Everything changes and nothing stands still.
-Heraclitus, 535 BC-475 BC
Our normal first frost here is around November 15 each year, but I’ve long known that I live in a frost pocket where cold air rolls down the hill and settles. Friend Dave Creech at SFA Gardens says I live in a “hell hole.” Others point out that it would be a terrible place for a commercial orchard as I’d be losing buds or flower blossoms every spring. When the local news shows the ArkLaTex map of temperatures each morning, Nacogdoches generally has the lowest temperature in the region. And you-know-who, has even lower temperatures than Nac. Dr. Creech used to think I was lying for attention sake but has now come to realize it’s true. My dad always said my thermometers were wrong but has gradually come to realize that every thermometer I put out announces the same frigid news. It doesn’t help any that my parent’s landscape just up the road on a 500 foot hill sustained no freeze or frost damage at all! My poor golden Texas Superstar planting out front quickly changed into a brown Texas Superstar planting and is in the process of being removed.
It’s really no big deal as we gardeners and nature lovers are used to change. I was actually looking forward to making Mrs. G. a cutflower garden out front. I love bringing home little bouquets each week and this will make it handy if I don’t round any up during the work day. As a gardener I naturally prefer homegrown cutflowers. Mrs. G. also likes year-round color and can’t stand to see things die or turn brown. So I’ll try my best to keep her something pretty just off the front porch.
Speaking of the front porch, my plan is to screen it in so the cats and their Momma will have a place to commune separated from the canine crazies (and their equally crazy Daddy). We are trying our best to gradually make it look like Pottery Barn instead of a potting shed barn. That’s quite OK, as I still have Big Momma’s vintage dogtrot house just up the road to step back into time. Mrs. G. calls my preferred living quarters “museums.”
The indoor cats and I are getting along fine. Mainly because I get up at 4 am and feed them each morning. I’ve never seen animals that eat so often! We still haven’t integrated them with the dogs, although Missy and Minnie have learned to walk with us on our pine savanna trail just like the dogs do, though a bit more tentative. Perhaps one day the whole herd can traverse it together.
I led a group of Texas A&M Forest Service personnel along the same trail early in October and showed off my new longleaf pine planting as well. They were here to get ideas for small landowners. I’m not so small but my 50 acres and assorted projects are. I’m quite proud of the progress of my 20 acres of longleaf pine with a number of native grasses there showing out this fall including splitbeard bluestem (my favorite), broomsedge bluestem, and bushy bluestem. The 20 acres of longleaf drains into several silted in ponds that I’m taking advantage of to create a cypress swamp. I dearly love baldcypress and know very well that they’ll long outlive me. The cold air gave them a boost of fall color and also encouraged my patch of turnip and mustard greens next to the house to thrive. My Cajun wife loves her some mustard greens.
The final week of October was one of the busiest in my life with five talks scheduled, three articles, due, and the deadline for moving out of my Tyler apartment. So in 24 hours, wedged between speaking at the International Plant Propagator’s Society meeting in Dallas and doing an Invasive Plants talk at the Tyler Rose Garden, I managed to empty my apartment and haul it all to Shelby County. The whole horrid week was hopefully the last reminder I’ll ever need to ONLY schedule talks in Smith County to help out fellow county agents in District 5 (East Texas). Unfortunately there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to take on any more. One day when I retire I’ll take on more traveling speaking engagements but right now my schedule just doesn’t allow it. My plate at work in Tyler is more than full and my Smith County Master Gardener cup overfloweth. It doesn’t help that my fellow county agent (and friend), Chad Gulley, quit to take a banking job, leaving us with no ag agent for now. Hopefully that position will be filled soon and my team will be back together.
My Smith County Master Gardeners had a wonderful fall bulb sale and conference October 8th selling a great selection of uniquely adapted spring, summer, and fall bulbs for Texas and the South; most produced in Texas and the South. We’ll plan to do it again next year with an equally adapted selection. Unfortunately most Dutch bulbs just aren’t very adapted here so we look forward to providing this educational opportunity each year. It’s our main fundraiser for sustaining our educational programming, beautification projects, and scholarship offerings.
Until next month, accept change as an expected opportunity not a disappointment. -Greg