Thursday, June 28, 2018

Weary of the Weather!


A view of lowering, slate-colored skies has become a new 'normal.'
Storms have raged about bringing sudden deluges of rain,  sharp pitchforks of lightning, bellows of thunder that send the cats scurrying to hide under furniture or behind the laundry basket. 

Continuing errands have taken us out in the weather, driving along winding roads that are awash with puddles, bordered by ditches that stream with brown swirling water.
The rain has brought with it no cooler temperatures; brief moments of sunshine cause the air to turn to sticky steam.
Clambering out of a vehicle, having struggled into a slicker, I feel rain sluice down my neck.  Opening the car door results in spatters of rain on the door interior and on the seats of the car. 
A few moments outside, encased in my red slicker, leave me feeling clammy--disheveled. 

It has been impossible to sit on the porch--even when the rain stops briefly, the chair cushions feel slightly soggy although they've not actually been wet.
The boy cats who usually spend daylight hours prowling outdoors, ask to go out, then quickly decide that they would rather be inside, safe from the threat of another cloud burst.


Late last week and through the weekend we watched the young phoebes in their now crowded nest on the shed downspout. They jostled, flexing legs, flapping wings, teetering dangerously on the edge of their nest. We expected to see one or more plummet to the ground. The parents continued to feed them with tasty tidbits, swooping in through wind and wet. 

When we returned late on Monday afternoon, only one baby bird remained in the nest.  I fretted that the others had been snatched on their first halting flight--Willow and Charlie have several times been seen crouched with patient interest below the nest. 

Leaves fluttered on the tulip poplar tree near the shed, and Jim spied three baby birds balancing on a slender branch.  The parents hovered between them and the smaller sibling still in the nest.
Dusk came early, the three-quarter moon was obscured by inky clouds. Baby bird bobbed up and down in the nest which with the departure of his siblings must have seemed suddenly roomy.
In the morning the nest was empty. 
The phoebe family is still nearby, the fledglings growing so rapidly that they are nearly indistinguishable from their parents.
My eyes, accustomed to watching the activities of the birds, still go by habit to the empty nest.


Beyond the wooden fence at the foot of the weedy garden, the sometime brook has surged over its bounds, sweeping gravel into the pasture. Bits of trash--and an old tire--have been carried along and deposited untidily.
Weeding is impossible, the soil squelchy.  Weeds and perennial plants alike have grown over-tall with too much moisture and too little sun.  Phlox has bloomed ahead of time.


The earliest blooming asclepias has formed green pods like tiny lanterns.


The silky petal cups of Rose of Sharon have been pummeled with rain.


Stalks of clary sage near the side porch walk have been beaten down by the excess of rain pouring from the roof.  Lavender planted along the walk is turning to sodden browning clumps--not a plant that loves wet feet.  Drastic pruning may save some of it--if the rain ceases for a few days.


One of the dwarf lilies has bloomed. Those planted in tubs on the porch have a healthier environment than those trying to anchor themselves in the sodden garden.


Begonias on the porch are a bright spot.  The red-flowered one is a survivor of five or six seasons--I bought the yellow this spring to replace one that languished and died in winter quarters.


Willis--faithful friend--accompanies me on my brief slogs around the dooryard, stepping with dainty distaste, coming back to the porch to shake his paws dry and sprawl on the rug-covered settee.


Even Crumple, the half wild visitor, has taken to sheltering on the porch.  I've learned that he is dividing his time between our dooryard and the goat barn down the lane.

We fret--uselessly--over the state of the garden; we have an ongoing harvest of cucumbers and green peppers, a few tomatoes brought in half ripe.  We fear for the Yukon Gold potatoes--so much wet and the tubers will rot before they can mature. 

