Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Week



There has been a pleasant sameness in the weather this week, after the previous onslaughts of rain and wind.
Mornings have been silver-frosted-- grass, fence posts, roofs glittering as the sun rises slowly over the eastern ridge. 
Walking down the lane in mid-morning I note that the sheen of wet grass is over-laid with stripes of white where the shadow of a tree or power pole slows the strengthening warmth of the sun.


The boy cats clamor to go outside when I come downstairs a bit after 6 a.m.
The edge of the retaining wall offers a spot to warm and dry off furry paws that have gotten chilled in the first explorations of the day.
It was 22 F at 6:15 on this Thanksgiving morn. The 'boys' seemed disgruntled, surprised by the cold, almost expecting me to instantly fix temperatures more to their liking. 


With nearly all the leaves blown to the ground, morning light has a different quality, flowing over objects that have been previously lurking in shade.  Branches are sharply etched against  clear skies. Plumes of wood smoke announce that someone is stirring, greeting the day.


Jim has firewood harvest privileges at the Amish farm up the road. He and our neighbor/renter have spent several mornings this week pulling out 'tops' left from a logging operation, cutting them into stove lengths and then using the wood splitter to make more manageable chunks.
Both men enjoy the work, carried on in the crisp sunny weather.  They roar in with old Snort'n Nort'n loaded to capacity and stash the wood, turn about, at our place or the lower one.


On Monday, I kept Dazee Belle while our friends made a routine trip to Nashville.  Dazee has outgrown some of her puppy ways and is a more docile visitor than she was a year ago.  I take her out on her lead, let her rootle about in the fallen leaves, sniff along the fence.
She hears her owners' car chugging up the lane early in the evening and welcomes their return, wriggling with delight, bouncing about the front door as they pull to a stop.


Tuesday I drove to the South Fork community, wanting salad makings for Thanksgiving dinner. 
Bins and baskets of apples line the outer entry; the scent of apples is heady-sweet on the cool air.


A grocery cart has been heaped a variety of pumpkins.  A hand-lettered sign announces that they are 'pie pumpkins' for those purists who don't buy pumpkin tidily processed and packed. 

[Making pumpkin puree is a fairly lengthy task--cutting up the pumpkin, scraping out seeds and their stringy surrounding pulp, roasting the chunks of pumpkin, then finally scooping the cooked flesh from the rind and putting it through a food mill.  I buy mine in cans.]

This was our first Thanksgiving at home in several years. Daughter and her husband are in Vermont for the week, so grandson joined us for dinner.
I felt I was being quite organized. I didn't want to fuss with a whole turkey, so bought a hickory smoked turkey breast which was gently thawing after a week's incarceration in the freezer.  By Wednesday evening the kitchen was fragrant with pumpkin pudding just out of the oven, a pastry shell was ready to pop in, fruited jello settled in a glass bowl in the fridge, two extra pies tucked in the freezer for future reference. 


I nipped out early to record our  holiday morning weather, fed the outdoor cats, prodded the fire into renewed life.


 I squeezed fresh lemons for pie filling, whipped egg whites to glossy peaks. 


It was a temptation to be outside in the sun as the temperature climbed.
Instead I peeled potatoes and butternut squash, decided to cook them on the wood stove. 



Glancing out the window I noticed that Willis, his morning rounds completed, had settled for a nap in the buggy.


Jim acquired the Amish buggy along with the farm swap.  It has been stored at various places, and has now been lodged for the winter on a corner of the long front porch.
The cats were immediately interested, so Jim provided a thick old quilt for their comfort.



Our porch chairs and settee remain on the south facing side of the wrap-around porch and are layered with old rugs and throws for the cats. Two blanket-lined baskets on the  lower back porch offer another choice of snug cat beds.
If Willis has chosen the buggy as his preferred shelter I expect the other cats will need his approval to share the space.


To borrow a phrase from  Garrison Keillor, "It has been a quiet week"--one of beneficent weather, of unhurried accomplishments. 
I won't need to cook tomorrow--the fridge is stocked with appealing left-overs.
I can think of no urgent tasks to demand my attention.
A sunny day--and warmer--is forecast.
There should be time to meander outdoors with my camera, to visit the goats and the barn cats next door, time perhaps in the afternoon for a book and a mug of tea.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Moody Weather


Second week of the reversion to 'standard time' and I've not accomplished the reset of my internal clock. Evenings seem to begin shortly after noon and drag on for hours, while I tell myself that I am not sleepy.  I'm doing better with mornings--downstairs not long after six the past two mornings.
Jim has battled a cold/cough and is content to sleep in.
The cats have likewise not adjusted and begin begging for their 'tea' at the usual time. I could humor them, but I tell them 'soon' knowing they will accept the winter hours after a few more days have passed.
Morning temperatures have hovered around the freezing mark; most days have had a sunless start.
A hint of blue sky is worth recording.



