Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side....

Wildflowers are amazing.  We have had so little rain this year.  It's really dry and it's really hot. 
But, look....the Prickly Pears are blooming this year, for the first time since we've lived here.

I didn't realize they only bloomed for one day.  This is one I moved up to the Tree Bed.

But, this one in the Deer Grove is about to bloom, too.  We have several Prickly Pears around.  Not all are blooming.  Some are much larger than this.  Not sure why some have blooms, and some don't.

More prickles from this Texas Thistle.  They're pretty, but they bite.

So does the White Prickly Poppy.  Another soft, tissue paper flower, with vicious prickles.  There was a little mist, when I took this photo.  It felt so nice.

But, the mist didn't leave us much moisture.  Last year, these Prairie Verbena were putting on quite a show.  This is the best I could do today.

The Mexican Hats are showing up.

Both colors have shown up. 

But, they're a bit sparse.

The onion looking things are back.  This is the bud.  The bloom is really strange.  I haven't  found out what it is, yet.  They're a bit shrivelled this year.

But, these guys like the hot and dry.  Euphorbia, Snow on the Mountain.

They get about three feet tall, and in August put on a very pretty white and green flower.   I tried growing some in the garden.  But, I don't think they like good soil and water.

In the thicket across the creek, I found this vine.  Pretty little green blooms.  It's not in my wildflower books.  Have to do more research.

I think this is Sneezeweed.  Last year there were lots more of these.

The Agarita has lots of berries left.  I'd like one of these in the yard.  But, I understand they don't like to be moved. 

There are a few Cedar Sage still blooming.

We have some new neighbors.  This is a nest made by a woodpecker.

A Goldfront Woodpecker, to be exact.

There are two of these, in the same tree.

They're so perfectly round.  Do they have little compasses to mark the circle?

Unfortunately, there are not baby woodpeckers here.  Starlings took over the nests.  When I looked up there last night, with binoculars, all I could see was a big baby mouth, open for whatever mamma was bringing.  I'd rather it was a woodpecker mouth.

There is more wildness out there.  I only see signs of them, the holes the Armadillos leave.

And, of course, there are always these guys.  We saw our first fawn of the season last night.  So, the population growth has begun for the year.

Luckily, they don't know how to open the gate.

Happy Gardening...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wildflowers and Wine...

The first weekend in April, our friends, Mike and Jorj, came down to  accompany us on the
Texas Hill Country Wine and Wildflower Trail tour.

The Texas Hill Country has a lot of wineries.  There are 27 listed on the Wine Trail Map.  We didn't visit them all....but, we did a pretty good job.  The Wine Trail ticket gets you tastings at each winery.  These days, wineries charge a fee for tastings.  So, this let us try wines for a lot less than paying each winery's regular fee.  It was a good deal.

We started in Sisterdale at the Sister Creek Vineyards.

Jorj and Mr. P.

They've turned an 1885 cotton gin, into a winery.

Mike and Ms. Patchwork

Not every winery lets you see their working parts.

We found it interesting to see the fermenting tanks and the barrels all lined up.

 Back on the road, our next stop was Rancho Ponte Vineyard, on the outskirts of Fredericksburg.

They have a rather modern building and tasting room.

Off again, through Fredericksburg, and up to Chisholm Trail Winery.

They've gone with a Wild West theme.

Their tasting room is done up as a saloon.

We headed back through Fredericksburg.  No time for shopping...we're on a mission. 
We did stop at Fredericksburg Winery.  Its tasting room is in a strip mall kind of place.  The wine was fairly good, and they had a nice tasting room.  But, no pretty scenery, so no pictures.

Out to the east side of Fredericksburg, we stopped at Grape Creek Vineyards.  A Tuscan theme held sway here.

Their tasting room was bright and well done.

They have a pretty courtyard and tables, so this is where we had our picnic lunch.

Right next fact, if they cut a hole in the fence, you can go from one parking lot to the
Torre Di Pietra Vineyards.

They have a nice, well decorated tasting room.

There are comfy sitting areas.  Hmm...did this guy have more than one tasting?

In their courtyard, we finally found some Bluebonnets.  Lack of rain has made the wildflower crop very sparse this year.

Back in the car, and down the road to Becker Vineyards, in Stonewall.

Becker has been there for quite a while.  They're pretty well known.

They have lovely grounds, with a Bed and Breakfast and events buildings.  They were setting up for a wedding.  That seems to be a popular thing to do...get married at a vineyard.

There is a lavender festival here, as well.  I'm thinking they'll need more lavender than this, for a festival.

We seemed to be on the same schedule as the young ladies riding in this limo.  They were having a bridesmaids' party or bachelorette party, doing the Wine Trail.

Next up, down a long road to Pedernales Cellars, also in Stonewall.

The tasting room is small, but well laid out.  They like you to try their wines with a bite of chocolate. 

They have a beautiful view.  There is a bed and breakfast next door..Rose Hill Manor...with a restaurant.  Looked like a good place to try.

Off again...this stop was William Chris, in Hye.  The tasting room is in an old farm house.  The sign tells us this is Hye Society.

There are antique wine making tools to see.

And, a nineteenth century graveyard.

We really weren't as blurry as this picture. 

Heading back toward Wimberley, we stopped at Texas Hills Vineyard, in Johnson City.

They have pretty grounds, and a nice, airy tasting room.

There's a "sculpture ranch" here, too.  This art piece has drawn a crowd.

Last stop of the day is Solaro Estate vineyard, in Dripping Springs. 

This is a small vineyard, with new buildings.  They're making an area of "ruins", for hosting weddings.

They have a nice tasting room, and a friendly staff.

We're hoping by doing the Fredericksburg circuit on Friday, we've missed the biggest crowds.

Up and out on Saturday morning, we headed north.  We took Park Road 4, past Longhorn Caverns.  This is a very pretty drive.  We hadn't planned on stopping here, but we're glad we did.

  Perissos Vineyard and Winery. 
The young owner and his wine maker, greeted us outside.  The owner and his family live upstairs over the winery.  There's a playscape in back.

There's a nice tasting area, in the midst of the wine making vats and barrels.  The wine from here was one of our favorites.

The view is wonderful.  Look closely, and you can see the "castle" on the hill.  I've heard, it was built by a man for his young bride, because he thinks she's a beautiful princess.  It hasn't been there many years. 
This winery is close to the place I wrote about last fall, here.

On the road again, to Tow...pronounced like 'cow' with a 'T' Fall Creek Vineyards.

Fall Creek is one of the oldest Hill Country wineries.  It has been here since the seventies.

We took the tour, then took advantage of the lovely courtyard for another picnic.

Back south, we stopped in Spicewood, at Spicewood Vineyards.

This is another small winery.  Again, setting up for another wedding.

Down Hwy 71 a short way, is Stonehouse Vineyards, on Lake Travis.

They had only one estate wine...meaning wine made from grapes grown on the property.  Their other grapes come from their sister vineyards in Australia.

We had planned on more stops, before we quit.  But, it was getting late, we were tired, and....being Final Four weekend....there were some basketball games we wanted to see.  So, we stopped.

There are lots more wineries to visit.  We'll get to them, eventually. 

If you get a chance, take a tour.  The scenery is good.  There are some good wines to taste...and some not so good wines to taste.  But, we had a really good time.

So, here's to good friends, good wine, and a good time.