The Cibolo Creek Flows Through Boerne

A River Flows Through It

Click photos to enlarge


As the Riverwalk of San Antonio is such an ornament to the city and such a popular tourist attraction (only second after the Alamo) that one of the nicknames for our fair town is ‘The River City’ you’d think that any municipal organization possessing the necessary attribute – a permanent body of water deeper than a puddle in, or flowing through downtown – would have been been seen as a gift and an opportunity to do something like it. Maybe not cheek by cheek eateries and boutiques – but at least a pleasant string park, paralleling the river bank can this be created, for the benefit of the residents, the enriching of those retail establishments lucky to overlook it, and the sheer aesthetic pleasure of visitors to such a blessed community.

And so has the community of Boerne done, for a number of blocks paralleling River Road, on either side of Main Street. There is a generous paved trail, some added landscaping and stone work, paralleling the northern bank of Cibolo Creek as it runs through town. It seems that back in the day, Cibolo Creek was just as prone to overflow its banks and flood out parts of Boerne – just as the San Antonio River did, although on a much grander scale. We had noticed the new construction being done on the park, once we discovered Route 46/River Road; the back way between San Antonio and Boerne. So, last weekend we took advantage of slightly cooler temperatures to make a return trip to Boerne, as my daughter had her eye on certain items at the Squirrel’s Nest Resale Shop. The Squirrel’s Nest benefits Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation – an organization that everyone in this part of Texas ought to know about and support, since they are the go-to people when you find an injured, distressed and otherwise out-of-place wild animal or bird.

We had lunch at the Bear Moon Café – which was quite good; everything is made in-house and the servings are generous. Then we walked around a bit, and checked out some of the shops. This was not so much for what was in them, a lot of which was terribly high-end and pricy, but rather to look at the buildings themselves, many of which are historic old houses and business premises, and enormously charming in that respect. They were built for Texas, in the days before air conditioning, and some of them even before electrification: small rooms which opened into other rooms, or a central hall, with high ceilings, and tall windows. Usually there was a wide, shaded porch across the front, and if two-storied, those rooms on the upper floor also opened onto a verandah..

The Riverside Park already seems to be popular; we saw one family eating a picnic lunch, and a number of others settled in with fishing gear, sending their hooks into the lazy green water. The ducks and geese had all sought out shady places, on the opposite bank, though. The only other water critters we saw were turtles; and we didn’t realize at first that they were turtles. I thought their heads sticking up above the surface were just lengths of broken branch, until the heads vanished below the water, and there was a soup-bowl sized turtle, just dimly seen, diving down into deeper water.

All in all, a lovely afternoon in the Hill Country. That was my Saturday – and yours?

My Dream Texas Garden

Now My Dream Texas Garden

by Celia Hayes

In my last post I outlined what I would like to have as my dream Texas dream retirement home; a lot about the houses and some generalities about the landscape. I’d like a slightly rolling property, oriented towards the west, and studded with a handful of oak trees and a bit of a wildflower meadow at a slight distance. I didn’t put in much about the garden around it … just that there would be one. Being that I would like this dream home in the Hill Country someplace, I’d have to take care of the tender plants during those cold winter snaps when it gets down to or below freezing. Plants that scrape through a cold snap in San Antonio would not do as well during the winter in the Hills … so I would have to have some kind of accommodation for them. A permanent small greenhouse would be a graceful addition to my notion of a compound of small cottages – especially one of those ornate Victorian style ones.

I’d actually look to having a good-sized vegetable and herb garden; what I have now but expanded at least four times. I have read good things about straw-bale gardening – that is, raised beds constructed of straw-bales. In any case, raised beds, and filled with good soil and the proper nutrients. A good-sized kitchen garden would have to be surrounded with a stout wire fence, though. It is exasperating to have a good crop of tomatoes or squash coming in, only to discover that hungry rodents have helped themselves. I’d have a good variety of kitchen herbs, too – hanging from baskets, of course. Herbs seem to do incredibly well in coconut-fiber lined baskets; this year I have one with a thyme plant spilling over the side and hanging halfway to the ground – and I’ve never before gotten thyme to thrive in a terra cotta pot. Perhaps I’d connect two of the cottages with an arbor of unpeeled cedar poles, to hang the baskets of herbs from.

