Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Mornings

Mornings have been steamy with mist and shimmering heat.
Most of the early summer birds have fallen silent, but the hummingbirds still zoom and whir around the front porch, tireless in their mock battles.

Mist billows up from Big Creek across the road;
The newly mowed front meadow is heavy with dew.

August is the month for spider webs.
Those draped on the nandina shrubs by the garden spiders [argiope aurantia] are quite visible.
Smaller spiders reel out their sticky silk in unexpected places.
There's nothing quite like walking into a spider's web as a beginning to my day!

An intricate web repaired overnight.

This is probably the largest web I've ever seen.

A close-up of the web, outlined in silvery dew.

Spider webs on the trellis which supports the clematis.

The garden spider rests in the center of her creation, deep in the tangle of mint and roses.

Dew shimmers on the whiskery petals of a cleome.

Morning glory clings to a honeysuckle vine.
At 8 A.M. the heat is already stifling, sucking  color and freshness from the morning.
I lumber through my chores and return to the house, glad to shower and stay inside.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I was out of bed a few minutes after 6 this morning, having been quietly awake since 4:45. 
[Had I been less than quiet not only would I have disturbed J. the cats would have pounced, happily insistent that they were starving and needed immediate attention.]
The air was heavy with mist and the sound of a horse's hooves was loud as I stepped into the car port.
Several Amish men have been riding to work together all summer--not in a buggy but hunched on the seat of a buckboard--rain or shine.
Perhaps the wife didn't need the buggy today and the men drove to work in comfort, red LED lights flashing. 

The buddleia has put out a few fresh blooms.
The butterflies who hover on them have a tired shabby appearance.
They flit about and as I press the shutter I'm never sure what the image will capture.
This was a lucky shot!

A bee drowsing on a sunflower.

Tiny insects on a cosmos.
These have flourished in the cool damp weather.

Sunflowers are interesting at every stage of development.

The cabbages and broccoli set out yesterday have appreciated the heavy dew overnight.

Grapes!  Dear me, the grapes.
The former owner, Mr. Rogers planted grapes, two varieties.
We have snipped and pruned each year trying to tame the tangle of vines which had fallen off the arbor and clambered through the honeysuckle.
This is the year of reward--instead of heat and drought shriveled raisins we have grapes.
J. cut these last night.
I've spent most of the day leaning against the kitchen sink stemming grapes.
I have stewed up three kettles full.
I've pressed one batch through cheesecloth--a messy affair needing 4 hands--the others are cooling and awaiting the same treatment.
In theory the grape pulp is meant to drip slowly.
Fruit flies were already congregating in the kitchen and I didn't wish to encourage their reproductive tendencies with sticky kettles of juice sitting about.
When the two remaining kettles cool enough to handle, we'll strain the remainder. In the morning I'll give it a second straining to filter out some of the pulp
I suppose I'll be bottling juice.
J. made noises about grape jelly, but I reminded him that we have jelly and jam on the storage shelves that hasn't been consumed.
[You can tell I'm balking about jelly-making!]

There are still more grapes ripening in the shade of the arbor.
Oh, help!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mundane Monday

 On Friday J. tilled up two strips in the lower garden. 
He would have liked to go over it for a finer tilth, but the ground is still a bit damp.

I took his camera outside to record the process, then wandered around the windblown row of sunflowers, billowing cosmos and tilting zinnias.

Butterflies aren't troubled by weeds in the flower garden.
The day was overcast and butterflies drifted through the quiet air, hovering in groups, flitting on.

Many of the butterflies had a faded tattered appearance--rather in keeping with the melancholy skies and the battered flowers on which they perched.

Jim found this swallowtail clinging to the side of a tractor he is in the process of refurbishing.  He thought it looked like a new sort of 'decal.'

Late on Sunday afternoon I was sewing in the basement room which I claim as mine--the space for my books, fabric, and such.
The door into the back hall was open, as was the outer door that leads up the basement stairs to the back yard.
Jim had earlier been sweeping up leaves and debris that had blown into the steps.
It was, of course, the cats who alerted me to an intruder in the hallway.
Turning from sewing machine to cutting table I noted Edward and Nellie hovering over a dark object.
My neighbor Gracie was here, and M. and G. had just come in, our house being the turn-around point in their evening walk.
We all converged on the strange beetle which was trundling along the floor.
In spite of its size, the creature was not aggressive. 

G. quickly fetched a standard spool of thread to use as a size comparison for the beetle.

I also brought in one of my quilt rulers and gently prodded the beetle in line.
That was when I noticed that cat hairs were caught in its front set of legs and clinging to its face!
I didn't want to risk pulling any bits of feet from the beetle, but tried to whisk off some of the hair.
When we had all admired the creature, I lifted it on a sheet of paper, transferred it to a plastic tray and carried it outside where I tipped it into the thick tangled growth that has come up in the area where 
daffodils are planted.
A Google search seems to confirm that this is an Eastern Hercules beetle.
My grand daughter K. who knows about such things, says this is the female.
Reading on through the article here : 
I wonder if the beetle in pupae stage overwintered in a chunk of firewood which I keep stacked in the back hallway.She may also have been turned up in J.'s recent ditching to lay the new electrical cable. The last few feet of that process disturbed some fine roots which stretch from the box elder tree.
Where ever she came from, Lady Hercules was quite a diversion!

Morning was quiet and overcast when I pulled back the curtains at 6:15 today.
I wasn't feeling quite ready to pitch into the day but the cats were clamoring for their breakfast.
I dished out dollops of canned food, measured coffee and water into the coffee maker and stood leaning against the sink, gazing out at the scattering of leaves which have begun to fall from the box elder tree.
Daybreak is no longer noisy with bird song. 
The dew-soaked grass is cold against my sandaled feet if I step off the porch or carport. 
The sun eventually climbed out of the mist and banks of cloud.
I laundered sheets and towels, pegged them on the clothesline.
J. suggested we drive to Wal Mart to pick up broccoli and cabbage plants.
G. needed to go along and our combined errands stretched over several hours.
In late afternoon  J. and I set the plants into the newly turned earth of the lower garden.
He went out to pick grapes, bringing in two baskets full of the sweet smelling fruit.
{What am I to do with all those grapes?]
I made supper.
I watered plants on the porch.
I cleaned the hummingbird feeder and filled it with fresh sugar syrup.
I replied to the comments on my last blog post!
The day has spun out in small tasks, none of them very important or noteworthy.
I think we sometimes need these quiet times when the hours settle around us and few demands are made.
By tomorrow the pace will pick up again--those grapes mustn't go to waste!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rainy Weather Quilts/Quilts for Cats

Having already grizzled and grumbled about nearly incessant rain over the past month, I will refrain from carrying on about it again.
Rather, I'll show you what I've been creating while holed up in my cozy basement room.
While I didn't feel energetic enough to tackle complicated quilt block patterns, I challenged myself to see what I could make using some of my rather extensive fabric stash.
If the above fabric looks familiar--it is. Its a good thing that I'm still liking those Moda lines, Wuthering Heights and Double Chocolat--would you believe there are still some remnants lurking in my cupboard?
This is an alternate light and dark setting of 36 [ 9 inch] Log Cabin blocks, with sashing and cornerstones.
The quilt finished at 68 x 68.
It is shown here prior to machine quilting.

Raisin, Jim's elderly cat, sniffs the quilt, just returned from an area quilter.

If I had unlimited funds dedicated to quilting, I would send my quilt tops either to Wyoming Quilts [where I worked prior to retirement and moving] or to Knox Hill Quilts in my hometown of Orwell, Vermont.
My attempts at machine quilting anything other than baby quilt size have not pleased me--my piecing skills are precise and the quilts deserve a decent finish.
This one was quilted locally.
The woman who quilted this has reopened the shop her mother closed a year or more ago.
She offers only one stitching pattern--a 'wishbone' motif.
Batting is a mid-weight poly and the backing choices are white or 'natural' muslin.
She uses a mid-arm industrial Singer machine.
Interestingly, the machine is fixed and the rolled quilt is placed on a simple rack which is pushed along to change the sewing area.
The fee for quilting this piece was $24.00 and included the batting and 
[as they call it in Kentucky] the 'lining.'
In Wyoming I had my 'everyday' quilts finished with an all-over stipple stitch.
It was the most economical choice, but definitely pricier than this--and I supplied the backing.
I'm happy to find this as my 'new stipple' option for quilts which will see a life of wash and wear.

Log Cabin blocks are straight cutting, straight stitching--there is no trimming, no fitting of bitty pieces.
There are endless possibilities for setting the blocks and using various colors.
This is a Star setting and the light sides of the blocks are a mix of off-white 'tone-on-tone' fabrics.  The darker sides are dusty pastels.

I've delivered this quilt to a lady who offers a few more quilting options--which will cost me a bit more, but still very reasonable.
This quilt also has 36 -12" blocks, but wider borders bring it up to 94 x 94.

Almost a decade ago I made a classic Flying Geese quilt, setting the small patches in rows divided by lengthwise strips of printed fabric.
I was apparently on a roll of cutting leftover fabric into 'geese' for I discovered I had a supply of them tucked away in a plastic bin.
Browsing a quilt magazine I saw this setting which utilized 4 'geese' and 4 plain rectangles for each 12" block.
I remembered [in the middle of a restless night] that I had YARDS of the rosy brown fabric and devised this setting to create a quilt 85 x 95.
It has a cream muslin backing and cost $41.00 for the quilting.
I have to state that I was initially reluctant to leave my quilts with this quilter--when I noticed an ashtray next to her sewing machine.
We aren't smokers and find the scent of cigarettes in a room or on clothing, upholstery, etc offensive.
I concede anyone's right to smoke, but feel it is unprofessional to subject a client's work to the smell.
At least in this weather the quilter was working with windows open.  I hung the quilts on the clothesline for about 2 hours prior to bringing them downstairs to apply bindings.

Detail of Flying Geese in the quilt border.

Detail of 'wishbone' quilting pattern.

 Oh yes--the cat part of the project!
Cats like to sleep on beds--with or without their favorite humans in place.
Constantly laundering queen and king-sized quilts that have collected cat hair, muddy paw prints or [dare I say] the odd hairball hawked up at midnight, is a chore.
I wanted several simple quilts which can be layered on top of the quilted spreads or more elaborate quilts to keep them clean.

Edward kept me company this morning as I machine stitched the binding.
I pulled the ironing board and a chair close to my sewing table to support the quilt as I  laboriously chugged  around securing the binding. [I only hand finish binding on small or special quilts!]
Edward leaped to the ironing board and burrowed under the folds of the quilt.
He stayed there peacefully even as I maneuvered the quilt around.

The cats on the new quilt are [clockwise] Willow, Teasel and Nellie.


Nellie, inside from prowling in wet grass, blissfully drying off on the new quilt.

Teasel, my beloved.
No photo of the 4th quilt which I left with the local quilter.
G. has laid claim to it.
I have the binding prepared for it and laid aside.
This weekend I will make another binding and finish the small Log Cabin quilt--it will be a nice size to spread on the back of the loveseat--or to take into a chair come winter--a homey quilt, a purring cat, a mug of tea and a good book--what could be more soothing?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Photos With a Few Words

We have at last experienced two whole nights and two days when it DID NOT RAIN!
The long spell of rain, humidity and heat broke on Monday evening.
Prior to that, nightly torrents of rain accompanied by rumblings of thunder have disturbed our sleep.
The air has been so heavy with moisture that it seemed one could reach up and squeeze it out
--like wringing a sponge!
Mornings brought little relief from the sense of heaviness--swirls of mist rising from the creek, trees and garden plants bowed with the weight of too much rain.
My brain has felt befogged and slow; threads of thought have appeared only to skitter away when I tried to pin them down with words.
Squelching about in my boots I discovered that the 'garden spiders' as they are locally called, have made their webs this year in the nandina bushes which march along the east and south sides of the house. I haven't pruned them this summer and the dense growth appeals to argiope aurantia.

