Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weather This Week

Cold and gloomy weather began on Sunday with a persistent mizzle of rain.
By evening temperatures had dropped below freezing, and snow began to fall during the night.
The wind blew, harsh and raw, for several days.
We told ourselves the cold was nothing compared to that experienced for years in Vermont, and later in Wyoming, where winter's first heavy snow often fell before the end of September.

Still we have felt abused: huddling downstairs by the woodstove in the evenings and piling on blankets at night, scurrying down with morning coffee to sit with the cats in front of the glowing fire.
Jim has worked outside at the Amish house, installing the electrical entrance box in preparation for inspection.
Part of the installation was in the leather shop, so he could pop inside, warm up and 
watch Mose Miller at his craft.
I drove up on Tuesday to see how my plants had fared.
Sadly, the largest of my rosemary seedlings which I had set in the raised bed, still in their pots, were crisped black by the frost.
I remember wondering what I would do with so many seedlings as I pricked them out in the spring from around the dead mother plant.
If I harbored any doubts, it has become obvious that the prostrate rosemary is the most tender of my several varieties.
Thankfully, I brought the six smallest seedlings into the kitchen where they are flourishing by the window beside the sink.
I have been covering the large upright rosemarys on the front porch here with a layer of towels each evening.

The harsh winds brought down the leaves from the pecan tree.
These fall, not as separate leaves, but complete on the branched stems.
Some lodged in the clothes line, others were heaped, still green, in great drifts on the back lawn.

The roof is covered in pecan leaves, bleaching brown under the coating of snow.

The pecan tree, suddenly bare of foliage, but with the brown nuts still clinging on.

This morning brought sunshine and milder temperatures with only a slight breeze.
I pegged out sheets and towels, cleaned litter boxes.
I trundled the vacuum cleaner about, then went down to the laundry room where my plants, mostly begonias, are spending the winter.
I cut back on watering when I moved them in from the front porch.
Today I sheared back leggy, tired stems, watered well.

Howard, feeling better from his hard cold, has been out sorting tools into the smaller of his 
two trailers.
Jim met with the electrical inspector who 'passed' the preliminary installation.
The Millers are collecting themselves for the move to our former home, a daunting process with all the specialized machines and tools for the production of harness.
Since the Amish do not own motor vehicles, they must hire local men with trucks and trailers to move them.
Early next month Jim will begin wiring the house which we will eventually call home.

Robins and blackbirds [I think] gleaning in the soybean field. 

While this undertaking is exciting for us, the day to day progress reports don't make for interesting reading.
I feel that I am 'marking time'--trudging through necessary domestic chores of cooking, laundry, cleaning, small errands. 
I am rather curiously detached from this house where we spent so many hours of the past months refurbishing and redecorating.
Our plans changed so dramatically just as we began the moving in process--there has been no real establishment of routine, no need to organize and settle in.
I am often tired, sometimes a bit daunted by the project we have undertaken, a bit anxious about the necessity of selling what has become the 'interim house.'
I am also excited, enthused, visualizing the Amish house at the end of the lane as it will be when we have converted it for the ways of "Englishers."
We've been in quite a number of houses since leaving Vermont in 1998; none of them has whispered 'home' to us in the manner of the Amish farmhouse which has captured our fancy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Pellyton is an unincorporated community in eastern Adair County,KentuckyUnited States. Its elevation is 741 feet (226 m)
The above is the sparse entry in Wikipedia for the area which will be our new home.
Pellyton is located near the line dividing the Eastern Time Zone from Central Time Zone.
In Adair County we early learned to ask if an appointment was made in a neighboring county, whether we were expected to arrive on 'fast time' or 'slow time.'
The clocks and signs are posted over the entry door of The Mustard Seed, a small 'mom and pop' store and cafe located between two roads which follow the creeks into the 'hills and hollers.'

Looking down the main road from the Mustard Seed parking lot earlier in the week.
We have taken to stopping in for a sandwich or pizza when we are trucking back and forth from our present home to the Amish houses.
On this trip while Jim and Howard laid out plans for plumbing the lower house, I planted the peonies and iris which have languished over the long summer in pots.
When I dug them in April, the plan was [of course] to set them out at our present house.
While I did start a flower border along the front porch, using mostly divisions from my Gradyville garden, I found that a sprawling network of maple roots interfered with my plan to enlarge the small plot near the driveway.
I managed to poke in some tree lilies, but gave up hacking between the heavy tree roots.
A raised bed situated along one end of the leather shop at the new property was easy to work, so I settled the peonies there.
I was pleased to find that although the foliage had died back all the tuberous roots showed signs of vigorous life.

