Monday, February 28, 2011

"Good-by- and Keep Cold."

This is Robert Frost speaking to his young New Hampshire orchard in one of his poems.

"Fear fifty above more than fifty below" he tells his fruit trees,, for he knows how cruel early warm spells can be. Unwary blossoms meet one 20 degree night and the peaches and pears and apples are lost for that year.

I thought of this poem as I drove home this morning from work. It is February 28th and 70 degrees. No good will come of this. My rose bush, my hydrangea are sprouting leaves and greening up. The warmth will tempt our saucer magnolias and redbuds, our azaleas. Blackberries too. And as I type this, rain reminiscent of last May's floods is beating the cars and running down the hills to the Harpeth River. Cold and warm fight here. Just ask the tornado sirens-

We are still six weeks from our last expected frost date. And my potted blue hydrangea will hold me hostage. Who knows how many nights I will have to drag it and its fifty pound pot inside. The peach farmers will not be so lucky.

"No orchard's the worse for the wintriest storm" wrote Frost, whose New Hampshire weather was more trustworthy than the weather in Tennessee.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"This is my letter to the World"

Wrote Emily Dickinson, "That never wrote to Me-"

And blog posts, I think ,come from a similar impulse, though we who write them have as much resemblance to Dickinson as a slug has to a Super-Nova. We write hoping someone will want to hear what we say. We write, possibly deceiving ourselves, thinking we have something interesting to tell the world. And we do try to tell the world. But there are millions of us, and unless we are unusually articulate or have thousands of Facebook "friends", our words just slosh around in a Cyber-Sea.

There was an article a few days ago in the New York Times that said that blogs were fading away. That they are of no interest to Youth, whose brains find it hard to compose anything longer than 140 characters. Blogs are now the province of the Un-Y
oung, who err in thinking it takes time to tell a story-

And what would a genius such as Dickinson do today with her poems? Not publish them in a blog.

"How public, like a frog!" she would write. That is if she was allowed to become a poet at all. If her family instead turned her over to the psychiatrists and their DSM-1v and their Paxil and Prozac-

Monday, February 14, 2011

Searching for the Hill Tract and some Found Objects

This past Monday, not even a week after the paralyzing Rush Hour snowstorm that shut down this city, the dogs and I hiked out in 65 degree weather to search for the Hill Tract, a 300 plus acre stand of virgin forest with centuries old trees that is now addition to the Warner Parks. Conservancy groups raised the money to buy it from the H.G. Hill family.

The hounds and I walked up through the woods just south of these apartments on Tennessee state route 100. We found an old wood road, but it was confusing and overgrown. Where the road began in a field covered with construction debris from the apartments, I photographed the old piano and bench someone had dragged into this wasteland. An impromptu Saturday night concert? Who knows?

After the first road dead ended in a hillside, we turned north and cut through the woods to ford a brook. There had to be road since someone had dumped old appliances on the stream bank. Hence the remains of the vintage washing machine, its wash cycle silent for evermore. And there was a road. East, it went to pastures and forgotten farm buildings and a dry farm pond. West it went into the forest. We walked up into the woods a little way, but since I am more of an Entwife than an Ent, I love pastures and open fields and old rose bushes and cultivation. But looking west I could see the forested hills beyond, and I knew it must be the Hill forest. I plan to walk there again this weekend with my fellow explorer and plant hunter Mrs Sharon R. I will leave the dogs at home, for even in February the ticks are abroad.

I am heartened by the land preservation in Middle Tennessee- the farms saved forever out near Franklin and Leiper's Fork. And now the Hill Tract-

And would it not be wonderful to save Steveaway Farms out on the Pasquo Road?. No one has the money or appetite for McMansions anymore. And that is what developers have planned, though the Great Recession has temporarily silenced their bulldozers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Not Again!

How about a rousing chorus of "Let it stop! Let it stop!. Let it stop!". I have lived 30 years in this city and have never seen anything like this. I am thinking of buying cross-country skis- or moving to Mobile.

Red sky this morning, more snow, and Holly berries for the robins.

Elizabeth Lawrence called them "Yankee Robins". And they come by the millions in the winter, looking for open fields and lawns when their home grounds in the north are crusted with snow. A flock of at least one hundred have been here around my apartment this week. The builders landscaped with holly hedges, and by March these bushes will be picked clean since the snows are frequent and the worms have gone deep. I saw a flock of 2 dozen robins in a privet last week. The top branches were stripped of berries. Now there are none.

Privet, like the Japanese honeysuckle, has escaped from yards and gone wild. There are great stands of both in the Warner Parks. And despite the shovels and pruners of the volunteers who try to rid the parks of these "invasives", they multiply. Volunteers cannot fly, but the great tribes that live on these berries do. Hercules may have cleaned the Augean stables, but I do not think even he could clear the Warner Parks of honeysuckle and privet. The robins, Yankee or native, have nothing to fear.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Some Sunday thoughts on how America cooks.

I am reading "As Always, Julia- The letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto". I was going to write about this delightful book, and still will, although not today. I must leave for orientation at my new second job in a few hours, but not before pondering a commercial I saw several times yesterday on the USA Network. Had Julia and Avis been alive to see it, I am certain they would be as stupefied as I was-

In the ad, three young matrons hold up three platters loaded with mashed potatoes. The sponsor tells us these are instant mashed potatoes, resuscitated from dehydrated flakedom by the microwave. "What can you do with mashed potatoes?", asks the voice over. After all, the three young matrons did look confused-

Well here is what you do. You open a can of concentrated chunky beef soup and dump it onto a large flattened square of mashed potatoes. I assume this goes back into the microwave, though the ad does not say so. The next shot is of two attractive young people smiling over their platters.

I do not eat like this, and you might not eat like this, but let us wonder who does. Were I a married man, I would consider this meal as grounds for divorce. But if I were a bachelor, I might not know any better, for who has lower culinary, hygienic, and housekeeping standards than young men on their own?

I once knew a young man who used his Volkswagen Beetle as a dirty laundry bin. When he drove home across three states to New Jersey, his mother unloaded the car and washed his clothes. I knew another bachelor, not physically young, but helpless all the same, whose diet was vegetables (cold) right out of the can. His digestive system took revenge on everyone working around him in our ICU. When he sat at the desk, he sat alone. Our head nurse did not stop laughing when we went to her about P. and his problem. Finally someone put an envelope of Beano gas tablets in his unit mailbox. I do not remember if this helped since P. went to work in the Vanderbilt ER not long after this. I do not doubt he continued eating pumpkin puree right out of the can.

In short, I believe this commercial targeted the need-a-woman-to-get-their-socks-washed set. At least I hope it does. But I may be in denial. This may be the way America really "cooks".

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"What's a Groundhog?"

Here are two disgruntled gentlemen wondering why we are not walking at the park today. They do not understand wind chill and 25 degrees, and are remembering the weekend when it was 65 and all of Nashville was outside. "Spring Comes in February" Elizabeth Lawrence wrote in her "A Southern Garden". But not today- And not here.

Maybe next week!