Saturday, February 27, 2010

Duchman Family Winery

Driftwood, Texas, population 21, sits in some pretty Texas Hill Country not too far from Austin.  Good country for letting go of daily cares like so many leaves in the wind.   

And it's easier to do that when you know you're going to visit The Salt Lick Restaurant, a national-treasure BBQ palace.  And two unique wineries, the Driftwood Estate Winery and Duchman Family Winery.  

If you missed my takes on the Salt Lick and Driftwood Estate Winery, you'll do yourself a favor by clicking the links above for a long-distance taste.

Duchman Family Winery was conceived as a bit of Italy in Texas.  Italian architecture and landscape, Italian wine sensibility.  

Duchman specializes in Italian grape varieties, producing 10,000 cases a year, primarily from grapes grown in Texas.  Customers can buy at the winery, join a wine club (Texas shipments only) or check it out online and call the winery.  

An unrelated but attractive Italian restaurant shares the property. We'd had too much Salt Lick to think about food...maybe the next visit...

But we couldn't pass up the winery. The wine-making area is glassed in so patrons can see what's going on.  And they offer a free "grape to glass" tour on weekends, every hour from 12:00pm to 7:00pm.

After that we had to do a tasting, right? $9 for 10 wines, how could we not?  

I'm sharing my tasting notes of the ones I liked best, two white and two red.
2008 Vermentino - $18.00 - Loved the floral, pear and peppermint nose.  Nice crisp acidity with light, floral flavors.  Good fruit/acid balance.  Nice finish.

2008 Moscato - $18.00 - Floral, pear nose.  Off-dry with a grapefruity tang.  Refreshing.

2008 Sangiovese - $24.00 - Cherry-berry nose with a hot note and a dusty undertone.  Cherry flavor forward with a deep leather note on the long  finish.  I liked it and gave it two plus-signs in the margin.  As a sidenote, 10% of the grapes in this one came from fruit grown by the Salt Lick Restaurant owners.

2008 SPINO-Montepulciano - $24.00 - My favorite of the tasting.  Peppery, cherry nose.   Fresh fruit.  The server advised aerating or decanting.  My notes say, 'restrained flavor but balanced'.  I liked what I tasted without decanting, expect it would only get better.  Light tannins, a good food wine, particularly with beef, I thought.  Long finish.  It was made with 100% estate-grown grapes.

The four tasters in our party had differing opinions as to best and least-favored.  Which is often true.  And would be true if you'd been there too. 

Hope we can compare notes sometime. 

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2013.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Guadalupe River View

Today, in honor of progression, I'm sharing a Guadalupe River view.  My book, the book I've been writing for more months than I have fingers and toes, opens at the River, and ends there. And this week, after three rewrites, I sent the manuscript to my feedback readers. 

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow, Rain, Mist, Ice Pellets in the Texas Hill Country

Who ever heard of a weather forecast for all of the above at once ?

Less than 48 hours ago it was 80F degrees here.  But anything can happen in the Texas Hill Country...and will.  

In the beginning sequence, look for the cheery red cardinal in the hanging tray feeder. 

Stay warm, friends.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mostly Train

Six months ago, I wrote Truck or Train  about a family member's struggle with advanced Lyme disease.  Friends have asked questions.

We had questions too, and were startled by some of the answers. 

Who knew that there are only SEVEN STATES in the contiguous US where the ticks I. scapularis or I. pacificus and their host-seeking nymphs that carry Lyme bacteria, have NOT been reported?   

Or that you could be bitten and NOT have the primary diagnostic bull's eye rash, in fact have no idea you have the disease until it is diabolically hard to diagnose because of the way Lyme bacteria mutates in the body?

The biggest question of all is how so many states can deny treatment to thousands of advanced Lyme sufferers.  In Texas, a physician who treats advanced Lyme risks having his/her license revoked because the state board doesn't recognize the disease beyond a short initial infection period.

