Saturday, December 6, 2014

A True Story

When I first started this blog I wrote a fanciful post about my dogs playing on my computer while I was at work, and while they had the run of the house.

It was fantasy, but the following is not.

The other morning  I went to the kitchen, and I left my computer open to some opinion site.

I made my coffee, but was startled to hear loud,bouncy, tinny music coming from my work room. I assumed it was some ad that had come on.

But when I went to check, I found the Ragdoll kitten horde I now am stuck with wandering around on the desk my computer sits on.

Bored with catnip mice and squeaky toys, tired of shredding the couch, they had gone online and typed in Youtube.

And what had they chosen to watch?

"Everything is Awesome", an animated music video from "The Lego Movie". I would post it here, but I fear I might violate copyright law and end up in federal prison.

"The Lego Movie".

So much for feline discrimination and good taste. But then they are just kittens.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Beagle Sonnet- A poem in Fourteen Ridiculous Lines,

Which give new meaning to the word "doggerel"!

A nose with four legs defines a beagle.

And though his lineage is regal,

(Elizabeth 1 kept a slew),

This might not be the dog for you.

For a beagle's hearing is selective.

He hears only what he wants to hear,

And drives his owner to curses and invective.

A beagle does only what he wants to do.

Caring nothing for what's convenient for you-

He wants only to sniff, and sleep, and snack.

Nirvana for him is a rabbit's track.

And pity the owner, trapped in a car,

Who drives by the verge where the rabbits are,

And has his ears blistered by yowl and roar.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Seen Today in Southwest Nashville

Confined in my auto wanderings by lack of money, I try to keep an eye on the unusual and the bizarre close to home.

Interesting things are everywhere , if one takes the time to look.

Message on a bumper sticker on a late model smallish white car I noticed in the Bellevue Kroger parking lot-


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

One Of These Old Politicians is a Dead Ringer For A Guess What!

I saw this picture, and while I have no interest in the man on the far left or the one on the right, I am struck by the one in the middle.

Now John McCain and whoever the other guy is may have evolved from ape like ancestors, but it is clear to me that Mitch O'Connell has descended from Box Turtles! What a striking resemblance!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Last of Their Kind?

 When I saw this Monarch butterfly at the garden in Green Hills, I took these photos, for the way the Sixth Great Extinction is progressing, there may be no monarchs next year. I have seen only three this year, whereas ten years ago as I drove over the causeway from the mainland to St. George Island ,Florida, I saw thousands drifting out over the bridge and the sea.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"My Old Dexterities in Witchery Gone-"

"And nothing left for Love to look upon".

So wrote Thomas Hardy in his poem "She, To Him" Part 111.

Time has robbed the woman speaking in this poem. She has grown old and lost her claim to the attentions of men. The "witchery" that charmed is gone. Hers is the fate of women whose currency, whose capital, is their face and figure.

This, and several other poems came to mind when I saw the stories and photos of the actress Renee Zellweiger, who had such radical plastic surgery that she now looks like someone headed into Witness Protection. Trying to stay youthful  to stay employable, she has now achieved neither. Had she accepted the inevitable, she might have become a character actress. Instead she can join the dozens of actresses of indeterminate age who compete to play district attorneys and coroners on TV crime shows.

Growing old is a pain to any woman. Here is the poet Louise Bogan. The poem is "The Crows"., and these are the first two stanzas.

"The woman who has grown old

And knows desire must die

Yet turns to love again

Hears the crows' cry.

She is a stem long hardened

A weed that no scythe mows

The heart's laughter will be to her

The crying of the crows,"

Robert Frost is no more cheerful, and in his poem "Provide, Provide", describes the afflictions of aging for both men and women-

"The witch that came(the withered hag)

To wash the steps with pail and rag

Was once the beauty Abishag.

The picture pride of Hollywood.

Too many fall from great and good

For you to doubt the likelihood."

The fall may not be so steep for those of us more ordinary,who have been spared celebrity or flagrant romance in our youth. The best we can say about our looks is they never counted for much, yet we got by without them.

At 64, I care little for how my face and neck look or that I am a size 14 aiming for a 16. I am happy that I can still walk and see and work.

Youth was a mask, and I am glad to have it off.

Now if I could just get rid of the pain in my hip that comes when I sit down to write.
But having no illusions, I will just have to endure it, and count my blessings-

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Night Blooming Cereus

Though the cereus is sometimes ever blooming, mine blooms in autumn. The blossoms, that mimic the lotus, last only 12 hours over night, and I was lucky to get these photos.

When frost comes, it comes inside to sulk until spring. I bought mine from Logee's Greenhouses.

It is a big plant, and can throw out 6 foot canes, though it can be tamed with shears. I have seen pictures of it used in bedding schemes, but of course that was in the tropics.

It is very fragrant!

