Friday, March 31, 2017

247 Plants On the Wall, 247 Plants...

The Mexican redbud in the center of this photo was
the first tree to be planted in the backyard today.
I am almost too exhausted tonight to post. I am tired and sunburned. My knees hurt, my back hurts, and I didn't even plant anything today! I moved plants around. I walked back and forth and carried plants to the wagon and then pulled them to their final locations. I moved lots of pots around as I was sorting. But digging the holes, placing the plants, and shoveling the dirt, that was all someone else. AND I'M STILL TIRED! But what went in today is beautiful. I decided to do a predominantly native white garden in the front by the entry to the house. I planted Anacacho orchid trees, a white redbud, white beautyberry, white turk's cap, Texas mock orange, a Mexican plum, Alabama croton, and fragrant tea olive. Oh, and a wafer ash hop tree. Those are the vegetative bones of the area around the front porch and leading down the north side of the house to the backyard. I only got three trees put in the backyard today: A beautiful, large Mexican redbud, a weeping Traveler redbud, and a Mr. Wonderful pomegranate. Now I have the weekend to plan the layout of the next great round of planting to commence on Monday.

I wanted to have the stream in the backyard running by the end of the day today when my in-laws arrived for a visit, but I was denied. An electrician is coming Monday to chase down a wiring problem, and Jay will finish cleaning out the pipes and turn on the new pump he installed today. I am really excited to have the stream working again. It was my favorite feature of the house when we bought it, and it hasn't worked since then. Fold it into the existing and planned water collection system and the solar energy for the power, and I am feeling pretty confident about running it full time. Heck, we *could* have a pool....

So now it's time to give Baxter his last meds for the evening and to fall into my sunburned eyelids. Goodnight all.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tabula Rasa Down To the Lovely Bones

And it's done: All the old garden beds are weeded, and the new beds are filled with dirt and mulch. Tomorrow the planting begins. Tonight the only photo I got was of the backyard beds, but tomorrow before I start planting I will take the blank slate pics of the front old beds and the new beds. It's so exciting! I have also found a new nursery specializing in native plants and I hope to check them out tomorrow morning. Maybe if I leave early enough I can get up there and back before Jay arrives to fix the stream and do the walkthrough of the yard with me. I would just leave it till next week, but our spring here has been so aggressively early that nurseries having been selling out of the rarer natives and I don't want to let another's weekend's worth of shoppers take away my prime plants. Mine! Mine! Mine!

I just had a second's flashback to when I started this blog and it was all about glass. All glass all the time. A few personal posts might sneak in, but I had the now defunct Stranded In the South blog for those. Now it's all about the garden. I have already written a paragraph and a half without mentioning my excellent pottery class from this morning where I managed to throw a pretty tall--if totally wonky--cylinder, and I trimmed the wonky bowl from last week and put it into the kiln room at the studio for the first firing. I love my Thursday morning pottery class! The only thing that would make it better is if Becky were here taking it too. Becky, I miss you!!! We have got to get back to our craft mornings soon. Of course that predicates getting back to any sort of crafting activity at home. The extent of my knitting lately has been making cotton dishcloths for Dave.

But back to the garden. Some may find it slightly (or more than slightly) disturbing that I just hunted down and read the obituaries of the couple who built this house. But the last owner told me stories when we bought the house of Mary Lea and how she designed the gardens and oversaw every detail of the construction here. Now that the beds have been taken back to a zero state, I can't help but think of her and the joy and anticipation she must have felt planning all the plants, lighting, irrigation, and the stream. Don, from whom we bought the house, passed on her folders to me with their samples of wallpaper and cutouts from magazines of ideas that she liked for the house. One of the cutouts was a picture of a deck very similar to the one that was at the bottom of the yard. When we bought the house there was no view from down there because the cedars from the bird preserve down the hill from us have grown very tall. But 30 years ago I bet they could see downtown from that deck. That's what the picture in the magazine looked like--a beautiful curved deck with a spectacular view from up on a mountain. Like me, Mar Lea was originally a mountain girl (she was from Colorado) who never lost her love of that area.

Though we have made changes to the original design and put our own (okay, my own) stamp on it, the original bones mostly remain the same. We lowered the lowest deck and dropped the middle deck to the ground and replaced it with stone. We took out several of the native cedars that she chose to leave in place, and we removed almost all of the nandina (not a plant choice that I would have expected from a woman who loved and taught herself all about native wildflowers--but who am I to talk, I put in bamboo) but I can still feel her presence in the garden. I am contemplating contacting Mary Lea's daughter who still lives here in Austin or her daughter who lives in Scottsdale but used to live next door in Dan and Zaga's house to see if they might have photos of the yard that they would be willing to share so I could see what it looked like when Mary Lea and Max lived here. I am compiling a book on the grounds and the renovation, and I would love to be able to compare my vision with her original one.

I have never been to a house with such beautiful grounds as this house has. They were let given minimal care for many year before we bought the house (and to be honest, they require someone to be on top of them all the time--I kind of wish we had a fulltime gardener) so it was hard to see their potential, but now that they are completely bare they are breathtaking. With a little more dirt, mulch, new plants throughout, and lighting... Dave is right to say this place is like a botanical gardens. He made a joke this morning about where am I going to put the gift shop. Little does he know...

Thank you Mary Lea.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Taxes Out, Gardening In!

Anacacho orchid tree from Ladybird Johnson
Wildflower Center Photo Archives
Photographer: Lee Pace
It is Hump Day, the middle of the week, the transition from the beginning to the end, the fall after the rise. Many thing came to a finish today: I got all the tax papers together and mailed them off to our accountant, The house is clean (except for folding the laundry), the front beds are almost all weeded and ready for new dirt and planting, and I sent off soil and water samples to be tested. These were all tasks hanging over my head for a looong time--the taxes were my own personal sword of Damocles. Now they're all done, and tomorrow I get to garden all day GUILT FREE! Wheeee!

Tomorrow the first trees go in--Anacacho orchid trees right by the front door (white), and the white turk's cap, the white beautyberry, and maybe some of the fragrant tea olives. tropical sage (in white), pigeonberry, frogfruit, maybe some shrubby boneset (if I can find some well-drained areas) and some confederate jasmine. One thing I learned from the front yard in Atlanta is how wonderful it is to have fragrant plants along the walk to the front door and ringing the porch. There we had confederate jasmine, gardenia, and fragrant tea olive and they all bloomed at different times so the fragrances were not overwhelming. I'd love to put the jasmine by the front door too, but there are no structures there for it to climb... Might have to design something for the guys to build.

Oh it feels good to contemplate gardening instead of taxes!!! And doing so with a clean house is the cherry on top of my sundae. I'll save the big gardening post for tomorrow after a lot of the work is done--and I'll include pictures. Can't wait to get my hands in the dirt!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Taxman

It's after 10:00 pm, and I sit on the couch, nibbling on a ginger snap, and trying to keep my head from exploding. Today was supposed to be just a couple of hours more on the taxes. I'm still not done. I finally forced myself to put down the tangle that is our moving expenses, and I'll pick it up again tomorrow when I'm fresh. Unless I slit my wrists tonight to avoid it. Every move to a new state brings a change in taxes. Texas has no state income tax so there is not deduction on the federal taxes for what you paid into the state. However they have a hefty sales tax, and the federal rule is that you can deduct either what you paid into your state for income tax OR what you paid them in sales tax. I wish I'd known that when the year started--I'd have kept better track of what we paid out in sales tax!

However with a couple of hours of effort this afternoon, I was able to cobble together enough receipts to get a decent deduction. We also bought the solar system and an electric car last year--both of which qualify for federal tax credits--and it took me awhile to figure out those forms. Then I started on the move. Wow. I knew it was complicated when we were driving out the monthly (almost) U-Hauls, but it really got convoluted when Dave was flying back from Austin to drive out teh U-Haul so I could drive out the minvan. Between my calendar and the credit card bills I just about have it hammered out, but, good god, I am so glad we are NEVER MOVING AGAIN!!!

I need to be done with it tomorrow so I can get back to the garden again (and now that song is stuck in my head for another night). The guys have been doing great without me, but it's time to get the first plants in the ground and do a census of what I still need.

Sometime soon I'll get back to glass, back to spinning, and back to ikebana, but for today I'm just glad my house is clean (I broke down and hired it cleaned today--it was so worth it!).


Monday, March 27, 2017

Focus

The grounds at County Line BBQ where we had dinner.
I hoped to start off the week with a firm purpose and a drive to get languishing projects (e.g. taxes and the plant list) moved along to completion, and so far so good! It was Contractor Light here today, and Steve and Shawn (my guests from Missoula) had things they wanted to do out and about, so I got to sit down with the tax papers and work on them uninterrupted for about seven hours. Then when we got home from dinner I picked them up again and have put in another two hours. With a little bit of time tomorrow pulling together the numbers from the data I assembled today and finishing up the moving expenses and the paperwork for the tax credits on the solar installation and the Leaf, I will be done (and the crowd goes wild!).

I also gave up on building the database for plants that I was working on. FileMaker Pro just defeated me in terms of how it stores and retrieves data. I *could* get everything in in all the tables and related tables, but I would have to make all the entries one at a time as I couldn't figure out how to automate storing the values for multiple entries in one field. For example, if a plant can be planted in Sun, Pt Shade, or Shade, I would like to capture that information without putting it all in one field. It's better to have a unique record for each unique bit of data. I have done this many times before in a previous life when I worked with the Remedy engine (ostensibly for help desk management, but I built all kinds of different applications using it). FileMaker Pro is either not as flexible as Remedy, or I am just not getting it. So I scrapped the project for the time being in the interests of just getting all the data in a place that I can at least use it--like Excel. It's not pretty, but it will work. Best of all, I can probably have it done and be using it by wednesday to design the beds with the 147 different kinds of plants I have collected so far.

Planting a garden isn't just about throwing plants into beds and watering them. You have to plan for eventual size--shorter ones in the front, taller ones in the back. You have to arrange for color and texture of foliage and leaves. You have to stagger the plants in a given bed by blooming season--you don't want all the plants in one bed to bloom at the same time. You also want to make sure you have sufficient plants to bloom from the very beginning to the very end of the garden season. This is especially important if you are gardening for bees and butterflies as the blooming plants are their food source: No flowers, no food.

Even though it was Contractor Light, it wasn't Contractor Void, and they did get the rest of the dirt in the new beds and I think the backyard is just about completely weeded too. I am excited for tomorrow as there will be six people here working and I should really be able to see a difference by the end of the day.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Let's Start the Week From Scratch

Left the posting too late today (as usual) and am being a bit anti-social by posting while chatting with guests and showing one of them how to knit a dishcloth. I am truly a multi-tasker tonight. Today we gave ourselves a treat and went to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center for a family outing. It felt good to be able to identify most of the plants we saw there--and to be able to say, "Oh yes, we have that one". When we got home, I felt like a nap again, but worked on my plant database some more. I begin to get discouraged as I can't figure out how to make FileMaker Pro do what I want it to, and Excel won't do what I want it to. And working on it to such exclusion has put me behind in everything else. So tonight I have to shake it all off and prepare to start anew tomorrow. New week, new goals, new deliverables.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

In Sickness and In Health

So Baxter went back to the vet today to have his hip examined, x-rayed, poked and prodded. He also had some fluid drawn from a swelling in his groin area by the injury site. Good news first: The hip is still in the socket so I didn't have to make a surgery/no surgery decision. There's no guarantee that I won't, but I didn't have to today. And even if the hip does come out again, I STILL don't need to make an immediate decision about the surgery. The vet said it was a non-damaging option to see how he did just on pain meds with it out. They wanted to send the fluid out for lab tests--after already having looked at it in-house and found nothing--for an additional $500. I told them I wasn't that curious to find out what it is since it doesn't appear to be anything we'll do anything about anyway (it wasn't an infection and they didn't think it was cancer either--probably lymphatic fluid from the trauma). The only bad news from the day was that I was at the vet for three hours this morning, and I did have to push back on the vet when he pressed for accepting the surgical solution--which caused me to end up (unsurprisingly) in tears. The morning was stressful enough--and the past week was sleep-deprived enough that I took a 3-1/2 hour nap this afternoon. Dave finally came in and woke me at 6:00, otherwise I think I would have just kept sleeping. And I don't foresee any problems sleeping tonight.

I did feel guilty when I woke about having, oh what would be a good word... Wasted and lost clearly won't do given the sentiment I want to follow... Spent! Spent is good. I spent the afternoon napping and felt guilty until I reminded myself that life isn't a race and that there are very few real deadlines in it. Time is a currency, and you should spend it wisely. Wisely today for me meant sleeping. And even with the sleep I still feel a bit fragile. Longterm care-taking of the elderly or the infirm isn't easy, and in many ways taking care of Baxter is making me flashback to taking care of my mother. Those memories--even two years on--are still too raw. There are times I can't help feeling resentful or annoyed by the demands placed on me in my caretaker's role, and then I immediately feel guilty for being the least uncharitable when the being I am care-taking clearly has a much worse situation than I do, and I am supposed to be taking care of them because I love them. But sometimes feelings of love slip into feelings of responsibility, and recognition that I'm feeling more responsibility than love brings on more guilt.

So tonight I breathe deeply, and I try to be kind to myself, to Baxter, and to the rest of my family. I am so, so lucky to have them all, and pets are like marriage partners: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, as long as you both shall live.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Obsession (Noun) Fixation; Consumption With Desire, Belief

As I look back on life, I pinpoint my obsessions along the path. Boys were the first one--the desire for a life partner and mate preoccupying my late teens and earliest twenties. It took many years to complete that goal and many more to grow into deserving him. But this post is not about that that kind of lust.

While I was waiting to meet my heart's desire, I became involved with glass--first stained then fused--and hot on its heels of glass was linguistics. One thing led to another, personality and politics decreed my path would not be smooth, and when I transitioned from professional lingistics/university faculty into academic computing support, I stumbled upon the Remedy software application. Learning it led to my most successful--by the standards of our society--professional activity, and still to this day (over 20 years later) it remains one of the most satisfying and challenging pursuits I have undertaken.

Now I am in the middle of another infatuation (the garden and all things botanical) and I find myself needing to return to my Remedy roots (in a way) as I pick up and learn the current version of FileMaker Pro in order to compile a flexible database of the native plants I am using in the new garden that will hold all the data I want to gather about them in a way that is accessible. In other words, I have reached the limit of what I can efficiently manage with Microsoft Excel. When it is finished, I hope to transition this database to data.world--thereby marrying both my and my husband's passions--and make it available to others. As I go, I marvel at how life winds around and flows, twining and crossing the paths of the past and the present, forming us into the solid, complex, three-dimensional organisms that we are. Who knew that software/workflow development would lend itself to gardening?

Do not think this means I have forgotten glass, spinning, weaving, ceramics, metal-smithing, woodworking, and ikebana--all past and present preoccupations. But today, tonight, I create cathedrals in software. And I help Baxter walk to and from the front door. We are off to the vet tomorrow morning--I have a feeling the next post will be about him.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ceramics and Friends

Wonderful day today taking my first pottery class (wheel throwing and beyond) in four years, and visiting with Steve Adler and Shawn Wentworth in visiting from Missoula. Steve is also providing professional architectural services on our bathroom remodel--that will be *much* better than just winging it! I would like to say I got more done today, but honestly I have spent the last half hour trying to get the Irene Adler moan ringtone from Sherlock onto my phone--as has Steve. He has a Samsung Galaxy and I have an iPhone so we're both struggling with different tech. But by this time tomorrow... Ahhhhh.

Pottery today was a new lesson in humility and patience, balance and breathing. Oh, and bad posture. Apparently my posture is too good and it affects the strength and focus I have access to in my throwing. My instructor assured me, however, that whatever my posture, throwing clay is hard on the body and I'm going to hurt. I should take up yoga. For now I think sleep will do. Tomorrow, a stream!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Same Old, Same Old

We get ready for our first guests in the apartment since it's been renovated, and it's all spiffy! Jay had it cleaned today as the last part of the renovation so I didn't have to. Now I just need to round up some towels. Oh and vacuum out the car after yesterday's plant adventures. Cleaning in our house today consisted of vacuuming the front half of the house. I'm afraid my brain got stuck in the plant zone again (see the seed box at right?).

I didn't leave the property today. The Invisible Fence guy came and extended our covered area to include the new garden, and Jay and his guys worked on the front and the back. The front garden is not as far as I would have liked as the skidsteer broke down today so dirt didn't really get moved, but the back is looking great and I have high hopes the stream will be working by the weekend. The stumps did not get pulled today either, and then I went and came up with another yard area to do. Between our house and Dan and Zaga's, we're going to clear several more cedars and some shrubs and construct a lattice pergola structure with a bench on one side (for Zaga and Dan) and maybe a fountain or some other garden art on the other. for us The main purpose of the structure is so that they can use their hot tub naked with no fear of scandalizing us, and we can stroll around our bathroom in the buff without fear of causing heart failure on their part. We could spend a lot of money on tinted windows (I definitely don't want blinds), but this way we can have nature AND privacy all at the same time, and it will be a pretty, shared space too.

Taxes did not get done again today--Helen, our accountant, is going to scalp me if I don't get my butt in gear pronto. But tomorrow my pottery class starts, and I have company to entertain (they're easy) and a bathroom to design with one of the company as he's an architect and the visit is ostensibly to plan out the new bathroom. I cannot WAIT to get rid of the carpet in it and our bedroom, and to have a taller toilet that doesn't run constantly if you don't fiddle with the inside lever thingie.

Okay, off to vacuum the car, take towels to the apartment, and head to the airport!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

There Is *Almost* No Limit To What a Determined Gardener Can Fit Into a Minivan

Except for the big pot at the top left,
this all fit in the minivan today
The big plan today was to drop the dogs at the groomers at 8:00 when they opened and head to the Medina Nursery Garden 2-3 hours down the winding back country highways west and south. They pulled an order of plants for me on Sunday, I was going to pick them up, ask if there was anything else I shouldn't miss, pay and head home to arrive by 3:00, give Baxter his meds, unload the plants, go get the dogs, and pick Jessie up from school. Best laid plans of mice and gardeners...

I dropped off the dogs at 8:30 which put me down in Medina about 11:15. I got home at 7:00 tonight. Zaga saved my butt *again* by both giving Baxter his meds at 3:00 and then picking up the other dogs at 4:30 when it became apparent there was no way I was going to get back before the groomer closed at 6:00. Heck, at 4:30 the wonderful guys from the nursery were still trying to figure out how to fit all the plants I got in the minivan (we failed at that, but it's okay). Total plants acquired today: 249. Total plants before today: 108--and that was two pick-up truck loads. Today was the minivan, and I hadn't even taken one of the main back seats and the little middle back seat out.

That nursery is incredible! They specialize in rare natives that they propagate themselves and trade with other small native nurseries. Their main clients are the native plant societies, but they also work with mainstream gardeners showing them how they can integrate natives into a conventional garden without sacrificing looks and gaining ease of maintenance and tolerance of Texas weather and soils.

Unless you are a serious native plant specialist (way more than I am), you can't effectively shop there without one of the guys holding your hand and showing you plants. Ishmael held my hand for five hours. Without him, I would have come home with my list, made all my appointments, and been much the sadder for it. If you look in a lot of the pots there, they have drab, spindly, weedy-looking little plants. That's because many of them are just coming up, and they don't have robust foliage or any flowers at all yet--often they aren't even labeled. But all you have to do is say, "I'm looking for a white flowering plant that does well in poorly drained, heavy clay and full shade," and they'll lead you right to one (White American BeautyberryCallicarpa americana var. lactea). I got three.

Just to get me home they had to take one of their long, short-legged, black plastic plant tables and put it in the minivan over the fully-covered floor. Then they had another layer of plants on it. All the seats were filled, the passenger foot area, the running boards inside the back doors (I had to force both doors to close on the pots and squish them a bit to get the doors to close). I'll take their table back to them when I go next week. I don't mind the trip at all as they managed to find one of the really rare (in this area) plants for me at another little place and they'll have it for me next week along with all the ones I bought today and couldn't fit in the van (probably about 20). I'm tempted to get Bobby and Devon to make me a two-tier table set-up for the back of the minivan so I could stack plants three-high. But then again, how many more trips like this am I going to make down there? Hey, maybe I should get a trailer and have plant racks built into it...

I got home to a large mulch pile in place of the last brush pile, but no dirt. They couldn't get the skidsteer today so the dirt--and the skidsteer--will be here first thing tomorrow morning. There had been, however, someone working in the backyard as there was serious damage done to the weeds around the stream. I can't wait to see it running! Now off to bed to dream botanical dreams  and recover from my very exciting day.


Monday, March 20, 2017

And We've Got To Get Ourselves Back To the Garden

We're home, and I have many things on my plate. But none of them are so compelling as the garden. As I am a creature of whim (and an avatar of chaos), I went with the flow and picked up where we left off with the landscaping plans and let the laundry and housecleaning sit. Maybe I should just hire a service to come in Wednesday and clean the whole house and the apartment... You see we have two sets of company twining through our lives this week, and I want everything to be ship-shape for them, though they do not require it. It's a hostess thing. I also hope to convince another friend from Dallas to come down the following weekend to help me put in plants (Debbie, you know who you are).

But back to the landscaping plans! I had a set of objectives and a rough timeline set out before I left, but the warm weather and abundant rain have caused every species of burr grass known to Texas to flourish and I simply cannot leave the existing garden beds to languish while I focus on the new beds. I simply must amend my plans. So I tugged hard on them, and twisted them into a new and interesting shape. Current additions to the old plan: All existing garden beds (front and back) will be mostly--if not all--cleared, with new dirt added, and mulched by Friday ready for planting next week. (Cleared, by the way means burned off with a massive propane torch called a "pear burner" in Texas. Why pull the weeds over hours when you can whack them with a weed whacker and then burn them over minutes? And who doesn't like a good fire...) The stream bed will be cleaned out, the new pump will be installed, and the stream will be running by the end of the week. (wheee!)

On the old plan, The new beds have all been constructed--only the pond is left to do in terms of rock work. The concrete footings for the bog pond will go down this week, but the rock work, liner, skimmer, bog pond, waterfall, pump, etc., will not begin for at least a week. Current schedule reads: Mulch and make firewood from the final trees removed (mostly dead from a neighbor's property) starting tomorrow. Dirt delivery is supposed to start tomorrow with three truckloads and then an additional two loads on Wednesday (over 50 cu yds total). There is a big chipper/shredder being delivered tomorrow to mulch everything, we have a coupe of chainsaws for the firewood, and there is also a skidsteer being delivered to move the dirt and pull the last tree stump (don't you love all the toys used in this project? I love toys). By the end of the week all the holes for the new trees will be dug (by machine and man, not solely by man). Finally, the tops of all the rock walls around all the beds will be set in place so we'll have a nice wall to sit on. Because the dirt will be in, and I both already have plants and I'm going to Medina Garden Nursery tomorrow to pick up another batch of plants they've pulled for me (and probably more they'll recommend), I'm sure I'll end the week with a LOT of planting! Soaker hoses, here I come.

Next week will be the pond and bog pond, and the piping for the pond and the irrigation to all of the beds. The week after that will be the building of all the structures--benches, arbors, swing, fire pit, trellises, and the laying of the decomposed granite for the walkways. At some point the bark will be peeled off all the cedar poles and they will be laid as path boundaries. Oh yes, and there will be a small ornamental bridge built over the dry culvert where we get water runoff in high rains. Trip, trop, trip, trop.

No wildflowers have come up in the front lawn (designated as the new wildflower meadow), but I am going to leave it shaggy for the many species which have yet to bloom to see if I have any luck there, and I'm going to seed it heavily again this fall. Speaking of seeds, the annual seeds I ordered from American Native Seed arrived while I was in Honduras, and I went through all of them (and all of the other seeds I have purchased) today to start making a master plan for planting. Most of them will be sown directly into the garden, though a couple of species need to be scarified and then chilled before planting them. In all, it's a full garden week! Throw in taking the dogs to the groomer (except Baxter who is doing very well in his sling but not ready to be manhandled by a groomer), and getting the tax papers to the accountant, and I really think I'd better hire a cleaning service for Wednesday!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Monkeys, Sloths, and Iguana, Oh My!

At the airport, through security, fingerprints taken... again. The boarding passes taunted us with TSA-Pre-Check at the top, but of course there is no TSA here in Honduras. There is a DSA, and they laugh at our Pre-Check. Tonight we get home just in time to sleep in our own beds. I had a wonderful, relaxing time here, but I'm glad to go home. It used to be that I'd do anything to be on vacation longer, but these days I find I like my life so much that it's hard to leave. Even with all the chaos there during remodeling and renovation, it's also hard to leave Stone's Throw.

But this post is about Roatán from the perspective of a more experienced eco traveler. The owners of the condo where we stayed left an informational packet for visitors and took great pains to educate us on the biggest problems for the ecology of the island and the little things we could do to make the situation better. First off, it's an island. The trash stays on the island. It's an island. It's not that big and all the plastic bags, styrofoam takeout containers, drinking straws, and water bottles (though the last are recyclable) end up best case in an ever-growing landfill in a limited space, or worst case in the ocean and then in a sea turtle's nose or stomach. It's an island.

Then there's the problem of locals (or people come from the mainland to make a better living from the tourism on the island) depleting the native game (or fish) populations to supply the restaurants to please the palates of the visiting tourists. The tourists don't know that lobster season ends on March 1 and doesn't resume again until July 1 so any fresh lobster they eat during that time period has been poached. They don't know that conch is endangered and the only legal source is the research entities who couldn't nearly supply enough for all the soups and fritters on the local menus. The locals are so eager to please the tourists and gain revenue from them that they don't think ahead to what happens when the attraction that draws the tourists is gone. Yes, tourists like to eat fresh lobster, conch, grouper and other marine life. However, if those species are overfished or over-harvested then the reef dies. The reef dies and the divers and snorkelers don't come. It's bad for business all around to kill off your attractions.

In the midst of being inundated with plastic at restaurants and stores, it was wonderful to visit three different places on the island that are owned and run by locals, and whose mission is to protect, educate and conserve. These three places alone make Roatán a great place to visit. Add them to the diving and the friendliness of the locals and you have an incredible vacation destination.

For the past two days I have posted many pictures of us with sloths, monkeys, iguana and various other wildlife. While it was cool to be able to interact with the animals, the most important part of our visits to the various sanctuaries was seeing the genuine care the staff took of the animals and hearing about the educational and rescue missions on their behalf.

Our first stop was at Daniel Johnson's Monkey and Sloth Hangout. The sloths there are not caged, and you can only hold one if they haven't already been held too much that day. There are seven sloths and they get to be held for a few minutes 15 times per day. The rest of the time, they hang out in the mangroves on the property. The sloths serve to educate both the natives and tourists on the importance of the mainland forests (their natural habitat) and their peaceable nature. The monkeys are all rescued pets as is the raccoon, the macaws and parrots. You are allowed to go in the enclosure with the young capuchin monkeys, and if they want to come hang out on you they can. They're not forced--they're not even forced to be in the same enclosure--there is a tube high up that connects it to another enclosure. In the afternoon after all the tourists are gone, the monkeys are all let out to play in the trees and roam the property for a few hours. The enclosures were large, clean, and had trees growing in them for the animals to climb or other interactive structures. I was really, really impressed with this place and the obvious care they take of their charges.

Next we went to Arch's Iguana and Marine Sanctuary. Iguana are one of the native island species, and they are relentlessly hunted as food. We actually saw three iguana hunters today on the way to the airport (they were pointed out by our driver as they scanned the trees in search of their prey). I have nothing against hunting for food, but the iguana population on the island has been so depleted that it's rare to see one anymore. We did not take the snorkel tour at the Marine Park, but after seeing the video at the bottom of this post I wish we had.

This is an incredible success story of locals seeing the value in preserving marine life and other animals and stepping up to make a difference. They not only actively patrol to stop poaching, but they have gotten their neighbors to see the value and join in their conservation efforts. I have seen criticism online about the horrible conditions of animals in small cages, and all I can say is on our visit I saw only two monkeys in cages--no other animals. They weren't as large or as nice as the enclosures at Daniel Johnson's, but when I asked about them--and about why the monkeys (two different species) were both solitary, I was told that the spider monkey is a rescued pet and she prefers living alone (there's actually an iguana in with her), and the capuchin had a companion but they were having to work through permitting issues in order to house her. However the monkeys are also allowed out after the tourists leave at 3:00 so they can roam the grounds and play too.


