Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Late Harvest


It has been a "weather breeder" sort of day. The sun has been hidden at times by clouds of pale grey.  Within moments the whipping wind shifted the clouds and the sun hung for a time in blue skies.  Leaves have rattled down from the trees to be whirled across the ground.
Mid-morning the combine rumbled down the road and began to harvest the dried ear corn in the 15 acre piece which J. leased to a neighboring farmer.

J. meanwhile had a final cutting of hay to "turn" and then bale, while keeping a wary eye om the changing aspects of the sky.


Pebbles was excited by the variety of noisy activities, loping from the front pasture to the back of her lot to keep up with the progress of the day's work.
At one point she was stationed in the back of her portion of the barn [the side ell which shows on the left side of the main structure in the photo] with her neck craned out the half door, head swiveling to follow the movement of the clattering combine.




I was delegated to steer Snort'n Nort'n around the field while J. loaded on bales.
Although I've driven many a "stick shift" truck I don't find Ole Nort'n user friendly.  The seat likes to stay in the far back position which suits J. and D. with their long legs.  I feel that I need to wind myself around the steering column in order to reach the clutch.

I bumped and lurched over the rough ground, trying to choose the easiest course amongst the scattered hay bales. This photo, taken through the truck windshield, shows the corn field after the combine made several rounds. The sky to the north was blue, but there was a distinctly unsettled feel to the windy day.

With the hay loaded and awaiting delivery to Dory the Cow [who lives at the Yoder's place]
I was free to check on the garden.  The late cabbages have reached a good size to begin harvesting.  We've had broccoli which needs to be eaten at its peak, and another picking of green beans, so cutting a cabbage will be postponed for a few days.

This strange autumn weather has prompted an unseasonal flowering of the blackberries.
These are so pretty with the delicate shadings of pink and green on white.

In the kitchen I packaged and labeled herbs dried in the oven on its lowest settings.
These were tucked into a box of goodies G. mailed off to her daughter in Colorado.
Note the packet included for Smokey the Cat!
The herb garden looked tired and bedraggled at the end of summer's heat, but has responded beautifully to rain and cooler, sunny days.
I wonder if the scents and flavors are a bit milder than earlier in the gardening season.
The kitchen still holds the fragrance from the trays of herbs spending time in the warm oven--and my cats have sampled the catnip and approved.

By late afternoon the corn plot had been shorn of its ears and the empty stalks rustled stiffly in the wind.
Pebbles grazed, ignoring the now silent machines.

A zoom shot of the harvesting machinery. Note the heaped kernals of shelled corn in the wagon.

The corn harvest is hauled away to storage.
We don't know yet when it will be marketed or what our share will be.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Desultory Days

Desultory:   marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose [Merriam-Webster]

'Desultory' is a word I admire.  I don't often get to use it in a spoken sentence, but the above definition suits
my days and nights of the past weeks.
J. returned on October 19 from a month in Wyoming, where he worked on a construction project
with our son.
J.'s work has often taken him away, and I have always adapted to that, finding things to do, and in spite of missing him, I revel in the chance to stay up past midnight, to play the piano at strange hours, to snatch a hasty snack of cheese, toast and tea, then return to the project at hand.

I have spent a large portion of my time outdoors, rising to cool misty mornings, bundling myself in faded 'hoodie', a down vest and my wellies to do the "chores"--cleaning litter boxes, dishing up grain for Pebbles and putting out her hay, taking fresh water and kibble to the barn cats.
By the time that was acomplished the sun had spread a swath of warmth onto the front porch, where, in company with Raisin, the old lady cat, I sat for a few minutes, my hands wrapped around a mug of coffee.

As the heavy dew sparkled underfoot, a trip to the upper garden was next, to check what needed to be harvested.
One morning in particular is lodged in my memory: a stirring wind and birds everywhere: crows speaking in hoarse racuous voices as they stalked across the cleared ground of the upper pasture; the shriek of a bluejay who had doubtless spied the cats in their fenced yard; a plump bird [mourning dove?] atop the post near the goat-willow tree; a toss of bluebirds wheeling above the garden fence.

The broccoli came on suddenly, so I called on G. and D. to  help eat it!

The sun shone and the wind blew throughout  warm days, swirling leaves down from the maples and strewing them across the yard.

