Thursday, July 15, 2021

The queen is dead


When we moved to this house in 2005, there were two Arizona Ash trees in the back yard.  The first one died a few years after we moved in when carpenter ants created quite the visible crack in the trunk which I only noticed because our cats stopped climbing the tree and I was trying to figure out why.  The thing about Arizona ashes is that they grow quickly and die off in a weird clumping pattern. Carpenter ants also don't actually kill the tree since they only remove dead wood. Our neighbors down the street had carpenter ants a few years ago on their tree, but the part they were going after was about 10' from the ground so they cut off the tree at about 8' tall and damned if that thing didn't completely regrow and form a beautiful shade tree. Naturally it got severely knocked back by the monster freeze of 2021 (winter storm Uri), which is when ours also got knocked back.  About a month ago, I noticed a bunch of saw dust on the deck and the plants around the tree and, sure enough, there were carpenter ants.  Rather than hope that the tree would pull through, especially since the most sawdust was right at the base, and because of the way the tree grew, it meant that the ants were pretty close to the bottom of the tree, we opted to go ahead and have it removed.  So we called in our Tree Guy (Ulises from Donkey Tree), and his crew came by yesterday to cut down the tree.  So now our yard looks like this:

It is quite the change.  Additionally, they removed a 10-yr-old oak tree that was too close to the cedar elm and too close to the house. Removing these trees makes the yard SO MUCH sunnier, and I'm not sure the beautyberry will like the amount of sun, but the Agarita and Mountain Laurel will probably love it.  Removing the trees, however, got me looking at all the other trees I have around. I mean there's a rough leaf dogwood, which I actually hate and keep saying I'll remove, there was a Carolina Buckthorn which Shawn always complained about being too close to the house (I actually decided to remove it last night while I was talking on the phone with my sister and I was ASTOUNDED at how easy I pulled it out of the ground...which also kinda explains why it's generally not done well), the cedar elm is growing into the possumhaws, there's a live oak in the back corner which is too close to the fence and a live oak in the front yard which is probably too close to the water line to the house, and the desert willow (which is only like 3' tall) is entirely too close to the cedar elm (though may be okay if the cedar elm keeps growing and we can get it limbed up).  That's not even getting into the 2 red tip photinia that are in the yards that really need to be removed as well.

It's only funny because I've always loved how many trees we have and now I'm basically trying to figure out how to remove about half of them. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

I'm a farmer now

Utrecht Blue Wheat from Botanical Interests.  My garden is too good for them, that's why the plants all fell over, but they've still produced some baller seed heads which I plan to cut, dry, and then give to my friend, Jameson, since he uses wheat seed heads in his decor.
I'm a farmer now. My Great Grandfather would be so proud.  And probably rolling his eyes.

Thursday, July 8, 2021


The Sunflowers have been outstanding this year.  I read an article on the 5th that this is probably because sunflowers like having wet weather at the beginning, nice long, sunny days, and freshly turned dirt that doesn't have other stuff growing in it (hence why they're so popular right along roadways or other areas which are under construction).  This one is likely black oil sunflower as I do put out see for the birds which the squirrels tend to get to first - and boy do they make a mess.

How fitting, then, that there are several Van Gogh immersive art shows going on in Texas right now (one in Austin, one in Houston, and I think there may also be one in San Antonio)?

Monday, July 5, 2021

Grow This: Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry

One of my favorite garden finds is Ground Cherry "Cossack Pineapple."  I don't remember how I got the seeds (it's possible I got them from a school garden that I visited and they were giving away seed packs that had gotten wet and/or were expired), and I've only grown them a handful of times, but my goodness these are good.  

Ground Cherries are related to Tomatillos and look very similar in so much that they grow in little paper lantern-type coverings.  The plants I've grown have topped out at 8" or so and about the same width.  The first year I grew them (YEARS ago), I had like 2 plants, but that definitely wasn't enough to use for like jams or anything - you'd probably need more like 6 plants for that to work. This year, I started 2 plants, but only one survived - it's only created a handful of fruits, but every time i see one that's ready, I just eat it in the garden - like the snow peas we grow - they're garden foods, and they just never make it into the house.  