Monday, October 13, 2014


Anyone who watched the fine old western "Lonesome Dove" might remember the scene when Captain Gus, peeved by a slow and surly barkeep, smashes the barkeep's nose into the counter declaring that neither he, Captain Gus, nor his partner Captain Call,  would ever put up with "dawdling service".

It seems that Americans will not put up with it either, which is why American companies now throw their dollars at the unholy Studer Group and others of its ilk, who in the words of a member of Nurses United, want to turn even hospitals "into Disneyland".

These days, at least in this city, the hospitality script reigns, and a consumer who wants fawning service can find it everywhere that there are frightened employees who fear for their job and health insurance should they fail at reciting the scripts and be labelled  "Low Performers", whose next job will be unemployment.

I am fortunate indeed that I work at the Little Big House. The service mentality has yet to infect corrections, whose clientele are community despised ones that citizens would rather forget. I am proud to say that in Medical Services at the House, the inmates are treated respectfully and fairly. This may be good manners or compassion on the part of Medical, or it may be enlightened self-interest, for no one wants an inmate filing grievances or lawsuits against them, and no one wants  inmates with long memories (which means most of them) coming looking for that nurse or doctor after that prisoner gets parole, or has his sentence "flatten out" (as we say in the business).

I recently paid visits to two businesses I cannot avoid. One was my bank, the other was one of the better grocery stores. Both were Emporiums of Super Scripting.

I went to the bank to buy a cashier's check, which is the way I have to pay my rent when Social Security comes in two days after the rent is due.

The bank was having a slow morning, which gave its employees a desperate and hungry look. As I walked in they lined up as though Queen Elizabeth had just walked in. On every side I was greeted with lots of smiling and  and "Good Mornings". One teller told me she always enjoyed seeing me, and I believed this since the bank charges me 10 bucks for the check, and I, being in a perpetual state of financial uncertainty, buy them often. Another admired my hat. When the first teller's computer balked, she apologized  far too much as I went over to a second teller. As far as I was concerned, the teller need not have apologized. It is unseemly for any human to apologize for an unruly and malicious machine.

Check in hand, I walked out through the same phalanx of managers and greeters, all hoping my day would be stupendous, and all thanking me for choosing them for all my banking needs.

I needed some groceries next, and down the road I went to the Smiley Grocery, where I met the same smiley workforce. If anyone's cat had just died, if their husband had left them, or if the IRS was pursuing them to the very gates of Hell , it did not show. One dour look, one hint of indifference might mean no job and no 300 dollar asthma inhaler for their child.

At the Really Big Grocery, right in the heart of Bellevue, when one asks where the store has hidden the AA batteries, the stocker will tell you what aisle they are in. At the Smiley Grocery they will ask about your day as they lead you by the hand to the very place where the batteries live.  At every turn you will be greeted by relentless cheerfulness, even if you insist on pushing your cart to the truck yourself.

To give credit where it is due, I remember a day two summers ago,after I was injured in a fall and had two black eyes. I was at the Smiley Grocery, and could not see the pay swiper buttons with the sunglasses I had on. A most courteous and genuine store manager did the button punching for me.
I still think he was one of Nature's Nobleman.

Was all this graciousness faux?

Probably not, since this is Nashville. Since this is the South, a place where good manners still persist.
And I do appreciate someone taking me to find the batteries, even if the package lies and says they are Max and may last up to ten years.

So the next time you yearn for the bad old days of lousy customer service and unscripted employees with bad attitudes just  call the Big Monopoly Cable Company. They will treat you like dirt every time. I guarantee it!

A Disclaimer. My cable company is now U-verse, and I like them. If you have problems they will send over a Millennial whiz kid who will politely arrive on time, and fix what needs to be fixed.

Was the young male Millennial going by a script?

Who cares?At least I could blog again and watch "The Blacklist".

Saturday, October 11, 2014

An Autumn Garden

Here are some photos I took this morning at the garden in Green Hills that I plant and take care of. I thought even non-gardeners might enjoy them- Click on photo to enlarge.

I think that the leaves that have fallen onto the garden make the flower beds look more beautiful.

The first photo is of a native euonymus with very colorful common names such as "Wahoo" and "Hearts a"bustin".

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Little Visitors

A few months back I walked into my bathroom, and discovered that I was not alone.

Now sometimes when I go in there, I am not alone because my Shih Tzu follows me in. He does that when he thinks we are getting ready to get in the car and go for a walk, or, as he did last night, he thinks cowering in the bathtub is the remedy for high winds, big rain, and thunder and lightning.

But my visitor this summer was a six inch long adolescent Six Lined Skink.

A young skink is the Fred Astaire of lizards, so elegant in his pin-striped reptile suit with his flashy bright blue tail. All he lacks is tap dancing shoes and a top hat.

But alas, this youthful charm does not last, and too soon he grows fat and brown orange and ordinary.
His decline mirrors our own.

At the time I assumed the lizard had ridden in in the dirt of a flower pot, since I had cuttings all over the table near my south window. I chased him into a bucket, and I let him go out in some mulch.