For a human face to the questions, click the video trailer below for Under Our Skin, one of the top 15 documentaries nominated for this year's Academy Awards.

Since I wrote in August, my loved one has been to California and New York for the diagnostics and drugs she can't get in Texas.  She struggles daily with debilitating pain and disfunction, made harder by the knowledge that treatment for advanced Lyme can be a long road, maybe years. 

I feel lucky I get to see her each week.  As I walk out the door of her house, I pass a sign she's posted on the wall, one of the things that keeps her going when she can't.  It says I amaze myself!  

Her courage and spirit amaze me too. 

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Good Wine

 We practice small graces
saying thank you and remembering;
good wine is made from good grapes.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winter CSA Season

Finally!  Every week is Christmas now that it's winter CSA Allotment time.

Community Supported Agriculture. We bought a share in a local organic farm's production and in return for our up-front payment, we'll get a goodly ration of fresh produce each week for the next three months.  I pick up our allotment up in town on Wednesdays, the day after they pick it in the fields.

This week we got firm spring onions, the freshest, sweetest spinach, lettuce, bok choy and broccoli.  Last week cauliflower and rainbow chard too.

Every week is different, a share of whatever is ready.  A positive cycle of life, nothing wasteful, nothing harmful. Grown by a real farmer who knows us by name and shares his recipes.

We pay a small premium and it's more than worth it.

Want to find a CSA where you live?  Click this link for a national directory of CSA farms.  It's how I found our farmer and his beautiful green food.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Foliage Follow-Up - February 16, 2010

Baby greens, evergreens, reds and browns.  One day warm, one day cold.  Living in the moment.

Tall Aster (Aster praealtus ) basal rosettes growing under and out from last summer's stalks.  Next October the stalks-yet-to-come will be covered in little purple blooms, and yellow-orange butterflies.

Cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana), evergreen and prolifically seeding.  Drought-tolerant, deer-resistant shade-lover.  When the weather turns hot, it will welcome butterflies with stalks of red trumpet blooms.

Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina) soft gray-green leaves shine all winter, and pinky-purple blooms crawl sprawling stalks all summer.  Not tidy but beloved by bees.

Left alone, lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata) grows into a purply-green shady-area carpet, and blooms blue in early spring.  Deer resistant.

New leaves sprout on native Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).  

And buds of future flowers on our new little Escarpment Black Cherry tree (Prunus serotina var. eximia) .

We have our share of winter-burned brown but it's more fun to share the hope of spring.

For more Foliage Follow-up, click on over to Digging, where Pam is hosting the community.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Monday, February 15, 2010

GBBC Wrap-up -- February 12-15, 2010

GBBC 2010--I counted birds February 12, 13, 14 and 15, whenever I passed by a window and saw birds. 

Some days I counted in my pajamas, a plus.

The cats helped.  

Max, momentarily distracted from cardinal watch.

We saw 'the regulars' and a couple of species we didn't expect.  Our reward was tuning in to the rhythm of the life around us.

Black-crested Titmouse

Hope you enjoyed your GBBC watch.  Please share what you saw and thought in a comment.  If you blog, add a link to your comment so others can find you.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 15, 2010

 It's been unseasonably cool in the Texas Hill Country but sun and season are inching toward spring and I'm happy to share our progression here at Hill Country Mysteries.  

To peek into the season in gardens around the country, follow this link to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Today was a first winter bloom for my dianthus.

And the first time I've seen this wild charmer, growing up within a cage around a desert willow on a rocky slope.  I'm not sure what it is, except that it's beautiful.
On a day when winter flirts with spring, a Painted Lady sips at rosemary. 
While a Red Admiral suns nearby.

Out in the yard beyond this lens, nascent wildflowers litter our front swath.  Next month buds and blooms will begin to rise above the leaves and we'll all marvel at the beauty of life.

Enjoy your Bloom Day today, and the hope of bloom days to come.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

GBBC - A Wealth of Sparrows - 2-15-10

Sparrows...flocks of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs).  Hard to see, hard to ID.  But to a curious eye, patterns; rust and brown slashed in black, and the knowledge that  beauty is more than color and flash. 

