Sunday, March 30, 2014

Road Trip, Day 1: From Home to Boone, NC

It is difficult to lure me from my home.
I'm not the easiest of travelers, don't like to leave my pets, prefer my own bedroom to even a very nice motel. I don't care for trips with deadlines and group agendas.
I enjoy seeing places which have a connection with someone or some event that I've researched.
For more than a decade we have talked about traveling to North Carolina to the home territory of Jim's paternal family.
There has never been time to make the journey until now--when J. simply declared that we were
 going to do it. 
We left home about 9 A.M. this Sunday morning, stopping after 2 hours for a meal in London, KY.
Eastern Kentucky is coal country--dark and forbidding.  Small hamlets cling to creek banks with only a shallow bit of ground between houses and the winding roads, with the mountains looming behind.
Rather than drive thruways, Jim chose the mountainous route through the Cherokee National Forest.

If you are of a certain age, you might recall the movie, Thunder Road, starring Robert Mitchum.
It is the tale of a moonshine runner and his dare-devil trips with the 'revenuers' in pursuit.
The torturous road from Hazard to Harlam, KY, through Pennington Gap and down into Bristol, TN is a similar route.

The road cuts through walls of rock on one side with steep ravines falling away on the other side.
A light snow fell last night leaving the road wet in places.

My photos were taken as the car roared around double and triple 'hairpin' bends.
I doubt I could be persuaded to drive this road in the best of weather.

Bristol, Tennesee is the site of the so-called Bristol Sessions where a talent scout for RCA Victor engineered the first recordings of the later famous Original Carter Family, A. P. Carter, his wife, Sarah, and her cousin Maybelle, wife of A.P.'s younger brother Ezra 'Eck' Carter.

I knew we were traveling in the general location of the Carter Family home tucked into the mountains near the border of Virginia and Tennessee. 
We passed the turn-off to Big Stone Gap, familiar from the novel of the same name by Adrianna Trigianni.
As we drove into the hamlet of Hiltons, VA, one of those scraps from my mental rag-bag sifted out.
This had barely begun to register as Carter home  territory when we passed a sign post for
 A.P. Carter Road.
I had no trouble persuading Jim to turn around and drive the 3 miles to the Carter Family Fold, the 
rough-hewn auditorium where descendants of the Carters have carried on their musical tradition.

A view of the hillside behind the Carter Fold.

The little general store which A.P. Carter kept, rather haphazardly, in his old age.
A.P. had never been a good provider, lost in his search for songs to perform and record, while Sarah struggled to care for their children in their primitive mountain setting.
Sarah and A.P. eventually divorced, she married his cousin and removed to California.
It was left to "Mother" Maybelle Carter and her daughters to 
perform as the Carter Family.
June Carter would marry Johnny Cash, blending her family's music tradition with his.

The tiny cabin where A. P. Carter and siblings were raised has been moved and reconstructed a few hundred yards from the 'fold' and the store.

Jim remarked that the cabin in its restored state is likely far more sturdy than it was at the time of A.P.'s birth.

The angle of the late afternoon sun was wrong for taking good photos, but Jim did his best, posing me on the front porch of  the Carter cabin.

I think all photos of Jim on this trip are likely to include the car which is the fruit of his latest
 wheeling and dealing.
I have to state that while we could never purchase such an automobile 'new', its a very comfortable ride--and it took the steep winding mountain roads like a trouper.
It was chilly tonight when we walked from our motel room to a nearby restaurant.  We're reminded that we're at an elevation where hints of winter are lingering.
Tomorrow our route will take us to Greenville, NC, shire town of Pitt County--the stomping grounds of long-ago Whitehursts. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014


It has been a week or two of UNSETTLED--as in weather that cannot decide if it should convey the thought of hopeful spring or insist on clinging to winter.
We've had various dealings in the works--or perhaps I should say that J. is in full-blown 'wheeling and dealing' mode--a trait that is prevalent in the males of his family.
[I should be used to this--but I always react by feeling unsettled and distracted.]

 A certain amount of traipsing about accompanies these ventures.  Sometimes I'm along for the ride, at other times I obstinately refuse to budge.
Yesterday after an appointment in town J. decreed that we might as well drive to Casey County to the Mennonite-owned natural foods store.
It is always a treat to shop there.
I needed 50# of unbleached flour, various dried beans and rice, some bulk herbs and seasonings.
We also brought home a 50# sack of raw sugar--the last bagful lasted us over two years.

This morning I. helped J. to decant flour and sugar into airtight containers which we store in the basement.

