Yard and Garden

Seed bombs and a resolution

It finally cooled off a little and started raining in Central Texas, which means it's time to plant wildflower seeds for next spring. We had a lot of firewheel seeds left over from this spring's bloom--like a gallon container's worth--so we decided to make some seed bombs and spread the wealth around.

The idea is that you encase your seeds in some clay and some compost so they can easily be tossed wherever you want seeds to grow. The compost gives the seedlings a little boost, and the clay holds it all together and provides a planting medium, but only when conditions are right and it rains enough.

Our backyard is mostly clay, so that was easy to find. I dug a bucket of that up and mixed in a few trowels of compost from the bin. Which I hadn't finished very well, so there are eggshells and dryer lint and maybe a couple of banana stickers mixed in with the seeds. I doubt the seeds care, so I went with it. 

Once all the supplies were arranged, the rest was pretty simple. 


You take a handful of clay mixture and make a little indentation in there.


Sprinkle some seeds into the middle.

IMG_6863 (1)

Add a little water to help it bond.


Squish it into a ball.


Add it to your growing pile.

(Many thanks to my seed bomb stylist and hand model, Mr. Krotpong.) 

We have a few places in mind for these, but we're on the lookout for more, so suggestions are welcome. Wherever we toss them needs to get at least some sun and is preferably not mowed very often. That shouldn't be too hard to find around here. 

I have some extra bluebonnet seeds that I might use later, but I gotta think about that a little more. Bluebonnets are a little more finicky about sunlight and drainage than firewheels, which grow and spread like, well, wildfire. Anyway, here's hoping we can get a few blooms to brighten up the neighborhood a little, maybe give the butterflies and bees a snack while we're at it.

Oh, and a weird garden update. Remember the agave that poked me in the eye? Eric and I were having a hard time figuring out what to do with it. It's too big to move but too dangerous to stay. Really I was just putting off cutting it down, in part because removing it was going to be a sweaty, scrapy, stabby massacre, and in part because even though it's a jerk, I really loved that plant.


Well, it decided for us by rotting out right from the center and collapsing. 

I've learned a lot from this plant: Picking the right site is very important. Adequate drainage is a must for desert plants.

And despite what anyone tells you, if you wait long enough, your problems will just solve themselves. 


So the art they selected for the billboard competition is really good! As are the honorable mentions. Clearly I need to step up my game. 

I'm kind of in between projects right now. I've got some weekend trips coming up, which limits the time I have to dig in and work on anything anyway. And it's still a little hot and dry for large-scale gardening, although I did plant all my wildflower seeds on Sunday: bluebonnet, firewheel, Mexican hat, purple coneflower, and Texas paintbrush. The firewheels and bluebonnets should have self-seeded last spring, but it never hurts to provide an assist.

I'm not superstitious, but between the rain they were calling for early this week (that never materialized) and the super blood moon eclipse that night, Sunday seemed like an auspicious time to plant.

We'll see; I don't think the plants care about the moon so much as how wet it is this winter. Go, dudes, go!

Goat my eyes opened.

Eric and I have occasionally talked about keeping some animals, maybe goats, in our backyard. Not very seriously, just enough to read some websites about it, pick the spot where we'd do it, and talk idly about how nice it would be to have fresh food right there in the yard.

So all it took was the promise of first-hand experience and some raw goat milk to convince us to accompany our friend to the house where she is goat sitting this week. (Also dog, cat, fish, turtle, mouse, and chicken sitting. Our friend is a very nice neighbor.)

The goats are friendly and interesting, and their milk is delicious, but damn if an hour in that backyard didn't annihilate any urban livestock fantasies we'd been harboring.


They really are so cool looking.

We fed the goats raw fruits and veggies, which was charming, except the part when one of them jumped square into Eric's crotch.


Who's a nice goat? NOT YOU.

Then we helped milk them.


The combination milking/feeding bench seemed a little medieval, although I don't know how else you'd do it.

We didn't help very much, though, because we were slow and bad at it. We were told to think of it as gently squeezing a pastry bag, advice that wasn't as helpful as I thought; by the end of the afternoon I had squeezed more goat teats in my life than I have pastry bags. I guess I'm not the cake decorating type.


Nothing like tugging on hairy goat nipples in the Texas sun!

