Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Road Goes Ever On and On-

Leaves were raining down on us today as we walked at Percy Warner. And there will be more coming down with the storms and wind predicted for tonight-

Back to the place where it began-

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

An Autumn Walk and a Surprise Wildflower Find

The dogs and I walked out today at Percy Warner Park, and I took these photos on or near the Mossy Ridge Trail.

And last of all, a wildflower new to me, and the only wild orchid I have ever seen in the Warner Parks. It is Tipularia- the crane-fly orchid. It blooms in early autumn and puts up leathery basal, single leaves over the winter. The underside of each leaf is purple.

How I wish I had seen it in bloom!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Everything Old-

Sometimes, in order to find something worth watching on the screen of your choice, you might consider going back in time.

Bored with the thin gruel of this season's television shows, and down-hearted that "Grimm" has resorted to zombies, I signed onto one of the streaming services last evening and watched the 1990 pilot of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks".

Nothing about this weird and watchable 23 year old program had frayed or tattered. Nothing had dated it. It was as fresh as it was two decades ago.

On "Twin Peaks", when a mother does not know where her daughter is, we walk into a real mystery. The mother calls people who might know where Laura Palmer is, but she calls them on an old time land line. Laura is not wired. No phone in her pocket. No cell tower exists to track her. We know "She's dead! Wrapped in plastic!". But no one at her high school and no one on Facebook knows. There was no Facebook.

Later in the story the murdered Laura's best friend asks a friend "If you see James, tell him I am looking for him".
Would such a line even be written now that we are all universally available 24/7?

When Kyle McClachlan's character, an FBI agent, drives to Twin Peaks to investigate whether this killing is part of a pattern, he has no idea where he is going to stay. He wants "Someplace clean. Reasonably priced". He asks the town's sheriff, Harry S Truman, if he, the sheriff,knows a hotel that fits the bill.

Today, we ask Google. Back then, when humans were the only characters, we had to ask other people. And when this agent has a memorable piece of cherry pie at the Lamplighter Inn, he records his pleasure on a tape he will send to his secretary at the bureau. He does not post a review on Yelp!.

What mystery is there when every one knows everything about everybody?. When surveillance cameras see all. When GPS trackers replace bloodhounds.

Oh, bliss! Many episodes to go, and another whole season of "Twin Peaks" to watch, and the only spoiler will be my memory.

What's left of it-

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dogs Know Shoes-

* To Readers-ignore the dates on all these photos. They were taken today. I have since re-educated the wayward camera responsible!

The pensive dogs pictured here are dogs without expectations. They have no immediate hopes because their owner is, at present, shoeless.

Anyone who has seen the film "Legally Blonde" remembers the scene in which Elle Woods exposes a prosecution witness who is lying about having had an affair with Ms Wood's client. The witness outed himself by making a bitchy comment about our heroine's shoes. Elle knows there was no affair, for her client is female, and the witness is gay.

"Gay men know shoes!", she tells her law partners.

Dogs know shoes as well, for shoes are the pedometers of their happiness.

My gray running shoes are a signifier of all sorts of pleasant things- damp walks in the woods, the smell of deer downwind, a chipmunk darting into a stone wall, a chicken wing dropped by a picnicker.

Unless- those same shoes go on late at night after I put on a blue scrub uniform. Then they mean 9 hours of bedroom detention (to prevent them from howling at the possums who are eating cat food on the porch).

Blue suede Oxfords might mean a trip to the store.Unless it is July, when no dog gets to wait in the car. If it is November, pleading and whining may get them into the front seat, though what is interesting about the Publix parking lot is lost on me, though I do not doubt this is my loss, since I do not live life with the optimism and exuberance of a dog.

I also have a pair of gold flats. Fast to get into and fast to get out of, which makes them, in any season, good for a fast trip outside to do the necessaries.

My beagle understands this, and he knows how much I appreciate speed. He knows I will be peevish if he tries to turn a bathroom break into an impromptu outing all over the parking lot.