Next door to the bulk foods store is a greenhouse and produce shop owned by the same family.
Although it is early--and the weather too chilly for planting--I needed the cheering thought of thyme plants and a rosemary to replace those which perished in the bitter cold of January.
The plants are still tiny, but I will tuck the thyme in the ground as soon as there is a less bitter day.

The rosemary, 'Arp', is a variety which has proved to be more cold hardy than others.
It will be potted on in a gritty soil mix.

J. spotted a flat of hot-house tomatoes at a reasonable price.
That's a lot of tomatoes for a household of two!
Part of the top layer was presented to M. and G. before we brought the box home.
J. picked out some choice ones to take to friends this morning.
The same friends often share eggs from their flock of hens--we have an informal barter where-by I share baked goods in return for the eggs.

There was a fund-raiser at M.'s workplace, so he came home with a flat of strawberries--strawberries traded for tomatoes.
I will leave you to imagine our menu possibilities for the next several days.

A word of thanks for the comments left on my previous post.
I've not had much time at my desk to respond or to comment on the posts of blog friends.
My desktop PC went today to the shop where data will be transferred to my new unit.
I'm letting that familiar PC go with regrets--it is about 7 years old and has been trouble-free, but the looming obsolescence of XP finally nudged me to update.
I retrieved my laptop from G.and found that my email program had gone missing.
Think 2 hours of frustration while I attempted to cope with a missing password and security code.
I was able at last to work through J.'s laptop and email address to establish a new password--where-upon my email program miraculously appeared in duplicate!
My skills for coping with technical issues are limited--I know patience will be required as I learn the quirks of the new PC. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tidying/Spring Cleaning/House Tour

Yesterday I convinced J. that it was time to part with our massive lodgepole pine bed frame.
We bought it when we lived in Wyoming from a man who made furniture and cabinetry for private homes and public places.  It suited the upscale log homes we were building.
Set up in the bedroom of our Kentucky cottage the bed has loomed, dominating the space.
J. did some muttering and thwacking before he got all the components apart and lugged out to the carport.
With the mattress and box spring on a simple metal frame we have gained a full two feet of clearance between the foot of the bed and the wall.
The cats crept in after the bed was remade--some of them with obvious misgivings.
Several of the younger cats have enjoyed the balancing act of walking along the footboard and then using the corner post as a launching pad to reach the dresser.
I'm liking the lighter roomier look of the bedroom.

When we moved in--four years ago this week--this space housed a washer/dryer stack--in 'harvest gold', no less. The units held no more than a change of clothes for two people.
We installed a large new washer and dryer in the basement and J. converted this area with shelving.  This short passage leads to the bath.
The stacks of linens have a tendency to become muddled.
Teasel-cat likes to insert herself into a layer of towels or throws for a quiet little thinking time. 

The bathroom is adequate but not much wall space for a towel rack, so we installed a double bar in the passageway

Hallway with bedrooms to either side.

The cherry buffet and cabinets were in the house when we bought it.
We renovated the kitchen area buying top quality cabinetry and replaced the antiquated appliances.

Its a small space--room for a table and three chairs.
The sliding door at the left opens to the backyard--and to the fenced in place where the cats are allowed to experience the outdoors.
The three boy cats, Nellie, Bobby and Edward, as well as Charlie, Willow and Willis all clamber over the fence.  The other cats sit dociley within the confines of the little yard.

The cabinetry is Kraftmade's Shaker style in maple.
I love the classic simplicity.
The cabinet interiors are cleverly fitted.

This one is an interesting construction.  The 2 tiered shelf unit pulls out so that 
two bins can be rolled out from the deep corner.

This is the corner over the pull-out bins.

Lazy Susan unit in the right angle by the range.

Pull out cabinet for pots and pans with a ledge above for lids.

If only I could keep things this tidy and decluttered.
In this small house it seems we continually move 'stuff' from one space to another--if one area is neat it means items have been stashed somewhere else--never quite enough room!

By late afternoon I was running out of steam and thinking that it would have been lovely to spend more of the day outside.
There is much still to be done in the living room--the shelves and mantle are endlessly dusty from the fireplace.
J.'s desk opposite the loveseat is a muddle.
My own desk is unmentionable.
Whatever I do--indoors or outside--I am assisted by various felines.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Encouraging Signs of Spring

The wind blew all day on Friday after chilly temps on Thursday night, although 
we didn't have the predicted frost.
I had errands to do and some cooking, and wasn't inspired to stroll about in the brisk wind with my hair being whipped into my eyes.

Saturday evening came on with the warm glow of sunset casting shadows over the backyard. 
The sliding door was open and cats lolled on the steps.

The boy cats with their full outdoor privileges raced about, leaping over each other, pouncing and thumping.
The red buds of the maples are swelling and signs of renewed life are stirring in the flower beds.

