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. ūüôā

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.

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!

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 jalape√Īo pepper plants were eaten when transplanted outside. One my coworkers says that rats love them. I’ll bet the squirrels love them too. ūüė¶

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

 

The Garden in March

There have already been several days in the 80s this year, so you know it’ll be just moments before the unbearable heat of summer hits us here in central Texas. March may be the best time to be out in the garden, so here’s a quick pictorial of what’s in my Austin backyard garden right now. Apologies for an exceptional amount of blur on some of the photos. The mosquitoes are already out, and I had to keep moving to keep them away.

Veggies

Some of the swiss chard that I planted a month ago in unamended soil has finally sprouted. We’ll see how well that grows.

IMG_20170306_180503
Swiss chard has finally sprouted

One of my coworkers shared some extra beans. I soaked them overnight before planting and they started sprouting within a few days. Beans seem to grow so well¬†here in Austin, and I’m looking forward to getting my cowpeas in the ground soon.

IMG_20170306_180344
Purple garden beans

A couple more spinach plants are starting to come up. These have grown way more slowly than I expected, though, and I’ve only had a few leaves most weeks. Next year I’ll try planting more.

IMG_20170306_180835
Spinach

The garlic looks pretty healthy. I have about 20 of these scattered around the garden.

IMG_20170306_180947
Garlic

Radishes haven’t turned out that great for me previously, so I’ve gotten lazy recently and just scattered seed on top of the soil. Still, there are some nice little plants forming which I can either use for radish greens or let them go to seed. I read you need quite a few radish plants for them to be pollinated correctly, so I may just let the radish bunches all go to seed.

IMG_20170306_181003
Radishes coming in

The one broccoli plant that grew has already bolted without producing any florets.¬†Next season I’ll try collard greens instead since I’ve seen those grow well in other gardens in the area.

IMG_20170306_180823
Broccoli in bloom

You can just make the edges of carrot fronds in these pics. The number is really disappointing considering I scattered three packets of carrot seeds this year. Next season will require some strategy because I love carrots.

I only have a handful of onion plants that grew from seed (planted in October), but¬†I have confidence that these are the toughest ones and they’ll grow into delicious onions.

IMG_20170306_181022
An onion grown from seed

Most of the onion transplants that I bought last month are doing alright. This picture is from a few days ago. I actually did weed and mulch a bit around them today. I just hope the rain stops knocking them over before they can put out some better roots.

IMG_20170306_180929
Onion transplants

The fava beans have grown tall and have sweet¬†white flowers on them. They’ve been covered with unidentified tiny dark insects much of the time, but then ladybugs came and enjoyed chowing down so I left them as is.

IMG_20170214_175645
Fava bean plant

The cilantro is doing well. If I actually liked cilantro (it tastes like soap!) I’d be using it already, unlike almost everything else in the garden.¬†I will pick a bit for my husband to enjoy, but really I’m growing it for the (coriander) seeds which is great seasoning for soups, pasta sauce, and many other things.

IMG_20170306_181048
Cilantro

Also of note is the garlic chives, which didn’t grow anywhere I planted them in my garden but¬†did grow from the few seeds I scattered in the side yard by the creek. If they survive until the fall, I’ll transplant a few for convenience.

Also not pictured is the cherry tomato plant–the one tomato plant I grew that hasn’t¬†died on me while still¬†a seedling. The plant is still fairly small though, and the tomato I took the seeds from was possibly a hybrid so there’s no telling how it will produce.

Indoors the only plants alive at the moment are a couple of eggplant sprouts, a couple of bell pepper sprouts, and a few tomato sprouts that just this afternoon poked up from the dirt.

IMG_20170306_182643
Eggplant

I’m tired of seeing seedlings die but may get some more Roma tomato seeds anyway as I really want to make and freeze some more tomato paste this year.

Perennials

The Mexican Mint Marigold is coming back to life after its winter slumber. This area also got the weeding and mulching treatment today so it looks a bit better than this now.

