Friday, September 27, 2013

Outdoor Projects

On Monday I finished the horror of necessary bookwork--not a task for which I have much aptitude and made more frantic by J.'s hap-hazard [non] record keeping.
I felt, quite self-righteously, that I was due some 'time out'.
On Tuesday I served a hearty mid-morning meal [meant to sustain the man of the house for some hours] pegged out a load of wash, tended cats, did a small amount of tidying.
Armed with a mug of tea, I headed downstairs anticipating that I would finish the quilt which has been in progress for several weeks.
J. meanwhile, had driven the Dodge truck--Ole Snort'n Nort'n, to the end of the driveway where he could stand on the back and lop off some offending branches from the scraggly redbud trees.

Feathery lichens on redbud twigs.

I had happily discovered the perfect fabric for quilt borders, hauled it from the depth of the cupboard and gotten out the tools of the quilting trade when J. appeared on the stairs.
'What?' I demanded, my standard greeting when he looms into my space.
'I thought we'd go look at paint chips and get some paint  for the garage--to match the house.'
I stowed my rotary cutter, scissors and pincushion back in the drawer of my sewing table, switched off the lamp, patted Teasel-Cat who had settled in to help.
If there is anything for which I will interrupt my plans, it is DIY Home Improvement.
We collected paint chips at Wal Mart, but couldn't locate a clerk to help us.
We drove the few miles home, matched a color chip to the yellow vinyl siding of the house, then went to Ace Hardware on the other side of town where, within minutes, an obliging and knowledgeable young man was mixing 3 gallons of 'Cheery Yellow' paint. 
It is as perfect a match for the house siding as such 
things can be.

The small garage was 'farmer-built' over 30 years ago of recycled and inexpensive materials.
Mr. Rogers [who built it] told us the rafters were yellow poplar, salvaged from the home of his mentor, Dr. Nell.  [The doctor returned from a night time house call up in the hills to find his home, his wife and all but one child were swept away in the infamous flood of 1907.]
Mr. Rogers wryly recalled that as he was framing the little building the wind came up and skewed the uprights.  He took his tractor and pulled them back into square--or as nearly as he could!
The pressed board siding has taken the worst beating on the south side of the building.
There is a ramshackle lean-to tacked on the end of the building.
We store firewood in it, and the garden rakes and shovels are lined up on the wall just inside the entrance.
During the summer months I don't go farther in than reaching for a spade or rake--no telling what lurks in the cobwebby depths.

Painting in progress.

At the end of Thursday most of the garage has had two coats of paint. The doors have been painted to match the prefabbed shutters which we purchased at Lowes.
Today Jim added painted 'trim' along the eaves.
No photo yet.]

The roses along the east wall of the garage were not pruned this summer.
I tackled them on Wednesday, cutting them back severely.
Mint planted to billow around the shanks of the bushes had rampaged in the wet weather and clambered up to wave at the top of the tallest rose bush.
I am over mint as a garden addition.
My roses don't seem to be suffering from unsightly exposed ankles and shins and I don't particularly like mint tea! In spite of yanking up yards of roots I'm sure we'll never be completely mintless.

I left several branches of the roses untrimmed as the garden spiders have placed their egg sacs in the 
twiggy shelter. 

A giant mantis was walking up the garage door.
D. spied it and fetched out my camera.

If these creatures were large they might be scary!

What is this ugly thing?
G. turned it up while grubbing about in the overgrown bit of ground that edges the car port.
Whatever this may be, it is hard to imagine that it could morph into something less grotesque.

Through all the painting, pruning and weeding, Willis the Cat keeps watch.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First Weekend of Autumn

It was drizzling rain Saturday morning and the puddles in the dooryard indicated it had rained most of the night. I put on my new [!] boots and trudged up the back pasture on litter box duty.
Pebbles the Horse spotted me and commenced 'hollering' in her most piteous starving equine voice, so I went back out and up the lane to the barn. 
I fed the tortie barn cats, dished out Pebbles' grain and smashed her pill into it.
[The daily battle of the pill seems to be over--she is liking a new type of grain so well that the crumbled tablet is being consumed along with the yummy grain.]
I noted the garden spider clinging to the rough barn siding with her precious egg sacs dangling above her, near a partially dismantled electrical box.
These spiders [argiope aurantia] fascinate me--and they never enter the house!

So--back up through the wet, trailing cats, to record the spider and her efforts of propagation.

Here she is--locals refer to these as 'garden spiders.'

The dismal morning cleared into a brilliant afternoon.
One [final?] blossom shimmered on the magnolia tree.

A work bee at our church this weekend and those in charge decided to pull out seven Knock-Out roses which were crowding their space along the walk.
They were laid in a heap along the driveway when I arrived to help clean inside the church.
'What are you doing with the roses?' I inquired.
'Taking them to the landfill,' was the reply.
I was horrified!
'Will you let me take them home?'
Our friend, LW, grinned.'
'Jim told me you'd want to rescue these!'
When I had finished my cleaning stint inside I returned to the rosebushes.
LW produced  a pair of leather gloves for me, another friend loaned me his strong sharp 'loppers.'
I trimmed the bushes severely, dragged them across the parking lot to our van, and heaved them in.
J. was part of the crew cutting down a tree or two and loading sections of log onto his truck.
I was taking no chances that the rose bushes might mysteriously 'fall off' the load if I put them on the truck!
I stopped at the Subway shop for 'grinders' on the way home, and after a pleasant half hour on the front porch devouring the long roll stuffed with smoked turkey, provolone, and sliced veggies, I found a shovel and decided to plant the roses behind the clothesline.
I had moved only a shovelful or three of dirt and sod before J. appeared and dug the 7 holes for me.
[If he hadn't I might have fallen into one of my excavations in exhaustion!]

I know--we've seen endless photos of the pink phlox, but look how lovely with the revived midnight blue salvia and whatever the fuzzy pale blue flowers may be.

The Sunrise Coneflower has decided to make an effort before frost.

Small pots of Michaelmas daisies were languishing in the Wal Mart garden center.
I rescued three of them although I was hoping for other colors. These are an un-named variety, appearing to be slightly double, possible of shorter stature than the ones I have.
I forget what I had planted in this spot--whatever it was disappeared, so hopefully the 'asters' will fill in.

J. took this photo of the hummingbird with his camera.
They are such busy birds--almost impossible to get a shot of them without the blur of wings.

I love the play of sunshine and shadow in autumn.
A view from the front porch in late afternoon.

More shadows, around the big rock.
I am pleased with the cleome there--quite 'architectural'--don't you think?
As well as being decorative, it offers a lovely hiding place for the cats
[or so they believe.]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

'This Petty Pace From Day to Day'

Mornings have been looking like this--a bit of cool mist and the sun climbing the sky at a more 
southerly angle.
It is still almost dark in the bedroom when the cats begin beseeching me to arise and serve their breakfast.
I am lovingly but insistently trod upon, patted, poked.  My pillow becomes a stomping area for determined furry feet. Little chirrups of polite morning greetings quickly become rather loud and plaintive 'Meows.' I roll over in resignation and swing my feet down to the floor.
The reaction is one of feline enthusiasm. My bare toes are caressed by whiskery faces, paws reach up to encourage me. 
I am escorted to the bathroom where I retrieve my spectacles and then  herded down the hall to the kitchen.
Such intense drama for the reward of a teaspoonful of smelly 'pate' from a little tin!

The kitchen is small and I clamber over milling cats to measure coffee and water into the coffee maker.
The past several mornings I've bundled into a sweatshirt to be comfortable on the porch with my coffee--the one cup of the day.
There were bird sounds this morning--crows in noisy conversation and the drumroll of a woodpecker hammering across the creek.
A pair of bluebirds warmed their feathers on the power line.  The hummingbirds whizzed past me, darting between their syrup feeder and the clump of cleome by the big rock.
Charlie-cat who has been staying outside at night [by choice] flung himself into my lap.
I sat there savoring the morning, hands wrapped around the warm mug.

Over the years we've had insulated travel mugs pressed on us--'freebies' when we bought a vehicle or signed up for insurance.
I find them unfriendly things--horrid little slots to sip from, slight warmth to bless my fingers, the tall cylindrical shapes lacking in coziness.
We have a carefully edited shelf of coffee mugs--the sort that would be referred to by Hyacinth Bucket as 'beakers.'
I located my current favorite at a charity shop--white ironstone with a narrow black band, a soothing rounded shape. I brought home two of them--and have chipped one in the kitchen sink.

The burning bush just outside the sliding doors off the dining area.
I noticed this morning a faint blush of the red that will soon envelope the entire shrub.

This hedge was probably first planted to screen the view of an equipment shed which was demolished before we bought the farm.
It has hollow bamboo-like stems which must be cut back to the ground after the leaves fall.
New canes don't emerge in spring until the weather has settled into real warmth--then the stalks leap up in a rush. It would become invasive if we allowed.

As promised, I went in search of the stem of white cosmos I had marked with garden twine. 
It is one slender plant hemmed in by the more robust pink flowering ones.
I located it rather quickly, then found a fencing stake and tied it in.
The seed pods lack a bit of being ripe.  I'll need to watch that I harvest them before they shatter.

It was a subdued season for the trumpet vine.
Trumpet vine--so cossetted and fragile in Vermont dooryards, is a rampaging thug in Kentucky, naturalized and popping up everywhere to climb with grasping tendrils.

The Michaelmas daisies were aflutter this morning with small brown moths.

The wind was stirring the plants just enough to shift focus as I pressed the camera shutter.
This was the nicest photo from several 'takes.'

Our only fall-planted crop this season: broccoli and two varieties of cabbage.
I spotted several white cabbage butterflies hovering--must check if we have rotenone powder on hand.

I took a few minutes this morning to read back over my blog posts from the past 6 weeks.
I was disconcerted to realize that I have been quite tedious, grumbling about the wet weather, rambling on about quilts in progress.
I've photographed the same bits of garden repeatedly--even to focusing on orange/scarlet zinnias and endless close-ups of pink cosmos and phlox.
I thought about this as I continued along the edges of the garden, cats at my heels.
I have journaled intermittently for years, keeping a record that notes events large and small, interactions with people, my responses to daily life. 
I've been wary in those pages, even as I am in this blog, about revealing too much that is highly personal. 
The hints are there for me to discern, to trigger memory.
I can read a series of entries and recall whether I was feeling well and enthused or perhaps beset with aches and uncertainties. 
My world has narrowed with the move to retirement.
I am no longer living in a part of the country that is completely unfamiliar to my family and must be shared in words and photos.
We aren't building houses, no longer climbing into the truck and roaring over mountain passes to bring home lumber and windows and doors. 
There is now--and will be, I think--a certain sameness to my days, subtle changes that are prompted by weather and seasons, the demands of family and finances, the ritual of daily chores, the 
companionship of animals, the joys of creating.

I spent a few moments questioning whether this life of mine has an appeal for others.
I know that I enjoy the day to day sharing of my favorite bloggers.
I love knowing about the weather in Wales--or Dorset--or Somerset--all the places that I've read about in English literature. I enjoy the photos of a walk on the moor--or a ramble through the New Forest, an  
outing in Scotland.
When I read the latest from an American blogger her landscape comes to mind--Florida, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, New England--the states of the southern US--those are familiar areas.
I can read and nod in sympathy over the humidity in Georgia, the harsh winds on the plains.
I am inspired by the sharing of projects, photos of gardens and baked goods, crafts, cats, dogs, horses.
I suspect that if these 'friends' from far away could pop through my back door I would smile in recognition and put the kettle on!
I am never bored, even when the pattern of my days runs along with little change.
Friends who garden know that weather is important.
Those who have pets understand the wrenchings of grief when we must put down a beloved creature, the delight we have in the antics and distinct personalities of the animals who share our homes.

Those who love crafting, reading, writing, thrift-shopping, preparing food or putting it by for the winter, share in the homey satisfaction of these pursuits.
And so, I console myself that my 'day to day' as expressed by my blogging journal has its tiny place in the vast scheme of things!
And--just maybe--orange zinnias adapt well to rainy summers!

I could have wandered about the dooryard for hours, pondering concepts great and small, waiting for the perfect shot of a butterfly poised on a blossom.
The sun was gaining strength, the day heating up.
There was a load of laundry waiting to be pegged out, the daunting stint of book keeping to be tackled again.
I turned reluctantly toward the house, procrastinating, snapping photos as I walked slowly along.
The bristly brown seed heads of coneflower caught the sun.
A cow in the neighboring pasture bellowed.
Hawks wheeled overhead, their sharp cries slicing the sunlit morning.

Bobby McGee paused to sniff at the dark composted manure which J. has flung on the garden. 

Sunflowers, brown and crispy, loom against the blue sky.

The stalks are ready to cut down. My neighbor, Gracie, has asked for a head of seeds to serve in her bird feeder. Sunflower seeds stay viable for a number of years--and I have saved seed enough for a plantation of sunflowers, but I will shuck out a few fresh ones as I've promised to share them come another spring.

A bee hums in the fuzzy blue blossoms--I rootled around at the base of the plant hoping to find a name tag.
Identified or not the flowers add to the richness of an autumn day---another precious day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Shabby Garden

It was a slow morning, overcast and quiet.
It was nearly 7 before the cats managed to coax me from bed.
The air outside was grey and still, no birds singing and calling from the trees.
Even the hummingbirds seemed less frantic in their swoops and swirls about the syrup feeder.
A look at the dull skies convinced me that it wasn't a day for hanging out laundry.
I put fresh sheets on the bed, greatly assisted by Edward the Cat, who several times rolled himself up like a sausage and had to be extracted before the bed could be spread up neat and smooth.
I could have done the laundry and used the electric dryer, but there was no particular urgency, so I'll wait and see if the sun shines forth before the weekend.
J. had errands to do, so we made a hasty breakfast of dry cereal with bananas.
I put a dollop of Greek yogurt on mine.
I have new boots--a gift from J.--so I hauled them on and strode grandly through the damp grass, carrying cat litter up to the dump at the far edge of the back meadow.
Pebbles the old horse poked her head out of her stable and trumpeted a greeting.
The boy cats escorted me back to the house and then out for an inspection of the lower garden.

[I am meant to be doing some much dreaded and necessary book keeping, but found myself inventing reasons to procrastinate before heading indoors to my stack of papers, invoices and checkbook registers!]

Nellie is a most companionable boy. He and his brother Bobby have an unflagging interest in the mole tunnels which undermine the lawn. They dig into them with great determination, coming up for air with dirt on their furry faces and paws. 

Bobby crouches on the big rock, thinking himself hidden by the screen of the cleome.
From here he can observe me watering the container plants on the porch.
He can bounce out at me ['Aha!] as I trek toward the mailbox.

Trailing cats, I stop to admire the Michaelmas daisies. 
I have resisted buying the vivid pink variety, Alma Potschke, but am coveting several I've seen pictured in  softer pinks and lavenders. 

Several of my seed grown achileas are making a brave fall showing after a ruthless pruning.
I fear I have lost the one called 'Paprika' and the 'Coronation Gold' is looking feeble.
Achilleas are sturdy plants, but they didn't enjoy the long spell of soggy weather in July and early August.

A clump of echinacea [coneflower] in a deep apricot color is holding its own, though not spreading as vigorously as I hoped.
The common rose-colored coneflowers are spent now and their seed heads are stiff and bristly.

The cosmos have been a joy and a delight this year in spite of being blown about, rained upon, crashed into by the sunflowers that went down in the fierce storms of July.
I had a large quantity of saved seed which I sowed quite thickly.

The cosmos are tumbled and tangled but it hasn't hindered their exuberant bloom.
About a week ago I discovered one stem of white flowers among the profusion of pink.
I brought out a length of garden twine and fastened it around that stalk so that I could collect and save that seed separately.
Today, though I spent perhaps 15 minutes searching [with Nellie pouncing helpfully through the undergrowth]
I couldn't find the string marked stem!
Such things frustrate me--I know I'll be back out there peering through the green tangle, gently lifting the stems aside, hoping to find that seed head.

Another seed started achillea. 
There are several cultivars of veronica in this end of the strip.
Somehow this froth of blue flowers [which looks like an ageratum] isn't something I recall planting.
Any plant which survived the rainy summer is welcome--if it behaves.

The zinnias, usually staunchly brilliant until frost, have not been at their best.
The leaves have been spotted with mildew and the blooms have quickly gone shabby after opening.
From across the dooryard they are still colorful, but don't bear closer inspection.

I have been ripping out morning glory vines each summer.
They rampaged freely for so many seasons previously that I expect we will never be without them. 
This one has clambered up one of the leaning sunflower stalks.

One clump of marigolds glowing bravely from a tangle of weeds, zinnias, and morning glories.

Nellie has trudged patiently behind me, stopping to bat at the odd butterfly or bee.
I am often dismayed when I see the damage [digging!] wrought by the boy cats who have dooryard privileges. I will continue to scold them, keep on barricading my seedlings with a surround of twigs, placing weighty stones in the potted plants on the porch to deter inquisitive paws.
All is forgiven for the pleasure of catly companionship in the garden!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Clear September Skies

A thunderstorm rolled in late on Thursday--nothing dramatic--a bit of rain, a few rumbles.
Still, when I collected the cats and shut the sliding door at bedtime I noted that the air seemed fresher.
After a few false starts on Friday morning, the sun broke through the mist along the creek.
We stepped outside to a day of clean crisp air, dew-sparkled grass, and temperatures 25 degrees lower than they've been in weeks.

There was a brisk wind from the northeast that pushed puffy white clouds across the blue sky, creating shifting patterns of sunshine and shadow over the rippling grass of the  meadow.
I opened all the windows, pegged a large wash on the lines where shirts and shorts and towels jiggled and bobbed, quickly dry.

Gone was the heavy humidity that has wrapped us for days, stifling ambition.
I dragged out the vacuum cleaner--which the cats detest--and followed my 'hoovering' with
a quick mopping.
With this virtuous bit of housekeeping accomplished I felt justified in devoting several hours to the current quilt in progress.
I laid out and stitched together half the blocks.
No photos yet--I hope to finish the other half tomorrow.

 The cosmos are still pretty--a thick tangle of wiry stems and pink petals dancing in the wind.
I took out a piece of string to mark the one white-flowered plant so that I can save its seed separately.

This grasshopper-creature was sunning itself on a fading zinnia.
The boy cats pounce on such things as they made their short buzzy flights, landing in the grass.

It seems to me that butterflies have been less plentiful this season--perhaps because because my flower garden has been less than flourishing. 
Those still hovering over the zinnias seem tired and tattered.

The Michaelmas Daisies are coming into their full glory.

These are very similar to the widely naturalized New England Asters.

This clump of pink phlox is a winner. It withstood the very hot and dry summer of 2012 and has continued to put forth fresh bloom during the humid rainy months which have been our lot in 2013.
I will be browsing plant catalogs come spring for other varieties of phlox to plant in the bare spots in the perennial strips.

Bobby McGee enjoys making the rounds of the dooryard with me.
He likes this humped rock which is surrounded by pink cleome.
I imagine that when he and his brother Nellie scamper over the rock, chasing and staging mock battles, the rock becomes their play fort.

M. sat on the porch last evening patiently aiming my camera at the hummingbirds as they whirred from the maple tree to the syrup feeder, zinged past us on the porch.
They go quiet for a few moments, then the pattern of feeding and zooming, looping past each other, 
begins again.

Edward is mischievous, fat and quite lazy. 
He is content to loll on the porch in the sunshine while his brothers tear about in the yard. 
At the moment he--and four other cats--are curled on the bed which shares the room with my desk.
There is a half bath off this room and before the weather turned, I discovered that Edward was favoring the sink basin as a cool place to keep me company when I was at the computer.
It was cool last night--only in the low 60's F when I stepped outside this morning.
We slept under a quilt all night with the window partly open to crisp air.
When I half woke at 4:15 and attempted to roll over, I found I was tucked in with a bevy of snuggling cats!

We've had a rare lazy day. After a late breakfast we moved onto the front porch, each with a book.
For the first time in weeks we dressed in jeans and warm shirts.
As the sun moved around the side of the house we moved our chairs to follow it.
Various of the cats came to sit with us awhile.
We enjoyed the antics of the hummingbirds, listened to the cries of  hawks as they wheeled above the front meadow, their shadows floating over the grass. 
The sun moved behind the fringe of woods that marks our western boundary and the air struck chill--unfamiliar, but welcome.
A half moon rides the night sky--a red moon.
The cicadas still rasp out their nocturnal songs, the cry of a coyote drifts down from the ridge.
There will be warm days yet and a harvest moon--but summer has passed for another year.