At the Beachy's produce farm up the road, corn has formed ears on strangely dwarfed stalks. 
We bought several rounds of fresh blueberries from the local berry farm; lack of rain earlier meant smaller berries--too much rain has shortened the time of harvest.
This is our 9th summer in Kentucky.  Each season has been different: several brought us near drought in mid-summer; this is perhaps the 3rd one when June has been a disheartening month of constant rain.  Last summer was so temperately lovely that we marveled.

Our two houses here have sound roofs, water-tight basements.  We grumble about the unpleasant weather but we are 'high and dry.'
Many homes in the area--built too near the network of creeks--have taken on water in the basements--a sorry plight. 

The vagaries of weather reduce humankind to a humble status--unable to do anything but endure, hoping for favorable change. 
I note the 5-day forecast; Jim tracks storms on doplar;  we mutter complaints, fret over the garden, worry a bit about friends and family who may be in the path of an on-coming storm.

We slog about tending to rather more errands than usual, returning home to seek out dry shoes.
With outdoor work at a standstill, we distract ourselves by planning future projects. 
I read--familiar well-loved books;  Jim watches TV--nature programs, wild noisy westerns. 
When the rain lets up Jim roars to the lower garden on the 4-wheeler--comes back to deposit muddy cucumbers on the counter by the sink.
Someday the rainy season will abate--and we will go out, with resignation, to see what we can salvage. 


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Showery Mid-Summer


Time has moved along since I loaded and saved these photos a week ago. 
The day before the summer solstice was clear with a brilliant blue sky, light wind driving puffy white clouds across the sky.  Since then, the weather has deteriorated into steamy heat, thunderstorms and rain. 
Gardens have been lashed by a series of pounding storms; creeks are swollen to overflowing with muddy rushing water.

The sometimes dry brook along our lane is noisy with the flow of water that has brought from somewhere a collection of trash including a discarded car tire. 
The sun comes out briefly, then disappears as another bank of black clouds ushers in more rain and lashing wind.
We have been unusually busy--a variety of people in and out--errands, meals at odd times.
Sleep has eluded me during nights disturbed by crackling lightning and thunder that booms and echos up and down the ridges and hollows.
I share these photos--now out-of date--even as more rain assaults us, drumming on the metal roof of the house as we prepare for bed. 



















Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Chasing Myself


The ten days since my last post have been busy, and yet I find it difficult to list any grand accomplishments of my own.
Jim launched himself into a late spring cleaning out doors, using the power washer and a long handled brush to scrub down the siding of both houses and his workshop.  A few summers of muggy heat and patches of greenish mold accumulate especially on the shady side of a building. He used a ladder, managed to soak numerous shirts and his shoes, coming indoors for a break squelching and dripping. 

Poppies, 'Lauren's Grape.'

With the scrubbing finished, Jim roared about with the lawn mower, tractor and bush-hog to cut the pastures and the verges of the lane.  He obligingly ran the weed-whacker over a tangle of mugwort which made it slightly easier for me to continue the herculean task of forking the noxious stuff out of the perennial strips. 
While Jim labored with power tools and machinery, I divided my time between gardening and doing much needed sorting and tidying in the house. 
When it has seemed that I could do no more I have collapsed into a rocking chair on the porch, mug of tea or a glass of icy lemonade at hand, and enjoyed the company of the hummingbirds who zoom and dart on a near collision course with each other.

Clary sage in bud.
 The front door was needing a touch-up coat of paint.  I found the can of dark red paint and offered to take on that task. Jim, unstoppable, did the job while I was making lunch--and went on to paint the side door from the porch into the Amish 'washroom' which has become our garage and back entry. 
[Amish houses are built with many exterior doors--Jim thinks it may be for cross-ventilation.]
We have remarked that all the exterior doors on the lower house needed paint--the former owners painted them in an odd shade of muddy pink--a most unusual color for an Amish house.
Consulted as to an appropriate color I chose a mossy green.

Clary sage in exotic bloom.



Hours of labor involved in grubbing up mugwort--a 5-gallon bucket filled several times with stringy roots and such stalks as grew too close to salvageable plants for lopping with the weed whacker.
I set in three starts of asclepias incarnata [a relative of milkweed much loved by butterflies] and two achillia which I hope may be self-sown starts of the variety 'Moonshine'--should it prove to be the common white wildling at least it may hold its own with the mugwort.

Two veronicas, purchased more than a month ago at a local nursery, went into the space left when two monardas vanished over the winter. 
Willis, as usual, has been a constant companion while I labored in the garden.
Sadly, I must report that he has been digging in my freshly turned earth--not for the expected purpose of creating a latrine, but seemingly in a frenzy of flinging dirt about--just because he can!

The surviving monarda [bee balm]

Autumn clematis 'Sweet Summer Love'


Last year this clematis scrambled along the board fence but didn't produce flowers.
I was delighted to note the dainty buds.

This is not a showy clematis, the blossoms being small and delicate, but I am pleased to have it extending the clematis season. 
Heavy rain last night left the flowers a bit bedraggled.


Along the roadsides the ubiquitous orange daylilies are already in bloom.
Mine, planted in the shallow coarse soil below the concrete landing, are all in bud.
These are a double-flowered 'sport' transplanted from the roadside near our first Kentucky home.

Achillea  raised last year from seed--a welcome change from the native variety in muddy white.

Lysimachia clethroides/white gooseneck loosestrife.

This is also flourishing in the gritty soil of the landing patch.
This was shared by a friend who also brought me spiderwort. 
This is a plant which may grow wild in the edges of a pasture, but also available as a nursery plant.


The name of the plant escaped me for awhile this evening. 
I couldn't recall the proper spelling of 'lysimachia' and finally in frustration googled 'white gooseneck.'  My brain is stuffed with odd bits of information--too often the bit needed is elusive!


I lost one of the miniature roses to late frost in spite of swaddling them in covers.
So exasperating--all three wintered against the outside wall of the washroom, but broke dormancy in the first days of March--the false spring that immediately regressed into freezing temperatures.

'Hawkeye Belle' in full bloom before the rain--and one day before I discovered the vanguard of the Japanese beetle arrivals.

Nellie, who thinks he is invisible.


There were five cucumbers ready in the lower veg garden [Jim ate one before I thought to record the moment.]

Today the first blueberries from the local berry farm!


Willis, appearing most innocent.

So, two weeks of being very busy, trying in vain to keep up with Jim.  The results of his labors are very visible: buildings gleaming in clean whiteness, weeds subdued, grass cut, pastures mowed.

I seem to have gone in circles--here a little, then on to another small area tidied; mounds of wet or muddy clothes laundered, errands done, meals prepared.

I've struggled with Windows 10 on the laptop, not getting down to the typing of notes for the current genealogy project.  Time that might have been spent to read online, post a blog, type a comment, has been wasted in attempts to work around this newer system and fine tune the laptop to my preferences.  The 'address book' for my email program has gone missing, not transferring in the download . I've been able only to use a 'reply to sender' mode. 
The laptop has been parked on my desk, an awkward height for prolonged use of the keyboard. 
A light-bulb moment on Sunday when I thought to plug in the regular keyboard on its comfortable pull-out tray--why-ever didn't I think of that earlier?
I've been notified that my big PC has been revived and is ready for pick-up at the electronics shop in town.  Perhaps there will be time tomorrow to retrieve it.

I'm thankful for the rocking chair on the porch, the hummingbirds, the nasturtiums in their pots, the company of the cats--all there for the moments when I quit going in circles. 



Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Best of Plans



I woke this morning surrounded by cats--four of them, to be exact. The collective opinion expressed seemed to be that it would be nice if humans got out of bed, escorted the felines downstairs and made themselves agreeable--opening doors to the outside, providing companionship.
Jim remarked wryly that the efforts of the cats seemed impartial----either of us would do, both would be preferable.  



The boy cats, Bobbie Mac and Nellie, bounded out the door, hurtling past Sally-the Troll who grumbles dire threats at their audacity. 
Teasel-cat rose on her haunches, grey velvet paws reaching up, letting me know that she needed a cuddle.


Breakfast finished, cats let in, cats let out, I wandered toward the garden, clippers in hand, hoping to find a few roses that hadn't been badly rain damaged. 
I stepped carefully along the path, avoiding muddy soil.

Weeds have flourished in the steamy heat of the past 10 days, encouraged by frequent showers. 
I have declared [to anyone who might be listening] that I am OVER the continual battle against the superior forces of heavy soil and pernicious weeds!
Still, the sight of fresh spirals of bindweed twining triumphantly up the stems of roses, threatening the dwarf Oriental lilies spurred me to defensive action!
Armed with a slender pointy trowel and a stout hand digger, I began work, keeping to the mowed strip below the timber retaining wall, leaning across the wall to pry up short matted grass, gangling stalks of fleabane, the ever-present mugwort. 


Willis joined me, padding along the wall, looking over a tweedy shoulder to be sure that Charlie and Nellie weren't attempting to creep up on him. 
I unwound lengths of bindweed, following the tendrils to the source of the tough stringy roots, used the trowel to dislodge other undesirables which could then be tweaked out..
Coneflower has self-sown prolifically near the parent plants; I gently pulled out bits of grass, giving the seedlings room to grow.
Two seasons ago, several gawky cleomes loomed at the far end of the perennial strip. These are infamous self-seeders, but last year there were none.  Reaching toward the center of the strip, I discovered a small plantation of cleome and decided to allow a few to remain. Cosmos, airy and delicate. emerged here and there from the weeds; Trying to avert my gaze from the weeds which could only be accessed form the other--muddy--side of the strip, I tugged and grubbed.

Willis had camouflaged himself in a tall clump of phlox. As I worked closer to his hiding place, a tweedy paw shot out to prod at my fingers, attack my trowel. 
My shoulders were beginning to ache, but surely I could persevere for another half hour, before quitting.
Lost in thought I was only dimly aware that the roar of the weed whacker had ceased and I jumped a mile when Jim spoke behind me: "I'm going to look at a trailer up on route 70--do you want to go?" 
I glanced at my mud-caked hands and grubby trousers, protested, but I knew I had reached a sensible stopping point. 

My tentative plans for the day hadn't included gardening or venturing off in the truck.
I had, on Friday evening, finished the first part of a family research project, editing and transcribing notes, deciding what was most interesting and useful from weeks of reading.  I was anxious to continue the next section of my 'report' while details were fresh in my mind. 
Still, it is good to be companionable.

Scrubbed and clothed in clean presentable garments, I loaded into the truck for what proved to be a journey along winding back roads---the 'scenic route.'
Home again, a late lunch served, I settled at my desk, began sorting my notes. 
My PC alerted me that several updates needed installing to insure virus protection. The download and installation completed I was presented with a screen of options to choose from. I ticked off boxes, hoping for the simplest choices. 
My computer promptly 'froze.'
45 minutes of fussing with the thing with my rather limited techy skills, didn't resolve the issues.
I am resigned to the fact that a visit to the computer geek in town is required.
Meanwhile, photos from yesterday and this morning, meant to enhance a story, are now inaccessible.
Those posted here are from a hasty tour of the garden at nearly dusk.

I have delayed familiarizing myself with this laptop--Windows 10. I now have opportunity to do so--if I want to finish my project while the desktop PC languishes at the repair shop.
Most of the notes I need are hand-written and the online sources I need are easily accessed. 

I often balk at a learning curve--the time necessary to adjust from the familiar to that which may challenge. Perhaps a good start would be to clear my desk and make a more user-friendly situation for hours with the laptop.  Perching at the end of my sewing table isn't conducive to comfortable work.