More Moss!

Here’s some more pretty winter moss in Austin, Texas. I took these at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. 16 years in this city, and I never heard of the place until I was researching places to find fossils. My son has a science fair project, so….

I’d feel bad not knowing about the preserver but my husband is from Austin and never heard of it. I think we may need to get out more.

I “underexposed” (AKA exposed for the sun on the moss) these for a dramatic feel.
moss-in-light-web Continue reading “More Moss!”

Moss!

As far as plant cuteness goes, there is a tie between pussy willows and moss. I happened upon a small patch while looking for fossils with my 8 year old.

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Plush moss near Hamilton Pool Road.

This area of Texas is fairly dry and rocky, so you wouldn’t expect to find moss hiding out under the trees. But there it is! Bein’ all cute with its wittle teddy bear fuzz.

Eat the landscape: Pickled Peppers

Hot peppers are the perfect small bushes for hot, sunny areas where other plants may not survive. Habaneros are especially cute in the fall because they have orange fruit for your traditional fall color. It can be in short supply here, flaming sumac aside. It is reported that you can eat the fruits of the flaming sumac, but I haven’t tried them yet.

Wait for me to try the flaming sumac fruits, and see if I live to tell the tale before you go do it. If I have posted an unfamiliar native plant in my recipes, I assure you I have eaten it repeatedly with no ill effect. Then I give it to my son to eat and see what happens. He’s my first-born, and thus, the experimental child.

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A colorful mix of peppers and onion on the left and pickled habaneros hiding on the right.

For this giardiniera recipe, I used the puny green bell peppers I managed to grow this year, jalapeños that turned red on the bush, and store-bought onions. The smaller jar contains pickled habaneros.

An Austin restaurant, Azul Tequila, serves a red onion-habanero pickle with their carnitas de puerco dish. I love it, and it is easy to make.  You don’t have to process that pickle dish to use it. YES, EASY PICKLE. You can make this “quick pickle” by soaking the onions and peppers in vinegar for a few hours before serving.

For canning purposes, you’ll have a few more steps. After years of pickling, I have come up with a flavor profile I prefer, but I am not going to throw that at you. My one piece of advice for flavoring is to mix water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a proportion you find tasty. Then pick your choice of herbs/spices. If you don’t like vinegar, you must use another type of acid to lower the Ph. People have actually gotten botulism from home-canned goods.

Then again, some people are gross and leave the Thanksgiving turkey out all night on the table and make soup of it in the morning after the cats gnawed on it. (True story from a friend whose in-laws do not follow proper hand washing technique…and more! My friend did not eat the soup.)

Please, please boil the jars for at least ten minutes. But not the lid with the wax ring. You boil that, you weaken the seal when you put it on your finished product. Anyone who tells you otherwise is working with out-of-date information. Hot, soapy water will clean them sufficiently. No bumpy/jagged edges for the glass, either.

  1. A 3:1 vinegar (does not really matter which kind) to water ratio. Or more vinegar if you like it.
  2. Salt to taste. We aren’t fermenting, so it’s not that important. Only Kosher salt!
  3. Sugar to taste–or none. I like to take the edge off the vinegar with it.
  4. Spices/herbs like mustard seed, peppercorns, or dill. It’s really up to you and the herbs and spices you prefer.
  5. Tightly pack your veggies, and pour the hot brine on them. Leave a bit of space (1/4 inch or so) between the filling and rim. Wipe rim dry with a dampened towel.
  6. Put the lid and band on, and boil for at least 10 minutes. Take out, let cool before storing.

I’ve never had the seal not “pop” shut. But if a jar doesn’t pop shut after a couple of hours, do not store the jar. Process with a new lid.

I have overfilled jars before, which I notice when I put the lid on, try to close the jar, and hot brine overflows. WHOOPS.  Just dump some of the brine out, wipe the rim and lid, and close it again.

