May flowers

Not to be self congratulatory or anything, but Heath and I are basically American heroes for making good on our promise to the garden to give it some much needed TLC.  Austin’s been gifted with a pretty spectacular spring season, which made it nearly impossible for us not to get our hands dirty these past couple months beautifying the grounds of House Doodle. Veggies have been planted, bottle trees erected, new fences built—a productive spring season indeed.

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Hiking Weather

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

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Oh yeah, I’d water that.

Once upon a time, our fiddle leaf fig was a contained, petite and well-groomed specimen. But these days, the branches of my beloved ficus are pretty sprawled out, each one is in business for itself. Not that I mind that, necessarily. For a while, I thought this particular plant had gone rogue, or at the very least was in a rebellious state against its doting caretakers based on how it looked when we initially brought ‘er home (unfortunately, no pictures exist of that banner moment).

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But this perceived independent streak is not quite as it seems; in fact, after some research I have found that it is my preconceived notion of what this popular house plant ought to look like that is at fault. As it happens, fiddle leafs come in all shapes and sizes, depending on how they are groomed and cared for, which means there’s pretty much a style to fit anyone’s idea of beauty. That’s a pretty swell shrub if I have anything to say about it.

Long and leggy

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I’m digging the different looks the Ficus lyrata can pull off, it’s essentially the Carrie Bradshaw of house plants. I’m gonna go ahead and go out on a limb here (eh, eh?) and say, fiddle leaf fig, you’re my ideal house plant. You’re pretty easy going (Or should I say growing?!), you’re nice to look at and I doubt I’ll ever be bored of you.


Hey, Hoh! (The Travel Chronicles continued)

Day Three
It rains about 12 feet a year  in the Hoh Rainforest. Depending on your particular origins that may not seem an impressive figure, but allow me to reintroduce this data point through this Texan’s particular perspective. Twelve feet is some serious rain. Really. For example, I attended freshman orientation at UT and walked away with my diploma before I saw that much rain in Austin. I voted in two presidential elections and did not see that much rain. I met, dated, and wed my beloved Mooshy before I saw that much rain. I thought a lot about the rain.

I thought about the rain as we meandered the forest trails, inaccurately guessing the height of the 300-foot spruce trees that towered over us, and as we marveled at the nurse logs on the forest floor. I thought about the rain as we forged the piercing cold Hoh River that flows through the valley carved thousands of years earlier by massive glaciers, and when we watched a family of elk take sips from the same flowing water that still wet our toes. I thought about the rain when we peered over streams so flawlessly clear they were nearly invisible, and when we reached out to touch moss that drapes and floats over the forest’s branches like seaweed. I thought about it as we built our fire, and cleaned our faces and fingers of sticky s’mores. I thought about how everything there—everything we could see and touch—was made greener, wetter, colder, taller, stronger by those 12 feet of rain.

heatholympicnationalforesthohrainforesttreetopshoh1hoh2hohmeadownurseloghohforestheathmarshmallowhohcampingkelseycamping We never saw a drop.


The architecture of a cactus

I love the buds and blooms that spring brings, but walking through our neighborhood yesterday, it was hard not to notice another type of dramatic foliage. The cactus.  As a native Texan, cacti have always held a special place in my heart. Along with blue bonnets and live oaks, to me they are indicative of home. And maybe that is why I am especially prone to studying their varied and stunning architecture. Architecture that swoops, and climbs, and dives, and sprawls. Whether donning incendiary blooms, staccato quills or fluid curves, there is something magnetic about cacti.

From my iPhone on yesterday’s walk…

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This one reminded me of a fried egg.

This one reminded me of a fried egg.

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Blogging from Bangalore

Greetings from India! We depart from India today after two weeks of trekking (and van-riding and train-hopping and boat-cruising) around Kerala and Bangalore. I’ll post more once we return, but until then, I will take advantage of the rare wi-fi connection to share our view of India as seen through the lens of Instagram.

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Fickle Junipers

I’ve got these junipers, three in the front and three in the back, and for the most part we get along great. But there are these two suckers who just won’t play ball and I don’t get it. All three junipers in the front and back were planted at the same time, get the same amount of sun and are recipients of the same watering regimen. So why is there one plant from each group that looks to be either on their death bed or already kicked it?

Happy Juniper

And the happy junipers sad brother. I’m calling it Eeyore.

One of these things is not like the others.

I’ve lost a plant or two, or 10 before, so it’s not as if this is some new phenomenon. And I know not every specimen can survive the summer season, but why is there such a disparity with my junipers? If one was going to kick it, you’d think all of them would. The world of gardening sure is full mystery.


