This post, 2015 October, Glinda’s Garden Day, was written by Annie in Austin/ Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

The hot dry weather continued over most of Austin in September 2015. In the neighborhood where Sophia, Karla and I live there was no measurable rainfall from the beginning of July to the 3rd week of October - some precious moisture did fall on other parts of Austin.

Once we got into October some red Spider lilies brightened the garden. Would there be more flowers when the Divas of the Dirt came to my (Glinda's) house?

One tree was already looking forward to fall – here is the loquat forming buds on October 12th

October was my assigned month as hostess but there was no good date for everyone. Our Divas of the Dirt lives were even busier and more erratic than usual. I was expecting out-of-visitors, other Divas faced necessary medical procedures, one was going to a big formal wedding in East Texas, another was involved in house renovation work. There were fundraising events for nonprofits, birthdays, people arriving and leaving, aging parents in need of care, and some of us hoped to go on the semi-annual Travis County Master Gardeners tour on the 17th. I decided to go with Halloween day – no matter how many of us showed up, we could have a few laughs.

A couple of us made it to Pam Penick's extraordinary garden for the Master Gardeners tour – what fun! 

A few days after the tour my out-of-state houseguests arrived, and the moment the wheels of their plane hit the runway at ABIA, it started to drizzle. The promised El Nino was sneaking in.

Rain fell off-and-on for days – in our neighborhood the total was about 13" over an 11-day period. One big storm dropped more than a foot of rain in places like Wimberley, South Austin, and Buda – a dangerous and damaging amount of water. 

Meteorologist Emily Borchard posted an amazing map showing the speed at which the rains had banished drought.

Then some sad news – one of the Divas would soon be on the road, heading to the funeral of a beloved relative.

The day before our meeting, more than 4” of rain fell in a few hours in my neighborhood, swirling and threatening to lift the pots on the patio. Thank heavens our lot has a bit of a slope!

From the front porch I could see a squirrel clinging to the underside of the Arizona Ash trunk, trying not to be swept away by the downpour.

By Halloween morning the rain had slowed to a drip. I added a black lace cover to the piano and topped it with an orange pumpkin.

The dining room table was set with a few Halloween decorations, ready for the arrival of Mattie, Sophia, Buffy and Annie.

The casserole was ready for the oven  and it was costume time! When the Divas arrived, they were greeted by someone from the days of early TV – Lucy, the Vitameatavegamin saleswoman from I Love Lucy.

This goofy idea got a great reaction from Buffy! Thanks to Sophia for snapping the photo.

Eventually we got around to eating breakfast – cranberry juice, orange juice and coffee to drink, cut up pineapple, red grapefruit and watermelon for fruit, and a casserole of wild rice, jasmine rice, eggs, shallots, mushrooms, Greek yogurt and Swiss cheese. And pear bread with blueberry preserves and cream cheese frosting.

After breakfast we kept talking for awhile because the yard so wet. But we couldn’t stay inside – maybe we should just take a stroll around the garden to look at the plants or sit on the patio? Sophia took a photo when Annie gave this a try.

 Well, you know those Divas of the Dirt – the “looking” part only lasted a few minutes and soon they were raking up the leaves and sticks, then pulling tree seedlings and weeds out of the softened earth. [Photo by Sophia]

They said raking was no big deal, but when they were done – it was a big deal to me!

Buffy decided to tackle the horrible Bermuda grass which was trying to take over the parkway.

Look at the parkway after her work - what a garden angel!

Mattie’s pooch Barbie is our unofficial mascot and a good companion when we’re in the garden. 

Although it was too wet to plant bulbs or transplant perennials, the cleanup made an enormous difference.

There are no photos of the simple lunch – I borrowed Sophia’s panini grill and made sandwiches with Black Forest ham and Herbed turkey on a choice of rye bread, sourdough or gluten free bread. There was a green salad with tomato wedges and avocado dressing.

There are photos of the dessert – a mostly gluten free Black Forest Cake from a recipe I found online.

I had all the pieces baked and ready to assemble – starting with the chocolate shortbread base. This layer was not gluten-free but since it was separated from the rest of the cake by whipped cream, anyone avoiding flour could just leave it on the plate.

In another bowl was a mound of just-whipped cream.

There were three chocolate sponge cakes, pre-soaked with cherry juice spiked with Kirschwasser, ready to be spread with cherry preserves and layered with whipped cream.

Then the cream was topped with chocolate curls. The cake was a hit!

With the ground still quite saturated, we’d done all that could be done outdoors … it was time for everyone to go home and get ready for the Trick or Treaters!

A few days later, the rain convinced bluebonnet seedlings to sprout. The seedlings would have enough time to grow before April bloom time.
This post, 2015 October, Glinda’s Garden Day, was written by Annie in Austin/ Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.



This post, 2015 - SEPTEMBER  SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the DIrt Blog
2015 - September Sophia's Garden Day

The abundant rains of May and June 2015 stopped as suddenly as they had started. July and August straggled along, hot and dry. Although September brought no relief, Austin weatherfolk assured us of El Nino moisture ahead so people who had been putting off garden work were once again making plans and starting projects. 

In early September, Sophia sent this photo of her Schoolhouse Lilies (AKA Oxblood Lilies) beginning to bloom.

 A clump of my Schoolhouse lilies bloomed a week later, after I encouraged them with a drink from the hand-held hose.
 Sophia's Garden Day dawned with the daunting prediction for a high temperature of 97°F. I live closest to Sophia and was the first Diva of the Dirt to arrive - what did I see in Sophia & Roger's driveway? Two pallets of grassy sod...
 And about 4 yards of amended soil! Luckily we'd be working in filtered sun from the small-leaved Cedar Elm trees.

The calendar said this was Talk Like A Pirate Day, but the only Sea we'd be dealing with was a Sea of grass.

Over the years, we’ve removed large amounts of lawn from almost every Diva yard to make beds and borders and reduce water needs. but we also know that in some places, a little lawn works best. Sophia's request was that we redo the space between the front beds and groundcover borders, making a semi-shaded, cool grassy area for visiting grandchildren to play. The area now alternated between mud and dust – not a good choice for the kids.
 Mattie and Annie arrived soon after I did, with Karla pulling up next. When Buffy drove up, she brought the electric tiller. A few years ago, we Divas of the Dirt chipped in and bought this handy tool so it could be ready when we needed it.

Breakfast would be ready soon but Sophia (being Sophia!) offered a first course of coffee and two fruit breads from HEB - how can you choose between Peach Melba Bread and Triple Berry Bread?
 Mindy and Sugar couldn't be there for breakfast but would be coming later. So six of us went in to admire the autumn decor of the dining room. I can't wait for those beautiful berries but please hide that candy corn!

Oh, my - maybe it was a mistake to have tried both kinds of fruit bread... Sophia made Cheese Grits?

There was a big bowl of Blueberries, Strawberries and Grapes, there were juices, there were scrambled eggs and Jimmy Dean pork sausages, too.

Who could not love a bouquet of big, friendly-faced golden sunflowers?
 Breakfast was almost over when the three-member canine crew made an appearance. Mattie had brought Barbie to visit Sophia's two dogs. Luckily we were already sitting down because they so excited they began running laps around the dining room table. That brown blur at left is Barbie (seen often in previous posts), the handsome grey gentleman in the middle is Chukster and at right is Miss Magnolia, the young-black-Lab-who-thinks-she's-a-Bichon Frise. Magnolia has a sweet temperament, but she is sure that she can fit into the same spaces she did as a puppy!
 Once we went outside, it was time to get any weeds or grass out, to dump the amended soil where the sod would go, to rake it over the area and to then run the tiller - this process would take a very long time.

Here is Mattie raking the dumped soil, spreading it out so the tiller can work.
 Sophia took the first turn at running the tiller.
The soil in the designated area was gradually amended and mixed.
We alternated tasks and worked on other beds and borders. The soggy spring followed by a too-dry summer meant death to rosemary plants all over Austin. Some of the goners were large old plants in Sophia's parkway.
Other unhappy plants were the two Mutabilis roses - usually one of the toughest roses in Central Texas, but not this year. It would take some time to get all the dead wood out – and we had to watch out for the thorns.

The tiller works best with a rotating crew. Some of the Divas of the Dirt were up for operating the tiller, some of us knew we couldn’t handle it. This time it’s Karla as the tiller driver.

Although she broke one garden fork in half while doing it, our Buffy got that dead rosemary out of the parkway.
 We took time to admire the plants that were thriving, like this combination of Blue Plumbago, Burgundy-leaved Oxalis and Northern Sea Oats.
 Before the sod could be set into place, the advice from the sod company was to soak the ground first. How could we do this without walking through mud while we worked on adjoining patches?  And exactly how should the squares be laid? What kind of pattern and direction would work best? As you can imagine, this part of the project took a long time, requiring a lot of discussion and some trial and error.
 Sugar and Mindy had both arrived to help, and soon different sections of the front yard were in different stages of progress  – soil dumping, soil mixing, watering and sod laying happening at the same time. Mindy and I filled the wheelbarrow over and over, then she steered it to the next spot to dump it.

Some Divas used the dolly or the wheelbarrow to move the sod squares around – other Divas liked to just grab a couple of pieces off the stacks. Diva Annie joked that we still had enough sod for a green sofa.
 Sophia had been busy inside - a wonderful lunch of Challah bread, herbed pasta with veggies, baked crunchy chicken fillets, and a huge green salad with choice of dressings was on the table by 3:15pm.

Sugar, Buffy, Karla, Mattie! Come on in and have lunch!
 I don't know how Sophia makes that chicken, but it is amazingly delicious. With a salad for healthy crunch, great bread and yummy pasta, who could want more?
 But you know there will be more - do you see what's in the bakery box?

Sophia conjured up a chocolate Italian Cream Cake (think it was from Upper Crust Bakery) with our group's name on the top.
 The afternoon temperature topped out at 96°F and while the number of squares on those pallets had been greatly reduced, there was still a lot to do after lunch - including fitting the edges along the driveway.
 We also had a lot of finishing to do with the edges along the front sidewalk. We Divas did what we could before we had to leave, but Sophia and Roger will have to complete more of the project tomorrow.
Saturday night is the official night for running hose end sprinklers – watering will be necessary until the promised rain arrives. Goodbye for now from the Divas of the Dirt! Grow little front lawn, grow and thrive.

This post, 2015 - SEPTEMBER  SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the DIrt Blog