To get us started on our move to Tennessee our daughter and son-in-law rented a truck and came for several days to pick up some of our furniture for our Nashville house. It is just a dent - maybe 5% of our things, but a start just the same.
It will take several months to go through all our accumulation of 40 years for the move and it will keep me busy. I still took time to take pictures in our backyard. We moved our house plants outdoor as the weather was mild. On the leaf of one of the plants was a tiny frog - I had never seen its kind before - it was the size of a coin. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
Our first tea rose for the season was very pretty. In the 1970s I planted an heirloom pink climbing rose bush - I forget its name now. It has survived neglect all these years and gives us a profusion of blooms with many petals. It climbs high and I can see it, eye level, from the second floor window.
A family of yellow finches adopted our bird feeders. Their bright colors would be a splash of sunshine under any weather. I took their pictures through our kitchen window that has a screen so the pictures are not as clear as they could be.
Other birds would come to the feeders, but the little yellow finches did not like that. They would fly around them or sit on a branch and impatiently wait, and then come back and resume their feeding.
My husband will miss this backyard that attracts so many different birds. Our Nashville house has a small yard with hardly any bushes and trees. Here we see such a variety of birds - many I cannot photograph as they fly away so quickly.
One bird was unknown to me - it had the body of a sparrow but the striped head of a finch. Anyone knows what it was?
I had some old pecan nuts that I threw under the bird feeders. A little squirrel kept running back and forth with the nuts and took all of them away.
The chipmunk's head was hard to see among the red rocks. He is well camouflaged in the top photo.
Last week we drove to Tennessee to stay with our daughter and family. We did see a robin by their house. But I was in the car and too far - it flew away as I came closer.
Our daughter and family live in Brentwood, Tennessee. It is a suburban town south of Nashville (only 13 miles from our future house downtown.) They chose this location as they worked in towns in opposite directions and Brentwood was in the center of their commute. They live in a nice house, not a maxed-out fortress like those now being built in the area. Brentwood is in Williamson County which also includes the cities of Franklin, Fairview and Spring Hill. The area is pretty with rolling hills and farms. The Harpeth River runs through it. Native Americans were the first residents of Brentwood. European-American white settlers came next in the 1700s, dislodging the Native Americans. After the Civil War small farms growing tobacco and other crops were cultivating the land. Brentwood was incorporated as a city in 1969.
Brentwood is not a "city" per se - it has no real downtown or the usual Southern "town square" with a historic courthouse. It is made up of subdivisions, churches, schools, grocery stores, restaurants and banks - no sidewalks - you have to drive everywhere. It used to be mostly spacious farms, fenced-in pasture lands - but the land is being sold to wealthy residents and promoters who build oversized houses. In 2006 Williamson County was the 11th wealthiest county in the country (and still is in the top 20,) maybe because famous country singers live in and around Brentwood, such as Dolly Parton, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, Keisha, Carrie Underwood, Trisha Yearwood, etc., as well as well-known athletes and other celebrities. I also read the 90% of the new residents of Brentwood and adjacent localities are not from Tennessee. Driving around the county we can still see how pastoral and peaceful it must have all been.
Driving about 4 miles away to the grocery store, we pass some pretty landscape with trees, an historic house and barn, but suddenly come upon a huge McMansion in the middle of a field - it is startling.
As you drive down the county roads you still see some lovely farms with horses running free. But, maybe next door to an old house there will stand a gaudy, incongruous and artificial French-Normandy castle meets British cottage mega house. Then there will be an empty lot for sale followed by another McMansion of a totally different style - an oversized brick a gogo pretentious abode. It has an Italian look, but with big Southern columns and weird windows on the roof looking like antlers. Next might be a 1960 era ranch. What a series of discordant architectural styles.
Imitation castles next to old country homes - interesting neighborhood ... The European inspired fake castle (on the second row right in collage below) which includes disparate ornaments, was built in 2008 and has 6 full and 3 half bathrooms, a 7-car garage but only 4 bedrooms. It is listed at $6 millions. I checked and found that after several fields, they are surrounded by a barn looking building as their neighbors to the right and an ancient mobile home for the neighbors to the left (2 bottom pictures below.) ... The house certainly clashes with the local ambiance.
