Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Naughty!

Today, let's talk about my newest nemesis, the dastardly denizens that skulk, slither and slide under my bushes, up the branches of my boxwood and procreate prolifically in my new garden.

Here's the bad:

Snails! I have to say that I haven't seen a snail in my garden since we moved away from the lushness of northwest Austin over 16 years ago. For some reason, they don't like it in the Hill Country. That's why, when I pulled some dead leaves aside and found these, I wasn't worried too much. After all, I've used seashells to decorate my potted garden. When one started crawling, I took a closer look. They are EVERYWHERE! Thousands and thousands of them.

You think I jest? Clap your peepers on this:

This was my "harvest" after just a few minutes. One day, I collected 152 of them before getting tired of counting. Research online says to "collect them by hand" and a friend suggested an organic control containing iron phosphate. I have to try that, because they are getting out of hand.

One day the plumber was here, and I tossed one to him and said, "So, what's up with these guys?" He took a look and shrugged. "I dunno, I don't have those in my yard." Lot of help HE was!

Then, Rudy was in the attic one day doing whatever it is he does up there. He climbed back down and said "There are snails in the attic." I figured they must have crawled up there, looking for a cool place to stay. I didn't think much more about it until we pulled out the old kitchen cabinets. Underneath, there were millions of tiny snail shells, all dead. After freaking out, Rudy vacuumed them up and sealed the hole in the wall where they presumably crawled in.

So, you can see that I was not exaggerating when I said they are everywhere. Even in the blazing hot sun, in the bare sandy areas, they congregate:

For a while, I took pleasure in tossing them into the road. Then I felt guilty, thinking they might crawl across the street to my good neighbor's bushes and eat them. That would never do. So then I started collecting them, and disposing of them in the trash can. I even took gleeful pleasure in smashing a few with a hammer, on my bad days. But then, something happened today as I filled my bucket o' snails.

For the first time, one tried to escape, and I got a look at his little face! Up close...

Hmmm...I wish I hadn't seen that, because now instead of just aquarium decoration, it's a living creature! Oh dear. Shall I give him a name? Or maybe it's a her?

I did more research online, and found out that they actually do have a natural enemy, which I also have in my garden. See the little spiral shaped thingy? Bad photo, I know, but he wouldn't sit still long enough for me to take a good picture.

I decided to let nature take its course. I hoped that the good ones would defeat the bad ones.

But then, I found these two, doing their naughty bit:

Then I remembered this:

That was the last draw for me. I went to find my hammer. Nature can always use a little help, right?

Happy trails!

bobbi c.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Happy Ending! Adam Gets to Keep his Garden...and not only that...

I just learned that Adam Guerrero, the young teacher I blogged about in this post, not only gets to keep his home garden (YAY!), but after thousands of petition signatures, video views, Facebook likes and emails later, the city of Memphis was so impressed by the support that he received that it's going to help him locate a lot in his neighborhood for a new community garden.

Did I say YAY? :-) What a victory for the home food growing movement!

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Garden criminals? This is just nuts!

Adam Guerrero, a math teacher at Raleigh-Egypt High School in Memphis, TN., has been ordered to remove his home garden before his court date on September 23rd. It seems that he and his students have been accused of the horrible crime of tending a garden after it was deemed a "neighborhood nuisance."

Really? Get a grip, people. There are a lot of other problems in cities today without punishing those who are trying to do some good for their community. This is HIS yard, and HIS home. Why shouldn't he be allowed to grow food anywhere he damned well pleases?

Why aren't the "garden police" out there searching for people who grow water-guzzling polluting lawns? Why aren't they out there arresting people for growing invasive or imported non-native plants? Since when did growing food become a crime?

Such a sad commentary on our society. And even sadder is that this is not an isolated incident. HOAs all over the country are making rules that prevent homeowners from exercising their God-given right to garden and to grow food on their own property. In this day and age, with food shortages and starvation, isn't there something ELSE that these groups can do? Like "tend to their own knittin'"? Kids are going to school hungry in many areas (all areas?) of this country. This man is a HERO, IMHO. Not to mention the real-life skills he's teaching them, skills that will come in very handy in the days to come.

