Friday, December 12, 2014

Willis in Charge

Willis and the 'girl' barn cats--Sadie, Sally, and Willow--spent about 5 days in the washroom/entry of the Pellyton farm house 'acclimating.' 
I have read that it takes a few days for a cat's internal mechanism to 'reset' in a new place, so I never let a cat outside for nearly a week when we move them.
It was a gloomy week weather-wise, so not much sun shone through the washroom windows.
The girl cats huddled on a shelf and Willis fussed about.

On Sunday--a bright, crisp day, we carried them out to the small three-sided barn where Jim had constructed a fortress of hay bales.
The cats could hop inside and be protected from cold and wind.
I dragged out a small stand which was left behind by the previous owners.
I spread an old rug on top and set a big dish of kibble there.
The small kibble dispenser and 2 water bowls are on the floor alongside.

The girl cats burrowed into the house of bales and couldn't be coaxed out.
Willis vaulted into the rafters and paraded along the narrow edges.
He found a 'platform' of sorts formed by a half sheet of OSB [fiberboard] which was laid across the rafters toward the front of the barn.
When we went up on Monday morning, he was up above viewing his new kingdom.
The girls were not to be seen although faint mews from inside the hay were heard.

Willis has had house privileges in the past, but his house manners are not reliable.
In the course of our work day he had to be firmly put outside several times--only to whisk through the door whenever we entered with an armload of wood.
He quickly gravitated to the rug in front of the wood stove.

We were away for 2 days--in Tennessee picking up the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry which our niece had removed for replacement.
When we returned on Thursday and trundled in with the loaded trailer, Willis flung himself at the door.  He got underfoot as we moved in the cabinets, sniffing at each as it was deposited in the kitchen. As the warmth from the freshly kindled fire seeped through the house, Willis made himself a bed on a blanket in the living room.
He wasn't pleased when we turfed him out when we left for the day.
Today--Friday--was another sunny day.
Willis appeared, tail in the air, as soon as he heard the truck lumbering up the drive. 
I made a fire while Jim carried in tools.
I headed for the barn, trailed by Willis.
Today Willow was eager to come out of the hay house and twine about my ankles.
I opened the gate into the wooded area beyond the barn and set about collecting dry twigs to store as 
fire starters.
Although we had repeatedly called all the cats by name, there had been no sign of Sadie or Sally.
I began to believe that they had run away.
There is a large uprooted tree a short way from the barn--a sprawl of roots, a thicket of branches.
Sadie emerged from the heap of branches, marched along the fallen trunk, meowing in greeting.  She rubbed against me, purring loudly.
When Jim came out she made a production of greeting him also.
We feel certain that Sally is lurking in the twiggy hide-away--safe and well, but reluctant to 
come out.
[It was Sally who declined to present herself when I moved the other barn cats to this house--the interim stay on their journey of relocation, necessitating 3 tries to locate her!]

I feel that the barn cats are at least as safe in their new location as during their 4 year tenure at the Gradyville property.
They have a barn, acres of land at the end of our lane, they have a sure supply of food and water, and our company nearly every day as we work at refurbishing the house.

When we drove away today we noted that Willis--apparently resigned to being put out of the house--had stationed himself on the south-facing side of the barn.
He lay with his paws neatly tucked in front of him, eyes half-closed, face turned up to the low slanting rays of the sun.
For 'barn cats' these four felines have a fairly luxurious lifestyle!

Friday, December 5, 2014


A full week of grey weather--noon looking nearly the same in terms of the absence of light as at daybreak or at evening.
The air has been thick with moisture--a mizzle-drizzle, fog, sometimes accelerating to a quarter hour of pelting cold rain.

Even on overcast mornings the backyard is busy with birds.
We have several varieties of woodpeckers who drill into dead branches --or into the yard-light post.
This is a red-bellied woodpecker--a strange name for a bird whose red coloring is displayed on his head. The markings of the back feathers resemble its larger cousin, the flicker.
Blue jays hoot and dive, prodding at the pecans which litter the ground beneath the tree.
The gentle and beautiful cardinals bounce over the ground.
Always there are sparrows.
I chopped down sunflowers on one of the last bright days in November, working only part way up the row before it was time to come inside and prepare lunch.
Although the standing sunflower stalks are untidy, the finches are happy to alight and 
pluck out the seeds.

