Thursday, February 28, 2013

Daffodils and a Sunday Walk

Big Creek sparkles in the sunshine of a clear afternoon.

This whispy shrub grows along the verges, red-berried in winter--I don't know its name.

And down the road the daffodils have shivered through many a wintery wind, their golden cups bowed, but still lovely.

Removed from our dooryard by the breadth of a field is this small abandoned house.
Like many others in the area it seems to have been empty for a number of years, slowly giving in to weather and neglect.  The surrounding dooryard has become part of a pasture where a man from a ridge or two away keeps his beef cattle. The cows munch and plod their way about, surprisingly not trampling the clumps of daffodils that dot the yard.
G. peered in past the tattered shades drawn over the windows and remarked that a once delightful small kitchen faced the south with an outlook down the valley.
At the bottom edge of the photo you can see that the house sits on a piled stone foundation, fallen away in places. I can imagine that the house was uninsulated and chilly in its days of habitation.

The back wall of an enclosed porch is leaning, the eaves above it crumbling. The rusty remains of a hand pump jut from the yard, now liberally dotted with 'cow-pies.'

There are no signs forbidding trespassers, so G. and I clambered over the sagging fence and picked bouquets of daffodils, leaving many to delight the eyes of those driving past--if they care to look and appreciate.
The two trees in front of the house are hollies--I didn't realize a holly could grow that large.

This bristly specimen stands near the creek bank.
I puzzled over the identity--G. remembered that someone described similar trees as a locust.
It doesn't look like the variety of locust tree familiar in New England.
A wikipedia article identifies it as as 'honey locust' and shows a similar photo.
The Honey locust, Gleditsia triacanthos, also known as the thorny locust, is a deciduous tree native to central North America. It is mostly found in the moist soil of river valleys ranging from southeastern South Dakota to New Orleans and central Texas, and as far east as eastern Massachusetts.
Here is a verticle view of the tree.
Drying leaves have caught in the thorns creating nest-like cups.
I think it would take a hardy bird to raise its young in such a prickly place.

The daffs in our yard are not as full-blown as those along the road.
The buds have shivered in the cold since appearing prematurely in January. A stretch of warm days has seen them raising their heads, then they bow to the cold winds and rain looking utterly blighted.
Bobby and Nellie are rootling in a patch of catnip--Several clumps have wintered over, but have been nearly demolished by the vigorous attentions of the boys.

Tiny red leaves on the Knock-Out roses near the east wall of the garage.

Bobby, caught licking his lips in enjoyment of a catnip morsel.
[Photos didn't load in the order I wanted!]

Leaf buds on the tree peony near the veg garden fence.
Days of blue skies and sunshine occur just often enough to encourage us that winter will end.
Kentucky winters are not harsh, surely not in comparison to those endured in New England and the interior west.
This has been a winter marked by rainy drizzle and the grey, glowering days that accompany rain.
Most days have had a bitter wind.
As soon as my household chores are finished I build a fire downstairs, turn on the sewing machine and delve into my stacks of beautiful fabric.
Several of the cats patter down the stairs to join me, sprawling on the rug in front of the fire, tumbling into the old wing chair, or--in the case of the over-grown kittens-- getting in my way on the iroing board or cutting table.  Today I will stitch the two remaining borders on my sampler quilt, the 4th quilt top completed since January. [Two of the quilts are 'lap-quilts', so  this is not as daunting an accomplishment as it might seem!]
I pay for this dedication to my sewing with a few more aches than usual in neck and shoulders, but the pleasure of seeing a finished project [which I hope will be cherished by the recipients] sustains me.
Spring weather WILL arrive and with it the need to be out of doors and laboring in the gardens.
Until then, surely only weeks away, mugs of tea, the fire and the whir of the sewing machine.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Exhibit of Quilts

My friend Gracie and I spent a pleasant hour viewing the quilts on exhibition at the Fine Arts building of the local college.  All were made by Denise Stewart, an area quilter.
The small gallery is an interesting space, light and airy, with architectual 'dividers' which create nooks and alcoves, so that the works on display can be 'discovered' rather than being all visible at once.
The first group of small quilts were made with Asian-themed fabrics--beautiful colors and patterns that are reminiscent of chinoiserie

This was a striking piece but too bold for my taste.
The pattern is made up of 'pyramid' shapes with a dark sashing.

