Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Silence of Snow: Weather Journal


The weather forecast for Sunday, 16 January was bleak enough that we cancelled plans for a family meal to honor three January birthdays.
Early morning was grey and chilly, but it was nearly noon before snow began to slant down in icy needles that soon became a thick screen of fast-falling flakes.



Within a short time the surface of the lane, the shed roof, the west wall, were white-coated; the grass was crisp and icy underfoot.


Snow fell throughout the murky day and into the night. The temperature lodged at 28 F. Necessary trips to tend the cat litter box and carry out compost needed boots, hood and gloves. 

At bedtime I opened my west window to the scent of snow and wood smoke on frigid air. I lowered the sash to a scant half inch--and fell asleep listening to the faint whine of wind humming past that narrow crack.
By Monday morning it was 4 degrees colder. A few thin flakes of icy snow floated down in desultory fashion. 

The cats by Monday were fractious--demanding to go out, picking a distasteful way along the swept path leading from doorstep to woodshed, then returning to huddle by the door until fetched inside.

It is Elmo-the kitten's first winter--he plunges bravely through the snow-crusted strip of garden below the porch, flounders back to the relative shelter of the porch; within 15 minutes of warming his paws inside he wants out again, seemingly surprised that conditions haven't improved.


Rosie-kitten does not venture outside. A 'just right' box for a snug nap.


Rosie wakes, ready to roister about when humans are considering bedtime.


Tuesday forenoon and a welcome sun throwing shadows across snow that is dimpling and settling.


J. is invigorated by the improvement in the weather. [Men who have retired from regular work tend to become easily bored!]
He decided to shuffle his tractor collection as noted by photos which went up in random order below.
One tractor refused to start--described as 'touchy'--which meant I was commandeered to drag it with a more reliable tractor--about the yard, up and down the lane, peering over my shoulder to interpret various hand signals. Although frequently called upon to do this over the decades, its not a procedure I enjoy. In this case the tractor did not start in spite of the attention!

The landscape is much improved by sunshine.


Icicles on the north side of the house beginning to melt.


Sally the troll cat, plodding through the softened snow.


J. looking none too appreciative of his birthday meal. 
A fresh salad for starters, followed by mashed potato and slivers of steak in a stir-fry.


Pineapple upside-down cake, baked in a cast iron skillet. J.'s favorite, served with whipped cream.

 Photos of the tractor shuffle in progress.

Can a man have too many tractors?

I suppose the logical rejoinder is 'Can a woman have too much fabric?'
Possibly so, but I am never bored!
With household tasks out of the way I can turn on the downstairs heat, work on the current quilt--with help from the kittens--and finally end the day with an absorbing book.





 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Early January Snow: Weather Journal


30 F. at 8 A.M. on Thursday morning. The sky is opaque and heavy with incipient snow.
The snow began to drift down at 10 A.M.--a few swirling flakes at first, soon falling thickly, accumulating in soft coldness. I quickly did my outside chores: the litter box, kitchen scraps out to the garbage pit, waste baskets all emptied and the trash carried out and burned. 
Jim was trundling in fire wood to stack behind the stove.
Cold was striking through hastily donned layers of clothing, feet chilled in my wellies. 
 I was ready to head inside when I noticed the several pansy plants which had self-sown in the rough grass below the front raised bed. 


I found a planter in the greenhouse, scooped potting soil from an opened bag, and used a pointed trowel to ease the little plants from the ground. The roots of weeds and grass were imbedded in the cold clumps of soil; I worked the pansies free and poked them into the pot. They are living in the presently chilly sunroom where I hope they will settle in and bloom through the winter.



We followed the reports of closings, of roads blocked by accidents, checked to see that family were all safely under cover.
All afternoon the snow pelted down, quietly obliterating the ground, clinging to skeletal shrubs, capping fences and horizontal tree limbs.
I served soup--Cream of Butternut Squash--cinnamon toast from homemade oatmeal bread, a salad.
Jim decided we should make a batch of donuts!
When I went to bed around 10, the snow was still falling though less thickly.


Early Friday morning, cold with a blue haze.


Willis and Sally, the barn cats, have trekked back and forth from their kibble tray on the front porch to the various shelters made for them in greenhouse and the carport side of the barn.


