Wednesday, July 27, 2016

90-Plus

Bobby Mac slides about on the wet hood of the car.

I woke this morning to the rumble of thunder. I'd spent a restless night--body tired, mind very busy--and due to the grey-green half-light had no idea of the time.
I've been sleeping mostly in the charming small bedroom at the end of the hall--a room with both a north facing and west facing window. [The solitary bedroom is a concession to the respiratory flu which has spoiled our sleep for several weeks.]
From the bed I can look directly into the trees which ascend the side hill beyond the retaining wall.
Leaves rustled in a slight wind, and  moisture plopped from the over-hanging roof. 
Eventually I heaved myself from bed, groped for my slippers and padded along the hall, down the staircase.
It was 7:30.


By the time we had cleared away breakfast the sun had come through and the thermometer outside the kitchen window stood at 92 F.
I pegged sheets on the back porch clothesline, dealt with litter boxes and scuttled inside, out of the damp sultry air.

A strange bristly green caterpillar at the back door.


Jim stomped to the garden in a rage--from the upstairs window he had spied the damage done to a ripe melon--one he had thought not quite ready to pick the day before.
Possums always know when the melons are at their best and they gnaw into them by night.
You can see how much we had to cut away to salvage the remainder.
The live-trap is now set up invitingly at the edge of the garden.

I pottered about with a bit of house-cleaning, made up the beds with fresh sheets, briefly considered some sewing.
Instead of doing anything really useful, I decided to work on family research--learning more about the life and times of a 3x great grandmother.  Some of my findings are undoubtedly repetitive--but I wasn't inclined to rootle about in the too warm room upstairs where my notebooks are stored.
The afternoon raveled away as I squinted at vintage newspaper scans and census listings.
Jim went out to roar about on the lawn mower.
I fetched in the laundry.
The boy cats came inside and flopped on the cool wood floors.

Thunder began again to rattle and boom, wind whirled through the trees, and then rain pelted down, creating a steamy haze which hung over a green twilight.
At 10: 45 the needle of the thermometer, viewed through a rain-spattered window, stands at 77 F.
Lightning still flashes, but the thunder has moved off.
Jim is micro-managing the AC unit in 'his' bedroom--the fan is whirring gently in mine, the windows are open and the curtains parted.
We are promised a break in the month-long heat wave!
I hope for a restful night and a cooler day which may inspire me to noticeable accomplishments.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Marking Time in July


We expect July to be hot and humid--that doesn't mean we have to like it!
My Facebook memory feed kindly reminded me that I had linked to a blog post last year on this date, an essay which quite thoroughly expressed my long-standing dislike of hot weather.
The discomfort of stifling heat has this year been aggravated by the fact that both Jim and I are still coughing--an enduring legacy of the respiratory virus which he brought home from his vacation.
I have continued to read, to do the most necessary housework and cooking [we aren't particularly hungry] and to do a bit of gardening.
I didn't cut back the lavender this spring--it quickly broke dormancy and flourished with fresh tips and flower buds.
As the blooms faded and dried the effect became very tatty.
I should perhaps have pruned most of it back to the ground, but I settled for snipping off the dead flower stalks and cutting out bedraggled undergrowth.
I decided to leave the clump of purple violets which appeared in a corner of the herb bed.



Grass had sprouted in the sidewalk cracks and along the edges of the side porch steps.
By the time I tackled this area on Tuesday forenoon the cats had retreated to sprawl on the porch floor out of reach of the sun.
Several varieties of thyme are planted along the outer edge of the walk, interspersed with dianthus and a few spare lavender plants. 
Kneeling on an old cushion I snipped and pruned and pulled invasive grass and weeds.
I thought I had been working for about 45 minutes. 
When Jim appeared and invited me to go with him for errands I realized I had been working in the hot sun for over two hours.
It was a relief to go inside for a cool shower, clean clothes, and then become the passenger in an air-conditioned car.


When our nephew and his wife were here last month we went with them to explore a wild acreage they have purchased on the other side of the county.
Masses of rambling roses grew along the rough track and clambered through the weeds.
I expect they are escapees from a nearby abandoned farmhouse.  C. obligingly brought me back a bundle of roots which I poked into a pot of earth.
Careful watering has inspired the growth of fresh green leaves and hopefully the development of healthy roots. I will find a spot to plant these before frost.

The double daylilies are nearly at the end of their bloom for this season.

Swallowtails enjoying the tall phlox.


The flower garden has gone shabby; lilies, achillea, foxglove, coneflowers finished with their first bloom.  The self-sown cosmos have taken over.
I have dead-headed and cut back in anticipation of fall bloom.
I have spread more mulch--I think one could endlessly add mulch.
During a recent hot afternoon I read a small book of memoirs by a woman who gardened throughout her life in the Charleston, SC area.
The basics of her garden were laid out by a well-known landscape designer of the day.
Her attorney husband allowed her a generous budget for plants and shrubs, and perhaps most importantly, she paid a 'gardener'/ handyman to do her bidding--the heavy digging,  pruning, weeding.
While her garden was not designated as 'grand' it was appealing enough to be included in garden tours.
What one couldn't do with continuous funds and 'help' in a garden!


I stroll down the lane at either end of the day [when it is cooler] to visit the goats and the barn kittens.
The 'dry' goats have settled into the long narrow pasture that borders the lane.
In the heat of the day they lounge beneath the willows.


It is never too hot to poke a winsome face through the fence in hope of a tidbit.
Barring that, the 'girls' are pleased to have pats on the heads and admiring words.


I will never have the garden of my wistful imaginings.
I doubt I will ever have garden 'help.'
I do, however, cherish the companionship of Willis-the-Cat--my faithful overseer!


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Down Time


Not down time by choice!

Jim and his siblings carried home an unpleasant 'souvenir' from their recent Alaska cruise:  a really nasty respiratory virus.
Needless to say I wanted no part of it and promptly vacated the matrimonial bedroom for the small pleasant room at the far end of the hallway.
With determined zeal I wiped down surfaces with disinfectant, changed hand towels several times each day, added chlorine bleach to the dishwater.
It seems I might have spared the effort.

By Wednesday evening I too was ill--classic chills, fever, throbbing head, aches and weakness. 
We have both coughed until the muscles surrounding our ribs feel torn from their moorings.
At that, I will likely recover from that symptom long before Jim.

I am blessed that I can read a good deal even when ill.
I've sat, blanket wrapped, in my rocking chair, tissues and tea to hand, then toddled off to my bed to the thick smothering half slumber that goes with this sort of thing.

I began a re-read of 'China Court' [Rumer Godden] on the way to Tennessee last Friday, wedged into the backseat of my daughter and SIL's car.
 I expected to finish the book over the weekend, but a nephew's 18 year old daughter had a haul from the area second hand bookstore and offered the loan of something rather out of my usual zone of interest.


 This was an engrossing and horrifying [true] story, the medical terminology softened by the author's compassionate portrayal of the family involved.
I finished the book in time to hand it back on Monday morning before our return to Kentucky.

'The Hatbox Letters' [Beth Powning] is a fairly recent book and another re-read. 
I was surprised to read negative reviews for this book on 'goodreads'--many reviewers found the pace too slow and the details of locales and seasons too detailed.
As in my first reading of the book I was immersed--Beth Powning describes ancestral homes and gardens in New England--where I was born and lived much of my life.
Her descriptive phrases conjure the scents and sounds of old homes as I recall them, and the tracing of family history which forms one of several plot lines, is dear to my heart.

'Journey to Munich' [Jacqueline Winspear] is the latest in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series--one of the better ones.



I have bumbled outside for a few minutes each day--long enough to water plants on the porch and to clean the cat litter boxes.
This morning the air was less humid than it has been and I felt less feverish, so decided to walk to the barn.  I knew that F. and B. were away for several hours, so I could visit the goats and the barn cats without concern that I might still be contagious to humans.
Shadow-cat [on the right] is most effusive whenever I go down. When I start back up the lane he follows, mewing soft-voiced, twining insistently about my ankles.
There is a certain point in the lane when our own resident cats strut out to challenge Shadow.
This morning it was Nellie. 
There was no altercation, only a bit of bristling and some low key muttering.
As always, Shadow turns back. If I stop to watch, he mews wistfully, but knows not to push his luck.

Shadow-cat winding himself around my clogs.


During the 10 days of Jim's absence I weeded and spread mulch in the perennial strips.
This week has brought torrents of pounding rain and created a rivlet that has torn through the lower end of the garden.
Nothing I can tackle in the way of repairs until I am well.



The tattered butterfly, seen this morning, is likely too dramatic a symbol of how I am feeling.
I am impatient with illness [and if truthful, rather resentful that I have the 'souvenir' without the holiday!]
While I wait for aches and coughing to diminish and energy to return I shall continue to read and sip honeyed tea.




Monday, June 27, 2016

Gardening


The first cucumbers are ready, as well as the first picking of green beans. I have cut Swiss chard twice and pulled some baby beets.
Rain accompanied the thunder storm on Thursday evening and by Sunday afternoon the soil was just right for weeding.
At 93 F. it was too hot to be in the garden!



 I spent the afternoon puttering with the plants on the porch. 
I snipped off faded blossoms, trimmed and repotted a lank Swedish ivy, moved the store-bought rosemary from its peat pot into a proper home.


Bobby Mac flopped on the floor after I swept away the mess of soil and plant bits.


The nasturtiums need to be groomed at least twice a week.
I moved them from the cement landing below the side steps as they were getting too much direct sun.
I carefully picked off shriveled blooms and sun-bleached leaves. 
There is a cosmos in the pot--rather incongruous; I mistook it for a tiny signet marigold when I lifted it from the border--by the time I realized my error it was flourishing and I left it in the pot.
Strangely, the signets didn't produce any volunteer plants.


Begonias and  repotted ivy in the shady corner of the south-facing porch.


The tuberous-rooted begonia is on its 3rd or 4th season. 
It spends winters in the small storeroom in the basement, reviving in the spring when moved to daylight and watered.


The spring flush of bloom in the border has 'gone by.'
The self-sown cosmos have taken over.
Jim planted several tomatoes much too close to my flowers, but I let them stay.

As the midday heat drained away I went to work on the grass that has grown alongside the border.
I use my garden fork to loosen an area of soil then down on my creaking knees to pick out the grass and other small weeds.
Last summer I battled the emergence of turnips which had been sown as a cover crop before the former owners had this 'topsoil' drawn in.
I had hoped we could do more to amend the soil before it was time to plant veg.
In reality, I was hoping Jim would find time to construct some raised beds.

I was surprised to find this morning that there had been a shower sometime in the night.
By late morning I judged the soil dry enough to continue weeding.
I worked along both 'legs' of the border, then down a row of green beans, picking beans as I crawled .

  Our neighbor/renter came to borrow Jim's small tiller.
When he returned it later, he ran it along the edges of the remaining veg rows.
I spread the two bags of mulch I had on hand--discovering that one contained the usual brown mulch, while the one more recently purchased was inky black. 
I need several more bags of mulch--will get it all at the same garden shop, all the same color!

I took several short breaks during the day, but was pushing myself to finish what I had started.
I was sweaty, aching, grubby, still more needing done when I quit.

The sun was low in the western sky when, showered, shampooed and wearing fresh clothes I plodded down the lane to the mailbox.
I hadn't visited the goats or the barn cats, so detoured to scoop up a kitten for a moment's cuddle, and then quick pats on the little goatly heads poked through the fence.

I made myself an ambitious mental list of projects to delve into with Jim away for a week.
[One does not have to prepare proper meals when the man of the house is not in residence!]
Thus far the garden chores have had priority.
During the past hour I have felt fatigue settling heavily on my bones.
I am thinking rather longingly of the wide bed with its crisp cotton sheets.
Tomorrow is another day!



Double orange daylily discovered by daughter G. along the old Gradyville RD in 2013.
We decided it was unusual enough to warrant digging up a clump for each of us.


One of three unwelcome garden pests discovered Sunday morning.


The south-facing border before I began weeding.

Cosmos.


Sky before the storm Thursday evening.


Eerie half-light during the storm.


As the storm rumbled away a double rainbow appeared, back lit by the setting sun.


Darkness moving in.


Willis by clary sage--photo with flash.

Weeding in progress.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Officially Summer

Clary Sage


Although the leaves are large and coarse, the flower stalk is elegant. 
Clary is a biennial. I grew it first in Gradyville but moved before discovering if it might self-sow or need new plants raised each year.  I should perhaps have started some this spring ready to set out in the fall and insure a continuity of bloom.


