Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Back to the joy of living

Mom had a stroke in February.  It was a "light" stroke, from which we learned that even a "little" brain damage can change your life.

Speech therapist Liz working with Mom on swallowing.

She's doing well, still in therapy three times a week but without tubes and able to get around on her own. Still feisty.

I haven't written much since her stroke, in part because I've been at her place a lot. Also because it's been hard to concentrate. 

I'm ready to write again now that she's improving. 

Mom's first night back at home, when she crawled into Dad's hospital bed to snuggle.

And I can focus on gardens and travel and birds and dining and the joy of living.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hang out your feeders--spring hummingbird migration is on!

Male black-chinned hummingbird.
For the last four years, our first Spring hummers flew in March 10th

Black-chinned males first, always. The guys want an early start to stake out territory. They know that the boys with the best turf get the girls.

We might have seen the front-runners a little earlier than other folks in our south-central Texas range because hummingbirds return to places they've found food in the past. 

Our feeders stayed out through the cold season, catering to over-wintering rufous hummers.

Rufous hummingbird.

And our gardens included hummingbird-habitat with early blooms such as native Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).

Black-chinned females follow later, usually by at least two weeks.

The feeders do more than offer a rest-stop; quick energy can be the difference between life and death for early arrivers encountering wet and cold.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spaces: Beauty on a Budget

Fun accents in this room-- a pillow that pops, a coffee table made from an upside-down crate topped with a padded coffee bean sack, budget bling lamps from Target and a tableau of found art (centered by a favorite family picture) flanked by antique horns.

I love writing about unique homes and the people who create them. Some homes are elaborate and grand, others cozy and comfortable.  I learn from every one.

Cheryl Gordon's home was an eye-opener for making a 1950's place fresh and modern, on a budget. 

The photos here show a few ideas for inexpensive updates. For more, check out my Spaces story about Cheryl and her home, with nearly two dozen professional photos: Budget-minded beauty makes an aging home fresh .

A box made from old measuring sticks holds spirits.  And gives new meaning to the term 'open bar'.  

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bluebonnets Are Coming

Looks like this will be a blue-bonnet year. Sweeps of Lupinus texensis luring folks to the countryside; people celebrating floral sky on the ground and the beauty and promise of life.  Amen.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

There's a little bit of Africa at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas, where visitors are confined to vehicles while approximately 1,000 animals roam free about the 1,800 acre property.

The wildlife center's mission is preservation of native and exotic species in peril, including Texas' endangered Attwater's Prairie Chicken.

  A visitor on a guided tour feeds an addax.

But the center is open to visitors for driving tours, one of the ways the mission is publicized and financed.  Although the animals are wild, many are acclimated to accept food, and visitors may hand-feed or toss food (sold at the entrance).

Three species of zebras live at Fossil Rim. 

I don't recommend feeding zebras by hand, although the scrapes on mine healed without incident.

Ostrich are another species known for aggressive table manners. 

The aodad's horns look fierce but the horizontal pupils in this mountain sheep's russet-colored eyes make you want to stare into them.

A herd of giraffes sometimes hangs out in view of the Oasis diner, the (fenced-in) lunch and bathroom facility located about mid-way through the 9.5 mile scenic drive.  

When you roll down your window and a giraffe approaches, he stops about a bedroom's length away from the car, because that's how long his neck is. 

You hold out your hand and his head begins a slow descent, giving you time to realize just how big it is, how many teeth he has and how strong a bite it must take to eat leaves and shoots from trees. Then he brushes your palm with soft whiskery lips, inhaling the kibble in a tickle.

Folks who want to wake up with the wildlife may reserve a tent in a safari-like encampment (fenced in). The tents are actually more like tiny cabins, with AC, heat and private bathrooms complete with hot and cold running water, shower and flush toilet.  

For rustic luxury, the original ranch house is a B&B with more traditional accommodations. 

Advance reservations suggested for both.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, 254.897.2960, 
Park address:  2299 County Road 2008, Glen Rose, Texas 76043
Safari camp, Lodge address: 3002 County Road 2010, Glen Rose, Texas 76043

Take your sweetheart, kids or grandkids...and enjoy a little Africa in Texas.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blanco and the Old Blanco County Courthouse

Texans love their historic courthouses, early structures of order in unruly lands.  Even if the courthouse is no longer the courthouse, as in the little town of Blanco where the seat of county government moved to Johnson City in 1890.

Today the classic 1886 Old Blanco County Courthouse designed by Austin architect Frederick Ernst Ruffini is owned by a community group and rented out for events.  No word if ghosts remain from her years as a hospital.  If you want to see for yourself, the building is also the town's visitor center, open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday noon-4 p.m.

