“Milk, Cookies and Spells”

Spells under the Amaranth

It was getting late in the Patch, and some major spells were being cast on me from deep within the amaranth.  Horsetail reeds make for excellent wands it appears, though my eldest hobbit insists she got hers from Diagon alley.



Some of these spells take an immense amount of concentration it appears. Now will you please get that reed out of my face!

DSC01594This budding wizard just wanted to talk to me about Christmas and Santa and ask a thousand questions about why Muggles celebrate this holiday, and how Santa gets into houses and the global logistics of accomplishing such a gift-giving feat, all in one night?  These discussions tend to last quite some time.

What a fine horsetail wand.

Christmas _09Come early Christmas morning, and it was early, our wizards were glad they had Muggle parents.  Hands tore through wrapping paper as fast as their small fingers could find the ends of the tape. Santa had devoured the home-made “Santa” cookies we had left out for him, and had washed them down with some milk…


…we wanted to leave out a nip of whiskey for him but it was decided, (not by the Muggles,) that he would prefer milk.


This “Happy Van” was a total hit…a van filled with small candies…he was in hog’s happy heaven with two of his most favorite things in the whole wide world!

AmaranthGoing back to the amaranth, it was time for our annual harvest of the seeds, though the seeds were not nearly so abundant as last year, but nevertheless we got quite a few. The seeds also were reluctant to separate from their husks, I think they were less developed due to the earlier frosts we have had this year. Clearly some form of incantation was being muttered by this wizard in an attempt to make the seedpods magically shed their seeds into the bowls.


It was good to give the nimble fingers a break from tearing at wrapping paper!  The clouds of dust that arose from these buckets smelled like the barnyards where I used to play as a kid, it is amazing how a smell can teleport you back to a specific place. It was all-hands on in the patch, and I knew my “everything but the kitchen sink” rain water collection “system” would come in useful for more than collecting water.

Talking of serious rainwater collection endeavors, this has to be one of the big ones…



Amaranth harvest.


I also cut down My Papyrus “toupees” today.  I could no longer convince myself that they still carried any “Winter  form”.  No, they now looked like a seriously bad episode of the Muppets, or perhaps…


Oh yes, this one will be going into the “Looks Like…” page!

CattailThese cattails are also in the process of popping.

Cattail seed headMillions of tiny seeds will shortly be catching the ESP thermals. Climb in here for a good nights sleep.


At least a better night’s rest than you would have here.


My largest sotol. I am about to get shredded once again by this beast, still, it has to be done.  The lower branches are once again laying flat against the ground, skewering the odd ghost plant (like they care, they are already ghosts).


Huh uhuh huh.

SotolLike my agaves, I try to trim up these plants as high as I can, at least so that the bottom leaves are not resting on the ground. It is a personal preference, but I think it looks better and creates less of a jumble of plants at ground level.  It also makes weeding a little less painful, I have to weed a lot more regularly than I trim these plants up after all.

ESPHere is the Patch all cut back for the winter…store all that energy roots!  You can see the frost damage on the top of my Mexican lime tree on the right.  It feels good to have all the scraggly amaranths pulled out.

DSC01560The top third of my lime tree has taken a good beating, but it will quickly recover in the spring.


There are still a couple of butterflies moving ever-so-slowly around, so slow in fact, it made them an easy catch.



Battered and torn are they .

Gerbera DaisyAnd still the Gerbera daisies continue to send out new blooms.

Inspirational wintry image of the week…


Moonlight is a German company that makes these glowing garden orbs. The polyethylene spheres have been around in Europe for a while and they’re making their way to the United States via a new company called Moonlight USA. I think an icy-blue version would be appropriate for our warmer Texas nights, but you will not find one in the Patch…I need the space for more plants!

Stay Tuned for:


All material © 2009 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by  late  (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.

  • Bob Pool December 27, 2009, 10:32 pm

    The double exposure picture was sooooo cool. It got me though. I said whoa, what, huh, he has twin little hobbit girls. Man he dresses them exactly alike. They are indeed identical twins. Then it hit me that the Sony Master had hit again. It was greatness.

  • ESP December 27, 2009, 10:45 pm

    Hi Bob.
    Glad you liked the shot, I keep the other twin locked up in the loft…she only comes out at Christmas time! She is the Evil twin…Eeek Eeek Eeek Eeek! We do feed her from an elaborate pulley system we have incorporated into our kitchen design.
    I have to admit, It was actually a Photoshop layering trick rather than a skillful double exposure shot, but yes it does make you look at the image twice (ahem).
    Hope you had a great Christmas Bob, and that Santa was good to you…trowels, seeds, free labor etc.etc.

