Friday, September 23, 2011


I was rummaging through the kitchen the other day, trying to think of something I could fix for dinner that wouldn't require a trip to the store.  I had some sourdough bread that was about to go stale, some leftover ham and some good cheese, so I thought I'd just do grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.  But then I remembered something we loved eating in France, and that there just happened to be a recipe for in one of my cookbooks.  Now I ask you, when's the last time you had leftovers that were so good, they made you moan?
 from Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten
(serves 4 - 8)

2 T. unsalted butter
3 T. all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
12 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 slices white sandwich bread (such as Pepperidge Farm), crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 oz. baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.  Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened.  Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan, and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on two baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes.  Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere.  Top with another piece of toasted bread.  Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes.  Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned.  Serve hot.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Unlike the upper two thirds of this country, and points further north, our winters aren't all that hard on plants.  The ground never freezes, and if you remember to mulch, most hardy perennials will do just fine.  The summers though, they're a whole different ball o' wax.  A drippy, melty ball of hot, hot wax.  That's why, for all but the Texas Panhandle perhaps, the best time to plant most perennials is right now, in fall rather than spring.  That way they have plenty of time to get a good root system established, before they have to deal with a summer's torment.

It took me a while, but I finally came to the conclusion that I need more perennials, less veggies in the Cantina Garden, for the following reasons:
  • veggies need too much water -- a mighty scarce commodity around here
  • I pretty much suck at growing them
  • the deer and raccoons abscond with everything I do manage to produce
  • I'm sick of looking down on empty, ravaged beds
Oh, I haven't given up on an edible garden altogether!  I'm just not going to dedicate all those beds on the right as "veggie beds."  Instead I will have my edibles tucked in here and there, amongst all the perennials.  My asparagus patch is still doing fine, and I've got plenty of herbs everywhere.  The little olive tree that Paula and Tim gave us as a housewarming gift hasn't grown much, but it's still alive and green -- a minor miracle after the weather extremes we've experienced this year!

Little Olivia, the olive tree
My Texas Persimmon is going great guns.  In fact, it was a rockin' and a rollin' the other night when Dear Hubby walked past, on his way to the man-cave.  He glanced up and found three raccoons up there, partying down on all that ripe fruit!  Glad somebody enjoyed it.

See the busy little bee inside that arugula blossom?
My arugula keeps reseeding itself, popping up hither and yon, and I'm happy to let it.  The bees are happy too.  Oh, and those tomatoes which the deer pruned for me, when I first planted them last spring?  Well, they're looking mighty fit and healthy right now, and seem to be putting on lots of new blooms, so keep you're fingers crossed!

Tomato Survivors
But for this bed here -- the one that the deer love most of all, and the one that is most visible from the windows and porches above -- there will be no veggies.  Instead, I went through my handy little booklet from the Texas Cooperative Extension service, Native and Adapted Landscape Plants, and picked out some of the most deer resistent, drought tolerant, bullet proof plants I could find -- things like flame acanthus, paprika-colored yarrow, and fuzzy lambs ears -- and tucked them into all those empty spaces around the Butterfly Weed that had already seeded itself there.
Me and perennials?  We get along just fine.  They don't ask too much of me, and I leave them pretty much alone, letting them have their space and do their own thing.  It's a match made in heaven.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Have I ever told you how much I love, love, love our local store, King Feed and Hardware?  Not only is it the place where I buy most all of my plants and gardening supplies, it's also the place to go if you need any materials for a project, some paint, some live chickies or bunnies, a pair of hiking shoes or wellies, power tools, aquarium supplies, books or magazines on animal care or gardening, a Carhart jacket, or even toys for your pets!

Now, however, there's one more thing to love about King Feed. You'll find it through these doors, in a corner of the old, original building that's just been used for storage since the new section was added on. "What is it?" you ask.

Their coffee shop!  Rafiki Coffee Shop, to be precise, which was formerly out on the edge of town, and which uses the same delicious coffees (from Austin micro-roaster Barrett's) and Harney & Sons teas that we sell through The Bountiful Sprout.

Just be careful when you wander past all the wonderful plants, and those precious chickies and bunnies.  I'm tellin' ya, they're mighty hard to resist!

There's just one problem.  How do the Muses and I support this new endeavor, without jilting our former favorite, which is right next door!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


We finally had to call and have water delivered for the very first time since we had our rain tank system installed.  We had already ordered it before we got that little bit of rain this week (which brought us up to waist high again), but decided to let them come ahead anyway -- mainly because we wanted to be sure they could deliver water to us.  The truck needed to be big enough to hold a bunch of water, but if it was too big, we might be in deep doo-dah!
You see, in order to get to the tank, the truck would have to travel along that narrow gravel driveway that runs in front of the house, make the sharp left turn around that long stone flowerbed, into the parking area, then back up towards the tank at an angle, so that when it's time to leave, he can head out down the driveway.  Our young friend Chase tried it once in his big-ass truck, with another car already in the parking area.  It did not go well.  We ended up having to call for a tow, and both trucks came dangerously close to tumbling down the hill and into the creek!
I'm happy to report that he made it just fine.  Barely.  I think John said it cost about $130 for 2,000 gallons of water (the tank holds about 12,500), and he's going to bring another 2,000 next time he's in the area.  We're hoping that will hold us until this dang drought eases up.

Monday, September 19, 2011


It's been a really long time since anything has lured me away from my sunrise writing ritual, but yesterday's early morning mistiness sent out a call that was irresistible.  I headed out for a walk.
There were too many dead trees for my liking, and those two little rain storms we got this week hardly scratched the surface...

Hard to believe this time last year, this creek was a raging torrent,
as evidenced by that mossy stuff still clinging to the trees.

An Optimistic Grapevine on a Fence
Our creek, around the bend and above a dam.
but, even in its dry, parched state, the Hill Country can be unbelievably beautiful -- especially on a cool, misty morning.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


We drove over to Floresville yesterday, to visit with our friends Paula and Tim, and to meet their new grandson, Wyatt Lee Sanford.
It has been a very, very long time since I have held a living thing this tiny!  It felt rather strange and awkward at first, but then muscle memory kicked in, and I found myself swaying to old rhythms, humming old tunes, gazing in awe at unbelievably tiny fingers and toes -- wondering, is it really possible that Austin and Alexis were once this tiny?

These two guys are wondering "Who the heck is this tiny interloper, and who made him King of the Universe?!!

Simple things that fill you with wonder?
Simply Wonderful!