Yeah But Well the Weather. And Cupcakes.

I’m running way behind in everything everywhere. It’s true that I have become a world-class procrastinator lately, but last week was really not my fault. See, I was interrupted.

Last week I was all set to write a post opening up with Yeats:

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
                                         The woodland paths are dry…

but to be honest, our trees aren’t in their autumn beauty yet. It was mainly that the woodland paths were dry. Everything was dry; the landscape was beginning to look like the moon.

By this time in the growing season, my general unruliness has collapsed into an unsavory blend of laziness and indifference. We only used the automatic sprinkler three or four times this summer, and by early September I have always quit watering altogether, my attitude hardening into its most rigid thrive on your own or die position.

So I’d planned to spend a Friday morning taking a few dried-up-garden shots and writing a little piece about the end of summer – even though it was still in the upper 90’s. Here in Zone 8, dryness changes the landscape long before nights cool and leaves begin to turn. But then clouds arrived, and filled the sky from end to end, and the purple sage announced that rain was really a possibility.

Between Thursday and Friday we got three solid inches, and by Saturday the woodland paths – or at least our garden spaces – weren’t dry any more. When you are interrupted by rain in Texas, it is very unseemly to complain about it. And no matter how long I’ve lived here, I hope I never get over my amazement at the way a landscape can go from beige to green overnight. The corner bench space transformed into its complete hideaway mode.

I swear I’m getting more like an animal running on instinct every day: interrupt me in a task and I will have to start the whole thing all over again, unable to figure out what in the world I was doing in the first place. I’ll be heading off to the front bathroom with an armload of towels, hear my phone ring, wander off in search of the phone, and…well, I just don’t know what happens after that. Towels on the dining room table, and me heading out the back door to put sunflower seeds in the feeder. This kind of thing, and sore body parts, seem to be the Story of Aging.

On the other hand, getting older is very permission-giving. I loved my 40’s because in that decade I discovered and embraced the strength and power associated with being an older, solid citizen. I had experience, I had a voice! I could trust my instincts, blast out my opinions, and feel a sense of holding onto the bigger picture. From the night my father took me out onto Central Avenue in the faint hope that we might catch a glimpse of Sputnik, to the night I was making out with some cute guy as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon; from Watergate to 9/11; from Vietnam to Afghanistan – I finally believed I’d lived through a great many things. I felt I had permission.

So, interrupted by rain and a birthday party, I thought I might just post a few random scenes from around the yard. I’ve been immersed in Thug Kitchen this morning, so it’s amazing I can even be polite about the idea. (If you are unfamiliar with Thug Kitchen, be forewarned: lots of people would have had their keyboards washed out with soap for typing language like that.) If I were writing Thug Garden, I’d write, “I don’t give a @#$% what you think! I’m posting this !@#$% !@##$ whether you !@#$% like it or not!”

But I’m not a thug. Just unruly.

Our American Beautyberry lives at the end of the driveway, in a truly neglected corner of the yard. It was here before we arrived, and I was really glad to find it. I’d only seen one at my mother-in-law’s Nacogdoches house. Just as in a vineyard, the purple and green make a combination no painted interior could ever pull off. I’m sure AB prefers the humid conditions of east Texas to our tropidesert offerings, and I’m also sure that this one thrives because of our next door neighbor’s generous watering schedule. Smart location you chose, there, Miss Beautyberry!

While we’re on the subject of color, this Agave Harvardiana is the prettiest shade of silver-green imaginable. It just POPS out of its deep green surroundings, reminding me that I don’t pay nearly enough attention to planting foliage in a wide range of colors. Make a note.

Nearby, the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – remember her? –

– has gone the way of milkweed. I won’t even think about aphids till next spring.

Sometimes, impatient as I am, I scoop a handful of these silky seed-feathers and deliver them to various sunny places in the sidewalk garden. I like to think I’ve contributed to their appearing here and there around the yard.

A little way up the street, at the corner by the stop sign, the Inland Seaoats (Chasmanthium latifolium) have produced these graceful fronds of seeds. Which is nice, but I’ve never had the “problem” of aggressive spreading that my gardening book warns about. Annoying. This is a plant that thrives all over the greenbelt; you know I believe “invasive” is a dreamy characteristic in landscape plants; and I can’t get it to reproduce itself even once.

This guy, on the other hand, stirs to life in all sorts of places that aren’t actually flowerbeds. Why do you prefer gravel walkways and sidewalk cracks, you lovely thing?

We had magnificent weather this past weekend, once the rain passed through. Think of every synonym for “perfect.” Think solid blue skies, zero humidity, cool breezes, cool shade, brilliant sun. No way in the world was I going to be sitting indoors with a laptop. Whatever indoor time we had was spent getting ready for Floyd’s 60th birthday party, then the party, then the dishes. Procrastinator’s heaven. No blog post again.

When I throw a party that merits decoration, I like to use it as an excuse to pick up a few new items for the landscape. When I went to the nursery Friday morning after my Italian lesson (Sledd’s, right across from Nau’s Pharmacy up on West Lynn), I had to hustle: the nurseryman said hail was on its way. So I only had time to grab a few things:

A couple of cactus bowls to perch atop the room divider Floyd had just finished;

one “San Pedro” cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) because, well, you know – San Pedro;

and a few plants for the autumn garden: basil, arugula, and kale:

Other decorations were found at Central Market, including some gnarly gourds

and autumn-looking stems that will pay for themselves by making it seem like I’ve paid attention to Halloween, when in reality all I’ll have to do is hang our ghosts from the live oak and buy a couple of giant bags of candy.

I’m no Martha Stewart, that’s for sure. I would have loved to do the baking for Floyd’s birthday, providing him with two of the sour cream pound cakes that are his favorite; but last week was so crazy I couldn’t put a couple of hours together without putting myself way past my bedtime. And I’m too old for that.

Fortunately, I know a beautiful woman who has a vegan bakery called Celeste’s Best, and she was able to provide three dozen assorted cupcakes that were utterly delectable. No one, no one would have guessed they were made with zero dairy (and even vegan sugar that is not ground through bones) if I hadn’t been running around bragging about their vegan-ness.

It turned out to be a wonderful party, with Floyd’s brother and sister-in-law down from north Texas for the night and a couple dozen friends and family members in to celebrate. Our house held an assortment of mountain bikers, speed skaters, world travelers, small children, and musicians – the kind of eclectic bunch that my multi-talented sweetheart would naturally pull together. We ate pizza, veggies, a quart of Torchy’s queso, and lots of cupcakes. We drank beer and Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc and juice boxes.

It was a splendid interruption.

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