I researched the web to see if there is a Land Planning Commission in Brentwood and Williamson County. There is, but I could not find in their zoning regulations anything on architectural integrity, or community harmony. I did see that a developer had offered to build affordable housing but had been voted down. You won't find apartment complexes, housing projects, modest neighborhoods here. The aim is to let high-end grandiose suburban homes take the place of old farms. The down-home Southern charm won't survive. This is a shame because there used to be historic large houses in the area, and they blended in the scenery (see the first 3 historic homes below.) Now it is just a pastiche of style, to celebrate "money" with ego boasting Hummer type houses adorned with huge windows (that don't match the building size,) a tower or two, and a mishmash of styles. The sense of place and the character of the valley are gone - left are these over-designed, ostentatious and disproportionate houses competing for massiveness (and sprawl is ignored.)
There are many of these multi-million supersized bloated mastodons on the market. They are not "green," consume enormous amount of energy, and are car dependent (there is no public transportation anywhere that I could find,) cheaply built and encouraged by land developers and local municipalities. Their garish designs are not in harmony with their surroundings - you don't get a sense of "community" with them - no harmonious symmetry. These starter castles on the lush Williamson County farmland dwarf their neighbors' older homes - what is happening to the culture of architecture in America? Maybe these ridiculously sized, socially irresponsible homes don't use architects, just developers and a plan book. On the other hand I read that "millennials" (77 million young people aged 18-36) prefer to live in small houses in cities and in the mixed-used communities of urban centers. They reject living isolated in sterile sprawling mega houses in the middle of a field - so what will happen to the McMansion monstrosities in the future?
You may think that I am a bit hard on this, but I come from Europe where there are stringent national land-use laws. Urban planning laws are also tougher - my mother, who wanted to add a room and rear entrance to her house, had to wait one year for a building permit - it had to "fit" with the neighborhood, be historically done, even though you could not see the room from the front of the house. Most old cities in Europe would not have their unique characters if some of their wealthy citizens, like here, had decided to build a mega house in their town, without any regard to their neighbors and environment. There are many wealthy people in Europe. Just imagine, just for fun, if one of these Williamson County huge single family houses were built into one of the European cities below - what would they look like in these cities? In the left columns are: Cinque Terre, Italy - Colmar, France and Dinant, Belgium. These cities do have their proper style of architecture but here, in Williamson County alone, an assortment of styles have been randomly copied from a motley collection of European mansions.
There is an interesting article on McMansions by columnist Thomas Frank - read it here
(Let them eat McMansions: the 1 percent income inequality and new fashioned American excess
.) He says: "The suburban ideal of the 1950s, according to "The Organization Man," was supposed to be "classlessness," but the opposite ideal is the brick-to-the-head message of the dominant suburban form of today. The McMansion exists to separate and then celebrate the people who are wealthier than everybody else; this is the transcendent theme on which its crazy, discordant architectural features come harmonically together. This form of development wants nothing to do with the superficial community-mindedness of the postwar suburb, and the reason the giant house looks the way it does is to inform you of this. Have the security guard slam the gates, please, and the rest of the world be damned.
" I am pleased that we will be living downtown Nashville, in an historic district. It is a Neighborhood Conservation Zoning Overlay district where you just can't build, add or demolish a house at will. Many houses are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Below are some more areas of Williamson County that have not been built over, yet.
Our daughter read on the web that a local animal rescue shelter needed some help. They had just found 8 puppies abandoned in a box and were asking for volunteers to keep some of them for a while. Four of these puppies were in the house when we arrived. My husband and almost 3-years old granddaughter favored the little white puppy, but it became sick and had to be returned for several days.
The other three puppies were energetic and lively.
The puppies were so cute; I could not stop taking their pictures.
One of the puppies watched my husband pushing his grandson on the swing. But then they all fell asleep.
Luckily the puppies did not go to the front yard or they would have seen a big, wild rabbit. He was fat and did not run away when I came closer to take its picture.
We drove back to Georgia, to our cats - without a fuzzy puppy, unfortunately, or ... fortunately? :-)
There are many photos in this long post, but since I only can post once a month or so, there is plenty of time to read and look at them. I also had some fun with watercolor and paint.