Monday, June 30, 2014

Catch-Up Photos

There is a rambling three-sided shed on our new property.
It was obviously the domain of the former man of the house--who gave up the task of clearing it out before he and his wife moved, leaving a dismal welter of old paint cans, bits of discarded fishing gear, dented buckets, all of which we shall have to deal with at some point.
I try not to venture in, but was lured to a closer view of this bird's nest, unoccupied, but rather cannily situated in an old cupboard.
I think it may have been created by a barn swallow.

I took this photo while standing near our mailbox. It was perfect haying weather [two weeks ago] and the billowing clouds riding a bright blue sky above the tidily mown meadow add up to as lovely a June day as one could imagine.

Sunday morning was showery prompting the boy cats to abandon trolling the meadow for mice.
I keep an old towel on the chest of drawers near my desk--just for damp cats in need of a resting spot.
Nellie has the ability to roll up and look nearly boneless.

Nellie, a bit muddy, sleeping so blissfully that he ignored my camera.

It rained much of the day Sunday.
We spent the afternoon working at the other house, returning in the damp greeness of early evening.
After a fierce shower the sky lightened for a few minutes before darkness closed in for the night.
I admired the spill of pink achillea in front of the porch--flopping now and many of the flower heads fading to a blushed white.

The man who rents the neighboring pasture for his beef cattle was mowing off thistles and weeds when we left at noon. As night came on his cattle browsed peacefully in the cut-over area.

A beautiful sunset to end the day.

The magnolia tree, a dark silhouette against the glowing sky.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Progress in House and Garden

This may not look like progress.  The renovation of the bathroom at the 'other house' has proved a lengthy and messy business.
J. discovered a discouraging con-togglement of leaky pipes and badly worn fittings behind both bathtub and sink. Here he works to install new fixtures and Pex lines to replace ancient copper.

It seems to require this entire battery of tools and implements!
Note the mug of iced tea for refreshment.
I took the above photos on Thursday.
I had a appointment at the chiropractor on Friday morning, so rode to the other house with J. in order to commandeer the mini-van--leaving him to drive one of his cars purchased this spring on impulse.
[Best for me not to discuss those vehicle transactions!] 
I decided that rather than returning to play plumber's assistant, I would go home after my errands and attempt some much needed tidying and meal preparation.

The kitchen sink area--with the sink properly re-installed and a new faucet.
I am sorry to report that I damaged a small area of the sink finish today, by soaping and rinsing a paint brush that had been doused in varnish remover. 
I should have thought what a caustic substance that is!

We have been watering the garden at the other house every day for a week.
A few showers which were most welcome at home didn't occur there.
We are harvesting the first of the cucumbers from the vines just visible at the left of the photo.

Blueberries and blackberries need picking nearly every day at home.
J. thinks the yield is less than in previous years, but the quality and flavor are fine. 

First tomato harvested from the home garden, sliced and shared for supper on Friday.

Volunteer sunflowers. 
I am drawn to these with each new blossom unfolding--trying to capture their bold beauty from every angle.

I wondered what was growing in the neglected circular bed on the front lawn of the other house.
I recognized platycodon when the first fat buds began to open.

I discovered two shrubs of hibiscus blooming near the east boundary of the new property.
These are referred to here as Rose of Sharon--hibiscus syriacus--perhaps.

Flamboyant color in the shady dooryard.

The January freeze killed my buddleia to ground level.
It was very slow to put forth new growth this spring and isn't going to be the showy attraction of former summers.  Still--the fragrant blooms of its much diminished presence will entice the swallowtail butterflies.

It is so typical of Kentucky climate that plants which should bloom sedately at the end of summer rush into flower in June--leaving me with a suddenly shabby 'gone-by' garden as July arrives.

A mimosa tree is nearly crowded out by invading locust saplings in the back yard of the other house.
The fragrance of the delicate feathery blossoms has fought quite successfully with the homely odors from the farm next door.

I didn't take my camera today.
There has been progress.
The beautifully crafted vanity cabinet has been placed in the bathroom and the gleaming new faucets fitted.
Beadboard went up around it, J. has declared the water leaks cured with the installation of the new lines.
I dragged out sodden bits of flooring [oh yes, the sub-floor under and behind the old vanity had to be replaced!] sorted and put away tools, carried more paint cans and clean brushes and rollers down to the basement storage room.
Rain fell copiously overnight, so there was no need to water the gardens.
I leaned in to the flower strips to tweak out a few weeds, then gave the shrubbery along the front of the house a good trimming.
Home to a shower and fresh clothes; the soggy old towels and cleaning rags from the plumbing job laundered and pegged on the clothesline, a load of assorted 'work clothes' washed, tumble-dried, folded and put away.
J. declares that the bathroom renovation will be completed this week.
We bought the tile which will be used on the floor and the tub/shower surround; paint for the wall above the beadboard wainscoating is mixed and ready.
I have it in mind to strip the wallpaper and paint the third bedroom--I think I can handle that job on my 
own, however, considering the complications that arose with the refurbing of the other rooms, I suspect I would be wise to wait a bit.
The monumental struggles with the plumbing have put J. in a frame of mind to be done with renovating for now!  I doubt he would appreciate me trailing lengths of limp wallpaper down the hall--or making the unwelcome discovery that the drywall underneath needed his attention.

