Gratitude in All Circumstances

Gratitude is a daily attitude.  Wake up thinking about how blessed you are.  We lost electricity for hours for 3 days.  I’m thankful that we had any power and that we had a fireplace to burn wood in the daytime and lots of covers for the night.  We were without water for 6 days.  Bottled water was bought for just such a time.

I’m really sorry for those people who were in much worse conditions.  The poor always suffer more.  Wish I could change that.

Lately there has been lots of ridicule about Texas for not being able to manage the electrical power grid.  This is in defense of the electrical companies.  I am in no way connected to them.  Just did a little research.

First of all, this was probably the weather event of the century.  Last week It was minus one a couple of days with a high still in one digit numbers.  One day this week, it was 80 degrees.  Lows average in the 30’s and highs in the 50’s and 60’s this time of the year.

Secondly, electrical production is different in the south than in the north.  According to the Texas comptroller, for 2020, these are the sources used to produce electricity:  natural gas: 47.4%, coal : 20.3%, wind: 20%, and nuclear: 10.8.

Notice that there is no water on the list.  That’s because Texas doesn’t have the water for hydroelectric power.  We are in drought most of the year.

All power sources have drawbacks.  Even hydroelectric power alters waterways and life cycles of fish, wildlife, and plants.

Solar requires massive blocks of land to produce enough commercially.  One has been proposed about 40 miles away.  It is to cover 3,000 acres.  I don’t know how much electricity it will generate.  Sure, there are miles and miles of vacant land in the Big Bend area.  Then the issue becomes how to transport electricity to populated areas hundreds of miles away.

And there’s the threat of danger from explosions of nuclear power plants.  Burning fossil fuels creates environmental problems.

This was an early snowfall one spring.  Bet this Eastern Meadowlark was as surprised as we were.

Love buttermilk skies.  We cherish the country views.  That’s why we moved here.

Now we come to wind turbines, that many people laud as the perfect power.  For those who have to see them from their property, they are definitely not perfect.  There goes our wide open skies view.

These are massive and humongous eyesores.  The initial cost is high.  They require constant maintenance.  When they no longer work, they still clutter up the landscape because the companies who own them are not required to take them down.

Although the companies won’t admit it, wind turbines do kill birds and create noise pollution.  But the worst part is that they produce intermittent energy and are not reliable.  Many days they stand like beached whales, not turning their blades.  Bottom line:  the government needs to stop giving them tax abatements.

Now, what does all this have to do with gratitude? Surviving the last storm was a gift.  Any day we wake up with good health and have a family that loves us is amazing.  The beauty of the coming spring brings joy.  Just think of all the positives in your life.

Less criticism and more positive comments both in public platforms and personal ones will make life better for all. I’m not trying to be Polly Annie; just don’t like what is happening in our dear country.   Okay.  Now I’m stepping off my soapbox.

“Enjoy the little things.  For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  Robert Brault

Allure of English Countryside

Edith Holden, born in England in 1871, spent many days wandering through fields and lanes.  As an artist, she illustrated and wrote in a journal about what she saw on her walks during the year 1906.  These were for her personal use but were published after her death in 1920.

The Edwardian Era was during the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910.  Following the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800’s, life was improving for many.  The working classes began to unionize and seek better conditions on the job, and women became more active outside the home.

The book is full of beautiful hand-drawn illustrations as well as a daily accounting of her wanderings in the English countryside.  She writes about specific plants, birds, and animals that she saw each day.

Poems and lines of known writers are hand written throughout the book.  The drawings and writings reflect the lifestyle of an educated women from that time period.

First published in 1984, The Country Diary Garden Notes uses Edith Holden’s illustrations and notes by Richard Gorer.  In her own notes, she doesn’t mention a garden, but maybe the publishers thought this title would attract readers who gardened.

It is organized with her drawings and calendar pages for each month with spaces to write for each day.  Then there are a couple of pages about weather and gardening for that month.

All her illustrations show her love of birds.

Could not find information on the author, Richard Gorer, but he was or is probably an Englishman.

Both of these books drew me in because of their gorgeous drawings and the time and dedication it took to create them.  A pleasant escape into the beauty of nature.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”  William Shakespeare

Critters in the Yard

When critters that we love and the ones that we don’t like, enter into our space, it makes life interesting.

Butterflies are my all favorite critter in the yard.  This Queen is feasting on Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Snakes terrify me.  This one scaled a six foot pole.  It went inside the hole of the birdhouse and slithered back out.  Don’t know if it was hoping for bird eggs or just bored.

This is a bluebird house and since we haven’t had any bird birds nest there, it’s just ornamental.

This snake may be harmless, but that doesn’t matter to me.  Makes me cringe.

