Thursday, September 30, 2010

Filling the Woodshed

A few miles down the Edmonton road and then up a winding gravel road is an Amish-owned sawmill.
It appears to be a family-run business.
Several young men run the huge saw.
We were rather surprised to see a big forklift and other heavy equipment on the lot and being very competantly used by these men.
The "rules" which govern the modern devices and implements which Amish can have seem very arbitrary.


It is gratifying to us to be back in an area where hardwoods abound.
The mill creates 6x10's which are then pared down into pallet stock.
I don't quite understand the process, but was amazed to see that two of the young Amish women are involved in running the machinery in the smaller mill.
They move around the multi-angle saw in their long dark dresses, their hair covered with sheer white caps which tie under the chin.
The whole millyard hums with busyness.


Pallets stacked at the edge of the mill yard.

Yesterday J. hauled in a load of slabs, sliced them with the chainsaw and stashed them neatly in the small lean-to at the west end of the garage.

He built sideboards for "Snort'n Nort'n" using some planks salvaged from partitions in the tobacco barn.
We both destest the odor of cigarettes, but the smell of the old barn is warm and rich.
The dark scent clung to J's hands after he handled the lumber.
The boards are so deeply permeated from years of a tobacco crop hanging in the barn that just walking by the truck one gets a whiff.

Today there was a big pile of chunked hardwood, the off-cuts from log ends.
I helped J. to load the bed of the truck.
The pile was just up a slope from the Amish house.
A little boy's black jacket lay at the edge of the woodpile, nearly covered in sawdust.  I shook it out and hung it on a nearby stack of pallets.
It was neatly made, but I noted that rather than being of a traditional wool or heavy cotton, it was made of a synthetic fabric.
I have fingered the bolts of fabric for sale in the Amish and Mennonite stores.
Those too are polyester.
The garments made from this stuff wouldn't need to be ironed, doubtless a boon to the women, but I doubt that they are wearer-friendly.
Clothesline was wrapped around the trunk of a big cedar near the woodpile, strung to a smaller tree and then anchored to an old house which did not look as though it is presently used for living quarters.
The clean scent of the clothes dangling from the lines mingled with the pervasive odor of sawdust.
The main house is large. It appears to have three floors of living space and is probably shared by at least two generations of a family.
We bought home made butter [Jersey cream!] there on Tuesday.
The home store offers a motley selection of "salvaged goods"--think "dented cans" and such.
The girl who waited on us seemed very shy.
As we loaded wood three small boys appeared on the porch below us.
They were eating some sort of packaged sweets.
I suspect that most of the nearby Amish families are struggling with a lifestyle that is no longer farm-based, and that meals have been compromised by the addition of convenience foods.


$35.00 for the load we hauled home today!
J. is in his element.

Nort'n--a good old hard-working truck.

"She Don't Want To Go That Way!'

A view of Jones Chapel Road, one of the straighter roads in our area.

I have long been convinced that one is born with a "sense of direction"--or one is not.
If even a small portion of that attribute is included in one's genes, perhaps it can be honed and enlarged.
I can only admit that I wasn't blessed with a built-in compass and I have notably failed to develop such over a lifetime.
I learned early the "dirt roads" of my rural home town.  My Dad was the town's road commissioner for many years, with the job of clearing snow in winter, thawing frozen and over-flowing "sluices" in early spring; repairing sections of road washed out by heavy rain, replacing damaged or inadequate culverts, grading out the ruts and potholes that formed in "mud season" were jobs that fell within his responsibility
And responsible he was!
Many an evening in spring and summer he announced after supper that he needed to check on a particular area of road.  We children and usually our Mother accompanied him.  One "crossroad" led to another and it was usually dark before he turned toward home.
After thirteen years away I can still ride those roads in my mind.

I can sometimes follow carefully written directions.  It helps if there are landmarks.  [Turn left at the white house with the red barn at the back;  watch for the water tower at the top of the hill.]
Getting myself to a destination doesn't mean that I can easily reverse the process and get myself home again!

Jones Chapel
I've not done much driving since arriving in Kentucky.
I ventured into town on my own after about two months when it suddenly "clicked" that I had figured out the four roads that jut off the one-way courthouse square--and there are ways to reach home from any of the four!
While J. was in Wyoming I was invited to the home of friends for lunch. J. and I had been there weeks ago;  I had followed the same friends home from church through a maze of roads, trying to imprint on my mind some of the more unique spots along the way.
As that afternoon lengthened into early evening I expressed my intention to be home before dark.
The man of the house wrote down what he considered to be the simplest route which would take me back into known territory.
I headed out and after a few miles and a few turns allowed myself to believe I was doing well.
Then came the dilemma.
I needed to go straight  onto a certain route. At the intersection roads skittered off in several directions, none of them seeming to fit the directive of going "straight."
I took the most promising one and with the sun now going down rather alarmingly, embarked upon several miles of swooping up and down terrain.
I passed an area that seemed familiar, but when the larger road I needed didn't appear I dithered.
I hadn't been watching the odometer--how can you look at a  little string of numbers on the instrument panel when total concentration is needed to maneuver the loops and hairpin turns of a narrow road?
Convinced that I was on the wrong road, I turned around on the grassy verge near a ramshackle barn and driving rather too fast, chose a different spur at the intersection.


I knew almost immediately that this road wasn't taking me where I needed to go, but couldn't find a place to turn the car around. On my left walls of dark rock shone with runnels of wet from the afternoon shower, saplings which had found a toe-hold leaned over the narrow road.  On the right, trees bowed inward making a dank green tunnel.  The road pitched steeply down in ever tightening spirals. As I neared the bottom, shreds of mist coiled up from below.  The last curve spilled me out onto a flat bit which ran between pastures grown up to goldenrod and iron weed.  Ahead of me the thread of road disappeared into the tightly bunched hills.
"How can I be so stupid," I wailed aloud.
I managed a 3-point turn on the narrow road and began nosing the car back up the way I had come.  Already it seemed darker.

I think that I made another wrong turn--all the while with the vague feeling that I should be able to get HOME from most any of these alternative routes if I had a few wits.
[No, I don't have a GPS and I doubt frankly if one could deal with the scramble of roads here!]
I passed several bizarre places such as Earl's Cemetery, Bryant's Wedding Chapel [located in the middle of nowhere] and finally found the route which would take me to Wal Mart, the traffic light and the familiar turn that leads home.
I put my foot down hard on the accelerator. The road was almost straight. From the corner of my eye a sign post registered: Jones Chapel Road. A short cut!  A road I knew! I tore through the deserted drive of a small white church and wheeled onto the chapel road headed home with the last rays of the setting sun in my face.
You would think I had learned my way around.  Yet when these kind friends, feeling I needed some socializng with J. away, invited me to lunch four days later, I found I wasn't much better off.
They had e-mailed one set of directions.
I had earnestly surveyed the possibilities using Google map features.
I wrote out the two simplest routes and set out with an hour  to drive a 30 minute route.
I missed the left hand turn onto the same road that had proved to be my downfall 4 days earlier.
No matter, I thought, I'll take the alternative route.
A few miles more and the alternative hadn't materialized.
On the right was a used car sales lot.
I pulled in and entered the lobby.
No one was about but from behind a door which said "employees only" came the sound of a blaring radio, voices and the clang of tools.
Papers littered the counter which made a partial barricade, several ashtrays overflowed untidily.
While I contemplated the necessity of broaching the employee's area, the phone on the desk clamoured for attention.
A burly man with shaved head and an earing burst through the door and barked into the phone, giving me a nod of acknowledment.
Putting the phone down he asked if he could help.
I explained that I had missed my turn onto Rt 768, but that if he could direct me to Emory Chapel I could find my way.
While he pondered this, two more large men barged through the door.
"She's looking for Emory Chapel", said the first man.
A discussion ensued which involved all three men, none of whom seemed to have heard of that location.
They jabbed the air with lighted cigarettes, puffed clouds of smoke, deliberated.
I felt rather invisible.
Hesitantly I broke into the babble.
"There's an alternative route, the Breeding Loop Road and then onto Independence Ridge."
A plump-faced man with no teeth gave me a shocked look.
Turning to his companions he stated emphatically, "She don't want to go that way!"
Their discussion rumbled above my head; the air was turning blue with smoke.
I thought wryly that if I could ever be on my way I would need to drive with the windows down to blow the fug out of my hair and clothes.
The men had apparently reached a concensus regarding my route.
The genial toothless man questioned me gently.
"Did you notice a studio a ways back?"
I groped through recently recorded images.  Yes--a sign for a gallery, a small pastel painted building with colorful banners.
"Go back there," said my rescuer, "take a right before the hill."
Satisfied that he had solved the problem, he reiterated to his companions, "She don't want to take that other road!"
I thanked the men, and escaped into fresh air. When I had driven over several rolling hills the little out-of-the-way gallery came into view.  I could easily have missed the turning again. It wandered suddenly off the main road at a crazy angle.
Things began to look familiar: the Emory Chapel at the crossroads; the neat small farm sitting almost in the road surrounded by hilly pastures with a dozen or more goats crowding the fence.  Roadway which plunged down through thick trees and lunged over a concrete slab of a bridge.
I was there!
I had used up 25 of my thirty spare minutes, but I had arrived.
I tried to explain to J. on the phone later where I thought I had been lost.
He gave up trying to decipher it.
"There's a lot of winding roads over there," he said.
Staring again tonight at the Goggle map I suspect I may have driven a tortuously winding spur called Crocus Creek Rd.
I can't say for certain how many wrong turns I made that dusky evening or even how long I drove in circles trying to hold off panic and collect my wits.
It would appear that at any point I was not too far from familiar territory.
I do know, that unless "she" has a full tank of gas, several hours of daylight and preferably a companion with a sense of direction, "she don't want to go that way" again!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Basket Cases [Cats in Baskets]