I’d add a scattering of trees to the oaks on my dream property; at least a couple of almond verbenas, which start as shrubs and with any encouragement at all turn into medium sized ornamental trees. They are not much to look at, but the clusters of tiny flowers have the most amazing sweet almond smell. I’d have some redbud trees for the look of them, and finally a couple of bearing fruit trees; peaches, or plums most likely, and a good pecan tree, too. The trees would bridge the gap between the practical vegetable garden, and the ornamental garden – which would be heavily tilted towards native and native-adapted plants which look after themselves, pretty much.

There would be roses, though – I couldn’t get along without roses, although they would also be the hardy sorts, and picked out more for their scent than their appearance. There would be shrubs to attract birds, butterflies and bees, much as I have now, only spread out a little more generously. I’d have a large area close to the entertainment kitchen and the grill paved in brick or stone … and that is where the main garden ornament would be; a fountain; a good-sized tall stone one, rather like the ones that adorn the private courtyards in the old houses I used to see in Spain, with a wide enough ledge to sit on surrounding the lower pool. And when I had a party, the guests could enjoy the sound of trickling water, the scent of almond verbena, and look at the late afternoon sun setting in the distance …

and that is my dream Texas Hill Country garden – what is yours?

Caterpillar Opens in Victoria

Gov. Perry Attends Grand Opening of Caterpillar Manufacturing Facility

Thursday, August 23, 2012  •  Victoria, Texas  •  Press Release

Gov. Rick Perry toured Caterpillar Inc.’s new hydraulic excavator manufacturing plant, which has been expanded thanks to a $1.175 million investment from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) in 2010. Caterpillar has already created 225 new jobs and will generate $200 million in capital investment with the new facility, and plans to continue hiring in Victoria.

“Caterpillar is no stranger to the way we do business here in Texas, and they’ve made it clear, through commitment after commitment, they like what they see,” Gov. Perry said. “We happily return that sentiment and remain committed to our successful formula of low taxes, predictable regulations, fair courts and skilled workforce that has made Texas’ jobs climate second to none.”

Gov. Perry also congratulated Caterpillar on finding the right place for this facility in Victoria and making the right call to build in Texas, and congratulated Victoria on officially becoming home to this manufacturing center which expands Caterpillar’s presence in Texas to include about 3,000 employees.

Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines. The new plant triples the company’s current domestic production capacity for hydraulic excavators, and doubles the number of Caterpillar employees in the U.S. making excavators.

“This new facility in Victoria will help us better serve our customers in North America, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to meet some of our newest employees and to see first-hand a factory that I am sure will be among the very best we have anywhere in the world,” Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman said.

In 2008, the company received an $8.5 million investment through the TEF to bring an engine manufacturing facility to Seguin, creating more than 1,400 jobs $111 million in capital investment. Caterpillar also has operating locations across the state, including Amarillo, Channelview, Coppell, Dallas, Denison, De Soto, El Paso, Fort Worth, Garland, Houston, Laredo, Mabank, McAllen, McKinney, Midland, Sherman, Waco and Waskom.

The Legislature created the TEF in 2003 and has re-appropriated funding in every legislative session since then to help ensure the growth of Texas businesses and create more jobs throughout the state. TEF projects must be approved by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House. The fund has since become one of the state’s most competitive tools to recruit and bolster business. To date, the TEF has invested more than $470 million and closed the deal on projects generating more than 63,400 new jobs and more than $22.3 billion in capital investment in the state.