Occasionally, a wild turkey wanders around the yard.  They are skittish and react to the slightest noise.

Pretty feathers, but it looks like it was designed by a committee.

A small bird kept flying out of this flowerpot on the back porch.  It looked like a Tufted Titmouse but moved too quickly for a photo.

Finally, when I was watering this old Kalanchoe, I spotted the reason.  Twigs had been brought into the pot and sort of a tunnel built to where the eggs were laid.

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), a Texas native, draws lots of pollinators.

As the wind sways the tall stems, bees and other pollinators hang on.

Purple Heart (Setcreasea pallida) loves this shaded spot and covers this plot quickly each spring.

Remnants of a spider web can be seen on the top of the wheel.

This ruffled Coleus was recently propagated from a large one.  The stems grow quickly.  Very attractive.

Bird Island

Bird Island in Pebble Beach can be viewed from a rocky beach near a parking area.

The island itself looks like solid rock covered in bird guano.  From the shore it’s difficult to distinguish the birds.

Zoom lens reveals individual birds.

Most of birds are cormorants, which feed on sea fish.  Their feathers allow their wings to become saturated so they can dive deep.  On the rock they can be seen with their wings open to dry thme.

Years ago we saw cormorants used by Chinese fishermen.  A string was tied around their neck so they could not swallow.  The fishermen would push one off a small boat and pull them back on to remove the fish the bird had caught in his beak.

Another island a little further out provides a resting spot for sea lions.

Walking down to the sandy beach, a path led us through lots of native vegetation.  The roots holds the soil in place.

The pinkish flowers look cotton candy.

The ground was hard packed, so walking was easy without sinking into the sand.

The constant movement of the ocean could be seen as waves washed up on the rocks.

Small shells were scattered on the sand.

A nice quiet time on the beach before the crowds arrived.

This will be the last post from our time in California.

“…recognize and respect Earth’s beautiful systems of balance, between the presence of animals on land, the fish in the sea, birds in the air, mankind, water, air, and land.  Most importantly there must always be awareness of the actions by people that can disturb this precious balance.”            Margaret Meade

Autumn

While our yearly rainfall averages 27 inches, rains in September, October, and November this year have totaled 19.93 inches.  So far the total for 2018 is 28.71, which isn’t that much over the average, but is enough to make us happy.

All this rain has resulted in rutted roads and high water levels on low water crossings.  But the blessings have far outweighed the inconveniences.

Copper Canyon Daisy, a native of the Sonoran desert of Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona, normally blooms in August, when the temperature is the hottest.  But even July and August were rainy, so it finally flowered in late September.

The smell of this stinky plant is not noticeable outside, but is overwhelming in confined spaces.  Pretty flowers at the tip of long stems gracefully wave in the wind.

The color on the ridge behind the house is stunning.  The green of the cedars, the local name for them, make the other colors pop.   These are actually Ash Juniper, post cedar, or blueberry juniper (Juniperus ashei),

Native to Northeastern Mexico and south central U.S, the largest coverage of Ash Juniper is in Texas.  They are a bane to property owners, who push them up with bulldozers because they are so prolific, cover grassland, and draw up water needed for other trees.

The positive aspects are erosion control and shade for wildlife and livestock.  Look closely at the middle lower part of the picture and you’ll see some of our wildlife – a deer.

Some other green is provided by our native Live Oaks.

Looking another direction shows how cedars grow in large expanses.  The birds eat the berries and distribute the seeds a la mother nature’s way.

In the yard, a Red Oak provides bright color.  Another Red Oak, which I neglected to get a picture of, was dark red.

A flock of Robins dropped into the yard this morning bobbing for worms.

This is like one of those puzzles sent on Facebook.  Can you find the robin in this Chinese Pistache tree?  Look to the middle of the picture on the left.

Always enjoy these visitors running to and fro and taking to the air at the least noise or movement.

Hope your autumn has been full of delightful surprises like our rains and beautiful sights.

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”  William Cullen Bryant

A Touch of Autumn Color

Autumn color in central Texas is definitely different than in other parts of the U.S., especially, the northeast.

The first obvious color is Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that forms colonies in limestone.

The wind can quickly blow off the leaves, leaving a somewhat bare tree with its heavy seed clusters.  Recently a friend of mine was trimming branches above her head and didn’t realize that she was standing in poison sumac.  Made me wonder how one can tell the difference between the poisonous and nonpoisonous.

 This web site shows pictures and descriptions of Poison Sumac.

But that’s like remembering which snakes look like poisonous ones and which ones are poisonous in the heat of the moment.

So I’ll try to remember to enjoy Sumac from a distance.

