Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Walking With Charlie

Winter sunshine and mild temperatures are a lure I cannot resist.
This is especially so now that we have the many acres of woodland and fields to explore at the Pellyton farm.
Often I make a fire in the kitchen range, then go outside to greet the barn cats, check their feeders, putter about--while Jim collects his tools and begins the renovation tasks of the day.

On Friday, it was necessary to haul Charlie-Cat down from the barn rafters where he had apparently spent the night and part of the preceding day.
Although Charlie is rather witless, he is a sociable sort.
When I headed up the steep track that follows the curve of the ridge above the west side of the house, Charlie trotted behind me, full of anxious 'conversation.'

I was headed back to a stand of trees which Jim hadn't been able to identify--the bark pattern was different from any species he has encountered in the New England woods with which we are most familiar. In comparing on-line photos to what we had seen in our woods, he narrowed the choices to 'persimmon' or 'black gum.'
I decided that close-up photos of our trees would be helpful.
The track up the ridge is steep and deeply rutted. I don't make good time on the assent, stopping frequently to huff and puff--a good chance to look around and notice things.
The tree in the photo above is what I call a 'woodpecker tree'--one that is dead, in this case broken off at the top, and riddled with the drillings of various woodpeckers.

A close-up of the 'woodpecker tree.'
Not sure about the saplings surrounding it--the splotched markings of the bark suggest sycamore.
[I love that this new property is providing so many natural wonders to enjoy and to research.]

I pushed my way through a tangle of wild rose canes blocking the track and rounded the curve which brings us out at the top of the ridge near our boundary.
Charlie was untroubled by the obstacles which led me to detour--he rustled and bustled through heaps of dry leaves, paused to sniff at the base of trees; he kept up a commentary in his silly high-pitched voice.
There are perhaps half a dozen of these trees grouped fairly closely at the top of the ridge--several are mid-sized, others could be better described as saplings.
I took photos of the distinctive bark patterns.

One of the larger trees standing amongst oak and beech.

Note the rounded 'scales' of bark.

Beneath one of the trees was a heap of hickory shells and the hollowed husk of an acorn or two.
This area must provide rich feeding for animals in autumn and early winter.

Descending the track requires a slightly different sort of vigilance.
[Should I trip going UPHILL I would likely fall on my face in the leaves; if I fall over my clumsy feet or catch my boot in a hidden obstacle on the way DOWNHILL--perhaps I might roll along until I come up against a tree trunk or bump into a rock.  I can even imagine free-falling right off the ridge--smack into the front porch of the house!]

I had, in fact, tripped over a fallen branch and in righting myself discovered this delicate collection of shell-like fungi on a twig.

The track leads out of the woods, inclining into a bit of scrubby pasture that borders the lane.
I called to Charlie who was still nosing about in the leaves, and we picked our way past a stand of wildflowers long gone to seed in the fence corner.
This one has the look of wild bergamot--something to check when new growth appears.

Queen Anne's lace--starry spikes.

Goldenrod and frost asters in this clump.

Back on the lane and nearly at the house.
I recall suddenly that I was meant to be preparing a meal as soon as the range top heated.

Charlie trundled along beside me, anxious now to go in the house.
Opening the door the aroma of food drifted out.
Jim, apparently despairing of cook and crew returning, stood over the stove, tending a variety of skillets. I felt a slight remorse as it was his birthday--and here he was, cooking his own [and my] lunch!

We stopped at the Mustard Seed store on the corner of the ridge road as we left for the day.
Our neighbor and an older man were seated at one of the tables.
After a few moments of conversation it occurred to me that they could likely identify our mystery trees. I fetched my camera and displayed my photos.
The immediate response was that we have a stand of persimmon trees, greatly beloved of every sort of wildlife in the area.
I have done some more research, learned that this is the American Persimmon.
It puts forth blossoms late in the spring--something to anticipate with delight.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cats: Some Recent Photos

The move in September to the stone house has meant the loss of outdoor privilege for the three boy cats. We are too near the road to risk them outside. 
Consequently, they've needed to find new ways to exercise.
Nellie enjoys vaulting to the top of the kitchen cabinets--the better to oversee you, my dears.

