Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekend warriors

We spent the vast majority of our Memorial Day weekend wrestling with nets and wire panels, struggling to fashion some sort of containment arrangement for our tomato and strawberry planters.

Because once these are all gone?
Apparently now it is Open Season on everything else.
The squirrels, who previously had only arranged the occasional marauding party to steal fruit before it was quite ripe enough to pick by human standards, stepped up their game big time last week.
We are now thinking of this nonstop animal attack on our food crops as our own mini-version of Resident Evil. Simply substitute squirrels for zombies and tomatoes or strawberries for, well, brains, OK?  I realize as metaphor it isn't perfect, but work with me. 

So far, zombies have stripped the tomato plants of nearly every single brain, including our biggest, best hope for a huge slicing brain, leaving us only with a few flowers and teensy cherry brains up at the now bent-over-by-their-own-"protective netting" plant tops.
With no dogs running in the yard, if we are going to seriously attempt growing any sort of fruit at all we probably ought to simply must construct a large permanent enclosure to protect our harvests from the squirrels, raccoons, birds and armadillos.  This is something I learn and (apparently) unlearn annually, seeing as we still don't have any sort of dedicated enclosure in place.
Rather we seemed doomed to set in place a series of what were unsuccessful annoyances.  Obstacles but not insurmountable ones.  Whether or not I got organized in time, the Resident Evil were clearly already being drawn to the brains, and they recently began obnoxiously rubbing our noses in the truth their 24/7 access is an advantage they will not ignore.

NOW I remember why I felt so conflicted when I first bought those teeny tiny starter brains in 4 inch pots earlier this season.

Somehow I knew putting those innocents out in our yard would eventually turn out to be the first salvo in what has become full scale warfare.   Introducing my totally inelegant "I told you we might need all those twist ties and bread wrapper closures!" anti Zombie Maginot Line.

Yeah.  And I'm not even French.  Bring it, zombie squirrels!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Peaceful Memorial Day Weekend

According to Mark Twain, "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."

And, as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr stated in his address before the remnants of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1884: "As it was then, it is now.  The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier's death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side."

In recent years it seems celebrations of Memorial Day have become less about honoring those Americans who died while fighting for our country and more about the end of the school year and having a three day weekend to kick off summer time.  Movements are in place to permanently set 5/30 as "The" Memorial Day (rather than the last Sunday in May), and there is a federal proclamation in force that suggests everybody spend a full minute at 3:00 PM memorial Day (local time) in silence, or listening to "Taps".

However you celebrate, whatever your viewpoint, I hope you will take at least a moment to consider all the folks who are currently mourning the loss of a soldier in the family.   In that context, "peace" takes on an entirely different meaning....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Maybe I just wasn't paying attention?

I have been spending nearly all my time recently out working in the beds rather than blogging about them.   I say that not by way of apology, I'll never say "sorry" for working to improve my own surroundings.

Today however I was shuttling a couple of Netflix envelopes back out to the mailbox and as I was walking past the reworked church pew currently serving as our front porch bench, I spotted this guy hard at work:
Asterocampa celtis, aka the Hackberry Emperor
No, this photo IS different - see how the probiscis (galea) is all unfurled and sucking something out of/off the wood?
After I finished patting myself on the back for being able to correctly identify this industriously distracted butterfly (even a blind pig finds an acorn now and again) I checked in on the feeding habits of same.

There it was again:  The adults do not visit flowers, but feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, dung, and animal carcasses.

I just can't get over how many butterflies are apparently out doing the insect version of what buzzards do.

I had no idea.  Did you?

This has me thinking that butterflies are much bigger badasses than I ever guessed.  Respect!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Little helpers everywhere

When I work out in our garden beds, I am often caught up with making plans for what I want to try next.

There are paths to be created (I realize paths are optimally put in BEFORE a garden bed is planted, but some of the time that is not the way things work out) and plant sizes or growing habits to be considered.  Shade patterns change, drought reveals the relative toughness of some plants as opposed to others.

What I typically manage to forget, is that though I am out and about pretty frequently, there are full time garden workers busy out there day in and day out, rain or shine, working away on projects all their own.

Really, this is their garden at least as much as (if not more than) mine.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spotlight on

Today I'd like to shine a little bloggy love light on a most amazing artist, Marc Johns.

Unlike some other working artists, Johns is nothing but accessible: he has a blog, a shop, a book, and quite a following.  Allow me to show you a small sampling and I think you'll see why so many folks are so taken with his work.

Johns plays with unexpected juxtaposition like nobody else.  His deceptively simple style allows even a repeat offender doodler like me to enter his world fearlessly.  All that is required of you is to suspend your idea of reality, or at the very least, to stretch it a little.

Writing about himself: "I generally aim to say as much as possible with as few elements as possible. My work often leans toward humour. Finding the humour in things often leads to truth."

From his blog:

Some of my favorites are taken from a number of series that have developed around a topic.  The following are samples from a run of drawings Johns made considering what happens when inanimate objects begin to read.

For me, reacting to a Johns drawing is a little like being lovingly teased.  It is fun, there is tension right underneath that fun, and that tension is always tethered by some truth.  

Johns writes that his work "is blogged about by someone, somewhere, every day, and many of his fans have tattoos of his drawings."  Today, that someone is me.  At least on the blogging front.  I'm not planning on any tattoos at the moment but you just never know.  Maybe this one.....
So very meta....


Every once in a while I get something right (accidentally counts!).  The interplanting of Four-O-Clocks with this Lindheimer's Senna is pushing every button.  In that good way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pretty sure...

I'm pretty sure I don't even want to know how this happened.....

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Greetings and welcome to the 
2012 Six-Leggers General Convention!  

Our theme this year: In Greater Numbers Than Ever Before

Please note: In response to your complaints - this year early registration will be available online.  Do register ahead to avoid crowds at check-in.
After check-in please join us for cocktails in the Honeysuckle Lounge.  

New this year, Breakout Sessions will be held daily at the Backyard Convention Center, 500 S. Garden Street, Austin, TX. Sessions start each morning promptly at 8:00 a.m.  

Speakers and special sessions will be announced at the breakfast buffet each morning.  If you miss announcements, check with the concierge at the Daisy Desk.  

Late arrivals: Hotel staff will be available to secure all bags until sessions are completed for the day and room check-in is available.

As always we hope your convention experience will be a pleasant one.  If you have any special requests or dietary restrictions, please let us know!   -Management

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Orange you glad?

Remember that old knock-knock joke about bananas and oranges?  No?  I won't get into that here (you're welcome!) but I was reminded of it recently.

I have posted plenty of times previously on Gardenista (my old/now defunct garden blog) about how much I stink at identifying butterflies, moths, wasps, any fauna smaller than the palm of my hand is potentially a total mystery to me.

And yes, I know about sites that specifically help folks figure out what they've got flittering around their outdoor spaces.  I try using them, typically only to find I have a photo of something that looks a lot like this and a little like that but exactly like neither one of them.

It could be I keep stumbling across juvenile specimens that have not yet reached full coloration or developed mature markings.  That would be its own kind of purgatory wouldn't it?  Trapped for all time trying to admire, much less wrangle a bunch of teenaged bugs?  They'd all be staying out late, mouthing off, speeding around, knocking over whatever young male bugs knock over since they can't topple mailboxes.

Or not.

At any rate, after spending over an hour roaming around the interweb, trying to identify this specimen I caught slaving away over the lantana, I am ready to call it quits.  Without further ado, this guy:
Orangeus Mysterioso
Double click for a larger version - didn't help me one bit with ID but it did make me feel I was trying harder.
Isn't s/he pretty?  I sure thought so.  

Shhh - now I'll share a little secret with you: Worst part is the sneaking suspicion I already figured out what kind of flutterby this is in an old post on Gardenista but now I'm simply too peeved to go wading back through to check.  Stubborn can be a tough place to inhabit.

If you know what type butterfly this is feel free to say so in the comments.  Even an educated guess will do.  Extra style points if you can make up something plausible sounding enough to pass for factual.  You'll probably at least fool me (granted, a low bar to clear at the moment).  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2012

These altheas are both 20 year old passalong plants from my Dad.
Despite (and maybe because of) all the hot and dry last year, everything seems determined to put on a great early show this year while occasional rains are still part of the program.