These ones are like nature's sweet tarts because they are sweet as candy, but with a tart flavor - like my mom would probably insist that they needed copious amounts of sugar to be edible, but I've always been a fan of tart fruits - my favorite apple is Granny Smith, I only eat green bananas, I like the blackberries and strawberries when they're under-ripe, so yeah, these things are perfect for me.  I'll have to find more seeds and add them to my normal rotation.  Maybe I'll even try them in the little AeroGarden (which Roberta gifted me since she became too obsessed with cleaning it EVERY DAY like a weirdo, so she gave it to me to grow lettuce since it's apparently the ONLY way I can get lettuce to grow).

This one is even a little underripe - they're supposed to be a very yellow color instead of a yellow/green color.  BUT damn is it delicious.


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Tomatoes II

Tomatoes and dates of first harvest (they were all planted the same day around early/mid March)


The tomatoes I grew this year - my favorites are the Chocolate Sprinkles and the Pink Berkeley. The Inca Jewels always ran mealy for me (though were great for Roberta), and the others just weren't agressively flavored enough for me (I really like the robust complex tomato flavors).  The Berkeley is great as a sliced tomato on sandwiches.  All were grown from seed by yours truly, except for the Chocolate Sprinkles which I bought from Home Depot on like 3/3 with Roberta because we HAD to go get tomatoes since the Sunshine Community Garden Sale was canceled on account of COVID.  I've been keeping track of the number of tomatoes harvested which will be announced at the end of the season in the season roundup post.  Since I grew most of these from seed, it's a little surprising to me just how many of them are bicolored (all of them except the Inca Jewels).  I did not think I had a thing for 1) buying tomato seeds since I NEVER grow tomatoes from seed and 2) stripey tomatoes; and yet, these were the oldest tomato seeds I had - I still have some Black Krim and Japanese Trifele tomato seeds that I didn't even plant (at least I *think* I have Black Krim seeds - I *know* I have trifele seeds because they were gifted to me the same year I said that I was not impressed with the Trifele tomatoes - which is, oddly, another tomato that Roberta loved that I didn't - Apparently, we're like Jack Sprat and his wife.)

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Well hello, Ms. Downey

So very happy that the downey woodpeckers have figured out how to eat from the woodpecker bird feeder - it definitely means that they end up getting more food than when they have to compete at the regular suet feeder with the starlings and other bird bullies.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Sunday, June 6, 2021


I'm not a fan of mushrooms. I won't eat them raw, and I'm only okay with them chopped up into small pieces that I can't easily pick out of my food and it's gotta be in something that I can forget they're in (like stir-fry or pasta sauce).  

So you'll find it pretty interesting that I bought myself a mushroom growing kit for Christmas.  ::shrugs:: I sometimes do the Bart Simpson method of gardening - Bart: "More Lima Beans please.  More.  More."

Lisa: "maybe you should eat the Lima beans already on your plate."

Bart:  "Who said anything about eating them? I just wanted to look at them."

I also bought kits for Roberta, my friend Jameson, and my mother for Christmas  (i.e. I got one of each variety that NorthSpore had available in their Spray n Grow kits).  Roberta had one big harvest, and then misting the growing block for a second harvest fell by the wayside when the big freeze hit (since she was without power for DAYS).  My mom had one harvest and then was like "this block looks icky, I don't think I want to grow any more" though she did gamely cut out a different side and try to get that side to grow, and instead ended up with another small harvest from the side she thought looked bad.  Jameson took a while getting his started because he was worried about the mushrooms sporing and spreading all over his apartment, and when he finally did start growing them and they were looking like they were about to harvest, the big freeze hit and he got more concerned about other things (like making sure his parents still had electricity and water), and by the time he got back to worrying about the mushrooms they were past their prime - he also didn't know at what point he was supposed to pick them, or what he was supposed to do with them (he got the Lion's Mane because I figured if anyone was going to be willing to experiment with a mushroom that's the vegan replacement for fish, it'd be him, but alas, nothing came of it).  

