Thursday, January 11, 2018

Mid-Winter Warmth and a Garden Clean-up

Sunrise, about 7 a.m. The air was soft and mild.

Jim finished cutting and stacking a load of hardwood slabs on Wednesday.  I am intrigued by his tidy arrangement of the firewood. The top pieces are laid slightly on the slant so that very little moisture from rain or snow can seep through the layers. 

The blooms of the amaryllis which I planted on December 1st had wilted and shriveled, so yesterday was the day for cutting down the stalk.  Almost as though it had been waiting to be center stage, the plump bulb chosen by my DIL as a Christmas gift is awake and stretching upward.

My Beefsteak Begonia, on the cabinet shelf in the new pantry is preparing to bloom. Although the blossoms aren't showy this is a favorite--the flowers are dainty and held high above the leaves on slender stalks.

I hoped that the colorful sunrise was a harbinger of blue skies and all day sunshine.
That wasn't the case, but the day was warm--68 F--with a light teasing wind. 
I needed to stay near the house as the Windstream tech man was scheduled to install an internet upgrade.
I decided to wait for him outside and tackle cleanup of the narrow strip that runs along the side porch.
Former owners planted a deep red celosia [cockscomb] which self-sows each year with great vigor.  Literally hundreds of seedlings have to be pulled out leaving room for a dozen or more stalks to mature, blossom and set their tiny round black seeds.
The soil in the planting area is gritty, rather shallow, and is mulched with fine gravel over landscape fabric [not my doing.]
It was an easy task to pull out the stalks, softened as they have been by frost and rain.

Variegated vinca rampaged through the area setting down new roots where ever a stem clung to bare ground. I began ripping it out by the handful, then dislodged whole clumps and severely pruned back the ones that were left. I trimmed the lavender nearest the steps, noted that the thyme is holding its own and the cherished 'Old Vermont' pinks are thriving. 

I was enjoying my outdoor work after the recent days of huddling in the house by the fire.
The ever-troublesome rugosas are always in need of pruning, so I whacked away at the spiny branches with garden clippers.  Each time I have to attack them I wonder afresh if the lady who chose them as landscaping had any idea of their thuggishly invasive tendency. 

Meanwhile, the internet tech guy was laboring in some frustration, working from a ladder to change something on the utility pole, tinkering at the connection box fastened to the side of the house, driving along the road to check at a nearby pole. By the time he came inside [pulling disposable plastic 'booties' over his muddy shoes] I could tell the switch-over wasn't going too well. 
The modem we had been advised to purchase [rather than pay $10 month in rental from the company] refused to 'sync' with some vital element; tech man explained that he hadn't been able to 'pull' the second line which would give us a 'bonded' connection and higher speed service. He stated that until he could have coworkers here with the 'boom truck' he couldn't finish what was required at the top of the utility pole.  He 'patched' us through with a company modem so we have service until more changes can be made.

Jim was becoming restive as he wanted to collect a truck he has acquired in his avid wheelin' and dealin' of the past month.  I was meant to be part of this expedition and follow him back with the car.  I agreed to do this only because there would be no city driving, only a number of relatively small towns on the route. 
We had gone only a few miles of the return journey when a nasty smell began drifting into the car from the truck lumbering ahead of me.  I diagnosed it as a brake caliper that wasn't releasing.  [Ask me how I knew that!]  I noted that the truck's brake lights weren't functioning although thankfully the turn signals were good. [The previous owner of the truck had become too disabled to drive it, so it had been garaged for some time.]

The metallic burnt odor continued to permeate the car--although I certainly wasn't 'tail-gating!  I was astonished when for a few moments I felt almost ill.  I let the window down, fell back a few car lengths and as the cool damp air blew in I quickly recovered.

 Jim pulled in at a convenience stop so that we could fuel up both vehicles.  I informed him that his tail lights weren't working and that I wasn't enjoying the stink of the stuck brake caliper.  He was aware of the sticking caliper but didn't know the tail lights were out.
"Do you want to stop for something to eat or continue on home." he inquired.
We agreed to stop at the Subway shop at Wal Mart.

This worked out well for me.  I was able to have a haircut at the in-house salon and pick up a few groceries that weren't available on yesterday's run to South Fork.

An orange and coral pink sunset was coloring the western sky when I left the parking lot and followed the winding road home, arriving just after dark.
Jim roared up the lane a few minutes behind me having stopped to consult with a mechanic regarding some of the work needed on the truck.

A scattery evening has ensued; Jim annoyed because the new modem wouldn't sync with his 'smart' TV in spite of coaching from our grandson. I relayed D's suggestions while Jim poked at things. Nothing worked.