Gracie and I both loved this French Braid quilt with its shades of purple in a 'colorwash' effect.

Detail of the chevron piecing and the lovely border fabric in a berry/bramble motif.

This quilt is a variation of the Ohio Star pattern with a pieced sashing that creates a secondary design.
I would find this too vivid for a bed covering--but it draws the eye busily around the
intersections of the pattern.

Close up of Ohio Star detail.

The piece de resistance was an appliqued sampler quilt.
My camera didn't fully capture the dimensional effects. There are pleats in the basket fabric and the flowers are gathered with yo-yo centers.

A block at the top of the sampler quilt--I had to hold my camera at an upward slant.

The 'berries' on this wreath are gathered 'yo-yo's.'

Beautiful blooms.

An Ocean Waves quilt. The effect of movement in this piece was so well defined that Gracie declared she felt seasick!  Denise made a miniature in this pattern with the same fabrics--Gracie found that one much less disturbing.

This wall hanging has the radiating effect of a starburst.
When piecing something like this in segments I would have to be very careful with my color layout.

Gracie and I were very drawn to this quiet quilt--bare trees on a snowy ground and three cardinals [the Kentucky state bird!] strategically placed.

Close-up of the machine appliqued cardinal and the machine stippled quilting.
This quilt had a flannel backing in a black and white motif.

Lacy 'doilies' set into the pieced blocks of this classic Valentine.

A Labyrinth.
Gracie and I found this one rather brooding: think cement block structures, dark tunnels and hidey-holes. Again, although this was not a difficult pattern the placement of light and dark materials is key.

An example of fused applique
"We Three Kings."

A smaller Labyrinth design.

The flowers are pieced very simply, although from a distance they appear to have been appliqued.
The border is composed of navy and white triangle squares 'floated' on an outer navy border.
Interestingly, it seemed that no batting had been used in these quilts--perhaps because most were intended as display pieces rather than warm bed covers.
I'm glad that we treated ourselves to this outing and hope that those of you who enjoy quilts or other crafts will be inspired by the photos.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Late Winter: Marking Time

There has been a sameness to our recent days that hasn't invited blogging.
I'm not bored, mind you, but puttering away at quilt construction, the daily rounds of meals and chores, even the capricious weather, haven't sparked ideas that must be shared via an essay or two.
We've had gusty weather, rain blown in on wind, raw days that, while not below freezing, have had a cold bite to the air.
The sun slinks out on these days for a few minutes, then skulks back behind the piles of grey clouds.

The daffodils near the carport were lured unwisely into budding shortly after Christmas.
Half-opened buds have shivered, blighted, in the cold winds.

Several of the maples in the dooryard show reddened buds against the sky, as does the 'goat-willow' on the front lawn. I considered cutting a few branches to enjoy the silvery pussywillows indoors, then remembered that the cats would undoubtedly drag them from the vase and carry them all over the house.

A shaggy daffodil which has managed to open.

Buds in their nests of dried leaves.

A clump of iris poking up in the chilly earth.

Catnip is growing strong and green under the yellow rose.
I have a goodly stash yet of the dried herb, but the cats enjoy a fresh sprig snipped into bits on the dining area floor.

J. drove the car around on the back yard to wash it near the hose spigot.
Nellie decided he should help.
The three kittens--nearly cats--are possessed of an insatiable curiosity, the kind that makes me anxious for their safety.
Nothing inside or outside the house is undertaken that they aren't in the way.

The hose is twitching--Nellie wonders if it is alive.

Not surprisingly, when Nellie rushed in the back door a few minutes later, his long fur needed toweling.

Bobby, meanwhile, having helped with a variety of outdoor chores, has decided he's ready for a nap.

Both Bobby and Nellie have to have knots and tangles combed from their long fur.
Nellie doesn't mind--can you tell that Bobby doesn't appreciate my assistance with his grooming?

