Monday, February 28, 2011

Raging Waters

We have had several days and nights of rainy weather.  The temperatures are warm, ideal for thunderstorms.
The booming of thunder has awakened us at night.  The rain pounds at the landscape, then tapers to a drizzle. The photo above was taken by J. at 11 a.m. today [Monday] and shows the swollen bend of Big Creek which loops below our house.
Driving out Old Gradyville Road at noon we noted the waters of the creek surging level with the banks already covered in fresh green grass.  It is not difficult to imagine the even greater force of  the flash flood which swept away homes and their inhabitants in this neighborhood just over a century ago.
Long-time area residents still speak of that flood as though it had happened a mere decade or two ago.

Sensible folks stay at home on wet days and find rainy day things to do.
Instead of being sensible we decided to search out a number of homes listed for sale at the other side of the county. We encountered several scenes such as this--here Sulpher Creek is surging over the road.
We had to make several detours, exploring unfamiliar side roads which plunge down into the "hollers" and then climb along the ridges.
Seeing these ordinarily peaceful creeks in spate we can understand better the tragic accident which claimed the lives of four Amish children in the north-western part of the state on Thursday evening.
This is one of the many reports of that accident, if you care to read about it.

The loss of these Amish children has brought to mind a tragedy which happened nearly a century ago in the upstate New York area where my Mother's family have  lived for over 200 years.
I remember a visit from Aunt Belle when I was a very little girl. We were still living in my grandfather's farm house before my parents built our own little house just along the road.
Aunt Belle was sister to great-grandmother Eliza, the beloved lady [actually step-grandmother] who had raised my great-grandfather's three children as well as bringing up my mother and her brother.
Aunt Belle was prettier than Grandma Eliza, a plump, comfortable looking woman with soft white hair.
It was decades after this visit  that my Mother told me  Aunt Belle and her husband Leroy had lost three children who drowned in the brook which ran through their propery.  This happened some years before my mother's birth and I think it was not much mentioned.
My cousin Barb found the clipping which tells the tale, tucked in her grandmother's scrapbook.
She kindly transcribed it for me and I include it here--a somber piece of family history.
Aunt Belle became the 2nd wife of LeRoy Fleming and was 22 years younger than he.
Aunt Belle gave birth to two more sons in the years that followed the drowning of her boys.
LeRoy was by then in his mid-60's and passed away at age 73, leaving Belle to bring up these younger sons.
She supported them by working as a cook and housekeeper in some of the "summer homes" and "camps" of the well-to-do who could afford leisure homes in the Adirondacks.
When WWII came, the younger sons enlisted and Aunt Belle came to the Vermont farm to stay with Grandmother Eliza.

Drowning of the Three Fleming Boys circa 1913


Three little tots meet death in Ticonderoga stream while going after a cow.

One of the saddest tragedies that Ti has ever known and one that cast a pall over the entire community, making hearts throb with sympathy for the grief-stricken parents, occurred shortly after 5 o'clock Saturday afternoon, when 3 little boys, the only children of Mr. and Mrs. LeRoy Fleming, living in the Weedville section of the village, were drowned in Trout Brook. The victims of the horrible tragedy were little more than tots, the oldest boy, Kenneth, being but 9 years of age and the other two, Robert and Louis, being 8 and 7 respectively.

The drowning occurred about a quarter of a mile from the boys’ home. The little fellows were sent to the Trout Brook pasture after a cow. When they did not return to their home in half an hour their mother became alarmed and went to the pasture after them, suspecting all the while that they might be at the bottom of the sluggish Trout Brook.

She hastened directly to a footbridge, made of three logs across which boards are nailed, that crosses the brook. One can have but an inkling of her horror and agony when she saw the body of one of her little ones at the bottom of the brook near the bridge. In some way, given strength by desperation, she managed to get the body out on the bank and in the meantime her agonized cries brought people running to the brook. The bodies of the 2 other little boys were found near the first and were soon laid side by side on the grass.

