Thursday, April 28, 2011

Black Bean & Corn Confetti Salad

 Denny and I went to a gardeners' pot-luck picnic a few weeks ago.  Most picnics here involve BBQ, the national dish of Texas. My contribution was this salad, because beans and corn are  natural sides for BBQ.  Plus it's tangy, crunchy and colorful.  And yes, prep is easy and fast. A side benefit is that it doesn't go bad sitting out on the table if the pre-dinner announcements go on and on, as sometimes happens when folks get to talk in front of a captive group.

Our picnic was nice.  Beautiful gardens, good weather, nice people.

And toward the end of the afternoon, in true Hill Country fashion, an unexpected guest. 

Barn owl, stopping by to check things out.----->

Prepare the confetti salad a few hours ahead of time to let the flavors penetrate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves about 16 as a side dish.

3 cans no-salt black beans, rinsed
4 cups frozen corn, thawed, microwaved 2 minutes & drained
1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, washed & chopped

Put all ingredients together in a large bowl.

1 tsp kosher salt 
1 tsp coarse brown mustard
2 minced jalapenos (with seeds)
4 small-med cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup cider vinegar
enough olive oil to stick it together without becoming thick (I know, that's not an exact measurement, but I have faith in you.)

In a small bowl, whisk the dressing until well combined.  Adjust salt to your liking.  The dressing should taste tangy and garlicky with a pepper bite.  You need intensity to balance the sweetness and starch in the beans and corn.  

Sprinkle over the salad and toss well.

Enjoy, and hope for the unexpected.
 Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Instinct and Survival

Every day is different in the Hill Country.  

I think I know the patterns and seasons for our land...but this year is never last year.

Black-chinned hummingbirds breed in the Texas Hill Country.  The first one returns to our place in mid-March.  He probably spent his winter in south Texas.

Black-chinned immature male on Texas Betony.  Note longer beak in proportion to head, one of the identifying characteristics. ------>

Ruby-throated hummingbirds, on the other hand, commute from Mexico and stop only to refresh.  They wash up in my waterfall and nectar at my Texas Betony and feeders before resuming spring flight to northern breeding grounds.
This year one male ruby-throated is taking an extended vacation here.  I know because he's taken to sitting atop the feeder, and no one else does that.

I'm wondering how he knows it's been a late and cold spring up north, which means fewer gnats and flowers now.  Or whether he's heard about the Texas wildfires, including today's four major fires covering more than half a million acres.  More acreage has been scorched this year in Texas than exists in the entire land mass of Rhode Island.

It's a mystery, the instinct of penny-weight birds.  And survival, for all of us.
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Play Me I'm Yours

Seen on the Pfluger ped & biking bridge over Lady Bird Lake in Austin. 

Public art, Austin style, courtesy of Art Alliance Austin.  30 or so pianos placed around the city for anyone to play and hear.  I found four along the walking path at Lady Bird Lake.  Ragtime, boogie woogie and Tchaikovsky a short walk apart.  

Go soon, the show ends April 30th.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Only a Little Plant Crazy

Last Friday was the first day of the Lady Bird Wildflower Center's spring plant sale, the Members Only Day.  Every native-plant gardener for 250 miles took off work and drove to Austin, parking pickup trucks a mile down the access road.
Those of us who were only 45 minutes early found unofficial parking spots before joining the line at the gate.  My friend Cathy and I took her yellow wagon.  If you don't take a wagon, how will you carry all the trees you don't have spots for but can't live without? 

And you NEED more trees in heavy 5-gallon pots, even though your land is six months into the next big drought and you promised yourself after the last epic drought you wouldn't plant any more trees you'd have to nurse through another Great Dessication.

Friday, I NEEDED another Escarpment Black Cherry, a tree rare and growing rarer in its native Hill Country range.  To have an Escarpment Black Cherry is to believe in hope.  Two is heaven.

<--Escarpment black cherry # 1, planted last year.

And two Apache Plume trees (Fallugia paradoxa), to make up for the one I killed last year.  I'll plant these Apache Plumes (more like oversized bushes than trees) in areas with fewer rocks & more dirt, where they'll get a little afternoon shade, and I'll water more this year, drought or no, even if it's the 5-gallon bucket with holes in the bottom method. These trees will live, the birds will love the shelter and I'll love seven months of pink feathery plumes every year.

I NEEDED 11 more perennial wildflower plants (plus 3 annuals--but they reseed) for which I have no beds.  Plus SIX seed packets (5 more than prepared beds).   

Texas Yellow Star (Lindheimera texana), Lindheimer's Beebalm (Monarda lindheimeri), Pink Guara (Guara lindheimeri 'Pink')--do we see a theme here?  As the botanist who first categorized many of our region's native plants, German immigrant Ferdinand Lindheimer is often called the Father of Texas Botany and the plants he discovered carry his name.  I had only one species, the Lindheimer senna, so there was no choice, was there?  Now I'm planting living history and later I'll share with friends.

 New Braunfels mural celebrating Ferdinand Lindheimer and his contribution to the town.

More plants--perennial winecup, Mountain sage,  Heart-leaf Skullcap, Prairie Flax, Hinckley's Columbine, Damianita, and Indigo Spires--another blue sage. 

I planted all day Sunday, making beds as I went...and still have more to put in the ground.  Now that my back's in working order again.

Hope you're good, and planting some history of your own this spring.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.