The Shih Tzu, being stubborn and sometimes manipulative, sees those gold shoes and knows that here is opportunity. By refusing to do what he is supposed to do, he can get a trip down to a faraway grassy knoll or a fire hydrant, even at four in the morning. He does not care if his owner is freezing and wheezing and hissing all sorts of insults at him.

Dogs know shoes-

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Tennessee Weekly Howler- First Edition October 23, 2013

The Tennessean, Nashville's daily newspaper has put up a pay wall, so for news I now go to the TV station web sites. I think some of our state and local news is so compelling that it begs to be shared, and here are some recent highlights.


Apropos of my recent post on disgruntled Colorado coyotes, coyotes are making the news in these parts as well. A Clarksville, Tennessee citizen saw one in her front yard near her mailbox "drooling' and acting peculiar. She called the local police, and the officer who showed up dispatched the coyote with his handgun. Unfortunately he also sent bullets into the bedroom of a nearby house and into someone's parked car. Lucky for all but the coyote that the Swat Team did not show up-

And in Johnson City, up in the East Tennessee mountains a squirrel ran amok in a Dollar General store. The Dollar Generalites called the law, and when he showed up, he pepper sprayed the squirrel, then peppered both squirrel and store with gunfire.

Some accounts report that the squirrel died. Some are unclear as to its fate, but everyone agrees that the officer was fired.

Perhaps he should apply for a job in Williamson County ASAP, for even as I write this, there are several escaped elk running around in the median strip of a four lane highway down there. One onlooker described one of elk as "as big as a Suburban" SUV. These are" pet elk" according to reports, which also says these animals have escaped before.

This sounds like terrorism to me, a deliberate attempt to terrify the people of Williamson county. This calls for helicopters and a lock down of the Cool Springs Mall. People at the Whole Foods need to shelter in place-

Now when I was a young woman living in New Hampshire, I often saw photos of animals who were in the wrong part of town. Moose were famous for wandering about. I saw photos of a bull moose walking into a mall, coming down the Congregational Church steps, and trying to get into one of those liquor stores planted on the Massachusetts- New Hampshire border. Interrupting the minister is unforgivable, but crashing the package store is understandable, given the dismal New Hampshire winter-

Now I suppose that some government entity would do a background check on these rampant moose to make sure there was no Chechen connection. Should investigators find one, they might order a drone strike, though this might be a problem in Tennessee where there are no moose but plenty of other non targets that no one would want to aim a missile at.

Imagine what would happen if a drone fired on the Tennessee-Alabama Fireworks store by mistake? Half of Chattanooga would disappear and the other half would have Goo-Goo clusters and pieces of black velvet Elvis paintings raining down on it-


When I go out to work at the clinic on Saturday night, I travel through and to two exclusive Nashville neighborhoods. The former is Hillwood on Post Road, where the price of inclusion is money. The latter is the Little Big House out on Centennial Boulevard, where the price of inclusion is a felony conviction. Twixt the two this reporter sees many interesting things-

On one recent Saturday evening my Toyota and I were about to head down Nine Mile Hill into the Nashville basin when I saw two bright blue beacon lights crossing and cris-crossing the sky. They were leaving earth somewhere north of Nob Hill and the WSMV tower.

I confess to being stumped. What did they signify? Whose attention were they trying to get?

Was a local hospital trying to lure helicopters bearing patients with excellent insurance to its ER doors? Had Mr Whiskers Discount Liquors received a truck load of two dollar Rose?

Indeed not. As I pulled out onto White Bridge Road and headed west I saw the beams shooting skyward from what used to be the old Verizon store. Verizon no more, it had swathed itself in black and purple paint and was lit from within with subdued lighting befitting my idea of an opium den. And in the parking lot I saw a sign trying to be a fountain, or a fountain trying to be a sign. It looked like a big screen TV trapped inside a waterfall of purple highlights. On either side of the sign were two faux Tiki Torches.

The "Pleasures Romance Boutique" had arrived in Nashville. On White Bridge Road. Across the street and west a bit from the St Mary Parish Villa, a Bundt cake Shop, Pier One, and the Lion's Head Shopping Center. East of the Kiwanis Circle seasonal Pumpkin patch, a dialysis clinic, and The Two Danes furniture store.

