City Gardens

No school today, so the kids and I decided to visit the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. It’s the first time we’ve ventured back into downtown Fort Worth since Luke’s birthday trip to the Science Museum, mostly because I am intimidated by the DFW freeway system.

When I first moved here I said that if I ever mastered these freeways I would never fear any kind of city driving ever again. Now, seven weeks later, it’s more accurate to say that I’ve gotten really good at NOT using the freeways. I know all the ways to get where I need to go without ever touching an onramp. It’s sheer cowardice, but I’m okay with that.

It wouldn’t be so bad it you could just hop onto a freeway and get to where you want to be. But there are SO MANY freeways, and they come together and merge and entwine and separate like a series of snake orgies. One moment of inattention or confusion and you’re shunted off in the wrong direction on an unfamiliar roadway. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is less than 20 miles from where we live, and to get there we had to navigate these four interchanges (it would have been five but I bypassed the first one):





I come from a town with one highway and no stoplights. Even driving to LA or San Diego was a fairly straightforward (albeit slow and crowded) business. This snarl of Metroplex freeways is alien to me.

But today we girded our loins and headed back into the heart of the city. And it was totally worth it, because the Botanic Gardens are amazing.



If you ever visit the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens and you wonder whether it’s worth paying extra to see the Japanese Garden, the answer is yes.



Yes it is.



All of the gardens are beautiful, but the Japanese Garden is stunning.



There are koi food dispensers along the paths, and whenever you get near the water a galloping horde of hopeful koi appears.



The Japanese Garden was our favorite, but all of the gardens are worth visiting.


I found this near the Conservatory. I think it’s a pretty good arboreal representation of the DFW freeway system:


When we had seen everything there is to see at the Botanic Gardens we still had a good chunk of afternoon left, so we decided to go check out the Water Gardens.


The Water Gardens are kind of surreal. They’re designed to resemble a wilderness of canyons, mountains, lakes and rivers, represented in stark, geometric lines.



The active pool is energetic and exciting.



The quiet pool evokes a sense of standing in a wooded canyon near a serene lake.


The aerated pool was the least interesting to us. I get what they were going for, but it didn’t really speak to us like the others did.


Got mildly lost on the way home, trying to navigate my Apple Maps directions in reverse. By then I was in too good a mood to be bothered by it, though. Eventually I will master these freeways, because the alternative is missing out on too many of the incredible things that the Metroplex has to offer.

I freaking love this place.

Categories: environment, Family, Gardening, Humor, kids, Life, Travel, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Happy 2011!

New year, new look for my blog. Felt like time for a change.

I have four resolutions and I’m feeling pretty good about them, but I don’t want to jinx myself by uttering them aloud. I’ll just post four updates throughout the year as I fail each one; it’s more efficient that way.

And now here is my Second Annual List of Inspirational Notes and Quotes For the New Year. Long ago I had the idea of beginning each new blog post with a relevant quote, but then I realized it was way easier to cram all of the literary bits and snippets I collect into one big pile right at the beginning of each year, when people are more in the mood for that sort of thing.


On Simplicity:

Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it. 
–Robert Brault

We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants.  Not wanting something is as good as possessing it. 
–Donald Horban

Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, 
and the labors of life reduce themselves.

–Edwin Teale

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. 
–Leonardo DaVinci

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.


On Frugality:

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying.  The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. 
–Elise Boulding

Our affluent society contains those of talent and insight who are driven to prefer poverty, to choose it, rather than submit to the desolation of an empty abundance. 
–Michael Harrington

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, 
to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like. 

–Will Rogers

My life can be so arranged that I can live on whatever I have. If I cannot live as I have lived in the past, I shall live differently, and living differently does not mean living with less attention to the things that make life gracious and pleasant or with less enjoyment of things of the mind.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

On Gardening:

“When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, There is always the garden.”– Minnie Aumonier

When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that
 will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has his mind
 precisely against what is wrong with us….   What I am saying is that if 
we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, 
then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in
 our minds.  We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change 
our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of the earth, 
but also the earth’s ability to produce.

–Wendell Berry

I see humanity now as one vast plant, needing for its highest fulfillment
 only love, the natural blessings of the great outdoors, and intelligent 
crossing and selection.   In the span of my own lifetime I have observed
 such wondrous progress in plant evolution that I look forward optimistically 
to a healthy, happy world as soon as its children are taught the principles
of simple and rational living.  We must return to nature and nature’s God.

