Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Here's an unusual sight I caught on the way home from a client meeting. The Scimitar Oryx once occupied the entire Sahara of Africa, but were hunted for their horns and are now considered extinct in the wild. The largest population--around 2,500--of this endangered species now live in our area's hills.
Before the adjoining ranch changed owners they used to graze along my fence. They seem like a docile lot, even though their horns look like good weapons. Occasionally I hear one off in the distance around sundown, a sound that can only be described as what I imagine would come out of the mouth of something being eaten alive. A sound that would make even a peacock's song sound soothing. I have grown used to it. But it tends to rattle our guests.
They are able to survive several weeks without water, so they must feel right at home here. I think the idea is they will one day be reintroduced to Africa. But as long as there is hunger people will eat them, endangered or not. Lucky for me, this herd was not too afraid when I stopped to photograph them.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Since Thanksgiving was my birthday, we took the day after to celebrate in the city. First, we visited the McNay Art Museum to see the exhibit of kinetic sculpture by George Rickey. The outdoor pieces were large, geometric forms that moved with the wind creating tension with the landscape. The indoor pieces were more intimate, smaller in scale, and set in motion by fans or people blocking the fans as they moved through the galleries. One reminded me of how waves move across the surface of the ocean. Another was entitled "Machine of Undetermined Use".
Next, we went to a nursery that was tucked into an old southside neighborhood, consisting of many old buildings. It had been recommended as a place to buy a cold-hardy citrus tree. There I chose my gift trees: a Satsuma orange and Santa Rose plum. It seems many of the Texas citrus trees that survived freezes were grafted into stock in Georgia, where nurseries offer them as cold-hardy Texas citrus trees. The only problem is you can't import citrus back into Texas. It was much harder to locate Texas citrus trees for sale in Texas. Now I am hoping that I will also get two large holes in the ground to plant them in!
The finale was an exquisite dinner at Biga on the Banks, on the Riverwalk. I found this upscale, contemporary cuisine restaurant through Local Harvest because they specialize in local foods. We felt right at home with their gauzy curtains with vegetables as a motif, and room dividers of large gourds. We enjoyed speaking with chef Bruce Auden about the local food movement and some of our mutual friends. The food was superb. A birthday to remember!
Friday, November 21, 2008
She was blind when we rescued her off the highway two years ago this month, but we thought she had shown some light sensitivity in this eye. This appeared to be her better eye, at least the one that was not entirely cloudy. I have to take her to the vet this afternoon, who is working us in, so that it can be surgically removed under general anesthesia. Poor Phoebe!
From her dreadlocky wool, battered horns, misshapen hoofs from walking in circles, and forever snotty nose she already has some huge challenges. And now this! She is one tough old sheep, that's for sure. What's also certain, is we will love her just as much, if not more. For Avo her rooster, love is truly blind.
Send us healing thoughts!
Early courtship of Avo and Phoebe, before the birth of Finley.
Monday, November 17, 2008
While my husband worked on the well house door, I started my own project.
As many of you know I am going to experiment in growing small patches of grain in 2009. I say experiment because I've never grown cover crops or grain before, we already ascertained the prairie was not too fertile from this year's no till tomato project, nobody else around here grows grain anymore (although the pioneers did), there's little planting data for my area, and I don't own any special equipment for processing grain. Other than these few shortcomings, it should be a breeze...right?
This crop circle (along with several others) is approximately 20 feet in diameter and was mowed out of native speargrass receiving almost full sun last weekend and seeded with a cover crop of red clover from Southern Exposure this Sunday. The methodology was primitive: land was scruffed using a dirt rake, seed scattered heavily by hand, and stomped into contact with the earth in sort of a spiral dance until the tiny furrows made by the rake's tines could no longer be seen. Water from a circular sprinkler will be applied to keep the soil moist until the clover sprouts.
Investment so far in Crop Circle #1:
a little gas for the mower
3 hours of time
a little electricity to pump the well water
So far, I'm planning hulless oats, sorghum, dent corn, and rice (in the backyard "paddy").
OK, I know you're thinking I'm nuts, but I tell you, this grain is going to taste SO good even if it turns out costing $99/lb...and I just get enough for one breakfast.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I'd picked up these great antique hinges about five years ago just for this day. I think they came off a Pennsylvania barn door. My wonderful husband made the new door over the weekend, and I think it looks great!
The well house actually houses our pressure tank. The pump is submersible, and the well is directly behind the building and covered with a large iron door. It was dug approximately forty feet deep through limestone in the late 1800's, probably by the blacksmith that first owned the property.
We are planning to use the storage shelving inside as a root cellar, and hope to expand the building to eventually cover the well. Since we live where the soil is very rocky, most of the pioneers built spring houses over their wells for just this purpose.
Now, we can move on to project #127...
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The Indian summer is slowly turning to fall. I took this on Halloween on the way to the football game, just as the setting sun touched the hills. I love all the earth tones this time of year. Last night we camped out on our own land with Francisco, and drank in all the fresh air. He has never gone camping with us before, but he seemed to enjoy the experience.
There's a good crop of chilipequins this year. These peppers are 30,000-60,000 units on the Scoville scale (about eight times hotter than jalapeños) and are the only ones native to Texas. The birds plant them for us along the creek. We put them up in vinegar to add some zing to cooking.
We haven't had a real freeze yet. One night we thought we might, so we harvested the rest of the tomatoes green, and I've since made a green tomato chutney with them (five pequins to a quart give it a nice bite). When the weather cools down, I start getting into cooking mode again: this week potato and minestrone soups, and a sour cream orange cake with a Triple Sec glaze.
We've planted Chilean and Shantung garlic--some of which is already coming up--chard, several types of lettuce, and sugar snap peas. We usually eat well over the winter when most northern gardens are fallow. A hospitable winter is the one perk of enduring the summer.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
We found Teddybird paralyzed and dehydrated in the hen house on a hot summer day. Her belly was bright red and swollen. We quickly moved her into the house and fed her electrolyte solution through an eye dropper.
Although this revived her somewhat it was clear she couldn't move her legs. I cooled her belly every day by immersing her in cool water and then towelling her off. She refused to eat chicken pellets and rapidly lost weight. I decided to start scrambling and feeding her eggs and fresh garden greens, which she loved.
Once she regained the weight I started putting her on her back on a towel twice a day and working her legs as if she was walking. She enjoyed this, and would make a purring sound. Now, every time she sees me she makes this sound and I make it back to her. It's sort of an "I love you".
My vet says that when a chicken gets sick, it usually dies the next day. She hasn't laid an egg since, so perhaps she was egg bound and then got dehydrated. Or maybe she had a stroke? No one knows. Not many people would want a chicken taking up residence in their guest bath. Most people would have given up on her sooner. But I could see she wasn't giving up, so how could I?
First, I could see signs of her trying to balance, and when one leg was weaker I worked it a little more. She started being able to grip my fingers again with her toes and push back when I applied resistance. I'm hoping she will make a full recovery and walk normally again.
Last week was the big moment...I took her outside with some food and she waddled to me! We were amazed and are happy to be part of her healing journey. The lesson: don't ever give up!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Our ponds are so small and shallow compared to our neighbor's that they mostly attract butterflies who need shallow water to drink safely, birds for bathing, and some frogs. But today I spotted this lovely dragonfly, common to North America, but not seen at our pond before. It is a male 12 Spotted Skimmer, Libellula pulchella. Females do not have the white spots. I know in botanical terms pulchella means pretty. There's almost a mauve glow to his body.