We've seen four species of sparrows during this Great Backyard Bird Count, one new to us, a Lincoln's Sparrow.  If we hadn't been counting for GBBC, he would have gone unnoticed among the hundreds of Chipping Sparrows, just another LBJ. 

Lincoln Sparrow photo courtesy of poecile05's Flikr photostream.  For more of his beautiful images, click here.
The more we look, the more we see.  During this year's GBBC we've enjoyed Chipping Sparrows, a Dark-Eyed Junco, a Clay Colored Sparrow, a Song Sparrow and our new friend Lincoln. 

Hope your days have been birdy, with sightings of friends new and old.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What's Your Vote?

I vote we make every day Valentine's Day.  Tell family members we love them.  Hug friends.  Look into the sky and be thankful to see beyond ourselves.  

And have champagne and strawberries for breakfast.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

GBBC - Tale of Two Jays 2-13-10

Just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an anomaly flew into our feeding area.  A Blue Jay, resident in 39 of the 50 U.S. states but rare in our scrubby hills.  And bonus, our FIRST blue jay in four years and # 85 on our house bird species list. 

 Blue jays have adapted well to living among people and are common in towns and suburbs.  You can probably see blue jays in every Hill Country town.  They fly in chattering groups, searching through neighborhoods for acorns, seeds and water.  
 Blue jays have a range of calls and are skilled mimics.  When we lived in Florida, a blue jay used to clear our feeder by whistling the cry of a red-shouldered hawk.  The other birds would scatter and the jay would fly in to a vacant feeder.

Blue Jay photo from Tony Tanoury's Flikr stream. To see more of his beautiful work, click his name.

But our rough and wild Hill Country landscape is home to a different species of jay, the Western Scrub JayScrub jays are larger and louder.  Not shy but wary.  Scrub jay family dynamics include tree-top sentinals watching and warning of threats. 

Scrub jays are far less numerous that blue jays, living primarily in dry western scrub and chaparral and oak/juniper/pinon forests. In Texas, scrub jays are only found in the Hill Country and a rugged section of far west Texas.

We've enjoyed regular scrub jay visits since we put out a bird bath.  When we saw the first jay, we started putting out peanuts in the shell, which are a strong draw for the jays.
And for the gray foxes that live in our neighborhood too.

What did you see in your yard today?  Leave a comment and share your sightings with my other Hill Country Mysteries friends.

See you tomorrow with more.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Friday, February 12, 2010

GBBC - February 12, 2010

Have you gone to your windows yet?  Are you counting?  You never know what will cross your skies until you look.

Enter your birds at the Great Backyard Bird Count website.  Don't worry if you don't know all the birds, just record the ones you know.  Something is better than nothing. 

We were robin-flocked this morning, a stroke of luck on a counting day. I guesstimated 350 as the birds flew overhead and across the street into the Ashe juniper forest.  Flocks that big, you count by feel.  Trust your eyes to know what 10 birds look like and trust your brain to expand by 10 so you count 100 by the space they take as they fly overhead.  
     The exercise is good-- my brain needs all the expansion I can give it.

This is the first winter in the last four with big flocks of American Robins here.  I think the draw is Ashe Juniper berries.  (See the blue-purple berries in the picture?)  I'm guessing the birds' usual berry-fare didn't make in last year's widespread drought. 

I'll be featuring a bird from our sightings each day during the count, along with the number we saw. Stop by to see who flew in.  And leave a comment about the birds you're seeing; good things are better shared.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Love Creek Orchards - The Apple Store and Patio Cafe - Medina, Texas

We went through the Hill Country town of Medina not long ago.  Didn't have time to explore but we made time to stop at the Apple Store, Bakery and Patio Cafe, known for award-winning Apple Pie.  

I can't speak to the awards but I can tell you that their pies have the most apples.  A single pie weighs in at four pounds.
We ate lunch at the Patio Cafe, housed in a cheerfully rustic extension out back of the store.  

But the main attraction was dessert. Denny had a monster slice of apple pie, topped with soft-serve apple ice cream, good all by itself.

The Store sells every kind of apple thing you can imagine--cider, preserves, shirts, pictures, spices, recipe books and general stuff.  

Even better, the Bakery makes apple pie, apple turnovers, apple strudel, apple cookies and apple bread.  Maybe they even make the soft-serve apple ice cream you put over your slice of hot apple pie.

Love Creek Orchards pioneered apple-growing in Texas, and now grows 11 varieties in the hills around Medina.

Apples aren't all that is grown at Love Creek Orchards, either.  The owners grow more native Bigtooth Maple trees (Acer grandidentatum) than anyone in Texas.   And sell them in the front yard of the Store and Bakery.

Bigtooth maples are the trees for which nearby Lost Maples State Natural Area is named. A relict species from the Ice Age, the Bigtooth maples in the western Hill Country are the primary remnant in Texas. Eons ago when Texas' climate moved toward hot and dry, the trees died out in the state except for Bigtooth pockets in cooler, moister micro-climes like the canyons of the Sabinal River.  

So if you've ever hankered to have a maple in your Texas yard, and you're willing to give it a good home with some shade and water to keep the roots cool and moist, you'll want to drive on over to the Apple Store and pick one out.  

After you've had your apple pie, of course.

If you can't get to the Apple Store anytime soon, you can order an apple pie from their website, they'll be glad to ship it to you.  For the record, I'll say that I like my mother's crust better, and my Perfect Apple Pie filling.  But I'll also tell you that Denny enjoyed the Bakery's apple pie so much, he talked about apple pie all the way home.  

With a recommendation like that, you might have to try it and see for yourself.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count -- February 12-15, 2010


When was the last time you changed the world in 15 minutes? 

We're excited about the chance.  Denny and I are participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada.

The count is from February 12-15, and it's easy to take part, anywhere in North America.  Denny and I are going to watch/count birds at our front and backyard feeding areas.  From inside the house...could it be easier to be a wildlife champion?  

This post is a challenge to all my friends and readers--try it yourselves, do a Backyard Bird Count.

You don't actually need a backyard or any kind of yard, just a place to watch birds for at least 15 minutes a day--park, school, churchyard, graveyard, beach, anywhere there are birds. Do it one day or every day of the Count.  Once a day or more, your choice.
It's easy.  Round up a pair of binoculars and a bird book.  Add a friend if you want company.  I like watching with Denny because our four eyes are better than my two.  

Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time during a watch period.   

GBBC has **tally sheets you can print out listing the species for your area. (Follow the link on 'tally sheet', enter your town and state or zip code and voila, a list of possible birds for your area broken out in families--sparrows, finches, gulls, etc..)

Report by entering your checklist online, one for each watch-period.  It's easy and fast. You'll join thousands of citizen-scientists contributing data toward understanding and preserving the world's bird populations.  

As good as helping the birds, you'll be helping yourself--
Focusing on nature clears the mind. Embracing beauty helps you see life in new ways. Connecting to the world creates happiness.

And your brain will grow from the exercise. 

...maybe this opportunity is even better for the watchers than the birds...
For my blogging friends, do a post about your GBBC experience and drop by Hill Country Mysteries to enter the URL in the widget on that day's post.  We'll all share your experience.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Texting on the Brain

My mother grew up in San Marcos, Texas, on the cusp of the Hill Country.  She's got a lot of stories about life 'back when'.  But the best thing about growing up in the hills is that it gave her a forge-ahead spirit.

She and Dad came to visit a few weeks ago. Mom sat in the kitchen for a few hours learning how to do text messages on her new cell phone.  

That's one reason she's still a force at 84 years old.

