Rock scrambling at Bull Creek on New Year’s Day


For a New Year’s Day hike, we explored Bull Creek again, doing a bit of scrambling among the boulders on the cliff edge. It was a glorious day, about 74 F degrees and sunny. My daughter struck a few poses above the creek. I call this one The Moonrise Kingdom, after the Wes Anderson movie.


Here’s The Instagram. In the distance, the setting sun lit up the cedar trees and live oaks on the bluff, giving this illusion of spring greens or maybe early fall color.


The creek winds along the bluff, and we surmised that the enormous boulders in the creek were once part of the cliff behind us, and fell off after a millennia of being undercut by the water.


My husband exploring the creek boulders


The cliff is mostly vertical, but native plants have managed to find toeholds in the cracks, like this beautiful Texas nolina, which cascades over the rock face like Rapunzel’s hair. Sadly, invasive nonnatives like ligustrum are colonizing the cliffs too, but we saw evidence that a native-plant group is working to eliminate them: many ligustrum trees have been cut down, and others have been girdled, which will kill them.


Farther along the creek, limestone ledges create mossy grottos. Spring water trickled over some of the ledges like mini-waterfalls.


We found the wagon tracks carved into the limestone creek bed in an earlier era. For more info, see my post about the tracks from late November.


Bull Creek is a special part of Austin. An afternoon visit was a beautiful and peaceful way to start the New Year.

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All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Losing a tree diseased by hypoxylon canker


A few days before Christmas, the front garden endured a major change: a fatally diseased live oak near our front door had to be removed. I’d had an arborist out the week before to give me a bid on general tree trimming, and he immediately spotted the sloughed-off bark and telltale whitening of hypoxylon canker affecting this tree.


I’d been concerned about the tree myself for the past year, and consulted with another arborist last spring, but he dismissed the sloughed-off bark as just a normal process. I had my doubts, and my fears were confirmed with the diagnosis of late-stage hypoxylon canker, a fungal disease I’d never heard of. Oak wilt, a live-oak killer here in Texas, was the only tree disease on my radar. Hypoxylon, I learned, lurks in most healthy trees, waiting for an opportunity — a tree weakened by drought or other stress — to attack.


With no cure and a danger of the weakened tree falling on the house, we had the tree removed. We have plenty of live oaks to spare, but what a shock to see open sky where the tree once leaned over the house, filtering sunlight. Aesthetically, it’s OK. The remaining trees frame the entry, and the Japanese maple has new prominence. But I’m worried that, come summer, the shade-loving maple and foundation shrubs will have too much sun. I can only wait and see, hoping that their location on the north side of the house, with shade remaining on the west, will protect them.

I’m worried for several of my other trees too, which also show early signs of the canker. Healthy trees can resist the fungus, and the arborist recommended a deep-root fertilizing in the spring to give them a boost. We’ll do that and keep a close eye on them, especially if (when) drought returns. Meanwhile, we’ll have the stump ground out soon, and if the oak sprouts that colonize this little lawn stop popping up, I’ll replace the grass with Texas sedge for a no-mow, evergreen groundcover.


If you live in Central Texas, you may be curious to learn more about hypoxylon canker yourself. Here is some information my arborist shared with me from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Wishing you a merry and bright Christmas!


The Christmas tree is aglow.


Festive ornaments add cheer.


Family gathers close, and memories of past Christmases are retold.


Lights shine across the city…


…and we’ve spun under the Zilker Christmas Tree on its 50th anniversary.


Neighbors’ houses glow like magical fairylands of light.


And troubles are put aside for an evening and a day of quiet or festive celebration.

Magical lights in our 'hood #xmaslights #christmaslights #austin #merryandbright

A video posted by Pam Penick (@pamdigging) on


Friends, I wish you all a warm and wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, or other solstice holiday! See you in 2017!

And if you missed my post about the Highway 360 Xmas trees, please click here and enjoy!

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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