Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Intermittent Gardener

I can either garden responsibly or travel. I can't seem to do both during growing season. After being away for only a few days, I returned to find that my little garden had nearly gotten away from me.

It seemed my radishes had exploded.

And my container tomatoes, which had looked great when I left, are showing signs of nitrogen deficiency.

Still, things are coming along. The little peppers are Cubanelle. I need to do something about the uneven, over-crowded, unruly carrots.

I gave the container tomatoes a shot of liquid fish. They ought to look better in few days, and they are making fruit.
These are Bush Early Girls.

These are Better Bush, another indeterminate variety that does very well in containers.

My Anaheim peppers are doing well in a container. They aren't the nitrogen hogs that tomatoes are. My daughter Sarah and her boyfriend were eyeing them today. They both love hot, spicy things. I warned them. I expect missing peppers any day now.

Some thinning in the raised bed yielded this little bunch of radishes - cherry bell and white icicle.

Then, there's the embarrassing Left Bed. Note the paltry pole beans and ridiculous, lonesome pepper plant. Evidently, when I switched from engineering to full-time writing I lost the ability to count. That extra pepper plant had to go somewhere.

The poor beans - Kentucky Wonders, which grow well nearly everywhere - got off to a very late start, thanks to your intermittent and distracted gardener who happened to be struggling with an article deadline. Then, evidently believing that the Intermittent Gardener had sown the beans at an insufficient depth, a certain elderly beagle belonging to a certain inattentive daughter tromped them in a good bit deeper.
Worse yet, I broke an ancient taboo and sowed onions close to the beans. I thought I could get away with it. After all, I left a generous buffer area, and besides, I had never heard or read a scientific explanation of why one oughtn't plant onions close to beans. My parents' explanation, "Beans and onions aren't good neighbors," wasn't sufficient. Who really knew? Dad and Mom, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and others who planted and tended our family garden had never tried planting the two close together because everyone knew that you just didn't do that. Was it a matter of taste or did the plants not grow well together? Nobody seemed to know.
(Why oh why didn't I pay more attention to these dear folks, watch them more closely instead of mindlessly doing what I was told? They knew how to garden. I never ate store-bought vegetables until I went away to college. Now they've all passed on, and I don't remember how Dad built his tomato ladders.)
Anyway, I broke the taboo. Of course my onions did poorly and my beans developed some kind of nasty rust and stopped growing. Sure, the unusually wet spring could have been the culprit, but I felt the wrath of my ancestors. I ripped out the stunted onions and the worst of the beans. A dose of compost tea, followed by a helping of liquid fish and seaweed a couple of weeks later seems to have revived the remaining beans. I worked in an inch of compost where the onions had been. After another week's rest, I'll sow some more beans. We have plenty of growing season left. We'll see.
Thank goodness Jane rarely checks this blog. If she knew I had been out back photographing our little kitchen garden, I'd never hear the end of it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

East Texas Forests

In case you're interested, my article on the history and status of the East Texas Forests just appeared in the June 2009 Issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife. You can check out the online version here.

Beautiful color photos as well as archival photos from the old logging days accompany the print version. Here are a few snapshots I took back in early February at Boykin Springs, one of the last and best places in Texas to see nice stands of longleaf pine.
Note the blackened boles and open open, grassy woods. Fire is a critical component in the longleaf forest.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another National Treasure

Since reading "An American National Treasure," Mark's post on Bill Mallonee, I've wanted to say something about one of my own favorite singer-songwriters, Buddy Miller. Of course when I speak of Buddy Miller, I'm really thinking of Buddy and his wife, Julie, who, nowadays, does most of the writing.

Like all novelists, I daydream about movie adaptations of my novels, and whenever I think of a movie based on The Callings, I always imagine music written and performed by the Millers.

Until a few years ago, I had always thought about Buddy Miller in terms of his long association with Emmylou Harris. Then one day while I was browsing in a bookstore, a song jumped out of the background music, and I dropped whatever book or magazine I was considering and hustled back to the music department to ask what was playing. The sales clerk walked over to the "Americana" section and pulled out Midnight and Lonesome. I've been a Buddy and Julie fan ever since.

Here's Buddy talking about his new CD:

Here's one of my favorites, "Worry too Much," from Universal United House of Prayer. I'd call it a protest song.

Like Bill Mallonee, Buddy and Julie Miller are often regarded as Christian artists, and some of their best songs reflect their faith. But you certainly don't have to be religious to enjoy their music, and I doubt that their songs get much (if any) play on Christian stations. They get lots of airtime on the Alt-Country stations here in Texas.

Here's one from Written in Chalk. I believe it's called "Chalk."

And a nice segment with Buddy and one of his favorite guitars:

Sure, some of Buddy and Julie Miller's songs are very simple, earnest, even sentimental. Twenty years ago, I probably would have rolled my eyes. Nowadays, it doesn't take me long to get my fill of nihilism and irony. More and more, a Buddy and Julie song is exactly what I need to hear.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sure-Enough Cowdogs

Leo, Randy Walker's Catahoula Cur. They don't come any tougher. How 'bout them eyes?

Helping the boss catch a horse or is Bubba just limbering up for a day's work?

Several weeks back, I spent a couple days at Ranger Creek Ranch, on the Rolling Plains near Seymour, Texas. I wrote about the visit in a short travel piece for Texas Highways. Of course I did all of the standard travel writer things, but what I enjoyed most was watching Randy Walker work his cowdogs, Leo, a Catahoula Cur, and Buster and Bubba, a pair of Catahoula-border collie mixes. Randy likes the Catahoula's grit and cow sense and the border collie's brains, class, and trainability. The crossings are working very well. He runs a cow-calf operation, which calls for gritty dogs - dogs that probably would be way too rough for sheep.

On the second morning, I watched Randy and the dogs work a small group of yearlings that weren't dog-broke. My snapshots don't do the dogs justice. Fortunately, Wyman Meinzer and I are putting the finishing touches on Working Dogs of Texas. Believe me; Wyman's photos do working dogs justice, and Randy's dogs will be in the book.

For now, though, you'll have to make due with my amateur shots.

Randy and the boys.

Getting Started

Don't Mess with Leo

Somebody gets a bright idea...

...and pays the price.

More Lazy Blogging

In case any of my fellow dog lovers are interested, I've uploaded my March and May Texas Wildlife working dog columns and a Texas Wildlife feature article on small game hunting to my website. You can check them out here: