Texas Tea Garden

We were especially lucky with the rain this Spring at the ol’ Sparkle Farm. Perhaps so lucky that it left us a little overconfident in our abilities to nurture pretty. Either way, I was delighted to come across this article by Jessie Kissinger in Popular Mechanics (of all places) that details the process we use on parts of the property to better harmonize with our surroundings.

We call the area pictured above our “Texas Tea Garden”. It is about 1/3 of acre, all of the plants are volunteers, and it’s located just off the back of our house. We spent some time last year making sure any non-natives and unsavory natives (stinging nettle and poison ivy) were removed from the area. We also planted a cover crop of Crimson Clover for our wedding (and to fix nitrogen). The results were stunning. Insects and wildlife moved in to take advantage of the food and habitat and we enjoy the spectacle of it every day. We even mowed a maze of paths throughout. You can be 15 feet in and it feels like a whole other world. These videos were taken a little late in the season for showing the abundance of wildflowers we saw this year.

Some of the birds we see on the daily are Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, Eastern Phoebes, the occasional Summer Tanager, and Cardinals.

The “Texas Tea” refers to more than just the gallons of sun tea we enjoy in the grapevine arbor for most of the year. “Texas Tea” is oil, or in our case, honey. We were so incredibly lucky to move next door to Richard and Brenda Travis and their wonderful apiary at Sprinkle Springs Farm. They have quite the head start when it comes to farm life and usually “keeping up with the Travis'” is a far fetched aspiration. They have been so generous with their knowledge and the fruits of their labor that we are always looking for ways to give back. This year it was in the form of White Sweetclover, or as some people call it, Honey Clover.

A Mud Dauber is having a taste.
One acre in the upper left

The clover appeared as a volunteer, out of nowhere, on a acre that is usually reserved for our dewberry patch. It was an off season for the berries and the Texas Leaf Cutters made sure any pickings would be light. I noticed the clover trying to take hold so we just let it ride. Combined with the generous rainfall, the acre turned into a sickly sweet fairy forest that intoxicated your nose like a candle in your Grandma’s powder room. The Travis’ bees went nuts, as did every other insect looking for a sugar fix, like the mud dauber in the picture above.

I wouldn’t say our little experiment back-fired. It front-fired. The Travis’ are overwhelmed with honey at the moment. So much so that they have temporarily lowered their prices. This honey is good y’all, real real good.

Come on by and get some “Sparkle Farm Sweetclover Reserve”. At these prices, you can sweeten your sun tea with it.