The Dog Days

So, this has been an unusually mild summer, but the heat has hit.  Can’t really complain though – a couple of 100F/38C-degree days in a row which is normal for August in Central Texas.

Not much going on…still going to Abilene about every week so not much new in the garden, but I thought these two photos were nice.  Hope everybody is having a good summer so far!

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Crepe Myrtle Bark Shedding

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Purslane in an Urn

 

Odds and Ends

 

I know I’ve been posting pretty erratically.  I’m still schlepping up to Abilene each week; sometimes twice.  I’ll be so glad when I can finally put that venerable city in my rear-view mirror permanently.  Ah well – that’s probably a while off for now.  Unfortunately, these Abilene sojourns are putting me way behind schedule in the garden.  I doubt I’ll be able to catch up this year – 2014 might actually end up being mulchless…sigh.

The trips to Abilene aren’t all that bad, though.  The wild flowers are stupendous this year.  Here’s a stretch on Highway 71 in Mason County between Llano and Brady.

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So, I past the half-century mark last Sunday.  Funny, I’m 50 but I feel 105.  Doubtless I’m that old geezer that yells “Hey…you kids…get off my lawn!”  I realized that I was old…really old…when I was setting up my mother’s apartment at the assisted living place and, when going through her CDs I thought, “Who listens to this rubbish?!? – AD/DC; Def Leppard; Rush; Cinderella; etc.”  My mother seems to be more hip than me.  My CD collection – vast as it is – starts with polyphonic chant from England and France and taps out at about 1938 with Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey.  During a recent visit, my sister was going on about Kim Kardashian’s wedding to Kanye West.  I’m not sure I know who either of these people are.  She looked at me like I was crazy when I said that Artie Shaw had been married to both Lana Turner and Ava Gardner and that Betty Grable and Harry James had been married.  I really think I’m quite fossilized.

In the yard, it’s been rather like a horror show.  Two weeks ago, I found a six-foot long shed rattlesnake skin in the storage bin where I keep some of my gardening equipment.  I needed a few stiff drinks after that.

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Rattlesnake Skin – 6-foot – YIKES!

At the same time, there was an industrious spider who build a 10-foot wide web between two trees.  The spider was about that same size as a Kennedy half-dollar – another old-geezer reference.  It was fascinating that the birds seem to be able to see the web and avoid it for the most part.

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This evening was a big grilling event.  The main course was grilled pizza, but I didn’t get a selffeed of that.  But here are the corn, carrots, and orange bell pepper I roasted.

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And with the grilled pizza, I had a fantastic Pinot Noir – Arrogant Frog.  A French wine from the Laguedoc, I highly recommend it!

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Arrogant Frog Pinot Noir

Here are some miscellaneous photos from the garden – hope everybody is having a great June!

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Celtic cross in buddleia and Turks’ Cap

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White Althea

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Caladiums and Buddah

 

 

Now is the Month of Maying

Still haven’t had much leisure time lately, but May is here and finally had a free day to work in the garden.

The end of April-beginning of May is the wrap up of the opera season in Houston.  Last weekend was ‘Das Rheingold,’ the start of HGO’s four-year Ring Cycle.  I’ve never seen ‘Rheingold’ and was really looking forward to it.  The music was great, but the staging was typically bizarre.  The Rhein  Maidens were in plexiglass boxes filled with water.  Their costumes looked like something straight out of Barbarella.  Wotan, Fricka, Donner, and Froh were wheeled about on stage in these weird looking things that look like what the power company uses to fix transformers on power lines.  Loge went riding about on stage on a Segway.  Again – bizarre.  After the opera, we ate at Cook and Collins.  A nice place, but challenging to get to.

Friday was Carmen.  What can I say – it was Carmen.  We ate at Batanga, a really interesting South American Tapas bar.  I’d go there again.

So today was my free day in the garden.  I planted a couple of things.  Most interesting was a lantana which had been trained to be a topiary – I hope I can maintain it.

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And my clematis is doing very well this year – enjoy!

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The Old Year Now is Fled Away

It’s hard to believe the year is almost gone; but Winter is definitely here.  I’m sitting outside and it’s 51F/10C, but I’m bundled up and fortified with an exceptionally large mug of glühwein.  So fortified, as a matter of fact, that I determined to honor the word of the year – selfie – with my first one.

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Sock Monkey Cap – Shameless

I suppose a 49-year-old man has no business wearing a sock monkey cap, but there you are.

I was finally able to get out into the garden and do some clean-up.  For the most part, December has been quite cold with several hard freezes.  There really weren’t any last year, so the garden didn’t look as desolate as it does this year.  Actually, winter really teaches me patience and to look for uncommon beauty.  Anyroad, here are some photos from the garden at the start of winter.  Luckily I have next week off, so hopefully I can provide some very delayed posts of our October vacation this year.  If I wait any longer, I’ll be posting them at the same time as next year’s trip to Germany and Norway.

Rather pedestrian, but I really enjoy getting my load of firewood for the year.  For the past several years, I’ve been using Austin Firewood.  I used to order from a place that just dumped it in the driveway, but Austin Firewood actually stacks it for you!  I think they had some problems with their website this year, but per usual, nothing but great service from them.  If you need firewood, definitely call them!

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Half A Cord of Seasoned Oak Firewood

Since we turned the breakfast room into Brian’s aquarium last year, we can’t keep the ficus trees in there when it freezes, so we bought a portable greenhouse that I saw at the Natural Gardener.  The Flower House pop-up green house is pretty easy to put up (two people, 25 minutes – in a stiff wind, no less), and it works very well, but I have to admit, it does block the view of a large part of the garden for four months.  In the best of all possible worlds, I’d like to install a garden shed on the northwest corner that would house the plants when needed.

