"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin

Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.

"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not

Friday, May 15, 2015

Maintaining My Happiness

Desirable pecan on the right, Burkett on the left
Stumps in the foreground are from the black walnut.

I have always deeply appreciated the shade in my yard. In this part of Texas, shade in the summer contributes to feelings of well being.

Last summer, when the effects of the drought were peaking, I noticed the shade in my back yard was much thinner, smaller than it had ever been before. Not much relief from the heat. I looked up into the Desirable pecan and saw that its canopy was not nearly as large and spread out as it should be. This tree produces the best pecan EVER when it makes a crop.  It doesn't make a crop every year, but when it does make enough pecans for the squirrels to share some with me, I feel abundantly blessed. I must find ways to make it more comfortable.

The big black walnut took up a lot of sky space. When it died and we cut it down last spring, it left a huge area of sun and heat, but it also gave the pecan trees more room to spread out. Recently I looked out my window and noticed that the Desirable and the big Burkett on the far side of Ronnie's shop are just about to intermingle.

Since the rains began here in April, the leaf output of the Desirable is higher than the past few summers. It is already producing a much denser shade than before. Ronnie always kept the new branches trimmed off the trunk, but because I feel like I nearly lost this tree, I'm going to let it do whatever it wants to do.

Many years ago, we put an in-ground fish pond between the Desirable and Ronnie's shop. We covered that whole area with pond liner and heavy rocks. When I took the pond out after Ronnie died, the whole area was dry as a bone and teeming with fire ants. And the canopy of the Desirable had diminished even more.  This 45 year old tree used to shade half the back yard.

I pulled out all the pond liner and most of the big rocks. I replaced the pond with a plastic container to accommodate the waterfall. There was a big difference in the size of the reservoir for the fountain and the fish pond.  It left a good sized low spot that I have been using to water the Desirable since I started harvesting rain water in the big IBC totes early last spring.

Just like the front yard, the back goes up hill away from the house. In heavy rains all the excess water from the yard behind me flows down through my property.  It backs up against my house and makes its way to the corner of the garage, then flows down beside it to the street in front. Back in the 90's we received 11-13 inches of rain in a short period of time. The flood waters covered the patio and were about an inch from coming in my patio door. My house is on pier and beam and it is 20 inches off the ground. That's a lot of water! We had every towel we owned ready, but thank goodness the rain stopped and the water subsided.  Shortly after that Ronnie dug a French drain from the patio to the corner of the garage.

Over the years, though, the drain has gotten clogged with dirt and roots so Deidre and I got out there last week, re-dug the trench and filled it with gravel.

The trunk of the Desirable Pecan

A swale between my house and the Desirable would serve two purposes, flood control and providing water for this valuable tree. It's going to be a lot of work.  It'll need to be deeper than the ones in front in order to have an effect on the flooding, and it's going to take a lot of gravel, rocks and logs to fill it in.  There's going to be dirt to dispose of one way or another because I don't want a berm on the downhill side of this one -- unless it is a very low one because we'll have to walk across it to go out into the yard, the garden or the pigeon pen.

Since the drought started, I have lost two 30 year old pine trees, a 20 year old Sweet gum, Ronnie's California Christmas Tree, the black walnut and a native pecan. I don't want to lose any more trees.

The pecan tree out front is a Choctaw. The pecans from it are not huge, but they are paper shell. Except  in 1979 when the tornado nearly destroyed it, it has produced a big crop every single year since we bought this place  -- until this drought hit. In other less severe droughts, the crop was lighter, but still abundant. Two years ago, it started a crop then in the middle of July it dropped every pecan on it.  Come fall there was no crop at all. Last year, it made a small crop but the meat of the nuts were dried out with a big air pocket which I believe is a strong indication of insufficient water.

I'm expecting a good crop from the Choctaw next fall.  It already has the beginning of pecans clearly visible on the ends of the branches. Even after the rains come less frequently in July and August, I'll be able to water the tree via the swale I dug in January.

Choctaw Pecan in front

The Choctaw is a more spreading variety than the Desirable.  It's growing at the south end of my front yard but it shades the entire front yard until nearly two o'clock.  I hired a man to mow the front while Ronnie was sick.  I didn't really care what time he came to do the yard work but I noticed that he came later every time.  I finally asked and he grinned. "I get the sunny ones done early while it's cool because I know your yard will be shady much later."

 At one point this tree had a huge branch that extended all the way across the front of my house and shaded the front windows.  During a time when we were still having fierce wind storms, Ronnie decided to cut it off because of the damage it could do if the wind broke it in one of those storms.

I have always loved the taste of pecans and when I have my own home grown crop, I put them in salads, desserts, eat them raw, eat them toasted. Warning, do not leave unattended pecans near me. I will eat them.

So what does any of this have to do with maintaining my happiness? It feels good to grow things.  It feels good to take care of that which is already growing.

a patch of wildflowers in the front where there 
used to be nothing but dirt.
Wine cups! Thanks Paul and Nila Dowlearn! 
They were in with
the evening primrose plants. 
The bright yellow is poppies.

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