Pebbles roamed her pasture, sometimes kicking up her heels and galloping like a youngster, seemingly inspired by the playful wind.

A clump of late Michaelmas daisies, smokey purple in the upper flower border.
[These are either Purple Dome or Patricia Ballard.  The tags have migrated about and of course I don't recall which variety I planted in which spot!]

Hawkeye Belle continues to produce her lovely pink blooms.  This one is on the small plant which has sprung up several feet from the parent bush.

Willis, soaking up the morning sunshine which streams in the south-facing opening of the hay barn.

There have been beans to pick and process.
G. and I dragged chairs into the back yard and sat in the sun to snip these in readiness for the canner.
I put up 12 pints from the first picking, 8 pints later in the week.

When I unfolded myself [creakingly] from the bean rows I noticed this cluster of raspberries.
I didn't leave them for the birds!  The berries were cool and sweet.

I was hoping the butterfly would unfold its wings for a photo.
It is either a monarch or a viceroy---there are slight differences in the markings of the lower wings.

The zinnias were looking quite ratty overall, but a few blooms such as this one earned them a few more days in the garden. 
Our first frost [Friday, Oct 21] blanched the last of the blooms and I pulled up the shabby plants today.

As I worked outside I pondered the possible adjectives to describe such lovely autumn days:
'golden'--'mellow'--'ripe'--we use familiar words again and again because they conjure  memories of  colors and scents, recollections of other seasons lived in other times and places.

I stayed outside, crouched  grubbing in the flower borders until the sun slid into the woods behind the old barns.  With my tools put away in the cluttered shop, I blundered stiffly to the house to scrub crusted earth from beneath my nails, stand in a hot shower, retire to my rocking chair with a mug of tea and a bowl of soup.

The dancing wind blew maple leaves into the cat yard, entrancing the resident felines who have chased, skittered and finally collapsed in the crispy heaps.
Mima-cat curls near the fence, alert to the birds who pass overhead.

The upper border after an afternoon of weeding and dividing and moving plants.
There are gaps where I dug up hollyhock [continually raddled with rust and bugs] moved peonies to the garden which D. created.  Other perennials which were mainstays of my Vermont gardens do not survive the heat and humidity of Kentucky summers;  delphinium, Canterbury bells, lady's mantle will bloom briefly then disappear and the place there-of knows them no more!  I don't think my gardening budget stretches to buying these each year for an early May flowering. 

In our second Kentucky year I'm noticing that local flower gardens peak in late May, relying heavily on flowering shrubs.  Plants which were a New England mainstay of July and August [coneflower, rudbeckia, butterfly weed, monarda] blossom here in June, then everything gasps as the heat moves in. 
Another year I will rely on annuals such as zinnias, marigolds, comos, which can stand the heat and can be seeded in place to take over when the perennials need to be cut back. 

I weeded down the back length of the border until I reached the lemon-scented southernwood which has been eclipsed by the clump of Michaelmas daisies.  My intention was to relocate the southernwood.
I realized suddenly that the daisies were alive with bees--honeybees and a few bumblebees.  I quietly removed myself from their busy activity--the southernwood can be moved when the bees are resting on a rainy day.

While I retreated from the Michaelas daisies, Willis did not.
I hadn't realized he was lurking that close to where I was working.
With his tweedy camouflage he has a disconcerting way of suddenly appearing when I least expect him!


The double knock-out roses continue to bloom.
It is easy to see why they are popular here--undaunted by heat and humidty, in nearly constant bloom until hard frost.


Yellow Simplicity takes a few weeks to revive between times of bloom.
These autumn roses are to be cherished, opening slowly in the chill of dewy mornings when the low slant of the sun is slower to reach them.

Inside the house, Willow the Kitten is proving to be a naughty little minx!
Since recovering from her "operation" she has become a determined climber, balancing daintily on the divider between the front doorway and the living area, teetering along the footrail of our huge bed, parading across my desk.
She is also determined to uproot the plants which I have repotted and brought in from their summer stay on the porch.  My cherished Christmas cactus has been hurled from its pot 3 times in 24 hours!  This is not about using the potting soil  as litter.  J. and I have both caught Willow in the act of flinging dirt and plants with joyful and unholy glee.  Stones, bits of broken pots, even a barricade of stout twigs around the rim of the pot have not deterred her.  She has been scolded, squirted with cold water, but I don't think she is cured.
Her brother, Wilbur, watches her bouts of destruction while reclining with folded paws on the table!

