Sunday, September 20, 2009

View from Above

Oh, I was so virtuous! I researched egg-intensive recipes to use up the overabundance of eggs from our CSA! (Lemon-basil popovers--good--and--not so good--"Floating Islands"--alarming poached foam blobs bobbing in a sea of yellow custard. Along with brains in aspic and Jello salad with marshmallows, Floating Islands is one of the food textures I ardently hope to avoid for the rest of my days.) I biked to HEB instead of driving! (Better for the environment! Better for my health!) And I risked life and limb to apply more roofing goo to the garage roof. From which sticky and tar-encrusted perch I took this picture.

The Rose Garden Grows Up
Doesn't the rose garden look pretty? (The bit that isn't blocked by my car, at any rate.) It makes me so happy these days. Things are blooming all over the place. Matt's been weed-whacking the property aggressively, so much of the summertime shaggy brownness has been replaced by a trimmer greenness. The roses are putting on size and filling in nicely. The passionflower keeps blooming away with its big extravagant purple flowers. That particular cultivar is our only answer to the gorgeous, jewel-colored, luncheon-plate-sized clematis that people grow in England (those jammy bastards!) Our "Maggie " propagule (earlier known as "Mystery Red Cabbagey Rose"--propagated at the 11th hour from a hand-me-down shrub with a terminal case of Horrid Fungus--is small, but its three or four little limbs bloom constantly. The trellis, up which two '4th of July' roses are slowly climbing, gives the pleasant illusion of a modicum of privacy, as we had hoped.

And we sit out in this newly temperate weather, watching hummingbirds and herons and painting buntings (well, technically, just the one painted bunting), eating the sometimes tasty and sometimes foamy and disasterous products of our recent adventures in local food, and admiring all the blooming things. And life seems good.

Roofing Goo
Our shack/garage has always leaked, so for ages now we've been meaning to seal up all the seams in the metal roof with roofing goo. Hooo-wee! that's a messy project! Roofing goo is this thick, rubbery sticky mass, like a cross between melted mozzarella and tar. It's so cohesive and springy that it doesn't want to stick to the places you smear it, but it does make ineradicable and self-propagating messes on any other surface that comes near it. My clothes were full of it, my arms were coated in it, and I had to cut some out of my hair.

You may have wondered, how much roofing goo (technically, "roof patch") do you need to seal the seams of a battered old metal garage roof? Well, it took me three cans to seal up one side (i.e. one-quarter) of the part of the roof over the original 1-car garage-shack. Mind you, I was also applying seriously copious quantities to the valley where the old shack's roof and the new(er) 2-car shack's roof meet, so without the valley, it probably would have taken 2-1/3 (1-gal.) cans of goo.

Extrapolate that over the entire garage minus the ~2 cans Matt had already applied, and it comes to about 16 cans of goo for the rest of the project. Leapin' lizards, Daddy Warbucks! That is going to take a very long time to complete. And at ~$15/can, it going to cost around $240.

And, depressingly, when we're done, our garage is going to look like a monochrome Mondrian. Which means we'll need to paint it silver with some sort of metal roof paint.

Oh, sigh....

Or maybe we should just paint on some red and blue and yellow squares and do the thing properly. Why be bourgeois?

Biking Around Elgin
I've meant to do more biking now that we live in a small town and can actually run errands on our bikes--and without getting run over, either. I need a new bike (mine is a boy bike hand-me-down with one of those awful bars right where one's most delicate parts are. It is also 2-3 inches too tall for me, which makes stopping at intersections a real production), but I first need to ride my old one enough to justify the purchase. (I'm going to get one of those endearingly dorky-looking 1950s-style cruising bikes with a big metal basket. My current model is a torture-machine of a mountain bike.) On top of that, now that it's actually pleasant outside, I find, to my amazement, that I actually want to go biking. It's kind of fun.

