Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Volunteer Lawn Mowers at the Park

With no enemy except the car, these deer herds multiply and prosper all over the Warner Parks, our golf courses and our suburbs. How they love clipped green lawns with succulent fresh grass shoots!

They are now as common as chipmunks, and much tamer. Today, a doe who seemed to be the group leader walked towards us after I took this picture. She was so purposeful I thought she was looking for a handout. Then she smelled my dogs, both short and hidden from her by the grass. She made a loud sound somewhere between a snort and a croak, and her band retreated. I had never heard a deer make an alarm call before. I always believed that the white tail flashing was enough-

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

For Those Interested In Gardens-

I have just posted "Old Fashioned Annuals in A Modern Garden" om my new Wordpress blog. Included are photographs of one of the gardens I am working in-

See Tales Of A Nashville Gardener.

Sailing On The "Sophie"

I have been on a voyage with Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin this past two weeks. It is my second trip with these engaging characters of Patrick O'Brien's seafaring series of maritime adventures during the Napoleonic wars. Who wants to stay in muggy Nashville during July, that most superfluous and enervating month, when they can travel to Gibraltar and Catalonia, and Port Mahon.

And in what company! Who could be more interesting a companion than Steven Maturin, physician and naturalist? A man fascinated by apes, and insects, and plants, and all that creeps or crawls whether in Spain or the Galapagos Islands. Book after book. At least twenty. I could be away for a year-

Jack Aubrey,- "Lucky Jack" when afloat, though not so much on land, where he is hounded by jealous husbands and wily creditors, is also good company.He loves good food,plays good music, harasses the French shipping for adventure and prize money.

Patrick O'Brien, who created this pair, also wrote a biography of Sir Joseph Banks, one of the great botanical explorers, and a man larger than life. I have the book now, courtesy of Inter-Library loan.

No voyage this morning, though. "Post Captain", second in the series, will have to wait till this afternoon. I have a garden to groom this morning, which is enjoyable, then errands-which are not, especially when the day will reach 99 degrees.

"There is no frigate like a book", Emily Dickinson wrote.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

After The Rains-July 21,2012 Pasquo, Tennessee

July has been kind to Middle Tennessee. We have had 8 inches of rain in the past 3 weeks and all is green. I cannot remember a July when brooks ran and we could hear water teasing the shallows-

And here is a vista of fields planted with soybeans-

An old oak, split by lightning-

A turkey hen with one of her young-

Two summers ago a woman who lives off this road told me this area would become a housing development. Thank God this has not happened yet. Perhaps there is more money in soybeans than in million dollar homes no one wants to buy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Buying and Selling Art-My Brief Career

Three years ago, at an estate sale in rich Belle Meade, I bought a painting by a French artist who painted just before the Second World War. I paid $295 for it, and I was convinced it was worth more. It was a Paris street scene, and my brother in New Hampshire, who subscribes to "Ask Art", looked it up for me to see how much it might be worth. The last painting by this artist sold 20 odd years ago for twenty five hundred dollars. I assumed it would appreciate in value. I assumed a lot of things.

Last January, when I needed money more than I needed a French painting, I sent the piece, heavily insured, to New England. My brother sent pictures of it to a Boston auction house and told me they estimated it as worth between 800 and 1500 dollars.
This sounded like rent money or a new set of tires for the Tundra to me-

I waited. I waited some more. I waited again. And last week heard it was going to auction today with an estimate of 700 to 900 dollars. Not what I hoped for, but at least a profit.

For several hours today I followed the auction on line. With trepidation.

It appeared the estimates meant nothing. Everything was estimated at 700 to 900 dollars. Everything was selling for less. Less meaning everything from 20 bucks to a couple hundred.

I was sorry now that I had not sent it to France to sell. Sorry I had not put a reserve on it. I was so sorry I hoped no one bought it for 10 dollars so the auction house could send it back to me.

It sold for 350 dollars. I made a 55 dollar profit until I figured in commission and fees, and how much I insured it for when I shipped it.

If I get one hundred dollars I will be lucky. Try putting a new set of back tires on a Toyota truck for that-

Okra and Butter Bean Stew with Creole Spices

I made this stew a few weeks ago using some leftover,tasty, and very meaty pole beans. But the pole beans have disappeared from the market, and this week I used butter beans instead.
When I first saw the beans at the market truck in the church parking lot I thought they were limas. An elderly, and well-heeled lady disabused me of this idea.
"Do you have any mo-ah of those butter beans?" she asked the vegetable girl,"Ah promised ma friend I would get her some-"

Since there were enough for everyone, I bought a small bag-full home and and added them to the stew. This dish improves by staying on the low burner overnight and allowing the okra to thicken it-

1 medium yellow onion, diced,flavored with sea salt and sauteed in butter to a golden brown

14 oz diced tomatoes,pureed in a blender.