Not the texting, per se.  More the habit of life-long learning.  Computer, digital photography, doing Silver Sneakers exercise class, leading a neighborhood group.  Every new activity grows her brain.  New dendrites which will make connections when old ones don't.  

This time her bonus is keeping up with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  A bonus for the whole family.

She's my example of how to live a good life over time.  Stay active.  Keep learning.  Be positive.  Keep in touch. 

I wonder what would happen if we all took up something new.  Learned to knit, or dance or do yoga, play an instrument, speak a foreign language, write the stories of our lives.  Something we haven't done before, something to expand our worlds and grow our minds.  

For happiness and competence at 84, and beyond.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Inescapable Conclusion

The Texas Hill Country is rife with wildlife.  In our neighborhood we have gray foxes, coyotes, bobcats, whitetail deer, skunks, raccoons, possums, squirrels, snakes (various species) and lizards.  Denny and I have identified 83 species of birds in our yard.
The human residents in this community coexist with the wildlife.  They were here first.  But a couple of species try everyone's patience.  Squirrels, particularly.

Rats with fluffy tails.  Digging up bulbs, pulling out seedlings, taking one bite out of not-quite-ripe tomatoes and leaving the bleeding carcasses on the ground.  Not to mention vandalizing bird feeders and thieving the seed. 

They're taking over the world.  One of my family members has a Toyota 4Runner.  It's the dog's car but the dog hasn't wanted to go anywhere lately because it's cold.  That's what they told me, honest.  Although they could have meant that the SUV is the car in which they don't mind having a big German shepherd ride.

So the 4Runner has been parked under the aluminum carport in the back yard.

Last week they went out to start the SUV for a trip to the garden store (the dog must have let them borrow it).  4Runner wouldn't start.  

The car repair place sent someone to check the 4Runner out.  What he found under the hood was, you guessed it, squirrels.  Mama and babies in a cozy nest made of wires lined with leaves.  Wires that used to be connected to various parts of the engine. 

Which leads to an inescapable conclusion, one not reported in any media outlet prior to this blogpost:  A conspiracy of squirrels is the true cause of Toyota's reliability problems.  Think about it; they're everywhere. 

You heard it here first, in the Texas Hill Country.

P.S.  Estimated repair cost $300.  On a square-foot basis, those squirrels had the highest-priced home in town.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Buttermilk Coconut Cake

I'll admit that in a Hill Country election for best dessert, coconut cake would finish behind pecan pie.  It's geography; we're far from coconut palms, but pecan trees grow in the blackland prairie just south of our hills.  So before I start talking about how good this coconut cake recipe is, I'll say I'm not disloyal to the national dessert of Texas.  My mama's recipe for pecan pie, the one I use on the rare occasions I indulge, is among the best.

But my father remembered the coconut cake I made him for Father's Day and asked for a coconut cake for his birthday.  I don't make desserts when it's just me and Denny but Dad knew I'd make one for him.  I'm happy he's still here.  And I believe this:  Eat your cake while you can, especially at 87. 

The Father's Day cake was the FIRST coconut cake I'd ever made and it was good.  But the birthday coconut cake was better than good.  It might have been the best coconut cake in the world; if I'd made it with fresh coconut I cracked and peeled and grated myself.  But then it would have been pink from the blood of my fingertips scraping over the grater.  And the air blue from expletives undeleted regarding grated fingertips. 

So fresh coconut aside, I'm sharing my possibly-best-in-the-world recipe with you in case you want to give sugar to someone you love.  Big, tall, three-layer sugar.

The cake recipe is one I adapted from Paula Deen's Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake, the icing from the Never Fail Frosting recipe in the Southern Living Our Best Recipes cookbook, copyright 1970.  And we all know that southern women are the coconut cake queens, don't we?

A note to success:  Great texture is a function of following the directions.  Don't shortcut creaming or skip sifting.  These two operations lift the cake from heaviness to tenderness.

