The Texas Garden in February

*This is, I promise, not a thumb in the eye to everyone dealing with something rhyming with “bee molar cortex.”*

Winter in Texas is different. We still have to mow- not because the grass isn’t mostly dormant- it is- but because the weeds aren’t.

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It’s only MOSTLY dormant- which means it’s slightly alive!

So the yard is still green, just don’t look too closely because the lushest thickest greenest parts in winter… are the patchiest St. Augustine grass in summer thanks to all this crab grass that looks so great right now.

And in winter I have to weed more than in summer- like I did last weekend in the driveway bed. Seeds are coming up thanks to all the rain (it’s raining now actually)- thing is I didn’t like, plant many seeds, you dig? Most of the emerging plants and seedlings were weeds and got the ol’ heave ho. But there is returning coreopsis and mexican hat- so I’m happy about those old friends returning again for another year.

There are also about 20 reseeded larkspur, which I am so thankful for- they’re one of my favorites and I’ve been trying to grow them for over 15 years! There are gardens right here in Texas full of larkspurs- I’ve seen with mine own eyes 50′ beds of larkspur… but here all I get are a few small stragglers. I am a gardener on a mission though. So while the larkspur are spotty, there are at least some of them, and more than there were last year. In classic “of course they are” fashion- the seedlings are almost all hugging the far side of the bed next to the neighbor’s house. Do I smell or something, larkspurs? Like, rude.

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The one seedling that is on our side of the bed, so it’s the one that got it’s picture taken. We reward good behavior around here, larkspurs. (Also- groan with all the acorns this year…)

I actually do know what the deal is- larkspur like sandy well drained soils- and I’ve almost always been on clay. I’m working on the tithe, constantly, so maybe one day. One day.

It is obviously winter though- so it’s an odd juxtaposition all around- dormant grass and green lawn weeds. Cut back perennials and blooming annuals. Leafless trees and roses in bud and bloom. Dead leaves and new seedlings.

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Give me violas to pansies, any day

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Love me some cyclamen. I always wait till they’re out of bloom at Lowes and then buy them for $1 instead of $4.99 for a quart sized pot- sheesh that people won’t buy something if it isn’t in active bloom is CRAZY to me. To my benefit on the sales racks though, so I shouldn’t bitch. They always start reblooming within mere weeks of buying them.

I should say the trees are mostly leafless (that means they’re slightly in leaf! I’m gonna overuse that quote I swear to god). While all the reasonable trees on the street are bare, our red oak out front is still shaggy with dead leaves- and will remain like that all the way until the new leaf buds start.

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Get a haircut, hippy!

There are new cultivars of red oaks that not only have better fall color (ours is more purple/maroon/brown than red) but they are also better at self cleaning. We’ll continue to have a slow shed of brown leaves all winter, so will never be without piles of leaves on the ground, but the tree will still look just like this. (If it was oil and not leaves it’d be Hanukkah.)

But even with that annoyance- I love the tree. At our old house the entire neighborhood was  Arizona Ash trees- just the crappiest tree the world has ever known- they shouldn’t even count as real trees! So to have a red oak and a nice pecan to call our own… I’ll take them even with the shaggy winter look.

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Seriously though, Red Oak- you see those OTHER trees? Being GOOD trees? I’ll give you a cookie?

The roses are all blooming and setting buds… which poses it’s own conundrum. Like I mentioned, it is extra warm and wet this winter, so the roses haven’t really gone dormant. And while lovely, the deadline for pruning is coming up quickly. Texas rose pruning deadlines are easy to remember- it’s mid February. Roses. Valentine’s Day. Easy peasy. But I’m just going to have to wait till after blooming this year.

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Look at all those buds on the Belinda’s Dream! And a stealthy cat.

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And the Marie Pavie is in full bloom- such a lovely little thing- one of my favorites. It’s a small shrub rose and doesn’t need any heavy pruning. Was a birthday gift from my husband and replaces the one left at our old house when we moved.

As for the rest of the driveway bed, the snapdragons are coming in nicely. Though they are unfortunately in the same spot as some daffodils I forgot about and with a nicotinia that is coming back. I’d call it the french intensive method of packing plants, but the truth is I just forgot the daffodils were there and the nicotinia was a survivor when I pulled the rest out thinking they were dead. D’oh!

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Dead leaves… is like mulch. Soil nutrients, yes yes, that’s the ticket!

And while, if timed correctly, the blooms of all three of these would be lovely together, the daffodils are sure to go first and then the snapdragons will start just as soon as the daffodil leaves start to yellow- and are sure to look like nose hairs sticking out of the snapdragons. And then twenty bucks while the green or white or maroon nicotinia would look lovely with the all pink snapdragons, I just bet this survivor will be the weird dusty pink that will be the only color that’d look weird with the bubblegum pink snapdragons. I guess time will tell and we shall see, won’t we?

