Letter to My Live Oaks

Dear Live Oak Trees;

Forgive my impatience. You seem to be taking longer this spring to emerge from your winter hibernation. I understand your need to drop acorns everywhere. After all, we have a built-in desire to procreate and leave a legacy. And obviously, you can’t grow new leaves without shedding the old. Perhaps it is my old age, but it seems to be taking you much longer than usual for your annual molting

Don’t get me started on your pollination cycle. You may think those things are flowers. But they are ugly and wreak havoc on my pool skimmers. And that yellow dust is everywhere. How much longer must I inhale these pesky allergins?

I hear your fancy Latin name is Quercus fusiformis. However, most people know you as escarpment live oak, plateau live oak, or plateau oak. 

As I pen this letter it occurs to me that you have been here a lot longer than me. Perhaps you were here when Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were defending the Alamo. I guess that makes me the invader. So I thank you for allowing me to share this little corner of the Texas Hill country with you. Your presence is the centerpiece of my landscaping and I can’t imagine life without you.

Without You” is a song written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of British rock group Badfinger, and first released on their 1970 album No Dice. The power ballad has been recorded by over 180 artists, and versions released as singles by Harry Nilsson (1971) and Mariah Carey (1994) became international best-sellers. Paul McCartney once described the ballad as “the killer song of all time”.

Feeding Birds (& Squirrels Too)

I love watching birds. It is a wonderful time of year for birdwatchers. Birds become even more beautiful as they shed their winter plumage in favor of brighter colors. I experiment with different seed mixtures to attract the widest variety of songbirds. My year-round favorites are cardinals, titmice, chickadees, and house finches. I have had the most success with simple black oil sunflower seeds

However, in springtime, my personal favorites migrate back north from their winter homes. The beautiful lesser goldfinch begins to visit my feeders. In contrast with my annual birds, they prefer Nyjer thistle. Consequently. I have to use a feeder specifically designed for this type of food.

Feeding the Squirrels

Alas, birds are not the only ones who enjoy sunflower seed. Squirrels are wily pests who also enjoy these tasty treats. I have spent a lot of time and money trying to outwit these pesky rodents. The feeder shown in this picture is called a “squirrel buster plus“. Amazon sells this for $94.99. The squirrel is standing on a “squirrel baffle”, part of an advanced poll system sold by Wild Birds Unlimited. He outsmarted me by jumping on top of the pole from an adjacent tree. I haven’t seen him since moving the baffle down and spraying the pole with a generous amount of WD-40.

Nevertheless, this entertaining experience reminded me of this song from Mary Poppins. Enjoy.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

‘Tis a grand time of year when you’re Irish. Or when you’re of Irish heritage, or simply wish you were. Perhaps you claim you’re Irish even though you’re not. St. Patrick’s Day, which is today, draws out the Irish in plenty of people all over the world.

But who was St. Patrick and why do people everywhere celebrate this day as an international holiday?

St. Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of Ireland. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Irish Music For St. Patrick’s Day

In his book, A History of Irish Music, William Grattan Flood writes, “No enemy speaks slightingly of Irish music, and no friend needs fear to boast of it.” So what is the story behind Irish music?

Today I am going to talk about four different types of Irish music.

1. Traditional Irish Music

Musicians sang early Irish songs a capella. They introduced pipes,  fiddles, and bodhrans (Irish drums) later. These instruments have become a staple of what we now know to be “traditional” Irish music. However, other instruments like the accordion, flute, and guitar have also become popular. Groups like Altan, The Chieftains and Celtic Woman provide traditional Irish tunes. They sing some of the most popular session songs. For example “Danny Boy,” “An Irish Lullaby,” “Rocky Road to Dublin,” “Irish Eyes are Smiling,” and “Finnegan’s Wake.”

2. Modern Irish Music

Who said that Irish music could only be old, sad and nostalgic? Many famous music groups from Ireland have blessed us with their sound, including U2, Sinead O’Connor, The Cranberries and Van Morrison.

3. Irish Harp Music

Francis Bacon once said that “no harp hath the sound so melting as the Irish harp.” Irish harp music dates back to the 10th-century Irish court when the harp was strung with wires of brass and plucked with long fingernails. It was the centerpiece of royal Irish music until it was eliminated by the British, surviving only as the dance music of the poor. Irish harp music, therefore, is considered the ancestor of Irish traditional music.

One of the biggest contributors to this form of Irish music was the blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan. The wandering harper lived from 1670-1738 and composed hundreds of tunes.

4. Celtic Music

Is there a difference between Celtic music and Irish music? Yes and no. Celtic (pronounced “kel-tic”) originally referred to a group of people who settled in Ireland, Scotland, Britain and surrounding areas. Celtic music in this sense is not specifically Irish.  Nevertheless, it is considered easy-listening, mood music that has an enchanting and relaxing feel.

Therefore, Irish music can be Celtic, but Celtic music isn’t always Irish. Some consider Enya to be modern Celtic music with a haunting Irish sound. Here is one of my favorites.