Now That April Fool’s Day Has Passed, It’s Time To See How the Garden Is Growing

Annie is always ready to assistant in checking out how the garden is growing. (4-2-11)

When it becomes garden time, this blog could be one of the most boring in all of the blogosphere; however, my little patch helps keep me on an even keel, so I like to add a pic here and there just as a record for myself of what I planted when and how things are growing.

It’s just been about 2 weeks since I put in the last photo, but the entire plot looks so much greener.  The lettuce is still going gangbusters, and most of the beans have started on their second set of leaves.  I didn’t over-plant this year, so I’ve had to go back and drop in a seed or two in places where the originals didn’t sprout.  I have a total of 7 tomato plants and 4 sweet peppers, not counting the 1 volunteer tomato that I discovered a couple days ago; it probably came from the compost that I added last winter.

I need to get in and hoe out the chickweed and elm tree sprouts that would cover the ground if it weren’t for the vegetable plants; however, unfortunately–or fortunately–we have had enough odd showers to keep the garden soil a bit too moist for that task.

The neighbors across the street are having a garage sale, which they started preparing for before 6 AM.  Of course, Annie couldn’t stay settled with the commotion, so we’ve been up since that time; quite early to get up on a Saturday, but I’ve gotten the back patio swept of most of the remaining oak leaves and the nasty pollen crap that they put out in the spring.  I love my shady oak tree, but keeping the patio clean is an almost never-ending story.  Oh well, just like my garden, the patio with its shade-covered pergola is one of my favorite parts of my house.

OK, yes, it’s Saturday, and now 10 AM; it’s time for a shower and out to take care of any number of errands.  Tomatoe cages, for one.  Definitely need more tomato cages.

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Spring Begins! It’s Time for Planting and More Garden Updates

Spring, and it's time again to record the growth of the garden. As always, Annie ready to check things out.

Today is the first official day of spring, and these fingers that have been pulling, digging, and clutching rakes, hoes, and shovels for most of this beautiful, long weekend feel a bit reluctant at the keyboard.  The front yard is raked clean of–what-is hoped–the last oak leaves.  There have been a number of trips to various lawn and garden centers for soil, mulch, and both flowering and vegetable plants.

The fresh, often-overcast weather has made all the outside work much more pleasure, than labor.

The trunk area of the new, smaller hatchback has proven just the right size in order not to overbuy on any one trip.  Therefore, it hasn’t been a big effort to get the mulch put around trees or plants put into the ground.  More trips means more breaks in between.

The outings have given me a chance to drive on some roads, though not far from where I live, I’ve never taken before.  It’s amazing to find lanes in wooded areas still not taken over by housing sub-divisions.

One road that I do take frequently crosses what I have just discovered is called Langham Bayou.  I’ve never stopped before. but the blaze of yellow flora both around and in the water made me chance the rough little side road to take the shots that you can see in the new banner and sidebar.

It’s also time again to start recording what’s happening in my kitchy, little garden.  I planted lettuce, onions, and beans on New Year’s Day.  Unfortunately, the tender beans didn’t make it through January’s freeze, but I have been having fresh salad almost every evening for more than a week.  I’ve replanted the beans and set in tomatoes and a variety of pepper plants.

I’m hoping the much earlier start will help produce more before the hot summer comes along.

On the Road Home: When Getting Off the Crowded Freeway Is Not the Best Bet

Considering the nearly 50 miles I drive in heavy traffic every day, perhaps it was bound to happen.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that my blog posts here have been almost nil for a month because I’ve felt like I wanted to write about what happened, but just haven’t been able to:  1) because I’ve had quite a few other things to take care of; and 2) it’s not that easy to write about.

It was exactly 4 weeks ago, Friday evening, and I was driving home thinking about what I was going to do on the weekend.  I had taken my normal route, 290, or Northwest Freeway, as most of us call it, when the traffic got balled up, so I decided to get off on the next exit I could.  Once off the freeway, I got on a cross street in order to take Hempstead Highway, which was the predecessor to 290.  Although there are many stoplights and businesses alongside that road, the traffic usually moves on that route.

