A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Got Here As Fast As I Could

When Sarah was 7 years old we purchased our place in the Texas Hill Country. We had spent 2 years searching; following up all leads we got from the small town newspapers we subscribed to. Originally we were only looking for 5 acres but ended up with 54. Things happen that way sometimes!

I had been working part time and when we purchased the property I went to work full time to help pay for it. I worked in a small office with a couple of women. One, Terese, was very nice and the other, Cathy, was somewhat annoying. She prided herself on being a “native Texan” and never let a chance go by to look down her nose at me for not being born in Texas. I should have pointed out to her that William Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett had not been born here either, but I didn’t think of it at the time.

(Photos - John  and Zac canoeing on Llano with Rickie; Lisa and Larry on Copperas Creek near Roosevelt)

Why this mattered to her, I don't know. But she considered herself Texan and me not.  She had one flaw in her claim to Texas over me though, in my opinion. She had never been outside the Houston area. She liked her subdivision only and had no love of the actual true heart of Texas. When my friend Terese and I would talk about the Hill Country, she would wrinkle up her nose. She had no love of the hills, and the plants, and the clear water, and the rocks! She liked her concrete and her Homeowner’s Association rules.

(Photo - Llano River at Yates Crossing)

Terese said something to us one day that has stuck with me. She said either you are drawn to the Hill Country or you are not. And those of us that are drawn to it can never explain it to the others or convince them of the beauty of it.

I consider myself lucky to be a person that is drawn to a certain area. Some people say they have no idea where they would live if they could live anywhere. I find that sad.

From the first time I went to the Hill Country, I was hooked. The clear air, the way it feels on your skin, the way the colors are brighter and clearer. The limestone and the way it tints the water of the Llano aqua colored. The whiteness of the limestone in the hills and the smell of caliche in the air. The far views, the beautiful sunsets, the live oaks and mesquites. The history of it and the culture of it and the toughness of the people and wildlife that inhabit it. My heart soars when I look out upon it. I pine away for it when I’m not there.  We would do anything in our power to have a place there and Rickie and I have sacrificed much in other areas of our life to make it happen.

(Photo - Nat, Sarah, and Lexi at Barton Springs in Austin)

There are other places I could live but they all have the same physical qualities. They are dry and have hills and plants that stick! They embody the westerners sense of independence and are a little bit wild, so that if you wandered off you might not make it back. If you are out of one of the cities they look a lot like they did 200 years ago.

My friend Myra feels this way about the Montana she calls home as does my mom-in-law Dot about her beloved Mississippi. And my sister Jackie about living near the coast. My cousin’s husband Ralph took us on a john boat tour of the bayou in South Louisiana one time and we saw the land through his eyes, the land he loved.

I hope you have a place you feel this way about whether it is in the country or the city. Someplace that you know you would pick if anyone asked you where would you live if you could live anyplace. And if you don't, I hope you go out and find that place!

"Land really is the best art." Andy Worhol

Monday, January 23, 2012

How does your garden grow?

Rickie and I spent a few hours working in the garden Saturday. The weather was perfect. 70s and sunny!

(Photo - Rick waters a sunflower that has survived the winter)

Rickie pruned his grapes. We are hoping for a better year than the last one. We had so few grapes last summer that we left them all for the birds. They needed them more than we did. Maybe we will have enough this year for a small batch of wine or some jelly.

We lost one of our two oldest peach trees to the drought and Rickie cut it down. It was almost 20 years old. These two peach trees were the first things we planted in the garden. I had gone to Kerrville to the Golden Eagle Nursery and purchased two Red Globe peaches while Rickie was installing a drip irrigation system. This variety has proven to be well suited to the Hill Country, but is now impossible to find. Growers seem to like tinkering with plants even when they don’t need it. We have added other varieties through the years but none have done as well as these two. One survived the summer and Rickie will add a new tree so that we can continue to have peaches. He’s a good plant researcher so I’m sure he will come up with something that will at least have a shot of producing!

Rickie left the tree trunk of the dead peach tree standing with the main branches cut short. Maybe Bixby will use it for his first climbing tree! Jeremy, who is now 15, was the only grandchild that was a tree climber! He liked to climb up the crooked trunks of the oak trees out here. 

(Photo - Jeremy back when he was a tree climber)

Rickie also planted some giant cabbage plants. The picture on the plants showed a baby next to them and the cabbage was that big. We’ll see how that works out here in dry country! Ha! 

(Photo - Sarah and a cabbage about 25 years ago)

As a nod to his Mississippi heritage, he planted some crimson clover in one area of the pasture and also some in a pot on the porch for me. It is a beautiful sight to see the highway a solid red when the clover blooms in Mississippi!

I continued with the weeding I started this week. The winter weeds were getting out of control! While Rickie and I both like a weed free garden it bothers me more than him. I believe it has to do with our childhood garden experiences. He was raised in the country and had a gigantic garden! His dad worked out of town during the week and his mom was left to take care of the house, garden, and cows with help from the kids. She worked full time and the kids, of course, were in school. So it was impossible to keep the garden weed free. Even if his dad had been there it would have been a full time job to weed. The purpose of the garden was to feed the family, not so much to be neat and weed free. So Rickie is not overly obsessive about the order of the garden. His love is the plants.

We lived in a small town in a duplex and my grandparents lived on one side of the duplex and us on the other. My grandfather, Papa, had been a farmer and was semi-retired. We had a big garden in the back of the yard, but it was not as big as the one Rickie’s family had. We supplemented our harvest by purchasing additional butterbeans, purple hull peas, cream peas, and corn from other growers. But still, it was a good size and Papa planted it full of good things! He never had a blade of grass growing in the rows and it was a beautiful garden. He always planted some giant sunflowers at one end just for the beauty of them. They towered over my head and were my favorite thing in the garden! He was a harsh man in a lot of ways and it always amazes me the love he had for flowers and plants. He was always taking me out to look at different flowers and plants in the yard.

(Photo - My sisters Jackie and Deb on the trimmed sidewalk!)

I have been scanning old family photos and one thing in the way of gardening stands out in my mind as I look at not only my photos but Rickie’s family photos. Back in the day before weedeaters were invented and affordable, it seems everyone’s sidewalks were overrun on the edges with weeds and grass. Everyone’s except ours when Papa was alive. Papa used to take a sharp shovel and go along the edge of the sidewalk and cut a very narrow trench that was clear of grass. He also did this to edge the planting beds around the house and yard. He taught me to do this and I tried to keep mine neat although I never succeeded to the degree he did. When I lived in the Houston area, the excessive wetness and the hard gumbo soil defeated me more than once! But I can remember getting on my knees and trimming the grass around the house using only a pair of small hand clippers. It was a hopeless task as the grass seemed to have grown back before I made the circle around the house!

So I follow in Papa’s footsteps and the order in the garden concerns me as much as the plants. But I have loosened up some and Rickie does things that probably wouldn’t bother him if they were left undone. He operates the weedeater because I don’t like the way it throws rocks and stuff at me and I try to do most of the weeding and mulching, especially since I am here more than he is. I like to use the push mower and will mow the yard when he might let it go another week. (Out here you only really have to mow a few times a year it is so dry. Last year we never mowed at all.) I’m hoping for a new garden fence next year and he doesn’t see the need for one. My neighbor got a new garden fence and I have garden fence envy! It is straight and even and beautiful and I drool with envy of it!

But one thing we totally agree on is that we love to work in the yard and in the garden together! I love these Spring-like days that come in the middle of winter. Wouldn’t it be nice if a Winter-like day would come in the middle of summer?