Sunday, September 4, 2011

Walking with Willis

Drought and heat have contined for weeks. An unpleasant complication left over from the years of home building and selling has had to be dealt with, demanding hours of my time for compiling records, typing notes, sending memos to our attorney.
J. flew to Wyoming and  by all reports managed the court appearance with considerable poise, but the judge will not present a ruling until the end of the month--a kind of 'waiting for the other shoe to fall'---.

J. bought a small used car and then headed 'over the Pass' to stay with our son and his lady for several weeks.  He is delighted to be working with H. on a building job there.
Meanwhile I had prepared a list of projects to tackle during this time when my schedule is my own, but I have been restless and disorganzied [more so than usual!] wearied by the unflagging heat and unable to settle to the things I want to do.
Grandson Devin has come most evenings to help me drag  hoses about and give the garden a taste of water just before dark.
  Beets, lettuce and carrots planted weeks ago have not emerged, though a planting of beans and a hill of cucmbers have bravely met the adverse condition.  Matt has diligently watered the garden plot at their house and perhaps we will yet have some fall crops.

The shrub roses are the only perennials holding up in the heat and the drought.

Daytime temperatures during the past week have hovered around 100 degrees F--give or take a few notches for time of day. 
Last evening I slid the switch on the A/C thermostat to "Off", listened as the unit rumbled to a stop, then walked through the small house opening windows and shutters to night air which at 10 pm  had cooled only slightly from the oppresive heat of the day.

Cicadas chirred lethargically. The gleam of the porch light showed overturned cat dishes strewn about the carport, indicating that a possum had already made a routine evening forage.
Daughter Gina and grandson Devin had trudged from their house in the dusty heat as the sun crawled westward. Now they had been collected by son-in-law Matt and the hum of conversation was stilled, the CD of bluegrass music finished.

I settled at my desk to read near the open window. Wilbur, the skittish rescue kitten plopped on the sill, one white paw splayed against the screen. His sociable little sister, Willow, teetered along the edge of the desk gazing at the shifting images on the computer screen, turning to demand my attention
with the pat of a tiny imperious paw.
At midnight the quiet was ripped by a cacophany of chorused howls, yips, yelps: coyotes. The kittens bristled, the back of my neck prickled, as the feral voices rose, ebbed, rose again--
always one lonesome solo cry drawn out beyond the fading of the canine choir.

With an instinct conjured from the archives of human response, I moved swiftly to the porch, strode to the edge of reassuring yellow electric light and bellowed, "GIT! Go away! Get out of here!"
Silence shivered into the dooryard, then a cicada rasped.

It wasn't a good night for sleeping. 
Dawn, after a few hours of twitchy sleep, brought no relief from the heavy still air.
I turned off the fan, drank a glass of water, then curled on the edge of the bed, mentally cataloguing the usual morning aches, evaluating  a slightly stuffy nose and raspy throat.
The cats, distressed by my return to bed,  reassembled , staring at me with a barely maintained politeness.
"Right," I croaked, "I suppose you want your TEA!"
[All food and treats are 'tea' to my house darlings who learned that word years ago!]
I blundered down the hall in a retinue of felines, pulled the curtains back on a sullen sky, dished out 'tea,' cleaned litter boxes, measured coffee and water.
Cat dishes and coffee mug rinsed, I crunched over the expanse of browned grass to the barn, Willis and Co at my heels, greeted by Pebbles' hearty announcement of impending starvation.
In the side room of the barn where Jim stores Pebbles' grain and bales of hay, the tall sturdy container of cat kibble had been smacked onto its side. Here too, the cat dishes were strewn.

With all the animals fed and tended, camera in hand, I made a tour of the gardens, checking on the webs of the garden spiders by the front door, recording the last hurrah of the dwarf sunflowers by the garage. 
Continuing my walk-about I headed down the front field,  faithful Willis in tow.

Seed cones forming on the magnolia at the edge of the front lawn.

J. has used a bulldozer to continue the clearing of the lower field which J.M. Shelley began when he purchased the farm at auction in autumn, 2009.

Clumps of wildflowers glow yellow-gold, undaunted by disturbed soil or drought. I searched through my wildflower books and online last autumn and again today without finding an absolute identification. I think it is one of the tickseed/coreopsis family--there are 28 identified varieties in North America.