Phlox, "Laura"  [or is it "Jenna"--I planted both, will have to check the labels.

Platycodon/Balloon Flower.


I moved a stringy root of this from the Bedford stone house with some mis-givings about its chance of survival. I was happily surprised to discover that it has settled in. 


I wonder what caused the frilled petals of this self-seeded cosmos. 

A late poppy, likewise ruffled.


Bobby Mac toiling from the weedy pasture to the house on Sunday afternoon.
He was panting with the heat and has seemed lethargic, not as ready to dash outside.


Willis--who loves to lurk in foliage.
I am not a summer person. I remember as a child, longing for summer, only to droop when July heat and humidity dominated our Vermont weather.
In Kentucky summer begins in mid-May--give or take a few days.
By the solstice the heat has enveloped us like a thick damp blanket. 
Laundry pegged on the lines in mid-morning has to have a tumble in the dryer when brought in late in the day. The freshness of a cool shower and clean clothing melts away after 15 minutes outdoors.
The indoor cats sprawl in odd places, the outdoor cats seek the shade.
A walk down the lane at mid day to check the mailbox leaves me breathless and mildly cross.
The goats lounge in the pasture or alongside the barn, reviving in the evening to browse, the kids to caper and play.
Growing vegetables seems to be an endless battle with bugs and blight. We watch the weather forecast, hoping for the showers that have thus far 'gone around.'
We cope--with cold drinks, fans, the portable A/C and the de-humidifier.
Outdoor work is scheduled for the early morning hours before the sun climbs high in the sky.
I am thankful for the comparatively slower pace of 'retirement'--what we don't get done today can be postponed until tomorrow!




Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Goats and Cats--and a Dog [In No Particular Order]


The billy goats, Dandelion and Caraway, prior to their break out from the pasture.
When F. arrived home, he set to work reinforcing existing fences and constructing a sturdy 2- strand electric fence to separate the goat pasture from the area below our garden.
The billy goats were kept under surveillance in the dry goat pasture for a week and the four non-milkers moved across the lane to what had formerly been the domain of the bucks.


My favorite of the mature goats, Zenobia, who is the oldest goat in the herd. Her distinctive black 'beard' doesn't show well in this photo.


Dandelion with his head through the gate.


Bobby Mac showing off as he keeps me company in the garden.


Charlie is likewise a companionable soul, often getting in the way of my hoe, wanting my attention when I am weeding.


For a few days the dry goats stayed in the long pasture which borders the shady side of the lane.
They were alert to my footfalls whenever I walked down the lane and quickly formed a procession on their own side of the fence. 
I have found that goats are very conversational. 
At convenient spots along the fence,  heads were thrust through to be patted and complimentary remarks were exchanged. 


One of the goats, Evonnia, found a way to escape the pasture. Returned by F. she refused to stay in.
When I walked down last evening I was surprised to find that the ladies had been returned to their original pasture and the bucks were back across the lane.
F. assures me that the boys have considerable respect for an electric fence.
I will miss the enthusiastic greetings of the does.  If I wish to fuss over them I will need to go through the barn and out to the hill pasture gate.


The baby goats at their grain trough.
When I was caring for them, there was persistent pushing at the fence above the trough.  One little girl goat managed to get her head stuck three times.
I lashed a variety of found objects to the fence as a deterrent. 


This is Munchkin, who patrols the hill pasture. The dry goats are her usual 'group' to guard.
She is friendly, takes her job seriously, doing a great deal of barking.
When we drive up or down the lane she races along the fence, whirling in circles as she nears the end of the pasture.


Charlie and Willis frequent the garden, sometimes disagreeing as to who is 'top cat.'
Willis takes his role as the farm overseer to heart.

Charlie is an amiable nitwit!


Sally, one of our outside cats. Sally likes to assist if I am weeding the strip below the porch. 
She and her sister, Sadie, have developed testy ways in response to the years of lordly dominance by Willis.

One of the mom-cats who lives in the goat barn.

Misty morning in the pasture.


Delphinium, waiting her turn to be milked.
She habitually stands in her grain bucket, removing her feet only to put her head in the depths of the bucket and slam it against the wall. 

Willis--Himself.