With work completed on the main floor of the house and the finishing of the basement rooms a somewhat distant possibility at this point, we shall likely begin moving over more of our worldly goods with the thought of maintaining a 'presence' in both houses until a buyer appears for this one. 
The area real estate market, while not booming, was encouraging at the point we listed in the early spring.
Our realtor gloomily admits that there has been a slow-down in viewings and sales.
He--and we--hope that a sale will be timely!
Until then--we wait.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

First Days of Summer

All from the garden!
The onions and green pepper became part of a stir fry with chicken.
The smooth-skinned cucumber was sliced and marinated in a vinegar dressing.

From time to time I've found a smashed bird's egg far from a convenient tree or bush.
This one was lying on the drive when I walked down to the mailbox on Monday morning.
Do birds sometimes experience an "oops" moment and release an egg from mid-air?

Self-seeded cleome is blooming alongside the bid rock in the middle of hte front yard.

This weedy pink flower has also sprung up in the grass around the rock.
I don't recall if it is something I planted last year--or its name--[silene?]

Whorled seedhead of white clematis.
I am watching a number of plants for ripened seeds to collect and propogate.

One of my favorite achilleas.

The gorgeous pink phlox is coming into bloom
I must divide a bit of it for the garden at the 'other house.'

Clary Sage--a biennial.
The blossoms are fascinating; they have a faint citrus scent.

A bee investigates a head of coneflower.

Billowing shades of rose and pink.

Inside, escaping from summer's heat--Edward fits himself into the cool porcelain
 of the bathroom sink!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sturdy Volunteers

Jim didn't til the two lower strips of the side garden this spring.
Since we are [hopefully] in transit to another property a few miles away, our main gardening efforts have been concentrated there.
I wasn't surprised to see sunflowers emerging in the neglected strips with the advent of warmer weather.
The surprise has been at how quickly they reached blooming status.

Scrolling through photos from 2013, I find the first sunflower in bloom on July 7.

The scent of a pollen-laden sunflower has been familiar since childhood when my Grampa Mac planted a row at the bottom of the garden each year.

Volunteer plants intrigue me.
Each summer finds a few tomato plants which have popped up, usually after the garden has been rototilled. 
In my Vermont garden I allowed any of those which were growing in a likely area to continue, sometimes transplanting a particularly promising specimen to a safer spot.
Invariably the plants have caught up to their cosseted greenhouse companions and in spite of many being hybrid varieties, the fruit produced has been indistinguishable from those deliberately cultivated.
This year's example is the Roma variety, the tiny tomatoes already showing their distinctive oval shape.

I sowed pink cosmos in 2010 [the first year of our Kentucky gardens] and they made a rather feeble showing alongside an exuberance of zinnias.
I collected seed and in following years was rewarded with swaths of dainty billowing foliage and pale blooms dancing along a row near the zinnias.
This year a few are growing stoutly among the sunflowers in the grassy uncut lower strip--uncut due to my 'spare the flowers' protest.

I set out perhaps three cleome seedlings last year--tenderly cosseted in small pots on the front porch.
The first bloom opened on July 5.
I was regretting that I hadn't time to start  plants this year when I discovered that 'Rose Queen' had done the job for me and perpetuated her kind all around the big rock in the front yard.

Mint--what can one say!
Although I spent an hour one afternoon as summer waned ripping out yards of mint roots, it has returned, undaunted, to clamber around the Red Knock-Out roses.

My beautiful trailing rosemary was a casualty of a cold February night when I forgot to trundle the plants inside from the front porch.
Three other varieties survived with only a touch of frostbite browning the needles.
The prostrate rosemary had been covered for months in tiny blue flowers.
In chilly earliest springtime I was astonished to find a colony of tiny plantlets surrounding the dead trunk of the mother plant.
I lost a few in the transplanting process, but have nearly two dozen ready to pot up individually.
It could be argued that I don't need that many rosemarys, however I'm determined to keep enough to learn if they grow true to form or offer interesting mutations.

In 2012 I planted a nursery grown foxglove.
Knowing it to be a self-seeding biennial, I anticipated a crowd of seedlings would appear in 2013.
Nary a one!
I abandoned that particular small garden behind the clothesline this spring, having found it too vulnerable  to washing out in a hard rain. I removed the peonies early on, leaving only some clumps of seed-grown achillea which seems impervious to anything weather or climate may offer.
A few poppies straggled out of the springtime mud and in admiring them I spotted half a dozen foxglove seedlings. I can only wonder if the severe cold of January prompted the seeds to germinate.
One by one I'm potting up the small plants.
A friend in Wales shared photos of foxglove naturalized in great sweeps along the country lanes where she walks. I doubt I can establish a colony of foxgloves but I shall encourage any that are inclined to volunteer.

