In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I am running on anger these days.  This anger is due to, frankly, conventional, conformist  little-minded neighbors whose focus is on "unsightliness"and "property values" and, frankly, petty vengeance and control freak issues  rather than the impact of exceptional conditions on our environment.  I'm doubly angry because if I had a wooden fence, like most of them, nobody would ever have known what was in my backyard.  Some of them are "no government interference" people, which makes me laugh, because local neighborhood deed restrictions, city, county, and state regulations restrict freedoms far more than the federal government does.  Yet they want states rights rather than federal government protections for everyone.  Most of all, I am angry because this focus not only ignores my health conditions, my age, and my poverty, it ignores the horrendous loss of habitat resulting from the tremendous loss of trees..


In the 2011 drought Texas lost 301 million (MILLION!) trees.  Harris County, which pretty much is synonymous with Houston lost 19 million trees.  I lost six lobllolly pines, all of which were standing on this property and a foot or more in diameter, when we moved in in 1957..  One of them, I suspect, was over 100 years old when it came down, all of them 60 or more.   Within half a mile of me, according to a tree removal guy I spoke with, over a 1000 trees were lost.  I can believe it.  I used to sit on my front porch and had to look straight up to see the sky.  Now, I only have to look E, S .  If I walk out the sidewalk to the side street, and look W to what used to be woods, it's mostly sky.


That is thousands of nesting places for birds.  You might not realize it, but getting to the trees to cut them down and haul them off destroyed undergrowth as well. -- the yaupon bushes, the cherry laurels and other understory trees.  After the trees around here were mostly gone, I had a swamp rabbit in my yard.  I'm sure he came from the larger 1.2-3 acre lots behind me.  When I had to cut down my taller grasses because of the complaints from the neighbors, The bunny moved on.  I hope the migrating kestrel I saw at about that time didn't get him crossing all the open space that now exists around here.  When I removed the brush piles, the treefrogs disappeared.  A Carolina wren who seemed to be checking it out for a nesting spot has disappeared as well.  The anoles which scrambled openly around the logs, as they have been unpiled and righted preparatory to being hauled off, haven't been sighted in weeks.


I also lost a honeybee tree, not that I knew in advance they were there.  I don't know where they went, because they look for a hollow tree damaged by lightening or the dropping of a big limb in a windstorm.

I had hoped to construct a wildlife habitat which would also shelter my lupus-riddled body from the sun. But no, the city wouldn't allow me to keep the 3-5' logs. When they are hauled off on the 21 January 2013, not only will all the habitat be gone, but I will no longer be able to enjoy my own backyard because there will be no place shady enough for me.  If that is freedom of property, I'm a hoot owl.


Houston was known for its greenness.  If you look across the city on GOOGLE maps, close enough to see the areas of dead and removed trees, you will see denuded parks (Hermann and Memorial), and a decimated Houston Arboretum,  neighborhoods where scarcely a tree stands.  


I have three trees that survived.  All of them had thick mats of composted mulch around their root systems, because they are where we dumped up the raked leaves and pine needles from the rest of the yard for 55+ years.  


From the swamp rabbit to the anoles, the bees, the birds, my neighborhood has been almost denuded of nesting places, food sources,  watering places.  Yet we still have deed restrictions calling for St. Augustine grass, no brush piles, yada yada yada, and we continue to pave areas, grow non-native "landscaping plants", and behave as if we are the only occupants of this earth.  


Unsightly?  Unsightly to me are my neighbors' lawns of St Augustine, hostas and monkey grass.  Who will hear when the last bird calls?


SOURCES:
Texas drought killed 301 million treesBy Kathy Huber | September 25, 2012 | Updated: September 26, 2012 7:52am
 
 
Houston's been getting water lately.  What a relief after the drought.  I really want to install guttering and a set of rain barrels.  For now, however, we are collecting water in  those big laundry detergent buckets like you get at Sam's Club and Costco and other places and old large storage containers whose lids have disappeared.  We just place them under the points where water would be fed into guttering, but comes down in sheets now.  The rain barrels I want are here:  However, the cost is prohibitive.  What I have found is a local recycling place offering 55 gallon drums for about $25, and there is a video on YouTube explaining how to convert such drums into rain barrels with a few parts from Lowe's or Home Depot.  OK, so these are ugly neon blue plastic.  There's a solution to that as well.  Cover the barrel with netting (and even the down spout, and grow something that will climb the netting.  Perhaps a nice maypop (passionfruit) vine?  Added benefit?  Edible fruits which are both native to my area and very expensive in stores!  Perhaps combined with runner beans as shown here.  

When I had my dead pines cut down, I didn't have the logs hauled off.  Nor the chipped wood.  The chipped wood I'm now using as mulch in my garden.  It protects the roots of  plants through cold or drought, and when thick enough (3-5") holds down the weeds.  I'm using a good bit of it to lay out where I plan to have vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in the spring and summer.  I just dump it over the grass, and after a good rain, move it around a bit and pull the grass out almost effortlessly.  Since I'm talking about Bermuda grass, that "effortlessly" part is important to me!  Eventually, it also breaks down into food for the soil and plants.  Another bit of it, along with the leaves I keep raking up, I'm dumping on some low spots to build them up and level the front yard across a culvert (although I confess I'm now also thinking about putting in a water feature there, so maybe I won't level ALL of it out!)  The trees that survived are those around which I had dumped kitchen & yard waste for decades.  

The logs I was thinking about making into lumber, but that's more expensive than buying lumber.  Some we are going to slice down the middle to use in bujilding raised beds.  Others we are going to slice into 3-4" rounds and use as stepping stones.  Still others we plan to cut into rounds and place on legs for use as garden stools and a table (after varnishing them.  My bees seem to still be around, so I may end up having some honey one of these days.  Not that I'm eager to be the one to collect it!



 
To close,  we got three oranges off our Republic of Texas orange tree.  I had no idea the flesh would be red inside!  the stm area was pithy -- not sure we picked them at the right time.  But the rest of the fruits were juicy and sweet,  So pretty too!    Our spinach is doing well, radishes should be grown soon, Ditto for beets and carrots.  The bunching onions are surprisingly small for the length of time since planted.  Need to get out the packets and see how long they need  to maturity.   Peppers still producing, and we have a few little green tomatoes.  Lettuce, purslane and pansies make some tasty salads, along with the little carrots I'm pulling to thin the rows.  Kale is magnificently abundant.  It's true, everything tastes better if you grew it yourself :)