Crows squawked, a small hawk circled, keening. Hoofbeats drummed along the north road, a measured clop-clop as the first of four Amish buggies rumbled past, followed moments later by the echoing clip of a faster-paced horse.

We stopped by the ancient Old Timey Pear tree.  Last year the crowded weight of ripening fruit burdened the branches. This spring the gallant old tree was just coming into blossom when a spell of cold and rainy weather put paid to this years crop

Only a few pears on the old tree this season.

Last fall we cleared away broken branches. J. used the chainsaw to tidy up dead stubs.
Old scars on the trunk give evidence of prunings over the decades.

Willis swatted at the insects which whirred up from the weeds as he passed.

Golden flowers are a becoming foil for a cat wearing a dark tweed 'fur-about.'

Willis peered with solemn interest at the patterns of deer tracks in the dry ground
and sniffed at small heaps of deer scat.

A few half-hearted gleams of sun broke through the overcast then hid again beneath  layers of dull grey.
We have watched the sky daily, hoping for even a brief shower to settle the dust.
"Home, Willis," I say, and he skitters ahead of me up the slope, tiger tail leading the way through the hazy heat of a Sunday morning.

Willis rests in the grass behind the old tobacco barn.
He pants, mouth slightly opened and inscrutable amber eyes narrowed to slits.

Back along the track that leads from the barns to the house.
This fallen feather has clung lightly to the grass beneath the clothesline for several days.

The tall clump of Michaelmas daisies [New England asters in the wild]
have endured the heat. The blooms are smaller than last year, but their sturdy color is welcomed.

We had no yield of grapes from the old vines last year.
J. and I have both worked at pruning them and I harvested about 7 pounds this year.
The grapes have been simmered, crushed and strained through cheesecloth to make 10 cups of juice which I have frozen for jelly making when cooler days arrive.
The ones left on the vine to finish ripening have turned into raisins.
Here a black swallowtail enjoys the sweetness.
Our morning circuit completed Willis and I headed inside.
Willis ascended to his new favorite place atop the fridge--the better to watch me prepare
a Sunday lunch for our family next door.


  1. Hope that the cold hasn't developed and that you are feeling better. The weather sounds awful, those temps and the humidity would finish me off I think. Happily it's definitely autumn here, still mild but leaves are turning and dropping very early thanks to our dry summer. We need rain but not this week while the girls are here:)

  2. What a delightful post or your excursions. Great photos.

    Hope you hear good news with the court situation.

    Enjoy your alone time and I hope you have fun doing some projects. It seems like last year or some other time your DH went away, you did some painting of your bedroom and maybe another room.

    Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

  3. Rowan: The 'cold' didn't develop--I think the big field of corn planted not far from the house is the culprit--pollen. We have about 8-10 weeks here when the heat and humidity can be very uncomfortable--balanced against the mild winter, it is do-able. Hope you have good weather for your company!
    FL: I did paint the larger of the two bedrooms while J. was away last year about this time--no such undertaking in mind--although there is another room that needs to be done. I still have paperwork to finish...not my favorite task!

  4. Wonderful post this morning.
    Funny how we want winter to end, from the cold, then we get hot and summer, and we wish for cooler and colder weather to filter in, funny creatures we truly are!
    We have finally got some cooler weather here. It was 38* Sat morning, and in the low to mid 70's during the day.
    I have some grape juice from my neighbor's wild Sandhill grape vine, and I have froze it too. Waiting for cooler weather also to fire up the stove. I have done enough canning through the heat so far, time for a break.
    Willis is so darn cute.
    Take care my friend.

  5. A wonderful trip around your property. I can smell all the smells and hear all the sounds, because you write so well. Were the barn cats out and about? We are having the craziest weather. They keep forecasting heat and it gets to 74 with a cool breeze. Today, Labor Day we had thunder showers and they are forecasting more tomorrow. We usually have a lot of heat during August and September, but so far nothing to complain about.

  6. Another fantastic post ....I cant believe how dry your earth is ...or how you cope with all these high temperatures especially with all the physical work you do.
    Willis is the best cat ever the way he follows you around and obeys instructions... so endearing.