J. has finished a number of his restoration projects and goes about with the camera snapping pix.
The camera is dumped on my desk along with scribbled notes and instructions about posting various items for sale on craigslist.
It is not my favorite thing to do--surely not a difficult task, though sometimes time-consuming as I wait for photos to load.
I find I am reluctant to see the red truck offered for sale.
Do we have use for it?  Probably not--it belongs to the years of the construction business in Wyoming.
It was also the last of several diesel trucks which I regularly drove there, before J. decided that a small car would make more sense in terms of fuel costs.
J. had a spate of phone calls last week and men popping up in the dooryard to view various items.
These encounters seem to take a great deal of time beyond the actual transaction, if there is one.
I suspect that a good deal of autobiographical detail is exchanged, a certain
amount of what I call idle 'tire-kicking.'
Wheelin' and dealin' is a blood legacy for J. and his brothers, coming down from a long line of such recorded in the paternal family history.
It is a trait he passed to his own son, and seems to have trickled down to our grandson as well.
All this dealing and swapping leaves me a bit unsettled.
Time to retreat to my cozy fire and the current quilt-in-progress!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Short List of Things to Do

Another morning of undecided weather--the sun peeked through and then skulked away not to reappear.
There are always the necessary things to do which don't change much from day to day: simple meals to prepare, kitchen clean-up after meals, laundry, pet care, mail.

I had in mind to go downstairs and sew when J. inquired if I would like to clean the harness which he acquired with the vintage buggy.
I made noises indicating a lack of enthusiasm, but within moments he reappeared laden with an armload of leather straps of varying lengths and widths, held together with a confusion of buckles.  This unwieldy heap was deposited with a clatter on the living room floor.  A brief rummage produced a variety of leather cleaners which he lined up encouragingly.
Seeing that my help had been assumed, I spread newspapers atop an old tablecloth and pulled a section of harness free from the tangle on the floor.
While I fetched a pile of soft rags Bobby leaped to the table and settled himself in a circle of leather.

Cleaning the harness wasn't strenuous work.
I made a mug of green tea which I set within reach.
The leather straps were fairly supple and I quickly established a pattern for working the leather dressing in with a soft brush, one side then the other; a swipe with the cloth and the cleaned piece could be draped over the chair and the next section brought to the table.

Over the years I've been drafted into various of J.'s 'projects.'
Quite often this has meant hand sanding of some object, painting, clearing up behind the men at a house construction site, or doing detail work which required a steady hand.
As I rubbed at the leather straps I decided that the scent of beeswax, lanolin and other oils in the leather dressing was preferable to the harsh odor of paint, polyurethane and various solvents such as mineral spirits or paint thinner.
My hands were grubby when I finished my task and my nails needed the scrub brush, but after a good lathering with soap and warm water, I realized that my hands were soft and smooth and smelled faintly of the leather cleaner--as did the room where I had been working.
I should have had a paste for shining the buckles and clasps--that will have to wait for another time.

I brought my quilt blocks upstairs and spread them on the table.
The colors of this fabric line are lovely.
None of the block patterns have been difficult, but it has been a fiddly process as the component pieces are cut for one block at a time, thus stream-lined assembly is not possible.
There are a lot of short seams to press and line up with the adjacent blocks.
This will be a true 'sampler quilt' when finished and more of a display piece than a bed cover.
I'm feeling ready to do something more traditional, something with a timeless appeal.

By the time I had caught up with a few chores, it didn't seem worth while to build a fire downstairs for an hour or two of sewing.
I was pleased with my progress on Sunday afternoon, having divided my time between the quilt and a bit of genealogy research undertaken for a friend of my sister, M.
The list of quilting projects that appeal to me, turn over in my head.
I am haunted by notebooks full of genealogy 'research' which needs to be sorted and typed.
Wrestling with bank statements and income tax is a looming chore which I dread.

Today I have been fascinated with many articles on-line dealing with the discovery of the bones of Richard III. I've had a least a vague grasp of the succession of dynasties in England, although I've read more historical fiction than solid biographical and historical works.
I was loaned Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time' not long before leaving Wyoming and the reading of that reminded me of the mystery of Richard's nephews in the tower and the suspicion that he had been responsible for their disappearance.
After supper I wallowed through a long and poorly organized article in wikipedia re the Plantaganet families. I confess to nodding off several times.
I seem never to run short of things-I-want-to-do or things-that-must-be done.  Surely there is a third rather blurred category--things-that-ought-to be done!
I've never managed to juggle it all as well as I'd like!
Pondering aside, I need to give the kitchen one last tidy or be greeted with a mess in the morning.
Tomorrow is another day--and the list will be reworked, a few tasks ticked off with ever more queing up for attention.