Closing the fifth day.

“Hope you don’t feel like I think you’re doing nothing. You’re doing important work.”

Exactly what I needed to hear today.

I find myself with conscious gratitude surfacing more and more as bed rest continues. Is it the slowing down that allows room for it to grow? Is it the perspective shift front and center bringing gratitude into focus more clearly?

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I’m grateful for mother daughter strawberry picnics on blankets with airplanes flying overhead.

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I’m thankful for an over-extended partner extending himself even further to keep us all going, garden included.

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I’m grateful for our small village who wash dishes or do “splash splash” (bath time) or just sit and talk politics and nonsense with me.

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I’m grateful for fresh muffins made while I sleep in and for the financial ability to stomach a pretty decent property tax hike.

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I’m grateful for “smoo” (smooth) and “buhpee” (bumpy) pebbles, and the daughter that carries them to my pillow and blanket fort to tell me about them.

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And I’m grateful that for another day, our little Blueberry is still growing safe and sound in my belly.

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Before the freeze…

The ice (or snow, or both) that gripped so much of the country only gave a whisper of ice to those of us in Central Texas. Just the same, we had multiple nights in the 20s and a full 48 hours that didn’t rise above freezing. There were preparations to be done. The first of which? Capturing some final photos before the greenery melted and the flowers were zapped from their stems.

In came the African Blue Basil…
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Last year after the harvest, I left the roots in the soil in an attempt to maintain any microbial web they’d built in the soil. I was rewarded in the spring with a returning specimen. Fingers crossed for the same this spring…

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The rosemary in the background didn’t even shiver, but the butterfly weed has lost all vigor. Others I’ve pruned into the compost now that they’ve finished the cycle.

Texas Hummingbird Sage

Sage

Sage

Lantana

Snap dragon

Berries

The bees will surely miss the loss of so many winter blossoms. I will miss the bees until their return after a few sleepy months.

This one barely barely blinked with each passing freeze. I’ve forgotten its name – does anyone know?
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Perhaps it will keep any wakeful bees busy enough until the reemergence of nectar pots…

And Bill the Lime Tree came inside, complete with two limes left to savor when the winter doldrums set in.
Bill

Put your feet up…

I had many plans for today. Beans and peas in the soil. Brassica family starts from the farmer’s market into the shady new bed…

Plans are funny things. I like plans. Perhaps as much as I like surprises. (I make sense. Promise.) I do well with plans or surprises. I do not do so well with plans that change or fall through or are otherwise lost. In becoming aware over the years of this facet of myself, I’ve found ways around it, or through it, or on occasion, standing straight up in it until it passes overhead like a thundercloud threatening that never delivers. So today is not full of digging in the earth. Nor is it full of getting ready for a short work week. Or making a blackberry pie as planned for a Labor Day Feast.

Why?

Well, let’s just say that instead, I’m holed up on the sofa, crutches close at hand. My ankle lost last night in a soccer match against a leg stronger than mine. Thankfully it wasn’t broken. I went down this same road almost fifteen years ago now. Air cast. Ice. Elevate. Aggravate your other leg’s knee with your hopping about because I’m-only-going-right-there-and-don’t-need-crutches-for-such-a-short-distance.

So instead, I’ll say hello to you all. I’ll draft the plans for the brassica and other winter garden tenants, maybe. I’ll see if there’s a leftover Premier League match on the internet, maybe. I’ll poke at the swelling, definitely. And I’ll ponder on how a work week will look with only manual transmission cars at my disposal…

I did manage a few things before becoming a one-legged-stubborn-hopper…I made a sidewalk.

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When we first moved here, the 6″ wide strip between the sidewalk and the house was full of St. Augustine. Mowing and edging 6″ of grass seemed silly. Out it came. The grocery store had soft fuzzy sage specimens for $4. I picked up two. One went in this strip of soil to be baked in its concrete confines and watered rarely. It housed an Anole (who has since moved to the compost pile) and provided shade to the toads. It also grew from about 6″ tall and 3″ wide to about 3′ tall and 5′ wide. Oops? DH has been missing the sidewalk (that leads to the back patio, that houses the grill, that rains down delicious food like mana from the sky) so I figured it was time to make a sidewalk.

In so doing, I found a few things. I found another melon growing on the vine that gave me this delicious morsel.
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I found a spinach bouquet where I had forgotten I’d sown spinach.
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And then I realized I needed someplace to put the large cubic volume of sage. The garden could use a little mulch…but I’d lost the battle against the mealybugs for the tomatoes and didn’t want to mulch them in for the winter…so out they came.
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And in went the sage mulch.
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I’m hoping the strong smell of the sage will confuse any leftover mealybugs enough that they don’t move in on my peppers (hiding in the sage). I feel like each August is a battle against the mealybugs. Last August I won. This August I lost. Year before I won. Year before they did…perhaps next year will be mine again.

