October

I look forward to the migration of the butterflies through Texas towards Mexico each year. There always seems to be one day when clouds of butterflies descend on the sunflower-like flowers that consume our front pasture. I compete with the photobombing donkey Poco to get some shots of this beauty every year.

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DSC01806
Poco stops to smell the flowers.

 

 

 

And the Sunflower is Setting

Lord have mercy, who knew these mammoth sunflowers were so heavy? I am resisting staking these giants and watching the natural maturing process of the seeds. I fully expect the massive stem to break and come crashing down. If not, I will harvest these giants soon and dry the seeds for the birds and squirrels to eat.

Sunflower/Moonflower

Bloom

 

 

I am an accidental gardener. I plant something and it accidentally grows. Or grows accidentally. Whatever. This year I had two plants that went completely nuts in my Texas back yard.

SeymourI grew sunflowers. Mammoth Russian Sunflowers. Now you may be thinking , ” What kind of knucklehead would grow sunflowers in north Texas when they sprout in every pasture by the droves?” Well for the seed for the birds of course. And because I love watching the flowers follow the sun. Hum the Beatle song here. (If you have to ask what Beatle song, you’re too young to read this.)

The sunflowersI planted these from an old package of seeds from at least ten years ago. I had twenty-four seeds. I have two sunflower plants left, but as you can see they make up for their small numbers in size. The deer and rabbits ate the rest. It went like this. I was excited when the seeds  all sprouted and the seedlings seemed to grow two inches a day. Then one morning I went out to look and I had stubs. Somebody likes the taste of sunflower leaves it seems. While I never saw the carnage happen, I did see my rabbit friends avoiding my gaze. DSC01161 Anyway, the two plants I have left are about six foot tall now and one bud looks as if it will open soon. We had to fight the ants for these two. Ants like to burrow into the stalks. They killed my okra plants that way last year. I was ready for them.

The second of my garden champions of a sort is the Moonflower Vine I planted from seed at the same time as the Sunflowers. I planted them on the north side of the cage we have placed on a berm to keep the deer away from our tomatoes. I had about the same amount of seeds and every one of them came up.

The first picture is the Moonflower Vine in early June.

June 6 Moonflowers

The second picture is August.

OMG

 

To say that they are vigorous is an understatement. I’m kind of afraid to get to close for fear they will say “Feed me Seymour, Feed Me! (If you don’t know Little Shop of Horrors you have led too sheltered a life.) We still have no flowers, which I fretted about until my very wise sister told me the plant has one job. Make more Moonflowers. It will bloom when it is darn good and ready. If we get the same amount of blooms as we got vine, it ought to be pretty spectacular. I’ll post.

The gate
The Moonflower Vine is eating the gate.

Note to self: Don’t plant Moonflowers next to the gate next time unless you like uncurling ten thousand little Moonflower tendrils every day.

 

July in Texas

I love July in north Texas. Sure it’s hot, but there is B-B-Q and the garden is picking up steam. I like getting up early to take my walk in the summer. So after dousing myself with repellent to keep away the hummingbird-size mosquitos and the chiggers lurking in the grass, I walk up and down my country road for my requisite thirty minutes. I am serenaded by my four donkeys as soon as I walk out the front door; our built–in intruder alert system. This morning when I got back Indy came up for a little snuggle time and to see if he could finagle a treat.

Pretty Boy Indy
Indy

God had a good day when he made donkeys. These little miniatures are loyal, affectionate; they keep away coyotes and kill the bad snakes before they get into the yard. Indy is a little stud donkey we keep on our back pasture. He is by himself (not counting the deer) on about four acres, we keep the Jennys fenced on another pasture (we have four miniature donkeys and that’s enough) and his sire, Poco in the pasture up front. Where have you been momIndy has a thing about smelling my shoes. His version of asking “Where have you been?” So after he investigates my shoes, he gets his scratch and poses majestically for pictures.

Bette Davis eyeI think donkey eyes are beautiful; rimmed with black and with the longest eyelashes! Donkeys are perfectly adapted for the rocky, cedar-covered hills that surround our home.