One of my favorite trees in our yard is Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis).  It’s a pretty tree any time of the year, although it does require some shaping as the lower limbs grow downward.

Just to show how recommendations change, Chinese Pistache was once considered too invasive.  Now it’s a Texas Superstar tree.  In my book, it’s a winner.

Its autumn color gives me a sense of season, even if the temperatures waffle from cool to hot.

The light and wind seem to give it a different color each day.

The berries have a somber look when it’s cloudy.

Or bright and shiny when sunlight hits them.

The leaves on the Texas Maple turned yellow before the wind snatched them away.  Not sure exactly which type of maple this is.  The man who bought it and planted it got what was available.  I should have asked more information.

With the inconsistent temperatures, the Yellow Lead Ball tree (Leucaena retusa) looks like spring and fall at the same time.  The yellow puffy balls have returned while the seed pods dry and drop.  This is a Texas native and has done well in our yard.

Yellow pom-poms make this a festive sight.

Red Oaks can turn a deep red or burnt orange like this one.  Autumn leaves with Showbiz red roses blooming in a pot and evergreen cedars in the background – that’s our fall.

This wispy Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) tends to bloom in late summer or early fall.  But this year, the flowers came late.  The bush doesn’t look like much.

But up close, the bright dainty flowers are pretty.  This bush has a sharp, nose wrinkling smell, so it should be planted away from the house.

A native in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, it adapts well to our soil and climate.

Re-blooming Irises have also shown their flowers late this year.  The Strawberry Gompheras  or Globe Amaranths (Gomphrena globosa) will continue to bloom until the first freeze.

Texas Ash (Fraxinus texensis) joins in the color parade.

Red Robins flew in for a quick visit one cloudy day.  They never wear out their welcome.

Hope your fall has been colorful and enjoyable.  It’s the time of year for being thankful and for spending time with friends and family.

“Being married means mostly shouting ‘What?’ from other rooms.”  unknown

Red Hot Summertime

Back in the days before central air (the dark ages), an afternoon nap was mandated.  We would lie down while Mother read to us.  Soon she would be asleep, and we would be restless and anxious to get outside again.

Today, any work that needs to be done outside must be finished by noon.  This morning I mowed and moved the pots seen in this picture.  So it looks much more manicured now.  Coral Drift Roses still blooming.  If they are deadheaded, they will bloom until frost.

Salvia Greggii holds up well in the heat.

Today there are so many different Geraniums on the market.  The colors and scents vary.  They do better here if they only get indirect sunlight or early morning sun.

Flame Acanthus or Hummingbird Bush (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (A. wrightii)) provides nectar for pollinators.  It can take poor soil, hot sun, and is root hardy to zone 7.

Critters visit off and on all day.

The bright red of Strawberry Fields Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) draws attention like a neon sign.  They are native to Texas and Mexico and are strong reseeding annuals.  Away from the yard, they pop up around the compost heap.

Pink Coneflowers (Echinacea) attract butterflies, who like to land on their dome shape.

Roadrunner strolls across the yard nibbling here and there.  He froze when he sensed my presence at the door.

So thankful for A/C, shade, and iced tea.

“Both the cockroach and the bird would get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most.”  Joseph Wood KrutchSave

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What Is and Is to Come

Last days of winter – maybe.  Warms days followed by cold days creates a confusing message to nature.

The dried blossoms of Sedum Autumn Joy can be sprayed and used in flower arrangements.  Silver paint makes them look classy.

Plus, Sedum Autumn Joy is a wonderful succulent that is reliable.  Green leaves are already popping up.

Bi-color Iris (Dietes bicolor) or African Iris or Fortnight Lily forms a clump with long sword like leaves.  It’s a native to South Africa, so I’m hoping that it will recover from the hard freezes this year.

Texas Flowering Senna produces tons of seed pods.  After giving lots away, these were left.  The strange thing is that with all these seeds, there are no seedlings that come up under the bush.

Texas Flowering Senna displays stunning yellow flowers that last for about seven months.  Can’t wait.

The leaves of Red Yucca are still green but the tall flower stems are dry.  The flowers leave a hard shell with black seeds.

Most of its leaves are still clinging to one Red Oak in the yard.  The strong winds haven’t dislodged them  yet.  Before long, new leaves will sprout.

There are several varieties of Senna.  Not sure which one this is.

Interesting flower seed pods and branch forms.

Clusters of dried False Foxglove seed pods make me anxious for the return of their white petals with pink splotches.This time of year wild creatures are astiring.  A group of wild turkeys passed through behind the house.  Stealthily, I cracked open the back door and poked my camera through it.

From the road wild turkeys don’t appear to have much color, but a zoom lens shows their pretty feathers.