It’s a squash, it’s a cucumber, it’s a…melon?

I started a strawberry bed last fall. There’s a six inch deep, eight inch wide, and twenty foot long concrete trough between the foundation of the house and the sidewalk in the backyard. With strawberry’s tendency to take over the bed they’re in, I figured the concrete cage would keep them in check. (I later learned they simply crawl over sidewalks, but that’s another story.)

I gave them straw mulch over the winter, some sand and compost in the spring, and they gave me strawberries from January through last month.

The compost also gave me some volunteers. A few tomatoes that gave up at 18″ tall, a pepper sprout or five that keeled over at 5″, and what is either purslane or a weed I don’t know yet.

Another volunteer it gave was what I assumed was a squash. It started with the dark green split leaf sprout of squashes. But then it started to hint that maybe it wasn’t a squash.

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It wasn’t hurting the strawberries, so I waited to see what it would do next.

This six inch by eight inch trough was also where I planted a little $2 sage plant from the grocery store. “It’ll make a nice 1′ by 2′ sidewalk edge plant,” I thought. “It’ll smell nice,” I thought. “We can cook with it all the time,” I thought. (I was right on two of those thoughts. The thing has been pruned multiply times and is still about three feet tall, six feet wide, and three feet deep…)

The volunteer I now assumed to be a cucumber made its way into the sage…
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And then the rains came. Our spring was great for gardening, as I’d mentioned. And by great, I mean that we actually had a spring. That lasted for months instead of days. Even our summer was postponed and when in previous years we’d already had 24 days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, we’d only had 6. The rains that came soaked the strawberries with purpose and a vengeance. The strawberries laid down in surrender.

In doing so, they revealed a treasure (and ruled out cucumbers…)
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No one in this house eats watermelon or honeydew. I think it must be some variety of muskmelon/cantaloupe…that looks like a watermelon. Which variety of melon…is the final mystery of this detective novel.

Fall is here.

Fall has started early this year here in Central Texas. Last year we didn’t see temperatures stay below 100 until October. We didn’t see rain until November. This year, the rain has already come. Today’s rain is a steady drizzle soaking the earth, enabling the oaks to soak up their thousands of gallons, the summer stresses to be washed from the shrubs, and the winter growth to start off strong. The rain earlier in the week came light and quick – just enough to wet the streets, muddy the gutters, and dust off the heat.

Fall in Texas is different from the Pacific Northwest of my childhood in many ways. One of the ways that I still am not used to, is the behavior of the trees.

Depending on variety, some trees behave as expected. They have bud break in spring, turn itchy green before summer, find their golden hues in the fall, and drop leaves to the floor with the frost. Others, behave as above with a second bud break. This tree already had its leaves, most of which were lost in the heat of the summer, but it is still driven by the need to put forth its progeny. This bud will break into a few itchy-green leaves, and one bunch of powdery seeds.

Speaking of fall, does anyone know of the best way and time to prune an overgrown sage?

This is a hybrid variety that is growing in maybe six inches of soil depth, with neglectful watering, and still managed to take over the sidewalk in its entirety. I had its twin in the front bed, pruned it back months ago, and it has since died for my efforts.

Also noted in this photo: the strawberries survived and I’m overdue on edging the lawn.

This earlier arrival of fall has helped make up my mind on sowing some cooler weather varieties. Earlier this week I made it into the backyard bed to sow some peas – Golden Sweet and Sugar Ann. The Golden Sweet claims to grow 6′ tall and have purple flowers. I’m looking forward to the little paintbrushes of color in the future. Sugar Ann claims to not need any structure, and I’m going to believe it. It took a few days longer to sprout than the Golden Sweet. Both were up within the week. Now to use the giant bamboo pole DH brought home for me to construct a climbing structure for the Golden Sweet…

Sown yesterday:

  • Garlic – Cheyenn Purple, Silver white, and California Select
  • Onions – Austrialian Brown and Violet de Gamme
  • Cucumbers – third year saved Marketmore 76
  • Beets – Detroit
  • Broccoli – Early Green Heirloom (I’m not sure this is the actual name…) both sown and transplanted
  • Kale – Lark’s tongue
  • Chard – Perpetual
  • Collards – Even’ Star Land Race
  • Lettuce – transplanted a few mysteries. They could be any of about eight varieties.

I was set to also transplant some Amazing Cauliflower…until I started working their bed and dug straight down into a giant fire ant nest. Escaping with a single bite (and no sting) I called it done for the day.