I am not an insect lover, but these large handsome spiders intrigue me.
Their webs have a characteristic 'zig-zag' stitch down the center. Often the spiders rip apart a portion of the web and rework it overnight.

This is the first year I have planted cleome, growing both a white and a rose variety from seed.
Note the whiskery bits.
Both butterflies and hummingbirds find the pink flowers attractive.

Willis the cat is partial to this hump of grey rock on the front lawn. 
He sprawls there with the pink blossoms a fitting background for his grey tweed suit.

Butterflies on zinnias.

A zinnia unfurls on a misty morning.

The sunflowers with bronzed petals are my favorites.

When I went outside two weeks ago to find the sunflowers flattened, stalks bent, I thought of cutting them down to clean up the area.  I was deterred by yet more rain.
The sunflowers, valiant things that they are, have bloomed from their horizontal positions.

The tumble of sunflowers, cosmos and zinnias against the welcome 
blue skies of Wednesday morning.

I have pulled up yards and yards of naturalized morning glory in our previous three summers. 
There is always more of it.
The persistent vines clamber up the sunflower stalks and the blue blossoms peek out.
There is also a very invasive plant--visible in left center of the photo--it puts down roots where ever the stems touch soil.  It is a nuisance plant [I don't know its name] in spite of the tiny bright blue flowers.

My father planted morning glories near the side porch of his Vermont home for many years. 
He put up strings for them to climb, fussed over them, fumed when at nearly summer's end they had gone up the supports and turned back down again without blossoming. 
Perhaps these find the Kentucky climate more conducive to bloom.
I have to admire their 'heavenly blue' even as I scold over their persistence in appearing where they aren't wanted!

I spent a long morning yanking weeds from the lower perennial strip--the area so laboriously cleared at the end of June. It is mostly grass that invades, along with a wiry stemmed plant of the legume family.
Stems are lank and watery, the ground revealed when a handful is pulled away is soggy.
After several hours I was hot, sweaty, muddy-kneed, and impressed that I am fighting a weary battle this season against weeds and wet weather.
Nellie loves to burrow beneath the plants and spring out at the butterflies which I disturb with my flailing about.

The sunflowers still upright are way taller than I am--although they were labeled as 'dwarf.'
These are from saved seed, the originals were planted in 2010.

J. has been mystified all summer by the power to the garage cutting out at intervals.
He and Matt have fiddled with breakers, jiggled things trying to find a bad connection.
Tired of the outages and not finding the source of the trouble--most likely an underground 'short' in the line--J. consulted with old Mr. Rogers the last owner of the place as to where he had strung the power line.
Haskell Rogers at 97 is still very much in his right mind. With his directions as to the location of the original wiring, J. has disconnected it and laid a new 220 cable that leads out of the basement and across the yard to the garage--new breakers have been installed.
The new cable is buried along the inner edge of my herb garden, beside the concrete block retaining wall.
J. was able to carefully lay the cable with the minimum of disturbance to the lavender and woolly thyme along the wall.

J. rented a 'Ditch Witch' to get the trench deep enough for the electrical cable.

The cats were, of course, fascinated at the fresh earth turned up by this process.
The trench made a perfect 'hide' for mock battles, the moist dirt was a cool place to rest after exertions and also needed to be used as a temporary cat latrine!

I close this rambling post--the recollections of a scattery week--with this spill of cosmos.
These are also from saved seed.
They don't seem to mind their weedy space or the fact that they have been flattened by wind, rain and toppling sunflowers!