–Luther Burbank

Learning to produce our own food is essential if we are 
to ever truly take control of our own lives.  It liberates 
us from the role of passive consumer, remote from real 
decisions, alienated from nature.

Primal Seeds

Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard. 
–Standing Bear

I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods.  Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.
–Wendell Berry

I am led to reflect how much more delightful to an undebauched mind, is the task of making improvements on the earth, than all the vain glory which can be acquired from ravaging it, by the most uninterrupted career of conquests.
– George Washington

“I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.” –John Erskine

“God almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.”
— Francis Bacon

The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity.
– Henry Ford

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
– Mahatma Gandhi

The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, 
not a garden swollen to a realm;  his own hands to use, not the 
hands of others to command.” 

— J.R.R. Tolkien,  The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee


On Living Well:

This is maturity: To be able to stick with a job until it’s finished; to do one’s duty without being supervised; to be able to carry money without spending it; and to be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.
–Abigail Van Buren

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.   It turns what we have 
into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos 
to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, 
a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes 
sense of our past, brings peace for today, 
and creates a vision for tomorrow.
–Melody Beattie

In matters of style, swim with the current;
in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
–Thomas Jefferson

Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in stranger’s gardens.
–Douglas William Jerrold

One of the best ways of enslaving a people is to keep them from education… The second way of enslaving a people is to suppress the sources of information, not only by burning books but by controlling all the other ways in which ideas are transmitted.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

A person is just about as big as the things that make him angry.

One reason why birds and horses are happy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.
–Dale Carnegie

“I cannot wander about being wise and brilliant all of the time, it certainly isn’t expected of me. However, I have discovered an ingenious system for being discovered should I become lost. Here’s how it works.The moment you discover you are lost, simply remain calm and don’t panic. Just sit down and remove your pocket knife from your pocket and begin to sharpen it. Within minutes, some know-it-all will come along and inform you that you are incorrectly sharpening your knife.”
–Tom Firth

Categories: Animals, books, frugality, Gardening, Health, Horses, Humor, Life, Love, Self-Sufficiency | 2 Comments

I Don’t Know What Griffless Means, But I Think It’s My New Favorite Word

Our pre-Christmas trip to Riverside got rained out, so we went this week instead, during a brief sunny lull between storms.

As always, our first stop was Mt. Rubidoux. We usually walk up the down road, which is steeper but shorter, but this time we decided to use the up road. So we got to see some new stuff that even I hadn’t known (or remembered) was there.

I LOVE this:

Espio came with us, of course.

We’d planned to go to Fairmount Park afterward, but I’d assigned Elizabeth the task of putting our picnic food into the car and somehow she forgot. So by the time we finished climbing up and down the mountain we were all too hungry and thirsty for parks and we decided to go get some lunch at a little soup-and-sandwich bistro near the Mission Inn.

And since we were already there, we ended up browsing through the marketplace in all those gorgeous, expensive little shops that make me want to recklessly spend money so that my house can be full of beautiful, useless things. But Christmas took all my pennies this year and we made it through the gauntlet completely thingless.

Remember back in February when I blew my “Year Without Stuff” resolution on that package of tiny plastic flying monkeys? Well, this time in that very same store I found a totally WTF line of…I guess they were action figures. They had to be marketed for adults, because what kind of action is a kid going to get with this guy:

This one was the squidgiest:

Glow-in-the-dark hands. I have no words.

After that we went to the Natural History Museum across the street, where Luke made me get photos of every. Single. Piece. Of antique machinery and gadgets from Ye Olde Southern California. From every angle. I will not share them with you here, Dear Internet. Believe me when I tell you that you are missing nothing.

By the time we left the museum it was getting dark. The halls of the Mission Inn were decked most splendidly for the holidays, so we walked around and admired the lights for a while.

And then it was too dark for Fairmount Park, so we headed home.

Visiting Riverside always fills my head with grand visions of what my property could look like with a little time and effort and money. Stone walls and hillside staircases and flagstoned walkways and cool splashing fountains. Bright flowering vines trailing out of enormous sculpted planters. A glass solarium along the south-facing wall of my house, shaded with (griffless?) leaves in summer and sun-warmed in winter. Trips to Riverside are part recreation, part inspiration, and the tiniest nibble of frustrated discontent with my lack of funds.

Luckily the discontent never lasts for long once I’m back home. There’s always plenty to keep me busy here, always a project or two that doesn’t cost money, just time and effort. My little homestead looks a lot different now than it did when we first moved in; for the most part I’m okay with my slow but steady progress.