So I bought a new, extra-cushy granny-seat, a new set of lights, and, to Matt's infinite amusement, a pair of padded fingerless biking gloves. Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blooms from Autumn Rains

So we finally got a good, long, soaking wet. We've apparently received in the vicinity of 4 inches over the past two weeks. And when it hasn't rained, it's been overcast, which is wonderful too--highs in the 80s! I think it may really be Autumn (thank heaven!).

And suddenly, there are interesting plants all over the place. Pecans, it seems, are not the only ones to thrive on adversity.

Oxblood Fest
The most wonderful are the oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida). Most of the oxbloods in my yard bloomed a week or two ago, presumably in response to the new watering system. But feral oxbloods around town seem to have been waiting for a proper rain, and now that they've got it, they're blooming with breathtaking ferocity. This is the best display I've seen since moving to Elgin. Actually, I think it's the best year for oxbloods that I've ever witnessed. I'm guessing it required the drought to retard the blooms and then a really good, long soak to make them all pop out at once.

The funny thing about oxbloods is that they are so long-lived and so retiring when not in bloom that people tend to forget they're there. So long after houses, flower beds, and walkways have been knocked down or moved, the oxbloods remain, faithfully marking those old features. And since most the houses in Elgin are old, you see a lot of oxbloods around, often rather haphazardly sprinkled around properties that were once very differently configured.

Older Elgin homes with scatterings of oxblood lilies
Mr. M's Oxbloods
One of the most impressive displays of oxbloods in Elgin (perhaps the second most impressive--the very best is on the eastern leg of Main Street, very near that yummy taco shack I mentioned a few posts back) is in our next door neighbor's yard. And they ought to be, I suppose; he's 90 years old. He's had time to let them grow and multiply.

Look at that lovely smear of scarlet. You'd think they were Dutch tulips, wouldn't you? I still think oxbloods should be planted in puddles and banks, not in straight lines, but for sheer volume and intensity of color, this is pretty impressive.

Mr. M's oxbloods

Look at that jubilant red!

Oxblood closeup

Mr. M's oxbloods (again)

Copper Lilies
For some reason, it is also a particularly good year for copper lilies (Habranthus tubispathus var. texensis), an orangy-gold rain lily. In our yard, we've have a number pop up all individually in the middle of the lawn, but other people have great drifts of them, like these folks below.

A drift of copper lilies

For a good closeup, check out this pic at Bayou City Heirloom Bulbs. They're shy, modest little flowers, but with very interesting coloring.

Or here's wikipedia's pic of a solitary specimen:*

Wikipedia's copper lily

And here's a nice little bank of them right opposite Meyer's BBQ.

Copper lilies on Hwy 290

Other Blooms
We've had some other very nice blooms in our yard lately. Here's another picture of that passionflower that I find so entrancing. I think it pairs very nicely with the deep pink of the "Maggie" rose, don't you?

'Dark Purple' passionflower and "Maggie" rose

And 'Buff Beauty' is blooming and growing all over the place. Finally. After two years of sulks. I do love these colors, though, so the wait was worth it.

'Buff Beauty'

*Come to think of it, I actually originally wrote that article on copper lilies in wikipedia. For some reason, the whole rain lily group was sadly underrepresented. But someone else supplied the image

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


See what I mean about the pecans? All three of our pecan trees are full of great, fat pecan fruits. These are nearly the size of lemons.

And look at our old pecan tree in the front yard--so heavy with fruit that its branches touch the ground.

In past years, the old tree has aborted its pecans before they were ready. I'm hoping that this is a better year for them, though I can't imagine why it would be. Perhaps pecans thrive on adversity.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Little Red Taco Wagon (Dos Amigos)

My path & the little red taco wagon's finally intersected at a time when the thing is actually open (it's called "Dos Amigos," but its most noticeable feature is that it is a trailer that's painted bright red).

Since they don't post their hours and don't appear to have a website, I asked at the window. For future reference:
Saturday: 6:30am - 3:(30?)pm
Sunday: 8am - 2pm

On Saturdays, they have fajitas, tacos, elotes, and quesadillas. On Sundays, they have carnitas & some other stuff.

