Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The View From Kentucky

March 18th, the day of departure from Wyoming.  It was a windy raw day.  I was pleased to see the Canadian geese on the icy pond even as the storm rolled down from the mountains.
We stopped in Riverton for a late lunch as snow began to fall.  Pebbles in her trailer is behind the motor home.  Old Snort'n Nort'n was hauling the heavy van with oddments piled on the body of the truck.
Son Howard pulled his horse trailer loaded with J's tools behind the red Dodge.  It was a grueling trip through three days of blizzard and high winds which battered the vehicles and our nerves.
J. and nephew Matt supervise Howard in putting up the new mailbox.
A neighbor stopped to introduce himself and stayed to talk with the men as they worked on the mailbox.
This was taken a week ago before the weather warmed up.
Pebbles needs a beauty treatment but J. hasn't found time to give her a good currying.
Our old welcome sign is a bit the worse for wear, but one of the men put it right up on the garage.
The existing weathervane has an Amish buggy.
One of the first things J. did was buy a tractor!
A misty morning with one of the Cardinals in a shrub outside the dining room window.
The cats  have several new species of birds to admire.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rainy Sunday

Rain off and on today after a few cracks of thunder in the night. The grass seems to grow by the hour.
We had an errand at Wal Mart this morning and I brought home three packs of viola tricolor--each pack a different color blen--to plant in with the daffodils.
Our nephew will have to leave after a late dinner--taking the "connection to the world" with him!
I go through spurts of energy trying to get some of our belongings settled--a bit awkward since things will have to be moved when we put down new flooring and install the new kitchen cabinets and stove.
J. is anxious to "turn the ground" and begin planting, but it is still too wet.
I walked out around the boundaries late yesterday afternoon--found a straggling wild rose briar up on the back line fence.
There is a bird wanting to build a nest on the front porch--which we wish could be politely discouraged. You'd think the cats could get up in view and discourage any homesteading bird!  These are very spoiled housecats whom I never let out in Wyoming as there were too many hazards.
The novel event of the day happened a few minutes ago when J and Douglas called me to the front window to watch two of the neighborhood Amish buggies going by--probably on their way to or from church services which are traditionally held in members' homes.  They were quite obviously RACING their horses.
I expect Pebbles spied them trotting by--perhaps her old brief career as a sulky-pulling race horse came to her memory!
Sunshine peeking feebly through the tree branches, tiny leaf buds on the big unidentified shrub ouside the dining room door.
Now, if only I can have home internet, I shall be content!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pebbles and the Cats

The wind is blowing and just wiped out the wireless connection taking with it a post I was writing.
The update on Pebbles is that she stood the trip very well.  J and Howard took turns walking her every night and morning. By the final day she was obviously tired of travel, not wanting to return to the confinement of the horse trailer, though being a biddable horse she did so.
There are no fences here, so J quickly put up an electric fence when we arriverd to make a small enclosure.  Pebbles pounded around and around, tossing her head and flaunting her tail.  She was so over-joyed to be free!
The cats have learned where the warmest places are in the cottage at every hour of the day and night. The windowsills here are not wide enough to accomodate a lounging cat so they have to be content with a spot on the floor on a nest in a chair or sofa.
The sun is shining through the budding branches of the red maples, the wind tossing them makes shadows on the table where I am writing and dapples light and   shade over Teasel's stripey coat.  She is settled in a chair by the table and periodically reminds me that we used to have TEA at this time of day.  We are trying to wean the cats from the habit of canned food twice a day.  They have been fine until today when Teasel remembered the old routine and started a most eloquent pleading fuss.
I was able to get online and use my Jackson and Perkins gift certificates.  I am looking forward to the arrival of two yellow Simplicity roses, a collection of vintage hollyhocks and lily of the valley pips.
Running through my mind at intervals is a phrase from Psalms: "the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Here in Kentucky

Arrived in Kentucky on Sunday afternoon, in light rain which was wonderful after battling snow and high winds for three days across the great plains.
I am amazed to find that daffodils grow "wild" here--great swaths of them at the edges of meadows, along ditches, around old abandoned homesteads. In our dooryard are double daffodils, and an array of shrubery, not all of which I can yet identify.
Before our son left on his return journey he installed a new washer and dryer in the basement, helped J. pull out the antiquated laundry units, moved in enough   furniture to be comfortable.  It was difficult to see him leave for "home" back in Wyoming.
The cats have stopped hiding and trembling and are watching bluebirds and cardinals from the windows.
The front porch is overflowing with boxes, furniture [we have too much for this little cottage!] is standing in odd places.
I've have called twice about phone and internet service and I'm getting mixed messages about installation.  the latest guess is April 5th before the phone company can come out.
One of our nephews is here for the weekend --a truckdriver on his last independent run which brought him to Kentucky.  He walked in carrying a "notebook" with some sort of anywhere wireless connection and the announcement, "Aunt Sharon, I have brought you the world at your fingertips!"
So, yes, we are here, spring is happening, and I know I will love being here. This little farmstead already gives me a sense of home and place.
Lots of work to do both inside and outdoors and we are ready to begin, although a bit short on energy these few days. I made out a huge nursery order at J's request--dwarf fruit trees and berry bushes to add to what is already here.
I look forward to internet connection at some point --SOON-- and will catch up with all I have missed at my favorite blogs!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Morning

