Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nocturnal Visits of the Black and Tan Hound

Photo from website of

We have been awakened during three nights in the past week by the baying of a hound.
The first time it happened a bit after midnight--just as we had welcomed that first deep sleep.
Another night the sound assaulted  our open bedroom windows at around 2 A.M.
The hound's progress around the edge of the woods, down the lane and back up the ridge can be tracked by his ringing call:  "Bor-ror-ror, Bor-ror-ror"--steady and monotonous as a metronome.

His route is close enough to the house that Jim or I usually stumble from bed, plod down the stairs to turn on the porch light, checking to make sure the outdoor cats are safe.

The hound was a bit off his schedule this Sunday morning.
I was awake at 4 A.M. struggling not to cough from the sore throat that has plagued me 
for several days.
After a bit I crept to the bathroom for a drink of water, eased back onto my side of the king-size bed.
The cats resettled themselves at the foot of the bed, I tried to get comfortable.
Then, dimly, I heard the deep voice of the hound, coming down the trail through the woods beyond the stable.
I made no sound, but knew that Jim was now awake.

I felt the cats rise to attention, heard one of them thump onto the floor.
Jim was out of bed, parting the curtains at the window.
The grey wash of impending dawn flowed into the room.
I looked at the digital clock on Jim's dresser: 5: 15.
Jim reached for the shirt and jeans lying on the chair by the bed, dressing as he padded through to look out the bathroom window and then out the front window.
He returned, buttoning his shirt, headed for the stairs.
"Are you going after the dog?" I croaked.
"Not much chance of seeing him," Jim responded grimly.

I listened for a moment to his feet on the stairs, joined by the pell-mell descent of 
the boy cats in his wake. 
There seemed little point in trying for another hour of sleep.

Reluctantly I switched on the bedside lamp, pushed aside the quilt.
I fumbled my way into a pair of sweatpants, yanked a warm top over my head.

It was dark in the kitchen, but beyond the north-facing windows the shapes of trees, parked vehicles, the dark slope of the stable roof, were emerging from the mist-laden gloom.
I drew water, measured coffee, set the shiny pot on the electric burner, twitched the 
knob to medium-high.
Beyond the front door Jim brushed wet grass from his shoes, conversed with the outdoor cats.

We poured coffee, moved to our respective desks which reside in the wide hallway which connects the kitchen area to the living room.
Jim grumbled morosely about the irresponsibility of dog owners; Launched unwillingly into my third day with a bout of laryngitis, I could only nod.

By 7 A. M.  I had made the bed, tidied the bathroom, collected the laundry.
Passing through the kitchen, headed down to the washer and dryer on the ground floor, I looked through the window at the exact moment the hound trotted out of the woods beyond the stable.
He paused to sniff at the gravel drive.
"Hound!" I managed to force out the word.
At that moment the hound announced his return in ringing tones.
"Bor-ror-ror!  Bor-ror-ror!"

Jim was out the front door and firing up the 4 wheeler before I could make another sound.
I watched in fascination as he whirled around the end of the house, gravel spurting under the tires.

The hound seemed frozen in astonishment as the noisy machine headed his way, then he took flight.
I dashed to the porch in time to see the hound shoot under the garden fence and pound along the edge of the dry brook, Jim careening after him.
The cacophony of madly braying dog and snorting 4-wheeler faded as both disappeared at the bottom of the lane.
I brewed a cup of tea, added honey for my throat, collected a magazine and headed into the sunroom.
I sat huddled in the bedraggled wing chair, Teasel Cat on my lap, forcing tiny sips of scalding  tea down my stinging throat.
I felt slightly discombobulated, catapulted into the day before I was ready.
It was perhaps half an hour before I heard the 4-wheeler roaring back up the lane.
The front door opened and shut, Jim strode through to the sunroom.
I gave him an inquiring look.
"Ann was out in her garden.  I stopped to ask if she knew of the dog.  She thinks it belongs to her brother-in-law and that he has turned it loose."

"Would you shoot it?" I rasped.

Jim had gone out capless, such hair as he has left was standing on end.
"You know I don't enjoy shooting an animal," he reminded me, "but that dog barking by the hour, night after night, is getting old.  I was on his heels all the way down the pasture, half-tempted to run into him." 
He swiped at his wild hair, grinned ruefully.
"I figured if I got close enough to give him a good bump, the ground was so rough I might flip the 4 wheeler. I hope I convinced him this isn't a good place to be.  He dove into the culvert when we reached the road."

It is never, in these cases, merely the dog, although the poor witless creature becomes the focus of our exasperation. The real problem is always the owner of the dog [or dogs] who takes no heed for its where-abouts, has no consideration for the nuisance caused to neighbors.