For more information about Caterpillar, please visit

For more information about the TEF, please visit or


The Way of the Okra

Although I have only one huge okra plant, and a couple of others which have produced intermittently and spasmodically, individual okes (is that the singular of okra, like meese should be the singular of moose?) my garden just doesn’t seem to produced sufficient of them in a short period of time to make a decent batch of okra pickles on any given day. At least, not enough to be worth firing up the canning kettle. It’s really not worth heating up the kitchen in my San Antonio home unless there are at least three quarts or six pints in contention … and my okra plants just aren’t that prolific. So I cheated – I went and bought two pounds of okra at the Indian market (cunningly disguised as a gas station on the corner of 410 and Starcrest) and added into it the gleanings of the last week or so and made a batch of spicy okra pickles from a recipe that I found on the interned and amended. Oddly enough, we like okra as pickles, in gumbo and even breaded and deep-fried, in which format it is as addictive as popcorn although somewhat more fattening … but okra on it’s own … that is a vegetable that needs work.

Basically, make a pickling brine from 2 ⅔ cup cider vinegar and 1 ½ cup water, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and when it comes to a simmer, either add to it, or steep in a tea-ball, 2 Tbsp. pickling spices.

I used another net-recipe for pickling spice, which called for 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds, 2 Tbsp. whole allspice, 2 teasp coriander seeds, the same of cloves, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and the same of dried red pepper flakes, a crumbled bay leaf and a two-inch length of cinnamon stick. This makes more than needed for a single batch, so save the remainder for the next batch.

Meanwhile, pack the raw okra into 2 hot and sterilized 1-quart jars, and tuck in among the packed oke pods in each jar, 2-3 peeled and lightly crushed garlic cloves, 2-3 dried chili pods (I used ripe red jalapeno and paprika pods from my garden) and two or three small bay leaves … I have a small bay tree in the garden, so again … from my garden. It helps to pack the first layer of okra in the jar with the wide end down, and then wedge the next layer into it pointy end down, and distribute the garlic cloves, the pepper pods and the bay leaves as they fit. Fill the jars with okra and all until just below the point on the jar where the threaded rim begins, then pour in the hot brine and process at least 20 minutes in boiling water, as per the usual canning instructions.

This week, one of our dinners included a salad – of halved fresh garden tomatoes and sliced segments of home-pickled okra, adorned with crumbles of feta cheese and fresh parsley – again from the garden – and splashed with some olive oil. Alas, the olive is not home-grown from my own tree. That will take … a good few more decades.

My Dream House

My Dream House

by Celia Hayes

I have about decided what I should like to live in, as my Texas dream house. Alas, it is not the house that I currently live in, which is a comfortable, small and relatively undistinguished tract house in a pleasant neighborhood full of other homes filled with variations on the same generic theme of brick and siding and vaguely neo-classical trimmings. Lots of tall windows, fan-lights, and fireplaces; shoot a brick at supersonic speed across those parts of San Antonio built up in the last thirty years and you’d hit two or three or four dozen pretty much like it.

No, what I would like in the way of the retirement property is pretty much what my parents got for themselves, when all of us had flown the parental nest; they built a nice house with a verandah all the way around it, on a knoll with a view out in the country. I wouldn’t go as far out as my parents did – for much of their lives together, directions to their current residence usually included the phrase, “Turn off of the pavement and onto the dirt road.” I’ve a liking for paved roads, myself – bouncing from rut to rut and dodging the gullies carved into a dirt road after a rain is not my idea of fun.

But I would like a house of a certain sort – a small one of a particular tradition. Not a single big house, but an eccentric collection of cottages, set in a rambling garden. A little house of mine – and two or three others, one for my daughter, and another one or two which would serve as guest quarters when I had company, just enough set apart that we all would have privacy. I’d love to have a well, with one of those old windmill pumps, to bring the water to an above-ground concrete or wooden cistern on legs … just as I have seen on some old properties here and there. There would be a scattering of oak trees – post oaks, live oaks, red oaks, for the shade, and to hang a wooden swing from a thick branch that parallels the ground.

The grounds around would be planted with native plants and tough adapted old roses, a tangle of jasmine somewhere, which would bring their scent in through the windows on those spring days before the summer heat sets in. There would be a wildflower meadow on the part of the property distant from the houses and I’d like a bit of a view from here and there, so my dream house and the others would probably have to be on a gentle slope. I don’t need a spectacular view, but I would like it to be mostly of countryside: Rolling hills, and all of that, maybe a glimpse of a distant creek or river. I think I would like the view to be towards the west – to catch the sunset, late in the afternoon.

