Thursday, December 18, 2008

Raindrops on Roses

Many years ago when I was new to Austin, I remember hearing someone complain about the humidity. I'm fairly certain that I said, "Humidity? You want humidity? You can't handle humidity!"

Okay, so maybe I just dated myself, but trust me, that kind of talk was da bomb in those days.
I have lived in some of the most humid cities in the United States--Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, LA; and Washington, DC. I know humidity.

And today, my friends, it was humid. I took these pictures hours after any measurable rain. It was just too humid for the raindrops to evaporate.
These aren't raindrops I caught on their way to the ground. These are raindrops that just would not drop.
On an ordinary Austin day, I would need a superfast camera to catch this droplet on the continuing-to-be-confused fig tree. (Or I would need to be hallucinating because the drought has made this occurrence as rare as, well, rain.) Notice the bud at the end of the branch. What will become of this poor confused brown turkey?
At 11am--when I took this picture--the sun had not yet made an appearance. I hear that we may not see it again until tomorrow afternoon.
On the upside, the day's weather has turned all the plants, like this dinosaur kale, into little Christmas trees covered with sparkling lights.

(Dinosaur kale, aka Lacinato kale, aka Nero di Toscana kale, is my favorite kale--and probably my favorite green--so much so that I no longer plant any other varieties.)
This bronze fennel would make a great Christmas tree, if it could stand a wee bit more upright and support ornaments.
I have to admit that the gloomy weather has had a similar effect on my mood. At times like this, I'm happy to live in Austin and not the Pacific Northwest. I know that in a few days, not a few months, the sun will come out, and it will be 70 degrees.
Until then I'm reaching out to raindrops on roses to boost my mood.My mood will be sky high if you enjoy a few of my favorite things while ignoring the yellow leaves on Belinda's dream. I think I may have killed another rose.

Looks like I may need to go in search of whiskers on kittens, or maybe some warm woolen mittens.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Life in Texas

So by now I'm sure you've heard about our weather yesterday. We went from a record-high of 81 degrees to snow in less than 24 hours. Sigh. Is it any wonder that Austin is the garden blogging capital of the world? We have a lot to complain blog about.Our rapids shifts in temperature keep our plants on their toes and down in the dumps, or maybe just confused as heck?

My fig tree is the perfect example. Do you see that perfectly ripe fig? It's DECEMBER! I took this picture on Sunday! I had no ripe figs on this tree all year, and now as we are about to head into a new year, I see not one, not two, but three perfectly ripe figs on my tree.
Poor tree. It's so confused. It's lost almost all of its leaves. The remaining ones have turned lovely shades of yellow and red.

And yet, it's producing the most beautiful figs it ever has. Can you blame the tree? One day it's 70 degrees, the next 90, then 85, then 50, and then back in the 80s. The tree's gone schizo. Half of it believes it's living in the summer. The other half is packing it in for the year.
And the other half of it might just be thirsty. (Oh wait, that makes three halves. Hmm. Maybe the weather is having a similar effect on me.) I haven't watered it during this drought.
The fig tree came with the house but not with instructions. I may have learned a thing or two about flowers and vegetables but fruit trees are still a bit out of my range. (Should I mention that I learned the hard way [pun intended] that figs don't ripen once they've been picked?)

For all I know, the tree is throwing everything at me to get my attention face time on my blog.

Attention granted.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Flora and Fauna at Iguazu

Other than a few photos I used for an April Fools' Day post, I never posted any photos from our trip to Argentina last fall. Probably because I didn't have a blog then. I'm finally processing some photos to get prints made and thought you might enjoy a look at life in the Southern Hemisphere.

