The Highland Lakes Native Plant Society invited me to give a talk on landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, so of course, I said yes. The meeting would be on January 20 at the Marble Falls Public Library, a mere ten minutes from our house at Lake LBJ, which meant I had a place to stay for the weekend, which made it an easy trip for me.

Along the way, however, the plan was to make a little side trip and stop in Abilene to rescue a cactus that had been spotted by David Head on the piece of land he and Belinda had recently purchased before they start clearing the place of prickly pear that had become invasive from years of neglect by the previous owner.

The land turned out to actually be outside of Clyde, a small town close to Abilene. No problem, other than the weather that weekend turned off cold and windy. Son Marshal Head met me at the gate, and we tramped around looking for the cactus he and dad David had accidently stumbled upon. And accidently is the key word here; Marshal wasn’t exactly sure where it was since they discovered it without really looking for cactus, which meant we walked around, heads down, to no avail for an hour in the blasted cold wind that day. The car thermometer said it was 30 degrees, but I promise the wind chill that day had to be 20 degrees! Marshal finally gave up and called Dad, who then gave him directions, and sure enough, there it was!

I was so cold and so happy we had found it, that in my rush to go back to the car for the sharpshooter, I failed to take its picture before digging it up. It was surrounded by brush and clumps of prickly pear, with no sign of other Echinocactus texensis specimens to be found. And we did look, considering how long it took us to find the one. But we did get some pictures of it after we rescued it. And as you can see, this is a nice, old, large specimen that I will be glad to add to my garden.

Photo courtesy of Marshal Head

I also picked up a nice piece of weathered wood to pair with the horse crippler, as this cactus is commonly called, when I plant it in the garden when it warms up this spring. Marshal is holding the wood with the nice hole; look closely and you can see the hole in the shadow across his chest. I have plenty of varieties of prickly pear, Opuntias, but we did break off a couple of pads since you never know-their variety might be different with different flowers to what I have at home. And they have plenty to spare.

After finding the treasure, there was no reason to hang around in that weather, so I thanked Marshal for enduring the cold, he went back to his warm office, and I headed south.

Upon arrival at the lake, I needed to turn on the water since we turn it off during the winter since we aren’t there all the time in the event it freezes. I turned it on as I was calling Bill to let him know I had arrived, and he said to go into the house to make sure the faucets were open for the water flow. So I did. No water. He then said go into the storeroom and see if there is a leak in there. Yes, water all over the floor! Pipes had been wrapped, but apparently that one not enough. So I go turn the water back off and plan to drive on to Marble Falls to find a hotel room, since no water means no shower, no drinking water, but more to the point, no toilet flushing! So, I went to plan B for the weekend: get a room and then after the talk, drive to Kyle to spend the rest of the weekend with son AJ and family. AJ will get the job of coming over to fix the busted pipe next week.

I stayed at the La Quinta in Marble Falls, a lovely hotel up on the side of the hill overlooking Lake Marble Falls, formed by the dammed up Llano River. It seemed an appropriate place to stay since they even had landscaping complete with agaves, one of the topic of my presentation!

The hotel looked really pretty at night, and the view of the city at night was nice also.

Saturday morning I shared breakfast at the legendary Bluebonnet Cafe with my cousin Richard who drove over from Boerne. We had a good visit and then departed in time for me to go to the library and get set up for the talk. A good crowd, I think about 54 people, showed up for the presentation. I hope I gave them some new and helpful information. They asked good questions and seemed interested. Off the subject, one woman asked me if I was kin to Reba McEntire!  Really? That’s the second time I have been asked that. I had no idea I sound like her. And she makes a lot more money than I do. Oh well.

Photo courtesy of Kay Zagst

I drove to Kyle and AJ, Erin, grandchildren Maya and Ben and I  all spent the evening watching the two AFC playoff games, Ravens and Texans and then San Francisco and Green Bay.

Sunday turned off still cold and drizzling rain, but Erin and I braved the unpleasantness and shopped at East Austin Succulents. We managed to come home with only one plant apiece! And stayed cold, even in their greenhouse. We came home to the middle of the first NFC playoff game between Detroit and Tampa Bay, and then Kansas City and the Buffalo Bills. I will have to say that was probably the first time I have watched a  game with local Texas Tech hero Patrick Mahomes doing his  quarterback magic. We all sat by the fire, along with the cats, who really like the fire. Lily Cat was in my lap until Ben sat down, and then she kept his lap warm. Now that I have watched all these games, I have no choice but to watch the rest of the playoffs and see how it comes out, and then maybe even the Super Bowl! Sometimes I watch it; sometimes I don’t. This may be one of those years. And ironically, considering the weekend of football and the Reba McIntire comment, I learned that she will be signing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. What a deal!

When we weren’t focused on the games, Ben and I had a conversation about books to read. He asked me if i had ever read Crime and Punishment since he is laboring through it now. I have never tackled it, but we found an extra copy, so now I am tackling it. And if you have never read it, trust me, it is a challenge! So when I go back to do a different talk for the Texas Tech OLLI program in February, we will have our discussion of the book.

It rained all night Sunday night, so when I left for home Monday morning, low water crossings were a concern. Sure enough, I came to one and traffic was backed up, moving slowly. Water was gushing across the road, a tinkertoy-sized car had perhaps been caught in the current and plowed into a pick-up. Everyone was taking turns making their way around the wreck and through the water, which was maybe five or six inches deep and flowing strongly. I couldn’t get a picture of that since I had to pay attention to my driving so I would not wind up a casualty also. By the next day roads and towns east and south of Kyle got something like eight inches or more and were flooded; I get home and we had gotten maybe four-tenths of an inch! It rains down there for no reason at all, ya’ know, all the time.

So I was glad to get home when I did, after a successful treasure hunt and landscaping talk, not to mention visits with family.

And I get to do it again in February.But spring will be breaking out down there by then. Different talk; different weather, different visits, and a book discussion. But it might rain again…