Hiking Weather

Merely a few images captured during a recent autumn hike on the greenbelt.

berries cactusfield2 cactustuna fallcolors fallswamp heart kelseywoods stellawater texascactus treehugger waterfall wyattwater

 

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And with that, wedding season has come to a close.

This spring/summer has been very wedding-centric for we two, but alas it has come to a close (at least until September), and we made a point to go out with a bang. For the season finale, we attended the nuptials of Dan and Destiny who paired traditional elements with some pretty off-the-wall ones. I thought I had seen the coup de grâce of wacky wedding fare after Eric and Lisa tied the knot last September; their big day featured a midnight snack of breakfast tacos, a venue named after a haircut, multiple live music performances and iPod parting gifts. This event didn’t incorporate those elements, but there was badminton, snow cones and a wedding reception held at a swimming hole.

The Town
D & D got hitched on her family’s land out in Ingram, Texas (which is near Kerville, which is near nothing). The location is one Destiny had always singled out as her future wedding day destination long before Dan even came into the picture. Lucky for Dan (and for us), she chose well. Ingram was a treat to behold.

Getting to Ingram from Austin entails a 3-hour drive though some of Texas’ smaller towns, but it’s a pretty one that winds through Texas’ version of wine country and passes through historical landmarks, like Johnson City (birthplace of LBJ). So getting to the wedding festivities was actually half the fun.

The Ceremony
Dan and Destiny, or Danstiny as I shall call them for the remainder of this post, were lucky to have family with astonishingly beautiful hill country property. But getting all the guests from their respective lodging accommodations to a hilltop located smack dab in the middle of a 700 acre sprawl is not an easy feat. Guests met at a bunk house located at the foot of the hill and were then transported via limousine party bus to the ceremony site. The drive was windy and rugged, and with zebra and deer roaming the country side to the left and right of the bus, the whole event seemed more the stuff of an African safari than a Texas girl’s wedding. The combination of Beyonce songs being blasted from limousine speakers along with sightings of families of deer made for an interesting juxtaposition.

The hilltop where the couple said “I do” was remarkable and benefited from a breeze that kept guests from sweating through their britches. The couple wrote their own vows and kept the whole affair short and sweet.

The Reception
After the ceremony, guests were shuttled to the family swimming hole. And though her family titled it as such, the spot was less like a “hole” (which made me expect to find a muddy mess that perhaps was once a lake, but in these times of drought would more closely resemble a puddle) and more like the private swimming quarters of Texas royalty. Beautiful stonework surrounded a pristine blue pool that overlooked garden lights, green lawn and beautiful native terrain.

The couple were received with splashes of lavender seeds which sent an aroma through the air that lingered throughout the reception, and they celebrated with Texas BBQ and hill country wine. Wedding cake flavored snow cones were served to children and jars of homemade jellies and preserves were passed out to guests as they arrived (Heath and I snatched some Apple Butter to enjoy at home). Those who wanted to, swam, and those who preferred to stay dry hung out in the biergarten where Danstiny had arranged to entertain friends and family with a bean bag toss, card games, Chinese Checkers and badminton (which allowed Heath to say the word “shuttlecock” more times than I would have preferred).

The affair was personal and romantic and perfectly picturesque.  I will remember it fondly and file it away as one of the more unique and inspiring celebrations of love I have been privileged to witness.

Fare thee well spring wedding season, and onward with summer vacation!


Love Thy Neighbor

Enough with this internet googling business.

When I need ideas for landscaping and home design why am I not drawing more inspiration from the other homes in my neighborhood? After all, most are from roughly the same time period (1950s-1960s), the neighbors are all dealing with the same soil and vegetation issues, and I would assume our budgets for creating a gorgeous front garden and entryway are probably in the same neighborhood (literally). So armed with Heath, the doodles and my Nikon, I decided to capture some of my favorite neighborhood images to stash away in my idea bank.

Idea One— The colorful front door.
Nothing says both “welcome” and “I like to party” quite like a splash of vivid color right at the doorway to the home.

Lime green door peeking out from behind the blue bonnets

I adore this turquoise color and will most definitely be painting our door a similar shade.

Not only a red door, but matching accents too. Job well done, neighbors.

Idea Two—The natural privacy fence.
Obviously building a fence or some other permanent structure is one way to create separation between you and your neighbor, but getting creative with plants is appealing as well (and probably cheaper). The only drawback is it takes patience for the plants to grow to appropriate privacy height…and patience is not one of my virtues. Still, I can admire the patience of others and appreciate what they have done to create privacy with plants.

