BBQ, Bluebonnets, and Rockin’ Out in Llano by Patty G. Leander

Today I’m taking a break from vegetables to remember a BBQ legend, revel in Texas wildflowers and be amazed by rocks.


In memory of and gratitude for Texan and BBQ icon Jim Goode, founder of Houston’s Goode Company Restaurants, who passed away last month at the age of 71. Like so many Texans, I have always loved Goode Company BBQ, Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie and the Goode Company logo, above. For a bit of nostalgia that takes you back to the 1977 origins of that first restaurant on Kirby Lane, click over to the Goode Company website:


Goode woode: Jim Goode’s use of mesquite for smoking brisket and grilling burgers earned him the title King of Mesquite

If you are reading this and you live in Texas let’s all pause for a moment and thank our collective lucky stars. We are a big, diverse, dynamic state with an amazing history, incredible natural resources, the best BBQ and the friendliest people around. Gridlocked traffic and contentious politics can weigh a little heavy at times, but spring is here, Texas is blooming and it’s a beautiful, invigorating sight to see.


Early blooms of Texas redbuds promise that spring is on its way

Bruce and I had the opportunity to take it all in recently during a drive from Austin to Midland. I had been invited to give a talk on edible landscaping at a monthly seminar hosted by the Permian Basin Master Gardeners, but they did not have to twist my arm to come; Midland is my hometown and it had been over two years since making the pilgrimage to my West Texas roots.


The highways bloom with Lady Bird’s legacy: Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush (left), Texas poppy and Indian blanket (right)

We took our usual route on Hwy 71, noting the landmarks along the way: the small Post Office in Valley Spring (never a line), Coopers BBQ in Llano (always a line), the rows of grapevines in Pontotoc (the Chickasaw word for “Land of Hanging Grapes”) and the “Heart of Texas” monument in front of the McCulloch County Courthouse in Brady (the geographical center of Texas). US 87 from Brady takes us to Eden where the main intersection in town offers us a choice of either DQ on the north side or Venison World to the south and also marks the halfway point between the house I now live in and the house I grew up in. From Eden it’s on to San Angelo for a pit stop and an iced tea at McAlister’s, then the cautious drive through Carlsbad where we were nabbed several years ago for exceeding the speed limit (it’s easy to miss the two mile stretch where the speed limit drops from 70 to 60 MPH). After Carlsbad the miles pass quickly – 30 minutes to Sterling City, 30 minutes to Garden City and then target acquired – the Midland skyline appears on the horizon. The Tall City.

Though Midland has changed over the years, through times of boom and bust, my nostalgia grows as the miles pass, anticipating familiar faces and places, a drive through my old neighborhood and a ‘meat chalupa, add guacamole’, at Taco Villa (can’t seem to shake this habit from high school). But this time the most exciting part of the 300 mile trek was passing rivers full of WATER. Every river and creek we passed – the Pedernales, the Colorado, the San Saba, the Concho – were flowing at levels we haven’t seen in years. I know this is a stark contrast to the flood conditions that so many are dealing with in parts of East Texas but after several years of exceptional and extreme drought conditions throughout West Texas it was a sight and a blessing to behold.


Stacks of rocks got our attention as we crossed the Llano River

On the way to Midland something caught Bruce’s eye as we crossed the Roy Inks Bridge in Llano…stacks of rocks strewn along the banks of the river. We were on a fairly tight schedule to get to Midland and with 250 miles left to go we decided to check it out on the return trip and we are so glad we did. We learned that the stacked rocks were part of the 2016 Rock Stacking World Championship sponsored by the Llano Earth Art Festival. There were four categories of stacking – height, balance, arches and artistic/freestyle – all created without adhesive, wire or any other aids. Visitors were invited to wander among the stacked creations, and to build their own if so moved. I think my rock-admiring, geologist dad would have heartily approved.



Rocks hanging in the balance – the rock stacks remain in place until nature displaces them



Inspired by the rock stacks I decided my garden needed to have at least one.

Thank you Permian Basin Master Gardeners and Midland/Ector County Extension for the invitation to speak and for your edible garden enthusiasm and welcoming hospitality!


