The Rain it Raineth

Here in San Antonio, hardly anyone has an umbrella…

by Celia Hayes

…On the just and on the unjust fella.
But mostly raineth on the just,

Because the unjust steals the just’s umbrella!

Or so runs the traditional couplet – here in San Antonio, hardly anyone has an umbrella, a proper raincoat or galoshes, because the worst rainstorms always seem to arrive unannounced. You might as well just resign yourself to getting wet, like we did over Memorial Day weekend. We hadn’t planned on doing anything for the weekend anyway. The thunderstorm woke me up when it blew in during the wee hours, the morning dawned dark and dreary, and the dogs were disinclined for walkies, so we were even less inclined to go anywhere, until it cleared up in the late afternoon.

That was when news stories and pictures of high water in downtown and in the parklands behind the Olmos dam, and in Breckenridge Park finally came to our attention. Oh, dear – another one of those places prone to flood are deep enough in water to draw the attention of local, national, and even international news outlets. How can I put this gently – it does rain in Texas, sometimes hard and long, and with flood-productive capacity, although thanks to a half-century of Hollywood movies and television, the national (and international) mental image of Texas as a waterless desert.

This might be true of West Texas; East Texas is as soggy as any other place in the Deep South. But San Antonio has its own problems with water. In some years, a shortage of it reduces home-owners to watering their lawns with a hand-held hose, while in other years it is entirely possible to drown in a sudden storm surge on a street within city limits; even without having taken the ill-advised step of driving around the city barriers, or going to muck about in the usually-dry-but now full-running-and-overflowing neighborhood creek-bed. San Antonio is still at an outstanding danger from flash floods. I cannot say that too often enough, although the danger of death from them is much diminished from former years, thanks to civic and engineering enterprise. The elementary thing about flash-floods is that they are – flash floods. They hit without very much warning, sometimes as a result of rain which has fallen miles or even counties away, and at intervals so irregular as to lull residents into complacency.

Into the 20th century, downtown San Antonio was prone to catastrophic floods; the establishment of the Riverwalk was an effort at control. It’s worked out very well, ever since – but this dear and rambling city still has water hazards. Those sections of highway downtown which run below ground level will flood. Given sufficient rain, the 281 north of the Olmos dam will be under water as well, and the stretch of North New Braunfels which runs through Alamo Heights will be running with water. Regular commuters will know the places along their route which can and will accumulate deep water. Most of the really potentially dangerous places along our surface streets are marked with bright yellow flood-gages, marked off in one-foot increments. There is a reason for this; a water level at or just above the underside of your car has a very real potential to lift your vehicle and float it away. The surface of your tires which actually touches the road, which gives you braking and steering control is only about the size of your hands (if you have big hands!) and once your wheels no longer touch the road, the best that you can hope for is that your vehicle lodges against something firm, and that rescue is not too long in coming. Never go around barriers to drive through a flooded area, be aware of those places which will flood, pay close attention to flood warnings, and know that those mostly-dry creek beds which meander through the greater part of our city will soon be full of very fast-moving water in the event of a large amount of rain upstream. Word to the wise – stay dry, San Antonio!

Ye Kendall Inn

Boerne – Ye Kendall Inn

by Celia Hayes

So, we were off to Boerne again last Friday, rejoicing in the rain that had fallen the night before – this time so that I could do a talk on the Civil War in the Hill Country for a local chapter of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Quite a few of the members are transplanted Texans, courtesy of military service – so the series of events in the years 1860-65 in the Hill Country were new to them and interesting.

To me, the nice part of the meeting was that it took place at Ye Kendall Inn, in the modern-but-decorated-to- look-old Halle – the conference center, which is just one of the ramble of buildings – many of them historic and fascinating in themselves – in back of the pillared and porticoed main building. The Kendall Inn has been in the hospitality business since the earliest days of settlements in the Hill Country. It owes much to a convenient location; on a low eminence overlooking a particularly scenic bend of Cibolo Creek, right on Boerne’s pecan-tree lined central square, where a local market is held on the second Saturday of every month.

The oldest part of the Inn began as a private residence – a mansion, really – built by a family named Reed, in the 1850s. It was built of native stone, with walls twenty inches thick, and in the traditional Southern Colonial style, with a wide porch all across the front, and a long gallery on the second floor. The Reeds and other neighbors were in the habit of renting spare bedrooms to travelers and visitors, since there was no other accommodation for them. Some years after the Civil War, what became the structure was purchased by one Colonel Henry King, who served in the Texas state legislature, while his wife ran the Inn.