Stare at the street? No thanks. I'd rather create a beautiful view of bushy greenery to gaze at from my side windows.

I like the idea of having an evergreen vine to separate you from your neighbor's car. Cost effective and very attractive.

Idea Three— The unconventional details.
I’ve already implemented this in my backyard with wine bottles and a repurposed pallet, but having an unconventional element in the front garden has it’s bonuses, too. It generates interest and sets your house apart from some of the others in the hood.

I don't necessarily picture us having bowling balls in the garden, but it's still an interesting concept.

Artichokes in the front yard. Super neato.

It's a small architectural detail, but the tiny structural slant and mini windows on the front porch brick is incredibly appealing to me. It's a little detail that makes a huge impact on this house's curb appeal. It's not every day you see slanted walls, but I'm smitten.

Idea Four—The curbside garden.
In the past, I tended to think of frontyard landscaping and gardens as existing closer to the house, hiding the foundation and framing the structure. But dozens of our neighbors have built their gardens all the way out to the street and I love it. It’s less lawn to deal with and its visually appealing too.

One of the deciding factors that led us to choose our house over others we were looking at, was the neighborhood. The streets are wide and wonderfully walkable. The trees are towering and mature, and each house has its own unique features. We adore our hood and hope to draw dozens of more inspirations from it in the future.

Yep. The doodle house is right at home here.


DIY Weekend Project: Galvanized Planter

This weekend was one for lots of little projects, but my favorite may have been creating a planter for an empty galvanized tank we have long been ignoring.

Sad, empty tank

For a while we debated whether to turn our tank into a fish pond water feature or to use it as a colorful entry planter. Some of these inspiration photos really pushed me over the edge when it came to deciding its fate.

Galvanized tanks as a planter. I love how some of the plants pour over the side. It reminds me of a waterfall.

Galvanized tank as a water feature.

Both options were appealing and had their pros and cons, but at the end of the day, a planter seemed more low maintenance. So we we went to work to make it happen.

Step 1: Fill the bottom with styrofoam packing peanuts. This helps with drainage. 

Step 2: Layer with peat moss and potting soil.  A lot of potting soil. We underestimated just how much at first, but those tanks don’t mess around and can hold a healthy amount. We ended up needing to make a few return trips to Home Depot for more. I think we ended up using something like 5 bags. 

Step 3: Once the soil is in, choose your plants and stage your area to figure out where everything will live before you get to digging.

Picking out the plant placement.

We knew we wanted a variety of texture, height and color in the planter to keep things interesting, and we knew we needed things that could do well in the heat and sun. Our final selections included:
– Heat tolerant pink geraniums (for color)
– Fortnight lily (for height)
– Ice plant (For drooping over the side and giving it a waterfall-ish look. We have had incredible luck with our ice plants, it’s one of the few that seems impossible to kill, even in Texas heat.)
– Sedum (for ground cover)

Step 4: Put them in the planter and you’re done! I love the end result.

Cost breakdown–

  • Galvanized Planter: Free (It was a gift, thanks Mom)
  • Plants: $30
  • Packing Peanuts: $21 (3 bags at $7 a piece)
  • Soil and Peat Moss: $21 (5 bags of potting soil, 1 of peat moss)
  • Total: $72.

The whole project took less than an hour to put together, including travel time to and from the Home Depot to get materials, and it cost less than $100 to implement.  I’m embarrassed we let it sit empty for so long. Now we have a beautiful planter that makes a huge statement to our backyard visitors. I can’t wait to see how it changes and grows over time.


The people you meet on the Hike and Bike Trail

There’s nothing like a torrential downpour to make a girl appreciate a Sun-soaked Sunday. And there is no better way to spend said Sunday than with a romp around Lady Bird Lake with your adorable labradoodle friends. So, that’s what I did.

Apparently everyone in Austin had the same idea, because the trail was as busy as I’d ever seen it. Fortunately with 1o miles of terrain from end-to-end, there was enough trail to enable the peaceful coexistence of hippies and yuppies alike.  Please allow me to elaborate on some of the more interesting characters you will find scooting along the sandy shoreline.

