Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nursery Crawl (plus some other stuff) #5

Randy and I are both from Kansas, I was born in Lawrence...Randy was raised in...I can't remember the name! Some little town Cold____something outside of Dodge City, which I visited as a kid and my only memory was that it was way out in the middle of nowhere, Randy's home town was like 450 people or some such thing...unimaginable! When I was a freshman in high school my parents moved up to Kenai, Alaska...the population at that time was around 4000 and that was the smallest place I can remember living. What does all this have to do with our crawl? Well, tons. We needed to get out of town, see something else...some relief in the land, we live in the center of town and shamefully rarely make it into the hills. Anyway, this crawl took us out and it reminded us why we live in Austin, Texas... and love it.

This is the sign you see from the highway, 290 that is...heading west out of town toward our minuscule destination. This is a great little nursery if you've never been. It looks tiny from the access road but once you drive in you can see the sprawling grounds

These two little guard dogs hang out around the main building and are very friendly the white one is named "Smigle" you have to love that...well, if you're a "Ring" fan. The manager Jeff took the time to walk us around and explain what he loves about his place.
Emerald Garden used to be at the "Y" at Oak Hill but has been at this newer location for 7 years. They've got a nice selection of natives and they carry large trees and shrubs, catering to the Landscaper.
Everything was healthy and I ended up getting a Cassia and some Blue Fescue for my mound planting. I'm in search of a Fuyu Persimmon...arriving next week!

This is the biggest Pony-tail palm I've ever seen! There were blossoms and fruiting lemon, lime and Satsuma orange trees at the entrance making this the most pleasant smelling greenhouse! It was like a spa! They have a special right one get one free Pansies!

They specialize in water gardens, meaning everything you need..pumps, liners, skimmers and every time we've been out there, new shapes and rock! It's a one-stop pond set up, a bit pricey but if that's not a problem for you, have fun!
It's not the season but inside these wells were dormant pond plants of everykind sleeping among some sluggish mosquito fish...yes, they carry fish!
If you're looking for a variety of Japanese Maple, they've got virtually any size. They also carry giant bamboo's, succulents and grasses. I've been out there 3 times this spring and each time something different is on sale and the inventory seems healthily rotated.
This is the pond in the back. Check out their Website:
They boast that they are the most unique Garden Center in Austin and I think you can see that they are pretty diverse. They claim to have a weekly seminar from 12-12:30 followed by a band performance, but I couldn't find out what day?
This was the first time I'd been let into the fish room! I didn't even know it existed. They are a little low right now but they're expecting some new arrivals soon.
Clean and happy fish! Boy are they hard to photograph!
It was a lovely drive through the hills and we were plenty hungry by the time we reached our lunch spot. According to the locals, this is the only Mexican Restaurant in Johnson City. The mural outside was promising...the menu should have given us a clue, well, Randy got it...I don't get out of town too often. No Vegetarian dishes! No Beer/Wine/Margaritas to wash down the greasy goodness, and what is this? a fish plate? I asked if I could get fish taco's and got a flat no. The fish plate came with fries. Randy reminded me that small town restaurants cater to the local population, if I had to live there, I'd need an IV of Margarita's and that wasn't on the menu.
I was forced to have the cheese enchilada plate...not pictured. Instead here is Randy, himself...when I said "I got to get a picture of this!" Everyone was ordering a plate of could we go wrong? Turns out we should have just had this, it was the best thing we got. I hate to say it, but I'm giving this place a thumbs down. My meal was maybe, two steps above my high school cafeteria Alaska for Pete's sake. Randy, aka "gut's-0-steel" thought it wasn't that bad...go figure.
Our next stop for some great yard art is former Austin Resident, Kathy Johnson. She had a great little place in Austin for 10 years and moved out to Johnson City a few years back. She's got lots of space and is available by appointment.
Located at 104 HWY 281S @ Hwy 290 W
We arrived just as they were unloading from a trip up north to our home state of Kansas!

Kathy travels all over in search of rare objects, collectibles, yard art, furniture...anything you could want, really. The prices are all over the place, meaning...there's something for everyone. She's a down to earth former school teacher and a fair trader.
She's got a great eye for architectural pieces but specializes in handcrafted antique doors...if you can't find one in Austin, try her...she had a huge inventory!
Here's Kathy inside her cram-packed store!
We were there for a long time, there was just so much to see both outside and in.

Here's the back room with ceramic pieces, hardware, windows and in the corner a rod-iron base for a bottle tree! I want one of those!
By this time the grease in my stomach was beginning to solidify and I needed some agave juice fast to help digest! Apparently the "Cupboard" is the only place in town with a liquor license...
We got a peculiar look when we asked for a frozen Margarita and they had to get the owner to teach the staff how to make one...old school, using a blender. It looked great, but... we'd watched it being made...