Our English peas, Yellow Indian Woman and mothe beans are up in the garden. Now that the wildflowers have finished blooming, the sheep are grazing the short grass prairie. This makes them very happy. Phoebe becomes much easier to handle as if the prairie is a sedative, and Finley just boings around until he takes on the shape of a blimp and they are led back to their pen. The cusp between summer and autumn is just so beautiful. The 12 Spotted Skimmer perches on a twig, exhibiting calmness and fearlessness as I snap away. His ups and downs are far removed from those on Wall Street.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We have a couple of similar native plants. This one, Matelea reticulata, or Pearlvine Milkweed, is equally as stunning. Instead of a faux garnet it has a faux pearl for its center. Milkweeds feed many beautiful butterflies when they are still hungry caterpillars, and provide many of the phytochemicals used in medicine.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Instead of being creative I've been trying to deter varmints from the cucurbit patch we planted across the creek in May. As soon as the vines began to sprawl we noticed a few nibbled off and instantly suspected the resident cottontail. My husband valiantly erected a knee-high bunny fence around the area in a day. The vines blossomed, and hordes of bumble bees arrived.
Each morning we would survey the patch with our coffee cups in hand, smiling over the beautiful melons, winter squash, and pumpkins that were forming.
Did you guess pumpkin? They are a French heirloom with a hard to pronounce name. Here's the whole fruit from which the detail was taken. These babies are really tactile and fun to explore with hand and camera! I just hope they taste good, too.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Yesterday I made a very bad mistake of forgetting to latch or improperly latching the garden gate--which also takes only a fraction of a second--and our dog Cody ran in and grabbed my beloved rooster, who never even saw him coming. The shaking was over with in a fraction of a second, and Apollo died of a heart attack in my arms. These days I seem to be a portal to the other world.
Our other dogs would have done the same, but poor Cody has been enabled to act out his instincts due to my stupidity on two occasions now. I realize I have never totally forgiven him for the death of my cat. He isn't innately mean or evil, and he started his life on a two foot chain in an asphalt parking lot having his hip kicked out of its socket as a puppy by his mean owner before I rescued him. I can only blame myself for Apollo's demise. I'm not angry at the dog, but I don't feel any love toward him. So I am weighed down with sadness.
I loved this chicken, probably second only to Avo. I wailed for hours. We buried him in a downpour, which seemed like the heavens crying with me because we've only had five inches of rain since the beginning of the year. This ruins our breeding program, too. I wish I could start yesterday over again, and latch that damn gate.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Sunday, August 3, 2008
So it's always exciting to run across a plant I've never seen before. I've been watching this one for two years and have not figured it out yet.
It's a small perennial growing out of a limestone slab in a dry creek, so it doesn't get much water. It's in dappled shade/sun and blooms in May as a greenish-brown flower with four petals. Last year I thought perhaps I'd missed the petals and was looking at sepals, especially since they are glabrous, but on closer observation this year this appears to be all it's got.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Here the big egg is in perspective with our normally large eggs. Ouch!
Monday, July 14, 2008
You can pick them at 1-2 feet when they are still young--but I warn you they grow very fast! So sometimes we end up eating them when they are a yard long! The seeds inside are small and delicious and they do not get stringy as some beans do. Definitely a fun vegetable that should be on your list to try.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Look who was nestled in an empty flowerpot on the patio! We relocated Mr. Black Widow spider to the woods along our creek where we are less likely to interract. You can recognize this spider's web as an erratic fiber construction, having little architectural sensability. Think of what Jackson Pollock might have created if he had been a sculptor instead of a painter.
I knew the spider was around, having seen the chaos of webbing the hummingbirds pull off my office window to use in building their lichen nests. Once I found a large female under my wheelbarrow in the garden, but by the time I came back with a ten-foot pole she had disappeared.
Wherever I have lived, I've cultivated a deep respect for spiders. I carry the ones found inside outside, and try not to disturb their webs. One summer I kept walking through a large (and beautifully architected) web that appeared across the kitchen door portal. After several collisions the spider redesigned the web with an arch to accommodate my head. We were able to coexist.
I have pondered how similar my beliefs are to Jainism. The Jains believe that all living beings possess a soul and thus great care and awareness is required in going about one's activities. According to Wikipedia "Jainism is a religion in which all life is considered worthy of respect and it emphasizes this equality of all life, advocating the protection of the smallest creatures".