The side hill on which the smaller Amish house house sits has rather shallow gravelly soil, but several compact beds have been created with brought-in topsoil layered over landscape fabric.
I set out my cherished small plants of lavender and thyme as edging--hoping they can settle in and survive the winter.
[The above photo was taken in early October when we first viewed the house.]

An Amish homestead which is just to the right of the pasture seen in the previous photo.
Pellyton has had a flourishing Amish community for at least 25 years.
Mose Miller tells us at one time 52 families lived in the area.
Some returned to their home states of New York and Ohio--others migrated to Tennessee.

Today at noon we drove to Pellyton, parking the car at the 'big house' and crossing the road to explore the big corn fields so recently harvested.
We trekked up into the woods, crossing Spruce Pine Creek on a gravel bar.
We followed a wavering fence line along the width of the property.  We've been told that in places the boundary lines extend farther up the ridge.
We didn't venture there today--Jim is hoping he can persuade Mose Miller to 'walk the lines' 
with him.
The Miller's team of Haflingers watched us for a few moments then returned to calmly chomping the frost-bleached grass.

There are many sycamores along the creek and scattered amongst the maple, beech and oak of the woods.
The seed balls dangle like bobbles from the twigs of the mature trees.
Sycamore is sometimes called 'buttonwood'--from the days when buttons for clothing were shaped from the branches.
Thus we have 'button balls' as an alternative name for the seed/fruit.

Across our boundary line a windmill can be used to pump water from the pond.
As we tramped across the cornfield on our way back to the car, Jim remarked, 'Isn't it nice to have woods again!'

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cat Mornings

The cats have not yet adjusted to the return to standard time.
Their boisterous morning rampages are now beginning anywhere between 4 and 5 A.M.--not an hour of the day when either of us wish to be up and about.

Charlie-cat often starts the ruckus by trolling up and down the hallway, in and out of the bedroom, complaining in his silly high-pitched voice.

If shut in the downstairs laundry room for the night with Willis, Willow, and now, Sadie, he is quite capable of throwing himself repeatedly at the door, punctuating his thumpings  with pitiful and strident wails which resound up the stairwell.

His offspring, Mima and Chester, land on the bed, stomp heavily on me, plead with me to wake up and notice them.

Nellie's favorite trick is to smack at the window blinds, while Edward joins him to pull at the blind cords and set them swinging against the window frame.

Bobby lands on a dresser and pushes small items to the floor.

I have tried ushering the tribe out of the bedroom and firmly shutting the door.
This results in determined scrabblings and caterwauling. 
So--I get out of bed.
Getting up early is preferable to waiting for Jim to lose patience with the cats and spring from bed to swat at them, while loudly deploring the disturbance to his cherished last hour of sleep before starting the day.
Since I am already awake, I might as well indulge the cats.
Its not as though they are starving--but they think they must have their dab of odiferous tinned food to launch their day.

Pulling on an assortment of warm garments, I hurry 
to dish out the treat amid a clamour of ingratiating meows and loudly flattering purrs. After refereeing the meal [we have several greedy gobblers] I go downstairs to clean the litter boxes, stoke the wood stove, slip outside to feed the feral cats.

Back in the kitchen I pick up the cat dishes, wash them, wash my hands, measure coffee and water, press the 'on' button on the coffee maker.

On a 'good' morning, I may now be able to sit cradling a mug of coffee while looking out the back windows--or sitting at my desk--or retreating to my rocking chair with an undemanding 
book or magazine.
My thinking processes are still muzzy, my body slow.

By the time Jim appears, fully dressed, the cats have polished their whiskers, visited the litter boxes, enthused over the birds and squirrels who are waking up in the back yard.
The boy cats put on a show of thumping and wrestling, gallop up and down the hall--they join Jim in the kitchen as he pours his coffee, suggesting that they have NOT had their breakfast and a bit of cream wouldn't go amiss.

By the time I start to prepare human breakfast, the cats decide that they are tired.
Edward stretches out on my dresser, his toes charmingly curled.

I prod at him, but he is too sleepy to respond.

Mima may choose my rocking chair for a snooze.

Ringleader Charlie and his cohort, Nellie, relax on the chest by the front window--here they can leap to attention if the feral cats rattle about on the porch.

Chester, his nerves rattled by the activities of the morning, finds a chair full of cushions.

Bobby reclines on the dining room table.
From here he can view the activities of the backyard squirrels.

Nellie may appropriate the armchair.

Teasel pads to the bedroom, joined by Mima.
It is only 8 A.M.--but I have been up for 2-3 hours!
I am mildly resentful that my mornings are structured by the demands of this tribe of felines!
I am also resigned that this is not likely to change--other than the darker days leading to the solstice may gain me a few precious moments of peace.
Cats--its a good thing I love them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

November Days

It was frosty this morning when I opened the front door to take food to Mamma Hiss-Hiss [the feral mother cat] but so sparkling and pretty that I hurried in for my camera.
The house faces more or less south with the sun now coming up low in the sky, slanting over the hill.

Looking to the south-west. 
It is always interesting the way the vistas open up as leaves fall from the trees.
In Kentucky nearly every view is criss-crossed with the overhead power wires.

Double-Red Knock-out roses against the front wall of the house.
They are frost-bitten, but still appealing.

The four straggling rosemarys which I felt had a 50-50 chance of survival.
Three are slowly growing--the fourth is spindly but tenacious.

Jim has been moving wood from our former home as the new owner is bringing in his own store of wood.

Sunflowers, seared and blackened by frost, stark against a brilliant early morning sky.
The ghost of a waning moon peeks between the stalks.

I moved peonies here in the spring, but didn't find a suitable spot to transplant them.
The foliage withered and died and I feared that the roots might not have borne the strain of living in a pot all summer.
At least three are showing new growth--I intend to find a spot at the new farmhouse where they can be put in the ground to over-winter.

Days are demanding with the work needed to clear out our former home.
I spent the day there, hauling out the sort of bits and pieces which seem to accumulate--those small items which don't fit in any particular category of usefulness--items which likely should have been thrown out long ago.
Having cleared the rooms, I began wiping down all the woodwork--baseboards, top edges of doors [embarrassingly dusty] meticulously scoured the bathtub and shower surround, ditto the vanity sink and commode. I swabbed cupboard shelves, finally trundled the vac through each room.
Whenever we move out of a house I am appalled to find that painted walls behind furniture  have been scuffed, color has faded around pictures and wall-hangings, and rooms decorated a mere 4 years ago need to be refreshed.
I suspect that my 'cottage' colors will soon be covered with the ubiquitous high gloss paint in some shade of blue--an Amish preference. 

I piled my van with a tumble of oddments, and set off for the barn hoping to capture Sadie and Sally, the tortie barn cats who must be conveyed to their new home.
Jim had set the big cage in the raised stall which has been their part of the barn since 
their arrival as kittens.
Sadie was in the loft and pattered down the stairs as soon as I called, 'Here, kitty, kitty.' 
I stuffed her in the cage and went in search of Sally.
She appeared from the center aisle of the barn and approached me.
I picked her up and she instantly became a writhing, twisting ball of muscle and fur.
She plunged from my arms and skittered toward the tobacco barn.
I followed, wheedling and coaxing.
After some 15 minutes of hide and seek, I lost sight of Sally somewhere in the dimness of the barn.
I pottered around the house for a few minutes, then called her again.
She remained hidden.
I needed to stop at the store on my way home, so loaded in Sadie and departed.
The checkout lines at the store were frustratingly long [the usual with Wal Mart.]
By the time I finally got on the road for home, the sky was stained with the colors of sunset: shades of rose, pink, mauve, coral.
It is lovely to see the colors of nature in their true values with my 'new' eyes!
In the rear-view mirror, contrails plumed, white gold against a molten sky.
When I pulled into the driveway, trees and buildings were going dark against the deep lavender rose of nightfall.
I lugged the cat cage down the back stairs to the laundry room and decanted Sadie to enjoy [?] a reunion with Willis.
A rush to prepare supper before the aches and tiredness of a long day would cave in on me.
Jim and Howard grease-smeared from working on an ailing vehicle.
Cats milling about the kitchen, clearly feeling the neglect of the day.
Katy-dog hovering in the hope that a tidbit might fall her way as I sliced beef and veg for a stir-fry.
I can't even think of what to do with clutter and clobber in the van!
How many trips will I need to make before I can catch the skittish Sally?
It is not yet 9 P.M. but of late my 'second'wind' refuses to blow in.
My night-owl nature has temporarily succumbed to the need for rest and renewal.
I long for the time [and energy] to write, to read, to sew.
Surely sometime soon we will sort ourselves out, settle into a final permanent home.
For now, a mug of tea, a few minutes to nod over a magazine--and then fall into bed!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Moving Of Worldly Goods

I suspect we have moved a few more times over the years than the average household.
The current re-shuffle has some interesting elements.
Jim has a truck and trailer--the Amish family have ample man-power.
Whenever we convey a load of items to store in the basement of the Amish farmhouse, the Miller men convene to carry boxes, bins and furniture out of the trailer.
This done, they quickly begin to load up items from the two large leather shops or the two houses--all of which must eventually be relocated.
One of the more picturesque items we've ever moved is Dan Miller's buggy.

This handsome piece of equipment spent the night on the truck and then was conveyed to the new residence of Dan and his family.

Supplies and tools from the leather works are being deposited in what used to be our hay barn--soon to be remodeled into a large and efficient shop.

I have rather given up on the sorting and reorganizing which I hoped to do.
Whatever space is empty in the trailer is being stuffed with bins and boxes--out of season clothes, and bed linens, stacks of books, piles of unrelated oddments.
I mentioned to Mose Miller this afternoon as we trundled some of our chattel into the newly vacated 'big house' that whenever I attempt a project I find that something I need has gone away 
to a different place.
"I know that feeling," responded Mose.

The weather is sulking with chill rain, leaden skies, nights that draw darkly in before suppertime.
After crisply golden days we are now experiencing the drab aspect of November.
I squelched out to the desolate garden at noon to pick side shoots of broccoli.
Lunch was cream of broccoli soup with a melting of sharp cheddar, and popovers, hot and buttery.
It is weather for thick socks and a fleecy 'hoodie.'
The cats find warm places, ranging themselves on the basement staircase to bask in the heat rising from the wood stove.
I prepare meals, do laundry, hover over my belongings as they are carried out to the trailer.
We are poised on the edge of changes--marking time.

Friday, October 31, 2014

National Cat Day Pumpkin Carving

Smokey approves the rough draft of the cat carving.

My talented grand daughter, Kelsey Alexandra, created this entry for the pumpkin carving contest in her home city.
It is so beautiful a cat that I think she should reproduce it in a more permanent medium.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Amish Wedding Preparations

Anna Miller and the women of the Amish community have been busy for days preparing for the wedding of the Miller's youngest daughter, Mary.

Mrs. Miller invited us to visit the day before the wedding--and take photos of the arrangements.
[Remembering my experience with Delila Yoder who wanted photos of her quilts, I have offered to print some of the photos.]

Several pieces of furniture have been displaced onto the porch and long wooden tables arranged to accommodate family and guests for the wedding dinner.
Mary has been collecting blue glassware, some of which was given to her as gifts.

This is the bride and groom's corner.
The wedding cake will be served from the cake stand; The glass bowl with the basket handle will be filled with fruit.
The attendants/witnesses will be seated to either side of the new couple.

A view from the center of the living room, showing the arrangement of tables and benches.
All is simplicity.

A long view of the side table.

This table has been set up in the sun room which opens off the living room.
When I asked Anna Miller if the dishes all belonged to her, she laughed. 
"Oh, no--the other women have loaned them.  We've put tags on them to make sure they are returned to the right people."
I noted hand-written tags--but suspect these might refer to designated seating.
I am very diffident about asking questions which might seem too inquisitive.

Anna's sewing machine has been moved to one side, the top closed.
When we were there last week a daughter-in-law was stitching on a blue dress.
I was interested to see that while the machine is treadle-operated, the 'head' is not one of the vintage machines.
It appears to be a more modern machine adapted to treadle mode.
This is something I will inquire about if opportunity presents.

Last week the young men of the family set up a temporary enclosure for the wrap-around porch, using pressed board panels on the lower half and a heavy gauge plastic on the top.
The desk which usually sits in the living room has found a spot on the porch as well.

It was not until I uploaded the photos that I noticed the foil-wrapped tins at intervals along the
 porch tables.
Many of the men smoke--thin dark cigarettes not of a familiar brand.
I suspect these men will be eating on the porch.
[I believe that in most Amish gatherings the men are served first. When they have left the table, it is reset and the women and children sit down to eat.]

On top of the desk are these twin lamps fueled by white gas burned in a mantle.
The New Testament is an edition which contains both English and German; it is flanked by  books with German titles.

Around to the kitchen entrance of the porch.
The pies above are coconut custard.

The pies with 'dotted' filling are vanilla with chocolate chips.  Anna Miller explained that when served 'there will be more on top'--whipped topping!

A trio of apple pies fresh from the oven had attracted a tiny wasp--perched at the edge of the 
center pie.
I found a web photo of a portable kerosene heater.  Nearly a dozen of these were lined up at the edge of the porch, flanked by teakettles and coffee pots.
Amish gatherings are fueled by endless refills of coffee!

Anna Miller suggested I go down to the basement level--as immaculate as the rest of her house--the table settings here are less festive, but all is tidy with serving bowls and large spoons ready to 'dish out' the meal.

Loaves of 'store-bought' bread, extra cartons of eggs, are lined up in the basement area designated for canned goods and large kettles and coolers.

When we arrived at the farm, the noon meal had been served.
The roomy kitchen was full of aproned women bustling about to clear the tables. 
Young girls held toddlers to keep them from under foot.
Infants were parked in strollers and baby carriers.
An older woman, portly in her full-skirted blue dress, still sat, a coffee mug cradled between two hands. 
A large roasting pan held the remains of a noodle casserole; another huge pan had served up a berry cobbler. 
Plates and mugs were already piled near the washroom sink, a teakettle of hot water at the ready as the dishes were briskly washed and rinsed.
For such a large gathering of people it seemed quiet--the small children didn't dash about knocking into things. 
Anna Miller exudes a quality I must describe as 'serene.'
When I asked if I had arrived too early to take photos, she reassured me.
'The men are still in the living room--but I will tell them to go out!'
[In this modern world where many people share 'selfies' the Amish disapprove of 'graven images'--which means they will not pose for photos and wouldn't hear of being even on the periphery of a picture.]
The men obediently trooped down the stairs to the basement and out the lower level door where they congregated to continue smoking and talking.
As I moved around the rooms I was trailed by a retinue of small children.
They were fascinated by my little red camera.
When I spoke to them, they didn't reply, even scrambling back up the staircase when they had followed me down to the basement.
These were pre-school aged children--possibly better acquainted with German than with English.

I would have loved to record the flurry of activity in the kitchen--the women so efficiently dealing with the dishes and the remains of the meal; many of the children were attractive--the young girls wear a slender dress with no waist seam, with a matching simple pinafore. The young boys are dressed as the older men--'square' pants with buttoned flies, held up with suspenders. 

Thinking about it later, I realized that one would not usually want to take photos of a group of people going about everyday tasks.
It is the differences in dress and lifestyle that pique the curiosity of 'Englishers'--we are welcomed thus far and no farther into their old-fashioned world. 

Jim has already moved one of his tractors, some tools and lumber to one of the barns at the lower property.
He realized he needed to rearrange these to allow for the horses and buggies of neighborhood visitors to be 'parked.'

I was standing at the corner of the carriage shed when three of the older girls walked down the drive.
I used the zoom feature of my camera to stealthily take this photo--making sure that I waited until the girls' faces could not be recognized.

The young men were making a clatter in the big house.
We found they were setting up 'church benches' in preparation for the wedding ceremony.
This is the kitchen of the big house.

The 'church benches' are made with folding legs so that they can be easily stored or moved. 

[Old Order Amish consider that 'the church' is a gathering of like-minded believers--not a building designated for worship. Church services are held on alternate Sundays--an all day affair hosted in the homes of a communities' families in turn.]

In the living room sunlight streamed through the windows and created a glare on the polished floor and gloss-painted walls.
I tried several camera settings but my photos were not good.
I had waited until the young men finished their work and trudged back up the lane.
I wonder about the chairs facing each other three by three.
The couple will be married by the local bishop.
Perhaps the bride and groom face each other with their attendants seated on either side [?]

The polished wood range was gently warm; a rocking chair stands invitingly near.
This house is presently occupied by one of the Miller sons with his wife and three young children.
They will be moving soon to a house they have purchased in our old neighborhood of Gradyville.

I went outside, walking through the back porch entry, emerging into the bright sunshine.
I felt as though I had trespassed--although the houses and land are now deeded to us.
I hope that Anna Miller's serenity will see her through the move from this place where she has raised her family, kept her house immaculate, served meals to gatherings of relatives and neighbors.

As I walked around the dooryard, noting a rosebush near the east wall, a spill of spearmint and comfrey at the south end of the back porch, Mary, the bride, crossed the lawn, bound on some errand.
I wished her the joy of her wedding day, told her I hoped Thursday would be bright and fair.
Today has been fine--a nip in the air that warns of frosty nights to come.
I've thought of the celebration taking place, of the great gathering of families, many inter-related. 
We have wondered if the mountains of food have all been eaten.
We imagine every bedroom filled, blankets and quilts spread on the floors for the children.
I've wondered if the bride and her husband [a local lad who attended the Amish school with her] will be given much privacy--Mary stated that 'we can go on a wedding trip if we want to'--but she didn't reveal their plans--and again, I didn't want to seem too curious.
I think the Millers will need a few days of recuperation before they begin to pack up the household for the move to the little yellow house I so recently called home.