Dallas Arboretum

After we got done visiting Alan’s bees, Chris and I went to the Dallas Arboretum.  It’s been years since I’d been there, and Chris had only been in one corner for a race that he runs which starts there.  We walked all over the grounds, and saw and sniffed all kinds of spring flowers.


super-funky tulips

Anemone – with bonus bee!

Cardoons, which I think may have to join the to-get-for-the-garden list. You can’t really tell scale from this photo, but they’re about knee-high.

At the homestead area, they had a bunch of mulberry trees; all the females were flowering,

and the bois d’arc trees are leafing out, which is the typical sure sign that spring is really here to stay.

This is the flower that precedes Star Anise. It smells delicately spicy.

Chris looked sexy.

I looked blurry.

There were several brides, traipsing around the grounds with retinues of photographers and hair stylists.  There were even more Quinceañeras.  For those of you who live in parts of the country that don’t have this delightful tradition – it’s like the Old Southern debutante party.  A young lady of Hispanic descent turns fifteen, and her parents dress her up like a princess and throw a huge expensive party.

I think this girl was aiming for “Disney Princess.”

I think this green-and-black color scheme is a little closer to “Evil Disney Queen.”  She had a train, and this poor young man (boyfriend?  brother?) had to carry it for her as she walked.  You can’t really see in this photo, but her bouquet was covered in spiky clear and green crystal type things.  It looked like if a bride tossed it into a crowd, it would kill at least one bridesmaid and lacerate six guests.

The rest of the photos are here, if you want to see.

Chris and I both enjoyed watching this grackle taking a bath. They’re horrible, trashy birds, but they have their pretty moments.

Smoke Test

I’m going to be getting a couple thousand bees in two weeks.  Until today, I’ve never actually opened a hive; I wanted some first-hand experience. My husband Chris was kind and brave enough to take pictures.

Alan from the Trinity Valley Beekeeper’s Association was kind enough to let me come over and “help” (i.e., get in the way) with his bees, and learn how to handle the hive, how to light the smoker, where the veil ties, all that good stuff.  He told me it’s called a smoke test.  I had read, and watched videos, and seen pictures – but like with so many things, bees you just have to be there.

With a few deft movements, Alan got the smoker lit and the cardboard burning merrily.

The desired effect.

I got mine lit, with considerably more mess and less efficiency… but lit, nonetheless.

Alan with a frame of bees.

Today’s errand in the apiary was replacing the solid bottom boards used for winter, with the screened boards used for summer.  Alan broke down the first hive piece by piece, showing me how it goes; I broke down the second hive.

So many bees!  There are cells of pollen here, and cells of open and capped brood.  The little white thing about an inch up from the right corner and half an inch in, is a larva – they look like grubs.

We found the queen in the second hive; she’s the extra-long bee close to the center of the shot.

After the smoke test, I felt SO much more comfortable with the whole process.  Now, if I can just get past the part where I take a box full of bees and SHAKE THEM INTO THE HIVE, I’ll be fine!  Thanks again to Alan; this was exactly what I needed.

Some video:

Local color

The City (I’m guessing here, it could have been any of two or three street-maintenance bodies; it’s a City waterway at the crossroads of a City street and an Interstate Highway, adjacent to a railroad right of way… but, whoever usually has to mow it) decided to brighten up some rough areas near my office with wildflowers.  I took a brief walk there with the camera, and got a few shots.

The purple-colored stuff is what you notice most, as far as masses of color – it’s called Toadflax, and there were about a half dozen distinct colors.

Close to, you can see why they call them Spurred Snapdragon.  I like the bicolors a lot.

These California Poppies are brilliant splashes of color – not as densely seeded as some of the others, so they provide sharp contrast and punch.  There was one plant of the most beautiful rose colored corn poppy, but wind and the macro focus didn’t get along, and it was impossible to get a photo that showed anything like its full beauty.

I love the spiky buds of this Bachelor’s Button or Cornflower.  This is one that my Grandpa always grew in his gardens.

These were present in a variety of shades, too – from pale pink through almost black-burgundy, and also a few shades of blue.

This is Baby Blue Eyes, or Neomphila.  My photo doesn’t look quite like their photo, but it’s close.  The plant was so covered in clover, it was hard to tell what the leaves looked like from the photos.

And, of course, I got some photos of the mulberry!  This is a female tree, and you can see the buds that will flower and then turn into little black fruits.  I need to get some photos of the eggs that have been out on the counter incubating since the 19th – they should be hatching middle of next week!

The garden abides

Well, with all the snow this past weekend, I was expecting at least a LITTLE garden damage… I had been holding off on planting the tender plants, but the baby spinach, the tiny little beet seedlings – it just didn’t seem like they would make it through unscathed under an inch-thick blanket of the white stuff.

Much to my delight, they’re all doing FINE. I managed to get out in the garden on Monday and do some thinning, so now it is beginning to look like a proper garden patch instead of a random wad of greenery.  You can also see some cardboard next to the bed on the right side, and mulch on the left side; we’re doing a “sheet mulch” or “kill mulch” technique to get rid of weeds in the garden area and prepare it for planting.  We’re doing it right (at least, to my mind) – directly reusing broken-down cardboard boxes for the base layer and free brush mulch from a local tree company.  The stuff the City grinds up is a lot rougher, and smells a little like City Dump; the stuff from Preservation Tree Service is lovely and smells like clean wood.

These Giant Red Mustard plants are one-per-hole all along one side of the cinder block border of the bed.  I’m just hoping they get a chance to grow big enough to use, before things get too hot!  You will notice this purple/red foliage coming up a lot in the garden; we’re doing one whole garden area in “dark” plants.  Just be careful what you eat – I know what’s tasty and what’s toxic.