 I didn't trim the Michaelmas daisies aka New England Asters in the new raised bed.
The bare twiggy stalks thrust up from the snow. The blackberry lilies, pods heavy with seeds, have disappeared beneath the snow. 
A visiting cat, disturbed last evening at the kibble feeder, retreated along the path when I turned on the porch light.


By mid-morning on Friday the sun was riding a clear blue sky, casting blue shadows, glittering on the white expanse of pasture.


Jim's foray next door to get milk at the Beachy farm on Thursday evening left tracks which froze into stiff ruts.
He brought a bag of apples with the milk--so, applesauce simmering on the electric stove, a pot of chili bubbling on the wood stove.


The cats who have indoor/outdoor privileges are frustrated by inclement weather.
Robert sits on the front door mat on Thursday afternoon, his long silky fur dotted with snowflakes.


Coaxed inside, snow melting in his coat, he sulks, ears laid back, wanting to go out again.
This went on at intervals all day--Robert, cat-wise, insisting that we humans 'fix' the weather, halt the snow.


Resigned at last to staying indoors, Robert retreats to a favorite basket on a kitchen shelf.


Shelby cat, decided early on that it wasn't the day for her usual prowling of the south ravine.
The top of a bathroom cupboard insures that she can snooze--or turn around and gaze out the window at the falling snow.


Elmo joined me downstairs to help stitch quilt blocks. I provided him with this perch hoping that he would stay off my work table.


Rosie came downstairs and sidled past the large pots of rosemary to inspect the lemon verbena, pruned hard when it came indoors in mid-November and now presenting  tentative new leaves.

Saturday morning: 11 F, sunny; we dressed warmly for church, traveled into town more slowly than usual, J. confident at the wheel. There were icy stretches where the road runs through the long swamp, patches where the sun hadn't yet touched ridges of packed snow.
By the time we came home the thawing, melting process had begun.
At 5 P.M. still light and the temperature at 52F.
As I write, it has dropped to 47 F.
Late in the afternoon I took an apple pie from the freezer, and soon the aroma of baking apples laced with cinnamon and sugar filled the house.
Rain is forecast for tomorrow--melting snow, the lane muddy, but the pasture grass green.
 I think it will be a great day for the cats to help me get on with my sewing!






 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Signs of Senility? Or The Dangers of Distraction?


I was shutting down my PC on Monday evening when an email popped in, a reminder that Jim needed to renew his driver's license within the next few days. J. has held a CDL for decades, first when he was a long-haul trucker, then retaining it as he has continued to drag around heavy equipment on a trailer.

During December he had the physical exam required for renewal of the license every two years.
 On Tuesday morning I mentioned the email which had stated that licensing could be renewed by mail or online, however none of the links provided on the state's website were functional. J. announced that he would go into town and renew his license at the courthouse.
'You can't,' I replied, 'That is no longer a possibility.'
'Well, then, fill out the online application for me!'
[Jim does a number of things online, but filling out a form is not one of his many skills.]
'I can't fill out the form--the online links don't work!'
I was feeling rather cross!

I do not like to be presented with demands or unusual circumstances first thing in the morning. 
I had chosen to read until between 2 and 3 A.M.--a historical novel I wanted to finish. 
I realized that trying to deal with the problematic government website on minimal sleep and before breakfast was detrimental to my temper.

Muddling about online I found the phone number for the new licensing location in town, handed it over to J. and stomped off to the kitchen.
Yes, he could renew his license there in person but there was often a waiting line so the earlier his arrival the better chance of not sitting [masked] until a clerk was free. 

My license is due for renewal in March, so by going along  [breakfast-less]  I could save a later trip.
A sign on the street pointed us toward a hodgepodge of office buildings, most of them with no identifying designation. After approaching several, J. went into a nearby diner and asked for directions.
 
There were only a few people waiting when we arrived, and the receptionist, an acquaintance of our daughter, quickly filled out preliminary forms and guided us to a cubicle.
J. had by now decided to relinquish his CDL for a regular license which required, of course, an additional form to be signed. 
There was a general milling about and only one clerk who seemed totally familiar with the new procedures.
We both opted for the 8 year license--hoping that we are still sound of mind and body when time rolls around for another renewal.
It was as well that J. decided we were heading to the little restaurant for a late breakfast.
As we tucked into our omelets he asked, 'Do you need anything while we are in town?'