As in most county seats, the courthouse has pride of place in the center of a downtown square populated with local businesses. Among my favorites is Liz on the Square, a shop specializing in an only-in-the-Hill-Country combination of lavender products and Harley Davidson leather-wear. If you're lucky, Liz's husband Nelson Broyal will be there when you go, or you'll be able to catch him playing somewhere that night around the square.  Click his name for a sampling of his soulful tunes.

Another favorite is Redbud Cafe on the other side of the courthouse. Simple food deliciously made. Don't miss the homemade soups. And get a sampler of Real Ale, locally brewed and changing with the seasons.  The Redbud pours more varieties than anyone, including the brewer.

When you're through at the Redbud, you might want to walk or swim it off at the Blanco State Park

A little further afield and if we've been blessed with timely rains, a spring-summer Hill Country drive may find the fields colored with petals. 

If you go in June during the Blanco Lavender Festival, you might also find rows of fragrant purple blooms. Check the link for locations.

Then check into the Best Western Plus Blanco Luxury Inn & Suites and smell the roses. Really. About 700 bushes surround the building in a floral rainbow. Inside, every room is a suite, more than comfortable, with free breakfast downstairs in the morning.

Texas is a big state of small towns and Blanco is one of the sweetest.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sunset Meditation

Sunset at Corpus Christi Bay, Snoopy's pier.

A sunset is the beginning and the end and all the beauty in between.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Unexpected Abilene

A few hours west of Fort Worth, Abilene sits in a sweet spot; a four season destination, not too hilly, not too flat, not too far, not too near. 

From the placement of the dot on the map, you'd think cattle or oil--and you'd be right--but you might not expect a climate of curiosity in a town of around 120,000 people...or an outdoor sculpture tour with more than 20 stops.

Pink Flamingo by Joe Barrington.

Childhood's Great Adventure by Rick Jackson

Bull Skull by Joe Barrington

If you stop to check out the town, you'll find multiple campuses of higher educationmuseums clustered around an historic downtown plus performing arts, a restored theater, tasty dining and a mini-brewery. 

Grace Museum exhibits include history, hands-on experiences, playfulness and art.  

The Frontier Texas! Museum wins my vote for most exciting and engaging museum in the West. Visitors follow a winding path as hologram actors tell real stories of settler's lives. At the end, lightning strikes, thunder claps and animals stampede around you in a 360-degree theater.

Sculptures and games--such as guessing the frontier cost of flour or fabric --bring other experiences to life. 

When you're ready to go back outside, take the kids in your party (including yourselves) to the zoo and hand-feed the giraffes.

Next stop, Cypress Street Station, both eatery and mini-brewery, and good at both.

Lunch and a brew sampler at Cypress Street Station and Abilene Brewing Co.  Yes, those are house-made potato chips.

Later on, a ride of about 20 minutes south to scenic Buffalo Gap takes food-lovers to iconic eatery Perini Ranch for old-time Texas fare. 

After mesquite-grilled steak or quail, and bread pudding with Jack Daniels sauce; when you wish you could taste it at home too, you can pick up a cookbook and the special steak seasoning to make it happen.

And you'll remember; a trip to Abilene is real Texas and real fun.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

I'm planning plants for our new garden and Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) is on the list--beautiful red tubular flowers, easy care, fragrant leaves for a tangy tea (said to be good for digestion, calming the nerves and promoting general health) and it feeds butterflies and hummingbirds. What more could a person ask?

Planted where it wants to grow and given a modicum of water, pineapple sage will bloom for months during warm-to-cool weather (in our region that's February/March-May/June and September/October-December/January), making it a welcome sight to spring hummingbird migrantslate-fall-migrating hummingbirds or overwintering hummers

This tender perennial in the mint family is reported to grow in zones 8a-11. Here in south-central Texas we're zone 9a and our sage stayed evergreen through mild winters, even flowering into January. Hard freezes took it back to the ground and a prolonged or deep freeze killed it. 

In the years I lost a plant, new ones sprouted in spring.  A fast-grower, the plants were bushy by fall bloom-time.
The best location for pineapple sage has morning sun and protection from blazing afternoon rays; good soil instead of our thin-clay-over-limestone strata, which means I'll build a raised bed and fill it with enriched, well-drained soil. The sage isn't a water hog but weekly deep waterings will help it during the scorch of summer.

In good conditions, plants will grow from three to four feet wide and high.

The only pests we ever had on the plants were deer. In years with good rain and plenty of food the deer left it alone.  But when times were hard, they nibbled it down.

Pregnant doe noshing on pink skullcap, another plant they typically don't eat.

I can't wait to look out my back windows and see flowers, butterflies and hummers this year. 

Maybe you'll find room in your yard for a bit of pineapple sage too. 

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.