Crush Me and Make Me Wine

Created Tuesday, 24 November 2009 16:08

Crush Me and Make Me Wine

I know, I know – the talk of Texas wine a couple of years ago would make people flash back to the Monty Python sketch about Australian wine – “Black Stump Bordeaux is rightly praised as a peppermint flavored Burgundy, whilst a good Sydney Syrup can rank with any of the world’s best sugary wines….”

Australia has had the last laugh, and so does Texas; there is – if the shelves of the local grocery store are an indication – a thriving Texas wine industry. I’ve read that the Hill Country is about in the same place where the California wine-growing regions of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino were, twenty-five years ago.

There were always immigrant settlers in Texas from countries with a wine-making tradition who were doing interesting things with mustang grapes, and in the very earliest days of settlement, the Franciscan fathers planted grape vines near El Paso … to make wine for communion, of course. Prohibition in the 1920’s kicked the local wine-making industry in the teeth, but it came roaring back. According to Wikipedia, there are now more than 160 wineries in Texas … curiously, the largest wine producer in the whole state is – at a slight remove – the University of Texas system, through an experimental plot of grapes planted in the 80’s and since expanded and leased to a couple of vintners. Only in Texas…

Route 290 is one of those wonderful country roads, for the most part- sometimes two lanes only, sometimes having a third “passing lane” on the uphill stretches, and sometimes four lanes (two in either direction!) rolling easily through the hills, past ranches and little towns, pastures full of cattle or goats – and the occasional startling glimpse of buffalo, llamas and ostriches. No better drive on a mellow Saturday, under a blue sky, lightly sprinkled with enough clouds to be as scenic as an impressionist painting … and every once in a while, on the stretch between Fredericksburg and Stonewall – an inviting turn-off for a winery. We succumbed to temptation at the Becker Vineyards, for the tenuous connection to my own books, and the fact that they have fields of lavender. It was lovely, late afternoon, live music on the generous veranda of the main building, which overlooks a lawn, the lavender field and a teeny, old-fashioned farmhouse, with a cistern and a vine-grown windmill-tower.

One of the floor managers told me that the farmhouse used to house a family of eight … umm, it’s a good thing they appeared to have been very fond of each other, and where the parents ever found the privacy necessary to engender more children after the first four or five is anyone’s guess. The farmhouse is available as a bed & breakfast, although on weekends, like the original residents, I’d like some more privacy! The parking lot was quite crowded; nice to know there are some luxuries that consumers will not consider omitting from their lifestyle. The wine-tasting room was lively, the veranda full of connoisseurs enjoying a taste of this or that. There are wine-tasting tours available – quite a good thing to consider, for after a taste or two at every one along the road … never mind.

When we got home, having been virtuous and responsible, all along the road, we opened a bottle of Fredericksburg Winery Fredericksburg & Northern; a dark red (although I usually prefer whites) and it was wonderful. Dark and rich, and not too sweet, with a berry aftertaste: yeah, I’d like some bottles of this from my nearest and dearest as a Christmas present. No, I’m not hinting. It’s a demand.

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San Antonio Road Trip to Frontier Fort near Fredericksburg

Created Friday, 20 November 2009 19:06
by Julia Hayden

San Antonio Road Trip to Frontier Fort Martin Scott

I think most people, when they have a mental vision of an Army fort on the far western American frontier, think of a wooden stockade of standing timber – but that was not much the case in Texas. Indians rarely to never attack those forts, so defensive walls were hardly necessary. With or without protection from the Army, the frontier advanced almost too rapidly and too erratically for many of the earlier established forts to remain useful for long. Fort Martin Scott, on the eastern outskirts of Fredericksburg, just off US Route 290 is one such. It was established late in the 1840s, rendered almost redundant by the early 1850s, briefly garrisoned by the returning US Army after the Civil War, and the site of it finally sold to a local leading citizen who transformed it into his family’s homestead.

Most of the buildings present, set out among a scattering of oak trees in a foot-ball field rectangle running from the verge of Rte 290 down to the banks of Baron’s Creek are reconstructions. There are some few foundations left here and there of a sulter’s store and the laundry, set conveniently close to water, down on the creek-bank. There are a few stones left of a huge oven to bake bread for the soldiers, nothing at all left of where the warehouse and post hospital was, nor of the stable for the dragoon’s horses, and the blacksmith’s forge. The approximate position of the commander’s house is merely outlined in stones. The only original building, from the time when it was an active US Army establishment is a thick-walled limestone building with very tiny slit-windows in one end which served as the guardhouse and military jail – when the property was sold to the Brautigam family, it was added onto and became their home, until the site was sold to the city, and restoration of the long-decayed original buildings began.

