Friday, June 26, 2009


Here's how the Seasonal US Drought Outlook describes conditions in Central Texas this summer:

It purportedly reached 107F today in Austin, though it was only a balmy 104F here in Elgin. IN JUNE.

Concomitant bad plant news: the new weeping yaupon crashed this week, the baldcypress that's been struggling grimly ticked several notches toward "mostly dead" and away from "partly alive," and the Montezuma cypress, hitherto so blithe, is suddenly full of rusty leaves--oh, it's not good, not good at all.

Bright spots in the crispy, sere gloom: Some plants that are practically never watered seem perfectly unconcerned about living in the heart of a neutron star* (I just threw "neutron star" in there because it sounded good--what I'm really trying to convey here is that it's quite, quite hot. Are neutron stars very hot? Or are they sort of wussy little failed stars? Because we're like a raging inferno of nuclear fusion--not like a chilly old has-been of a star. We're talking greater than 3,700 degrees Kelvin in my backyard.) The troopers are Lacey oaks (Quercus laceyi), the antique rose 'Georgetown Tea,' the antique-ish rose 'Belinda's Dream,' and the Eve's Necklace (Sophora affinis). Honorable mention to the Tilia, which does get some water, but grows and thrives far beyond the effort put into it.

So. More water.

This weekend, the 'Mutabilis' roses and the 2 oaks on the south side of the house. And the Chitalpa as part of the blue-and-purple garden. The 'Mutabilis' don't actually need water the way some of our plants do (O, baldcypress, nothing we do is good enough for you. Why? WHY?), but they are plants with a mission--to make a big, dense hedge for privacy--so Matt really wants to give them every possible advantage. The oaks, children of that blissful rainy summer 2 years ago, need next to no supplemental water, but I'm becoming tree- and shade-obsessed. I'm desperate for some relief on the barren, exposed southwestern sides of the house. So we're giving the oaks a steroid shot, metaphorically speaking. Grow little oak trees. We need you.

Of course, it's too hot to work (or think or breathe) outside when the sun's up, so Matt & I were out between 9 and 10 this evening doing yardwork, pruning the moribund baldcypress, and watering with the zestful abandon of a freshwater Poseidon. Meanwhile, Elgin's got a festival going ("Western Days," I believe this one's called), and the music from the park--of the "Margaritaville" and "All My Exes Live in Texas" variety--wafted across the backyard. Not the accompaniment I'd have chosen, but I suppose it's local color. (There is an inevitable repertoire of songs played by bands at street festivals. And sure enough, before too long they were covering "Brown-Eyed Girl," which will be stuck in my head for the next three days.) Anyway, there's something oddly decadent about doing yardwork in the dark.

And there is also something peculiarly liberating about being completely hot and sweaty and disgusting, at least at night, when the sun's gone down. You pass beyond all hope of keeping up appearances or maintaining a genteel pretense of hygeine. You abdicate all responsibility and just glister wetly in the moonlight: reechy, humid, and torpid. You are the wetness and the wetness is you and everyone is completely feral and gross and unlovely and no one cares. I suppose it's the sort of defiance of les convenances that nudists find so intoxicating.

CSA: What Do I Do with All This... Okra, Beets, and Chard?
The BEET risotto went well. I roasted the beets for an hour, then finely diced them and cooked them into the risotto. Also added a handful of chopped prosciutto. I thought the taste was pretty good, though I had some slight qualms about the discernable texture of the beets. Matt didn't have "qualms," as such--he just hated it. A texture issue for him too.

I made OKRA beignets (substituted 1 c boiled CSA new potatoes for the 1/2c rice) to use up about half of the okra--wow--very tasty! Very crisp and delicious and creamy and tangy, and they improve after sitting in the fridge and then being refreshed in the skillet the next morning. I struck out here too with Matt, which didn't surprise me. You could taste the okra and the slices were very apparent in terms of texture. No slime, though.

Shall be trying seared leeks with CHARD and stealth beetloaf--meatloaf with grated beets mixed in. Here's hoping both the flavor and texture are subsumed by the beef. I don't want to send Matt into despair or anaphylactic shock or something.

Thus saith Wikipedia: Neutron Star - "The temperature inside a newly formed neutron star is from around 1011 to 1012 kelvin. The neutrinos it emits carries away so much energy that the temperature falls within a few years to around 1 million kelvin." Yeah, that metaphor will work.

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