Monday, February 23, 2015

Few Words Needed!

We spent the week at the farm, keeping fires burning.
Moved the cats up on Tuesday evening--much wailing and howling from the cat carriers as we drove through snow and ice--quite slowly.
No way would I drive in such conditions!
The cats settled in very happily.
We are a week behind in getting our goods and chattel all cleared out of the stone house.
The move will go forward as weather permits.
Que sera, sera!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday in Kentucky

The view at 6:45 A.M.

Bobby and Nellie on snow watch.

My amaryllis has finally started to open.

The bud as it appeared on Friday.
Snow and unusual [for Kentucky] cold predicted for the next several days.
With water no installed at the farm house we must make our way cautiously there to keep the fire going.
Moving is meant to be accomplished in the next two weeks.
If I can survive this--one last time--I look forward to settling in, having my belongings all in one place!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Looking Back [A Catch Up Post]

I am dismayed to see that I loaded these photos on 2nd February!
I can truthfully plead that life has been busy as we commute between our two properties almost daily.
We pass a small dairy farm on a back road and have been intrigued by the gathering of felines outside the milk house. Although the numbers present vary, we are starting to recognize several of the more distinctively marked cats.
I would guess that spaying/neutering isn't part of their care, but we often see the farmer pouring milk into a collection of pans. The cats appear to be reasonably well fed and domesticated. Jim stopped the car and I put down the window to take the above photo.

We've had a few sunny days, but for the most part the weather has been raw, with temps below freezing each morning. Mornings at the stone house involve caring for the cats, making any necessary phone calls, filling the stove with wood and bundling into the car with whatever food stuffs, tools, and oddments need to be carried to the farm.
Once there, a fire must be kindled in the big range, the barn cats tended.
While the kitchen is warming up, I sometimes go into the wooded area beyond the stable to gather fallen twigs and branches for kindling, or walk down the lane to the lower house. Either of these options are more invigorating than huddling over the stove in the chilly house.
Tucked near the foundation on the south side of the lower house I have discovered two tiny violas. They continue to blossom jauntily in spite of the cold weather.

There was one morning of snow, sparkling and clean, melted by noon.

When we return, usually just after dark, the cats rush to the door to greet us.
I wonder how they spend their days alone.
Bobby Mac and his brothers enjoy the view from this chest in front of the living room windows. From this vantage point they can watch birds on the lawn, monitor any feral cats who come to the dish on the porch, note the ponderous movements of the cattle in the pasture beyond the road.

Less adventurous family members stay warm by the fire in the basement.
We are mobbed before we are well inside the door in the evening!
We are treated to lengthy tirades of neglect and near starvation, and reminded that it is well past
 'time for tea!'
One of us dishes out tinned food while the other mends the basement fire.
With the 'fishy food' consumed, cuddles and attention lavished, we settle in for the evening.
Evening has always been when I experience my 'second wind' and can use the time for reading, writing, creating.
The hours are still there, of course, but I'm finding that I am usually rather witless, lacking the energy to sew or gather my thoughts for a blog post.
My study is one of the chillier rooms in the house, and we are feeling too frugal to turn on the 
electric heat.
I have set up my laptop downstairs in the area near the stove.
It is an aggravating device--slow, and cursed with a number of malfunctions which interfere with putting down a smooth flow of thoughts.

Our days are full of repetitive tasks--one can write only so much about the frustrations of painting over walls which have previously been daubed by painters whose field of expertise was obviously in another realm!
That grumble aside, progress is being made.

[The laptop just shut down after a number of hitches and jerks, so back upstairs to my chilly study to finish this rambling journal.]

Since I must shiver in front of my desktop PC, I'm adding a few food photos.
My efforts at producing meals on the wood cook stove are interesting, if something of a learning curve. The temperature of both cook top and oven depend on the type and quantity of wood we've chucked into the firebox, the adjustment of the drafts and dampers, and thus far we don't have that down to a science.
Last week we ate breakfast there on several days--a large mid-morning meal to fuel us for 
hours of work.
Above you see baked potatoes [from the previous day] crisply fried, baking powder biscuits smothered in dried beef cream gravy with an egg on the side.
When I posted this pic on Face Book several people remarked that it was a cholesterol-laden meal.
[Of course I noted on my google news page this week that the 'experts' are reversing their warnings about the dangers of eating eggs!]
This is the sort of country food which our parents and grandparents ate.
On other days we may have toast from home made bread and a bowl of oatmeal porridge.
I daresay we are working off calories and fats!

Peanut butter cookies baked in the wood stove oven--and they didn't burn!

I have made bread twice at the farmhouse.
There is a temperature gauge on the front of the oven, so we do have some idea whether we are likely to burn the bread or if it will sit sulking in a slow oven.
I'm finding that the wood stove produces a crisper crust and the bread is 'done' in a shorter time.
As you can see, it was quickly sliced and consumed, buttery and warm.
The second baking was good--although I felt the oven didn't heat as quickly as I expected.
I had to fuss with the stove and shuffle the bread tins around to have the loaves evenly baked.

I took my camera on one of my walks down the lane.
The pasture fence is festooned with the dried pods of milkweed.
Winter-bleached vines tangle through the boards and along the wire--morning glory, perhaps.
Come spring identification will be easier.

Fox Squirrel--web photo.
We have at least one of these creatures frisking about on the fence near the stable.
I tried to approach very quietly with my camera, but the squirrel skittered off into the brush heap beyond the fence.
We have since learned that fox squirrels are common in the southern Appalachians and their territory extends to our area of south-central Kentucky.
The one we noted had splotches of white on a darker face.
The fox squirrel is only one of the wildlings gobbling the kibble from the barn cats' feeder.
The omni-present opossums have been sighted as well.

I end my post with a photo of the shower stall which Jim built and tiled.
The area above the shower has since been painted, the bathroom vanity is in place, a cupboard fastened on the wall behind the door. 
We painted the new walls an agreeable warm shade called 'Almond Sugar.'
We have a target date for moving to the farm--hoping to be in residence during the last week of February. I've arranged for our internet and phone service to be transferred--a new installation necessary, so we may be 'disconnected' for a few days.
Cats to move--furniture--dishes--books--clothing which will no way fit into the tiny closets favored by the Amish!
The two farmhouses will continue to be 'works in progress.'
I'm hoping once the predictable exhaustion of completing the move has [somewhat] been dealt with, we can enjoy the springtime while becoming better acquainted with our new property, preparing a vegetable plot, finding a spot suitable for a hedge of shrub roses, creating an herb garden.
I remind myself frequently that we 'are not as young as we used to be!'
I need to be realistic about the time line for projects to be accomplished.
I need to be a bit gentle with myself!
I am tired--aching--but I am excited!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Far From Perfect--But [Finally] Finished!

Six blocks were left from a king-sized quilt, so I decided [in November of 2012] to create a wall-hanging to compliment the quilt.
Our niece, Susan, whose hand quilting is exquisite, brought me a vintage oval hoop on a stand and shared some hints on hand quilting.
I thought I would be able to do it rather nicely.
I became discouraged with my uneven stitches and relegated the piece, still in the hoop to various corners where the cats pulled at the batting.
I felt reproached by my lack of competence.

The 'work not in progress' was moved to the stone house in September.
It looked rather nice in a corner of my 'study'--almost as if I intended to take up my  needle and hone my skills.

When we began showing the stone house we decided that we needed to de-clutter.
My stash of quilting fabric, my sewing 'tools' and the quilting stand were moved to the farmhouse.
I discovered that much of my time there was waiting time: being there to make a meal for Jim; being available to go along to the home building supply store, to hold the end of a measuring tape or a length of PEX waterline.
There were hours when I was restless, so I determined to finish the wall hanging.
At first I sat near a temporary work lamp, hitching my chair about, trying to keep my work 
out of the shadows.
I was wearing a pair of drug-store reading glasses, waiting for new prescription lenses after cataract surgery.

Eventually I had my new spectacles, the electric lights were up and running in the kitchen and dining area of the farmhouse.
I found it quite soothing to pull my chair close to the warmth of the wood stove and poke my needle into the fabric.
I vowed that no matter how crooked my stitches, I wouldn't pick them out.
That was a promise I couldn't keep! 
While there are obviously many crooked or uneven stitches, I did back up and redo many.
I don't feel that my skills improved.
Sometimes I could go along making neat, fairly small stitches.  Too often my stitches were discouragingly large and untidy.
Lighting seemed to be an issue, as did the flexibility of my fingers--when I had been holding a paint brush or working outdoors, my fingers balked at finer use.

