Wednesday, June 27, 2012

News From Hades, TX...

Greg grows the spice...well, he orders the onions and plants the pepper starts, then I do the rest...but once they're on the counter, he usually does the cooking.  I'm more one for eating raw.  One guess as to what he's making for dinner?
 That's right...Texas Chili, all from the garden...and some prime organic beef as well!
 I was looking for something to share for Wordless Wednesday when I discovered these Siamese twins.
 Yesterday was the hottest day on record for Austin in the month of June, 108...this is what it looks like this morning.
And this is a little Russian cup my sister-in-law sent me, it was an elephant but when the Elm dropped a branch, it lost it's it's become a butterfly feeder.  Please don't forget our pollinators and animal friends in this horrid weather...refill your bird baths daily!
Tonight's speaker at CAMN is Michael Warriner and he has this to say about the talk: “Despite their critical roles in agriculture and natural ecosystems, bumblebees have gone relatively unstudied in Texas.  The last published review of species in the state was in 1912, 100 years ago.  There is a real need to evaluate the status of these insects in our state to assess how their populations are faring and if conservation actions are needed.”

CAMN meetings are open to the public and begin at 7pm at the Nature and Science Center at Zilker Park.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Week at CG

This is the Texas eyed click beetle, or Alaus lusciosus, in my front yard on Thursday.  I've seen them before but decided to look him up to learn a little bit about him and why I don't always see these in the yard. Notice where he is?  Well, they are normally found in hardwood forests and this guy was right under where I had moved an Ash stump.  
 They're harmless, and hardly eat much once they're above ground but the eye spots can be spooky!  This guy ranges from Texas to Florida and northward all the way into Canada.  They have a special movement where they arch their backs and spring or snap out...which helps them to right themselves if found on their backs.  The eye spots are just that...their real eyes are small and up front...apparently the big eyes helps thwart attacks from birds and other prey because it startles them and they usually move on.
 Soon after snapping that shot I had a few friends over for a little breakfast nip...Bloody Mary's or what I call a salad with a kick!  My friend Meredith had never had one, and I was determined that she should...though she did warn me that she wasn't a tomato fan.  My thought is that if you add at least 4-5 veggies, you justify that wee shot (or two) of vodka...big whoop!
 I always start with red onion (from the garden) and smash it up below the ice to spice up the juice...I prefer Zing Zang or Opal Divines...but the IGA was out, so V-8 had to do.  The photo above show the veggies, minus the peppercini which I forgot!
 So, we had carrot, celery, onion, olives, a sprig of cilantro, horseradish, tumeric, ground black pepper, lime, Worchestire Sauce a shot of potato vodka (I'm avoiding wheat or I'd have had one of our famous Texas Vodkas) tomato juice...stir!  Yum, a great way to start an otherwise boring day, though I don't really think anyone can be bored if they just open their eyes.
 We've been walking outside in the evenings around 8 to watch the purple martins dive, swoop and swirl!
(Photos by loving spouse)
 A few years back, I talked the groundsman at the church, who is a retired carpenter, into building a Martin house and it's been 3 years now...and they hang out nightly!  The church people are clueless, as the show isn't during operational hours!
 Join us some night !  We'll be in our jammies, cocktail in hand enjoying the neighbors and the view!

 While checking on the basil status, I just had to grab a shot of the ruellia I thought I'd removed when I changed the shape of the's just so hard to get rid of...anybody want some?  It's the pink variety.
 Above, is a Carolina Wren's nest that I found this week while watering my Cecille Bruenner rose, below: Machlaw eggplant...the first one!
 ...and the second round of Lebanese eggplant, these were delicious on the grill!
 The "not so often seen" in the garden cat...Persephone Sage, my daughter Autumn's old girl, and the mother of my beloved garden cat, Bob.  She's a yodeler, an indoor sleeper who gets a bath regularly...and loves it.
 This is the place I dumped out the 'rest' of the package of basil seeds this spring!
 Here's the harvest and the first round of pesto making today.
I don't put pine-nuts in my pesto because it's not good for my I've read, so I add organic walnuts instead and have come to prefer the bitter edge.  Anyway, I'd include a recipe...but I don't really's a consistency thing and I think everyone does it their own way...anyway I have it, I love it!

 My sweet kitchen help, Autumn, home from college.  She made a peach cobbler last week that was divine!
 We only got 51/2 jars, which is pretty tiny...but I hope we'll have a few more harvests before it gets cold.
And here was lunch today with tomatoes from the garden!  What's going on in your garden?  I hope lots of yummy food and spices!  

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spice from the Earth

Last year I got out there and snatched up all the chili petin I could before the birds got them...they got some, and the next batch, but I got a nice little Bonne Maman jar full.  Well, I still have a little bit of that jar left, and here comes then next round.  That's the kind of figuring out that I like to do...just how much spice do we require here?
So, I got out and picked them again...because they were great and I figured out just how many little orbs would add just the right amount of flavor to a crock-pot of something or other, or an omelet or a casserole.  That number is the same as adding cloves of the way.
 We've also grown Kung-Pao chillies which will become Kung-Pao chicken...or for me...tofu.
 This is a salad I made for an appetizer to take to friends the other day.  The purple hull beans were grown by my friend Lesley, here in the hood...and the onions, thyme, Swiss chard, basil, tomatoes and peppers were grown by me...Balsamic Vinaigrette,  EVOO, salt and pepper...came from the store.
 The precious cilantro is all gone...but not the tasty bright seed... coriander.
 It took a long time to separate and I don't even care about the little twigs...they all taste the same...this will last a year or so, the rest will get thrown into the yard and hopefully bring some lovely green next year, or the next.
 This weeks bounty.  Peaches that became cobbler, and lots of flavors that will last long into the winter.
Kung Pao!

It isn't all about pretty flowers and meaty tomatoes...we all need a little spice to get us through!

Happy Gardening!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Warning: This Post Contains Graphic Images!

Meredith O'Reilly was kind enough to have a few of us Capital Area Master Naturalists over to her place yesterday for some delicious Mango Margaritas and snacky-poos!  We had a wonderful time talking about the upcoming year in CAMN and discussing  possible speakers.  While we were there, we got a tour of her beautiful property and garden.  She lives on a large, mature lot in North Austin with some blessed, shaded areas and lots of full sun in the back for vegetables!
 Chartreuse is my favorite color, so I had to snap a shot of her welcoming bench out front.
 Wise words from the flying pig that greeted us just near the front gate...seen below.
 This isn't available anywhere in town, no sir...this is one of her very own designs and was created by the fabulous and talented Bob Pool!
 The artwork is also functional...there's a wrens nest in the Sun...wouldn't it be nice to wake up inside the sun...cue the music..."I'm walking on Sunshine...yeah-eh!"  Yes, I know I've dated myself with that one.
 This is the side yard and I fell in love with her path.  These have become quite popular lately and it's one of those trends that I think is just such a wise use of materials, especially if you've had to have a tree removed...why lose all that free mulch or art material?
 Close-up...homemade path
 The side yard, looking toward the street.  Doesn't it look cool and inviting?
 This little pond is just outside the kitchen window which boasts a bird watching area and makes sitting inside delightful (well, especially with a giant Mango Margarita in your hand....ahhhh summertime!)
 Because of their 3 ponds, they are often visited by furry friends as well...but, you saw the sign...they're welcome...just no skunks please!
 The back patio
 It wasn't the best time of day for taking photos...lots of bright sun, but you get the idea...lovely walking paths lots of natives and fun art peeking out here and there!
 Meredith blogs at Great Stems and you can see how she and her family built this fabulous pond mostly out of recycled material and free-bees from Craig's List, very smart!
 I loved the glass balls in the water!  
 Another artwork by local talent!
 I was very impressed by the growing structure and several square foot gardening boxes which add height and dimension to the garden while keeping the area relatively clear...unlike my messy herb and food gardens!
 Meredith is also a Habitat Steward and there were watering and food stations all around her plot, pleasing to the eye, functional and textural.
 Another view of the backyard...which is quite large with old oaks, ash and lots of common and rare a Texas Madrone, my favorite native tree!
 Nice use of an old ta-kill-ya bottle!
 Mimosa!  Yes please!
 I love the artistic quality of the trellis and how it becomes a focal point from nearly any perspective!
 Do you have natives that are hard to grow in your yard?  I cannot for the life of me get beebalm
(what I call it but is also known as:  Monarda citriodora, lemon beebalm, Horsemint, Purple horsemint, Lemon mint, Plains Horsemint, Lemon Horsemint as it's in the Mint Family: Lamiaceae)
to grow in abundance...nor can I grow our state frustrating...especially when she tells me that these are "volunteers!"  Blasted!
 A sweet little path...lots of these idea starters around the yard...I can't wait to see this garden when she's been at it a decade or more!
 Hey Meredith!  Smile!
 No?  Do you recognize the seed pods?  
Eve's Necklace
 Two screech owl boxes grace the old trees at the edge and side of the backyard and she's had little ones two years in a row!  
 Caterpillar box to remove and save the little guys from the birds until they emerge, built by her loving spouse!
 Ever see seats like these?  If you find one in town, give her a holler...she's looking to buy another as this was from her grandmother's  home!
 This is just a charming collection in the corner before you enter the house!  Another beautiful Texas garden!
 Inside out of the heat, we were introduced to Morse and Walker, this is Morse...a Corn Snake.
 It was hard to get a good shot of the little guys, my camera wasn't cooperating but you can probably guess what's coming...the next several shots are of Walker, who is half Rat and half Corn Snake.
 hmmmm....what have we here?
 Oh yeah, it was that fast.....zap!
 So, my husband was born in the year of the, I'm a Snake...oh yes, the lady is a Snake!  Images like this make him uncomfortable...hehehe...hissssss!
 Just a little to go...
Sure enough, she was telling us how he looks pink, where you can see the rat...I wasn't seeing it at the time, but it shows up clearly here!
Meredith is on the board here at CAMN and I'm so looking forward to working with this talented gal!  We all had a wonderful time and hope to visit again soon!  Check out her blog!

Happy Gardening!