Is today Thursday? I’d planned to write a Love Thursday post about the gifts my kids and I gave each other this Christmas, but I guess that can wait another week. This one could sorta be a Love Thursday post, if you tilt your head and squint a little. I think it’s about sharing big dreams and small outings with your favorite people. Or maybe it’s about making the world a more beautiful place, one tiny project at a time? Anyway, happy Love Thursday, All. Do something beautiful today!

Categories: Christmas, Family, Gardening, Humor, kids, Life, Love Thursday, Weather | Leave a comment

Misty Pomegranate-Colored Musings

Sunday night we got another nice rain, and Monday night we got our first frost of fall. Yesterday most of the pomegranates on my tree had suddenly developed those little splits in their skins that means they need to be harvested soon or they’ll go to waste. So I spent most of yesterday taking pomegranates apart, putting the seeds in containers, and putting the containers in the freezer, which was…about as tedious as it sounds. But also satisfying, because around January and February a handful of half-thawed pomegranate seeds tastes like a fresh little boost of happy.

Still pretty tedious, though. The mind wanders while the hands work, and my mind had lots of time to wander on Tuesday. Some thoughts it offered up for my consideration:

1. I’m amazed at how many people see love as a weakness to be exploited. These people are seriously shortchanging themselves. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and they will live and die without ever tapping into that vast, amazing power.

2. People have to receive before they can understand the value of giving. People have to be listened to before they can understand the value of listening to others. They have to be accepted and respected, in all their quirky uniqueness, before they can accept and respect others who are different from them. If you convince a child that her feelings don’t matter, she will grow up believing that no one’s feelings matter. Feelings either matter or they don’t. If you’re constantly telling your child not to be so sensitive whenever your thoughtless words and actions wound him, don’t be surprised if he grows up to be insensitive and thoughtless of others. If you try to teach your child humility by treating her as if she has no great value or importance, don’t be surprised if she grows up treating herself (and others) like garbage. This often involves chemical addictions and promiscuity. If you try to impose your will on your child by force, don’t be surprised if he grows up believing that might makes right. If you try to impose your will on your child through lies and manipulation, don’t be surprised if he grows up to be a manipulative liar.

3. A common misconception among Christians is that they are (or should be) somehow exempt from the natural consequences of their own poor choices. This is an unrealistic expectation. You may be “saved by grace,” but you still have to water your garden, tend lovingly to your personal relationships and feed the dog, or they will all wither and die. If you lie and cheat and steal people will stop trusting you. If you are unreliable people will stop investing in you. Being “a Christian” doesn’t absolve you of any earthly repercussions or responsibilities. It’s silly (and totally missing the point) to think it should.

4. One person’s “normal” is another person’s “completely unacceptable.” One person’s “attractive and desirable” is another person’s “eww.” What one person admires and reveres, someone else will feel nothing but contempt for. A way of life that feels like heaven to one person will feel like hell to another. What feels like glorious success to one person will feel like dismal failure to another. I don’t think there are any exceptions to this rule. To borrow Alan Alda’s phrase, “all laws are local.” You have to walk the path God designed you for, and accept that not everyone is going to understand.

So much for the navel-gazing. In other news:

5. I’m currently reading “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck. It’s one of the books that came with my house when we bought it twelve years ago and it’s been in my “to read” pile all this time, and I finally got around to it. It is an incredible book, and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in shrewd, amusing and often brilliant observations on human nature and eerily accurate predictions (it was written in 1961) about the impact of technology on American life.

6. I decided to make some of my kids’ Christmas presents this year, to save money. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that this would suck up the last vestiges of my spare time. If my blog goes dark for a while, that’s why. Turns out there is a finite number of minutes per day, and that number is not negotiable. Who knew?

7. A closing quote borrowed from one of my favorite bloggers, wordsmith Scott White of Caveat Emptor:

Once I met a man with a hundred hands. “It must be amazing to be able to get so many things done,” I said. “Alas,” he replied, “if only I had a few more brains and a longer reach, maybe that would be true.” Then I understood the value of people working together.

Categories: books, Christianity, Christmas, Family, frugality, Gardening, Health, kids, Life, Love, Nutrition, Self-Sufficiency, trees, Weather, Winter | 9 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Persephone’s Downfall, Jewel of Winter

Categories: Edible Perennials, environment, Fiction, food, frugality, Gardening, Health, Life, Nutrition, Self-Sufficiency, Winter, Wordless Wednesday | Tags: | 1 Comment

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