Saturday, March 30, 2024


Kildeers arrived from their cold weather habitats while it was still officially winter here in south-central Kentucky.
By February they were in evidence as I walked along the gravel lane that connects us to the main road.
They swooped low over our neighbor's cow pasture, alighting to strut along the verge of the lane uttering their distinctive cry, 'Peent, peent!'
Watching them I hoped  that avian wisdom would caution against eggs laid in weather that would surely drop below freezing.
During the past two weeks the warning cries of the kildeers have become more strident, their zig-zag flights more pronounced whenever I walk along the lane or in the adjoining meadow.

Friday as I walked along the freshly graveled portion of the lane, a kildeer flew up from the bank screaming frantically, doing the classic 'broken wing' maneuver in front of me.
Stepping cautiously along the stony edge of the bank I discovered the nest--if it can be called that--eggs deposited in a slight depression in the rough ground.

I fetched my simple camera from the house, trudged back to where the kildeer once again went into defensive display.
The nest contained four or five eggs, several of which were split open with baby birds motionless amidst the shattered shells. One egg had only a hairline crack. I suspected that the tiny birds were dead.

When I returned in the evening there was no sign of broken eggshells. One baby bird was on the ground, legs tucked under its body. I touched it ever so gently with one finger and it stirred.
Jim and I walked that way at about 6 Saturday evening. 
I had built a small cairn of light colored rocks to mark the place.
Several kildeers swooped about us, following us to the mailbox, but there was no frantic diversionary display or interest in the spot where the eggs had been.

No baby bird remained, there was nothing to indicate that the spot had been a nest site.
Standing quietly by the fence we observed the tiny birds scuttling around a tussock of grass at a little distance, while the adult kildeers circled nearby, vocalizing.

A google search informs that kildeers spend 22-28 days incubating their clutch of 4-6 eggs; kildeer chicks hatch fully feathered and as soon as the feathers dry they are ready to toddle about.
It is estimated that only 53-60 percent of the hatchlings fledge.

This is the second kildeer nest I've discovered here; kildeers apparently don't choose nesting spots with safety in mind. Their distinctive markings and behaviors make them an interesting addition to our rural landscape. Of my several efforts to zoom in on mother kildeer's protective antics, I'm pleased with the photo below.


Friday, March 22, 2024

Evening Walk

Willis and I walked at nearly dusk. I had been reading, rather muzzy and sleepy [last night's rest disturbed by sciatic pain and cat antics] and considered not going out. There is a certain pride involved in this daily trek around the meadow that I have set for myself, so jacket pulled on and headed up the slope of the north ravine toward the east fence line.

A grey squirrel shot part way up a slender sapling, sprang to a larger tree, tail afloat. I paused, looking upward while Willis twined ingratiatingly around my ankles, but the squirrel had disappeared.

All through the winter fallen hickory nuts and black walnuts have lodged in heaps beneath the trees, small hard nubbins rolling under the soles of my boots.
Now the brown hulls have shucked away leaving the bone-white balls of the hickories and the dark ridged spheres of the black walnuts. 
Burgeoning pasture grass, dandelions, purple-headed stems of dead-nettle are fast covering the nuts, but they are still a presence shifting beneath my feet.

Walking over them during winter I've thought of how many potential trees lie there, thousands, surely. So long as the meadow and verges are mown the only possibility for tiny new trees is farther down the slope of the ravine. 

Dandelions emerge in scattered spots throughout the winter months, blossoms held tightly against the cold damp ground. I noticed that the blooms don't fluff out with seed; instead they curl back into themselves, sterile and forlorn.
Now with warmer weather dandelions, taller stemmed, are in bloom everywhere--in the gravel of the walkway, pushing ruthlessly up around the roses, squatting in a clump of peonies.

Tiny yellow violets shrouded in last autumn's curls of oak, beech and maple leaves.
Their hardier purple cousins crowd into the flower beds, spread in profusion along the lane.

