Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coincidence just realized

I don't think that "Osnabruck" (or spell it with an umlaut or with the letter "e" following the "u") is a geographic name that comes to mind often. My Latin teacher was born in the German one and I used to visit relatives who were residents of the Canadian one. I will always have fond memories of that teacher, who taught us lots of German drinking songs, in addition to seeing us through Caesar, Cicero, and Virgil and the like. The farmland that I knew, with dairy and hay operations and lots of oats in the fields as well, disappeared to make way for the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Another monarch rescue

Were they swept in on these fronts? Are they home-grown butterflies? For the second time within a week, we've ushered a butterfly back outdoors. Once back in the great outdoors, the first one hung around on a four o'clock plant for hours and hours, but finally was no more to be seen. The second one found its way immediately to an orane-and-yellow potted asclepias and offered lengthy attentions to the flowers. This one definitely appears to be a male, so I won't expect to find an dusting of eggs on those plants, at least not immediately, not from him.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Marvelous seasonal first

As always, the four o'clocks have appeared in all the usual places and a few more. They shoot up suddenly, and the first blooms have appeared, on a plant in the shade on the fig-tree side of the compost bin. Another common name for these sturdy returners is marvel of Peru, but, oddly, the scientic name means marvel of Jalapa. We've tried to establish other colors, but the one that returns faithfully is always the magenta version, although some plants are brighter in color and others are more faded. These are the same flowers that, if left undisturbed, are to be found in every Austin yard of a certain vintage. I'm rather fond of the soapy scent, despite myself.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Color revealed

It's shell pink, a hollyhock again after many, many years. This seedling persisted and began shooting upward and forming single buds in the axils and a large cluster of them atop the stalk. The blossoms are single (I see no use for double hollyhocks). Nearby is a pot that contains sweet peas now blooming in five colors: an orange red, a blue red, a shell or blush pink, a periwinkle blue (great scent!), and those handsome bicolored purple ones (Cupani).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

From a new angle

I don't much care for the new Long Center so far. We'll see. Our seats have the same number as they did at Bass Hall, but everything's configured differently and so we're quite a bit off to the side. The good part is that they're aisle seats. The pitch of the seating makes it tougher to see over tall people, but there's more leg room, a huge plus. I don't think that the seats are any wider or any more cushioned than those now agiging at Bass. There is something very peculiar about the acoustics, but what is to be attributed to the hall itself and what to amplification isn't yet clear. It is very strange for applause, usually not particularly loud in any performance space, almost hurts the ears. Out on the windy paved terrace that faces downtown, the night skyline is spectacular. That was a great surprise.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rain is better

Many types of seeds show a much better germination rate if they are moistened by rainwater and not by water from the tap. This is somehow not surprising, but I'd never seen such a statement in writing before. I found it in How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (by Jill Nokes; an updated edition), thanks to the library. This information is brought to you by the department of factoids.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mourning the landscape

Recent events haunt my dreams. At least we admired the way that the sunbeams fell on those particular poppies every single morning. I don't know the proper name for that very woody giant sprawling juniper, but everybody says that it was planted back in the 'Fifties. It was like a giant bonsai, with much twisting and striation of the trunks and bark. The middle section fell victim to a hit-and-run incident in the middle of the night one year. The uphill section was severely grazed on this occasion and has lost a good half of itself; the most downhill section was entirely destroyed, mostly snapped into pieces, but not entirely. Somebody wielding the most impressive pickaxe that I've ever seen grubbed out almost all the roots, which took quite some doing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The buzz on buzz

The term "buzz pollination" is new to me. It's used in this article praising native bees for their unheralded work among the flowers. I've always known a lot about how they pollinate, but never this expression. We always keep all sorts of plants just for the birds, the bees, and the butterflies in all their stages. I have never been able to find out what are those very large, iridescent and metallically blue insects. I've always thought that bumblebees are hairy, but I don't think that these are. Some insects permit a close approach, but these don't. Perhaps they're some sort of beetle. They're very large, with a large and rounded thorax and abdomen, as I recall. I haven't seen any yet this season, although I have seen those very big red wasps. I'm happy to say that we see honeybees throughout the year and that they don't seem to diminish in numbers, at least not in our yard.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Resembling a child's drawing