There is snow on the ground this morning here on the Iowa border, but the sun is breaking through and at the moment no more of the dreadful stuff is falling from the sky.
The menfolk have gone to the cafeteria, while I took another hot bath.  {The one last night being for the purpose of cleanliness and recovery--the one this morning to fortify my mind!]
The men have "called home" to learn that Lander, WY received 22 inches of snow overnight.  I guess we made our get away in good time.
My friend Sue has a sister in the approximate area of our destination in KY--that good lady is out planting peas in her garden, so that is encouraging information.
Off to the cafeteria and then to sort the cats after their chilly night.  They have a ton of old quilts on the bed and have likely burrowed snugly.
Tomorrow should see us in Kentucky!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day Two of the Moving Adventure

I have photos of the convoy of vehicles which comprise our Wyoming to Kentucky move, but didn't get the camera in to the motel room--I didn't get the toothpaste in either, to J's distress.
We left Lander, WY a bit after noon on Thursday, stopped at the truckstop in Riverton for the first proper meal of the day and lumbered onto the highway an hour later just as light snow began to fall.
We enjoyed several days of deceptively spring-like weather which on Wednesday began to change omminously at about dusk.  A tiny sliver of moon came out, like a slice of muskmelon balanced on a vast dark platter. By morning dirty clouds hung over the mountains and the foothills had a new coating of snow.
As we finished loading the various vehicles the wind from the northwest cut sharply and trudging through the mud from the cabin to the motor home [endless trips with my hand full of oddments] I sometimes felt cold drops of rain on my face.
The last item of furniture to be removed from the cabin was the bed.  While our son and son-in-law stood waiting in the outer room, J and I attempted to take down the bed.  The cats, distressed by the uproar of emptying the main room had, sensibly in their thinking, taken refuge under the bed and several darted out in fright as we lifted off the mattress. Mrs. Beasley and my darling Teasel inserted themselves up inside the box spring.  Mrs. B. howled as J stood the spring on end, but seeing her hiding place was threatened, she dropped to the floor and scurried to a corner.
Teasel wedged herself between the coils of the springs, held on for dear life and made dreadful utterances.  I managed to extract her and pop her into a cat carrier.
I transferred all the cat carriers to the motor home without any upsets, mopped the cabin floors for the last time and shut myself in the motor home with my charges.
I have an almost superstitious determination not to take last longing looks at a place I am leaving.  I don't do goodbyes very well, a failing shared by nearly everyone in our family. So, as we rumbled away from familiar territory I concentrated on soothing the cats.
J and I slept very comfortably in the motor home last night and the cats, liberated from the little bedroom to the larger territory of the motor home behaved very nicely.
Pebbles the Horse has thus far taken the trip well.  She has had several spritely walk abouts as well as feeds of hay, grain and water.
Today has been horrendous traveling--through a blizzard of heavy wet snow with the usual gusting cross winds of Nebraska slamming us relentlessly. The men plowed on doggedly, long after I wished we could admit that it was time to stop and take refuge from the storm.  I have to say that we couldn't have better or more skillful drivers than these three [J. our son Howard, and J's twin brother's older son.] 
In the interest of hot baths and a bit more space to spread ourselves, we have taken a motel room tonight, next door to Howard and his cousin. The cats have the whole of the motor home bedroom and tiny bathroom to themselves with a clean litter box and food and water topped up.
We crossed the Nebraska/Iowa border just before stopping for the night.  J. spoke to someone who had come from the easterly route that will be our direction tomorrow--it sounds like we may finally be out of the blizzard and into a mere rain by mid-day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Made it to the garden center for a lovely half hour choosing seeds with my gift certificate.  I worked in a green house during the transplanting season years ago.  Today the humid warmth in the hot houses and the scent of potting soil and tender green plants brought back pleasant memories.  I took time to walk along the paths which in a few months will be bordered with potted perennials and shrubs. Behind one of the hot houses were the peonies which had been potted up in the fall and then wintered over under a heap of wood shavings. They were uncovered to the warmth, but none had sprouted.  I looked at the tags and saw they were new varieties and I'm more interested in heirloom flowers.
Yes, QC, White Flower farms is the ultimate in wish books, and indeed, pricey.  Hopefully I can collect good plants a few at a time.  Will definitely try local sources [in KY] on-line as well as urseries I can visit.
I also bought today collapsable dog cages which can be used to transport the cats.  And cat litter--and cat food--and bottled water.
Space  in the vans is becoming tight and I have been warned I may have to part with or store some items.  How to choose?
Books, antiques, CATS, fabric and such have priority. The laptop is behaving annoyingly tonight.  Maybe its me--not sitting up straight and sort of leaning on the keyboard!