Our first stop after Buenos Aires was Iguazu Falls, located at the border of Argentina and Brazil.
The park is huge, and we ended up visiting it two days to soak it all in. And yes, I mean soak. We stood where those crazy folks are in the first photo, and if you look closely at the bottom right of this photo, you'll see a motorboat about to head into the falls. We took that ride as well. It was a lot of fun, and I didn't mind getting drenched with very cold water as the temps in Iguazu were in the upper 80s with high humidity.
We also took a slower boat ride in the upper Iguazu. I suppose if the guide had taken a wrong turn, we could have gone down the Garganta del Diablo (Throat of the Devil, seen in the upper left of the wide angle view of the falls), but I think keeping the tourists alive is a big part of the park's mission.
While on this boat ride, I learned that the angel's trumpets growing 15 to 20 feet high along the banks are hallucinogenic. Maybe that's why I didn't get a better picture of their size.

Other familiar plants in the area included this hibiscus:
Even if it grew more like a tree than a bush.
Some of the other plants were unfamiliar to me, like this one with purple tube flowers. Maybe you know it?
I also couldn't find a name for this fruit tree. Some of the fruit grows directly out of the bark instead of on branches.
I also can't identify the many butterflies we saw. My NWF field guide covers North American insects only. And well, we were in South America. Does that mean the butterflies there fly in the opposite direction?
Some of these definitely look similar to ones in my book, but I am not positive on the identifications.
I was surprised to find in my photos one of a bug.
I thought my bug love had just started this fall with my entomology training. I certainly couldn't identify many bugs then, and I definitely hadn't inspired a song but I guess I was budding bug lover in training.
One of my favorite parts of the park was the signage. As is common in tourist places where many languages are spoken, the park used visuals more than words to convey meaning. Near the waterfalls above, I found this sign:
Perhaps a little too visual was this sign:
Even if that does look like the friendlist snake ever.

My favorite sign though had to be this one:
I hope to post some more photos from other parts of Argentina, as I wade through the 2,000+ I took.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Recognize This Guy?

It's Lone Star, the deer my in-laws took in and nursed this summer. He's a big boy now--notice how he's lost his spots.
My in-laws have encouraged him to leave and let him out of his summer holding pen when the deer in the neighborhood came by. A couple of times he joined the crew, but he's not stupid. My in-laws are great cooks and fed him quite well during his stay. The normal grass he was forced to eat with his deer family was not to his linking. And apparently, he's let the other deer know. Most mornings an entire herd of deer are hanging out in the backyard. I never saw them but then again I walked out each morning with a dog very interested in the deer's scent.
So Lone Star became a boomerang deer. The deer is quite skittish around people now--no more leash walks, and he has moved on from his childhood pal, Coco, the chocolate lab, to more "wild" animals. He now lives in the pen with my niece's latest FFA lamb, Trick or Treat. (Want to guess when she got him? I guess he's a she but it seems so indelicate to look).
Before the deer returned home, my in-laws got the new lamb a new companion. Lambs don't thrive as solitary animals. The previous lamb's companion lamb went with it to the um, well, that place animals go to become meat for us. Gulp. Really makes me consider becoming a vegetarian.

Some neighbors gave them this guy (or girl, again, I didn't check). My sister-in-law said he's a Cashmere goat. When I looked up these goats, they seem to have straight hair. Maybe it's the humidity giving this guy the curls?

In the past my brother-in-law has encouraged me to let our dog loose in the pen to exercise the animals. But the new lamb is quite big in comparison to the previous lambs and the goat has these:

I don't think the dog cared. She was very busy, beating up on playing with the lab who had lost her friend.
In the end, I think all is well in the animal kingdom, also known as the suburbs of Houston.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Alter Ego on TV

As some of you know and many of you have probably guessed, Vertie is not my real name. When I told my husband that I had started a gardening blog and that I was using a different name, he asked why.

I told him it was fun to have a nom de plume.

He asked, "Don't you mean nom de bloom?" (Now you see why I married him.)

So at the risk of confounding you and breaking through the fourth wall, here's a video from Central Texas Gardener.

I appear in it, and yet the name Vertie is never uttered.

Thanks, Linda. It was a pleasure to meet and work with you, and the video is wonderful.