Check out the article for ways you can help Mr. Guerrero.

bobbi c.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And the work continues...

Rudy says I write too much about what I'm doing in the garden, and not enough about what he's doing. Whatever. LOL. Just to prove that he is working, though, while I'm outside, sweating buckets in the hot, scalding, relentless, blazing sun, here are a few pics I just took when he emerged from the attic. He's caulking some of the million holes and cracks up there. I have to admit, that hardhat gives him a certain flair.

Draw, pardner! Look out, he's dangerous with a can of foam in his hand!

So, enough about him! Let's talk about me and my garden. LOL. When Rudy and I bought this place, I mentioned a fall garden. He scoffed, and asked why I didn't just NOT do one this year. I thought about it, agreed, but the closer it came to September, and the more we ate frozen grocery-store bought veggies, the more I wanted to plant *something* here. Just to see how it goes, I said. Well! Before I knew it, I was ordering seeds (, clearing out some of the old pecan leaves, tossing snails (my new hobby), and making little tags that said "Turnip," "Collards" and "Mustard." Yes, dear readers, I succumbed to the lure of a fall garden.

I'm trying something new here. Other than the one experimental raised bed I wrote about in my previous post, I don't intend to build a lot of raised beds like I have in the past. For one thing, in the past I had no dirt because topsoil in the Texas Hill Country is as scarce as hen's teeth. So I had to build raised beds. Here, in Taylor, we have very deep topsoil. I'm still gobsmacked at the idea of going outside, digging a hole and putting in a seed, lickety-split. Amazing stuff, dirt!

The seeds are up in the experimental ugliest garden bed in Texas

Here, I'm practicing what I call "pocket gardening." I find a space that's next to an existing shrubbery, or a bare patch of lawn, or an old pathway, plop in a marker, plant some seeds, and wait. Lots of people tell me they don't have space for a garden. I just planted my fall crop of mustard greens underneath a pecan tree, where the previous owners grew oxalis. The space is only a few feet long, but that will make plenty for us two. If it doesn't work out, I can dig them in or throw them on the compost pile I started here.

Compost pile made from wooden pallets left behind by the house levelers and leaf mulch tube to right for corralling leaves left in neighbor's yard and small branches

Greens will grow along the front of my new herbs 'n chickens bed

Beans will grow in an old pathway beside the boxwood hedge

Mustard greens will grow in this little pocket of found space in front of the cottage

And collards will grow at the base of the pecan tree:

I am throwing handfuls of our homemade compost on top before watering in the seeds. This soil is sandy, and probably fertile, but lacks enough organic matter that will keep the soil moist if/when it rains.

More later....Husband's running the compressor and I find it hard to think over it. Doesn't he know I'm trying to BLOG, for pete's sake? BTW, this is my first post from the cottage. Yes, wireless internet has come to the old gal. Ain't technology great?

And speaking of that, here are a few random photos I snapped this morning...

An old cracked concrete birdbath makes a great planter for portulaca, purslane, hens 'n chicks, etc.

Happy potted eggplants!

A bit of sun scald, but still very edible...especially with olive oil! Yum!

Potted plants on the back steps

Red Yucca planted in a "drought resistant" bed beside the street/sidewalk

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Renovation ain't for sissies!

Especially in this Texas heat! Rudy and I continue to remodel/renovate our new/old 1930's vernacular cottage. The heat has been brutal at times, but not nearly as bad as before we got our new air conditioner installed. Now, it's tolerable, and the nice old pecan trees make lovely shade over the back porch and yard most of the day. I hear it's supposed to climb back up to 103 this week. ACK! That's just nuts. We're still in one of the worst droughts in recorded history, as well.

So, here are a few photos with random comments. I have very little time at home these days, and when I'm here, I'm either sleeping, doing laundry or tending to the shrinking garden here. Here's a hint...don't try doing what we're doing if you still have a full-time job! This IS our full-time job.