A Hurried Post

No time for anything sensible or creative today.  More appointments, the dump run, hopefully the stop to buy the seeds.
I have to laugh at the idea of J enjoying a country rooster's wake-up call.  For some reason he finds the sound of a nearby rooster irritating and has a predjudice against the sound of whip-poor-wills as well!
One of the things I think we'll enjoy in our new location is the clop-clopping of the Amish horses pulling buggies as several of them will be neighbors. Pebbles will ikely be  inspired to dash along her pasture fence trying to make new friends.
Continued improvement in the cat's colds and no new cases.
The sun is shining and drying up the mud.
All of your comments and encouragements are treasured.
I trust that as soon as we arrive and I have home internet I can reward you all with beautiful photos of spring in the Bluegrass State--and much more cheerful  and inspiring thoughts!
Meanwhile may I recommend that if anyone contemplates a move to a new home they start packing about a year in advance!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Slogging Along

Teasel is bird-watching.

Sunday was a day of heavy wet snow which has mostly melted today leaving us with formidable mud--but at least we've had a sunny sky which should help to dry it up. We can't drive the trucks down close to the cabin, so we do errands and ferry things back and forth, taking our shoes off at the door.  Daughter, grandson and son-in-law all lent aid in sorting and packing in the storage shed and barn yesterday. We had a bonfire of things which should likely have been discarded long ago. I confess to getting testy when some of my "treasures" are viewed with dubious intentions--and the remark, "You don't really think we're moving THAT?"

The cat sniffles seem to be improving. So far it has affected only the cat family of Charlie and Maisie and their "children" Chester and Jemima. Chester is a nervous sort who tends to wiffle and wheeze a bit whenever he is stressed.  I suspect that the different, less even heat in the cabin may have brought this on.  It seems to run its course in 3 or 4 days, and the sufferers have had no loss of appetite. I held down several of the cats this morning and clipped their nails.  Some of them have a "so what" attitude, several others who are usually trusting and gentle go quite beserk the minute I gently pick up a paw and click the clippers. J. and I ended up laughing uproariously at them--and of course cats can't bear to be ridiculed, so we had to apologize!

Signs of very early spring are evident.  Thawing [muddy] horse pastures and cattle yards are adding a very pungent tang to the air and there is the nearly indescribable smell of earth that is slowly releasing months of frost. Pebbles is frisky as a colt, and thinks that with an increase of vehicles and people going in and out of the drive, we all must be meant to feed her. I think she has gotten  some extra meals, since the buyers moved in. She can do "poor starving horse" very convincingly.

The cats were much entertained this morning by a group of starlings [such unattractive birds!] who were landing in the trees which surround the back of the cabin.  They are obviously considering nesting in the eaves and J. is hoping that work he did last fall will make their former roosts on the high window ledge and under the edges of the roof much less available.

We've had some unexpected business/legal details to sort which is taking up time we hoped to spend finishing the packing in a more orderly manner.  Can't be helped. I expect we will roar out on schedule, whether with our wits about us or not.

The kind man from whom we are buying the little Kentucky farm phoned J. today to say that he will turn up the heat in the cottage, put on the water and the water heater, so we will arrive to a warm house and the prospect of a hot bath.

At twilight I wallowed through grainy snow and congealing mud to the strip of earth which never quite qualified as a flower border. The rose canes are still dormant and my heirloom peonies are beneath the snow.
Somehow it would't seem right to dig about trying to retreive the peonies now that the property has changed hands.  The white peony is one which J.'s Mom had planted at the old farmhouse in Vermont, the red ones came from my grandparents farm, others were moved from an old dooryard in Port Henry, New York where I helped my boss clean up a house for which his wife was executrix. I know of several mail order nurseries which offer the older varieties.

My good friends at the quilt shop have given me a gift of money specifically for the Kentucky garden, a dear friend in Maine has sent an on-line gift certificate for Jackson and Perkins---that catalog of garden wonders.
"Sprouts" Greenhouse is just beyond he landfill outside of town here. Since a dump run is planned for tomorrow, I can browse the seed racks there with my church gift certificate.

When recent nights have been too full of aching muscles and whirling "To Do" lists, I continue to mentally review the remembered delights of bulbs and flowering plants with the anticipation of enjoying old favorites again.

I'm bracing for some exhausting days leading up to the grand departure, probably three days on the road, if all goes well.  Since Pebbles the Horse must be rested and walked frequently during the journey, I should be able to take advantage of that respite as well.  My thought is to find my shabby armchair as soon as I can delve into the moving van when we reach Kentucky, plunk it in a friendly spot in the cottage, make tea---and snarl at anyone whom comes near with a request to DO anything!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Time is running out at the library today, the only place I can set up the laptop and work. 