With fresh paint in our bedroom and the hardwood flooring which J. put down early in the summer, we consider this room to be "finished."
We have been installed in it comfortably enough, but without the small personal items unpacked which are dear to our hearts.
All summer my dresser has held a jumble of things: my autoharp [because it seemed safe there] a small pile of ironing, oddments that seemed not to have found a proper place.  For some reason the left side of the dresser remained clear and several of the cats decided it was a fine place to spend hours napping.
Rather begrudingly, I folded an old flannel sheet and left it there to accomodate them.
Yesterday I undertook to organize the room.  J. was persuaded to hang the heavy lodge-pole pine framed mirror above the dresser.  I located and unpacked the small cartons which held a few of my "treasures."
The cats were [of course] very interested in what I was doing.
I rummaged out a linen curtain I made for one of our first Wyoming houses, folded it and spread it as a dresser scarf.  [This, after an unfruitful look-around for the boxes or bins which might hold various linens.]
Jemima immediately decided that she needed to recline on the clean dresser!
I found the old cat basket, placed it on a folded towel and with amusement, watched the battle for the basket.
Teasel thinks she would like the basket.
She actually had installed her plump self in it, but left to investigate why I was rootling in the closet.
Jemima immediately commandered the basket.

Teasel appears to be making a statement.
Perhaps she is being non-chalant.  ["If I don't look like I am waiting for the basket, maybe Mima will grow tired of it quickly!"]

Mima has happily settled in for a long nap!

I have always liked baskets as containers.
I have two old baskets which came from my grandfather's home.
I have a collection of the Longaberger baskets which were made in Ohio and became available in the late 1980's. I have some of their limited edition baskets as well.
The cat basket I purchased at a second hand shop in Vermont sometime in the 90's.
I moved the basket to Wyoming along with the family cats.
My Mollie cat lived out her years in Wyoming.  She was fond of this basket and retreated there when the younger members of the feline family became too raucous for her taste.

At some point this basket, which may have started life with a handle, became a cat basket.
Here J. sits with Raisin, basket and all.

This is Raisin with her brother--the late, much beloved Oscar.
Oscar had been a boisterous and very affectionate cat, very special, rather naughty.
He developed a cancerous tumor in the winter of his 7th year.
As he grew weaker, he spent more time resting in sunny spots.
Here Oscar and Raisin bask in the sunshine of a January afternoon.

Here, in the autumn of 2007, a very tiny Teasel peers from the basket.

When I adopted Jemima and Chester from the Pet Connection, they too found the hooded basket a shelter from a household of less than welcoming big cats.
I beleive this is Chester--when the kittens were small the only sure way to distinguish them was to upend them.

Eggnog.
If a well padded basket is not available, a box or carton will do.
It must be an ancient instinct of the feline race, this penchant for a small, snug, safe place from which to survey her surroundings.


Eggnog has plumped herself into a plastic box of quilt fabrics.
It is always desirable to take over a box or basket which the humans think belongs to them!

When Charlie came to us from the shelter we supposed that some of his rather odd ways were a result of the weeks of semi-confinement which he and Maisie had endured.
[We have since decided that he just IS ODD and a thug to boot!]
Charlie has a "thing" about cardboard boxes.
One was set down just inside the kitchen door of our Wyoming house and became in his imagination a hideaway, a fortress.
He clearly felt invisible and invinceable with a box to call his own.
He wore out several boxes while we lived in that house!
He scooted the box about the room, stood on top to look out at the bird feeder, tore through the rooms to throw himself with a great thump into his box.
He defended it fiercely.

At one point, hoping to encourage felines to sleep somewhere other than our bed, I placed inviting strips of fleecy blanket in the big basket and placed it on J.'s dresser.
[Cats of Siamese ancestry prefer to over-look their world from high places.]
Here Teasel and Mrs. Beasley have squashed their ample selves into the basket.

Teasel: "I dare you to try and take over this basket!"

Teasel playing nannie to Jemima [left?] and Chester [right?]

The ultimate expression of "basket case", Mrs. Beasley, at leisure.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Morning's Golden Light


The morning sun now strikes the front porch from the side, throwing shadows from a different angle. I've been turning my chair slightly so that the sun warms rather than blinds me as I
 sit to drink my coffee.
I think of the little house as facing due east, with full south beaming on the lower garden and clothesline. In reality, the house likely sits skewed to the four points of the compass.



The spider is clasping a 4th egg sack. The anchoring lines of her web shimmer like gold silk.  The web dances in a light breeze.

She clutches her pale gold balloon of precious eggs, her shadow large on the post behind her.


I sit,blinking, hands wrapped around  the china coffee mug, bemused by the odd cast of light: green, gold, pink.
The teasing wind stirs the raveled edges which rim the torn knees of my jeans.
A hummingbird whirrs past, wings throbbing like a tiny diesel engine.
She hovers and darts, feathers gleaming.



Across the road from our lower field, an oil rig drills.  The grinding sound echoes in the still morning.
Every few minutes there is a hissing snort like the exhaling of an angry dragon and fine rock dust belches forth.  The great swath of golden wildflowers has "gone by" and the plants stand, more green than gold as the seed heads ripen.

This branch broke from the sweet gum tree the morning after J. left for  Wyoming.
The green leaves have quickly greyed.
It is cool on this side of the house and the shade stretches up toward the barn.

A late bloom on the hibiscus by the garage.

A few buds remain, green above the browned seed pods of earlier blooms.

The golden flowers of the zinnias are still bold and gaudy, although the plants themselves are shabby now.

Several fresh clumps of zinnias have sprouted from fallen blossoms. If the weather holds there will be a second crop in bloom.
This amazes me.

The shaded view of the Michaelmas Daisies.

Light bathes a sprawl of lemon balm.

This unruly tangle of purple daisies faces the sun and is inter-twined with a rampaging grape vine and strands of honeysuckle.

Batchelors Buttons were slow to blossom.

The second cropping of beans is good--much less damage from beetles and such.
I have canned 15 quarts this week and kept out enough for three meals.

The mis-shapen ancient pear tree is weighted down with a burden of fruit.

Windfalls lie in the wet tangle of unmown grass under the tree.
They ooze sweetness, and there is the drone of bees and wasps who have begun their day's work early.

I have fetched a basket for the windfalls, wondering if Pebbles would fancy them.

Pebbles quickly decided that windfall pears are a fine treat--and it would be nice if someone offered them several times a day.

Sadie and Sally investigate the basket.

Willis supervises from atop the hay bales.

Sun is just now reaching the open entry of the barn.

Sally pokes her head through the gap in the boards, looking for Willis who is waiting to pounce.

Sun spills onto the stack of bales while Sadie and Willis have an exuberant game of chase.

J. arrived home Friday morning at 1:15 a.m.  On the back of Snort'n Nort'n is a freezer packed with beef.
The beef [which in life was known as Bemis--or was it Butt-head?] was raised, slaughtered and packaged by Howard and Heidi in Wyoming.
J. installed a DC converter under the hood of the truck so that the freezer could run off the truck battery.
The cats and I sewed and cleaned house until J. got home, having been alerted of his impending arrival.
Pebbles, hearing the old truck roar into the yard, emerged from her lean-to shelter and trumpeted a timely and joyous welcome.