Thursday, March 17, 2016

Small space, big joy

We started with a vision--birds, butterflies and flowers with a sprinkling of herbs and vegetables; places for the birds to nest and rest plus water to drink and bathe. Greenery summer and winter.  Lush but still water-wise, with drip irrigation so we could travel in summer without coming back to crispy critter plants.

When we bought the house, the backyard had good bones--trees around the back fence and shading the porch -- but the center was bermuda grass, as invasive as roaches.

Our first conversion step was easy to figure out: surround the yard with beds of flowering bushes and trees, infrastructure to provide shelter and food for the birds. We pickaxed our way around the yard, planting favorites like firebush, American beauty berry, Turk's Cap and more, edging the beds with the limestone rocks we dug up. Some of those plants were offspring of plants from our last place.  I love the living sequence in the garden.

The vision for the biggest area in the center was not so clear, engendering a number of (heated) family discussions before we happened on an image of a formal parterre garden with a center urn circled by herb beds.

I've been more of a wildscape gardener in past but small areas need more structure. Not to mention paths for access, terracing to cope with the slope, raised beds for planting.  And a fountain in the center because water enlivens any space.    

Denny said he could do the hard part, leveling the slope, building the beds, running electricity for the fountain. I would pickaxe to break up the limestone, then plan and plant the greenery.  But first we'd have to kill the infernal bermuda grass.

Once we found the fountain, we were motivated.

We decided on materials, then all we had to do was do it. Every day for hours. In August.  And in the middle we decided to stain the fence too. If you're thinking we were crazy, you're right.

But within four months we'd stained the fence and built and planted the beds, with drip installed for everything but the bit of remaining lawn (soon to be converted to a fairly drought-tolerant and less invasive strain of St. Augustine).  

Every morning when I looked out the window I was happy.

Of course there were the day it rained 5" in a few hours and I realized we didn't have a drainage pipe through the bed...see the water coming to crest the lower bed?

The pipe went in when the paths and patio were installed.

I used a number of evergreen plants for year-round color and planted for a three-season bloom span, although this winter was so warm few plants died back and several bloomed all winter.

We're happy and the garden has truly become a bird, butterfly and bee retreat. 

Copyright 2009-2016 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Entwined -- A Farmer's Market Find

Almost 7 months ago I stopped writing pieces for Hill Country Mysteries.  It was more of a drop than a stop, unintentional.  Mom's stroke made the year hard emotionally and we spent a lot of time away with her. Fortunately she's recovered well and we celebrated her 90th birthday early this year. 

After the hardest part of Mom's recovery was over, Denny and I embarked on an ambitious garden plan ... I was so fatigued for months that it seemed too hard to climb the stairs and do brain-work in my office.  

And life continued to happen--family events and trips, volunteer work and visits...along with a growing inertia as I wondered how to break the ice of absence.  

But I've missed you and I'm happy to get back to sharing life in the Texas Hill Country and beyond.

Almost every Saturday morning, Denny and I go to the New Braunfels Farmer's Market for the best fresh food in the region, grown by farmers within 100 miles of town. It's not a chore like the grocery store, more like an extended family gathering. We wander the aisles, tasting and visiting. And after years of purchasing, I think of the sellers as 'our' farmers.  We know them and often their families, where they live, what they raise and how they farm.  I love buying from the producers--we're getting great food and our purchases help to feed their families.

But the market is more than food.  There are woodworkers, jewelry-makers, kombucha producers and other artisans, such as Karen Davis and her angora rabbit Ashford.

On a small farm near the local airport, Karen cares for a hairy menagerie of goats, great pyrenees dogs, llamas, alpacas and angora rabbits, brushing and shearing them for the hair she uses to spin yarn she weaves into scarves. Or instead of spinning, felts into sturdy stylish hats.  

When you rise in the morning to feed and groom your raw materials, your work is as much a way of life as a craft.

Ashford allowed me, and anyone else who wandered up, to pet her.  Karen says angora rabbits are bred as much for placid dispositions as bountiful hair, a necessity for an animal handled often for brushing and shearing. 

Of course everyone who petted Ashford smiled; soft imaginary-looking creatures provoke happiness.

Every hat and scarf is unique, worth the more-than-massed-produced but probably too low prices Karen charges for the items.  And how often can a person buy clothing that comes with a load of good karma?

If you'd like to see Karen's work, stop by her booth, Entwined Fiber and Wire

at the New Braunfels Farmers Market, on Castell Street a block east of San Antonio St., Saturdays from 9am-1pm.  Or visit her website (link above) for contact info.

In case you can't wait, here's a video snippet of Karen and Ashford spinning hair into yarn:

If I'm lucky, I'll run into you at Karen's booth.  Hope so.

Copyright 2009-2016 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.