Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Last Tank Is In

The last tank went into place last week and it was a job. I havne't been able to round up the usual suspects to help in a while now so Lyn suggested we do it our selves. She hates starting a project and not staying on it until it's finished or at least until your at a good stopping point. When doing something like this I have to ponder the situation a while, first to make sure it's doable for us and second, that it can be done without her getting hurt. It's not the same working with heavy stuff with a 120# woman as it is with a 200 plus pound man. When it comes to work, Lyn doesn't know quit, and I try to watch out for any danger that would involve her. These tanks weigh close to 400# so going slow and being careful was paramount.

Lyn and I  moved the last three tanks into place in one evening. As with the others the leveling after getting them into place was the hardest part. This is the last tank loaded onto the trailer. The Chief, in her normal work attire looks satisfied but a little pooped. It really was hard work but then again, we make a hellava good team.

All tanks in position now and plumbed up. Next I start the pump and filter house. I'll keep you posted when we start and build it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Nursery Crawl Comes To Draco

Day before yesterday, the now almost famous Nursery Crawl, where Cheryl of  Conscious Gardening, and Randy of Horselips horsesense go nursery hopping, came to Draco Gardens. It was a fun time had by all. These are two of the most fun people I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with. They both have a great sense of humor, really know their plants, and are polite enough not to mention the weeds. As any one who reads their blogs knows, they always eat Mexican food for lunch and drink a margarita. It was my job to pick the restaurant. We couldn't eat in Georgetown because the city is dry so we had to eat at Jardin Corona in Liberty Hill. I was pretty nervous in my choice as these two are serious critics of both Mexican food and margaritas. I think they liked their meal and their margaritas but it's hard to tell because they are nice people and I don't think they would say it if it was bad. You can check out the whole story on her blog to get the true scoop. I know I will.

If you ever get a chance to spend time with them or visit their lovely gardens, don't miss it. They are just plain good ol' folks.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Watermelon at Thanksgiving.

I picked my second to last watermelon the day before Thanksgiving. I'm going to try to get the last one to make it to Christmas. I've already gotten it ready for the tarp covering to protect it from frost. Wouldn't that be a hoot to eat a fresh watermelon out of the garden on Christmas?

It is a Crimson Sweet, not very big, about fifteen pounds. It tasted great, really sweet. It's the only type watermelon that I've ever had any luck with. After slicing it up, I dug right in. Philip, this picture is for you.

I planted six seeds and all of them came up. They produced several watermelons in the summer but they all got blossom end rot. The vines all died but one because of my chinsy watering. The one vine that is left has covered about thirty feet of fence and has had five melons this fall. The one I am eating started out on the fence but I had to cut the tendril that was holding it and put it on the ground.

I ate the last of the cantaloupe last week. The vine still looks good but there are no more fruit. This great fall has saved the melon harvest. Lyn is still harvesting beans and is canning around four quarts a week. The beans look even better than they did in the spring.

After watching the weather tonight I think it's about over for the vegetable garden for this year. Even with the severe drought in the summer it's still been a good year for vegetables, thanks to the fall.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving at the Pool house was good this year.

We used to have Thanksgiving with my folks and Christmas dinner with Lyn's folks. After my Mom contracted cancer, Thanksgiving was scheduled as normal, even though she was getting sicker by the day. She just insisted that she could still do it. The day before Thanksgiving she called and said she couldn't do it. Lyn and my sister volunteered to pull something together but she said no. Lyn and I had Thanksgiving dinner at some restaurant in Round Rock and it wasn't all that good.

Lyn told me this wouldn't happen again. Like I've said before, I am a lucky guy. I married a woman that loves to cook and is very good at it. She said next Thanksgiving would be at our house, no ifs, ands or buts about it. My Mom passed away the next February, and my Dad passed away five weeks later. About a month before the big day, Lyn told me I had better start rounding up some people for Thanksgiving as she was blowing it out. She was cooking it all and it was going to be a big meal for just the two of us.