Today I separated the battered remnants of the cactus into four smaller pots, cutting a circle of black weed-barrier fabric to fit inside each pot under the topmost inch or so of soil.  I have arranged small stones on top.  I have hidden two of the pots amongst other plants brought in to winter under the grow lights in the basement laundry area.  Among those plants are 3 rosemarys and a scented 'snowflake' geranium.
As I washed up our supper dishes tonight, Willow wove lovingly about my ankles.  I picked her up, cuddled her.  Her fur smells of rosemary!

With J. home again the strangely patternless [desultory] days slide toward a more predictable routine.
Nights have been chilly, a wood fire morning and evening is welcome.
I attempt to sort particular moments from the blur of several weeks:
I recount to J. the night that coyotes yipped and howled at the edge of the woods as I was preparing for bed shortly after midnight.  I tell him how I stood in the yellow-white circle of the yard light and bellowed at the coyotes, "Git!  Go away--shut up!" They went quiet and I imagined them [startled?] slinking away among the tangle of trees where I have never walked.

I think of the mornings when my booted feet left a trail in the dew-sopped grass; when Willis the Cat found a sun-warmed spot on the porch to lick his tweedy paws dry after following me on my rounds.
There were hours and meals shared with our daughter and grandson.
There were busy hours of quiet---I'm not one who needs a radio or tv running as background noise.
There were times when I sang--for my own encouragement--and to the astonishment of the cats!

The garden is winding down--some beautiful cabbages yet to harvest, kale flourishing for
an early winter crop.
J. has wood to cut and stack.
As the angle of the sun slides lower and the days grow shorter, my mind turns to quilts that need to be completed, stacks of books which remain to be sorted into shelves--or relinquished to the Goodwill shop.
I will be baking more, soup will simmer on the back burner.
And I will watch the timeless turning of autumn toward winter, never tiring of the
changing of country seasons.




Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gremlins

Leanne notified me that comments had disappeared from the previous post on bathing cats.  I published the three comments on the Strange Flowering post--when I checked a few minutes later they had likewise disappeared.  The comments can be accessed by clicking on each individual post title, but that's not how I want it to work.  Have wasted nearly an hour reading helps and experimenting--I think this is beyond my limited skills to fix!
Always something!  Arrrgh!
Edited to add:  I'm finding that if you move the 'pointer' to the right of 'posted by" at the bottom of each post--the date and comment feature appear as a highlight--so the comments are there and accessable--who knows what I may have inadvertantly done to bring this about [?]--at any rate I don't know the FIX!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Strange Autumn Flowering

Last weekend I drove a few miles up the road to take an apple crisp to friends who are doing a major house remodel. I hadn't visited there before, so was given a tour of the old farm dooryard.
As we ambled past the hen yard Linda pointed overhead.  "Look at this old cherry tree," she directed. "I should take a photo to prove I haven't made up a story about a fruit tree that blossoms in October."
I thought of that tree several times this week, even considered driving back there with my camera, but didn't have time to do that.

I pass the crabapple tree in our side yard several times each day as I trek to and from the barn to feed Willis, Sadie and Sally, and to give Pebbles the Horse her morning ration of grain.
[Nearly every time I walk past I remind myself that I should attempt to cut away the trumpet vine which is determined to strangle the tree.]

Late in the morning today I took a load of laundry out to the clothesline.
As I pegged clean clothes on the line the sun was beaming directly into my eyes, so I  turned to face the opposite direction as I continued to shake out shirts and pin them to the line.