 Nigella produced only a few wispy stems in 2010 but has since faithfully maintained a presence.
The fat striped seed pods can be gathered and the seeds merely strewed on top of the soil.
This year a second flowering has sprung from plants that Jim mowed in his persistent efforts to tidy the straggling edges of my gardens.
A clump has established along with an errant poppy or two in the edge of the stony rubble behind the garage.
Johnny-jump-up [viola] has behaved predictably, bouncing about in the herb garden, crouching in the edges of the lawn, lurking under the lilies, fading to brown stems with the heat of summer, reappearing in the chilly days of autumn and earliest spring.
Lambs' ears [stachys byzantina] encroaches on less vigorous plants and must be restrained.
Lemon balm and catnip rampage, assuring me that I will never be without their distinctive scents. 

 At our other property Jim resignedly turned a strip alongside the veg garden where I strewed the carefully saved and labeled seeds from  last years gaudiest zinnias and the boldest colored of the 'dwarf' sunflowers.
Assisted by a stiff breeze I flung out poppy and cosmos seed with a profligate hand.

My gardens will never resemble the tidy well-planned arrangements that appear in magazines and the glossy pages of books detailing the work of revered English gardeners.
I sow, weed, divide, gather seeds, transplant, grumbling at the resultant ache in aging back and knees, but unable to accept a season without flowers.
Chief among my delights are those plants, the sturdy volunteers, that surprise me with their cheerful reappearance--a reward far beyond the price of the original packet of seeds.

  Sturdy sunflowers flourishing under a hot blue sky.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Clearing Up After the Storm

As we turned onto the lane which approaches the Cane Valley property  this forenoon I tried to stifle my apprehension at what the storm might have damaged. Coming up the hill we could see that the house was still there [!] and the roof where it ought to be.
Turning into the drive we beheld the welter of limbs that had crashed from the water maples and locusts which shade our acre.  Both trees are fragile easily shattered wood, so it wasn't surprising that we had a mess to clear up. 
I felt mildly indignant that three of the largest fallen branches were lying across a flower garden!

Flower pots lining the front porch had been overturned and a branch lay at the edge.
The yard was scattered with everything from leafy twigs to whip-like slender branches and some 
good sized limbs.

In the backyard we discovered that the storm left us a 'widow-maker'--the large broken maple top caught in a horizontal position.  The shabby half-dead locust to the right had a big limb snapped off and leaning upright against the trunk.

Seeing the house intact, Jim's next concern was for the garden, just around the corner from the 
fallen locust branches.

A strewing of locust boughs blown down from the hedgerow.

Jim declared that the largest limbs couldn't be easily moved without first being reduced to shorter lengths with the chainsaw--which was at home.
He went inside to work on the kitchen trim.
I decided to gather twigs, small branches, anything I could haul off or load into the wheelbarrow.
Above is the result of 2 hours trudging to and fro dragging anything I could manage.
Surprisingly, locust limbs in full leaf are light in weight, but prickly in places.

At the end of two hours I was sweaty and tired.
I had freed the flower bed from the smaller branches that fell there, gently straightened leaning tree lilies and tamped them back into the soil.

When I went to the open sided shed for the wheel barrow I found it had nearly three inches of water in it.
Jim had left two paper bags of seeds in the barrow along with his hoe and disk planter.
We've all read the recommendation that for quicker germination seeds can be 'soaked overnight.'
The bottoms of the paper sacks let go when I moved them, dumping well-soaked seeds into the wheel barrows' bottom. 
I fetched plastic containers to scoop them up and spread them on layers of newspaper to dry a bit.
Meanwhile, as you can see, Jim had nearly finished installing bead-board below the kitchen cabinets. 

Our son Howard when he was here suggested the bead-board as a low cost and relatively fast covering for that area. 
We pulled off an ugly wallpaper that had been applied over a rough surface that indicated  the wall had been tiled at one time.

Corn and beans.
Jim slogged into the wet garden and planted these before we left for home--if they all germinate we shall be inundated with vegs!

When we reached home everything shimmered with rain.

I ejoyed a much-needed hot shower and clean clothes, then went outside for a few photos.
Lilies are bejeweled with raindrops.

Why do orange lilies [my least favorite color] proliferate readily while the white ones are slow to colonize?

Pebbles, serenely grazing in the rain, her fly hood in place.
[She's been known to rub the hood loose and shake it into the grass.]

The rainbow was fading by the time I thought to look for one.
Our house is in need of a thorough tidying--there are letters I should write--curtains to be finished for the Cane Valley house.
I manage to leave my kitchen tidy when we go off to our refurbishing, I keep up with laundry.
We've long since accepted that when we are out straight building or remodeling a house, eating lunch 'out' is part of the expense.
Since we eat this meal mid-afternoon I'm spared coming home and needing to prepare food and tackle another  kitchen clean up. 
Inspiration falters, my feet beg to be elevated.
The real labor and skills needed for the refurb are Jim's--I am a rather lowly assistant--painting areas that need to be 'cut in' without climbing on a step ladder, cleaning up behind Jim, tidying up tools and paint cans at the end of the day, pottering with my plants.
At some point the work will be done and I can sit down with a book--and stay awake 
long enough to read it!