We plant most of our spring bulbs out in the sunniest yard and we don't do it in beds, just scattered in the St. Augustine. While the leaves are dying back, it's easy to mow around things using human energy and the non-power reel mower. This scheme works well because the squirrels and the birds assist us. We wouldn't be able to keep things in designated locations apart from the lawn even if we tried. What was once an allium encirclement of an old flower bed bordered by cobblestones and chunks of limestone with fossils in them has continued to return where it was planted all those many decades ago, but individual alliums appear out in the grass, just where the squirrels planted them, and they enhance the anemones, ranunculus, narcissi, daffodils, and other spring flowers, including stock and all those delphiniums or larkspurs. These latter were planted atop the trench opened in that yard in order to replace some Orangeburg pipe. They have continued to return. Adding to them are additional seedings by us in places where the lawn is bare, plus an uncountable number of volunteers springing up everywhere in the lawn. We also put poppies in the bare places. Oddly, we're finding little Johnny-jump-ups that have self-seeded in the lawn and are only now coming into bloom.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Seeing as how"

This is used to mean "since" or "because," and I don't know why it came to mind. I certainly haven't heard anyone say it in ages. Here's one thing that the 1993 edition of The Columbia Guide to Standard English has to say: "countrified and unacceptable at any level." I'm not surprised; I was just curious to see how strongly its use would be condemned.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bright as flowers be thy life's fair hours

This chromolithograph image is on embossed paper and is glued to a die-cut card slightly thicker and slightly smaller than a modern business card. The heading of this entry may be read using a magnifying glass. It is printed on the blue label beneath the heart-shaped box of candy being proffered by the hand at the end of a yellow-sleeved, white-cuffed arm. The acompanyment comprises two doves, roses, and forget-me-nots. This is from between the pages of a Geburtstagbuch or birthday book that has pages not much larger than this card. This is part of the scan-o-rama series of entries.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sentiment on an easel

This embossed, die-cut chromolithograph image of an easel accompanied by a yellow rose and a framed verse is glued to a thick die-cut card that is slightly larger than a modern business card. One leg of the easel is truncated. This is from between the pages of a Geburtstagbuch.
I cannot paint thy portrait,
My love, thou art so fair!
But my heart be thy mirror
I hold thine image there!
This may have been a sticker. This is one of the scan-o-rama series of entries.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Austin tracks

When I wrote about Maverick LP-001 the other day, I found nothing helpful on line other than the album's inclusion in two artists' discographies. For the Record: Austin Country 1973-1978:
Side one
High Texas Rider (Augie Meyers and The Western Head Band)
Still Hung Up on Yesterday (Jon Emery and The Missouri Valley Boys)
Million Miles from Me (The Reynolds Sisters and The New Oso Band)
Henrietta (Doug Sahm)
Rear View Mirror (Bobbie Earl Smoth)
Side two
Cowboy's Sweetheart (Marcia Ball and The Misery Brothers)
Country Groove (Doug Sahm)
Bye Bye Baby (The Renolds Sisters and The New Oso Band)
White Cross on My Tombstone (Jon Emery and The Missouri Valley Boys)
Meet Me in Seguin (Carolyn Meyers and The Western Head Band)
Deep in Love (Joe Gracey)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Files on files

Every household was once assumed to own a toolbox. General-interest magazines had ads for such items as Nicholson files. The Nicholson name is now owned by Cooper Industries, a Texas company, and the files of this company, founded in Rhode Island in the nineteenth century, are held by the Rhode Island Historical Society. Here's one such ad. I'm trying to find pages from the Saturday Evening Post, without success. I did find this great steel engraving: see the grindstones, the windows providing natural light, and the twin drive-shafts and individual harness-leather belts running from them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scribble, scribble

The big project this evening was determining which pens by the telephone (no-frills POTS, thank you) still work and which don't. I'm pleased to report that gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez gave away quality writing instruments during his campaign.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Favorite word of the week

It's for shim: calza. It's also a wedge, and some people say it's the word for shoehorn.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yet more tribute

Ponder Lee accounted for two rats yesterday, as it turns out. Another was found in the traditional drop-off spot. This is the location checked when the dead rat was found yesterday in an unusual spot, but at that time there was nothing new to be found. Ponder Lee has never delivered any dead birds or squirrels, but she has been known to pay some attention to butterflies and moths.