Nurses came from the Moses Ludington hospital, only a short distance from and within sight of the scene of the drowning, and with Dr. Knapp, who came from the village, immediately began using the usual methods of resuscitation. They worked desperately for nearly an hour before giving up the hope of bringing back the sparks of life. Then the little bodies were tenderly picked up and carried to the home of their heart broken parents.

While nobody knows exactly how the accident happened it is generally believed that, after driving the cow across the brook, the little fellows started over the footbridge and that one of them fell into the brook. The other 2, all three inseparable companions, it is thought, immediately jumped in after their brother and their attempts at rescue resulted in all three going to a watery grave. The brook at this spot is of just about sufficient depth to drown boys of their size. The funeral services were held at the home at 8 o'clock Monday evening with Rev. Torrance, pastor of the Methodist church, officiating. Many friends and neighbors flocked to the home before and after the funeral to offer consolation to the broken hearted parents, who bear bravely their great grief, and many testimonials of sympathy were offered in the form of floral contributions, one beautiful piece in particular coming from the Boy Scouts of Troup 1. To say that all of Weedville is in mourning is putting it lightly. The 3 boys, manly, bright little fellows, were loved by all and their absence will be sorely felt for many a day in the neighborhood of the afflicted and now childless home.

The 3 bodies were taken to Hague Tuesday morning for interment, services being held at the grave by Rev. Mr. Dow of that village.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring Rain

Raindrops made white balls of light in this photo taken at dusk.
Probably the flash went off, but there was a drizzle down my neck and I didn't stop to play with camera settings.
Several claps of thunder woke me in the night and the day dawned softly grey and rainy.
We think the yard has grown greener with each passing hour.
There are weather advisories for flash-flooding along the many area creeks.  Big Creek below our road is rushing along in a churning of brown water.
It has been a day of small domestic chores for me--I was inspired to sort several kitchen cupboards!
The cats have been companionable and have had to be removed from cupboards.
They are such devoted help!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Conniving Cat

For months Willis has found it amusing to slip in the side door when we are going in or out--he endangers himself--and us--by running between our busy feet.
At first he just huddled in the edge of the ktichen while the indoor resident cats rushed to sniff at him and deliver rather haughty remarks.

Willis seems to be "over" any concern about how the indoor cats react to his presence.
Several times this week I have forgotten to scoop him back out the door and hours later come upon him thoroughly relaxed and nonchalent,
"Put your striped cat outside," I tell J.
'But he wants to be inside!  He's not doing any harm!
Oddly, the girl kittens, Sadie and Sally don't care to be in the house--Sadie pokes her nose in occasionally and hurries back to the familiar territory of the porch.
We do not need another house cat!
Does it look like we may have one?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring Stirrings

The sky has been gently overcast all day, but the rush and rattle of yesterday's wind
gave way to stillness.
A mockingbird sang in the old appletree, a bluebird balanced on the tip of a maple twig.
I went around the gardens at dusk with the barn kittens in attendance.
Only another gardener would be excited by these small but very promising signs of spring.
Here a clump of lemon balm presents fresh aromatic leaves.

This Yellow Simplicity rose is the first to show swelling pink leaf buds.
My efforts to focus here were hampered by Sally the Kitten who wanted to help.
The southernwood has wintered well and has the tiniest fronds of silvery green like miniature tassels here and there on its branches.

The air was soft and balmy. Although there was no spectacular sunset there was a brief afterglow when the trees and barns stood in silhouette.

I heard the peepers tonight!
I sat on the front porch as evening drew in with soft greyed edges, a mug of green tea cherished in my hands.
The voices of the peepers rose and ebbed, audible even when cars drove by.
The air smelled of awakened earth and of the freshness left by a brief afternoon shower.
Coming inside when I could no longer see where I was putting my feet down in the pasture, I was welcomed by the homey scent of bread not long out of the oven.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Warmer Weather

Days of balmy sunshine here.
We've had windows open and the sliding glass door as well.
Teasel sprawls luxuriously under a bench enjoying the the warm pool of sunshine.

I have scattered poppy seeds [papaver sommniferum] over the bare spots in my middle flower border.
I have "Lauren's Grape", "Pink Peony", "Black Swan," and "Heirloom"--all from Select Seeds.

