Monday, December 24, 2007


Pecan Pickers and Christmas!

We headed to my hometown this week and while visiting my Grandmother's house, I decided that we need a pecan tree. Why? Well, when I finally arrived to the house, my parents, who had our children with them, were already there and hanging out on the front lawn. I didn't realize what they were doing until I too got out of my car and my heart jumped with joy and head spun with memories all at the same time.

I lived for 4 years with my Abuelitos and I remember the day this pecan tree was planted by my Tio Carmelo on the front lawn. (He lived next door) I also remember my Tia Liz running over it with the mower and how funny we thought it was when she realized what she had done!

That tree, meant a lot to me.

I remember walking circles around this very young tree while waiting for my Uncle and Aunt to arrive with their new baby, Alejandrina. Running round it while chasing fireflies, catching them and putting them into my mayo jar as we watched the little leaguers play ball across the street--waiting until Tio Carmelo said 'Vamos' and we all walked to the concession stands to buy nachos, hot dogs or steak fingers. Staring past it from our patio as I watched my very distraught mother drove away to my aunt's house on the night it burned, taking the lives of my cousins. And crying next to it on the day Tio Carmelo did not return home...cancer had won. And of course, walking around the yard on many summer and fall days, picking up the pecans for my grandfather. He would in exchange, walk us to the gas station down the street to buy candy--I always chose a Ring Pop or one of those Dinosaur Eggs in the big black box with neon writing.

And now, I just want to up-root it and bring it home...but I can't.

So, it was the pecans from this tree that my children were picking up. Isabella had a plastic bag full and my son was taking some from a pile made by my mother and an Uncle, tossing them back into the grass and laughing out loud.

I joined in the fun of course, picking pecans and taking pictures. I was thankful for the 'flashbacks' on this Christmas Eve Day.

(You can see the tree behind my uncle in second picture.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Cactus Blooms

This plant has survived 4 moves, 3 freezes, a patio, deer, cat, puppy, a trip from Houston in a ziplock bag, only to be forgotten in the car for like a week and an owner who did not know how to properly care for it. And yet, today, it BLOOMED. It looks so proud (to actually be alive) and pretty! I am sure I will better care for this year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Playset & More

This is for the grandparents:

This is the swing set! We think we have decided on this one! We will add pea gravel to the 'safe play area' that is going to be pretty big. (38' X23') The playset includes a 2-level clubhouse with a roof, lower play deck and picnic table w/bench (instead of the sand box), tunnel entrance w/rock wall climbing ladder, 2 swings, one trapeze bar (we will add a baby swing for now though), a regular ladder to the second story clubhouse, a porch, sun deck. (Can't wait to add some flower boxes to the porch & deck for Bella!)

We will also be adding a trampoline (the one pictured), a large picnic/craft table (that we will customize by painting and decorating ourselves) and sandbox/wading pool combo (also pictured) to their play-area.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

December 'TO DO List' in Zone 8

  • Order seeds
  • Sow seeds for hardy spring-blooming plants
  • Plant winter- and spring-blooming bulbs
  • Plant fruit trees
  • Cut back on feeding houseplants (do not feed dormant houseplants)
  • Water living Christmas trees
  • Plant bare-root roses
  • Prune hardy dormant deciduous trees, shrubs, and vine
  • Prune winter-blooming shrubs and vines after bloom
  • Plant bare-root trees, shrubs, and vines
  • Apply dormant spray to trees
  • Sow seeds for cool-season or winter vegetables
  • Plant or transplant cool-season or winter vegetables
  • Protect tender plants from frost

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Design & Location

These are my top two choices.  Once I make up my mind (and Sean agrees) about where in the yard to place these raised beds then I will pick the design that best suites the space.   I am super excited and can't wait to begin shopping!

Garden Layout Options:  

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So many HERBS! Which ones shall we pick?

The ones that have made the cut:

Rosemary, Sage, Mints, Oregano, Marjoram, Basil, Thyme, Tarragon, Savory, Cilantro, Chives, Dill, Parsley, Coriander, French lavender, Bay Laurel, Lemon verbena, apasote and llerba buena (don't know the english name for last 2).  

And some trailing/creeping thyme.  

And if we plant in an area with some shade: spearmint, peppermint and Cuban oregano.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Master is stumped

We CAN NOT find out anything about our weeds.  So, after much researching, my speciality, I found the email address to the Travis County Master Gardener and we have been exchanging emails.  Well, about one week has gone by without any new info and I thought perhaps they had given up or just forgot about us...not so.  (Read Blog Entry about our pesky weed)

Today I received an email from them:  they are stumped!!?  I knew Sean and I couldn't have lost our touch...I mean we do research for a living and don't give up easily---we were (are) determined to find out what this weed is but even "The Masters" are having trouble.  

I have faith in them---Aggies they may be but then again so are most of my BFFs or they married one.  So, I feel the need to say: "Gig 'Em, Aggies!' (Aye, is it obvious this Longhorn went to one too many games in Aggie Land?)

Tammy's Email: (it includes some resourceful links as well)


We’re still on the hunt for the particular name of this plant.  It

appears to be a member of the Aster family of which many fit the

pictures you have sent us.  We will send this on to ”experts” that may

be able to tell us it’s true ID.  Once known we can offer suggestions

for eliminating it from your lawn area however this may not be easy

especially if you want to protect children and pets. 

We will be in touch…


Tommie C.

Travis County Master Gardener

PS – The “Wildflower Center” has a plants database with similar images

you may wish to check:; then search

on common name “daisy”.

Travis County Master Gardener Volunteer

Texas Cooperative Extension

1600 Smith Rd.

Austin, Texas 78721

(512) 854-9600

A Texas Winter

Yes, this indeed is a Texas Winter.  It's been drizzling for about three days now.  We did have 2 'cold' days then one extremely muggy and warm day followed by two more muggy, chilly, and rainy days.  How warm?  Well, we had our AC on last night and then had to turn the Heater back at 6 A.M and Sunday night we had the fireplace going.  Tomorrow people will go swimming in Barton Springs Pool (a personal fav) or the entire city will be in panic because the roads froze over.  

Me being negative:  Blah...rainy, muggy, weather makes the grounds soggy so we are stuck we go to the Library and Texas Jumping Beans

On the +side:  it is softening our soil =  it will be easier to move and break up।  :-) See, there is always something to smile about!  

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rain and Allergies

What? You don't have allergies? Good for you and STAY AWAY FROM AUSTIN. Boy, between the non stop rain and allergy attacks, I am not sure we will stay sane!!! Both kids have icky runny noses and mommy is just dizzy and tired. Poor Bella, she just stared out the window as the rain started up for the umpteenth time and sneezed.

No yard work for us these days but we have taken the time to work on our scrapbooks and other kiddies crafts but still, we miss being outside, running around, being oh so loud while we chase Sam who is usually chasing Pacey.

Oh sun, won't you come back?!?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ita's Roses

My Mother's roses.  I think they deserve honorable mention.  :-)

Friday, November 30, 2007

In the beginning...

There was tall, tall grass.

It took 2 large men with commercial weed eaters to cut our jungle down. A regular lawn mower could not go very long without choking. I kinda liked the tall, wispy grasses with its beautiful wild flowers. It was so green and lush. Our neighbors have told us that our back yard was where all the deer gathered at night to they sleep and poop, they poop a lot, in our front yard.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Breaking Ground!

We have begun to break ground and mark off the places we would like our gardens and flower beds to be. A trail, gazebo, playscape and herb, butterfly , veggie and flower picking gardens will be placed. It will take a while but through out the winter will be prepare the ground. In the spring we will install the playscape and bring in the plants. :-)

(Click on the slide show to see larger pictures and read the plans)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Winter Moon

I was driving home from Waco and in a very sad mood (I had just dropped off my babies at Mom's - she just had to have them this week) and along the way I kept my eyes on the moon. It was so bright and it changed shape as the clouds rolled by I took a picture of it the moment I walked in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cactus Seeds

Sean wants to plant some cacti in our yard. I think he got this idea after doing some research on xeriscaping for our new yard and while hanging out at the downtown Whole Foods Rooftop playscape that is surrounded by cacti and trees like ours। So, we took some fruit the last time we were there eating and playing and I cut it open to extract the seeds...lets see how this goes, shall we? lol!

Christmas Cactus ... who knew?

I have a christmas cactus that my MIL gave me YEARS ago. We both have the same plant on our patios and I recently gave my mom a clipping of mine.  I saw it on her patio last weekend--so sweet. I just walked outside to see that mine has many buds and I can't wait to see them bloom. It has also outgrown it's pot. So I did some research and well, I had no idea it had to sit in total darkness for so long! Eeek. Mine has endured years of sitting on a table on our patio, soaking up the Texas sun--year round.

As you know, we are newbie gardeners and as we stubble across, fall into or get hit in our sunblock coated faces with answers on how to care for our many plants, we will pass the info on।  :-)

Care of Christmas Cactus Important After Holidays

B. Rosie Lerner, Purdue Consumer Horticulture Specialist

While the poinsettia remains the most popular of the holiday plants, a healthy Christmas cactus in full bloom is a great gift idea for that special gardener. But along with that bounty of blooms, send these tips for keeping the plant looking its best.

Most blooming plants will keep their blossoms longer in cooler temperatures. Keep the plant in a well-lit location away from drafts from heat vents, fireplaces or other sources of hot air.

Watering seems to be the source of most problems with the Christmas cactus. The plant is a tropical type cactus and is not quite as drought tolerant as the name implies. However, it is a succulent plant and can store a reasonable quantity of water in the leaves. Water thoroughly when the top half of the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Discard the excess water, then do not water again until the top half becomes dry. The length of time between waterings will vary with the air temperature, amount of light, rate of growth and relative humidity.

After the blossoms fade, the plant isn't much to look at. But a little extra care will help bring it back to full bloom next year.

While the Christmas cactus can adapt to low light, more abundant blooms are produced on plants that have been exposed to high light intensity. Keep your plants in a sunny location indoors. Plants can be moved outdoors in summer, but keep them in a shady or semi-shady location. Too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves. When it's time to bring the plants back inside in the fall, slowly adjust the plants to life indoors by gradually increasing the number of hours they spend indoors each day.

Well-drained soil is a must for Christmas cactus. Use a commercially packaged potting mix for succulent plants or mix your own by combining two parts plain potting soil with one part clean sand or vermiculite.

Pruning your Christmas cactus after blooming will encourage the plant to branch out. Remove a few sections of each stem by pinching them off with your fingers or cutting with a sharp knife. These sections can be rooted in moist vermiculite to propagate new plants. Christmas cactus will bloom if given long uninterrupted dark periods. Begin the dark treatments in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. Christmas cactus will also bloom if they are subjected to cool temperatures of about 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Plants will be ready for the holidays if the cool treatments are started by early November.

First Frost

It was actually cold last night.  It is 8:19 AM and it's 38 degrees outside.  The frost is sparkling across the lawns of our neighborhood.  It's a good thing Pacey wasn't stubborn last night and actually came inside.   I don't think he would have wanted to turn into a Kitty-cicle.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Our Pal the Snake.

No, I don't like snakes. I do appreciate their place in our world, food chain and environment but I am very afraid of them. For personal reasons, of course. It was a snake in a garden that began a series of events in my young life (I was 9) that ended with the death of a very special person in my life. My grandmother. She was clearing weeds from one of her flower beds and came across a huge, brown snake---it sat there staring at her, it didn't move but it's presence was more than enough. (we never knew what kind it was) Later that day, she had a heart attack and by the end of the week, she was gone. I was in the room when this happened.

So, needless to say, I hold this against all snakes.

Or so I thought I did.

Recently, I have run into our new pet, a snake, over and over again. He's small. A 'Checkered Garter Snake'. I even almost picked him up in pile of leaves while cleaning around one our trees. I have watched him slither around my courtyard, bask in the sun, wrap himself around the base of a bush and just this last week, watched him make a meal out of frog.

I want to be ok with him being around. He's cute and all but still a snake...a harmless snake, but a snake, nevertheless.

So, in effort to overcome my ill will towards these creatures, I have decided to let him live in our yard. Our original plan was to find him a new home (as in moving him into the wooded area around/away from the trails around our home) but I have since changed my mind and want him around, roaming around freely in our yard and gardens.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The weeds that torment us!

Chickweed...or not. Heck we don't even know what this vile weed is but its really losing the battle at this point. It didn't respond to the weed and feed. It just turned black and turned into these hard miniature tree stumps that can break skin and hurt like the dickens if stepped on. So, everyday, as the kids run around and Sam chases Pacey, I pull these darn things; with pliers. What? You think that's drastic or lazy? Fine, then come on over and give them a too will be asking for gloves, pliers and 3 Advil within the hour.
Now, can anyone tell me what this weed is? ANYONE?!?

(below is a slideshow of one of the many afternoons we spent pulling these things from the earth)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Baby A. takes first steps in Courtyard!

Our baby took his first, unassisted steps in our front lawn courtyard! I knew this very much loved courtyard would be a place we could really enjoy.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Courtyard

The Courtyard was our first impression of the house--I fell in love as I envisioned having coffee on the front patio, the kids picking flowers. We loved the privacy it offered due to the way the house sits around the courtyard/patio and how large the front lawn is.

A couple of days after the house was completed and we had begun to move in...I noticed how OVERGROWN IT WAS! 

(pic was taken in July, before I went crazy on it!)

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So I began to pull weeds in middle of the JULY. I thought it could be done in a couple days. No way!! I had to pull the weeds, dig some of them up so as to not add any unnecessary chemicals, remove all the old and moldy mulch, move the 1 million rocks around, prune the dwarf nardines, cut the sage down to almost nothing, remove plants that were rotten from lack of care and cut the lantanas back as far off the pathway as I could. Then bag all the cutting and old, smelly mulch. Only to lay 2 loads worth of mulch. This was hard work I am sure. Sean was kind enough to do this for me as a surprise over a weekend while I was visiting my parents. (our community offers free mulch and free delivery!)
3 months later its a whole new courtyard. I LOVE IT. I will be adding a few more plants and a climbing jasmine on the left side as well as removing the 2 odd bushes on the right side. But first I have make sure the deer that sleep in our front yard wont eat what I plant.

(The following pictures were taken after all the back-breaking work was finished.)