Every September I wait. I wait for the wild sunflowers to turn brown so the lesser goldfinches can have their fill. I wait for the horsemint and gallardia to drop all of their seeds for next year. I wait for the last mexican hat to tip. and I almost always forget to wait for the false foxglove.

We haven’t had rain in so long that I forget to wait for the patches of purple that play host to the buckeye butterflies. What kind of sadist flower waits until the end of summer in Travis County to bloom?

I forgot to wait again this year, but luckily I was too lazy hitch up the shredder in this oppressive heat. 

I will wait a little more.

Rest in Pieces

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the end of one of our last two centenarian pecan trees. We have lost two out of three this year. This was the tree we got married under only one and a half years ago. You can see the bracket fungus all up and down the side in this photo. It attacks the heart wood and once you see it in this stage, it is pretty much too late to save the tree. This one was such a giant, that we made the decision to take it down before it fell. Rest in pieces you ol’ beauty.

We counted the rings and it looks like the tree’s first year was 1874.

Here are a few interesting things that happened the year the tree was born:

Jan 1 New York City annexes the Bronx
Jan 17 Armed Democrats seize Texas government ending Radical Reconstruction
Jan 31 Jesse James gang robs a train at Gads Hill, Missouri
Mar 2 National Association of Professional Baseball Players officially adopts the batter’s box; decide any player betting on his own team will be expelled; any player betting on any other team to forfeit his pay
Mar 10 Purdue University (Indiana) admits its 1st student
Apr 15 NY legislature passes compulsory education law
Apr 15 First ‘Impressionist’ exhibition opens in Paris, features Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot
May 9 The first horse-drawn bus makes its début in the city of Mumbai, plying two routes
May 14 1st admission charge at a football game, Harvard beats Uni of McGill (Montreal) 3-0
Jun 22 Game of lawn tennis introduced
Jul 1 1st US zoo opens (Philadelphia)
Aug 26 16 blacks lynched in Tennessee
Nov 24 American inventor Joseph Glidden patents barbed wire
Dec 8 Jesse James gang takes train at Muncie Kansas
Dec 12 Hawaii King David Kalakaua is 1st king to visit the US as guest of Ulysses S. Grant at 1st US state dinner at the White House
Dec 15 1st reigning king to visit US is the King of Hawaii, received by President Grant
Dec 24 Pope Pius IX proclaims a jubilee for 1875


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.