A strange dog has appeared twice this week.
No collar but somehow she doesn't seem like a stray.
I  think she has had puppies a number of times.
She is friendly and loving, but immediately carries off the cat dishes.
Within moments she leaves.
The old mother dog belongs to neighbors just down the road.
The lady of the house has taken to late afternoon walks accompanied by the yellow dog and a young boy who pushes an old-fashioned scooter.
Apparently the dog likes to make a little detour to see if we have any interesting tidbits available.

The wind has been brisk all day, sending huge billowing clouds across the sky, blotting out the sun, then parting to let it through again.
Laundry snapped and flapped on the clotheslines as we worked outside.
Several times we heard the cronking of the sand hill cranes swirling overhead.
Red-winged blackbirds appeared to pick up the seeds that fall from the bird feeder in the maple tree.
Their shoulder patches are pale, not yet flaunting the scarlet of the courting season.
Inside the cats have skittered about, inflating their tails and huffing over nothing we can see.
I tried several settings to take photos of the moon as it rode the swift-moving clouds.
None of the photos do justice to the wild and lovely night.
J. heard the spring "peepers" singing from the low ground by the creek across the road.
I listened, but my hearing is no longer sharp enough to pick up that welcome trill when the wind is whistling and the wind chimes clanging.

Willis and Sadie furled themselves about my ankles as I walked about in the glow of the yard light.
Willis has a "thing" about bowling Sadie over.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Change in the Weather

Sunshine on Friday after several days of cold and snow.
The birds continued to appreciate the three feeders.
I suppose it was inevitable:  Willis the Cat got his jaws around an unwary junco.
I didn't find a pathetic heap of feathers or other remains so just maybe the junco lived to tell about it.
J. promptly got on the scene with some heavy fence wire left over from his sturdy garden enclosure.

Willis and "the girls" were dismayed that their access to the bird feeders has been curtailed.
Think disgruntled catlets sitting on the cement curbing of the basement bulkhead, tails and whiskers twitching in indignation.
What's a cat to do?

A peachy sunset on Friday evening.

The snow melted swiftly all through Saturday and by early this morning it held on only in little hollows and on the north sides of the buildings.
I walked up through the pasture and crossed down to the road at about 8 a.m.--there was a wind that sang in my ears and ground softening to mud under my wellies.

I made many excuses to be outside today.
I hung laundry on the line, where it flapped and billowed and got dry!
I picked up twigs and small branches that littered the ground underneath the maples and the redbuds.
At suppertime I noticed these daffodils standing sturdily on short stems.

This one had opened in spite of being blanketed with snow for several days.
Our local on-line magazine has published the photos under a banner announcing the first daffodil of the season. Daffs are referred to locally as "March lilies."

And on Friday I was presented with a box of Hershey's best--which I am sharing with the presenter, J.
I made him a pan of very fudge-y brownies.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beautiful But Cold

Today and last night have brought the coldest temps of the winter, proving that old adage:
"As the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger."
Hoar frost sparkled on every twig and along the power lines.
Schools are closed again.
It seems to snow here when the thermometer hovers just at or slightly below freezing, creating a slick mess on the roads.
Several accidents have been reported around the county.

Nandina berries glowing in frosted clumps.

I was concerned this morning that the birds didn't gather at the feeders as early as usual.
I imagine them huddled somewhere in the woods overnight and perhaps unfolding stiff wings
and blundering about to warm up.
J. refills the feeders, but much of the seed scatters on the ground.
You can see the birds do a good deal of picking through the snow to find the seed.

I have been grumpy about using my PC when this room is chilly--which has been much of the time lately.
I went to Wal Mart [the place we love to hate!] and bought a modest Toshiba laptop so that I can read and write in comfort down by the fire.
I have not tackled setting it up yet--have to find the CD for the linksys wireless and figure I better not be in brain fog mode.
Weather in the "hollers along the creek beds this morning was described as "freezing fog"--I hope my brain doesn't chill when its in a less than brilliant mode. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another Snow Day

The cardinals are much in evidence today.
When I went outside about 7 a.m. it was just beginning to snow.
In spite of a dour morning the cardinals were calling in their best spring
courting voices "Cheer, cheer."
Here  a male and lady cardinal share the branches of the maple with a bluejay [tail to camera] and
a plump tuxedoed junco.

