Friday, October 21, 2016

Ketner's Mill Festival

Two mule-drawn wagons were available to take fair-goers on a jolting ride around the perimeter of the field.

Last Friday we traveled to Tennessee to spend the weekend at the lovely home of our niece and her husband.  She had planned an outing for us, along with our son and his wife, to the old time fair at Ketner's Mill.

It was a lovely blue sky day--warm, but not too hot for strolling around outdoors.
Our niece had been there before and noted that many people brought their dogs--on leads--so son Howard's beloved Katy and the newer addition to the family, Dixie [aka Melon-Head] were along for the day.

It was difficult to take photos with so many people moving about--although it was an orderly crowd.
Small children trailed along nicely with parents, there were no dog fights.
Howard's dogs submitted politely to attention and occasional pats--although Katy is a bit wary of strangers.
A bakery stall was set up near the old mill with delectable-looking loaves, rolls and other baked goods. Another nearby display featured 'grits' [a staple of southern breakfasts] and various types of cornmeal packaged in neat paper or cloth sacks.
Our niece's husband stepped up to a booth where lemonade was offered--the lemons squeezed on the spot for each order.  I was treated to a tall icy cupful--sweet, tangy--and rather pricey!

A southern fair isn't complete without kettle corn! 
From wikipedia: "Kettle corn was introduced to the United States in the 18th century.
It was a treat sold at fairs or consumed at other festive occasions. The corn, oil, sugar, and salt are cooked together in a cast iron kettle, or possibly a Dutch oven. This produces a noticeable sweet crust on the popcorn; however, this method requires constant stirring or the sugar will burn. Alternatively, a batch of plain popped corn can be sweetened with sugar or honey before adding salt. This combination was widely popular in the early 19th century but fell from wide usage during the 20th century. In the early 21st century, kettle corn made a comeback in America, especially at 19th-century living history events. It is cooked and sold at fairs and flea markets throughout the United States, especially art and craft shows. Although modern kettle corn is commonly cooked in stainless steel or copper kettles because of their lighter weight, cast iron cauldrons are still used to publicly cook the corn and mix the ingredients to retain the original flavor."

I'm not a fan of 'popcorn' in any guise, but I noted folks lugging around huge bags of the treat.
The smells from vendors'stalls offering onion rings, hot dogs, hamburgers--standard outdoor food-- competed to lure long lines of customers.

Dawn and I heard strains of fiddle music and followed the sound to where a white-bearded man in overalls was practicing jigs and reels with a lady whom he introduced to us as 'Granny."  She was seated on a convenient tree stump, with a guitar. 
We later saw them presenting a round of songs from an improvised 'stage' in the center of the field.

Jim and I were drawn to this shed where sorghum was being boiled down.
The process is similar to that of making maple syrup.
The finished product was arranged in gleaming jars on a table just outside the shed.
From the dresses and caps of the young women tending the stall this was a Mennonite family.


Part of sorghum production is crushing the sorghum stalks to extract the raw 'juice.'
You can see that the mule is pulling a pole attached to the mill, while a young man feeds in the stalks of cane. 

Sorghum is little known or used in New England. 
[we had maple syrup!]
It was a familiar condiment in my late father-in-law's boyhood home in North Carolina.
He brought some with him one year when he and Jim's Mom made their annual summer pilgrimage to our place in Vermont. 
Sorghum has a heavier consistency than maple syrup--good to smear on hot biscuits or corn bread.

The crafts presented by the various vendors were of high quality. 
Wooden bowls; handsome cutting boards created checker-board fashion with a variety of woods; 
handmade soaps and candles, delectably scented; metal lawn ornaments, paintings; 
Dawn and I coveted the soft shawls and scarves on display at the spinner's booth--but $90 for a scarf was beyond our means!

I glanced surreptitiously at the price tag on one of these lovely reproduction Windsor chairs--$500.
Again--out of my range, but I hoped the craftsman sold a few--or at least took orders.
I did notice one woman flourishing a credit card and then proudly trudging off with a chair.