An herbalicious mess.

When I planted each of these less than 18 months ago, they were from cute little 4″ pots, or even smaller transplants of my own. I over-pruned the sage in the back this spring (oops…) which created room for the rosemary to expand (and DH rarely cooks with rosemary.) The Italian Oregano made SO many seeds last year, I could plant an acre or more, and it’s starting up again. Nevermind those lovely purple trumpets on the Mexican Oregano, they can stay as they keep the bees, butterflies, and other flyers happy.

The volunteer Texas Hummingbird Sage and Thai Basil are popping up in some far-away places! Here they are fighting the good fight against some more Henbit.

And those green onions I had in a jar on the kitchen counter? They’ve earned a pot – right next to my new watering can that I like maybe a little more than a sane person should.

The tops of the onions made it onto a burger for DH the other day. I’m curious to see how many more times it will re-grow.

Speaking of re-growing? This guy had co-existed peacefully with five seed trays for the last month.

Notice I said “had.” This morning I was awoken by DH, who was obviously unhappy. When I inquired what was the matter, he said he had some bad news. I automatically started running various grandparents through my mind and then he explained that the truce was broken and four of my seed trays were demolished by the charming-looking feline pictured above.

I worked quickly, plucking the wee sprouts from the piles of tossed earth and replanting them in a resurrected tray. The cat has been locked in the other room all day. We’ll see how I feel about letting him out tomorrow.

Fingers crossed that the baby cauliflower, broccoli, lettuces, and greens recover. So much for keeping track of varieties this year…

If it works, why change it?

Sometimes I want to keep trying different things. “Optionizing” as DH calls it. I can optionize any decision into the dirt if left to my own devices without any constraints. When I first started planning my Heat Bed, I made use of a handy local annual publication Native and Adapted Landscape Plants. Each year a new version is put together thanks to Grow Green and I find it calling to me from the counters of the garden shops I tend to frequent in the first quarter of each year. And – it’s free!

I started the plans for the Heat Bed last fall. I pulled out my free guide and quickly filtered the options down to any plant that was listed as both “Sun” and “VL” for “Full Sun” and “Very Low Water Requirements.” From there, I narrowed the field to any plant whose maintenance was listed as either “No maintenance required” or “Cut back in January.” After all, this landscape will someday be a rental again and I wanted this bed to last.

With a narrowed list (of eight options) I took my measuring tape, graph paper, pencil, straight edge, and eraser into the front yard. Quickly abandoning the straight edge, I came up with Plan A.

My eight options took me around the Land of Internet Nurseries to check pricing, availability, and any possible conflicting information. I arrived at Landscape Mafia. A wish list was made, and thanks to my thoughtful parents – plants arrived just in time for Christmas! When I had found Landscape Mafia, I had no idea how very local they were. I had wondered how plants such as the Fragrant Mimosa would handle shipping. Then one day, arriving home from work, there they were! Apparently shipping had been avoided in favor of the more reliable (and faster) delivery method of one of the nice fellows from Landscape Mafia delivering the plants himself! That’s right. I had apparently just missed him, but he had pulled up in his small SUV and unloaded the pots onto the porch. You can believe that walking up to a porch decorated in new foliage lead to grins of delight and exclamations of joy!

And just like how this post has gotten a smidge side-tracked, so did my plans for filling the Head Bed. The tree in Plan A had to come down in January. I luckily and gratefully discovered the community gardens and suddenly had five times the space to plan for edibles before the heat came. Work geared up more than expected for the first quarter (and the second, and now the third…) and the Heat Bed was left for another day.

I finally installed the plants from Christmas, only to them slowly lost to random mishaps. I was down to four plants from seven (when Plan A had included 43.) So I went into old habits and concocted Plan B. Nurseries had plenty of shade options, but unless I wanted agave, succulents, or manfriedas, I was out of luck. Home Depot claimed “sun-loving” and I took the bait. Thankfully, it was cheap bait, because most of those are now gasping in the heat. I could keep them alive with daily watering, but that defeats my desired journey with the bed.

I’m going to leave the Heat Bed for now. Anything I plant now won’t have a strong chance of survival with the days only getting hotter, and drier, until October. Plan C will look more like Plan A. Sure, the 40′ Silver Maple is gone. But the Fragrant Mimosa gained a foot these last six weeks, the Mexican Bush Sage is still blooming it’s purple velvet plumes, and at least one of the little orange daisy bunches is hanging in there.

Plan C may have one of these:

And I’m still dreaming of a gathering of these:

I may’ve accidentally taken my spade through a main root line of my Moss Verbena, but am hoping it makes it through the summer to recover this winter and look more like this again: