Monday, March 30, 2009

Rain barrels at last

After much delay by the contractor and lots of rain by Mother Nature, I finally have functioning rain barrels. While I was waiting for the rains to stop so I could get my gutters installed, I did some research on rain barrels. At the high end were the really pretty ones at the Natural Gardener. They were made of some kind of plastic and, from a distance, looked like a big clay chiminea. But the cost was more than I could justify. I thought about getting the ones from the city but they are out of them. The cheapest ones were an ugly blue that I didn't want in my yard. I finally settled on the ones at Home Depot made by Fiskars (and I thought they only made scissors). You can see details at They're quite attractive and hold 57 gallons each. Because of the way my rain gutters had to be installed I had to get four rain barrels. So, step one – getting the barrels – was done.

Step 2 was getting the rain gutters installed. Henry (rain gutter guy) was supposed to come by last Thursday but we had a big gulley washer. I appreciate irony but I was like a cranky toddler in a candy store that day. I wanted my rain gutters and rain barrels! But I watched the water flow under the gate, knowing that some of it would get sucked up and used by my yard but also knowing that a lot of it was lost to me. Flash forward to Friday. The skies were clear. Henry showed up and rang the doorbell. I put up barky Cookie and Newtie and by the time I got to the door, it was sprinkling. Within five minutes it was pouring rain and we even had dime sized hail. I was starting to take all this personally. But Henry prevailed, even measuring and cutting the gutters with his rain jacket on. What a sweet guy. The rain cleared and he and I looked at the directions for installing the barrels, only to discover that, the way they were designed to be installed, they would only DIVERT some of the water. What? But I liked the barrels so I dug out my drill and jigsaw and Henry cut rectangles in the lids for me. I spent some time yesterday rigging up some screens for the inside of each one. Now, it can rain all it wants and I will harvest it for use on the lawn in times of drought.

Here are a couple of beds that will get that water someday:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

I'm participating in Earth Hour and have turned off all my non-essential electronic devices and the house is quite dark. It's interesting what's essential. I decided that the night lights in the bathrooms might keep us from tripping and hurting ourselves so I left those on. The Earth Hour website suggested we blog during Earth Hour so I guess my modem and wireless router are essential. Go figure. I wish all my neighbors were participating and that all the street lights were out. Wouldn't it be nice to see the stars from your own backyard as if you were camping? No light pollution? The closest I've come, besides camping, to being electric free have been in times of power outages - usually from big storms. The ice storm of '77 in Dallas comes to mind. We were without power for a couple of days and my neighborhood was lucky. Then once in Grand Prairie we had a power outage that lasted thru evening and most of the night. In both situations, I was outside more and I talked to my neighbors. We're all in our own little electric caves these days, busy with our lives. What if we didn't have this electric convenience? What if I had to hand crank my modem? Would I be blogging now?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flower pics

Here are some things blooming in the yard.
Edward's Plateau Spiderwort or Tradescantia pedicellata I have always called these spiderworts but there are many species in this genus. Some call them dayflowers but dayflowers are actually quite a bit taller. Here's a quote from the link above: Tradescantia pedicellata is a most unsatisfactory species. The species may have arisen as a hybrid between Tradescantia humilis and T. occidentalis and been recognized as a species because of its constant morphology and high pollen fertility (R. P. Celarier 1956). C. Sinclair (1967) concluded, however, that there was no evidence for the species' existence, and I have found it very difficult to recognize specimens that agree with the original description (no type has been located). A most "unsatisfactory species". Well, I happen to like them. So there.
One of our salvia plants.

A winecup. Callirhoe involucrata. I want to get a bunch more of these at the Wildflower Center plant sale in a couple of weeks.
And of course an iris. My brother gave me my irises and he claims they are descendants of the ones in our parents' back yard. Could be; it seems at home in mine.
I also bought some plain ole petunias and impatiens and put them in pots on the front porch. If the sun comes out again I take some pictures of those.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wrens or no wrens?

