Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

March 22, 2015

Springtime Gardening

Filed under: At home,Garden — Janice @ 7:59 pm

Spring arrived Friday, though it was damp and cold for Austin through Friday and Saturday, too. But today (Sunday) was bright and shining and we had blue sky and at least 80 degrees, I think. I used to be a great gardener. I need to find that enthusiasm and energy again for gardening (and housekeeping and writing and working….). Today I did get outside and do a FEW things so I could say I worked outside and accomplished something.

We have big live oak trees in our neighborhood. I’m glad the builders preserved so many of them for our yards when they built our houses in the 80s. I can just picture what a forest this section must have been at one time. But live oaks drop their leaves in spring when the new growth comes in. That is why they are called live oaks, they are never “dead” in the wintertime. But when the leaves fall, they are really a chore. Our back roof is covered in piles of leaves that need to be pushed down to the ground and cleaned up. No telling what kind of mildew and rot might build up under them up there.

I took a broom and swept my entryway first today. My sister wrote the other day that she was channeling our Papa Hallford and had swept her walk and sidewalk (she also has live oaks) and that there was a great deal of satisfaction in sweeping. I agree with that and every time I DO sweep I think I will do it more often in the future. That rarely happens. Today I swept the porch. Not spotless because more leaves were falling as I swept, but I got a handle on it. I swept leaves off of the flagstone rocks in our garden. Usually by now there would be bluebonnet plants all through the flagstones and we would let them go through their cycle before cleaning out that area. This year the bluebonnets are nonexistent! We don’t  know what happened, but they aren’t there so I swept the rocks and even pulled down a few spiderworts that were growing there because I have plenty IN the garden and don’t need them coming up where I’d like to walk.

I filled up our trash can with leaves from the driveway and walkway and then called it a day. I picked up dead branches and trimmed off some yellow leaves on plants. I trimmed back the Carolina jasmine that takes over as soon as  spring arrives. I didn’t haul rocks or mow or dig or do anything extremely strenuous, but it was enough. I came in sweating and had to cool off and clean up before I could continue my day.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll do a little bit more.  Now is the time  that everything is pretty and green and blooming. The rain has been coming frequently and the hot sun isn’t baking anything for the moment. I want to enjoy this spring while I can.

December 7, 2014

December in Austin

Filed under: At home,Austin,Bluebonnets,Garden — Janice @ 8:58 pm

We have had a couple of really cold spells already this winter, which is early and unusual. Our typical first freeze is mid-December and we’ve had several minor freezes. I say minor because, so far, not all of my plants that die back have died back. Some of them are in a very protected spot and they are still happily living, oblivious to their future destruction.

I was out today appreciating my garden. I needs a lot of cleaning. I even had a landscape guy give me an estimate this morning, but I haven’t decided if it is fair or if I trust him to not destroy my baby bluebonnets.

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I always forget the name of this plant/wildflower, but I know it is a Texas native and doesn’t mind a little drought. It is a huge bush of bright flowers and, in person, you hardly notice all the dead things or overgrown grass.

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I always forget the name of this plant, too. I have taken a picture of the tag at the garden centers over and over, but never put it somewhere where I’ll remember where it is. But this is a nice happy plant, too, that looks good all year round and just put up these beautiful winter blooms.

I have bulbs to put into the ground and a dozen bluebonnets that need to go in, too. I have this idea of myself as an avid gardener. That image only shows up when I’m buying plants or accepting bulbs from generous people. When the weekend of opportunity is here, Gardener Janice tends to vanish.

December 15, 2013

December Gardening

Filed under: Bluebonnets,Garden — Janice @ 12:24 am

I am very grateful to live in Austin, Texas (as evidenced by the title of this blog, I suppose). This past week has had us scrambling to protect the tender vegetation when we had some hard freezes, but still, all in all, Decembers can be so nice. We still have green grass and plenty of green plants after several nights of freezes. I liked this picture I took this week:

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That is a pot on the fence between our house and the neighbor’s. It is the 3 kinds of plants we have in the garden. There’s a resurrection plant that is frozen. Dead. Gone. Except, it is a resurrection plant so it may come back, but if it doesn’t, there’s enough babies all over the garden to keep the plant going. Also there is a cactus that is not thrilled with the cold weather, but can tolerate it. There’s some sort of superdead branch and I don’t even know what that is. Then there is the bluebonnets! I just love the bluebonnets and I love when they plant themselves in our flowerpots as well as in the garden. As you can see, cold doesn’t bother the bluebonnet and it is happy, green, and just itching to start blooming come March. It won’t be long.

In the background on the right are my dead firebushes. They will come back in the spring and get tall again by August, depending on how much rain we get. But they are always my gauge of whether we have had a hard freeze or not. We had a couple already this year that froze the tips, but this last bunch froze the whole plant. Now I wait for a nice winter day and I will cut all those dead branches down. Meanwhile, on the left is a beautiful green blooming plant. I’ve forgotten what it is, but it is a Texas native I planted in the not too distant past. This year, I am pretty sure.

And in the middle, be sure and notice our unique snowman. He has gone viral again this year and pictures of him are on the internet and all over the world. One drum site has it on its Facebook page and it has over 5000 likes. That is a lot of people. This is his third winter to grace our yard.

December 9, 2013

Childhood Foods

Filed under: Family,Food,Garden — Janice @ 11:55 pm

I read an article today about how the smell of childhood comfort foods brings memories back with more vividness than a photo. Duh.

But it got me to thinking about childhood comfort foods of my own. Cinnamon toast is the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve made a thousand slices of cinnamon toast for myself since I was a kid, but they never EVER have the taste and texture of the way Mom made them. White bread, probably real butter or good margarine, sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Maybe being toasted under the flame of a gas broiler helped, too. I know I ate cinnamon toast a lot as a kid (and every year since), but I have the most vivid memory of Mother waking me up one morning. My sister had already gone to school that day, I was 3 or 4, and I must have been tired because I was still asleep. Mother gently woke me up and told me that Captain Kangaroo was on. She had a plate of cinnamon toast for me and the TV tuned to the Captain… sigh… even then I knew I had it good.

From those earliest years when we lived in Amarillo, I also remember Mom’s French fries. Of course they were always good, but I remember them more vividly in that house and they seemed to be more of a treat when we had them there. Kids today don’t even seem to know that you CAN cook your own French fries. You don’t have to rely on what the fast food places call a French fry. I’ll take Mom’s.

And lemon cake. Mom probably has no idea how much I loved her lemon cake. I don’t even think it was something she continued to make that much and I don’t have a recipe for it. But back in the early 60s she had a lemon sheet cake. I remember how good and moist and lemony it was. And then the ants got in it. I remember it sitting on the counter and it had ants and Mother just threw the whole thing in the trash. I was devastated. That was GOOD cake.

Stuffed peppers, homemade tacos, hamburgers, chicken fried steak, corn fresh off the stalk minutes before it was dropped in the boiling water, onions fresh out of the garden sliced and turned into the best onion rings, all the fresh vegetables (that I ate fried mostly), and cinnamon rolls out of a can. Just some of the comfort foods that are coming to mind. Oh, and meat. We lived on a farm. We would have our own cows butchered and we filled the freezer. We’d eat steaks and roast for a while and then work our way down until short ribs were the only things left. There is definitely a difference between good meat and so-so meat. Pizza made from a little box at my grandmother’s. Cream of Wheat at her house. Fresh tomatoes. I even experienced fresh milk— as in still warm from the cow – and real cream and real butter. I would like to try that again. Mom’s chocolate cake and her polka dot cake.

Ohmygod— cherry pie. I just thought of cherry pie. If I could time travel and go back for one plate of one food in my life it would be, hands down, Mom’s cherry pie made with cherries from our cherry trees or from my Aunt Dorothy’s cherry tree, all which were off shoots of my great-grandmother’s cherry trees. Small, sour, delicious. The best cherries in the world and a pie from them was the thing. Mark got to experience one piece of the ultimate cherry pie once. I’ve only had it one time in the last 20 years and I guess I have to come to terms with the fact that I never will. I don’t even attempt cherry pie because anything I make from any kind of store bought or farmer’s market cherry is never ever going to live up to that taste.

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October 14, 2013

Goodbye

Filed under: At home,Garden — Janice @ 11:07 pm

Ah, we are sad. Mark discovered this weekend (before the floods hit Austin Saturday night) that one of his favorite cacti has rotted away. It’s in a pot without great drainage and that is always a danger with any plant, but especially cactus that are sitting out where it rains on them. This is what it looked like in its glory days:

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I have LOTS of pictures like this with it in full bloom because I would come out of the front door, dashing off to work, and spot this beauty and have to stop and take a picture before proceeding. I’m sure Mark has some that are more stunning.

Fortunately, cactus are SOMETIMES easy to get started again. We’ll see if this one can be. I have dissected the rotten parts and have lots of little “babies” curing in the kitchen right now. Some hormone powder and some vermiculite and maybe we’ll have some new baby blooms soon.

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