Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Capital Area Master Naturalist '09 Class

I dropped out of graduate school the first time in '88 when I was studying CIED, or Curriculum Instruction and Education. I couldn't see the point at the time, I was sick of school and just wanted to get on with my life. Well, 20 years later I'm starting to see what the appeal was all those years ago. I'm a learning junkie, kinetically speaking, I get headaches when I read for prolonged periods of time...but if I get to get out, meet new people and be around "masters of their craft" I have an amazing attention span...which I usually follow up with in-depth reading...still, what I learn in a class and do with my own hands is what tends to stick.
Shortly after the Master Gardener class was over I was ready to start again...it took me two years to get into the CAMN program because it fills up quickly as they only take 30 students.
Armadillo foraging so feverishly he kept on while I took several shots.
When you sign up for a class like this you're not sure what you're going to get. For instance, I took a yoga training last year that was longer, more expensive and I can already tell I'm going to get way more out of this program simply because the instructors are top notch, we are on location, a different one each time,there is a bus field trip and each meeting involves some sort of activity...science lab or art class scenario. The more variation in the schedule, presentations and instructors...the more exciting, I think.
The begining of our walk.
The first meeting was about getting to know each other and each of the teachers who will be presenting on their given Saturday. They seemed excited to make their presentation the best and a healthy competition ensued about which class would be our favorite. Oh, since the class meets on Saturday's the group varies from a 14 year old home-schooler to seniors, with a lot of people and a few couples in between.
After the gathering and getting to know each other we received our materials and shared a delicious lunch together followed by a choice of hikes. I took the nature hike around Zilker so I could chit-chat and take pictures! This one is of Mirror Pond, as you can see the pond is dried up but the effect remains! It was a beautiful day.
I love the leaning trees and the forest floor was a carpet of things to observe
A lone bench in the distance...a perfect place to meditate.
This isn't a photo shop enhancement. The moss on this damp wall was truly Longhorn Orange!
November is slowly becoming my favorite time of the year...I've been spending more time outside this year than I have in the past decade...
The end of the group was brought up by one of the most interesting people, a lifetime birder and I quickly migrated her way. She seemed to know exactly who was speaking to us and what they were saying. I can't wait for the mammals class!

It was amazing to me that this is right in the heart of Austin and being an employee of the Green Garden, that I'd not wandered over to the science center and explored the area more thoroughly. My intention is to drag my family back to the place where each class meets on the following weekend and recreate the hikes with them as a way to commit what I've learned to memory and share new places and experiences with them. I will also be making a post about each class because as I have a desire to share all things wonderful with my fellow man and I've already had so much enthusiasm just talking with my friends and fellow blogging gardeners about...the next step.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nursery Hopping Friday...

Last Friday my friend "Horselips" and I hit a few 'off the beaten path' nurseries in Austin and have decided to keep this up as long as our interest holds. We met at my place and then headed up north to "Garden of the Ancients." I love this place and had only been once before...they specialize in rare plants that have medicinal uses as they have a store selling herbal products of every kind...bath salts, lotions, salves, lip balm etc

4800 Yeager Lane just off Parmer near the Samsung Plant
When you get there you're not sure what to do because the land is sprawling with several out buildings and lots of beds. We headed down into a small valley in the direction of several large greenhouses.

This is one half of the first greenhouse...well organized by size, not a price tag on anything...just name tags. The other side of the room had a variety of gorgeous cacti, many in bloom.
The color was magical!
No name on this one but it's little cap felt as furry as it looked!
Then we wondered into another equally large greenhouse filled with even more aloe, agave, desert rose etc.
This is one of the biggest selections I've seen...I forgot to mention that what I was looking for was an Ocotillo. We drove through Joshua Tree this summer and I've been dreaming of them ever since...
These beautiful pods were just laying about on a bench and with more investigation we found a giant Morning Glory that had similar but green pods.

