Wednesday, March 31, 2021

more yard, more flowers, more spring

Wrens were in the house again. I had the back door open the other day, sitting at my desk when a wren flew in and perched on the edge of my desk. It looked at me, I looked at it and then it flew out again (and again, just now). While I was at yoga yesterday the back door was open and a wren flew in and made it all the way into the living room which is unusual. They don't usually go farther than the studio room, maybe the kitchen. Curious little things. The one that made it into the living room knocked several things off the shelf over the kitchen sink on it's way out.

Not much going on around here. I've just about got everything cleaned up from the freeze excepting the things I'm waiting on to dig up. My zinnia seedlings just aren't growing. I wanted them to get a little bigger before putting them in the ground so they wouldn't be so tasty to snails and slugs but I may have to just go ahead and put them in anyway.

Yesterday I worked on the banana trees, digging up the bases of the dead mature trees that bloomed from which new trees sprout and the small trees now coming up that encroached on boldly took over my flower bed requiring me to pull up the landscape block and brick border. When I initially planted the three little banana trees I planted them about two feet from the border. Big mistake because that's at the end of the drain field and while they did expand in all directions they grew mostly toward the flower bed and the source of water from the drain field. The Plan is to replant the little trees in the middle that has been hollowed out by the previous trees dying and to the side hopefully widening the stand. I know that this is an exercise in futility because they're just going to grow into that end of the flower bed again but it will take a couple of years. What I should do is move the crinum lilies and shorten the flower bed and let the banana trees go where they will. But I don't know where I would put the crinum lilies.

The flower bed from the front before I started.

This is the after picture, of course, after I dug up the small new trees and at least four, maybe five, bases of old dead trees that were at least 10” - 12” in diameter of solid stuff. I had to hack them into sections with the shovel to get them out. You can see the missing section of the border.

The 7 or 8 little trees I removed.

The pile of chopped up banana tree cores (on top of previous banana tree trash I just hadn't thrown into the filed yet).

Just after I started my youngest grandgirl, youngest as in 20 (how did these kids get so old), Robin, who has moved back home after her living arrangement in the city changed, texted me...whatcha up to today? So I went and picked her up and she hung out here all day while I worked on the banana trees and had lunch and we visited Pam and her folks came and picked her up on their way home. So that was fun. It's been awhile since I've been able to hang out with Robin.

Once I get done over here I've got several days work still over at the shop property. And then I need to address all the broken PVC water pipes in the shop though plumbing supplies are still in short supply here from all the damage done by the arctic freeze.

It seems like some things are late getting started like the poppies which this time last year were in full bloom and the love-in-a-mist and the rocket larkspur which a week from now last year were in full bloom.

More pics, the indigofera,

the yellow angel trumpet in the too small pot that keeps blooming, all nine flowers are open and it's put on 15 new buds and at this rate I'll never get it moved into the bigger pot,


bees from my neighbor's hives on the baby blue eyes,

and Joanne's, of Cup On The Bus, iris which she sent to me when Laura moved out and she moved to a smaller house in the complex losing the garden she and Laura worked so hard on. I thought it was a shame that she would lose the iris that she has carried from house to house to house and so she sent me a clump. They have yet to bloom for me but I'm hopeful maybe this year after the really cold weather in case they need that.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

things seen and done

I finished the ditch.

I got the lobelia and petunias planted.

The big rangoon creeper on the fence has finally produced two or three little green nubs of new growth.

I plucked the seed heads/pods of baby onions off the walking onions in the little backyard and threw them in the trash.

I set out the sprinkler and moved it around.

I dug out another small pot with some bulbs of yellow lycoris which did not make it. (Note to self...bulbs in pots do not survive temperatures in the teens.)

Two of the yellow bells (aka tecoma stans, esperanza) have produced new growth from the roots though the big one over at the shop has yet to come out.

I added another stake and tied up the branches on the now enormous night blooming cereus after the wind undid my previous attempt.

The pecan trees which budded out mid-week are sending out their blooms.

The penta is showing a little new growth but not from the main central root cluster.