On his outward swing around the ridge, the hound trots, baying, through the dooryard of our neighbors half a mile down the road.  He lingers there each time long enough to pee on their porch. I suppose we should consider ourselves blessed that thus far our porch has not been anointed.

Rural neighborhoods face slightly different issues than those in the suburbs where each house is rigidly bounded by a fence or line of shrubbery. Offensive noise there is apt to come from the sound of traffic at all hours, or the blare of someone's music when a party goes on too late.
In the country we deal with livestock that has gotten out and about, tomcats who prowl, dogs left untended to nose about, overturning trash cans, barking and baying in the wee hours.
One can run short of patience, longing for a quiet night, instead jolted awake by the relentless baying of a roaming hound dog. 
We wish his master would keep him at home.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Photos, Few Words

A box turtle at the edge of the lane.

Cockscomb--self-seeded from Anna Miller's plants.

One of the roosterish seedheads.

Willis--who is omni-present.

This 'weed' growing in clumps above the retaining wall. 
The flowers indicate it belongs to the labiate family--I may have put the green-bound wildflower book in the glass-fronted bookcase--but too tired to go looking for it and a possible identification.

The unknown rose, disinterred from a dry corner of the foundation planting and reestablished at the edge of the perennial strip below the workshop.

Strangely patterned insect.

A bounty of hips on the rugosa rose by the side porch steps.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Substantial, But Not Grand"

Several weeks ago, headed out with Jim on errands, I  hurriedly chose the above book to take along.
[I've learned that its best to have something to read as there is often a stop along the way with no need for me to be involved in the errand.]
I've owned the book for a number of years--one of those that is easy to enjoy, full of interesting photos and text.  I gather that Emma-Louise O'Reilly may be more familiar in the UK as a contributor to decorating and craft magazines than she is in the US.
Her comments are rather pithy, her observations a bit dictatorial.
A phrase caught my eye, 'substantial, but not grand.'
Emma-Louise was describing a modest vintage farmhouse originally built by German settlers in the Texas hill country.
The two Amish farmhouses which we have acquired are also substantial, plainly built, of simple layout--nothing remotely 'grand' about them.

Raising a new house or barn for an Amish family is often a neighborhood affair.
While a 'builder' may be hired [usually another Amish] much of the labor is contributed by relatives, in-laws and other Amish neighbors.
Some of those working on a house may not have the skill level of finish carpenters.

As Jim has labored to install plumbing and electrical wiring in these houses he has discovered an interior wall slightly out of plumb--which has interfered with properly hanging a door, stairs in the lower house that are not evenly spaced, slight discrepancies in the spacing of wall studs.
None of these things affect the stability or integrity of the buildings, but they do make 
for frustrating moments.
By far the most annoying to me is the quite unprofessional finish of the sheetrock on the walls. 
This resulted in visible joins in the sheetrock and 'mud' that wasn't smoothly sanded prior to painting.
I have learned that interior painting is handed over to the women of an Amish household--and I suspect that any female capable of wielding a paintbrush or roller was handed one and told to have at it.  Jim has patched and smoothed some areas, but the complete reworking which would make for a professional appearance isn't feasible in terms of time or budget.
I sternly tell myself that I must relinquish a perfectionist stance and enjoy the transformation of carefully chosen paint colors.
We have continued to plod along through the weeks of heat and humidity, and great progress has been made.

I painted the ceiling in the downstairs guest room last winter. When the spell of frigid weather arrived I closed the door and abandoned the job.
Knowing that our son and daughter-in-law would be arriving for a visit at the end of July inspired me to again pick up my brush and roller.
The actual paint color, Canyon Peach, is less pink than it appears in the above photo.

The room as it looked the day I finished painting.
The room ready for company.
The furniture belongs to our son who is dis-inclined to move it to Florida.
I made the pale sage grey/green curtains for one of our houses in Wyoming.
The vintage trunk at the foot of the bed came from my grandfather's attic.

Making a bed is a task beloved of cats.
Teasel knows that she enhances the quilt.

The following photos demonstrate the simple sturdiness of the buildings.
This is the back door which leads into the Amish 'washroom.'
This room contained a wood-fired boiler, a primitive shower stall, a sink with cold water.
The family laundry was done in a gas-powered wringer washing machine.
The enclosed space to the left of the door is the outhouse--NOT in use at present.
Eventually the pit will be filled in and the space can be utilized for garden tools or such.
We still refer to this area as the ''washroom.' 
The freezer resides there as well as receptacles for recycling. During the winter we stored kindling and some firewood in the space.
Eventually it will become a garage with an overhead door.

