School, school, and more school, and grandchildren

We have finished the first six weeks of the fall term, and I am struggling to keep up with the demands.  We have had a lot of flu in classes, both a variety of stomach flu and H1N1.  My local grandchildren and their mom and dad have suffered the former, and I have tried to help out with the little ones.  These duties have kept me from the garden and writing.

We had the large oaks pruned on Friday.  It is amazing that during an extreme drought, the trees grow as much as they do.  Some branches  touched the house and the roof. However, we have watered within the restrictions all summer long, so they have not stressed. More sunlight will reach the lawn and various parts of the garden.  Early Saturday morning before grading and babysitting, I quickly counted 30 species blooming (roses, cranesbills and other geraniums, etc. are all counted as one species).

Our fall has been cool and dampish.  We have not received much rain but a lot of drizzle.  Perhaps it only seems cool in contrast to the Hades-like heat of the summer.

It Feels Like Fall

Gardening is sometimes a guilty pleasure.  I stayed up quite late last night grading and  preparing materials for my seventh grade English classes.  I opted out of my usual morning walk to work at school early.  There’s so much to do!  However as I prepared to dress, I heard my name whispered on the breeze and felt the golden spot light of the morning sun.  My name is Pat, and I couldn’t resist; I toured my garden while leaving my other tasks behind.  It feels like fall outside.  The temperature  cool, the humidity gone, and the sun bright. 

After the rains last week, the vegetation is emerald green and standing tall.  The beauty berries are purple and the puce fall lilies have added to their show, but the predominant color is a soft periwinkle blue, even though fall asters have not  begun to bloom.

This may be the perfect day.  Uh, oh!  The guilt has seized me by the throat as the clock flashed 9:23:57.  I must hurry to school, but I will remember– and hear the breeze, feel the sun’s warmth, and smell the garden’s fragrance as they bring me repose throughout the day.

The Rains Came

For over three weeks, I’ve plowed the matter of fertile young brains, and ignored the gardens that feed me calm and provide me with peace.  I have completed the evaluations for the first progress reports, rain has come, and I have progressed into my gardens.

Over Labor Day weekend, we traveled to New Mexico to once again escape the relentless Texas heat.  The sun shone brightly, but the temperatures during the day were cool.  I wore a light cardigan the entire time.  The experimental Little Garden planted by the front steps had not only survived but thrived in the intervening two months. With apologies to William Shakespeare, Alas, poor, Hollyhock! I knew him,  a fellow of most infinite stamina, of most excellent fancy, the mule deer have not allowed you to grow.  We struggled with the return to Austin.

Ruidoso garden two months after planting

Ruidoso garden two months after planting

We did have hope for Another Garden, our neighbor called us in NM to report that it had rained almost two inches in the country.  It seems that the weather pattern is changing due to El Nino’s influence.  All of Central Texas had rain over the span of several days.  Some areas received almost four inches while the Garden received only tenths and temperatures remained in the high nineties.  However, cloudy skies helped retain soil moisture from the limiting Stage 2 Water Restrictions.  The Garden looks good.

It appears that, as of right now, it will not go down in the record books as the hottest summer ever in Austin.  We have had 68 days of temperatures above 100 degrees.  We need 69 days to tie and 70 to win.  Rains came this past week, and temperatures stayed in the eighties or below.  It was dreamy to awaken in the middle of the night and hear the tap, tap, tap of raindrops on the roof.  Unfortunately, the dream turned nightmarish Saturday morning when we awoke to discover four roof leaks.  A new roof is in our future.  We shopped Saturday, and every establishment had buckets sitting about catching drips from leaky roofs.  The drought was hard on things other than trees, lawns and gardens.  Our neighbors had a major water line break beneath the front sidewalk that was attributed to dry and shifting soil.

THE RAINS CAME!  The Garden received about two inches at the end of the week, while some areas to the north and southwest received more than five resulting in flash flooding and road closures.  A weather low stalled over Central Texas and provided the slow, soaking rains and ameliorated the temperatures.  The fifteen day forecast predicts nothing over ninety and several days with temperatures in the low eighties.  I am conflicted though.  After suffering all summer with high temperatures, why shouldn’t we set the record for the hottest summer ever?  At least we would have bragging rights; now we’re just second best!

Smart phones justly deserve their accolades.  David and I intently watch weather radar on ours whenever storms arise.  We have eight hungry mouths to feed at Another Garden.  Grass is our chief crop there, and it hasn’t grown this summer.  David has been weekly feeding an expensive bale of hay to the longhorns and donkey all summer long.   What an extra expense!  We monitor closely for rain there no matter where we are.  Because for several days green and yellow have predominated on the radar map, we drove out Saturday evening. Since David’s last visit two weeks ago, we had received almost four inches of rain.   The creek flowed, and the tanks contained some water.  The temperature of 67 degrees allowed us to sleep with the windows open–a gift that we don’t receive usually until the middle of October.  We both slept soundly.

 I have not been to Another Garden since June because it is painful to my soul to see the landscape and gardens suffer so.  After each of David’s trips, he repeated that it looked like another world.  On Sunday morning, I could imagine what it must have looked like.  The meadows and pasture quickly had turned to a desert like “Pink Sands” or perhaps looked like a supernatural force had scorched everything with a giant flame thrower.  We lost some trees, declining oaks; hackberries; and a few Texas persimmons.  Some native shrubs like white brush, yucca, and lantana are brown and appear to be dead.  Native fall wildflowers are nonexistent. Some of our plantings like the desert willow and yellow bells, and Turk’s cap, and purple sage, and vitex survived only because of David’s tenacious watering.  These are all recommended xeriscape plants.  When we are behind more than thirty inches in average annual precipitation over the past year and one-half, even “xero”scape plants can’t survive.  The pictures below certainly are not typical of those found on a garden blog, but they illustrate the severity of our summer.  Perhaps, the next posted pictures of Another Garden will provide a more pleasing picture.

No grass at Another Garden, September 2009

No grass at Another Garden, September 2009

 

Yucca, a victim of the 2009 drought

Yucca, a victim of the 2009 drought

Frost weed, a fall blooming native wildflower

Frost weed, a fall blooming native wildflower

 

Stressed and dying hackberry trees, September, 2009

Stressed and dying hackberry trees, September, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The sun is peeking from behind the clouds and rain is ending, but perhaps this is the beginning of a more normal weather pattern.  To all my gardening friends, please keep rain dancing and the collective consciousness thinking rain!

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