THEN I remembered. "No, that's FROSTWEED!" I told James. "And we have some of our own. Can you stop by so I can get some pictures?"

Sure enough, the frostweed that I transplanted from my mother's property in Kendall County was performing, too (frostweed grows in Blanco County). According to, this species "has soft, fleshy green flanges running longitudinally down its length. When winter weather brings ice, the stems exude water that freezes into fascinating shapes; hence, its common name of frostweed."

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Went fishin' UPDATE

Weather forecasters are predicting harshly cold temps for the next few days. So I decided to go fishin' this afternoon. 

After last year's mild winter, most of my gambusia survived. But in years past, I've ended up with hardly any left after winter months. This time, I figured that if the temperatures are going to stay low for several days, I don't want to take the chance of losing my gambusia, especially a couple of old timers.  So I got a net and caught as many as I could. I'll return them to the stock tank probably mid week. I'll be curious to see if the others that got left behind survive. 

We've had our stock tank for five years now, and I've never done this before. So we'll see how it goes!

UPDATE DECEMBER 22, 2016 So I just returned my surviving gambusia to the stock tank. I did lose two in the garage sleepover. But I'm glad I did fish out as many as I did because I'm pretty sure I lost all the ones I left behind. They froze to death. 

Don't laugh (too hard), but I also brought in two thread-legged bugs that live on our screen porch door. I kept them in a plastic critter box next to our bed. Two days ago, I let them back out. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2016