Friday, November 26, 2010

Mager Cemetery

"The Mager grade school once stood adjacent to this cemetery. The water supply was furnished by the well which still stands south of the cemetery. The school house had also served for a [??? as a place?]"

Matt & I like cemeteries. We're not big-time hobbyists taking rubbings or doing systematic regional surveys--not that there's anything wrong with that--but we just have a casual but long-term affection for old cemeteries. New ones you can keep, with their sharp-edged headstones tidily flush with the ground so that the dead in no way impede the lawnmowers of the maintenance crews. But old ones, with their curiously mawkish or curiously morbid inscriptions, their often puzzling imagery, their fascinating old names, and their decades-old plantings thriving on human fertilizer--old cemeteries we quite like.

We were in a roving sort of mood today, so we decided to motor off into the countryside and see what we could find. We were going to start in Coupland just because it's close, but their cemetery is treeless, which Matt disapproves of, so instead we turned east of toward Beyersville.

(Yeah, you know, "Beyersville." No? Actually, we've been here 3 years, and this is the first time we've heard about it either. Nor its sister metropolis, Structure. I doubt if together they have a population of 50 people. We never found Structure (or else we drove through it without realizing?) but Beyersville appears to be a tiny knot of ancient clapboard houses on a hill and--inexplicably--a mini-storage business. That's it.)

Anyway, long story short, we stumbled upon this neat little German cemetery just outside of Beyersville. In its suburbs, as it were. It's called Mager Cemetery, and it has a nice grove of nearly leafless trees, a pretty view of an unassuming little swale and some rolling pasture, and a bunch of naturalized old bulbs.

The light was so intense that photographing was rather difficult, but everything was brown or leafless or spare, which made the whole thing interestingly desolate and lonely.

It's all empty farmland out there for miles and miles--very few trees, very thinly settled.

Sam Wernli[?], 1859 - 1916

The area was settled by Germans (Mager was a German family that founded the cemetery), and some of the tombstones are actually in German, like that of little Reuben Wm. Mager, who died in 1926, just a few months old. It says (I think):

Shlaf wohl von deinen / Lieben fern, bis wir uns/wiedersehn, beim Herrn

Little Reuben William Mager, 1925 - 1926

Babelfish, ever helpful, translates this as:

Sleep probably of yours/love far, until we/again-long yourself, with the gentleman

Very touching sentiment.

A few of the tombstones have attracted lichen, though the organisms evidently draw a heavy distinction between the rough decorative finish in the center of this stone and the smooth finish in the margins. Headstone designers, take note: rough stone around the edges, smooth stone where the writing is would be a better arrangement.

Sophie Harms, Mother. 1886 - 1906.

One of the many things I like about old cemeteries is how people were able to mark graves with a living tree or shrub, instead of one of those awful sterile little metal vases sticking up out of the ground holding plastic flowers. And since the people were buried in things that were capable of decay, and they were, themselves, allowed to decay instead of being pumped full of nasty chemicals, fifty or a hundred years later, their plants still flourish. Though the people are gone, their substance has been reabsorbed into the living, breathing world around them. Much better than being mummified in a horrible cement bunker, though I suppose Nefertiti and Hatsepshut and Akhenaten and all the rest would disagree with me about that.

In this cemetery, a century after her premature death, little 4-year-old Clara Walther has transubstantiated into a glossy-limbed crape myrtle.

Clara Walther, 1906 - 1910

And a couple of folks have sprouted venerable old rose bushes, including one that I suspect is a swamp rose (Rosa palustris).

Long-lived Barbara Thonig, 1832 - 1922

I don't know what kind of rose this is, nor whom it marks--I'd like to take cuttings of both, though, and return in the spring to see them in bloom.

Karl Shlenfeldt, 1879 - 1908

Mager was our big find for the day--Coupland, Butler, and Structure (if we ever passed it) didn't turn up anything good, at least not from FM 1468, 419, or 696.