I dug up the dead century plant that had already survived two hard freezes.

The no show list is slowly dwindling but still contains the hibiscus, bougainvillea, hummingbird bush, mexican bird of paradise, star of India gardenia, purple orchid tree, desert rose trumpet flower bush, the yellow trumpet flower in the ground. They have until the end of April before they get shifted to the dead list, which currently has 4 items...the pink crinum lilies, the lycoris, the century plant (not sad about that one as it was in a bad spot), and the bromeliads.

The spirea,

a green tree frog,

the second poppy,

the corn field at the end of the street. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

just more minutia of my life

If I am to keep on my self imposed schedule of posting every other day, then today, Wednesday, is the day but I don't have anything interesting to say that I haven't already posted about ad infinitum ad nauseam assuming of course that anything I have to say is interesting.

I haven't worked on the ditch since last Sunday. Monday was grocery shopping and yoga and, because yoga is at 5:15 in El Campo, after lunch is too late to do it since I have to get the dog walk in before we leave at 4:40 (during the summer the dog walk happens after yoga). Tuesday early morning it rained and then I had the appointment to get my new crowns. On the one hand, my front teeth haven't looked this good since I was sixteen. On the other hand the color is grayer than the teeth on either side but this was the second go round on color and as the dentist said it was probably as close as it was going to get without going into the lab for a custom color match. Which, no, not doing that. So I'll just get used to it. It's not like I can see them unless I peer at them in the mirror. And again, too late after lunch to start something like trimming the ditch.

And today, finally got my bone density scan. And again, it's a yoga day so I won't be starting after lunch even if it wasn't a wet drizzly day.

Actually, the main reason after lunch is too late to start any major undertaking outside on Mondays and Wednesdays is because lunch runs late around here. As does breakfast and dinner. Breakfast at 10, lunch at 2 (so we can watch General Hospital, yeah, I know, but we watch it anyway and it's not over til three), and dinner at 8. Sunday is the exception, only two meals on Sunday, brunch at 11 and dinner at 7.

I finally dug out the pink crinum lily bulbs and they are dead dead. While the outside of the bulbs are firm, there are no roots and they're mushy all the way through the center. Bummer. So one definite entry in the failed to survive column.

I do have some lobelia and pale purple petunias to get in pots or the ground 

though I did get my one tomato plant in a pot, already too late I'm sure, should have put it in a month ago, and a basil plant in the ground since I didn't get any volunteers from last year's plants. I repotted a desert rose I had recently already repotted because a datura sprung up in the pot, not really sure where that came from since I didn't get any volunteers last year, and I wanted to put it in it's own pot. Which I did and those four little things were all I managed to get done outside today.

Apparently nothing gets done after yoga either as it's now the next day. Back when I was big pot hunting I mentioned it at yoga and Abby said there was a big empty pot at the bowling alley I could have so the next class I jokingly asked her if she brought me the pot. That was a couple of weeks ago. When we drove up last night she motioned for me to come park next to her and in the back of her SUV was this gigantic clay pot heavy enough in it own right. We managed, just barely to get it in the back seat of my car. 

No way I can use it, which I did not mention, unless I plant something in it that is cold hardy because I'll never be able to move it once it's full of dirt and plant. But that was really sweet of her to bring it to me. So you can see how much bigger it is than the 'big' pots I bought. 

Tuesday night the pecan trees budded out. According to the conventional wisdom, that means no more dips into freezing.

The wisteria, swarming with bumble and other large bees when I took this, just because...

And two little planters of petunias I put in a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, March 22, 2021

another garden report

Just more of the same...another trimmer gas tank's worth of work on the ditch. I'm some over halfway done.

Just to show you how deceptive the photo is here's the same ditch from the other end. And also deceptive as it doesn't show how steep the sides really are.

Since the flowering senna is coming out from the base of the small tree I went ahead and cut back all the dead branches leaving the trunk and stubs. The whole thing will have to be cut down once the new growth becomes substantial.

I even started to cut back the gardenia some, one more on the survivor list, since it's starting to put out some little nubs of green at the bottom but the first small branch I cut was green, oops, so I contented myself with snipping off just a few of the very smallest stems. Then I cut all the dead canes and dead ends from the freeze out of the pink heritage rose and cut the last three or four banana tree stumps down to ground level. Fifteen new little ones are coming out all around the edges but not a single one of the big ones. Five of them were dying anyway since they had bloomed last summer.

One clump of nile lilies are all growing, the ones in the pot did not survive and two of the other three small clumps are starting to show a little green. Other survivors...the turk's cap has come back and the rangoon creeper on the fence is putting out new nubs of growth at ground level though not from the main big root but from a branch that rooted itself about 18” away. Still nothing from the hibiscus, star of india, mexican bird of paradise, hummingbird bush, bougainvillea, the pink desert willow vine, or the yellow angel trumpet in the ground (but I think it will return) or the pink crinum lilies which were/are in a pot.

Just got a call from the dentist and my new crowns are finally in so getting them tomorrow. And my bone density scan, rescheduled twice, is Wednesday and these are my last health care visits til fall when I have to start dealing with the cataracts that are developing. Oh joy! Aging is so much fun.

The first poppy.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

a rescue, spring yard work, and no politics

SHARE was very slow on Thursday, I think we had maybe five clients for food. Slow days are boring but I did chat with some of the other volunteers some, something I don't ordinarily do. I figure the less those people know about me the better.

When I got home, Emma the cat was laying by the back door and about 18” away was a dead baby squirrel. Bad cat and poor little baby. I scooped it up and tossed it out in the field. A few hours later I heard a small animal screaming and looked out to see an adult squirrel attacking another baby squirrel on the ground at the bottom of the tallow tree. I ran out, scared off the adult and the injured baby scrambled around the tree. Well, damn. Injured baby would be no match for the cat so I got the cat carrier and with Minnie's help, we herded the poor little scared thing into the carrier. 

Now what was I gonna do with this little thing, maybe 5" or 6” long not counting it's tail. So I looked up wildlife rehabilitators in my area, called a woman in Bay City about 35 minutes down the road toward the coast and she agreed to take the little thing. She thinks that a male, probably the one I saw attacking the baby, tossed them out of the nest which they will do given the chance, and probably that's what killed the one and injured this one and the cat just found it. The little survivor was very dehydrated, she said, so something may have happened to the mother which gave the male the opportunity.

So that was my Thursday. Yesterday Pam and I went to a nursery, she looking for herbs to start a new herb garden, me looking for big pots. No pots the right size but I did come away with three plants one of which is another of the fragrant Japanese azaleas. The one I had had was doing so poorly in the ground I finally dug it up to pot it for special care and realized it had been so potbound it never recovered once planted. Anyway, it died. This is a common problem with all the plants that come from this nursery so this time I immediately repotted it after almost but not quite bare rooting it. I swear I don't know how she keeps them alive long enough to get them sold. Hopefully this one will do well in the pot and I can put it in the ground this fall.

Then we went to Loews where I did find pots that weren't perfect, would have preferred straight sides instead of tapered, but would do. Also finally got the lamp wire I need to wire up the chandelier with a plug and a switch so I can finally get it hung as a swag lamp in the corner.

After I dealt with the Japanese azalea, I repotted the bird of paradise. OMG! That thing was so root bound and the roots were more like ropes, long and thick, like octopus tentacles or dreadlocks and they wound round and round and round the pot. 

I broke quite a few trying to loosen them up which I did eventually get them untangled but now no way would the thing even fit in the bigger pot. So I root pruned it by half. It had even less roots when I originally dug it up so I figured it would be OK. I hope. Anyway, it's now in a bigger pot.

old pot, new pot (which isn't that much bigger), and pile of roots

I've written about my absent neighbor on the other side who is not so absent these days, he's been in residence for over a year caught by covid. He lives in Washington state but comes around several times a year to visit family and work. Anyway, he had been hunting in south Texas, said he shot a deer, and brought us some sausage. 

Only it wasn't a deer, it was an antelope. Apparently some of these nilgai escaped from an exotic animal ranch and have multiplied in the wild. It was really good.

Once this last front moved through with the overcast and rain, we've had really nice dry cool blue sky days. So, more yard work for me today. I started cutting the weeds and hay grass in the ditch in front of the shop property with the gas trimmer. You can see how much I got done before I ran out of gas and arm strength.

the picture is deceptive as I still have more to do than I got done

It only weighs just under 10 pounds but 10 pounds gets heavy really fast. Then I cut back the rangoon creeper trimming it close to the fence since I know all those small branches are dead, same with the desert rose trumpet flower vine which bloomed so beautifully last year which isn't really a vine, more like an unruly shrub, and I'm still not seeing any new growth on either. Then I cut down the dead stalks on the clump of morning glory bush over there (no sign of new growth) and dumped all the trash on the newly burned burn pile and by then I was done, almost. I watered the little backyard.

Still need to repot the yellow angel trumpet but now I think I'll wait until it has finished this round of blooms since I was going to prune off those tallest branches with the buds.

The wisteria on the fence between the shop property and the neighbor is coming into full bloom

and the blue bonnets are blooming though I'm a little disappointed as the plants are sparse this year, probably the fewest we've ever had since we've been here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

3 more and gray days

Three more additions to the survivor list. The confederate roses are finally putting on new growth from the roots as is the morning glory bush, at least one solitary new branch from the roots. I haven't checked the bigger stand over at the shop but I'm encouraged that that one has also survived. And, if I'm not totally mistaken, the rangoon creeper, the small one in a pot intended for a friend, is sending up a new branch though it's only about a half inch. 

So if this one in a pot unprotected survived then surely the big one in the ground on the fence has, even though I'm not seeing any new growth there yet. I think the hibiscus is dead and the bougainvillea too as they had both just been transplanted but I won't pull them out til the end of May. Same with the mexican bird of paradise. And I think my penta that bloomed constantly just about all year that has survived for years, I think it's dead. The baby banana trees are growing, not seeing any upward movement from the elders. I do miss my clump of banana trees. The yellow bells, hummingbird bush, don't know about them yet either. I think maybe the yellow trumpet flower in the ground didn't make it, still nothing from the star of india or the gardenia but I'm seeing new growth from one clump of nile lilies.

And then there's this...

this is the pink angel trumpet cutting I took off the big one after it bloomed it's one flower  that I had had in the house all winter which it didn't like especially. I watered it and fertilized it and I was surprised to see 7 buds developing. It's parent in the ground has given me maybe a total of 3 flowers. So I looked closely at the yellow angel trumpet in a pot that has bloomed over the winter and it has 9 developing blooms.

And the gingko trees have come out.

This was our sky/sunset Sunday night.

It's been overcast and rainy/drizzly for the last several days, everything is wet, walk out in the yard and your shoes are soaked. Anyway, because of the wet there is no working outside. Usually I'll sit and read on days like this but Sunday and Monday I did the floors. I'll be the first one to tell you I'm a terrible housekeeper as I can always find something better to do and I have a high tolerance for dirt but they were finally so bad even I couldn't turn a blind eye. So bad that I had to sweep every floor first before I could vacuum and then I even washed the kitchen floor and both bathroom floors. Now, today, there are leaves already scattered around. Most of them come in on the cat who likes to sleep outside and they stick to her fur.

Coming home from yoga Monday night we saw a faint rainbow over the field at the end of our street.

Then yesterday I roasted butternut squash to prepare it for a recipe and before I started peeling and cubing it I decided it wouldn't be enough so ran out and got another one but after cutting up the first I realized it was enough which I used last night so now I have enough cubed butternut squash in the freezer for two more future meals. Anyway, that took all afternoon. Today, gray and rumbly and now raining, maybe I will sit and read.