A lot of what I've been doing at the new/old house is trying to save the former garden with judicious watering, and planting new drought resistant things to replace some of the dying plants that thrived when there was a supplemental water well there. The well is still there, BTW, but dry right now. I've been told it's likely to come back to life after we get a "good" rain. Right now, ANY rain would be a good one. That was definitely one of the selling points for me, having a water well nearby.

I've been concentrating on plants in containers since I can move them easily, move them around, see where they're happy before putting them in the ground. One of my recent favorites for pots are oleanders. Scored at a Big Box store on clearance, I bought four of these pot-bound beauties, repotted them and am using them around the property for screening and a bit of green color. I was surprised to find that they are drought tolerant.

Coincidentally, the hanging bougainvillea plant and the oleander both bloomed on the same day, and they're both pink.

We've been moving garden stuff over a few plants and pieces at a time. I was excited to be able to finally place my purple garden bench under the shade of the pecan tree. Potted veggies surround it, and they are very happy (and blooming!) there now, even in this heat. Shade is the key, my friends.

I use herbs a lot for landscaping, and we use them for cooking at every meal. This bare spot beside the back porch formerly was covered with a little vine and some sickly succulents. After the plumbers and the house levelers tromped through it, I decided to start over. It's now my Herbs & Chickens garden. So far, I've planted a wonderful Sicilian oregano and some Thai Basils among my collection of terra cotta chickens. And yes, some of them hold "Hens & Chicks" succulents.

The way I design my garden is to plant little pockets here and there, then eventually join them with "bridge" plants. This little pocket is right beside the sidewalk leading to the back cottage/greenhouse and contains rosemary, Italian basils, native salivas for the hummingbirds, a sedum for groundcover and a gazing ball.

As I mentioned, we're in a serious drought here, and here's proof. When we bought the house a few months ago, the grass was green, although stressed. Just a few weeks without water (we never water lawns) and this was the result. The long-term plan is to turn the entire area into a perennial and herb garden with a walkway, pergola or trellis, fruit trees, etc. One challenge is a gas line that runs along the side of the property, but I can plant ground covers of some sort there. Anything that goes there, though, has to be drought resistant.

Although I've identified most of the plants on the property, there are a few that leave me stumped. Here's one of them. It was a nice green before, but since has died down to the ground. Is it an annual? A dead or dormant perennial?

This is another mystery "plant"....or actually, some sort of mushroom or fungus. Woodears, perhaps? I'm not touching it until I find out if it's edible or not. The location is pretty handy, though--right outside the back door by the kitchen.

And here's a mystery vine that's twining around a rose bush. It's short, has dark green leaves, small black berries AND large bright red berries. It's a pretty little vine, whatever it is.

This last photo is of my new temporary, experimental raised garden bed. It's in the back yard, right underneath the World's Longest Clothesline, and is made up of materials I gathered from the property or here. Underneath is dead grass. On top of that I layered a cardboard box that our solar fan came in. Cardboard boxes have been one of the most useful materials in building my gardens. On top of that, I layered topsoil scooped from the yard. It's very sandy, so I mixed some homemade compost from there (yep, I already have some finished compost), a sack of oak leaves we brought from the other house (a Freecycle score, gathered locally) and dead pecan leaves scooped from underneath the boxwood hedge there. It's supported on one side by a pecan log that fell from the tree, rocks that used to support the house, and bricks that were piled up in the yard. In it, I planted seeds of Japanese cucumber, Italian beans, a little Chocolate Cherry Tomato (heirloom, from Bonnie's) and some icicle radishes to help break up the soil underneath.

A friend asked if I was the pink Energizer bunny. LOL. Nope, not hardly, but I do think getting more sunshine has given me more energy, and I do take frequent "stick the face in the fan" breaks. Lots of water mixed with a small amount of tea and the occasional treat from the Kolache Shoppe right down the street from the house has kept us going.

Happy trails,

bobbi c.