Sunday, April 6, 2014

Caroline Dormon's Legacy: A Return to Briarwood

(You can click on any photo to enlarge for better viewing)

A sense of peace and tranquility surrounds Briarwood, the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, near Saline, Louisiana, even when my husband and I arrived for the annual picnic to find cars parked up and down the road.

A trip to Briarwood Nature Preserve takes you to a place where one woman's values and principles are evidenced in everything seen.  

detail from a brochure about Briarwood
“Miss Carrie,” as Caroline Dormon was known to friends and family, was a cousin of my husband’s grandfather so we try to attend the annual picnics. An added bonus is getting to visit with some of the other Edgertons who attend this event. My husband met Caroline Dormon when he was young and the family visited Briarwood for a family reunion.

Ricky is boy in forefront right and
Miss Carrie is standing in the shadows
(With appreciation for photo provided by Ricky's cousin Edwin Edgerton III)

Briarwood was the summer home of the Dormon family, and Caroline was born here in July 1888.  She returned to Brairwood as an adult to live here full time.  As I've been reading about Caroline Dormon, I found glimpses of her life story depicted in some snippets from national and regional magazines (as quoted in Briarwood brochures). 

“During her lifetime at Briarwood, Caroline built a log house, carved trails through the woods, scooped out a ‘reflection’ pond and planted hundreds of wildflowers, trees and shrubs collected during her travels throughout the South."
Southern Living Magazine, July 1992

 Caroline was a scholar all her life and taught school briefly in her early years after attending college in Alabama.  The following family photo shows a sign near one rural school where Miss Carrie taught.

“The unpretentious unconventional woman lived most of her 83 years in a log house set amongst secluded woodlands in a remote area of northeasternmost Natchitoches Parish.  Often beset by financial stress, she resorted to such humble and mostly unsuccessful ventures as offering summer camps for girls or selling home-canned products.  Yet she gained world renown as a conservationist, naturalist, botanist, artist, historian, author, student of Indian lore and collector of native plants.  Louisiana State University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Science Degree.”    
Forest and People Magazine, 3rd Quarter, 1990

Caroline Dormon devoted her life to preserving the flora and fauna found at Briarwood and planted many more species on the land.  Today over 7,000 species of plants have been recorded at Briarwood, and it's not surprising that one goal of the non-profit group that oversees this nature preserve is to teach the value of native plants in the landscape and their potential for medical use.
 As Ricky and I wandered the trails around Briarwood, we took photos to help remember this day.
path through the wildflower meadow
lily (still trying to remember which one)
Native Azalea
The aroma of the white native azalea filled the path
Illicium floridanum (also known as purple anise, Florida anise, stink-bush, or star-anise)
an evergreen shrub native to the south-eastern United States
especially Florida and Louisiana. Smells like a wet dog!

Sign at the pond

Old sign identifying tree
Love the texture of this bark

There's a writer's cabin on the premises for people doing research related to Briarwood.
A friend David Snell vividly described Caroline Dormon in Smithsonian Magazine, February 1972:  “I can see her now, calling to [her sister]Virginia, the indoor Dormon, whooping and prancing about like some bamboo-stemmed marsh bird, and swinging her arms high over her head, with palms aloft and fingertips pointing backwards, in delight and disbelief that Heaven should have chosen to so bless this day.”

I felt the same way--experiencing delight and disbelief-- at the natural wonders that Briarwood provides to visitors.

Briarwood is managed by a non-profit organization, The Foundation for the Preservation of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, Inc. whose goals include protecting Briarwood’s old growth forest, as well as the protection of Dormon’s botanical collection of native plants and rare and endangered plants at Briarwood.  Briarwood also seeks to provide a safe habitat for wildlife and strives to educate adults and children in the importance of biodiversity and the preservation of the ecosystem.

For more information, please refer to these books related to Caroline Dormon, as well as the Facebook page, Briarwood Nature Preserve.
  • Flowers Native to the Deep South, Dormon’s book of wildflowers  (Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishing Division, 1958; 2nd printing, 1999)
  • The Gift of the Wild Things: The Life of Caroline Dormon, by Fran Holman. (Lafayette, La: The Center for Louisiana Studies, 1990)
  • Adventures in Wild Flowers: The Timeless Writings of Caroline Dormon, editor Fran Holman (Catawba Publishing, 2010)
You may also want to read my earlier blog post about a previous Briarwood visit.