By then, Boerne was one of the places where local cattle ranchers assembled large herds for the long trek north to the rail-served stockyards in Kansas. After the Kings tenure, the original building was sold again, to a pair of hoteliers from Dallas, who renamed it the Boerne Hotel, and expanded the building, adding a pair of galleried wings on either side. They hoped to cater to those who came to restore their health in the mild climate of the Hill Country, and to wealthy San Antonio residents who came to escape the dreadful summer heat in those days before air conditioning. One of the biggest local boosters was a pair of doctors; William Kingsbury and Ferdinand Herff, who lauded the efficacy of the local hot springs and the clear air.

Before the San Antonio & Aransas Pass railroad line reached Boerne in 1887, those visitors arrived on the stage – which stopped at the hotel, after a seven-hour journey from San Antonio. For the remainder of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th, Boerne was a mecca for those wanting to recover their health, or just to spend a lively and fashionable summer in the Hills. For all of that time, the Kendall Inn was one of the main centers of social activity. Now, having become one of what my daughter calls ‘a bedroom slipper of San Antonio’ the Kendall Inn is still a destination, with a wine shop, a very fine restaurant and grill, a spa … and of course, it is still a hotel.

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?

Gov Perry Renews Drought Emergency

Gov. Perry Renews Proclamation Extending Drought Emergency

Rick Perry, Governor of the State of Texas, issued an Emergency Disaster Proclamation on July 5, 201I, certifying that exceptional drought conditions posed a threat of imminent disaster in specified counties in Texas.

18th day of May, 2012, Governor Perry renewed the disaster proclamation and directs that all necessary measures, both public and private be implemented to meet that threat.

This state of disaster includes the counties of Andrews, Aransas, Archer, Armstrong, Atascosa, Austin, Bailey, Bandera, Bastrop, Baylor, Bee, Bell, Bexar, Blanco, Borden, Brazona, Brewster, Briscoe, Brooks, Brown, Bumet, Caldwell, Callahan, Cameron, Carson, Castro, Childress, Clay, Cochran, Coke, Coleman, Collingsworth, Colorado, Comal, Concho, Coryell, Cottle, Crane, Crockett, Crosby, Culberson, Dallam, Dawson, Deaf Smith, De’Witt, Dickens, Dimmit, Donley, Duval, Eastland, Ector, Edwards, El Paso, Fayette, Fisher, Floyd, Foard, Fort Bend, Frio, Gaines, Garza, Gillespie, Glasscock, Goliad, Gonzales, Guy, Guadalupe, Hale, Hall, Hansford, Hardeman, Hartley, Haskell, Hays, Hemphill, Hidalgo, Hockley, Howard, Hudspeth, Hutchinson, kion, Jackson, Jeff Davis, Jim Hogg, Jim’Wells, Jones, Karnes, Kendall, Kenedy, Kent, Kerr, Kimble, King, Kinney, Kleberg, Knox, La Salle, Lamb, Lampasas, Lavaca, Lee, Lipscomb, Live Oak, Llano, Loving, Lubbock, Lynn, Martin, Mason, Matagorda, Maverick, McCulloch, Mclennan, McMullen, Medina, Menard, Midland, Milam, Mitchell, Moore, Motley, Nolan, Nueces, Ochiltree, Oldham, Parmer, Pecos, Potter, Presidio, Randall, Reagan, Real, Reeves, Refugio, Roberts, Runnels, San Patricio, San Saba, Schleicher, Scury, Shackelford, Sherman, Starr, Stephens, Sterling, Stonewall, Sutton, Swisher, Taylor, Terrell, Terry, Throckmorton, Tom Green, Travis, Upton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Victoria, ‘Ward, Webb, ‘Wharton, Wheeler, Wichita, ‘Wilbarger,’Willacy, Williamson, Wilson,’Winkler, Yoakum, Young, Zapata and Zavala.

Gov. Perry Renews Proclamation Extending Drought Emergency

Water in the Creek

Water in the Creek, Progress in the Garden

by Celia Hayes

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Well, it’s been another quiet week in Spring Creek Forest, the little suburb that time forgot… I am improving my little patch of it as fast as I can and as the growing season allows. We were assisted last week by rain… lots and lots of rain. There actually was running water in Salado Creek. And since it was running over the path, we needed to wade through it – up to our shins, and with a perceptible current, too. Yes, we like to walk on the wild side, what with the mad risk-taking and all. The Weevil thoroughly enjoyed a romp through the water, and when she flushed a couple of ducks from the wetlands by the Morningstar boardwalk, her doggy heart overflowed with pure contentment. She didn’t come anywhere near actually catching a duck, though – that would have been a miracle of practically biblical dimensions.

