Friday, January 04, 2013


After some last-minute car juggling on a hot May morning, Sophia, DivaAnnie and I made it down to Mindy's ranchette near Dripping Springs, soon followed by Buffy and Sugar. We learned that a family member's illness meant little sleep for Mindy, so assistant cooks Mattie and Karla had taken over the stove. In the living room, a slideshow of wildflower photos taken by Mindy & Warren on the backroads not far from Fredericksburg played on the TV - their images of fields of bluebonnets and other wildflowers were stunning.

With Memorial Day in view, Mindy's dining room wore red, white and blue with flags flying and photos of beloved veterans on display.

Every napkin had a sprig of rosemary, for remembrance.

I slipped out to take a few photos and noticed the oleander was in bloom

The peaceful pond was backed by Salvia darcyi and Salvia greggii in bloom.

Severe January & February weather in 2011 had killed Mindy's established Barbados cherries to ground level leaving only seedlings to carry on. I was glad to see that among the thriving Shrimp Plants, one seedling Barbados Cherry shrub had grown enough to make a few flowers.  

It was going to be a hot one! By the time breakfast was ready the sun's rays were strong in the dining room. Red strawberries, Blueberries and fluffy white biscuits played into Mindy's color theme, and to put on those biscuits? Yay! Mayhaw jelly is a special East Texas treat.

Breakfast ham and skillet fried potatoes drew us to the buffet

We did not try to resist the creamy scrambled eggs.

We always have a lot to talk about - and after breakfast the conversation continued as we fulfilled Mindy's request to go on a Nature Walk over her 2+ acres. Enough rain had fallen in winter and early spring 2012 to coax wildflowers out of the Hill Country soil - we recognized the ones we all grow like Blackfoot daisies and Zexmenia, but some were mysteries.

Mindy has lived here for years and even she hadn't seen some of these flowers before. To our eyes the delicate flowers were lovely, but the camera can barely find them among the fallen live oak leaves and tree seedlings. 

Could this be Rock flax? Yellow flax?

This one might be Nerve-Ray AKA Square-bud daisy or Tetragonotheca texana

Edwards plateau Five Eyes/ Chamaesaracha edwardsiana is my best guess for this one.

These fuzzy purple wands look like some kind of vervain from the verbena family.

The walk was fun but it was not peaceful! From every live oak came a sound like a small buzz saw. We caught glimpses of hot coral pink insects - were they cicadas? Soon everyone in Central Texas would know what they were - not cicadas but an invasion of Red Katydids. Something had made the native Paracyrtophyllus robustus or Central Texas leaf katydids go rogue: usually green, many had taken on a red form and the population had exploded.

Mindy had one more delight for us before we tried to get a little gardening done. She led us to a large rugged live oak near the drive and told us to look up and look hard. Oh! One of the baby owls was on a branch high overhead, the feathers so like the bark of the tree that only the silhouette helped us find it. The small owl elicited a cooing of Divas of the Dirt that was almost as loud as the buzz of katydids.

Once in gear, we spent a long time removing oak sprouts from the bed near the house, freeing up the white Turkscap/Wax Mallow plant.

Divas of the Dirt worked in different places - redid the entrance bed near the gate, cleaned up the beds near the pond and rejuvenated the containers.

We had more encounters with nature, none as thrilling as the baby owl.

Slugs showed up in poorly-drained pots and gigantic grubs appeared when we worked

The green form of the cicada landed on our tools and clothing

Warren dug up a dead yaupon and we made a new bed for grasses, cactus and lantana. We discovered that dragging a hose around to water plants with well water could be rather tricky.
While we worked, Mattie's visiting pup Barbie discovered a new friend in Mindy's lowslung dog Spud, and the two ran circles around each other in spite of the heat, making everyone laugh at their antics.

Since many of the Divas have Cobraheads, we've turned to patterned duck tape to identify them

The Paisley garden is young, but shaping up!

We clean up the front path every time we come to Mindy's house, but this year Mindy had an artistic addition in mind - designs of hope and health made with special stones.

Like sandpainting, it may not last... but the act of making the path is more important than owning the path.

Buffy wouldn't stop until she'd planted a small tree that had been patiently waiting in a container.

But the labs knew when to quit - they were plastered all over the cool kitchen floor tile.

We went in for... high tea?? It was after 5 pm, so not exactly lunch but certainly was delicious!

There were cooling pitchers of tea and lemonade

Warren had grilled Chicken thighs marinated in soy & sherry, skewered with pineapple - he'd also grilled zucchini, asparagus, peppers, mushrooms & onions

Broccoli slaw with ginger Asian dressing, avocados, etc. added vitamins and festive root beer floats added some fizz to our long busy day.

A rocky summer was ahead for many of the Divas of the Dirt - looking back makes me glad we had such a day together at Mindy's house last May.

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