Last season's clumps of lemon balm which still showed green in December are dried and brown, but today I found this self-sown lemon balm at the very edge of the herb garden.  Its not where I would have planted it, but I think I will honor this hardy volunteer and let it grow in place.

In the back corner of the herb garden is this foxglove which I grew from seed last year.
There were two--the other was dis-interred and trashed by the cats before it was rooted in.
This is rather a dry spot so probably not the happiest site for foxglove--perhaps I will find a better 
home for it.

A few of my lavenders are showing life. Several look rather hopeless.
I believe this is one I started from seed.

Another lavender, brown about the edges, but hopeful.

Sadly this is the only bit of thyme showing any life--just a few sprigs on what is otherwise a wiry pile of stems.

Distinctive pebbly leaves of common sage.
My Amish neighbor, Delila, stopped by on Thursday for a spool of quilting thread.
She noticed this sign of life.
Delila helped me create the herb garden in the spring of 2011.
The tri-color sage and purple sage have either not broken dormancy yet--or are as dead as they appear.
In past gardens I have found the common sage to be the most cold-hardy.

The tree lilies are bursting out of the ground.
How big should the 'babies' be to transplant?

Another tree lilies and its offspring.
This is also a great view of the dominant weeds.

A very vigorous clump of catnip flourishing beneath the Double-Red Knock-Out roses.
I picked a sprig and brought it inside to Teasel-cat--her "tea."

It seems that I brushed the plant enough to send the enticing scent of catnip into the air.
This is a zoom shot of Charlie who hurried to enjoy the fresh nip.
Around him is the mat of weeds which invade all my planting areas--a native lamium and something with a very tiny bright blue flower.
I grubbed at patches of this in the perennial strips this week, but the soil was too wet and cold for 
successful weeding.
I moved the peonies from the strip behind the clothesline.
There should have been 5--I found only 4 and one of those appears stressed beyond recovery.
With each hard rain, the center of that strip is brutally washed.  Last summer's torrents cost me several newly planted 'pinks' and  my signet marigolds. 
There are a half dozen seed-grown yarrows and two Shasta daisies left there--I'm considering whether to move them and let the grass take over.
So much for my thought of flowers to enjoy while pegging out the wash.

Bobby Mac rolling about in the driveway--did he--or did he not--have a whiff of catnip?

Daylilies along the front porch have perked up in the 3 days since I raked off dried leaves and debris.

The ever faithful Willis is a great help in yard clean-up.

The silvery 'kitten's on the goat willow are already taking on the blush of pale gold that presages their advancement to catkin stage.
There will yet be days of chill and rain and wind, but spring is steadily advancing.
This morning I heard the burbling trill of redwing blackbirds; the robins and bluebirds are busy.
Each phase in the unfolding of a season is familiar and yet so very fresh.
I want to throw my arms wide to embrace it all.
I want to shout, "Wait!  Don't rush past--I need to savor this for another day!"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Day 3 of lovely weather for yard work.
I went online before going outside, to order replacement strawberry plants and two more blueberry bushes--the blueberries and one variety of strawberries were on sale!
There is more than the usual clean up this spring,
I decided to work along the front porch area, and with the sun shining over my shoulder I quickly 
shed my down vest.
The most invasive weed in our yard is a type of wild lamium, with Indian strawberry running a close second.
Both have spreading root systems and the slightest thread of root is capable of starting a new colony.

At the corner of the porch leaves from the maple tree lay thick on the ground.
Raking them away, I went to my knees to gently pull the last debris from a clump of lemon balm.
Tiny though the emerging leaves are, the clean crisp scent of lemon is noticeable. 
Later I discovered an emerging lemon balm under the roses near the garage wall. 
No signs of life in the several clumps in the herb garden. 

Here is a sturdy looking columbine also tucked into the corner by the porch.
The plants disappear during our long hot summers.
This is the only survivor I've discovered thus far.
There should be several beneath the roses; if they are alive they are laggardly in appearing.

A clump of day lilies freed from their leafy covering.
I have only common varieties, but they are hardy and cheerful.

I loaded many leaf piles into the wheel barrow and trundled them down to the burn pile--which looks like a wigwam with the heap of honeysuckle vine piled there.

The hydrangeas on the west side of the house had a trimming yesterday.
A few dried flower petals remain.
To the left of the hydrangeas is the shrub which bears spicy flowers, whose name I can seldom recall.
It too has been pruned and lengths of honeysuckle unraveled.
The honeysuckle grew from roots which have become inter-twined with a number of shrubs.
I wonder if the original owners here planted them deliberately, thinking that the honeysuckle would provide scented blossoms and greenery while the shrubs were maturing.
Honeysuckle is indigenous to the south and south-central states, rampaging where it will.
For several years I have complained about the shrub at the northeast corner of the house.
I've not been able to learn its name.
It has tiny greenish-white flowers which have a rank odor.
For nearly three weeks in late spring this scent pervades the front porch.
Working in that vicinity or spending a few moments relaxing on the wicker bench, my eyes and noses have streamed in response to the blooms.
I grumbled about this to J. who took the big loppers from me and proceeded to hack the shrub down to the stump--discovering in the process that it was surrounded by a wire cage.
I suppose it will try to grow back--but any tender emerging shoots can be dealt with!

The goat willow tree in the front yard has come out in silvery 'kittens.'
I thought of cutting a few to bring in the house, but know too well that the resident felines would pull them from the vase and chew on them.

I'm waiting for J. to slice up the apple branches, then I will haul them off and stack the bits which can be used in the fireplace.
Note that the yard is starting to green!

The daffodils are in bud, but apparently in no haste to open.
They were in full bloom when we arrived here on the first day of spring in 2010.

J. has completed a restoration project and the tractor is already tolling in calls from craigslist.
Inevitably, he has yet another tractor refurb in progress in the garage.

We cleaned up from our respective labors mid-afternoon and went into town.
Our first errand was at the computer shop.
My XP is 7 or 8 years old and of course the system will not be supported after April 8.
I've put off the ordering of a new unit.
This one was built to specs for me under the supervision of my talented tech guy in Wyoming.
It has been a sturdy, trouble-free computer.
I refuse to have windows 8 or 8.1--not having heard or read much favorable about that system, so I'm having the new one built with windows 7.
Having talked with the computer man and paid a deposit on the new unit, we decided it was more than time to find something to eat.
We ate at the Mexican restaurant and brought home the delicious leftovers which can be heated for another meal tomorrow.

We are still 'adjusting' to the leap ahead into daylight savings time--an annual few days of 
feeling out of sync. 
The cats are also thrown off kilter by time changes and not sure when they should begin prodding me out of bed in the morning.

Home again and with several daylight hours remaining to put to good use.
Back into my old flannel-lined jeans and scuffed shoes, back outside to prune the dried tips from the two rosemarys which survived the frigid night when I forgot to bring them all indoors.
[I trimmed the blighted prostrate rosemary and watered it--but I fear its chances of revival are slim.]
Off to cut back the Double Knock-out Roses along the east wall of the garage--one of the first plantings I made in 2010.

Photo taken 12-29-13
I raked around the bushes, then carefully snipped off the three egg pouches left behind by the garden spiders [argiope aurantia] dropping them close to the base of the rose bush where they spent the winter.
I gave the roses a fairly severe pruning, removing some old wood near the base of the plants, stepping back to assess the shape of each bush and cut out branches that were badly crossed over others.
It was inevitable that a thorn stabbed sharply through my glove.
I am learning [very slowly] that it is good to break my outdoor work into segments of time rather than weeding or pruning until back and knees are protesting.
I carefully picked up the thorny branches and conveyed them to the trash pile, then walked through the glow of sunset to the barn to push hay up to Pebbles who had been trying to get my attention with pitiful expressions of imminent starvation.
While she munched her hay I applied the curry comb.
Pebs doesn't have the long curly coat which last spring was an indicator of Cushings.
She is shedding out a normal amount of hair as warmer weather moves in--still sufficient to provide soft lining for any number of bird's nests.
We are not getting the Cushings meds into the stubborn old horse with regularity.
For several weeks I dug out the core of a carrot, poked the pill inside and she accepted the carrot.
Suddenly the carrots were refused.
This has been the pattern with every treat that we've used to hide the dose.
Grain, carrots, apples, have all been rejected--even when I've tried to lure her with an unmedicated treat, Pebbles tosses her head and tramps off.
She used to love peanut butter on crackers so J. tried that.
When they went trail riding during the Wyoming years she insisted on sharing campfire breakfasts of pancakes.
On Sunday I smeared one of our breakfast pancakes with applesauce and rolled the crushed pill in it.
More head tossing and no pill taken.
I despair!
I put away the curry comb, ducked under the barricade into the barn.  J. was fetching hay down from the upper barn.  The air had the cool tang of springtime--of softening earth and emerging plant life.
I put up my rake, trundled away the last load of debris.
The cats scampered behind me, skittered off to prod at mice or meadow moles, sat alert over the openings of the tiny burrows. 
I was tired, but reluctant to come indoors and end the day.
Tomorrow will be cooler with the possibility of rain.
Tomorrow I will bake. Tomorrow the wood fire will take the chill from the house.
Perhaps I will sew. 
Perhaps I will read and think of gardens.