1 cup butter beans

1-1 1/2 cup cut up okra.

4 small yellow potatoes,diced.

2 cloves of garlic,minced or pressed.

4-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth.

1/4 stick butter

2 heaping tablespoons of Creole mustard.

1/2 to 1 teaspoon or more of Creole seasoning to taste.( I use, and always will use Tony Chacherie's)

1 tablespoon of red vinegar.

After sauteeing the onion in a little of the butter, put everything else including the butter in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and leave the pot alone for a few hours, or even better overnight. This allows the stew to develop more flavor and to thicken. This should feed 4 or 5 people-

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Surprise at the Bird Feeder

The birds that come to my porch feeders are birds that do not mind people. They are the usual suburban camp followers-House Finches, House Sparrows. And the common permanent residents such as Jays and Chickadees and Titmice and Carolina Wrens.

I was surprised then to see a Hairy Woodpecker yesterday, not only eating for 20 minutes at the seed feeder, but drinking syrup from the hummingbird feeders.

(The Ruby-throats ignore my feeders. They like the Wendy's Wish salvia better).

Birds adapt. Consider the gulls seen at any landfill. Consider the eagle at Reelfoot Lake who snatches a duck a hunter has shot down before the duck or the retriever can hit the water-

Birds must have inherited this from their ancient ancestors,who survived planetary calamity and extinction by growing smaller and taking to the air. Who doubts that they were once dinosaurs?

I think velociraptors became hummingbirds ,who lost the blood lust but kept the bad temper!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Living in Two Centuries

This morning,after checking the Weatherscan radar and seeing rain everywhere, I was in no hurry, since my garden restoration morning was a washout. Instead I played for a few minutes with my television remote.

No use going to The Cooking Channel,now worthless without Sara Moulton, and Mario Batali, and Julia Child. No use in going to "On Demand" to see another" American Pickers" about vintage lawn mower motors and Indian motorcycle parts. And forget "Rizzoli and Isles" and its recycle of cliched plots from every other crime show ever aired.

But then-my remote landed me in another century. And there he was-stolid and earnest-
Broderick Crawford in "Highway Patrol", broadcast by a channel called "THIS".

I watched Highway Patrol when I was 6 years old.

Broderick was asking what we,the Pre-Tweet Generation, would have called a "bobby-soxer", if she had a telephone he could use.

"I am happy to say I do,"she said,saving Mr Crawford the trouble of driving around looking for a phone booth.

"I am happy to say I do". This young woman saw it for the wonder it was, even if she had to share it with others on an antediluvian party line. They did exist.The old New Hampshire farmhouse my family moved to in 1960 had one. You could listen in if you wanted.( Remember that "Peyton Place" was written about a small Granite State town).

More than time is between us and the world of 1964.( George Orwell and H.G. Wells were not just novelists). Our thumbs are servants of our little machines, and our phones are computers and televisions and beacons that pinpoint us where we stand. Someone monitors us and tracks us for both security and profit.

"Yes Sir!", I say to Mr Broderick, "I am happy to say I do! And I am watching you on it right now-".

Just as an aside, and slightly interesting, I will point out that the Nashville suburb of Bellevue where I live, once had a reputation as a Tennessee version of "Peyton Place".

Someone wrote a song about it. A song called "The Harper Valley PTA".

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Just After Sunrise-July 7,2012- Percy Warner Park, Nashville Tennessee

A passing runner alerted me about the fawn. He said a doe was nursing it, so the hounds and I went looking. Dogs make deer nervous, so all I saw was doe and child melting away into the woods-

The other photos are of the Brentwood hills in Williamson County, and of the stables at the Iroquois Steeplechase grounds. With temperatures a week ago of 109, and yesterday of 105, I am surprised everything looks as green as it does-

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Book Mention- The Red Book by Deborah Kogen

When I asked for this book on an inter library loan, I was twelfth in line. When I went to pick it up after only waiting two weeks I was surprised, though after reading the first 40 pages I was not. It spent only 48 hours in my house, and that on the hall table.

If I was a professional reviewer I would have felt an obligation to read the whole book. As a mere reader, I was spared.

This book is about four women who are assumed to be worth a book because they graduated from Harvard, even though their lives turned out to be disappointing. Imagine if a different novelist had pitched a novel to a publisher about four friends who graduated from UT Martin, who are united 20 years after college. The only way it would be published would be if the story has these women rallying round one of their number who took a shotgun to her Church of Christ preacher husband,who was ,of course, abusing her and her children. Even then the author would have to provide a sympathetic country star resembling Tim McGraw, to put up bail and rescue the heroine.

No such plot in Kogen's book. These women went to Harvard, therefore they are interesting.

Here is the Representative Black Girl-Clover-meeting an old white male classmate named "Bucky".