I have several weighty essays keeping me awake at night as I compose them lying in the dark, but no time to work through one and get it out of my head and onto the screen.

The cats, although joyful at our return, have gotten the sniffles, likely from being moved into the cabin and crouching mournfully on the cold floors under the bed.  They look at us bleary-eyed, sneeze on us, but then cuddle up with stuffy purrs wanting to be comforted.

I'm watching their progress carefully wondering if a vet visit must be added to the frantic "to do" list in the next few days.  None of the cases seem to be life threatening,  no one has stopped eating.  They are rather like small children who don't know yet how to blow noses, and present a rather "snotty" appearance.
Pebbles is acting absolutely coltish since our return.  She adores J. and although some of her enthusiasm when we drive into the yard if food based [poor starving horse!] she has had a great deal to say to him and rushes at the fence with whinnies and whickers.

We tackled the storage shed and old barn yesterday, reuniting with some items which I had forgotten I owned but was immediately sure were cherished enough to be crammed into the moving process.
J. drove over South Pass and stayed Thursday night with Howard and Heidi and rumbled back yesterday morning with their large horse trailer.  The trailer is not meant to transport Pebbles who will have to be content with our humbler and smaller trailer.  It is meant to hold the overflow of household goods and J's many and expensive tools.

I do have to remind myself that the house we just sold is no longer ours and the new owners have every right to do it up to their own taste.  That is exactly what we will be doing in the little cottage--painting and some renovating, adding to the gardens which are already there. But, I haven't quite detached from this place yet, so feel a bit like some poor waif gazing from the humble cabin toward the lights of the "big house!"

Wyoming has been a huge change for me this past dozen years, as we were both bred and born in New England. South Central Kentucky where we are headed provides a landscape that seems almost familiar with its beautiful hardwood trees, green fields and historic buildings in every town square.

I think we're glad that the renovation of the land and cottage were untaken before we found it.  Much "dirty work" has been accomplished both inside and out. We caught it just in time to prevent new carpets going down.  We prefer wood or tile floors.  {If you think of many cats hawking hairballs on carpet, you understand!}
The encouraging words from my readers and "followers" during this hectic and exhausting time are so appreciated. There is the too well known physical work of packing and cleaning, the lack of time to rest and --at this point--the guest cabin is so cluttered with cats and belongings that merely being there isn't inspiring.

A friend pointed out that our designated day of leave-taking [Thursday] is also my birthday!  I was greatly surprised to hear that!

One of the nicest things on my "do before we leave" list is to drive to the local garden center and spend the gift certificate given to me by loving church members when my Dad died last fall.  I can choose veg and flower seeds with happy glee knowing that they will all grow where we are headed.

In the dark hours of listening to the cats wheeze, while trying to give J enough of the bed space so that he can sleep well, I conjure memories of spice pinks [were these the gilliflowers of English books?] lavender, scented thymes [Thank you, Angie, for reminding me of lemon thyme!] catnip to dry for the cats.  J. is eloquent on the subject of sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers--and the anticipation of planting good pasture grass to make hay for Pebbles.
Its all about holding on to enthusiasm and stamina at this point! 

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Back in Wyoming to the usual March medley of mud, melting ice, new dustings of snow.  All is chaos in the little cabin--too full of boxes and unsorted belongings, thronged with needy felines.
I'm perched in a corner of the computer lab at the local library, with J's laptop on my lap--which contrarily is not a comfortable way to write.
We have some serious business to attend to before leaving in a week.  There is also [groan] the storage shed and the old barn to sort.
I'll be coming into the library as I have time--I daresay I could spread myself out on a table in the main area and be a bit more comfortable to type and read.
It's getting dark and I'm driving the red truck, so want to get back promptly to the cabin.  Driving the truck is not an issue, but the big water tank is on the back and I'm one of those people who prefer looking behind me to judge a back-up space rather than relying on the side mirrors.
So, back through the mud to the place that is no longer home.
The new owners have painted my kitchen terra cotta and the wainscoating is no longer barn red, but greem.  The bathroom which J. labored to finish and paint is now a brilliant shade of pink. We know this because he went in yesterday to change a door lock and a switch plate.
Oh well, we shall be soon putting our own stamp on the Kentucky cottage.  Its just the getting there that seems a hurdle!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Garden Thoughts

We spent more time at the farm property today and signed the contract this afternoon.
This triangular garden bed must have been used only for annuals as there seems to be nothing breaking ground except an iris root or two in the far left corner.
I wandered round the back yard plotting and planning and decided this will make a fine place for an herb garden.  I may center it with an old rose, a low growing one.
I hope that I can buy potted herbs locally.  If not I'll send away to an Oregon nursery I've used before.
How about lemony signet marigolds for edging?
Or, some pansies and violas?
Nepeta, the lower growing kinds make a good edging.
So many things will grow well here that I feel joyfully overwhelmed with choices after so many years without a garden.

