Lady Banks: one of our prettiest roses. A Chinese import (yes, truly), one of her ancestors was taken to Europe in the 1820s, and hence to America not long after. This is a splendid year for our Lady, the first in some seasons. 2010 and 2009 were drought years, which reduced her bloom; I pruned her back severely in 2007, which reduced the 2008 bloom. I'm glad to see her in such good health, after a long, hot summer last year. The large shrub behind her is a red-tip photinia, also very pretty this year.
The veggie garden is flourishing this spring, thanks to the unusual wet La Nina winter: a "nice La Nina," for a change. The reasons for this unusual La Nina are complex, meterologically speaking, but the bottom line, for us, has been about 6 inches of rain, more than we usually expect in January-February. The Highland Lakes are still far below normal: only 44% full. But we're looking at more rain in the next few days, so that may change.
In the meantime, the mesquites are leafing out (which signals the beginning of our "official" spring), the redbuds are in bloom, the Texas mountain laurel is splendid, and the grass is a bright emerald green. We'll be moving the cows to their spring pasture next week, after feeding hay for the past couple of months--there's a patch of wonderful grass behind the barn that will bring them great delight.
And I've been working in the garden, where the potatoes are coming along nicely, thank you. This is just the kind of weather they love, so I'm hoping they make a crop. We'll know about the middle of May.
Also flourishing: spinach, chard, and kale; onions (bunch and long-day); carrots and radishes; peas (snaps and pod); tomatoes; cabbage; and brocolli. I neglected to put collars around the tomatoes and lost one of the best ones to cutworms, which are especially nasty this wet spring. I got busy and collared everything that might be susceptible. (2" collars cut from recycled file folders.) Hope that does the trick.
Oh, and I ordered my baby chicks! A couple of dozen meat birds (Cornish Rock Cross)--they'll arrive the middle of April and be in the freezer by mid-June. I did this later last summer, and the heat was a huge problem for them AND for me!
Our local wildlife are also appreciating spring. Our favorites: the wild turkeys. There's quite a flock this year, about a dozen hens and three toms. The toms start gobbling loudly before sunrise every morning (there's nothing like being awakened by a love-lorn turkey tom) and showing off their fine tails to the hens, who pay them no-never-mind. One day last week, all three toms encircled a single hen and were displaying madly while she ate her breakfast out of the grass, oblivious to their charms. The toms don't appear to be competitive, except in the matter of tails and gobbles.
Not so favorite: Black Bart the wild boar, who has been tearing up the south meadow. We saw our neighbor out the other morning, in her camoflauge gear with her pig hunting rifle over her shoulder. Unfortunately, it was about 9 am, long after Black Bart has packed it in for the day. If she wants to shoot that pig, she'll have to get out there at sunrise or hang around at sunset, which is when we usually see him. It's open season on wild pigs here, and he's big enough (and slow enough) to be a good target.
Book Report. I turned in Widow's Tears last week: Ruby's book, with China--the backstory is the Galveston hurricane of 1900. I'm still working on various aspects of the Rose Wilder Lane project, but have also started the next Dahlias mystery: The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star. I also submitted another article to Wildflower Magazine, this one on native medicinal plants. My earlier article, on drought-tolerant wildflowers, is here, with great photos by Steven Schwartzman.
Reading note. Knowledge in depth about one's home region will not strip away the gleaming surface that has been spread over the continent by mass culture and mass production, but such knowledge may reveal to us how thin that surface is, thin enough to see through, as thin as ice on a spring pond.--Scott Russell Sanders, Writing From the Center