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.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Restless Weather

There has been a subtle strangeness to this first week of October.
Mornings have been cool and misty, burning into noontime temperatures worthy of late August or mid-September.  Evenings have drawn in, early dusk melting into moon-washed nights.

The nameless rose at the edge of the garden has put forth a clutch of sweet-scented blooms, undamaged by Japanese beetles.

Lavender spills over the steps below the side porch; a few butterflies, an assortment of bees and hornets are enjoying the lavender, sampling the dark red cockscombs that have taken over at the edge of the walk.

Two juvenile hummingbirds lingered after the parent birds departed; we watched them late last Thursday afternoon as they zoomed around the feeder--by Friday they were gone.
I wondered: did they launch at first light or wait until the sun had driven away the mist and warmed the air? 
I left the feeders up, having read that hummers don't migrate as a group, but was surprised when a week after our resident birds left, a lone male flew in as I was working on the porch.
He seemed nervous and uncertain, darting at the feeder, but not landing to drink. 

I backed carefully to my rocking chair and was immediately joined by Willis the Cat who may have been at least partly the reason for the bird's wariness.
Willis and I sat quietly while the hummer swooped back and forth at the edge of the porch, his green plumage shimmering in the sun.
Finally deciding that we posed no threat, he perched on the feeder and drank deeply.
He was still here this afternoon, coasting in on the rising wind, tanking up on the sugar syrup.

It has been overcast today, the wind a constant presence, leaves drifting down . 
I was filling the kettle for tea when I saw the deer slip out of the woods below the barn.
We usually see them in groups of two to five, but this was a lone visitor,

The wind was blowing toward me, and I was able to walk close enough to use the zoom lens for photos. 
Several hours later, just before dark I gave no thought to deer when I walked out the path into the woods where I dump cat litter.
Either this deer or one of its friends bounded out of the underbrush and dashed ahead of me into the darkness.
Now, at nearly midnight, the wind has dropped, a fine mist of rain is falling.
The air is soft, the moon hidden.
Perhaps this week autumn weather will move in.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Morning Walks Along The Lane

September stayed warm, a turn-about from the unexpectedly cool days that characterized the later part of August. 
Prowling about outside, walking up and down the lane, I attempted to create a photo record of the changes leading into fall.
Days after the goldenrod edging the lane had faded, these stems were a spill of color along the retaining wall that flanks the narrow front drive.

Leaves are still clinging to most of the trees, hickories showing a tinge of bronze.
The tulip poplars and sweet gums release their leaves in slow drifts of deep gold.

The  airy prettiness of cosmos is a summer-long delight--they are much hardier than their lacy foliage suggests.

Ironweed in the pasture has gone to seed.

Sometimes a plant that Jim has leveled with the weed whacker sends up new growth, providing a burst of color after those beyond the fence have had their season.

Cobwebs cling to tangled wet grass, disappearing as the sun's rays absorb the dew.

Wild morning glory trailing along the asphalt near a culvert--annoyingly invasive, but delicately pretty in bloom.

Dark red dahlias, double knock-out roses and one lovely Hawkeye Belle--

The second round of nasturtiums, growing quickly.  I'm watching the seeds developing on the originals--the vines have shriveled.  I intend to gather the seeds for new starts in the spring.

Cool mornings with banks of fog rolling up from the creek.

Fog and mist disappear in wisps across a field of soybeans.

Goldenrod by the pasture fence.

An exuberant welter of cosmos at the end of the side porch walk.

When the morning mist burns away the air is fresh and clean, the sky a vivid blue.

The last hummingbirds, two juveniles, departed on Friday.
We watched them on Thursday, skimming above the red cockscomb growing below the porch, zooming to the feeders to recharge on sugar syrup.
I wonder, did they leave at first light--or did they wait for the sun?
I will leave the feeders in place for a few days, in case there are needy travelers.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Several days before Jim left to spend time out west with his twin brother, I coaxed him to help me carry this cupboard into the room beyond the kitchen which he calls the garage.  [Formerly the Amish washroom.]  Coaxing took the form of me getting a small rug under the cupboard [which was residing in the living room] and tugging it as far as the back door--from which spot it would necessarily have to be moved down the step if anyone wished to use the doorway.

I set about gathering my 'tools'--screwdriver to remove hardware, power sander, sanding disks and sandpaper sheets in varying grits, paint and my favorite brush.
With the paraphernalia collected and organized I found that my project had attracted too much 'help!'
 Bobby Mac and Nellie felt the need to investigate!

The cupboard is one of a pair which Jim bought for me at auction when I was setting up a sewing/crafting space in the finished basement area of our first Kentucky house.
They are imports--nothing fancy--with veneer plywood sides and back, doors and framing of hardwood.  There are removable wood edged glass shelves, and originally small lights were recessed into the inside of the tops.
I refinished one of the cabinets to place in the dining area of the Bedford stone house which we refurbished--an interim home of short duration as it turned out. There was no room for the second cabinet in that house, but it came with us to the Amish farmhouse and has sat here on one side of my piano, looking out of harmony with its painted mate on the other side.

I hadn't used the power sander since that project three years ago and find that it now judders my shoulder and wrist to a degree demanding I take frequent breaks. 
I worked at this during intervals of several days, doing the finish sanding by hand, painting the interior before applying a base coat of paint to the exterior of the cabinet.

I don't use chalk paint or milk paint. I don't care for a chippy, scabby, peeling effect on my furniture. Decades ago when I first began refinishing furniture it was possible to buy oil-based paint in rich vintage colors from several specialty suppliers.
Oil-based is no longer available, although the same colors are offered in an acrylic base. I was less than pleased with my one experiment using the reformulated paint and quite dismayed by the price.

I prefer Valspar or Clark & Kensington in satin--which has only a slight sheen.  I base-coat the pieces in a dark color--for the cabinets it was dark hunter green--a frugal use of the flat milk paint which I had rejected as a finished look.

I sand lightly before 'dry-brushing' on the top coat.
This color is 'Apple Grove' by C & K. 
Some crafters, going for a 'primitive/county' effect suggest finishing with a wax, stain or glaze.  I've not experimented with those having read reports of unhappy results. 
I completed the cupboard renovation the day of Jim's return and together we scooted it into place by the piano.
I'm not particularly clever at arranging bits and pieces for a display.  I decided that the woven check linens would be a good touch, then began thinking about various collectibles that have languished in boxes since our move.
After an hour of pottering with things in both cupboards I was over it!

Jim had stuck some of his collectibles in the earlier finished cupboard; all were in need of a good dusting. I regrouped some in what I considered to be a more pleasing assembly--but life intervened before I arranged anything on the top shelf.
Some rainy day I'll tackle that!

Have you gathered that 'Apple Grove' is a favorite color?
A quart of good paint goes a long way!
I ordered two peg racks through Amazon, finished one in two coats of green; one has a base coat of grey-white for a streaky/vintage effect. 
The shelf with heart cutout was a charity shop find several years ago--awaiting some repairs by Jim.
[I wish I could use power tools--saws, staple gun, etc.  I can't even drive a nail properly!]

One of these will likely be installed in the small guest bedroom.  I used the same paint last year to refurbish my great-grandmother's small rocking chair which now lives in that quiet space.

I'm always pleased when I can salvage or repurpose a piece.

I was in the local Goodwill when I noticed a sturdy quilt stand. I pounced on it and dragged it to the check-out without quite registering that the price was $25.  I would have liked it to be a few dollars less, but it is a sturdy oak piece.
The original finish was an orange-y stain/varnish.
I was intrigued by the peck holes in the wood, more visible once I had sanded off the old finish.
Our neighbors [who know such things] informed me that the wood had at one time been assaulted by powder post beetles.  It would be interesting to know if the wood was host to them prior to construction of the stand, or did they take up residence at a later time.
I've been assured there isn't likely to be an on-going problem, so have decided to consider this a 'character' wood.

I started sanding [power sander] out in the washroom, then decided that it would be easier to put the thing at eye level on one of Jim's work tables in the shop.

I finished the stand with 3 light coats of Valspar 'Tomcat'--a warm charcoal grey.

Not the best photo of this project--and taken before I had touched up the wooden caps that cover the screws. This was a piece of likely board discovered in my determined rootlings.  It needed only to be trimmed to size, coated in my 'go to' Valspar 'Cannonball Black'.  The hooks are brushed nickle. 

For some time I have eyed similar shelves in the pages of Country Sampler magazine.
I left the magazine invitingly open where Jim's eye would fall upon it--because, after all, a man who has constructed houses and barns, who owns a shop full of sophisticated tools, could surely build such a thing from some of the boards lying about! 
I had nearly given up hoping that the resident carpenter was going to get involved, when one morning [perhaps in exasperation, as I was rummaging in his space] he set up the planer and big table saw and in a mere few minutes had prepared several lengths of oak.
He put the shelf together to my specifications 

This photo, taken with flash, shows the detail of hooks and brackets, but isn't true to color.
I based this with 'Cannonball Black', the topcoat is C&K 'Autumn Apples' darkened with some of the black. 
I am very pleased with this shelf which is designated for the so-called 'dressing room' off the master bath. Installation awaits the whim of the master carpenter!
I'm definitely on a roll with wood and paint, hoping I can find more lengths of oak or maple to turn into shelves.

We bought this walnut desk at Peddlers Mall shortly after moving into the first Kentucky house.
I briefly coveted one of the wildly expensive fold-out sewing center cabinets--not really an option.
This sturdy vintage table served me well--until some nameless soul stood it on its top in the van we used for moving our worldly goods to the farmhouse.
The table emerged with a wicked gouge in the top. It was carried to the upstairs hall and I began determinedly to work on restoration while Jim was busy installing plumbing and electricity.  Other tasks took precedence and the table stood in the hall [the only large space yet to be renovated] until this morning when Jim upended it on the upstairs guestroom floor.
You can see that  bits on the legs and the drawer frame need to be sanded.

I hauled the drawer to the workshop and landed it on Jim's utility table.
As I have worked on this I've been intrigued to notice that the piece isn't original in all its construction. It was either fashioned from pieces of another table or desk or, more likely, at some time was repaired or repurposed by an amateur woodworker. 
I removed the vintage style drawer pulls and discovered behind them the drilled holes that likely held older  wooden knobs. The interior of the drawer appears to have ink stains and is slightly warped along the center seam as though the wood had once been wet.

The escutcheon and backing plate appear to be quite old.  Several screw and nail holes in the sides and back of the drawer suggest that these bits once served another purpose.
I didn't get upstairs to work on the desk/table before daylight [and my energy] were fading. 
I cleaned up and sanded the drawer, applied a coat of clear satin poly to the inside and side edges. 

When I've finished restoring the desk it will be placed in the kitchen alcove which seems to have become my default sewing nook. 
I have an old farmhouse cupboard to refinish and there is another quilt stand and a wall quilt hanger lurking upstairs in need of refinishing.

I suspect I would be wise to limit large projects requiring hours with the power sander--but I do love working with wood and paint;  I enjoy the satisfaction of a functional and decorative object as a visible result of my labor.