I have been wanting to set up an LED fixture to tend some of my plants for the winter.
It took no time at all to locate them at Wal Mart along with a sack of cat kibble and a few other quickly gathered items.
Jim prefers the self checkout stands--I'm not fond of the small space allotted for the scanners.
The hand-held scanner gun, useful to scan heavy or awkward items without removal from the shopping cart, was not working. The 4 foot long packages of lights had to be balanced on the scanning unit, followed by the 18 lb bag of kibble. Thinking to speed checkout and get out of Wal Mart [I have a 15 minute tolerance for the place!] I began scanning the smaller items while J. lifted out the heavier ones. We were getting in each other's way. 

When the total was tallied J. began feeding bills into the required slot. Several were accepted, the last one shot back out while the machine reminded us that another dollar was owed. When the final bill was swallowed and change clanged into the receptacle I pushed the shopping cart at speed toward the exit. In the parking lot J. towed the front end of the cart along the bumpy asphalt while I pushed. I loaded bags into the back seat of the car while he stowed the larger items in the luggage compartment.

At home, opening the trunk, he asked, 'What have you done with the lights?'
We spent the afternoon puzzling how J. could have left two 48 inch light fixtures in the shopping cart.
He phoned the store--a cart hadn't been brought in with the light fixtures in it. Our son, alerted, went into the store to inquire and generously bought two more light fixtures for us.
I spent much of the evening concerned that J. was seriously losing his mind!

This morning, showered and dressed, I was waylaid on the way to the kitchen by J. demanding, "Do you remember exactly what we bought yesterday at Wal Mart?"
Glaring at him, I reeled off the list: the lights; 2 extension cords for installing said lights; 2 jugs of anti-freeze; 4 cartons of half and half; a large carton of eggs; large bag of cat kibble; bag of grapefruit, a package of cherry tomatoes.

J. announced gleefully that he'd had a brainstorm at 2 A. M.
'We never put the light fixtures back in the cart after having trouble with the scanner! Neither of us noticed that when you detoured to the vision center to make an appointment, we didn't notice going across the parking lot or unloading the cart.!'

Another phone call to the customer service desk revealed that the lights had been discovered at the scanning unit--propped against the wall, brought to the service desk and logged into the 'left behind' ledger. We could come and retrieve them!

We did just that--torn between the resolution of the dilemma and the realization that we had both become so distracted and impatient that we didn't notice we were leaving the store without the main item for which we had shopped.
While in town we stopped at the local liquidation warehouse--always a clutter of items but sometimes very useful things at reduced prices. 
We found nothing we wanted, until I noticed several pallets of potting mix in the yard.
Pointing them out to Jim I wondered if the price was good enough to buy them for topping off the new raised bed containers in the spring.
Jim came back to the car with the details and we decided it was a buy!



Back to the house to exchange the car for truck and trailer to haul the pallets, first stopping to treat ourselves to a meal at Subway.
Home at last in a better frame of mind.

'My'  light bar has been installed in the middle room of the lower level, African violets and my smaller rosemarys arranged on the counter. 
Jim will install the other three lights in his shop.


The pallets of soil mix have been unloaded and stacked alongside the garden.
We have discussed yesterday's incident, deciding that we are not quite senile; if we shop together at Wal Mart again [hopefully not soon!] we'll come up with a better, less distracting way of checking out. 
One person can remove items from the cart and place on the scanner; the other will bag items and stash in the shopping cart. We will check to see that all is accounted for.

I'm reminded of the old Monopoly game: Do not pass 'go'--do not collect $100--go directly to jail!

We are not yet [praise God] demented, but we have proved that in certain settings we share the ability to be distracted!

 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Winter Rituals


Eyeing the red numerals on the digital clock at a few minutes before 7 a.m. I considered burrowing into the covers and trying for a bit more sleep. Beyond my west window the landscape was blurred;  my bedroom seemed bereft of color, dulled by the milky grey mist outside.

The cats sensed I was awake, Elmo pouncing to purr moistly in my ear, Shelby and Rosie skidding across the bed to dislodge items on the vintage washstand by the window.

So, time to get up. 
The outside temperature stood at 28 F and the fire in the wood stove had died down. The electric heat takes over, so we don't get up to a seriously cold house. 

In honor of the change in the weather I chose the sort of garments I would have worn in Vermont or Wyoming on a January day: heavy tights, a favorite turtleneck pullover layered with a nubby zip-front cardigan. A mid-length denim skirt and a pair of wool house shoes with furry lining.

By the time we finished breakfast the sun was shining--a welcome sight after days of gloomy rain and clouds.


I pulled on my wellies and a down vest, went out into the blue and sunny day.
The fire-damaged hybrid magnolia raises twiggy branches against the sky.


A frost-crisped leaf in the pasture grass.
The lane is still spongey from the weekend's heavy rains.


Sumac torches are ruddy at the edge of the north ravine.


Self-sown nigella at the edge of the front raised bed produced buds in the unseasonable warmth. 


Shelby cat appears whenever I walk around the lower pasture. She has a habit of darting between my feet, rolling, inflating her tail. She followed, weaving about, parading across the retaining wall near the house, skittish and silly.

At supper time--butternut squash soup, cinnamon toast, a salad--we reminisce about other winters--weeks of unrelenting cold, blue-shadowed snow drifted high, icy roads; the wearisome tasks of keeping water pipes thawed, vehicles running, stoking fires to maintain heat in the heart of the house.

There was undeniable beauty in the snowy landscapes so familiar during our years in Vermont and Wyoming, but winters there are demanding. 
The rituals of wearing a red sweater and wooly socks, of making soup for a winter meal, are a pleasant remembrance transferred to the easier January weather of Kentucky.



 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Weather Journal, January 2nd


Nature supplied noise-makers for the early hours of January 1, 2022.
December brought a variety of weather, with many days in the high 60's F. Uneasy weather that spawned devastating tornados in western Kentucky, with lesser damage nearer our area. 
The sun has been tardy in appearing before noon; each hour of sunshine and patchy blue sky is welcomed.

We woke at 3 A.M. on the morning of the New Year--lightning zipped through the night sky, thunder muttered; bursts of rain beat a tattoo on the roof.
A thunderstorm several weeks ago blew out our land line, frying the phone in the process, so we are now prepared to hastily unplug the 'splitter' when storms move in closer.
 For several hours the storms buffeted us-- subsiding for a few minutes, then returning with vigor--thunder crashing, rain a fury of pounding torrents.

I managed only one photo when I went outside around 8 to convey soiled cat litter to the dump at the edge of the south ravine.
Rainwater surged along the verge of the lane--the air had an unhealthy suffocating sense of warm dampness.  We went to church--encountering water nearly over the road in places, boilings of dense fog, rain so intense that the windshield wipers on full speed couldn't cope. 
Halfway to town we ran out of the storm--and a pale sun struggled through ragged clouds.

Rain has continued today, Sunday, seldom more than a mizzle. The meadow above the house has greened in this counterfeit spring; buds have started to swell on a few flowering shrubs.

The forecast for the coming week calls for falling temperatures, nights below freezing, even the possibility of sleet or snow. 
As retirees we are not much impacted in practical ways by fickle weather.  We have no particular schedule to keep, no appointments, no need to venture out in poor driving conditions. 
I'm not complacent about this--family members and friends have to brave the storms, flooded roadways, and travel before and after the brief hours of daylight.


Compensation for our unsettled weather: Jim dug carrots this morning. They became part of our supper menu, served with a butter and honey glaze.



As I finish this post at 10 P.M. the weather update that runs across the bottom of my screen announces 34F Rain and Snow.
The front steps and brick landing shine wetly in the glow of the porch light, but at the moment no precipitation falls from the sky.
The cats are sprawled in their chosen comfortable spots. 
Time for bed and a few pages of the current book.



 

Friday, December 31, 2021

Evening, 31 December, 2021


Weeds that crowd in on my flower plantings are evergreen through a Kentucky winter. 
Pansies have self sown along the edge of the raised bed by the front steps with a few popping up in the grass beyond.


Mornings are so slow in December, the effects of the solstice not evident until mid January. The sun, when it condescends to rise, does so in the south-east coloring the sky beyond the ravine.
The weather has had an uneasy feel, daytime temps in the 60's F, nights seldom falling below freezing. Clouds, pale sunshine, warm, damp air, the kind of wind that rushes through the bare treetops then dives to sweep through drifts of fallen leaves. 

Robert-cat balks at coming in after dark so I am often out calling for him, standing with arms hugged against my sides or hands thrust into the pockets of a light jacket. Waiting for Robert, trailed by ever faithful Willis and his cohort, Sally, I look up at the night sky marveling at the imagination that could form pictures from the distant clusters of stars. 

I've felt unsettled, not quite back into what passes in retirement for a winter routine. 
I read, both online and from conventional books, read until my eyes are strained and squinting. 
I've needed to prepare music and lessons for church presentations, wondering if the time is nearing when I should bow out of those duties. 
We have tended to our small errands, avoiding Wal Mart even more than usual, choosing from what is on offer at the neighboring Beachy Amish store or the Discount Sales in the next county.
Family birthdays crowd the calendar in December and January, celebrated by 'eating out.'


Baking during Christmas week: Oatmeal bread--which J. sampled before it was cooled; a small blueberry pie pulled from the freezer; a pan of date bars which only I fancy--good with a mug of something hot.


It is lovely now to have good family cooks eager to take on much of the meal prep for holiday dinners. I am requested to produce the favorite Lemon Meringue pies.


We chose to gather for our family meal on Sunday, 26th December, at our house. The day was warm and sunny. Rosie-kitten wants so badly to help in all that I do--setting the extra folding table has to be a last minute arrangement.

New Year's Eve is traditionally a time for reflection. The turning of the calendar from one year to the next has never seemed to me a cause for noisy celebration. 
I've been sorting through old photos stored on CD's--a nostalgic undertaking that calls forth moments of sweet remembrance of times past, people--and pets--no longer with us. Memory once tapped can open the flood gates; it takes a certain vulnerability to deliberately step into the past, allowing scenes to  unfold, emotions to be stirred afresh.

I remember suddenly a New Year's Eve at our last home in Wyoming. Snow knee high in drifts around the house, wind--always the Wyoming wind, blasting down from the mountains.
For some reason I chose to bundle in layers of warm clothing, tall boots, face muffled in a fluffy scarf, to trudge along the pasture fence, flashlight in hand--checking on the old horse I suppose. I remember that she came trotting through the snow, eyes glinting, breath making steamy clouds in the circle of light from my torch.

As the early darkness has moved in on this evening in south-central Kentucky there have been several bursts of rain, a peal of thunder. The electricity jolted off and then on again; the digital clocks all needed resetting. The outside temperature stands at 64F. 
Rain and wind are predicted for tonight and tomorrow, with cooler temps expected at the beginning of the new year. 

I have started to work again in my sewing room--taking up the projects that were laid aside during November's anxious days of Covid. 
The first seed catalog arrived in the mail on Wednesday--my favorite for ordering flower seeds. 
Surely it is not too soon to dream of impossible bursts of bloom, abundant crops of vegetables. Armchair gardening at its best!



Jim's projects have included a return to filling the woodshed, the refurbishing of a John Deere tractor.
We are feeling blessed that we can meet the new year with a return of energy.

 

Monday, December 20, 2021

On The Eve of the Winter Solstice


Jim was first dressed and in the living room this morning. He called me to take note that both the full moon and the flush of the rising sun were visible.
By the time I had pulled on clothes and taken my camera out the back door the moon was sliding off to the north west. The shades of blue, mauve and pink were more delicately beautiful than my simple camera can record. Frost was still glittering on the pasture grass with temperatures close to the freezing mark.


The glow of a mid-winter sunrise behind the bare trees that edge the lane.


Looking across the now grassed over lane along the south ravine.


DIL Dawn knows my love of flowers in all seasons. This beautiful centerpiece gives me joy each time my eyes rest upon it. I carry it gently to spend nights in the sunroom or my bedroom closet as a safeguard from interested felines.


The deep red roses are like velvet.


My cactus began blooming in mid-November. It resides on the crowded table in the sunroom which is warm on sunny days but decidedly chilly if the day is overcast.


Rosemarys, a few small geraniums, starts of begonias and African violets all crowded on the sunroom table. I'm prodding J. to put up a light downstairs over a stretch of counter that could host some of my plants for the winter.


I have an array of African violets nearly all raised from gifted leaf cuttings.
Years ago I had dozens of violets under grow lights--many colors, doubles, variegated leaf forms.
I don't mind that the present ones are nearly all the same. They are in almost constant heavy bloom, thriving on near neglect.


Two of the reasons why my house plants are not safe in the main living area.
The kittens went for their respective spay/neuter last week. It slowed them down for two days. They are now very much back on form--which means naughty!