And thanks to a question in the comments for a previous post- a taste test has been done to determine if decorative kale tastes the same as edible kale.

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Stop. Standing. In. Your. Own. Light.

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Decorative kale

The results are in:  all children preferring the decorative kale (who wouldn’t want to eat a Dr. Seus plant, amiright?) My take is that it is very bland, but lacking in bitterness entirely, so has a future as a garnish. Maybe a leaf floating on a cocktail served in a coup glass if I was up for that kinda thing? (the garnish, not the cocktail in the coup glass- I am very much up for that.)

And so it may be February, but here is to more wet weather, warm houses, and the coming spring… good things to come!

A Cat Update and Things and Thoughts

The well is a bit dry today… so I’m going back to one of my favorite pump primers and seeing where a random word generator will lead us. First though, a cat update.

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It’s microchip official. It’s like marrying your pet.

Alabama, our just under one year old former stray adoptee, is just back from the vet after getting all the standard nips and shots. He had a bit of a rough go at it I think- when I dropped him off on Tuesday he had this tiny little squeaky baby voice meow- very cute coming from quite a large tomcat and the girls and I were big fans. When I picked him up the next day he had a much deeper and rougher voice. I actually commented on it and told the vet tech that had to be the first time a voice got deeper after a neuter! She said no, it was just because he meowed for 30 hours. Straight. I could tell in the way she said it that she wasn’t sad to see him go home. Poor guy!

Also, he’s taken to following me around and napping near me more often during this week. I think he sees me as his rescuer from the horror that was the vet office; forgetting that I was the one to take him there in the first place. I would fall to my knees and declare “It’s my fault! I’m so sorry!” but it’d be immediately followed by “And I’d do it all again too!” so I don’t bother. He slept it off most of Wednesday and now on Sunday it’s like nothing even happened.

So now onto… Random Word Prompts!

Strew: I don’t strew much in this life, besides blog posts and flowers seeds; being a more ordered and controlling person by nature. But the word reminds me of this quote: “Don’t worry about being scattered; remember that stars and seashells are scattered too.” Too much order and too much control are a bad thing- like that one planet in A Wrinkle in Time, so I should try to keep it more loose.

Winter: Well like, it IS winter, so not really going to be breaking new ground with that. But Texas winter is not like real winter. The grass is still green and we hang out outside a lot. It’s interspersed with cold days, and we’re probably getting into the real bits now- but by mid February it’ll be planting time for the hardier annuals and veggies. It still gets dark before 6pm though, so that blows.

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And in fact some of the hardier veggies are already in. No the Toscano kale doesn’t need tomato cages… aside from it keeps the dog from running through it or peeing on them. Even the best of dogs is still a dog.

One thing that I do (remember that controlling thing I mentioned) is I watch what color plants I put in the front yard to ensure that flower colors don’t clash with the Christmas decorations. So no yellow or orange out front, even though they’re some of my favorite flower colors. We had roses and geraniums and a few others bloom through Christmas… it’s a thing I pay attention to.

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The pink and bright purples are mostly in the back as well, like these decorative kale. Kales? What’s the plural of kale actually? (Google says it’s “kale.”) The decorative kale is right next to the vegetable kale-  and this makes me uncomfortable in ways I can’t really put my finger on…

Also, no one think I’m rubbing the mildness of our winters in their snow chapped faces- we just trade the months that are impossible to be outside with you northerners. July and August are MISERABLE and we tend to not be outside nor do outdoor activities during those times. It all balances out, promise.

Unaccountable: Something unexplainable… okay. I know exactly what this should be actually, but hesitate because it seems so insane to write out. Nothing ventured, nothing… alright. Here we go.

One morning in a summer many a long year ago (I was 10ish) my brother and I woke up before sunrise.

Let me back up. I woke up, immediately threw my legs over the bed, and walked out of the dark room. This is the antithesis of how I woke up in those days- which ALWAYS entailed sleeping much later and until I was dragged out of bed by my mom. I was also completely afraid of things under my bed… and so would wait for her to come get me so the alligator couldn’t. So every bit of this one morning is out of character.

Even weirder? My brother turning the corner out of his room at the same time I walked out of mine. Even weirder than that? We said nothing to each other, and just both walked to the front door, unlocked it, and went and sat on the stoop outside… to stare at a light in the distance, that slowly rose straight up and disappeared into the just starting to lighten sky.

I can still feel the marble of the front hall on my feet. And the stoop was so low as to be uncomfortable (only a few inches above the sidewalk.) I can remember sitting there and the size of the light we were looking at. (It was round, white, and slightly larger than how Venus looks in the night sky.)

