Sunday, September 26, 2010

All Aboard the Hummingbird Express.

The other night at work I was leaning over to give some grape juice to one of our patients, and became entangled in one of the windchimes hanging over her bed. "This reminds me of my porch," I said,"You have everything but a hummingbird feeder hanging here".

"It's time to take your feeder down", the woman chided me. " If you leave it up the hummingbirds will miss their ride-".

I knew there would be no reasoning with this woman, who believed her mother, and her country aunts, and her grandmother. Who believed hummingbirds rode south on the backs of bigger birds. People believe in all kinds of things- whimsical, fantastic, and magical. Elves. Fairies. Santa Claus. And Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, headed out over the Gulf en route to the Tropics, tucked under a tanager's wings.

A Soup Tureen

I bought this rather baroque goose soup tureen at an estate sale. While its style might not appeal to everyone I find it festive. I will use it as a decoration since I will never serve anyone that much vichyssoise. I imagine it was used at holiday time by the matriarch of a large clan. I do not think it would look out of place at a state dinner- It looks at home on my antique painted cabinet, surrounded by my paintings of Paris and France.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pause- A necessity

I will not be able to post until late Tuesday because I am out of band with on my lousy mobile broadband plan, and I cannot afford a fine the size of my rent. On Tuesday Hi speed cable Internet is coming and I can ditch my current Internet company forever! I can even listen again to Pandora Radio and Mambo Number 5! Until then it will be silencio.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Woods come back-

My family moved to Robert Frost country when I was ten. To an old farm on a hill by the Little Sugar River. Frost's poems were alive there- in the black raspberries living through the burned timber of the ruins of farmhouses. In the birches and the stone walls surrounding vanished towns. In one poem- "Ghost House"- he writes of "The woods come back to the mowing field".

Woods do indeed come back to neglected, forgotten places. Yet sometimes they wait and surround us, waiting for a foothold.

I am thinking of the apartments I live in here, for they are on the edge of a hill, in the midst of a forest. And the plants and animals who live in them have crept back, not caring that dozens of people with their cars from 31 states live here as well.

Crows,always enterprising, look for french fries spilled in the parking lots. They raid the nests of mockingbirds and robins, drawn by the shrubberies of hollies. Deer,too numerous and too tame ,roam the lawn among the grills and picnic tables.At night the raccoons come, attracted by bird feeders and the kibble left out for cats displaced by the Harpeth's Great Flood in May.Coons have no respect for property. To get at feeders they smash flower pots on the railings. Possums are less destructive and eat the sunflower seeds that the day shift of quarrelling chipmunks leave scattered. The chipmunks have a great city here. They take the stairs from one level to another. They live in retaining walls. They live under mulch.They are more numerous than the renters.

There are voles as well,nosing around under the pine straw. And one day I saw a meadow mouse the size of a walnut running down the sidewalk. I have yet to see a coyote or a skunk, but I do not doubt that they are here.

Canada Geese live on the pond near the sub-division down the hill. In New England ,to hear geese calling meant to hear spring coming. To hear summer leaving. In Tennessee it means nothing, for they stay all year. Two days after the flood I saw a pair at the Bank of America drive-through inspecting the pavement.

Barn swallows live under the eaves of the parking sheds. They come on April 18 and in early September they vanish, leaving us poorer. Their going brings us to the saddest of thoughts- Will we be here next year to see them?

I have written of the dapper little five-lined skinks that dart across my porch. And the other day I saw an Eastern Fence lizard running along the sidewalk. I had only seen them at the park before.

There is a Red tailed hawk who hunts over the apartments.I think he is looking down for rabbits. What rabbit could resist lawns perennially green and automatically sprinkled? I have seen one who frequents the shrub islands between the entrance gates. I think it a dangerous place to live, especially at the end of the month when the Uhauls and the Giant Mayflower moving vans pull in as the renters begin their own migration. But that is another story for another day, when I try to fathom what people from 31 states are doing here-

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yellow Squash and Zucchini Salad

I am using the grater insert of my food processor more and more, and I used it to prepare the raw squash for this salad. Of course one cannot use caveman club sized squash for this. Baby squash are essential. A zucchini no longer than 6 inches. A yellow squash no longer than 4 or 5. This will give you enough for two people. I added pitted Kalamata olives, pine nuts, and a dressing made from a little Balsamic vinegar and the liquid the olives come packed in. You can be as creative as you like with dressings, but I find tart is best.

Squash grated this way makes a fine condiment for pasta. It cooks quickly in a skillet when sauteed with olive oil, a little sea salt, and garlic. Very tasty.

Lounging Lizards

There are nine species of lizards in Tennessee, but only one trying to get into my living room. That lizard is the Five-lined Skink. The first two photos are of a juvenile. One has come to grief at the eight legs of a Harvestmaster spider, the other is still whole. Both sport psychedelic blue tails. Young skinks are stylish in their little striped suits with their brilliant tails, but their elders are not so glamorous. They are plain, thick, and stolid looking, like well fed Republicans. There is something Karl Rovian about them- their little tongue flicking contentedly in and out as though they have just swallowed a Democrat.

I see a young skink on my porch every day. I have also seen him running across the herbs on my outside windowsill. He was in the outer foyer yesterday, and panicked when I walked up. The foyer is a dead end, but he did find a shingle to hide behind. Twice, on the porch, I have seen him headed towards the door in the living room. I startled him to discourage him. I do not want him meeting the beagle. I had a cock-a-poo once who was a yard assassin. She caught an adult skink and ate half of it before throwing it up. My apartment's beleaguered carpet does not need this. I have read that skinks are poisonous to cats, but that cock-a-poo lived a long time afterward. The yard I had then was full of skinks. One had a nest in my compost bin. She laid eight eggs. Who can say how many hatched and lived, and for how long. My yard also had corn and garter snakes prowling, as well as possums, who know a good egg when they see one.

The last photo, from Wikipedia, is of an Eastern Fence Lizard. Every August and September I see baby fence lizards darting into the rock walls along the road at the Percy Warner Park Steeplechase Course. Some are no more than an inch long, and they move very fast, though not fast enough I'll wager to keep them from being snacks for voles and snakes and spiders. When I see the hatch ling fence lizards I know summer is over.