When I was a young teenager I applied to an integrated arts high school. Upon acceptance, I began my first year of the visual arts program. Day after day we toiled away on large sheets of newsprint with charcoal sticks and pastels, often complaining about how our hands seemed to be constantly filthy. One day, one of our art teachers commented on these concerns, saying, “if you don’t have dirty hands, how is anyone going to know that you actually did any work?”
This Wells Branch area activity is for just those people. People who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, and who love to experience the benefits of a little hard work. You’ll find the venue neatly tucked away behind Wells Branch Elementary school, on the southeast corner of the intersection at Single Trace and Town Hill Drive. Behind a stone fence at the back of the parking lot, iron gates open up to a thick canopy of vines, and lush banana trees. Fragrant smells of herbs and wild flowers waft past your nose with every breeze, and the sun beats down providing nutrients to every living thing that lies therein. This place is the Well Branch Community Garden.
The term “community” is really taken to heart with this concept. On our last visit to our plot, a sign posted on the iron gates announced a “garden & greet” where you can get to know fellow gardeners a little better, and make some new “neighbors”. Every trip has proven to us that these really are some friendly people who have a genuine passion for natural gardening (no pesticides are permitted). Some plot renters have gone a step further and decorated their spaces with bird baths, painted welcome signs and even charcoal grills, only further adding to its quaintness.
Sign-up for plots occurs annually, so if you’re interested, mark your calendar for the end of next January (February 1, 2008 is when the plots open up for would-be gardeners). If you are not exactly a gardening buff, or even if historically you don’t have a green thumb, the amenities at the garden will help to make sure you have everything needed for success. A compost pile lies square in the middle of the enclosed lot, there is a hose at each individual plot, and a tool shed contains a host of contraptions that can be used to till, turn and weed to your hearts content. As one of our plot neighbors said the other day, “it doesn’t get any easier than this.”
The Wells Branch MUD website states the price (annually) of a 10′ x 10′ plot as follows:
$25 per plot deposit
$25 per plot in-district residents
$50 per plot out of district residents
Here are a few websites that contain information about the gardening seasons in central Texas, and can help guide your fall and winter gardening, whether at home or at the garden.
Exploring the bike lanes in Wells Branch and surrounding areas
If you happen to live in the Wells Branch area, you’ll notice something on the side of many of the driving lanes in your neighborhood. Something that seems more akin to neighborhoods closer to downtown Austin, and which reflects a community planning strategy geared toward health and exercise. You guessed it – BIKE LANES!
Previously my family’s biking extravaganzas have focused on driving to a central location, parking and biking to eat brunch downtown. That’s all well and good except for two things, (1) we’ve pledged to make our own personal protest against outlandishly high gas prices by driving less often, and (2) I can’t write about that on Wellsbranch.org.
So, on three separate occasions so far we’ve left the car in the driveway, packed our backpacks and donned our helmets in search of the perfect neighborhood bike ride. We always plan our trip from Bratton Lane because of the sheer fact that it has bike lanes. Wells Branch Pkwy would be a great portal if it offered the same advantage, but it doesn’t, and riding on a sidewalk with a road bike is quite a painful experience. There are several levels of riding that can be accomplished in the Wells Branch area, anywhere from “kiddie friendly” to the more intense country ride. Here they are in order of intensity:
Kiddie Friendly (0-5 miles)
Every Sunday morning I find myself at the local coffee shop on the corner of Bratton and Merilltown, and frequently observe families with children of all ages stopping by on their two-wheeled caravans – using back roads and bike lanes – taking advantage of the low speed limits and relative safety of road biking in our neighborhood.
After having first moved here in 2007, my husband and I did most of our biking along these routes, which will easily take you from MUD building to MUD building, with lots of “in-betweens”. It’s great for whatever bike your using, whether it be a mountain bike, bmx, road bike, even a unicycle! Bike lanes also run by the Wells Branch library (wblibrary.org), giving you a great opportunity to mix two events in one.
A Slight Challenge (6 miles+)
Okay, this is a little more than “slightly” challenging, but nonetheless, if you’re looking for a ride where you don’t feel as though you have to push yourself if you start to get too tired, but where you have the opportunity to do so if the mood is right, this is the one.
We started out going toward IH-35 on Bratton, past Grand Avenue Parkway, and turning left on Michael Angelo Way. From there, we turned left again once the road forked. Now, to avoid going East on the toll road frontage, you’ll have to cut through the apartment community. This should bring you right out at Burnet, where you’ll make a right turn, and go under to toll road bridge. Now you’ll find yourself in the shopping district, so drive straight until you hit another dead end, you should be at Hester’s Crossing Rd. Here’s where the fun part begins, because there’s a huge hill that leads you down toward the highway. Turn left at Rawhide drive and you’re back in neighborhood roads, which can lead you all the way to FM 620, if you’re so inclined. The really challenging part is near the end, on your way back, when you’ll be forced to bike back up that really “fun” hill on Hester’s Crossing (I supposed “fun” is all about what perspective you’re looking at it from).
A Great Country Ride (16 miles+)
This one’s my personal favorite. Turning right on Grand Avenue Parkway gets you pretty much right on track. Grand Avenue has some beautiful, wide lanes that are easy to navigate, regardless of the amount of traffic.
From Grand Avenue Parkway you’ll then make a right on Pflugerville Parkway. If you’ve never been on this road before, don’t let the name fool you. When I hear “parkway” I think of wide lanes with wide shoulders, but this is not the case with this road. You’ll have to keep an eye out for traffic, but most of the drivers are quite accomodating. Once you get close the the 45 bridge, the lanes widen up a little, which helps take the edge of when you’re checking for oncoming traffic at the intersections. Go under the toll road, and Pflugerville Parkway brings you all the way to Lake Pflugerville!
If you love the country, farm animals (cows of all sorts get an honorable mention here) and the water, then you’ll definitely be in for a treat. Note that at times this ride is not for the faint of heart (country roadkill is usually far bigger than that of its city siblings). Also, you can extend this ride by turning right on Weiss, and coming full circle on Pecan Street. I usually just turn around and go back the same way I came.
These are just a few of the great rides you can take advantage of right outside of your own front door. I’ll also give a quick nod to going South on Thermal (off of Wells Branch Parkway) which leads to Metric, where there is a long and challenging ride up and down hills with bike lanes lining the road 85% of the time. If you want to get to the Arboretum by bike, I strongly recommend that route.
Hope to see you out there. Happy biking!
Several months ago I learned about the Pflugerville Farmer’s Market, which is found just a few miles East of IH-35 on FM 1825. The market is open from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. every Tuesday evening, so it might be a challenge for some 9 to 5ers to make it, but well worth your stop on the way home if you’re so inclined.
- Pflugerville Farmers Market
Once you get to the sun-baked field – located next to El Rincon and across the street from the fire station – you’ll find that you are in good company. Young parents have their children at tow, all sorts of people are stopping in on their way home from work, and knowledgeable vendors are ready to have you sample and discuss their wares.
Produce is limited to seasonal availability, and you can get an idea about what exactly that is by checking out the market’s website (pflugervillefarmersmarket.com) where you can find, among other things, a list of all vendors that will be present and what they will be selling.
Today there was a variety of goods, from free-range livestock and poultry to seasonal squash and watermelon to vegan baked goods. I even came across a booth run by an artisan who actually made bracelets out of old vinyl records (yes, you read that correctly, vinyl records!)
At one stand, I bought four perfectly ripe persimmons at the bargain price of two for a dollar. I told the vendor that they were “to freak out my husband,” referring to his natural aversion to all things fruit/vegetable and unfamiliar. “Yeah,” he said, ”tell him you got some organic fruit at five bucks a pound!”
The market’s not just for shopping, either. Every week showcases a live music act, also listed on the market’s website. This week the band was Brodie Lane, a country rock band taking requests from visitors and vendors alike. A stage is set at the back of the field where you can sit down, munch on some food, enjoy the music, and people watch.
So if you’re looking for fresh meat and produce at a reasonable price, a place to help the kids unwind after a long day at school, or just a place to hang out for an short while to get connected with the community, make the Pflugerville Farmer’s Market a go-to place on your list.