Finally we ended up at Mayan Eden Eco Park. There the birds and the monkeys roam freely--though there are some rescued animals in enclosures including white-tailed deer. The big draw for me there though was the butterfly house. They propagate and raise larval plants for the butterflies, and tin their butterfly house they have living examples of the different stages of each type of butterfly. The tour guides are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and it's clear the mission there is also education and conservation of the butterflies and the animals that now make their home there. There is also a zipline through the jungle canopy in the park, but we never even saw the area for that. As with the other two places, the interactions with the animals were carefully controlled for the animals benefit. The monkeys were coaxed over with food--they weren't coerced to interact with the tourists--and they scampered off when they wanted.

I end the post with a video interview of members of the Arch family talking about the reasons behind their Sanctuary and what they do daily to keep it alive.



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thank You Blogger, You POS

I spent all day today writing a very thoughtful post on the sanctuaries we visited here in Roatán yesterday and the state of the eco tourism in general. As I was doing my last edit I hit Ctrl + Z to undo a photo adjustment I had just made... and Blogger deleted my entire post. So tonight I leave you with the slideshow I made to accompany the post, and I'll put together the words tomorrow.


I Think We Need a Monkey

What an incredible day! I have lots to write about it--especially about the true animal-friendliness of the places we visited today, but I'm just too tired tonight. Tomorrow will be a great day to put it all down. We visited sanctuaries and a butterfly garden, and had a lovely driving tour of the island with Arnold. There were sloths, macaws, monkeys, parrots, a kinkajou, tiny white-tailed deer, and iguanas.

On the home front, Baxter got his hip put back in and the doctor thinks he'll do much better this time than last time: the hip went in easier, and they are using a better sling. Zaga is an excellent nurse.

Now I need to go sleep. I leave with a video of Dave and the baby capuchin.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Baxter Blues

Tough day today, Baxter's hip came out of its socket again. According to the vet, there are two options: put it back in and there's about a 30-40% chance of success with that option, or do surgery with weeks of physical therapy and potentially months before he is back to 100%--if ever. The vet stressed that the surgery is very successful--and I have no doubt it is. But there comes a point in life when fixing it doesn't make it better. Baxter is 16 years old. He sleeps most of the time, he has forgotten where he's supposed to relieve himself, he is hard of hearing, losing his eyesight, and losing his mental facilities. I don't know how much time he has left, but I really don't want him to spend it mostly immobile, being forced to do physical therapy in the water (he hates the water), and recovering from an invasive experience. With his hip still out of the socket he has been running around the house quite happily (on three legs), eating, drinking, and going outside normally. Yes, he's on pain meds, and I see no reason to stop them. But I am really, really struggling with putting him through surgery. Between my mom and our deerhound Jester, I am not a fan of surgery on the old.

Even so, I am swamped with guilt over not doing everything I can do and can afford for him. My kneejerk reaction is "Of course, let's do surgery!", but regardless what this vet--who has never seen him before and doesn't know him--says, I keep thinking it's better for him *not* to do it, and doing it so I can console myself by saying I did everything I could for him is a lousy reason.

If we put the hip back in, it has to be tomorrow morning, but then he'll just be back in the sling, peeing on it and himself, struggling to walk, and it probably won't work. This is a lot harder of a decision because I'm not there with him judging for myself how he's doing and how he might do with various treatments.

Going to go to bed to sleep on it. Have to make at least one decision (put it back in or not) by 8:30 am tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sharks Off An Island

We're on an island, we've been  diving, and Jessie has us watching the movie "The Shallows". Guess what it's about? A shark. Off an island where the native language is Spanish. The shark is eating lots of people. Because someone speared it in the mouth and it wants revenge. Or because the people are in the water with the dead whale it's eating. Even though I am not sure why none of the surfers saw the dead whale, I am managing to be terrified.

We had two nice dives this morning, but the weather is changing (and we're old) so we're not diving tomorrow. Besides, we need to spend some time with the child and she has absolutely no interest in going diving. With or without sharks.

Because we're in paradise, and I am back to being a sloth again, I've spent enough time on the computer today and am going to go read or knit or something relaxing. No more sharks.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Gardening and Diving

Cruise ship days on an island are interesting times—and full of amusing sights. I love to cruise, but when we do, we rarely get off the ship unless it’s for a specific tour activity—never just to shop. Today I had a visual reminder of just why that is. 

So we were having breakfast on a little balcony across from the water when a catamaran full of cruise ship tourists pulled up to the beach. The last ones off were an American family of size (casting no stones here—the woman was my size, which is to say, Of Size) consisting of mother, father and an older teenage son. They got halfway up the beach before the first hawker nabbed them, trying to sell them a hammock. They deliberated a bit and then took a step backwards towards the boat and the water. Then a woman drifted over to them proffering an armload of jewelry. They took another step back. Then two large, determined-looking Caribbean women strode towards them from the road carrying bags of stuff, and the family fled back to the safety of the water next to the catamaran. There they huddled, waist-deep in the surf, holding the hawkers at bay. We left before the catamaran did so I don’t know if they ever got out of the water.

On the way back to our condo I checked out the plants blooming and going to seed along the road. There was a mandevilla-looking thing that was just gorgeous, and also some kind of sweet pea that was the most beautiful blue I have seen in a flower. I also saw what looked like some variety of bleeding heart, and some big peachy hydrangea-like flowers with a big yellow star in the center. It's spring so no matter where I go, I can't stop thinking about gardening. I'd put the pictures here, but as exciting as they were, flowers don't stand up to sea life for interest.

This afternoon we went to Sun Divers for a little diving refresher course (this is your regulator, this is your BCD, this is the signal for "I'm out of air!", this is the signal for "Can I share your air?", this is the signal for "Screw you, I have good life insurance on you..."). It really is just like riding a bicycle and it all came right back. After about 15 minutes of review underwater, we hopped on the boat, cruised out about two minutes from shore and had a great wall dive. We went down 65 feet and then worked our way slowly back up during the course of the 45 minute dive. I was kicking myself for not bringing my GoPro camera as we were really lucky and saw tons of fish from a large school of blue tang, to a barracuda, smooth trunkfish, queen parrotfish, damselfish galore, and more! I didn't actually see the barracuda, but Dave and our dive master did. The highlights for me were the hawkbill turtle, the peacock flounder, the sea horse, and the enormous green moray out swimming around. The pictures here are not mine, but they were taken by Sun Divers and are pretty much exactly what we saw--without the other divers in the scene. You can check it all out on their Facebook page. We didn't see the large hammerhead shark, a manta ray, the reef squid or the whale shark--all of which they have photographed on their dives in the last year and show up on Facebook--but maybe tomorrow!

