Friday, May 14, 2010

Wish I had smell-a-vision

The pictures do not really do the backyard justice. Glorious.

And what the photos also miss is the sound of the birds and the smell of the Spanish broom, which is blooming its heart out right now.

That's Gracie the Schnoodle in the top photo. She's the dog who always follows me out to see what I'm up to in the garden. She and her sister Maude had a rough start in life before the Humane Society rescued them, and so although they are as sweet as can be, they are both very suspicious of people and probably always will be. They are this way even about Walt and me, though they've lived with us for a couple of years now. I suspect that they always will be little wild things to some degree. Gracie follows behind me as I walk around, and then scampers away whenever I turn to look at her. Hence, present and wary in the first photo, absent in the second.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A driveway makeover

While I showed you the piles of dirt that accumulated during driveway construction last year in my last post, I haven't actually done a report about the construction itself. So to correct that omission, here it is.

Our house was built in 1942, in an era before automobiles were the possessions around which we wrapped our lives. Because of this, the driveway that was installed was a simple one that consisted of two strips of concrete and a median strip of grass. It has stayed that way for over half a century, and I wanted to honor the period of the house by keeping it. Unfortunately, the design was not without its drawbacks, namely that the "grassy" strip was usually made up more of dirt and weeds. If I were more interested in keeping it watered, mowed, and chemicalized, this wouldn't really be a problem. But since I have slowly been converting the front lawn into a front xeric garden landscape, the grassy (read: "weedy") strip no longer pulled its own weight.    

So I hired some muscle, in the person of friend Matt McEwen, who gamely dug out the center strip for me:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A garden writing room of one's own

I like to do my writing out in the garden during the summer break, but it can be a chore picking up and moving all day in search of shade. So when I had to do a makeover of a spot under one of the pecan trees this year, I decided to turn it into an outdoor writing room. Here is the wretched "before," showing the remnants of the piles of dirt that were stored there during last year's driveway construction. You can see that it gets good shade:

Here's the after, from more or less the same angle (shown here watering in the newly transplanted vinca--even in a xeriscape, new plantings need water):

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pearl and Henrietta: The girls talk tech

"I don't care if it is an iPhone. I'm telling you that there is no such thing as an app for counting your chickens before they hatch."

By the way, here's something on YouTube worth seeing: Tennessee flood photos.

Here's where we can go: American Red Cross

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Newsy news

I know I've been spotty on my postings of late, but what can I say? It's the usual end-o-spring-semester madness. This year, it has been made even more challenging by my decision to plant early spring flowers in the garden. Usually I wait until classes are over before turning my attention to planting the ornamentals. Now I remember why I always waited.

Anyway, everything is looking fair spruced-up and sparkly, which is a good thing, since I am having my Landscapes class over for a cookout tonight. Our last couple of classes have focused on the Landscape/culture of the suburban lawn and garden, so I am feeling not a little pressure to have mine looking nice. But it is nearing mid-day now, and I have decided that while it is looking presentable, I simply cannot get everything perfect before the cookout, so I might as well stop, sit down in the shade, and get caught up on my posting. So, here is a bit of news about one of the things that's been going on:

Last week I drove down to San Angelo for a couple of days to be with my mother while she had surgery. My mother has bulbar palsy, a progressive nerve disorder that ultimately results in the inability to talk or swallow. She's lost a lot of weight this year, primarily because it has become a real chore for her to eat without choking. So as of Thursday, she now takes her meals in liquid form, directly through a tube into her stomach. It occurred to me, the first time I watched the nurse pour a can of Ensure into the "peg" tube, that my mother has suffered many such indignities as she has aged.  Even so, she has endured them with quiet grace. I am struck by the importance of this lesson.

To me, however, one of the most troubling results of the bulbar palsy has not been her difficulty with swallowing, but her inability to speak. Unlike me, my mother has always been a very sociable person, who never walked into a room of strangers. And all the while she was losing her voice over the past few years, she was not losing her mental capacities at the same rate. So imagine how frustrating and heartbreaking it must have been for her to move, after my father's death last year, from her home of many years to an assisted living facility, and then later to a nursing home, all the while handicapped in making new friends by her lack of language. Still, she seems to have managed to make some friends, even without words. She plays bridge once or twice a week, and people seem to miss her when she's not there. And the nurses who tend to her many needs seem genuinely to feel affection for her. In fact, when she was being transferred back to the nursing home from the hospital on Friday, I witnessed something remarkable. I was waiting in her room when one of her regular nurses came rushing in, saying, "Frances is back!" in the same sort of manner one might announce that Elvis has just entered the building.

Perhaps it is the power of her innate kindness, undiminished by a lack of language, that creates this affection. I don't know, but again, it strikes me as important. Eighty-six years old, mute, wheelchair-bound, suffering daily indignities, and still never meets a stranger. Would that I had that sort of superpower.

So as I drove back to LBB, I was wondering what to make of it, thinking, as I have so often the past few years about what lessons I can take from it in the matter of how to age gracefully, when I spied these prairie winecups along the side of the highway. For some reason, they remind me of her.

In the Department of Other News: Unbeknownst to me, some bunch of you got together and nominated my post, "Sustainability and the 'hood" for a Mousie this year. The Mouse and Trowel Awards are considered by many to be the "Oscars" of the garden blogging world, so to say that I am tickled is understating things a bit. To imagine that that post is a finalist in "Post of the Year" is really nothing short of stunning.

To see the range of finalists in all their categories, click on the link below. Check them out--there are some really superb candidates. I think you can even vote, too, if you so feel the urge. To that end, I think the organizer, Colleen Vanderlinden of "In the Garden" is setting up a sidebar poll widget we can use for our category. If I can get it all worked out, I'll install it sometime today. Even so, you should check out all the other entries in other categories. Truly amazing and more than a little humbling.