The air was soft this evening, heavy with the possibility of rain, fresh with the scent of green grass and budding trees.
After days of brisk wind the tree branches were motionless, the stillness part of the soft cloak of grey twilight fading into night.


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

A Blustery Arrival

The warm days of late February and early March have given way to a chilly first day of Spring.
Blue sky and bright sun, but a bitter wind held over from yesterday. 
I did walk two loops of the meadow path today--gave up yesterday after bending into the wind for a quick tramp around the lower path.

The early spring weather hastened the blooming of the hybrid magnolias, 'Susan' on the upper slope and 'Jane' below. Both were at the height of their beauty over the weekend. 
Monday's wind began to shatter the petals before overnight frost made limp brown shreds of the brilliant blooms. 
The fire-damaged magnolia at the west end of the property [site of a former owner's house] was slower to blossom. Walking around there late this afternoon I noted from a little distance the tree is still brilliant. Coming closer the frost blight is evident.
The wild daffodils that swept over roadsides and meadows in February are now also 'gone by.' They made a brave showing, bowing their bright yellow heads through cold rain, then standing firm and seeming to stretch upward when the sun returned.

Sunrise has moved back toward the east, outlining tree branches that while not in leaf have acquired a subtle nubby texture of buds.

A few yellow violets crouch in the damp that lingers on the slope of the lower path.

On warm afternoons I've puttered about in my flower gardens; clematis pruned; winter-dried stalks of coneflower, monarda and nepeta clipped. 
I made several attempts to tidy up the so-called rough strip of perennials along the driveway.
The soil is heavy, damp, cold. The mats of over-wintering weeds have flourished seeming to thrive on the bark mulch piled on every year. 
Hours of toil put my back out, but did almost nothing to improve the planting strip.
I fear it is time I come to terms with this situation which isn't likely to improve.

I moved several clumps of my seed-grown Michaelmas daisies into the rough strip--these were surplus plants stuck into the raised bin planters where they have grown sturdy. 
Last fall I grubbed out most of the goose-neck loosestrife which over-ran that section of the rough strip.  I think the asters can hold their own against any remaining roots of loosestrife. 
I'm planning more tubs for summer flowers by the front steps--what to do with my beloved perennials?
They may have to survive amongst the weeds with such tending as I can manage.
Hands and knees gardening is no longer an option!


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

February: A Reprieve From Winter

A brilliant sunrise on February 8 ushered in a 'weather breeder.' The digital thermometer read 46 F as the sun spilled over the sky. At 9:15 in the evening it was 56 F. 
Friday morning, the 10th, dawned dark and damp, but still warm. The sky hung low and brooding with clouds. At daybreak on Saturday morning thunder crashed sending the cats under the bed. The scent of rain blew in through the partially opened west window. Thunder and lightning moved on quickly, leaving spatters of rain which continued through the day. 
Rain and darkness hung with us for the next two days. I gave up waiting for a sunny day to dry bed linens on the line, put them all through the clothes dryer. 

Today has been clear and sunny after a night of torrential rain. The light crisp wind would have dried sheets pegged on the lines, imparting that fresh outdoor scent. We've had windows open this afternoon airing out the fusty wood-smoke aura that permeates the house in winter. 
I pulled on boots to walk around the meadow, the upper slope drying in the sun and wind while the lower lane is squelchy with water standing in the ruts. 

Dandelions spring up here and there unfazed by frost or the days of mid-January snow.

During the summer a catnip plant  asserted itself  close to the west wall. Perhaps the cement holds the warmth of sunny days encouraging fresh growth. 

Willis, supervising my poking about in the winter-stunned garden, has discovered the clump of catnip!

A goodly wallow in the cat drug of choice leaves Willis leaning woozily against the nearest support.

A battered viola has blossomed after being encased in snow.