Sunday, March 23, 2014

Once Again, The Once Upon a Time Challenge

I was new to blogging when I first participated in the Once Upon a Time Challenge, sponsored by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Now this reading challenge is in its eighth year, and I think I'll try it again.  From March 21 until June 21, readers who are on The Journey, my proposed level of participation, agree to read one book from four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology.  There are many more ambitious options in this challenge, so go to Carl's popular blog to view all the choices, as well as the current participants.
The added challenge for me is I want to read books selected from my own library--books I own but have never read.  This was one of the most enjoyable parts the last time I took the challenge--taking time to read books that have languished on my library shelves, for years in some instances.  It's the "so many books, so little time" excuse.  Plus, the "I have a problem when it comes to buying books" excuse. 
My messy library
I'm still putting together my modest book list, but I plan to start with a book I discovered on my library shelves earlier this evening (before I ever thought about participating in the challenge)--Madeleine L'Engle's An Acceptable Time (fantasy). 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mardi Gras 2014--A Throwback Post

This is a Throwback Post.  The Wild Rumpus of Mardi Gras is over. Things are hectic around here for Mardi Gras, then there’s the extended recovery period afterwards, plus I had my winter bout of bronchitis. So, it's been awhile between posts.  A little catching up....
Ricky and I traveled to New Orleans in February to visit friends and celebrate my birthday and Valentine’s Day.  

Ricky and our friend Elizabeth on porch in New Orleans

We were lucky that it was the weekend of the Krewe du Vieux parade, the satirical and crudely funny parade that pokes fun at everything NOLA—nothing is sacred—no politician or issue is off-limits.  This year's theme was Where the Vile Things Are. 

Street Scene at Vieux Carre parade with Krewe King, Author John Barry
Led by Krewe King, Author/Historian/Activist John Barry, the mule-drawn or people-powered floats featured a giant smoking paper mache bong to tout the case for medical marijuana; and a take-off on the popular movie Beasts of the Southern Wild except this was Breasts of the Southern Wild, with, yes, giant boobs.  Continuing the anatomical theme was the spoof of Obama Care, Pajama Care, with giant buttocks and a rectal thermometer in use.  The Disney Landrieu float was a critique of some of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s recent decisions that have been interpreted as trying to Disneyfy New Orleans; and a personal favorite--a life-size caricature of Louisiana Governor and aspiring presidential candidate Bobby Jindal twerking as he held onto a railing and looked out on parade goers.

It was hard to get good photographs from where we were standing, but Ricky snapped this picture of the Let Me People Go-Cup float from the Krewe of Mishegas, when it stopped in front of us.  The Krewe of Mishegas, the Yiddish word for insanity or craziness, took aim at some efforts to prevent people in the Big Easy from drinking on the streets as long as the beverage is in a go-cup, the current ordinance.
Let My People Go-Cup Float
The floats were interspersed with neighborhood brass bands and marchers in outlandish costumes and make-up.  It is one of the most unique of the New Orleans Mardi Gras parades. 
Each year our New Orleans friends collect large bins of beads for us to haul back to Shreveport. Thus, we left there with barely enough room for us in our SUV and once we got home in Shreveport, we distributed the beads to folks who were riding floats in our neighborhood parade put on by the Krewe of Highland.  Then, we started in earnest to prepare for our large open house and Mardi Gras party that we have each year during the Highland parade.  The house is decorated for the affair with, what else but--bins of beads!

This year’s menu consisted of turkey and seafood gumbo; red beans and rice; shrimp and grits; jalapeno, egg and cheese squares; Rotel dip for nachos; baked brie with cranberry topping and crackers; chips and spinach dip, topped off by multiple king cakes from our neighborhood bakery, Julie Anne’s.  Then friends added to the bounty so every inch of multiple tables ended up covered by food. 

For the first time ever, this year’s parade was threatened by severe weather predictions so it started an hour earlier than initially scheduled.  This cut down on the number of people who came to our open house but we still had between 75 and 100 people stop by to visit, eat and watch the parade. Usually it’s more like 150—200!
Video of the Blanc et Noir Marching Society
Some of the folks who braved the weather to attend the Highland parade!