Bird-watching, greeting the day, assuring that I am out of bed in a timely way, consumes a good deal of feline energy first thing in the morning.
It is necessary to crash on a bed for a mid-morning nap.

The hitching rail at the Mustard Seed Store--to accommodate Amish customers. 

I had plans--a mental list of 'things to do' during this week with Jim away.
Most of my plans were shoved aside by necessary tasks.
A house showing appointment has been arranged for early on Sunday afternoon.
I decided that various oddments would be best moved to the Pellyton farm rather than trying to tidy around them.
I spent several hours sorting the dozens of CD's which have lived in an old dresser.
Some went into a box for the charity shop, most were arranged in plastic storage boxes.
I removed the drawers one by one from the dresser, hauled it out to the garage/entry, freeing up space in the guest room.
The boxes, along with other items, went into the van.
I stopped at the courthouse before heading to the farm on Monday, needing to inquire why we hadn't received a property tax billing.
This inquiry used up over an hour as I traipsed to various offices, gave addresses of past and present property and finally succeeded in handing over a fairly large amount to satisfy our obligations.

At the farm, I found Pebbles the Horse in a poor way.
She has had so many bad turns during the past two years, has rallied, even been coaxed into sometimes swallowing her Cushings  meds.
Her condition has deteriorated swiftly this autumn and I begged Jim to put her down rather than move her. For whatever reason, he couldn't bring himself to do that.

My heart ached for the elderly mare as she lurched down the hill, whickering to me in greeting.
I ranted aloud my protests that she should have come to this.
I refilled the manger with hay--hoped that she would be sensible and stay in the big stall out of the wet, but by the time I had unloaded the van and drove back down the lane she was out on the 
hillside again.
It was not a surprise to find her down on Wednesday morning.
Mose Miller was at the farm before me with a 'driver' loading yet more of the machinery and tools from the lower leather shop.

"I thought the horse was dead when I got here," he told me.
Mose had taken hay to where Pebs had fallen near the fence.
She couldn't get up, but raised her head to snatch at wisps of the hay.

I knew what needed to be done--but how?
The details are too harrowing to write--too painful for an animal lover to read.

Mose sent me to a compassionate neighbor who came and with quiet kindness ended the life of the old horse. I sat on the ground, holding her head and stroking her face, until this fine gentleman asked me to go to the house and wait until it was over.
Several men at the Mustard Seed rallied round, helped me contact yet another area man with a backhoe.
Arrangements were made to bury Pebbles there in the pasture, her last home.
The man, Steve, phoned me next morning when it was done to let me know that he had accomplished the task 
'with respect for the animal.'

It was a difficult and exhausting day--made bearable by the kindness and practical help of our new neighbors.
A last sad footnote on returning 'home' was the discovery of Mamma Hiss-Hiss, the feral cat we've been feeding, lying dead in the road.
 I slept little that night, beset by gruesome images--wondering how those who endure the blood and horror of war are ever able to sleep again!

I was back at the farm again this morning.
Did I mention that along with various and sundry household plunder I conveyed the four barn cats to the farm on Wednesday.
I installed them in the back entry/washroom with a big bowl of kibble, two bowls of water--and a litter box. 
I dragged in two small wooden stands left behind by the Millers and positioned them under windows so that the cats could look out at their new world.
Willis dealt with this move with his usual aplomb; the girl cats huddled in distress on a shelf.
On Monday I will let them out to explore the yard and the little barn.
Their internal 'bearings' should have reset by then.

We persuaded Howard that his bits of furniture moved from Wyoming would be safely stored in the farmhouse until he needs them.
He and Jim positioned the table and chairs in the dining area with the hutch on the wall at the left.
I took up a checked cloth--and happened to spy a Christmas basket centerpiece in the top of a box I had put in the basement.

I took my red teakettle to place on the warming shelf of the wood range.

Howard's lodgepole bed and the two undistinguished dressers he found after moving here have been set up in the downstairs bedroom.
I brought bedding on Wednesday and later added the quilt.
Jim will begin the work of installing electricity in the house next week.
He has suggested that he may stay there some nights rather than make the 40 mile round trip 
each day.
I paced through the house, upstairs and down--thinking how we may arrange furniture, partition the space to install bathrooms.
Although there was nothing I could do there, no task I could undertake without electric power, I wished I could stay, make a fire in the big black range, listen for the hum of the kettle 
coming to the boil. 
I placed a battery-operated clock on the top shelf of the hutch, unpacked the few bowls and plates I had brought with me.
Next week I will locate mugs, bring teabags and instant coffee, perhaps some canned soup and a box of crackers to place on the pantry shelves.
I want to live in this house, learn how the sun shines through the windows in all seasons; 

Reluctantly, I said goodby to the barn cats, assured them I would return.
Down the basement stairs and out under the sun room, to stand for a moment looking 
into the misty woods. 

Looking north toward the carriage shed.
"Home" again, tires swishing on wet pavement--adjusting the windshield wipers to deal with varying amounts of rain. 
Home to make up the wood fire in the basement, trundle the vacuum cleaner about, tidy the 
laundry room.
The cats reminded me it was time for their 'tea'--milling about as I took an apple pie from the freezer and popped it in the oven.
I peeled potatoes, sliced celery and onion, made a cheese sauce for a hearty casserole.
The boy cats jumped into the sink, forked potato peelings out of my waste bucket.
Expectant feline faces, cats sitting in a row--waiting.
'Right,' I announced.  "We'll all have our 'tea!'
I switched on the electric kettle, took down a mug.
Out with the cat dishes, snap the top from the tin of fish-y food.
Dole out dollops of cat food, referee so that the greedy ones don't push aside the slower eaters.
Tea and a grilled cheese sandwich for me; a few minutes spent planning for new curtains, measuring fabric, plotting how to make that bought for three windows suffice for four at the farmhouse.

A long week--weather that does nothing to lift a weary heart or restore a tired body.
An exchange of 'messages' with my sister, a phone call from Howard.
A glance around at what I have accomplished to make the house presentable.
The sound of rain beating down outside. 
Nellie-Cat pads down the hallway, reminding me that it is late and time for bed.
Jim will be home tomorrow evening.
We will get through the house showing on Sunday.
Next week work can begin on the farmhouse.
We will build a fire in the black range and the kettle will hum.
Perhaps the sun will shine!

Pebbles in Wyoming

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Faces Captured In Time

Handwritten on the back is a date in the late 1890's, and the fact that the gentleman pictured was of an age to place his birthday circa 1840. 
He neglected to sign his name--surely the recipient of the photo knew him well.
The portrait was taken at a studio in the nearest 'city'  30 miles from my home town.

A youthful dandy, posed in his finest, hat at a jaunty angle.
The photo is undated, unsigned.
The young man's dark curling hair and square chin don't bring to mind any face I have known.

The background of hewn rock in this photo suggests a quarry.
Although no details are included, the man's stance, the set of his shoulders bears a resemblance to my  Uncle Bill.
I like to imagine that this is a photo of his grandfather for whom he was named, William "Bill" Lewis, whose family connections have proved so elusive.
We know that g-grandfather Lewis worked as a young man, barely out of his teens, on the construction of the Union-Pacific Railroad.
He returned to upstate New York where he worked as a foreman in the open pit graphite mines.

This portrait has a name inscribed on the back:
Harry Sisson.
I was able to discover that Harry was a contemporary of my grandmother, Helene, and that for a season or two he taught in one of the rural schools in her hometown.
Harry, who was raised in a neighboring village, became the head of household after the death of his parents, making a home for his siblings, as well as several nieces and nephews.
My inventive imagination toys with the possibility that perhaps Harry cherished a fondness for Helene.
He may well have boarded [as was the custom] with her family, one of the most prosperous in the district.

This photo poses a conundrum of a unique sort: I've never determined if the subject is a rather plain, heavy-featured woman--or a smooth-faced man.
My g-grandmother Eliza's name appears on the back, and a set of scribbled directions for various roads in the town which has been home to my mother's families for more than 200 years.
When I transcribed the directions for my Cousin Bruce, he astonished me by replying that the roads to be followed would lead from the village of Hague directly to the dooryard of the ancestral home!
Perhaps this was a member of Eliza's family.

Nearly every family at some time finds themselves in possession, by default, of a collection of lumpy photo albums, or vintage shoe boxes which when opened disgorge a tumble of shiny Kodak photos, scalloped edges crumbling, creases distorting a face or a landscape.

The first such album which I recall lived in the parlor cupboard of my grandfather's farmhouse--the house to which he had come upon his marriage, the newly purchased home of his wife's parents.

The album cover had gone soft with time, the lacing which held the black pages in place 
had come  loose.
A few pages had torn free, shedding the triangular 'corners' meant to secure the photos.

The cupboard shelf was high, meaning that I had to carry the piano stool to wedge inside the door and clamber up to pull down the album.

Rarely, I could interest Grampa Mac or my Uncle Bill in paging through the photos with me.
Some of the photos bore on their edges a scrawling handwriting which I was told belonged to my grandmother, Helene, who had died when my Mother was a few months short of her 10th birthday.
Her notations were brief, identifying persons and times.
A small boy, bundled to the ears in winter clothes, held on a sled by a white-moustached man who knelt in the deep snow beside him.
"Dad with Billy" was her caption.
Another, taken in nearly the same spot, barns in the background, shows my great grandfather with his hand resting against a shaggy dog: 
"Dad with Old Shep."

Other photos captured family gatherings--folks posed around an automobile of the early 1920's--the family assembled for a 4th of July picnic.
My mother at about 5 years old, hair clipped in a neat bob, clothed in a middy blouse and bloomers, her brother Bill in tweedy knickers and a tie.

My Grampa Mac seems not to have enjoyed photo ops--he is usually caught standing at the back of the group, looking anywhere but at the photographer--anxious perhaps to return to the farm chores of the day and be done with the fuss of company.
He looks at ease in a photo where he stands at the heads of his beloved team of work horses.

When my late Mother was a few years older than I am now, she spent a snow-bound January going through the old album, sorted photos from the jumbled piles in the boxes.
She brought out her own albums--the photos she and my Father had taken during their courtship and later as they built their home and recorded the special moments of their three daughters.
Dividing the  vintage photos according to our special interests and including those which marked such individual events as our graduations, weddings, our children as they arrived, she lovingly created a memory album for each of us.

Shortly there-after a cross-country move took Jim and me to the unfamiliar [and sometimes forbidding] landscape of Wyoming.  Feeling rather dislocated and with gardening not an option,  I determined to begin compiling a legacy of family history.

I remembered many of  the stories Grampa Mac loved to tell; I had been 'all ears' as a child whenever there was a family gathering of my Mother's aunts and uncles.  I had listened as she read aloud the letters from her cousins, who vividly shared the details of family life.

Most of them had passed away, and Mother's grip on day to day existence was slipping by the time I began to organize family lore.
I purchased a membership in and began plowing laboriously through the pages of the census, often stopping to boil a kettle and brew a mug of tea while my infinitely slow dial up connection loaded yet another image of cramped and faded script.

I filled pages of notebooks with information; amateur that I was, I often neglected to note sources.
I scribbled in margins, crossed out wrong information.
I wasted hours on peripheral searches that drew me down side roads and into the families that had lived alongside my own.

I typed up questionnaires, mailed them to Mother hoping she could fill in the blanks.
On a flying visit home she presented me with a box of vintage photos, many of them studio portraits.
Many of the faces looking back at me from the stiff cardboard folders were younger versions of those I had known and loved.
Some were faces which Mother couldn't identify.

I learned through my research that my great-great grandfather, dead in his 37th year, was buried with a gathering of his kinfolk in a small graveyard a few miles from the homes my Mother had 
known so well.
When questioned, she couldn't recall having gone to the cemetery, although she had many times accompanied her grandparents on visits back 'across the lake' to the family stronghold.
Before her death she bequeathed yet more photos to my Nephew the History Teacher--the one who will carry on the love for family research.

