Thursday, June 21, 2018

Purple Martin Party Time!


Travis Audubon hosted a Purple Martin Colony visit this past Saturday next to the historic home of Laura Joseph.  Laura started the colony 25 years ago, the product of a lifelong love of the little birds.  The colony is tended, and carefully documented with daily data, by a group of dedicated volunteers called "landlords".  Steve, the "head honcho" of this effort, was in attendance to answer our questions and give us a peek at these interesting birds.


In February, the birds begin to arrive.  The mating pairs will produce around 500 babies by mid-May,  teach them to fly in the safety of the colony, then guide them to the larger migrating flock that draws thousands of sightseers each night to see them roost near Highland Mall.




Here in the colony, the landlords will first provide pine straw for nesting material.  Then the houses are lowered daily so that every single nest can be cleaned, eggs and birds counted, and houses carefully tended to ensure that the hundreds of Purple Martins who visit the colony each year have the best possible chance at a good life during their time in Austin.










Laura not only allows us to descend on her garden next door and the colony, we were also graciously treated to tables full of sandwiches, cooling raspberry lemonade and water, and delightful Purple Martin cookies made by Moonlight Bakery.  On a personal note, I have to say glazed sugar cookies often miss the boat.  They taste underbaked, and the royal icing can be dry and flavorless.  These were PERFECT!  Delicately browned crisp cookies with just the right amount of playful purple icing.  It was impossible to stop with just one, and several flew home with me.

All material © 2018 by Vicki Blachman for Playin' Outside. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Thursday, April 26, 2018



And just like that, this year's Fling is upon us - three very full days of renewing old friendships and creating new ones, seeing some gardens that challenge us and some that spark ideas we'll modify and plant in our own.  This is the tenth Fling and it's returned to where it started ... here in Austin.

Even though it's where I live, many of the gardens will be new to me.  There are others that are familiar favorites; but I'm looking forward to seeing my city through the eyes of a visitor.  Between the traffic and heat, it's far too easy to retreat to our air conditioned corners and lose out on what the city has to offer.  It'll be nice to leave the driving to our bus drivers and focus on catching up with our group.

We've had Flingers join us from Canada, Spain, the U.K., and most states of the U.S.  We've been to the D. C. area, Minneapolis, Toronto, Portland, San Francisco, Asheville, Seattle, Buffalo, Chicago, and of course, here in Austin.  Every year we learn about new people and "new to us" plants.  In case you haven't noticed, it IS equally about the gardens we'll see and the gardeners we'll meet.  It will be wonderful to focus on the things we share, not the differences that have tried to divide all of us this past year.

I promise to share highlights of my favorites.

If you've seen my blog before, you may notice a change.  In honor of my 10th "blogiversary", the format has changed - at least for now.  Please let me know if you like it better, or why you don't.  Either way, thanks to those of you who've encouraged me to stick with this.



Purple Martin Party Time!

Travis Audubon hosted a Purple Martin Colony visit this past Saturday next to the historic home of Laura Joseph.  Laura started...