It's gotten hot here earlier than usual, so Max-Zoats is blowing his coat earlier than usual. Since his undercoat is white, it looks like an American Eskimo has exploded all over the back yard, and every bird from sparrow through robin to hawk is sporting a Mark Twain moustache as they pick up fur to line their nests.
Which, speaking of hawks, is kind of a weird deal. There was a sharp-shinned hawk overwintering in the neighbors' pecan tree (at the very edge of its Southern range) this winter. She was driven out by a breeding pair of red hawks, who have built a nest in the tree. . .yet the other birds and the squirrels who live there seem positively blase about having a pair of carnivores in the same house, was it were. The red-cockaded woodpeckers are back in their old spot, above the first crook in the branch, where one big limb is semi-dead, and the squirrels have squirrel babies in part of the tree, where the limb fell last winter during that big storm we had. It's like a condominium filled with adherents of two different political philosophies: I keep wondering when the massacre will start. Maybe, for the hawks, it's like living next door to a restaurant?
Tomorrow I simply MUST go buy tomato plants. Even though I don't have a decent garden plot this year, as garden plots in Texas have to be started in October and I was a little busy, I have to grow tomatoes. In my family, the unwillingness to plant tomatoes means you're going to be in a little plot of ground yourself before too long. The only time I worried about my Sainted Mother was when she told me she hadn't bothered to start a garden one year; the situation has since been remedied, and she now grows enough tomatoes for all of Seattle. It doesn't matter if you get them in too late and they don't set fruit (as mine didn't year before last, as I'd bought from a place up north); the point is that putting tomatoes in the ground means that you plan to be around to eat them on home-made white bread with mayo in a few months.
My tomatoes, by the way, will be going in the front beds, amongst the Russian butterfly bush and the American butterfly bush and the rose bush and the oregano and rosemary that are, despite a hundred-year drought, going strong. The back beds I'm mulching now in preparation for fall crops; I'll just have to buy my zucchini and pickling cucumbers at the farmer's market.
Which reminds me: There is only one thing I dislike about living in Texas at this time of year: raspberries.
My grandparents (Mom's parents) had what they called the "North 40" but was actually a plot of land that adjoined their back yard that they'd bought, far-sightedly, when they built their house up in Missouri. Granddad used to grow raspberries along the fence line. Mom would throw me out of the house early in the morning and tell me to get breakfast from the garden, so my foraging instincts were sharply-honed from an early age, and one of my favorite things was to go out after a morning walk with Granny and Granddad, before breakfast, and eat raspberries from Granddad's canes.
You can't do that here. Blackberries, yes--they grow like freaking weeds, and hide snakes of all sorts and produce fruit like there's no tomorrow. Plums go crazy. Herbs of any sort grow like it's ancient Greece and they have a walk-on role in one of Homer's plays. But raspberries? Grow like crazy, then fail to fruit because it gets too hot too fast. Whereas, in Seattle, you can (as I did two summers ago) buy a flat of raspberries at the farmer's market for five bucks, then turn to your mom and ask, "Are you getting any for dinner tonight?"
A sun-warmed, ripe, musky raspberry is better than sex, better than being cured of cancer, better than eternal salvation--and combines elements of each.
Raspberries and hawks nesting and Max barking in the back yard without his collar on and a brown thrasher in the compost pile: proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.