The rain held off until the parade was past our house but later on the route, things were a bit damp.  The party started in heat and humidity and air conditioning and ended, after the strong cold front blew through, with my dispensing hot tea to wet parade goers who huddled in the warm kitchen where my vintage Chambers range had kept things toasty. 
With this front, winter roared back after Mardi Gras and, since I was too tired to remember that we put all our potted plants out on the patio for Mardi Gras, my container plants experienced some temperatures in the 20’s.  I’m now waiting to see if any of them weathered the winter, or if I have to replace them all this spring.  I’m not complaining, our winter was nothing like the real winter and deep snows endured by many friends and family further north. In Louisiana, the Cedar Waxwings have come and gone, stripping the holly tree and all shrubs of their winter berries, now the flowering quince, the native bridal wreath from the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, and our old camellias are blooming. 

I am so glad to see the advent of spring in Louisiana, but who can complain about winter when you have carnival to celebrate!

Cedar Waxwings stripping our bushes of berries!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Love of Reading is a Precious Gift

I had the pleasure this week of delivering children’s books to several early childhood programs.  The daughter of one of our faculty members at LSUHSC Children’s Center collected gently used books as part of her Bat Mitzvah, and then donated the books and other literacy materials to our department.  Some items we kept for our waiting room, but we gave one basket of books to an inclusive child development center, two baskets went to a large Head Start center, and I delivered two baskets of paperback books to the elementary school around the corner from my house.  We are trying to promote in the students at these schools a love of reading--one of the greatest gifts an adult can give a child.

Presenting a basket of books to Goldman Child Development Center
This afternoon I attended a baby shower for the daughter of a dear friend.  The event was filled with conversation, delicious treats and gifts that will welcome baby Grace into the world in a couple of months. 

A suggestion of spring in Louisiana with tulips at each table
Young helpers assist the mom-to-be
Expectant mother poses with her friends while some of us "photo bomb" in the back.

It was lucky the shower was held a couple blocks from my house, because I was getting ready when my sister and mother called from Virginia to chat a few minutes.  They were excited that it was snowing in the mountains, and it looked like they would get several inches before it was over.  My sister said she and her husband were more excited about the prospect of sledding in the afternoon (once it snowed a bit more) than her young grandsons were.

With my mind on children and snow, I decided to review a children’s book that I recently purchased from a new thrift shop in my neighborhood.  As soon as I saw the book, I loved the cover art and the title of the book and the fact the author was a Newbery Honoree.  I brought the paperback home to read before I pass it on to a great-niece or great- nephew.

Ruddy doesn’t always enjoy his visits with his Grandmother Silk.  He loves computers, playing outside and getting dirty.  Grandmother Silk has perfect hair and wears high heels all the time—even her bedroom slippers have high heels.  She doesn’t have a computer and the only television show he can watch at her house is Masterpiece Theater.  She lives next to a lake, but doesn’t like to take walks.  She has a garden full of herbs, vegetables and flowers but only Lucy who comes to cook every day is allowed to pick any vegetables.  Ruddy usually visits in the summer, but this year is different—he has to stay ten whole days in the fall while his parents take a cruise.  The only good thing is his grandmother agrees to buy him a gorilla costume and take him to the zoo for Halloween.
Then, the unexpected happens and a big snow storm hits the night before Halloween.  It knocks down trees, which knocks out the electricity and blocks the roads.  Ruddy and Grandmother Silk have no heat, no lights, no water and no help for days.  They must stay warm with the wood fire places, cook on the gas stove top, haul water from the lake and figure out how to amuse themselves—and they succeed. 
Ruddy observes that Grandmother Silk seems to get softer as the days go by.  Finally electric workers from Kentucky arrive to repair their electric lines.  The storm created such an emergency that workers from all over have been called in to help.  At first Grandmother isn't sure she likes the men from Kentucky but soon she and Ruddy are outside holding a flashlight to help them see, and once power is restored, everyone gathers together for hot chocolate.

This chapter book for young readers is an engaging, sweet story, which was published posthumously in 2003 after Fenner passed away in 2002.  British Illustrator Amanda Harvey provides the delightful and humorous pictures for the book.  Snowed in with Grandmother Silk was named an American Library Association Notable Book, a Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book, and a Center for Children’s Books Gryphon Honor Book.  It's a perfect book for a snowy day.

Snow today in my mother & sister's neighborhood posted by a friend on FB.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Will I ever read all the books on my TBR list? Duh, No....