At my computer the next morning, I searched for "Pleasures Romance Boutique", and found stories on both WKRN and WSMV websites. After all, if you cannot trust TV anchors Ann Holt and Demetria Kalodimos, who are watched over by the benign shades of the late Bill Hall and Dan Miller, who can you trust in this city?

Was I surprised that neighbors had complained to the local city councilman? He reassured them that the minute the store went over the 30% limit on explicit merchandise, the city would make the boutique move downtown where only the tourists would see it-.

After all, said this councilman, who seemed to have honed his speaking skills at the Anthony Weiner Institute of Public Relations," In Nashville we have a sexually-oriented business board, and they have inspectors".

I bet they do, but the store's manager was not taking chances. She told WKRN that her business "will be very classy, because we don't cater to the vulgar side". A sex therapist consultant for the store agreed, saying the store's wares had "an educational component", and he hinted that board games such as "Dirty Minds" might help save many a dull and lifeless Nashville marriage, for after all, "This is a high-class, quality store".

Again, the Councilman, reporting complaints-:"People think it interrupts their family life".

Well, I suppose it might if you were a fatally curious soccer mom who stopped in one afternoon, leaving three 10 year old boys waiting in her mini-van outside-

Words such as upscale and classy flew all over this story like Sandhill cranes, but local commentators were having none of it. One pointed out that this part of White Bridge Road was not Beverly Hills. "Go a quarter of a mile down and it's ghetto as all get out', he said.

Others thought the TV stations were overly sensational in calling the area close to Belle Meade, which I must agree with, since that rarefied suburb is not only on the other side of Harding Road, it is on the other side of real railroad tracks.

The right side, of course.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What Would E.B. White Say?

Here is a headline of an AOL story this afternoon. I saw it as I was about to sign in to my e-mail.

"Colorado Man Attacked by Three Coyotes Walking To Work".

All I can say about this is that the coyotes were undoubtedly in a bad mood since they were on their way in to a job they hated, and on foot, since no human would sell them a car. Perhaps if the man had encountered them at the neighborhood bar after work they would have been more affable and invited him to join them. God knows, those coyotes love beer!

Thus does the English language make fools of us all.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In Two Nashville Gardens- October 15, 2013

Every month or so I post photos from two Nashville gardens to show the progression of the seasons. Here are some October photos-

How I hope our first frost holds off for a little while!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pony Club

This past Saturday evening I put the hounds in the truck, and drove to Percy Warner Park for a walk. The steeplechase course seemed like a good idea. This time of year the air is cool, the grass is short, and the ticks are few. But when we walked up the hill on top of the field I saw it already taken, for this was the weekend of the Pony Club Trials. We would have to stick to the main drive and be content with a walk on the periphery.

The scene from above, looking down and over towards the fields and the stables was panoramic. Bruegel-esque.

Ponies jumping, well wishers cheering. An announcer announcing.

The dogs and I stopped. They sniffed. I looked, though I had neither camera nor binoculars. I had plans to move along, since my adult life has had little to do with horses, and horses have had nothing to do with me, but the dogs dawdled and I lingered for ten minutes or so.

At first the pony jumping seemed random, but then I began to follow it, and I found myself unexpectedly entertained.

A small person-too far away to be judged male or female-came trotting onto the course on a stubby pony called "Dudley Do-Right". Dudley looked as though he would be more at home in the hills of Scotland, but he was a game little animal with lots of spark. When it came to jumping he was a business man closing a deal. Over he went, short as he was, and when he trotted back to start, people applauded his earnestness.

Not so enthusiastic was another pony. He was bored. His trot was bored, and I am certain his little rider was at wit's end. This horse approached the jump as though it was a gate to be stopped at. And stop he did. His rider turned him around, and this time he deigned to trot forward. He hopped over the fence as though it was a puddle.

Restless dogs pulled me a long a bit,but we stopped again.

Here came another mini rider on a mini horse, and though they were a good distance away, they glowed like a Halloween pumpkin, for the rider was wearing a day-glo orange riding helmet. I would not have bothered to even note this,had the horse not been wearing some kind of orange matching boots on his front feet. I never heard the announcer announce the name of this flashy pony, but I hope it was not "Little Orange" or" Mr U.T.".( Some people's college football mania invades every corner of their lives).

We started to walk again, but then heard cries of "Help me! Help Me!.

Out on the edge of the jumping range a pony had taken off full speed in the wrong direction headed down toward Old Hickory Boulevard. He took his rider halfway down, but she stayed on, and at some point the horse's conscience kicked in and he slowed down and stopped. Down sped an official 4 wheeler, to make sure all was well.

This was enough for me. Dusk was coming, and we had to keep walking and away we went. We saw two turkeys in the woods that came up and crossed the drive, and this set the beagle howling.

We turned and came back, but the meet was over and the ponies were going away in their trailers. When we walked back out there this evening a small tractor was carrying the jumps away.

Lucky are girls whose parents let them have a horse, and deep must be those parents' pockets.

I have said I have little to do with horses, but when I was twelve, owning one was my greatest hope. I bicycled after school up to a stable owned by a man named Bill Hall. I mucked out the stables in return for riding lessons. I learned to take small jumps.During a dry spell I helped bring the horses down to the Little Sugar River for water.
One night I rode a placid old trainer horse-half Percheron draft horse. He was big and white and his back was a wide as a sofa, which was a good thing , because when he smelled the river he took off with me riding bareback and bouncing un-mercifully. Fifty years later I can still see those giant feet beneath me, big enough to crush my head.

My horse dreams did not last.

We moved. We had little money. We moved again. My enthusiasm leached away, and when, later in life, I could have afforded a horse, I never thought of it, for for me had been a "phase", and young girls have their phases. They want to be horsewomen or they break it to their parents that they want to become a nun. They want to be an ornithologist or a world explorer.

How relieved their mothers are when these girls come to their senses and settle for less-

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Noodle Casserole with Apples and Cheese

I found the bones of this recipe in "Hometown Cooking in New England", a collection of recipes from community cookbooks compiled by Sandra Taylor and published by Yankee magazine twenty years ago. I was looking for some ideas about using apples, and if one wants apple recipes New England cookbooks are the place to find them-

I bought the apples at a farm market store called The Green Door Gourmet which is out on the River Road that follows the Cumberland as it flows north to Ashland City. They are good non-synthetic apples that taste like apples, and they did not have that creepy, shiny look of the lacquered supermarket kinds.

I had to adapt the recipe, which came out of the "Poker Hill Cookbook" from Underhill, Vermont. I had to substitute because I had no cheddar cheese and no mace spice. I had everything thing else, which is a good thing since without the apples the recipe would have been a non starter-

I used Buttermilk Farmhouse cheese I had also bought at the "Green Door", and I topped the casserole with crushed up toasted breadcrumbs. I substituted cinnamon for mace and added a pinch or two of ground fenugreek to add a little maple sugar taste. I also added 3 tbs. of Ricotta cheese for no reason other than I felt like it. When I cook the tinkering never stops-

Here are the ingredients:

7 ounces of cooked noodles. The cookbook did not specify what noodle, so I used fideo, which are nothing other than vermicelli broken into inch long pieces. I think egg noodles or orzo would work as well.

1/2 cup cheddar cheese or Buttermilk farmhouse cheese,grated.

3 tbs Ricotta cheese.

3 tbs butter,melted.

2 cups of peeled, diced apples.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar, plus a tablespoon or two to sprinkle on top.

A few pinches of cinnamon, to taste. A pinch or two of ground fenugreek, though this is optional.

1/4 cup panko crumbs or toasted bread crumbs.

Pour the noodles into a 2 quart greased casserole. Add the butter and cheese and toss and mix well. Then add the apples, the seasonings and the sugar and mix again. Sprinkle the Panko crumbs over the top, and then the extra brown sugar.

Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes.

This should serve 4-6 people and is an obvious brunch dish.

I found this cookbook at an estate sale, and I would bet that someone bought it on a trip to New England, perhaps in autumn when they drove north to see the leaves turn. This is just the book one would find in a gift shop or at the welcome desk at a country inn.

Just looking through it takes me back four decades to my life in New Hampshire and Vermont. To the Saturday night buffets at the Woodstock Inn in Vermont. To the all day bike trips through the Kedron Valley. To the farm stands along the Connecticut River in towns like Orford and Norwich.

Cookbooks are a lot more than just recipes.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Another Nashville Autumn Garden-Green Hills

Here are some photos of the Green Hills garden I take care of.

And last of all, a bowling green for chipmunks! Courtesy of an Osage orange tree. Weeding in this back garden is dangerous-

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thoughts on Cynicism, Skepticism, and Thinking for Oneself

Being both a cynic and a skeptic, and an enemy of authority and received wisdom(unless it comes from my mother), I have no doubt that if a psychiatrist cornered me he would accuse me of having been born with Oppositional Defiance Disorder, that Stalin-esque mental condition outlined in the new Psychiatric bible.

These days I breathe in information from every sort of authority, and I exhale doubt.

Do I believe in our government, that pack of buffoons of both parties? Those earnest Mr Smiths, those earnest Ms Smiths who go to Washington to change things and become themselves the greedy and the changed- Do I doubt that at some point even the shiny armor of Elizabeth Warren will be pierced by corruption?

Hell, no. Henry Adams, who knew Washington and its disorders, said that a friend in power was a friend lost. I say that a new representative sent to that city is a Senator or Congressman lost. Lost, and compromised.

Let us ignore our government. God knows it ignores us. Let us speak no more of it-

Do I believe in any experts? In those who guide us through the everyday? Through the mundane. Through matters ornithological,horticultural, or culinary?

Not much more than politicians.

Let us take the case of the frozen free range chicken I had in my freezer for a year.Before this chicken became a half price Manager's Special at Kroger, it was one of those stress free, happy chickens living the rural high life. That provenance made it worth 16 dollars, though not to Kroger shoppers, who must be as skeptical as I am-

I forgot this chicken, then when I remembered it, I was dismayed. Was it still good? Was it worth cooking?

I consulted Mr Harold McGee, the Mr Science of cooking, and the news was bad. I had missed the edibility window by 9 months. At first I was tempted to toss the bird, but I hate waste, and there are many hungry raccoons, possums, and cats out on my porch.

I simmered it in a pasta pot till it disintegrated drained it, then decided to taste it.

An hour later some of the best of the white meat went into a chicken salad with grapes and pine nuts, and what a good salad it was. Mr McGee was in error.

I was not surprised, for I learned early that experts could be wrong.

I was reading a book about birds, and the author was describing the Pileated Woodpecker, a huge, startling bird not easily overlooked. "This shy bird of the deep woods" I read, and I knew then he was either a liar, or repeating someone else's error. I will be charitable, and assume it was the latter.

For, on many days, as I sat in a class so dull I cannot remember its subject, I looked out the second story window of the old Charlestown, New Hampshire Junior High School, and saw a pair of these woodpeckers nesting in an elm along the main street of the town.

And horticultural experts are not much better. Oh, how they mislead, especially when they team up with the US government and the Zone map that tells us what will not survive a winter here.

How many places have I read the Middle Tennessee gardeners need to dig up and store canna roots over the winter.
This is news to most Nashville gardeners, and news to the cannas, which happily spent the winter underground.

(To those who do not know what a canna is I will explain. It is a plant with banana tree sized leaves and showy flowers. No matter how tall you are or are not there is a canna variety that can look you in the eye.)

I admit my examples are small ones and I am certain if you live a more exciting life than I(which would not be hard),
you can think of ones much bigger!

Yet I must end this by saying that there are experts I do listen to, though they are not certified but are merely wise. My old supervisor, Mrs Mary Burroughs, once told me that there are three sides to every story.

Your story, my story, and what really happened. I hold this truth to be right up the with Occam's Razor.

Right up there with the words of a respiratory therapist extraordinaire named Mike, who once told me the ultimate truth in American life-

"Betsy, 99% of all paperwork is never seen again".