Saturday, November 29, 2008

Riverwalk Lights

The San Antonio Riverwalk is always lovely, but the day after Thanksgiving it is transformed by lights into something even more magical. The river taxis become floats carrying gingerbread houses, choirs, and even Santa and Mrs. Claus. It has turned into quite an affair since I last attended the event fifteen years ago, and traffic was unbelievable.

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

Phoebe loses an eye!

This morning when I went out to feed, I had a few treats for Phoebe--the ends of carrots and broccoli left over from last night's dinner. Finley, her son, won't touch them, so that means more for her! While she was searching my hand for another morsel I noticed a trickle of blood running down her face, and then--in horror--I noticed her right eye had ruptured! I won't describe it, but let's say it was not very pretty.

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

Crop Circles

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
$3 clover
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

Well House Door

The original well house door was slowly decaying and finally fell off last year. Since this is the view from the window over my kitchen sink it had become a daily reminder of all that is desperately in need of repair around our homestead.

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

Garden mimic

This beautiful toad was sitting under the garden water spigot. I don't recall other ones around here to be this exotic looking. Unfortunately, I don't know my amphibian species, one from another. I like the combination of the spots and stripes, how they might mimic pebbles or veins in leaves. I don't know if this creature has the ability to willfully blend its color into its surroundings as do the anoles, but as one who specs color as part of her living, this toad would be a pretty good Pantone match.

[Well, it appears my husband knows this as the Leopard Frog, and from some web sleuthing I would have to agree this does look like Rana blairi, a Leopard Frog. I see now how its legs are more froglike. Anyway, he gets a gold star for identification!..and I will stick to flowers.]

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 jalapeƱos) 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.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin