Friday, August 31, 2012

We are cedar choppers!

What a slacker I’ve been. I can only claim summer as an excuse, though the date would indicate that summer is about over. GET TO WORK, SISTER!

This coming weekend marks a year since the Labor Day fires in Bastrop. Numerous fires sprang up that weekend, and we spent a nervous few days frequently scurrying upstairs to peer out the windows, watching for smoke nearby. As you may recall, I vowed to clear brush away from our house. (See Snow White and Me.)

Yesterday my oldest son and I worked on the west side of our house, where the cedar (Ashe juniper to be precise) stood close by, looming ominously over the driveway.  He has worked out there several days, but this time I helped by dragging brush and stacking firewood.

Walker is a U.S. Forest Service-certified sawyer, courtesy of a summer spent maintaining trails with the forest service in South Dakota. I am the proud owner of a chainsaw, but I’m not certified. Perhaps certifiable . . . oh, let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that we deemed it wiser for him to handle the dangerous equipment.

It looks so nice out there now. We are not deforesting the area, simply lifting the canopy, as fire would do if we (by that I mean Americans in general) could let fires race through periodically to burn the underbrush.

These two sad live oaks are right outside my office
window. The one in front has a few leaves,
but is not long for this world.
Last evening, sunlight angled through sparser foliage and illuminated patches of green grass and brown mulch here and there. This effect is my favorite part of clearing (after the part where our house doesn’t burn down in a wildfire).

Next on the chainsaw agenda:  Lots of trees - cedar and live oak - succumbed to the drought. Cedars continue to die, despite the rains that fell over the winter.  We need to take the dead trees down and process them into firewood-sized pieces.

Good thing there’s a certified sawyer in the house.

Favorite spot in the garden:

My garden looks grim right now. We’ve had no appreciable rain since July 15. The days are long and hot. I have been watering enough to keep things alive (maybe), but not enough to keep things show-worthy.

However, the tried and true flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) continues to bloom gaily, enticing hummingbirds to linger outside my office window. Even the volunteer plants, which receive no supplemental water, are blooming, though not as prolifically as the one in my bed (which does get roof run-off, when it rains). By the way, I have watered it once this summer.  That’s right, once.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

There's no place like home.

I love these morning glories!!

There’s no place like home. <click click> There’s no place like home.

After most of three weeks on the road, we are settled in back home, awaiting the start of the school year.  We spent two weeks in Colorado (oh, those 45 degree mornings!) followed by a week touring southeast Texas visiting relatives.

Unloading the car after the Colorado portion, I looked around my woods, and thought, “Something’s missing.” I promptly realized it was the tall trees and mountains that I had been looking up to for the past 10 days.

Note from Colorado:  Did I mention we saw a bear? Pretty exciting stuff for us life-long Texans! Luckily we did not see him in our tent (!), but he was fairly close to our campsite, loping across the road in front of our car at straight up noon. I always thought this would be the perfect way to see a bear – when I’m in my car and he’s not.

Trusty summer bloomers - flame acanthus
(Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii).
Note from southeast Texas:  Do you know that people in southeast Texas use sprinklers to water lawns? I find I am mesmerized by sprinklers clicking and spraying water, not to mention by green lawns. Neither of these things is common in my neck of the woods.

The day after we drove north a huge storm delivered over two inches of rain. We came home to a tattered jungle. The rain powered a huge growth spurt, and then the heat put the whammy on all that new growth.

Bit by bit, I am watering and mowing. It’s too hot to do much out there (at or near 100 degrees each afternoon). But I will reclaim my yard, and slowly shape things up for the cooler weather to come.

I've featured these bachelor buttons (Gomphrena globosa 'Fireworks')
before - but they just keep blooming and spreading!

We had some casualties of our vacation:  we are down to two chicks out of the 12 we had before we left.  We’re not sure how they met their demise, though my husband did find and dispose of a 3.5-foot rat snake in the chicken coop.

This Brazilian rock rose
(Pavonia braziliensis)
piggybacked its way into
my garden.
(Truly, it’s a wonder chickens as a species have survived.  You may have read this here before, but let me reiterate: Chickens are not bright.)

Vacations are wonderful, and I do love the mountains, but I am glad to be home and am eager to resume my dispatches from the hill.

And no, Aunt Em, it was definitely not a dream!

As for wildflowers, the white heliotrope (Heliotropium 
tenellum) continue to steal the show. These are beside
my driveway and have gotten no supplemental water.

Now for my Garden Bloggers Bloom Day report:

Thanks to that rain a month ago, my summer stalwarts are blooming. Things are hot and dry, but are a whole lot better than this time last year!  Hope you enjoy my blooms!

The flame-leaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata) is blooming and setting fruit. I've never noticed how lovely the berries are at this stage - then again, these might be the buds.
I happened to catch a bee enjoying the blossoms on the same tree.

Stop by May Dreams Gardens to see what’s blooming in a variety of other gardens.