Back to the Soil

Some of you have asked for information on landscaping in this area, so I shall start with the Hill Country part of the region. There is also a Blackland Prairie part of the region, as well as a Piney Woods area. Each of these requires a slightly different approach.

Native Texas Plants

Here is my favorite resource: Native Texas Plants by Sally Wasowski and Andy Wasowski.

The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is also a rich resource, including part of its website devoted to identification photos of native plants, the basis of which was donated by the Wasowskis.

Micro-climate. The key to choosing plants wisely is micro-climate, as well as local soil conditions. Extremely local. As in ‘exactly in the 5-foot diameter area in which I’m gonna plant this thing.’

  1. Is this the northern (exposed, colder in winter) side of the lot? Or, is this planting in a southern area protected by nearby walls or hedges?
  2. Is this plant gonna get full sun most of the day? If so, will it be happy when the temperatures are 110 degrees in the shade, and hotter in the sun?
  3. Am I putting this leafy critter into a pocket of soil plunked down by the builder; soil which was dredged up as fill dirt from someplace 20 feet underground; soil which has absolutely no organic nutrients in it? Am I planting in the thin, native limestone soil that is on a slope and well-drained? Am I planting in a small depression that holds water briefly after a rain?
  4. Am I planting under a tree that casts shade all day long? Am I planting under a cedar tree? (Very little will grow under a cedar tree.) See Underneath It All, my first post.
  5. Finally, the Big Question is ‘Are the deer gonna eat it?’ The answer is ‘yes’, so in heavy deer areas, plants need protective fences until the plant is big enough to withstand a bit of pruning by the native ruminants.

It’s pretty much the case that if you live in the western part of the central Texas area, and you see a lot of whitish, rocky soil nearby, you live in the limestone part of the region. If you live east, where you don’t see steep hills and your soil is blackish and pretty gummy, you live on the clayey Blackland Prairie. If you live out around Bastrop where there are, or were, lots of pine trees, you are in acid soil, which supports a different family of natives than the rest of the region.

Check out the plant sales at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Browse Barton Springs Nursery for native stock. Visit- and listen to- The Natural Gardener. Hill Country Natives is an online site that delivers in the area for orders over $200. I have purchased many natives from Vivero GrowersAND they have an awesome blog about plants and planting.

Maybe I’m prejudiced, but once you get used to enjoying the native landscape rocks and plants, you will come to appreciate the unique sense of place that they provide.


Last half of February and the native Texas Redbuds are starting to bloom!


I am in love with these Possumhaws- they have fabulous berries all winter long and then the spring green leaves start opening in February. No Cedar Waxwings have found this little group yet, or else the berries would have been digested.


A+ use of Texas Mountain Laurels as an evergreen accent above the limestone retaining wall. Some Texas Mountain Laurels have already started popping out their gaudy purple, grape Kool-Aid scented, cluster blooms.


First Four-Nerve Daisy I’ve seen in my neighborhood this year. It loves the rocky, caliche soil.


This Agarito (also called Algerita) shrub grows really well in the shade of the oaks. It blooms yellow in the spring and fruits red berries in the summer, which can be used to make jelly. Also, if you want to keep people or deer away from some area, these prickly leaves will do it.


Austin-area Action Past 7 Days

Little house

We are talking residential market here, Folks.

852 residences newly on the market in our Multiple Listing Service area

429 residences already on the market which have decreased prices in the past week

103 residences already on the market which have…wait for it…. PRICE INCREASES

149 residences which were temporarily off the market, but have been put back on

42 residences which have a contract on them, the closing of which is contingent on something else happening, like the buyers selling another piece of property first

869 residences pending– They have a contract on them and are moving through the process towards a closing. (Notice how few residences are “contingent” compared with “pending”. Not very many sellers are interested in accepting an offer that is contingent on ANYTHING else happening before the closing.)

514 residences sold this past 7 days.

There were no leases through the MLS.

84 residential properties were withdrawn from the market.

24 residential properties on the market expired, meaning that the lengths of listing times agreed to by the agents and sellers has now passed on each of 24 properties, and the listing now goes bye-bye. Not very many properties unsold here, compared with the 514 that did sell. Time to assess why these properties did not sell in the desired time!

55 residences temporarily off market. Remember those 149 residences back on market? Yeah, well, residences are temporarily taken off the market for a variety of reasons, including responding to comments from potential buyers about the condition of the property by installing new kitchen counters or some such, or taking the property off the market to accommodate a big family reunion happening in the home over a period of time.



A Long Trail of History

Note: this page will be slow to load because it contains higher-resolution photos.

week ago, I had the thrill of visiting the Gracy Title Company title plant in Austin. “Thrill,” you ask?  A buncha ole books ‘n’ stuff?

History, People, history! Gracy Title was established by the Gracy Brothers in Austin in 1873. They’ve got the goods. They have old records that go back long before 1873. If there is a land dispute, or title issue, these old books will help get to the bottom of it.

Gracy Abstract Book
Abstract book

And maps, the company has maps on the wall. Some are genuinely old, some are reproductions. They tell a lot about Austin and Texas history.You can click on pictures and enlarge them for better viewing.

Antique Texas map with tribes and grants

Texas Tribes and Land Grants

Travis County land grants

Travis County Land Owners

Original Austin plan circa 1840

The Austin Plan, circa 1840. Waterloo was a tiny settlement down by the river. Please notice the east branch of Shoal Creek- it is now completely underground, having been covered in 1917.

