Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pecan Fall, or, Check your gratitude to fix your attitude

Couple or three fall seasons ago, in a rather flippant mood, I posted on Facebook,

Anyone know how to break a dog from eating pecans?
Good, bad or indifferent, Beano hoovers up the pecans that fall
on our patio from the neighbors' tree.

Beano, for those of you who are new here, is our aging boglen terrier, and to this day he crunches and munches his way through pecan fall if I don't get to them first.

Within moments of posting the above, my country cousin commented,

Pick 'em up.

Nothing like being taken to school by a little girl, huh.  

What falls from our neighbors' tree are what Gran'dad Saunders called "no count" pecans. That is, they aren't worth the effort it takes to bend down and pick 'em up. They are the product of native trees, trees that go season to season without "proper" spraying for pests, "proper" fertilization or "proper" irrigation.

In other words, we're talking native Texas pecan trees that get by year to year solely on the gifts that fall from heaven. And as for being "no count", Ma'maw Saunders made killer pecan pies every Thanksgiving and Christmas from a solitary old tree that shaded their home on the corner of 14th and Grace Streets.

Those "no count" pecans wouldn't take any ribbons at the Wichita County Fair, but Ma'maw's pies were forever swathed in blue silk.

So drop by the backyard these days; the pecan can is out. The drought continues to take its toll on the crop this year, and squirrels are as relentless as ever about getting to 'em before they fall.

But Beano eats a lot fewer pecans.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just in time for Mrs. Miller's Birthday!

Coming to your neighborhood record store November 10

Three days after Anniepie's humpty-blimph birthday. 

I've been planning a trip down to Matagorda Bay for that weekend. Some might call that "slumming" for a San Francisco Bay girl, but Mrs. Miller has taken more than a few strolls on the wild side.

She's gonna kill me for this, by the way. Says, "I ALWAYS READ ABOUT IT IN FACEBOOK FIRST!" 

Last night, right in the big middle of GOTHAM, she mentions how we never made it to Memphis, TN, like we talked about once upon a time. Hmmmmm (I wondered), could it be I was looking for a road trip in all the wrong places?

So I am putting it to you, sports fans, just to see who might be reading this and STILL NOT FOLLOWING my blog!

Which way would you go on a four-day road trip in early November?
Please vote MATAGORDA or MEMPHIS and tell me why in 144 characters or less in the comments below.

She hates it when I call her "Anniepie" in public, too.

Lantana Arrives Amid the Redbuds

Texas Lantana


Lantana urticoides blooms where we least expected. 
Mom's house on York Street was anchored in Texas Lantana along front walk. This bed beside the postage-stamp sized porch was vigorous, to say the least, and I have trimmed it back into a sembelence of submission more than a few summers.

I took cuttings from this mass of Calico bush from time to time. There's a small patch of it, as I recall, on Pennsylvania Road where we lived before we went off touring the USA in a freightliner.

Lantana urticoides is a tough little plant that can take the heat and endure through dry spells. "Urticoides" comes from the leaves which resemble the Urtica nettles clan. Originally she was called horrida for her pungent odor, particularly when the shrub is perturbed. They say Lantana's smell can take out a sensitive sort of being, but butterflies and bees can't get enough of her yellow-orange-red flowers.

Like any true Texas native, Lantana thrives on abuse and neglect, and she can be down right aggressive. Some even say she's invasive.

I took a few cuttings when Mom died to transplant at our current location, here in Brook Village. For whatever reasons, the cuttings didn't make. I thought about going over to the York Street house to try again, but new folks are in there now. Still, bringing Lantana, even if not Mom's Lantana, into our yard remained on my mental to-do list.

So a couple days ago, I'm doing the morning routine in the back john when a flash of golden orange nicks the corner of my eye. I look out the window, and there in the far corner of the lot just under the Redbuds is a solitary Lantana head where no Lantana had been seen before!

Going on four years, now, Annie and I have staked our claim on this plot, and that plant never showed itself until now, going into October and under a blood moon.

Thank you, Lord!

Some old timers call Lantana urticoides "bacon 'n eggs" for the yellow-orange-red range of her flower petals, according to the folks at the Native Plant Society of Texas. Her agrobusiness-bred cousin they dubbed "ham 'n eggs", Lantana camara, whose colors are pink and yellow. So if you are looking for the true Texas native, pass on the pink and go with the red!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Offering one small box of hope

South American refugees await processing in the U.S.
We've all read the stories, we've seen the images of thousands of children flooding the U.S. border from Central and South America.

This post isn't about immigration policy. This post isn't about debate. This post solely is about what we as compassionate neighbors can do for as many as possible of these kids while they are here.

Before you turn away, thinking this catastrophe is simply too much for one person to address, allow me to adjust your thinking. What if you and me, your friends and mine, our neighbors, co-workers, members of our congregations approach this challenge on a one-to-one basis?

The question then becomes: What are we willing to do for one child, one-on-one, one neighbor to another?

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has launched just such an approach, and a group here in River City is organizing to help. Follow the link for details of the aid program.

Here we will be collecting and assembling Welcome Boxes and gift cards for refugee children processing through Texas. Once we have collected a load, we will deliver the boxes and cards to the Fort Worth Diocese. How many runs we make to Fort Worth depends on you and the amount of goods you provide.

Here is the suggested composition for one Welcome Box:

  • 1 Plastic shoe box sized container
  • 1 Shampoo
  • 1 Conditioner
  • 1 Body Wash/Bar Soap
  • 1 Toothpaste
  • 1 Toothbrush
  • 1 Brush/Comb
  • 1 Pack of Hair Ties
  • 1 Deodorant
  • 1 Small Toy


The Diocese also requests that gift cards be donated rather than cash. Suggested are $25 cards from Walmart, Target, McDonalds, etc. so that volunteers can shop for specific, individual needs and a rare treat for these kids, most of whom arrive in Texas with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing.

We are in the process of ironing out details for donation collection here, and should have a central location for drop offs by next week. In the mean time, if you would like to help us with this neighbor-to-neighbor effort, you may send your name and contact info (email is fine) to jimtxmiller@gmail.com.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Thoughts on Praying for Rain

Common sight around River City

THEY say rain is on the way. Ever wonder what folks in River City, your neighbors and mine, are doing behind all the Pray for Rain yard signs? Me, too. Walk with me ….

I’m sitting on some 100 gallons of collected rainwater, and that’s not saying much for a roof the size of ours. We could easily harvest five, six times that in one little thunder shower, given the storage capacity to handle it. Getting by on Social Security and two part-time pay checks, my catchment system is eight or ten 5-gal. cat litter tubs.


Where would we be without crazy cat ladies, praise the Lord.

[Crazy cat lady Annie waves]


Main storage is two 32-gal. “trash” cans, and I could use a couple more.

Don't get me wrong; I've nothing at all against prayer. But I was taught and brought up to ask the Good Lord's blessing, then knuckle down and do the work.


Western Wall and Rain Garden in progress

Excavation over here along the western fence is to remove hardpan clay for a rain garden catchment basin. What I take out of here is crushed and used as fill dirt for a small yet persistent sink hole over in the southeast corner. The clay stays on site in various other applications, as well, and is remixed into building soil.

Granddad Saunders was a Primitive Baptist deacon, as was his daddy, John, before him. His faith taught him to go to the Father and let his needs be known him. Then, get up off your knees, roll up your sleeves and deal with the situation at hand as best you can.

However, W.P. would have been the last man on Earth to put a sign in his yard about it.


"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,
and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret;
and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
Matthew 6:6 KJV