My box produced 2 harvests that were pretty dang big (while my mom had to mix in some store bought mushrooms for her harvests, but Roberta and I did not); and the craziest thing about these boxes is just how much it's like "dang, did you see the mushrooms now?!" because they grow very quickly once they actually sprout. I even tried to do a timelapse, but I think I tried to do it when the shrooms were already too big and I should have started when they were little pin-mushrooms instead.  So instead you get to see photos taken of the mushrooms like 24 hours apart.

Day 1 of noticing little shrooms (probably like 3-4 weeks after I started misting it)

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4 - We harvested a day or so after this I think because Shawn misunderstood what the directions meant by "harvest before the mushrooms have flattened out"

What we learned from our first harvest:  Yes, the oyster 'shrooms really do taste bad when raw.  Oyster mushrooms have a very metallic taste to them when raw so they're always cooked - and they tend to be cooked for quite a while (like 20-30 minutes).  We also learned that the stems need to be cooked for much longer than the caps if you're using them.  After the second harvest, we realized that there is a sweet spot for size of these things because too young and they're tougher and chewy, but if you let them go a little longer they're much better, but if you let them go too long, they get too waterlogged (though that might be more because for harvests 3 and on, the mushrooms have been outside and are subject to the elements).

After the second harvest, NorthSpore recommends breaking the brick apart and mixing in the medium with either straw or mulch and keeping it moist in a shady spot in your yard to get even more harvests.  so that's what I did with my mom's block and our block.

Harvest 1 of the outdoor Golden Oyster Mushrooms (they are now, as of 6/6/2021, producing more mushrooms again).

Harvest 1 of the outdoor Blue Oyster Mushrooms

Harvest 2 of the outdoor Blue Oyster Mushrooms - these are the ones that are old and waterlogged (and this is about a month after the one above)

I do, truly, believe that the only reason these mushrooms are producing as much as they are outside is solely because we've been getting SO MUCH small amounts of rain in Austin this spring - like to the point where I'm thinking of making another weather chart for the year - the average amount of rainfall by June 1 is 13.56" and we're currently at 19.66" (6.5" of that falling in Memorial Day Weekend, but otherwise, there's a lot of 0.1" here, 0.02" there).  Because, let's face it, f these things needed ME to water them to keep producing, they'd get blasted with water maybe 2x a week if they're lucky.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Harvesting: Garlic

Most of the Garlic Harvest for 2021 (pulled on 5/21/21).  The freeze did take out some of the garlic - and I don't think it was so much the freeze as much as the amount of water that came after.  I don't remember what varieties I still plant - likely Burgundy and Inchellium Red since those were always the ones I thought did the best for me.  I also have some "Walking Garlic" that I've never done anything with, but I'm told it's edible - but it just stays in the ground forevermore.  I also have like 4 more garlics to pull, but they aren't ready yet (since you pull the garlic when each stalk is ready and not necessarily all at once, though most of the time the plants tend to all get pulled around the same time).

The garlic now needs to dry out for a few weeks and then the tops will be removed and they'll be put in the cupboard (and yes, I did bring them inside to dry instead of leaving them out in this "first tropical depression of the year which is causing 4 days of consistent rain).  Around September/October, I'll break apart and plant a few heads to harvest for next year...though maybe it's time for me to try a new variety...

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Harvesting: It Starts

So, yesterday (5/15) began the harvesting of the Chocolate Sprinkles tomato (55 days per the tag, and probably like 62 days since I planted the plant). The blueberries has some tomatoes getting close... I actually like this tomato more than I thought I would - robust, sweet, will be adding it to my "recommended tomatoes list" especially if it holds up against the root knot nematodes.

Update:  the Blueberries tomato started harvest on 5/18 (65 days from transplant; tag says 85 days - and honestly, I DID pick them very early - just turning red, but still under-ripe), and the Inca Jewels on 5/22 (67 days from transplant; tag says 75 days - and yes, this was also picked very under ripe because I let the other one go until it was perfectly red and forgot to pick it and the opossum got it instead - and once Timmy knows there's tomatoes, Timmy will keep checking for ripe tomatoes which means pulling tomatoes much earlier than I would like just to thwart Timmy).  I just noticed today (5/23) that one of the stripey tomatoes is starting to ripen..I'm not sure which one it is...maybe the Pink Berkeley...

Timmy tomato. The sad part is that I MEANT to pull it the night before and just completely spaced it between taking a shower and making dinner. ::sad face::


Thursday, May 6, 2021


I gotta get this down before I forget - the types, not the story. Duh.  [edited to add tomato descriptions 5/23]

So every spring, Roberta and I go to the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale to get way more tomato plants than either of us could ever need. The first year we went, Roberta was having some bad back pain and I drove over like a gazillion speed bumps looking for a place to park. I opted to drive as fast as I could and just give a "sorry" every time it happened. Another year Roberta bought like 50 plants; it was ludicrous. We've gone when it's been freezing, we've gone when it's been hot, we've even gone when it's been raining. It is tradition that we go. I mean we just HAVE to.

But I digress.

The plant sale is held the first weekend in March, and thus 2020 was the last time we went as it was announced somewhat surprisingly early (like fall) that the sale would not be happening in 2021. I'm not sure why it was called so early (it could have something to do with the company that grew all the plants closed down in 2020). So I knew by probably around Thanksgiving that we were going to have a problem with finding tomato seedlings. And thus, this is how, on Christmas I decided I would give growing tomatoes from seed a go.  I was only ever successful one year prior, and even then, I had done it as an experiment during the summer and then gave the seedlings to a teacher in my neighborhood who used them for her class garden.

But, I pulled out all my seed starting stuff and set up the grow light and started like 5 different kinds and said "welp...let's see how this goes."

It went crazy good - by mid January I was already setting the seedlings outside during the day and bringing them in at night and then of course had to start all over again with hardening off after The Big Freeze. And on the first weekend of March, I drove all the plants down to Roberta's house and was like "happy plant day!"

Then I went home and planted the ones I kept for myself in the garden (on somewheres around March 14 - I have pictures of the yard and I clearly didn't have them in on March 7, but did by the 14).  [ETA 5/22 - Also - apparently I have a thing for buying seeds for stripey tomatoes - I don't know why - it's not like I normally am drawn to them (the black ones, sure, the stripey ones? not so much)]

Tigerella - 60 days - English Heirloom. These unique fruits are noted for their stripes, hence the name. When immature they are a light green with dark green stripes. When mature the stripes alternate between red and a yellow orange. Two inch fruit have a very tangy flavor, yields are very heavy, and quite early.

Blueberries -75 days - A dark bi-colored purple and red cherry variety with a rich, sweet flavor. This purple leafed plant will add a unique touch to the garden. Disease resistant and can grow up to 6′ tall. Perfect for fresh eating, salsas, and salads.

Berkeley Pink Tye-Die - 70 days - Compact plants produce beautiful 8-12 ounce fruit with a very sweet, rich, dark tomato flavor. 10 out of 10 people liked the port wine colored beefsteak with metallic green stripes better than Cherokee Purple in a farmers market taste off.

Black Vernissage - 75 Days - This 2 to 3 ounce saladette variety is very good for fresh eating, salads, drying or making sauces. Healthy, highly adaptable and very productive over a long season. Deep mahogany, striped with green. Like most black tomatoes, the flavor is pleasingly rich, especially tasty in sauces.

Inca Jewels - 75 days - These delicious “Roma” style container tomatoes are bred for extra-heavy yields on space-saving 3 ft. plants. Ideal to grow in large pots or in smaller garden spaces. You’ll have an abundance of plump fruits bursting with juicy flavor, delicious right from the garden or made into rich, thick, homemade sauce. Perfect to eat fresh; make sauce or grill; to put up in jars; or just freeze the tomatoes whole in bags to defrost and make sauce as needed at a later date.

And a store bought "chocolate cherry" from Home Depot.

Chocolate Sprinkles - 55 days - This cherry tomato has it all: good looks, great flavor, heavy yields, and disease resistance. Bite-sized, cherry-type fruits are beautifully colored — red striped with dark green — that explode with rich, robust flavor. This highly productive plant forms its fruit in clusters, and starts bearing early in the season. Support Chocolate Sprinkles Tomato with stakes or sturdy cage at planting time.

I also had started a few habaneros and a scotch bonnet (though I think the scotch bonnet has since disappeared).  I've since started a few cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins - the melon and pumpkin seeds were a decade old and most did not germinate, though the pumpkin seeds did (which was very surprising since they were 11 years old). So now it's all wait and see for what actually produces.  The tomatoes all have at least a few on the plants so I'm hopeful those will at least do well.  I still have a basil seedlings and a ground cherry seedling that I need to plant (once the baby blue eyes can be ripped out)

How it started (3/14/21)

How it's going (5/6/21).

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Rain. Glorious Rain


And lots of it. Thank goodness. We REALLY don't need a repeat of 2011...

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Big freeze cleanup: before and after (continued)

As mentioned, the valentine's freeze knocked a whole lotta plants on their ass, and while they may be down, they're not out.

Here are a bunch of other before and after photos (now with more "4 weeks of recovery" photos).  I've been a busy bee getting plants removed or cut back, that's for sure.  Only really got the front yard to still do...and the part in the back that leads to the secondary compost bin.  So that's still like another 4-weekends' worth or work.

This is some giant petunia that I intentionally planted here when the tree guys cut back the red tip photinia and it suddenly felt like everyone from the street could see into the yard.  It isn't the Mexican variety (leaves are bigger and it's purple instead of a pinkish purple), but it's most definitely invasive. I found it once in the volunteer botanical garden in Key West and it was labeled as "carolina petunia" so who knows what type it was. In any case, the freeze didn't really kill it - just knocked it down to the roots, but I figured it was as good of time as any to try to actually remove it entirely. So I did. It definitely took the whole weekend and required that I dig out the roots and all - and it most definitely was still alive and would have been going gangbusters if I hadn't removed it 

After all the petunia was removed, but before I cut back the chile pequin. I also mulched this area, but since I had started in on the grass corner right afterward, I ended up creating another compost pile in this area. I didn't think you needed a picture of a compost pile.

The grass corner.  I never cut back my grasses. This is because I am lazy. But with the freeze having knocked back all the grasses, and potentially having offed the Bamboo Muhly, I decided to actually cut everything back.

Post hair cut and post mulching. You can see the bird bath again. I've left the Caldwell Pink rose alone for now since it doesn't seem to bloom if I cut it back in the spring. I figure I'll let it bloom and then severely cut it back as well.

With a few weeks of recovery growth.  The plants all growing in front of the bird bath are mostly false day flower or widows tears or something. It is taking over, but is really easy to pull out so I'm leaving it for now.  There is also a poppy or two in the mix.  The bamboo muhly DID survive, btw, but only from the roots.

The cat was not happy about the grass cut back - she would spend most of her day in this corner area because the grasses would create a nice little bower that was protected from the elements, and so we'd find her sleeping in the area she used to, only completely huddled up because it wasn't as warm as it used to be. She is happy all the plants are coming back.

This part usually isn't damaged by freezes since it's got a huge turk's cap plant along the fence, and a yaupon holly close to the temp gage.  Since the freeze knocked the Turks cap to the ground though, it needed to be cleaned.

After cutting everything to the ground and mulching. I posted some of these photos to instagram and everyone was asking what I planned on planting in the newly mulched area. And the answer is NOTHING! Because the Turks cap is still there and alive.

And you can see the Turks cap starting to come back.  You'll also notice that the cast iron plant is looking a little worse for the wear (or as my dad says every time he's been over since the freeze, "I think your succulents are dead." - I don't know why he insists on thinking cast iron plant is a succulent, but whatever).

The front walk area before. Notice the dead, overgrown rosemary front and center.

Post clean up and most areas mulched. The rosemary has been removed, and while that was, indeed, a plant that I killed at least 3 times before I could get it to grow, I'm not sure that I need to race out and get a new one. One: you can't find any rosemary because EVERYONE I'd looking for replacements, and Two: I don't use it that much.  I've actually decided that I think I'll do my herbs on a rotation - I'll grow them for a few years harvesting and drying as I go, and when the plant is big and gnarly, I'll just pull it out and start over with a different type.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Big Freeze Clean Up: Before and After

So I left off with the big freeze having happened. This means that plants got goobered.  Plants that hadn't been cut back in eons died back to the ground, some plants, like my Arizona Ash still haven't recovered since it was already budding out right as the freeze hit. 

The Asiatic Jasmine corner. Before. On the plus side, the freeze really did kill off most of this invasive plant making it much easier to get rid of.

After.  I realize it's hard to see the difference since it was all brown before and is still brown. But hopefully the tree appreciates it.

Can you find all the toads?  There was a whole family of them living under an old grill cover which was in the Asiatic Jasmine.  The cover had been full incorporated into the jasmine. 

The Toadrys.  I had to text my "snake guy" coworker because he's into all the cool animals - like seriously, I've brought him skulls, jaw bones, snake skins, and pictures of snakes in the past to find out what they are. So naturally I texted him a photo of the toads and was like "uh...I'm doing yardwork, how do I save these guys? Do I need to use gloves or anything?" So this was the first time in my life where I went about catching toads and putting them in a bucket.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going, mister?!". The amount of talking I was doing to those toads and the spiders I found probably had my neighbors questioning my sanity.

Adult Rough Earth Snake. We have these occasionally in the yard and I love them. This was my first time actually catching and holding one. And then I had to catch him AGAIN because he was intent on needing to be in the part of the yard where the asiatic jasmine was and didn't WANT to be in the garden area.  Bonus points to me that I didn't need to contact "the snake guy" since I joined a snake identification group on Facebook and now spend a lot of time looking at snake pictures and have gotten much better at identifying them - Shawn says hopefully this means I'll actually SEE the snakes before I step on them (I've almost stepped on a racer, a bull snake, a rattlesnake, and a rat snake).

As for planting things in this area, I'm trying to generally keep it unplanted through this summer (because I predict it's going to be a summer from hell a la 2011 again). BUT, this is also an area that like years ago I had planned to plant some beauty bushes in this area - bushes that I promptly had purchased with the misguided idea that if I had the bushes on hand, I'd remove the asiatic jasmine sooner rather than later. 


Yeah - the beautyberry, Mexican buckeye, and agarita sat in tiny pots for YEARS. I needed to cut the containers away from the roots and still dig them out of the ground.  BUT! I did get them dug up and then replanted in this area. But since those plants were also damaged by the freeze, they all got a severe cut back and now I'm waiting for them to leaf out more so you can actually see them in the photo. But with the warmer weather, I am getting some of the Asiatic jasmine coming back from root pieces I missed, so I need to keep the area clear for a growing season or so, just to make sure I got it all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Now... where'd we leave off?

Okay, so essentially 4 years after leaving you guys, I decided I should take up blogging about the garden again.  We'll see how long it lasts.  It may be only 2 weeks.  The suspense is terrible, I hope it lasts.

So I left off in March 2017. This basically coincided with me really getting into kitten fostering and volunteering at the animal shelter. So let's get you caught up - there was racist rally in Virginia in which the president refused to condemn the white supremacists and insisted that there were "very nice people on both sides."  Actually, the president never did condemn white supremacy the entire time he was in office.  Not surprising since they did (and still do) make up a significant portion of his base.  The US left the Iran Nuclear deal and the Paris Accords, killed NAFTA, and started courting Russia and North Korea as allies while telling Europe they could suck it.  the #metoo movement happened and generally abated with not a whole lot having changed (other than Harvey Weinstein going to jail and a lot of men being upset thinking that women were out to get them).  There was also something about a Hurricane that the president tried to alter it's path with a sharpie and questions about the president's mental aptitude (I mean, the man DID look directly at solar eclipse).  

And then the 2020 pandemic happened. 

That's right. A pandemic. A mother-effing flu-like pandemic that resulted in working from home, wearing masks everywhere, and avoiding elderly family member like you had, well, the plague.  Mixed in with all that, race relations came to a head because for some dumb reason cops refuse to stop killing Black people for doing normal things like "sleeping in their own home," or "going for a run," or for minor law breaking like "used a $20 counterfeit bill" or "had expired license plates."  

Other shitty things that happened in 2020: Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, as did Elijah Cummings, and John Lewis.  But here we are, on "the other side" with vaccines being stabbed in arms and things returning to "normal." Why, we've already had 2 school shootings and schools aren't even really in session. So yeah, the world is healing.

While everyone was like "oh man, at least 2021 can't be any worse," 2021 was like "here, hold my beer" and kicked off with an armed insurrection at the national capitol on January 6, followed by a polar vortex in February which caused the Texas power grid to shit itself like a newborn babe. And I mean one of those shits that shoots up out the back of the diaper and somehow covers EVERYTHING.  

And so, I feel like this is a good point to pick back up with the gardening. Because there's nothing that likes shit more than a gardener (hey oh!)

The polar vortex messed shit up, yo. It knocked enough plants back on their ass and required such a massive amount of clean up (which I'm still doing), that it really resulted in me getting everything almost back to "clean slate status."

First the ice covered everything and weighed it down

Then the snow came and covered everything.  

And then the power outages started.  Ted Cruz ran across the border into Mexico in order give his family a better life with electricity, heat, and running water (seriously, for reals, though sadly he came back). Meanwhile, the Texas grid was like minutes away from crashing to the point that it would have taken MONTHS to fix it.  The outages were meant to be "rolling" but the amount of power that needed to be off the system was so much that they had to kill every "non-essential" circuit - this is why downtowns were all lit up like Christmas while neighborhoods were blacked out - because downtown areas tend to have hospitals and police stations.  So some people went without power for almost a week.  The temperatures didn't get above like 20 degrees for that entire time.  Houses down here are not insulated like they are up north.  Houses down here don't have shut offs to their exterior facing hose bibs to keep the pipes from bursting.  Even if people wanted to leave, they couldn't because the roads were impossible to drive on since we don't have any means of removing snow/ice from the roadways.

At least the snow made for some nice, and not normal for Austin, photos

As the snow was starting to melt, and things were looking up, the water ran out.  One of the Austin water treatment plants went offline for a while because of falling trees and then no one could figure out how to get the power back on because the Water Treatment Plant hasn't been modernized since like 1950.  Because everyone was dripping or running their faucets to keep pipes from freezing, the water reserves got used up REAL QUICK LIKE.  This meant that we were frantically saving snow in buckets and coolers and even tupperware containers just so we had some type of water. Toilets were only getting flushed after pooping, everyone was drinking their beer stash instead of having to boil water, etc etc.  Thankfully, those that had been without electricity for a week, generally didn't lose their water service.

Water outage map for Austin

Thank God for rain barrels which are full of water...though they were frozen solid...dangnabbit.

So. Like I said, the polar vortex was epic and the plants did not like it. At all. Plants which hadn't died back in years were knocked to the ground (e.g. almond verbena, Philippine violet, Turk's cap), plants that had already budded are still recovering (arizona ash), plants which should have made it through with no problems are having problems recovering (yaupon holly), and some of our more tender plants are being watched on baited breath for recovery or have already been ripped out because of the time it would take to recover (lorapetalum, pitsporum, crepe myrtle).  

I'm going to try to do a post per area as it got cleaned up because in addition to cutting back things that haven't been touched in YEARS, I also added compost and mulch so everything is looking tip top - if a little bare while I wait for things to fill back in.