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-

Friday, April 11, 2014

Automotive Literacy

Nothing gives me a case of what Mark Twain called "the fantods" faster than car trouble.Two weeks ago I had a terrible case of it after my Toyota truck started sputtering as we drove down White Bridge Road to go to work at the night clinic at The Little Big House. Sputtering is one thing, but lurching and flashing the check engine light is something else.

I feared an automotive Chernobyl. Would the car die and stall out as we merge just in front of a semi coming on at ninety? Would it explode like cars do in Jerry Bruckenheimer films? Would I get to work on time?

The truck got me home the next morning after I spent the night in a funk. One of my co-workers was a man, and I drilled him for answers about cars. But he was involved with motorcycles and could give me no answers. And as I drove home I not only still seeing the flashing engine light, I found it impossible to get the truck to go faster than thirty.

I did not have to work for another two weeks, but I ended up under house arrest because I was down to $120.00 and could not afford to get it fixed until some money blew my way, which it would do in another ten days.

My truck and I have always been amicable, and never has he stranded me on the side of the road. I know how to get in, how to get out, and how to throw trash into the bed, the back seat and the front. I know how to turn the key and turn the lights on. I know the truck has a front and back, but I cannot remember where to find the flashers.

A concerned friend, trying to help, told me to go out and check the oil with some kind of stick. I knew the oil was in the front somewhere, and that I had to open the lid with some kind of lever that was inside the car. I started pulling levers and pushing buttons, then I got out to see if I could pry the lid open. I could not remember if it opened from the top or bottom. The top seemed unlikely since it was attached to the windshield, so I tried the bottom. It lifted an inch or two then quit.

I gave up then.

I know women who can change tires, but I do not want to know how. I pay others to do it. In a Toyota Tundra it is a terrible thing. It means having to remove an old computer, trashed mail and the dog steps from the back seat so you can pull the seat up or down(I do not remember which) just to find some metal rod thing. This rod goes into some sort of pulley under the back of the truck and you have to turn it and turn it to get the spare tire down from some hidden compartment to a place where the wrecker man can take it out.

There is a jack in there too, but do not ask me where it is. When the jack appears I go the front for I do not want to be near any part of a truck that is lifted in the air.

Today I delivered the truck to the Car Care Center. I was terrified. Would it be the dreaded Catalytic convertor?($2000.00) or the engine ($8000.00). Would I have to go to the loan sharks to pay for it? What if it could not be fixed?

In the end it cost 800 dollars, which seemed like a bargain compared to the alternatives.

The problem was with the coils they told me, and with the spark plugs. Two coils in fact.

The invoice they gave me looked like a cable bill. I recognized a few things. They had replaced the windshield wipers for free, apparently, but which was a good thing since they had been ground down to stubs.

And I learned another new thing- that spark plugs need little boots for their little spark plug feet, and that these boots cost 16 bucks a piece, and that I had paid for 129 dollars worth.

This is a good garage, and they depend on people like me for business for if everyone shopped at Auto Zone and did their own repairs the garages' work would plummet .

There are automotive literates out there-

And there are the automotive idiots- Like me.

Under 10 Minute Pasta Sauce with Cream, Garlic, Cheese, and Tomato Paste

Ten minutes may even be an overestimation. I used cold, cooked spaghetti I already had.

Put 2 teas olive oil in a saute pan and one clove of finely diced garlic or garlic sent through a press.

Now add 1/2 cup heavy cream and at least two tablespoons of a grated Italian cheese

Bring to a boil, then lower hear and stir till it reduces to creaminess.Adjust saltiness if necessary, but remember Italian cheese is salty.

Add a teaspoon of tomato paste and stir well for a minute. Toss in the spaghetti cold, or heat it if you prefer.

This feeds one hearty appetite or two daintier ones.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

They're Back!

As predicted the Barn Swallows arrived this afternoon, dipping, soaring, and diving over these apartments in Bellevue, Tennessee. Their flight must have been easy since there has been a strong south wind all day, and they must have saved energy riding north on it!The happiest day of Spring for me-

Bird Report for April 11

The first Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have come back to Tennessee, according to Surfbirds.com. Also the first Prothonatary and Blackburnian Warblers. No Barn Swallows yet, but they could be back this afternoon.

They will have a busier spring than usual. Their nests in the parking sheds were taken down by workmen repairing the sheds and repainting.

Seventy five degrees expected this afternoon, and everything is blooming at once. Bad news for asthmatics and allergic people like me!