Seasonal and Sensational

I think it’s safe to say my favorite thing about having a vegetable garden is eating the veggies. But I’m fairly certain my second favorite thing is observing how much it changes not only from season to season but also from week to week. It’s constantly evolving and Heath has become a champion at monitoring its progress, knowing what’s in season and being able to prep the soil for the future.  We have not yet been through a complete year with our ever evolving garden, but when I look back at pictures of our veggie sprawl from the day it was born to now,  I’m tickled by how much it has morphed.

Early Winter: the “garden” last December when we first put together the raised beds though at this point, it was more dirt than anything.

Early spring: the garden is full of lettuce.

Early spring

In March: no leaves on the trees, few greens in the garden.

Early spring: sugar snap peas from seed. We planted late February and harvested late April.

Mid spring: Heath picking the sugar snap peas.

Early summer: peas are still growing, but we added baby amaranth and New Zealand spinach to the mix.

Today: corn, amaranth, New Zealand spinach and lima beans

Today: corn and lima beans are in season.

Today: lima beans.

Today: corn

Today: amaranth and New Zealand spinach


Bench Brainstorm

Heath and I are in the middle of a living room overhaul (more to come), and one of the pieces in the fall out is this sweet little bench Heath made a couple years ago to act as our TV stand. Since we recently upgraded our TV sitch, we found ourselves with an extra bench to our names.  Although in reality it’s just 6 pieces of wood, it remains the first piece of furniture Heath ever made me. Needless to say, I can’t just throw it out or donate it to Goodwill like it’s just some outdated piece of crap from a big box store. So, I thought, why not use it in the garden? And by garden, I mean carport patio. We have an empty wall outside where the bench fits perfectly, so I sat her down and filled her with plants and trinkets. Problem is: I am not sold on the current choreography of plant life.

TV stand-turned plant bench

It’s heavy on the ornaments, light on the foilage.  I’m in need of some serious guidance for what should occupy this new real estate. Part of it gets sun, most of it gets shade. The plants on the top are free to grow as high as they like, but plants on the shelves below are a little more restricted, which is why now I’ve got lanterns acting as plant placeholders. Perhaps there is no magical flora that can fulfill my needs, but I’m determined to try and find the perfect combo.

Love the minimalist approach of this bench from Apartment Therapy, but don’t know that I’m ready to get into the complicated world of Bonsai rearing.

I’m very drawn to this design from Batixa but I’m not sure how this combo would do in my awkward part-sun/part-shade situation.

HGTV does some cool stuff with succulents, but again, the sun situation has me perplexed. I’m also wondering if I need small pots with lots of details, or big pots over flowing with verdant life.

I love Martha Stewart’s idea of mixing succulents with seasonal blooms, I just don’t know which would survive best in my space.
It’s an odd problem to have, but one I’m enjoying experimenting with. I’m looking forward to touring nurseries this weekend to get a better sense of what will work and what won’t.  Oh thank heaven gardening season is here again!


If it ever rains again, we’ll be in good shape.

Once upon a time, it rained in Texas. And when it did, our yard turned into a swamp.

Swamp city is not a great situation for anyone. After lots of planning and scheming, we decided installing a rain garden would be an effective and earth-friendly way to control the water flow. The idea is that by digging out a trench, you divert the water to a designated area, rather than letting it flow here, there and everywhere. Then, you fill said area with strategically placed rocks and native plants so it’s pretty to look at as well as being functional.

The Red Clay Valley Association encourages its residences to make rain gardens in small backyard depressions like this one.

From gardenfowl.com

Minnesota Public Radio did a neat feature on how to install backyard rain gardens, like this one, for its listeners.

Once again, we enlisted the help of my garden guru to figure out the best way to incorporate a rain garden into the back yard. Since the water seems pretty intent on puddling in one particular area, we thought, why challenge it? We opted to start there and then manipulate the existing landscape around it—making the rest of our yard accoutrement work with the soon-to-be rain garden rather than the other way around. Once that was determined, the only thing left to do was start digging.
Heath dug a few inches into the soil to make a clearly defined low area where the water could easily drain. From there, he tilled the soil to prepare for future plants.
Then we got to play architect, deciding on how and where to place the rocks that would exist in and around the garden.
A few rocks and plants later, we had a bona fide rain garden!
It’s functional, earth-friendly and it creates quite the precious backdrop to our entertaining area.
So far, I’m a big fan of our newest addition. Hopefully we’ll be able to give it a test drive soon.
Happy gardening!