Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rain today and I was ready

I awoke to rolling thunder this morning. Shortly after hearing the first boom I could hear that wonderful sound that rain makes on a tin roof. I rolled over and went right back to sleep. That sound always puts me to sleep and I knew the next couple of hours would be sound sleep before I had to get up. I just had to check the rain gage before I left the house and there was already an inch showing. We ended up with 1 1/4". By noon you could hardly tell it had rained. The ground just absorbed it all and could have taken in more. This evening all the plants looked so good, as only rain water can do. By dark there were bunches of new blooms on the cantaloupe vines that had hardly been alive hours before. Rain water is just special for the plants. Rain water makes plants grow and my well water just keeps them alive. And in some cases, not.

The best part about this rain was the fact that I was ready for it. I had the first tank of the rain water collection system all hooked up. It wasn't easy, as the plumbing part got tricky. It was plumbing as an art form. The first tank will be the hardest though as it is the one that hooks up to the gutters and eventually to the pump and filter house. I checked this evening and it was almost half full. Insert big smiley here.

This is what I was looking at when we went to get the tanks. See the crates of granite in the way. They were supposed to be moved and we were going to be able to load them with their fork lift. Well, neither of those things came to pass. We had to load the eight I bought by hand, laying them over and rolling them up onto the trailer. In the heat it was a killer. It took three loads to get them all here. It cost me a serious lunch for the guys and beer. It's really nice to have friends that will help you with this big of a project even when the plans change like they did.
PEC, the local power company, gave me a pole they had just removed. I laid it on the ground to hold back the sand that I would use to bed the tanks with. I was able to dig it into the ground so that the top edge was dead level for it's full length. As I progress down the line of the tanks I will always have a constant to use for leveling. Billy was able to bring his Bobcat skid loader back and move the sand to behind the pole. Lyn and I leveled a spot big enough for the first tank. I then shot it with my sight level to determine that I could maintain that level all the way down the seventy feet that the tanks would set. To move them from the front of our place down 1,800' of really windy, steep up and down drive way, I borrowed a small trailer from Billy. I had to build a ramp for the back of the trailer to roll the tanks up. It turned out to be not as difficult as I thought it would be to move them back.

The first tank is in and I've started to play with the plumbing. The tall, light blue thing is the roof washer. It was there already from the first set up. A roof washer catches the first several minutes of rain water before it goes into the tank. That helps keep the debris out of the tank. I built this one out of 12" PVC. It has a 4" T at the bottom with a faucet and a clean out. It worked so well with the other tank I decided not to change it.

Here's a view from the other direction. You can see the pole and the sand behind it. You can see a wire sticking out of a conduit next to the vertical pole. I put that in when we built the house. I planned that far ahead for a rain water collection system, as I wanted one that bad.
As I said, the plumbing got difficult. And maybe just a little artsy. Being a welder and not a plumber, it was mainly difficult.

However, the first one is installed and has an end cap duct taped on it so that I was able to catch the rain water that fell today. I'm a happy man. Now seven more to go.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blooms in the heat

Work on the rainwater system has ceased for a while. The heat is just too much to get friends out in. Not many of my friends work outside like I do so they might keel over in this heat. I don't want to use them to death. I might need help in the future as well. The garden has needed some mulch added anyway and irrigation to some of the raised beds needs work. It always seems like there is some little something that needs doing. It also seems like there is constant watering as well. I am watering every other day but only do half at a time. Normally I don't water on to the plants, but now I am spraying the plants down as well as giving them a good soaking. The spraying, I think, cools them down. I am definitely going to consider even more natives and heat hardy plants in the future. I think there is a difference between heat hardy and drought hardy. You can always water but you can't do much for the heat. When we have this many days over a hundred and such low humidity, no plant can live up to its potential. However, there are still some blooms here at Draco.

The Shrimp Plants, both maroon and the green, could care less how hot it gets as long as they have a little shade and some water.

The Zinnias that I plant every year do fairly well in the heat but miss a day of watering and they are gone fast.

Another one that blooms through the heat is Society Garlic.

These are the kinds of plants we all need more of. The first is one type of Hummingbird Plant and the next is Mexican Honeysuckle. Neither have had as many blooms this year as in previous years but have had some blooms on them all through the heat.

This Skeleton Leaf Daisy is one of the most heat and drought hardy of all my plants. It is ever green and with its weird looking leaves, looks good with or without blooms.

Although the Passion Flower vines have withstood the heat well, they have not had nearly as many blooms this year as in the past. But that is true of most of the plants.

This next one has been a surprise star performer this year.[pun intended] I have moved this Texas Star Hibiscus several times through the years trying to find the place that it would grow. Last year, while touring the Pond Society Tour, I noticed some people had them growing in their ponds, and with great success I might add. After building a bog pond last winter, I planted it there where its roots would be wet all the time. It has had more blooms by far this year than in any other year. I think it is finally home.

The next three plants were all given to me by customers of mine. In some ways I don't like given plants as they might not be plants you like or plants that don't fit your garden. I always feel obligated to plant it and try to make it grow. When I give plants I always tell the receiver that if they don't like it to simply pass it on, it will find a home sooner or later. The first is an Ice Plant. I only received a sprig. I have a hole in a big rock that I have planted several different plants in without much luck. I stuck the sprig in the hole and it has surprised me by growing well and has had a few blooms.

The next one, a customer that has become a good friend, gave to me. I really didn't want it because I knew that I would have to put it in the greenhouse every winter. My Mother moved truck loads of plants into and out of her greenhouse every fall and spring. I vowed that I would never do that. My vows may not be too reliable though as I really like this plant. It is right out in the blazing sun and requires no more water than any other plant. It is also just stunning to look at. I'm not sure which Plumeria it is but it's a beauty. It has been blooming all summer.

This last one is the strangest of all. It was given to me by the lady at the feed store after Christmas was over. I mentioned how it was so terrible all the Poinsettias were going to die in a week or two because Christmas was over and everybody would just throw them away. She handed hers to me and said "Well go grow it then". I took it home and put it in the greenhouse till winter was over and planted it in a bed. I was so surprised that it really grew well and put on lots of new growth after it nearly died in the green house. The heat doesn't seem to bother it at all and it doesn't seem to need a lot of water either. I was going to read up on how to force bloom it but my dog ran over it yesterday and broke it off at the ground. I will gather all I can this Christmas. I think they will look good in a mass planting even without their blooms. Blooms meaning colored leaves with these.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Here is an update on the Screech Owls in my brother-in-law's back yard. They have hatched off and raised their babies. It looks like everyone is doing well and healthy. This is about the third batch of babies that Mike and Chickie have observed from their owl house that Mike built. As I said before, Screech Owls are like most Austinites when the weather gets hot. They love the water and really enjoy a good dip. That "thing" you see in the bird bath is an owl splashing around.

One of the best things about having Screech Owls living in your own owl box is that they are so easy to observe. As you can see, with Chickie looking one over from just a few feet away, they are very tame. They almost look fake, like little owl dolls.