Six on Saturday 2019-02-16: Weeding and Scratching

The world has greened up enough that I had to put some extra effort into weeding today. My Six on Saturday this week is about my adventures weeding, which is a tiny bit about pulling weeds and a lot more about plant identification and figuring out if I want it or if it’s a weed. At least I got to enjoy the flock of birds that was flying high overhead from tree to tree for a while this morning.

Hackberry

hackberry
Sugar hackberries and the sprouts they create, surrounding a nasturtium

I’ve prepared for the spring season by finding pictures online of many of the common known weeds in my yard. Daily quizzing led up to an instant identification today when I found these guys. Does it help that there are more hackberries are sitting right next to the seedlings? Oh well, it’s easier to pull the sprouts than pick up the berries (although it’s easier to pick up the berries than deal with the larger seedlings). And I was very careful to not disrupt the nasturtium.

Field madder

field-madder
Field madder in bloom

Field madder is a low-growing annual that has popped up in areas of thin grass. This plant is new to me this year (it’s possible I just never noticed it before) and kind of cute, so I didn’t pull it today. The dense mat should prevent less desirable plants from popping up there. I’ll leave it this year to observe as it continues to grow and die back. Worst case scenario, I’ll have to pull more weeds next year. It happens.

Mystery Plant #1

maybe-hollyhock
A hollyhock maybe?

This looked too froufrou to be a common weed. I’m guessing it’s from one of the seed packets I scattered around in the fall so it stays.

Mystery Plant #2

white-flower
Mysterious white bud

Yet another unidentified plant. With the fancy white bud, this one also must be from the seed packets, but it doesn’t quite look like anything on the labels. I have to remember to check it regularly so I can get a better identification after it blooms.

Mystery Plant #3

mystery
Awesome companion plant for the pomegranates?

This little guy was coming up in the mulch next to my new pomegranates. It looks kind of familiar, but I’m still scratching my head on what it could be. Could the pomegranate have put out a sucker after just one month? It doesn’t look quite the same.

Mystery Plant #4

wide-leaves

This must be some sort of alien plant. I came across it unexpectedly in a quite shady spot, where birds are more likely to plant things as I am. With the close leaves, could it be a strange sort of zinnia? An image search suggested that this was sorrel, but it sure doesn’t look like any of the “matching” images. Oh well, time will tell.

Well, that’s my six for this week–a lot of head scratching. To see other sixes from gardens around the world, check out the Propagator’s blog.

 

 

Six on Saturday 2019-02-09: It’s getting green out

It’s been a bit chilly the past couple of days. Nothing like folks up North have seen and nothing that’s even exceptional in the area, but it did dip into freezing. And although I didn’t see any snow like some other folks in the area did, there were some small hailstones still sitting on my back porch from yesterday to this morning.

Overall, though, things are already greening up. Here are a few things that are going on in the gardening this morning.

Pomegranates

IMG_20190209_092644
Wonderful pomegranate starting to leaf out

Fresh foliage is emerging from both my Al-Sirin-Nar pomegranate, as well as the Salavatski and Wonderful pomegranates that I just planted a month ago. I wonder what year I’ll start getting some edible pomegranate fruits. Mmm!

Daylilies

IMG_20190209_093341
New Stella D’Oro daylily foliage

Last year I was surprised when the foliage on my daylilies disappeared seemingly overnight. Is that what they do when it cools off, or did something eat them? I’ll see what happens this year. For now, new foliage has happily emerged. Since I planted them in the fall I haven’t seen the flowers yet, but this should be the standard orange Stella D’Oro variety.

Blackberries

IMG_20190209_093006
New Kiowa blackberry plant in the Warren pear bed

A month ago I planted three Kiowa blackberry plants, and they’ve just started to leaf out as well. Native dewberries grow around my yard, so these should do well here.

Catmint

IMG_20190209_093229
Ladybug on catmint

While looking around my garden and making a note of what needs to be done, I noticed new foliage at the base of the Walker’s Low catmint, and briefly considered pruning some of the old foliage a bit. But then I looked closer and saw this ladybug just hanging out. I think I’ll leave it be for now. 🙂

Garlic Chives

IMG_20190209_092812
Garlic chives two-thirds from the left

I’ve never heard of anyone having trouble keeping chives alive, but I’ve tried planting regular chives in my persimmon guild twice, and they quickly succumbed both times. It hasn’t been a full year yet, but I’m happy to see the garlic chives replacement are still growing strong so far.