Jim, bundled up against drizzling rain, tackled a dead tree at the edge of the woods. 



He brought it round to the wood shed and ran the chunks through the wood splitter.


Rain and wind have swept down the russet leaves of oak and hickory leaving the lane a bleak prospect on a gloomy day.


The view beyond the stable into the woods is now one of nearly bare branches rearing tipsily against the sky.


There was sunshine much of today.  The cats popped in and out whenever a door was opened.
The concrete retaining wall which faces the front of the house becomes a favorite vantage point for them--dry and sun-warmed when the long grass and weeds are damp and chilly.


Willis, mindful of his responsibilities, waits at the bend of the lane to escort me when I return from  walking to the mailbox.


When rain threatens or the wind blows cold, Willis appreciates his blanket lined basket on the sheltered back porch.


Bonny has been sorting the goats into winter pastures. 
These three girls are keeping company with Dandelion the senior buck.
When I walked past this afternoon he hooted loudly, asserting lordly dominance over the little group. 
The young does [born in the spring of 2016] are enjoying the companionship of a younger buck in a pasture behind the barn.


Seed heads still cling to the clematis vine, a collage of muted color.


In the sheltered corner near the side porch self-sown petunias straggle over the wall. 


One brave nasturtium, a remnant of summer, has thus far survived the frosty nights.

Being much indoors during the moody weather I've been sewing, reading.  The piano tuner  was here last week prompting me to spend a bit more time going over music--nothing very challenging.

Dashing outside on some errand means finding a jacket--soon I will want a scarf, gloves.

I am somewhat astonished to realize that this will be our 4th winter in the farmhouse.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Days of Sunshine, Days of Rain


Golden days and chilly nights ushered out the last full week of October.
I spent as much time outside as possible once the sun crept over the eastward ridge, burning off the dew and warming the air. 
It was cool enough to warrant a fire first thing in the morning and again in the evening.


As I look out the kitchen window above the sink, each day a bit more sky has become visible as the leaves drift down to litter the track that follows the narrow ravine.


Frost warnings were posted for our area, and for several mornings I came downstairs a bit after 6 to find that the red needle on the thermometer stood at 30 degrees F--a mere 2 notches below freezing.  Strangely, we hadn't yet been touched by frost here on the hill, although our garden at the bottom of the lane showed a few traces of limp and shriveled leaves.
Trees and buildings stood out sharply against the burning blue of the sky.  White cloud puffs drifted gently above  burnished hills and fields of corn and soybeans bleached dry and awaiting harvest.




We spent the sunny afternoon of October 22nd harvesting our sweet potato crop.


My job was to crawl along the rows with a pair of utility shears, lopping off the thickly tangled vines so that Jim could determine where to carefully dig into each hill.


Jim heaped the potatoes into large plastic trays which he stacked in the tractor's bucket to be trundled up the lane.


The young goats watched us from their nearby pasture.
As we finished work in the garden the afternoon grew colder.
I hurried to bring in the flowering plants which summer on the porch, trimming leggy begonias and geraniums, finding places for a few on the pantry shelf in front of the window, lining others on old tables where they can catch pale winter light through the basement windows.
Jim came to the rescue as I was staggering in with my Norfolk Island Pine in its heavy pot; it spends each winter in the cool 'sun room.'



We woke next morning to find that a killing frost had altered the landscape.
Frosted mornings, biting wind, scudding grey clouds replaced blue skies and golden sunshine.


The gardens took on a bleak and wasted look, only the late planting of kale and broccoli are still crisp and green.



Lavender sprawls over the side porch steps, the low creeping foliage of spice pinks holds its grey green color, as yet unchallenged by the frost, but the brilliant heads of the self-seeded cockscomb are shriveled and drooping.


J's nephew and family arrived from Wyoming to work on land they own at the other end of the county. Seemingly they brought with them fitful, often heavy rain which has hampered their intentions to install a small stove in their camp, improve the rough road into the property.
Jim has roared back and forth hauling over tractors and bush hog.

I've had the delightful company of our nephew's wife and little daughter; I offered to prepare the main dish for a hot meal each day--the sort of food I cooked decades ago on the farm when we had extra mouths to feed. While the men pitted themselves and their machinery against rain and mud, my kitchen was warm and fragrant with lentil soup, onions and green peppers frying in olive oil, ready to be mixed with home-canned tomatoes, rice, a sprinkling of herbs.  
A huge pot of chili mac simmered on the back of the wood stove nearly all of one day; 
I made bread for the sandwiches that went to the work site, bread for morning toast, bread to dip into the curried veg and barley soup which made itself in the slow cooker while we made a leisurely round of the Amish/Mennonite shops at the South Fork community.


I brought home a stainless steel food mill to replace an ancient one.
I was up early next morning to stew up apples and put them through my shiny new unit, pleased with the big bowl of warm applesauce to add to our breakfast.


Bread to share with family and neighbors.
[The divided loaves are what I make when there are only two of us at home.  The halves can be frozen and brought out as needed so that a whole loaf doesn't go stale.]


It has been a busy several weeks. As I work thoughts and phrases chase through my mind, wanting expression, if only to create a record of my days.
Yet, when I sit at my desk, my brain is fuzzed with tiredness, my eyes droop as I read, comments aren't posted, nor words typed to join the photos languishing in several drafts. 
[I may yet edit those posts although the contents will hardly be 'breaking news.']

Today has been cloudy, mild and damp, afternoon melding seamlessly with early darkness. 
It is time to set the clocks back an hour [why must we attempt to meddle!] It is time to experience again this season of in between--the weeks that here in Kentucky are no longer brilliant autumn, not yet winter. 





Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Advancing Autumn


The past week brought rapid changes of weather: much needed rain, a [last?] gasp of steamy heat, followed by brilliant blue skies and cooling temperatures.
A male hummingbird winged in and spent several days with us, drinking deeply from the hanging feeder. During his first day here he was wary of Willis and company, before realizing that the cats had little interest in him.  He made a final visit to the feeder last Tuesday morning--wings whirring, his body a dark silhouette against the pearly fog that wrapped the porch.



The cosmos were flattened by the gusty rains.
I noticed today that while there are still a few pretty blossoms the plants are bedraggled, spent.
I've learned that cosmos reseed abundantly with no help from me, but I will gather a few seeds as they dry; some to share, a few to drop in the spring just where I want them.



Bobby Mac is somewhat frustrated by wet mornings. He picks his way daintily along the walk that edges the side porch, ventures into the sopping grass, then returns, shaking the wet from his paws.


Rain water, blown in around the pot of nasturtiums, apparently tastes better than what is on offer in the kitchen.



Tulip poplars begin shedding leaves early in the fall.  There has been a steady drifting of them, visible from the kitchen window.


Seeds have ripened on Clematis Candida.  I will clear weeds from the base of the trellis so that new seedlings will have a sporting chance.  I've also brought in some of the fluffy seed heads and picked out the hard dark seeds with the thought that I would like to experiment with starting some inside during late winter.


Rugosa Rosarie de l'Hay has produced a few soft fragrant blooms.


Hawkeye Belle, Double Red Knockout and the beautiful nameless rose. I cherish these late blooms over those of early summer, so quickly beset with Japanese beetles.


I admired my neighbor's dahlias and was given a bouquet to bring home.

This cactus has usually bloomed in late November--a 'Thanksgiving cactus.'


It spent the summer, nearly neglected, on the shady side of the porch.
I noticed with surprise that buds were forming in early October.



Jim dug sweet potatoes to take with us for sharing with family in Tennessee.
This was the yield from two hills, spread in the afternoon sun to dry the clinging soil.
We've found that washing newly up-earthed potatoes seems to limit their keeping quality.


Jim is fond of noting that one sweet potato could feed the two of us for a week!


Willis the Cat monitors our activities from a chair on the porch.



Home from our lovely weekend in Tennessee to find that the weather has turned crisp and cool.
The 'bones' of the surrounding trees are more visible each day as leaves drift slowly to the ground.
The sky wears the deep and brilliant hue that moved the poet to write of 'October's bright blue weather.'


Day shades into early evening in our back dooryard while the lower farmhouse is still swathed in the golden light of late afternoon.
After the bustle of unloading the car on our return Monday afternoon, greeting the cats and serving their 'tea', starting a load of laundry, we decided to build a fire.
I sat late in my rocking chair enjoying the gentle warmth, nodding over a book, delighting in companionship of Teasel-cat in my lap.
This morning the needle on the thermometer outside the kitchen window stood at 38 degrees.
We built up the fire and cooked the first meal of the season on the woodstove--a late breakfast of blueberry/buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, crisp slices of turkey bacon, eggs. 
It is time to put away summer clothes, to shake out the sweaters which have been folded on the bottom shelf. 
Time, soon, to trim the begonias and geraniums, bring them inside. Time to tidy the tangled flower border, time to stack away pots and gardening paraphernalia. 
Time to savor brisk mornings that warm into golden noons, to cherish the hope that winter will not cut short the joys of autumn.