Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Far from done

Although the first schoolhouse lilies to bloom are now shooting up leaves, we continue to see new blossoms. The last to appear are those back by the compost pile, the ones originally from Bastrop.

Monday, September 29, 2008


A certain State licensing board, one that enforces the racket of continuing professional education, not only does not furnish a pre-addressed envelope in which to enclose dues, but also returns a certificate for the new year that is not perforated, one that the recipient must cut out with a pair of scissors.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Radiant lycoris radiata

The striped leaves have appeared for years in the front yard, all by themselves, apart from other places that sprout leaves each year, and very occasionally flowers. This particular clump of leaves has never, ever produced a flower. Until this year: bud-stalk yesterday; flowers this morning. On the other hand, this is so far the only spider lily that has bloomed. I love the way that a perfect circle is formed. These make beautiful and long-lasting cut flowers, but it has been years since I've been able to bear to bring any indoors. I like this description, although it doesn't emphasize the texture of the petals and the way that there's a perfect circle of blossom atop each stalk.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Beanly blossoms

It's been so hot all summer long that only now are some plants beginning to bloom. This morning there are flowers on a hyacinth bean for the very first time. These are grown from seeds produced last year by the rogue specimen that did not produce shiny purple pods, just green ones. The seeds and the flowers look the same as those produced by the purple-podded plants, but the pods are not shiny and are pretty much the same color as the leaves.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When you know you know a lot of songs

So we were watching an episode of the Danny Thomas show from 1956. The beginning was not the chorus, even, but I said, "This is going to be 'So Long, Oo-Long (How Long You Gonna Be Gone?)'" and sang the chorus, but I wasn't believed. Sure enough, that's what it turned out to be. Harry Ruby (of the song-writing team of Kalmar and Ruby), of all people, was on the show. What I didn't realize is how old this song is: it dates from 1920. Everybody sang, and most played the piano, and well. They all had an encyclopedic knowledge of songs of all sorts, from hymns to folk to Broadway to art songs and opera. Some of that has lodged there in my brain for decades, and useless details float up to the surface at unexpected times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Still on the way

It seemed that the oxblood lilies had peaked, but such was not the case. Maybe by now there are more that have opened and then withered away than there are that will spring up and open; I don't know. But we're still seeing large numbers of fresh ones every day, some in surprising places. Thank you, squirrels!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mystery flower

These are very beautiful, and quite small. They are not the customary zephyranthes rain lilies, whatever they are. The petals are joined, but are not pointed. They are more in the form, first, of a narrow trumpet, then a bit of a bowl or bell, then semicircular petal edges (everything joined all the way up). They are a bit like a shorter, wider, single freesia blossom. We've seen three so far. They are a sunny, egg-yolk yellow, with red- or pinkish-brown streaks or striped on the back surface (a color similar to Tubergen's species tulips). They are quite short-stemmed and spring up without leaves. We have never seen them before, at least not in our pleasure grounds. Did the birds bring them?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


In a piece about sticking it out in New Orleans ("Choosing to Ride out the Storm," NYT, byline Mimi Read), the author mentions that most people, in this age of air-conditioning, have removed their window screens, if they ever had any at all, which means that insects are free to come and go if the windows are ever opened. She writes about being without electric power. I remember doing without electricity. It's refrigeration that's a wonderful thing, especially if you have no place to fish and you're living a long way from where you can shop for perishables. I remember iceboxes and also kerosene-powered fridges. It's the fridge and its contents that I worry about most when power goes out there. We do have window screens and we do have battery-powered fans, a wind-up radio, and lots of flashlights, and we try not to be overstocked with items that are frozen or that need to be kept cool. One of the things that I keep reading about the absence of electric power is that children are difficult to keep entertained. This, I don't understand.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pompeiian fashion

I read The Last Days of Pompeii when I was a little kid. It was a very cheap edition and was illustrated with black-and-white photographs of those plaster casts made when Pompeii was excavated (the dog, and so on). Kids who read will consume whatever's around. We were talking about this the other day. Anyone interested in color knows Pompeiian red. Anyhow, I've been using odd bits of time and leftover dishwater to clean up crockery that has become grimy during all the never-ceasing "remodeling" going on around here. This is a bad scan of one piece of transfer-ware. I like the calico design on the rim. In the center is more calico floral ornament, incorporating lots of sprigs, along with two urns on plinths. The one in back is more like an handleless amphora or perhaps a perfume vessel; the one in front is a krater with a cover. Depicted on it are three human figures. They may all be women (the Graces?). The dress appears to be from the 1830's. Stamped on the back is the following:
I find nothing about this pattern, but do find something about the pottery. From the years given for the pottery's operation using this mark, it appears that I've been quite accurate in dating the ladies' costumes. The pieces shown are flow blue, not transfer-ware, but some of the patterns listed are "Indian," which accounts for the calico- and coral-type border.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tossing around some geo-terms

I've been reading The Nightingales of Troy, by Alice Fulton, whose poetry I've enjoyed. I first found it in The New Yorker, and, just as with poetry and other writings of Joyce Carol Oates, I recognized certain references to particular places. The book came from the library, using my borrower card for the first time in over a year. The reasons why I hadn't been using it won't be discussed right here, right now, but I intend to write a long letter to pertinent people when full library-related serenity returns. Anyhow, I find this collection of linked short stories to be a bit disappointing. They're somewhat mannered and treat certain people, sayings, ways of making a living, etc., as "exotic." There are also lots of internal inconsistencies. An example is that, on one occasion, an orphanage is referred to by a fake name and, on another, by its true name. A building that existed for a century and a half or so is called by its true name, but a long-time ground-floor business in that building is given a pseudonym. Examples of mentions include St. Colman's, the 'Burgh, the Sunset, Herman Melville's house, Frear's (without an apostrophe), Freihofer's horse-drawn delivery wagons, Lord & Tann, Watervliet, the Phoenix Hotel, and the Puritan. Richard Russo covered nearby territory in a much more authentic and revealing way in Mohawk and Nobody's Fool.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Angels with fringe, part 2

This is the flip side of the item pictured in yesterday's posting (q.v.). I found this when I was organizing and sorting. As the weather improves, there will be more entries in the scan-o-tron category. (I'm not the only one who remembers Johnny and the Space-O-Tron, which I did read in Jack and Jill in 1952 and which has been republished under another title; I always think of this story when I see any reference to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.) I found some old lift tickets back when an item like that cost about three dollars for the day if bought before noon. Who now remembers the Poma lift?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Angels with fringe, part 1

I thought that this had disappeared. This is one card of two glued in such a way that a silken fringe is on all four sides. The typography is probably late nineteenth century, although it could be after 1900 and before the Great War. I don't know whether this chromolithographed item was a Holy Card or just a Bible bookmark. This is the side that's the worse for wear. I treated most of my stuff very well, but accidents do happen. At least it's not mildewed or faded.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

At their peak

The oxblood lilies are now at that point where there are as many as there will be. More will come, but older ones will shrivel, and the quantity will diminish. We find odd ones popping up here and there, thanks to the squirrels. A neighbor who has tried for years to move all his from a bed where a prior owner grew them finds new ones every year in the old location. They are all so beautiful, appearing where there was nothing visible just hours ago. We have seen monarch butterflies. I think that the newspaper gardening columnist thought she had aphids when what the picture showed was asclepias with butterfly eggs on the stems near the flowers. We still see some hummingbirds.