I came up with nine the first year. The second it jumped to thirteen. The third it was fifteen. The next it was twenty two. This year it was back down to fifteen. My sister always comes but Lyn's siblings go to their in-laws. However the last two years Lyns sister, her husband and their two daughters have come. The couple that owns the local feed store are always here as well as several customers of mine. A couple of neighbors come and a couple people that are just regulars at the feed store as well as a couple of friends. Some can't make it some years but make it others. This year we had two newbies. A young fella that works at the place that I buy pipe and his wife came. She is expecting on Christmas day and her doctor had told her not to travel as they had some problems with the pregnancy and should stay close. You can't have an expectant mother to be missing Thanksgiving. Katina of Gardening in Austin and her husband were supposed to come but something came up and they couldn't make it.

The turkey was deep fried.[that's my job] Lyn cooked two pies and a pumpkin cake as well as candied pecans for snacking. My sister brought peanut brittle and Fran at the feed store always brings a vegetable snack tray that is to die for. It's huge. Lyn's sister, Chickie, brought a big pasta salad that is always a big hit. Lyn made fresh green beans right out of the garden and mashed potatoes from ones I had dug in the summer. You can always tell the corn was our corn as it is so dark yellow. Lyn made a new dish this year that was absolutely wonderful. It was sweet potaoes in a hollowed out orange. There has never been any store bought bread in our house so of course there was home made bread and home made rolls.

Like I said, I'm a lucky guy. I have so many great friends, a wonderful wife and great holidays. I hope all your Thanksgivings were as good as mine.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Photo Contest

This is my entry for the Gardening Gone Wild photo contest. Growing in a sea of Coastal Bermuda grass that will never die, is a Mullen plant that was able to fulfill it's destiny in this summer to beat all summers. It survived, grew a bloom stalk, produced seeds and died. It is at the end of the line.

You can go to the Gardening Gone Wild site and see all the entries here--Gardening Gone Wild

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blogging Theft, More Common Than You Think

Every one, it seems, has a bed that nothing works in. I actually have two, but this is only about one. This one is in front of the house and to one side of the drive way. It gets just an hour of mottled, early morning sun and then is shaded through the rest of the morning. Some where around noon it is in the blazing sun for the rest of the day. I have planted an enormous variety of plants in it, and all to no avail. I have planned and plotted, bought and potted. I tried to do an interesting mixture of plants, something like Pam at Digging would do. She is really good at her planning and plotting. I, on the other hand, am not so good. Then I started blogging. The ideas that one can get from blogs is mind boggling. I surmised that for one to get the most out of blogging it should be all right to steal, errr, I mean to incorporate other peoples ideas into one's own garden.
Quite a few months ago, Philip, at East Side Patch, had pictures of a garden design that he had come up with for some friends. He, like Pam, seems to be good at this planning and plotting. It was comprised of only two types of plants. That's right, only two. And it looked really good, at least to me. I stole, I mean used his idea to plant my bed. I decided to use plants that I already had and that needed thinning or relocating. I looked around the gardens and picked two that were totally different in texture, color, shape and blooms, but were about the same height.

I chose Daturas and Gregg's Mist Flower. I know what your thinking, that ain't right. The broad, grey-green leaves of the Daturas and the frilly, almost chartreuse leaves of the Mist flower have plenty of contrast and look nice, even with out blooms. It started looking rather fetching early on, you know, before the summer from hell. Then it languished in misery through the summer. But in the last few months it has turned into the bed I had pictured in my feeble little mind. Most people that have come by have liked it as well. Now I am hoping the first frost will hold out until after Thanksgiving so our guests can see it as well.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mixing Work With Pleasure

Mrs. Cole called me last week. They needed a mail box built. It seems the local riff raff have been beating theirs flat lately to the tune of five in the last month and a half. They have land along the Lampasas river just north of Oakalla. That's pronounced O'cally by the locals. I have done a lot of work for her and her husband over the last year. They are some of my favorite customers. They are just wonderful, friendly people and Mrs. Cole loves native plants. She started some flower beds this spring but the drought got most of them before they got established. I dug her a Rock Rose and took to her when I delivered the mail box. She was so excited, you would have thought I gave her money.

She has built what must be the king of bottle trees. I like hers better than any I've seen. Mr. Cole just thinks it is hard to trim around.

She also has more bird feeders than any one I know. The tin around the trees is to keep the local coon population out of the feeders. You might notice a deer in the back ground. They have to feed the deer early in the evening so the wild hogs don't get it all.