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Pop-Up Green House – No Frozen Ficuses

The only remaining colour I have in the garden is from the holly trees and my Japanese maple.  I’m not sure if it’s just the species, or if the placement is bad, or what, but my Japanese maple is red only twice a year – when it leafs out in March/April and the week before Christmas, when the leaves fall off.  Anyroad, it’s stunning, particularly at night.

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Japanese Maple

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Holly Berries

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Holly Berries

I am so excited because I am regularly visited by a family of wood peckers!  (Perhaps I need a social life…)  Anywho, here are some photos I got while it was feeding on the suet feeder.  There’s just something really prehistoric about these birds.

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

I seem to return to familiar themes; here’s the birdhouse my great grandfather made when he was a boy.

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Papoo’s Birdhouse

And here’s my scrap-metal chicken and an empty earn.

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Sad Chicken and Empty Urn

And to close out with a wine recommendation.  Recently, I picked up a bottle of Caricature Red Wine from Lange Twins winery.  A cab and zinfandel blend from Lodi, it was one of the best reds I’ve had in a very long time.  I got it primarily for the papparadelle in pumpkin parmesan sauce we had.  Spicy and smoky with a full-on stone fruit taste, it worked exceptionally well with the heavy but homey sauce.  I’ll definitely get this again!  Happy Holiday to all!!

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It’s Fall!

Ah, September and Fall – my favourite time of the year.  Of course in Central Texas, that means lower ’90s, but I’ll take what I can get.  Today is exceptionally beautiful.  After Friday’s rain – between five and seven inches…woo hoo! and Saturday’s transition, today turned out to be clear and fine.  And I love September light; more golden and heavy dappled through the elm tree.

The humming birds are still around, but will probably take off in the next couple of weeks.  The blue jays are more active – and more screechy…another Fall sound.  More owl activity at night, too.

The garden is still thriving.  August wasn’t overly hot, so there’s not that droopy, exhausted look you sometimes get in September.  Here are some recent photos…

A gigantic spider web I found one morning – still amazed by the engineering feat.

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My newest tchotchke – a hanging glass sphere I got at The Natural Gardener.

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The morning glories are coming back to life.

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A new coleus.

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I put out my Fall garden decorations.  I love this scrap-metal scare crow – a tea light goes in its head.

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The black-eyed Susans still going strong.

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And the Turk’s Caps, too.

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Wanderlust

So last week, I went hiking in the Barton Creek Greenbelt behind the house.  I still forget how lucky I am that I can just step out my back gate and be on the trail.  A bit like Bilbo Baggins.

It was one of those “Chamber of Commerce” weather days – amazing for mid-August – low 90s, a light wind from the north and no humidity at all.  You could smell the heat  – cedar.  There’s a great map you can get from the Save Our Springs Alliance Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail Map and Recreation Guide.

So this is what it looks like just a bit further down from the house.

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About 2 miles along the trail, you come to this great vista.  I think the houses are in Lost Creek, but I’m not quite sure.  (I’m horrible with directions.)

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Another picture from the same area – mostly scrub cedar here.

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This is one of my favorite places on this hike.  The stream that made this must have been pretty substantial at one time.  I saw two deer back in the woods, but of course I wasn’t ‘camera ready.’

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This tree is about 5 miles in.  I really like the way this is shaped.

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An interesting barbed-wire fence.

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And then back home again – 10-mile roundtrip in about 2 hours, so not bad for an old man.  (At least Starflight didn’t have to come get me.)

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Gardening Inspiration – China

It wasn’t intentional, but I found that several aspects of my garden were inspired by some of trips we’ve taken.  One of the most different from southwest Austin was our 2007 trip to China.  I really liked all the variations I found on Chinese Guardian Lions, Shishi, (aka Foo Dogs).  Here’s what we have on the deck…

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And here are a couple of the inspiration pieces…

Male Shishi - Forbidden City, Bejing, China 2007

Male Shishi – Forbidden City, Bejing, China 2007

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Female Shishi – Forbidden City, Bejing, China 2007

The other building I loved in Beijing was the Temple of Heaven.  The blue roof was amazing.

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Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China – 2007

And here’s what’s in the back yard (ok, this one is a stretch but it’s the blue element I was after).

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There was a park just northwest of the Forbidden City – Beihai Park  – that offer the first Buddhas we’d see all over China.  First mine…

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And the inspirations –

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Buddha Shrine, Beihai Park, Beijing, China 2007

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Buddha Shrine – Great Goose Pagoda, Xian, China 2007

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The Ghost City of Fengdu was a trip and a half.  It was supposed to be ‘Chinese Hell’ I think.  (It sure felt like it; subtropical heat and humidity with no wind…yikes!).  These are the ‘Soul Judges’ the dearly departed meets in the afterlife…

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Soul Judges – Ming Hill, Fengdu Ghost City, China 2007

And finally, some landscapes from Beijing that I had in mind for the ‘Asian’ part of the yard.

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Asia in Central Texas

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Our bamboo gate in ‘Little Asia’

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Garden of Tranquil Longevity, Beijing, China 2007

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Garden of Tranquil Longevity, Beijing, China 2007

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Garden of Tranquil Longevity, Beijing, China 2007

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Garden of Tranquil Longevity, Beijing, China 2007