Wednesday, January 13, 2021

January 13, 2021: Journal Post

This cactus bloomed at Thanksgiving, and now in January

Two stunning days of sunshine, so welcome after a mostly grey and chilly month thus far.
Morning temperatures have been in the mid-20's F, the grass crisped with frost.

January has always been for me a contemplative time, a quiet hibernation of sorts, with the prime effort one of keeping warm.
Living now in south-central Kentucky we don't experience the long weeks of severe snow-bound cold.
The days without sunshine are damply chill, a sameness of colorless skies and bleached meadow grass.

Coneflower seed head.

When the sun shines I walk the perimeter of the meadow and notice that beneath the yellow-beige spears of grass there is still green.
Three of the cats, Robert, Nellie, and Willis, are intent on patrolling a specific area of the meadow, crouching for hours in the cold, shoulders hunched, eyes fixed in the hope of an unwary mouse appearing.  I have several times seen one of the cats strolling down the driveway, prey dangling helplessly. 
The juncos and bluebirds , though avidly stalked, seem to have a built-in wariness as far as the felines are concerned.

Established clumps of foxglove are wintering.
In the west wall garden at least two dozen self-sown seedlings are with-standing the cold nights.

Fresh growth of Lemon Balm, only slightly frost-tinged.

The shrub roses in the west garden foolishly insist on thrusting out new leaves.

The rough turf of the lower meadow, patched in subdued green and brown.

On the days when the wind doesn't bite cold, I bundle up and stomp around the perimeter of the property, sometimes only once, more often two or three rounds. We own slightly more than 20 acres, bounded on the north and south by deep ravines tangled with undergrowth of briars. I don't venture down onto the prickly slopes.

Violas sheltering under the sere stems of buddleia.

A dandelion!

Willis, interrupted in hunting mode.

Robert, strolling along the edge of the ravine with me, stops to hone his claws on a convenient tree trunk.

Willis takes a break from hiking to roll on the gravel in front of the old shed. His shadow gives the impression of another cat mirroring his every move.

The mid-winter days move quietly, a quotidian round of simple chores and brief errands--a contrast to the uproar of contentions and accusations that daily bombard us with conflicting reports. 

I've spent a week squinting at vital stats written in French, learning more about the Canadian families of my paternal bloodline. 
I've read my way through the first three Brother Cadfael mysteries and into the fourth book. 

Seed racks are out in the aisles at Wal Mart; nearly a dozen nursery and seed catalogs have landed in my mailbox.  I think about gardens, note the perennials I hope to start from seed, the new to me varieties of tomatoes which suggest resistance to blight. 

I read news reports and opinion pieces.
I can do nothing about the troubles that beset our country.  I increasingly lack faith that those in control will work honestly and effectively.

So, I plod along through these chilly days that comprise the mid-winter of my years--hoarding the sudden piercings of joy--two sightings of the barred owl this week; the mist of tiny blue blossoms on a rosemary plant; the devotion of my cats;  the smooth taste of chocolate, the comforting clasp of the tea mug that fits my hand. 
There is a certain reassurance in the sense that the seasons continue to move in response to an eternal plan--Something beyond the sorry disruptions of feeble humanity.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Welcome Surprise

I had removed my spectacles before walking up the lane to the mailbox, but even the resultant slightly blurry view of the label on an Amazon box, declared me the designated recipient. Nestled beside the box was a padded envelope also directed to me.

Living in a rural area with limited shopping venues, I often place orders through Amazon.  Books, household gadgetry, items of hardware which Jim requires, but I could think of nothing on order.

I questioned whether I might be losing my memory!

Jim poked his head out of the shop as I came down the driveway.
'What did you order from Amazon?'
'I don't know that I've ordered anything--no idea what this is.'

I wasted no time in sliding the parcels onto the table and fetching a knife to slit the packing tape.
A fat pouch of blueberry-laced dark chocolate;  a beautifully decorated box of tea.

A typed packing slip stated that it was a gift from someone whose name I didn't recognize.
I pondered this; the unknown sender surely knew my preferences.
When the smaller package was opened all was made clear.
The gifts were sent by my oldest grand daughter who lives in Colorado--the only name on the first packing slip was that of her significant other--who I never think of by his surname.

When Kelsey was a small girl we made a ritual of tea time.
This gift of tea will not be casually sampled--each mug brewed--and each bite of chocolate savored will stir happy memories.
Thank you, Kelsey and Rhys for collaborating on a surprise that made my day!


Friday, January 1, 2021

The Week After Christmas: 2020 Final Journal Entry

Christmas Day was bleak in terms of weather; sullen dark skies, the ground sodden with the scum of wet snow which began on Christmas Eve. 
We had a good day at the home of our daughter and son-in-law--a lovely meal to which we all contributed. Driving there on roads that were patched with wet, I looked up to see several ribbons of flying Canadian geese; watching them thread their way across the sky always lifts my heart.

I was in the kitchen when our grandson shouted from the dooryard that sandhill cranes were cruising overhead.  I'd not seen or heard any this autumn--but by the time I dashed down the hall and out onto the front steps--they were gone.

The sun struggled out on the 26th, melting the remnants of snow. 
Boots were needed outdoors. 
Jim 'turned' the garden with tractor and plows on a sunny day before Christmas and the heaved up soil gleams wetly brown.

Willis, the faithful cat, follows me to the spot where our drive meets the lane, waiting there until I return from the mailbox.

Willis is slower now, in his 11th winter, but he is always alert to my outdoor presence, trailing along behind me.

A week of fitful weather--glowing slow sunrise, pearly lavender skies at dusk.
Drizzles of chilly rain, late afternoon sun breaking through swift-moving billows of cloud.

The moon was brilliant on the night before full, but next night cloud cover was a thick blanket.

A soft grey dawn.

 One of the more colorful early mornings of the week.

A morning that promised sun--but didn't deliver.

A desultory run of days--out of sync from the holiday, a disruption of small errands, routine chores; the preparation of meals, pegging sheets on the line to billow and snap in a day of wind.  
I finished reading a thought-provoking biography, brought out the Brother Cadfael mysteries first read two decades or more ago. Prepared the notes to facilitate a Bible study via Zoom.

Now at nearly 10 P.M. on the first day of another year, the waning gibbous moon is climbing a wind-tossed bank of clouds. Wild rain last night and again through the morning, moderating to fitful sunshine, air heavy with damp. 
We don't really begin again--we continue.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Winter Solstice; Journal

A promising sunrise doesn't always ensure a sunny day.

Sunrise photos taken from the front steps--too chilly to walk along the drive in my slippers.

The colors change rapidly and my simple camera doesn't do justice.

 As the sun came over the horizon there was blue sky strewn with puffy clouds.

Before long the landscape showed the colors that often forecast rain.

For several hours the sun hid behind grey clouds.

I was too restless to stay inside, so pulled on my boots, shrugged into a heavy zipped hoodie and ventured outdoors.
The two 'Jane' magnolias planted on the front lawn have pale fuzzy catkins.

Speaking of cats: Willis, like his keepers, is a bit slower in this his eleventh year, but he never fails to appear and walk with me.

The carnations in the west wall garden continue to produce flower buds, although the blooms don't fully open in the colder weather.

One of only two lady's mantle raised from a greenhouse planting. I hope for its survival through the winter.

Many of my shrub roses have unwisely put forth new leaves in the weeks since the first hard frost.

Violas tucked in the edge of the raised bed are sheltered by the branches of a dwarf butterfly bush. 
The nigella planted nearby has self-sown vigorously. The tiny plants won't be cold hardy. I hope more seeds stay dormant until spring.

Shortly after noon the sun reappeared. A light wind sang in the treetops. Walking the north/west edges of the property I came upon several stalks of mullein which had fallen to lie among the leaves.

My eye was caught by these seed heads, so similar to those of my cultivated clematis.
I think the plants are likely the wild clematis viginiana. Online articles identify them as common in the south east. The 'flowers' can be insignificant, not large and colorful as their pampered garden relatives.
I tied a strip of cloth on one of the vines so that I will be able to locate and notice the vines in the profusion of weedy wildflowers that take over in the spring.

Close up of the seed heads. 
During several rainy days in the week just past, I hastily did housework, then decamped downstairs to the large 'family room' where I have set up a perhaps temporary sewing station.  I searched out some favorite Christmas CD's [think Celtic Christmas and the like] and began once more to work on a long deferred quilt project. 
A decade ago [in Wyoming] I hatched the plan of making a quilt to replicate one stitched by my great grandmother, Eliza. Eliza pieced her blocks in an unusual pattern which I've rarely seen, called 'Wind-blown Star. The fabrics used were cut from the least worn bits of shirtwaist blouses, aprons, men's shirts. 
In the spirit of making do, I collected shirts and blouses found at charity shops--most cost less than $1.
Taking the shirts apart was tedious and I soon discovered that although I had focused on all cotton fabrics, some were more loosely woven than others making accurate piecing more difficult than with crisp new yardage. 
Time and again I took out this work in progress then put it aside for something more rewarding.
As the shorter days have come upon us, I determined to finish this quilt. I suspect that it is good for my sometimes wandering wits to focus on putting the blocks together. 
The finished quilt will be strictly utilitarian and I plan to experiment with simple machine quilting.
Slightly more than half the blocks are now pieced.
The link below should take you to a post on the original quilt.