The garden is doing very well, what with the rain, and the unseasonable warmth. The citrus in pots are blooming, and so is the wisteria – which only blooms for one week out of the year, and then sulks for the other fifty-one. The pot that my daughter thought to plant with an assortment of specially flavored mint plants has – as expected – thrived so thoroughly that there is very little of the pot itself actually visible. The artichoke, burdock and cardoons that I planted in pots some weeks ago are also thriving … There is a bare patch in the yard, where I’d love to have a patch of artichokes. I love artichokes, and to be able to pop out to the garden and pick them fresh would be fantastic. All they are is big, edible thistles, after all. We started this last weekend with some small artichoke plants, along with a blue-flowered salvia for variety, and some lambs’ ears for luck and hopefully to spread along the edge of the bed. Should they all grow and thrive, the bigger ones in pots will join them.

This week, we ventured out to the Antique Rose Emporium to see what they had for vegetable starts. It’s almost too late now for the lettuces and such, too early for beans and eggplant … but the right time for the exotic heirloom tomatoes, of which they had plenty and an amazing variety. I knew that tomatoes came in yellow, but brown, and purple? Oh my. Now to get some more topsy-turvys … we have space on the hanging frame for at least another three or four. The dozen tomato plants that we started some weeks ago are just now shyly putting out blooms. They are the ordinary sort of early tomatoes, and this time we got them in better condition than last year’s … which were priced half-off and nearly dead when we put them in the topys-turvys, but still did well.

Last week, HEB had cucumber and zucchini starts for $1.00 each – so here we go with starting six of them in the last earth-box. Zucchini plants are supposed to produce in overwhelming quantities, which has never been my personal experience, but I’m an optimist. I live in hope of bulging bags of zucchini that I will be able to leave on neighbors’ doorsteps, after ringing the doorbell and running away. And this morning … we had an idea to build a raised bed from treated timbers, and expand the vegetable-growing area. There is a place around the back of the house where the soil is so full of little chunks of rock and concrete rubble from when the house was built that a raised bed full of good soil is the only hope. Next year, maybe…

 

Soil Compaction Aeration and Top Dressing With Compost for Great Lawns

 Soil Aeration and Compost Top Dressing Your Lawn

by Randy Watson

Much of San Antonio has dense clay soils that begin heavy and may be further compacted from heavy use from play, sports activities and pets. Roots require oxygen to grow and absorb nutrients and water. Compacted soils reduce the amount of air and water within the soil. This results in poor top growth and lawn deterioration. Core aeration is recommended to maintain a healthy lawn and can benefit your lawn by allowing for the increasing water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil. From personal experience I can also say that aeration and top dressing with compost kept my lawn much healthier through last summer’s drought and a healthy lawn helps choke out the weeds, too.

Now is the time to aerate your lawn. Some lawn or landscape companies will perform the service for a fee. Core aerators may also be rented at many garden or rental centers. An average lawn only takes just about the same amount of time as it does to mow. So, you may be able to share the rental fee and usage with your neighbors. Be sure that the machine has hollow tines or spoons to bring the soil core to the surface.

Following aeration of your lawn, a good top dressing of compost is also recommended. Of course you can hire this work to be done by a local landscaping or lawn maintenance company or you can aerate and compost yourself, too.

Good compost can be purchased in bags from your local garden centers or even Walmart. (It takes 14 bags of compost to equal 1 cubic yard.) You can save a lot of money if you buy in bulk directly from the materials yard to be delivered or if you have a pickup truck you can haul 1 to 3 cubic yards at a time yourself.If you purchase bulk compost or top-dressing it will cost approximately $30 a cubic yard plus  delivery which should be between $50 and $150 depending on the amount ordered and how far you live from the materials yard you have ordered from.

The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) says that a healthy lawn needs less water. Aeration and compost top-dressing of your lawn work together for a healty lawn and to reduce the amount of water needed. SAWS recommends that you top dress your lawn with about 1/2″ of compost to your lawn

Top-Dressing Table

Lot Size (in Acres) Lot Size (in Square Feet) Minimum amount of compost or top-dressing
0.06 – 0.11 2,500 – 5,000 1cubic yard
0.12 – 0.18 5,001 – 8,000 2 cubic yards
0.19 – 0.23 8,001 – 10,000 4 cubic yards
0.24 – 0.46 10,001 – 20,000 6 cubic yards
≥0.47 ≥20,001 10 cubic yards

I recommend Jerry at citihaul.com for bulk delivery of soil, materials, rocks, compost or mulch in and around San Antonio.

San Antonio The City of Waters

City of Waters

It only makes sense that San Antonio would be most famous for – after the Alamo – for the Riverwalk. The downtown landscaped banks of the San Antonio River are a tourist draw without peer. Less well-frequented, or newer developments – say, through King William and Southtown, or along the new Pearl Brewery-Museum Reach are a secret and treasured green-space as well as a breath of fresh air for residents.

The existence of the San Antonio River is more than just a happy coincidence and landscaping opportunity; when San Antonio began to expand and industrialize in the late 19th century, the river provided power for establishments like C.H. Guenther’s Pioneer flour mill – as well as power and a necessary ingredient for breweries like the Pearl and Lone Star. It was also noted by travelers and early residents like Mary Maverick that the very nicest houses in town had gardens which backed on the river – where residents could cool off in the afternoon with a dip in the cool water. The very fact that there was a constant and plentiful source of water existing in this otherwise rather dry region was the reason that San Antonio was founded here to begin with.

When Spanish exploring parties first reached the area in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, they found Indians camping around the San Pedro Springs, in the present-day Olmos Basin and on the grounds of Incarnate Word, near Broadway and Hildebrand. There was where many of the springs which fed into the San Antonio River originated. Taking full advantage of every drop of water emanating from the springs, the Spanish established a string of missions along the River. Being accustomed to the construction and maintenance of elaborate irrigation systems – in use for centuries in Spain since the time of the Romans – the missionary fathers constructed an elaborate series of ditches and aqueducts to conduct water to the fields where it was needed. The irrigation system – or acequia for the Espada Mission is still largely intact. Other missions – including the Alamo itself – had their own water systems to water their own farmlands. There is still a narrow water canal in the gardens behind the Alamo chapel today.

The historic springs were the outfall of the Edwards Aquifer; a kind of enormous geologic sponge – which the limestone plateau of the Hill Country soaked up. The hills gathered it up – and places like the San Pedro Springs, the Comal Springs in New Braunfels, and Jacobs’ Well near Wimberley are some the places where it leaked out. (The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) gets the vast majority of the water for all of its San Antonio water customers from wells in the Edwards Aquifer.)

One of the most spectacular springs which fed into the San Antonio River was later called the Blue Hole. It actually gushed out of the ground with great force. 19th century visitors to the area described the scenic wonders of the various springs in prose which verged on the purple, describing the clearness of the water, the beauty of the waterfalls and pools, the ferns, water-lilies and reeds, while wistfully speculating on the presents of water nymphs and naiads. This area became a place for recreation and Sunday afternoon gatherings: in the late 19th century there was a beer garden, a pavilion for dances, and of course – swimming pools. Alas, as the Edwards Aquifer was drilled into in many other places, the natural fountaining effect was diminished and many springs ceased to flow at all, save after heavy rains. To this day, though – the rivers and the springs and the areas around them are still cherished as parks.

San Antonio Water Conservation and Our Source of Drinking Water

The Edwards Aquifer – San Antonios Primary Water Source

Written by Randy Watson,

 

So, just what is this Edwards Aquifer that I hear so much about? And why is the level of the Edwards Aquifer important enough to post everyday along with the weather. SAWS, the San Antonio Water System, supplies nearly 2 million people in surrounding San Antonio homes and businesses with clean drinking water, primarily from the Edwards Aquifer. Our area lakes are not used by the City of San Antonio as reservoirs to supply drinking water.

The Edwards Aquifer is an underground body of water with sufficient pressure to be considered an artesian aquifer. Not so much like a river or lake or some other body of water you might think of. (I am by no means any kind of expert on this.) In unscientific terms, it is more like water saturated/pourous/honeycombed rocks, caves, fissures, cracks and crevices deep in the earth. The Edwards Aquifer is said to be one of the largest aquifers in the world. Stretching from just this side of Mexico, through the Texas Hill Country, through San Antonio to the south edge of Austin. Generally running north of US 90 from Bracketville to San Antonio and west of IH35 from San Antonio to Austin. It is about 160 miles long and 5-40 Miles wide.

