Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Continuing Progress

Jim cleared out enough of the barn last fall to get his tractors and some tools under cover. 
The right wing of the structure still had the animal stalls and rubble left from the former tenants.
Although he has considered building a garage/workshop, that plan has evidently been postponed, and the alternative was to clean out and refurbish the south side of the barn.

Oddments have been lugged out, some lumber salvaged, a good deal of 'junk' consigned 
to the burn pit. With trash and stall partitions removed, layers of ancient bedding and mud have been scraped out in preparation for a load of gravel which is meant to arrive tomorrow.

Later in the afternoon work began to remove the temporary steps and construct a small deck at the entry door.

By evening the deck was floored and I gather there will be new steps made.
This may not be the final solution for the main entry; Jim's plans seem to evolve over time.

Monday was the day of installing a combination heat and A/C unit which is referred to as a mini-split.  My only contribution to this effort was to straddle a step ladder at the back of the house and catch lengths of heavy wiring cable as it was pushed through the exterior wall.
Cool mornings have given Jim the opportunity to try out the heat, then enjoy the cooling system after working outside in the sun.

Late on Monday David Beachy trundled in with his tractor and mowing machine to cut the hay in our meadow. His younger brother, Mark loves to 'make hay' so he was delegated to return on Tuesday to 'turn' the swaths of drying grass with the crimper/tedder.  David followed in the farm truck to oversee that all went well.
Tagging along with his older brothers was the youngest boy, Mahlon.  
I was outside when this entourage arrived, considering whether the ground was dry enough to pick stones and sod out of the space which Jim had tilled up to extend my flower garden.
'I'll help you,' offered Mahlon.
He chatted companionably as we worked, picking rocks and clattering them into a bucket to be emptied along the edge of the ravine.
Leaning back on his heels as the tractor swept past us in the meadow, he declared, 
'Fresh cut hay is the best smell of all!'
By the time Mark finished raking the hay, Mahlon and I had cleared the flower bed ready to be smoothed and planted.

The large downstairs bedroom was finished last week in time for a visit from Jim's cousin.
The closet rail and shelves are not in place, and curtains hastily unearthed from a storage bin were hung over windows that are still dusty.

Eventually a king size bed will be set up, and furniture rearranged, proper curtains sorted.
[And the windows washed!]

The downstairs bath is finished.
I tried out the new shower this morning.

The downstairs living area is likewise finished; Again, furniture hasn't been allocated to proper places, merely brought in from the storage trailer and placed here and there.
Note the cat enjoying the sofa!

Jim constructed this handsome door. It is worthy of the entrance to someplace rather important: 
a wine cellar--an underground tunnel, a hiding place for treasure [?]

In reality, behind the door is the storage space beneath the stairs.  It has been crammed with loaded boxes and bins which I must, at some point, haul out, sort and deal with the contents.

SIL Matt created this Corian top for the lowered kitchen counter where I knead bread or roll out pastry.  Early on I considered having all the counter work tops made with Corian, but decided it was too pricey. Instead they are made from a high-end laminate.  Matt found a remnant of Corian left from another job--just enough for my work top.

While the men have accomplished wonders, I often feel that I don't contribute much to this house-building process. 
I have painted when asked, stained siding; last week I poly-sealed the wood for the staircase and trim.
I keep up with basic housework, laundry, prepare rather mundane meals that can be served whenever the men can take a break.
I hem curtains, rummage through storage boxes, run errands.
I have set out the second little magnolia tree and the lilacs which were a Mother's Day gift.
I have not answered letters and emails, nor tidied my desk.
Sometimes I wonder if I will remember how to 'keep house' or establish some sort of schedule when we are finally finished, unpacked, rooms set to rights.

Meanwhile, I escape to my small garden.
This evening I weeded peacefully, watched by faithful Willis. I knelt with my slender pointy trowel, loosening the earth around small and sturdy coneflowers. The weeds lifted easily.  I set out phlox--a white variety new to me called 'Peacock.'
I found larger pots for a new rosemary, 'Huntington,' and for a lavender, 'Big Blue.'
Tomorrow I intend to sow seeds of foxglove and lady's mantle and a pale prairie coneflower.
Perhaps I will make another visit to the garden nursery!

Evening skies were paling to shades of mauve-grey when I came inside.  How strange to think that in little more than a month we will reach mid-summer!

Monday, May 6, 2019

May Monday

A beautiful day, beginning with dense white fog, then warming to a blue sky embellished with fluffy white clouds.
There were spells of chilly rain over the weekend which means mud in the still to be landscaped areas of disturbed dirt around the house.

The foxgloves stood stalwart through the storms, although the rain dashed some of the lower blossoms to the ground.

The peonies are in opening mode, and I must get some mulch down to protect the blooms. Remember, it always rains on the peonies!

