Saturday, January 2, 2016

No place to hike?

   The new title of my blog is purposely chosen to highlight the plight of those who live in good old Texas, but want to follow the hiking life. Although Texas is the largest land mass of the lower 48 states, we probably  have the least amount of available miles of trail to hike and camp on.

   Texas, when joining the Union, managed to keep  ownership of it`s public lands. Most of which was sold off in the 19th century, leaving little or nothing for public use or for the Feds to set aside for
protection when that became popular at the beginning of the 20th century. When you really look at how big Texas is and how little land is set aside for state parks, etc.. you see how truly pitiful it is. Even those areas that are set aside for state parks are under-funded and falling apart, closing, etc.

   Those of us who live in Texas know the beauty of the Texas Hill Country. What a shame that a National Scenic Trail can`t be established there, comparable to the Ouachita and the Ozark Highland Trails in Arkansas, The Arizona Trail, or the Missouri Trail.  The list is endless at what is available away from Texas. I don`t mean to say that we have nothing, but compared to those I mentioned, ours pale.

   I just returned from an overnight hike and camp in the Ouachitas of Arkansas . A scouting trip for a much longer hike there later this month. The quality and beauty of the trails is breathtaking !

   My solo campsite, Next to the above pictured stream.

   This area is only 5 hours from where I live in Texas, thankfully, and  after this first excursion, I intend to walk every mile of trail the state offers, which is hundreds ! The trail is called the Eagle Rock Loop, a 26-30 mile loop made up of parts of the Little Missouri Trail, the Athens-Big Fork Trail, and the Viles Branch Trail. The link follows :

   We will try it in late January, weather allowing . I`l take plenty of pics!

Friday, January 1, 2016

To all my subscribers, a change in title and focus

Hi to all , I haven`t posted in a long while and I thought I would use this opportunity to announce a change in direction.  My gardening efforts have proved to be a mixed bag and though I am still interested in them, my current attention has been mainly focused on backpacking, hiking and camping with my son, Steven.  We have spent the fall on several  overnight hikes in preparation for an extended mountain hike in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. I am going to change the name of my blog to:

The Texas Backpacker

A blog about hiking, backpacking and the gear it takes to do it.

I hope you all will stay with me and enjoy some of the adventures we have had and are planning. I intend to also note the plant life we encounter on our travels.  Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wasted Years

   In 2012 I began a major overhaul of the  landscape around our 3 acres. I hauled in tons of rock, built paths, beds, added countless bags of soil amendments. had new , elaborate steps of stained concrete poured along with joining, front bed sidewalks. Put in large amounts of plantings, mostly perennials and native shrubs and mulched these extensively. I scoured the countryside in a radius of 50 miles for every native plant that could be dug or it`s seed gathered and placed these in my landscape. I reclaimed areas at the back of the property from thick Bahia grass with herbicide and sowed seeds of native prairie species, along with transplanting native cacti that would be found in these prairie remnants. All in all, as any reader of this blog would agree, labors of love. 2013 and 2014 were years that these labors yielded their fruits. Growth, muliplying, self seeding, and of course, blooms in all seasons. That being said , 2015 reared it`s ugly head.

   By June 1, we received more than our yearly average rainfall, IN TORRENTS. After June 15, not one more drop of rain has fallen on my property . The floods killed many of the hardiest plants or washed them out. I won`t even describe the vegetable garden. The searing heat and new drought has finished off many of what was left. The sandy soil of the Post Oak Savannah holds neither moisture or nutrients. This sand eats soil amendments for breakfast and is ready for anything else it can get. Any nutrients that might have been hiding from it got washed away in the earlier glut of rain.  Watering is really not practical here as the expense of it on the large scale of our property is prohibitive. All of which leaves me disheartened and frustrated. I have often thought of my grandparents, farmers, without subsidies, who tried to eke out a living in this area. Fighting the vagaries of the soil and the Texas climate. They were obviously made of sterner stuff than me! They didn`t have much choice, I do. I`m sitting back now and not lifting a hand to any of it. What survives will survive and what doesn`t,  will not. So be it. I always have the pictures I took for this blog to remind me that it wasn`t all wasted effort.

   Any suggestions from those of you who have had similar experiences are welcome. I don`t have pictures to post with this rant. You`ve all seen ugly landscapes , I`m very sure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Native Plant Week

   Native Plant Week is here and some of the the things growing around here warrant a bit of attention. This Fall continues warm and fairly dry, though we did get some few inches of much needed rain a little over a week ago. Here are my picks.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium- Fall aster

Conoclinium greggii- Gregg`s mistflower

Conoclinium coelestinum- Wild argeratum

Schizachyrium scoparium-Little bluestem

Andropogon ternarius- Splitbeard bluestem

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri- Lindheimers muhly

Ageratina havanensis-White mistflower

Verbesina encelioides-Cowpen daisy  and

Salvia coccinea-Scarlet Sage

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

First Monarch

   On the last day of  a sadly dry September, the first Monarch showed up in my garden . I ran for the camera to record the event. I know some of you in Texas got rain in the past month, but not us, here, in old Teague. NOT A DROP ! The temps have been hovering around 90 and it has taken some of the wind out of my gardening sails. However, the arrival of my long traveled friend gave me a lift!

The Coleus had this one  busy .

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pilgrimage to a Plano Prairie

   One of my favorite blogs is Michael McDowell`s Plano Prairie Garden, the continuing story of a suburban home`s cookie cutter lawn turned into a mini prairie. Michael had been kindly holding a couple of Beebrush plants for me and I finally drove up on Labor Day to collect my plants, meet Michael and, of course, tour his gardens. All exceeded expectations. I liked everything and the contrast with his neighbors is striking. Michael is very stingy with water( unlike me) and his selection of plants supports that. So many of his plants are gathered from seed and transplants, much like my efforts. Here are a few snaps of my visit.

Michael , as I drove up, coming out to meet me. This was my first view of the front patch.

Most things are in dry season dormancy now, but he was out working getting ready for the fall bloom. However there is still plenty of interest from the cacti, sotols, yuccas, and other xeric plants.
A view from the other direction. It was a very sunny morning as you can see. I really liked his use of decomposed granite for paths and for actual planting medium. Plants seem to readily reseed into it.

  There are a great many Gayfeather plants and they are almost ready to bloom

Michael heading in to point out something in particular to me.

The contrast with his neighbors is  very worthy of notice as you can see from the picture above and below. The Leavenworth eryngo is a personal favorite of mine and he has several stands. I owe Michael and Pam at Digging for making me aware of it.

Here is a stand in back and all of his put mine to shame!

He also gave me some seed from his Clammy weed, an interesting looking plant. The pic doesn`t capture it`s true beauty.

Thanks again to Michael McDowell for his hospitality and the inspiration for my own native plant efforts. Go visit if you find yourself near Big D ! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Gardens in August and the Bees Love It

  Can it really be this late in the summer? Occasional showers and oddly out of place cool fronts , interspersed with the usual heat have been a change from the usual fare. I haven`t been posting much, however, that doesn`t mean I haven`t been in the gardens. I`m off work this week for a late season staycation and thought I would share a bit of what`s blooming and what`s feeding in the scape. First of all, if you ever get the chance to plant African basil, do it !  The bees love it and paired with Caryopteris, one can spend a great deal of time just watching them.

The Caryopteris is a new plant for me this year and I expect it will be better every year.

   You know that fall is near when the Leavenworth eryngo begins to change to a deep purple. This plant is a volunteer from a plant I had in the front of the house last year. None of the seed I saved and planted came up, but I suppose the birds or the wind planted this one out back. I hope I can keep it going year to year in this alien,( for this particular plant), oak savannah. The first picture is the first flower to form.

The later flowers are following the change.

   The shady area on the creek side of the house is a  pleasant place in August. One walks down from the deck to the pool area and passes some shade loving plants, Hostas, Coleus, various grasses and sages, and Blue mistflower taken from the wild. This is the time it begins to bloom and it also signals late summer.

   Coleus, Aztec grass, Maiden grass, Papyrus, Potato vine, Bamboo muhly. Dwarf Mexican petunia, and Passion vine. Cherry laurels in the foreground. They are prolific along the creek.

   A view from the shade out to the sunny front.

   Inland sea oats in full seed.

   Soft leaf yucca , doubled in size in a year !

   Another sign that the days are getting shorter is the budding Fall obedient plant.

   Wild bergamot gone to seed, need some anyone? Let me know!

  Along with playing in my plots, I`ve been busy gathering seeds in the wild. Lemon mint, American basket flower, Silver bluestem, Prairie parsley, Illinois bundle flower and whatever else I can lay my hands on. I`ve killed about 600 square feet of bahia grass out  in the  back prairie patch and am going to experiment  with seeding without the competition of the s,mfdglkuy5o7i8yr,ekjh  bahia ! I`m also going to stay on top of the winter rosettes and transplant more species during winter.

 Happy August !  September and planting time will be here soon.