For those of you who have never been, Dos Amigos is located in an empty lot on the eastern leg of Main Street here in Elgin. There is only one window, and the line is long, so you don't want to lollygag. Make up your mind quickly and deliver your order snappily. The majority (about 2/3) of the clientele are Hispanic (always a good sign for a taco shack), but no Spanish is necessary to place your order.

I mention all this because their tacos are deee-licious. They actually smoke the meat in a big pit out front, so their chicken fajita tacos are beautifully tender and wood-smoky and meaty.

The tacos come with a layer of soft stewed beans at the bottom, a heaping serving of meat above, and a couple of generous spoonfuls of salsa on top (available on the side if requested, but as it's a surprisingly mild salsa, I wouldn't bother). Even the beans are good--a little smoky themselves, and cooked down to a moist flavorfulness. Easily the best tacos in Elgin, and honestly, I can't think offhand of any chicken fajitas tacos from anywhere else that I prefer.

Thank you, Dos Amigos! Long may you smolder!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fuzzy Morning Pictures

I was on my way out the door this morning when I saw this particularly lovely bloom on 'Souvenir de la Malmaison.' Work's been a bit tiresome lately, so I thought I deserved to take a few minutes this morning walking the garden and go in a little late. Timeliness is for drones.

This was a very nice thing in terms of seeing flowers as their first, freshest flush. It was not such a good thing in terms of taking photographs. Today's efforts are a sort of expressionist meditation on a flower garden in the middle of a late summer renaissance. (What exactly, you might ask, are the photos are meant to express? The deplorable effect of a lack of light on photographs, I think.)

Anyway, I'm abjectly sorry for the blurriness, but there's so much going on that I had to post them anyway.

For example, this blossom shows the distinctive, delicate coloring on S de la M: Palest pink petals with dark pink in the flower's interior.

A young 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' bloom. Apparently, in motion.

Also, these red lycoris (L. radiata) are in bloom. I don't have many of these bulbs, and they only bloom once a year (if that), so I had to snap while I could. These are in front of a trellis of 'Red Cascade.'

One of our very few Lycoris radiata plantings

Red lycoris and oxblood lilies bloom in the same general season, but I don't think they usually bloom at the exact same time. However, these are. Our yard seems to be in the peak of Oxblood bloom--perhaps hastened by the new irrigation system. The two pictures show the difference in color between these two somewhat similar amaryllids.

Oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) among the weeds & bananas

We've got a mysterious pink-striped crinum that's about to pop.

Unknown crinum buds

And this morning one of my 'Ellen Bosanquets' was rearing up proudly. Unfortunately, by evening the stalk had flopped over, as this particular specimen tends to do. Red-leaved crinum in the background.

The lilac-pink-and-apple-green buds of Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet'

Our little 'Mlle. Franziska Kreuger' is covered in little pink balls. None of them are looking their best--all a bit spiky and scruffy, thanks to the weather--but as there are rather few pictures of Mlle. FK online, I thought I'd post this one.

'Mademoiselle Franziska Kreuger' tea rose during a drought

The Triumph of the Pecans
Meanwhile, our pecans are heavy with fruit. The old one in the front yard is to wieghed down that its branches are touching the ground in several places. And fat! I can't believe how big these pecans are. Where did the trees find the water to manufacture fruit so large? We gave them a few (very few) shots of water over the summer--but I can't think that 3 sprinkles with the hose could be transformed into much of anything. Goes to show what I know. I've got one of those pecan picker-uppers that looks like a slinky on a stick, so once they start dropping ripe ones, I'll start collecting.

Believe it or not, this thing is actually sold on amazon under the name "Pecan Picker Upper."

Pecan pralines, pecan tarts, pecan cookies, candied pecans, spiced pecans, pecan pralines... And this weekend I'm going to make pumpkin-pecan bars.

Fall's a-comin'!
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