Monday, April 13, 2015

Gardening

Cantaloupe seedlings moved to the pantry windowsill today.

Also on the windowsill, a few tomatoes.  They pricked through the soil on Friday.
One row is the heirloom, Purden's Purple, the other plants are Super Boy hybrid.
Our tomato crops in Kentucky have been beset by blight every year, but we persevere.
With so many tasks needing to be done in this new homeplace, the veg garden will necessarily be smaller than usual.
Rainy weather [April showers] have prevented 'turning' garden spots.
When I know how much space will be available I can buy plants locally as needed.
By the end of this week I expect I will move my containers of seedlings out to the work bench in J's shop, positioning them under the south-facing window.



I spent most of Sunday at the Cane Valley property laboriously up-earthing plants which wintered in the 'nursery' area at the bottom of the veg garden. 
Weeds are already engulfing the garden which we won't till this season.
With the house on the market and a nearly 40 mile round trip between the two properties, gardening there isn't a practical option.
Seed-grown achillias had settled in and spread into respectable clumps.
The catnip plant has already produced aromatic stems which I can cut for drying before finding a spot here to transplant.
I removed lemon thyme and clove pinks from the front strip where they had run rampant into the lawn.  I knew Jim was planning to go over and mow today and that the outermost plants would be slashed.
I took out two small roses which never looked at ease in that area, removed two lavenders, the clump of feverfew, great tangles of pinks.
I rearranged some of the plants which I left and heaved into place some large 'stepping stones' left behind by the former owners. 
These are shaped like giant feet--not my style at all, but they serve to add interest to that strip.
I speculate, rather gloomily, that a new owner is apt to bring in marigolds and petunias--so I am comfortable with salvaging those plants which I have nurtured and cherished as 'starters' for the garden I hope to create here.
All last summer I hovered over 'slips' of clematis which I was growing on in a large pot.
They were put in the ground at the Cane Valley house very late in the season--I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had wintered.
I was able to lift the little trellis, dig up the clematis roots and carefully transfer the whole thing to the floor of my van, losing only a few inches of the vine which snapped off at the tip.
I set it up against a fence post in the new garden at the end of the workshop.
In my mind's eye I can imagine the fence posts all bedecked with clematis or roses.
I have way more 'visions' and ideas than stamina at this point, but flowers are vital to my enjoyment of summer.


Last spring Gina discovered daylilies in a different coloration than the usual orange, growing along the roadside. We each took a shovel-ful of the roots. 
I put a clump of them in this corner near the side porch steps.
Anna had grown ornamental grass in this spot, corralled in a white-painted tire.
The grass winter-killed and I was not sorry to dig up the knotted ball of dead roots and heave the tire out of the way.

Clumps of thyme--both English and Lemon--tucked in along the edge of the concrete steps.
The soil is gritty and has been mulched with crushed rock--I think thyme and lavender 
will flourish here.


The clove pinks [dianthus] had spread lustily and came up in thick mats when I began to lift them from the edge of the grass. This area runs steeply down from the side porch to the driveway in front of the shop. 
My vision is to have a 'river' of the spicy-scented 'pinks' flowing down the edge. 

Anna had planted a swath of creeping phlox on the bank.
As I worked along the edge I noticed this blue swallowtail muddling drunkenly through the blossoms.
I went to fetch my camera and returned to find Charlie cat very interested in the swoops of the butterfly.


Charlie in a pose of innocence.
It began gently to rain as I tucked the last of the dianthus in place.
I was damp and chilled by the time I had picked up pots and tools.
I shrugged into the hoodie I had left on the bench by the shop door, creaked inside.
When I ventured out to the porch a bit later, I found Charlie and his pals, Willis and Sadie tucked up on the loveseat watching the rain patter down.
So much to be done--so much!

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Moment with Willis

I was at the kitchen sink, idly rinsing a bowl.
It was near dusk of an afternoon that tended toward overcast.
I noted the dark shape of a cat's rump in the still leafless branches of the tulip poplar, nearly on a level with the kitchen window.

It was Willis, of course, surveying his kingdom from a lofty vantage point.


He turned nimbly on his branch when I went out with my camera..

His manner seemed to suggest that while he wasn't averse to a photo shoot, I'd best get on with it--he didn't plan to stay there all night!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Requiem for a Garden


Nearly three weeks ago we had errands in town and decided to drive out to our old place in Gradyville for a quick visit to the Millers.
As we approached it was evident that work had been nearly completed on the new harness shop--a building which enclosed and greatly expanded the little garage which Jim had used as a work space.

It was not until we were nearly at the top of the drive that I realized the site of my perennial garden was now covered with an expanse of crushed rock.
"My flowers!" I gasped. 
A mound of muddy earth had been pushed down to the former location of my lower flower strips--where each summer cosmos, zinnias and sunflowers had flourished.
Here and there the broken roots and branches of my cherished heirloom roses protruded from the cold tumble of dirt.
On the other side of the new building Mr Rogers' grape arbor had disappeared as had the admittedly wobbly clothesline.

We met Mose Miller on the wide porch which runs along the east side of the new shop; from within came the sound of hammering. The hum of the gasoline engine which powers Amish industry hung on the damp air.
Jim exclaimed approvingly over the new shop.  I stood shivering and staring numbly at the area where I had spent five summers setting out perennials, weeding, dividing plants, tucking in yet another new lot of seedlings.
During a break in the men's talk I turned to Mose.
"The flowers are gone," I said, rather stupidly stating the obvious.
I made sure my tone of voice was neutral.

"Yes," agreed Mose. "The flowers are gone, but see the nice parking lot for customers, for the trucks that deliver supplies."
Then, kindly enough,  "Go on in to see Anna.  She will show you her new kitchen."

I was better prepared for the changes in the house. Our 'modern' electric range had been moved out, the fridge sat in the car port--plugged in, I noted.
The small rank of drawers which  flanked the stove had been moved to stand near the built-in buffet. Laminated hardwood replaced the kitchen linoleum [the only room whose flooring we had 
not torn up.] 
All was immaculate and orderly, as I have come to expect of Anna Miller.
The table had been moved into the addition which houses a traditional Amish kitchen. 
Anna's new Kitchen Queen range--smaller than the one left in our present house--had pride of place.
I spoke enthusiastically of the changes, noting that the addition allowed for south facing windows--a definite lack in the original arrangement.

At last I had to mention the flowers.
"I did not know the flower gardens were to go," admitted Anna, ruefully. "I would have tried to dig up and save some of the plants.  But--I looked out and there was a machine pushing it all away."
Anna's gentle voice took on a firmer note. 

"I was not happy about what happened to the garden. I am still not happy about it!
Mose has said when the weather is warmer I should go to the nursery and buy more plants. I can have another garden."
She paused a moment for emphasis.
"I told Mose--but those plants were settled!"

We looked at each other in shared dismay over this sad reality of a garden sacrificed to male common sense and industry.
"Men!" I announced, crossly.
"Yes" agreed Anna, "Men!"
I reminded Anna of the peonies well established by the Rogers.  I had, in the second year of my occupancy, divided the clumps of iris dotted about the yard and set them around the peonies. This strip, I was assured, had not been touched.
Anna led the way to the front porch where we inspected the clumps of day lilies, so recently thrusting their pale green shoots from the cold earth.
I pointed out the achillea, started from seed, noted that the nandina had suffered from the long freeze of February and would need severe pruning. 
We speculated which of the herbs near the back door might have survived the unusual blast of 
cold weather. 
Anna sighed. "The builders tramped  across the herb garden even though I reminded 
them it was there!"

We spoke then of quilts and of the relief of the coming spring time.
When it was time to leave, I assured Anna that I hoped she would visit us at the Pellyton farm which had been her family's home for over two decades.
"We've made changes," I warned her, "It will seem different."
Anna smiled serenely, "It is your place now. And I would like to visit and see what you have done."