  • Pam/Digging December 28, 2009, 1:35 am

    The Patch is looking good–you have much “winter interest” there, ESP. My pomegranate looks like your poor lime, only worse. All the leaves got nipped in that first hard freeze, but I expect it to recover; it’s tough. The Mexican weeping bamboo, however, is looking worse than ever. I just hope it can come back from the roots. Sob!

    • ESP December 28, 2009, 12:59 pm

      Hi Pam.
      Yes the poor old Mexican Lime – all of its new growth does not look so new anymore.
      My pomegranate also loses all of its leaves in the winter but bounces right back in the Spring. Sorry to hear your bamboo is still under the weather, as it were, are there any leaves left on it? Some of my Giant Timber also got burnt at the very top, never had that happen before!
      Hope you had a nice Christmas Pam.

  • TexasDeb December 28, 2009, 8:37 am

    It was such fun to relive Christmas past when we had little hobbits in the house. Now they are grown, opening presents is not quite so charming, although a score is still a happy time for Mom/Dad/Santa.

    Loved the butterfly capture doubling. Really fun, but my favorite has to be the wand shot with…what? Fire? Magic energy rays? Enchanting as always.

    A question for you sage gardening types that live and/or regularly show up here: I read someplace it was best to leave the grass clumps mostly intact as they offer cover for year round butterflies during coldest weather. Did I make that up in my head to avoid work or does anybody else know that to be true/worthwhile?

  • ESP December 28, 2009, 1:39 pm

    Hi TD.
    Yes we have had a lot of fun with the Hobbits over Christmas…now, when does school start up again? It is amazing just how fast they grow, it really gives you a new perspective on the concept of time.

    The image of the small wizard casting a spell with his horsetail wand was really funny, I was laughing as I took the shot, he was so serious as he muttered his incantations into the night. His golf grip is coming along quite well in this photograph.

    So do certain butterflies live through the winter? I thought they either migrated or died? I had no idea!!! I do know exactly what you mean about making things up to avoid certain tasks though. My classic is “no I should wait to rake up all the dropped leaves, there is a wind forecasted,” like it will a) blow them out of the Patch? or b) blow new ones in!…Still it always works for me.


  • Les December 28, 2009, 8:19 pm

    I loved the early winter tour of the patch. I am glad your hobbits had a good Christmas and am always delighted when the simplest toys are big hits. I am not sure why, but your tree scene reminds me of the original movie version of The Walton’s with Patricia Neal.

  • ESP December 28, 2009, 8:51 pm

    Hi Les.

    Our house is also like the Waltons’, all pine, built in the 1890’s. We also shout out, when the lights are switched off…night Jim Bob, night Hobbit Ellen, night Botox Lady etc. etc.

    Glad you enjoyed the Winter tour of the Patch and yes, they really had a great time. I wrote a thank you note from Santa (in really fancy letters) that thanked the Hobbits for leaving out the milk & cookies, this note has garnered more attention than a lot of their presents! Ahh the little things.

    Hope you had a nice Christmas.


  • Germi December 29, 2009, 6:11 pm

    Before I launch into my praise of The Patch and it’s beauty, I HAVE to do a little BlogHog Fashion Post.

    The striped tee and candy leggings are very insouciant – a perfect casual ‘evening in the garden look! This budding wizard/Hobbit Girl is ALWAYS appropriate!
    My favorite look of the post is the Amaranth Seed Collecting Costume – the monochrome of the overdress and underskirt juxtaposed with the colorful pattern of the leggings, and the tattoo – LOVE! I am going to have to do a version of this outfit for an upcoming video post.
    But wait – she wore my favorite vest in the ‘Twins Capturing Butterfly’ photo! I can’t pick a favorite … she is just too good.

    Your garden looks so great in the winter, and after a freeze, no less! Freeze is what I fear most, so watching you handle it with ease helps me to not panic as the temps drop to near record lows here in LA. You are a wonderful role model!
    The sotol is a thing of wonder! I wish I had room for one… Hellstrip, maybe?
    Oh! I am so excited that you are going to be adding Flip videos to The Patch! THAT is something I absolutely can’t WAIT for! I’m very happy Santa gave you such a present, because it’s like we ALL got a gift!
    Hurry! Hurry! Flip!
    Happy New Year ESP! Very fun becoming garden pals in 2009 – more of the same in 2010!

    • ESP December 29, 2009, 7:32 pm

      Hi Germi.

