I’m not sure if it is someone at daycare influencing him by complaining about the heat or if it is just a phase, but this summer was a bit like pulling teeth at times to get Forest to play outside for any length of time. Inevitably he would complain that he was sweaty and hot and I had to continually remind him that I was also sweaty and hot but we were playing outside and that’s the way things were going to go. Sure, when it was extremely hot we were hibernating indoors but most of the time were out during the cooler parts of the day. I’m hoping this is just a phase. Most of the time he was more content to just play on the porch which was problematic for me when I needed to work in the edible garden or wanted to wander the yard. There was a lot more close-to-the-house time this summer.
I have a post to write about his 4th birthday but still need to wade through some photos of that. Hopefully this weekend I can tackle those and get something up for the weekend. So far we’re still wading through some Threenager business but 4 is proving to show he’s really got a mind of his own and he’s going to let you know it!
The last in my summer garden series! Thanks for keeping up! I promise to be more prompt in my posting of garden photos from here on out—or well, I’ll try! 😉
The gulf fritillaries like to pupate on the front porch pole, blending in quite well until they do weird things like this, their chrysalis angled out an odd way. That’s what usually gets my attention that they are there. This one eclosed properly later on, which I was thankful about.
This was the first year the flame acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, in the front flower bed properly flowered. The last year or two it might have spit out one or two flowers but it was mostly a blob of green in the bed. We have another one in the side yard bed that doesn’t bloom but produces a lot of vegetation that cascades over the side of the bed. I’m also tempted to move this elsewhere.
I’ve enjoyed letting the false nettle clump up in this section of the garden as well as letting it be host to the red admiral caterpillars this summer. Chris mentioned taking it out of the flower bed after this season and it was something I had been pondering on for a bit, too. We have plenty of it around the yard and along the pond so the plant is around for the red admirals. I did end up ripping it all out and throwing it into the compost over last weekend. Now, to replace it with something else. Maybe the ‘Argentine Skies’ salvia I mentioned in the first summer post?
I think this is a Habranthus rain lily but being as I’m writing this up during preschooler bath time, I can’t run outside and check the tag. It’s one of the few plants in the garden where the tag has actually stayed put.
The butterfly ginger got a little floppier this year. I had to cut back several stalks because it got in the way of the path and just looked messy a few times. This area of the garden got a little shadier due to the fig filling out more and some of the neighbor’s tree branches encroaching more into our yard. I think we will need to do some branch trimming come winter.
I’m digging the brugmansia, datura, and chocolate plant, Pseuderanthemum alatum, combination here. The first two should start putting some blooms soon and the chocolate plant is a generous self sower in this area.
Mid-summer had promise but by the end of summer the garden is showing some wear. I’m ready for it to wind down just a bit but will be enjoying what I can as these golden evenings become darker. A good cleanup is in order but that will be on-going as leaves fall and plants senesce. If you had a garden, how did your summer garden go?
This has been the Summer Of Okra for me. I put it in the place that okra loves—full sun—and let it go to town. Being as I’m the only person in the house who enjoys okra, I planted three short rows from seed we had from several years ago. We’ve only ever grown three types: Eagle Pass, Hill Country Red, and Stewart’s Zeebest, so it is pretty easy to figure out which is which once they come up and fruit. Yes, the seed was from unlabeled bags in our seed catalog! This year it was Stewart’s Zeebest and Eagle Pass. I would like to try a new variety next year so I may look into some other heirloom types when it comes to ordering next spring.
I ate plenty of okra raw, grilled some, buffalo okra fries, made okra gumbo, and I think this last bunch might get frozen. I’m picking every few days and have to get our largest step ladder to reach the tallest plants which are now at least 9′ tall. Even utilizing the tall step ladder still requires me to bend the very tallest plants down so I can trim off the okra!
Other plants I’ve been harvesting regularly have been cowpeas and various beans. I’ve been blanching and freezing the cowpeas so we can cook them up at a later date. This year I grew pinkeye purple hull and they produced perfectly. Next year I’m planning on an entire bed of them since they did so well. I only planted three ‘cages’ worth—using the tall trellis cages that Chris built for the snap peas.
This year I got basil started in late May before we left for Florida. Next year I need to get it started in late April instead. So far I’ve dried a few of the cuttings I’ve taken but otherwise we haven’t been very good about using it.
Letting the rudbeckia bloom after they self sowed out here has been a good idea. There several clumps we have spread around the garden have really brightened the garden up and lured in the pollinators. We had a rainstorm sometime mid-summer that caused the blooms to flop over a bit, though they have continued to bloom despite that challenge.
Behold! My beautiful zucchini! Yeah, too bad it is now dead! Thanks squash vine borers! I was trying to trick you by planting a bit later but it seems you’ve almost had the last laugh! I still have a couple of plants out there but the biggest and strongest couldn’t put up a fight. It looks like this week is the last week to get another crop sown so I may try it once more, hoping those little buggers are done for the year.
The Red Siberian tomatoes I sowed and planted back in June are doing well but I’m still unsure how they are going to go. They could probably use another round of fish emulsion. They have tried to flower a couple of times but it has still been too hot to set fruit. Now, two self-sown tomato plants (probably Matt’s Wild Cherry) came up in another location and are starting to produce tiny fruits—that’s what this flower is from.
I am excited about this one! I have a couple of ripening fruit photos on my phone and will have to share those at a later date, but this is ‘Rich Sweetness’, a palm-sized melon that turns orange when ripe. I have one nearly ripe now, though it started to split a few days ago. I can’t decide if I should harvest or see if will finish ripening. And I found a second one growing so maybe there’s some promise in a few more fruit before the season is over.
Another new plant I’m growing this summer are lima beans! I bought them at the grocery store back in May and thought I’d give them a whirl. They grew and bloomed for a lot of the summer but really didn’t start producing fruit until August. I’ve harvested a few pods but it hasn’t been anything significant to eat in bulk yet. I’m still debating whether they will be worth it in the future or if I should try a different variety.
Overall it was a decent season in the edible garden, though it could have been more productive. I feel like I’ve got a good idea on a few things to change for next year—more beds of beans and cowpeas—and maybe the Seminole pumpkins will germinate next season. That’s one change from last year I am bummed about, that they never germinated. Rather, one germinated but it did poorly rather quickly. It was a little harder this summer because we were gone for 11 days in June for peak blackberry and tomato season and then I spent several weeks getting back on top of weeds after that and re-mulching the paths. So, the balance got off-kilter there.
It’s been a good year for cicadas around here, lots of exoskeletons and dead full body cicadas can be found. As it is still quite warm here, they are producing their lovely sounds in the evenings, too.
Compass plant, Silphium laciniatum and Ozark bluestar, Amsonia illustris seedlings on the potting bench. They have been the easiest of my native seed order from Prairie Moon that I received. The compass plant I tried to establish in the garden earlier this year failed to take because of the deer (mostly hoof disturbance) but the bluestar is doing well despite some chomps by the deer. I’m hoping to get these growing larger (and they already are from this photo taken in mid-August) to get a nice clump established next year.
Out on the dock looking north along the pond. You can see the pine trees still laying in the water from Harvey. Chris has been trying to chop them up somewhat so they can float away or maybe drag a couple smaller pieces on shore to burn. Otherwise, sediment is definitely building up behind that and we’d like to prevent a peninsula. We’re already having problems in the pond because it needs to be dredged and our little town’s parks board doesn’t exactly have the funding to properly get this done. The sediment has created little islands upstream next to our neighbor’s house and the neighbor beyond that. It’s frustrating.
The swamp tupelo, Nyssa aquatica, with the weeping bald cypress down by the pond. You can see a post from when we planted the tupelo here but I can’t find a post about the bald cypress. Both have grown significantly! I really should do a more detailed pond shoreline tour later in the month and dig through for comparison photos. It’s changed quite a bit.
And you can’t not love the mimosa tree when its blooming on a bright blue sky day! That’s despite the mimosa being a problematic exotic plant that we debated on cutting down when we moved in. But it’s about a tall as our balcony off our bedroom so it makes for a lovely view in the moments we decide to step out there!
I had goals this summer to write regularly about the garden instead of letting my photos languish in their folders on my computer without processing them. Instead those goals came and went and I only ever processed photos in large batches and then never made the time to write about the garden. The result is that there are far too many photos and things to share about the garden for one blog post so I’ve drafted up several posts to share the summer garden from July through the first of September. The last time I shared a post specifically on the garden as a whole was The June Garden. Obviously, a lot grew from July through August.
Fig season, the first-ish to second week of July, came and went with only a handful of figs picked for humans. The rest were foraged by birds and squirrels because I could never remember to go out and pick them. And when I did I would find the figs in various states of not quite ripe and then the next time I looked they would be picked on by said animals. Such is life with the fig tree.
The Aristilochia fimbriata flourished in its location in the side-yard garden this year, rambling along the ground and up a little bit of the chain link fence. Because we had the pipevine caterpillars this year I made sure to get seed and start new plants this year. Because the plant tolerates a shadier locale in the garden I will definitely be trying to find a few more places for it to reside in the garden next year.