Sleep eluded me that night. Mentally I reviewed my lost garden: the swath of clove pinks which perfumed the air for weeks; the sturdy blue salvia; tall lilies whose fat bulbs increased each year; the tangled mat of lemon thyme along one edge; the billow of Russian sage, the distinctive fragrance of the southernwood bush; coneflowers, achillea, catnip and clary--all nurtured from tiny seedllings.
Gone! 
 The roses--guarded from the onslaughts of Japanese beetles, the self-sown poppies which held brilliant sway. so fresh on a May morning.
Gone. 
I've thought back to the late autumn days when I finished packing our bits and pieces, carefully scrubbed the little yellow house in preparation for its new owners.
Several times I gazed over my gardens, longing to take away at least the rarest and most treasured of my plants, but feeling that would be unethical.
I remembered the wrench of leaving my Vermont gardens in 1998 when we moved to the harsh and arid high plains of Wyoming.
Those gardens had been eighteen years in the making!
For me, it is more difficult to leave behind a garden than a house.

I have comforted myself that I have here some of my peonies--moved last May to the interim house in Cane Valley. There are roses growing near the front porch. Daffodils grow in a sweep of yellow and green around the mailbox at the foot of the lane.
Several of the seedlings of lavender and thyme which I tucked in near the steps clung to life during the precarious winter.

Today Jim drove me to the Mennonite garden nursery. 
While he chose cabbage and broccoli plants, I selected two large pots of clove pinks--one in a deep carmine red, the other a clear rosy pink.
I bought two veronicas, a Munstead lavender, a tiny slip of common sage.
I have marked seeds and plants in my favorite catalogue.
Jim has warned that with so much needing done, he will have little time this year to spare for making and maintaining a veg garden. The implication is that I need to restrain myself in my 
dreams of flowers.
 I know this!
My elderly knees have registered protests in prior years of weeding. 
I cannot manage as large a planting as I covet.
It won't do to raise a battalion of seedlings and have no space prepared for them.

My mind tells me I must move on from this sadness about my lost garden.

My mind tells me I must be practical and realistic as I plan a new garden.

My mind tells me these things, but I'm not sure my heart is ready to listen!







Monday, March 30, 2015

Sunday Morning Walk



Sunday morning was bright but chilly.  The fire in the big black range had gone out overnight and the kitchen felt unwelcoming when I came downstairs.
I pulled on an assortment of wooly garments and set about making a fire in the stove.  I didn't want to wait for water to boil and coffee to perk on the slowly heating cooktop, so pulled out the electric coffee machine.
With coffee over, breakfast eaten and the cats tended, I put on my boots and headed outside to dump  compost in the woods beyond the barn.
Heading back I met Jim on the path.
"Are we going for a walk?"
When he nodded affirmatively, I plunked down the compost bucket and dashed back to the house for my camera.
The tortie sisters and Willis fell in behind.
The 'girls' always turn back after a short trek but Willis is good for the long haul.
I stopped to take a photo of some tight green stalks emerging from the dry leaves beside the path.
Jim remarked that they looked a bit like asparagus in early spring.

Once I had noticed these I found more--several colonies in various stages of emergence. 


When I saw this one with its leaves unfurling like an umbrella, a possible identity drifted up from the ragbag stash of memory: 'May apple.'
A later check on google confirmed the name.
The google images show may apple in flower and with a small yellow fruit later in the season.
Perhaps I will brave the possibility of ticks and a snake or two to visit the area again. 



A clump of bloodroot.


The flowers are creamy white, but if picked, the stems exude a sticky orange sap.


Leaves still cling to the many beech trees in the woods.


The woodland floor is host to an abundance of this plant--I was unfamiliar with it, but research seems to place in the 'toothwort' family, possibly 'slender toothwort, dentaria heterophylla.'


Our house sits in the narrow 'valley' between steep wooded hillsides to the east and west.
Trees grow thickly on the slopes, with thick roots pushing out of the soil in odd conformations.


Another odd mossy tree root--like the claws of a huge prehistoric monster [?]



The entrance to a hobbit house, perhaps.


I have not seen hepatica since leaving my native Vermont.
The several photos I took did not capture the flower well.
I was clambering about trying to work around my own shadow.


I wonder if Willis was inspired by some animal's scent left behind near this log.
He wallowed and thrashed in the dry leaves.


Willis with his back turned and ears expressing his annoyance as I coaxed him to pose prettily.


Willis and Jim headed home, walking along the creek bed, while I plodded steadfastly behind hoping to spot more spring blooms.

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

Connected!

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!