Sadie the barn kitten [cat?] stationed herself in the lee of the maple's trunk, to cast coveteous looks at the feeding birds.
Her brindled fur is perfect camoflauge.
She didn't lunge at the birds, but stayed at her post for nearly three hours before retreating to the
comfort of her sleeping bag in the barn.

A cardinal and his lady.

Mima and Teasel
Some of us are very pampered house cats who know how to spend a grey and snowy afternoon.
I'm off to concoct a pot of potato/onion soup, then its downstairs to my sewing machine and the warmth
of the wood fire.
We chugged over to the nearest Amish sawmill at noon and loaded some good hardwood chunks the better to endure the weather's hissy fit.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Not Quite Spring

I watched from underneath a cozy heap of quilts and cats as daylight filtered in pale stripes through the interior shutters of the east-facing bedroom windows.
The cats trooped down the hallway with me and milled impatiently as I opened the living room curtains
to look at the day.
I pulled on my first-thing-in-the morning assortment of warm clothing, replenished the fires, measured coffee.
It seemed judicious to dole out the dollops of tinned cat food before venturing outside.
Decidedly chilly.  I fed Willis and Co and scurried back inside.
As soon as J. exited the bed I snatched the sheets and bundled them into the washing machine.
By the time they had chugged through the cycles, the sunshine had sulked off behind dour grey clouds.
J. topped up the bird feeders and once again the goldfinches amused us with their
fiesty jostling for position on the cylinder of niger seed.

A light snow fell last evening--snow over muddy ground.

Pebbles emerges from the barn lean-to where J. serves her hay and grain.
Pebs has never had a lovely full mane and forelock.
This winter she is so grizzled you'd think something had gnawed at her hair.

The barn kittens after breakfasting in the carport retreated to their sleeping bags in the
strewed hay of the barn's east bay.

Willis, gallant boy that he is, left his snug bed to accompany me on a very brief walk up to the tobacco barn.

I did peg the sheets out on the clothes line, flicking slender rims of ice from the wooden pegs.
At 3 p.m. the sun came out long enough to offer encouragement and to nearly dry the sheets.

As always when the weather is dark I turned to baking.
Today's treat is Lemon Bars--I love the shortbread crust.

I have "felt the cold" lately, although surely the weather has been less than frigid. Since this room and the bedroom across the hall don't benefit as much from the wood fires as the "living" part of the house, I've rather minded being in here for any length of time.
I'm still reading the usual blogs, just not taking my chilly fingers out of my pockets to type many comments or to keep up with letters.
Even the mid-winter doldrums won't last forever.
Its a time for wrapping my hands around a mug of steaming tea,
curling up by one fire or the other with books and seed catalogs,
a time to plan projects rather than to carry them out.
In such a short time the flurry of starting seeds, gardening and harvesting will begin all over again.
"To everything a season..."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Birds, Bulldozer, Blocks--Catching Up With My Week

Since J. pruned the "burning bush" outside the dining area glass doors we have had a clear view of the feeder which holds the black thistle seed. The usual visitors are these goldfinches,
juncos and the occasional purple finch.
As if in payment for our balmy weekend of sunshine, the weather has been drab all week
with a raw bluster that has invaded my bones.
Perhaps the chilly weather has brought out some latent beligerence in these beautiful little birds, as they have jostled for best advantage at the feeder.

I stood watching the birds late this afternoon, camera in hand.
J. joined me and we soon determined that of the half dozen or more birds swirling round the feeder there was definitely a bully who didn't want to share.

There was a near collision or two as the goldfinches battled for position!

Several finches perch just to the right of the feeder waiting for an oportunity to
snatch some seed.