J. strolled the acres again and thought about where he would plant  raspberry canes, a strawberry bed.
We walked in sharp north wind and sunshine, planning, hoping, wanting the miles and days between now and move-in day to go quickly.
Late in the afternoon we drove to the next town where there is a Lowes Home Improvement Store.
I picked up brochures on cabinetry, we looked at samples of finishes, light fixtures, picked up more paint cards.
This is a very different style of house than we have had before.  After an initial hesitancy about "getting it right" I think we are having good ideas.
Will start the return trip to Wyoming tomorrow.  There are spring snows and storms between here and there.  Old Snort'n Nort'n will deal with it all.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cottage and Acreage Photos

Back/west view of the cottage.  I have already seen cardinals in the branches.
Spring bulbs are bursting green and budding in the various stone rimmed flower beds.
Side/front of the cottage.
Magnolia tree at north side of house.
Across the fields to the old barns. One is partitioned into horse stalls with hay storage in a loft overhead.
Looking toward the road.
J. walking across the back yard at the cottage.

These hasty photos don't really convey the beauty of the March landscape. The cottage is small with some neat interior touches.  I have great plans for renovating the kitchen and personalizing the rest of the space.
No idea how we shall fit in all our furniture and belongings, but we'll think about that later.
J. is already thrilled with the thought of reseeding the fields and roaring about on a tractor, unhindered by time constraints other than those of the seasons.

Scenes from the Trip/Wyoming to Kentucky

This is how we looked starting out from the local fuel stop on Feb 26th after the closing on our house.
That is the venerable "Snort'n Nort'n" hauling the car behind.
We stopped at a truck stop in Ogallala, Nebraska on Saturday afternoon. This interesting load was parked near us.  J. recognized it as a replacement blade for a wind turbine.
Do not stand gazing skyward when flocks of geese are flying overhead.
Geese on the ground beside Rte 26 in Nebraska.  they are sharing the muddy ground with Black Angus cattle.

After several exasperating attempts I found a method of uploading photos from my camera to J's laptop.
Hopefully I can manage to do it again.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Right Home

We believe that the right place for us has appeared in just such a miraculous way as the whole process of selling our Wyoming properties has taken place over the past months.
Our realtor has been endlessly helpful and patient, but in the three days of viewings, some properties have been completely unsuitable horrors and of the ones that were "possibilities" nothing has created much enthusiasm.
I didn't sleep well last night, which always leaves me with a slow and grumpy start to the day.
Our scheduled viewings did take us through some interesting country and to two very different homes on offer.
The first was another Amish-built place, but this time in a county which requires that the Amish install at least minimal electricity and plumbing, even if they have no intention of using it.
J. has been eyeing for several months an Amish farm of 42 acres with a seemingly admirable house, shop and barn.  All of our agent's attempts to contact the broker had gone unanswered.  When we drove up to the Amish house we were scheduled to view, we were astonished to find it was located next door to the one that J. coveted.  Some determined effort on our agent's part finally ran to earth the listing agent, who reported that the property had been removed from the market due to "issues" which the owner hadn't explained.  I could see J's disappointment. 
Meanwhile I was finding the available Amish house of interest. The kitchen, dominated by a wood cookstove,  was huge, as was the adjacent dining area.  There was a large living room, a small room which would make a nice spot for sewing, a decent bedroom and a working bathroom!  The upstairs was unfinished.  There were no fences or outbuildings. I was intrigued to see that in the master bedroom the dresser top held a collection of perfume and lotion bottles, little feminine oddments,  Either this was a settlement under the influence of a less exacting "bishop" or the young wife in residence was a daring and worldly woman. 
The clotheslines near the back door dangled with a huge array of traditional Amish garments, right down to tiny black suspendered trousers for little boys and rows of collarless blue men's shirts.  In the dining area a plastic hanger was suspended from an unused ceiling light fixture and festooned with drying white stockings.

From this home we drove to one on the opposite end of the scale, a beautifully finished log home with manicured grounds of slightly under 5 acres. We admired the landscaping and the immaculate interior, but couldn't seem to be excited about it.
Disheartened, we took leave of our agent, had a mediocre meal at a cafe and returned to the motel.

Did I mention in a previous post that J's beloved truck developed a problem during the last miles before our arrival on Sunday evening.  The "check engine" light came on and J. suspected, quite rightly, that the alternator wasn't working properly.  Just across the street from the motel is an auto repair shop.  J. took old "Snort'n Nort'n" there on Monday and testing determined that the alternator should be replaced.  I went with J. late this afternoon to retrieve Nort'n and drive the car back across the road.
The proprietor of the repair shop handed J. a buisness card with the logo, name and phone number of a local man who raises Angus cattle.  Mr. S. had business at the repair shop today and inquired about the novelty of a Wyoming registered truck.  J. had explained to the shop owner that we were hoping to buy a small farm in the area. Mr. S. stated that he had a farm for sale and would like to have the shop proprietor pass on that information.
I was skeptical, as well as being very tired.  I really wanted nothing more than a hot bath and to collapse on the comfortable motel bed!
J., ever the optomist, rang Mr. S's cell phone and was informed that he was feeding his cattle but would be finished in half an hour and happy to see us then. [I had of course consented by then to go along.]
The approach to Mr. S's farm was impressive; tidy buildings, two elegant older houses, neat barns, a dog wagging a welcome and Mrs. S, who ran out into the snow flurries to state that he would be right with us. We drove around the gravel drive to meet him as he rumbled in from the feed lot on his tractor.
The farm which Mr. S. wished to show us was only a few miles down the road, so he clambered in the back seat of our car, gave directions and began to tell us, in an engaging and forthright way, how he had bought the farm at auction in October, as an investment property and had spent the winter months helping to clean up the property, inside the house and all around the neglected acreage.
His enthusiasm was compelling and by the time he had directed us to drive slowly along the road frontage of the 28 acres, something like cautious excitement began to stir.
There were the rolling fields and pastures, bordered by a little creek. A small yellow house nestled well back from the road, surrounded by a variety of trees and ornamental shrubs. As we stepped along the walk to the side door I recognized daffodils waiting to bloom on a sunny day, roots of iris, sedum, hydrangea.
In the house Mr. S. showed us what he had accomplished in the way of renovation and what needed to be done before he put the house formally on he market.
J. was giving me thumbs up signs, I could feel my weariness receding as I saw the possibilities of the house. We ranged over the acreage, while Mr. S. pointed out where different crops had been grown, where renovations had begun on the outbuildings. He directed me to a raised stone planter behind the garage, a rock-bordered "bed" beyond the fruit trees, waved a hand at the grape arbor.
Work to be done includes a kitchen renovation, the replacement of old carpets with hardwood flooring.  J. has happily made a list of what he would do with the land and the buildings.
I'm thinking cabinetry for the kitchen to match the built in cherry buffet in the dining area, paint colors.
There are built in book shelves on either side of the living room fireplace, a feature I have always wanted.
Did I mention that the price is within  our range?  And--there is a magnolia tree, a sugar maple, a redbud tree...!
We are full of plans.  We are filled with gratitude that the One who directed in the incredible sale of our Wyoming properties [including those motor homes!] seems to have had the right place for us in waiting.  When things happen in such marvelous ways, we believe in miracles!

The Day of Wild Geese

Web photo of Canadian Geese

US route 26 runs across Wyoming and into Nebraska, where it follows for many miles the course of the North Platte River. All day on Saturday we drove this route easterly until it eventually brought us to Interstate 80. I have always enjoyed seeing wild geese, thrilled to hear their honking cries as they fly overhead on their migratory routes spring and fall.  Never have we seen so many geese. In small groups of a dozen or so, or in flocks [gaggles!] of many hundreds, the geese foraged in the bleached stubble of corn and grain fields. In the sky overhead they wheeled and circled in ever-shifting patterns as old as time. The skiens of flying geese intersected, spread apart, mingled and separated again, each goose somehow knowing its own place in the flapping, honking throngs.
We stopped in Ogallala, Nebraska to fuel the truck and to buy hot coffee.  I walked back toward the truck, styrofoam cup clutched in my hand, head raised as two more flocks of geese surged through the sky above. Near the leading wedge of geese were two flying side by side who were different.  From their white plummage they were likely Snow Geese who often co-habitate with their Canadian cousins. 
J. always practical, said wryly, "Do you think its wise to walk under such a flock of geese, staring upward with your mouth open?"
I conceded his point, lowered my coffee mug, but not my gaze from the spooling and weaving of the winged bodies.
Although I've had no opportunity to do any research, we think that the North Platte River provides a seasonal flyway and winter feeding area for thousands of geese before they fly farther north with the spring.
Their movement gave beauty and interest to a long day of many miles.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

