Saturday, October 31, 2009

happy 10th anniversary to us and happy halloween to all

we put up a few decorations last week

Husband Kurt and I kicked off our tenth wedding anniversary last night with an incredible meal at Wink restaurant, known for its inventive use of lots of local and organic ingredients. I run into chef Eric at the Boggy Creek Farm stand allot, and he's really cool.

But today is our actual anniversary. We got married in Seattle, shortly before we moved back to Austin. The weather was as beautiful that day as it is today. Happy Halloween everyone!

bouquets of blue-maroon hydrangeas ( how I WISH I could grow those here), gardenias, and I can't remember what else because I wasn't much of a gardener then

clear, cool day at our wedding venue, the DAR house on East Roy street in Seattle

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yogurt Shop Murders: charges dismissed today, part 2

Before I continue with today's observations, let me explain that the charges were dismissed "without prejudice", which means the charges against Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott may be refiled at any time--there's no statute of limitations for murder--but the state would still have to return to a grand jury if they refiled. The state maintains its position that Springsteen and Scott "are responsible for these murders..." More about the state's press conference in a minute.

Today's courtroom was packed--usually only one television camera is allowed inside and today there were many--and also included elected head District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, assistant DA John Neal, and police chief Art Acevedo. Bob Ayers, father of youngest victim Amy Ayers, was also there. I haven't seen any of the victims' family members attending any of these two years of pretrial hearings until today.

What led up to today's dramatic dismissals? In August, state District Judge Mike Lynch granted the state a continuance to continue its Y-STR DNA testing to try to identify newly discovered male DNA recovered from vaginal swabs taken from youngest victim Amy Ayers.

At that time, Lynch also issued an order designating today's hearing as the deadline for the state to give a "good faith determination" as to whether they'd be ready for a jury trial roughly set for January. Lynch told the state that he would not grant any more continuances for them based on the same basis of continuing its DNA testing.

Today, assistant DA Efrain De La Fuente announced that the state is not ready for trial, is still conducting its Y-STR testing, and has not yet identified the DNA's source. Therefore, De La Fuente said, "we have no other choice but to file an order for dismissal." The defense had no objection, of course, and even waived reading the state's motion before it was given to Judge Lynch.

Lynch signed the order, granting the dismissal motion "as to each indictment, as to each of the two defendants" and said that as soon as the order was filed with the clerk, Scott and Springsteen would be free from all their current bond obligations. And then we were in recess.

Defense attorneys briefly spoke to the press, encouraging everyone to have sympathy for the victims' families because they have suffered the most in this whole ordeal and expressing hope that continued DNA testing will identify the unknown male, that the killer "is still out there."

Robert Springsteen didn't stick around to speak to the press, but Mike Scott and his wife Jeannine answered a few questions. Scott said he was "glad to be where I'm at today" and when asked if or how he could not feel resentment, he simply said, "move forward." The couple said they couldn't comment now on whether they'd stay in Austin.

At the press conference in the DA's office, head DA Rosemary Lehmberg read from a written statement before taking some questions. In her statement, she said, "Make no mistake, this is a difficult decision for me and one I would rather not have to make. I believe it is the best legal and strategic course to take and is the one that leaves us in the best possible posture to ultimately retry both Springsteen and Scott."

Then police chief Art Acevedo spoke about the importance of DNA for properly convicting or exonerating, especially "in a state that leads the country in wrongful convictions." While saying that the state's focus is still on these suspects (Springsteen and Scott), Acevedo also said, "they are probably the right suspects."

When asked if Springsteen and Scott could now move to another state if they wished, Lehmberg said, "They're free to do whatever they want."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wednesday, 10-28-09, 1:36 p.m. yogurt shop murders: charges dropped!

At today's (postponed for months) Yogurt Shop Murders pretrial hearing, defendants Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen walked into state District Judge Mike Lynch's courtroom with free will instead of being led in from holding cells by sheriff's deputies.

They walked out of the courtroom with free will and as truly free men for the first time in more than 10 years, after Judge Lynch signed an order granting the district attorney's office's motion to dismiss all murder charges for both Scott and Springsteen.

More details coming.

Monday, October 26, 2009

thinned seedlings: first season's salads

Yesterday I was more aggressive about thinning my baby lettuces and beet seedlings and ended up with this season's first salads!

pre-thinning (left side is leftover summer basil)

I reserved the little regular-variety and freckles-variety romaine leaves for husband Kurt's beloved Caesar salad. Separately, I tossed together all the butterhead and leaf lettuces, along with some beet seedlings.

I still need to thin the carrot, cauliflower, and broccoli seedlings. But I can't show you photos of those beds yet because they're too gruesome: I've been slacking in the weeding department. Are they still "seedlings" when they're at least three inches tall? Hmmm.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

garden bloggers' bloom day

ornamental black pepper

I confess: I'm feeling VERY lazy today, but I did wade through the heat and 90 percent humidity to snap some photos. (And I DID walk the dog this morning--yea, me.) Many Austin gardens are unusually lush right now because we finally got some long overdue rain! Go to Carol's blog, May Dreams Gardens, to see other gardeners' blooms today.

rosemary, cenizo, victoria salvia, blackfoot daisy, silver ponyfoot, mexican bush sage

victoria salvia

mexican bush sage

blackfoot daisy with silver ponyfoot

black and blue salvia

purple fountain grass and rosemary

turks cap

abelia, I think

scutellaria hybrid purple fountain (still haven't found its common name)

Also blooming are ruellia, blue plumbago, leadwort plumbago, society garlic, indigo spires salvia, rhea salvia, mexican heather, lantana, and potted oxalis.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

horseherb: I like it as native groundcover for a lawnless lawn

A few weeks ago, Meredith at Great Stems published a great, informative post (with lots of interesting comments) about the love/hate affair many of us Central Texan gardeners have with our native horseherb--her post says it all!

I commented about how much I appreciate horseherb in my garden yards as our main groundcover. Meredith was interested in seeing it used in a lawn, as she'd observed it mostly in park-like settings. We no longer own a lawnmower and only need to use our electric weedeater once a year or so. It took us seven years to get to this point (no chemicals), but we find pulling weeds more rewarding than mowing grass.

along east walkway--easily pulled out and replaced with mulch when it gets carried away, which might be soon with our recent needed rains

near front porch with new softleaf yucca

other side walkway

filling in among xeric cenizo, sotol, and purple fountaingrass

I really like how the brighter green horseherb, with its little yellow flowers, contrasts with the surrounding grayer and purpler lavender, fountaingrass, and rosemary.

mixing in with prolific chocolate mint and trailing lantana in city right of way

back yard, surrounding huge 65+ year-old Sycamore tree and mingling with Turk's Cap, ruellia, and rain-beaten (yes!) plumbago.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

update: David/Peese approved to pump 800,000 gallons from Trinity aquifer

Today I spoke to a helpful man at the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District and learned that their board has approved local Rollingwood residents James David and Gary Peese's application to drill a well to pump 800,000 gallons (annually) from the Trinity aquifer for "domestic irrigation needs" for their two-acre estate. David/Peese originally asked for a million gallons and requested a variance to get around the current drought-related watering restrictions, but the board denied the variance request and reduced the million gallons to 800,000.

The board seems to be fairly enthusiastic about the whole thing because David/Peese have agreed to keep monitoring equipment on the well so the board may study this "under-utilized" source that doesn't strain the Edwards aquifer. David/Peese will not be allowed to pump from the Trinity aquifer until the drought status is lifted and will pay $80,000-$100,000 for the privilege, should they go through with it.

The Garden Conservancy, along with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and The University of Texas at Austin is hosting a seminar on October 31 called Limestone & Water: Plants, Design and Inspiration for the Texas Garden, which includes the following topic
Smarter Gardens: gardening with less but getting more
Stephen Orr, garden writer, NYC
Stephen identifies a new revolution in garden design that treats gardens not as resource guzzlers—water, labor, materials, energy—but as conserving and graceful places in which to live and rest year ‘round.
Ironically, the reception for the seminar that includes this topic will be held at the home and garden of James David and Gary Peese.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

reliable ruellia

Now that we've received some much-needed rain, my ruellia (Mexican petunia) is particularly perky and bloomy, but it's also been a real trooper during our two-year drought. I gave it very little supplemental water this summer and it still managed to bloom some.

This native can be invasive but is really easy to thin. Some people think it looks too "weedy", but I appreciate its colorful blooms and hardiness. I haven't figured out all the varieties yet, but I seem to have three right now. (Sometimes I also have the dwarf 'Katie' ruellia but not today.)

tall-ish white version's leaves are slightly darker green and a curvier shape than both my purples

this version stays shorter and in a clustered mound with narrower leaves than the taller version below