Raising my eyes I did a classic 'double-take'---I was gazing directly at the crab apple tree which
is adorned with a scattering of deep pink blooms.
I wonder if more fruit trees in our area are wearing these strange out of season blooms [?]
I expect if one knew where to look there are veterans of many Kentucky autumns who could tell us if this is a 'once in a blue moon' happening or a more common occurance.
Surely a venerable weather oracle might prophecy a cold winter [or a mild one] based
on such a phenomenon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

To Bathe or Not To Bathe

No, I haven't decided to give up habits of daily hygiene and good grooming in favor of
going about 'au naturel!'
The debate was whether or not to attempt bathing the cat tribe as part of the flea control
which has become necessary.
We're being told that its a bad season here in south-central Kentucky for FLEAS!
Daughter Gina has two dogs as well as her three cats; I have more cats than makes good sense [more than I ever intended to adopt!] 
G. declared war on the flea infestations this week and armed with advice from her Cousin David regarding flea combating products we set out for Tractor Supply.  TSC is a wonderful place where you can buy food for any kind of pet or farm animal as well as simple vet supplies, cleaners, parts for farm implements, wool socks, jeans, boots--a much friendlier destination in my mind than any up-town mall.
G. cornered her animals as soon as we returned home--a regular rodeo of dogs splashing in the bathtub, water sloshed all over, dog escaping through the side porch door and taking refuge in the neighbor's yard.
The cats were no easier--G. drove over about 9 p.m. to exhibit her numerous scratches.
I hadn't the gumption to tackle cat baths last evening, but was up at 6 this morning determined to get it over with.  At that, I wondered if lathering and rinsing cats is really the most efficient way to declare war on fleas.
I drew tepid water in the bathtub to a level that would come up to a cat's belly, set out the pet shampoo, spread a thick rug on the floor, put towels to  hand and hauled in my first victim.
No cat likes to be wet.  No cat likes to be held down and lathered.
Teasel was fairly cooperative--minimal flailing and seemingly grateful to be bundled in a big towel, even tolerated the blow dryer on a low setting.
"Maybe this won't be too bad," I encouraged myself.
I brought Charlie in next.  Charlie is a laid-back cat, a buffoon.  I was quite unprepared for his violent reaction to bathing.  He escaped the tub three times---tried to climb the wall, nicking the paint, caught a claw in my wedding ring and tried to hold on. Rugs, towels, the floor, my overalls were soaked.  I blotted water out of his long soggy fur and turned him loose.
Mrs. Beasley was next.  She was really quite good, but roared in a deep voice through out --sounding like a doleful foghorn.  As I squished suds through her coat, she ducked her chin into the water---"Burble, burble, meow, me--oooow!"
At this juncture I decided I needed fresh warm water before the next batch of cats, so flipped the lever to open the tub drain.  The water sat there.  I moved the lever up and down, realized that something in the innards had disconnected.
[The bathroom is the one room we didn't renovate, other than replacing a horrid carpet with vinyl tile and tearing off 30 year old wallpaper.]
Nothing for it, but to fetch in pliers and screw drivers, dismantle the stopper thing-y.
On the way to find tools, I discovered that someone [Charlie, no doubt, hoping to flee into the cat yard] had over-turned the big planter containing my Christmas cactus, which had dumped onto a choice 'beefsteak begonia' smashing off most of the leaves.
It was only 7 a.m. and already things were out of hand.
I swept up the potting soil, exchanging baleful glares with Charlie who had betaken himself to a box in the living room.  With the tub stopper inoperable, the cat bathing moved to the kitchen sink.
As per novels of a certain era, lets just say that a 'veil should be drawn' over the
proceedings of the next hour.
J.'s spoiled, pampered Raisin screamed blue murder, dragged two large bath towels into the sink.  Mima, the small gentle girl cat twisted like a slippery eel, splashing the kitchen floor with about a gallon of water. Dear old Eggnog and phlegmatic Maisie were bathed with the minimum of fuss.  I decided that no way would I even attempt to capture Chester who suffers from paranoia at the best of times.
I pushed the driest of the towels through the swamp on the floor, hauled them, dripping, down to the laundry.
I kindled the fire in the livingroom fireplace, built another fire in the family room.
Leaving damp and disgruntled cats strewn about the house, I put on my wellies
and trekked out to feed Pebbles and the barn cats.

