Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A walk on the gravel hill

Japanese quince decorates my MIL's garden.
This weekend my family visited my husband’s parents. They live on family land situated between Austin and Houston. By family land, I mean that my mother-in-law’s ancestors emigrated from Germany to Texas and took possession of this land in 1834. This was two years before Texas declared its independence from Mexico  (175 years ago today!) and became a sovereign nation, and 11 years before it was annexed by the United States.

Over the years, parcels of the land have been sold, and the remaining tract was subdivided between grandchildren several years ago. My in-laws’ piece was at one point strip-mined for gravel, and they have worked very hard at reclaiming by planting and encouraging native species.

We are so fortunate that this property is still in the family, and we love to spend time there. It does not hurt that my mother-in-law is a fabulous cook!

The sundews are the odd reddish blobs.
They look like alien species!
Sunday morning we took ourselves on a multi-generational walk through the pasture. After noting the depredations of wild hogs (which root around looking for food and destroying terrain in the process), we came to a shallow tank. M.I.L. told us that sometimes sundews (I’m guessing Drosera capillaris) grow here along the edge of the pond, but it may be too dry this year. As the menfolk trudged on, we girls struck out in search of sundews.

Lo and behold, they were everywhere! To find sundews, you must know what you are looking for, and be willing to scurry around stooped over like a feeding flamingo. We were willing! My daughter was fascinated by these tiny carnivorous plants, and I’m sure we will have to visit this tank again.  M.I.L told us these sundews have a pink bloom later on.

We continued our walk, admiring the tiny bluets, one of the first spring bloomers here. As we headed back to the house, three abreast on the dirt road, my daughter stopped and exclaimed. About a foot in front of her was a large coral snake (two feet or so). He quickly slithered into the grass beside the road. We watched him disappear from a wary distance, as he is one of Texas’ four poisonous snakes. Just as we recovered from this excitement, we heard far overhead the cries of a flock of migrating sandhill cranes, and we craned our necks for a look.

What a phenomenal walk!

Favorite spot in the garden:

My favorite spot today is in my larger garden. Wind-flowers (Anemone heterophylla) are our first spring-blooming wildflowers. They started popping up along the driveway about a week ago, and we are always so happy to see them. They range from white to purple. Spring must be here!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. wow, she is a quick and good writer, but she didn't say how terrified I was at seeing a oral snake inches from my foot! Oops! Gave away my identity!

  3. Quince is so beautiful this time of year. I learned something today - never heard of sundews. Anonymous, I agree. She didn't dramatize the snake as much as you probably would have! OMG!!! - a coral snake!!! AAAAHHHH!!!

  4. Great post Cynthia. Always enjoy your work!!! Keep it up!!!


  5. @HG - yes, it's easy to be calm when you are not the one facing down a snake!
    @RFC - thanks, friend!

  6. Being a 7th generation Texas I, too, enjoyed the area between Austin and Houston on Texas Indendpendence Day. The areas around Fayetteville, Industry,and Shiner are all special. It's as if the land is still infused with those who so worked and cared for it over so many years. I read once many German immigrants settled this area because Texas had a terrific snowfall that winter and they thought they were "home". And the next summer they nearly all perished in the Texas heat!

  7. @Anon - What a great anecdote - I'd never heard that before! Yes, we visited Washington-on-the-Brazos that weekend for the anniversary celebration. You are right - that area does seem to carry the spirit of the thrifty, industrious Germans!

  8. Spring time on the gravel hill continues to evolve. Yesterday's walk led me to a Mexican plum tree in full bloom. I could smell it before I could see it, but when I was standing close to it, I realized that it was covered in tiger swallowtail butterflies in both their yellow and black forms. The effect was stunning! Nearby, a redbud in full bloom was serving as dinner for some tiny black butterflies of unknown-to-me species. Meanwhile, the pine siskins are devouring sunflower seeds in the feeders as they migrate through. All this, and the bluebonnets aren't even in bloom yet! What a wonderful Texas spring!

  9. @anon - I'd like to have seen that Mexican plum! Mine has not a single bloom, sigh. It is wonderful, isn't it!