After I’d driven about 10 blocks, a car zipped out from  a small super market and crossed over two lanes of traffic, clipping the pickup in front of me.  (If this sounds like something from a police or insurance report, I’m sorry.  I’ve had to tell what happened a few times since that evening.)  Because both the pickup and I had just gone through an intersection, neither of us were going very fast, and I thought I was going to be able to stop in time.  It was like slow motion; my car kept moving forward, and then the front end of my lower Mazda 3 crunched into the back bumper of the higher, double-cab pickup.  In the couple of minutes it took me to pull myself together, and then get out of the car, a police cruiser and even a tow truck had arrived.

This is really the first time I've looked closely at this picture that I took right afterwards.

I could see the damaged hood and coolant running out from the radiator.  There were three vehicles and three drivers (no passengers), but, thankfully, no one was hurt.  The police officer came over and asked me what had happened.  I thought I might get a ticket, but the officer didn’t even hint at anything like that, but I’m pretty sure the driver who crossed in front of oncoming traffic got one.  (I still haven’t seen a police report.)

I thought I was going to be stranded there, but thanks to Houston’s towing ordinances, after pulling my car to a nearby, secure lot, the tow truck driver brought me home. 

Freaky, but I was in my house just one hour later than my usual arrival time.  The whole thing–the balled up freeway traffic, the detour to the old road, the accident itself, talking on the phone with my insurance company, being interviewed by the officer, dealing with the tow truck, being harrassed by the repair company which housed the lot where my car was taken, and the ride home–had all only taken 1 hour!

After such a barrage of happenings, I was glad to back in the familiarity of my house, glad to take Annie on her well-deserved, late walk.

When we got back from the walk, I called the insurance company again in order to give them the details of the accident, and find out what was going to happen with my car.  I knew also that the next morning, I’d have to try to get a rental car somewhere out here in suburbia, where the agencies are only open from nine to noon on Saturdays.  It wasn’t until I tried to pull something together to eat that I realized how shaken I was by the whole thing.

I thought I’d be driving a rental car for a couple of weeks while my car was being repaired.  “Three or four thousand dollars of damage,” I thought.

I was way off the mark.  The followingTuesday I found out that the insurance company was going to total my car.  The damage was more than a crunched-in hood and a messed-up radiator.  The trailer hitch on the back of the pickup had acted like a battering ram, causing a lot more damage than showed from looking at the front of the car.  So there it was.  My 2007 Mazda 3 GT–the one that I had spent almost a year deciding on before I bought it, the one with just 40,000 miles on it, the one that was almost paid off–was totaled.

A lot of things happened over just one hour that Friday evening four weeks ago.  But, again, fortunately, nobody was injured.  I’ve had to deal with a lot of people since then, and it’s been a learning experience, which I’ll write more about.

But right now, it’s a beautiful Saturday morning with nothing involving cars to worry about, so I’ve had my coffee and am ready to go out to the garden and plant some beans.

Bright, Sunshiny Days Warm Up the Weekend

A view from one of those "roads less traveled"in Bear Creek Park--backgrounded by an amazingly blue sky. Those green shrubs are the fan palms that grow in many of the woods of southeast Texas.

If by yesterday afternoon, Friday’s icy weather, along with the resulting bad roadways, was hardly worth remembering, today’s 71° was a complete turnaround.  The bright sunlighted warmed the air, and soft, fluffy clouds floated in an amazing blue sky.

Annie and I headed for the dog park on Highway 6 and found many other small dogs and owners were out to enjoy the day.  Usually the large dog side is busier, but today there were so many people and dogs on “our” side that I didn’t pay attention to how many were on the other side.