Here we are before we tried it.

Now, my personal friends probably think I'm a liquid-snob. I like organic dark brewed coffee, black. My husband brews our own beer and when it comes to a's my recipe:
In a blender:
1 can Minute Maid Limeade
1 1/3 cup as close to top shelf Tequila as you can afford...I like Silver Patron:)
1/3 cup Cointreau
Fill with Ice, blend until extra smooth!
My dear Uncle Frank, bless his soul, got me this great set of Margarita glasses with the passed out countryman-donning a sombrero at the base of a Saguaro cactus-stem which I always dip in my rock salt that we order from either France or Hawaii...why? It's the real stuff!
I don't care if that's over the top! One pitcher and your stomach will be sore the next day from belly-laughter and you won't have a hangover! My advice in Johnson City is...wait 'til you get to Austin to have Mexican food and a Margarita! Now, I have to give a shout out to the wonderful staff at the Cupboard because they were top-notch Southern-style friendly, and they tried to doctor up our drinks by adding another shot of to-kill-ya, which Randy drank up and I left on the table. The full bar was all bottom-shelf, except the micro-brews from Blanco. Have a Real Ale, it's the bomb! My favorite is Fireman's 4, and if you like it, hit the Austin Home Brew Store for a mock recipe...we make it a few times a's that good. Apparently Hill Country Cupboard was recently written up as one of the best hole in wall's in Texas...they don't have the smoking ordinance that we enjoy in Austin, but the place has great 1950's ranch-style charm, an old school jukebox and is hopping on the weekends.
Here's my truck loaded down with 100 cedar poles and the Chicken sculpture I got at Kathy's place. That dang Randy waltzed out with a killer deal on a Turkish mold of some sort! Dagnabbit!
I'm not complaining though, I love my made the culinary torture worth the trip!
I got the cedar from a place called Haynes Cedar Company, which doesn't even have a building but is a chunk of land that resembled a graveyard of trees...I got some nice shots of the place but it made me a little uncomfortable. I don't suffer from Cedar allergies and I know that removing the male trees is a good idea...according to forestry-men and the BLM but it still made me feel sad. I'm currently reading through Carlos Castaneda's 3rd book "Journey to Ixtlan," and Don Juan instructs his apprentice to be kind to plants and to thank them when you borrow from them, reminding them that our bodies will one day serve as food for their children. The poetic beauty and justice of this statement has permeated my gardening since. The product is top notch and affordable, enough said.
Loaded down, we headed home. This little place was just outside of town on the East side of 290. Artisn Bakery plus plants? Great idea! Too bad they close so early! We just missed them by 15 minutes and they were kind enough to let us wonder around, but no "cuppa-jo."
They had natives, veggies and a few chachkies. The prices were very reasonable!
Randy was kind enough to help me unload my bird...
And we put her just outside the hen-house. That's it for this week, day-trippers and garden dreamers. I'm going to need a few more loads of cedar and am looking for something closer to home, I'll have to say that the trip was well worth it though! I named my sculpture Esperanza in hopes that she'll inspire my girls to lay, lay, lay!
Happy Gardening!