Now, for the bulldozer episode.
On Wednesday I was invited by J. to ride with him to a town on the Kentucky/Tennessee border to look at [oh, joy!] a second hand bulldozer which he had discovered on craigslist.
[If you're counting, this is the second such which he has acquired since moving here.]
The destination was the hamlet of White Oak near Jellico, TN.

Once we left the interstate highway the road wound tortuously upward around the side of a mountain. The terrain is very like that in the coal mining areas of eastern Kentucky and West Virginina--deep valleys so narrow that even sunny days scarcely brighten the gloom of the valley floors. Small houses are shoved against the steep dark sides of the mountain, the serpentine road almost at the front doors.

We stopped by arrangement at a convenience store where J. phoned the owner of the dozer. Not knowing how long we would have to wait, I bought an ice cream bar, J. bought a Coke. The proprietor of the store was a burly man in a camoflauge sweatshirt, his hair styled in a pompador modeled on the look of "country" singers popular in the 1970's.  Two middle-aged woman clad in baggy sweat pants and camo "hoodies" poked past the shelves of  canned Spam, rows of snack food, stood to comment on the gaudy covers of the "tell all" celebrity mags which hung in their wire rack near the check-out counter.

We had barely settled in the car with our goodies when a battered, mud-smeared pickup truck lurched off the mountain road and drew in beside us in an odiferous oily aura. The driver cranked down his window and suggested that J. follow him to the site of the bulldozer. The cigarette adhering to his lower lip wobbled as he spoke.  On the passenger side of the truck another man, beard flowing down over his camo jacket, nodded vigorously and removed his cigarette long enough to jab helpfully in the direction from which the truck had appeared.

More winding road, past trailer houses and small cottages, yards crowded with disabled vehicles, rusting bits of unidentifiable machinery.  In many of the dooryards groups of men stood, most of them camo clad.  They clustered around  old trucks with raised hoods, smoking, gesturing, talking.
I wondered if the landscape looked better in summer, if the women planted flowers, tried to tidy and civilize a space in the cramped dooryards.

Our guides slowed at a small house, the yard littered with several junk cars.  A bevy of hound dogs gave voice and climbed on doghouses for a better view.
The battered truck jolted to a stop at a metal gate and the bearded man appeared at J.'s window. He gestured at the muddy track beyond the gate, and inquired politely if J. would like to ride the rest of the way with them.
J. declined, and put our car at the rutted muddy road. [It does have 4 wheel drive!]

The bulldozer, engine bellowing, sat at the bottom of the washed out track amid a strewing of old tires and tin cans. Nearby a small bonfire of trash smoldered in the damp air.
Several horses and four young boys appeared from somewhere and milled about.
I was quite intrigued by this gathering, but thought it might not be kosher to hop out and record the transaction with my camera.
I contented myself with a shot taken through the car window.

Rather a desolate appearing hamlet.  There seemed to be no order to the layout of the street, and small houses and trailers, some abandoned, perched at odd angles with an air of impermanence.

The road down the mountain curved under great overhangs of rock.
It is a road where you feel that you meet yourself coming back!
J. returned there on Thursday to haul the bulldozer home behind old Snort'n Nort'n.
I decided I'd had enough adventuring and would stay home and stoke the fires.

I kept the fireplace and the basement fire tended all afternoon against the chilly day.
Knowing J. would be home late I brought in more wood, topped up the bird feeder, gave the barn kittens a treat.
I then happily retreated downstairs, mug of tea in hand, to create more of the Civil War quilt blocks.
I put on an audio book, pulled out my Kansas Troubles fabrics, thoroughly enjoyed my creative afternoon and evening.

An odd blog post this, no doubt. Somewhere I think I "lost" a day this week, perhaps because other than the trip to Tennessee the days have been spent in small homely chores, reading, sewing, bundling up in warm clothes to venture outside for awhile. I've ridden along when J. had errands in town, stopped for a visit with a friend, ordered tomato seeds.
I sit here tonight rather sleepily. Behind me on the bed Charlie Cat and his family are sprawled companionably.
Cats, birds, horse, humans, have been well fed, the little house is warm.
Time for bed!