The workshop was built a few months before we acquired the property.
We planted a garden in the area below it. Topsoil had been hauled in and perhaps in a less rainy summer a garden could flourish.
The season-long mess of mud and rapidly growing weeds has been disheartening.

The ground falls away rather steeply from the south end of the house,
The guest bedroom is in the extension.  Below it, in the finished basement is a well insulated space for storing canned goods.

South-facing side porch. 
The cement steps leading to the ground floor entry are rather crudely made and a bit uneven.
My feet are learning the varying intervals.

The lower farmhouse has a larger compartmented barn, as well as a shed which sheltered buggies and a wood store.
We have the small stable built to accommodate one horse and a buggy.
Renovations continue, although I haven't documented the progress with photos.
Over the past month I have painted the sunroom which adjoins the downstairs guest room.
Upstairs, Jim paints ceilings, I paint walls.
He has been installing electricity, creating the space for the shower in the master suite, constructing trim for around windows, bedroom doors and baseboards.
[In all the Amish homes we have seen, upstairs bedrooms are not finished in terms of trim work.]
The large upstairs guest room has been painted and finished, small guest room painted and trim being installed. Furniture and oddments are shoved from one space to another to make room to work.
I do what I can to help.
I have to confess that painting rooms is not as easy a project for me as it was several years ago.
I clamber clumsily up and down my step ladder.
I sometimes want to sit down on the floor and wail with weariness even as I tick off 
another job finished. 
Soon, the major renovations will be complete.
Soon I can unpack pictures and small treasures, consider how furniture should be arranged.
Soon we can look around with satisfaction and know that we have created a home--not at all 'grand' but comfortable and welcoming.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I Could Do Without July!

Vines have rampaged along the fences.

High summer has never been a favorite time.  I have lived in three quite distinct areas in terms of climate--in all three, July weather is too hot.
The greater part of my life was spent in Vermont's Champlain Valley, with the Green Mountains rimming the eastern horizon, the dark and rugged thrust of the Adirondacks looming on the New York side of the lake, visible as one drove to the far end of the township.
June--early summer there--brought pleasantly warm days; in my girlhood, June meant  freedom from school, hours to roam in the burgeoning green meadows and woods of my Grampa Mac's farm. My sisters and I rode our bikes with the neighbor girls--also three sisters. If we got too warm, we ditched the bikes, flopped down in the grass, faces turned up to the endless blue of the sky.
Our mothers mixed endless  pitchers of kool aid--sugary sweet, garishly colored in 
faux-fruit flavors.

July segued in with long sultry days--nights too heavy with trapped heat and humidity for sleep. 
Pedaling along the back roads or  hiking up the pasture left one limp, head throbbing, out of sorts.
Yet, as children, so little was expected of us. We were free to spread a blanket in the shade of the silver maple and retreat there with a glass of lemonade and a library book.
Grampa Mac's farmhouse next door offered a relatively cool living room and his old rocking chair by the radio.
Adulthood, and a family of my own, brought a reality check: summer was no longer a time to play or lounge about trying to beat the heat.
July meant garden rows to weed, produce to be harvested, crawling along the ranks of green beans while sweat streamed down my back.  July ushered in hours of canning--steam belching from kettles and heat leaching from the crowded kitchen, seeping into rooms with curtains drawn against the scorching sun.

Weeds have flourished in the area where I attempted to make a rough flower garden.

Before 'retiring' to Kentucky in 2010, we spent 12 years in Wyoming.
July in Wyoming is hot and dusty, with heat that is unrelieved by shade trees. 
Afternoon temperatures soar into three digits--Fahrenheit. 
The sun blazes down, brassy, relentless.
Each afternoon rough wind skirls down from the mountains, picking up grit and sand as it scours across the high arid plains. Grasshoppers bounce in the coarse browned grass.
Summer twilight lingers in Wyoming; sunsets are tinged with the smoke of forest fires.
The saving grace of July in Wyoming is the usual drop in night time temperatures. 
As darkness deepens, cooler air flows down from the mountains. By the wee hours we reached to pull up the quilt folded at the foot of the bed. 
Jim rose at daybreak to work before the sun rose to searing heights.
I wore a sweatshirt while sitting on the porch to sip my morning mug of hot tea or coffee.
Relief from July heat was to be found camping on weekends in the mountains where a heavy sleeping bag was needed to withstand temperatures that could plummet to nearly freezing by midnight.

Willis sulks in a tray of lavender seedlings on the porch.

July in south-central Kentucky is all about heat and intense humidity.
We have learned to garden early in the morning, then to retreat inside, close the windows, draw the curtains, turn on fans or A/C. 
To step outside is to feel that one has been swathed and smothered in a hot steaming blanket.
July this year has been about rain--drenching rain, pounding rain, so much rain that the ground does not dry out before another deluge moves in.
The garden has succumbed to weeds and blight.
I need my wellies to walk down the path into the woods to the spot where I dump used cat litter.
A towel used once remains damp on the towel bar;  I round up towels and clothing each day for laundry, unwilling to leave anything to develop a sour musty odor. I have used the electric dryer more often in July than in January!
Last week I discovered a  slight film of mold creeping along the crevices of furniture.

Jim works doggedly at the renovation of the lower farmhouse, returning every few hours with his shirt plastered to his chest and back.
I paint a wall or two, then sag with exhaustion, hot and cranky.
We revive ourselves with iced tea, lemonade clinking with ice, fruit smoothies.

July, 2015, is nearly over.  August looms.
It is still hot in August
 August is also a month of transition, weather changes that are at first subtle, then more noticeable as the earth turns toward autumn.
There are cool mornings, afternoons when we can open the windows to a refreshing breeze.
I can deal with August, the month of waning summer.
July--I could do without  July!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Left-Behind Flowers

The rugosas by the front porch are past their spring flowering and developing clusters of large and colorful rosehips.

I still yearn for certain elements of the gardens I have left behind--my Vermont garden was 18 years in the making and tending.
The fate of my Gradyville garden--bulldozed for a parking area--still troubles me.
Continued rain is hampering my efforts to create gardens here at the farm, but I am discovering a legacy of plants which the Amish ladies of the two houses tended.

Rose of Sharon, aka althea or Chinese hibiscus, is apparently beloved of Amish gardeners.
This one stands at the end of the porch.

In full glory nearly a week ago.

Each blossom lasts only a day,

Silky petals, laden with raindrops this morning.

Last week I trudged through the backyard of the lower house, squeezed through the gap at the gate and out onto the road--a round-about route to the mailbox.
I was surprised to see this profusion on flowers growing along the end wall of the long building which once housed the Miller's harness making enterprise.
I suspected it was 'balsam', although I had never grown it.
Photos online and in several plant catalogs confirmed the identity.

Most of the plants have a scarlet blossom, a few are more magenta in color.

Rounding the corner of the shop I found these.
Plants originally confined in a white-painted tire had spilled over the edges and begotten a host of offspring.  Identification of these was more difficult.

Comparing photos, doing some reading, I learned that four o'clocks over-winter in our climate, spreading and forming tuberous roots.

I learned that one plant can produce several variations of bloom color.

I went down later in the day and discovered that in spite of the rain some of the blossoms were more fully opened.  
I think [if it stops raining and I can garden] I will eventually move some of the smaller plants here.

This rose was planted in the raised bed that skirts the side of the porch.  It was tucked in the corner beneath the roof overhang.  It was very slow to break dormancy and I feared that it might be a variety which couldn't survive the harsh cold of February.

Finally I saw signs of life--a few leaf buds at the base of the plant.
I moved it to the corner of the terraced garden, clipping back the dead wood.
The photo doesn't do it justice.

Apparently Anna Miller grew cleome.
I grew cleome in the front garden at the Bedford stone house.
It self-sowed with rude abandon.
I brought a few seedlings over to transplant and then discovered that cleome were popping up by the dozens. I have had to pull out a few, along with random petunias and a host of cockscomb.

Monday evening, working til darkness fell, I tackled the weeds in the gravely strip which borders the cement steps.
Last autumn I tucked in several varieties of thyme, a few lavenders and a clump of daylilies in the upper part, then divided clumps of dianthus and stuck them in hoping they will eventually spread down the slope.
I decided to leave a few of the invading cockscomb, but ruthlessly pulled up those which were over-shadowing the thyme.

I've learned that several of the Miller women have kept their gardens on this farm home.
The lower house, where Mose and Anna raised their family was constructed nearly 25 years ago.
Several roses line the south wall of the house.
Our house was  built in 2006 for the Miller's older daughter who was widowed at age 29.
Typically the family rallied to provide a home for her and seven children.
She remarried and the house was turned over to one of the newly married younger sons.
When he relocated a year ago, Mose and Anna yielded the big house to yet another married son and moved up the lane with their youngest child, Mary.
She was wed a few weeks before we acquired the place.

