Archive for January, 2011

It’s raining cats and snails

Last week, we got nearly 3″ of rain at our house. And when it rains, the snails come out. Not one or two here and there. I’m talking snails all over the backyard. And when I walk outside, I step on them – not on purpose, because they’re everywhere – and it grosses me out. The sound of their shell crunching under my step is making me “squinch” my face at this very moment. We have a rock ledge out back that they must live in and come out to play when it rains. Butterball decided to make friends with this snail.

On the upside, our greens are happy. We have romaine, spinach, arugula, and a Mesclun blend growing right now, plus some cilantro and sage. The lettuce is still small, but Blair managed to pick enough leaves for a few turkey sandwiches. Everything else is officially dead with the 3-4 days of freezing temperatures last week. However, it’s not too early to be thinking about spring. It’s actually a great time to start planning your spring garden and even planting seeds to eventually transplant outside. We started our spring seeds a few weeks ago, actually right before the freeze, so they haven’t gotten much warmth yet – days in the greenhouse, nights in the garage. Oh, the cats have so kindly obliged to “sharing” the greenhouse with the new seeds, too.

One more awesome thing about the rain…we have a rainwater collection barrel now! Blair is proud of it, and it’s completely full.

If you live in Austin and are interested in getting a rain barrel, most nurseries sell them. Plus, the city will reimburse you 50 cents for each gallon on non-pressurized systems. Here’s a link to the rebate form. If you are handy though, you can build one yourself.


Sign up for Citizen Gardener spring classes

Spring Citizen Gardener classes in Austin are right around the corner. This is a program Blair and I went through last February and loved it. You get about 10 hours of training (two Saturdays with hands-on work building and preparing beds/compost bins plus one weeknight “lecture”), and then you volunteer 10 hours in the community applying and teaching what you learned. I blogged about the class last spring. I would encourage anyone wanting to learn a little more and volunteer to check it out. Spring classes start on these dates:

  • January 15
  • January 29
  • February 12
  • February 26
  • March 19

Here’s a description from the website where you sign up. It’s now hosted by the Sustainable Food Center!

This class will teach you how to turn your bare ground or Bermuda Grass lawn into raised-garden beds that are small enough to manage, but big enough to provide real food. This hands-on course covers Central Texas specific topics and addresses the challenges and benefits to growing in our climate. Learn about composting, rainwater harvesting, mulching components, bio-intensive gardening, bed-building and more in a series of 3 classes. After completing the classes students complete 10 hours of volunteer work in any one of our partner gardens in order to gain the designation of “Citizen Gardener”. The hours spent as a volunteer enhance students gardening knowledge and build awareness in their communities about the benefits of gardening.

I hope some of you decide to take the class and tell us what you think!

Favorite backyard garden pictures of 2010

Happy 2011!  It’s getting cold outside, and the garden is pretty much hibernating. We’re growing some cool weather greens and herbs, but our efforts will soon shift to getting seeds ready for spring.  Santa was good to us this year with new toys for the garden. I gave Blair a rainwater collection barrel and watering wand, and his parents gave us a pop-up greenhouse, rain gauge, and outdoor thermometer. We are ready for the new year!

To say good-bye to 2010, we’ll leave you with some of our favorite garden pictures (with special appearances from Maya and Butters). Some are repeats; others were never posted. If you want more 2010 garden pics, they’re all posted on our Picasa site.


A pot of "black gold"

Hard to believe that everything was manageable at one point this spring

Onion flower



Beautiful to look at; tough to stomach

Potatoes, basil, and funky carrots

Costoluto Genovese tomato

The biggest tomato plant we've ever grown - Costoluto Genovese

Farmville cat does not actually like to farm

Anacacho orchid tree

Bees feed off the anacacho orchid tree

Butterball sleeping on duty

Cat nip

Cat nip randomly started growing in our garden; the cats found it

Double digging

Double digging the beds for late summer/fall

Summer squash

Summer squash and its beautiful yellow flowers

Eggplant burgers

Eating the fruits of our labor

Minorcan datil peppers

Minorcan datil peppers, a.k.a. hot

My favorite picture of Butterball in 2010

An unflattering picture of Maya in 2010

Purple hyacinth bean vine

One of my favorite plants to stare at - purple hyacinth bean vine

Green beans

A spider built a huge web outside our bedroom window


My lovely grandparents

We were thankful for our garden, cats, family, and friends this year and are excited to start 2011. Thanks for reading our blog in its first year and leaving your advice/questions. We love it!