IMG_20170306_180911
Mexican Mint Marigold

The Mexican Honeysuckle looks almost exactly like it looked when I planted it a month ago. I was hoping it would grow into a small shrub. Maybe as the weather continues to get warmer.

IMG_20170306_181545
Mexican honeysuckle

 

Not pictured are the spearmint, a couple of rosemary plants, oregano, a couple of salvias, and a lavender. My trials of santolini, dichondra, and sedum also aren’t pictured because they still look exactly like they did when planted recently. Grow, plants, grow, come on!

In sad news, the lemon balm¬†didn’t survive my attempt to keep it as a houseplant. The chile pequin and lemon verbena which I planted late last year also appear not to have survived the winter, but I’ll keep checking.

The esperanza that I recently bought and planted is also not yet showing signs of life, while other estabilished esperanza plants in the neighborhood have. Hoping mine is just still putting down roots and will give some green soon.

Trees

This year has been a big one for fruit trees. I’ve acquired a persimmon tree, which is still dormant and still looks like just a stick in the ground, but persimmons are known to require some patience.

I transplanted my two-year-old Meyer lemon also. Some of the leaves are starting to yellow, but that’s either due to too much rain or not enough of specific nutrients that I can’t feed it with well while it’s getting so much rain. It had better hang in there until the dry season starts so I can give it more targeted attention.

IMG_20170306_181115
Meyer lemon tree

If that fails, I have another baby Meyer lemon tree inside that just needs a bit more time to grow big and strong .

IMG_20170308_053047
Baby Meyer lemon tree

The satsuma mandarin has the same yellowing leaves as the Meyer lemon. But it’s a survivor, I can feel it.

IMG_20170306_181148
Satsuma mandarin tree

Finally, there’s the fig tree which is the most promising so far.

IMG_20170306_180548
Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

In less fruity news, there are also four baby Texas Mountain Laurel trees growing strongly in the front yard.¬†Although just a couple of inches high now, they’ll keep growing slowly and in a couple of¬†years become beautiful little shrubs. And someday, graceful small trees.

Bonus

As a final bonus, we just discovered these growing in the side yard by the creek. From showing this pic around to coworkers, it sounds like they may be daffodils! They’re doing so well on their own that I’ll just let them be for a while longer.

IMG_20170224_085814
Daffodils?

Bonus #2

But¬†what’s this growing in a neglected part of the yard? Ugh, I don’t know how I can ever get rid of all this stuff.

IMG_20170307_175810
Poison ivy and Virginia creeper

Plant a Tree

After a week full of negative thoughts flooding my head, I wanted to do something positive. So I selected a location with plenty of sun, not too close to the house, not too far from the faucet, and with decent soil (almost no rocks found during exploratory digging). And soon my baby (2 year old) Meyer lemon tree had a new home, free from the plastic pot that had contained it for this past year. I made a ring of random bricks from around the yard, and then filled it slightly with a mulch of crumpled leaves and pine needles.

unnamed-2
Molly at 2 years 2 months

This plant is a survivor. After living the first year of its life cooped up inside, I had finally gotten the idea that it might like hanging out outside. Sure enough, being indoors must have been torture and this baby tree was finally able to stretch her wings and let her spirit soar after experiencing the warm sun directly and feeling the breeze rustling through her leaves. After a year outside, it was time to give her a permanent home in the garden where she is guaranteed plenty of room for future growth, both above and below ground.

And for her spiritual growth, I needed to find some companions. Today I had the day off work to go visit The Natural Gardener and do just that. I picked up a “Golden Bells” Esperanza shrub (after previous failed attempts to grow it from seed) and a Fuyu persimmon tree. A kumquat would have made a great companion but it’s apparently not kumquat planting time.

unnamed-3
Persimmon tree… or stick in the ground?

Yes,¬†it doesn’t look like much right now (as a bus rider I chose the smallest one available),¬†but it will grow. Fuyu persimmon trees grow up to 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It has a long taproot and is now situated in what looks like some fairly decent soil. All it needs is a few bricks or something around it to keep it cozy and maybe a bit of fertilizer once I’m sure there won’t be any more hard frosts. Lou here will grow up to be a behemoth and someday will provide us with lots of delicious fruits to boot.

