Saturday, March 31, 2012

Flowing with Change

Last weekend while doing my hike and taking pictures of the rushing water, I found myself captivated by some of the water as it rushed toward the waterfall. As it encountered a rise in the stone or some hidden obstacle that was higher than the rest of the stream bed, the water rose up and tumbled backward, as if it was trying to escape the waterfall.



The inevitable tumble over the cliff came regardless of the energy spent trying to flow upstream.



I sat for a while, transfixed, thinking that this water was so much like us when we are confronted with change. We fight with every bit of energy we have to avoid the change, but ultimately are swept along with it.

Several events this week kept bringing me back to the images of the water attempting to run backward. Some events could be managed, others had to be accepted, but all were going to be what they were.

Change has been. Change is. Change will be. 

Living through change wisely is my goal.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 2012 Mckinney Falls 3 - Waterworks

I have done my first two posts without focusing on the namesake of McKinney Falls. I posted pictures of flowers growing in the park, but had nothing to show of the waterworks that give the park it's name. Onion creek, when flowing, provides some spectacular water effects as it flows down the park lands from the upper falls to the lower falls.


One shot from the upper falls.

The water beginning its journey from the upper falls to the lower falls.

The water about halfway between the upper and lower falls - directly below the historic rock shelter long used by native Americans.

Water going over some of the falls.
One of my OMG photos with the  colors captured in the water and the appearance that it is coming directly at the camera.


Another photo that just awed me. I enjoy those rare pictures that wow me now and then.
The lower falls.

An amazing photo of water coming together in one of the chutes leading to a waterfall. I love the texture and colors captured.

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 2012 McKinney Falls 2

I was playing with depth of focus on these three shots. The subject is the same, but the focus gradually changes from the far to the near.

This photo has the farthest focus.
Followed by this photo with a middle focus.
Finally this photo with the closest focus.

The blue flowers appear to be some kind of wild iris which were common across the park.

I am absolutely just an amateur photographer, but I love when something I am trying works out the way I want it to.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 2012 McKinney Falls Wild Food

In today's world of the grocery store, I find a secret thrill when I find just how much I can eat off the land when I go on one of my hikes. The hike at McKinney Falls was especially fruitful.

There were wild onions everywhere I looked. I'm not certain that I would want a diet consisting of all onion, but there were plenty to be found.

I did not pull the onion, somone had done that before I came along, still the wild onions are fairly substatial in size.
The prickly pear proved to be one of the most beneficial of the food plants I saw today with many putting on bulbs for the pear which is a useful fruit in many ways.

The prickly pear leaf also makes a good food. These future nopales are just taking off in the spring weather. While the pear is only ripe in season, the nopales are available year-round, though they are much better while young  and tender. 

Another common and edible food was the dandelion. While they are a nightmare in my garden, they are a delight in my salad.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 2012 McKinney Falls 1

This post includes a few of my favorite shots from my hike at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin. It is only a few minutes from my house and just miles from downtown Austin, yet in that place one has no idea that an urban area is nearby.

I was thrilled at how this shot of wild onion blossoms turned out.
 And this shot of a bluebonnet just blew me away with its brilliance.

 These yellow flowers (probably a weed) were taller than me. They created for a nerve-wracking experience as I walked through them. I spent the day looking for snakes, but found none. I was certain as I made my way through these plants that I would surely hear the rattle of an unseen snake.
 I also enjoyed the bluebonnets against the stone jutting out from the ground.

Whenever I need a mental health break or a quiet time waliking away from the crowds, I make my way over to the park and spend a couple hours with my camera in the quiet.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pesky Critters

After putting up the fence, I felt fairly confident that my garden was protected from the dogs for the year. How could I imagine that it only fueled their destructive imagination?

The last thing I did in the garden was to refill my large pots with soil and plant some flowers. The pots are 18" - 24" high, so they are high above the ground


I went out today to find that the dogs had dug in EVERY ONE of the pots - even though I placed tomato cages (most of the flowers are climbing plants) in each of them.

Apparently that was not enough to keep them from digging, I had to take the next step and make a cap of chicken wire over each of the pots. At least now they cannot dig, I just have to find a way to keep them from climbing up inside and sleeping there.


I have a few ideas about what I can do and am confident at least one of them will work. I remain confident that I am smarter than my dogs though lately there is scant evidence to that effect.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mostly Green Gardener

While working in the long neglected weed field also known as my back yard, I wondered at what point I would stop pulling and just pull out a sprayer filled with Roundup.

It almost happened at the start of the second day when the aches in the long unused muscles made every move a painful endeavor.

It almost happened when I pulled a handful of weeds that, as it turns out, were growing in a fire ant bed. 

Despite the aches and burning blisters, I managed to avoid the chemical option for this round of weeding; however, I will likely resort to the spray when my schedule returns to normal.

In my garden I endeavor to keep it as green as possible from an environmental perspective. I mulch, compost and plant many perennials. I have managed to maintain herbs for years.

I do what I can.

But sometimes reality creeps in and I resort to chemical assistance to control weeds and the fire ants. Working more than full time and daily tasks of living alone limit the time I can honestly dedicate to work in the yard. I do not use anything chemical around the edible plants, but I will in the rest of the yard and will to control the fire ants – they deserve annihilation and I am only too happy to do my part in it.

Still, it troubles me when I resort to any type of chemical assistance with the yard. I want to be as environmentally friendly, so I do limit the amount that I use to prevent any making it into runoff or otherwise becoming a pollutant. I also do not want to make the ground so toxic, nothing will grow in the space (nevertheless, the idea of salting the area I have covered with rocks has crossed my mind – hey, it is natural, but a threat to groundwater).

For the foreseeable future I am thinking it will be a sore back with an occasional sore hand from the spray bottle of Roundup and I will continue to be a mostly green gardener.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moonflower Season

One of my favorite parts of spring is when the moonflowers start to bloom. I always make my way out to the garden in the evening or early morning to see the blossoms as they close during the day.

One can see when I flower is about to open as it is emerging from the green sheeth below. It folds back up to this position during the day and will reopen for a couple nights.

And in the late evening, all night, and early morning the flower opens. These are large blooms about 4" across and the brilliant white at night attacts moths and other nighttime pollenators.
Without the pistil and stigma inthe middle, the flower could almost pass for a sand dollar with the various marking and veins.

Currently the plant is only putting out a flower every few days, but as it is a large established bush that survived the winter, within a few weeks it will be putting on as many as forty blooms a night, creating a canopy of white covering the entire bush.

Pest Control

Every gardener has to take steps to control the pests that invade any well-kept area – whether vegetable or flower. Since moving into my house, I have had an ever growing (in size) vegetable garden and each year I encountered different types of pests that would do-in my horticultural efforts. Now that I have the grass and most of the weeds under control, I find more bugs than I have encountered in years.

Today as I pulled the winter weeds, I found doodle bugs (we also call them pill bugs because of the way the wrapped up into a ball) around every weed I pulled. I have never seen this many of them in one place before. In childhood, they were fun little critters to play when we found them. I don’t know if they are damaging to my garden or not, but too many fond memories from childhood prevent me from harming them unnecessarily. 

doodleus pillus buggus (seriously people, I have no idea what they are called).

Also as I planted the peppers, tomatoes, and other plants that were pre-started, I found earthworms in every scoop of dirt I moved in the planting process. I did not just find earthworms, I found fishing worms. If I actually enjoyed catching fish, every perch in the region should be afraid. From what I read in garden blogs, it sounds like my garden is overall very healthy and as long as we continue to get rain, it should be quite productive.

My biggest challenge, though, is the four-legged kind. While white-tailed deer are a problem for many gardeners in the area, my biggest pests are my two dogs.


Last summer they ate so many of my vegetables, I thought for a while they may be vegan.

They are still less than a year old, so I know they will continue to dig and chew everything I do not want them to dig and chew.

After considering what to do about my garden, I decided the best thing I could do is build a fence to keep them out of that part of my yard. The country-boy in me relished buying the posts and wire at the hardware store as well as figuring out how to put a gate in the fence so I could get though.


I ended up building a gap (a rigged gate of the same material as the fence). The country-boy in me was running full throttle.


Now my garden is fully protected from the dogs and awaits the next challenge to come it’s way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Garden Surprises

After having my brief vacation in San Antonio, spring called me into the garden as it does every year. Following last year’s drought and the destruction rendered by two new puppies, my starting point was farther away than I am used to. So I started with the easy part – my planter boxes on the front porch.

I had already been surprised this year by the number of the bulbs I planted last year that came up. I had given up on them, certain they had baked in the heat of the sun against the planter boxes. Now though, I think I had just planted them too late for growth last year. Of course, it has been so long since I put them in that I have no idea what they are anymore.

Paired with the bulbs, I added some flowers, herbs, and garden plants to make the containers both colorful and functional.


And if they are growing veggies, I will be more diligent about watering them.

As I began pulling the weeds and old plants, I discovered that some of my garden plants, peppers and eggplant, from last season survived the drought and winter and sprouts were emerging from the base of the old stalks near the ground.


Who says there is no global warming?

Gardening provides surprises more often than not and for that reason, I anxiously await spring break to get the dirt under my nails and the greenery growing in my back yard.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Little Bit of History

In order to force myself away from the busyness of work lately, I went to San Antonio for a couple days at the start of spring break to see some friends, eat out, and take in a bit of Texas history. It has been years since I toured the San Antonio missions, so with the perfect weather, I spent an afternoon leisurely strolling through and photographing the (non- Alamo) missions.

 With the beautiful weather and perfect skies, the crosses on the top of the churches on the mission grounds stood out so perfectly, it was impossible not to know one was in a sacred spot.
Over one of the old water wells was an elaborate piece of iron-work. I loved the workman marks in the metal.
 The walls still stand at Mision San Jose with the gun and cannon turrets. Down near the bottom you can see the hole through which a cannon would be fired to defend the mission. Above the cannon area hangs a shelf for gunners to shoot out with the muskets. The rifle holes are too small to be seen from the distance.
 The view out of the turret through the cannon hole. I would be the clumsy gunner who did not have the cannon pointed just right.
 The absolutely stunning Rose Window. It has to be seen to be appreciated. Photos cannot show the elaborate sculpture framing it.
The chapel at Mission Espada remains in use today with a private residence connected to it as does Mission San Juan. 


Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Outsider

Back in December I bought the Hunger Games series of books on my Kindle because “everyone” was raving about them. When I mentioned on Facebook that I had my next month’s reading lined up, people commented that I had my next week’s reading lined up. I could not wait to start.

Then I could not wait for it to get good.

Then I was considering, “I’ve heard this story before – Romeo and Juliet meet Lord of the Flies.”

Then I was thinking, “How much longer is this book?”

Friends and acquaintances kept assuring me it would get better. It never really did.

Now they are assuring me that the next books are better than the first. I’ve paid for the books, so I will likely read them, but my expectations have diminished greatly.

I have read young adult literature for years while teaching English and afterward as a counselor. The search for new and engaging literature of merit to include in the classroom or inspire reluctant readers kept me reading and I found much worthy of recommendation. I have to carefully consider to whom I would recommend a book about teens celebrated for killing other teens.

When I make statements that I do not care for the book, people give me a most incredulous look that makes me feel I should apologize for not relishing what is popular.

Indeed, I feel like I am living in a young adult drama.

Not only is there a story in the situation. There is an entire genre – and much of it is worth reading.