Almond verbena, Aloysia virgata. This plant needs to be heavily trimmed back and honestly, I wouldn’t mind it being removed from its current location or just buying a new plant to put elsewhere in the yard. When we bought it I think we thought it would be more bushy than it became. At is full glory it was a small tree and then one of the colder winters caused it to die back about halfway and from there it has sent out side shoots and odd looking branches. It’s not very pretty and frankly, it is annoying to walk by.
The pink bananas on the side yard garden, taken here July 9th, hadn’t quite filled out yet. Now they are dense and create quite a bit of shade over there. I’m thinking of relocating the Salvia guaranitica ‘Argentina Skies’ to another location in the garden. I enjoy them being there, especially when they cascade into the walk way but Chris doesn’t and cuts it back more frequently than I would like. Plus, it just seems too tight in this area now, so maybe give the bananas more room and move the salvia to a brighter location would be a good move.
At the beginning of the year I had thought I’d try to take weekly photos of the garden from this angle to do a time lapse at the end of the year but instead I fell off the photo wagon back in April at least. I’m lucky if I remember once a month. You can see this angle after the hard freeze in January here
I know this is slightly out of focus and not on the flower itself but I still love the photo. It’s Salvia azurea and I hope it reseeds itself well in the garden next year. I’ll likely buy more seeds, too, because the blooms are so lovely.
I’ll be sharing more scenes from the garden all week!
While Chris fishes along the Pedernales, I usually take time to poke around the fringes of the rocks to see what plants or invertebrate wildlife may be lurking about to photograph. Sometimes Forest is with me playing in the rocks or whatnot, but as he’s gotten older he’s been able to follow directions and stay around with Chris while Chris fishes. We were out one morning along the river and as I was poking about looking at the early fall wildflowers making their home in the dry, rocky fringes of the river banks, I noticed an odd flowing section of water off to the side with wetland vegetation intermingled. It hadn’t rained recently and the river hadn’t been up so I thought it was strange. I followed it up and realized it was a seep coming out of the ground! So cool! I had never noticed it before in our other visits so this was a great find. I’ll be checking on it again in the future! It’s not too often you come across a spring. Often you will see springs noted on historical topo maps but so many of those have been destroyed or dried up due to various pressures such as logging, filling, ground water loss, etc. I’m reading a historical fiction book right now based on the Buffalo Soldiers working in SW Texas and they talk about actively destroying water sources that the local tribes were using as way to eliminate the tribes or force them onto reservations. So, there’s that, too.
Well, hopefully I don’t take nearly a year to write posts about our trips any longer, though you know, I do have some photos still from our trip to Seattle in 2012! hah!
Pedernales Falls State Park is one of those state parks you wish was in your backyard. A park that you could easily pop into on a weekday after work or for a good weekend adventure. In some ways, mostly in its size, definitely not in its habitat, it reminds me a bit of Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Florida. Large enough to be able to roam freely in the ‘backcountry’ on a wide array of trails but also with river access. River access here is a bit different than at JD, mostly in that no one is paddling along like they do on the Loxahatchee River. It’s mostly a fishing river with some swimming and tubing on the lower areas, though definitely not at the falls. The other difference would be the imminent danger of flash flooding on the Pedernales.
It’s hard to believe these photos were from almost a year ago when we went for Chris’ birthday. His birthday is at the end of this month! Forest has grown about two shoe sizes since then, too! And looking at our camping reservations through spring, looks like we won’t be hitting up Pedernales this year unless we change our camping plans at some point, which is always an inevitable thing with weather in December and January.
I’m looking forward to camping season—only three more weeks!
There’s a part two to this which I’ll share later this week!
Let’s return back to McKinney Falls State Park over Easter weekend and wrap-up our time there with some wildflowers (with a side of vines, trees, and shrubs—it was spring, things were blooming!). According to my post drafts, I have another post for Pedernales Falls State Park that I didn’t get around do. Looks like I’ll be sharing another post from there soon!
Chris and Forest left around 1pm to run errands: Lowe’s, Target, a haircut for Forest, grocery shopping. That left me to several hours to do what I needed to do around here and for the most part that has been chores. Last weekend was a weekend away and next weekend is a weekend away so that leaves me to cram into this weekend all, or most, of the things I need to get done.