Going home, I took the “long way” through Bear Creek Park, and just like the dog park, there were many out enjoying the area, especially the golf course.  Bear Creek Park has a lot of picnic areas and the large golf course, but I really like the natural, forested part of the park, which is thick with live oak, pine, and other kinds of trees and brush. 

For those who don’t know, the live oak is one variety of oak tree that grows in abundance here.  In some older parts of Houston, the large live oaks have branches that grow out, paralleling the grown.  The one in my back yard has had its branches trimmed off the bottom part of the trunk as it has grown, but up higher there is a nice canopy of branches that help shade my house from summer of the summer heat.

Another tree that can be found in the wooded area of Bear Creek Park is a type of fan palm, which I believe is a native Texas palm.  On hikes through other parts of southeast Texas, I’ve seen this palm growing down under the tall pines, in both dry and wet terrain.

It’s good to get out after a cold spell and enjoy what nature has to offer.  Unfortunately, the potted plants that have been stashed in the garage still must endure some more days of darkness because the forecast is predicting lows in the lower 20s again mid-weeki.

Winter Weather Brings Ice to Houston But No Snow

The agave leaves are slick with ice from the sleet and rain that came during the pre-dawn hours.

The predicted snow didn’t come to Houston.  Having gone to bed even earlier than most work nights.  I woke up around 5, and the light from the streetlight outside showed no snow on the ground, nor even any white flakes coming down, so I jumped back into bed until it would be time to take Annie out.  Even by 7:30, she was somewhat hesitant to go out.  When I checked the outside temp of 26, I could understand her lack of enthusiasm.  (Still 26 is a bit better than the 21 that hit us early Wednesday morning, and the daytime high was just 35 yesterday.)

But we did go out, still no snow.  There were, however, small puddles on the patio.  Then when I looked up there was a sheen of ice covering the garage.  As I stepped out onto the grass, the ice-covered leaves crackled underfoot.

I felt a little guilty for not having to go into work on a Friday, but aside from my crunching the frosty leaves, it was still outside, no usual hum of the commuter traffic coming from 529.  “No need to feel guilty,” I thought.  I was no different than the so many others who had been told on Thursday not to come in on Friday.

Once I started nosing around the yard, I found that the bricks on the front fence were coated with ice.  From this, I knew that any bridges and overpasses would be covered too.  As I’ve now gotten back inside, I’ve found according to the Houston Chronicle, that is the case, and that there have been many accidents because of the icy roads.  I’m glad that I don’t have to get out there and make my way to work.

I know those from the more northern climes might think us somewhat wimpy when we get a bit of actual winter weather.  However, with the hundreds of thousands of vehicles out there crowding the freeways on a regular workday morning, ice-covered roads could create complete havoc.  Even with the much lighter traffic,  the Chronicle says there have been more than 100 accidents already, one of them a 10-car pileup on 290, which is one leg of my normal morning drive.

I do feel a bit like I’m playing hookie.  No matter,  I’m going to grind some beans to make coffee and make a real breakfast, then enjoy the rest of a leisurely morning.

Winter Is Here: Time To Bring in the Plants and Pour That Cup of Hot Tea

The first, and maybe only, pickings from the winter garden. Perhaps fried green tomatoes will be on the menu soon.

The temperature was right at 70 when I got home from work last evening, but after I let Annie out, I started carting all the potted plants that I could into the garage, knowing that the temperature was supposed to drop dramatically.   I tried to hurry, then walk Annie and put together something for supper, because Monday night is 90210 night.  It was a new episode; sadly without any of Teddy’s coming out adventures, mostly just a show focusing on the girls, in which they went on a yoga/sweat lodge retreat and dug their nails into each other in various ways.

This morning before six, I awoke to mean drops of rain pelting the windows and by the time I headed out it was around 40.  I don’t think it got much higher than that, and the car ourside temp went from 40 down to 34 by the time I reached home, where the thermometer on the back fence already was saying 31.  I dragged a few more plants, which I hadn’t felt so sorry for the previous evening, into the jungle inside the garage, and started to cover the one too big and my precious two tomato plants that I had put in last November. 

