Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tale of the Talinum

Here is Mr. Jack Daniel presiding over a rock filled with fossils and my Talinum parviflorum. Plant, rock, and swizzle stick are all foundlings. Mr. Daniel was rescued from the mud at the Steeplechase course three days after the 2009 Iroquois Steeplechase. I don't remember where I found the fossils, but I found them in the eighties. The Talinum, the prairie fameflower, was a volunteer I found last summer in a most unusual place. It is not blooming yet, since it was almost murdered by a cutworm, but I have hopes that it and its ten seedlings will flower this summer.

Here is its story-

Years ago , in the side yard of my old house, I planted a rock garden. Smaller plants, and rarer, I placed in containers. I wanted to grow the Limestone Fameflower-Talinum calcaricum- which grows in Middle Tennessee's cedar glades, but I could not buy the plant anywhere. I settled for the Prairie Fameflower, and for several years it prospered and seeded everywhere. I even gave some plants to the people at Moore and Moore Garden Center here in Nashville. But time and shade, and crowding out and neglect overcame my rock garden, and when I left the house,and my friends and neighbors rescued what was left, there were no more fameflowers.

I moved a few of my plants to containers at my apartment. Some of my old plastic self-watering pots I brought along too. One had a split in it, but I kept it in the bed of my truck because it had a gravel and soil mix I thought I might use. The summer grew hot, and I procrastinated . I kept meaning to save the soil and toss the pot, but it was the summer of my Annus Horriblis, and I had no energy to do it. Every work day the pot rode downtown and spent the night in a parking lot. Every time I drove the wind whipped at the few tough weeds still alive in it. Then one morning I walked out to get in the truck ,and saw a purple flower in the pot among the fried weeds. I had my talinum back, and who knew how long its seed had waited. I moved the pot to my foyer garden where the fameflower bloomed till fall. And then- I could not find it. Lost again I thought. Until it came back this spring. The day after I found it,it disappeared.Then I saw its bulbous stem with the green needle leaves lifeless on the soil beneath it. I blamed the chipmunks at first, but then realized that this was the work of a cutworm. I rescued it, and gave it its own pot and put it on the top tier of a plant stand. Unless cutworms can fly it is safe. I found its offspring in the split pot and moved them to high ground too. Under the watchful eye of Mr. Jack Daniel.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The Annals of Nursing- Part Four. Consequences and Changes.

This photo is of the old Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital on Maynard Street in Hanover New Hampshire. It is no longer there. The hospital- now Dartmouth-Hitchcock- moved to Lebanon, New Hampshire.

This post is the fourth installment in my memoir about "nurses training" in a diploma school of nursing circa 1969. It begins with my return to school after cutting classes to go to a peace march in Washington.

Part Four

When I returned from my outlaw weekend at the November 1969 Mobilization in Washington, I went back to classes on Monday as though nothing had happened. And for a while, it appeared that nothing had. My school was silent. My instructors were silent. They were waiting.

Dr Sandra Mackay was a senior year instructor with a doctorate in nursing from Cornell. She was an imposing woman, and ever the champion, mentor, and friend of the students. I can still see her,always in a dress covered by a white lab coat, always in black heels, waving her arms as she talked, pushing her blond pageboy away from her face. She was loud. She was opinionated. And she had connections. Her husband was the handsome Dr Donald Mackay, an oncologist at the hospital. If the School of Nursing wanted me out, they would have to go around Dr Mackay, for she was on my side. Dr Mackay liked the brighter, more spirited girls. She counted me as one of their number.

The woman the school sent on that mission was Genevieve Clark, an LPN turned RN who was my freshman clinical instructor. When I walked into her office for my review, days before Christmas break, I saw I had not walked into an evaluation. I was there for The Talk.

Mrs. Clark did not ask me if I was sure I wanted to be a nurse. She told me that she, and the school ,did not think I was nurse material. She was going to fail me in clinical, for I had committed sins. Two of them. I had taken a woman's blood pressure,and the woman complained I had pumped up the blood pressure cuff too high and hurt her. Secondly, I had not been able to find a patient's hairbrush. It was in the far corner of her bedside drawer. A real nurse, lectured Mrs. Clark, would have been more resourceful and aggressive. A real nurse would have wanted to find that brush, and would have searched that drawer till she found it.

