My Austin Garden In April

After an unseasonably warm winter, we’ve lucked out lately with some beautiful (not sweaty) weather lately. I’m doing my best to enjoy it while I can, and many of the plants are enjoying it as well. Even the fireflies are finally out again. Here’s a sampling of what’s been going on in my central Texas garden.

Cultivated Edibles

Only a few of my tomato seedlings and none of the eggplants survived. One thing I’ve learned this year is that cleaning the pots and using fresh potting soil really does result in healthier starts. Right now there’s one cherry tomato plant and one Roma tomato plant out in the yard, with one last seedling (started from a random tomato) still in the house.

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Cherry tomato starting to stretch out
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Roma tomato with a long ways to grow

The jalape√Īo pepper plants were eaten when transplanted outside. One my coworkers says that rats love them. I’ll bet the squirrels love them too. ūüė¶

At least one of the bell pepper plants is untouched, plus one more still inside.

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Bell pepper plant

The cucumbers and nasturtiums were planted in partial shade this year. Last year they looked really heat-stressed in full, full sun. Now that the trees have leafed out, though, I’m worried they may be in too much shade. Only time will tell.

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The fava bean plants which survived the winter have finally started producing pods.

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Fava pods at the base of one plant

I’ve planted random seeds all over the backyard. The bad thing about this is I always have to¬†be more careful where I step or I could squash a cherished seedling.¬†It’s also difficult to cut down the weeds while avoiding seedlings. That might explain the weedy situation of my backyard currently. But yesterday, I saw a dark sprout that I marvelled at recognizing it as a squash. Several sunflowers have sprung up, the beans are obvious, and many are a mystery.

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Butternut squash seedling
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Royal Burgundy beans

Sadly, I haven’t yet seen anything¬†that looks like a melon vine yet. It’s only the start of April, though, and I still have extra seeds to put out. I will have delicious melons this summer!

I finally pulled up some carrots in March. They were delicious even though there weren’t too many of them. A couple of dozen carrots from three packs of seeds is very unimpressive. I may have to¬†be a more attentive carrot gardener next year, because I really do love carrots.

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Paris Market and Scarlet Nantes carrots

I only got four corn plants from the whole pack of corn seeds. Maybe if I had watered more… nah. I’m probably not going to try corn again anytime soon.

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Corn, mulch, and a few not-corns

The cilantro is already flowering. I didn’t pick any because to me cilantro tastes like soap, but I’m hoping to harvest some coriander seeds before my current supply is exhausted. It’s one of my go-to herbs. Strange how that works.

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Cilantro en route to becoming coriander seed

Is the Fuyu persimmon tree dead? It still looks like just a stick in the ground.¬†The trouble with transplanting a dormant tree is that I have no way to gauge how healthy it is and if it there’s anything I can do to pamper it a little more. I did give it the scratch test, and there is a bit of green beneath the bark. I’ve also read in multiple places online that it can take months for a persimmon tree to come back after being transplanted. But I really really hope I don’t have to wait much longer.

Fortunately, the fig, kumquat, and citrus trees (meyer lemon and satsuma mandarin) are more visibly alive. The citrus leaves have some yellowing, but I’ve applied a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer and have been careful to water them only as needed. Most of¬†the other trees nearby have leafed out happily and the sea of green is mesmerizing. Even the pecan trees at long last have bits of green starting to extend from their branches.

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My new kumquat tree!
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Texas Everbearing fig still going strong
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Meyer lemon, surviving bug attacks

Landscape Plants

After months of patient waiting, the Bluebonnets are finally showing a bit of their namesake color. Unfortunately, grass and weeds are encroaching all around so they don’t get the full attention they deserve. Next year if I can get some started from seed, I’ll plant them out in the front yard bed.

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Bluebonnet plant finally in bloom

During my last stop at the nursery, I was looking at all the seed packets and finally decided to try some lemon grass. The envelope said “Germinates in 3-5 weeks” and I was prepared to practice some patience, but after just four days the first sprout appeared! Now must be the perfect time for it to germinate here, so I just started another couple of small containers today.

On the way home from the nursery last time, I came across this stalked bulbine, sadly abandoned on the sidewalk. This is a spreading perennial, so I’m delighted to add it to my garden.

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Stalked bulbine

It’s the perfect time for taking cuttings here in central Texas. …or so I’ve heard. I’ve never successfully rooted a cutting before. Anyhow, I took a few cuttings of my rosemary and salvias. Once I learn how to propagate these properly I’ll be able to grow a full yard of delightful plants. At the same time, the layering method is also being used to try to root branches¬†of these plants that I can transplant next year.

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Rosemary cutting time!

Sadly, the Esperanza also never came up. I’m going to take this as a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t try to plant things in January. The weather fluctuations between the 30s and 80s are probably too much for any reasonable plant to bear unless they already have a good foothold. Or maybe it’s just for advanced gardeners.

Wild Edibles Discovery

When I first saw the¬†wild onions in side yard, I thought they were the garlic chives sprouted from seed I scattered. Well, nope, the chives never showed. I’ve since seen the wild onions in other places around the neighborhood and even saw them mentioned on tv so I’m sure of the identification. I can’t seem to get a good picture of these, though.

Also, I knew wild blackberries live in some¬†places around town but I’ve never seen them firsthand. That explains why when I first snapped this picture I didn’t even consider it as an option until further explanation. Time to start cultivating the weeds!

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A wild blackberry perhaps?

… but I can sadly no longer recall where exactly¬†I took this picture and can’t find it anywhere. At least now I know better.

But the best discovery of all was the identification of one backyard tree as a Mulberry.¬†I don’t remember seeing any fruits last year, but maybe I wasn’t looking. Or maybe the squirrels got them as soon as they were ripe. This year my eyes will be open. This weekend I also made the fortuitous discovery of a tree with already-ripe mulberries not far away and they were amazing! I can hardly wait for the fruits on my own tree to ripen.

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Leaf and fruit sample from my tree. So the internet could tell me what it was.
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Ripe mulberries discovered in front of a house in the next neighborhood

 

Gratitude

It’s a time of great unrest. In addition to the possibility of the EPA either being eliminated or otherwise losing the authority to protect our health, there’s a lot of debate over our country’s responsibilities for residents who are not yet legal citizens. The past couple of days, there have been protests just down the street in response to recent ICE activities here in Austin.

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During the day it’s been pretty tame, but as it gets later and more people join in, things start to break down a bit.

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While¬†the worry may be sometimes grating, it’s helpful to take a step back and think about those things that I’m grateful for with respect to everything going on.

Freedom of Speech / Freedom of Assembly

I’m grateful for our constitutional rights which allow people to speak their mind and have open discussions. People may not always say things that I agree with, but it’s also important to understand what the people around you are thinking and feeling and that’s just not possible without free speech.

Helpful Neighbors

My neighbors may not all be on the same side of the immigration issues, but everyone agrees that helicopters flying low through the neighborhood keeps us from getting to sleep at night. A few neighbors shared info on NextDoor about how to properly submit complaints about the helicopters that were¬†buzzing the walls when passing¬†over but which weren’t actually¬†doing anything useful. And I’ll¬†share my gratitude with these folks for the helicopters finally leaving so everyone could get some sleep.

Internet Video

Ok, so I’ll admit that I can get a bit annoyed about overconsumption. Do people really need a video camera on their person at all times? Do they really need to share their videos with the whole world? Do they really need the ability to upload it immediately?

But I’ve gained something from this event and I really do appreciate¬†people sharing video of the protests. It was easy for anyone to see that it was a peaceful protest. And as someone living in the vicinity, it was the quickest way to confirm that a series of shots going off was actually fireworks.

Respectful Drivers

At times the protesters were blocking traffic as they paraded around¬†the intersection. Naturally this led to a couple of incidents, but I’m really grateful that most of the drivers just continued on their way without escalating things.

Respectful Police

Yes, there were a few incidents here also, but for the most part there was respect all around. From the protesters, who respected the police who were there to keep both them and everyone else safe. (The protest happened to be at one of the most dangerous intersections in Austin.) And from the Austin police, who respected everyone’s rights. Protesters and police generally had open conversation (rather than yelling at each other as I’ve seen elsewhere). And I’m glad the police¬†eventually shut down the intersection to vehicle traffic to ensure everyone’s safety.

 

Whew, just writing that down makes me feel a little better. Now I just need a little time in the garden to find my balance again. No stressful shopping for me, folks!

A Ten-Mile Stroll to the Library

Sunday the library was closed for New Year’s. On Monday again it was closed for New Year’s (observed). But Tuesday the libraries opened at ten o’clock, and I was ready at eight to start my new year’s resolution of hiking the circuit of Austin Public Library branches. My maps and supplies were on hand to assist me in this awesome journey. And the weather was absolutely beautiful.