It wouldn’t have been one of those dramatic forts, in it’s time – no bloody sieges, no great expeditions launched from the little parade-ground, between the whitewashed log, or stone buildings. The front-porches of the officer’s quarters, and the breezeways between the three-pen log enlisted barracks would have looked out on little but the same military garrison routine, day after day. Moving supplies from wagons coming up the road from San Antonio and the coast into the warehouse, shoeing horses and doing laundry, mounting guard and standing retreat at the end of the day – that would have been it, for the soldiers and their officers sent her for a bare handful of years. No doubt many of them spent their time in a quiet backwater of the Texas frontier, hoping that something exciting would happen, something to break up the boredom and routine of peacetime service, something that would bring them glory and renown.

For a good few of them, that supposed wish did come true, in the following decade, when officers who had served at Fort Martin Scott – like James Longstreet – did indeed find glory and renown. Very possibly, they looked back then on their tour of service at a tiny fort on the banks of Baron’s Creek with considerable nostalgia.

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Texas Comptroller Economic Outlook

Created Friday, 20 November 2009 17:37

Texas Comptroller’s Economic Outlook

Updated November 13, 2009

Economic Progress Report

(Change from previous year)

Unemployment Rate Increasing
Nonfarm Employment Decreasing
Sales Tax Collections, Retail Establishments Decreasing
Texas Leading Indicator Index Decreasing
U.S. Gasoline and Diesel Retail Prices Decreasing

See all monthly time series graphs

The Texas economy, the world’s 11th-largest, continues to fare better than those of many other states. But Texas is feeling the effects of the worldwide recession.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the U.S. economy peaked in December 2007 and has been in recession since then. Although the Texas economy slowed with the nation’s late in 2008, Texas’ gross product expanded much faster than the U.S. economy (2.0 percent versus 0.4 percent) during calendar 2008.

Both the U.S. and Texas economies have contracted in 2009, but Texas continues to perform relatively better than the nation. The Comptroller’s office estimates that the Texas’ gross state product will contract by 1.7 percent during calendar 2009. The U.S. economy will shrink even more, by 2.5 percent for the year.

Jobs

  • Texas lost 44,700 jobs in September 2009, a smaller loss than the previous month.
  • Texas’ September 2009 unemployment rate was 8.2 percent, up from 8.0 percent in August. The October U.S. rate was 10.2 percent, up from 9.8 percent in September.
  • The U.S. lost 5.5 million jobs from October 2008 to October 2009.
  • The Texas unemployment rate has been at or below the national rate for 33 consecutive months.
  • In the 12 months ending in September 2009, Texas lost 303,700 jobs.

Housing

  • Thus far, Texas has weathered the national real estate crunch without significant damage to property values but sales and construction activity have slowed. Despite its continuing resiliency, Texas is not immune from the national real estate crunch.
  • 5,550 building permits for single-family homes were issued in September 2009. The number of permits in the 12 months ending in September 2009 was 60,641, a decrease of 27 percent from the period one year earlier.
  • Multi-family building permits are also down, from 4,551 units in September 2008 to 1,541 units in September 2009. The number of permits issued in the 12 months ending in September 2009 was 21,213, a decrease of 63 percent from the period one year earlier.
  • In September, sales of existing single-family homes in Texas rose year over year for the first time since early 2007, as September 2009 sales were 4 percent higher than for September 2008.
  • In Texas, the median price for existing single-family homes increased by 1.9 percent from September 2008 to September 2009.
  • The Texas foreclosure rate has remained largely stable for the past three years. Texas experienced
  • 11,798 foreclosure filings in October 2009.
  • In October 2009, the Texas foreclosure rate was one in every 800 mortgages. This was substantially better than Nevada’s one in 80, California’s one in 156, and Florida’s one in 168.

Consumer Confidence Index

  • Consumer confidence across the nation remains very weak. In October 2009, the U.S. index stood at 47.7 (with 1985 = 100). Texas and surrounding states fared better than the rest of the nation. Texas’ regional index continued its three-month rise to 71.7, but remains 7 percent lower than October 2008.

