Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fox Squirrel

Who knew there was such a creature?
When we first spied our visitor during the first weeks at the farm, we noted the billowing rufus tail and realized this was not a common grey or red squirrel.
In spite of his robust size, he obviously was not a fox.
A friend assured us that we have in residence a fox squirrel.
[He also cautioned us that fox squirrels don't make good eating--not that we had any such intentions!]

 The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger), also known as the eastern fox squirrel or Bryant's fox squirrel, is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America.[Wikipedia]

Fox squirrels are apparently fairly common in our area, sustained by the abundance of oak and walnut trees. The steep ridges rising to east and west behind the farm house are a perfect habitat.
We have seen the fox squirrel several times.
No matter how quietly I let myself out of the house, camera at the ready, he senses my presence and goes bounding deeper into the woods, his plume of a tail marking his passage, although the rest of his body blends into the carpet of dead leaves.
These photos were taken with the zoom--after I cautiously exited the house from the front door and crept to the back of the building, slipping out from the corner and getting these shots before the creature sensed that I was watching.
Note the blaze of white on his face; I'm told this is an indication of a mature squirrel.
Some may have black streaks on their heads or backs.

Only the tail is visible as the squirrel scurries down the fence post.
[Why am I assuming this is a "he?"]
I hope his wariness and agility keep him safe from the interests of the barn cats!

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Phone and internet were [finally] installed at the farm on Thursday afternoon.
I've had time to quickly catch up with a few favorite blogs and to check in on Face Book to see how family and friends are doing
I haven't had time to reply to comments or leave many.
Perhaps this time without internet has given me a bit of needed discipline--I don't need to look at the computer every time I walk past my desk!
Through the weeks of cold weather, the stress of moving and working on the farmhouse, my bargin table amaryilis has been a joy.
It was slow to bloom, but eventually sent up two proud stalks of four blossoms each

My camera does not do justice to the depth and delicate tracery of the blossom.

With moderating weather the deep snow has melted, the brook is running freely.

Last week grandson D. with his girlfriend and a pal paid us a surprise visit.
[Surprise because no one could contact us!]
They with Jim carried fish poles down to the well-stocked pond which is part of our new propery.
The total haul was 30 white croppie and 1 bass.
I hurried to put potatoes in the wood stove oven to bake, brought green beans from the cellar pantry, corn and applesauce from the freezer.
The men cleaned and filleted the fish--making an incredible mess around the sink.

Two of the larger fish.

Some of the catch displayed in a pan.
The cats were fearful when Jim showed them the fish.
They prefer it as a smushed and smelly entree from a tin!

A tangle of vines and brambles along the brook.

Fresh green moss growing where the little brook dives beneath a culvert.

Oh, the delight of discovering daffodils in the verge near the mailbox!

Daffs crowding the fence and blooming through the sunshine and rain of springtime.

Home--I hope forever!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Checking In

No photos--although I have taken a few of more snow!
Installation of phone/internet is indefinitely delayed due to the continuing cold and storms.
We have stayed snug thanks to an adequate wood supply for the big farmhouse stove.  On several evenings we have pulled our favorite chairs close to the warmth, turned on the radio [for Jim] while I've sat still with a book.
Most of our worldly goods were moved to the farm on Monday and Tuesday, beating the snowfall with the help of two stalwart Amish lads who helped with loading and unloading. Many of my books are still in piles on the study floor and a few pieces of furniture remaining to be conveyed.
Unpacking at the farmhouse continues. [Why do we have so much chattel?]
Jim is now installing lights in the upstairs, and we set up our king-sized bed last evening in what will eventually be called the 'master bedroom.'
I am so anxious to paint, but some repair of poorly finished drywall should be done first and isn't a priority on Jim's 'to-do' list.
I see the finished product in my mind's eye and get impatient with the long process of remodeling and decorating.
I've been at our local family-owned store and café for an hour, using their WiFi connection--fighting with my recalcitrant laptop--which isn't allowing me to comment on the few blogs I've had time to read.
Surely this time of frustration--like the lingering winter--will surely give way to more 'normal' times!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Few Words Needed!

We spent the week at the farm, keeping fires burning.
Moved the cats up on Tuesday evening--much wailing and howling from the cat carriers as we drove through snow and ice--quite slowly.
No way would I drive in such conditions!
The cats settled in very happily.
We are a week behind in getting our goods and chattel all cleared out of the stone house.
The move will go forward as weather permits.
Que sera, sera!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday in Kentucky

The view at 6:45 A.M.