Tomorrow we're going out for a two-tank dive in the morning, and I hope we get a couple more dives in before we go. We both forgot how very much we enjoy diving and we'd like to make it an annual event. Jessie did not accompany us--getting her snorkeling is going to be challenging enough. She is not at all ready for scuba. Sadness.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I am a Sloth

When I was growing up there was nowhere on earth I'd rather be than the beach--any ocean beach from the windswept rocky beaches of Oregon to the crowded sandy beaches of LA (Remember I am from Montana so my scope was limited). I liked them even better on cool, cloudy days when there were fewer people. I dreamed of living on the beach when I grew up, and my biggest fantasy was living on my own island. I think if I were still young, footloose and fancy-free, I'd become a dive master/cocktail waitress and live here on Roatan. Something like I did in Steamboat Springs for a season. Ah the glorious twenties....

Nope. I can't even write that last sentence with a straight face. My fifties are so much better than my twenties that it boggles my mind. I started to list all the ways that that assertion is true, but why dwell? I'm in paradise, I'm having an incredible time doing exactly what I want to do--there's no need to spend any time thinking about anything else.

Today held a bit of sunning, a lot of sleeping, enjoying the environment around us, feeling the breeze, and eating and drinking whatever I wanted whenever I wanted (except lobster as it's apparently illegal now until July 1 when breeding season is over).

I did almost fall into hyper-obsessive must-plan-everything-so-we'll-enjoy-the-vacation mode this morning. But when it became apparent that all of us would be completely happy doing nothing much for the next five days, I pencilled in a couple of activities and then let it go. Thanks to Dave, we did schedule a scuba refresher tomorrow afternoon followed by a quick boat dive, and then we'll probably go out again Wednesday morning for a two-tanker. Thursday we're going to Daniel Johnson's Sloth and Monkey Hangout and then Arch's Iguana and Marine Park. Did you see Zootopia? Do you remember the sloth in the DMV? We get to hold one! I'm so excited!! I am one!!!

Okay, enough computer time. Back to vacaciones!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Roatan At Last!

Sunset from the Thai restaurant in West End
Our first night in Roatan, and I sit on our deck under a full moon, skin kissed by tropical breezes at just the right temperature. Does life get better than this? I'm not sure. There aren't even any mosquitos--even when we were in still air this evening on the walk back from the restaurant... Yup, that's it: Tempt fate. I just got two bites, zap zap.

Dinner tonight was at a lovely Thai restaurant that has a blend of local ingredients and traditional Thai cuisine. The sunset photo at left was taken from our table on their deck. We had fresh papaya salad with fresh lime and hot peppers, and lobster pad thai and lobster panang--I even had Thai beer. The best though was the chili paste they served with the meal--traditional Thai recipe but they add a local hot pepper to the mix that kicks you on your butt. I'm going to see about getting some for seeds...

Full moon over Roatan
Now we're back in the condo, Jessie is studying Japanese (doesn't she get that it's vacation?) and Dave and I are on the deck. I hear leaves rustling, crickets, the occasional feral cat, the hum of someone's air conditioning unit, and some distant music too far away to be a nuisance. If I can't relax here, I can't relax anywhere. I have neither thought about the garden nor read email since this morning (and that was only email--it's been 24 hours since I've thought of the garden!) For the next six days I am going to sleep, dive, snorkel, visit the jungle canopy to commune with the monkeys, and trust that Stone's Throw, the dogs, and the cats are in Zaga's capable hands, and the garden is in Jay's.

Our humble abode for the next six days

Spouse on a beach--better than
snakes on a plane!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring Break Can Be Difficult For Our Family

We are finally all tucked up in our hotel in Dallas resting before flying to Roatan Honduras tomorrow morning. We have left Stone's Throw in good hands--Zaga and Dan from next door are taking care of it and all the pets because she really, really didn't want them staying in boarding. We cancelled our reservation at the boarding place earlier in the week, and it's a good thing we did as catastrophe struck today.

Baxter the spaniel is, at best guess, 14-16 years old. We have had him for 11 years, and he was rescued off the street a few months after Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans causing many there to flee their homes and relocate to Atlanta. It seems likely that Baxter's family was--for either Katrina or another reason--newly relocated to Atlanta and Baxter got out and got lost. We figure Katrina because the timing was right for the large influx of people and pets sent north by that tragedy. Also, when we first had him he would get out, go on walk-about, and have no idea how to get back home. We lost him for three days once when he slipped his collar and had no tags. We put up flyers al over the neighborhood and they were seen by neighbors of the people who took him in so we were able to reunite with him.

So Baxter is old. He forgets where he should go to the bathroom, he wanders around aimlessly with a puzzled look on his face looking for something that he never finds until he finally goes to lie down. When he goes outside, about a quarter of the time when I go to let him in he just stares quizzically at the open door not quite sure what to do. He doesn't want to stay out, but he's forgotten how to come in. Today all the dogs were out in the front and I was going over the work the contractor is going to be doing on the garden and the pond while I'm gone next week. Dave had to run to the store to get some things so he hopped in the Leaf and started down the drive. The Leaf is perfectly silent, Baxter is mostly deaf, and that's not a good combination. Somehow Dave clipped Baxter with a tire. He didn't feel it so he didn't stop. Then Baxter started yipping and carrying on and I came running over to him. He sort of dragged himself/hopped from Dave's parking spot to the front porch just as I got there. I immediately called our vet, and though they have Saturday hours, they're only 15 minutes away, and it was an hour and a half before closing, they said they didn't have time to see him, and I should take him to the emergency vet. I guess I should say former vet...

Fortunately there is a big, beautiful new emergency and specialty vet practice practically across the 2222 from us. They got him in quickly and determined he had a dislocated hip. I was offered three possibilities: 1) they could sedate him and put the hip back in and it would stay in, 2) they would put the hip back in and it would pop back out again--maybe not immediately, but eventually and then they'd have to do surgery, and 3) we could put him to sleep now. As frustrated as I get cleaning up the never-ending puddles and little piles, that's not what having a dog is about so #3 was off the table. At his age though, surgery is off the table too. I went through that with Jester, our deerhound, not too long after we got Baxter and I will not do it again. Sometimes it's best to just let go. We went with option one and crossed our fingers.

They sedated him, put the hip back in, tied it up with a sling that he'll wear for the next month, and a couple of hours later we were able to bring him home. We got two sets of pain pills for him, and I got him settled in before beginning to pack for our trip. Thank heaven for Zaga--had it not been for her, we would either have had to cancel the vacation or put him to sleep. There's no way we could have boarded him. But it all came together, and we are going to rest and restore ourselves next week knowing everything at home is in great hands.

Friday, March 10, 2017

This Whole Story Could Have Ended Very Badly


Like every day for at least the past week, my life has been consumed with the new garden. Today was no different. It also included another run to Barton Springs Nursery to pick up the trees I had already bought, and to add to their number. Zaga took me in her truck again, and we had a wonderful, sunburned time at the nursery. The highlight of the day, however, came after we got home. Bobby, one of the main crew working at Stone's Throw for the past eight months or so, brought his drone and camera today to take pictures of the garden project from the air. He took some first thing in the morning, but they vanished. So when I got back from the nursery, he tried again. There ensued an unfortunate sequence of events involving wind, software updates, dying batteries, tripping over a wall, sending the controller flying into the underbrush, and watching in dismay as the drone flew over the tall cement wall surrounding the property across the street from us and vanished. This is property with a wall 8-18 feet tall all around it, a massive solid steel door/gate, security cameras on the wall, and an intercom out front.