Fennel

IMG_20190209_092719
Many new fennel plants

I collected Fennel seed last year, and it’s sprouting up all around my yard. What I thought were poppies in a previous Six on Saturday post? Yup, those now appear to be fennel. Also, I just recently learned that after a fennel plant “dies”, new fennel plants sprout from its base. I’ve read that it sprouts one new plant from each side, but this plant gave way to five new ones! Can some of them possibly be new plants from seed that had been carefully nested underneath? I have no idea. I’ll probably harvest a few of the fennel bulbs before they’re fully mature to make space for the other two.

That’s my Six on Saturday. If you’re interested in more sixes from gardens all over, check out the Propagator’s blog.

Six on Saturday 2019/02/02

With the no-sweater-needed weather this weekend, I’m getting anxious for spring. I’ve already enjoyed the bare stems and branches quite enough for one season. It’s a good thing I live in Texas where the main planting season starts in March. Just one month of patience and prep. Here’s a bit of what’s going on right now though.

Mulberry

Our Central Texas winter started out nice and chilly with a freeze in mid-November, but since then it seems warmer than usual with no risk of getting into the 20s (F) here in my Austin garden. And sure enough, my black mulberry has already started leafing out ready for Spring. I hope other plants don’t follow suit just yet.

IMG_20190202_161550
Just a few of many, many leaves on the mulberry

Peppers

One of my coworkers gave me some sweet pepper seeds last month, and I’ve been reusing a “disposable” food container to germinate the seeds before potting them up. But where will I put so many pepper plants? They were originally chosen as companion plants for the citrus, but some may need a dedicated home at this rate.

IMG_20190202_130149
A few of the potted young peppers and my germination station

Mexican Bush Sage

When the Mexican Bush Sage puckered out after our first freeze and I pruned it back, I decided to stick the prunings in the ground and see if any of them rooted. Months later, a couple of them are still alive. Here’s hoping they grow strong enough to survive the summer heat, in which case I can transplant them later in the year.

IMG_20190202_161056-1
New growth on the Mexican bush sage (2/3 down)

Dwarf Barbados Cherry

On January 10, I took a few cuttings of Barbados Cherry. I stuck two in water and potted up the other. This week I was pleasantly surprised that the root had grown almost two inches from one cutting. There was also another root sprouting above the water and trying to make its way down, as well as a bit of extra top growth. So today I potted up that cutting and am hoping for the best. There is some root growth on the other cutting in water but not quite as much yet. I’m not sure about the one that was originally potted up but at least it still appears to be alive.

IMG_20190202_130354
Two Barbados Cherry cuttings – one already rooted and potted up, the other still sitting in water

Mexican Honeysuckle

The Mexican Honeysuckle in my front yard has been blooming pretty much all winter, but I’m less interested in that right now than in the fact that it’s extremely easy to propagate. I just take a 4 inch cutting, strip it of all but two leaves and stick it in water until I see roots forming. Sometimes they bloom again when they’re still in the water! but I usually snip the blooms off. I’m thinking of using some of these plants to line the south side of my house, but surely I’ll also give a couple away at the swap in a few weeks.

IMG_20190202_130508-1
Mexican Honeysuckle cutting that’s been rooting in water but isn’t quite ready to pot up yet

Agarita

All my previous attempts at propagating Agarita have ended with the leaves turning black. Due to my recent success with rooting cuttings in water, though, I decided to try that instead of potting up the cutting directly. I also tried a new trick of dabbing the end of the cutting in honey as a root stimulator. I don’t know if that really helps or if I’m just getting better at this in ways I can’t tell, but the cutting is definitely doing okay. Although the old leaves are a bit brittle and have been falling off one by one, there is new growth both up top and down below. The waiting is the hardest part.

IMG_20190202_130718
Tiny bits of green are growing out of each junction
IMG_20190202_130737
Not the best picture and debris has collected in the water, but there’s definitely growth

Well, those are my Six on Saturday. If you’re interested in seeing what’s going on in other folks’ gardens, check out The Propagator’s blog for more Six on Saturday posts.

Things I bought in January (2019)

I first experimented with a Buy Nothing month several years ago, and it wasn’t as hard as I expected. Many of the habits have just stuck without having to make resolutions. But it may be time to start back up with a regular review of how I’m doing on this front.

One thing I purchased this month not on the list below (because it’s not an item) was a WordPress subscription. I intend to look into other options for hosting someday, but as much as I hate advertisements it only makes sense that for now I would spare anyone from seeing them when reading my blog posts.

Purchased Plants

My resolution to buy no more than 12 plants (seeds are OK) this year has definitely helped with temptation when I visited my local nursery this month and also while browsing the internet encouraged by other folks’ seed orders. I did order 2 plants, but that’s pretty reasonable.

  • 2 black chokeberry plants (to be delivered in March) – This was one of the plants on my wishlist, so I shouldn’t regret it. One would have been enough but they came as a pair. At least I still have a month to figure out if I want to plant both or share one with someone else who wants it.
  • Onion starts – I’m not counting these against my 12-plant quota because the pack contained dozens of baby onions, and they were already fully edible when planted (although small) so they’re pretty much just food. 🙂
  • Cucumber seed – Because, yum.
  • Butternut squash – Once we had a butternut squash that just appeared out of the compost, so apparently they do grow well here.
  • Edamame seed – I’ve been thinking about growing this the past couple of years, but this is the year.
  • Borage – Attracts pollinators, edible leaves and flowers, what’s not to like? The last time I planted this I expected some self-seeding so I’d never have to buy more seed. Let’s see if it happens this year.

Not New Stuff

And it’s mostly Not New stuff that I got for free, so all the merrier for me.

  • Porch light fixture – This is one of the few things I purchased. We made a trip to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore just to get it, and this week we were able to turn on the porch lights for the first time since buying the house.
  • Bricks – Although this was a good month for scoring free bricks, I also purchased about a dozen more while at the ReStore. I may love bricks a bit too much.
  • Punching bag – As mentioned in a previous post, this is a way more functional replacement for the punching bag I found during bulk pickup week some time ago. It’s great for exercise.
  • Bricks and pavers – These came from many sources – by the dumpster, set out for bulk pickup, and posted on Craigslist. It doesn’t look like a lot in my unfinished garden path, but they were plenty heavy to lug around.
  • Cardboard – It should surprise no one that it’s easy to find used cardboard for free. 😛
  • Tomato cages – These were posted on Craigslist by someone getting rid of a bunch of gardening stuff. I got up early on a chilly morning to grab them before work.
  • Young yaupon hollies – I “weeded” these from my mom’s garden bed and planted them in my own yard.
  • Snakeplant – One of my coworkers had a plant just sitting somewhere being neglected (although they do thrive with neglect), and just by asking it is now mine to admire every day.
  • Sweet pepper seeds – That same coworker shared seeds of several different types of sweet peppers. (We’ll be doing a seed swap event at work at the end of Feb to share more.)
  • Various seeds – I attended the seed swap for the Central Texas seed library last weekend and got so many seeds — carrots, native milkweed, zinnias, melons, basils, and more. A few of these will end up getting swapped again at the work seed swap.
  • Plant cuttings – There will be many Mexican Honeysuckles to plant out in the spring for sure. They root amazingly well even just in water. I’m hoping many of the others pull through. The mints definitely should.

New Stuff

  • Lightbulbs – They’re LED bulbs so they should last a while.
  • Potting soil – The soil itself isn’t quite new, but it’s all packaged up in a plastic sack so I’ll count it.
  • Toilet paper

Things I didn’t buy

  • A dragonfruit plant – This was in the seed catalog next to the black chokeberry and I really would like to have a dragonfruit plant someday, but it doesn’t grow as easily in this area and I’ll hold off until I have more time to devote to it.
  • A baker’s rack – Just one of the items I’ve seen posted to Craigslist which might be a good fit for replacing worn-out cabinets in our kitchen which will be taken out someday. I will be buying something in this line at some point though.
  • More seeds – Just because there were so many more awesome options for planting. It was hard to resist, but I have enough for this year.
  • Seed starting containers – I’m a bit low on reused small containers right now, but there are plenty of food containers to make do with.
  • Gutters – This was part of my plan for January. And maybe I should have gotten these. We have regular flash floods in Austin that would be much less impactful if more water was stored close to where it landed instead of all being directed into our waterways. However, I wound up with analysis paralysis on whether I should get gutter covers or not. For now, I’ve started digging out some earthworks to hold the water. I can go for the larger scale option later when I’m more confident about the purchase.