It may seem like a small thing, but planting these two trees in the yard has made me feel a lot better. I’m looking forward to the future now, as these young plants¬†continue to grow and as more trees and shrubs join them in the future. I know the future will be a beautiful place.

Preparing for my first Urban Hike

 

Today is the first hike of my new year’s resolution to walk the Austin Public Library circuit. At 10.5 miles it’s also the longest urban hike that I’ve planned for the year.¬†And with my lazy December, I figured I had better do some kind of prep.

Last week I did a virtual walk using Google Street View and made a few modifications to familiarize myself a bit with the route, reduce the amount of time spent walking along¬†streets without sidewalks, and choose the best way to cross major highways. I ended up adding about a mile to the trip overall, but it’s safer and therefore totally worth it.

My kit (free of disposable items) is ready and waiting:

  • Light jacket for the cool morning
  • Baseball cap for the sunny afternoon
  • Phone, fully charged, and with the map saved as an image for guaranteed offline viewing
  • Reusable water bottle, pre-chilled
  • Various snacks: rolls, pecans, and a tangerine
  • $20 in case I need other sustenance (in my wallet)
  • Cloth napkin
  • Dry deodorant to freshen up at the stop points if needed
  • Library card (on my keychain)
  • Bag to hold everything
img_20170103_072251
Zero waste supplies for my urban hike

In addition to supplies for the walk itself, I also have my bus pass ready in order to get back home in a more timely manner and a plan for an easy and replenishing dinner. Based on my previous walk, it’s probably best if I don’t eat much in the morning or on the hike so I’ll definitely be ready for a good meal after.

I even went on the library website and¬†have a couple of books picked to check out from each branch. Good thing my new year’s resolution wasn’t to be more sponanteous!

New Years Resolutions – 2017

Fireworks are popping all around the neighborhood. They may be illegal here in Austin city limits, but I’m making sure to appreciate the beauty of the few that I’ve seen from my bedroom window. And it reminds me that it’s time to make my resolutions for 2017 official. Some people don’t believe in yearly resolutions (I’ve been one of those people myself), but towards the end of the year I always end up losing a bit of focus and have found that this really helps for me.

2016 Resolution Recap

This has been a great year. Being a homeowner has brought unexpected challenges but I’ve grown more confident in who I am as an environmentally aware human being.

Recap of my 2016 resolutions:

  • Buy Nothing New: I’ve bought a few new things here and there but overall this was a success. I’ve even managed to avoid most freebies, which would have been unthinkable previously. This isn’t going back on the resolutions list for 2017 because it’s evolved into a normal way of life at this point.
  • Buy a house: We got our new home in February, and I love it! (For 2017, we plan on getting the roof done and also getting a real bathtub instead of the current flimsy plastic shell, but that’s not quite a resolution.)
  • Eat less meat & dairy: After a couple of weeks to get used to it, this is amazingly easy so long as you limit the amount of meat & dairy in the vicinity. I learned to make soup, chili, spaghetti, fried rice, and more without adding meat. After Thanksgiving I relapsed a bit due to travelling, feasting, and a week of being sick (and having several fast food places super conveniently located) but during that time I was eating less meat & dairy than I would have a couple of years ago.
  • Try at least one new food each month: I lost track of this resolution for a while, but I closed strong by trying guava (delicious!) and tecojotes (not actually a hand fruit) just a week ago. The highlight of the year was dragonfruit; I may try to grow it one day.
  • Reupholster the couch: What can I say? After realizing how much work it was to own a house that needs a bit of fixing up, this project was postponed indefinitely and later on decisively scratched off as a “Won’t Do” to ease the stress of a long ToDo list.

2017 Resolutions

To keep things realistic, I’ve chosen only four of my many wishlist resolutions to actually keep track of this year.