As for the little houses on the property … I would love them to be Craftsman-style bungalows or small Texas farmhouses, maybe even a one or two of them might be repurposed log cabins. There are one or two lovely ones that I have noted here and there and admired extravagantly. I am thinking of the kind with a main room and a loft bedroom over, a kitchen lean-to on the back and a deep porch across the front. One or two of those would suit just fine, but even just a couple of those kit houses from Home Depot would work well, assuming that I could adorn them with vintage architectural surplus.

The final element that I would like in my dream country residence would be a separate entertainment kitchen – just one large room set up to do brewing and cheese-making, an industrial-sized stove and a deep sink, and outside of it, another deep porch with a barbeque grill and enough space to throw a good party. That’s my dream Texas dream home – what’s yours?

Sales Tax Holiday

Gov. Perry: Sales Tax Holiday Gives Texas Families the Opportunity to Gear Up for the School Year

Thursday, August 16, 2012  •  Austin, Texas  •  Press Release’

Gov. Rick Perry encouraged Texas families to get started on their back-to-school shopping during the state’s sales tax holiday this weekend, which exempts school supplies, clothing, shoes and backpacks priced at less than $100 from state and local sales taxes. This year’s tax-free weekend runs from 12:01 a.m. on Friday, August 17, until midnight on Sunday, August 19.

“As summer turns to fall and Texas children get ready to head back into the classroom, the state’s sales tax holiday provides a great opportunity for families to get the supplies they need to help their children succeed in the upcoming school year,” Gov. Perry said. “I encourage Texans to hit the stores this weekend and take advantage of this holiday as we gear up for another great school year in Texas.”

While shoes and clothing priced under $100 have been exempt from sales taxes during the holiday since its inception in 1999, Gov. Perry signed HB 1801 in 2009 adding a variety of school supplies to the exemption list, ranging from pens and pencils to scissors and calculators. Texas shoppers can save about $8 for every $100 they spend, and are expected to save a total $64.8 million in state and local sales tax during this year’s holiday weekend. Texas shoppers have saved $626.9 million since the first tax-free holiday in 1999.

“Since 1999 shoppers have taken advantage of the sales tax holiday and saved money in their budgets,” Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said. “Families gearing up for the new school year do not have to worry about paying sales tax for many back-to-school items from clothing and shoes to school supplies this weekend.”

“The Texas sales tax holiday weekend has grown in popularity each year since its inception in 1999. It presents a wonderful opportunity for parents to make sure their children are well-stocked with the supplies and clothing they need to start the school year on a positive note,” Ronnie Volkening, president and CEO of the Texas Retailers Association, said. “Additionally, Texas retailers are providing great bargains on popular items throughout their stores, providing even greater saving opportunities for Texas families this weekend.”

For more information about the sales tax holiday, or to view a list of tax exempt items, please visit Crossword Puzzle 10

SATXBlog Crossword Puzzle 10-“Waiting room distractions”