Wishlist

We’ve had a fairly long todo list since buying this house a few years ago, and we’ve been slowly picking one thing at a time to improve. I have no idea which of these will come first:

  • New back steps or ramp to replace the unused deck area that has rotting wood
  • Gutters, as mentioned above
  • A real bathtub (not a plastic surround) and a sink faucet that doesn’t have rust holes
  • New kitchen sink cabinet configured so the sink comes up near the edge of the countertop instead of making me stretch to wash dishes
  • Other new bottom cabinets or something like a baker’s rack as mentioned above or even a buffet, because one day I’m going to rip out this gross bottom cabinets. I’m a pretty accepting person, but these cabinets are sitting there unused because they’re really not in good shape.
  • Hallway runner – It’s a 20ft hallway with some of the last old carpet in this house that hasn’t yet been pulled up. If a runner that length pops up on Craigslist for a reasonable price, I’d get it.
  • More bricks or pavers – There’s only a path in one part of the garden so far, but I’m going back to taking it slow and only collecting free bricks.
  • Plant wishlist: agarita, pineapple guava, goumi, mexican redbud, texas persimmon, crandall currant, beautyberry

Complimentary Curbside Conquests

Yesterday I happened to be in a neighborhood that is having bulk trash collection this week. Although I’ve previously found bulk collection to be a great source of treasures, I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday and was only up for walking eight or ten blocks before heading home to rest up again. Fortunately, in just those few blocks I discovered a nice metal plant stand to liven up my living room with the pots I’ve collected previously.

But this morning I was feeling better again and decided to explore another part of that neighborhood. There were lots of cardboard boxes in front of houses as usual, and I had to go up to each one to see whether it was full of junk, a plastic christmas tree (it’s amazing how many plastic trees get thrown out in January!) or something more interesting. Just when I thought I wouldn’t find anything interesting, I noticed a long box that said Everlast on the side. Could it be?

img_20190121_113751
Heavy bag

Yes! It was an Everlast canvas heavy bag in good condition. Usually people buy exercise equipment at this time of year, not throw it out. It would have been such a shame for it to take a trip to the landfill. And lucky for me, a friend with a car was available to give me a ride home with my newly acquired toy.

But this was especially great because I had also found a heavy bag during bulk collection last year. That heavy bag came with a stand but unfortunately was never used because the bag wasn’t in good condition and at least needed to be thoroughly cleaned out. It was full of tiny scraps of fabric that had gotten wet, making the bag even heavier and gross enough to encourage me to tackle any task other than cleaning the bag during my free time. Just this morning, I cleared out yet another small chunk of the inner gunk before giving up again for the day. In the meantime, the heavy bag stand has also sat there unused. Until today. The chains for the bag were also in the box, and this bag was not so heavy as the other bag. Between two people it was easily raised onto a stepladder and then attached, followed by a few light punches to test it out.

img_20190121_124048
Heavy bag on the stand in the garage

We already have bag gloves, so the only things left to do are to put some weights on the stand to make it a bit more stable and replace the one remaining lightbulb in the garage with two new ones before it goes totally dark. Oh yeah, and punching. There is still much punching to do. 😀

Six On Saturday 2019/01/05 – Small Things

I bought too many plants last year and have a stack of little black pots waiting to be reused. So this year, I’ve resolved to limit my purchases to twelve plants for the whole year. If I want more than that, I’ll have to start them from seed, from cuttings, or swap with other gardeners.

I’ve been following The Propagator‘s blog for a while to learn more techniques and decided to participate in the Six on Saturday blogging theme, which is a way to share six things that are happening in my garden. For this week, there’s an obvious focus on plants I’ve started myself.