Bobby and I went over and used the call button on the intercom, but no one answered. We waited quite a while and tried several times to rouse someone with no success. So I left a note in the mailbox asking the people behind the wall to please contact me so I could retrieve and return the drone, and we trudged despondently back to the garden. As we entered, Devon (who has also been working for us through our contractor Jay for eight+ months) offered to scale the wall for Bobby to retrieve the drone. Bobby was so happy at the prospect of not leaving his drone there for the weekend and possibly forever that I said I would go too (to the property, not over the wall) in case the neighbor was home. That way I could meet him and explain why one of my workmen had climbed over his fence à la Beverly Hills Cop.

Devon popped over the wall easily enough, and he found the drone, but the camera had fallen off. While he was standing in a tree on the other side of the wall looking over and explaining to us about the missing camera, the neighbor came rushing up asking him what he was doing in his yard. It is Texas, and I should have thought of guns and danger with a property so well fortified, but I didn't until I couldn't see Devon, I could just hear him and the property owner. So I went up to the door (eight feet tall, wider than a car, solid steel, on rollers with no handle on the outside) and I started banging on it asking the property owner to open the gate. He was reluctant--and I can see his point: a stranger in his yard after climbing the fence, a woman he doesn't know loudly banging on the door asking him to open up--but he finally let me in, Devon scampered off to find the camera, I introduced myself to David who doesn't seem to be a drug smuggler, a human trafficker, a coyote bringing people across the border to his compound in the middle of the night, or any of the other things another neighbor told me he was.

Bobby and Devon went back to work, and David and I talked about remodeling, crazy neighbors, miniature dachshunds, city permits, rezoning, McCallum High School (his two daughters who are 16 and 17 just started there in January after attending private school up until now), and squirrels. I ended by getting David's phone number (the intercom doesn't work so if you want in, you have to call him). It was a good chat.  When I came out of the yard I realized that the gate had been closed behind us and I had been out of sight for a good long time in what had been portrayed as a dangerous compound (by another another neighbor). Bobby was clearly relieved to see me and told me that he and Devon had been just about to storm the castle looking for me.

So while the garden project is fun, I have to say the best thing coming out of it is the people I get to work with every day. I just love them. To top it all off, Bobby's wife Haley got the early drone pictures off the camera and sent them to me tonight. What a great day!



Thursday, March 09, 2017

Almost Forgot the Title!

It is extremely hard to post with a cat sleeping in your lap--especially since the cat really doesn't care how hard it is. She also doesn't care about the coyotes singing out back, and neither do the dogs. I can hear them clearly through closed windows and doors so I know the animals can too, and no one evne looked up.

Besides posting, all I've done today of note is work in the garden--oh yes, and finish downloading and linking the 161 plant reference pages for everything I would like to buy. I think I'll go firm up availability tomorrow so I can plan quantities and placement next week. I moved stone, cut 1/2 of a stone on the tile saw (before they guys wouldn't let me play anymore) and put down lots of spray paint marking the beds, ponds, and paths. Tomorrow will see us closer to completion--we'll at least have the first course of all the beds and the pond down so that they have a full week of work without me next week. The cedar will also be all chopped up and ready to mulch Monday. As I head to bed tonight, I leave you with a little slideshow of today's work.


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Is This Boring Yet?

I begin to wonder how many days my plant organizational obsession can last. Today Zaga took me to two nurseries and I rhapsodized over the wonder native tree selection at one and the existence of beautiful mimosa borealis bushes at the other. And I came home with 15 more trees and shrubs... All were on my list, just maybe not so many of all.

And speaking of the list, it is becoming a monster. I have now started saving pdfs of the pages of the plant database on my hard drive and linking to those pdfs in my plant list spreadsheet so I can continue to work on garden planning while we're in Honduras--with or without an Internet connection. I have about 167 plants on my list, and it doesn't even include the majority of the non-native but adapted fruit trees. It's also growing daily. The shot below shows the cultivation data for some of the plants in my cryptic code, and there are several more columns off to the right for nurseries where I have purchased them, what size I bought, and for how much. I hope it's going to be worth it to be able to use it as a design tool for the beds (which will be built tomorrow!!).


Now I need to clean up the kitchen a bit and then spend some time with my husband. Time to get my head out of my laptop!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

I Plan, I Cut, I Shop, I Fail At Math

Anacacho Orchid Tree
Somehow obsessing about plants all day has not gotten old. It's 9:40 pm and I am still entering data into my spreadsheet about the plants I wish to put in the garden. Of course now "the garden" has expanded from the new garden to the entire garden. The previous owner of our home (unlike the first owner who designed and planted everything) was not much into gardening. He pretty much let it all go to hell so all that I have left of the original plants is a few crepe myrtles, red yuccas, some nandina, and a bit of phlox, jasmine, and English ivy. It might sound like a lot, but there are many virtually empty beds that I might as well fill now along with everything else!

I had the landscape guys cut five more cedars today--all around 15 feet tall. These cedars were on the front (northeast corner) of the house and I am replacing them all with a variety of other native Texas trees and shrubs. Maybe if there is a gorgeous Anacacho orchid tree in front of the bathroom window instead of a straggly cedar, the contractors will be too busy looking at it to look in at me. A girl can dream.

Goldenball Lead Tree
The stone didn't get delivered today, I am told first thing tomorrow morning along with four additional laborers--two stone masons and two general lifting and clearing help. I am going to spend the day out with them laying out the first course of all the beds and making changes to it as necessary. I'll also finalize the design of the pond. I was really happy with my pond in Atlanta except for the leaking liner in the bog pond part. I had originally thought to avoid that failure point by putting the bog pond inside the regular pond here, but the way the layout worked put it separate and behind. I think we'll be okay though as there is an old driveway in the spot where the bog pond will go that will provide a stable slab for it. I'm also not making it as deep so if I ever did have a leak and had to empty out all the rocks, it wouldn't be that big of a deal (menaing I can hire people to do it without breaking the bank or their backs). The other change in the design is that we're going to use a spray-on liner instead of sheet liner. Jay used it in a pond several years ago and it has been totally maintenance-free. There is a clear version available that I got all excited about thinking we could use it to fix the leaks in the stream in the backyard, but it only works if it stays full of water--we drain the stream in the winter. Of course I guess we don't have to drain it...

I ended my work day with a trip to the Barton Springs Nursery where I bought all my native Texas plants 14 years ago. Their selection is even better now, and even though I was only planning an exploratory foray today, I ended up buying 10 trees. They were all on my list so I'm only jumping the gun a little bit. I didn't buy everything they had that was on my list even though they have just about everything I want. I was not only restrained (for me) because we're not ready to plant till the week after next, but because I need to decide on quantities for each type of plant now that I know they're available. In order to decide quantities, I need to get the final beds laid out and measure their area...