Oil and Natural Gas

  • The all-time high crude oil closing price was $145.29 on July 3, 2008.
  • Crude oil futures closed at $76.94 per barrel on Nov. 12, 2009, 37 percent above the level of one year ago and more than double this past winter’s lowest price of $33.98 in February.
  • In fiscal 2008, production tax collections for natural gas were up 42 percent over fiscal 2007. Tax collections for oil were up 72 percent.
  • Natural gas and oil production tax collections are significantly lower for the first two months of fiscal year 2010 over fiscal year 2009.

Taxes

  • Texas sales tax receipts for October 2009 were down 12.8 percent from October 2008.
  • For fiscal 2009, state sales tax receipts are down 2.7 percent from fiscal 2008
  • Motor vehicle sales tax collections for fiscal 2009 were $2.569 billion, down 22.5 percent over fiscal 2008 amount.
  • The nationwide core transaction price for a new car or truck during the first 15 days of October 2009 fell 2.08 percent to $24,758 from $25,283 in October 2008.
  • Nationally, the lease share of new vehicle purchases increased to 23.6 percent of new vehicle purchases, that’s up from 21.4 percent in October 2008.

Stimulus Package

  • In Texas, an estimated $18 billion in federal stimulus money is flowing to state and local governments. The Comptroller’s office is tracking the $14.3 billion that comes through the state Treasury. The Comptroller’s analysis is ongoing. For the latest information, visit our ARRA Web site, A Texas Eye on the Dollars.

Cap and Trade

  • Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could negatively impact the Texas economy. The state could see 173,000 to 425,000 fewer jobs than expected in 2030 as a result of increased energy prices from the cap and trade portion of the recently proposed bill. The resulting decline in gross state product is estimated to be between $25 billion and $58 billion.
  • The Comptroller’s office is continuing to analyze potential implications and assess how green jobs and energy efficiency programs in the proposals could offset negative impacts. For the latest information, visit our Cap and Trade Web page.

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Garbage Fleet Considers Alternative Fuels

Created Friday, 20 November 2009 17:16

San Antonio Garbage Fleet Considers Alternative Fuels

Federal Stimulus Money available to build refueling sites, buy vehicles

By Laylan Copelin; Texas Ahead- Texas Rising

San Antonio is betting that compressed natural gas (CNG) garbage trucks will pay off at the pump and for the environment.

“We’re thinking outside the Dumpster,” says David McCary, the director of the city’s Solid Waste Management Department.

Thirty of the city’s 150 trucks now use CNG. McCary says the city is saving $1 to $1.25 per gallon for CNG compared with diesel, but each new truck costs about $60,000 more than its diesel counterpart. The city also opened a $1.3 million refueling station this year.

McCary says it took $918,000 in state grants to make the deal work. “We wanted to make sure we were getting the most bang for the buck.”

Nationwide, fleet managers are giving alternatives to gasoline and diesel a longer look, in part, because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included $300 million in incentives.

“That’s huge,” says Soll Sussman with the General Land Office’s Renewable Energy division.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $38 million to Texas. The Comptroller’s State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) also set aside $11 million for alternative fuels. That’s in addition to existing federal tax credits and state incentives from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the General Land Office.

Tax credits and government incentives help offset two barriers to converting to alternative fuels – the higher upfront costs of the vehicles and a shortage of refueling stations. For example, Sussman estimates that there are fewer than 20 public CNG stations in Texas.

“We’re thinking outside the Dumpster,” says David McCary, San Antonio Solid Waste Management director.

Here are the alternative fuels projects funded by the federal stimulus program in Texas:

SECO will reimburse public entities the added costs of buying alternative-fueled vehicles instead of gasoline or diesel models. The office will consider applications for a variety of alternative fuels – from plug-in hybrids to biodiesel to CNG.

Money also is available to buy equipment for refueling stations.

SECO projected it could help purchase 750 light-duty vehicles, 400 heavy-duty vehicles and the equipment for about a dozen new refueling stations.

Lisa Elledge, manager of SECO’s stimulus program, says eligible projects need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while getting the highest return on investment.

“We’re interested in projects that help the environment and make financial sense for the taxpayers,” she says.

The Texas Railroad Commission promotes propane as an alternative fuel. In fiscal 2010, its $12.6 million grant will deploy 882 propane vehicles, including 245 school buses, 24 trucks and 613 light-duty vehicles for school districts and public agencies. Thirty-five refueling stations will be constructed to support the propane vehicles.