Red Yucca

red-yucca
Red yucca youngsters in the side yard

I’ve had this red yucca for a while. I started this red yucca from seed indoors and planted it out last spring. The tallest plant is now a whopping 8 inches tall. Maybe I should have called this post “Slow Things” instead.

Butterfly Milkweed

milkweed
One of several milkweed sprouts

Several sprouts are starting to come up from seeds of a few different wildflower packets that I scattered in the side yard in fall. I’m looking forward to a lot more seed for future swaps in addition to having more butterflies show up for pollination duties this year.

California Poppy

california-poppy
California poppy in the kumquat bed

I also sowed some California poppy seeds in the fall after having seen a couple of yards in the neighborhood with various beautiful poppies and then reading online that the flowers of this variety are edible. This looks like other seedlings online so maybe in a few months I’ll have some beautiful and delicious orange flowers blooming.

Scarlet Runner Bean

runnerbean
Young runner bean plant by the mulberry

Cowpeas grow really well in my yard, but it requires planting them out every season. I’m hoping that these runner beans really are perennial and I can harvest beans for years to come. Unfortunately, only two plants have survived from a dozen or so that I planted in the fall, but maybe they just weren’t mature enough yet to handle a little bit of predation. Still hoping, and I have some seeds left to start more in the spring.

Artichoke

artichoke
Artichoke sprouts

These aren’t in the garden yet, but I’d like to put out at least a few artichoke plants this spring. Amazingly, these seeds took only a week to germinate (I kept the soil pretty damp because I had heard recommendations to soak the seeds before planting them but promptly forgot until they were already in pots). If all goes well, I’ll start some extra artichoke plants for swapping also. But the hardest part for me is generally keeping seedlings alive until they’re strong enough to go outside.

The seed packet contained two varieties–Green Globe Improved and Purple of Romagna. I don’t know which is which, so I’ll have to do some more research online to learn how to tell the two apart.

Shrimp?

possible-shrimp
A crustacean in my yard!

This most definitely isn’t a plant, but it was in my yard. I live near a creek, and on one side of my property is a low area that floods whenever there’s a good rain. This morning there were still a few puddles still out there from rains earlier in the week. And there was something moving! At first I thought it was some sort of beetle or roach, but upon closer inspection it was a crustacean. I’m not sure if that really is a shrimp or not, and I never would have guessed that shrimp live in the creek, but I can tell you that I won’t be eating shrimp anytime soon. Whatever that was didn’t look at all appetizing.

Those are my six for this week. Even without accruing many more plastic pots, I think this is going to be a great year for enjoying the garden!

Neighborhood Swap Day!

Twice a year everyone in the neighborhood takes all the stuff they don’t want want or need and sets it out for neighborhood swap day. Like the large metal milk jug that my aunt gifted me because she didn’t want it. Someone else loved it and took it away, while I strolled around and got my pick of the other goodies folks have set out.

burger
I didn’t take this burger piñata, but isn’t it cute?

Well, technically it’s called Residential Bulk Collection, and it’s for bulky items that folks consider trash and just want to get rid of. The scrappers get a lot of the good stuff, too. There’s constantly another scrapper trailer driving around looking for metal pieces they can collect. It’s kind of disappointing that they end up recycling some items that could be reused, but at least it keeps things out of the landfill.

And it’s a great way for much other stuff to find new homes also. Need a new-to-you dresser or table? How about a book to read? This is a perfect time to get something for free and to save stuff from the landfill.

bulk
Many goodies collected this weekend

Here are the various treasures (and less treasured items) I collected:

  • (Ignore all the grey bricks. I did pick those up from the curb, but it was for a nearby multi-family residence that doesn’t have the same bulk service.)
  • Blue shelf – Not pictured since it was set out earlier and grabbed earlier. It’s already in the garage happily organizing pots, trowels, and other garage-dwelling items that were previously scattered on the floor or resting somewhere inconvenient.
  • Hanging pot – There were two of these and I was only interested in extra ingredients for the compost, so I dumped the soil from one into the other to tote it back more easily. Folks must have thought I was crazy carrying around that thing, but they don’t know what they’re missing.
  • 6 light grey ceramic tiles – In retrospect, I’m not sure if this is enough tiles to be useful to me and I may keep passing these along.
  • Citronella candles – To discourage mosquitoes. They’re probably not too effective, but I’m sure I can find someone who wants them if I decide not to keep them.
  • Wide-ruled paper – I know plenty of people with school-age children.
  • Fabric adhesive – I’m second-guessing this now, but no matter. Even if I can’t find a new home for it, I haven’t done any harm by delaying its trip to the landfill.
  • Christmas greeting cards – I’ll use these next year.
  • Card games rule book – Mostly so I can learn another type of solitaire sans computer.
  • 12 brick pavers – I can always use more brick pavers for my garden. This was a perfect find for me.
  • White marble chips – It says erosion control on the bag, worth a try.
  • Pink ceramic pot – Which will be perfect for the previously neglected snake plant that a coworker passed on to me recently.

If I had a truck, I would also have grabbed the three or four Christmas trees I saw while out. They’re going to be turned into mulch so it’s not a bad future for them, but they’d be even better as mulch in my yard or protecting the area by the creek from erosion. Well, that’s okay. I can share.

Of course my favorite find ever from a bulk collection week was Free Serenity, still hanging serenely on my bedroom wall. Has anyone else scored something great from what other folks considered garbage?

 

The Not New Garden Path

Since we bought this house and planted our first baby fruit tree almost three years ago, I’ve wanted some kind of path for the backyard. It’s not an immediate need that I’d have to resolve by purchase, but it’s a dream. I’ve tried many things.

Wearing a path in the earth. Well, I did spend many hours out in the garden and a visible pathway did eventually appear, but it would disappear into the weeds after the spring rains.

Brick. Who wouldn’t want a lovely brick path? I still collect any abandoned brick I come across, but I’ve also calculated how many bricks it would take to build a path around the whole backyard. Nope. Even with my acquired hobby of started watching Craigslist for unwanted bricks or pavers, I found mostly heartbreak because whenever there was a really interesting listing, the givers wanted them to be gone pretty much immediately and that would have required a truck or the like.

Gravel – I was able to get a bagful from someone who wasn’t using it, but it wasn’t long before I could barely see the gravel through the weeds. Gravel alone wouldn’t cut it. I needed some kind of weed barrier underneath the gravel. Some sort of durable plastic would be the obvious answer, but at the same time I have a hard time putting something in the ground that is just going to turn into bits of trash instead of contributing to the soil.

Cardboard – I looked at materials that were in true abundance, and cardboard may have helped under the gravel. Could it stand up on its own as a short term path? Unfortunately “short” term was right. Anything that wasn’t super thick would start to disintegrate rather quickly. And it’s amazing how quickly weeds can grow through a double layer of thick cardboard!

Pinterest-type stuff – I saw pictures online of people making pathways from glass bottles dug into the ground or with wooden rounds cut from fallen trees. I even went so far as to collect a few bottles at the office but gradually came to the realization that these would be more work than I was willing to sign up for. And I didn’t really trust a pathway made of bottles that could break or wood that might start rotting after several good rains.

Last week a posting by one of my neighbors on NextDoor gave rise to a new idea. He had a few bags of sawdust to get rid of. Online research showed some folks love sawdust in their garden pathways. They used super thick layers, more than I’m willing to use, but maybe combined with the cardboard? Anyhow, it’s worth experimenting with.

As a bonus, while walking over to the neighbor’s house to pick up the sawdust, I noticed a pleasant surprise beside a dumpster in the nearby alley. There was a good pile of bricks waiting for me to take them home.

bricks
Yay, more bricks!

I immediately set to work in the area I had recently started bricking in an attempt to protect my Meyer lemon tree from being overrun by grass. I added multiple layers of cardboard, set some of the new bricks temporarily on the other side to hold it down, and then added some of the sawdust, damped it, and tramped all over it to try and compress it. It’s still a bit fluffy, but I’m hoping the rain helps.

pathway
My new garden pathway in progress

Of course, this is still an experiment. I have no doubt that weeds will still make it through. Also, the pathway needs to be moved a bit further away from my baby tree. But it’s getting better. And it comes with the bonus of adding a little color to my yard during these dull winter months. I just need to rake away a few more of those leaves and stick them in the compost so I can soon be surrounded by more green. 2019’s going to be a good year. I can feel it.