With it already getting so cold, I pulled off three of the green tomatoes, realizing that with a night of probably more than 12 hours straight below freezing and several similar days coming, even wrapped in a couple of layers of sheets, dropped cloths, and plastic, it’s doubtful that the plants are going to make it.

Even though I was somewhat bundled up (I know for you people who have real winters my being “bundled up” is relative), I was ready to get inside.  And Annie, having spent the time in the yard, while I was trying to cover the plants and wrap the outside faucets in the blustery north wind, didn’t seem in the mood for any walk either.

Tonight was a night for soup–a duke’s mixture of leftover homemade with a can of Progresso something-or-other tossed in and hot tea.  I rarely drink hot tea these days.  When I was kid on the farm, there were two evening meal drinks:  iced tea, which started its season somewhere in May, and hot tea, which, came along during the cooler football days of the fall.

So after all the outside puttering, and with downstairs being on the cool side with all its windows, tonight was night for hot tea.  

Soup and tea were ready just before seven–just in time to see my Tuesday evening standby, but, alas, no new Glee episodes yet.  They were trying to string us along with the re-run of the “Rocky Horror” episode.  And as good as that one is, I had been primed for something new, so I just switched over to ESPN and had my soup and hot tea along with some NCAA basketball.

Yeah, this is winter in Houston, Texas, and enough winter for me.  Even though hot tea is a nice change now and again, it’s nothing I want on a long-term basis.

I Want My Gay TV (and I Want My Damn Computer To Work Right)

The sun came out today.  I’m not sure when because I was tied up inside (not literally, mind you) most of the day, but I felt almost gleeful turning down the visors in the car on my way home this evening.  The rain has been good for the garden, and hopefully, some of it is getting down for some of those deep tree roots that must have been needing it after the long dry spell in the fall.

With the cloudless sky and the days getting just a bit longer, this was the first evening that Annie and I got to make the rounds and back home again before it was completely dark.  Walking a dog when it’s already dark is just that–walking a dog.  But when there’s still some daylight, there a chance to take a look at what’s growing, or not, in people’s yards, and maybe even say “hello” to a neighbor that’s also outside.

Speaking of “gleeful” (I think that word is coming back), Tuesday is my night to watch Glee, so it was a bit disappointing to find out that tonight’s wasn’t a new episode.  Still it was a good re-run, with Kurt’s bully getting kicked out of school and all the underlying weirdness going on because the bully had kissed him.  Then there was Kurt’s dad’s wedding with all the guy-guy dance preparations and actual wedding dancing. 

Last night was 90210 night.  This second rendition seems much lighter on storyline than the previous 90210 of a number of years back.  But Teddy, the rich boy tennis player-slash-surfer, is coming out, and even though we only get a couple minutes of that–if any–per show, we’ve gotten to see him put the lip-lock on cute-boy Ian, who is already out.  And last night’s episode was a new one, with lots of teasing the viewers about who will be involved with whom during the rest of the season.

I don’t want to lament about the past.  But I wouldn’t have minded growing up and being able to watch shows like these.  The best that I could do when I was in high school was The Monkees and Flipper, and you can bet I wasn’t watching that last one just to see the damn dolphin.

I know I paid that bill!

Just as a side note–if it’s even that–my DSL has been so crappy the last couple of days.  It was getting worse than early dial-up.  I was thinking that all the rain had affected some lines somewhere.  Good grief, don’t we just panic when our computer is out-of-whack for even a little bit?  Last night I just gave up; everything was so slow, but tonight I decided to call AT&T.

Well, don’t ya know it.  I had barely started playing with the recorded message man, when he gave me the suggestion that I needed:  disconnect the modem for it to reset.  That and a restart of the computer and voilà!  Here we are, almost like the sunshine after too many wet, cloudy days.