Thursday, March 28, 2013

One Swallow Does Too Make a Summer!

I was sitting on my porch this after noon when I heard the chittering of a barn swallow. He was solo, but that was enough for me, and maybe tomorrow the entire flock will come back to their nests in the parking sheds.

No bobcats seen today at the park. It was so warm I expected to see the black racers along the rock walls, but I think Nashville's winter weary hordes kept them underground. There was mass dog walking going on as well and bicycles everywhere.

I heard no warblers or gnatcatchers, but they cannot be far away.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Real Nashville Bobcat.

My dogs and I are sick of snowflakes and gray weather. So today, in mid-morning, we took a 30 minute walk along a road near the Steeplechase course at Percy Warner Park to cheer ourselves up. We saw Jill- over- the ground blooming
and winter honeysuckle and the race course infield was yellow with the rare, low growing Nashville Mustard. I heard not one migrant bird singing, for they are waiting for greener trees.

But had the trees been leafy we might have missed what was sitting high up in a bare tree.

At first I thought this animal was a fat raccoon, but since it was up in the air it was not going to fly away, and I had a good look at it as I came closer. It was a coon sized cat with an owl like face and eyes, and a thick stubby tale. He watched my every move closer,
and when I was near enough to the tree I was stunned to see that it was a bobcat.

Fifty years ago, I saw one one evening near a field by the Little Sugar River in North Charlestown, New Hampshire. I was a young girl then.The bobcats up there shared the forests with fisher cats and porcupines. Here in Tennessee, they live around armadillos, possums, and timber rattlers. There are many fawns for them to eat since deer in the Warner Parks are as numerous as ants. In fact two years ago, not fifty feet from the bobcat tree, I saw a fawn's leg lying beside the park road. I thought then it was a coyote's work. I had seen a family of coyote pups in a field there one spring-

I just read that bobcats are rarely seen, for they like the night. This one hadn't read the book, and he was out when he wanted to be.

There is always a surprise waiting at that park for ramblers with dogs who are going no where in a hurry. They stop. They look. Up and down. They don't have music players attached to their ears. And when the first blue gray gnatcatcher comes back they will hear it. And when the bobcat surveys the world from a tall tree, they may be lucky enough to see it.

New Additions to the Tee-Tiny Experimental Kitchen

I have been experimenting with Vin Cotto and with Verjuice for the past month or so. They are new to my kitchen but not to the world, and Verjuice has been around since antiquity. Both are non-alcoholic. Verjuice is a sort of grape vinegar that I think will be useful in an herb dressing to put on summer tomatoes. It is clean tasting and tart.

Vin Cotto, which comes from boiled grape must, is sweet, and if molasses were made from figs I think this thick dark syrup would taste like it.I bought several bottles, and have already used up one. It is a nice topping for ricotta and brie cheese and a tasty sweetener to add to muffins and pastries.

Some might call these "hard to find ingredients", but I think that term does not mean what it used to. If you have a computer, and if the creek hasn't washed out your driveway so that UPS cannot get up it, you can add both to your pantry, though they are not dirt cheap.

But we all need a little luxury from time to time-

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Just Posted on my other blog- Tales of a Nashville Gardener-

Any one who enjoys English TV murder mysteries combined with scene after scene of England's cottages with their borders and climbing roses might enjoy my post about "The Mid-Somer Murders". It is on my other blog-"Tales of a Nashville Gardener" I am not a good linker, but Google would be happy to direct you there.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Car Care Industrial Complex

From January 1st to mid-February I drove little, and when I did, I had one eye on the rear view mirror, watching for the cops. One night,coming home from work, I just made it into a Walgreen's parking lot before the squad car coming up behind me came close enough to see my license plate.

I was driving illegally. On expired tags. Not because I could not afford the registration, the Davidson County wheel tax, and the auto emissions testing fee, which all came to $100 , but because I could not afford another $400 to fix an oxygen sensor that made my truck fail at the inspection station.

The station was very clear on what sensor it was and where it was, and I give them credit.

But that was not the line fed me by Big Name Auto Car Care when I called to get an estimate. I have no doubt that the man who answered the phone was being recorded or video taped in some kind of corporate compliance surveillance scheme.

He had a script. And he stuck to it.

The emissions test was not reliable, he said. Any one of over 40 things could be wrong, and Big Name could only find out by running their $99.00 dollar diagnostic.

But I wanted an estimate, and for 5 minutes I wrangled him, trying to get a number. Every other sentence from him was "We won't know until we do our $99.99 diagnostic".

He grew tired of me though, and spit out" $250.00", not including the test.

I could not afford this without picking up extra shifts at my job. I drove to work scared, afraid to lose another hundred on a ticket for expired tags. And after the near miss near Walgreen's I went back to Big Name, desperate. I asked if I could pay off my bill in installments.

Oh, yes I could. If I applied for a Big Name credit card. The front desk smelled my desperation, and they were going in for the kill- Now I had to hear not only about their $99.99 diagnostic, but about their easy credit. They saw me as an gullible mark for a revolving balance of hundreds at 23%, and at 30% if I was one minute late with a payment.

One check with the credit bureau would have dampened their enthusiasm, for no one is going to give me a credit card, but I did not want to embarrass myself by telling them this.

I drove to the auto parts store. They tested the truck for free. The husband of a friend replaced the sensor for me for nothing. It took him 15 minutes, and the part cost $70.00. I had to drive around for a few days to complete a "drive cycle", but a week later I passed emissions testing.

During all this my sensible brother pointed out that the biggest victims in the Car Care Charade are older women who know nothing about cars. We are easily bilked. Easily scammed by oily voiced front desk men no better than hustlers.
Lucky for me I had friends.

Apropos of all this, I recently read that the desperate are now stealing current tags off other peoples' cars. I also read that Colorado may eliminate auto emissions testing since new cars run very clean.

And now Tennessee is thinking about not testing cars under three years old. After all, whose ego can take being seen in an old car? It is un- American, even if the average new car costs over $30,000 and has a monthly payment of $500. Or, one can lease. Which I suspect many of my neighbors at these apartments do.

That would account for the Mercedes, and the BMWs, and the Lexuses I see here. Not too many older women like me driving 13 year old trucks-

$1000 for the apartment, $500 for the lease- I have to assume my neighbors are eating Ramen noodles.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

From a Distant World Where Mothers Once Had Time

Here are some photos of instructions on how to make an "Apple Head Doll". I found them in "Kountry Kooking", by Phila Hach. Mrs Hach and her husband owned a restaurant and inn in Clarksville, Tennessee.

The folksiness of the title misleads. Mrs Hach was a cosmopolitan woman. She was a stewardess for American Airlines back when air travel was glamorous, and later wrote cookbooks and did cookery demonstrations on WSMV.

And here is another artifact found tucked in this book-

Click on photos for a better look.

Mutant Hens? Or are they a Sign?

I bought a dozen eggs at Whole Foods a week or so ago. When I went to crack a couple to make muffins yesterday, I found them unnaturally heavy, and I was worried there might be a chicken inside.

The eggs both had two yolks. I have been alive almost 63 years, and have never seen a double yoked egg. Here were two. By this morning, having now cracked half a dozen I am reporting that all six were double. Of the six remaining, four look and feel as though they may be twins as well.

These came from a farm in Summertown, Tennessee, a place once famed as a hippie colony. What it is now I do not know- Perhaps a colony of benevolent aliens have landed there and decided to improve the chickens. Maybe there is something in the water, though I am not sure I want to know what- Or maybe the asteroid swarm of a few weeks back had something to do with it. Sunspots perhaps. Global Warming. Surveillance drones or black helicopters.

Who can explain? All I can say is that for once I found a bargain at Whole Foods.

What are the odds of that?

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Estate Sale Diaries-March 1,2013, Nashville

I have been to many estate sales through the years, but not once have I seen copper cookware, old or new.

This past Friday I went to a sale held in the clubhouse of a local condominium community. I was surprised at how sparse the crowd was since the rooms were full of antiques and valuable old furniture. I was not in the market, nor did I have the pockets for the expensive. I had my eye on two battered old copper pieces that looked as though they had been used for fireplace cooking. If these pieces were as antique as the furniture there, they were old indeed. Riveted and hand hammered. Someone had used the kettle as a cache pot for house plants, and the long-handled pot must have been a decoration, though it is very tarnished. I went back on Saturday and bought them for half price-eighteen dollars-, and I will have to study to see what I can do to clean them up.

I found these two cookbooks as well, and they are a combination of time capsule and archaeology dig. They are stuffed with recipes on index cards, letters and thank you notes, and newspaper clippings from the Nashville "Tennessean" newspaper, circa 1953. "The American Woman's Cookbook" is the 1943 edition.

More on these books to follow in my next post-