However, when I looked up Beyersville back at the house, I found a list of nearby communities:
  • Beaukiss, TX (6.8 miles SE)
  • Carlson, TX (9.3 miles SW)
  • Conoley, TX (10.1 miles ENE)
  • Frame Switch, TX (8.5 miles WNW)
  • Lund, TX (8.2 miles SSW)
  • Noack, TX (3.6 miles NNE)
  • Norman, TX (9.9 miles W)
  • Normans Crossing, TX (9.7 miles W)
  • Rices Crossing, TX (8 miles WSW)
  • Sandoval, TX (9.3 miles NNE)
  • Shiloh, TX (7.6 miles E)
  • Siloam, TX (6.4 miles SSE)
  • Thrall, TX (6 miles NNE)
  • Type, TX (4.7 miles SSW)
  • Waterloo, TX (9.6 miles NNW)
  • Wuthrich Hill, TX (8.2 miles NNW)
Surely, there are bound to be a few more good cemeteries in Type, Frame Switch, or Noack, right?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

WHAT a Nice Weekend!

It was beautifully Novermbery this weekend--very grey and dull gold. The sky was all mottled and sulky, and all over town leaves are turning. A good color scheme for the sort of chic, minimalist, neo-60s interior design I would never have. It would make a very elegant sofa.

Yesterday, Matt shoveled all the remaining crushed granite around the flagstones on the terrace. He does a much better job than I do: somehow, his section is much firmer and stabler than mine. (Matt is generally better than I am at manipulating and arranging physical objects--he just knows how to make them go.) In this case, I think he used water to help pack the granite in and fill in any voids.

Meanwhile, I installed the remaining landscape lights--we replaced the uplights on the Montezuma cypress and 'Purple Robe' black locust with lower wattage lights (the existing lights were a little too... much) and added a few more pathlights.

What this means is: the terrace is done! Huzzah! The entire pond project still has several more phases, but the terrace part: finis.

Our friends Kate & Keith joined us for dinner to celebrate the inauguration of the terrace. Matt's grandfather had given us a whole bunch of frozen venison, including three "doe hams." So we had grilled venison ham with asparagus and mushroom Israeli couscous and spinach-cranberry salad. Keith handled the grilling of the venison while I finished the couscous, which turned out to be a good thing. Venison ham is a weird cut. I think it's actually any of several cuts of meat from the deer's haunches, since the first doe ham, which we marinated and roasted in the oven last week, was a solid chunk, while the one we served the Ks was a sort of long thin chain of meat, shaped kind of like a sirloin flap for fajitas, only lumpier. I knew I was going to have trouble using a meat thermometer with such a thin, irregular piece of meat, and I was afraid of overcooking it. Keith managed it nevertheless, and it turned out very tender and flavorful.

Then we sat around the fire, listened to the fountain, and chatted about this and that.

And then this morning Matt & I biked over to Dos Amigos for some delicioso pork carnitas tacos.

The weather was beautiful all day, so while Matt worked on his greenhouse, I tidied the climbing roses a bit and painted some stones as markers for some of the crinums and tender perennials.

All in all, a very good weekend.

Grilled Venison Ham Recipe
Marinate the venison for 8 hours in ~1/2 c olive oil, ~1/2 c wine (I had white on hand, but red might make more sense), 5-6 sprigs rosemary, 1-1/2 tsp salt, and 1-1/2 tsp ground black pepper.

Using a very sharp knife, lard the ham with chunks or pieces of bacon. (We used bacon chunks that we bought last spring at Dzuik's in Castroville.) Larding involves cutting small (~3/4") deep incisions in the thick part of the meat and then stuffing a piece of bacon into each.

Heat the grill to medium-high. Grill until a thermometer inserted in the thick part of the meat reads 150F (medium).

Let the meat rest for 10 minutes, and then slice thinly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Just Me and Mr Shovel

There were big doings around the pond last weekend. Here is a hint:

Something has changed--but what is it?

To be a little more explicit, this is what it used to look like:

Great big honkin dirt pile on right--4 cu. yds.

Now it looks like this:

That dirt pile is ALL GONE.

Where did it all go? In the new beds around the pond:

The new beds wrap around the pond, are interrupted by the baby bur oak, and then follow the walk around to the shade patio

We plan to put the barbecue pit here, behind a trellis.

We've been having fires on the terrace at night.