Last spring I spotted a small clump of daffodils blooming in the straggle of trees and underbrush just off the path that skirts the south ravine. 
I remember that Nellie-cat took one of his last walks with us that day.  
I intended to move the bulbs to join the ones that live near the Jane magnolia, but lost the location as summer vegetation took over the spot. I'm thinking that if I dig carefully now I could re-settle the clump. Strangely, with the swaths of wild daffs spreading along nearby roadsides, I have found only two isolated small clumps here on our property. 

Signs of life on the clematis vines assure me that they have survived the winter thus far. These leaf buds of Jackmanii are midway up the large trellis. 

Dr. Ruppel on the other side of the trellis is also showing life. 
On the south-east side of the house clematis Candida and her neighbor Duchess of Edinburgh are presenting nubbins of growth. 
They revive much too early each year coming into first bloom in time for the late frosts of April and early May. I will doubtless be out on chilly evenings wrapping the trellises in old sheets and towels. 
While our native New England shivers under repeated snowfall, Kentucky grants us days of nearly spring-like warmth to offset those that bring icy rain and biting wind.
We are headed toward springtime, but the vernal equinox brings no promise that killing frosts are over. Sunny mornings, warm afternoons and lengthening evenings encourage us that the seasons remain on course.

The span of colder weather in January wasn't conducive to painting my bookcase. We kept the connecting door to the sunroom closed. Afternoons on the 4th and 5th of February brought sun through the south and west windows warming the room sufficiently to paint. I had planned to lightly brush black over the dark red and sand it back for a vintage effect. With the long delay in the project I decided to touch up the red and be done. 

Jim moved the bookcase downstairs to the big room, lashing it to a furniture dolly and trundling it down the slope to the back door. [The staircase between the main floor and lower floor is too narrow for furniture moving.]
A number of errands and household tasks kept me busy the rest of the week.

Dark and stormy weather on Sunday was ideal for sorting and shelving books. I turned the heat on in the big room and tackled books in boxes, books in two other bookcases, books stacked in a tipple on a small table, attempting to assign shelf space to historical novels, mysteries, collections of essays, devotional subjects, old favorites that have been with me through many moves. 
The categories have remained flexible. Sometimes when collecting the works of a particular author I have to include mass-market paperbacks to fill out a series. This can make for a certain untidiness on the shelves. I've had to put aside a few old paperbacks that are too faded and spongey to keep. Cherished books in the big glass-fronted hutch now have more breathing room.
A collection of books is always subject to the process of culling and keeping; a few purchases are disappointing, not interesting enough to be read again and these go into a small pile to be donated. Over the years I've donated a very few that I'd like to revisit. 

I'm pleased with the bookcase project and I think I'll be able to locate a desired volume without too much searching.
There is, of course, a known liability in sorting a bookcase.
One opens a book at random. begins reading, though not at the beginning, and half an hour later is jolted back to the task at hand.
There could be far worse ways to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon!


Monday, January 29, 2024

Scraps From The Rag-Bag

The iconic elm. Looking east toward Brandon Gap in the distance.

10 p.m. on Saturday evening and I'm out with my little flashlight, stomping through the winter-tangled grass of the west meadow, calling Robert-cat. 
J. and I took turns poking our heads out the door, trilling his name in winsome tones; it is clearly one of the too frequent nights when Robert feels the urge to patrol the acreage, willfully deaf to our entreaties, preferring to roam the edges of the wooded ravines. It is 50 degrees and a restless wind hums through the bare trees.

Two nights ago the full moon was obscured by heavy fog; now as I stand still, face raised to the sky, clouds shred and part revealing the waning gibbous moon seeming to float above the barn roof.
Words drop into my mind:
"The moon was a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas."
How long since I have thought of the romantic Alfred Noyes poem, "The Highway Man" let alone read it?


Ross-Lewis home. Elm Row Farm.