They moved here from up north to retire where it is warmer. They have always let me have access to the river to fish since the first time I met them. I had to drag my kayak off a dirt bluff to get to the water. I kept telling Mrs. Cole about all the beautiful plants I would see down in the riparian zone that didn't grow on the higher ground. Early this summer I went up to fish and she had hired someone with a dozer to build a road down to the water so she could see them as well.

There is a little Bequilla bush growing on the sand bar where the road ends.

The last time I was there Thoroughwort was growing on the gravel bar as well.

Ground Cherry was thick in places with their Chinese lantern looking fruit.

Across the river was huge thickets of Inland Sea Oats but I couldn't get close enough for a picture. I did spy a Cardinal Flower on the other side of the river. You can barely see the crimson red of it in this picture.

On a little higher ground was clumps of Marsh Fleabane. It really looks good in clumps of several plants but kind of plain by itself.

At the top edge of the riparian zone was Pigeon Berry scattered through the mottled shade of the pecan trees.

Along with the Pigeon Berry was this beautiful sage with vibrant blue flowers. The plants were over four feet tall. I believe it is Bog Sage but I'm not sure.

This is such a beautiful place owned by beautiful people that like other people to enjoy it. They moved to Texas for all the reasons others do. They have had to resort to signs to keep people out as the trash left by trespassers has gotten to be too much.
Now their mail box is being vandalized so they had to get me to build them a smash proof one.

If your ever on the road between Oakalla and Kempner and see an older couple out picking up trash along the road stop and ask if you can check out the river for plants. They are small in stature but rather large in spirit. Tell them you know me, it can't hurt. I just wish they were being treated a little better here in Texas.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is It Fall Or Is It Spring

Looking around the gardens it is hard to tell whether it is fall or spring. With all the rains lately the gardens have blooms everywhere. Even some of the plants that are not usually thought of as fall bloomers have a few blooms on them.

The summer Shrimp plant stayed looking good all through the heat but its blooms are gone now, replaced by the fall Shrimp plant. I staggered the two when I planted this bed so I would have blooms from spring all the way to frost. The summer plants have more yellow and green in the blooms than the fall ones. This is the summer Shrimp back when it was blooming.

These are the fall Shrimp plants now. You can see how much darker in color they are, showing a more maroon color.

The little Spanish Flag that hardly got up in the summer has come back and even got a few blooms on it. I didn't plant this and have no idea how it got here but I am glad it is. I had to look it up to know what it is.

While all the other Austin area bloggers were posting pictures of their Ox Blood Lilies, all I had showing was a few leaves. I had hardly watered them all summer and thought they may not make it let alone bloom. But let the deluge begin, water and then blooms.

The Duranta had a pitiful blooming in early summer but came on strong after the rains.

The Hummingbird plant, while not blooming prolifically, did bloom a little all summer. With mega doses of rain it is a stunner. Please excuse the dirty hand, I am a gardener and I never wear gloves, ever.

The Garlic Chives that has never bloomed since I've had it finally bloomed. I guess it will only bloom when flooded.
I felt lucky to have all the roses put on a few blooms one more time before settling in for the winter. The Mutabilis put on the most and had roses in the all the different hues that it's capable of.
The Belinda's Dream only had a couple but they were beautiful and smelled great.

And the Knockout has the most blooms. That's why they call it a knockout probably.

Because of my total lack of gusto in pruning any plant, the Don Juan only had blooms so high I couldn't get close enough for a picture without a ladder. I could still smell the blooms though and that's what counts. The Chief says she is going to prune it this year as I'm such a wuss at it.

The Turks cap hasn't had a bloom on it for most of the summer but is making up for it now, it's really loading up.

The Stone Crop is running a little late this year because of the drought but it finally made it. The bees are loving it as well.

What happened here? I think a Zinnia bloom must have fallen here and all the seeds came up in one place.

The fall Astor is right on schedule, drought or no drought. Being a native, you can expect performance, no matter the weather. Although I knew it was a native, I had never seen it in the wild. While on a kayaking trip on the Llano river at Junction last week, I saw it blooming in a profusion of color all along the banks.
We didn't plant much of a fall vegetable garden this year because it was just too hot when the planting needed doing. We did, however, plant a couple of beds of beans. They are going to make, I think, before frost. They have little beans all over them. You can also see the huge Cinnamon Basil in the middle of the photo. I always plant a few of these in the beds because I just love the smell, my favorite of all the aromatics. I also think they help keep the bugs away from the other plants.

There are still two cantaloupes on the vines that were planted in the spring. I think they are going to make it before frost as well.
I have two watermelons as well. I haven't gotten to eat one off this vine yet this year. All the vines died in the heat except this one, and it has gone crazy since it rained. Maybe it will be like one year when I got to eat a fresh off the vine watermelon at Thanksgiving. That would be great.
Why would anyone plant radishes like this? I love radishes and always have them in the beds when it's cooler weather. Favorite is a Russian radish that is an heirloom, so I save the seeds. It takes a few more days to mature but gets as long as a carrot, takes heat well, tastes good and doesn't get woody. Back to the first sentence, why? When they came up and I saw how they were, I at first didn't understand. Then I saw the edge of a chewy sticking up and knew the secret. My dog, Bonnie, had buried it, shoving all the seeds into one row. I know I will have some deformed radishes now as I don't intend to thin them.
There's more but you get the idea of just what rain will do. It's too bad we went so long with out any of it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rain Water Collection System is Getting Bigger

Last week I was able to get my friend Andy to bring his backhoe over to finish the excavating that the little Bobcat skid loader wasn't able to do. He did a very accurate job and I won't have to use a bunch of sand to level things out for the tanks. Lyn was very nervous with him digging so close to the existing tanks that were full of water from the recent rains. I wasn't the least bit worried as I've seen Andy operate so many different pieces of equipment and he is very good on them all. He bales hay for a living and is always running huge tractors and dragging even bigger implements and I've never known him to damage anything. He knows I'm a plant person and always asks before he drives over or plucks out any plants. He drove the backhoe seven miles here, did all this work, and drove it seven miles back home and would not hear of me paying him a cent. That's a true friend and I know I'm a lucky guy to have several of these true friends. I don't think he reads my blog but if he does, thanks Andy, I owe you.

The next day Lyn and I were back to shoveling sand and making ready to move a couple more tanks in. Getting the sand at the same level as the existing tanks is hard work and takes a lot of time. Moving the tanks around is even harder. They really aren't that heavy, around 400#, but they don't have handles. I weigh about 185# and Lyn weighs about a buck ten so pushing these around is really tough. We got it done, however, and now I'm ready for the rain on Monday and Tuesday.

It's starting to look quite impressive. With the eight inches of rain we had last week, all of these would have been full. As it was, we got 9,000 gallons in the tanks. The tubes at the top are the overflow tubes. I made them long enough to have the overflow fall beyond the pole that holds the sand back. After the last rain it was evident that it was important to do it as we had a major washout of sand. There is screen mesh over the ends to keep mosquitoes out.

Here is one of the reasons I'm doing this. This is the entrance to the Lauren concrete plant north of Seward Junction on Hwy 183 at 3:00 in the middle of the day, watering their driveway. Talk about wasting water. Hardly any of it is falling on the grass. That's my drinking water they are wasting.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rain Water Collection

Work on the rain water collection system has been going slowly. Friends have been busy so moving them has been impossible with just Lyn and me. Also I just had no idea how difficult it would be to level them to the first tank. I had no illusions of perfection but thought I could keep them within an inch or two so as not to lose too much of capacity. The plumbing has been extremely difficult and has changed from my first concept of how it should be.

The inlet hole in the top of the tank is only 1 1/2". Where the water comes out of the gutter is 4". You don't have to be too bright to figure that the four inch line would have to be attached to several of the 1 1/2" lines or water would be lost. That was my first plan but after hooking up the first tank I could tell that the weight of the PVC pipe would need supports. Sometimes it is better to just start over and that is what I did.

This is the first configuration.

I really didn't like this as I would have to have a line to every tank. It finally registered that I could just drill a hole in the center of the top and put in a larger line. I already had a 4" hole saw bit so I went with 3" PVC as the outside of the fittings are 4" and it would be a perfect fit that I could caulk to keep mosquitoes out of my water. The unused 1 1/2" holes would be the over flow holes and I could easily put screen wire over them for mosquito protection. It is also a little easier to do the plumbing as I can get by with only having the inlet line go to three tanks.

I now have three tanks hooked up to receive water. The new hook up looks like this.

All I have to do now is level off 50' more ground, shovel in a lot more sand, move and level five more tanks and do the plumbing only on the bottom of them, and then I can start on the pump and filter house. I'll keep you posted.