Thursday, October 27, 2011

October Color

I love October. The relief of escaping summer without dessication. In October we take our first  breaths since May.  It's a good time to be alive.

Enjoying early October story research.-------->

October used to be an orange and black month, now it's pink.  Everywhere. On everything.  Pink isn't my favorite color but I love it in October.  

In September 1996 I walked into a bookstore looking for a book on breast cancer and treatment.  The woman at the front desk asked if she could help me.  

I opened my mouth and nothing came out.  Finally, "Could you direct me to the (long pause) women's illness section?"  

I couldn't say the words 'breast cancer'.  Maybe I could have, if the request had been for someone else, if I hadn't been the one with a hard lump in my breast. 

Pink wasn't a big deal in those days.  Yes there were fund-raising walks in a few cities.  And pink ribbons in the chemo ward.  But outside of cancer sisters and their families, the disease and the women it had invaded were invisible.

Today, pink is everywhere and no one is ashamed to admit she has breast cancer.  Breast cancer deaths have declined.  It's not a coincidence.  

Fifteen years later, I love pink in October.

Two weeks after the surgery, Denny and I married on the dock behind our home.  He nurtured me during that hard year, and still does. 

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cedar Fever Potion

Denny and I took our  annual dose of Cedar Fever Potion last night.  Woke up this morning feeling good.

When my friends first hear about the potion, they wonder.  Watch me from the corners of their eyes to see if I'm more than normally irrational.

Leaves and berry of Ashe Juniper, (Juniperus ashei) AKA Damn Cedar --->

But once friends experience a bout of Cedar Fever, the mid-December to late-March malady that slams Texas Hill Country residents, they want to know about the Potion.

If you live in the Hill Country, you can't get away from the Fever.  It's a reaction to the annual mating ritual of the Ashe Juniper trees that cover our hills. From December through March, male trees explode pollen--trees releasing here and there, not all at once.  No, the other males nearby hold off, firing days, weeks or months later.  It's a coordinated plot for a fourth-month yellow mist of misery.

Ashe Juniper thicket behind our home.  Yes, we could cut it down to clear the air-space.  But I believe every yard needs a sanctuary.  Small birds shelter in the thicket when hawks fly overhead or bad weather blasts.  And others, like our seasonal black-chin hummingbirds and year-round cardinals, nest there. 

A continuous rain of pollen may be good for the female trees, but humans burn and shiver, sinuses swell until heads explode, and folks think about dying as a form of relief. I only know this from personal, pre-potion experience.

You might be wondering about the potion. It's a folk remedy passed on by David Will, noted horticulturalist, who knows nearly everything about native plants of this region.  He's not a doctor but I couldn't find any reference saying a dilute solution would harm us.

We're not doctors either but after four years of potion, we're not dead, for whatever that's worth.  

So if you want to check it out for yourself, the recipe is here: Cedar Fever Cure, but you're on your own with risk and all that.

The Fever is a drawback to living in the Hill Country but other places have hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, mudslides and earthquakes.  I'll take the quirky beauty of the Texas Hill Country. 

And the potion.  

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We Were Here

Traveling is like getting a new pair of sunglasses.  Different color, different view.

I've been out of town three of the last four weeks. As I sort pictures and memories now, I'm happy to share the fun.  

Asheville, North Carolina is known as the Austin of the East. Truly, even to local Carolinians. Quirky, musical, artistic and beer-loving.  Not to mention beautiful.  

Denny and I stayed at the historic Grove Park Inn on a hill north of downtown Asheville.

Built in 1912 by hand from boulders (not stones, boulders) quarried at nearby Sunset Mountain.  

When I walked into the soaring big-timbered lobby, it felt like entering a Harry Potter mountain lodge.  The cage-fronted elevator, hand operated by a cheerful staffer, opens from a side door into a massive stone fireplace...the closest we'll ever get to travel by flue.      Grove Park Inn elevator entrance--->

Our room was near F. Scott Fitzgerald's favorite room, which he chose for the view of arriving coaches from which he could spec potential feminine companionship. Zelda was resident in Asheville's Highland Mental Hospital at the time.

View toward Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains,  on the opposite side of the Inn from Mr. Fitzgerald's favorite view.

If you ever visit Asheville, take the Grove Park Inn's historical tour, followed by lunch on Sunset Terrace for the view aboveMargaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, spent her honeymoon at the Grove Park.  There are stories of presidential visits past and present. And you'll want to hear about the The Pink Lady, resident ghost of room 545.  She's said to be flirtatious and to show up in photographs.  Not mine. 

Then stop in at the two galleries on the property, Gallery of the Mountains inside the hotel and Grovewood Gallery next door. I plan to buy everything in the galleries when I win the lottery.  But especially the gorgeous and original woven bead jewelry of Amolia Willowsong. (Gallery of the Mountains) 

<---Willowsong's Southern Skies necklace, photo by Cheryl Lincoln.

And a couple of these hand-carved hardwood rockers by retired surgeon Joe Godfrey (Grovewood Gallery).  Carved to comfort your spine, I'm pretty sure the rocking does the same for the soul.

Speaking of comforting, downtown's Tupelo Honey Cafe offers the world's best way to break the fast.  Yes, I said WORLD'S best (world being even bigger than Texas). 

If you plan to go on a weekend, take yourself early or expect to wait because a big congregation believes in the Cafe's Sweet Potato Pancake.  Fluffy but substantial buttermilk batter underwritten by sweet orange goodness with just enough spice, then jazzed by Grandma's Maple Granola inside.  Cooked up, then topped by a dollop of whipped peach-butter surrounded by a generous handful of spiced pecans, it's the definition of righteousness.  Add a light drizzle of orange-blossom-scented Tupelo Honey and you've got heaven.

Plan on taking half of it home with you--you'll be able to keep your jeans buttoned and it's just as good the next day.

Afterward you'll want a little walk to enjoy the mountain air.  

And the sights.  If you're lucky, the Flying Nun will bless you as he makes his rounds.
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa)

I've been doing a Plant of the Month handout for our local garden club for more than a year but just realized I could have been sharing these great plants with my blog-friends too, as most of the featured plants will grow in a range of zones. 

And I'll admit to liking the idea of spreading the Hill Country around.  With a few plants, a substantial margarita and a sunset, you can feel the Hill Country magic too.
So look for more POMs in occasional posts.  My emphasis is on water-wise perennials providing some form of habitat for birds, butterflies, bees or wildlife.
I have a special fondness for Mexican Buckeyes--they were the first trees I planted in our Hill Country yard.  Planted before I knew we'd have years with almost no rain, in the back woodland where I wouldn't be watering.  After five years my little 18" trees have grown to five feet with next-to-no care.  You've got to love survivors. 
Mexican Buckeye is a small tree for shady spaces, the kind you plant when you don’t want a lot of maintenance but you’d like spring blooms and fragrance.  
Despite the name, the tree is native to Texas and New Mexico, common in rocky canyons and on slopes and ridges in South, Central, and West Texas.  As you’d guess from the habitat, it's drought-tolerant (once established) and acclimated to Hill Country climate cycles.  Hardy in zones 7a-9b.
Height is normally 8-12 feet but may reach 30 feet in optimum conditions.  Requires well-draining alkaline soil but isn't picky about soil type--will live in rocky areas, sand, loam, clay and caliche.  To plant in clay, site on a slope for drainage. 
Mexican buckeye does best in part-shade but will survive sun with regular watering.  The leaves fall in autumn but return in spring along with fragrant pink blossoms, more blooms in years with rain.   
Modest deer resistance, fencing is suggested until the tree is tall enough for the canopy to be above browsing reach. 
Parents and pet-owners please note, Mexican buckeye seeds are attractive to little ones but poisonous to eat.  The dark 'beads' in this appealing necklace are Mexican Buckeye seeds, the red are Texas Mountain Laurel, both poisonous to eat (but OK to wear).  For more cool natural jewelry, check out Austin jewelry designer Kathy Sahagian's website
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.