This was ludicrous. It was weak, and I knew it. Could Dr Mackay save me? I was not sure. I had to save myself. I went on the offensive.

I told Mrs. Clark that I wanted to be a nurse more than anything in the world. To prove it, and to get more experience I would go to Dora Jean Johnson's office and offer to work as a nurse's aide every day of my vacation. And I would work for nothing. I do not remember that Mrs. Clark had anything to say. I left her office and went to Mrs. Johnson, and when I left her office, I was saved. Dora Jean Johnson, the hospital's Director of Nursing- fat, pink and grandmotherly- was now on my side too.

I did work everyday. I worked the old West Wing, an open pavilion ward with a unused fireplace in the center, and bed after bed lined up along the walls with the only privacy a curtain. The only time I ran into trouble was with the West Wing's head nurse, who may or may not have been in league with Mrs. Clark. A staff nurse asked me to run and get some oxygen tubing. It was a mistake to ask the head nurse where to find it. This giant woman, six feet tall, a lesbian whose lover was head nurse of the Dermatology floor, picked me up by my collar, dragged me down the hall, opened the door to the supply closet and shoved me in to where the tubing was. After that, I was careful who I asked. I became a model nurse's aide. I worked where they sent me, and I did not complain. They even sent me to The ICU one night to help a young RN who had four patients. She was a lovely girl, who was happy to teach. She showed me how to irrigate a G-tube, and when I did it bright red blood came back, for the patient was bleeding from an ulcer. Here it was! Excitement and incident. I was seduced. I was going to be an ICU nurse when I graduated.

Christmas break ended. The School, impressed by my sacrifice, let me stay. I never heard another negative word. But there were many changes happening at the school at that time,and a student who cut classes to march on Washington was not so shocking anymore. Not when the School's new Director was a nun who had renounced her vows and fled the convent. The School had hired a woman who hated rules, and we had plenty of rules for her to hate. Having liberated herself, she decided to liberate us. No more permission slips, no more parietals, no more enforced bed-times. Soon we were out late and wandering all over Hanover at will. If we could find someone to buy it for us ,we drank Gin Fizzes and Boone's Farm low wines as we gathered in the lounges we called the "smokers" to hang out. It was 1970, but at the School the Sixties were triumphant.

Thus concludes Part four. Part Five will cover the rest of my freshman year, and the summer before I became a junior.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Urbanscape- Courtyard on Hayes Street.

Rain and Reflection

We in Nashville are under a Tornado Watch until this evening. A cool front is going through. When I left work this morning the sky was getting dark, and the 37,000 people down on Broadway did not care. There they were - streaming up to Centennial Park for the start of the Music City Marathon. Then they came back, running down the middle of the road . This was hard on everyone trying to get to work in the Downtown Hospital Hive, and our day people were late. My co-workers were contemptuous of the marathon mob. The people I work with never run anywhere, and they smoke more than they walk.

I had to take Charlotte Pike home, past the Goodwill and the $12.00 tire stores and the street corners where homeless guys sell the Homeless Newspaper. Past old defeated men , bearded, with backpacks and worn guitar cases- all holding cardboard signs begging people to give them a ride somewhere. I saw the wild and weedy pink primrose growing along the chain link fences guarding abandoned lots.

At White Bridge Road I turned east, headed back to the Money Side of Town. Had I turned west on Briley Parkway, driven under Interstate 40 out to Centennial Boulevard I would have run out of road and into the Cumberland River, but not before passing some of this City's most dismal destinations- the Motor Vehicle inspection Station, the Drivers' License Testing endless line, a mini-mart that is the last civilization before The Charles Bass Correctional Complex for Men , and lastly, the Big House. The Riverbend Maximum Security Prison. The ladies live just across the Cumberland at the Tennessee Prison For Women.