We misplaced Jim for a bit in a booth where a man was displaying his paintings of vintage tractors.
When he rejoined us we rounded up our gang and decided it was time to leave the fair.
On our way toward the parking field Howard drifted over to this modestly restored vintage truck.
Of course he fell into conversation with the 'old boy' owner.

For some reason, that gentleman felt I should pose by his truck and have my picture taken!
I assured him that I was happier behind the camera, but Howard was persuaded to oblige.

Howard and Dawn have chosen a house in the rural valley town a few miles from Ketner's Mill.
We were delighted that we could view the house inside and out.
I had seen the realtor's photos online and chose not to take photos of the empty rooms.
There is a fenced back yard--for the dogs--and great potential for an appealing home--with Howard's considerable renovating skills and Dawn's good sense of style and colors.  The back deck and front steps appear to be originals to the 1998 construction.  As soon as the closing takes place [next week, we hope] Jim will go back down to assist in the replacement of the decks.

A scrumptious dinner in honor of our niece's husband's birthday finished our long and happy day.
Perhaps not surprisingly, we all--including the dogs--crashed rather early in the evening!

I'm already thinking that Ketner's Mill Festival may become an annual outing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Morning Faces of Autumn

After a long hot summer it has seemed as though the transition to fall weather has been abrupt.
A few days past the equinox there were storms, a brief return to hot days, then a sudden plunge to chilly mornings and evenings.
We have had a fire several mornings and have rummaged out long-sleeved shirts. I wake under a pile of cats who have made themselves comfortable sometime during the night.
Although it is still nearly dark at 6 a.m. the cats are agitating for me to be up.
They rumble down the stairs and congregate at the front door, anxious for the first whiff of fresh air, the first exploration of dew-soaked grass at the edge of the front porch.

The sky brightens slowly, pale apricot streaks against milky blue.

It was quiet when I walked to the pond along the road, the milk goats, the kids and their guard dogs still in the barn.  The dry goats were beginning to stir by the pasture gate, hopeful that I might have a tidbit to share.
A fish leaped in the water as I walked along the edge;  the ripples of its sudden movement flattened leaving the surface of the pond calm and glassy, reflecting the trees along the farther bank.

I picked my way along the fence, its sagging wire burdened with the weight of tangled morning glory vines, leaning goldenrod, towering stalks of gone-to-seed ironweed.

A riff of wind stirs the ironweed which is taller than I am, sculpting the seed heads against a background of blue sky.

One richly flowering plant crouches low in the tangle of wet grass around my feet.
I have worn my leather work boots, and kept to the roughly mowed verge of the field, but the toes of my shoes are darkly damp as are the frayed hems of my jeans.

Before leaving the field I pause in the side doorway of the weathered tobacco barn. 
The mist of morning still hangs over the field that borders the creek.

By the time I reach the lane, the day has settled into one of brilliant autumn perfection.

I miss the crimson of autumn maples in my native New England, and recall the shimmer of Wyoming aspens flaunting their gold even as the first snows whitened the mountain slopes.
Here in Kentucky the tulip poplars released a shower of yellowed leaves early in September. 
Now we watch as tints of russet and bronze appear on the hillside oaks.

A few stray cosmos and pale frost asters huddle against the fence below the shabby 
and depleted garden.

I have only one Double Red Knock-Out Rose--uprooted and moved twice from former gardens.
It is recovered from the summer ravages of humidity and Japanese beetles, lifting a fresh crop of blooms. Perhaps I would do well to abandon the perennials which have languished and settle for a hedge of these stalwart survivors!

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Few Autumn Scenes

We have been hosting company for several days during the week now ending and the previous week.
I loaded these photos several days ago but didn't have opportunity to write.
There has been a little needed rain, cooler nights, misty mornings that slowly burn into days with temps in the low 80's F.

A few morning glories are still blooming in the field near the tobacco barn.
The vines are slowly turning brown, the small round seed pods are ripening.