 

Small moments after the flood. (Slaughter Creek)

These were taken 2 days after the Halloween flood of 2013. Slaughter Creek runs behind my house. Due to the drought, the creek has been dry with patches of stagnant water since I have lived here. The sheer amount of rain and flow in the creek was unexpected, to say the least.

Silt deposit.
Silt deposit.

Since the creek runs along the perimeter of a city park, people occasionally bring their dogs (and even fishing poles!) down to the dammed area.

Pensive man with his dogs.
Pensive man with his dogs.
Miniature "side creek" draining water into Slaughter Creek.
Miniature “side creek” draining water into Slaughter Creek.
Clam shell.
Some kind of bivalve.

2013 Flood in South Austin

I knew it was raining heavily on my side of town Wednesday night/early morning Thursday. But I had no idea how bad the damage was until I woke up and heard about evacuations by the nearby Onion Creek. Fewer than 3 miles from me, homes were being flooded by Onion Creek.

This flash flood must have been terrifying along Onion Creek. It rained over 9 inches in this area, and all in just a few hours.  Reports are that homes were very quickly overtaken by water. These flash floods move fast.

Today I went down Old San Antonio Road under the assumption that the tiny one lane bridge would have had the most damage in the area.

Old San Antonio Road at the bridge over Onion Creek
Old San Antonio Road at the bridge over Onion Creek
Tree on Old San Antonio Road bridge.
Tree on Old San Antonio Road bridge.

Some of the asphalt was torn clear off the road. I talked with one of the city employees out there, and he told me it would be “a while” before the bridge could be repaired. The asphalt factories are in the southeast part of town and were totally flooded. He heard that that the factories would be back up running some time next week.

I drove north on Old San Antonio Road to see what the damage was like there. It was fairly insignificant. You could tell that some trees had to be removed from the road.

Flood gauge on Old San Antonio Road north of Onion Creek by Southpark Meadows.
Flood gauge on Old San Antonio Road north of Onion Creek by Southpark Meadows.

The most significant damage was near was on Twin Creeks Road. That bridge will surely be out of commission for weeks.

Bridge over Bear Creek and Onion Creek.
Bridge over Bear Creek and Onion Creek.

The nearby homes looked untouched from the back. But as soon as I had rounded the corner, the flood damage was immediately apparent. The residents were airing out what they could salvage after the muck and water ran through their homes.

Garage door torn off home near Onion Creek.
Garage door torn off home near Onion Creek.

Adding insult to injury, the floods on the south side of Austin will do nothing to replenish the drought-stricken lakes which the city draws its water supply from.

The force of Onion Creek pushed all the neighbors' sheds together.
The force of Onion Creek pushed all the neighbors’ sheds together.

Stephenson Nature Preserve (Hiking in Austin)

Horse
Horse

I’ve lived in south Austin for the past 12 years. And I just recently found out about the folk art trail between Brodie and Westgate? For shame!

It’s a really fun (but sort of confusing) hike. There’s a lot of art to take in along the trails, which are entirely unmarked. I found myself walking in circles and utterly “lost” at one point. Sure, I suppose I could have just walked down the road I found to get back to the park entrance…but where’s the adventure in that?

I plan to got back to visit a small family cemetery on the other side of the park.

Cedar wall
Cedar wall
I love you, too!
I love you, too!
Hearts!
Hearts!

 

South Austin History: Maria de la Luz Cemetery

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About a block down the road from the Masonic cemetery in south Austin, you’ll find the Mexican cemetery. The growth of Austin has the place surrounded. I’m not sure if there are many spaces left for burial. It seems fairly full upon close examination. There are “empty” areas, but the ground rolls from the compression of soil upon the caskets.

I find both cemeteries aesthetically pleasing but for different reasons. The Masonic cemetery is your traditional, slightly intimidating, sedate resting place. The Mexican cemetery, on the other hand, applies color and individuality in a manner which would be unexpected in the traditional Western burial ground.

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The four nerve daisies were all in bloom today.

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