Monday, April 14, 2008

More tribute

Ponder Lee struck again. Between the time the plants in pots were watered and the time that it was light enough to see the demesne in sunlight, the small tiger cat known by many names had left a deceased roof rat at one of the doorsteps. I read a piece in the paper this morning about the unceasing din of Cairo, described as resembling the sound of a lawnmower next door all the time. That's what Austin's like these days, only add chainsaw, string trimmer, leafblower, pressure washer, and every sort of construction noise to that, from before dawn to after dusk, seven days a week. No wonder rats are looking for a home: maybe it's that their old ones are being demolished or maybe they are just seeking peace and quiet.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bowing down

Loquat fruits are bigger and more numerous than they've been for many years. We don't eat them, but all the creatures do, and occasionally passers-by gather some, with or without permission. This is possible because the limbs are so burdened that many of them touch the ground or nearly do so.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Floral bounty

Here's what we're seeing now: super-tall dark-blue delphiniums, lots and lots of firewheels, Drummond phlox, lots of ranunculous (predominantly shades of yellow now), a resurgence of red and blue St. Brigid anemones, the shorter variety of alliums, milkweed of both colors blooming while the leaves are being consumed (mostly by parsleyworms), nasturtiums in pots, cyclamens in pots, our dollar clematis, lantanas, stock, blue spiderworts, sweet peas and garden peas, poppies of several varieties (reseeded corn poppies, American Legion and Angel Wing Shirley poppies), bachelor buttons in several colors, one Johnny jump-up, pink oxalis, black-eyed Susans, gazanias, pinks, tomato plants, and chile plants. The hollyhock keeps going upward and more buds appear each day. The color's unknown, but flowers do appear to be on the way.

Friday, April 11, 2008

That's why the tune is so catchy

The Rheingold beer jingle has a pedigree, or at least the music does. The writer of the lyrics is unknown. The words also stay in the memory. I heard this tune on KMFA last weekend, where the composer was announced as Waldteufel, known to most of us as the composer of the Skaters' Waltz, but the credit must have gone to his arrangement, since he's not the original composer of the tune. This information is brought to you free, courtesy of our department of factoids.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A rule of multiples

Anyone who has heard any of these live at least once will have heard them live several times: Peter, Paul and Mary; Pete Seeger; Conway Twitty; Loretta Lynn; the Statler Brothers; Marcia Ball; Van Morrison; Junior Brown; Don Walser; the Cornell Hurd Band; Alvin Crow; the Geezinslaws; Bob Dylan; Thelonious Monk; the Supremes (Motown sent them everywhere, with a huge investment in evening gowns and gloves); Sly and the Family Stone; Johnny Degollado; Ruben Ramos and his band; Joe Ely; Dave Van Ronk; the Ike and Tina Turner Review; Ponty Bone; Toni Price; the Isley Brothers; and many more. These are just the ones that leap to mind because I've heard them multiple multiple times, not just "more than once."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


The one-dollar clematis from Albertsons is really coming through this year. So far, there've been fifteen giant striped flowers. We have hollyhock hopes, too, because at last a plant is shooting upward and has flower buds. The color is yet to be determined.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Arrivals today

We're enjoying poppies galore: Shirley, Iceland, those Angel whatever-they-are poppies (pink with picot edge), tiny corn poppies, and more. There's blue showing in the tallest larkspurs. The short alliums are blooming. We have our first sweet pea, coral. Bachelor buttons are coming into their own.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A fleeting presence

We've seen little in the way of Lilac Wonder, just a few Tubergen's Gems, and no red and white clusiana tulips, at least so far. There are more leaves than ever, the show of flowers is not much. Maybe this is a regrouping year.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Team player

I would never draw up a job requisition seeking a "team player." Any vita or resume containing this term goes straight to the bottom of the pile. I'm not a team player and I don't want to work with any team players. I like honest, and just plain present, not late or absentee or working some special personal schedule. Smart and inventive are good, too. What is the opposite of "team player"?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

"Let that be a lesson to you"

Is there anyone left in the world who still says that? Just wondering. A Google search does bring up several pages of results, some of them odd.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A personal touch

I recently ordered several books from David R. Godine and, not long after, received a letterpress post card with a brief handwritten note of thanks from Mr. Godine himself. The first book that I ever ordered from Godine was String Too Short to Be Saved, by Donald Hall, which I have given as a present to many people, all of whom profess to love it and most of whom buy copies to give to others. Here's a Google preview. Anyone who has spent time with older people born in the nineteenth century or on an old-fashioned non-specialized farm or who just enjoys reading a good piece well told loves this book.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

You bet!

We've been watching some 1954 episodes of You Bet Your Life! and they are extremely entertaining. I liked them the first time around and I still do. The pairings of contestants in the four shows seen were fascinating. Teen-agers of the time looked like people in their forties today. George Fenneman was keeping score manually (confirmed) and someone, perhaps he, must have been keeping an ear out for the secret word. I'd forgotten that Groucho smoked a cigar continuously (and I don't mean continually). The commercials left in are great, too, for DeSoto, of course. "Tell'em Groucho sent ya." Thank you, Austin Public Library. I hope you have more of these on the shelves.