It has taken me several years to understand the cycle of four season gardening here on the Gulf Coast of Texas. A week or so ago, we had frost. A skim of ice floated on top of the puddles in our driveway–there is a broken watermain underneath that constantly drips—this is the fourth time that main has had a leak; one year I had a bubbling spring in front of my house and a huge variety of songbirds used it as their drinking fountain.
But I digress.
Planting peas and radish and lettuce several weeks ago while my patient husband set up a new watering system, there is always a bit of anxiety waiting for those tiny seeds to sprout.
After delivering a bag full of satsumas–a small handful of kumquats and a lemon–not so many of those this year to our youngest son, we stopped by our garden. With all of our recent rain, we had standing water in many places but I was rewarded with lots of sprouts.
Lettuce sprouts are still so tiny but then their seeds are the size of grains of sand.
The bananas at the side of the shed did not like the freezing temperature; but they always seem to come back. I am hoping we had enough cold weather for the new pear tree to set blossoms this next spring—the apricot tree has been a huge disappointment—bought from a Master Gardener’s sale as a peach tree, we have harvested two apricots despite hand fertilizing and putting a bird net on top.
But we should have a bountiful crop of lettuce in two months and peas shortly after that. Radishes are for husband and he likes both the tops and the globes.
About ten days ago, we spent most of a day putting together a new watering system for my garden—truthfully, I worked on cutting down some weeds and brush while husband put together the system. I planted lettuce and peas after filling the tanks with more dirt.
And now there are tiny seedlings all sprouting. In about six weeks or so we will have fresh lettuce for our table.
And hopefully, the cold snap approaching us will not be too cold—although they are protected to some extent by the tanks. Sunny days means the metal of the tanks heats up.
It is always exciting to see those sprouts appear–a tiny miracle.
The first time I tasted garlic was in garlic bread at a youth church spaghetti supper while I was in high school. Since then, garlic has been one of my favorite seasonings. I had never attempted to grow it though, buying the fresh bulbs at the grocery store. And within the past few years, there have been jars of peeled garlic available—so much easier than peeling off that papery covering and mincing the clover.
Fortunately, my husband has been successful in growing elephant garlic–in Wisconsin and here in Texas. Much to the delight and amusement of the neighbors in Wisconsin, he would dry braided strands of arlic in the cab of his truck—looking like he was preparing for an onslaught of vampires.
And then there are the blooms. I had seen onions go to flower creating a pod at the top; and I guessed garlic would do the same.
And if you have never seen a garlic blossom—here is one.
it took two or more months for the flower to form and then bloom–an item of interest for the mail carrier and the UPS driver.
As someone who grew up in the northern climes of Wisconsin with long winters enhanced in January by the arrival of the seed catalogs, it has taken me more than a few years to become accustomed to a place where things grown year-round—-and lawn-mowing as well.
The first time i planted peas….in the middle of May, I was informed that everyone else was pulling up their plants as Gulf coast weather was entirely too hot for them to continue producing—and there were no tomato sets in the gardening stores.
But I have learned.
Today we are picking satsumas from the tree in our front yard and sharing the with others. The lemon tree did not do so well this year but I still have plenty of frozen ones for lemonaid and pickled ones for flavoring chicken and fish. And then we set up a new watering system for the late winter/early spring garden.
Radishes and three kinds of lettuce and some peas have been seeded; the tomato that somehow survived two hurricanes and the hot summer weather has a few green tomatoes on it—but I pulled up the okra as it is now far too cool for it to continue podding. Okra flowers are so pretty with their deep purple throats and creamy outer petals—and now with an abundance of okra, we have experimented in using it in unusual ways–it has proven to be a great addition to pizza—and no, it is not slimey.
Broccoli has persisted through the summer and re-seeded itself—it is one of the bees favorite flowers as the pollen is high in protein–needed for all those baby bees I expect to have in the early spring.
Now comes the hard part, waiting until I see those little sprouts appearing—but while I wait I can have a satsuma.
I always enjoy seeing goldenrod in bloom. That yellow is so cheery and is a harbinger of fall, cooler temperatures, and the time when I no longer need to think about preparing for an incoming hurricane/tropical storm.
My preparations for those aren’t extravagant as I stock up on bottled water, canned goods, and ground coffee in May at the beginning of the season. You will not find me joining the crowds with last minute shopping. When I worked at one of the local chemical plants, I discovered they bought their supplies in May and donated anything not used around Christmas time. Some of my neighbors filled their bathtubs—for flushing purposes—I went with the bucket from the pond with the tadpoles.
I do see Hurricane Eta approaching Nicaragua—and while thankful that is many miles away from me, that country is poorly equipped to deal with a hurricane and the pandemic.
On the other hand, I could be shoveling snow, dealing with furnaces that don’t light, icy roads, and needing to bundle up like the MIchelin man/Pilsbury dough-boy. and hiding in the basement during bad windstorms/tornado season.
It has taken me several years to adapt to the idea of a very long growing season here on the Gulf Coast. Knowing that oranges appeared around Christmas time is not the same as thinking about a fruit harvest starting at that time. We have a Meyers Lemon, satsuma, and kumquat. We did plant some other citrus but the desired fruit part did not survive and we have a root stock of something fairly odd—with twisted branches.