The question on a Book Blogger Blog Hop  is:


Do you think you will ever read every book in your TBR (To Be Read) stack? 

 I take comfort in the fact that I could be quarantined in my home library for years and never run out of reading material!  Of course there are also bookcases all over the house and cottage, adding to my TBR list.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bloodroot and Rosemary Biscuits

While looking for books to donate to a church media sale, I happened upon Susan Wittig Albert’s Bloodroot, published in 2001, which has been on my library shelves for quite awhile.  I  tried reading this mystery before but didn’t get far.  The setting is the Mississippi Delta rather than the herb shop and tearoom in the Texas Hill Country of Albert's other China Bayles mysteries. 
I picked up the book again and decided if it didn’t hold my interest this time, I would donate it.  I must have been more amenable to reading about the South this go-around, because I finished it quickly.  I actually enjoyed learning some back story about China and her mother Leatha, with whom China has had a troubled relationship in the past. 

The aunt who raised Leatha and who owns the family’s Mississippi plantation is ill with a degenerative neurological disorder, and Leatha is caring for her when secrets from the family’s past begin to emerge, and Leatha asks China for help.  China’s legal skills from her former career are called into play, and some unexplained ghostly assistance points China in the right direction.
Ill-conceived and extreme measures taken to hide family secrets lead to unnecessary deaths, and the sins of the fathers must be uncovered in order to move forward.  The decisions of the characters propel the plot at a more leisurely pace so this isn't a "sitting on the edge of your seat" mystery.  While the characters are fraught with human frailties, the reader is left with hope for the future.

Of course, there is the usual information about herbs in this series, and since I’m taking a Master Gardener class, I try to pay attention to all the Latin names! 
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis)

Master Gardener binder at my desk--reading this week's assignment!

My reading also inspired me to make some rosemary biscuits though I didn’t use the exact recipe provided in the book.  I had some heavy cream in the refrigerator left over from Christmas and decided to make cream biscuits from a recipe found here on the Internet.  Essentially you add heavy cream to a mixture of flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.  I added dried rosemary to the recipe and they turned out well.  I was able to use the leftover cream, but these rich biscuits certainly aren’t something I would make often. 
Toasted rosemary biscuits with honey for breakfast

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Drinking Wine and Reading About Scotland

I’m finally getting my house back in order from the Christmas holidays, which is important because we have Mardi Gras decorating to do!  Today I took a break from cleaning and went to my wine group where the conversation ranged from paranormal activity to a recent overseas trip to men and bosses, but we found time to drink a little wine and comment on the wine-dessert pairings. 


Chocolate cake made of chickpeas in background!
I’m also continuing to review books I read over the holidays.  I probably should have been drinking a single malt whiskey, rather than wine, before I reviewed this book set in 1950's Scotland.
Atria paperback, 2013

Part of a severed leg is found in the laundry of a local hockey team by the neighborhood nurse and “hockey mom” who washes the uniforms each week.  Is it a macabre joke or something more sinister? 

At the very least, it is a front page story for the Highland Gazette and captures the interest of reporter Joanne Ross and her colleagues—fellow reporter Rob McLean; Editor and Joanne’s romantic interest, McAllister; and photographer Hector Bain.  The situation soon takes a more gruesome turn, and all the investigative skills of the Highland Gazette staff are brought to bear on the case.  

A beautiful American jazz singer has also appeared in the village looking for information about her airman husband who died in a plane crash several years before off the Scottish coast.  Is her appearance related to what is happening in the village?  Her inquiries seem innocuous, but someone doesn’t want her finding answers and will go to any lengths to stop her. 

Other newspaper employees featured in this book are the young receptionist Fiona and grizzled deputy editor Don McLeod, plus various family members of the news staff.  The characters and the setting of a small town newspaper in a Scottish seacoast village are major reasons for the charm of this series by A. D. Scott, the pen name of Deborah Ann Nolan.  Another strength of Scott's series is the fact that the characters and their situations evolve and change with each book.

The plots are sometimes far-fetched and this one doesn’t always appear logical to me, but unhinged villains aren’t logical in their actions.  The climax drags in this book, and then one unfinished piece of business is hurriedly completed in a flurry of tidying up unresolved plot elements.  None of this would deter me from reading additional books in the series, however. 
To read my review of one of Scott’s earlier mysteries, A Double Death on the Black Isle, click here.