Cranking up the “Romeo and Juliet” station on Pandora—that would be the Dire Straits song—I’ve been jamming my afternoon away to not only Dire Straits but plenty of other good music that puts me into a state of mind for several things: Florida (songs have memories), life pre-Forest, savoring these late summer afternoons. Pre-Forest I could dance around this house in a few hours getting it clean and doing the random bits of things I think of to do, such as baking or what I did today, scamper around the yard pulling herbs to dry, without a pile of toys under my feet or cries for my attention.
Now the dehydrator is humming along at 95-100* dehydrating garlic chives, pineapple salvia, basil, tulsi basil, and lemon balm. I’ll use the pineapple salvia, tulsi, and lemon balm for tea. The chives and basil will go into our herb pantry. There’s plenty left of everything for another round of drying in a few weeks. I’ve been wanting to dry the pineapple salvia for years and just never got around to it. Now seemed like as good a time as any to get that started.
I’ve been bouncing in and out of the a/c. I pulled the leaves off the plants sitting on the back porch since I’ve been inside the house all morning doing chores. That dose of Vitamin Nature was much needed. Summer slipped by, didn’t it? It was incredibly fast in July and August. I felt like I could grasp it tightly back in June and then *bam* it’s gone now. I look outside my window as I type this, looking at the scarlet sage and passionflowers wildly growing in the front bed and see the signs of the slump towards autumn. Flipping through photos at this time last year and in other years, this is what it always looks like. Wild and a little unkempt, with a garden path overgrown with weeds. The only difference in today versus last year is that this time last year (Saturday 8/26) the rains for Harvey were really getting started here in Houston. Today, it’s almost the opposite. Sun fills the sky and the plants yearn for a drink from above. Tonight/tomorrow/and the following days last year we’d lose two pine trees as they fell into the pond and the garden would be swamped. I’ll take what we have today.
And in a little over a week, Forest turns four. While I enjoy these few hours to myself, to clean uninterrupted with the music turned up, I do miss the sounds of that sweet little kid and can’t imagine how quiet this place was, and all the places we lived, before we had him.
Hope you are having a wonderful Sunday, too.
About the passage of time…my niece Zoe turned 10 a few weeks ago and my nephew Grayson turned 7 on Saturday. We went up to Fort Worth for their birthday party this weekend and I can’t believe they are that old already! I can always mark Grayson’s birthday and age with my work anniversary (the office version–the field version is about 10 months longer that) since I started here a few days before he was born. It feels like yesterday that we were wrapping up our period of vagabonding, settling into our tiny rental, exploring local flavor, and Grayson was born!. But nope, 7 years ago y’all! And I’m about to have a FOUR YEAR OLD! WHAT?
The weekend trip to Fort Worth was great! The last time we were up there we narrowly escaped town as the roads were icing. Honestly, I figured we’d have gone back up there since but we just haven’t. My parents visited in mid-spring and then everyone came down over Memorial Day weekend (something I didn’t get around to writing about here—yet), and then we went to Florida and they had vacations…so it’s been busy. The kid’s birthday party was Friday evening so Chris and I took a half day off and drove up there for a long-ish weekend. On Saturday we spent most of the day at the Dove Waterpark in Grapevine after we had a quick breakfast with Chris’ mom and brother. The pool was awesome! It had plenty of things to do for little ones on up to adults, including a diving board and two water slides. Forest enjoyed the small slides at the Disney resort we stayed at so he was hoping to go on these but he was about 5″ too short for one of them and 5 years too young for the other.
But I was enticed by the diving board as was my brother. Zoe and Grayson also enjoyed the diving board. I’m going to guess the last time I was on a diving board was in college, so at least 16 years ago, if not 20 years ago. I took it easy at first, just doing a standing dive off until I got the nerves up to do running and jumping dives. I will say that it was a work out, jumping, swimming, getting out and repeating it multiple times. Now, to find me a pool here with a diving board!
The gardens are good, though the flower garden is in a late summer slump and a bit of a mess. My focus has been on the edible garden with some poking around in the flower garden here and there. Lots of pollinators right now though no monarchs have arrived in my area. Chris saw one at a field site on the east side of Houston and we saw one or two in the Austin area in July as well as some caterpillars on the milkweed at the children’s play area at the Houston Zoo at the end of July. According to Journey North the vast majority of sightings are still in the midwest and northeast so the main migration this direction hasn’t occurred yet. I’m guessing last year was an anomaly for me, having the monarchs in early August. It will be interesting to see when they return here.
