photo: Lobularia maritima Sweet Alyssum

2003-12-08. Lobularia maritima (sweet alyssum) planted in the hollow of a rotted log. These are winter annuals from last year that revived with the cooler weather this November. Austin, Texas.

December 12th, 2003
Week 49: 12/3 – 12/9

Dateline 2016

It rained all day. Luckily, I blew all the leaves off the roof and paths yesterday. It rained all day on Dec 3 in 2011, too. AJM went on the same 20 mile run while I worked on the computer huddled under the electric blanket, albeit on a different project. I did sow some larkspur seeds in the northeast corner in a spot I prepared yesterday. I can see why people who live in cold climates have so much time to bake and be crafty.

Dateline 2003

A very welcome gray day, misty, then drizzly, then a thunderous downpour. Just yesterday the Statesman was reporting that Travis County was under a burn ban, since we only received two-thirds of our usual rain for the year. All around us, the rain levels have been normal or higher than average. But Austin is in a little black hole of rainlessness.

And then today it rained. I gathered the rain harvest in every wheelbarrow and bucket I own. And, yes I do have a rain barrel. I just wish I had more.

A single rose blooms here and there. Today I cut ‘Peace’, ‘Souvenir de St Anne’s’ and ‘Blush Noisette’. I’m having a lot of problems with mildew especially on ‘Souvenir del Malmaison’ and ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ which are along the same south-facing wall.

This year, I didn’t wait for a freeze to kill off the summer vegetables, but took action and cleared them out. A lingering death is so ignoble.

Dateline 2001

The weather is setting the holiday mood; it continues to be cold, gray, and drizzly. I like this weather in this season of Advent because it makes me feel like baking, or sitting in front of a fire writing Christmas messages.

The garden needs tidying, but it will have to wait. I’m not in the mood to rake sodden leaves and the lawn is too wet to mow, even though it needs it. The bright green annual rye has now grown 6 inches.

Only the trailing lantana is in full flower. Some of the Grand Primo narcissus are sending up their flower spikes. The nandina berries are brilliantly red against deep green foliage (the foliage in my yard has not changed color as I’ve seen in other places).

In past years, I’ve spent this week cleaning up freeze damage. There is a sense of relief in the finality of a really hard freeze. But Austin’s first big freeze two weeks ago did not affect our yard. Both in summer and winter, the buildings downtown store and radiate heat, always making our yard a couple of degrees warmer than the official temperature at Camp Mabry. So the old tomato and basil plants linger on and I’m in no mood to deal with them.

photo: Texas State Capitol in Fall
2003-12-06. Fall color at the Texas State Capitol.

December 6th, 2003
Fall Color

Displaced Yankees often complain about the lack of fall color in central Texas. While it’s true that we lack the brilliant hues of a New England autumn, I’m thankful that while they’re trying to shovel themselves out of a massive snowfall, we’re enjoying weather like this today.

August may be miserable here, but damn!, December’s gorgeous.

photo: Cedar Elm
The cedar elms have produced spectacular color this year. Just as they lose their leaves, the red oaks will start turning color. Autumn drags out gradually here in Austin, rather than exploding in one big bang of color.

photo: privacy fence
2003-12-05. Old and new fences.

December 4th, 2003
Procrastination Pays Off

I’m always trying to teach the boys that procrastination doesn’t pay, but today proved me wrong. Our back yard is surrounded on two sides by a 4-foot chain link fence and on the third side by a 6-foot wooden privacy fence. The privacy fence, I’m loathe to admit, is in disrepair. It’s never really recovered from that storm in 1995 when a tree fell on it. I prop it up and it falls over. The wood is dry and splitting. It barely supports the assault of the neighbor’s ivy, which is the only thing it has going for it.
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photo: Blunn Creek
Mid-1980s. JQS plays in a flooded Blunn Creek after a summer storm. Increased amounts impermeable ground cover, like the parking lot of the condos where we lived, result in a certain amount of flooding after every rain, even twenty years ago.

December 3rd, 2003
Save Blunn Creek

What kid can resist the lure of water? When my son was a child, we lived on the banks of Blunn Creek. Only three years had passed since Austin had raised the money to create a nature preserve from the Storm tract, forty acre. between St. Edward’s University and Travis High School. Since we had no yard of our own, we used to take walks there in what seemed like our own private wilderness. We saw rabbits! I bought my first Texas wildflower identification book because the wealth of flowers I saw made me aware that there was a lot more to outdoors than a clipped lawn. Not that we even had that. Blunn Creek Preserve and the two Stacy Parks (Big and Little) were the only places for us condo dwellers to play outside.
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