I always meant to participate in garden bloggers bloom day but never seem to get organized in time.  It has taken me over a year but by George! I think I finally got it!  Now, in no particular order, here are some of the showier blooms making it a pleasure to be out and about here in Zone 8B, the Balcones Canyonlands ecosystem, where despite welcomed recent rains we still need a full two inches to climb out of the drought hole we find ourselves dug into.
We have three, but this particular potted hibiscus is always the first to bloom.
Purple coneflowers never fail to stop me in my tracks.
Grandpa Ott Morning Glory Vine
Cannas are reliable, rain or shine.
Longhead Prairie Coneflowers, aka Mexican Hat
Gaillardia pulchella - Indian Blanket
Pink four-o-clocks dance in the shade
And lest you think it is only all about the flowers around here?  
Taken on Mother's Day, this female Cardinal enjoys the local breakfast buffet.
Ripening strawberries require extra protection from marauders.  
'Maters! (!!!)
There are a smattering of other plants blooming, but in the interest of having the page load before the next month's bloom photos were due, I decided to list the rest:  Lantana of every sort soldier on with their bouquet style blooms.  Shasta daisies are on their last legs.  Golden tick coreopsis are just kicking into gear.  Over wintered purple verbena are dancing in every bed, while the only reminder of bluebonnets are their seed pods casually tossed where I hope to have new plants next season.  

Thanks to Carol, of May Dreams Gardens for getting this all started. And thanks to all the gardeners who post their blooms, month in and month out, to make GBBD a most fabulous way to see what is happening in every zone imaginable.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fresh as a....

One of the most frustrating things ever, might just be when I snap to a trend and breathlessly rush to share with my offspring in yet another attempt to appear slightly less out of touch.
There they are, The Kids, grown now (chronologically at least), laughing and trading dialogue and other bits of information so fresh they are still wet.  (The information bits, not my kids.)

There I am, watching my kid's mouths moving, entirely ignoring the context of their conversation as I mindlessly wait for their noise to stop as that is my signal it is TIME! to show off my new found Coolio.

Eventually they pause for breath and despite over a decade of failed previous attempts, I wade fearlessly in.

"Guys!" I say nonchalantly, "did you see...?"  Fill in the blank here for anything that is even the teensiest bit topical.  The funniest skit on SNL, some running gag on Parks and Recreation, some dumb thing anybody remotely famous said, a specific phone app, viral video, whatever.  It matters not.

What does matter is that, whatever IT is I find?  I am never the first to find it.  Not. Ever.  Despite the fact I am up hours before either of my offspring blinks on any given day, despite the fact I am unencumbered by school or work either one, despite the fact I spend as much time tethered to a computer screen (willingly!) as both of them combined?

I am incapable of finding/reading/watching or listening to anything substantial before one, or more typically, both my kids get wind of it.

Being the last one to every party gets old.  I simply did not previously recognize being the last one to every party means I am old.  My own personal self.

Apparently being the constant straggler is merely another inevitable indignity coming as part of the package deal along with attendant loss of hair color, bone mass, hearing and visual acuity.  Never knowing anything ahead of my children is not the ongoing outcome of failing to set some "advanced" system preference I've yet to discover, it is more that my system doesn't even run whatever program the correct preference to select would feature.

Consolation?  Well, there is always this:

Thanks to xkcd as always for saving the attitude, if not the day.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yo Momma

Ah, Mother's Day.

My own Mom is long gone, but if she were yet around I am certain our entire family would be busily planning the ways in which we'd try again this year to do the impossible: thank another human being for doing everything it took to bring each one of us into this world to begin with.

Every Mother has their own story about becoming a Mom, and that applies regardless of gender or circumstance, because, as you may already know, there is a lot more to being a Mother than biologically reproducing.

Here's to my Mom, here's to your Mom, here's to everybody everywhere who loves and cleans and feeds and houses, who tends to and fusses over children their hearts call their own, all in an attempt to get us each started along our own path.

If you like, feel free to leave a comment including a salute to your own Mom.  She may never see it, but she'll just know you were a good boy or girl.  Mothers always know.

Happy Mother's Day from Austin Agrodolce.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Everything Happens for a Reason

Spotted on the interweb:

A piece from Mark Peters (via The Bygone Bureau) about Why Things Happen.

Author Peters notes in his bio how he manages to stay productive by breaking his work up into three parts: the dread, the middle and the regret.  I totally relate.  Personally, I am at my best when engaged in parts one and three.

Peters doesn't specifically cover garden type calamitous happenings (he can't do all our work for us people!), but at least when it comes to that?  I have my own sources at the ready.  The actual reason for anything that has not gone according to plan around our house and gardens?

It can all be laid at the feet of this:

One of these:

Or this guy: