Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Looking for the Magic

Eighteen months ago I fell into  freelancing travel articles for the San Antonio Express-News.  Go, see, write. Payday for doing what you love.

Since then, Denny and I have gone high and low in Texas and beyond. What facets of nature, time, beauty or culture saturate trips with meaning?  That's what I look for, what I write.  Including, of course, the 'how-to' details, so readers can find the magic too.

Recently I gathered the SA Express-News article links into a Ticket, to make the resources easy to find.

Have you ever wanted to sip wine with a view of grazing buffalo?  Stand on the precipice that inspired Georgia O'Keeffe to paint her unique vision?  Spend a lazy weekend sleeping late, passing died-and-gone-to-heaven food through your lips and wandering through art galleries?  All this and more is in those articles.

Take a look, you might find a place to make your own magic.
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hatch Chile Time

 Everyone knows the national seasons, even if the spring-summer-fall-winter quartet vary in local length or intensity (I'm thinking about Maine's eight-month winter and Phoenix's summer days of 117F.)

But Hill Country residents are gifted with more.

Among my favorites is Hatch Chile Season, a time with a smoky tang to the air and a tingle to the tongue, two weeks in August at HEB, the national grocery store of Texas. 

Hatch, New Mexico chiles (long green pod-type chiles, relative of Anaheim peppers but more transcendent), fresh from Hatch valley farms, roasted in front of HEBs and upscale cousin Central Markets all around Texas.  

My long-time friends might remember my virgin Hatch experience.  Since then I've learned a few things.  Among them that akin to eating chocolate, Hatch chile-ation is better the more we do it.

Which is a good thing, since there are pounds of roasted Hatch chiles in my freezer...

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Farmer's Market Morning 8-27-11

Mushrooms from Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms in Gonzales (about 50 miles southeast of New Braunfels), fresh-picked for the Saturday farmer's market.  I'm partial to the meaty texture and savory notes of the criminis, AKA baby bellas.  They add a layer of depth to anything, like wine-steamed mussels.

And I love New Braunfels Farmer's Market . Food and products grown or made by real people, not corporate mega-farms.  And driven the less-than-100-miles to market in a personal pickup truck that also carries the kids to school and grandma to the beauty parlor.  By people who care enough about their land, their crops and their customers to practice sustainable farming, growing produce without pesticides and animals without hormones or antibiotics.

Hope you can find local produce in your town, and enjoy putting it on your table.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hill Country Drought

Pretty soon water will be more valuable than oil in Texas. 

If you squint, you can see Denny and me in the middle of the exceptional-drought-brown heart of Texas.  Over the last ten months, the damp in our rain gauge totaled 7+6/10".  Or, to put it in Texas terms, 2/3 of a beer bottle.  Ten months.  That's a twisted teetotal. 

And as of yesterday, we'd had 67 days at 100F or more this year. Rivers are drying.  Crops are wasted and ranchers are selling livestock because feed is expensive and hard to come by.

Forecasters say more of the same for the fall as La Niña continues to develop in the Pacific. According to NOAA, La Niña often correlates with drier than normal conditions in the Southwest, late summer through the subsequent winter.  A typical La Niña lasts 9-12 months, some episodes as long as two years.

My livelihood doesn't depend on rainfall but my heart does.  We garden for wildlife. Our bird list for this property is more than 90 species now, including an endangered golden-cheeked warbler who occasionally shops and bathes in our backyard.
We don't water the established trees, back thicket, open woodlands, native grasses and wild-flower swath.  Those areas will make it or not on their own, although I have doubts about the wild-flower area, where deer hooves leave dusty pockets of scarred earth through the stubble.  At least the thicket and woodlands have thick blankets of needles and leaves.

Last spring we replaced ground covers with mulch to conserve water.  Our modest lawn is buffalo grass, a native which can get by on 18" of rain a year.  We've watered it but not much.

Which leaves 30 or so youngish trees and the gardens surrounding the house, wildlife habitat.  Oasis for hummingbirds and goldfinches in this bare-dirt summer.  With water and food stations, we host golden-fronted woodpeckers, western scrubjay families, house finches, roadrunner, and dozens of cardinals, chickadees and blackcrested titmice.
  View from back porch, see the hummingbird in the upper right corner?

The plants are drought-tolerant.  But only a few would live in the desert.  So we sprinkle the densely planted areas (when watering restrictions allow), run soaker-hoses and drip irrigation in cooler hours... 

And do mother-of-invention kitty-litter bucketing.  Three tiny holes let 3.5 gallons/bucket drip into the earth in an hour.  Refill 4-6 times, depending on size of tree and number of buckets.  Deep watering, only when the trees say they need it.

As I fill the buckets, I tell my trees their roots are stretching. They'll be stronger and the next La Niña will be easier. I hope.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.