1 (14 oz.) pkg Baker's Angel Flake Coconut (one package will be enough for the cake and the icing)

Cake Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups sifted flour (sift before measuring flour, then add baking powder, soda and salt and sift 3 more times)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
large pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened coconut, whizzed in a food processor or blender until minced

Cake Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans.  
Using a stand mixer, cream butter until fluffy.  It took about twice as long to beat my cold butter fluffy
Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6-8 minutes. Color and texture will lighten.  
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  
Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour.  
Add vanilla and coconut and beat just until mixed.  
Divide batter equally among prepared pans.  Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter (this part was fun, I dropped from higher because it makes a bigger noise).  Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure a more level cake.  
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done.  
Cool in pans on wire racks 5-10 minutes.  Then invert layers onto cooling racks.  
Cool completely and spread cake layers with frosting to make a 3 layer cake.

Icing Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
4 unbeaten egg whites
6 tablespoons water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Icing Directions
Combine all ingredients in top of a double boiler.   Don't let the simmering water touch the bottom of the pan (helps prevent grainy texture).  Use mixer to stir.  Beat briskly 7-10 minutes or longer until frosting is fluffy and holds a stiff peak.

Frost the top of the lowest cake layer and sprinkle liberally with coconut.  The coconut provides friction to keep the next layer from sliding sideways on the frosting, as well as adding coconut flavor.  Repeat.  After placing the third layer, frost the top first and then down the sides.  Sprinkle coconut on top.  

I didn't try coconutting the sides (how would one do that, throw it?) but it would probably be fun if you don't mind a coconut kitchen.  After tasting, we thought the coconut in the cake itself and on the icing was plenty.

I sent the leftover cake home with Mom and Dad.  I think they even ate it for breakfast.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Escarpment Black Cherry Tree (Prunus serotina var. eximia)

A few days ago, in the rain which we never take for granted after the last two years of desert-dry, we planted an Escarpment Black Cherry tree, (Prunus serotina var. eximia), a native to the Edwards Plateau in Central Texas and the Rio Grand Plains.  The Edwards Plateau formation is bigger than New England, but geographically, it's not a large area for a limited species to call home.

I'm excited about adding the Escarpment Black Cherry because it's a (small) step in preserving a disappearing species.  And it's beautiful and a wildlife 'two-fer'.  Lovely foliage with panicles of white butterfly-attracting flowers from March through November, followed by fruit for birds and wildlife.  

The trees are rare in the wild because deer love them.  As a result, it's limited in the Hill Country to the sides of cliffs and bluffs too hard for deer to browse.  We fenced our baby as soon as it was in the ground.

In good circumstances, Escarpment Black Cherry is reported to grow 35-50 feet.  I don't expect it to get big on our site.  Our slope is modest but the soil isn't soil, it's rocks with bits of organic matter in between.  Full sun and no irrigation, so after my Escarpment Black Cherry is established, it will have to live on what falls from the sky.  The same as the two Desert Willows and the Apache Plume on this slope.

The Lady Bird plant database says Escarpment Black Cherry prefers moist, well-drained soil.  I'm sure that's true.  Almost any tree in it's right mind prefers moist, well-drained soil.  But David Will, the horticultulist who grew my tree, knows more about native plants than almost anyone and he says the tree will do fine in this spot.  He's been right about everything else on our acre so we're trusting him on this too.

I asked David for one of these trees a few years ago.  He didn't have one, or a source for one; I had to wait until he grew it.  Eighteen months later, drought-driven-deer raided his nursery.  My tree was eaten.  I let go of the hope of bringing this bit of the Hill Country home.  After last summer, I'd given up hope anyway on planting in our yard.

Then last August, we had rain.  And again in September and October and November and December.  Now in January and it looks like the first week of February too.  

The wildflower seeds I put out in the autumns of 2007 and 2008, the ones that didn't come up because the ground was hard and shriveled, have grown a baby-green carpet at the front of our lot.  

Spring will riot across our place in a month or two.  And I have hope again.  Up the slope beyond the driveway is an Escarpment Black Cherry tree that says so.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.