Soon after dark on this first day of winter, I went out with the bucket of kitchen scraps and paused to search the sky for the promised conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter.  While the two planets were clearly visible through the bare branches of the trees lining the north west ravine, it wasn't as impressive a display as I had imagined.
The photos published by those who have sophisticated telescopes and cameras do display it as the fabled Star of Bethlehem. 
I'm glad I lingered to look.
As always I wondered how ancient civilizations determined the exact day when the earth begins to slowly turn toward the sun. 
Mid-winter, indeed, and the slow journey to springtime.


Friday, December 11, 2020

December 10-11; 2020: Journal

Late on Wednesday afternoon, a pale sun sent a wash of color over a landscape that had remained resolutely grey and cold since the first of the week. 
Thursday morning brought a sunrise of saffron and ocher streaking the sky; as the sun climbed, a welcome warmth replaced the damp chill of previous days. 

[I have two cameras of the same model, one records the date, the other refuses to do so.  Both, regrettably, have scratches on the lens.]

Jim announced an early errand in town on Thursday--I decided to go along.
Howard had alerted J. to a handsome large toolbox on offer at a discount/salvage store where we like to rummage.  The venue is a metal building, apparently unheated, and after a desultory look around I went out to sit in the truck with a magazine.  J. completed his purchases, came out to move the truck to the loading dock.  
The truck decided not to start. 

J. is a more optimistic soul than I am, so while I sat warning myself not to make comments, J. poked at various things under the hood, tunked at something near the fuel tank, ground away at the starter. 
After half an hour of this, he conceded that the truck [a fairly recent acquisition] really wasn't going to miraculously fire up.

J. has for several years had a primitive 'flip phone' which he sometimes remembers to carry in the truck. The provider regularly 'shuts off' the phone before the prepaid hours have been used.
This happened again last week.

I raised my face from the magazine I was resolutely perusing, and handed J. a piece of paper with Howard's phone number there-on. 
J. eventually conceded the necessity of calling Howard to the rescue and stomped back into the sales barn where one of the proprietors kindly put in a call. 
I felt dismayed to call Howard from his work on the house he and Dawn are renovating, but there seemed no other option.
Howard must have been 'hammer-down' all the way from Dry Creek, as he roared in within the half hour.
 Now two heads under the hood of the truck, more poking, prodding, diagnosing [of course the two men didn't quite agree!] and the truck still refused to start.
Howard produced a tow chain, tugged the truck around to where it could be pulled forward, where-upon the engine came to noisy life.

Finally home to a hastily cobbled meal--was it lunch? a very late breakfast?--and the men off to more work at the Dry Creek property.

I felt mildly out of sorts, unable to settle. 
It was a good afternoon to putter aimlessly outside, enjoying the return to pleasant weather.

Friday has been a day of beautiful weather.
Temperatures climbed to nearly 70F.
In between household chores I've made excuses to be outside: sauntering up the lane mid-morning to put outgoing mail in the box, a quick drive to the Beachy's  for apples, fresh eggs, grapefruit.

Back outdoors with the camera, fascinated by the seed heads of Duchess of Edinburgh clematis.

The dried leaves of Duchess and Candida rattle against the trellis.

Robert frequently appears to be companionable.

Robert is a proper pain about coming in at night.
He can be omni-present, appearing at my elbow, sociable, wanting to be noticed.
He comes inside, naps on a bed by the hour, but if he can escape the house late in the afternoon there is a nightly battle to retrieve him!
I stand on the front steps, call his name in beguiling tones.  He may appear, prance about, roll on the ground, only to dash off when I reach for him.

I've been out several times this evening, trolling about, flashlight in hand, calling him.
The two old 'barn cats' Willis and Sally, loyally follow me across the meadow, down the lane toward the shed. Their eyes gleam like bobbing headlamps when I sweep the light behind or to the side.

It appears to be one of the nights that Robert will spend--somewhere--outside.
He will be sitting on the porch bench at first light, swaggering in, demanding a dish of milk, needing to have burrs combed out of his long fur before he saunters off to crash into bed.

Robert's brother, Nellie, is even more companionable, a most amiable creature, and rather more inclined to respond when he is called.

Late afternoon and the sky tracked with more contrails, evaporating against the blue.

A viola, revived since the cold earlier in the week.

Inside at dusk to slice Rome apples into a kettle where they simmered into a ruby-red applesauce.
The woodfire, allowed to go out this morning, has been built up against the chill that will arrive in the wee hours.
Shelby-kitten has disturbed everything on my desk, nibbled at various papers, and is now engrossed in stalking an Asian ladybug along the top of the divider behind the desk.
The warm day has revived the wretched things!

Somehow it is nearly 11 p.m. and the rest of the household settled for the night.
One last look outside for Robert, then Shelby and I will go to bed.