Looks like two old gossipers speaking solemnly about something.

Guess mating season has started, meaning new little ones.

Can you tell that I am ready for spring with its warm weather and pretty colors.  I know, I know.  It’s still February.  Just daydreaming.

“If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all.”  Joey Adams

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Pop of Red

Nothing like bright red in winter to brighten the landscape.

This Possumhaw holly (Llex decidua) tree has finally reached an age where it produces lots of berries, and they are a larger size than the past two years.  A US native, it grows wild where is enough moisture.

Female plants bear fruit and need a male plant near by.  We only have the one Possumhaw, so I can’t explain why it produces berries.  But I’m glad it does.

Reportedly consistently moist fertile soil is needed.  Not here.  Guess this is one tough little tree.

This gnarly, thorny Texas Scarlett Quince (Chaenomeles japonica ‘Texas Scarlet’)    grows close to the ground making it impossible to clear out dead leaves and weeds from under it.  Scratched and bleeding arms are the results.

this plant’s only saving grace is that it provides the first color of the year and that it can be seen from the main area of the house.

Other varieties of Flowering Quince grow upright and have more flowers on them.  I chose the Texas native for its hardiness.  If I were buying again, I would go for pretty.

A stunning early morning sunrise is a great way to start the day.

This picture was taken in late fall but is appropriate for the pop of color theme.  Cardinals are active here in the winter.  With all their darting up/down, it looks like they’re avoiding gun fire.  It’s rare that I have a chance to get a pix.

These two Amaryllis were planted at the same time.  Crazy that the one on the left has no flowers and the one on the right, no foliage.

I don’t buy Amaryllis for myself but love and enjoy them as gifts.  I put them in tall vases to help them stay upright.  I’ll probably move this one to a taller vase so the stem won’t have to be staked.

Can’t get much redder or brighter in color than this.

A sunrise with a buttermilk sky makes me smile.

“When red-headed people are above a certain social grade, their hair is auburn.”  Mark Twain

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Surviving the Heat

The unrelenting sun is taking its toll.  Some things, like the Cone Flowers, are wilting faster than usual.  This is my fault because I haven’t done a good job of watering flowerbeds this year.

I read that the heavy rains in the spring work as a detriment when the inferno of summer comes because our plants are not accustomed to going from wet soil to dry.

surviving1Potted plants, like this Kalanchoe, that have the advantage of mostly shade survive fine.  They don’t mind the heat, just the sun.

surviving9A different Kalanchoe thrives outside in the shade.

surviving7Orange Marmalade Crossandra (Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade’) or Firecracker Flower has done surprisingly well in mostly shade.  It, too, likes the heat and humidity, but not the sun.  No humidity here, so it must not be absolutely necessary for this plant.

survivingbIt definitely is an attention getter on the front porch.  Looks goods against the pot of Dusty Miller succulent.  This pot goes into the heated shed for the winter.

survivingcThe part of the stem just below the flower is the seed pods.  Each little point contains a seed of roughly the same shape.

survivingThis Desert Rose (Adenium obesumlso) needs winter protection.  Mine only seems to bloom right after it comes out of the shed in early spring.  They are known more for their trunks that are bulbous at the bottom than their flowers.survivingaMore pot plants:  pepper plant and Boston Fern to the back left.  The Woodland Fern on the right is in the ground.

surviving5Out by a shed is a Plumbago with white flowers, a Scented Geranium, a Crepe Myrtle with black leaves and a Mexican Oregano.

surviving6Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) with pink tubular flowers.

survivingbbAn Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) from South Africa in a large pot with Purple Heart behind it.  In its native land, it grows in grasslands with well drained soil.  Further south in Texas, it does well directly in the ground.  Here it is an annual that must be protected in the winter.

survivingccThis rose, The Showbiz Rose, is in a pot because right now I don’t have a place available in a flowerbed.  It is a heavy blooming floribunda.

It was purchased at the nursery at Biltmore.  Really, I should never be allowed to walk through a nursery just to look.

survivingdBut who could resist this beauty?

Now that you’ve seen some of my plants in pots, is it any wonder that my husband dreads the end of fall and the beginning of spring?

surviving3Now to some easy care plants, like this New Gold Lantana.  Basically, put it in the ground and forget about it.

surviving4Mexican Petunias have finally become aggressive after about 10 years.  Easy as pie if you have enough space for them.

survivingeA skittish Cardinal enjoying seeds in the grass.  Usually, they bolt at the slightest movement.

surviving2I was rather late coming to the fad of grasses as yard plants.  But I do like Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima).  I’ve read that it can be invasive, but so far, that hasn’t been the case here.

“Misers are not fun to live with, but they are great ancestors.”  Tom Snyder