San Antonio understands the precious resource it has for water and monitors the water levels at the J-17 index well near the National Cemetary at Ft Sam Houston. For instance, today, the water level was measured about 650 ft. (Which is about 81 ft below the surface of the land.) The land surface at the top of the J-17 well is about 731 ft above sea level. They likely have instruments to measure the depth, but they could just as easily drop a string on a weighted cork till they hit water and measure that length of string, then subtract it from the height above sea level. In actuality, this is the hydrologic pressure level of the aquifer above sea level. (The actual Edwards limestone formation is closer around 250 ft above sea level.)

In addition to the water levels of the aquifer being monitored, the springflows that feed the area rivers from the Edwards Aquifer are also monitored. If the flow rate of the springs and/or the levels of the aquifer fall below certain parameters, water saving or Drought Restrictions go into place. We are currently in Stage Two Drought Restrictions, which for residential users means we are limited to 1 day per week during certain hours to water our lawns, wash our cars, water fountains must be off and we must conserve water.

They say our drought will last throughout next year, too. We usually get about 36 inches of rain a year. We are only at 12 inches or so to date, down 15 inches from where we would normally be. Even if it does rain, the rains have to land on the Contribution Zone (click picture to enlarge) in order to fill up the aquifer. The Contribution Zone is north  and west of San Antonio. It pretty much has to rain in the Texas Hill Country. Water then runs down the creeks and streams then drops into the caves and cracks/crevice in the earth in the Recharge Zone. The Recharge Zones are especially sensitive areas, as they are the last chance to keep unwanted runoff (chemicals, pollutants, etc.) from entering our water source.

We value our parks, not only to preserve nature, but to protect our water. Government Canyon State Natural Area, located adjacent to many nice Helotes residential neighborhoods, just outside Northwest San Antonio is a 8,624-acre park mostly drainage area transitioning to the Recharge Zone.

The San Antonio River just bubbles up out of the ground and gets it start from the San Antonio and San Pedro Springs. You can actually see the San Antonio River bubble up out of the ground in the Alamo Heights areas at the “Blue Hole” spring at Incarnate Word University and several other springs at the Witte Museum, San Antonio Zoo, San Pedro Springs Park and Brackenridge Park areas.

Ever heard of fly fishing for trout fishing in Texas? Below Canyon Lake dam they fly fish for trout. Canyon Lake is located 30 miles northeast of San Antinio. Trout require a low water temperature. Sufficient release of water from the Canyon Lake dam provides a stretch of the Guadalupe River below Canyon Lake with a low enough water temperature to support a good population of rainbow trout and a few brown trout as well. In addition to trout, anglers can also catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Guadalupe bass, white bass, and the Rio Grande cichlid.

Interestingly enough, waters from the Guadalupe river provides no significant recharge to the Edwards Aquifer because the stream bed has been cut down below the level of the Edwards limestone. However, seepage losses from Medina Lake do enter the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers. Medina Lake is located 30 miles northwest of San Antonio, while the Medina River flows through Medina County then turn east through south Bexar County to join the San Antonio River in southeast Bexar County and off to the San Antonio Bay at Aransas Natural Wildlife Refuge near Victoria at the Gulf of Mexico.

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What a Lame Little Tropical Storm Last Week

What’s That?

By Julia Hayden

That sprinkle of damp stuff, seeming to fall out of the darkest clouds in the sky  . . .  oh, yeah. They call that stuff rain – that is, when there is slightly more of it than fell on Saturday morning, courtesy of a few stray clouds from the weakest tropical storm ever to hit the South Coast of Texas.  We were watching the weather reports all this week, looking at the charts and radar, and licking our lips, thinking ‘Rain – glorious rain! This weekend, Saturday morning at the earliest! Maybe even Friday evening! And no, if it comes with high winds, it’s cool – we can adjust  . . .  as long as it brings rain!”  I swear, if the alphabet for tropical storms weren’t already established, they could have called this crushing disappointment of a storm, “Tropical Storm Cupcake” . . .  or maybe “Tropical Storm Melt-Like-A-Snowball-In-Heck.” And we had such hopes!