I thought no more of it.

Until two days ago, when I again had reptilian company. This time my visitor was of the serpent persuasion- a foot long slim- as- a- pencil green snake, who was contemplating the wrong turn that brought him out onto linoleum between the toilet and the bathtub.

Now this snake was lucky, as I have always liked snakes and have showed them courtesy. Another tenant would have called the office in hysterics or stomped him flat.

I tried to guide him into a box, but he did not fall for it.

I decided to sweep him gently outside using a broom, but he did not cooperate.

It was not as though he was capable of a speedy escape, for I learned that evolution did not prepare green snakes for gaining traction on linoleum. For every five inches I moved him he spun his scales and fell three inches back.

Then he saw his chance, and into a chink under the bathroom sink cupboard he went, and I am sure it was this fissure that he came in through when he decided to visit.

I wish him well. May he find the worm colony of his dreams, and eat himself full.

But now when I go into that room, the lights go on and I inspect the area fully .

I do not want slithery surprise in the dark!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

From The Tee-Tiny Experimental Kitchen- Succotash with Buttermilk and Ham

If there is any dish I remember from my youth with horror it would be succotash. I do not remember when I first met it, though the hospital cafeteria at the old Mary Hitchcock would be a good bet.
Awful, awful, and more awful.

Yet this past Friday I bought a pound bag of fresh Tennessee grown lima beans at the farmer's market at the Methodist Church on Old Harding Pike.

What a difference forty years can make in our perspective!

I boiled the beans till tender in chicken broth. I sauteed a large white onion in a mixture of 1/3 stick butter and a heaping tablespoon of lard until the onion was tender and sweet. I added the drained beans and a 15 oz can of creamed corn( I did not have fresh or canned plain corn kernels). I added a little sea salt to taste, then poured in 1/3 cup of buttermilk. After all why bore your taste buds with plain cream when you can wake them up with buttermilk! Then I tossed in a cup of diced up fully cooked honey ham.

Oh what a happy Thanksgiving side dish this would be, served up in a beautiful Hall pottery bowl!


I am certain frozen lima beans would work, and that plain corn kernels would be acceptable, but I think the creamed corn adds something special-

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Portabello Quiche

Despite its rather funereal appearance, this is a delicious quiche. I made it yesterday with a pound of half priced Manager's Specials Portabello mushrooms from Kroger. I reserved four thin sliced mushrooms for the top, then put the rest into the food processor, where I chopped them finely.

Then I mixed them with a cup of shredded Gruyere cheese, five eggs, and a third of a cup of cream. I also added a bit of salt to taste. I put them into a pie shell I had blind baked for 12 minutes , then baked the quiche at 350 for around 50 minutes. And as the observant will see, I did decorate with a few slice tomatoes prior to baking.

 I have been reluctant to post many recipes on the site lately because I am ambivalent about Internet recipes. I am sad that people are abandoning cookbooks for recipes of dubious provenance posted by people who may or may not know what they are doing.

As an example, I will cite instructions for making risotto that called for first browning the rice!

Marcella Hazan would weep

Use cookbooks people. Do not abandon cookbooks-

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Autumn Garden Scenes- Nashville

Here are a few photos of the garden in West Meade that I take care of.  These were taken this morning-

A lovely, clear September day today, and what a joy it was to be outside!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back From Hiatus

Miss Betsy is back from a much needed break. To celebrate I have composed a bit of light verse foolishness.

One of the younger nurses at the Little Big House once told me the story of an elderly prisoner who became depressed when his pet died. Now pets are hard to come by in prison, but this man had found one. Now you and I might befriend a cat, dog, or rabbit, but prisoners must be creative. Here is the story of an inmate named Denny-

The night that Denny's cockroach died

The mourners brought the wine.

They made it in a hidden still

that the guards would never find..

A matchbox was the coffin.

A Band Aid was the shroud.

And Denny gave the eulogy

To a large, felonious crowd.

"He was my friend for thirty days.

I did not know him long.

But some damn fool came in and sprayed

Now Cockie Roach is gone".

The old man cried for half a week

Till inmates in the house

Assuaged his sadness

By catching him a mouse.

Welcome to Fall and the Autumnal Equinox. May God protect us from any more dew points of 80!

Monday, August 4, 2014

160 People From Turkey Reading My Blog?

In the past few days I have been getting much blog traffic from Turkey, and I wonder if anyone else has too-

This blog has perhaps 8 regular readers, though visitors do stumble in on it when they are looking for information on Tennessee lizards or Harpeth River State Park and Hidden Lake.

I think the Turks, forbidden to use Twitter and Facebook, are looking for ways to bypass what their government is blocking by going in through backdoors.

My hands would fall off before I would use Twitter or Facebook, though a few years back my sister talked me into joining. I used it two weeks, then got the hell out.

I do not think my blog links to either of these sites.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"I Gave My Cat a Bath-"

Any reader who remembers the late Seventies may remember the Steve Martin routine where he describes bathing his cat, a project that went well though the fur stuck to the comedian's tongue.

Well, I gave a cat a bath a bath last week, and I will never try it again.

This cat, a gray male Community cat named Minuscule, had endured a bath in mild dishwashing liquid when he was a bit smaller, and I could not imagine he would object to being rid of fleas again.

(The white cat has no name. She is Minuscule's sister.)

Minuscule, a swaggering little man cat, had become a particular friend. He let me rub him, pick him up, carry him about the house. I intended to make him a house cat, a neutered one, who would avoid a fate of running all over the place looking for females and eventually ending up being eaten by a coyote, or getting hit by a car.

I intended to get him used to the dogs and the apartment, but first the fleas had to go-

This involved a big blue bucket of water, some organic flea soap touted to be safe for older kittens, and a resident fool to give the bath.

I picked up Miniscule by the neck, as his mother would have, squirted soap on him and dunked him in the bucket.

In the next few seconds it was as though I had been attacked by a half dozen thorny rose bushes. Glistening with soap Miniscule, with suds coming out of his mouth, retreated under the hedge. I, his friend, had become Satan's Spawn.

Horrified,  I spent an hour trying to catch him to get the soap off. I had a towel to throw over and trap him, and thick winter gloves to protect my hands-

I tried luring him in with a felt fake mouse on a string. I tried sweet talking. And some of this drama
entertained the lawn crew, who already think I am a loco old Anglo woman, though that is another story.

I could not catch him, and there he cowered, spewing soap bubbles.

Oh no, thought I. He will run to the upper apartments and some one will see him and he will be foaming at the mouth and they will think he has rabies. The cops will come, and animal control, and they will take all the cats and kill them, and it will be all my fault and I will end up in jail or on Channel 4 at 6. Or maybe he will die from the soap before anyone sees him and I won't go to jail but I will be a cat killer.

I was depressed and despondent all day. I felt better when the cats came back that evening for food.
Minuscule, looking as thought his rear end had dragged through hair gel, was with them. He refused to speak to me.

The next day they all came back, though the little gray cat was wary. But no worse for wear, since he chugged down Tender Centers.

Now, a week on we are best friends again. I pick him up and pet him, I put him on my lap. He brought me another dead vole, give to him by his mother Brushy Tail, who is a relentless Stone Killer.

All seems back to where it was pre-bath.

Maybe he is just waiting for revenge. Biding his time. Maybe tomorrow when I pick him up he will bite my nose off.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Liquid Salad

I have heard Gazpacho described as a "Liquid Salad", and while this recipe is not for a classical Gazpacho, it tastes just as refreshing.

It is easy to make. Simply cut up three medium fresh tomatoes, and one medium peeled cucumber, and puree them in the food processor or blender. Add three or four roasted peppers( I used canned Piquillos), two garlic cloves, and some sea salt to taste and puree them into the mixture along with one slice of any bakery quality white bread. Add up to an ounce of Sherry vinegar- tasting as you go- and blend well.

Serve cold.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Warning! Words Ahead!

Every time I think of walking away from Blogging something hideous comes up that I feel requires comment.

I have noted this week, on two gardening blog sites, a warning placed at the bottom of the page, alerting our newest citizens, the Thumbsters, that into their sub-literate, post-literate, a-literate world has come a blog post or article requiring that they read WORDS.

389 words! is one warning. OMG the Thumbsters howl. Really, they say, then forget it.

5,200 words ! warns the website describing xeric gardens that do not waste water.

5200 words whine the Thumbsters. Has the writer never heard of an Easy Read? And who even knew there were that many words. We thought, like, you know, that there were only 140.

Imagine the relief of  senior high school Thumbsters discarding their Iliads, and Chaucer, and "Bleak House" at McKay Used Books. Books that weigh more than three I-phones, full of boring descriptions and unlikeable characters.  The days of "The Dead Poets Society" are over.

The day of the Text Message Novel is at hand-

And don't worry. It won't be a "Long Read".

*My discouragement earlier this week was caused by an apartment flooded by a corroded hot water heater and by a gum abcess. Enough to turn anyone into a pessimist.

There, I've said it in twenty eight words. Just enough not to abuse our tee-tiny attention spans!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Go Watch The Lightning Bugs

Do not turn on the news tonight. Seeing it will do you no good. There is not one thing one can do about any of it, and  going outside to see the lightning bugs will ease your spirit. Listen for the nighthawks, and watch for the clouds bringing tomorrow's rain.

Hate and war and revenge will never go away. The original sin was Cain killing Abel, and every day Cain's descendants kill their brother again. 

Here is what A.E Houseman wrote:

" Stars, I have seen them fall

But when they drop and die

No star is lost at all

From the star-sown sky.

The toil of all that be

Helps not the primal fault:

It rains into the sea,

And still the sea is salt"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Other Blog

My other blog-Tales of a Nashville Gardener- is now The Nashville Gardener. I was forced to leave Wordpress because of technical glitches with photo uploads.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Have Fun Storming the Castle".

A month ago, when last I posted, the War with the Rabbits had just begun.

Now it is escalating beyond repellent granules to violence and the building of fortifications.

The other night I turned the hose on one of the unholy snackers, and sent him fleeing into the next yard, where I hoped he might meet the big black and white cat. The next day, after planting some hardy begonias, I built a stick fort, hoping a good stab in the belly might be a deterrent.

The weather is not helping. Almost a month without rain means that the lawn is dry hay, and the flower garden is honey and figs and paradise.

Every time I drive over to this garden at least six members of the Rodentry are sneaking around, having just sampled choice bits of this and that.

Where are the coyotes when you need them?

Friday, June 6, 2014

High Clover

My friend, who owns the Green Hills garden I write about, has pet rabbits, so I need to be careful what I say about that branch of the Rodent-ry. Her indoor rabbits have good manners and are litter box trained. They sit on the couch out at my friend's farm up on the Plateau, and listen to her husband play the guitar. They eat special rabbit food, and never go near her garden.

The little beasts in Green Hills are not so civilized. They eat what I plant, and usually in the first days after I plant it. Blue Woodland Phlox. Purple Gomphrena. The Heart-leaved aster.

Nibbled to nubs.

Notice the blossoming clover in the photo. How abundant it is! How tasty it must be! But who wants to eat clover everyday, when there is a smorgasbord in the flower beds-

I asked my friend about rabbit repellant,but she was worried it might hurt them. Well then, how about the homemade concoctions that some other frustrated gardeners advise? Lovely mixtures that include dish washing detergent, red pepper flakes, human urine, crushed garlic cloves , and rotten eggs.

Or- I may try a method I used several years ago in my vegetable garden. I took plastic forks and knives and dotted them about with their business end up. Of course this is not practical in a long border, but it might give the rabbits second thoughts about chewing down certain plants.

Aversion Therapy.

In my other friend's garden in West Meade, there is no rabbit damage, nor do the deer I see on the lawn next door come near, for that friend has Shetland Sheepdogs who number in the double digits. But I am thinking of using the Fork Trick there as well, for nothing decimates the brittle stems of a salvia faster than a hound pack headed up to the wood verge at top speed.

Pestifers. That is what I call these four legged destroyers. Whether they hide in holes under shrubs or sport AKC registration papers.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Nothing Changes

Politicians are the only people one can vilify with impunity, for if you do not specify what party- or even what country-most of your fellow humans agree with you!

Here is a snippet from a book titled "The Essay", that I pulled out of the free books bin at McKay Books. It is from an essay by Jack London, who describes how his working class birth made him long for a different life. As a young man he became an oysterman, and briefly a criminal:

"One night I went on a raid amongst the Chinese fisherman. Ropes and nets were worth dollars and cents.It was robbery, I grant,but it was precisely the spirit of capitalism. The capitalist takes away the possessions of his fellow-creatures by means of a rebate, or by a betrayal of trust, or by the purchase of senators and supreme- court judges. I was merely crude. That was the only difference. I used a gun."

And from "The Craft of Gardens",by Ji Cheng, a garden designer from the age of the Ming Dynasty (translated by Alison Hardie), Maggie Cheswick writes this in the Foreword-

"- and since the Ming was a repressive and autocratic dynasty, it reinforced the option of a gentleman to reject public office and devote his time to the advancement of his spiritual,literary, and artistic gifts in the elegant setting of a garden. The great Ming artist Wen Zhengming(1470-1559), who partly designed the Zhuo Zheng Yuan, or Garden of the Unsuccessful Politician, in Suzhou, made only one brief and unsatisfactory excursion into public employment and then, calling himself always an amateur, he lived for a time among the watery mazes of this lovely place, devoting himself to poetry and painting."

Well, one of our previous Presidents, who no one calls much of a success, did retreat to Texas to paint pictures of himself and his feet, as they stuck out from the water in his bathtub. I do not know that he ever gardened, though he had been pictured on his presidential time-outs clearing brush and complaining about armadillos.

"The Garden of Sagebrush and Possums on the Half-Shell". That is what the Chinese might call it-

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Late May in a Nashville Garden- May 22, 2014

Here are some photos from the West Meade garden I take care of. How fresh and bright everything looks in May!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Follow the Money Report- May 14,2014

When war breaks out, who benefits?

For those of us who have wondered,( and been naive in our wondering) just what the Ukraine has to do with our national interest-

Well here you have it.

Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, has joined the board of the Ukraine's biggest private gas company.

These people do not even bother to be discrete anymore! Maybe we should just go ahead and annex the Ukraine as our newest state!

When you read about the Ukraine and you see the word "freedom", insert the word "gas" instead.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Good Question

When I was a highschooler, I can remember my Uncle Seb and my Aunt Philly visiting us at our house on Bible Hill. They brought one of my myriad cousins- this one a girl toddler with a beady and suspicious eye.

This child gave me the up and down, then asked me in a demanding and condescending tone"Whose mother are you?"

A good question, even after 50 plus years. During that time many people have asked me if I had children. New co-workers and my patients and their families were always curious. When I replied that I was not married, some were confused. What did it matter, their looks seemed to say.

Well it mattered to me, and I chose the New England spinsterhood of an outmoded day and age.

But not having children does not mean not having to mother and be bothered by others. Ask my married friends.

Ask me, as a nurse who has practiced for 44 years. I took care of hundreds of people I was not related to, and in the now dead tradition of Nightingale nursing, was duty bound to always put their needs above my own.

Now my nursing career is vestigial, since I work only a few days a month at the night clinic at the Little Big House. But some things do not change. The inmates who have already been judged fear no further judgement from me, and I take care of them as best I can.

There are no shortages of others dependent on me in the animal and vegetable kingdoms either. I have over a hundred seedlings in flats. Dozens of plant cuttings. Two gardens.

Not to mention possums, raccoons, and porch cats, one whom just presented these-

So- not all mothers are mothers. It is one of Nature's great jokes.

I would say Happy Mother's Day to my mother here but that would be pointless. She thinks the Internet is the Devil's Playground.

Friday, May 9, 2014

New President at NPR

At the top of the hour, if I can get there fast enough, I turn down NPR news on our Classical station and wait for it to go away.

A few minutes ago I was not quick enough. I heard that one Jarl Mohn was the new president at NPR.

His credentials?

Former president of E! Entertainment Television, and a former disc jockey also associated with MTV.

Classy. I can imagine what is coming.

Symphonic music to strut down the Hollywood red carpet by. Beyonce's favorite composers. Miley Cyrus's favorite concertos.

Imagine , though, the plus side for the news division!

Fewer boring reports on the future of wind farms! GMA instead of GMO! Overnight TV ratings and up to the minute box office tallies for the weekend-

Crimea? Isn't that a town with a high crime rate? You know, like Chicago?

God help us all-

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Walk at Vaughn's Gap

For the past two mornings the hounds and I have walked at Vaughn's Gap in Percy Warner Park. The Main Drive and trails there are in the forest, and safely out of the sun, which makes even 10 am hard to bear.

Most of the spring's ephemeral flowers of the forest floor are gone by now, but I found a solitary Butterwort-

And a clump of pale blue Waterleaf, that the photo does not do justice to.

This beautiful orange and green flower chalice is from the Tulip tree, and it fell far to land on the road, for Tulip trees can grow to 200 feet. The woods at Vaughn's Gap have much second growth, but many of the trees are old and venerable, and though they are not the oaks Keats described in "Hyperion"- "Those green-robed senators of mighty woods", they too are"branch-charmed by the earnest stars-".

These woods were full of wind and birdsong this mid-morning. The Swainson's thrushes were singing. I heard Acadian Flycatchers, Tennessee Warblers, Red-eyed vireos, Parula warblers, and a Scarlet Tanager.

The only disturbers of the peace were the cars on the main drive. Edwin Warner Park banned cars on its drives years ago, and it is the better for it. I think Percy Warner should follow suit, for too many of the drivers care not that there are toddlers in strollers up behind the next curve-

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunday In The Green Hills Garden

The Green Hills garden is , in spring, a garden of old fashioned flowers. The owner inherited many of them when she bought the house 25 years ago, and she added family heirloom flowers such as these irises, which came from her mother's garden in Milledgeville, Georgia.

The cornflowers, once called Bachelor's Buttons, have been returning yearly for decades. One never sees them for sale at garden centers. They do not transplant.

There are peonies here as well, but they are still in bud.

As I was putting in new plants this morning I saw a small flock of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at the neighbors' feeder. They are transients of course, headed to the north country. I remember seeing them in our garden in back of our old house in North Charlestown , New Hampshire over 50 years ago. My father had planted rows of potatoes. The potatoes were attacked by potato beetles, and the grosbeaks came to our rescue.

One other bird note for today- I heard the first Wood Thrush of the season as I walked the dogs at Edwin Warner Park. The Wood Thrush deigns to spend the summer in Tennessee, but the Veery and the Hermit Thrush live in this state only in the Mountains.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Strawberries from Outer Space

I bought these strawberries this morning here in Bellevue at a farm out on the River Road. Cut up and topped with whipped cream they look conventional enough.

But look closely at these. They appear to be sprouting antennae from their little tops.

Or maybe satellite dishes-

They taste good, though.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

After The Rain- Percy Warner Park

Five inches of rain yesterday and through the night, and then a clear, bright morning to be followed by more rain.

My Shih Tzu, who went on a hunger strike and hid for hours in the closet because he heard thunder, came out when he heard me taking down the leashes and pocketing the car keys. Percy Warner Park was our destination. It had to be, for our usual walks at Edwin Warner Park were under the Harpeth River, which was 5 feet over flood stage.

We walked the Main Drive on the hill above the steeplechase course, and as we walked into the woods I heard a sound that is rare here- the sound of small waters in overnight brooks and rivulets, rushing and seeping off the stone walls and hills into minor lakes and sloughs beside the road.

In his poem "Hyla Brook", Robert Frost writes:

"By June our brook's run out of song and speed".

Frost's New Hampshire brooks were those of my youth in North Charlestown, New Hampshire. These were brooks that came from springs and snow melt, and they lasted for the season. Not so the Percy Warner brooks, which will be gone until the next 5 inch rain.

Yesterday, the waters were more violent, for I saw stones from the walls along the road that had been undermined, and that had tumbled down into the ditches. Water is powerful when it is on the move. Four years ago, when we had 20 inches of rain in three days, hillsides at the park collapsed in mudslides.

But today I heard only gentle gurgling and dripping.

When we turned back I listened for other sounds. Perhaps I would hear a Woodthrush, or even the Swainson's Thrush.

Neither were singing. But the Indigo Bunting was back, and there he was, inspecting a Hackberry tree.

There were a few other humans out this morning. The Park Grounds crew drove past in their little white truck, for the Iroquois Steeplechase is a week from this coming Saturday, and there are fields to be groomed and trimmed.

The view from the road above the steeplechase course is panoramic. My sister once told me it reminded her of Italy.

Yet how often it is walked, or cycled, or driven by by the oblivious. Today there was a young woman sitting on a stone bench. She was bent over her laptop computer. Another girl, taking a break from her morning run, was on her phone, though whether she was getting or sending messages, I do not know.

This is the generation that will replace us, and to whom not much is real until they have confirmed it on a screen.

Hypertrophied Thumbs and Silicon souls.

Not a people interested in the sound of a brook going downhill or the sound of a thrush singing.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Newspaper of Whose Record?

I have read that the New York Times is America's "Newspaper of Record". I have been reading it off and on for the last 50 years, and I now have a question.

Whose America is it recording and reporting for?

When I was thirteen, Mr Clay, my Social Studies teacher at the Charlestown, N.H.
Junior High School, arranged for those of us who wanted it to subscribe to the daily Times. My parents agreed to pay. My mother told me that she had heard that anyone who read the New York Times faithfully( for I forget how many years )received the equivalent of a college education.

My father always bought the Sunday edition, and I remember so well the Book Review. How substantial it was! Pages and pages in the era of Mailer, and Roth, and Cheever, and Heller. Mary McCarthy. Robert Lowell. Sylvia Plath.

But that was 50 years ago, when the best seller list was in the back, and it merited only one page.

For a while this past winter, I drove to Kroger on Sunday morning to pick up the Sunday Times, even though it set me back $6.00 a week, $24 dollars a month.

$24 dollars buys me a week's worth of gas if I don't stray far. It buys two big bags of primo catfood, which is the only kind my porch cats will eat. But I loved the idea of the Sunday Times, and one morning after buying it I felt so buoyant that I went in to the Starbucks for only the third time in my life and spent more money on a pastry and a big Cappuchino.

Truly this was living again! Here I was, an Intelligent Citizen, no longer an impecunious peon, about to spend my Sunday inhaling Civilization and Culture. A Wallace Stevens morning-

"Complacencies of the peignoir and late

Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair".

The big review of the week was Cynthia Ozick's of the Library of America's publication of Bernard Malamud's novels. I read the first two pages, then went looking for the rest.

But there was no rest. The Times, eager to include 5 pages of Best Seller lists, had forgotten the rest of Cynthia Ozick.

In subsequent weeks I found a few things to enjoy, but none worth $6. There was an article about a group of Steampunkers aboard a cruise ship, and for a few minutes I forgot myself and wished that I could be a Steampunker too, for I admire people who stay playful in adulthood and who do not let their imaginations atrophy and die.

Yet how puny were the Editorial pages and the Book Review.

How fat were the Style Section and the "T" Magazine.

For here is where the heart and soul of the Times are now. Forget the occasional expose of the scandalous cost of Asthma care in this country, the real story now is the story of our Financial Overlords, who spend 30 Grand a month to vacation in places you and I would never be allowed into. They buy "Ricky" bags and six hundred dollar shoes, never having to worry as we do that we might need $600 for a new timing belt in our 14 year old cars.

I do not buy the Sunday Times now. If I see an article I want to read, I go to Google, and I sneak around the Paywall.

Probably a misdemeanor in our New Republic of Pleonexia,whose house organ is "T" magazine .

Government of Goldman Sachs by Goldman Sachs for Goldman Sachs.

Somewhere out there a re-born Madame Defarge is knitting. But you will never hear about it in the Sunday New York Times.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Blue Grosbeaks in Nashville

The Blue Grosbeaks have returned to the fields behind the Ensworth School in Bellevue. Look for them along the paved Harpeth River Greenway near the iron foot bridge. There are Northern Yellowthroats along in these fields as well-

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Garden Blog

My garden blog, "Tales of a Nashville Gardener" is up and running for another season. Anyone interested in gardening and in gardening with Southern heirloom plants can go to Tales of a Nashville Gardener at wordpress.

Porch Diner Etiquette- Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

This possum is "Big Head". I have not seen it in a awhile, and thought it might have met the common fate of possums, which is to be run over by a car. But perhaps "it" is a "she", and she may have been otherwise occupied. The raccoon is Mr Usual, and he is out there all night waiting for the buffet to be replenished. He is also partial to day old donuts-

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scenes from My Porch Diner-After Hours

"Tender Centers" catfood was on the menu tonight, as well as day old cheese bread from Kroger.

As you can see this is a Peaceable Kingdom. The feline is Kitten Cat, who lives on the porch along with two of her cousins and her mother Shaky Cat. I am their servant, and provide them with concierge service.

The Masked One does not have a name, but he or she has an appetite, and several others of her tribe show up as well, along with a pair of possums, and several other very shy feral cats

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lamb Meatloaf with Cumin, Pine Nuts, and Two Onions

As the first photo shows, there is nothing more mundane looking than a meatloaf, especially when it is not covered by what I would call a catsup bandage.

Meatloaf is a mid-week meal, a slab of hamburger-in- hiding with the bun hidden inside in the white bread crumbs added by cooks desperate to keep the loaf moist. Meatloaf is a Protein Delivery System for teenage boys and husbands who will eat anything as long as it is covered with barbecue sauce and comes with potatoes on the side.

Most American meatloaf recipes call for ground beef that may or may not be mixed with other ground meats. All recipes require an egg, a little milk, and a starch, be it bread, rolled oats, or crumbled cornflakes. A small onion,diced and untreated, is also tossed in in the hopes that it will not still taste raw after 45 minutes at 350 degrees. And some cooks cover the loaf with strips of thin bacon.

My Lamb Meatloaf would be ruined by lava flows of catsup dripping off the sides, but it goes beautifully with the Roast Pepper and Tomato Soup of my previous post, a soup that is not watery, but stew-like.

My meatloaf is spiced with cumin and a little Kefta mix and 7 spice powder, and while I gave the nod to starch by adding Panko crumbs, its main filler is the two onions-one white and one red- that I use as a moist filler.

*(Those who cannot find Kefta or 7 Spice could add a pinch of cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground cardomom.)

The treatment of the white and Bermuda onions is key. They must be grated, and this is best done with the shredder disc of the food processor. This produces a mound of very moist onion bits that you will steam to softness in a saute pan that has olive oil in it. Saute over medium heat after adding some cumin and sea salt to taste. Stir to prevent sticking and do not brown the onions. You want them soft and tasty, not caramelized. Keep tasting and when the onions are soft and cooked through, they are ready.

1 pound ground lamb

2 garlic cloves, crushed in a press

Sea Salt

Olive oil

1 red onion medium sized and 1 medium white onion

1/3 cup pine nuts (Inexpensive if you can find them at Trader Joe's)

1/2 cup Panko crumbs

1 big egg

1/3 to 1/2 cup milk or cream

Sauteed onion-all of it- as described previously.

Cumin to taste for onions, and more added to the meat mixture- perhaps 1/2 tsp

Spices as described above.

Throw everything into a bowl and mix well. Then spoon mixture into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Serves 4, perhaps. Dress with Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce/stew.

Note the side dish- Peeled and dice purple mini potatoes tossed with olive oil and sea salt, studded with garlic slivers and roasted.

This dish is also good cold.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

From The Tee-Tiny Experimental Kitchen- Cream of Roast Red Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup

This soup took me under 15 minutes to make, and I think it is delicious.

15 oz can or jar of roasted red bell peppers, drained.

28 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes

Dash of Italian seasoning

Sea salt to taste

2 garlic gloves, finely minced or crushed in a press

1-2 cups of chicken broth or chicken bouillon.

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar-optional

1/4 - 1/2 cup heavy cream( cook's preference on desired creaminess).

Puree the tomatoes in a blender- do not drain tomatoes! Set aside in a large sauce pan.

Puree the roasted peppers. You may need to add a little water to make the blender happy! Add to saucepan.

Add garlic and Italian seasoning to taste. Add broth, then bring soup to a boil on medium heat. Boil 2 minutes, then lower to simmer.

Add cream and stir well. Adjust seasonings.

Should serve 4-6. Very good with crusty bread

* I intend to use this recipe, minus the broth, to create a sauce for lamb and feta meatballs. Doesn't that sound good!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Scenes from this morning's walk along the Harpeth Greenway and Edwin Warner Park

This has been a belated Spring. We are three weeks behind.

The river in the photo is the Harpeth. This was once the country of Indians called the Mound Builders, and supposedly a few miles west of here along the Harpeth there are some mounds, though I have never seen them-