Guppies embarking on a perilous car journey to her Grandparents…



Direct 9 hour flight to London Heathrow,

excitement mounting…




In no time at all we were cruising high over the Atlantic. 


I adopted my usual in-flight facial expression; a combination of bewilderment and pain accompanied by brief interludes of hysteria (dependent on wine consumption).

Touch down in London.

IMG_0070 2

Having fun yet kids?


London, in August, doing tourist things!


My daughter has been YouTube researching the locations of the best London Kawaii shops.



She found exactly what she was looking for in a China town market…squishies!

IMG_0073Before you could say “Seven pounds for a painted piece of foam?!”

Annanwe were on a train speeding North to Brydekirk, a tiny village on the River Annan in SW Scotland.


There are great walks available on both banks of the river.


The pink plant in the foreground was brought to Britain for garden collections in the 19th century, it is the invasive annual, Himalayan Balsam

Impatiens glandulifera


Impatiens glandulifera

and it was everywhere. The plant produces large amounts of pollen which attracts bees. Unfortunately the bees love the balsam so much they don’t bother pollinating the native plants, reducing their seed production. An effort is currently being made to remove this plant (along with Japanese Knotwood) from the river banks of the Annan.


The 5 mile walk from Brydekirk to Hoddom Castle led us by huge silver willows,


towering pines,


and moss covered trunks.


We passed tall stands of Elecampane

Inula Helenium


Inula Helenium

The name ‘helenium’ derives from Helen of Troy…elecampane is said to have sprung up from where her tears fell.

The plant was also sacred to the ancient Celts and once had the name “elfwort”.


No trip to Scotland would be complete without mentioning a thistle or three, this Creeping Thistle

Cirsium arvense


was busy dispersing seeds from small shaving brushes:

Cirsium arvense

The seed number per plant ranges from 1,600 to 50,000!


Legend has it that a species of thistle saved the lives of sleeping Scottish Clansmen as a Norse army invaded.


In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness the Norsemen took off their shoes, but as they crept barefoot…well, you guessed it.


A soldiers cry alerted the Clansmen who went on to defeat the Norsemen at the Battle of Largs

(2 October 1263),

thus saving Scotland from invasion. 


The critical role that the thistle had played was recognized and the weed was subsequently adopted as Scotland’s national emblem.


After our walk it was time for a







I fell into a restless jet-lagged sleep plagued by dreams of strange mythical talking creatures…


Meeh, meeh?

Maa, maa?

Meh-eh-eh! Meh-eh-eh?

What sound do they make?

Moving along…


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I said moving along…


We made a lot of new friends on this trip,


From Sally the dog to


the sweet wares of the local bakery:


The icing on the cake, (ahem), was once again being reconnected with family.

Thanks for making the journey.

LangholmMy parent’s gardens were packed with plants and color,



Here is another interesting thistle (I said there would be three):

'Veitch's Blue'

Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’

globe thistle.

Echinops ritro

You can see why it attracts a host of pollinators.

A Perennial that adds a tropical flair to northern gardens is the aptly named Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’


Just standing next to this makes you feel warmer.


“Did you know that Crocosmia is so named because the dried leaves smell of saffron when rubbed ESP?

It is derived from the Greek words, Krokos for saffron and osme for Hell, my mistake, smell.”

Thanks Satan.

Native to the grasslands of southern and eastern Africa the leaves are a give away that it is in the iris family.



A slightly disturbing picture I know, but one that leads me to the non-botanical final thistle of this gargantuan post…




The band traveled to Scotland and competed at



Perth and the


World-Pipe-Band-Championships-2015on a packed Glasgow Green.


Last minute tuning before the competition.

Here is a link to Silver Thistle’s Facebook page:

and our official website:

We practice twice a week at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and once a month publicly at Opal Divines Davenport and we are always looking for new pipers and drummers.

Opal Divines Davenport

Hope to see you there.