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Overall route

Why would I walk ten miles just to go to the library? you may ask. Well, it’s simple. I love walking and I love libraries. I’d like to walk more and to visit more of the libraries in Austin. Plus, as a non-driver this is a great opportunity for me to explore ways of getting around the area independently. As a non-consumer, it’s a fulfilling activity that doesn’t require spending a dime. And as someone that doesn’t always get out enough, it’s designed to bring out a bit more of the explorer in me.

Little Walnut Creek branch library

Well… I stopped at this library before it opened, but the lights were on inside so I’m counting it! Don’t worry, I’ll be back many times this year.

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Kicking off my hike at the Little Walnut Creek branch library

The route took me through a part of the neighborhood I had never explored before. Sadly, it was full of litter and I quickly had my fill of picking up trash. Next time I go out I’ll need to take a bag with me for collecting¬†it. ūüė¶

(It turns out the litter is most prevalent in my neighborhood. An hour into my walk, I stopped seeing so much trash everywhere.)

It was cool to see more of the area though. All the little creek and railroad crossings were my favorite. There were areas widely paved for pedestrian traffic and areas with no sidewalk at all. Winter really is the best time for walking in such places because the shrubs and other unruly growth (or worse, poison ivy) aren’t¬†pushing you into the middle of the street with the cars.

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Walnut Creek trail–once a dirt path and now a huge concrete slab complete with an amazing quantity of signs and a dashed yellow line in the middle.
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Crossing MoPac safely via underpass
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The area once known as Waters Park. This old railway transported in the granite used to construct the state capitol building in the 1880’s and a town built up around it but is long gone now.

Milwood branch library

Two hours after heading out, the Milwood library was finally in my sights.¬†It was an area that I¬†never visit. The bus doesn’t stop close by and I’ve always considered it to be in the middle of nowhere. How amazing that I was able to¬†walk there!

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Metal sculptures in front of the Milwood branch library

I quickly gobbled down a couple of rolls before going in, grabbed a few editions of Texas Gardener magazine, and enjoyed an hour of replenishing relaxation.

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Entry to Milwood branch library

The seating didn’t look that plentiful. Fortunately, it wasn’t at all crowded during my visit.

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One seating area at Milwood branch

I marveled at the checkout center for electronic devices to use in the library. Next time I’ll have to try it out instead of just getting a quick glance.

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Laptop / tablet kiosk!

Soon my hour was up and it was time to head out on the second part of my walk if I wanted to get home at a normal hour.

The strangest thing about this trip was that I was sure I’d be tempted as afternoon approached¬†to make a quick stop at the Krispy Kreme or Rudy’s barbeque or some other delicious food place, but I wasn’t. The few snacks I had with me kept me satisfied throughout the day. I’ve experienced this before too. Just by getting out and doing something active, I’m less tempted to overindulge. Then again, maybe it was due to that dead raccoon I saw by the side of the road.

Spicewood Springs branch library

Less than two hours after setting out again, I made it to my final circuit stop for the day.

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I made it to Spicewood Springs!

I’d been to the Spicewood Springs branch before, but it seemed way out there even when travelling on the bus. No wonder my feet were starting to hurt a bit. I quickly grabbed a couple more books and a comfy seat and sat down to read.

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Kicking back and reading Lynda Barry’s “One Hundred Demons” at the library.

After some relaxing easy reading, I had to walk just a few blocks to hop on the bus back home. There was a transfer towards the end involving a fifteen minute wait.

But no, I had a crazy idea. It wasn’t that far from the transfer stop to my home. I could walk that too! This may not have been the best idea. I could feel a¬†few little blisters forming on the bottom of my feet and the first several blocks¬†felt like the longest of all. Good thing it was only a half hour distance on foot from my house….

Home Base

Woohoo! I made it back in one piece. I was just in time to catch the episode of MacGyver with the robots that look like Daleks, while I made and then ate delicious fideo. My husband was really lucky he got home in time to eat some of it too.

Hike #1 of the Austin Public Library circuit was a resounding success. It was thrilling to realize the huge area that I could now consider “walking distance” and I immediately started dreaming about the next hike. Will I do another long trek all the way downtown to the central library (still shorter than this one)? Will I explore one I’ve never been to before? Every option sounds good right now.