      Hobbit Wizard has always amazed me from a very young age at the outfits she “throws together,” they always seem to work. She has always been into layering, something quite challenging in the heat of the Texas summer! It is great that she is now getting to wear the “Scotland vest” once again, now that the cold weather has hit Texas, we had another freeze last night. I had a feeling that this year was going to be a particularly sharp one.

      Funny you mentioned the sotol as a hell-strip planting because come the spring four sotols are going into my strip, along with a bunch of contrasting, and hopefully weed suppressing bamboo muhly. I will have to wait a few years for the sotols to attain some stature, but this scheme has been in my head for some time…2010 is the year of execution, and I can’t wait! (insert 2010 movie score here)

      Yes Flip videos for the Patch! I have been messing around with it like a complete novice, but you have to start somewhere don’t you?
      I was so happy to get this for Christmas…So it seems we are tackling our hell-strips at the same time…messing with video at the same time…having freezes at the same time…you need to get yourself a Botox Lady so they can scream at us both at the same time!

      ….And a Happy New Year to you to Germi, and yes, glad we met, I always enjoy our gardening correspondence. Definitely more in 2010…once in the Patch there can be no escape! Otherwise the Naboo will be hopping a teeny-tiny flight to Cali with their blow-darts, and you don’t want that!

      Cheers G. ESP.

  • Jenny December 30, 2009, 10:02 am

    Ah, that silly milk and cookies thing! Santa really likes a mince pie and sherry! Just catching up on a little blog reading- too many hobbits around here. I could almost feel the magic in the air when I saw your little hobbits in the garden with their magic wands. I suspect they would be just as happy playing with a stick as those gifts under the tree. I have a feeling that a children’s book is in your future. You could make millions- just like someone else we all know.
    Amaranth seeds, Hmm. I really like a few of the plants but I am expecting them to come back without the seed saving. If not , I’ll be knocking on your door. Your garden is still looking wonderful even with a winter coat. Keep the fun posts coming and Happy New Year to you and the family. Don’t forget the dark haired person, the lump of coal, the piece of bread and the shilling!

    • ESP December 30, 2009, 11:32 am

      But Jenny I can’t make mince pies! I have to agree that this combination wins hands-down in my opinion. Hope you had a nice holiday, it sounds pretty hectic out there…still, it is always good to have hobbits around at this time of year, well, at least for a while! The horsetail wands were a great hit, although on the more “aggressively” cast spells, they tended to flop over…not good for a budding wizard’s self esteem or for my small stock-tank that houses the plant.
      A children’s book you say? What a fun thought.

      I gather the amaranth seeds to distribute them in other areas of the patch, this plant is one of my favorites after all. I also spread the seeds around at this time of year. Thanks on the garden front, I actually don’t mind all the plants receding somewhat, the Patch can get a little claustrophobic at it’s peak. I like the starker change, at least just for a while.

      And a Happy Hogmanay to you RR.
      Now, where are my bagpipes?…squaarrkk, oh there they are.

  • Gail December 30, 2009, 6:18 pm

    Children’s Book! Children’s Book! Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

  • ESP December 30, 2009, 7:04 pm

    Hi Gail, and haha!
    What an adventure of an endeavor that would be! And how fun would the illustrations be to do!

  • Jenny December 30, 2009, 7:32 pm

    I’m thinking those illustrations might be a tad scary.

  • ESP December 30, 2009, 7:56 pm

    It seems you know me only too well Jenny! Are you using that crystal ball again?

  • Linda Lehmusvirta December 31, 2009, 3:35 pm

    Looks like a wonderful Christmas in the Patch! Happy New Year to you all!

  • ESP December 31, 2009, 11:43 pm

    And all the best to you Linda.
    Looking forward to seeing your film magic on the 16th!

  • Amy Emerick January 1, 2010, 8:42 am

    I remember the explainations we had to give regarding Santa to our boys. They had lots of questions of how? In fact, we were laughing the other day about some of them …like Santa must have a key to get in the front door. They knew the chimney was way too small.
    Your garden still looks great. I think I might need some more evergreens in my garden!

    • ESP January 1, 2010, 8:31 pm

      Hi Amy.
      Yes the explanations, it is amazing how astute and complex the questioning can get! It is funny you mentioned a key to get in the front door, my parents in Scotland sent over a key in one of their cards precisely for this purpose (we also do not have a chimney). We hung it out on the front door to allow Santa access, eyes were wide the next morning when the key had magically transported itself into the bottom of a stocking!
      Thanks…evergreens, can you have too many!
      Happy New Year.

  • Jen January 2, 2010, 12:28 am

    Beautiful photos and great storytelling! The magic of the season is evident.

    • ESP January 2, 2010, 12:08 pm

      Thanks Jen. Glad you liked the post!


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