I am of an age to remember that grandmotherly farm women kept a ragbag, sections of fabric torn from old shirts or faded aprons, useful for mopping up a spill or polishing the parlor furniture, sturdy chunks of chambray that might be needed to patch the three-cornered tear in a man's work shirt. 
Grandma Eliza's ragbag lived in the tidy kitchen closet that also housed brooms, dustmop, tins of stove polish and furniture polish on a shelf, the mop bucket with its wringer, a feather duster. 

I've always had what I think of as a 'ragbag mind,' a head stuffed to distressing capacity with words and phrases, sentences from books read years ago, mental pictures, remembered conversations, overheard snippets of opinions, melodies, names, vignettes, old joys and sorrows.
None of this 'stuff' is stored in orderly mental files or neatly labeled cubbies, nor is any of it stashed in chronological order.
Grandson D. chuckling affectionately, tells me, 'Meme, when you die, a lot of useless information will go with you!'

Inspired to tweak some potentially useful bit from the pile I am pummeled by a cascade of discordant rubble that resists being shoved back in place.
As a life-long insomniac, it follows that this endless collection of trivia unfolds its disjointed segments during the wee hours when I would prefer to be sleeping.

Is this a common affliction? Perhaps it is reserved for those of us who have become by default or by nature the keeper of family memories and sagas, the ones who noticed seemingly inconsequential details. 
Perhaps those of us with cluttered minds are the proverbial 'flies on the wall' not quite in the thick of things, but ever alert to the inter-weaving of colors, scents, voices, atmospheres, taking it all in, storing it, never knowing what will turn up later to trouble or delight us.

Wilder Hill

Willis-cat trudged after me in the damp grass, eyes gleaming whenever I turned to scan the the lane with my flashlight. Rounding the back of the house, stepping into the glare of the porch light and motion light activated on the side of the barn, I noted Robert sitting on the damp bricks of the landing. At my approach he tossed his head, sauntered down the drive. 
Jim poked his head out the door and stated crossly, 'He showed up right after you headed down back. He doesn't choose to come in. If that's the way he wants it he can stay out all night!'
I took a few casual steps in Robert's direction. In a flash he had disappeared behind the barn.
The wind was coming up. The galleon moon slid behind a tossing sea of inky clouds. 
I went to bed thinking of the highway man riding the road that looped like 'a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor'--and of so many other things.
The wind thrummed and whined against my west window, the red numerals on my clock moved me through the night hours; sleepless, I resigned myself to turning over the scraps tumbling from my ragbag mind.

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding,
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door. 

[Stanza X from 'The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes]

Friday, January 26, 2024

January Journal [Quiet Days]

Sunday, January 21. Minus 1 F at 7:30 in the morning. Sunshine on snow and a high of 28 F by mid afternoon.  I managed only 1 loop around the meadow. 
Monday morning was more promising: 25 F at 9 a.m. We had errands in town followed by a drive to Somerset to meet family for a meal to celebrate January birthdays--four of them. 
The drive home late in the afternoon was through quiet farm country once we left the city behind. Fields were still snow covered. Arriving home we noticed that the icicles had loosed their hold on the porch overhang.  46 F when I walked at sunset, the snow breaking down, patches of bare ground appearing in the meadow. 

By Tuesday morning rotting snow and slush made walking unpleasant. A flock of juncos bounced about on the mostly bare slope of the west meadow. 

Temps in the 50's on Wednesday and Thursday, sporadic rain, heavy fogs, general gloom. 
I walked between showers, the ground squelchy underfoot. I startled a grey squirrel foraging under the hickories at the east boundary fence. 
The first racoon we've seen in months paid a visit to the kibble tray on the porch, bumbling off at speed when I opened the door. 

Today we drove to South Fork for a rather lackluster shopping at the two discount food stores there.
Home again I put together a shepherd's pie, one of J's favorite dinners, then created two carrot cakes, one for us, the other for son-in-law Matt. 

I walked two loops of the meadows while the cakes cooled. There was a different feel and smell to the air, not quite springlike but with a sense of soil and grass released from the punishing cold.

Friday's grey morning skies.

Pale sunlight and clearing skies just before sundown.

Green grass along the lane.

The tattered remains of clematis vines. they will need a hard pruning come spring.

The colors of sunset are welcome after a run of grey and foggy days.

A zoom of the same view.

The results of afternoon baking--to remind me that I did accomplish something domestic!

This week: Reading, writing letters, doing a bit of research on The Scottish Psalter as we are studying the Psalms at church.

A creative endeavor. When snow and cold leaves me housebound I look to what I have on hand.
Gina previously admired this length of heavy decorator cotton, the satin lining fabric had languished in my stash for a number of years.

Gina likes a variety of throws for sofa and chairs, and is pleased with this one as a birthday gift.
I tied it with cream-colored embroidery cotton, also discovered in my stash of goods.

Robert was a great help. He insisted that the colors of the throw were a becoming backdrop for his black and white fur.


Sunday, January 21, 2024

Cold Weather Has Lingered

Cold weather moved in during the night of January 13, after two days of rain and wind. The temperature hasn't risen above the freezing mark [32 F.] all week.  Nights have registered  readings in the teens, then sliding down into single digits. 
When Jim checked the reading at 7:30 a.m. this Sunday morning it was minus .8--I think we could safely conclude that it had dipped below zero F. during the predawn hours. 

I have tried to keep to my schedule of walking but have had to shorten my time outdoors as the bitter cold creates facial pain. 
The effort of pushing through snow while lumbered in multiple layers of bulky clothing really has diminished the joy of being outside.
Area churches were cancelled this weekend, many offering a Zoom option. County offices and schools have been closed or on limited hours.
I was pleased that we had only one necessary trip during the week and that over clear roads to the next town. 
We've added our long johns and warm turtleneck tops to our usual indoor clothing.

Red sky at morning.

On the 17th a brilliant half moon balanced in the clear sky like a bowl resting on a table. The temperature hovered at zero F. Snow glittered in the cold wash of moonlight and twinkling starlight. 
In the morning [18 January] the sunrise display was colorful and prolonged, spreading a wash of rose, crimson and deep lavender to encompass the north and south horizons.
By mid-morning the sky had darkened to a pewter color and snowflakes began to swirl down by mid afternoon. 
I washed bedlinens and was thankful for the electric dryer!
Friday was COLD and snow fell relentlessly. 

I didn't walk outside. The water dish for the barn cats has needed to be brought inside many times per day to have ice tunked out in the sink and fresh water set out.  Going out to the porch with fortifying meals for the cats lets a chill blast into the kitchen, leaves me wanting to huddle by the fire.
Jim has improved the cat coops in the greenhouse with wraps of insulation and a tarp to keep out moisture. There are a number of snug bolt holes in the barn wings as well. 

Sunrise as zoomed from the front steps.

I have always enjoyed the tapestry of blue shadows on snow.

Snow crunches under my boots when walking up the lane.

Standing just beyond the lower level porch, camera pointed at the sunroom roof.

Icicles hanging outside the east porch screens.

Our neighbor's beef cattle marching up the slope from the frozen pond.
They have countless times seen me walk past on my way to the mailbox. This time, lumbering along in my quilted bibs, face wound in a scarf, the cattle decided they didn't know me. Apparently I appeared threatening, so they charged up the hill.

Tracks everywhere in the snow. Cat tracks, deer tracks, the hem-stitched prints of birds who have gleaned seeds from every stalk of weed or grass.
Our tracks, criss-crossing the dooryard, imprinted in the snow of the lane.

Robert, who thinks he must be out surveying his kingdom. The roof of the car is warmer than the cold, cold ground.

Fresh bread, with soup and salad, the mainstay of cold weather meals.
A warming trend is projected for mid week.
I anticipate opening windows, shaking out rugs, blowing aways the fusty dusty indoor atmosphere of winter.