Water-Only Hair Washing

When I first got into zero waste a couple of years ago, I quickly discovered the baking soda method for hair washing, sometimes called “no poo”. It involves mixing a small amount of baking soda with warm water and then using that to cleanse your hair, followed by a rinse of very diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV).

The thing that intrigued me was the suggestion that using convential shampoo regularly actually causes your hair to get oily more quickly. As someone who couldn’t go more than a couple of days without washing due to oil buildup in my hair, I was totally onboard with trying this out.

Initial attempts left my hair very dried out, but that was resolved by using less baking soda. And then immediately out of the shower my hair would sometimes already feel greasy, but that I discovered by experimentation was the result of too much apple cider vinegar. Other than these lessons learned, my hair didn’t go through the adjustment period that I heard about everywhere else. Then again, maybe I just had lower expectations for my hair. As long as my hair wasn’t brittle or really greasy, I was happy.

I had been diluting the mixtures more gradually. A year after moving to this BS/ACV method, I was finally ready to get rid of the ACV rinse entirely. After a couple of experiments, this change turned out to be totally fine!

A few more months down the road, I ditched the baking soda. Again, no big difference because I was just moving from a super diluted solution to pure water. The baking soda has to be mixed fresh with the warm water to be effective, so I was super glad to simplify this part of my hair washing routine.

At this point, my hair washing routine involves massaging my scalp with warm water at the start of my shower. Then at the end of the shower I switch to cold water and massage my scalp under the water with my head upside down. I read somewhere that this gives your hair more body, but I’m not sure that’s effective. My hair looks the same either way.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably ready to see the results.

My hair one day after washing with water.

My hair at the end of the week (right before washing again).

Pretty consistent, huh?

Unfortunately, we already have highs in the 80s here in central Texas. And since one of my hobbies is gardening, that means I’ll be sweating a lot more very soon. So my once-a-week hair washing routine is about to become a twice-a-week hair washing routine. Still, it feels really good to be free from store-bought shampoo and conditioner. It’s one less thing to worry about.

My Austin Garden In April

After an unseasonably warm winter, we’ve lucked out lately with some beautiful (not sweaty) weather lately. I’m doing my best to enjoy it while I can, and many of the plants are enjoying it as well. Even the fireflies are finally out again. Here’s a sampling of what’s been going on in my central Texas garden.

Cultivated Edibles

Only a few of my tomato seedlings and none of the eggplants survived. One thing I’ve learned this year is that cleaning the pots and using fresh potting soil really does result in healthier starts. Right now there’s one cherry tomato plant and one Roma tomato plant out in the yard, with one last seedling (started from a random tomato) still in the house.

IMG_20170406_181925
Cherry tomato starting to stretch out
IMG_20170406_181943
Roma tomato with a long ways to grow

The jalapeño pepper plants were eaten when transplanted outside. One my coworkers says that rats love them. I’ll bet the squirrels love them too. 😦

At least one of the bell pepper plants is untouched, plus one more still inside.

IMG_20170406_181938
Bell pepper plant

The cucumbers and nasturtiums were planted in partial shade this year. Last year they looked really heat-stressed in full, full sun. Now that the trees have leafed out, though, I’m worried they may be in too much shade. Only time will tell.

IMG_20170329_175547-1

The fava bean plants which survived the winter have finally started producing pods.

IMG_20170405_175855
Fava pods at the base of one plant

I’ve planted random seeds all over the backyard. The bad thing about this is I always have to be more careful where I step or I could squash a cherished seedling. It’s also difficult to cut down the weeds while avoiding seedlings. That might explain the weedy situation of my backyard currently. But yesterday, I saw a dark sprout that I marvelled at recognizing it as a squash. Several sunflowers have sprung up, the beans are obvious, and many are a mystery.

IMG_20170329_175059
Butternut squash seedling
IMG_20170406_181753
Royal Burgundy beans

Sadly, I haven’t yet seen anything that looks like a melon vine yet. It’s only the start of April, though, and I still have extra seeds to put out. I will have delicious melons this summer!

I finally pulled up some carrots in March. They were delicious even though there weren’t too many of them. A couple of dozen carrots from three packs of seeds is very unimpressive. I may have to be a more attentive carrot gardener next year, because I really do love carrots.

IMG_20170312_140708
Paris Market and Scarlet Nantes carrots

I only got four corn plants from the whole pack of corn seeds. Maybe if I had watered more… nah. I’m probably not going to try corn again anytime soon.

IMG_20170406_181737
Corn, mulch, and a few not-corns

The cilantro is already flowering. I didn’t pick any because to me cilantro tastes like soap, but I’m hoping to harvest some coriander seeds before my current supply is exhausted. It’s one of my go-to herbs. Strange how that works.

IMG_20170406_182239
Cilantro en route to becoming coriander seed

Is the Fuyu persimmon tree dead? It still looks like just a stick in the ground. The trouble with transplanting a dormant tree is that I have no way to gauge how healthy it is and if it there’s anything I can do to pamper it a little more. I did give it the scratch test, and there is a bit of green beneath the bark. I’ve also read in multiple places online that it can take months for a persimmon tree to come back after being transplanted. But I really really hope I don’t have to wait much longer.

Fortunately, the fig, kumquat, and citrus trees (meyer lemon and satsuma mandarin) are more visibly alive. The citrus leaves have some yellowing, but I’ve applied a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer and have been careful to water them only as needed. Most of the other trees nearby have leafed out happily and the sea of green is mesmerizing. Even the pecan trees at long last have bits of green starting to extend from their branches.

IMG_20170406_181633
My new kumquat tree!
IMG_20170406_181419
Texas Everbearing fig still going strong
IMG_20170406_182305
Meyer lemon, surviving bug attacks

Landscape Plants

After months of patient waiting, the Bluebonnets are finally showing a bit of their namesake color. Unfortunately, grass and weeds are encroaching all around so they don’t get the full attention they deserve. Next year if I can get some started from seed, I’ll plant them out in the front yard bed.

IMG_20170329_175934
Bluebonnet plant finally in bloom

During my last stop at the nursery, I was looking at all the seed packets and finally decided to try some lemon grass. The envelope said “Germinates in 3-5 weeks” and I was prepared to practice some patience, but after just four days the first sprout appeared! Now must be the perfect time for it to germinate here, so I just started another couple of small containers today.

On the way home from the nursery last time, I came across this stalked bulbine, sadly abandoned on the sidewalk. This is a spreading perennial, so I’m delighted to add it to my garden.

IMG_20170326_145500
Stalked bulbine

It’s the perfect time for taking cuttings here in central Texas. …or so I’ve heard. I’ve never successfully rooted a cutting before. Anyhow, I took a few cuttings of my rosemary and salvias. Once I learn how to propagate these properly I’ll be able to grow a full yard of delightful plants. At the same time, the layering method is also being used to try to root branches of these plants that I can transplant next year.

IMG_20170329_181553
Rosemary cutting time!

Sadly, the Esperanza also never came up. I’m going to take this as a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t try to plant things in January. The weather fluctuations between the 30s and 80s are probably too much for any reasonable plant to bear unless they already have a good foothold. Or maybe it’s just for advanced gardeners.

Wild Edibles Discovery

When I first saw the wild onions in side yard, I thought they were the garlic chives sprouted from seed I scattered. Well, nope, the chives never showed. I’ve since seen the wild onions in other places around the neighborhood and even saw them mentioned on tv so I’m sure of the identification. I can’t seem to get a good picture of these, though.

Also, I knew wild blackberries live in some places around town but I’ve never seen them firsthand. That explains why when I first snapped this picture I didn’t even consider it as an option until further explanation. Time to start cultivating the weeds!

IMG_20170402_203640
A wild blackberry perhaps?

… but I can sadly no longer recall where exactly I took this picture and can’t find it anywhere. At least now I know better.

But the best discovery of all was the identification of one backyard tree as a Mulberry. I don’t remember seeing any fruits last year, but maybe I wasn’t looking. Or maybe the squirrels got them as soon as they were ripe. This year my eyes will be open. This weekend I also made the fortuitous discovery of a tree with already-ripe mulberries not far away and they were amazing! I can hardly wait for the fruits on my own tree to ripen.

IMG_20170403_185334
Leaf and fruit sample from my tree. So the internet could tell me what it was.
IMG_20170407_172745
Ripe mulberries discovered in front of a house in the next neighborhood