Bobby enjoys lounging on top of the fridge--reaching down to swipe at our heads when we 
open the door.

Edward has helpful instincts, especially when household tasks involve water.
Here he offers to assist at dish washing.

The three boy cats have always had an affinity for water, wadding through puddles at our old home, happily stomping through wet places.
Nellie and Edward, and often their brother, Bobby, insist on taking showers with us.

Edward, perhaps because of nearly starving as a kitten, relishes his food.
He has become rather obese and definitely lazy.
Cat food isn't stored in this cupboard, but who knows, there might be something edible there.

Willis has claimed several spots at the farmhouse.
Once he has warmed through near the wood stove in the kitchen he can often be found reclining against a sofa cushion.

Sally is one of the tortie sisters brought to the old home a few months after we moved there.
Sally and her sister Sadie have always been 'barn cats' never interested in coming into the house.
They trolled through the gardens, followed us on errands in the barns.
When I moved them to the stone house, they  lived for a month in the laundry room.
They spent four or five days--with Willis and Willow--in the washroom/entry at the Amish farmhouse.
When we carried them out to the barn, Sally promptly disappeared, although the other cats immediately settled into the small carriage barn and its environs.

Sadie and Willow explored the nearby brush pile, often appearing from among the heap of branches when I called them.
I called Sally also, but there was no sign of her.
After a month I reluctantly conceded that in her distress at being moved she had perhaps run away.
The other possibility--that she had been killed by a marauding wild animal--didn't bear consideration.
One day last week Jim went to the farm alone to move a trailer load of our belongings, while I stayed to ready the stone house for a showing.
He returned gleefully announcing that Sally had appeared--plump, sleek, and anxious to be noticed.
"I told you she would be back!"
When I went with him the next day, there was Sally in the train of cats coming from the barn to greet us. She was her former social self, pushing against my ankles, waiting to be petted.
How I wish she could tell me why she stayed hidden for so many days.

Charlie took to the new lodgings immediately.
He bustles about in his usual rather witless way--going in and out of the house whenever the door is opened.  He fusses loudly, gets under foot.
Eventually, when he runs out of things to tell us, he curls up in a chair near the stove.
When I headed to the barn on Friday, Jim called after me, "Is Charlie in the rafters?"
It seems he had been up there the day before and Jim assumed he would come down. The barn is not a lofty building.

Charlie, who had apparently spent the night in the rafters, was happy to discuss the matter with us, but utterly refused to come down. 
[Both Willis and Willow go up into the rafters, have a bit of a thinking session and come back down.]
Charlie sat and squalled.

Jim finally took pity on him, fetched the step ladder and climbed to Charlie's level.
At that, it was necessary to snatch him by the scruff and lower him ignominiously to ground level.

Charlie had a sip of water and a mouthful of kibble then decided to keep me company on my walk up the ridge.

Back at 'home' Teasel is in charge.
As soon as we come in at dusk she lets us know that it is past time for 'tea.'
'Tea' is a word well understood by all of our house cats.
The mere mention causes a stampede toward the kitchen.
Teasel is as clever as she is beautiful, and not above wheedling.
She likes to tell me that she has NOT HAD HER TEA--even though Jim may have dished it out minutes earlier.

Teasel [a.k.a. 'Mamma's Darling'] has always been my cat, since the chilly November evening in Wyoming when I discovered her sitting in the frosty grass beneath our bedroom window.
She was a tiny kitten, very much alone.
I have always told her [and anyone who will listen] that an angel surely swooped her up from some dangerous place and dropped her where she would be rescued and loved.

Sunny and Cold: 10 January, 2015

This post has been languishing in my 'drafts' folder for over a week.
During the coldest weather we kept the door closed to my study as we've not turned on the electric baseboard heaters.  [Its called frugality!]
Being at the farmhouse most of the day means we come 'home' to a chilly house.
I pop in here to load photos to the blog, 'save' and then retreat downstairs to the fire and my laptop, which I set up on the ironing board.
Sadly, the laptop and I have little rapport; it seems very slow and is prone to throwing my carefully typed words back into previously completed sentences.
We are now in warmer weather, my study is habitable, even comfortable with an extra sweatshirt layered on.
On the afternoon in question I was in the farmhouse kitchen, poking at the fire when I heard a dreadful clatter outside.
This was repeated every few seconds.

Standing on the porch, I discovered that icicles were letting go from the overhanging eaves and cracking down onto the porch roof, where they shattered and slid onto the driveway.

Looking down the lane toward the 'big house.'

On the south-facing side of the house it was warm in the sun.
Charlie cat kept me company as I sat on the wall outside the shop and played with the settings on my camera.
[I've had this one for a year--a Canon SX170 IS]
The camera has a number of 'presets'--I mostly use the 'Auto' setting, adding the macro effect for close-ups.
The camera has capabilities for choosing a variety of shutter speed and aperture combinations.
Sadly, I am not clever enough to make use of these.
The camera didn't come with an instruction manual or a disc--I can download a pdf of 'instructions' if I want to learn more about it.
I may have done so on my old PC.
Not much use if I'm outside and need to educate myself about a different setting.

Sitting on the wall, I did experiment with settings, using the zoom to bring in bits 
of the surrounding scene.
I can't recall which setting produced the effects I like in the finished photo--hopeless!

Our boundary fence is barely inside the treeline beyond the brook.

Mose Miller kept his carriage horses in the fenced in bit which extends behind the barn [not the barn in this photo] and allowed them to drink from the creek.
I am planning to site my veg garden in the plot between the workshop and the near board fence.

I was interested in the icicles hanging from the bank above the creek, so hoisted myself off the wall and trudged over for a close up.

Green plants and fallen leaves caught beneath icy water.

Beech and oak haven't shed their leaves.

We walked the steep track up the ridge behind the house, Jim at his usual speed, me huffing a bit.
Jim found this vine-wrapped sapling several weeks ago and has trimmed it for a walking stick.

I think it looks a bit like a serpent on a staff!

Another 'home' for a small creature.

A feather caught on a cedar branch.

Back at the farmhouse the kitchen had warmed comfortingly.
Willow-Cat came in with us and sprawled in front of the stove.

Willis, with bits of dry leaf clinging to his fur, has decided that the dining table is the place to be.
When removed he retreats behind the wood range and curls into a stripey ball.
When we leave for the night the cats are rounded up and put outside.
They make their way resignedly to the barn, their dispenser of kibble and the snuggery built of baled hay.
We drive home through ruddy twilight, to stoke the fire at the stone house, make 'tea' for the pride of felines and settle in for the January nights.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Progress in the Farm Kitchen

Cabinets all anchored in place, doors attached, sink set in.
Jim discovered the faucet was leaking around the base, perhaps some damage done when it was removed from the original kitchen in Tennessee.
He declared that while he can deal with running the water lines and configuring the traps and drains, he doesn't 'do' leaky faucets!  Thus back to Lowes for a new faucet with a single lever mixer tap.

The upper corner cupboard was fitted with a solid door in our niece's kitchen, but a glass door was included. I chose the glass door, behind which will live my teapots.

Cardboard covering the countertops for protection from the welter of tools needed to get this all done.

The weather has been cold, but a few days last week were lightened with sunshine and blue skies.
We drive into the sunset much of the winding way home for the night.