Here is a video of the new World Champions and their performance:

Back in toasty Austin it was time to retrieve the guppies and head home.


Stay Tuned For:

“The Devil’s Beef Tub”


All material © 2015 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.


“Carry On Camping”

by ESP on July 27, 2015


A quick camping excursion to the Gulf – just me (my wife knows better), the kids, nature, and oh yes, a future sand storm.

North Padre Island

We exited society and the tarmac at North Padre Island, crunched the truck’s gearbox stubbornly into 4-wheel-drive and we were off, hurtling down the deserted coastline to look for a suitable camping spot.

Beach Camping

Attracted to the large log, we settled on this spot in the dunes – the beach was deserted as far as we could see in both directions…hmm, that should have been a clue.

Beach Life

They immediately got busy in the sand while I set up camp and erected the tent and an improvised tarp attached to the bed of the truck to store coolers (and other random camping stuff that was later to be buried in sand).


I settled uncomfortably into my newly purchased (and extremely cheap) Academy chair (pictured above) and poured a piña colada buzz ball over ice to get into the holiday mood.

hqdefault(Thanks L)

I was hoping for a more reclined and relaxing beach posture to enjoy my liquid libation but unfortunately I was ergonomically challenged by a Chinese manufacturer into a bolt upright position – knees pushed so high against my chest cavity that it hindered breathing.

You get what you pay for.


The chairs were a perfect size for them as it turned out.

The fire-pit was lit, we had chicken wings and marshmallows on the BBQ, the stars came out over the oil rigs,

I had another piña colada buzz ball…it was just about perfect…a quick torch-lit crab hunt then it was time for ‘bed’.

After a rather rough night comprised of:

a) Incessant wiggling, and an excess of irritating / abrasive sand in the tent,

b) An infestation of sand flies that chewed on us all…all night,


c) The gross misconception that sand is a soft medium to pitch a tent on (and sleep soundly on over the age of 10)…


…dawn could not come soon enough for me.

Luckily the coastguard gave us all an early start which initiated some post-breakfast beach-combing.


We found a plethora of beautiful / deadly and disgusting Gulf-Coast wash-ups on the morning tide.

Plenty of these,


Portuguese Man of War:

(Physalia physalis)



A little disconcerting considering they were dotted at regular intervals down the beach.

We found…


one of these,

a baby hammerhead who had met an unfortunate end,


and, lots and lots of these coquina clams…her favorite (over and above the other random dead and decapitated things).



This was the last image I took before the above-mentioned sand storm blew in and destroyed the camp, (you can see the storm clouds building in the distance), unfortunately I have no pictures of it as I was fully consumed:

a) Trying to control a rather large tarp that insisted on throwing even more sand in my face while slapping at me wildly. The tent was buckled over to the ex’tent’ ahem that through the haze of sand I could make out the silhouettes of two small people huddled together, the canvas contouring to their bodies, one was crying…having fun at the beach yet kids?


b) After giving up on the tarp and ultimately cutting it loose (the long metal sand spikes attempting to hold it down had become a legitimate concern / potential Darwin award at this point) and upon entering the now buckled-over tent for my own protection, I realized the temporary domicile was filling up with sand faster than one could say ‘what the King Tut is going on?’


It was time to evacuate before we were buried alive, buried alive I say.


We threw everything that was not yet buried into the back of the truck, jumped in and slammed the doors.

It was so quiet.


This is how I looked (after I had already brushed myself down) as I checked into a local Best Western Hotel.

Never has a shower felt so good…and never have I witnessed my kids wanting a shower so much that I had to take third place in line to get one.

That was a first.


The following morning we woke up to a great view and felt refreshed after finally getting some quality sleep.

After our experience we were only too happy to be tourists for a while.

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

They had a fine time exploring “The Blue Ghost” aircraft carrier (USS Lexington),

USS Lexington

which housed a display case containing an impressive amount of knots, yes knots. If you like knots, this display case is for you.


We returned home only to find Kumo in a spot of bother with a garden spider.

Argiope aurantia

It was a beauty, with a web spanning 7ft.


No shortage of foliage this year for web spinning.



Another less dramatic excursion took us recently to the Hill Country Water Gardens:


Even in 100 degree weather, this place with its shade trees and an abundance of water features makes it feel like 98.


The ponds are stunning and so well maintained, well worth a visit.

Looking at them reminded me that I had a decade worth of organic sludge burping and fizzing at the bottom of my pond,



These fish heads were still attached to their colorful bodies.

Hill Country Water Gardens

This was the star attraction for them and one I fear I will be roped into constructing in the not too distant future.

Hill Country Water Gardens

A living fairy garden.

Hill Country Water Gardens


Returning home, I just had to make a start:


Stay Tuned For:

“National Leveridge’s European Vacation”



All material © 2015 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.


“Oh My Gourd, that Gourd is Gourdeous”

by ESP June 20, 2015
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Gourds, strobilus and some brightly colored mold feature in this weeks obscure edition.

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“Bridge Over the River Why?”

by ESP May 2, 2015
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This week I am out and about exorcising ligustrum trees with a chainsaw to cleanse an environment I have been working on.

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by ESP March 22, 2015
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Tulips, inebriated cactus and a bit of history feature in this weeks episode. Grab a Mocha mangave, your going to need it.

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“Nosy Parker”

by ESP February 15, 2015
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Stitched noses, Scale infestations and a new installation feature in this weeks episode.

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“The Appendage”

by ESP January 23, 2015
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An x-rated Sago-Palm, frost damage and the odd ghost grace this latest entry.

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“Whats in Your Stocking?”

by ESP January 2, 2015
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Christmas…New Year…drunk Largus bugs? Plus the usual splattering of fried eggs and purple mold.

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“Barf or Peach?”

by ESP December 9, 2014
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This week suffer leaf-drop, bad puns and equally bad Photoshop. I get up close to a particularly large Tachinid Fly.

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“Shelling Out”

by ESP November 16, 2014
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Cold weather, large fires and child-labor feature in this weeks random dialogue.

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“Under the Knife”

by ESP October 23, 2014
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This week I try my hand at some cosmetic surgery…as you do.
The infamous villain “Mr Snout-Nose” is up to his old shenanigans and I contemplate how ear-protection would look set against an iced turban?…Random events you could go the rest of your life without knowing about.

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“Beans, Boots & Mullein”

by ESP September 28, 2014
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This week it is about exhaling work boots, birds nest fungi and a bunch of other nonsense that you should now be accustomed to.

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“Wail of a Weekend”

by ESP September 13, 2014
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This week we hop north with the Silver Thistle Pipe Band to compete in the Capital District Scottish Games in Albany. See what rum does to an opuntia and witness some mites sucking the life out of rosemary.

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“Pain In The Neck”

by ESP August 17, 2014
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This week I get up-close to some damselfly parts.
A peek under one of my stock tanks causes me to break into yet another non-adjudicated Highland Fling.

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“Oh Drupes!”

by ESP July 29, 2014
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Snakes, drupes, you name it, I will be running at you with any dead critters I happen to come across in the Patch.

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“A Change of Scenery”

by ESP July 10, 2014
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This week we pack up the car and venture to Gulf Shores, Alabama and New Orleans. I make a heron friend and we check-in to a hotel that is not a Best Western!

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“The Normandy Phase”

by ESP June 20, 2014
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This week get to witness what the ‘Normandy phase’ of an installation looks like on a front garden in South Austin. I take a quick trip down memory lane and highlight a couple of plants that have waged war on me.

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“Oh Frass!”

by ESP May 26, 2014
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This week I discover a new word and use it way too much. Best put your food down to read this latest splattering from the Patch.

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“Uncle Wiggily wants his Ovaltine”

by ESP May 18, 2014
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Munching and hoarding insects, wizard wands and buried treasure this week in the ESPatch.

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