1.) Super intense, no-time-for-funny-business-or-smiles workout buff.
Not to be confused with casual, chatty, on-a-light-jog-with-my-friends-or-my-dog exerciser. Those folks exist too, but I’m far less aware of their presence than the previously mentioned work out machines. No duh the trail is a great place to exercise, but some folks take it to an extremely intimidating level. They whiz past at light speed, sporting a “move it or lose it” attitude and are usually wearing work out attire that costs more than an uppity designer dog (or they are hardly wearing anything at all except a shiny, sweaty six pack that makes me hate myself on many levels). Sometimes they pass with an army of other runners and sometimes they fly solo, but every time I spot them I dangle my head in shame knowing I will never join their ranks and feel slightly self conscious that I am some how ruining their workout routine with my slow-footed pace. Sorry, work out man. I’ll try and keep out of your way.

2.) Person on bike who comes dangerously close to running you over.
I know, I know it’s called the hike AND BIKE trail, but this might be the one place in Austin where cyclists are at a disadvantage. There are far too many off-leash dogs, tiny children and meandering pedestrians for you to truly enjoy that bike ride. You can ring that bell all you want but at some point you’re gonna have to tap the breaks and dismount to make way for the golden retriever and its hip stroller-pushing mother making their way to turtle cove.

3.) Posse of hipsters
Wearing some article of neon clothing and probably equipped with an ironic accessory like a vintage camera or dated walkman, the hipsters flock to the trail just like the dog walkers, out of town visitors and work out enthusiasts do. So glad nature and sunshine are still “in.”

4.) Person with out of control/too many dogs.
I’m kind of definitely talking about myself here. I love the doodles with all my heart, but sometimes they are a bit much for the trail. Wyatt pulls on the leash like he’s towing a sled of expectant mothers to the hospital, and Stella has to stop and pee on just about everything—and what she doesn’t pee on, she has to stop and sniff. We’re the people that have to apologize to every other dog walker for allowing our muts to get all up in their business.  Off leash, things aren’t much better. Wyatt morphs into a hyperactive toddler, screaming with glee at every little dog and leaf and speck of dust that passes him by. Stella jumps into the swampy shore water every chance she gets, usually stealing toys from other dogs. Sorry trail mates, for screwing up your hiking experience with our exuberant Ewoks.

5.) Person riding the trendiest new water craft device.
In the past it was kayaks, then it was the stand up paddle board. This go ’round everyone was all about the hydrocycle. And that’s pretty cool, I guess. You’re certainly not going to be running across poorly trained muppet dogs out on the water, so why not hydrocycle really? Way to be, water lovers. Land is for wusses.

Even with aggressive athletes and trendy under-aged hipsters, I love, Love LOVE my time on the trail. At the end of a walk, run or row there’s a undeniable sense of camaraderie with the fellow trail goers despite varying preferences in pooch or pace. It’s our special piece of earth where nature coexists with urban sprawl…and that’s a pretty cool thing to be able to share.


Bring it, Rain.

Rainwater collecting is a good idea for 242835345234 reasons. I’m going to list two of them.

ONE: If you haven’t spent any time in Austin, you should know it doesn’t rain here in the summer. At all. At least not in the past two years. It gets so dry that the city must sometimes authorize water restrictions that are so harsh, restaurants have to stop serving water to customers unless requested. I’m not joking. It’s a real thing. So collecting precious rainwater while we have it is sort of like drilling for oil. It’s a valuable commodity that will soon be gone forever (or at least it feels like it during the middle of August).

TWO: After a big rain our yard is transformed into a swimming pool. It’s not as fun as it sounds because puddles = mud, and mud + labradoodles = disgusting carpet mess. So, it’s in our best interest to keep as much of that water off the ground and into buckets as possible.

In the end, all that water goes back to nourish the plants and the earth, helping us to be a little more sustainable and do our part to save the planet.

Sounds pretty good except for the part where most rain harvesting barrels are ugly as [expletive]. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Not. Cool. We have four of these puppies that, once the gutters are installed, will have to live in some very prominent places in our backyard. Egh. At least if they were being ugly in the front yard, all of our neighbors could see how awesome and planet friendly we are.

“Oh look, those rain barrels aren’t very attractive but look at that young couple doing their part to help the earth. I want to be just like them…so earth conscious and attractive and thin!”

I am clearly taking liberties here, but the point is, the barrels are in the back yard, they are numerous, they are large and they are not good to look at. So, of course, I’ve been scouring the web to find some solutions.