The colors of the sunset change even as we stop the car to capture a view.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Snow in Kentucky

Another chilly morning.
I heaved several cats off my feet and struggled out of bed.
Down to the basement to shove wood into the stove, into the kitchen, to start the coffee.
The cats follow me as I open the curtains and raise the blinds at the dining room and living room windows.  The view outside is January-bleak;
the sky is grey and a few snowflakes drift on a horizontal course, never seeming to touch the ground.
I left various garments draped over a chair near the fire last night; now I huddle there in the warmth, pulling on layers in defense of weather which is meant to be colder by afternoon.
Knitted silk undershirt with long sleeves; a scarlet cotton turtleneck jersey, a heavy ribbed sweater with a front zipper; for the bottom layers--black tights, my old flannel-lined Eddie Bauer jeans, thick wool socks.

Jim requests waffles for breakfast.
From the well-stocked shelves in the basement I select a pint jar of blackberries--dark purple juiciness, a reminder of hot summer days.
I serve the waffles with the heated and thickened berry sauce and warmed maple syrup.
Dishes quickly washed, cat litter boxes cleaned, wood in the stove, and off again to the farmhouse.

There was no snow on roads that wind through the hills and hollers of Jim's preferred route to the other end of the county.
It was a surprise to arrive at the junction of routes 76 and 206 and see snow-covered fields and roads in either direction.
We made a left turn and almost immediately were traveling through a 'white-out' of blowing snow.
The Mustard Seed Store sits at the corner of Sander's Ridge--the turning toward the farm.
The snow-covered parking lot sported an array of cars and pick-ups.
Jim turned in and parked.
I followed him into the little store.
The owner and a collection of men sat around the largest table--the one near the wood stove--with an overflow of neighbors in the 'booths.'
The talk was all of weather.
Our nearest neighbor, Jay, had come in from a run to the next county; he serves as a 'taxi' for the Amish community. 
The owner's wife, struggled in the doorway, her dark upswept hair sparkling with snow, arms laden with goods to stock the shelves.
Their son followed, eager to tell of the snow encountered as their big SUV had topped a ridge.
A woman in nursing scrubs poked her head in the door and inquired if the snow was in effect all through the county.
Jim assured her that we had just come through clear roads and she went on her way, reassured.
Having been 'neighborly,' we headed out on the remaining mile or so to the farm.
The wind had shut the main gate into the upper lane, so I clumped through the snow to swing it open and hoist it onto the peg which would hold it in place.

The farmhouse was cold, a day having passed when we couldn't be there. 
The hush of snow lay over the yard.

Feathers of snow drifted from tree branches; here and there a dried leaf was caught on an updraft and sailed past , whirling and spinning.

I had fretted over the lone banty, left behind with his mate when the Millers moved.
The little hen disappeared with no trace after two weeks.
The rooster putters about, pecking at the scraps I toss out for him.
Today he fussed about in the buggy barn, shuffling through the hay on the floor, clenching his toes with the cold.

We took turns bringing in wood and stoking the fire.
It was late afternoon before the house felt warmed through.
I wished we could spend the night.

There were few real glimpses of the sun, more a momentary hint of light behind clouds.
Jim connected more lights; I swept up debris, heated soup for lunch.
Bundled in my warmest outer clothes I walked down the lane to the lower house, prowled among the boxes and bins of belongings stored there.
Willis, Charlie and Willow followed me back into the house, got underfoot, asked to go back out, only to flinch when their paws hit the snow at the edge of the porch.
We banked the fire at 5 o'clock; Jim tucked furniture quilts over the newly installed waterlines which he felt might be vulnerable to the below freezing temperatures that will linger into the weekend.
We drove home through a luminous twilight--clouds of soft peach and  pale saffron against a winter-dark horizon.
At home the rooms were inhospitably chilled, the cats heaped  in front of the dying fire.
At both ends of the day  we deal with a chilly house!
The cats are served their 'tea', the fire is rebuilt,.
Later in the evening I make cocoa, stirring milk, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla in a saucepan.
Jim stuffs pads of insulation batting in the basement window wells.
Slowly the house warms and bedtime arrives.
Tomorrow we will do it all again.