Fall roses, when the scourge of the hateful Japanese beetles has passed, are the most welcome.
The two pale pink roses are Hawkeye Belle--the variegated bud is from the unknown rose which was languishing in a corner by the porch wall.  Moved to the edge of the struggling perennial strip it has flourished.
I enjoyed this tiny windowsill bouquet for several days before a cat on the prowl knocked the little pitcher into the sink, breaking off the handle and chipping the spout.

In early May I bought 4 seedling nasturtiums. They vined, blossomed, wore themselves out.
I tucked some old seeds into the pot in mid-summer, and although I clipped most of the spent blooms, some seed pods ripened and fell into the soil.
I don't know which seeds have provided these fresh new plants.
I doubt they can reach flowering maturity before frost.
I may drag the planter inside in the hope of a few blooms.

Many of the wildflowers which brightened September have faded.
The tiny frost asters clambering along the fences and flourishing in ditches provide soft color.

I finally dead-headed and pruned the plants in the perennial strips which survived the long bout of heat and humidity.
It has been a disheartening year garden-wise.
Every clump of the grey-leaved achillea has apparently succumbed to the smothering damp.
Some dianthus have been lost and perhaps the Russian sage. 
Phlox, belatedly cut back, has managed a few defiant blooms.

The lavender in the gravel-mulched area by the side porch steps has fared better than the plants tucked into the border. 
I did some judicious pruning early in the week, cutting back to newer growth. 
One plant, overly shaded by the sprawling rugosa is of questionable vitality, but I have left it to have its chance at revival.

Faithful Willis keeps me company in my gardening labors. 
Here he inspects an untidy cockscomb laden with seeds for another year's crop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Morning Walk

Mornings have crept in quietly since the rain of Saturday evening, sounds and colors subdued by the grey fog that rolls through the valley.
The cats are awake early--by 5--and are less than subtle in urging me to arise and acknowledge them.
The layout of the hallway and master bedroom [altered during our renovation] is ideal for cat games with its circular route down one side of the double hallway, through the bathroom, into the bedroom and back into the hall.  There is always opportunity to reverse the direction of the chase, skidding on scatter rugs, charging across the bed.
When the digital clock shows a bright red 6:00 A.M. I creak out of bed, feeling about for my slippers.  My progress down the 14 stairs is accompanied by thumps and bumps as furry bodies plummet down to mill about in the dimness of the kitchen.

It is still misty when I go out at 7. Sounds are muffled. The first tentative rays of the sun are striking the lower farmhouse while up the lane we are still shrouded in the remnants of night.

I pull on boots, a sweatshirt and vest, sling the strap of my camera case over my shoulder.
I have a 'snack pack' in my pocket to see me through to our usual late breakfast.
"I'm walking to the tobacco barn," I tell Jim as he heads out to his workshop.

I crunch along the lane, nibbling the almonds, dried cranberries and squares of cheddar from the snack pack.  
The dry goats are lying close together under the willows, the milking goats and the kids are still in the stable. The barn cats are not in sight.
On the road I meet our Amish neighbor and his son carrying an assortment of tools.
We exchange 'good morning' and I learn that they are headed to a neighbor's to finish construction of a hen house.

Morning glories have seeded along a portion of the fence that separates the tobacco barn from the big pond. These are not the wild convolvulus, with small white flowers, which tangles along ditches and hedgerows.  I suspect that one of my neighbors planted the originals years ago and the ripened seeds were carried to a new location--perhaps by birds, or even caught in the hay fed to the team of Halflingers who were at one time lodged in the barn.
Whatever their source, I find delight in viewing the clear pink blooms mounded on a fence post and trailing through the rough grass.

The night's dew was heavy, still beaded on grass and hedgerow plants.

Goldenrod leans over the fence.

Sunlight, strengthening by 8 o'clock, creates a fragile prism of color over the field of soybeans.

I said only that I was walking to the old barn. I find it nearly impossible to limit my walks to a designated route. 