"Bucky, Oh my God!Is that you?". The two embrace in the type of respectful-but familiar hug practiced by those who were once on a first name basis with each other's reproductive organs".

A few pages later Clover remembers how alien Bucky's world was to her at first. She remembers a "secret chalice" of proper nouns and names she had to learn. And here they are- Siasconset.Brearly.Andover.St Alban's. Farmington.Buckingham,Brown and Nichols. Not to mention popular clubs, bars and restaurants.

Ms Kogan's editor must have intervened here,pointing out that if Clover did not know what St. Albans was, the general reader from Nashville or Minneapolis would not know either. The answer to this problem? Footnotes at page bottom.

I will also mention that Ms Kogen commits serial abuse of breezy terms such as "random" and "can't wrap their head around". Forty pages of this may not seem like enough to some book clubbers, but it was way too much for me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Something Surprising!

If squirrels dream, this is what they dream about. The world's biggest Mockernut, discovered yesterday on a suburban lawn in West Nashville-

Tennessee is Nut Country. Pecans.Acorns.Walnuts.Pignuts. This state even sent a man named after a nut tree to the White House-"Old Hickory" Andrew Jackson.

I have seen Mockernut hickories before. Sometimes in the fall I collect a bag of them when I walk at the park, and bring them home to the porch chipmunks. Never have I seen any this big.Mice are said to eat them,but it is hard to see a mouse eating a nut that is big enough for him to move in to.

I looked in vain in my old "Trees of North America" by C.Frank.Brockman for any description of a gigantic mockernut.

Perhaps this is a sport or a mutation.Perhaps as we speak a giant race of wood mice is evolving to take on this most impressive nut.

Perhaps even the chipmunks are telling themselves "We need to get bigger teeth!"

My new blog-Tales of A Nashville Gardener at Wordpress

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kefta-Lamb Meatballs

I have posted a recipe for lamb meatballs in the past, and that recipe called for meatballs flavored with dried apricots, feta cheese, and pine nuts. This recipe keeps the apricots, adds garlic and yellow onion and an egg, and is flavored with the Kefta Spice Mix. My side dishes were a handful of Kalamata olives and tricolor-ed couscous mixed with diced carrots and flavored with 7 Spice Mix. Both spice mixes include sweetness from allspice and cinnamon.


1 pound ground lamb

1 yellow onion, diced and seasoned with sea salt, and sauteed in olive oil till golden.

3 cloves of garlic, diced or pressed.

1 egg,beaten.

12 dried apricots, first soaked in cold water for a few hours, then diced.

Kefta Spice Mix. Package directions cal for 1/4 cup of spice mix per pound of meat. I used 2 heaping tablespoons, and I dusted the meatballs lightly with the spice before I baked them.

1 Tablespoon of Pomegranate molasses.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Form into small meatballs, as pictured. Dust meatballs with a little more Kefta Spice Mix, then place in a foil lined baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

As a dipping sauce for the meatballs I flavored a little plain Greek yogurt with Pomegranate molasses.

Carrots and Couscous with 7 Spice Mix(also available at K&S World Market).

1 cup of Tricolor-ed or plain couscous

2 cups of chicken broth

2 tablespoons of butter

Sea salt to taste.

2 or 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced.

1 tablespoon of 7 Spice Mix.

Boil the carrots in a cup of the chicken broth (flavored to taste with sea salt). When the carrots are tender, drain and reserve the broth, and set the carrots aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan, then add the couscous, tossing it to coat it with the butter. Turn the heat to medium and start adding the chicken broth bit by bit until the couscous has absorbed the broth and is soft. Then add the carrots , mix well, and add the 7 Spice Mix to taste.

Meatballs and couscous should serve 4.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Young Red-Tailed Hawk at Edwin Warner Park- Sunday July 1

It is 104 degrees outside now here in Nashville, but this morning at 6 am a walk was possible, so I took the hounds to Edwin Warner Park.

As we climbed out of my truck, I heard a screeching ruckus going on in the hackberries that line the Little Harpeth River. The dogs and I walked over, and as we stopped to look around two Red Tailed Hawk juveniles circled out of the trees, and one flew right at us and over us.He was as big as his parents, who were still in the hackberries, and the sight of a shaved Shih Tzu no bigger than a rabbit must have made him hungry, for he started caterwauling and demanding to be fed. He was unwary and sat in the tree near us so long that I was able to get these photos. When my walking friend arrived the hawk flew over to his parents, but whether they had a meal for him I cannot say.

There is a hawk nest in a River oak up along the Greenway behind Ensworth School. Perhaps this family hatched there, or perhaps they were a different group. Red-Tailed Hawks are common here, and the fields along the Little Harpeth are rich with rabbits and squirrels, and Red Winged Blackbirds. A hawk buffet, if you will.