All day rains in this city are rare, except when a front stalls. Then we have 4 day rains and flood watches and flood warnings. Last year my suburb put in tornado sirens. Bellevue is hilly though, and tornadoes prefer to run around downtown where it is flat. Out here they just bounce off the tops of hills.

So here I sit, trapped inside with the hounds. "Tosca" is playing on my tinny little radio, courtesy of NPR, which for this afternoon has preempted its usual All Jabber All the Time programming for opera.

I am trying to decide, while waiting for Tosca to throw herself off a building in the last act, what book to read next. I finished Nan Fairbrother's "Men and Gardens" last night. I started a New York Times bestselling novel I bought at Kroger, but after 50 pages I was tired of "wistfully" and "hopefully", and all the other dead adverbs and adjectives. I decided the book was "banaliful", a word I made up.

What to read next? "Imperial Life in The Emerald City"? Do I want to read about all those Bush Brownies doing a heck of a job in Iraq? Or perhaps Moss Hart's autobiography "Act One", the story of his life in theater.

I will decide later. Tosca is singing. The music sounds ominous. And now the audience is applauding.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two heartening sights

I drove over to the park this afternoon and saw two very good things happening. Stone masons were working on the pillar and wall on the south side of Old Hickory Boulevard where it divides Edwin Warner Park from Percy Warner Park. The stone walls at both parks were the work of the WPA, which put men to work during the Depression. Many of those walls are crumbling and need attention. Maybe they will now get it.

The other good thing was the fleet of white buses from the Harpeth Hall School I saw parked at the Nature Center. Any field trip that gets little girls away from their myriad screens and out of themselves is a good thing. Perhaps one of these girls will be another Rachel Carson or a female Edward O. Wilson. Sometimes all it takes is a spark-

My Gazpacho

This is a recipe for my sister and for friends and for all others with no time. I made this in under 10 minutes. Most recipes for Gazpacho call for peeled and seeded tomatoes. I ignored this advice. After all, I eat the whole tomato all the time.

Gazpacho is a classic Spanish cold vegetable soup.( I have seen it described as a "liquid salad".)It is cooling and spicy- a good lunch to be eaten al fresco on a warm Tennessee spring day.It requires:

3 tomatoes. I like the ones that are sold as a family group of four still attached to their vines.

1/2 of an Armenian or hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, or 2 or three little conventional cucumbers, peeled.

2 slices of a good white bread, with crusts removed.

Sea salt to taste.

2 large garlic cloves, put through a garlic press.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

Cut the tomatoes into quarters, after cutting away the stem end.Put the tomatoes in the food processor, along with the cucumber, which you have cut into several pieces. Add the garlic, and the red wine vinegar. Cut up the bread slices into cubes or tear it with your hands. Add it to the food processor. Pulse everything until it looks like the liquid salad it is meant to be. Now add the sea salt to your taste, and even a bit more vinegar, if you like. It is ready for lunch now. This yields 2 or 3 servings.

Some Gazpacho recipes call for adding a green bell pepper. I will add one when I have one. The other variation I want to try comes from "The South America Table" by Maria Baez Kijac. A Spanish chef in Madrid gave her his secret- he added a roasted red pepper to his Gazpacho. I will mention that Kijac adds water to her recipe. To make it soupier I suppose. I believe that this dish may have a hundred variations, and they are probably all good.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Goodbye Cable

My black cable converter box is sitting in the foyer, ready to go back to Comcast. The last bill did it- $165.00 . If I save that every month I can afford a trip to the Pirate's Cove Cottages in Cedar Key. I can walk into town and buy a muffin and smell the oyster mud and watch the roseate spoonbills on the mudflats near the bridge. I can walk out toward the airstrip and meet ladies who live on the canal and offer me cuttings of plants I admire. I can drive out to Robinson's and buy shrimp. I can go to the Shellmounds and see the Zebra Longtail butterfly and the lobelias on the road verge. And Reelfoot- I could go there too, and walk the levees and see the Mississippi Kites and the otters and abandoned old roses that still bloom along the bar ditches.