Two more pics, my little redbud tree in a pot

and the spirea which was bare sticks a month ago.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

slowly but surely and, sigh, politics

More survivors, the yesterday/today/tomorrow has put up new growth, the little fig tree that got run over last year has some small green buds, and the spider lilies are showing growth. The amaryllis are all growing and one has even put up a bloom stalk. All but one of the small azaleas that were all completely brown and are now mostly just sticks are showing tiny nubs of green. Still nothing from the hibiscus, rangoon creeper, morning glory bush, porterweed, gardenia, mexican bird of paradise, bougainvillea, or the pink crinum lilies or the nile lilies. 

I got the night blooming cereus repotted and the white orchid tree but I've run out of bigger pots for the yellow trumpet flower and the bird of paradise and so far have not found the size pots I need. Still have two clumps of aspidistra to trim back but I also got some weeding and watering done. And I need to get the plumerias moved around to their spots in the yard, either pots sunk or plants planted so the wind won't be blowing them over all the time.

I mentioned that all the evergreen trees were completely brown and didn't think much past that but last week I noticed that the live oak trees, of which there are many in this small town, started dropping all their leaves and while they usually do drop their old leaves this time of year, not like this and I've never seen them so bare. They're blooming now I noticed while taking the dog out for her walk and will soon be putting on new leaves.  I didn't even notice the damage to the two huge yew trees on each front corner of the house so focused on the ground as I have been and the last two days they have been dropping so many leaves there's a nice thick carpet of them on the ground. And in the last two days many of the deciduous trees have popped out their spring green and the ornamental pear trees are blooming along with the pink magnolias 

and red buds 

and my native peach on the back corner.

It hasn't all been working out in the yard. I bought a couple of eggplants earlier this week to make eggplant parmesan which I did Friday, starting about 3:30 and finally putting the assembled dish in the oven at 7:30. This is the craziest recipe. It calls for two eggplants, about 2 1/2 lbs worth (mine totaled a little over 2 lbs). Slice in 1/4 thick sections, should yield 16 to 18 slices (I got that from each eggplant), place on wire rack and salt both sides and let sit an hour, then rinse and pat dry, coat with flour, dip in egg, dredge in a mix of bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese, fry in olive oil til both sides are golden brown, and then assemble in an 8” x 8” baking dish. 3 layers...sauce, eggplant slices, cheese. No way all 34 slices of eggplant are fitting in that pan and the 3 cups of sauce it calls for isn't nearly enough. It's a good thing I had a large jar of tomato basil spaghetti sauce in the pantry. Anyway, it took my 10” x 10” dish and a smaller one. We ate all the smaller one and this one will get divided up for future meals. I guess it's a good thing it makes so much since it is so labor intensive and time consuming but it was really good.

it looked better straight out of the oven instead of straight out of the refrigerator overnight

As of last Thursday, Marc and I are fully immunized, or as fully as it gets, as it's now been two weeks since our second jab. I'm still wearing a mask when I go out, giving Biden his 100 days, and I'm glad to see that most people around here at least are still wearing masks even though our stupid governor lifted the mask mandate last Wednesday even with Texas being #2 in total infections and #3 in deaths through his lackluster and anemic response to the pandemic and he is now saying that any rise in infections and deaths will be due to migrants coming across the border because of Biden's more humane immigration policy even though Biden approved federal money to test migrants before allowing them in which our governor has refused to implement. Whew! How's that for a run-on sentence.

Democrats passed and Biden signed the American Rescue Act, an immensely popular bill, without a single Republican vote and of course Republicans are out there trashing it calling the relief checks and expanded unemployment 'free money' and calling for people and states to return the funds because...national debt, the very national debt they had no trouble creating by giving permanent tax cuts to corporations and the very wealthy and only care about when the Democrats are in charge. And so while they are calling for the working class to return their stimulus checks they are also calling for another tax cut, an end to the estate tax which only kicks in if the estate is worth $12M or more so once again this tax cut would only benefit the very wealthy. But these stimulus funds aren't free money. American workers pay taxes, often at a higher rate than the most wealthy Americans pay and so the average working American is just getting some of that tax money back to see them through the pandemic.

So once again, in order not to end on sour grapes from the Republicans, I looked up the other morning to see this walking across the yard headed to its burrow under the house,

a picture of Minnie,

are we doing something?

and last night's sunset.