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St. John’s Episcopal Church starts labyrinth for all to garden, pray

Church’s labyrinth opens garden beds for community

The layout of a North Austin church’s meditation labyrinth has indeed provided some inspiration.

Though not quite finished, the Labyrinth Community Garden, on land owned by St. John’s Episcopal Church on Parkfield Drive by Braker Lane, is designed to somewhat mirror the adjacent meditation labyrinth.

During the design stage, “someone suggested a spiral idea, like the labyrinth,” says Hal Hughes, a member of the church vestry and of the steering committee for the garden. While in the planning stages for several years, the first 14 beds have been built so far this year, with more to come on the roughly 10,000-square-foot area, Hughes says.

“It’s open to everybody,” says Hughes, a semi-retired civil engineer. The whole reason for it, he says, is to bring together community members. Although it is a church program and operates under the church’s nonprofit status, it is not solely for church members, he says.

Heather Stettler, a member of the steering committee, emphasized that as well. “Everyone in the community can come together and get to know one another in the beautiful natural environment, growing healthy food to nourish our bodies,” she says. “That’s what we’d really like it to be: a place to get to know your neighbors while having fun gardening.”

Hughes says the labyrinth, which is about 60 feet in diameter (and nicely visible on Google Earth), started as an Eagle Scout project about a decade ago; then several years later, an active church youth group expanded and renewed it, he said.

A few years ago, the idea arose for a community garden to be on the church’s roughly 5 acres; much of that and is unused with plenty of wildflowers, Hughes says.

It took a while to get started, with preparations such as working with the city of Austin to waive fees for water taps; there were “2 inches of paper,” with bylaws and drawings, he says. “We finally got to the point where we had enough (money) to put the water system in,” he says. “It sat out here for a long time … spigots in an open field.”

Then, as they gained momentum — with more funds and members who had experience in community gardens — the first raised beds were built.

The first eight or so plots “went like hotcakes,” Hughes says.

The still-growing garden was the beneficiary of proceeds from the NxNA 2017 Garden & Artist Tour held recently. (It was also included on the tour.) “I’ve committed to a bench for the labyrinth (garden),” said E.J. Brown, co-chair of the tour, who also has a space at the community garden. “When they’re working on their plot, there’s no place to sit down.”

In the meantime, volunteers at the Labyrinth Community Garden are working toward more progress, including monthly workdays to finish building a fence, among other things. They have also gotten donations of fruit trees from TreeFolks and received several grants.

The garden beds are available in two sizes: 4 feet by 10 feet and 4 feet by 20 feet; those who are renting garden beds agree to use organic products and to donate 10 percent of produce grown to a food bank, according to the church website.

Plans also call eventually to have a pergola and other features. Though this is the first growing season at the garden, some beds already had tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and more.

“I hope this time next year, it’s going to look gorgeous,” Hughes says.

Additional information about the Labyrinth Community Garden is available at


How to create a new cactus plant from an old one

My teenage daughter has an interest in cactus. In early spring, she decided to try something she had seen on YouTube. Using basic instructions, she removed one pad off a prickly pear and let it dry out for a few days. Then she stuck the cut side down a few inches into the dirt so it was firmly entrenched. It got watered occasionally. Basically, it sat there for a good while. Neither of us expected much to happen. We were surprised one day to find that a small pad had sprouted out of the top. Cool. Then another.

This experiment was a success, but it was about to get better.

One day in early May, a yellow flower bloomed on top. She had created a lovely, thriving plant.

This is not uncommon, it turns out, according to Jeff Pavlat of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society, who identified my daughter’s plant as an Opuntia cacanapa Ellisiana, or spineless prickly pear.

“It’s pretty easy to root most any prickly pear from a pad,” Pavlat wrote, via email. “They will pretty much root in Texas any time of the year, but the best time would be early spring through early fall. If you take a cutting from a plant, it’s usually best to let the cut dry for several days before you plant it.”

Similar instructions can also be found at places such as That site says: “Propagation from pads is quick and quite simple. The pads are actually specialized flattened stems. Six-month-old pads are removed from the plant and set out in a dry area to form a callus on the cut end for several weeks.” In addition, that site recommends planting it in a mix of soil and sand.