The Semi-Winter Garden

The garden’s been quiet recently but it’s definitely not snowed over here in Austin. I’ve harvested the dried cowpeas and chopped the tops off, and I’ve occasionally thrown a few more veggie seeds in the garden beds. A week ago there was a hard freeze and the marigold plant out front finally died, along with the zinnias and dianthus. The mexican mint marigold and lemon balm look pretty dead too, but those may just be hibernating for the winter. Fingers crossed.

The Beds

Some of the seeds were placed in a row and some were just scattered haphazardly. It’s a good things weeds have filled in most of the other beds because this first one has a lot of sad exposed soil. There’s a lot of henbit around, what I believe is wood sorrel, and the occasional dandelion, plus unknown varieties of weeds. I should really learn how to mulch properly…

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One of three garden beds

Spinach

The variety is Monstreux de Viroflay, so the leaves are supposed to be monsters. Not sure if this plant is still in its infancy or if it’s just unhappy. But I’m pretty sure at least that it actually it spinach because the leaves have that spinach-y taste to them. Not bad.¬†Too bad the others haven’t come up. I’ll try to start some more later in the winter.

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Monstreux de Viroflay spinach plant

Broccoli

This one I’m not so sure about. It could be broccoli or another weed. I’m assuming it’s broccoli because a month ago it was just stems in all direction. The leaves had been totally eaten by¬†something that knows this plant is delicious.

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Broccoli plant… maybe?

Carrots / Celery

I sowed¬†three varieties of carrots, a different one in each bed. And I threw some celery seeds in as well. These look like carrots to me. Someday I’ll learn to tell the difference between carrot, celery, and Queen Anne’s Lace.

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Carrots, I hope

Fava Beans

These are supposedly cold season beans, but¬†are totally new to me. I don’t know if they’ll fruit or even if I have that disease which can result in death if I eat fava beans. Either way, these plants look nice and they’re scattered in various places around the backyard.

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Fava plants

Chard / Beets

Before the frost, several seedlings were popping up.¬†The yellow ones are definitely chard, so I’m assuming that’s what the red ones are also since they look very similar. Beets are in the same family and some of those seeds were in there too, so only time will tell.

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Chard seedlings before the frost

Unfortunately, after the frost the numbers seem to have dropped off. But at least a couple of them appear to have revived.

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Chard plant that survived the frost, woohoo!

Onions

I didn’t see any of these left after the frost and was scared that these died, but the stalks are just really slender and easy to miss unless you’re looking really closely.

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A row of onion babies, still alive!

Garlic

Everyone in Austin should grow garlic. It’s the easiest thing in the world. Stick a few cloves in the ground in October, and then pull out full heads of garlic the next summer. It’s brilliant!

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Garlic stalks all sprawled out in the mess

Around the Yard

Some other edibles that showed promise outside of the three garden mess beds.

Potatoes

When we moved into this house in February, one of the first things I did was plant some seed potatoes in a random location amist grass. It was kind of late to be planting potatoes here but I ruined all chances of survival by promptly forgetting where they were and likely cut them down with the grass a few times.

But about a month ago, I saw four of these plants in a sort of row and, after some head-scratching, remembered the potatoes. Alas, since the frost I once again cannot find them. They must have been totally obliterated. We’ll see if they poke their heads out again in the spring.

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One of four potato plants, now gone

English Peas / Snap Peas

The English peas died a long time ago and the snap peas were never really happy. It may have something to do with the lousy unamended soil I planted them in, but it was really a test to see what would thrive here. One of the snap pea plants hung in there through and produced a couple of peas. I finally pulled it out today for a picture of what might have been.

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The only one of its kind

Southern Peas

The cowpeas had no complaints about the soil. They thrived even as I neglected to water them. I only ate a few handfuls fresh. The rest I let dry out before collecting, so as to have many to plant in the spring. We’ll see how they do in various areas around the yard to make sure it wasn’t just that one location. Besides, legumes are good for rotating with pretty much every other crop.

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Mississippi Silver cowpea plant

Red Chili Bean

The seed beans were the same ones I’ve used for chili recently, picked up from the bulk bin at the supermarket, so no clue what variety they really are. But considering that I threw the few seeds on the ground on some partly dug up soil, then quickly retreated inside after ants attacked, and forever after neglected them, I am super impressed with the result. Then again, I had to pull the plant before the bean pod had fully ripened because bugs were starting to eat up the plant. I may try this again in the spring with a dedicated area. If the ants don’t scare me away again, that is.

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A lone red chili bean plant

Lavender

This may be cheating since¬†these plants joined the garden from the store only a couple of months ago and haven’t grown, but I’m happy to say that they survived the frost and look as healthy as ever. (Note: The weed in the bottom center of this picture is almost definitely Queen Anne’s lace. I’m pretty sure that’s a different leaf shape than the carrots posted above. Pretty sure.)

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Low-growing lavender

Salvia

I have no intention of using this as an edible, but adding a picture here anyway.

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Salvia Greggii

Dwarf Buford Holly

Same for this shrub.

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The Dwarf Buford Holly looks exactly the same after the frost as before

Unknown Shrub

And this one. Although I have no idea what it is, I think it’s lovely. And it’s definitely thrived on the spilled water in its prime location directly beneath the faucet.

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Mystery plant

Meyer Lemon Tree

Still no lemons. Then again, it’s only two years old. I was tempted to give it some liquid fertilizer, but it’ll survive another couple of months before feeding it and then finding it a new home in the ground.

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Two-year-old Meyer lemon tree

The Indoor Garden

Or at least, the scattered pots sitting on the table near our only south-facing window. I’ve planted persimmon, plum, and meyer lemon seeds which haven’t yet sprouted. Broccoli seeds are the more likely candidates to survive. The Mexican Bird of Paradise plants were lovely for a while and then passed on, as did the American Beautyberry.

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The indoor garden

Rosemary

I’ve never grown rosemary from seed to this size before. The secret is apparently to not water it too much. Also in that pot are a couple of lantana seedlings. No point in replanting ¬†into separate containers until I’m fairly certain that they’ll survive.

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Lantana on the left and rosemary on the right

Texas Mountain Laurel

Not a food plant. Somehow this indoor plant is already a smidge taller than the one I transplanted near the front driveway. That one survived the frost just fine, so I may transplant this one also before long. I have no idea which plant is poking out behind it. To the right you can also see what I believe is a Ruellia sprout based on the shape of the seed, but it’s dying so it won’t interfere.

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Texas Mountain Laurel once again

Tangerine

This bit of green just peeked out for the first time yesterday. So excited because I got the seed from a locally-grown tangerine, so if this someday turns into a beautiful fruit tree it will have a history in central Texas.

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Seed from a locally-grown tangerine, just sprouted

Rosemary

I went to Home Depot this morning so I checked¬†to see if they had any of the rosemary Christmas trees that I’ve heard about recently. Sure enough, I rescued¬†one at half off and am excited to have¬†more rosemary out in the yard soon. I was tempted to get more, but no, I need an excuse to learn how to propagate these without killing them. Besides, this variety says it only grows to two feet tall and I love them large for yard decoration.

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Rosemary Christmas tree

Henbit

While writing up this blogpost, it finally struck me that perhaps henbit was edible and after a quick check online, it turns out that yes henbit is edible! Tomorrow when I get out into the garden again, you know what I’ll be sampling. Can’t believe I never thought of this before. ūüôā

Single-Stream Recycling: A Tour

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to tour the Balcones Recycling Facility as part of Austin Resource Recovery’s Zero Waste Blockleader program. For those of us north of the river, this facility is where all of our single-stream recycling goes for sorting. This facility is full of both advanced machinery and probably a couple of dozen human sorters at any time to get everything sorted.

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Huge pile of residential recycling ready to be processed

After loading everying onto a conveyer belt that feeds into the system,¬†the first step in the process requires human sorters. They stand on both sides of the belt picking out plastic bags or utensils or other things¬†that would interfere with the facility’s machinery. They also pick out some of the larger pieces of trash and things such as wood, which they actually support recycling for also.

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The turnoff for broken glass

After this, the machinery starts separating different types of materials. Any glass gets broken early in the process and falls through to its own turnoff.

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Looks like trash, doesn’t it?

The machines are able to separate large cardboard from smaller papers. Plastic containers and metal cans head down their own route for processing.

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Sorted cardboard heading over to be bundled

So much of the material was cardboard!

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Cardboard, cardboard everywhere

Sadly, anything containing multiple materials¬†(such as packaging for a doll that I pointed out with both paper and plastic) gets sent to the trash. Economically, they just can’t support separating¬†out the materials that are attached together. So please do this before tossing things in the bin. It’s easy enough when¬†you don’t have a full conveyor belt of materials coming at ya.

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Picking rogue items from the newspaper belt

Similar to Lay’s potato chip machines that can detect burnt chips and blow them out of the main processing, there are electronic sorter machines that quickly detect the composition of materials coming down the belt and use blasts of air to sort them to the correct place.

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I think that was actually a soda can. It wasn’t really glowing, it was just moving very quickly.

The output of these machines goes through a human sorter also to handle anything that was misplaced, but the amount would be too insane for a single human to get through.

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We got a strong whiff of laundry detergent walking past this section

At the opposite end of the facility were bales of paper, cardboard, cans, plastic, and a huge pile of glass, all ready to go on to their next destination.

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Tons of paper and cardboard baled up
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Cans and plastic bales outside

Some would be taken in semis, but some would be transported by train.

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Train behind the facility, ready to cart some of it away

It was awesome seeing so much material converted to a format that could be reused rather than sent to a landfill. The only sad part was this pile at the end.¬†The facility has to pay to send to the landfill everything that didn’t get filtered out into one of its recycling streams.

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Behind this worker and boxes, you can see the trash pile growing

 

But, well, that pile is an awful lot smaller than the everything else that does get recycled so it’s not so bad. I know that not everyone is going to want to embrace a true zero waste lifestyle which would prevent much of this refuse in the first place, so I’m enormously grateful that this facility exists and that it’s easy for folks to just toss recyclable items in their blue bin instead of contributing to our landfills. ūüôā

A Walk in the Harvested Woods

This week at Talk Green to Me book club, we were discussing Bill Bryon’s A Walk in the Woods. It’s a hilarious tale about the adventures of the author and an acquaintance walking the Appalachian Trail. The stories of beautiful scenery and the sense of accomplishment after braving tough weather conditions and still going forwards–well, it inspired me and I was ready for a hike of my own after reading this book.

Of course I’m not going to travel halfway across the country¬†for a hike, no matter how epic. There are just so many parts of Austin that I haven’t even seen yet. I had an idea, though. And to test it out, I decided to walk to book club at Recycled Reads from my office. It’s not the Appalachian trail, but at 5.7 miles it’s¬†a decent trek. Google Maps predicted just¬†under two hours to make this journey on foot. (And fortunately we are just far enough removed from the summer heat that being outdoors that long isn’t arduous in itself.)

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A lovely wide walking trail along North Burnet Road ūüėõ

This definitely was not the most scenic hike. Since almost my whole route was alongside Burnet Road, I had a great view of traffic and there were all kinds of shopping centers. Fortunately, crossing 183 was easy (I expected more of a mess of traffic lanes like at Lamar Boulevard and 183) and there were a variety of scattered trees and plants that I was able to stop and view more closely at my leisure. I arrived at my destination just a few minutes later than Google predicted and barely breaking a sweat.

Since that two-hour walk didn’t kill me, I was reassured that my more insane plan would work. A couple of months ago, I came up with the idea of a new years resolution to visit every Austin Public Library branch in 2017. Nearly a couple dozen of them. It doesn’t involve buying anything, which makes it a near perfect resolution for me, although not¬†that much of a challenge.

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Map of Austin libraries

Well, you can probably see where I’m going with this. For 2017 it would be awesome if I walked to every libary branch! No, I’m not going to walk from the northernmost Spicewood Springs Branch to the southernmost Southeast Austing Community branch in one¬†go. My idea is to start from my home to the nearest library constituting a single trip. The next trip would be from that library to any other library. And so on, accumulating a new potential starting point with each new destination achieved. For some sense of scale, the distance between North Village Branch and Yarborough Branch is about an hour walking, so none of the branches¬†are more than a two-hour walk from another (although I have the option of making non-optimal trips).

Do you think I can do it? I think I can. The library is closed on January 1 & 2 next year, but I’m already planning my January 3 walk up north to Spicewood Springs branch–a happy 7.6 miles from my neighborhood branch.¬†Worst case scenario, next year December I’ll hop on the bus¬†to quickly visit any branch locations that I didn’t make it to¬†on foot. ūüôā

The Literal Windfall

Thursday morning was windy here in Austin. For a few hours, the winds averaged 20 miles per hour, and as I worked at the office I’d often stare out the window for a moment to watch trees swaying in the wind. I was mostly excited about the cooler weather that was on its way in, but when I got home Thursday evening something even more exciting happened. My back porch was sprinkled liberally with pecans! I greedily gathered as many as I could from the porch and surrounding yard and ended up with this large bowl of pecans before having to leave for other obligations.

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Pecans! Beautiful pecans!

There may be some undesirable pecans in that batch as I learned soon after by reading some pecan-gathering instructions from another windfall recipient. I’ll sort them out at some point, but in the meantime I gathered two more bowls full of pecans and have them all hanging out in an extra produce bag. Waiting a couple of weeks for them to cure will be difficult but so worth it.

I’m full of gratitude at the moment:

  • That the house we got earlier this year already had a couple of mature pecan trees. It had been a dream of mine but I was uneasy about the ten years or so that it would take for a newly planted pecan tree to start producing.
  • That some other folks for whom a yard littered with pecans would have just been a nuisance didn’t get this home. ūüėõ
  • For being healthy enough to go outside and pick the pecans from the ground one by one without pain or too much effort.
  • For the extra exercise opportunity. My thighs may have been a tiny bit sore today, but it felt good.
  • That there are now more pecans at the farmers market. While I already had my bags full of good stuff today, next time some of those are sure to go home with me. Have to stock up while they’re in season!
  • And finally, for the cool weather that the wind helped bring in. It was in the 40’s this morning, which for Austin is true Texas weather. It won’t get that chilly again for a while, so the brisk air was savored while it lasted.

And that, my friends, is what a windfall is. ūüôā

The Fall Garden Begins!

It may feel pretty hot again here in Austin, but there’s some hope that we’ll see a little relief not too long from now, like those couple of beautiful weeks that we saw last month where it was a pleasure to be outside.¬†A few weeks ago I described the couple of garden beds I planted during that brief pleasurable time. But now I¬†know that it’s time for fall gardening. And it’s all because of this.

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A carrot!

Normally carrots take forever to germinate. Sometimes it feels like they never will. But one of my Paris Market carrots has already poked its head out of the ground and is telling me that it’s time to go.

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The canary melon vines have come back to life
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The pumpkin vines are also in bloom

I’ve decided to use go without any soil amendments for the fall garden and see what happens. No compost (because none of mine is ready) and no purchased mulch (crumbled leaves and grass clippings will have to do). But some new seeds were a must. As far as my Buy Nothing New project, I count seeds as food and therefore allow myself to buy anything I reasonably believe I can use. Last weekend I visited Shoal Creek Nursery to stock up. Reading about soil health recently, I ended up getting a few different legumes to experiment with, as well as¬†some buckwheat. (Ignore that the buckwheat package says it’s¬†for sprouting. I’m gonna plant it!)

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I intended to buy carrot and onion seeds, but things happened.

I’ve resolved to plant one row or square of something every day. So far it’s been just cowpeas and snap peas, but I have a lot of back lawn left to plant.

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The area chosen for cowpeas turned out to be really rocky. I cleaned out some, but it’s a good thing I wasn’t planning to plant carrots there. It’ll need more work in the future.

This morning I discovered something else wonderous.

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Some of the cowpeas sprouted already!

So today my husband and I went back to the garden center to get some onion seeds and maybe a few more beans to get into the ground while there’s still time. Somehow, with earlier season seeds on sale at 75% off, I ended up with this…

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So many seeds!

At least I’ll have plenty of time to learn about some of these varieties before starting them out in the spring. Other than carrot seeds (because I love carrots) and perennials, that’ll be it for me this year. Including the carrot seeds I bought a couple of weeks ago, I’ve spent altogether just over $20 on seeds and don’t at all doubt that I can grow $20 worth of food with minimal additional input. Well, that’s it, time to get gardening!

And my apologies for all of the exclamation points in this post. I’ve been messing around in the garden regularly for a couple of years now, and this is the most variety of veggie life I’ve ever had thriving at once so it’s pretty awesome. ūüôā

The August Garden

It’s 76¬į outside right now! A couple of days ago at this time it was a toasty 104¬į. Not only that, but there’s rain. It’s just been drizzling most of the time, but it still came out to an inch here yesterday and more is on its way.

That’s why this weekend I needed to throw as many seeds as possible into the moist garden beds to prepare for fall. If it gets too hot again (fairly likely), some of them won’t make it, but that’s a risk I have to take.

I bought a couple of packets of carrot seeds from Wheatsville while grocery shopping and pulled out a bunch of leftover seeds from this spring or last fall. Well, except for the turnip seeds which were intended for 2008 and which my mother found somewhere and decided I was the right recipient for.

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Seeds that went into the garden this week

So, without further ado, here’s my garden after living in this house for six months. The pics with all the wilted leaves are from Friday afternoon obviously, when the plants were trying to protect themselves from the heat.

Cucumber Variety Bed

This bed has not just a few cucumber seeds planted, but also nasturtiums, watermelon radishes, Jaune Du Doubs carrots, and a couple of broccoli. That may be too much to plant in this little bed, but I really wanted to get more things in the ground.¬†And my experience with carrots is that they take many months to grow so they’ll probably wait to grow until I get rid of everything else.

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Future cucumber bed

The smaller cucumber bed that I prepared recently seems to be doing well enough. I’ll have to thin some out yet again. It’s always painful to see plants go in the compost, but it’s the recommended way for plants to have room to thrive.

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Baby cucumber plants, wilted in the summer sun

And right next to that, not worth it’s own topic is the yellow squash bed. More accurately, it’s the pile of dirt that I stuck some squash seeds into a couple of weeks ago when there was rain forecast. We’ll see whether or not I can still get a decent-sized squash from my yard.

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Yellow summer squash

Variety Bed #2

Unfortunately, the dirt in these new beds has dried up a bit since the summer harvest. I need to figure out how to start getting my mulch on. You can see a volunteer pumpkin vine growing in the corner of variety bed #2. This bed now has seeds for radishes, turnips, spinach, and a corner patch of lettuce.

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A place for vegetables

Melons

This is the same melon bed I’ve had all summer. Only now, I threw in a couple of seeds for Paris Market carrots because I read melons and carrots make fine companion plants and they should start really growing around the time I get those melons out of the way. That is, unless I have to tear up the whole bed to get the melons out.

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Melon vines still everywhere!

I tried looking very carefully for melons Friday¬†and was surprised to discover¬†what looks like an almost-ready cantaloupe. I’ll be keeping a close eye on that!

In the newer¬†small canary melon bed, it looks like the plants are ready to be thinned again. There’s no telling if they’ll have time to produce this year.

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Canary melon vines

Lemons

Well, no, there aren’t any lemons yet. I planted this tree from a seed less than two years ago so there are still years to wait. But look how leafy and green it’s getting. I’m excited already. Do baby trees need to be pruned at all though? I’m wondering after seeing just how much it’s leaning after the rain.

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The Meyer Lemon tree at 21 months

Bell Pepper

No signs of any fruit, but it’s still hanging in there.

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Bell pepper wilting its leaves to avoid peak heat

Peas

Finally, I¬†soaked and planted the peas from last spring and planted them in their own little plot. Unlike last¬†spring’s peas, these will be in my own backyard so I can closely monitor them and pick them at perfect ripeness.

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The pea plot

A Happy Day: Library + RRFM + ZW Food

Sunday I made my regular monthly trip to East Austin for the Really Really Free Market. I dropped off a couple of items I decided not to keep from my last trip and just a couple of other things I no longer needed. Fortunately, most of the crowd had already been through all the bins to find their treasures so I had plenty of space while looking through the tons of clothing to see if there was anything I wanted to salvage.

This month turned into a fairly large haul and I went home with:

  • a new-to-me pair of jeans that fits me properly (finally!)
  • tshirts for Wheatsville and local bakery¬†Easy Tiger¬†(they make delicious pretzels)
  • a polo-style shirt to try out
  • one extra pair of socks to replace the one I’ve just worn big holes in (the socks aren’t exactly the same length but close enough)
  • some lovely fabric for my yo-yo quilt or another project

The Wheatsville shirt is a cotton-poly blend, and I’ve been trying to stick to natural fibers. But, hey, I’ll take it because Wheatsville is awesome!

Unfortunately, this also means I now own 23 shirts! Sounds like this weekend it’ll be time to pick out a few to get down to my limit of 20 and decide whether they end up going to the next free market or recycled into tshirt yarn. It’ll be nice to get back that little bit of free space in the closet again. A few shirts can make a world of difference.

Also this month, I finally realized that in.gredients is only a 15 minute walk away from Chestnut Pocket Park where the RRFM is held, so I wiped off some of the sweat dripping from my face and headed over for some zero waste and local foods. Another dragon fruit, a canary melon, some walnut bread (from Easy Tiger!), dark chocolate discs from the bulk bins, and more. Total success!

Combined with a stop at the library and some engaging reading on the bus, this was my idea of a divine weekend. This’ll definitely be a monthly zero waste tradition for me now that I know how easy (and satisfying!) it is to do both.¬†Sorry for all the exclamation points in this post, but I had a great day and can’t help it. ūüôā