The male Black Widow is much smaller than the female. He appears about life size on your screen. Both can be recognized by the hourglass icon that screams "danger!" In addition to a lack of homemaking skills, they are not too good at relationships either. I believe they get their name from the fact that after intercourse the female spider consumes the male. I will not judge them for what makes no sense to me, as I probably make no sense to them. Some days I don't even make sense to myself!
Friday, July 4, 2008
This 4th of July I am thankful for the river, and a life that allows me to visit it daily.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Tuesday my golden girl refused to get up and turned away from food, although she was still interested in drinking water. She'd been out a little longer the day before than we'd intended, perhaps she was suffering a heat stroke.
Wednesday morning there was no improvement, so we took her to the hospital and blood work showed her glucose way down and her liver enzymes higher than they'd ever seen. Her liver had stopped functioning, probably due to liver cancer. We brought her home and I held her in my arms. She passed at 3:40 p.m.
Utah was the last of my dog family representing my long life lived elsewhere. She was 13 years old. Yes, there still is the husky wolf who never fit into that pack. Our other two dogs acquired here miss her companionship. She got along with everyone. Memories come flooding in, too much to write here.
The heat has been getting to me, too. I'd been thinking about cutting my hair and letting it go grey in an acceptance of middle age. With the curls stretched out, it just made the 10 inches required for a donation to Locks of Love. I've only had really short hair twice, both as a form of grieving: The day John Lennon was shot, and the day of my divorce from a youthful marriage that wasn't working out.
It took about twenty phone calls to find a salon with an opening on Saturday afternoon, and it was two hours away. My husband was supportive. About two blocks from the destination, a huge lightning bolt zapped from the sky close to our car, which sent the traffic light into blinking mode. The salon was in darkness, and the stylist assured me she couldn't cut my hair in the dark. I reminded her that scissors weren't electric, and that I had made a half-day round trip just to get this done. Candles were brought out, like a solstice ritual. The ponytail was snipped.
It did not turn out like the picture I brought with me, but I'm glad it's gone. It's like feng shui for my head. I'm also glad it's going to be a gift to some child, who needs some gold. Gone is the tug of weight on the back of my neck. But now I feel like I have a hat on top of my head. Guess I'll get used to it with time. This morning my neighbor let out a gasp as I took off my hat in the garden.
So, two Golden Girls have passed...one to Rainbow Bridge, and the other into the next phase of life, whatever that is. At least hair can grow back. Utah, you hold a special place in my heart, and I miss you greatly.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The flower seems to like the drought, and has proliferated in the short grass prairie, even sending some scouts across the creek into the oak-mesquite savanna. It's very interesting to observe our property divided in half by a creek, where each side has an almost entirely different collection of forbs. A visiting geologist once put forth the theory that the creek is actually a fault line.
We have been reworking our drip irrigation system to even out the pressure between the various gardens. The San Marzano paste and Chadwick cherry tomatoes are laden with green fruit, peanuts are up, and eleven kinds of melons and winter squash have a nice start. We have our first head of cauliflower and the blackberries are starting to ripen. The bok choy has taken a hit in the heat and will soon become salad for our sheep and chickens, but the amazing chard just keeps on keeping on.
I made a delectable dinner the other night for some friends of chard, raisins, and walnuts sauteed in brown butter tossed onto whole wheat linguine, and topped with Parmesan. I think chard has become tied with kale as my favorite vegetable. I am amazed at how few people (or restaurants, for that matter) cook greens which provide so many nutrients. Most people tell me they just don't know how to cook greens. The secret? Wilt them with garlic sauteed in some olive oil.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
My neighbor doesn't understand why I don't keep this remnant of 'weeds' mowed. Long ago he seeded his side with a monoculture of invasive exotic Bermuda grass and uses a lot of fossil fuel to keep it manicured for no apparent purpose other than he likes it that way. Many people don't realize that the American prairie is more endangered than the rain forests of the Amazon. Most of them have sadly been turned into subdivisions.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I've never seen a squirrel at my window before. They are usually content scampering around in the front yard trying to remember where in the lawn or among the potted plants they hid last year's crop of native pecans. I'm sure every one of our towering pecan trees owes its start to the forgetfulness of his ancestors.