Austin grows 1891

Austin in 1891. The previous map encompasses the densely-packed area toward the center of this map.

Private sewer lines in Austin

And, oh yes, there are still occasionally issues downtown with the original privately-owned underground sewer system, necessitating use of this map of unused private sewer lines from the year 1.

Bastrop County 1861Here’s who owned land in Bastrop County in 1858. Land in Bastrop was easier to farm and water than land in Travis County, so it was a preferred location. We don’t need no stinkin’ views!!! We need to grow food!


Yep, the title examiners still refer to these ancient books regularly.

When you are buying property in and around Austin, the title company might insure the title, but with exceptions. Exceptions such as an easement for a oil pipeline that was granted by a rancher waaaaaaay out in the country, decades ago, and is now possibly running under your suburban house. Was a pipeline ever built? Maybe, maybe not.

If this worries you, there are real estate lawyers to look into the situation for you. Pay close attention to the time period you have agreed to in your contract for sale- this is the amount of time you have to satisfy yourself about the title to the property you are purchasing, or to object in writing.

News Flash💥

I love that little collision symbol!

housing market

This fun little graph is a snapshot of the past 24 hours in the Austin Multiple Listing Service statistics. 108 new homes on the market. 59 homes already on the market, but with price decreases. And what’s this? 32 homes already on the market with price increases.

Austin-wide market for 24 hours ending on February 9, 2016. Kinda fascinating, isn’t it?

Oh, and 54 sold today and 179 residences currently working their way from a contract signed by all parties to the closing table.

Selling the Home ‘Blues’, or….

IMG_0103 (2)

Lots of neighborhoods in Austin are in transition… BIG transition. As in, the long-beloved homes are being purchased, but only for their locations, and then <BAM!!!>, the bulldozers come in and scrape the lots in preparation for completely new builds. Homes outdated, homes replaced.

It is happening in Crestview, in Allandale, in Barton Hills, and Zilker, to name a few. Most people absolutely hate the idea that they will sell their beloved home only to have it torn down and replaced by something modern.

However, I have a friend who is contemplating selling her home to purchase something more suitable for the way she lives her life now, and she has a completely different perspective.

She really likes the idea that her family might be the last to live in this home- that perhaps no other family will inhabit the place where so many of her family memories were made. She thinks that having someone move in on her memories is more unsettling than the idea that someone might buy the home and tear it down, replacing it with a brand-new one that has nothing to do with her or her family.

I was intrigued. How do you feel about this? Does this idea work for you?


Two Popular Websites

When you are in the market for a new home, you might ask your Realtor® questions about a “safe” neighborhood, or about “good” schools. Guess what? We can’t answer those questions because we cannot make claims about your future personal experience, or even about ever-changing circumstances in the environment. What we can do is to guide you to online resources for doing your own research.

One of these resources is Great Schools.  Here is a website that uses some public information, but also opinions of the parents involved with the specific school you are interested in to put together a picture that can assist you in your research. Starting with this website is dandy, but of course, you will want to go visit the school, visit with the principal, and possibly some teachers, in order to form your own opinion.

There are certainly instances in which a school does not look first-rate on paper, but it might have within it a special program or special approach which is just right for your student and gives you an A+ experience, in spite of the ratings.

A website people often use to look up sex offenders and others with criminal backgrounds is Home Facts. You can search by address to find registered offenders nearby. Keep in mind that the website might not be completely up-to-date at all times. Also, keep in mind that the category of ‘sex offenders’ is pretty broad and might include people you would not consider a threat to your family. It pays to do the research, but then to analyze the results carefully for facts that are important to you.

When is the best time to use these websites and other search tools? When you first start considering a particular neighborhood, preferably before you have actually looked at specific houses.

Why so early? Well, by the time you make an offer on a home and have it accepted, you will likely have only a week or less of option period to research every eventuality regarding the home, including title issues (might want a real estate lawyer for this one!), structural issues (need an inspector, or two, or three, as well as professionals who work on specific systems of homes to advise you), your own visits with neighbors and reconnaissance trips day and night, to get as complete a picture as possible of what package you are buying. You might as well do general research, such as schools and nearby sex offenders, ahead of the rush.

neighborhood with sky


To Stair, or Not To Stair

stairsMaster suites- do they belong upstairs as private, in the tree-tops getaways? Or, do you prefer yours on the first floor, close to the kitchen and other living areas?

Here’s a quote from Realtor Magazine this month: “Frank Betz Associates’ data of its top 100 floorplans shows a slight increase in the number of two-story designs with the master suite upstairs from 2013 to 2014 (14 percent vs. 15 percent, respectively) but its number of one-story floorplans rose by two percentage points. The majority of its best-selling floorplans feature accessible master suites that have no steps to enter, Segers says.”

Hmmmm…. the current preference for main-level master suites continues, so older homes that have master bedrooms and baths on the second floor are frequently ‘dinged’ by buyers turned off by this arrangement. But, here’s something to consider:

If you have family members who want to stay up late and raid the kitchen while having dance parties in the family room, you might welcome having that escape-in-the-treetops when you want to get away from the noise.

And don’t forget, as long as you have the ability to climb up and down stairs, it’s a great way to burn a few extra calories every single trip. Sounds to me like permission for an extra bonbon every once in awhile!