Monday, May 6, 2013

Our newest project

 This past year, James graciously agreed not to mow the adjoining lot, which we'd been calling the Meadow. It's been so fun and educational watching the plants, grasses and insects that inhabit the field. However, I knew the city maintenance crews would soon be mowing their easement along the Ninth and Cedar street sides of the Meadow. Bummer because a lot of cool species grow there. So I decided to write a letter [see below] to the council and ask if we could maintain the area ourselves. Long story short, they agreed! In the meantime, I'd suggested to James that we put up a sign so people would know we are caring for the area and that it's just not a "vacant lot." He agreed. I knew what I wanted–a "park" sign. I even went to Blanco State Park and measured some of their signs. So I looked around and found Jeff Ransom with I ordered the sign and got it within a week! Last Saturday, James put it up for me. Doesn't it look GREAT?

March 26, 2013

Dear Blanco Mayor, City Council and Public Utilities Director:

My husband, James Hearn, and I live at on Ninth Street. Since 2007, we’ve been primarily planting native Texas plants and working to turn our yards into a native wildlife habitat. In 2008, we were certified as a Texas Wildscape by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Last November, Mark Klym with TPWD’s Wildlife Diversity program designated our Wildscape as a community demonstration site. At your convenience, James and I invite you to come by and see what we’re doing with our property, which stretches across two lots where our house sits and an adjoining lot, which we call The Meadow.

On that note, we would like to make a simple request. Could the city crews please not mow the Ninth and Cedar street easements that border our property and more especially, The Meadow? Instead, we would prefer to maintain the areas ourselves. Respectfully, we ask that for three reasons.

First, we are working to restore a large area left bare and topped with caliche on the Ninth Street side by city workers who installed new water lines a few years ago. No mowing would allow native species to return. Many now grow in those areas, including prairie verbena, Texas stork’s bill, silverleaf nightshade, rabbit tobacco, greenthread, green milkweed (a caterpillar host plant for monarch and queen butterflies) and lots more. 

Secondly, we are fighting to control and eliminate Malta star-thistle, an invasive species akin to the prolific bastard cabbage that is invading our area’s roadsides and pastures. Last spring and summer, we hand pulled as much as we could that had taken over your north and east side right-of-ways along our Meadow. This spring, the thistle is returning, but we’re trying hard to keep it at bay so it doesn’t move into the Meadow. We pick them as small as tiny seedlings. The seeds are easily spread via tires, mowing equipment and other means.

Thirdly, with our designation as a community demonstration site, that gives us the unique opportunity to serve as an outdoor classroom for school children, Master Gardeners and Naturalists, and the general public. What’s more, we’re within walking distance of all our schools. Thus, science teacher Pam Meier at the Blanco Middle School plans to bring some of her students to tour our gardens. Today, Ray Buchanan with the Highland Lakes Master Gardeners will bring the current class of Master Gardeners to see our Wildscape.

Since 2008, I’ve blogged about our Texas Wildscape (“Window on a Texas Wildscape) and am writing a book by the same title. Our goals on Ninth Street are twofold: Replace habitat that’s being destroyed by ongoing development, and inspire others to plant more Texas natives.

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers & James Hearn

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