Lyre Leaf Sage
Okay, math sideline here. When we were taking measurements of the bed layout to decide how much stone we needed to buy, we measured the perimeter of the beds because, well, the stone goes around the outside. It made sense to me thinking about it that the area for all the shapes with the same perimeter would be the same: If you take a roundish shape and pull it out into an oval it will be longer and narrower, but it seems like it should be the same area because the length of the outline didn't change. However I good I felt about my deduction, I had to run it past the spouse because I always check my math with him. Good thing I did because apparently the area changes. He started in about using calculus to prove it to me, but I thanked him and told him I needed to get back to bed planning and I would just take his word for it.

Before I can figure out quantities of plants I need to be able to decide which ones are going where, which means I also need to finish my spreadsheet. It includes light requirements, size, bloom period and such. I have a feeling I am going to be spending a lot of time in Honduras next week working on this project. But back to today. In addition to the 10 trees I selected in person, I also ordered one very hard-to-find tree online from Vincent Gardens, and 23 packets of wildflower seeds, one bunch of wildflower roots, and one packet of grass seed from Native American Seeds.

The 11 trees are:
Guajillo Senegalia berlandieri, Berlandier acacia
Anacacho Orchid Tree Bauhinia lunaroides
Desert Willow Chilopsis linearis
Kidneywood Eysenhardtia texana
Goldenball Lead Tree Leucaena retusa
Mexican Plum Prunus mexicana
Toothache Tree Zanthoxylum hirsutum
Arbequina Olive Tree Olea europaea var. Arbequina
Southern Sweet Dwarf Peach Prunus persica var. Southern Sweet
Mexican Buckeye Ungnadia speciosa
Wonderful Pomegranate Punica granatum var. Wonderful

And the seeds are:
Barbara's Buttons Marshallia caespitosa
Blue Curls Phacelia congesta
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
Frostflower Verbesina virginica
Gayfeather Liatris punctata var. mucronata
Greenthread Thelesperma filifolium
Horesemint Monarda citriodora
Indian Blanket Gaillardia pulchella
Lyre-Leaf Sage Salvia lyrata
Meadow flax, blue flax Linum lewisii
Meadow Pink Sabatia campestris
Mealy Blue Sage Salvia farinacea
Mexican Hat Ratibida columnifera
Mountain Pink Centaurium beyrichii
Nodding Penstemon, Beardtongue Penstemon laxiflorus
Pavonia, Rockrose Pavonia lasiopetala
Penstemon Sage, Big Red Sage Hensley's Salvia penstemonoides
Prairie Coneflower Ratibida columnifera
Scarlet Sage Salvia coccinea
Tahoka Daisy Machaeranthera tanacetifolia
Tall Goldenrod Solidago altissima
Western Spiderwort Tradescantia occidentalis
Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa
Yellow Evening Primrose Oenothera missouriensis
Little Bluestem Schizachrium scoparium

Best place to get information about all of them is in one of the on-line plant databases that I believe are all ultimately based on the USDA database that I couldn't make work for me yesterday. My favorite one is the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant List. Pictures on this page are linked to from there.

Monday, March 06, 2017

You'd Think I Was Becoming a Botanist

The day was spent on plants, plants, plants. At any given time I had two books open (heavily papered with flags indicating desirables for the garden), and tabs for 16 websites up on my laptop so I could cross-reference availability, native status, and characteristics, and put it all into a spreadsheet. If only there was a place where all of this data could be put for easy querying and customized results! There actually is a place where it all lives, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service seems to have all the data one could ever want on North American plants, but I wasn't able to get any data out of it using their advanced query tool.  It is also limited on the number of rows it will return. If only data.world had this data! Maybe I can talk to someone there about getting it from the USDA...

In the meantime, bed building begins tomorrow. I will take pictures. this is going to be a rough garden. It's Hill Country Native, not polished suburban flowerbeds. I'm very much looking forward to it! Tonight was the Travis County Beekeepers Association monthly meeting and we had a presentation on, you guessed it, native wildflowers for bee gardens. A very nice woman from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center presented and made it very clear that I MUST attend the plant sale in April if I want my heart's desire.

Glass, sheep, spinning, knitting, cooking, cleaning, laundry, bathing, have all been forgotten in my mad lust for garden planning--not the gardening mind you, just the planning. I think I'll also be good at the directing of the work. Doing the weeding myself, not so much. Good thing I have guys for that. And it's time to head to bed again. My nightly routine: post, sleep.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Half Measures? What Are Those?

blackbrush acacia
Two minutes ago I finished the list of all the native plants I plan to add to our garden--mostly this year. There are 121 ornamental trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, groundcovers, annuals, and biennials--and that's before I add in the fruit trees, dye plants, bog plants, and favorite non-native species for bees and butterflies. Tomorrow I am going to start searching to see which of these plants are available commercially. The last time I looked for many of them was in 1998, right after we built our first house here in Austin. At that time, many of them weren't available. I am more optimistic about my chances of finding them this time because I am not just looking for plants, I am looking for seeds, and Native Seed Search and other companies like it are a great resource for native plant seeds. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Annual Native Plant Sale is also coming up in April and I hope to find many desirable plants there.

Today wasn't about plants, however. I finally oiled my great wheel and assembled it, and I unpacked all of my fleece from Wisconsin in preparation for my Master Spinner homework. Little by little I am working through projects I have going--some of which I started many years ago. Back to plants for a moment, today I went through my Master Gardener handouts and notes, and I sorted and organized them into my main Master gardener binder for easy reference. I did the Master Gardener program in 2002. It took me 15 years to sort the notes. But that's not as bad as it seems as we moved to Atlanta not long after I finished the program and was too busy building a life there to finish it up. But now I'm back gardening in Austin and it was the most natural thing in the world to organize those old materials.

As is usual these days, I am now exhausted and must head to bed. Good night fellow gardeners!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Transgenetic Goats, Trump, and Trevor Noah

Today in Austin it's rainy and cold, and after going out for Torchy's Tacos with Dave for breakfast, I have spent the remainder of the day hibernating. Sometimes it's good just to sleep. When I woke this morning I thought about the programming I saw on the science channel yesterday about the transgenetic goats whose DNA has had a gene from a spider inserted into it. The milk from the goats can be used to make dragline silk. You might ask, why not just farm the spiders? Apparently spiders are both territorial and cannibalistic, which cut way down on the silk production. Besides, goats are cuter than spiders. I wonder if Jessie would be afraid of a goat that's part spider as she is completely terrified of spiders. She said she wouldn't take care of goats if we got them here because it would mean going out at night when the tarantulas are out. Somehow I think going out to care for spider goats would be worse.

When I woke and remembered the goat segment I was so excited to tell Dave about it, but he was all, "Oh yeah, I saw that on the Internet." I was bummed because it's apparently old news, and I just now heard about it. Clearly I need to spend more time in different parts of the Internet. Parts where there is less Donald Trump and more transgenetic goats and dark matter (another segment on the show).

Alternatively I could just get cable tv and watch the science channel, HGTV, the Travel channel, the Discovery channel, the History channel, or BBC America! But no. I think there's even more Trump on tv than there is on the Internet, and I don't need to pay to be bombarded with it (though Trevor Noah would be a treat). Oh, hey! Trevor Noah is also available on YouTube! Well, that solves that question. Now off to see Logan at the Alamo Drafthouse and hope to have water (new hotwater heaters being installed now and all water is off) when we get home.