Still, the wall-hanging is finished!
It has been embellished with cat hair--by Nellie who wanted to be part of the photos when I spread the piece on my work table.

I am impatient with all learning curves.
I am not satisfied with my amateurish results.
I fear that anyone looking at this may conclude I was experimenting with 
'big-stitch' quilting.
More than an hour of stitching is conducive to a 'kink' in the neck!
At the end of the day, I have to say I enjoyed finishing this piece.
I suspect I will attempt another.
I may learn not to apologize for a less than perfect finished project!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Walking With Charlie

Winter sunshine and mild temperatures are a lure I cannot resist.
This is especially so now that we have the many acres of woodland and fields to explore at the Pellyton farm.
Often I make a fire in the kitchen range, then go outside to greet the barn cats, check their feeders, putter about--while Jim collects his tools and begins the renovation tasks of the day.

On Friday, it was necessary to haul Charlie-Cat down from the barn rafters where he had apparently spent the night and part of the preceding day.
Although Charlie is rather witless, he is a sociable sort.
When I headed up the steep track that follows the curve of the ridge above the west side of the house, Charlie trotted behind me, full of anxious 'conversation.'

I was headed back to a stand of trees which Jim hadn't been able to identify--the bark pattern was different from any species he has encountered in the New England woods with which we are most familiar. In comparing on-line photos to what we had seen in our woods, he narrowed the choices to 'persimmon' or 'black gum.'
I decided that close-up photos of our trees would be helpful.
The track up the ridge is steep and deeply rutted. I don't make good time on the assent, stopping frequently to huff and puff--a good chance to look around and notice things.
The tree in the photo above is what I call a 'woodpecker tree'--one that is dead, in this case broken off at the top, and riddled with the drillings of various woodpeckers.

A close-up of the 'woodpecker tree.'
Not sure about the saplings surrounding it--the splotched markings of the bark suggest sycamore.
[I love that this new property is providing so many natural wonders to enjoy and to research.]

I pushed my way through a tangle of wild rose canes blocking the track and rounded the curve which brings us out at the top of the ridge near our boundary.
Charlie was untroubled by the obstacles which led me to detour--he rustled and bustled through heaps of dry leaves, paused to sniff at the base of trees; he kept up a commentary in his silly high-pitched voice.
There are perhaps half a dozen of these trees grouped fairly closely at the top of the ridge--several are mid-sized, others could be better described as saplings.
I took photos of the distinctive bark patterns.

One of the larger trees standing amongst oak and beech.

Note the rounded 'scales' of bark.

Beneath one of the trees was a heap of hickory shells and the hollowed husk of an acorn or two.
This area must provide rich feeding for animals in autumn and early winter.

Descending the track requires a slightly different sort of vigilance.
[Should I trip going UPHILL I would likely fall on my face in the leaves; if I fall over my clumsy feet or catch my boot in a hidden obstacle on the way DOWNHILL--perhaps I might roll along until I come up against a tree trunk or bump into a rock.  I can even imagine free-falling right off the ridge--smack into the front porch of the house!]

I had, in fact, tripped over a fallen branch and in righting myself discovered this delicate collection of shell-like fungi on a twig.

The track leads out of the woods, inclining into a bit of scrubby pasture that borders the lane.
I called to Charlie who was still nosing about in the leaves, and we picked our way past a stand of wildflowers long gone to seed in the fence corner.
This one has the look of wild bergamot--something to check when new growth appears.

Queen Anne's lace--starry spikes.

Goldenrod and frost asters in this clump.

Back on the lane and nearly at the house.
I recall suddenly that I was meant to be preparing a meal as soon as the range top heated.

Charlie trundled along beside me, anxious now to go in the house.
Opening the door the aroma of food drifted out.
Jim, apparently despairing of cook and crew returning, stood over the stove, tending a variety of skillets. I felt a slight remorse as it was his birthday--and here he was, cooking his own [and my] lunch!

We stopped at the Mustard Seed store on the corner of the ridge road as we left for the day.
Our neighbor and an older man were seated at one of the tables.
After a few moments of conversation it occurred to me that they could likely identify our mystery trees. I fetched my camera and displayed my photos.
The immediate response was that we have a stand of persimmon trees, greatly beloved of every sort of wildlife in the area.
I have done some more research, learned that this is the American Persimmon.
It puts forth blossoms late in the spring--something to anticipate with delight.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cats: Some Recent Photos

The move in September to the stone house has meant the loss of outdoor privilege for the three boy cats. We are too near the road to risk them outside. 
Consequently, they've needed to find new ways to exercise.
Nellie enjoys vaulting to the top of the kitchen cabinets--the better to oversee you, my dears.

Bobby enjoys lounging on top of the fridge--reaching down to swipe at our heads when we 
open the door.

Edward has helpful instincts, especially when household tasks involve water.
Here he offers to assist at dish washing.

The three boy cats have always had an affinity for water, wadding through puddles at our old home, happily stomping through wet places.
Nellie and Edward, and often their brother, Bobby, insist on taking showers with us.

Edward, perhaps because of nearly starving as a kitten, relishes his food.
He has become rather obese and definitely lazy.
Cat food isn't stored in this cupboard, but who knows, there might be something edible there.

Willis has claimed several spots at the farmhouse.
Once he has warmed through near the wood stove in the kitchen he can often be found reclining against a sofa cushion.

Sally is one of the tortie sisters brought to the old home a few months after we moved there.
Sally and her sister Sadie have always been 'barn cats' never interested in coming into the house.
They trolled through the gardens, followed us on errands in the barns.
When I moved them to the stone house, they  lived for a month in the laundry room.
They spent four or five days--with Willis and Willow--in the washroom/entry at the Amish farmhouse.
When we carried them out to the barn, Sally promptly disappeared, although the other cats immediately settled into the small carriage barn and its environs.

Sadie and Willow explored the nearby brush pile, often appearing from among the heap of branches when I called them.
I called Sally also, but there was no sign of her.
After a month I reluctantly conceded that in her distress at being moved she had perhaps run away.
The other possibility--that she had been killed by a marauding wild animal--didn't bear consideration.
One day last week Jim went to the farm alone to move a trailer load of our belongings, while I stayed to ready the stone house for a showing.
He returned gleefully announcing that Sally had appeared--plump, sleek, and anxious to be noticed.
"I told you she would be back!"
When I went with him the next day, there was Sally in the train of cats coming from the barn to greet us. She was her former social self, pushing against my ankles, waiting to be petted.
How I wish she could tell me why she stayed hidden for so many days.

Charlie took to the new lodgings immediately.
He bustles about in his usual rather witless way--going in and out of the house whenever the door is opened.  He fusses loudly, gets under foot.
Eventually, when he runs out of things to tell us, he curls up in a chair near the stove.
When I headed to the barn on Friday, Jim called after me, "Is Charlie in the rafters?"
It seems he had been up there the day before and Jim assumed he would come down. The barn is not a lofty building.

Charlie, who had apparently spent the night in the rafters, was happy to discuss the matter with us, but utterly refused to come down. 
[Both Willis and Willow go up into the rafters, have a bit of a thinking session and come back down.]
Charlie sat and squalled.

Jim finally took pity on him, fetched the step ladder and climbed to Charlie's level.
At that, it was necessary to snatch him by the scruff and lower him ignominiously to ground level.

Charlie had a sip of water and a mouthful of kibble then decided to keep me company on my walk up the ridge.

Back at 'home' Teasel is in charge.
As soon as we come in at dusk she lets us know that it is past time for 'tea.'
'Tea' is a word well understood by all of our house cats.
The mere mention causes a stampede toward the kitchen.
Teasel is as clever as she is beautiful, and not above wheedling.
She likes to tell me that she has NOT HAD HER TEA--even though Jim may have dished it out minutes earlier.

Teasel [a.k.a. 'Mamma's Darling'] has always been my cat, since the chilly November evening in Wyoming when I discovered her sitting in the frosty grass beneath our bedroom window.
She was a tiny kitten, very much alone.
I have always told her [and anyone who will listen] that an angel surely swooped her up from some dangerous place and dropped her where she would be rescued and loved.