My brother and I said NOTHING the whole time we sat there. It was probably an hour before Mom woke up and found her children sitting outside the front door. (I can’t remember if we shut it behind us.) But being a parent now I can’t imagine the heart attack this caused her.

My brother and I talk about it now every few years- just to confirm to each other that it wasn’t a dream I guess. But nope- we both remember it. It happened. It’s completely impossible for me to explain. One of those things I guess, like how I don’t really believe in ghosts but have heard them. Or how I don’t believe in aliens… but don’t think that was what the light was… but don’t know what it could have been… but it can’t have been that. But dammit… it was something. (I just called him to re-re confirm. This happened. He’s thinking ball lightening these days.)

I never speak of it honestly, though I guess now I just did. Maybe because it is so unaccountable. Maybe because I know if someone told it to me I would roll my eyes and judge them for such ridiculousness. Maybe because… I just don’t talk about it.

Bright: We painted our bathroom on the very last day before I had to go back to work from the holidays- on a day we had my folks over for dinner too, actually- and our bathroom is much brighter now, which I love. It was a lot to cram into a day- but it sure felt great to accomplish it.

The difference in switching from a flat sheen in paint to satin is IMMENSE in the brightness of your rooms. We also went from a dead looking but warm beige to a cooler grey/light blue. (I realize no one wants to read about paint after the Steven King-esque incident I just wrote up there… I’m trying to plow through myself, so let’s slog through together here okay?)

Anyway, we’re continuing the quest to banish ALL beige from the house… and same as our last house- looks like our bedroom is going to be the very last place we paint. It should be the first! The bedroom should be a sanctum! And yet… it’s easy to put priority on the public spaces of our house. It’s on the to do list in 2019, promise.)

As for the bathroom- it actually is giving me a bit of trouble. I tend to LIKE warmer colors- but the painting I really like in there is in cool colors. (Seen HERE. ) The painting looks good with the new wall color and the marble counters and floors. But NOW how to warm it up and tie it into the bedroom with the warmer colors in there? How to bridge this gap without clashing… I’m spending some real mind space and time on this ‘un.

Taste: Hmm. I have developed a taste for many things I didn’t like as a kid- chicken skin. Eggs. Bone in Chicken. Stuffed peppers. But god damn is caviar the grossest thing I’ve ever tasted and i can’t imagine that ever changing. Especially the big red salmon ones. Lord!

Mice Flying and the Pardon

Just kidding, it’s another post about ice dying and the garden.

So… after the debacle of the last 2 scarves… THIRTY pashminas and scarves and then 20 handkerchiefs showed up… creating a bit of uneasiness on the order of WELL WHAT THE HELL AM I GONNA DO NOW?!

So… first step. Test every scarf with both dye types to see what takes. I chose, since they were open, the black dye for natural fabrics and the turquoise for synthetics. We know the turquoise dye takes like a denim-y blue, so both of those could work with just about anything I subsequently dye with. You see how well reasoned that was? Let’s see how that turned out.

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So of course the black dye took as red… because why wouldn’t it really?

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But also black… in spots. But red, also red!

But can we all agree the dye took WAY better this time! Like… I can work with that color depth. So I did two things different this time, I used a ton more salt, and also sprinkled soda ash as well. Now, soda ash is SUPPOSED to be mixed in water and the fabric dipped in it before dying… but since it has a warning that it might be FATAL if F-ing swallowed I went ahead and just sprinkled it on the wet scarves (I prewetted them), sprinkled dye over the top, then salted the whole thing, and then added the ice. I will then throw the fatal powder away or give it to the crafty neighbor without kids because that bottle makes me nervous. Please let this shit work out, because I’m already annoyed with the unpredictability of the dyes. Also, I left this trial run sitting overnight instead of just 2 hours. Which… we all knew that needed to happen too.

So now I have 4 scarves out for a second treatment, with brilliant blue (looks purple) olive green (looks pucey) and yellow (looks like brown mustard) so God help me as to what this will look like… they’ll be out there for 24 hours if I can keep my twitchy hands off them.

The garden is burning up in the Texas July… and the woodpeckers have found the big tomatoes. So… it looks like this:

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Bobcat I think is done, HM 1823 is close, and Sungold and Sweet 100 are still going strong

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Seriously this thing. It’s the Leaning Tower of Pizza-Toppings these days, at least 10′ and growing

The Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes seems to be out producing the Sungold right now, or it may be that the Sungold is easier for the toddler and birds to pick off. While the woodpecker eats the large tomatoes, the mockingbirds keep a pretty steady stream in and out of the sun gold for cherry tomatoes. It’s okay… there are enough to share.