Through the marvel of the internet I connected with a courtesy "cousin" whose families have been in the upstate New York hamlet as long as had been my mother's people.
"Cousin Bruce" has years of research published on his web pages and a fingertip away in his 
PC files.
Our emails flew back and forth.
I had progressed from wanting merely to share stories to a deep interest in the facts and vital statistics of generations past.
Cousin Bruce put me in touch with my own second cousin, a woman who shares my passion for family lore.
Barbara has her grandmother's scrapbooks--photos and clippings, a wealth of details.
Together we puzzle over the album of 'miniatures'--tiny formal cameos of bearded men in high collars, women in bustled gowns.
We can name less than half a dozen of those who must be of our blood or of our great-great grandparent's circle of friends.

I delight in the copies of old photos which have been shared with me.
Before her death last year my Dad's younger sister passed along photos I didn't know existed.
Her son, Cousin Tom, scanned and shared them along with his mother's surprisingly accurate family details. Tom typed notes scribbled down as Aunt Liz related stories of youthful escapades--giving me a view of my Dad's childhood which he had never shared. "Here's the outline," Tom would message, "You write the story."
Aunt Liz was into her 90's before I unearthed the family background hinted at by her notes, made more difficult as I struggled to decipher French Canadian names phonetically spelled on birth and death certificates and census listings. 
A lively correspondence began with a 'cousin' on my father's side--one who has been a leader in her local genealogical society.
Cousin Pat is also a gifted story-teller.

We hit 'brick walls', those of us who become entranced with family history.
We shuffle through the unidentified photos, we puzzle over a generation that seemingly 'disappears' from record.
Sometimes there are those 'eureka' moments: the scrap of information, the missing fact which suddenly makes sense and connects the dots.

As more archival hometown newspapers are digitized and published on the internet, the available resources expand.
Some photos shared , some information discovered come burdened with fore-knowledge.

I gaze at the family portrait of my maternal great-grandparents with a pang.
In it my grandmother, Helene, stands beside her father's chair, her hand on his sleeve. My slender great-grandmother, Minnie Jane, holds on her lap their son, Lawrence. The full skirt of her foulard printed gown is rumpled as though toddler Lawrence had squirmed at being held.
Minnie Jane was likely already a few weeks pregnant with her third child. She would die in childbirth on her 26th birthday within that year.

Lawrence would meet death in the Second Battle of the Marne, never returning home to wed his financee, to pick up his fiddle and make music.
Helene, the grandmother I never knew, would die of leukemia at age 44.

My home state of Vermont several years ago made available to ancestry members digitized images of vital stats from the mid 1800's to within a few years of the present.
Hours of trawling through them confirmed the six stillbirths endured by my paternal grandmother and the loss of her two younger brothers, a sister, and a beloved sister-in-law during the flu epidemic of 1918.
If my father knew of these sad facts, he chose not to speak of them.

There have been delightful finds as well: the description of Grampa Mac and Helene's wedding--so detailed that I can visualize the familiar dining room and the parlour of the old farmhouse dressed with 'choice plants' for the occasion.
The same newspaper archives have yielded in their local columns the details of church gatherings, school outings, road building, weather and farm reports, all sprinkled with names I recognize.

Often after hours of peering at the screen, scribbling notes, I return to the present in a daze, suddenly realizing that I need to prepare a meal or fetch the wash in from the clothesline.

I look with interest at the photos which others post, whether in the local online gazette or on a favorite blog; I want to learn more about the young soldier in his stiff uniform, or the elderly couple seated in the porch swing, the children straggling in untidy lines in front of the one room schoolhouse.
Photos and tidbits of information continue to come to me, sometimes shared from surprising sources--shared by those who recognize the value of heritage, those who also want names to match the faces captured on film in some long ago moment.

Monday, November 24, 2014

November Sunset

I was putting a tentative foot out of bed this morning when the phone rang.
It was Mose Miller wanting to tell Jim that he was ready to have the enclosed trailer brought up to  load more machinery from the leather shop.
I thought it strange that Mose, a courteous man, would call at 6:30 in the morning!
Jim learned later that the Millers, like many of the families and small businesses on the county line, keep 'fast time,' The county line is also the demarcation for the time zone.

The wind had kept up a steady booming roar all night, and dawn brought sternly grey skies to the north, overlaid with scudding clouds. 
A litter of small bare branches was scattered over the grass, and the deep drifts of leaves in both front and back yards had been blown into the soybean field where they fluttered and danced 
among the stubble.
Charlie and the boy cats spent the night in the entry [they refused to settle down at bedtime] and when let in began to race up and down the hall with their feline pals. The lot of them ricocheted off furniture, sped down the basement stairs, peered around doorways at things that, to our human eyes, were not really there.

 Jim was anxious to make the most of the daylight, so gulped his coffee and slathered two slices of anadama bread with butter and jam.
Katy-Dog bounced from the bedroom with Howard creaking behind her.
I popped a bread pudding in the oven and tackled the daily drudgery of the cat litter boxes.
I decided that the kitchen linoleum and the basement floors needed to be swept and mopped.
A large framed print had been knocked off a shelf in the entry and the shattered glass had to 
be dealt with. 
From the dining area windows I could see that the sky had turned a brilliant blue as the sun triumphed over the morning's somber start.
Howard, waiting on an appointment with the chiropractor, was gathering up the strewn branches, pausing to kick Katy's ball across the grass.
When I took a rug out to beat and brush it I was surprised to find that in spite of the wind, 
the air was warm.

Basement floors swept and swabbed, kitchen floor clean, contents of mop bucket flung out, ash bucket emptied.
I wanted to stay outside, and began walking the perimeter of the lot, picking up yet more fallen branches. The short November day was moving on, the sun trawling the western sky, the wind developing a cooler tang.

Back indoors, to find the cats sleepy, some tucked up on the loveseat downstairs by the ebbing fire, Bobby Mac sprawled on the table, where he can open one eye to monitor the backyard birds.
The late afternoon sun slants into the west window of my study, lying warmly on the oak flooring.
I glance wistfully at my rocking chair, the books ranged on the shelves nearby.

I wonder when--and what--Jim and Howard have eaten.
I bring out the remains of the weekend hickory smoked turkey breast, assemble the meat grinder, two stalks of celery, a quarter of an onion.
Bobby Mac and Nellie appear to monitor this production of sandwich filling.
More onion and celery chopped to sizzle gently in olive oil, add the garlic, the turkey broth.
Down to the basement to fetch a quart of home canned tomatoes, a handful of tiny pasta stars dropped into the pot as the contents come to a gentle boil.
The homey scent of simmering soup takes over the kitchen.

The men arrive home--Jim first, roaring in, trailer loaded with more of the Miller's goods.
"Have you eaten?" I ask.
The Millers invited him to share their dinner.
In response to my interested queries he describes the meal: a noodle casserole served with kielbasa; apple pie with ice cream; a 'fluffy' sort of side dish, perhaps a pudding; an array of cookies.
Two of the Miller daughters were there, helping Anna with the packing, along with two neighboring Amish women whose husbands were laboring alongside Mose and Jim to load heavy machinery from the leather shop.
Jim asked how they managed to have ice cream.
Like so many Amish families, the Millers have an 'arrangement' with their nearest neighbor, to keep an electric freezer in an out building.  Mose also has a telephone installed there, paying a small monthly fee for these services.

Howard's arrival was heralded by Katy dashing into the kitchen.
I spread filling on home made bread, indicated the kettle of soup.
The sun hovered on the brink of the horizon, ready to plunge behind the hills.
I snatched up my camera, wanting some tangible memory of this glowing day of wind and sun.

Dark shadows were already spreading across the front lawn.
The last rays of the sun struck the tops of the backyard trees with a ruddy glow, outlining the nuts that still cling to the bare branches of the pecan tree, gilding the clusters of pine cones.

Life marches at a strange pace here, days of unexpected work as well as the mundane chores of country living.
Mose has given Jim the keys of the upper house!
Tomorrow I will have a duplicate set made to keep in my handbag.
Soon I will drive to the empty house, let myself in, walk freely from room to room, imagining
the transition to a new home.

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.