Just one inch more
If I could just reach that piece of grass.

This summer I have been trying to get the back garden going again. We have a few tomato and green pepper plants in our garden berm that has fencing around it to keep the deer out. I have not done much else but plant a beautiful Purple Fountain Grass plant (my new favorite plant) yarrow (which the rabbits are eating) and Moonflowers.

Purple Fountain Grass
Purple Fountain Grass

 

 

 

Moonflowers
Moonflower Vine

The Moonflowers have made it so far I think only because they are poisonous and the animals know that. They will have large white flowers that bloom in the afternoon and smell wonderful. The rabbits or deer ate all but three of my sunflowers as soon as they sprouted. But those three are the colossal kind so they will be enough. On the other side of the patio is a huge berm where the trick is to pick plants that like partial to heavy shade, hot weather and resist grasshoppers and hungry rabbits. So far, the dianthus, zinnias, coleus, begonias and cosmos have done the best. There is a large red oak tree over this spot that shades these plants.

 

Zinnas
Zinnias
Cosmos
Cosmos
Coleus Beauty
Coleus
Begomia
Begonias

I’m especially enjoying today because my sweet husband of almost forty years is smoking ribs and a roast in the smoker today. He is a talented and passionate griller/smoker and from the looks of things I won’t have to cook meat for a while.

Green salad and potatoes to go with, plus I baked a two-person size red velvet cake for dessert. Yum. I’ll have to walk for an hour tomorrow.

Hitchcock and Rosemary

Rosemary_bushA scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. “This tilling of the soil can become compulsive, you know.” Suzanne Pleshette’s dirt-smudged face and sultry voice sticks in my mind as I wander the aisles of the local garden center, accompanied by a multitude of sparrows chirping in the metal rafters overhead.  Mental headline reads, “Woman Pecked to Death by Sparrows at Local Home Depot.” I smile up at them thinking “Not enough of them for an attack and they don’t look like the angry crows in the movie.” Not yet anyway.

I love shopping for plants. How can you miss the slow joy of wandering through a humid wonderland filled with flats of colors and scents, envisioning the English garden soon to appear in your back yard? How can you hurry through that experience? I see ample evidence of how all around me. The cloyingly sweet perfume of the frantic gardener next to me slaps my nose as she piles her plants onto a wobbly orange flatbed. I move over an aisle to get away from her. She clops past me all red lipstick and ridiculous spiky heels. Rushing her treasures to the check-out.

I take my time to breathe in the surroundings; the smell of fertilizer,wet potting soil, spicy tomato plants. I had made a list of plants I wanted the day before, which I know I will never stick to because plants I have never seen will call me and end up in my cart. I’m what you call an accidental gardener; I accidentally get a plant in the right spot in my garden and it grows. I love to grow things from seed, and currently Alyssum, Zinnias, Dianthus and Cosmos are the tiny seedlings making their presence known in my back berm. It’s cheaper to plant from seed and you get to know the plant foliage as it develops I reason. But today, while my sweet husband is looking at chain saws and weed eaters, he has turned me loose in the garden center to buy bedding plants. Heaven.

I’m practically mowed down by a plant vendor with a sweaty red face pushing a six-tier cart of tender young plants ready to be pushed onto the shelving. ” What the hell are you doing?” she says to the pimply faced worker she spots ahead, who is evidently not moving fast enough for her. “Get that stuff on the tables!” Sigh. I move over another aisle.

I think about my grandfather now, who was a real gardener, he kept greenhouses, widow ladies’ yards and knew plants. He had a true green thumb. I have red Begonias in my cart in his honor, he loved them. The riotous colors of the Moss Roses are for him too. The Spanish Lavender I chose is for my husband, who had never seen that variety until a landscaping company put one in our yard seventeen years ago. Now that I think about it, most of the plants I plant are about other people. Zinnias for my grandmother, the Cosmos, Larkspurs, Moonflowers and Morning glories are for my mother, who loved wildflowers, the Petunias, Dianthus, and Alyssum are for the characters from a book called “The Uninvited”, where a ghostly presence was heralded by floral scents.

I plant for animals too. Salvia and Cardinal vine for the hummingbirds. Sunflowers for the woodpeckers, mockingbirds, chickadees and titmice that populate our Texas yard. The Fountain Grass I choose because our kittens used to love playing hide and seek in the soft mounds of grass, leaping out to roll and tumble down onto our back patio. We no longer have the kittens, but just seeing this grass makes me smile inwardly.

And what new treasure did I find, just for me? A beautiful blue Lobelia. A feathery Yarrow plant and some Mexican Heather. New plants I’ve never planted.

And one old favorite, a Rosemary plant, for remembrance.

CC Image by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

Acorns

squirrel-1444350_1920I’ve been watching the oak trees on my farm drop a prolific crop of acorns this year. So many acorns in fact that I began to wonder if my trees were alright. Sources I’ve read say that despite the old farmer’s warning, a heavy acorn drop does not mean we will have a hard winter, it just means we had the right weather conditions for a heavy flower set on the oak trees this past spring.

So we have a bounty of acorns. My bay quarter horse Jo-Jo loved to eat acorns in the fall, but he could not stop himself from contentedly crunching them until he’d end up getting a colicky belly ache. Not good. Our resident squirrels (we don’t have many squirrels because of our healthy population of hawks and coyotes) stand in bewildered amazement at the abundance of acorns under our red oak in the back. At the rate they are burying them we should have our own red oak forest come spring.

Acorns plunk down into our waterfall pond like heavy raindrops and also into our coffee if we sit out by the waterfall on the weekends. Navigating our patios are rather like walking on a bag of marbles, no matter how many times you sweep the crackling, rolling carpet up.

But in retrospect, the bother balances with the good when I think of how many animals use the acorns as a food source. Between the deer, quail, squirrels, foxes, small little night rodents and the birds, a bumper crop of acorns means food for their winter. So the table is set for you guys at my farm. Bring your friends, we have plenty of acorns to go around.

Image CCO Public Domain Pixaby

The Deer Garden

potatoes160430_0005We nicknamed this sturdy enclosure the deer garden. At ten by ten wide and six foot tall, our local deer have not yet been willing to jump in to eat our vegetable garden. I love our Texas wildlife on our little farm, but I love having fresh vegetables. The thick gauge wire panels have also discouraged the rabbits, raccoons and armadillos that frequent our back yard.

My husband spent yesterday topping off the garden with sweet-smelling pine shavings to discourage the weeds and when hilled will allow more potatoes to develop. A spring garden is a wonderful thing. I am looking forward to real tomatoes (not those horrid grocery store things), onions, strawberries, cucumbers, four different types of peppers, potatoes and yellow squash.Ar14636489521

Closed Door Deer GardenYou may wonder how we came to have such an ominous looking pen as a garden enclosure. A few years back we adopted a stray dog; a full-blood Bassett Hound that we named Sweet Pea. She wandered down the street with our neighbor, who was looking for her owner. My husband, who was not prone to doing that sort of thing, said ” We can keep her.” She looked sweet. But beneath that sad-sack face lay a wounded psyche. Lord knows what mental scars happened to that dog before she came to us, but we found in a hurry that she hated thunderstorms. We had a great, warm dog house in our large back yard where she stayed during the day with our other dog. But if it thundered once, it was all over. Sweet Pea tore through every chain link fence we ever had. She’d either dig and slither under the fence or grab the thick wire and bend it up with her teeth. She’d make a bee line for our neighbor’s house, go in through their dog door and be in their house playing with their dogs. Our neighbors were very understanding. Have you ever smelled a wet Basset Hound?

So, the deer garden enclosure. Purchased at our local farm supply, they said you could keep a lion secure in this ten by ten foot enclosure. We put Sweet Pea and our Dalmatian Jasmine in the enclosure under a small shelter with their doghouses when it threatened rain. It did work, but it made me sad because she struggled so to get out. Even her strong jaws were defeated. When we finally lost Sweet Pea to old age, we buried her on our property just outside any fence. It seemed fitting. That was always where she wanted to be.