And I moved it all by myself. Zoiks, that was a lot of hard labor. And we have to do it all over again with the crushed granite to fill in the patio. :-(

Worth it, though. Love, love, love the pond, terrace, and beds.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Awesome Freaky Rose

A couple of days ago, I wondered on this blog which roses would end up populating our still-in-progress pond beds.

The answer came a little sooner than expected: deliciously weird floribunda 'Wedding Cake' (Ralph Moore, 2006).

It's rather rare, but Rogue Valley Roses offered it as wait-listed. It wasn't much of a wait, though, because I signed up yesterday and got an email offering the rose today. I hadn't actually meant to commit quite so soon, but what the hell.

Here's one of the very few pictures I was able to find online:

Photo posted by the_dark_lady on gardenweb. You can see a few more pix at

Isn't it nifty, with those odd greeny undertones near the center?

It is a modern (that sound you hear in the background is Matt pretending to gag--he doesn't think much of moderns) and a relative unknown, so it's a bit of a risk, but as rose dorks I think we have a responsibility toward the peculiar and fabulous. And I, for one, do my duty.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scary Black Foam and Other Pond Endeavors

We put it off as long as we decently could, but it was finally time to dismantle the waterfall that came with the property and rebuild it in a new, shiny, more waterproof fashion.

The three key elements for this project were:
  1. a large scrap of pond liner
  2. a lever + Matt's muscles
  3. pond foam
You can see all three (minus the muscles) in the pic below. We used the liner scrap to make a sort of diaper beneath the top layers of rock. The hope is that any water that doesn't drop straight into the pond will collect in the diaper and drain into the pond from behind the waterfall.

The waterfall rock pile, in the middle of our reconstruction efforts.

Many months ago, Bob from Draco Gardens had suggested the use of puffy foam-in-a-can to stick the rocks to the edge of the pond. It was only later that I discovered that foam-in-a-can actually comes in a special pond flavor (i.e. black) to blend in with the liner.

It's like Easy Cheese, only black!

It's useful stuff, but watching an oozy black blob suddenly erupting from within the crevices of the waterfall is a little unnerving. Reminded me of some low-budget horror film about The Thing from the Swamp (actually, I think it was Creepshow II. How the hell I know anything about Creepshow II is a mystery to me, but there it is.) Ultimately, we will need to cut off the excess foam, but we're letting it cure first.

So after putting the diaper in place and using the foam to create a channel on the main tongue of the waterfall, Matt worked on levering the massive top rock back into place. What's weird is that this actually worked. One man and a stick. Moved that giant rock several feet. Kind of amazing. Am now so unimpressed by ancient Egyptians and their weenie little pyramids.

Matt, showing the ancient Egyptians how to get stuff done

We still need to put more rocks on the waterfall tongue, cut off the extra foam, and put more foam inside the waterfall to control the water, and there are more big rocks to be levered into place somehow. Nevertheless, we're very close to having a working waterfall here. How the fish will enjoy all that water circulation and oxygenation!

At the same time that Matt was levering like mad, I was shoveling. We bought 4 cubic yards of topsoil from Bert's Dirts and 3 cu yds of crushed granite to finish off the terrace and build up the bed around the pond. Matt didn't want my help with the boulders (he seems convinced--perhaps not entirely without reason--that I would find a way to drop one of those 400-lb boulders on my own head. I'd argue the point, but I've still got a knot on my right foot from where I dropped a flagstone on myself a month ago. Ouch.) So I worked on the dirt. I shoveled about 1.5 cu yds of the soil into the new bed (will add pic later), which filled the existing part about 2/3. We still need to edge about as much space again, so there is more shoveling in my future.


7 cubic yards of stuff that needs to be shoveled. Oh my God.

But after that--more roses! Will it be the eglantine rose? 'Abraham Darby'? 'Mme Wagram'? 'Bayse's Purple'? 'White Pearl in Red Dragon's Mouth'? 'Wedding Cake'? 'Honey Dijon'? 'Tipsy Imperial Concubine'?

(Actually, I can pretty much guarantee that it will involve 'Tipsy Imperial Concubine.' That's a name too good to pass up, nevermind that it's a rather prettyish old Tea rose.)

Unrelated Addendum: Guess what's happening right now? It's raining! For the first time in over a month! I love rain!
Related Posts with Thumbnails