The commission partnered with 40 school districts, cities and state agencies in applying for the money.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments received $13.2 million to purchase vehicles and build refueling sites in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The plan includes projects for biodiesel, ethanol, CNG, electric and hybrid vehicles. In addition to public fleets, the alternative fuel programs will benefit “high-visibility fleets,” such as Coca-Cola, Sysco, Frito-Lay and Irving Holdings Inc., which operates Yellow Cab.

Texas State Technical College (TSTC) received almost $12.3 million to create a nationwide network of liquid propane (sometimes called Autogas) fueling stations. The college also will create a program to retrain and certify military veterans and out-of-work service technicians to work in the alternative fuels industry.

TSTC’s partners in the private sector include ConocoPhillips, Clean Fuels USA and Public Solutions Group.

In San Antonio, the new CNG-powered garbage trucks are getting good initial reviews. But city officials are studying the operating and maintenance costs as well as monitoring the air quality at the refueling site.

CNG is an experiment,” says Catarino DeLuna, the city’s fleet manager. “But there’s a possibility this may grow.” TR

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Road Trip to Harper Texas

Created Monday, 16 November 2009 15:22

Road Trip – Harper, Texas

Harper is one of those quintessential small unincorporated Texas Hill Country towns, strung out the length of a single Main Street – which at either end becomes US Route 290. A tiny grid of blocks, a small park, in between where half a dozen ranch roads connect to Route 290 – if you sneeze as you drive through at a decent rate of speed, you’d miss at least half the town; a row of small storefront businesses on either side, a handful of modest and traditional churches, Bode Feed & Supply – owned by Gene Bode, who is the unofficial Mayor of Harper as well as local historian – some antique stores, cafes and BBQ joints.

All of which are doing better than you might think at first glance, because Harper is at the western end of 290, a bead on a chain of towns like Fredericksburg, Stonewall and Johnson City – all of which have, or are in the process of acquiring, a tidy income stream from tourism, and from retirees settling into busier lives than they had when they were still working.

Harper seems to be still in the very early stages of that kind of development – the main thing going on this weekend was support of hunting season, so Main Street didn’t have all that much traffic – and the busiest shop was a resale shop which supports the activities of a booming Harper library. It’s a very attractive shop, I might add, and we are connoisseurs of that sort of thing. The manager says next month they plan to expand into the rest of the building. They even have a corner for “guy” stuff – hunting clothes and paraphernalia.

 

The library was what brought me to Harper, to talk about my books – specifically the Adelsverein Trilogy, which is turning out to be very, very popular: all the Harper Library copies of it are being worn to pieces, as the library staff is recommending it very highly to new people in town who want to learn painlessly about local history.

In turn, they had recommended the BBQ at Easy Pickens Bar-B-Q, at almost the other end of town – and oh, was it splendid. Easy Pickens is in a small building on Main Street, shaded with tall trees, Spartan but attractively organized. There is one dining room, with a veranda on one side for overflow, and the BBQ pits in the customary screened enclosure on the other, from where one could select what you favored – chops, brisket, chicken or turkey breast, or sausages. It was all mouthwateringly good, and there were a fair number of customers by 11:30. Pickens is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 to 2, each day – and once what they have cooked for the day is all gone … well, there you go.

We were urged to get there by noon, or earlier. The Longhorn Café was also recommended, also a deli/pizza place at Dauna’s, the convenience store on the corner of 290 and FM 783. All these places are right on 290, and it’s a small town – you’ll find them almost immediately, so exact addresses are superfluous. There is no website for Easy Pickens – but their phone # is 830 864-4003. This is so the place where my daughter and I would want to bring Anthony Bourdain or Guy Fieri!

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Tips for Gardening in San Antonio

Created Wednesday, 11 November 2009 19:41

Tips for Gardening in San Antonio

 

From the Archives of the Daily Brief Weblog originally posted 20030915 by Sgt Mom (Julia Hayden)

1. Live in a place for a year, and watch how the sun angles and exposure changes during the seasons.

2. Decide what you want to do in the yard. Do you want let the children play, do you want to sip Chablis and watch the sun set, or party with friends? Think this over carefully. If you want to concrete over the place and dismember old automobiles, you are reading the wrong article, and possibly living in the wrong place.

3. Hang herbs and vegetables from baskets, if rabbits are a problem. If the rabbits in your neighborhood can rappel down from the porch roof, then they are better men than you are, Gunga-Din.

4. Ivy is a plague and an invention of the Devil. So are St. Augustine’s grass, Chinese jasmine and mint, although you can put mint in ice-tea, and mint sauce. (Serve mint sauce with roast lamb.)