I was drafted to apply poly-sealer to what seemed to be dozens of lengths of lumber that the men have been creating using the planer and sander.  Much of this will be used to finish the stairway.
It is easier to work on flat pieces laid out on trestles and sawhorses--less drip and not [quite] as hard on the shoulders.
I made a quick trip to the South Fork shops on Friday [a huge bag of potting soil from the garden nursery, bulk foods from Sunny Valley, a few items from Discount Foods.]
I was gone long enough for the men to move furniture from the storage trailer into the nearly finished lower level of the house.
I suspect that this might have been accomplished in my absence so that chairs and tables and dressers could be landed without my suggestions as to their where-abouts.
No matter, we haven't come to permanent arrangements or the unpacking of many smaller items.
Since the bookcases have come in, I must figure out a way to bring in the many boxes of books without doing myself an injury.

The cats are quite thrilled with the reappearance of favorite chairs, the leather sofa [which they have scratched] and various other convenient perches.
Looking into the big room several times Friday evening I found they were playing a feline version of 'musical chairs,' taking turns to try out the newly furnished space.

The guest bedroom--without a bed! 

It was nearly 9 in the evening when I remembered that no one had been to the mailbox.
I finished cleaning my paintbrush and stepped out the front door.  The sun had disappeared behind the western ridge, leaving a faint blush of coral pink; the dimming sky was dappled with soft grey, the air cooling. I walked slowly up the drive and along the lane toward the road.
There was the scent of freshly cut grass along the verges, and the meadow scent of white clover, buttercups, green leaves and ripening hay.
Kildeers flew up in front of me, screaming their frantic "Peent, peeeent," swooping down to stagger on stilt-like legs, then lift to fly low over the edges of the pasture.
In the dip of the lane near the pond the air was sharply cooler.
The mailbox held nothing of interest, but the sounds, smells, soft colors of my evening stroll were a peaceful wrap for a day that has left me with both a sense of accomplishment--and aching shoulders.
My comfortable bed beckons!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Taking Stock, Indoors and Out

Mayapple grows in clumps along the wooded edge of the ravine.

Springtime, seemingly so tardy in arrival this year, has come into her own. 
Neglecting to record each day in photos and words gives me the sense of changes occurring too rapidly.  The frothy petals of the dogwood have fallen, the redbud bloom is likewise now a memory.

The trees across the lane are fully in leaf, filling the ravine with varying shades of green.
When I find a moment to sit on the east porch, it is only the sudden shaking of a leafy branch that reveals the presence of the squirrels who nest in the treetops. 
If I watch closely sometimes I can see the flick of a fluffy tail as the squirrel leaps from one slender branch to another or scurries down the tree trunk.
The cats sitting on the porch with me often spy the squirrels before I do.

I was disappointed in my photos of the mayapple. The blossoms hide under the 'umbrellas' of the leaves; trying to hold aside leaves and twigs while keeping the camera steady wasn't successful.
I hadn't seen mayapple in bloom during other years.  I suspect the flowers are short-lived. These showed some rain damage, but still a delight to discover.

This mossy rock is lodged near the mayapples.

I strolled down to the burned house site to enjoy the last blooms on the magnolia planted by former owners.
The twisted metal and debris from the burned house was trucked away by a man recommended by our SIL. With the trash gone, Jim used the backhoe to fill in the old foundation with dirt removed from our building site.
The mess left by the former owners has meant more work for Jim, but the results are good.

Walking back to our new house along the edge of the woods that border the north property line, I discovered these plants. The shamrock shape of the leaves suggests an oxalis--but I haven't taken time to research. I'm thinking some of the plants might be moved to create a ground cover nearer our house.

The [somewhat] cleared edge of the wooded ravine to the north.
There is a wide field above the house, but like so much of the landscape here, ridges border the lower part of the property narrowing the open space.

The wind blew on Friday, rippling the long grass in the field, pushing clouds across the sky, creating moving swaths of sunlight and shadow through out the afternoon.

The weather was uneasy on Saturday--the wind had a cold edge.
During the night rain pounded down.

Our neighbor keeps a 'giant jack' whose services are in demand for those who wish to raise mules.
This mare was brought to board and give birth here.
I enjoyed seeing her and her long-eared foal each time we drove past the barn.

I had an errand at the corner store which borders an Amish property.
The attendance at the little schoolhouse has swelled to over two dozen students with the recent influx of Amish families to the neighborhood.
Friday was the final day of the school term, celebrated with a picnic and a ball game to which parents and siblings of the students were invited.
I was intrigued by the gathering and since my camera was in the car, I attempted one discreet zoom shot.

Plants in my makeshift garden are thriving.
I gloat over my five Camelot foxgloves--raised last year from a $3 packet of seed.
Plants of this size, only in the 'lavender' shade, are being sold at Lowes for $15 per pot.
Thus far, two of mine are lavender, two are a deep rose; buds on the 5th plant aren't showing color, but I expect it to be lavender--perhaps the default color.
Today a rummage in the storage trailer finally yielded the packets of saved seeds for which I have been searching.
The seeds from my perennial foxglove [digitalis mertonensis] are labeled 2014, indicating they were gathered from my first Kentucky garden.
The seeds may be too old to be viable, but I have scattered some in a tray of potting mix.

All eight clumps of peonies moved from the farm are in bud.
When I lifted them from the ground there to pot up and move, some bits of the roots broke off--as peony roots will. Not wanting to discard anything that might grow, I tucked the broken bits into the earth--I may have mixed blooms in some clumps as a result.

There are changes in the house as well as in the landscape.
Our SIL, Matt, offered to create our kitchen countertops at his workplace.
I chose a high-end laminate [having decided that solid surfacing was too pricey even at cost.]
Matt notified us last Monday afternoon that the tops were finished and we drove into town with truck and trailer to bring them home.
Matt showed us some of the machinery and work stations at the shop where he works. The tools of the trade perhaps were more meaningful to Howard and Jim than to me, but I was impressed .

Eventually there will be open shelves fitted in the wall corner between sink and stove.
It is an encouragement to see the kitchen nearing completion. It is also incentive for me to finish sorting the pantry and organizing the lower kitchen cupboards.
I haven't taken photos of the work in progress in the lower level of the house.
Jim laid the flooring in the large guest room today.  He and Howard have been creating door and window trim and baseboards from their lumber stash.
The downstairs bathroom is ready for paint and finishing.

Soon the remainder of our furniture and goods stored these many months in the trailer can be brought inside.
I have the greatroom curtains to hem, and today made a successful bid for some coveted Waverly fabric that appeared on ebay.
I consider it a serendipitous purchase as I acquired some of the same fabric nearly 20 years ago when making curtains for our first home in Wyoming. 
With the matching fabric I can now repurpose something previously created and enjoyed.

We are busy, often tired, but there is great satisfaction as we build, decorate and garden, making a home place.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A Sense of Renewal

A Mennonite farmstead in the South Fork area.

Spring, arriving slowly and capriciously, found me with a serious lack of energy. There were the lingering physical effects of having hoicked too many heavy boxes while trying to sort through the storage trailer. As well, I felt rather over-whelmed by the need to organize my new house, plan landscaping, make curtains. Rather than accomplishing these tasks I was mostly running in place.

In idle moments I perused nursery/seed catalogs, marking an unreasonable number of plants and seed packets of interest. A realistic look at the mounds of raw dirt to be moved and graded around the house kept me from going online to place orders.
The morning of April 9th unfolded with a blue sky and sunshine. Breakfast and minimal housekeeping finished, I announced to the men that I was heading for my favorite greenhouse/nursery in the South Fork community.

The South Fork area is home to an assortment of Mennonite and Amish groups; the shops and businesses offered by these families are unique.
Life there moves at a slower, 'old-fashioned' pace.
Narrow roads wind up steep ridges, plunge in dizzying bends to run beside small hill farms.
Driving at a cautious speed I enjoy taking my time; around any curve in the road one may encounter a horse and buggy, an iron-wheeled farm tractor, school children on bicycles, dogs, chickens, geese.

Inside the greenhouse the air was warm and steamy. alive with the mingled scents of growing things. 
As I began a slow exploration I felt a change coming over me. Tight muscles began to relax. The megrims of the long winter were banished.

It was too early in the season to buy veg or bedding plants, but after some deliberation I chose three small tuberous begonias, some packets of flower seeds.
I lingered to gently touch and sniff rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, as I headed outside to the area devoted to shrubs and perennials.
I noted David Austin roses, pots of bee balm, columbine.

Ahead of me on the concrete walk, I saw them--hybrid magnolias.
I have been coveting these, in particular those from the "Little Girl" series.
Online sources listed them in a price range from $40-$70.
Leaning over the group of small trees I noted they were all 'Jane' magnolias--and priced at $18.99 each!  I could barely restrain a whoop of triumph!
I chose two, then galloped to the sales area to ask the young man in charge if he would bring them in for me.
[A concession to the weeks of strained muscles--ordinarily I would have set off lugging them myself!]
With the magnolias safely reserved, I then selected three small 'landscape roses'--with yellow blooms--and a dwarf butterfly bush.

I had considered browsing some of the other shops in the area, but with my purchases stowed in the back of the Honda, I was ready to return home.
Down the winding road, I paused at the intersection long enough to admire another small homestead.

At home I unloaded my treasures, settling the tubs along the east side of the house where the knock-out roses have been living since being presented for my March birthday.

Although both magnolias are labeled 'Jane' one has lighter flowers.

Landscape roses.

'Jane' awaiting planting.

Clematis moved from the farm. 

Poppies self-sown in the tubs of lilies which summered last year on the farmhouse porch.

I'm hoping this dianthus is the heirloom 'Old Vermont.' I moved it from the farm.  The online nursery where I purchased it 2 years ago no longer offers this variety.

Lemon balm spent the winter tucked alongside a shrub rose.

Foxglove 'Camelot.' I have five of these, nurtured from seed last year.
The garden center at Lowes Home Improvement is offering the pale lavender Camelot at $15 per plant!

Peonies survived the move and are flourishing.

The roses and one of the magnolias after a week in place--looking a bit lost in the expanse of raw dirt.
Jim used the backhoe to dig the deep holes and we got them settled in time to be pounded with a weekend of rain.

Today the plants have been mulched.
A mere two weeks have brought changes as spring rushes on. 
The redbud and dogwood have faded, new leaves are screening our view to the south.
Gardening and house finishing continue.
I am pacing myself, realizing that my goals need to be realistic, tempered to time and energy.