There was one single rainstorm some two or three weeks ago, and that was the first in simply months, and meanwhile, we are looking up at the baking hot blue and empty sky, as we sprinkle our lawns (medium-crispy to well-done) with a hand-held hose, and crying out for rain. Well, those of us who have lawns, still. I yanked mine out some few years ago, under a program sponsored by SAWS to encourage low-water usage. I put in xerioscape plants, which were strongly encouraged, for which I received  a credit on the water bill from SAWS which paid my existing water bill for about four months, and a year later – because my water-usage continued low – a gift certificate for a not inconsiderable (to me) sum of money to be used at a local nursery or at Home Depot/Lowes for plants and hardscaping materials  of my choosing to continue the personal domestic landscaping good work . . .  but it’s been so dry this summer that even my existing in-ground plants are looking distinctly limp and discouraged.

You see, that’s the thing in Texas. Summer is invariably hot, but in most summers, we can count on at least an occasional thunderstorm to keep the gardens, the meadows, the parks and the rest of it all perking along, in a condition that doesn’t look like competition for a new location shoot for “Death Valley Days”.  I had an old friend, when I still worked at Texas Public Radio, who had lived in San Antonio all of his life, and he insisted that the boiling-hot summers with little rain relief were a recent anomaly. When he was a kid, in the 1930s, and 1940s – the summers were not so boiling hot, and the days and weeks were relieved by rainstorms on a regular bi-weekly basis. That was the historical norm, but the very last summer I recollect like that was a couple of years ago – like clockwork, a storm blew in, and it rained so much that the wildflowers stayed until August, and even into September, the blackland prairie between San Antonio and the Gulf Coast was so verdantly green that a visiting friend exclaimed over and over that it looked like Ireland! Now, that was a summer – and I can hardly wait to see one like it again. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a sudden rainstorm up in the Hill Country that I took a year or so ago, just so we all can remember what it looks like, when the rain comes pouring down like one of those expensive spa showerheads for a couple of hours.

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A Day on the Beach At Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

by Julia Hayden

Upon moving to San Antonio fifteen years ago, I had always wondered – in a perfunctory and mildly curious way – why there would be so many boats and wave-runners around. Such watercraft would be parked on a trailer in the street, or in a driveway, or moving purposefully down the road behind a pick-up truck – and I would be wondering where they were going, actually. We are too far from the coast, and as charming as the various local rivers are, unless they are in 100-year flood, there’s no scope for floating anything larger than an inner-tube on them. And slightly later, I realized that – that damming of various upstream and down from San Antonio had produced lakes sufficient for recreational boating purposes – and that’s were all these people with boats and wave-runners were headed, every holiday and three-day weekend. They were going to Medina Lake, Calvaras Lake, Braunig Lake, to Canyon Lake, and Lake McQueeney, and if they were really ambitious, all the way past Austin to Lake Travis.

So, my darling daughter decided that she wanted to celebrate this last 4th of July in the water, or close to the water’s edge, and being that the price of gas and a hotel room had pretty well removed an excursion to the Gulf Coast from the equation. She decided on Canyon Lake, to spend the day there at the day-beach at Canyon Park – and that we would take the dog. Alas, once we got there, we discovered that the day beach was absolutely closed-verboten-no-exceptions-whatsoever to dogs. So, we had to drive around to the campgrounds, and take a campsite for the day, at a slightly higher price, where leashed dogs were permitted. The only disadvantage to that location was that it was really not a comfortable beach – just an agglomeration of rock – and that there was absolutely no shade. The entire stretch of shoreline had no shade, other than metal canopies over the picnic tables at the various sites. There hadn’t been any shade at the beach, either, or so we had observed – most picnickers had brought their own beach umbrellas or pop-up canopies. They were most desperately needed, in any case, for there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – although there was an occasional light breeze, being on a height elevated somewhat above the water.

We thought the party next to us – a large group of friends and family also spending the whole day there, rather than camping – had the most clever idea of putting up one of their pop-up canopies in the shallow water, and parking a couple of lawn chairs underneath: in the water, which was barely cool, and in the shade, while they played around with inflatable floats, and a pair of wave-runners. We were rebels to the point of letting the dog swim, off her leash, although I am not sure she enjoyed it all that much, and was reluctant to go into the water at all, unless both of us were already in. And I turned my ankle, negotiating the rocks – so I wasn’t so much keen on risking breaking anything else. But we had folding chairs and a bit of shade, cool water and plenty of sun-screen, so in all – much more pleasant a day than at the beach, and having to drive home afterwards with sand in your bathing suit.

Next hot weekend though? I think we’ll tube the river; the shade is more substantial, and I will remember to bring my Crocs . . .

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