I am a camera.

I’ve been pretty busy lately so haven’t had much time to post anything.  Brian’s parents are on their grand tour of Europe; six weeks and more countries than I can keep count of.  Each afternoon we look forward to his mother’s recap of the day.  They make me want to pack my bags.  She’s an excellent observer and I hope she takes up blogging when they return – she’s a natural.

beer can chicken

Am still playing around with the camera – hopefully I’m getting better.  So this is just a lazy-man’s post…throwing up some recent photos.  These are mostly of the yard, but some odds-and-ends as well.

 

A couple of weeks ago, we made beer-can chicken.  I’ve always wanted to do that.  It came out great, but the rub was ‘blow-your-head-off’ hot; not for the faint of heart!

Beer-Can Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1   can light lager
  • 1   3 1/2–4-lb. chicken
    2   tablespoons  4-3-2-1 Spice Rub  (4 tablespoons kosher salt, 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, 2  tablespoons paprika, and 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper)

Special equipment

  • A foil baking pan (for drip  pan)

Preparation

  • Pour out (or drink) half of beer.
  • Prepare grill for high, indirect heat and fit with grill pan  (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on 1 side of grill and put drip pan on empty  side; for a gas grill, leave 1 burner turned off and place drip pan over unlit  burner). Add water to pan to a depth of 1/2 inch.
  • Season chicken with 4-3-2-1 Spice Rub. Place cavity of  chicken, legs pointing down, onto open can so that it supports chicken upright.  Place can, with chicken, on grill over indirect heat (and above drip pan). Grill  chicken, 

    covered, until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted  into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°, 45–60 minutes. (If using  charcoal, you may need to add more to maintain heat.) Let chicken rest 10  minutes before carving. Serve with pan drippings.

  • * Wing tip *

    Use a can opener to remove the entire top of the beer can  (pour out half). It’ll maximize the boozy vapors that make it to the  chicken.

My Evergreen Wisteria (Millettia reticulate) is blooming again.  I love this flower – it’s almost purple-black.

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Evergreen Wisteria

My Mexican Firebush (Hamelia patens); plumbago (Plumbaginaceae); lantana (verbenaceae); and shrimp plants (Justicia brandegeeana) are all doing very well.  Shrimp plant is another great garden workhorse I highly recommend.  It does very well in shade and blooms a dark strawberry colour during December.

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Mexican Firebush

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Lantana

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Plumbago and Daisy Bush

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Shrimp Plant

 

This was one of my inspiration pieces for the garden design – the “Provence meets  Austin backyard” theme.  Just a simple fleur de lis garden hose guard, but it really is one of my favourite things.

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My inspiration – fleur de lis hose guard

 

Out front, this is one of my other inspirations…apparently it’s called an armillary sphere – before Google, I suppose these were just thing-a-ma-bobs or doohickeys.

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Armillary Sphere

 

I really liked these photos of my meditating Buddha and one of my Indian stone wall lamps.

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Buddha in a meadow. I don’t think Bodhi trees grow in Central Texas.

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Indian wall stone lantern

I can never, ever remember the name of this shrub.  I’ve taken heaps of pictures of the label when I see it at ‘The Natural Gardener,’ but somehow, the name just doesn’t stick.  The blue glass is a shade from the old kitchen light fixtures we had; I love this colour combination.

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Shrub whose name I cannot remember.

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Just an artsy photo.

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Blue glass LED light shade from the kitchen

 

Yesterday, I hung a newly acquired suet feeder.  This one has a copper roof.  I’ve gone to great lengths to squirrel-proof it.  So far, so good.  A few days ago I saw a woodpecker in the tree; I hope this feeder keeps it around.

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My new suet feeder – bring on the woodpeckers!

 

And to conclude… A few days ago, my mother and I went on a driving tour through Fayette County.  In Flatonia, I finally found the house my grandmother was born in.  The fascinating thing about this house is that the chimney has a rock from each of the states (at that time).

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The house in Flatonia, Texas where my grandmother was born – been looking for this for ages.

 

Birds…and one lizard

SI ExifI don’t think I’ve written about the birds in the garden yet.  I’m pretty lucky to live on the edge of the Barton Creek Greenbelt which is a nice mix of trees (a gigantic live oak; cedars; Houston Yaupon hollies; a Texas persimmon; etc.) and meadow land.  The ecology provides abundant nesting opportunities as well as great feeding.  To encourage them to visit the garden I have seven various types of feeders (two tube feeders; a thistle feeder; a suet feeder, a humming bird feeder; a corn-cob feeder; and an English titmouse feeder) and four water features.  (I get all my seed (Supreme and No-Mess) from Wild Birds Unlimited – they’re great.  And if you use their ‘seed bank,’ you can buy in bulk and just stroll into the store and pick up a bag without having to worry about storing it. ) I used to have a Purple Martin house, but I never had any luck with it.  I’ll publish an inventory of birds I’ve seen, but this is a general overview of the standard visitors.

SI ExifI actually have a murder of crows living behind the house.  I heard them at dawn a couple days ago and got a picture of one today.  I like them much better than grackles.

Like every back yard in Texas, I’ve got cardinals.  I like this time of year – midsummer – because you can see different generations.  The newly fledged ones waiting for their crests to come on look like British punks with the spiked hair.  The juvenile males are really interesting because they often look like they have blue heads!SI Exif

Perhaps my favorite birds are the blue jays.  From their colours to their screeching to their thrust-and-parry feeding methods, there’s nothing subtle about blue jays at all.  One of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of them is from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

“…and the blue jay, that noisy coxcomb, in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes, screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove.”

wet blue jay

A blurry wet blue jay and my still-blooming clematis

This morning I saw a woodpecker.  These are pretty infrequent visitors, but I love them.  It’s amazing to watch them feed upside down from the suet feeder.

The black and yellow finches are fun to watch.  They’ll swarm around the feeders and the shallow ‘bird-bath’ fountain.  They’re definitely not intimidated by any of the larger birds.

While I really enjoy their calls, I’m not overly fond of the white-wing doves.  They’re a bit like flying pigs that gang up on the other birds and drain the feeders pretty dang quick.  They also have a tendency to fly into the side of the house; not an attractive sight.

This summer, I have whippoorwills living in the grove behind the house.  I love their calls but don’t ever expect to see any.

SI ExifWho doesn’t like humming birds?  But I never realized how territorial they can be.  The most I’ve ever seen is four, but there always seems to be a bully that’s keeping the others from the feeder.  That one sure seems to spend a lot of time and energy guarding that feeder.

humming bird1

Other birds I’ve seen in the past:  a red-tailed hawk sitting on the fence; a painted bunting; mocking birds; grackles (filth, filthy birds); screech owls (again, no success with an owl house); tit mouse; chickadees; and Carolina wrens (such a loud call for such a little bird).  My neighbor said he once saw a wild turkey in the back yard.  I’m really sorry I missed that.  Probably the most unusual though, was a road runner.  It was during the extreme heat wave in 2011.  This road runner hopped over the fence from the desiccated green belt; drank from one of the small bird baths; hopped/flew to the neighbors giant live oak; and then climbed the thing to the telephone wires behind.  It was amazing!

And here’s the promised lizard…

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