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Mobile in May

Early May found me in Austin, Texas at the Annual Meeting and Educational Conference for The Herb Society of America. I had planned to write on May Baskets for this month's blog, but since it is now the middle of the month, I thought I would share some of the highlights of my trip.

I drove to Austin - yes, you heard that right. I don't mind driving, it relaxes me, and I love to see the changes in the landscape as I drive across the country. This was the first time in a long while that I headed in a southerly direction, and I was entranced by the plants that told me that I wasn't in Massachusetts anymore. The hills diminished, the road flattened out, and soon the highway was more monotonous. Farmland, with patches of green growth, stretched out before me. Cattle grazed in the more hilly areas, sharing space with horses and the occasional goat. Tennessee is a particularly long state when you traverse east to west, but soon I was entering Arkansas, and not long after, Texas.

It is heartwarming to see all the wonderful farms and cultivated land, reminding me that we still have areas of agricultural interest in the country. Silos, grain elevators, and irrigation ditches were all around me, and huge tracts of wheat and other crops went on seemingly forever. Here in the east, farms are far and few between, the land too valuable as house lots or shopping centers to keep in agricultural production. I remember not long ago the tobacco farms in CT - they, too, have disappeared and malls have taken their place.

Once I reached Texas (on my third day of travel) I made the decision to get off the highway and drive a less traveled road, in the hopes of seeing some bluebonnets and other wildflowers. I also wanted to skirt Dallas - I had enough of big cities and the congestion and harried drivers. So off I went, ignoring the voice on the GPS, and headed in a southerly direction. Imagine my surprise when the little two lane road had a posted speed limit of 70! Fortunately, there were not too many drivers on this road, so I could keep a slower pace as I looked for the elusive blue of the Texas Bluebonnet.

It turned out that the bluebonnets were a thing of the past, having peaked a couple of weeks before. I did see a couple of small ones - late bloomers, I guess. But there were many more flowers blanketing the sides of the roadways, many of which I could not identify. Indian Paintbrush, with its reddish-orange color, gaillardia, verbena, and monardas were all present and created sweeping areas of color along the roadsides. I now have to do some research to discover the names of plants that I took pictures of and also picked for pressing.

A big highlight of the Conference for me personally was to meet and get a chance to know Susan Wittig Albert. She was a speaker at the Conference, and I was assigned to be her "angel" - assisting her in any way that she needed. She is a truly delightful person - very down to earth but knowledgeable and genuinely interested in herbs, sustainability, and environmental issues. She has been named Honorary President of HSA for 2012 - 2014, and she is totally committed to using her skills and contacts to further the mission of the organization. I look forward to working with her.

Two spots I visited were of prime interest - Lucinda Hutson's purple home and festive gardens, and Festival Hill, home of the Madalene Hill herb gardens. Both were places I had heard of and had wanted to see, and I finally got my chance on this trip.

There was so much to do I would have liked to spend more time, especially in the hill country of Texas. But home beckoned, and I knew that I needed to return to tend to my gardens and other responsibilities. The return trip found me at a friend's in Tennessee, where I spent a few hours taking in the sights around Knoxville. Now I am home again, battling the weeds (of course it rained while I was gone) and eager to finish planting. The tomato plants are sturdy and almost ready to go in, and soon my part of the world will be as lush as the fields and forests that I witnessed down south.

Happy Maying!


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