Name that mystery vine

In early springtime, a vine with large leaves started growing in a mound of dirt in my yard. Soon bright yellow flowers bloomed, and after a week or two, something small and mostly green started to sprout.

I thought perhaps I had dropped pumpkin seeds or watermelon seeds on the way to the compost pile in the backyard. The mystery plant seemed like a gourd or melon, as it got larger, with a thick stem connected to the vine.

I sent a photo to (which is answered by members of the Travis County Master Gardener Association) for help with identification. The response said the plant had leaves similar to a tatume squash, “but the fruit itself is a bit different.”

A what? I’d never heard of this, so perhaps it came to my yard via bird droppings or some other way. Hmm.

An article on says tatume has rapid vine growth, and “it is not uncommon for it to send out 12-foot vines in all directions.”

Also, it says, the fruit of the tatume “is round or oblate in shape. The skin of the fruit is striped green and resembles a small watermelon or pumpkin in immature form. The fruits develop quickly. … If it is receiving ample water, it will go from the size of the end of your finger to harvest size in about a week.” The article recommends picking it when it reaches the size of a baseball. (Too late, in my case. This was already about 6 inches long.) Any bigger, it said, and “the seeds begin to get firm and make the flesh a lot less fun to eat.” Though I’m unclear about what makes this no longer “fun” to eat, it was time to cut it open to explore.

My husband and I cut it off the vine. After slicing it open, we found the insides were pale yellow with plenty of seeds. It looked like a squash to us.

I sent a new photo to the Travis County Master Gardener Association email, and a thorough and helpful response said: “Most summer squashes are grouped within the Cucurbita genus and pepo species. Tatume … is a specific cultivar of Cucurbita pepo that resembles the volunteer plant in your photos.”

According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension website, the tatume, “also often called calabacita” is a “hardy, open pollinated native of Mexico” that grows well in hot climates.

So, it seems the mystery is solved.


Support music lessons for kids in foster care with Kids in a New Groove fundraisers

This month, Kids in a New Groove, which provides music lessons for kids in foster care, has multiple ways to support the cause.

On Saturday, Scout and Molly’s women’s clothing boutique at the Domain, 3211 Palm Way, Suite No. 136, is donating 15 percent of sales for the day. A few Kinds in a New Groove students will perform, and Scout and Molly’s is offering appetizers and drinks to make shopping more fun.

All month long Strait Music Company and People’s Pharmacy are offering to round up at the cash register to benefit the program. JuiceLand on Brodie Lane is donating 40 percent of the sales of Wild Child Smoothie. For the adults, Whisler’s bar, 1816 E. Sixth St., is donating $2 for every drink ordered off its specialty cocktail menu.


Distillery launches second literature-inspired jewelry line

The Distillery’s Catelyn Silapachai has launched her newest jewelry collection. The Golem and the Jinni is based on the book by Helene Wecker. The book tells the story of a woman who is created from clay and a genie unleashed in the streets of 1899 Manhattan. For the collection Silapachai brought elements from Thailand that were originally from the Congo and Afghanistan.

The collection includes rings and necklaces ranging in price from $65 to $225. Find it at


Dress up the graduation gown, wedding dress with funky shoes

Sometimes the event calls for an element of decorum … and sometimes you just want to scream. If you have a few of those events this summer, consider adding a statement piece in your shoes. Hot Chocolate Designs specializes in flats, heels and platform shoes that have vibrant designs that can’t be missed like lightning bolts and geometric patterns. Find them online at and Prices range from $45.99-$99.99.


Hiatus Spa + Retreat introduces new treatments

Hiatus Spa + Retreat has introduced new treatments to its lineup for summer.

• The Epic Mani-Pedi uses seasonal ingredients to exfoliate hands and feet, deep hydration to renew dry soles and a foot massage with hot stones. $140

• The Turkish Delight uses bowls of warm water, a mint scrub, a full-body clay mask and warm body oil on a full-body massage. $175

• The Perfect Body Lift is an anti-aging, micro-circulating treatment that focuses on cellulite deposits and less-than-tone skin. $155

You can also get a brow and lash tint for $50 or just one for $30.

Hiatus Spa + Retreat is at 1611 W. Fifth St., Suite 155.

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