These trees, unlike the song, are not particularly attractive trees. Fortunately ours are still less than about five feet tall making for easy picking of the fruits. Last winter we were so spoiled–want a quick snack? Just run out to the satsuma and pick one—fresh, they are so wonderfully sweet.
It is almost time for the lemons to ripen. Our first harvest was about a dozen, the next year three dozen and following years enough lemons to give to friends and neighbors and make marmalade and pickled lemons and frozen lemons for lemonade this summer.
Okra is a plant that is not native to the United States but is widely cultivated in the warmer sub-tropical states. It grows well in our hot Texas weather and loves the sun and frequent rains. I have been successful in growing it and harvesting the pods. In the right kind of weather, I can pick it in the morning and again in the late afternoon. Unless it is picked, it quickly turns to wood.
And that is why I hand-cut all the okra. It freezes well—and here I am cutting up the day’s harvest.
According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Marco was responsible for the last minute wobble in Laura’s path to deviate into Louisiana instead of here in Beaumont Texas. Just east of us in Orange County and I’m told they had significant damage. We were on the ‘clean’ side of the hurricane and outside of a lot of small twigs and a carpet of crepe myrtle leaves on our lawn escaped most of the damage.
However, our power went out and some neighborhoods will not have power until sometime this next week. Our internet which is quixotic in the best of times is even less reliable.
Friends and family have called to see if we are okay….now that we are in the ‘feeble three legged cane’ age group—although neither of us possesses such a thing. Running a generator to power our refrigerator, a box fan and our freezer took some doing including dismantling my pantry shelves to get at the plug for the refrigerator—why don’t appliance people put an accessory plug somewhere near the front of the machine?
We have power now and we are trying to clear up some of the trash left behind. I took a few photos around the neighborhood—while I could focus on the things that have destroyed or the boarded up buildings, there are plenty of those photos taken by others.
It is hard to get back to ‘normal’ whatever that is in these days. I decided I would clean out my sewing machine desk drawers—what a wealth of useless stuff I found! Instruction manuals for a DVD player long consigned to the trash as non-functional, several packages of rotary cutter blades–like most I use mine until they cut like I am chewing on the fabric instead of cutting it cleanly.
Yesterday I brought back an unused cart from the shop to see if I could put the bits and pieces of fabric—too big and good to toss—seems I am related to my grandmother who lived through the Depression and World War II rationing. Today I might do some sorting and see if I can use that new saw I bought to cut up some of the larger limbs so I can haul them to the side for big trash pickup day.
Tomorrow is a new day—we have tonight’s meal planned—pizza from the freezer.
Nearly everyone I knew had a garden when I grew up; tomatoes, carrots, radishes, sweet corn, and a row of zinnias and marigolds.
It has been a struggle for me to learn the proper season to plant things here as we can plant and grow things year round—a bizarre thought for those of us living through snowbound December through April and frosts starting in August and ending in late May.
So it is with pride that I can show a zucchini about five inches long, a Roma tomato (we have already eaten four from the garden—there is just something about a freshly picked vine ripened tomato—-and cucumbers–again so sweet and so different from those waxed green things from the supermarket.
We had fresh lettuce for three months–so much nicer than from the store where many fingers have touched and tossed and otherwise manipulated.
My peach tree disappointedly turned out to be an apricot tree and the fig tree had ornamental thumb sized green figs instead of the large purple ones we wanted—these were from the Master Gardener local sale—but the lemon tree we bought from a friend’s nursery has produced annually in great abundance as has the satsuma.
I present to you a cucumber blossom followed by photos of produce—truly an accomplishment for me but fairly low on the entertainment and interesting plot for all of you devoted readers.
When we first moved to this part of the world, I was impressed by the length of the spring wildflower display. Bluebonnets and primrose and paintbrush and sunflowers and cone flowers were in abundance. Then there were the crepe myrtles and the fruit trees and the wisteria and gardenias and camelias.
But there was one that I coveted—-the wild lilies that grew along the banks of swampy areas. One time I stopped and attempted to dig one up to transplant to my yard—but I would have needed hip boots, some sort of snake repellent and a shovel–not a little hand trowel.
A friend gave me some bulbs or rhizomes (not horticulturally sure which is correct term) and we planted them on the side of my shed—during downpours this area will flood. The first few years were challenging but now I have several healthy clumps and here are some of those lovely blooms.
Blogging is a natural progression for someone who enjoys the written word and beautiful imagery. My photographs are hosted at sylviaweir.smugmug.com. I am slowly transitioning all my photographs to this site and will hopefully edit them to a manageable number. In the meantime, I have organized my blog photos by year and so you may wish to merely sample the blog photos
Feel free to contact me for any questions. My website here has not been fully populated but as I work on my smugmug site, I will update these pages.
My work begins with a word, a thought, an idea, or a bit of a poem. I search through my library of images mostly on Smugmug or sometimes I go out and photograph new images. A pieced quilt pattern is sometimes chosen, sometimes I use a piece of fabric I have altered in the past. The imagery is added on using hand applique and then thread is used to add details.
Each piece is meant to draw the viewer inward providing them with ample opportunities to add their own story to the piece. If the piece evokes the emotion or thought I wished conveyed, then I consider the piece successful.
Sometimes I play 'what if' with fabric and paint and imagery. These might be considered equivalent to scale work in music--something I always enjoyed.