I don't know which of the women selected the plants I am now enjoying.
I'm intrigued that Amish women, who must paint the walls of their homes in the traditional shades of gloss blue, must dress lifelong in sober hues of blue or dark green, grey or black, can  give brilliant colors a dominant place in their choice of garden flowers.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Working Through The Wet

Bursts of rain continued through the weekend.
On Friday morning, hearing the rain pound on the metal roof as I did upstairs chores, I fetched my camera and took photos through the windows. 
Several didn't come out well as the pattern of the window screens made too heavy a grid overlaying the images of the misty landscape. 
This one, taken from the middle bedroom on the north side of the house, looks over the roof of the back entry which the Amish owners used as a wash house and summer kitchen.
Beyond, the woods lie dripping and dark.

The corner room on the north east side of the house looks directly into a tulip poplar. 
The ground slopes down from the house, so there is the sense from the second story of being in 
a tree house.
We slept in this bedroom for the first weeks here.  The tree was bare of leaves then and I enjoyed the view from my pillow each morning, looking through the uncurtained window into the branches.

Although today [Monday] was predicted to be clear, there was heavy fog early on.
At 7 A.M. the lower house and barns were nearly invisible.
Morning fog has been present for the past two weeks.

I shifted pots of seedlings around on the edge of the porch while Willis and Charlie kept watch for anything suspicious that might appear out of the mist.

The day did clear late in the morning, blessing us with the most sunshine we have seen in days.
Jim announced that he needed a few light fixtures from Lowes, which meant I could be dropped at Krogers next door to buy groceries.
We brought along a thermal cooler for the perishables, as Jim intended returning 
by way of the Cane Valley property.
While he mowed the yard there, I removed the latest collection of small branches shed by the silver maples [called 'water maples' locally] weeded the flower strip along the front entry, and dug up two clumps of Stella d'Oro daylilies which grow along the back patio. We found them there, overtaken by grass and weeds, when we began renovating the property in May, 2014.
Jim kept forgetting they were there and mowing over them.
Today as he bore down on me with the mower, I wrenched roots from the ground, bundled them into a cardboard box.  I have replanted them in the gravely edge of the garden plot near the workshop, backed against the railroad ties that support the low end of the area.

Friday's gardening efforts between showers.
I noticed the unmistakable signs that a hornworm had been devouring tomato plants.
Although I found damage on three plants and the tell-tale piles of beady 'poops' beneath the plants my search turned up only one worm--which I promptly smashed.
Squelching about, with rain dripping down my neck, I picked a colander full of mud-splattered 
green beans.
The half-drowned bean bushes are looking stressed.
Several small cucumbers , trying to grow in the wet, were covered in white mold.

I often wonder why we gardeners, against all reason, pit our labors against the weeds and the weather, season after season.
I had hoped the ground would dry out and Jim could use the small tiller--not yet, as merely walking between the rows leaves soggy depressions to fill with yet more rainwater.

 I hacked out some coarse weeds along the fence below the garden--with assistance from Charlie-cat.
I scraped a shallow trench and flung in saved seed--miniature sunflowers, zinnias, a few cosmos.
It is late for planting, the rocky ground may be inhospitable--but then again, perhaps a few will germinate and flower late in the summer to brighten that rather dull area.

This is not a flattering view of the patch of ground part way down the drive.
It was obvious that the Miller family had grown something there in previous years.
Jim tilled it this spring and I diligently picked rocks--and more rocks.
We decided not to plant vegetables there, and when Gina gifted me in May with an armload of iris roots I poked them into a straggling row.
The tiger lilies brought from the edge of the Cane Valley lot went in there also.
It began to rain soon after I planted them and weeds grew voraciously.
Due to the moisture and lack of blazing sun, the roots settled in with little wilting.
I whacked away with Jim's favorite triangular hoe, grubbing out a bit of breathing room.
With a 'what can I lose?' attitude, I threw in more of my saved seed.
I considered getting down on my creaky knees to weed--at least the weeds easily give up their roots in such weather--but by then was thoroughly damp, achy and cross.
Thoughts of a shower, dry clothes and a session of baking lured me inside.

I went out again late in the afternoon, stepping gingerly along the muddy path into the 
edge of the woods.
Water has streamed down the sides of the ridges, reactivating the little brook which ran here in 
early spring.

Water pools near the brush pile.

Along the west edge of the path, yellow mushrooms have proliferated.

They look like brilliant blossoms against the wet black earth.
This is our 6th summer in Kentucky.
Each season has been different--- early spring, cold late spring, summers of intense heat, July droughts, blazing August days, now this summer of rain.
We were warned this weekend by a friend who is a Kentucky native, that within a week of the rain ceasing we will be noting that the ground is too dry and the crops need more rain!