OPTION ONE: Paint it.
I’ve seen a few folks adorn their barrels with picturesque scenes of the countryside or  bright and charming flowers. It’s a big step up from white plastic construction site we’ve got going now.

It’s a pretty great alternative, but the problem is that I’m no artist, whatsoever. So if I tried my hand at painting the barrel, I imagine it would end up looking something like this.

That’s a rain barrel. It says, “I Heart Rain.”  This is not an improvement over the current situation, so I think we will pass on option one.

OPTION TWO: Put a plant on it.
This is the not-so-distant cousin of Portlandia’s “Put a Bird On It” campaign, but it make a little more sense. The barrels are in the back yard, there are plants there already, why not throw one, or two, or ten on top of (or around) the barrels?

Ok. Option Two, you’re still in the cards, but surely there are other things to consider as well.

OPTION THREE: Use a whiskey barrel.
It’s a cute idea, whiskey barrels are rustic and vintage-looking. That totally fits in with our little hipster masterplan. Maybe a whiskey barrel could work.

I really REALLY love this idea, but Heath already purchased four rain barrels that did not at one point hold whiskey, and I’m pretty sure it’s counter productive to the whole “earth friendly” thing to throw out perfectly good rain barrels because they weren’t “cute” enough. Option three, I hate to see you go, but you just won’t work for us.

OPTION FOUR: Build around it.
As usual, Instructables had some neat ideas for using lattice to surround a water barrel set up that seem fairly doable.

And I saw some really neat ideas from Living Rainwater Tanks that I think we could emulate, and I do know a pretty handy fellow who could make it happen.

In the end I think it will be a combination of Option Two and Four that go down, a decorative structure of sorts, combined with a little greenery.

Yes, I think that will work nicely. I can’t wait to reveal the before and after photos…


Fencing

Handyman Heath has struck again, this time leaving a beautifully constructed horizontal cedar fence in his wake.

Yes, while I was spending my Friday night gallivanting with girlfriends Heath was getting acquainted with a handsome set of post hole diggers. Twenty four hours, three 2-foot holes, 240 pounds of concrete and $270 later we found ourselves the winners of a sort of fencing match.

It was our (Heath’s) first attempt at legit fence construction, but the final result couldn’t be more beautiful. Before the fancy fence, a significant portion of our backyard was visible from the street, as a 3.5-foot chain link fence didn’t lend us much in the way of privacy. And while I do post photos of our backyard for the world to see on this magnificent creature we call the Internet, I felt funny about so much of it being on display to every passerby in the neighborhood at any time of day or night. So after a bit of eye lash batting and finger hair twirling, I convinced Heath to gift me with this enchanting piece of back yard privacy.

Heath considers himself a novice craftsman, but proved to have a knack for fence building. To other “fencers” he offers this advice:

1) Keep a pickaxe handy. Blackland prairie soil (what we have here in Austin) is not easy to dig into. It’s hard and it’s thick, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble if you have the right tools. In this case, a pickaxe was the ideal weapon for tackling this muddy mess. Plus swinging a pickaxe back and forth is an easy way to get instant street cred on the East side.

2.) Make sure the faces of the fence post are even. While everything may be nice and level, the faces of the posts have to be flush with one another. Otherwise, you run into trouble when it comes time to put on the horizontal planks. A difference of an inch or two between the faces will result in a wonky, bendy-looking fence, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

3.) Check that the wooden planks you select for the fence aren’t warped. This one got us a couple of times and forced a few unexpected return trips to Home Depot. A warped board will affect the leveled appearance of the fence. Instead of clean, even lines between each slat, you will wind up with variation that can diminish the entire clean and streamlined look of the project.

Building the fence was a big piece of completing the back yard puzzle, and while it will probably never be “finished” this, along with some extra weekend gardening, made the new house feel a little more like home.

Heath picked up these concrete pavers from Gramps after a recent trip to Denton. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to use them in the yard but finally settled on burying them as a type of garden border.

Silver Cassia shrub purchased this weekend from The Natural Gardener

The air conditioner got a make over with these concrete blocks and bright planters.

Moss Phlox

The windows hanging in the back ground were found as garbage on a neighbor’s curb.

Frannie Sue isn’t allowed out of the coop while we still have chain link around the yard. She’s hoping this “building tall fences” trend continues so she can have free range of the yard again.

The veggies at the new house finally start to take shape.

The entire front of the house has a planter that’s quickly filling with anemone-like succulents.

The vegetable garden slowly taking shape.


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