I will miss HBO. I will miss Bill Maher. But not as much as I miss Fairhope Alabama, and Cedar Key, Florida. Reelfoot Lake, and drives down the Natchez Trace to Vicksburg and Natchez.

Cutting cable was a good decision.

"Pioneering with Wildflowers" by George Aiken

My mother gave me George Aiken's "Pioneering with Wildflowers" when I was ten. I still have it. Aiken self-published the book in 1933, before he was elected Governor of Vermont. He was later Senator from Vermont from 1941 to 1977. He was that rare thing- a progressive Republican, and he stood with the little man against monopolies- banks, marble and granite companies. A man who loved wildflowers, and his country. A man famous for saying of the Vietnam disaster that the US should just declare victory and come home.

My old book is stained, and inside are the notes of an 11 year old girl who had just built a lathe house for growing wildflowers on the edge of her father's vegetable garden on an old farm on the banks of the Little Sugar River in North Charlestown, New Hampshire. That child was me.

A great man to remember, especially when New England now sends former male models who posed nude on the cover of Playgirl to the US Senate.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fortress Dill

This pot of dill seedlings is now fortified by plastic knives and plastic forks with tines up. This will not stop cutworms or the larvae of the Swallowtail butterflies that come later, but will give pause to the chipmunks who want another cache for their sunflower seeds. I tried knives and forks in my old vegetable garden to keep the rabbits out. It worked, providing I used enough fake flatware.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Missouri Primroses

Although the leaves differ a bit from some pictures I have seen, I believe this to be the Missouri Primrose-Oenothera missouriensis. It is a rare and protected plant in Tennessee. It is found in cedar glades, though this patch is near the stone wall at the Steeplechase overlook at Percy Warner Park.

Ghost Garden

Here are more pictures of my old garden. It is fitting that these photos of old photos seem so ghostly, since this garden exists now only in these pictures.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Plectranthus "Mona Lavender"

I bought this last spring. The hummingbirds came to it, and it was worth over-wintering. It liked the south window, though it did not bloom there, and even when the double impatiens next to it attracted white flies, this plant stayed clean and healthy. I have cuttings in potting soil sitting inside quart ziplock bags. I am also trying to root it in water, for this has worked for me with plectranthus species before. I gave my friend Sharon Rose several cuttings. Sharon, who once tried to grow tomato plants on her roof hoping they would get sun, lives on a wooded hillside. I hope this plant does well for her. I had it in shade last summer, and it never seemed upset about it.

This plant was hybridized at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town.

Coleslaw for Barbecue on a Bun.

After cooking Mrs. Beatrice Mize's Shredded Cabbage (Recipe posted today but came in as an April 12 post since I had saved it as a draft), I had half a purple cabbage left.I decided to make coleslaw. As a lover of pork barbecue I know the best place for coleslaw is on barbecue from Whitt's -lovingly sandwiched between the hamburger buns Whitt's sells for $1.89 a dozen.

Coleslaw with Creole seasonings

1/2 medium size purple or green cabbage
3 carrots, peeled.
1 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons Creole mustard
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning-or more to taste

Shred the cabbage by hand, or through a food processor.Peel the carrots and grate them. In a mixing bowl, combine everything. Add more mustard or seasoning to your taste.

This could be a stand-alone summer side dish for a picnic. But I believe its raison d'etre is to smother barbecue.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A reposting of Wildflowers found in and around Narrows of the Harpeth State Park-The original post disappeared.

Oops! This is a repost of photos from Narrows of the Harpeth state park. The original post just disappeared. And thank you Troutbirder for your comment!

Composition in tile and porcelain.

Scenes from my foyer garden.

My old garden.

These are photos from old photos of my once garden, hence the faded, otherwordly look. I thought I would post them to give myself some credibility when I start adding gardening posts. I have a pot garden now. Since my apartment has its own entrance I am able to line my pots up on the sunny part of the foyer.I also have a shaded porch off my living room. I have learned the hard way that in gardening less is more. I will allow myself one hydrangea, two roses, one camellia. My motto is now "Herbs First".