Walk the APL (Austin Public Library) circuit

I mentioned my plan for a “Walk in the Harvested Woods” in another blog post. This year, I’ll be walking library to library for the couple dozen APL branches in Austin. This is my primary resolution of the year and I’m excited not just to get in a little extra exercise, but to explore more of my hometown, check out more libraries, gain more transportation independence, and engender gratitude (for being healthy enough to do this, for the pleasant weather we often have here in Austin, and more).

Tuesday the 3rd is the first day the library is open in 2017 and I’ll be kicking off with the longest trek on the list, stopping first at my neighborhood Little Walnut Creek branch, then at Milwood, and finally wrapping up the urban hike at Spicewood Springs.

Try at least one new food every month

My natural inclination is to stick to the foods that I already know and love. Half the time I try a new food, it turns out that I don’t care for it. But there are always new things out there. Who would have thought a fruit with dragon-like scales on it would be a strangely sweet jello-like deliciousness inside with light crunchy seeds? Or that turnips are actually better-tasting than radishes? The only way I can learn these things is by keeping my eyes open at the market and trying new foods regularly.

Tithe

My husband and I are fortunate enough to have more money than we need. Unfortunately, my natural frugal tendencies are always encouraging me to save money for other things or for the future rather than giving back. For the past year, my husband and I have been choosing a new recipient each month and that’s helped to make it more interesting but we still didn’t hit 10%. This year we’ll exceed it.

Pick up 1000+ pieces of trash

There is so much litter in my neighborhood that I’ve gotten used to just ignoring it a lot of the time. So on my personal calendar for 2017, I’m adding 3 checkboxes on each day for the first three pieces of litter that I pick up on that day. That’s just a lower limit, though, to make this resolution easier to track.What are you working on this year? ūüôā

Happy Texas Arbor Day!

texas-arbor-day

The national Arbor Day may be celebrated in the Spring, but here in Texas it’s celebrated the first Friday in November. This is because rather than worries about continuous freezing weather, here most trees need as much time as possible to grow strong before the intense summer heat.

I’m not sure if I even need to say this, but trees are awesome!

  • Trees sequester carbon and produce oxygen for cleaner air.
  • Shade from trees can keep your home cooler.
  • Shade from trees can make spending time outside in the summer bearable.
  • Tree windbreaks can reduce heating expenses during the winter.
  • Trees provide habitat for birds and other creatures.
  • Tree roots bind soil to prevent erosion.
  • The roots also filter water that is absorbed through the ground to replenish aquifers.
  • The tree canopy holds a lot of rain that never gets to the ground and helps with the flash flooding we regularly see here in Austin.
  • Deciduous trees drop their leaves, which make great mulch or compost.
  • Trees are beautiful. I’ve read that extra greenery can even reduce crime rates.

Sadly I’m not planting any trees soon. I do have some empty space on my lawn that could use it, but I want a kumquat for my next tree and citrus is best planted in Spring. Have you been thinking of planting trees soon? If you’re in Austin, TreeFolks even gives away some saplings and small trees throughout the season. Check their site for giveaway events.

However, I’m not doing nothing. I would love to watch a tree grow to mature size from seed and have been patiently waiting to see if my peach, plum, or persimmon seeds will sprout. They seeds were taken from delicious local fruits, so there’s hope that they may thrive here. The pomegranate sprouted earlier but is getting droopy and probably won’t make it. ūüė¶

On the bright side, I grabbed some seed from Texas Mountain Laurels (TML) in the area and my first attempt (planted September 30) is looking promising.

img_20161104_210240
my Texas Mountain Laurel at one month

TML is a slow-grower so it’ll be many years before it gets to full tree size. But I’ve seen them shrub-sized and that looks lovely also. I hear they are covered with beautiful purple blossoms earlier in the year, will have to look out for that next year! How did I never pay attention to this before?

img_20161104_170851
Medium-sized Texas Mountain Laurel near my office

This week to make sure that I at least have multiple chickens in my basket, I planted two more little pots with TML and am anxiously waiting for them to sprout. On the next Texas Arbor Day maybe they’ll find their home outside. ūüôā