Gulf fritillary caterpillars are the predominate caterpillar right now though I still have 11 pipevine swallowtails in the cage. Oh yeah, update on that: I found more eggs on the toxic pipevine so I put them in the cage with a cutting of the vine and kept an eye out for when they hatched. As soon as they hatched I moved them to A. fimbriata and they’ve been happy ever since. Though yesterday I went out to get more good pipevine for them because they are in the “GIMME ALL THE PIPEVINE” phase at the moment and found three different clutches of newly hatched caterpillars. I did not bring them into the cage because I figured there was a good chance they would be mowed over by the nearly-ready-to-pupate caterpillars in their urge to devour pipevine. Note to self: Get allllll the pipevine I can get my hands on next year. I already started more A. watsonii seeds and now that the fimbriata has set seed I’m trying to get more of that started. It is a great shady groundcover and it could easily be used in a couple of other areas in the garden. I still want to find the native southeastern species to get growing in the garden, too.
Let’s go through what I said I needed to do back and June and follow up and I’ll write another list below that.
Here’s my random list of things to do out there:
Trim back blackberries: Yep, done! Take out tomatoes in about two to three weeks and put fall tomatoes in: Done! The fall tomatoes are growing well! Finish weeding (for this round): done-ish! Weeding is never done, y’all know that. Mulch paths: Done! I spent two-ish weeks working on it but it got done! So much better! Move remaining compost from left bin to the edible garden, put good mulch down in some perimeter beds: Done! Spray fish emulsion: I was consistent with this for awhile but need to be back on top of my game. Put down more fertilizer because what I put down a few days/week prior to the flood probably washed away: done! Turn compost bin and start left bin with new stuff: Need to turn the right bin one more time but it is mostly useable for fall already. Stake sunchokes better: Done but then we got a storm and they flopped over again so they got a whack back about half-way.
Late Summer Garden Chores
- Weed the flower garden paths. I’m still really wanting to sod this thing in. The only part that would be spotty would be the shady area under the fig. *sigh* We really need more decomposed granite on this path this year. Or sod. Something needs to be done.
- Weed the flower beds. They aren’t horrible but need a review.
- Stake the chia (salvia) plants. They look great until a strong wind comes and they get all bend up and knocked over.
- Up pot some lobelia seedlings on the potting bench as well as other seedlings I just started.
- Fix the mess where the agastache and golden lotus banana is. I think a combination of some hard rain and the deer have knocked over the golden lotus bananas. The agastache just needs a hair cut and a sprinkling of seeds/deadheading.
- Maybe get around to finishing weeding the man-cave/garage bed. I started it but then never finished it because, well, we don’t walk over there much.
- Go through the seeds for fall. I did a bit of this the other day but I know it needs to be gone through again and an update of my seed list needs to happen.
- Rake up the last bits of mulch that are embedded into the ground and put it on some edible beds. Get more mulch for fall.
- Prep several edible beds with compost for fall seeding.
- Maybe write some summer garden blog posts! I have more photos to process and other photos I never shared.
I know I’m missing things but that’s the gist of it at the moment.
+I just came across this band called The Dead Tongues (thank you Spotify!) and I’m really enjoying their song Won’t Be Long as well as all of their songs on Spotify. I’ll probably look into buying at least their latest album at some point. If you like indie/bluegrass/folk they would be someone to look into!
+Synergee Minibands: I’ve been loving these minibands for working out! They add some great resistance, particularly for leg work that I wasn’t able to get previously unless I had gym equipment. I did not pay the price listed in the link on Amazon currently, they were $11.95 when I bought them. So, don’t spend that ridiculous amount on them!
I’m due for another Book Report soon but I recently finished Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright and I was appalled at some of the similarities of things Mussolini said/did and what 45 says/wants to do. She breaks down many different fascists and dictators over the last 80 years, talking about similarities and differences and how they can apply to current political climates. Very much worth a read. I’ve finished a couple of fiction books, too. And I just started The Underground Railroad by Colton Whitehead as an audiobook and so far it is going well.
I got the studio cleaned up! I reorganized it, too, and Forest and have been going once or twice a week for an hour or so. Sometimes he draws or paints other times he plays. We have a marble game that he likes to play with and I dug out some stuffed animals, too. Zoe and Grayson used to love going to the studio when they came to visit and Forest’s visits to the studio are the same vibe right now, that sense of newness and exciting adventure in ‘the studio!’
I managed to paint a 4×4 acrylic painting during a couple of our trips over there. I’m now wanting to work on a weaving. I also want to paint more, so that’s on the agenda. I’m really letting it be open ended when I go over, to create whatever I feel like doing. Sometimes I just want to sit and enjoy the ambiance! I’m so glad I got it cleaned up so that we can spend time over there more when it is dark outside in a few months.
What’s up with you?