House Hunting Day # 2

I wish that I could say we had been successfull today, had walked into a house that shouted "home" to us.
Unfortunately not so. We viewed a charming tiny house which had been nicely remodeled, but the kitchen was miniscule, there was a space-saving spiral staircase to the bedroom and bath on the second floor.  I could too easily imagine several cats entangled around my ankles and a plunge to the bottom.  Kitchens are important to me as I love to cook and bake, and I have played my role in styling and fitting out each one in the houses we have built and sold.
I am realizing more each day that we have been spoiled these past dozen years living in new houses which J. has designed and built. We can't, in any location or any economy, afford to live in a similar one which we would have to purchase outright.
The sun did nearly peek out for a few minutes this afternoon after a gloomy morning which was chilly under skies which spat wet snowflakes.  Even a laggardly sun did much to lighten my spirits and help me  to envision the landscape as it will surely look when spring arrives in a few weeks.
We were at the realty office for awhile this forenoon with our printouts of remaining possibilities spread out on a desk, while the young man broker who is seeing us about made phone calls, asked questions, set up viewing appointments for later in the week.  Several houses which we had considered are either under contract or have just sold.  I have to conclude they were not meant to be ours.
Robby, the broker, had to make arrangements with a young Amish family for a showing of their home this weekend.  He has done a lot of work with the Amish in the area and there is apparently mutual respect and cooperation.  Since the Amish do not have phones or other "modern" devices in their homes, one of the realtors must drive to their residence to make showing arrangements.  Robbie located the young woman of the house next door at her parents' home, a lavish appearing farm in a small settlement that is mostly Amish people.  She came out on the front steps to talk with him.  I would have liked to use my camera's zoom to take a photo of her, but the Amish forbid personal photos or likenesses and I hadn't the heart to violate that preference.
She was young, perhaps 20 or less, slender, pretty.  She was dressed in an ankle length dress of golden brown material.  I was surprised that it wasn't black.  The dress was made with a high round neckline, a button front bodice and a full skirt of unpressed box pleats. The woman's hair, typically, was parted in the middle and tightly pulled back, either braided and pinned up or simply twisted and secured under a sheer little white cap.  I wasn't close enough to determine the exact style of hair do.
Since we were there, Robbie asked if we would care to view the house.
We went in through a "washroom" which contained a gasoline powered wringer washing machine and a large wood fired "boiler" which produces the hot water for laundry day.  Just off the wash room was a privy--a "two seater."  The room was unheated and chilly.
In the kitchen a large wood cookstove ruled over the space, with a three burner oil stove sitting to one side.  I've not seen the like of the oil-fired range since I was a small child visiting the homes of older relatives. 
I was surprised to see that the kitchen cabinetry was made of stained plywood, as the Amish are known for their fine skills as cabinet makers.
There was one downstairs bedroom with a double bed and two childrens' cribs also in the room.  In the adjacent living room were some upholstered chairs and another wood-burning stove.  Laundry was draped over a rack to dry in front of the stove. A closed stairway lead to two connecting bedrooms upstairs.  Robby explained that the bedroom for an Amish couple is always on the main floor.  An upper story is usually left, at least initially, as an open loft.  As children outgrow the need to sleep in the parent's bedroom [or are displaced by a younger baby] they are moved upstairs.  Eventually, separate spaces for boys and girls will be partitioned off.
There are differences in the beliefs that govern the degree of "worldliness" which is tolerated in any Amish community.  Some are allowed the use of basic indoor plumbing.  A few daring ones have minimal electric installed in a workshop.  The Amish feel rather critical of their progressive Mennonite brethren who may have electric in their homes. The Mennonites may also own automobiles, although Robby explained that most are labeled as "black bumper Mennonites." The chrome trim or "bumpers" on the autos must be painted black or removed and replaced with an improvised black bumper.
Those Amish who defy the stringent rulings of their local bishop regarding lifestyle may feel compelled to move to a more lenient community. To break away completely from the Old Order Amish lifestyle is to be "shunned" by family and friends alike.
We will be looking at one or two other Amish farms.  J. is quite enamored of one which we will view tomorrow if all goes to plan. I am skittish--I know he can wire a house with the best of them, but I like my creature comforts.  The thought of purchasing a home "without amenities" no matter how well built, or how lovely the lay of the land, fills me with weariness.  I doubt I would enjoy the weeks without internet, lights, my sewing machine.  I am not, when all is said, a true pioneering woman.
I wasn't naive enough to think we would find our new home on the first day of viewing properties.  I do hope it won't take weeks, or, heaven forbid, months!
I'm missing my cats, I'm missing the small, almost absent-minded little routines that make up a usual day in one's own home.
How casually we wander to our own kitchen to brew a cup of tea, to rummage amongst the left-overs in the fridge.  How often we glance out at a  well known view from a familiar window, go to sleep hearing the small half-acknowledged sounds of a house as it settles for the night.
I daresay some pre-conceived ideas may have to be shifted, some priorities rearranged, but I'm in hopes that the search for a home will soon be successful.

Monday, March 1, 2010

House Search

We viewed several properties today in Kentucky, all of which we had previewed on the internet. Of the five, three had been unihabited for a time and would require far more work on the houses than we want to undertake. Nothing so dismal as a cold and abandoned farmhouse.  One of them I gave up with regrets--the land was appealing even on a grey and chilly day.
Tomorrow we will concentrate on properties with newer houses and less acreage. As I remind J. we have sold ourselves out of homes in Wyoming and must carry on here until we find an acceptable place.
We are enjoying the KY landscape as much as expected--it has reminders of our New England roots.
The day started a bit grumpily for me--I've ridden too many miles in two short a time after the days of disruption at home. As I slatted about our room this morning, rummaging through suitcases for clothes that didn't seem to be present, J. remarked, "Wouldn't you think the sun could shine and the grass be green and the birds singing after we have come such a long way?"
There are glimpses of emerging green, and I did hear birdsong. We have rented a comfortable room for the week and will continue the search.

Esther Jane

The front of the Lewis home in Shoreham, VT. A trumpet vine climbs heavy wires on the side porch.  In the tiny garden between the side steps and the front porch is a white Scotch rose, Oriental poppy, a peony.  Barn swallows build their mud-daubed nests under the side porch rafters.  Esther Jane merely placed cardboard boxes under the nests to catch the mess when the birds were raising their young, and moved the porch chairs out of the way.  Sitting there with her in the evening we watched the swallows swoop and dive about the yard, catching insects to cram into the endlessly open maws of the nestlings.

The attached shed at the side of the old house. Esther Jane tended bees as had her father.  The shed smelled of coal, of honey, of old timbers.
Esther Jane Lewis was born March 1, 1909.  Her parents had been married for a decade and by then expected that they would likely remain childless.  Esther Jane chuckled as she recalled being told that they had been sure this child, coming well past their "first youth" would be a boy--to be called Peter.  Esther Jane's mother, daughter of an old area family, had been a school teacher until her hearing failed after a succession of bad ear infections.  Rose Lewis was a seamstress of rare ability and turned her talents to custom dressmaking. Esther Jane learned to sew, by hand and on her mother's treadle machine.  After her death I acquired a tattered hand peiced quilt from her old home.  I picked apart the blocks, separating them from the disintegrating batting, saved the best of them and found a blue calico print which had a vintage look to use as alternate setting squares.  One of the blocks was signed. "Esther Jane Lewis, made in her 9th year."

Esther Jane trained at the New England Sanitarium in Melrose, Massachusetts, taking several years due to financial constraints to attain her degree as a registered nurse. She did hospital nursing and private duty home care. She also helped her father in the bee-keeping business.
Although she never married she loved children, especially little girls. The casing of her sitting room door was scored with years of pencil marks where visiting children had been measured for height and their names and the dates inscribed.

I met Esther Jane when our 4-H club went to her home for a lecture on bee-keeping. At the close of the lecture we trouped into the house for a feast of home made biscuits with butter and honey.
We became friends many years later when Esther Jane was in her 70's and I in my late 30's, as by then we were attending the same church.  Several friends from the same congregation had young daughters and we were all frequent Saturday evening guests at the old house.  I played the wheezing parlour organ and we sang.  Esther Jane read to us--stories clipped from old magazines or bits from whatever delightful non-fiction book was currently on the table by her chair.  She popped corn for us, using an old wire popper, opening the door of the coal stove and shaking the kernals over the red embers.  
In the summer we went blueberrying, in her vintage car [an adventure!] or in my truck.

I wrote the following essay at a writer's retreat in Wentworth, New Hampshire.  It was printed on the program for her memorial service.

for Esther Jane
Dew clings to a dusty cobweb stretched over stubble, a tiny net of gems in the ditch.  Esther Jane paws with her palsied right hand for her old straw bonnet and the peanut butter pail, retrieves her cane from the back seat of her faded red Subaru.
I grab the flask of chamomile tea, my buckets, the bug spray, and we pick our way, a procession of two, toward the place of blueberries.  The first bushes are only a lure; small blue beads strung on twiggy stems which grasp at our ankles as we pass. Esther Jane's cane thumps the cadence of our progress like a muffled metronome, as we wind our slow way up the slope. The hilltop is already warming into the heat of an August day.  Insects dart, shimmering, on whirring metalic wings.
Esther Jane fills her peanut butter bucket, the berries with their dusky bloom rattling down through her old fingers.  I prowl farther seeking the clumps of huckleberries which glow inky black among all the blue, and return with my plunder to Esther Jane.
We sip our tea and rest in the ripeness of noonday warmth.  The white-throated sparrows sing their descant over the faraway throb of a farm tractor, their melody a chain of liquid silver notes dropping lightly over the familiar earth-bound sounds. Somewhere a dog barks.  A car drops into low gear to climb the dusty mountain road.  A dragonfly hovers.  Esther Jane sings in her strong cracked contralto, "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow."
I sprawl on my side in the springy cushion of the hillside, content. "I'll watch you," says Esther Jane, "if you'd like to sleep." 
One of the bedrooms in Esther Jane's house.
She lived in the most careful economy, especially during her last years at home, hoarding coal, confiding her fear of poverty only to her diary.  Having no younger kin, she left her estate to the church she had loved life-long.  When the contents of the house were auctioned, many thousands of dollars were realized.  The sale of even a few vintage pieces during her lifetime would have kept her comfortably.
Having lived with these belongings all her life, I wonder if it occured to her that they had such a monetary value. Perhaps she knew, and simply enjoyed keeping her familiar things about her.