I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Signs of Spring

Right now, if you are a Zone 9 gardener, you are busy.  If you haven’t already gambled and done much of your spring planting, you will soon.  If you are not planting, you are weeding, tilling or otherwise preparing your beds and borders for all of the flowers and veggies to come.  Yes, it is definately a time of sore backs and aching muscles.

blog8 With so much to do, it is easy to overlook all of the amazing things that are happening all around us.  That is why I always make a point to walk around and observe all of the beautiful things that are beginning to make their spring show.

blog2 I love the things that produce every year with out any help from me.  My peach and plum trees are beginning to flower.  In my mind, there aren’t many things that are any prettier than the delicate pink blooms of the peach tree.

blog5 No Texas spring is complete without bluebonnets.  The winter drought is going to mean that there are fewer bluebonnets to enjoy this year.  However, one really is enough.

blog6 I absolutely love larkspur.  These self seeding annuals are as utterly dependable as my poppies and my bluebonnets.

blog1 Cherokee rose is an absolutely horrible plant.  It is full of thorns, it grows like a weed and it only blooms once.  However, this is the first “found rose” that I ever propogated.  Plus, I did it with my daughter.  So, despite all of the bad things about it, I will love it and keep it forever.

blog3 Even though I have several bulbs blooming now, I think the delicate leucojum (Snow Flakes) are my favorites.

A redbud in full bloom is a great reminder that spring really is here again

A redbud in full bloom is a great reminder that spring really is here again

By far, the biggest and showiest announcer of spring are the native Texas Redbuds.  The sight of their bright magenta blooms can bring cheer to the cloudiest day.


Texas Redbuds

Here in Central Texas, signs of spring start early.  Daffodils and narcissus begin blooming in early January.  By February, these bulbs have begun to fade and are replaced by the graceful Leucojum.  By March, big green mounds of dark green foliage in yards and pastures remind us that Bluebonnet season will soon be upon us.  Yet, in spite of all of these signs, I never really feel sure that spring has arrived until I see two things in my yard: purple martins and buds developing on my redbud trees.

This lovely redbud was captured by Bruce Leander at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

This lovely redbud was captured by Bruce Leander at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis “texensis”) is probably the most loved ornamental native tree in Texas.  The bright magenta flowers burst forth when most of the earth is still grey from winter.  The flowers seem to appear over night.  You can drive past the bare branches of a dormant redbud tree everyday and never notice it.  Then, sometime around the first of March, the flowers arrive in all of their magenta glory.  They are so bright and showy that I am always pleasantly shocked when I see the first redbud of spring.


Redbud in bloom by Bruce Leander

Redbud in bloom by Bruce Leander

Redbuds are small deciduous trees with light grey bark covered in white spots.  They are commonly multi-trunked and rarely exceed 25 feet in height.  They flower in a variety of colors.  In addition to the most common magenta, you can find varieties that bloom deep rose, pink, purple and even white. Redbud leaves have a very distinctive “heart” shape that is dark green and waxy on the top and lighter on the bottom.  The tree produces a flat seed pod in late summer that is attractive to many birds and varmints.  Technically an understory tree, they do well in full sun but do appreciate some afternoon shade.  Their drought tolerance and adaptability to the alkaline soils of Central and South Texas make them an excellent choice for our yards and gardens.

Raindrops on redbud blooms by Bruce Leander

Raindrops on redbud blooms by Bruce Leander

Like fruit trees, it is best to plant redbuds in late winter.  If you are going to buy your tree from a nursery you might wait until early spring when they have bud development so you can be sure of the color you are getting.  Once purchased, the redbud should be planted like all other balled or potted trees.  Dig a hole about twice as wide and the same depth of the root ball.  Back fill and tamp.  Make sure and leave the plant high enough in the hole to keep the root collar exposed.  Water in well and mulch with a 4” to 6” layer of compost.

The blooms of the redbud are a sure indicator that Spring is just around the corner!  Photo by Bruce Leander

The blooms of the redbud are a sure indicator that Spring is just around the corner! Photo by Bruce Leander

Last weekend, several purple martins began to set up house in my back yard.  Seeing this, I immediately went and inspected my redbuds.  Sure enough, they were covered in buds.  Because of this, I am now pleased to announce that winter is officially over.  Why not get in the car this weekend and enjoy the show provided by the redbuds?  I promise, you will be glad you did!