Winter House Plants

How can you tell if someone is a plant person?  If they surround themselves with plants, then they are.  It doesn’t matter how much space they have;  even people in apartments with small balconies find room.  The size of the wallet doesn’t matter because other plant people will share.  And skill doesn’t matter because that can be learned.

I consider myself to be a plant person, although I wasn’t always.  It is an acquired passion.

During the cold days of winter, plants can be enjoyed inside.  These are two Poinsettias were bought last winter.

There are some complicated methods about getting Poinsettias to rebloom the next year.  Those involve putting plants into darkness for a certain length of time at specific times of the year.

But, honestly, I did not do anything special.  Last spring after the temperatures was consistently warm (about 65 degrees), the pots were placed outside under a large tree where it was shady most of the day.  Then in November when we took all plants into a shed, I repotted the Poinsettias into a larger size pot and brought them in the house.

The leaves had already started turning red and continued to do so inside with bright indirect light.

Last year I bought a couple of hybridized Kalanchoes because the flowers have more petals, which are layered, than the common Kalanchoes I had been given years ago by a relative.

Although these are gorgeous, the old plants seem to be hardier and definitely grow faster.  Each year I put the common Kalanchoes outside for the spring, summer, and fall.  This year I’ll try these outside.

This is the Kalanchoe with white flowers.  Some of them have a yellowish tint.

Plant people do have plants that die or don’t do well.  That can be due to different climates and growing conditions.  But it can also be the fault of the grower.

This poor neglected Angel Wing Begonia, a hybrid, is an example of that.  It doesn’t get the consistent moisture or temperature that it needs.  Plus, I forget to fertilize it.  It is two years old and has never bloomed.  But I keep promising myself that I will take better care of it.

I’ve been learning to propagate roses.  This is one of my successes.  I’ve tried in the past but am now using the method that is used at Antique Rose Emporium in Independence, Texas.

Take a cutting just below a spent bloom and cut the bottom at an angle.  Leave a few leaves on the stem.  Water some loose fine soil, wring it out with your hands so that it is damp but not mushy, and place in a zip lock baggie.  Put the bottom end of the cutting in rooting hormone and stick in the soil. Antique Rose Emporium uses a gel:  Rootech Cloning Gel, which can be ordered online.

Several stems can be placed into one baggie.  Zip the bag, place it on a window ledge in indirect light.  Then wait for roots to grow at the bottom.

This is some Basil that my daughter-in-law propagated for me.  Isn’t that a nice pot?

Growing plants doesn’t always mean success, but it is a rewarding hobby.

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more they will hate those who speak it.”  George Orwell





Ranch Animals

Exotic animals, big game from other countries, are common in Texas and exist mostly on private land where they live in large enclosed areas.  Although this seems like a relatively new phenomenon, the King Ranch first brought in Nilgai antelope from India in 1930.  Today it is estimated that well over 200,000 exotics roam freely on private land.

As an experiment way back in 1856, the army brought 33 camels to Camp Verde to use as pack animals to carry supplies to forts.  The building of railroads eliminated the need for them.

During the severe drought of the 1950’s, more exotics were brought in to supplement the population of hunting animals.  About half of the 254 counties have exotics, but most are concentrated in certain areas where hunting is popular.  But there are also several places where they exist for breeding and to preserve the species.

The dates on the pictures are from different years because I’ve taken pictures over the years but haven’t used them on this blog.

When we bought our property in 2001, there was a small group of Blackbuck Antelope on the property.

The most popular exotics include different species of deer, antelope, and sheep.  But the largest group of introduced animals is the European wild swine.  No wonder we have a huge wild hog problem in many parts of Texas.  They are massive, aggressive, and reproduce at an alarming rate.

Today the numbers of certain species are larger in Texas than in their native lands, where they are endangered.  The climate here is similar to Africa and other locales where exotics come from.

A few female blackbuck are gathered at the fence behind our backyard.  A buried pipe from our water softening system drains salt to this area.  It’s a favorite lick spot for native deer, cattle, and blackbuck.

The purple flowers are Tormpillo or Silverleaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium), which is a common weed in western North America.  It also grows in South America, the Middle East, and South America.  A reader recently commented that it is used in some Mexican cheeses.

Blackbuck get their name from the fact that the males get darker as they age.  The top of the back of a really old male is black.

Sadly, we do not get to enjoy these beautiful creatures with their bouncing straight up as they run anymore.  They have become prey to a native animal – the coyote.  And those are not cute, humorous Wiley B. Coyote like in the cartoon.  Coyotes decimate cattle and other preferred animals.

Another popular group of exotics are Llamas from South America.  This one was given to us by the man who leases our pasture land.  Leah was to replace the mate of the widowed white male seen in the background.

The tiny purple flowers in the pasture are native Prairie Verbena.

Leah was pretty old before she died last year.

I always felt sorry for her in the heat of the summer.

A more unusual exotic is the Bongo.  These are on a ranch that we pass by on the county road whenever we leave the ranch.  The man who owns these is involved in preserving species of animals that are becoming endangered.

Both the western lowland and eastern mountain bongos are native to Kenya and are endangered.

This group is thriving and adding young each year.

We enjoy the animals that enhance the beauty of the land.

“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.”  Max Lucado










Anson Jones’ Barrington Farm

Anson Jones’ named his farm after his hometown in Massachusetts.  The house was moved to Independence, Texas, in 1936.  The outbuildings are not original but the builders tried to stay true to the period.

While most of us consider our washers and dryers to be essentials, the old wash buckets sure make them seem like a luxury.

Numerous small buildings serve different functions.  This covered wagon storage area is beside the barn, kind of like a carport.

Oxen were used for plowing, thus the yoke.

This looks like it would fit over the head of one animal, but I don’t know what kind of animal.  Notice the modern fire extinguisher.  A fire would would consume all of the outer buildings since they are close to each other but away from the house: devastating situation for early settlers.

This drafty building would be miserable in the winter but I guess most of the carpentry and repair would have been done in the warmer months.  So wide spaced trunks would have allowed some breeze to blow through.

The cast iron pots were what I would have expected to be used as wash tubs.  Not  sure what the other wooden buckets represented.  The large pots were placed over a fire to heat the water.  In the back ground is the house for the slaves.

This chimney blows my mind.  Usually stone was used.  Surely the gaps in the house walls would have been filled with clay and sticks.

Now it’s used as storage.

Bales of cotton would have been carded, and spun and then woven to make cloth for sewing clothes.

Lots of greens grew in the vegetable garden.  The tall ones in front are Collard Greens.

This Luffa or loofah vine (Luffa aegyptiaca) is also known as a vegetable sponge or a dishcloth gourd.  Young fruits can be eaten like cooked squash.  When the fruit is mature, it can be used as a sponge.

When the fruit completely dries, the hard outer shell is peeled off and the seeds removed for planting.  Then, voila, you have a fancy loofa that is sold to exfoliate skin.

And I thought these came from the ocean.  Greek sponge divers gathered natural sponges.  They dove naked holding their breath.  The Turks also had a thriving sponge business.  All that changed with the invention of Scuba gear.

Anyway, natural sponges from the ocean are different from these rough loufahs.

“You will always repeat the problems you refuse to take responsibility for.”  Kris Vallotton










Texas Independence

Washington on the Brazos is the place where Texans declared their independence from Mexico.  We visited this site when we were in nearby Brenham last November.

A replica of the original building gives a feel for the gathering of delegates.

While settlers were escaping from Santa Anna’s army and the battle at the Alamo was raging, men gathered to decide the fate of their homes and lives.  The convention lasted for 17 days; the representatives wrote a new constitution and organized an interim government as they created the Republic of Texas.

“Fellow-Citizens of Texas: The enemy are upon us. A strong force surrounds the walls of the Alamo, and threaten that garrison with the sword…Now is the day, and now is the hour, when Texas expects every man to do his duty. Let us show ourselves worthy to be free and we shall be free.”
Henry Smith, Washington, TX – March 2, 1836


Nearby is a living history farm.  A display was set up at the ticket booth entrance. The green Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is not an edible fruit, in my opinion.  I’ve only known them as Horse Apples.

Some sprigs of purple heart add a little color.

On the same table is a basket of gourds.  These were used for drinking cups, ladles, and other vessels.

This fence style was probably brought to Texas with the early settlers from other states that came with Stephen Austin.

This dogtrot or dog run house has all the characteristics that define it.  A wide open space provided a way for wind to blow through to cool the house in the hot summers.  Two fireplaces heated the two rooms on each side in the winter.

The house belonged to Dr. Anson Jones, the first president of the new republic.  It was built in 1844 and was moved to this location in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial Celebration.

The Jones family lived in the house when it was on a farm in Brazoria.  He, his wife, their four children, his wife’s four half-sisters, and slaves lived on the farm.

Today this farm represents the lifestyle of the early settlers.

The master bedroom is decorated to look like it would have in those times.

A baby bed is set up beside the bed.

And a drawer at the end of the bed could sleep another young child or be used as storage.

On the fireplace mantle is a picture of Dr. Jones.  Not sure why it is covered with cheese cloth.

The second bedroom shows a chamber pot under the bed.

Other indoor conveniences include toiletry items and a wash basin.

The outside kitchen prevented the risks from cooking fires and kept heat in the summer away from the house.

The cook was preparing sweet potatoes for lunch.

The sweltering heat of summer and the bitter cold of always comes to my mind when I see how the pioneers lived.  Then I remember that millions of people today live in worse conditions.

How blessed we are to live in this time and in this place.

“The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses.”  Ovid














Houses on Tour

Usually Weatherford’s tour of homes features some Victorian homes that are creatively decked out for Christmas.  This year these were the only two houses that were older and nicely decorated; both have been on the tour before.

This house was originally a dog-trot house with an open air space in the middle and two rooms on each side.  Major restoration in 2001 transformed its look.

I think I took a picture of this pillow before with the intent to make one.  Hasn’t happened.

Botanical prints always catch my eye.

All working fireplaces were removed in the renovation, so this mantle is just an accent.