Here's the Morning Glory climbing the walls, planted directly in the ground.
Amaranth in the sun! I have a shawl this color. When I pulled my hand across the furry surface dozens of pin-head sized seeds tumbled into my hand.
There were several stands of it, taller than 5ft.
We saw only one other person...the owner's son and he was very knowledgeable and helpful. If you're looking for some rare finds...or a bit of an adventure, check it out.
"Horselips" was hungry...as always, so he suggested this East Austin Venue..."Juan in a Million" he said it was a great place to treat a hangover...which I didn't have but I'm always game for a family owned restaurant. The food was a bit peppery and they didn't have frozen Marg's so I opted for a Bloody Mary, ignoring the waitresses look. When I order a Bloody Mary I should just ask "how many veggie's do you put in it" because in my opinion the Bloody Mary is an excuse to have a small salad with a splash of Vodka. This disappointing beverage showed up in a pint glass sans greenery... plain tomato juice and vodka...worst BM ever...no pun intended. I gussied it up with some of the salsa and pepper but left feeling Juan was less than one in a million.
We had a good time anyway!
Such a good time in fact that I took this picture of dessert in the parking lot. You can't go wrong with butter, condensed milk, brown sugar and pecans.
Next stop was Natural Gardener...not so unusual but just a really great place.
So many colors...choices...
I love the baby plants!
I thought I'd play with my camera bit. I'm no photographer and I'm out of touch with technology, according to anyone who knows tech-speak but I am making an effort to broaden my repertoire beyond...composition, composition, composition. So, above is the standard BS, or on my camera Best Shot.
This is the same shot (almost) using the candlelight feature...night-time B movie! OOHHHH!
This image seems stolen from my fantasy childhood...you know, the one you wish you had...
I'm not sure the running water feature on my camera does anything...I tried it in several places and can't tell the difference! I have a resting Quan-Yin in my adult fantasy garden though!
Fun...I'd have liked it more had the rakes been used prior.
Greeeeeens to die for!
Another Amaranth variety, note to self...Plant Amaranth for Autumn Bling!
One of the best signs ever is posted outside of the burro's home... it reads:
"Unattended children will be given Espresso and a free kitten."
I'm just in love with these natural-scapes. They seem to be popping up all over and I couldn't be more pleased. I'm not a fan of the plastic yard look and I bet it looks inviting year round! It's a new installment so I'm going to try to keep up with it's changing faces.
Check out that iris! If you haven't been here you just have to bring the kids, keep 'em with you but take the time to enjoy the animals!
Bare root fruit trees should be available next month! Isn't this spectacular?
I took this picture because I love corrugated tin and other industrial materials. Even though it's just a simple shed, the shelves and colorful pots really make it look festive.
By mid-afternoon this place was pretty muggy. I guess they turn the swamp cooler off come Autumn...
Just some of the succulents in a nice stair step display.
Now this is something I didn't think I'd see again. This is a Quiver tree from Namibia. My brother was stationed in Namibia with the Peace Corps and my husband and I went over for a trip over seven years ago. This is not a beautiful specimen but the price tag read $599.00
I was in shock! the Quiver tree forest is in the Southern part of the country and runs along the South African boarder. It's an absolutely amazing sight at sunset. The first one of these trees I saw was my height exactly and I got the feeling it was endowed with some kind of magical powers...like it was human. I know it sounds strange but it's not the vodka talking! It's bark is smoothe and you just want to hug it!
"Horselips" get outta my frame!
Just another beautiful site...where do they get all that rock?
More Amaranth....
It really does make a statement.
Now here's the part I'd never seen before. On the other side of the parkinglot there is a small grotto with our Lady of Guadalupe among prickly pear...
The sign reads: Life's a Journey. Enjoy it. It leads you into an open space with a maze.
The coral bean stood on the far side reaching 8-9 feet high.
So simple...if I only had this kind of space to play!
Our last stop was the "Living Desert Cactus Nursery" a little dive off 71 and Bee Caves. I'd seen this place before but didn't think much of it. After I'd spent the better part of an afternoon looking for Ocotillo, this place kept coming up...so we took the trek.
I snapped this shot before I read the "no photography" sign...ooops. They are moving though...plus it was tooo cool!
I didn't see a sign directing me to put my camera away outside so I felt pretty safe. Check out the glass!
The couple inside were making artwork from the glass and twisted wire. The sculpture littered the landscape and so did cactus, found object art and lots of Anacacho Orchids in need of water.
At the bottom of the property was a greenhouse...just a small one, but it was filled with beautiful blooming cactus of every kind...it was a living desert!
This shot is from the back looking toward the door.
And this is the view when you walk in.
The bougenvilla was crouching beneith the roof...
The the poor girl had busted through her pot in search of nutrients...obviously she'd found some!
Such a pretty face. The day was great! Austin has so many cool nurseries that are well worth the trip. We didn't find Ocotillo and I'm going to have to extend my search to San Antonio...I hear there's a place that always keeps them in stock...Paul's Desert? Never heard of it but I may have to make a trip down I35 and check it out! "Horselips" and I plan on doing this weekly, occasionally we bring our friend G.I. Terry and you can check out their version of the day on their blogs..."Horselips Horse Sense" and "Green Iris." Well, if they get on it!
Happy Gardening!