Sunday, April 29, 2012

Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival

Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival Arts and crafts markets abound like bluebonnets come spring in Texas.  The standout among them is undoubtedly  the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival which just took place last week on Thursday through Sunday.  All of the art is juried; for the 2011 show there were over 1,500 applications, and one exhibitor told me there were around 2,000 this year, out of which 200 artists (from all over the country) are selected. Requirements are very stringent as to what can be exhibited and sold (no t-shirts; no postcards, note cards, posters or other offset reproductions; nothing made from kits, patterns, greenware or molds, etc.), ensuring that all work is original and hand-crafted. So everything you see is the crème de la crème.  From the breathtakingly beautiful to the amusing and whimsical, there's something for everyone's taste.  Perhaps not for everyone's pocketbook, however, as prices reflect the professional quality of the work, although there are unframed art and photography prints, smaller ceramic pieces, and the like.  However, looking is free, and the inspiration is, as they say, priceless.  At the end of the day, my brain is awhirl with images and ideas and my spirit is soaring (while the rest of me is longing for a good sit-down).

Main-Street-Art-Fest3Friday, when I went, started off with rain that had some exhibitors scurrying around their booths to protect their work, but thankfully it let up after an hour or so to segue into a cool, cloudy day with sunshine in the late afternoon. And it always seems to be windy downtown, the only thing that mars – only slightly – the experience. Otherwise, Downtown Fort Worth is a delight, never more so than during the festival when the nine blocks of Main Street from the ornate Renaissance Revival Tarrant County Courthouse to the 1960s-contemporary Fort Worth Convention Center are closed to traffic and lined instead with artists' booths and entertainment areas.  Greenery and flowers soften the street, setting off its diverse collection of well-preserved architecture. The handsome building facades vie for photographic attention with the exhibits they are temporarily overlooking.  Along the street performers enliven the scene with a variety of music.  And, of course, there's a plethora of food booths, although I prefer a nice dine-in restaurant for refueling, and Main Street offers plenty of those as well.  In short, I love going to this event! 

You can take a look at examples of the fabulous work of this year's exhibitors here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


While out gardening Monday I kept hearing a low trilling sound which I thought must be some sort of bird. Then suddenly I spied two little furry bodies clambering unsteadily over the rocks of the artificial stream that feeds our fishpond.  Baby raccoons!  Only an arm's length away from me, they finally registered my presence and retreated under some lumber stacked back behind the workshop.  Could they be orphans?  The question arose because, to put it as delicately as I can, something "passed" beneath our house, a fact that became pungently obvious late Saturday.  However, a web site informed us that raccoon babies will venture out by themselves in the daytime while their mama is sleeping, so apparent orphans may not be so.  We did offer cat chow which they eagerly consumed, disappearing shortly after into their lumber for the rest of the day.  On Tuesday they put in no appearance, and we assumed they were gone.  Then once again today while I was gardening, I heard that by-now distinctive trilling sound and there they were!

This time, after their cat chow repast, they hung out by the stream, once even venturing around the corner into the open door of the workshop, all the while trilling to each other.  They climbed down into the shallow stream bed, explored around the rocks and the flower pots, and had a good long nap cuddled up together.  Cuteness off the Richter scale!  And does it cut into the amount of gardening you can get done when you have to snatch up your camera and go have a peek at them every few minutes.  As long as I moved silently and smoothly, I could get quite close to them.  It was all I could do not to touch a finger to their fur.  Finally late in the afternoon, they roused themselves, had another bite to eat and retired once again into their lumber abode.  If they are orphans, they seem to be surviving.  I added grapes and apple to their menu; tomorrow I'll see what else they might enjoy. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ciclovia de Dallas

The first annual (hopefully) Ciclovia de Dallas has taken place and we were there.  It was a low-key, laid-back, car-free event that turned the century-old Houston Street Viaduct over to cyclists and pedestrians for six hours on Saturday.  From downtown Dallas on the northeast side to Oak Cliff on the southwest side, people strolled, skated and cycled across the mile-long span over the Trinity River. Among the attractions were assorted booths, occasional live music and entertainment, zumba and yoga sessions and a couple of the now-indispensable food trucks, but mostly everyone seemed to be simply enjoying the chance to have this unusual playground for socializing and getting a bit of fresh air while taking in views of the city.  You can check out more photos here.

I happened to learn about the event through an article in the Dallas Morning News about the city's ambitious but stalled Bike Plan which brought Gil Penalosa, former parks commissioner in Bogota, Colombia to town to give City Hall some pep talks about creating pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets.  Bogota, Columbia and bicycles?  Well, according to Wikipedia, Bogota deserves credit for creating the first ciclovias way back in 1976, and now these temporary street closures take place weekly. The concept has spread to other countries as well as several cities in the United States. Let's hope the trend continues.  

View toward Oak Cliff and the Trinity River

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Butterfly Banquet

Question Mark
The heady scent of our two wild privets has summoned a profusion of butterflies, flitting greedily from blossom to blossom, then swirling up into flickering arabesques.  Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) and Question Marks (Polygonia interrogationis) are sharing the bounty with occasional honeybees, probably from the bee tree right down the street.  A member of the Ligustrum family, wild privet is invasive but fairly well-behaved (with vigilant weeding) in our city yard.  And how the birds love the little dark berries.  A mockingbird claims the tree in the front as its private larder, but when the cedar waxwings come through, they mob both trees in ravenous frenzy.

Red Admiral

Friday, April 6, 2012

Barton Creek Habitat Preserve

Table Rock on Barton Creek
The impetus for our trip to Austin was an invitation to a Nature Conservancy luncheon in the Barton Creek Habitat Preserve.  Yes, the same Barton Creek that flows into Zilker Park near downtown Austin, but several miles to the north-west and a whole, different mindset from there.  After finding our way along a Farm-to-Market road that offered sweeping views over stoney hills and canyons, we arrived at the preserve where we were treated to a lovely alfresco buffet lunch followed by a presentation on the Nature Conservancy's efforts to protect freshwater habitats in Texas and around the world, certainly a relevant topic after the severe drought the state endured last year. Then most of us set out on an easy walk to the creek and along it to a feature called Table Rock.  I think you can even see in the photos how clear the water is.  Public access is limited in the over 4,000-acre preserve, so we were privileged to have this brief peek at it.  It was saved from development in 1994 and is being restored and maintained to foster and protect native wildlife and their habitat while also contributing to the water quality of this significant creek. The Nature Conservancy does such vital work in ensuring that places like this continue to exist and thrive in our increasingly congested and polluted world. When you visit their website, be sure to check out the spectacular photos and videos which will leave you awed by such diverse natural beauty.


Sunday, April 1, 2012


Predictions have been for bountiful wildflowers this spring in most of Texas, and the roadsides were indeed abloom with bluebonnets nestled among yellow froths of coreopsis as we sped south to Austin last Friday.  Appropriately, our first stop was the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center where bluebonnets shared fields with pink phlox, yellow buttercups, lavender prairie verbena and orange bursts of Indian paintbrush.  Off one trail there were even choice patches prepared especially for the traditional Texas tots-in-bluebonnets photos.

Many of the native plants – salvias, spiderworts, columbines, penstemons – are the same as can be found here in north Texas, but this unfamiliar tree with its profusion of tiny yellow pompoms caught our eye; it's a huisache, a member of the acacia family.  According to the online database, in southern Europe this species is extensively planted for the flowers which are a perfume ingredient.


Observation Tower and Administration Building

Harmoniously complementing the plants and the land is the subtly contemporary architecture of the facilities with its rustic stone Hill Country look.

View from Observation Tower

The one antique structure at the center, an 1885  carriage house, is currently housing an exhibit of intricate paper flower art by Shou Ping.

The Display Gardens
One feature of the Display Gardens which I found especially interesting was the plot with information on botanists and plant collectors for whom various plants are named, such as the common Salvia greggi, one of 23 species named in honor of Josiah Gregg who traveled through Texas in 1841-42, taking note of Texas geology, trees, prevalent attitudes, and politics which he subsequently compiled into a two-volume "Commerce of the Prairies.”  Or Gaura lindheimeri, named after Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer (1801-1879) who is often called the Father of Texas Botany because of his work as the first permanent-resident plant collector in Texas.  Lindheimer is credited with the discovery of several hundred plant species;  his name is used to designate forty-eight species and subspecies of plants.

It was a perfect time to visit the Wildflower Center which I had long wanted to see.  It is also, coincidentally, the centennial of the birth of Lady Bird Johnson whose "focus was on the ecological advantages as well as the beauty of native plants - a passion that would lead her to create the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 on the occasion of her 70th birthday".  Be sure to visit this special website dedicated to "our environmental First Lady."

Oh-oh, made a mistake!  What I took to be coreopsis growing along the roadsides is, instead, an invasive weed called bastard cabbage, Rapistrum rugosum, a member of the mustard family native to the Mediterranean.  Just happened to see an article in the April 4th Dallas Morning News about it.