In place of traditional wainscoting, this embossed material has an interesting look and provides texture.

I’m a sucker for old wooden boxes holding almost anything.

Sloped ceilings make bed placements upstairs a challenge.  It looks like this spot is the only option.

The heavy, freestanding tub was moved upstairs and required reinforcing of the floor to handle its weight.

Next door a Queen Anne style home, that was constructed in 1902, also has had several renovations with a master bedroom and bath built at the back of the house.

Another wooden box with an old look used to decorate.

The crown molding has an interesting ornate piece of wood that extends out.  That would cover up any mistakes in cutting miter corners.  We have miters for crown molding, which are tricky.

The bottom molding also has an inset center of molded wood.

This is interesting and has a rustic look, but personally I think the wood pieces should all in the same color family.

Main hallway, where the old dogtrot space was, is nicely decorated.

The kitchen is dark with only light from doors.  I like the door bows but don’t know how practical they are if doors are opened often during the holiday season.

A long hallway runs across the back of the house to the new bedroom and bath.

A few pictures from another house.  The small sled hanging near the entry provides a cheery greeting.

Although I do not like the color scheme, this pillow is a reminder of how aging changes our perception of ourselves.

Wonder who bought this plaque – husband or wife?

This is the last post about Christmas home tours.

Thank you for reading my blog in 2016.  Have a happy New Year and keep safe.

“People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  What they should be worried about is what they eat between New Year’s Day and Christmas.”  Unknown











Cowboy Christmas Decor and Tiny House

On December tenth, the 35th annual Candlelight Tour of Homes in Weatherford came on our first really cold day with a sharp, biting wind.

Inside the Doss Heritage and Culture Center Christmas cheer was in the decorations, greetings and refreshments.

This western tree was my favorite.

A saddle and a saddle blanket and other cowboy items replaced a tree skirt.

A cow hide and cowboy rope finished out the “ensemble”.

The different elements of cowboy and traditional decorations came together for a pleasing whole.

The weight and bulk of the saddle on top had to be held up with cord to attach it to the ceiling.  Just love the look.

In the bathroom was another striking decoration that screamed Texas cowgirl.

A more usual sort of Christmas arrangement was bright and welcoming.

A tiny house parked downtown across from the court house was our second stop.  The ladder was used as a handrail because those steps were rather high.

A young couple built this and is trying to get a business off the ground.

The house is 19 feet x 6 feet with 174 square feet.

Just inside the door to our left was the seating of the house.  This sofa faced a flat screen TV hung on the wall in front of it.  For me, it was too close for comfortable viewing.  Although it doesn’t look like it, surely there was storage under the cushions.

This small window was above the couch and higher than my eye level.

This triangular shelf above the front (and only) door provides a small place for decorations or storage.

The kitchen counter has two stools at this end for dining.  There were cutting boards piled on top of the stools.  Don’t know why.  To the right is a refrigerator and small stove with a sliver of a closet.

Beyond the kitchen is the bathroom.

Up the stairs is a crawl in space for a bedroom.

This tiny house concept is definitely not for me.  My opinion:  only the young could handle this lifestyle, even as a vacation getaway.

Many questions:  Where are clothes stored?  Where does one put those clothes on?  Where do you store anything?  How do you not feel claustrophobic?

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.  Thank you for reading my blog.  A special thanks to those faithful readers who make me feel that this is worthwhile.  I love to hear from you.

“Dear Santa, I want a new birthday suit for Christmas.  My current one is old, wrinkled, and sagging.”











Giddings Mansion, Upstairs

Over-the-top decorations at the Giddings Mansion in Brenham attract crowds each year.

Downstairs was all glittery white and silver.

Upstairs had more traditional reds and greens with a children’s theme.

On the upstairs landing jolly St. Nick had already delivered many gifts.

Just like downstairs, decorations filled every space.

Clever idea, but I wondered why it looked so haphazardly done.  Maybe that was the intent.

The bright berries against the green makes a strong statement, just like in nature.

The decorations in the bedroom for the parents maintained the subtle silver and white tones that were downstairs.  The “H” probably stands for Hermann’s furniture store that provided the decorations.


Just adding extra items like faux pearls brings more drama.

The crib in the parents’ bedroom showcases children’s garments.

It’s good to remind myself that the decorator had unlimited resources and did not have limited storage space.  I can just enjoy her creativity and take away a few ideas to use.

The master bathroom would have been such a luxury item when this house was built.

So the tiny sink makes sense for that time.

A room decorated for a boy is crammed with Christmas items.

So pretty.

What a great way to use nutcrackers.

The hall bathroom would have been for the children.

The other rooms across the hall were not accessible to visitors.

Looking down to the first landing in the stairway.

Out on the front porch stood a festive sleigh.  The bells look old but are probably modern and made to look that way.  I always search for items like that.

We followed the wrap around porch to the back and sure enough, more decorations.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.  May your holidays be filled with love and joy.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the splendid decorations from this tour in this post and the previous one.

“The manger at Christmas means that, if you live like Jesus, there won’t be room for you in a lot of inns.” Timothy Keller