Rain has fallen softly most of the day.  I like to peg laundry out to dry in sun and wind, but decided that since I had to deal with a pile of soggy towels I might as well launch a sort of fall cleaning.
The washer and dryer have chugged all day with cushion covers, a quilted bedspread, the throws and small blankets used in a feeble attempt to keep cat hair off furniture.
Clean, fluffy-dry cats have been fitted with flea collars.
All of us who keep indoor pets struggle to come to terms with the very real mess that animals can make, and with the cost of veterinary care, decent quality food and supplies necessary for our pets.
I have never been without cats--I wouldn't wish to be without them.
But, Oh! there are the days when I despair of this tribe who can't keep their paws on the floor, but must climb into cupboards, sit on the table, shove things onto the floor--OVERTURN MY PLANTS!
There are skid marks on the edges of windowsills and stands, unspeakable shreddings of upholstered furniture, and the ever renewable supply of cat hair.  And then there are hairballs!  And litter boxes.

The quirky individuality of each cat, the comfort of feline companionship, of nattering 'conversations' and throaty purrs surely balance the scale, but as I've told my tribe today, "It's a good thing I love you!"


Wilbur

Willow
The two youngest members of the family were not subjected to baths. 

The vet removed their flea collars last Friday when they were in for surgery and didn't return them.
Wilbur is a wary boy--he chirps at me, then whisks out of reach.
Willow is a love--she natters, twines about my ankles, parades across my desk.
Heaven knows we didn't need kittens, but here they are, already absorbed into the family.



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Busy Autumn Days

Wilbur bares his teeth in mock savagery as his little sister,Willow, launches an attack.

Willow and Wilbur went to the vet clinic early on Friday morning for spay/neuter.
Here they are Thursday evening wrestling on the guest room bed just beyond my big desk.
  They have been so rambunctious that I flung this old spread over the bed to protect one of my nice quilts.
Needless to say W. and W. didn't do any playing on Friday evening. They tottered about, collapsing groggily every few minutes. I didn't allow them the run of the house for fear they would
tumble down the basement stairs.
By Saturday morning they were perkier and interested in breakfast.
I had 'vouchers' for the surgical procedures--both because we qualify as 'senior citizens' [aarrgh!] and because I had donated to the animal shelter.
I requested that their innoculations be done while they were at the clinic--its a good thing I was leaning against a counter when the bill was presented for that!
Please--no more stray cats for a bit!

G. and I worked most of Wednesday to 'put up' the tomatoes she purchased at the Mennonite produce stand.  There are 40 quarts in the line-up here--the remaining 8 quarts were done on Thursday.

G. found this 'parsley worm' as she was harvesting parsley.  When she touched it, out came those
tiny orange 'horns.'

Looking at this side view of the creatures 'legs' its easy to understand why some bulldozers
have the brand name of "Caterpillar."


Its a rare morning that doesn't reward me for the effort of going outdoors first thing. Once I have creaked my way into an assortment of warm old clothes and pulled on my wellies, there is a sense of praise for yet another day to go about the simple chores of feeding the barn cats and scooping grain for Pebbles [who assures me in trumpeting tones that she is about to starve.]
 Saturday morning was mild, misty and very beautiful.


The wide-angle photo of the yard and the mist over Big Creek Valley was taken standing on the still-shaded path to the hay barn.

 
I was whisking through tall pasture grass [returning from the cat litter dump near the tree line] as the sun struck the back field and the cold mist began to melt and glimmer on every blade of grass and on the dozens of spider webs.

I tried close ups, macro settings and distance shots attempting to capture the sparkle of dew on these fuzzy seedheads. None of the photos do justice to the reality.

I zig-zagged through the fine guy wires of stretched spider silk, noting how quickly white mist melted into clear droplets of water as the sun advanced.


 
A clump of wild 'frost asters' bends low in the rough grass beyond the grape arbor.

Naturalized morning glory grows in  lax tangles behind the woodshed and
invades the gardens, grasping and climbing its way up the stalks of sturdier plants.

7: 45 a.m. and the mist swiftly dissolving into a million minute splatters of wet.

Faithful Willis has made the rounds with me, flattening himself in dew-soaked clumps of grass,
then launching himself at my boots as I swish through the grass.
Here D. has just driven in on his way to work a 14 hour day at a neighbor's house-renovating project.
Willis adores D.--in fact he prefers the company of the men of the family over mine.
He flung himself at D. who makes a great fuss over him.

D. was shortly on his way and Willis sought the sun-warmed comfort of the front porch to dry his sopping feet.