“Waiting room distractions” by Myles Mellor and Sally York
1. Cores
6. Tacky chic
10. Enhances
14. Courtyards
15. Sea position
16. Hawaiian tuber
17. Mags
20. Increase, with “up”
21. Poetic palindrome
22. WWII battle site
23. Crackers
26. Mandela’s org.
27. Stimulant ingredients
29. Kuwaiti, e.g.
31. Land of leprechauns
35. Profits
37. Indonesian roamer
39. Australian runner
40. Rags?
43. Addition
44. Affectation
45. Cow fuel
46. Some beans
48. Campaigns
50. Some bays
51. Family dog, for short
53. Psychoanalyzed?
55. Cooling-off periods?
59. Bit in a horse’s mouth
60. Ripen
63. Mags
66. Algonquian Indian
67. Brown shade
68. Fat units?
69. Frau’s partner
70. Blabs
71. Nobel, for one
1. Perry Como’s “___ Loves Mambo”
2. Any thing
3. In Aruban fashion?
4. Cool
5. Vendor’s mistake?
6. Linked series of writings
7. “Aladdin” prince
8. Exec’s note
9. Gotcha moments
10. Immediately
11. “Two Years Before the Mast” writer
12. Attracted
13. Bean used to make miso
18. Time piece?
19. Time div.
24. Catch
25. Alain Robbe-Grillet novel, with “The”
27. “Who ___?”
28. Kind of molding
30. Aardvark’s tidbit
32. Worthy of comment
33. Candidate’s concern
34. Certain posers
36. Quail food
38. Disney workers
41. Fed. construction overseer
42. Brio
47. Sirhan Sirhan, e.g.
49. Fuse mishaps
52. Back when
54. Churchill’s “so few,” (abbr.)
55. Creep
56. Bird beak part
57. The America’s Cup trophy, e.g.
58. Gull-like bird
61. Neuter
62. To be, to Tiberius
64. Paranormal ability
65. Line

Click for the Answer to Today’s Crosswords Puzzle #10. | Press Here to PRINT


Civil War Anniversary in Comfort

Civil War Anniversary in Comfort August 10-11, 2012

by Celia Hayes

I’ve written before about the Comfort Civil War monument – a stone obelisk under the oak trees at what would have been the edge of town in 1866. It is a monument to those Union Loyalists from Comfort and the surrounding communities, who were killed in a vicious firefight with Confederate partisans, or executed as captives afterwards, near a branch of the Nueces River a hundred and fifty years ago this year. There were nearly sixty of them – men from Comfort, Sisterdale, Fredericksburg, Cherry Spring and a dozen other little towns and hamlets scattered through the Hill Country. They were abolitionists and for the Union; they would not take a loyalty oath to the Confederacy, much less sign up to fight for it – although many of them were perfectly willing to serve – and had served in various self-defense militia units recruited to defend against Indian raids. In the late summer of 1862, Unionists of military age in the Hill Country thought they had been offered an amnesty by the Governor, during which time they thought they were free to leave Texas. The military authority in the Hill Country thought otherwise. A handful of the Unionists escaped, either over the border to Mexico, or back into the Hill Country to live fugitive lives until the war was over.

There are thirty-six names on the monument; some with connections to the larger community today. The Steves of Comfort lost a son and a son-in-law to the Nueces Fight. They moved to San Antonio after the war and founded a lumber company, which afforded them the means to build a magnificent mansion that is one of the showplaces of San Antonio’s King William district. The Stieler family – also of Comfort lost their oldest son; the Stieler ranch still exists; part of the property is visible from the road between Comfort and Fredericksburg. A Stieler son-in-law, Henry Schwethelm survived and escaped into Mexico. He returned with friends and kinfolk three years to the day after the skirmish, and gathered up the remains … which by order of the Confederate military commander had been left unburied.

The city fathers of Comfort bought the land and paid for a special monument to mark the grave of their sons and brothers. Events planned to mark the anniversary on the 10th and 11th of August include performance of a folk opera on the evening of the 10th at p.m. This will be in the open air of the park next to the monument, and along with lawn-chairs and picnic blankets, those attending are advised to bring bug spray. On the next day, Saturday morning beginning at 10 a.m. there will be a memorial program at the memorial … they were freethinkers back in the day, so it’s not a service, actually. This will be followed by a traditional German lunch in the park, and at 1:00 p.m. the program moves to the Lutheran Church fellowship hall across the street (yes, they did eventually get churches in Comfort … the freethinkers married believers, who insisted) for a symposium on the subject of “What a Tough Spot To Be In”. Which it was, of course: Civil War … irreconcilable demands. Loyalty to … what and whom? What are your principles, and where do you stand? What will you do to defend those principles and beliefs?
It’s complicated.

I’ll be at the 150th Anniversary events on Saturday – they have said I can have a table for my books – especially the book that I wrote about the Civil War experience in the Hill Country. I like to think that it puts those five tragic years into some kind of context, even if the event itself and some of the people who took part are only mentioned in passing.