Jim used the bush hog last week to mow a swath around the field and the path, sun-spackled, 
beckons me.

In the tree-shade which borders the creek tiny mushrooms are growing, encouraged by the damp.
Shaggy heads of Joe Pye weed lean into the path, the vibrant purple of ironweed is a shout of color in the green dimness. 

Water in the creek is still shallow, making for an easy crossing into the back field. The morning's sun has not yet touched the rows of soybeans planted close to the tree line. Green leaves and small brown pods are furred with dew.

A clump of blue flowers huddles against the outer row of soybeans. I ponder the identification: skullcap hyssop--or spike lobelia. 

Rounding the far corner of the soybean planting I note a feather lying in the rough grass.
It is so heavily saturated with dew as to resemble a grey leaf. In the next few steps I find several more, pinching them into a tiny wet bouquet to carry home. 
I am walking now into the sun, feeling its rising heat beat through my layered clothing.
A small pricker has worked itself past the folds of my jeans where they are tucked into my boots, and has lodged, irritatingly in my sock. 
I don't wear a watch, but guess that I've been gone for more than an hour. 
Jim will be wondering if I have keeled over with an unexpected heart attack [after a certain age anything can happen!] or if, more likely, I might have tripped on a fallen branch in my clumsy boots. causing me to limp slowly homeward.
Reluctantly I unzip my now too warm vest, stow my camera in its case, slog along the edge of the field till I reach the lower ford over the creek. I consider taking the track that leads up to the road, but turn to walk parallel to the creek, shaded by the overhanging maple and sycamore. 
The morning glories are still bright on the fence post, but I give them a passing nod and continue, past the barn, out onto the road and the turn into the lane.
The heat of the day is coming on strong, the grass has lost its silver sheen of dew.
Breakfast beckons.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Beauty Shared

Our friends who rent the lower house, [along with the barn and pasture for their goats] have an interesting collection of plants summering on their front porch.
 On Friday I was alerted that a Night-blooming Cereus was in bud and might open as darkness arrived.
The bud remained closed--but I had a pleasant evening sitting in the dusk, hearing the hoot of a distant owl and the rusty chirping of crickets.

Saturday afternoon brought early nightfall after fierce intermittent rain.
I contemplated pulling on my boots and crunching down the lane to check on the plant, although I knew my friends would be out early in the evening.
I had about decided I didn't want to brave the drizzle when B. phoned to report they had returned home and found the cereus opening her petals.

I collected jacket, camera and flashlight, made my way down the lane and across the wet grass of the front lawn.
F. was setting up a floor lamp with a heavy extension cord running from a plug inside the front door.
I had been anticipating something lovely--the beauty of the opening flower in the pool of lamplight was astonishing.

B. and I settled on the porch swing, facing the plant which was now enthroned on a rustic bench.
Small moths blundered against the light bulb releasing tiny clouds of 'fur' from their wings.
Deep-toned wind chimes responded to the breeze with a gentle melody.
Rain dripped from the porch roof, plonking onto an overturned bucket which lay in the grass below the steps. 
Several of the barn kittens visited, swiping at low-flying moths, pouncing on errant crickets.

Almost we could discern the expanding of the petals--or so we imagined.
The throat of the flower widened, pushing the delicate star-shaped pistol and the pale yellow stamens into better view. 
The blossom has an exotic fragrance--sweet, but not cloying--elusive rather than heavy.
It was nearly 11 P.M. when we realized that we must abandon the blossom and call it a day.
I walked up the lane, a train of barn cats escorting me.
Rain dripped from the trees beyond the brook; there was a scent of autumn in the damp night air--a scent of earth and of the fallen leaves blown onto the floor of the porch.
I went to bed full of wonder at the beauty of the rare flower we had enjoyed.
Lovely in itself and the more to be treasured for the unpredictability of its blooming.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Sentimental Gathering of Wildflowers


Early morning finds the wildflowers along our lane at their freshest and most appealing, before the heat of the day causes the big-root morning glory [Ipomoea pandurata] to crumple into limp folds of spent petals. Many of the wildflowers are old familiars: goldenrod, the dusty harbinger of early autumn in New England; Joe Pye weed, boneset and ironweed which edged the strip of marshy ground in Grampa Mac's west pasture even as they line the fence-rows of our Pellyton acres.