That is the question. During and shortly after the spell of cold weather I saw no activity around the wren nest. They had been so active before the cold weather that I worried something had happened to them. Two days ago, after being out in the yard for over an hour with no action - and having seen no action for days - I chanced a peek into the nest box. There I found a little nest with 5 small eggs about the size of large jelly beans. Still, I wondered if they had abandoned the nest, had met with foul (fowl?) play, or were just off doing something else. Yesterday one of the pair was on the fence near the nest trying his best to chase off a warbler. I'm not that good at identifying warblers so I can't be sure what kind it was. Small with some yellow, but that describes about half the warblers in the world. So, maybe the wrens are OK. I figure it's best to not look into the nest box until I'm sure the eggs should have hatched. That should take at least another week or so. This link has some interesting, TX specific, info about these little birds.

Otherwise, life in the backyard is doing quite well. Anemones, day flowers, winecups, salvia, and irises are all in bloom. I'm guessing the evening primrose will spring forth in a few days. I'll get out in the sunshine this afternoon and snap some pics of the flowers.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The rain that escaped me

We've had days of much needed rain. Cold rain but still welcome. The downside is that I was supposed to get my rain gutters but the contractor who's doing that and other work didn't get to my job in time. You see, I'm going to collect the rain in big rain barrels so on those dry days, I can just pull out the free water from the sky. So as much as I love rain and am glad my yard and all the dry creek beds have been refreshed, I can't help but watch it trickle away thinking that I wish I could have captured it. The good news is it's going to warm up in the next few days and all the wildflowers are going to be bursting out. It would take some talking to convince me there's anywhere better than the TX Hill Country in the spring.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dirt cheap

Whoever coined that phrase hasn't done much landscaping. I need a bunch of gravel, dirt, edging stones, and flagstones, and while it's not as expensive as the estimate to paint the exterior of my house, it's not dirt cheap either. The fact that I want these items and am budgeting for them has turned me into a coveter of rocks of all things. I see piles of rocks everywhere and imagine how I could get them into my trunk or back seat without being caught. Yes, I want to steal rocks - not diamonds mind you - just TX limestone or sandstone. I have gone all my life without a thought to the careless piles of rocks that seem to be everywhere now. In people's yards, vacant lots, road improvement projects, construction sites.

Here's a true story of how I came by this craving naturally. When I was in elementary school, my mother wanted a flagstone hallway. Undeterred by the lack of funds for this project, she drove my brother and me to the site of a new housing development where she had spied some flagstones. In the dark of night my brother and I scurried back and forth from the pile of flagstones to the trunk of our 1960 Chrysler until my mother deemed there were enough stones for her entry-way. Then my poor father had to lay those stones in his precious little spare time. And you might be asking, was her mother a little crazy? Well, yeah. Thankfully I am not and I will not go off in the dead of night and steal rocks. But it doesn't mean I don't wish I could pass by a sign saying "Free landscape rocks!! Take all you need." If only.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Slow progress but progress nonetheless

Now that I'm home from my recent trips, I made some headway in the yard. I drove out to Geo Growers yesterday and got some dirt. Will and I filled up 8 big bags and put them in the trunk, turning my Honda Civic into a low rider. When I got home I connected two separate beds and planted the newly purchased mountain laurel in a sunny spot. One of my irises is about to bloom, the salvia is already blooming and the winecups have buds. Last fall I tossed a sizable bag of wildflower seeds in the 7 ft or so behind the fence. No sign of life from them yet but I have high hopes. I wish every day was gardening day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wrens as neighbors!

The bewick's wrens decided to call our little wren box their home! They spent much of this morning going back and forth to the nest box. Here are some pictures of them.

Trip to Port Aransas

We left last Thursday for the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, TX. I went on three boat tours and saw lots of birds, including two life birds for me - a reddish egret and of course whooping cranes. There were plenty of roseate spoonbills, avocets, oyster catchers, grebes, and both white and brown pelicans, and many, many more. My friend, G. is a member of TOWN and they had a group camping there. My son and I hung out with them a lot including the boat ride to see the whooping cranes. It was super windy the whole time we were there though. The day we left we ditched a plan to go to Aransas Wildlife Refuge because it was too cold. Will and I got along great and he had a good time. G's son was along also and they found a way to pass the time with a Game Boy while their mom's did the nature thing. I definitely want go back to the TX coast in the next few months but I'll take the dogs the next time.