5. Mulch is very good, but the free stuff at the city brush-mulching facility is usually full of trash and dirt, which is ok if you need topsoil, too. Cypress mulch is best, but the no-float stuff will float after four inches of rain has fallen on it.

6. Plant invasive stuff on the nastiest, most unpromising soil you have, or with something equally invasive. Let ‘em fight it out.

7. Defunct grocery carts, dead automobiles, and old plumbing fixtures are not acceptable lawn ornaments, but old truck tires turned inside out, painted and planted with seasonal plants, and pink flamingos decorated for Christmas, pulling a sleigh and wearing Santa hats have a certain funky charm. So does a statue of a saint in a bathtub set on end and planted with day-lilies.

8. Grass lawns outside of northern Europe, or the eastern United States are an aberration, high-maintenance and water-thirsty. A wildflower meadow, xerioscape plantings or gravel interspersed with native shrubs would be an acceptable substitute, but green-painted gravel or Astroturf is emphatically not.

9. Given a choice, buy, perennials rather than annuals … unless they self-seed generously.

10. You can acquire nice stone and brick for pathways and flowerbed edges by watching building sites carefully. Chatting up the construction crews when the brick or stonework is nearly finished, and getting permission to take away the broken stone or excess brick when the work is completed will pay off handsomely. Keep a pair of garden gloves in the trunk for occasions like this. Doing this sort of thing is a better reason to own a pickup truck or an SUV than most owners of such usually have.

11. A good source for native stone is wherever they are widening the highway: again, the gloves and the pickup truck come in handy.

12. Look around at what your neighbors are growing. If you don’t see lilacs in South Texas, or cacti in the Pacific Northwest, consider that a clue and plan your own garden accordingly.

13. Whatever the municipality plants in the park, and the highway department puts along the roadsides is guaranteed to be tough, self-sufficient, water-wise and idiot-proof.

14. The varieties of antique rose that were discovered growing on old home-sites and graveyards are similarly tough, self-sufficient, etc. If something looked after itself for 80 years, it shouldn’t have a problem in your garden.

15. I don’t want to waste time fussing over something exotic, high-maintenance and which requires a lot of chemicals. If it can’t cope without a lot of help, you probably shouldn’t bother. Die-hard enthusiasts for out-of-area exotica will disagree, but this is a free country. We are free to select our own perversions.

16. If it’s stupid, but it works, then it isn’t stupid.

17. Consider the views from each window, and arrange something nice to look at from inside the house.

18. Consider growing jasmine, almond verbena, roses or other scented plants where the perfume will drift in through an opened window. Pots of scented geranium placed where you will brush against them as you walk by are another aromatic thrill.

19. Pottery pots breath, but plastic ones don’t dry out so rapidly in mid summer.

20. Don’t disdain big-box store sources like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, et cetera. They carry the commoner plants at a good price, during the season, but they are not set up for long-term care. Buy ‘em the minute they off-load them from the truck.

21. Once you work out a grand plan, and decide on the varieties and colors you want, buy the plants as you see them coming available. Some day, I shall be rich and be able to buy all the plants I need, all at once, but until then it’s a case of a few at a time, fitting into the scheme like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

22. You can’t do it all yourself, all at once. Just pick one little space to improve at a time. By the time you have finished it all, it’s time to go back to the beginning and re-do it.

23. If not planted immediately, re-pot into a larger pot. Having a lot of plants in pots lets you move them around and discover where they work out best. Think of it as moving furniture around.

24. When it’s really hot, the stuff in pots needs to be watered morning AND afternoon.

25. Put all the garden porn…. you know, all those lavishly illustrated books of wonderfully lush, landscaped acres on the grounds of a historic home… on one shelf, for easy inspiration and reference.

Original post link

 

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San Antonio Ranked In Top Metros

Created Wednesday, 11 November 2009 16:05

San Antonio Ranked Eleventh Top Metros in Nation

In Case You Missed It… Texas Metros Top Best Performing Cities According to Milken Institute

Austin ranked number one.

November 11, 2009

AUSTIN – Several Texas metro areas have been ranked in the top spots of the 2009 Milken Institute/Greenstreet Real Estate Partners Best Performing Cities Index. The Lone Star State claimed four of the top five spots, including number one, and nine of the top 16 spots.

“When people across the nation look at Texas, they’re discovering that we’ve fostered an environment that encourages people to pursue their dreams, build businesses and create jobs,” Gov. Perry said. “Our low taxes, predictable regulations and diverse and educated workforce have propelled us to the forefront of the global economy, and Texas continues to be an example for the rest of the nation.”

The Austin-Round Rock area was named the number one Best Performing City, with Killeen-Fort Hood-Temple, Mc Allen-Edinburg-Mission and Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown claiming the second, fourth and fifth spots, respectively. Additionally, Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown was named one of the top five largest cities, and Midland was named the number one small metro.

The index ranks U.S. metro areas based on their ability to create and sustain jobs, and includes long-term (five years) and short-term (one year) measurements of employment and salary growth, and four measurements of technology output growth. The report credits Texas’ favorable business climate and ability to attract jobs and corporations away from higher-cost states with propelling metropolitan areas to the top of the index.

“Texas’ strong position in our ‘Best Performing Cities’ study demonstrates that a favorable business climate, combined with a low cost/low tax environment, is highly supportive of job creation,” Ross DeVol, senior economist at the Milken Institute and lead author of the report, said. “The state has diversified its economy by fostering several key high-tech clusters and the passage of Proposition 4, allocating $500 million in funding for research universities, will make Texas an even more formidable competitor in the future.”

To view a copy of the full report or get more information about the metros indexed, please visit http://www.milkeninstitute.org/publications/publications.taf?function=detail&ID=38801218&cat=resrep or http://bestcities.milkeninstitute.org/bestcities2009.taf.

Key Points


  • Milken index names Texas cities as top metros in nation
  • Index is based on salaries, job creation, technology
  • The study credits Texas’ strong economic environment with launching it to the top

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Autumn of Butterflies in San Antonio

Created Monday, 09 November 2009 15:40

The Autumn of Butterflies

Summer has been mild here in South Texas, and so also has autumn. The fierce afternoon heat has broken, it’s no longer necessary to run the air conditioning. It has been so mild, that the leaves on the trees are just beginning to fall; we haven’t had that prolonged cold snap that briskly reminds them that they need to be letting go and moving on, chop-chop. I trimmed one of the grapevines in front a couple of weeks ago – and the poor innocent thing is putting out new leaves already, under the delusion that winter has come and gone.

This has been truly the year of butterflies; they are everywhere, about the puddles and in the late afternoon a whole fair of them orbits the almond verbena and the buddleia. There are the little brown snout-somethings, and monarchs, great lovely tiger-striped things and more than I have ever seen before, resting on the buddleia blossoms as if they can’t bear to tear themselves away, while the snout-somethings monopolize the verbena.

I have never seen so many and so many kinds: bright little scraps of lemon-yellow, black and yellow, and orange stripes. This morning, the white and brindle cat who lives somewhere up the road seemed to be teased by a butterfly which hovered just beyond reach. He made a couple of fruitless leaps into the air, then gave it up as a hopeless case and sat down to wash himself. Fragile, slow-flying, aimless; none the less, something looks after butterflies.

I went to a great deal of trouble a couple of years ago, in digging out an extended flower planting along the back fence, and replacing it with things guaranteed to attract butterflies and humming birds: fire-bush, and esperanza, and dark purple duranta. One almond verbena bush went in the back, to fill up the corner, and now everything is grown up to the height of the fence, and blooming generously. The duranta has purple and white flowers shaped like tiny orchids, but in clusters like a lilac, and the esperanza bears larger, bell-shaped yellow-orange blossoms. From the kitchen window I have also spotted a humming-bird methodically harvesting the esperanza.I used to put out a feeder, without any particular result except having the sugar solution in it go bad. The experts say it is better to plant the flowers they like, rather than let them grow dependent on a feeder. What happens is that one particular hummingbird will take over the feeder as his particular territory, and lurk around driving all the others away. We used to be amused by this; the bully hummingbird squeaking like a rusty hinge, and zipping through the air like an enraged winged lawn-dart. I haven’t seen this happening in my yard— everyone shares and shares alike; the bees and the hummingbird, the butterflies on the shrubs, and the tiny wrens, mockingbirds, and the native doves at the feeder.

Consider the lilies of the field – they provide for themselves, and give us to much quiet happiness in contemplating them, while we wait for what winter will bring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Condolences to Fort Hood

Created Friday, 06 November 2009 18:16

Condolences to Fort Hood

We wish to extend our condolences to the thousands of soldiers, civilians and family members who were touched by yesterday’s tragedy at Fort Hood.

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