Monday, January 26, 2009

CAMN at Wild Basin

I forgot my camera Saturday morning, and it's just as well. The gauge outside the visitors center didn't quite reach 45 degrees when we headed out for our guided hike and meditation.
The wind was gusting and our assignment was to try and find a spot to sit and work through a simple 3 part exercise aimed at fostering focus and helping us to melt into the scene. It was too late in the day to see much activity and my focus ended up being: trying NOT to jitter my teeth so loud as to scare away wildlife! Needless to say, I didn't see a thing (wildlife that is) but was able to take in the beautiful scenery and wonder what it must have been like hundreds of years ago when fire was allowed to wipe the earth clean of scrub, and the beautiful prairie free to flourish. I've lived in Austin now for 12 years and had never made it out there, though had read about the star parties and somehow had managed to miss them month in and out. Well, I'll be at the next new moon party when they start up because now I can imagine the magic.
I popped onto the WildBasin website to read about the history and, based on the desire to preserve more green space by 7 wild women in tennis shoes (I love that part of the story) I've decided that this is the place for me to do my volunteer work. CAMN, Capital Area Master Naturalist is an organization that is highly involved in ecological preservation and education. I'm currently working my way through their certification program and loving every minute. So far, we've just had our orientation, and Saturday was our first class. Being a kinetic learning junkie, meaning...I've had my share of formal education: butt to chair, and I prefer hands on, well designed learning situations...I'm impressed with the conscious layout of this program. In fact, I'm going to go as far as to say that every program I've ever taken could learn a thing or two from the objective of class #1.
This is why:
The speaker was a reluctant artist, a true wildlife lover and nature observer with a soft voice and concentrated desire. I didn't ask to use his name so we'll just call him Mr. Green Heron Enthusiast. He joined the second class of CAMN back in '98 because he was a fly fisherman who wanted to learn more about Insects...but was open to wonder and ended up being an award wining nature journalist, with no formal training. Well, this tickled me pink because I left teaching in the public schools (art) because of philosophical differences, especially that I believe that all children and adults can learn to draw and should! I know some of you out there are shaking your heads saying something as silly as "I can't even draw a straight line" which is bogus because whoever actually needs to draw a straight line can just use a ruler! This was the premise of Mr. Green Heron Enthusiast, and he was a success story to prove it! My point about this man, the program and the placement of his lecture/lesson is that shouldn't every program...start with an art lesson and thorough example of how to keep a meaningful journal? I can only imagine how much more information I'd have embodied if every class I took allowed time to thoughtfully draw/write about my experience of the subject matter...heavens the Master Gardener Class would put out a far superior master if we had drawn the plants we were learning about, made illustrations of the soil properties and graphed changes.
After his introduction and show and tell he lead us through a few practice drawing exercises and kept encouraging everyone to "just do it" and enforced that daily practice would lead to mastery. It can't be spelled out any clearer than that. Keeping a journal is not about creating fine art, it's about developing a personal relationship with the subject matter, in this case, you and the natural world. He has been journaling for over ten years and has organically discovered his innate talent and desire. Not everyone will turn out an award winning artist, but who cares?
The beauty of his experience is that he takes an hour lunch daily, from his not so glamorous engineering job...walks down to a tributary of LadyBird Lake and sits with his journal and few drawing supplies and documents his experience noting the date, weather conditions and whatever sights, sounds and smells that present themselves to him. Through this patient meditation he has discovered patterns and cycles and he seemed just as enthusiastic about the discovery of questions as his ability to wrap his mind around discovered answers.
Then, we practiced what he'd learned from his life.
After our frozen experiment he encouraged us to begin now and to be open to wonder.
The afternoon speaker was just as engaging, a past forestry major and current Ranger and Guide at another State Park, he introduced the philosophy of nature interpretation as adopted by the NWF and National/State Parks...which is:
through understanding comes appreciation and through appreciation, preservation. This process should lead to stewardship! So, the job of the guide is to interpret the natural situation aiming to reveal the meanings of the relationships through the use of...original objects, firsthand experience and illustrative media, rather than simply to communicate factual information...this is a paraphrase of Freeman Tildens definition. It's hard in this day and age of extreme politics to steer clear of "Interpreganda" especially when it comes to working with children/young adults who are clearly addicted to modern technology/media...a lot of presentation also boarders on "Interpretainment"...using the soul of the message merely as a punch line.
His presentation was nothing short of delightful and we had lots of activities illustrating the importance of interpretation as a means of engaging the innocent visitor with purposeful information and creating portals for learning , exploring, understanding and caring.
In line with my experience I'll stop there hoping that I've given you just enough information to wet your appetite and stir the imagination. I encourage you all to take your kids out to Wild Basin for an morning or afternoon of fun! The park is open from sunup to sundown, but the education building is only open Tu-Sun. Check the website for upcoming events! Those of you tickled by nature enough to want to stand up and protect her, check out the CAMN website!

Happy Gardening, and hiking, and birding, and drawing...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

GBBD New Bloomin' Year

I was surprised to find any blooms at all this morning as I've been avoiding the garden busying myself with hard scape and planing...and now I've got company in from Kansas City. As I'm quickly putting this up, they are outside having red wine and enjoying the chiminea and what they think is lovely weather...compared to -2 degrees back home...I guess it's all relative. So, this will be a quick photo sweep of my Texas yard, the first GBBD of the new year and a big shout out to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for starting this up!

We'll begin with the front yard, my trusty bloomer and daughters namesake Autumn Sage or, Salvia Greggii.

A pitiful mum on her last leg.

I had to lay on the ground to capture this tiny sedum, that looks like a rose as it's a bit sunburned.

Lovely Lavender.

The solitary bloom on my Mexican Oregano.

Hymenoxys or Four Nerve Daisy.


Purple Fringe flower or Loriapetilum

A little bloom on this variety of Wandering Jew in a hanging basket...

The last of the Gregg's Mistflower.

Mini Pomegranate

Purple Lantana



Dianthus in a hanging basket out back.

I don't know if this counts but it's the remnants of my Copper Canyon Daisy.

I'm especially proud of this Shrimp plant because it was a cutting from the Green Garden that I just stuck in the ground...not expecting it to live!

The pale face of a sun starved Crown of Thorns pulled in for the "threat" of a freeze.

The still thriving Pointsettia reminding us of last year! I'm hoping for an abundant Blooming New Year! Happy Gardening!