Bobby and Nellie on snow watch.

My amaryllis has finally started to open.

The bud as it appeared on Friday.
Snow and unusual [for Kentucky] cold predicted for the next several days.
With water no installed at the farm house we must make our way cautiously there to keep the fire going.
Moving is meant to be accomplished in the next two weeks.
If I can survive this--one last time--I look forward to settling in, having my belongings all in one place!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Looking Back [A Catch Up Post]

I am dismayed to see that I loaded these photos on 2nd February!
I can truthfully plead that life has been busy as we commute between our two properties almost daily.
We pass a small dairy farm on a back road and have been intrigued by the gathering of felines outside the milk house. Although the numbers present vary, we are starting to recognize several of the more distinctively marked cats.
I would guess that spaying/neutering isn't part of their care, but we often see the farmer pouring milk into a collection of pans. The cats appear to be reasonably well fed and domesticated. Jim stopped the car and I put down the window to take the above photo.

We've had a few sunny days, but for the most part the weather has been raw, with temps below freezing each morning. Mornings at the stone house involve caring for the cats, making any necessary phone calls, filling the stove with wood and bundling into the car with whatever food stuffs, tools, and oddments need to be carried to the farm.
Once there, a fire must be kindled in the big range, the barn cats tended.
While the kitchen is warming up, I sometimes go into the wooded area beyond the stable to gather fallen twigs and branches for kindling, or walk down the lane to the lower house. Either of these options are more invigorating than huddling over the stove in the chilly house.
Tucked near the foundation on the south side of the lower house I have discovered two tiny violas. They continue to blossom jauntily in spite of the cold weather.

There was one morning of snow, sparkling and clean, melted by noon.

When we return, usually just after dark, the cats rush to the door to greet us.
I wonder how they spend their days alone.
Bobby Mac and his brothers enjoy the view from this chest in front of the living room windows. From this vantage point they can watch birds on the lawn, monitor any feral cats who come to the dish on the porch, note the ponderous movements of the cattle in the pasture beyond the road.

Less adventurous family members stay warm by the fire in the basement.
We are mobbed before we are well inside the door in the evening!
We are treated to lengthy tirades of neglect and near starvation, and reminded that it is well past
 'time for tea!'
One of us dishes out tinned food while the other mends the basement fire.
With the 'fishy food' consumed, cuddles and attention lavished, we settle in for the evening.
Evening has always been when I experience my 'second wind' and can use the time for reading, writing, creating.
The hours are still there, of course, but I'm finding that I am usually rather witless, lacking the energy to sew or gather my thoughts for a blog post.
My study is one of the chillier rooms in the house, and we are feeling too frugal to turn on the 
electric heat.
I have set up my laptop downstairs in the area near the stove.
It is an aggravating device--slow, and cursed with a number of malfunctions which interfere with putting down a smooth flow of thoughts.

Our days are full of repetitive tasks--one can write only so much about the frustrations of painting over walls which have previously been daubed by painters whose field of expertise was obviously in another realm!
That grumble aside, progress is being made.

[The laptop just shut down after a number of hitches and jerks, so back upstairs to my chilly study to finish this rambling journal.]

Since I must shiver in front of my desktop PC, I'm adding a few food photos.
My efforts at producing meals on the wood cook stove are interesting, if something of a learning curve. The temperature of both cook top and oven depend on the type and quantity of wood we've chucked into the firebox, the adjustment of the drafts and dampers, and thus far we don't have that down to a science.
Last week we ate breakfast there on several days--a large mid-morning meal to fuel us for 
hours of work.
Above you see baked potatoes [from the previous day] crisply fried, baking powder biscuits smothered in dried beef cream gravy with an egg on the side.
When I posted this pic on Face Book several people remarked that it was a cholesterol-laden meal.
[Of course I noted on my google news page this week that the 'experts' are reversing their warnings about the dangers of eating eggs!]
This is the sort of country food which our parents and grandparents ate.
On other days we may have toast from home made bread and a bowl of oatmeal porridge.
I daresay we are working off calories and fats!

Peanut butter cookies baked in the wood stove oven--and they didn't burn!

I have made bread twice at the farmhouse.
There is a temperature gauge on the front of the oven, so we do have some idea whether we are likely to burn the bread or if it will sit sulking in a slow oven.
I'm finding that the wood stove produces a crisper crust and the bread is 'done' in a shorter time.
As you can see, it was quickly sliced and consumed, buttery and warm.
The second baking was good--although I felt the oven didn't heat as quickly as I expected.
I had to fuss with the stove and shuffle the bread tins around to have the loaves evenly baked.

I took my camera on one of my walks down the lane.
The pasture fence is festooned with the dried pods of milkweed.
Winter-bleached vines tangle through the boards and along the wire--morning glory, perhaps.
Come spring identification will be easier.

Fox Squirrel--web photo.
We have at least one of these creatures frisking about on the fence near the stable.
I tried to approach very quietly with my camera, but the squirrel skittered off into the brush heap beyond the fence.
We have since learned that fox squirrels are common in the southern Appalachians and their territory extends to our area of south-central Kentucky.
The one we noted had splotches of white on a darker face.
The fox squirrel is only one of the wildlings gobbling the kibble from the barn cats' feeder.
The omni-present opossums have been sighted as well.

I end my post with a photo of the shower stall which Jim built and tiled.
The area above the shower has since been painted, the bathroom vanity is in place, a cupboard fastened on the wall behind the door. 
We painted the new walls an agreeable warm shade called 'Almond Sugar.'
We have a target date for moving to the farm--hoping to be in residence during the last week of February. I've arranged for our internet and phone service to be transferred--a new installation necessary, so we may be 'disconnected' for a few days.
Cats to move--furniture--dishes--books--clothing which will no way fit into the tiny closets favored by the Amish!
The two farmhouses will continue to be 'works in progress.'
I'm hoping once the predictable exhaustion of completing the move has [somewhat] been dealt with, we can enjoy the springtime while becoming better acquainted with our new property, preparing a vegetable plot, finding a spot suitable for a hedge of shrub roses, creating an herb garden.
I remind myself frequently that we 'are not as young as we used to be!'
I need to be realistic about the time line for projects to be accomplished.
I need to be a bit gentle with myself!
I am tired--aching--but I am excited!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Far From Perfect--But [Finally] Finished!

Six blocks were left from a king-sized quilt, so I decided [in November of 2012] to create a wall-hanging to compliment the quilt.
Our niece, Susan, whose hand quilting is exquisite, brought me a vintage oval hoop on a stand and shared some hints on hand quilting.
I thought I would be able to do it rather nicely.
I became discouraged with my uneven stitches and relegated the piece, still in the hoop to various corners where the cats pulled at the batting.
I felt reproached by my lack of competence.

The 'work not in progress' was moved to the stone house in September.
It looked rather nice in a corner of my 'study'--almost as if I intended to take up my  needle and hone my skills.

When we began showing the stone house we decided that we needed to de-clutter.
My stash of quilting fabric, my sewing 'tools' and the quilting stand were moved to the farmhouse.
I discovered that much of my time there was waiting time: being there to make a meal for Jim; being available to go along to the home building supply store, to hold the end of a measuring tape or a length of PEX waterline.
There were hours when I was restless, so I determined to finish the wall hanging.
At first I sat near a temporary work lamp, hitching my chair about, trying to keep my work 
out of the shadows.
I was wearing a pair of drug-store reading glasses, waiting for new prescription lenses after cataract surgery.

Eventually I had my new spectacles, the electric lights were up and running in the kitchen and dining area of the farmhouse.
I found it quite soothing to pull my chair close to the warmth of the wood stove and poke my needle into the fabric.
I vowed that no matter how crooked my stitches, I wouldn't pick them out.
That was a promise I couldn't keep! 
While there are obviously many crooked or uneven stitches, I did back up and redo many.
I don't feel that my skills improved.
Sometimes I could go along making neat, fairly small stitches.  Too often my stitches were discouragingly large and untidy.
Lighting seemed to be an issue, as did the flexibility of my fingers--when I had been holding a paint brush or working outdoors, my fingers balked at finer use.

Still, the wall-hanging is finished!
It has been embellished with cat hair--by Nellie who wanted to be part of the photos when I spread the piece on my work table.

I am impatient with all learning curves.
I am not satisfied with my amateurish results.
I fear that anyone looking at this may conclude I was experimenting with 
'big-stitch' quilting.
More than an hour of stitching is conducive to a 'kink' in the neck!
At the end of the day, I have to say I enjoyed finishing this piece.
I suspect I will attempt another.
I may learn not to apologize for a less than perfect finished project!