Wood Betony

This is the wood betony, a parasitic plant that lives off tree roots. We found it along a creek a few miles from the Narrows of the Harpeth State Park. In the other photo my friend Mrs. Sharon Rose is pulling a branch away from an American Columbo, a plant some herbalists use as a tonic. This plant was growing in very dry soil on the bluff trail we climbed. The limestone cliffs at the park are a hanging garden of shooting stars, foam-flowers, wild columbines, phlox divartica, and firepinks. In summer cliff swallows nest in the holes in the bluff limestone. They were not at the park as yet, but we did hear parula warblers and yellow-throated warblers, which both nest in Tennessee.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Confederate Violet

This is the white and blue variant of the Common Blue Violet. It is called the "Confederate Violet". This photo was taken on Pasquo Road near the Doomed Farm.

Doomed Farm

I took these this evening out on the Pasquo Road. I heard Eastern Meadowlarks and Bluebirds. There were Rough-winged Swallows on the wires. I walked here last summer, and met a woman who told me that this farm had been sold to developers. Maybe the investment banks could jump the gun and foreclose on the houses now before they are built. Unless they plan to put a shopping mall here-

For Sisters and Friends

I had a crisis of confidence a week ago about posting recipes and writing about food. I am not a professional food person, or a foodie, or even a good photographer, and so many of the food sites I see make mine seem rough hewn. I am a mere home cook with a second hand camera and a tiny kitchen, and though I love to cook I wondered how much new or original I had to say.

But a week's reflection has reminded me that most cookery writers are not inventors of recipes , but collectors. Unless a recipe is relentlessly new and outrageous- say an anchovy and blueberry tart- it has come into the Cooking Commons from a hundred places and times. I found a recipe for Pork Loin braised in Milk in Claudia Roden's " The Food of Italy". This does not mean it is her recipe. It is Italy's recipe that she collected, and even before she wrote it down it was a classic dish from the Veneto. Roden has her version. Marcella Hazan has another.

Recycling recipes is what people do.

Several weeks ago I posted a recipe for Shepherd's Pie. Within a day I called my sister , and found that she was in the kitchen following my directions. I called later, and she told me that the pie was all gone-finished off by her son and a friend who both declared it the best Shepherd's pie ever. Probably not, but since both boys knew school cafeteria food, they knew mine was the better version.

My sister is a time-starved woman with a Big Job. She does not spend her days reading cookbooks. If I find recipes that she and my friends-also time-starved- decide to try I will have done good service, even if I am irredeemably minor. Good recipes are passed along, whether in a spiral notebook, on an index card, or on the World Wide Web. Thank God a week's deliberation freed me from the tyranny of trying to be original!

Shredded Cabbage, from " Four Great Southern Cooks".

This is Mrs. Beatrice Mize's recipe. I have not adapted it. Mrs. Mize, like the other three Great Southern Cooks, was black. Her grandmother was a Cherokee Indian, and the photo of Mrs. Mize in the cookbook shows her wearing her ancestor's beaded headband. Mrs. Mize was born in 1893, and through her life she worked for her family at their Dew Drop Inn in Georgia, and later as a private cook for Atlanta's elite.

Shredded Cabbage

One small cabbage-(I used half a medium sized purple cabbage).
One teaspoon of salt
One teaspoon of sugar
Two tablespoons of butter
One egg, beaten
One tablespoon vinegar.
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Grate the cabbage.( I used a food processor). Place cabbage in a sauce pan, cover with water. Add salt and the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer cabbage until it is soft. Drain off the water, then put the cabbage back in the saucepan and add the butter.

Beat the egg with the tablespoon of vinegar added. Add to the cabbage which should have cooled a little, and simmer on low a few minutes, stirring with a wood spoon.
Season to taste with pepper and serve. Four portions. ( I did add a little more salt and another pat of butter).

I think this would go well with fried chicken, or a pork loin.

"Four Great Southern Cooks "was published by Dubose Publishing in Atlanta in 1980. Copies sell for upwards of $50.00 on Bookfinders. It is worth the price.