You have to do this every single day. And you have to breed them to get the milk to come in, but apparently you have to house the stud out in the country until it's time to mate because male goats stink, so bad you can actually smell them halfway down the block.

Also we learned the males urinate on their own faces and use that to rub their scent on everything, and it's not uncommon for them to actually ejaculate on their faces and, as our friend put it, "spread the, uh, love, all over everything."

I like goat milk and I love goat cheese. I think goats are cute, and I'm not particularly squeamish. But no, this is not for me.

No to chickens, too; for a long time we thought it would be fun to keep them for entertainment and fresh eggs, but honestly, the dogs would just kill them all, or at least worry them into nervous breakdowns, and eat their eggs besides. Our dogs are jerks, and they are enough animals for us to take care of for now, and possibly forever.

I hurt my eye on the 4th of July

(Warning: This is all pretty gross.)

My morning was rolling along pleasantly yesterday when I stepped out back to water the tomato plants. While I was out there I stooped to pull up a weed that was growing next to our giant agave plant and poink! I jammed my eye right into the tip of one of its leaves.


A big, beautiful...



At first it just hurt, and I hoped I'd avoided the eyeball altogether. But then my vision began to twist and blur, and that's when I got really scared, the kind of fear that manifests itself by making you very calmly take care of your shit, step by step. I turned off the spigot, woke up Eric to drive me to the hospital, and fed and let out the dogs because I didn't know how long we'd be gone.

Then I went to the bathroom to assess the damage in the mirror. I took my contacts out and my vision was restored--it turned out the blurring was just caused by the contact lens filling up with blood. Ewwww! But I was so relieved I hadn't blinded myself that I wasn't really fazed.


Beats a poke in the...oh, right. 

We went to the mercifully empty emergency room, where they numbed, dyed, and examined my eye while I blinked back bloody tears. The puncture was pronounced superficial and restricted to the sclera--the white--of my eye. I got a bottle of antibiotic drops, a prescription for codeine, and instructions to see my eye doctor first thing Monday. 

It hurts like hell still, and I feel like an idiot, but I'm pretty sure my eye is going to be okay. I for sure am going to have to do something about that agave. I've long known it was dangerous and I always wear glasses and gloves when I work in that bed, but yesterday proved that isn't enough.

It's far too late to pull the monster up, and I hate to clip the tips off because I think that makes the plant look sad and stupid. Maybe I'll stick Christmas ornaments on the ends for some year-round eye-protective flair. Or wine corks for a classier, more subtle look.

So yeah, that was pretty terrible. Here, let's look at this picture of a duck that looks like George Washington. That always makes everything better:


Firewheel weekend

Not a lot going on this weekend, which was nice. I decided to finish a project I'd set aside when I got busy with work in the spring: tiling a firewheel, my favorite wildflower, on the side of a crappy old cinder block.

We'd been using this block to light our charcoal chimney, but I think I will promote it to a plant stand now that it's all fancy.


Mosaic projects always look a little shitty before you grout them. It's hard to visualize what will happen. Depending on the color you use, grouting can unify and gloss over imperfections or fragment the image and magnify your mistakes.


I was afraid using dark grout ran the risk of the latter, but hey, this is just a cinder block. The stakes are low. Still, looking at it covered with dull black goop made me nervous.


I like it, though! It highlights some things I'll do differently next time, but I think it gives it a nice, cartoony crispness.

I'm going to tile the other side with more or less the same image. Maybe I'll use red grout in the center up to the end of the orange part of the petals, just to see what happens.

This is all a test run for a much bigger project I have in mind.


I plan to tile that dull, slanting concrete step with a firewheel explosion this fall. But that's going to take a lot of planning--and kneeling--so I want to get most of my mistakes out of the way now.

(I have no plans to tile √úter, although he often stays still enough for me to do it if I wanted.)


Here are some firewheels from real life. We have a strip of them in the front yard that reseeds itself every year, and I think it looks really hot. I worried that it might be boring to do a flower mosaic, but no way; firewheels are rad. They couldn't be boring if they tried.


Since I had firewheels on the brain, I pulled up the spent plants from this year's bloom and plucked the dried seed heads to separate out later. Sometimes I give seed packets to friends, but this year Eric and I plan to do some guerrilla wildflower planting. So if you see a random patch of firewheels next spring...it probably wasn't us; those things are everywhere in Austin.