The spinach is getting its true leaves, and looking more like a bed of spinach and less like tall grass.

I thinned the Shanghai Bok Choi (Pai-Tsai) pretty hard, because they’ll be big-ish plants – these have become one of our most favorite greens.  They’ve got a milder flavor than any other bok choi I’ve found.

The lettuces are starting to get their real leaves, showing their charming shapes!  I love the little Oak Leaf.

More of the March snow

We didn’t quite wake up to the Winter Wonderland experience that we’ve had already twice this year – but there was a blanket of snow on most easily-cooled surfaces.

It looks like we had a little under an inch accumulation.  Some areas north and east of here got six to eight inches.

The sidewalks and streets are entirely clear – which makes sense, with how warm it has been!  Day before yesterday, it was in the seventies.

There’s not much ice, but it must have dipped below freezing at least for a little while.  They’re melting off quickly now, as it’s above forty.

Hopefully the little seedlings are all OK under their lovely blanket!

Snow, in March, in Dallas

I’ve lived in Dallas now for seventeen years.  It will typically snow once every other year, sometimes as much as once a year.  This year, we’ve had, I believe, five or six days with snow.  I’ve never seen it this late – it’s just bizarre!

It didn’t start until well after dark, so I could only catch it with the flash.

These are the garden beds I’ve been showing over the past couple of weeks…. covered in snow. It’s too warm for it to stick to the ground or the street, but it’s sticking just fine on the vegetable beds and the mulch.

Fortunately, we hadn’t planted any of the non-hardy vegetables yet… these are all “plant six weeks before last frost” type things, spinach and lettuce and radishes and such.  Hopefully they’ll get through the snow OK!

Dallas Handweavers and Spinners Guild Show

The Dallas Handweavers and Spinners Guild show opened yesterday.  Actually, it opened the day before – but yesterday was the actual opening, cookies and punch and little tomatoes on toothpicks type thing.

The Library hangs the show and does all of the promotional materials, posters, signage – they do a great job, and it saves us a lot of stress

They’ve got great display cases; here, Guild members Marty Benson and Ann Nurre are looking at one section of the exhibit.  There’s another matching case on the other side of the gallery space.

I entered two pieces; one is the knotwork ribbon necklace, which I ended up calling “Night Carnival,” and the other is a skein of heavy two-ply reeled silk.

Both of them won prizes.  The Ronin Awards are named after a former Guild member who endowed show prizes for handspun skeins and articles made from handspun.  I was delighted to win these – I’ve won before in Guild shows here, but these particular prizes come with $check$!  It’s been a somewhat spendy season; the prizes will come in handy.  And, for the first time since I’ve been with the Guild, someone else wove the ribbons!  Lynn Smetko does amazing work.

And, apropos of nothing, a mayfly.  I had been watching clouds of tiny flittering things floating in the back-yard sun; I hadn’t realized what they were, they are so tiny you can’t tell until they land.  They’re  maybe a centimeter long; it makes the skin of the back of my hand look like the ass of a wrinkled pink elephant.  It happened to be on the camera when I was pulling down photos for this post, so I figured it can go in with the show.

The difference a week makes

Five days, actually…

Everything’s coming up!  I plant on the philosophy of “one for the rook, one for the crow, one to rot, and one to grow” – but EVERY seed is growing.

Shanghai Bok Choi is starting to get its true leaves.

These are Osaka Purple Mustard.  We’ve got a lot of interesting-colored things… from purple mustard to rainbow chard and four different colors of tomato –  it should be a colorful garden!  These are in the cells of the cinderblocks; one side is all Giant Red Mustard, the short ends of the rectangle are all Osaka Purple Mustard, and the other long side is Bright Lights chard.

Close to, the spinach looks almost like a bed of lilies.

I planted way, way too many radishes.

The beets are still the coolest colors!  They’ve lost some of their brilliant magenta, but they’ve got a nearly iridescent purple-green leaf.

The Size of a Mouse’s Ear

I honestly don’t remember where I read it, but somewhere in my studies I’ve come across the statement that the right time to start taking eggs out to hatch is when the mulberry leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear.

Without getting into a Monty Python skit about whether it’s an African or European mouse… this is what I’m looking for:

These tiny unfurling leaves will be followed quickly by catkins and then bursts of leaf after leaf.  Mulberry trees are famous for being late in the spring (Morus, the mulberry, is believed to derive its name from Latin mora, meaning “delay”, because of the tardiness of its buds) but because of their cautious slowness I have never seen them blasted by a late hard freeze.  Once the Bois d’arc tree leafs out, then I’ll be sure of things and feel comfortable planting my tomatoes and peppers.

When the leaves are mouse-ear sized (for a given value of mouse), I take the eggs out of cold storage in the refrigerator, and put them in a small container to warm up.

More seedlings

It’s that time.  Everything is starting to bust out, here.  The one garden bed that has been turned and seeded is coming to life with hundreds of tiny leaves.

The lesson from these baby Shanghai Bok Choi plants, is that I need to learn to plant things on a grid. I’m a random sprinkler by nature, but I really want the more orderly layout and space-economy of a gridded planting.

YUM, spinach.  We eat a LOT of spinach; it’s one of my favorite green vegetables.  I buy it at the Asian Grocery in a bag the size of a standard bed pillow.

The moonflower seedlings amaze me with their huge cotyledons.  I mean, when you see a seed the size of the end of your finger, you know the resulting seedling is going to be massive – but these just keep unfolding.  I really look forward to their flowers in the summer.

I have to say that my current favorite, though, are the beets – we planted “gourmet mix” beets, and they’re coming up in colors ranging from yellow-green to hot magenta.