 'Stop being stubborn and run that long cord from the back of the TV to the modem until I can come up to fix it!'
[I was glad all this advice was coming from D. as I hadn't a clue!]
Half an hour of turning the house upside -down in search of the special cable--until Jim recalled that he had wound it into a neat bundle and stashed it in the guest room closet!

TV on at last.  Bang, bang, head'em off at the pass.  How many movies did that John Wayne person make in a lifetime?

At 11 p.m. the thermometer stands at 50 F.  We've been warned that more cold weather will move in by morning, ushering in a weekend of sleet, snow, and freezing nights.

I have been outside to chase a possum off the front porch--got in a good whack at it with my walking stick.  Possums don't scare easily, turning to face their attacker with chattering teeth and warning hisses. They are so rat-like with their close-set eyes, naked bony tails, greedy scavenging ways-- dreadfully unappealing and messy.

Bed time and  my mind still whirring. Time to turn out the lights and toddle upstairs.
I left a bedroom window open much of the day--the room has a freshness that was missing during freezing weather. 
I am thankful for the hours of outdoor work, for weather that allowed for less cumbersome clothing.
Tomorrow we will brace for the return of winter.


  1. The thing about your posts that I like is that they are as good as a short story. This one was just as good. I notice in the photo of Jim that you have an old treadle base as a table. That bought back memories of making my wedding dress on a treadle, I loved that machine it sewed through leather and lace equally well, unlike the modern machines

    1. Briony; Since childhood I've always had a running commentary in my head--life as a story! Some stories are better than others.
      The Amish former owners of our place left behind a number of non-electric sewing machines. Two of them had the treadle base. Jim finished them as tables--the one in our living room and one with white over red paint to suit our daughter's 1950's kitchen decor. I began sewing on my mother's treadle machine which had belonged to her grandmother. Mother bought an electric machine when I was taking home ec in school.

  2. Hope you will soon have your internet connection fixed. Glad an alternative solution is yours for now. Westerns are great movies, something the both of us loved to watch. I wish they still made them.

    Glad you were able to get some outdoor work done also. It always feels wonderful to get outside after being cooped up indoors. After this bout of remodeling, I am really looking forward to being outside in the gardens.

    Exhaust fumes can make one feel ill that is for sure. It was good that you opened your window to breathe in fresh air. I love how you to work together as a team, and separately also. A good loving marriage.

    Happy January ~ be warm & cozy ~ FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; Friday evening and our internet connect has been upgraded. I was surprised that the tech team came back in the rain to do the outside work.
      It wasn't exhaust fumes that were getting to me--the acrid burning smell of the stuck brake--don't know why I didn't think to open the window sooner. Jim said I should have set the heater unit to recycled air. Thankfully, fresh air was a quick cure and by the time Jim got the truck home the brake had quit sticking.

  3. I don't envy you your fume-filled drive back. I have similar electrical fault smells from our car - but Keith appeared to be "nose-blind"!

    I can understand the frustration over the broadband connection and equipment. We have got the new-fangled "Super Fast" broadband now - but it is still a pole away from the house and I don't know WHEN they are going to connect it. Neighbours and myself were told "November" was when it was happening but that was just when they put the extra line in along the poles . . .

    Much as I like the - occasional! - John Wayne film, I think I would go mad if that was all Keith would watch on the tv. We agree on most things, but when he wants to watch his Forces News, I just settle down with a book. He has been known to leave the room when the likes of "Call the Midwife" or the recent re-make of "Little Women" was on . . .

    Well done with your January tidy up in the garden. I would like to do some work in mine but it has been too chilly here. I'm envious of your 68 deg., even though it was temporary!

    Small parcel will come your way when we get the car back and I don't have a 6 mile round trip WALK if I want to post anything!!

    1. Jennie; I'm convinced that women are far more sensitive to 'off' odors than men. Jim's favorite response to me if I complain: "Your imagination is working overtime!" The old van had a front caliper inclined to stick and stink--I came home with it reeking several times and made sure Jim was called out to witness.
      Jim watches endless westerns, history documentaries and some nature films. Sadly the westerns prevail.
      Oh--a parcel! If only postage hadn't become so ridiculous--I often think of things I'd like to send.
      Internet upgrade done and dusted, but we do have a modem purchased from ebay that isn't compatible so much for that attempt to save money. Proper connection between TV and modem awaits a visit from the techy grandson, meanwhile the long blue cable is draped across several doorways.

  4. We watch a lot of westerns, but John Wayne's aren't are favorites. One word describes our Internet service...SLOW. We are looking for an alternative. Yesterday was a perfect day for getting out and digging in the dirt. You must be feeling pretty good that you got so much outside work done.

  5. Chip Butter; I'm not much for watching TV--I used to like the programs on PBS.
    I'm glad I spent time outside yesterday as we woke to gloomy weather--rapidly falling temperatures and wet snow which began falling just before dark.