My delight in wildflowers is a direct legacy from Grampa Mac who often paused while walking the short stretch of dirt road between my parents' small house and the farm to cut a rough bouquet with his Barlow knife, binding the whole together with a long stem of timothy. When one of my own earlier efforts at flower arrangement included a stem or two of wild chicory, Grampa removed these with the caution that it was a weed he hated to see invading his hay meadow.

Partridge Pea

Long before leaving Vermont for the move to Wyoming in 1998 I had learned at least the common names of area wildflowers and where to find them in season: the Dutchman's breeches and painted trillium which grew at the shaded bend of Knox Hill Road in late April, the delicate hepatica rising from a cover of winter-sodden maple and beech leaves on the slope beyond the dilapidated sugar house; the autumnal sprawl of purple New England asters leaning over the verge of every back road, tangling with their cousins the small, pale lavender frost asters.

Ironweed, tickseed, 

 During my first summer in Wyoming I purchased a guide specializing in the flowers of the interior west--plants which rush into bloom as the late snows recede slowly from mountain pastures in June.  In the short, high altitude summers wildflowers stage a brave show, starting with frail pasqueflowers and short-stemmed violets which flourish briefly on  sagebrush covered high plains, followed by brilliant balsam root flowing in a yellow tide down a high-meadow slope. In the final frost-free weeks of summer blue lupine and scarlet Indian paintbrush border the roads that climb through the Tetons and the Wind River Mountains.
Spiked Lobelia

Relocation to Kentucky has added new species of wildflowers to enjoy and identify. Sometimes I return from a roadside ramble or a trek through our creek-side pasture with photos that are inconclusive when compared to those in my Audubon guide to eastern wildflowers. Other times I have guessed correctly the broader classification but struggle over the botanical terminology meant to differentiate the placement of leaves on a stem.  I may miss the finer points which should help me discern whether I have collected a 'greater' or 'lesser' variety. 


Big-root morning glory

Ironweed, Joye Pye weed, Boneset

I find joy in each clump of orange butterfly weed, the billowing swaths of tickseed coreopsis.  I pull on my boots to squelch into the woods beyond the stable when wild blue phlox sways beside the rain-fueled freshets of April, cherish the dried cups of Queen Anne's lace standing stiffly above the frosted grass of late November. 

Joe Pye weed

Jim grumbles over the tangles of bindweed and giant morning glory which, along with the ubiquitous honeysuckle, threaten to engulf the fences bordering the lane. While he roars off with the bush-hog rumbling behind the tractor, intent on keeping us tidy, I stroll with my camera, our faithful Willis marching behind. I try to capture the fuzzy lavender- blue ageratum, totter up the steep bank behind the retaining wall hoping for a clearer shot of the recently identified spiked lobelia. I prowl through internet photos wanting to confirm my identification of the partridge pea plants that lurk at the edge of the goat pasture. 


Ironweed closeup

Where ever we have traveled, in each of the diverse places we have called home, I draw upon the qualities of appreciative observation so subtly instilled by Grampa Mac's example. I remember his small bouquets--red clover, yellow or white melilot, an incongruous stem of bluebell, wide-eyed daisies, centered around a single bloom of the old-fashioned cinnamon roses which tangled along the path to the hen house, thorny stem carefully scraped free of prickles before being tucked into the sweet-scented handful.

Wild blue ageratum


Age will limit the woodland trails I can hike; I am not likely to conquer the complexities of my camera or commit to memory the Latin names of the plants I bring in from my meanderings. I hope I will never grow too diminished to enjoy the abundance of natural treasures that flourish in the seasons of country living.