Wednesday, June 30, 2010

By Day and By Night

After many days and nights of intense stifling heat, a thunderstorm on Monday afternoon brought cooler temperatures.
It has been so lovely to be outside, that I've found it difficult to concentrate on cleaning floors, unpacking yet more household items, tidying the kitchen.
The towering sunflower was facing east when I went out in the dewy morning.  By the time I returned with the camera its head was moving to the south.
I'm reminded of words to an old ballad:
"As the sunflower turns to her god when he sets,
the same look that she turned as he rose."

I was given this sunflower at church as a seedling in a paper cup.  I stuck it rather injudiciously in the back of the border which was taking shape. I now have to hold the camera on high and crane my neck to take a photo.

We couldn't identify a clump of bare woody canes straggling at a corner of the garage, and J. cut them back with the weed whacker.
I had noticed they were bursting forth after recent rains and this morning discovered these buds.

I wasn't sure of the plant's identity until seeing an opened blossom near the front porch, an area where I've not done much work.
I recognized that these are hibiscus.

The clump of holly hock which I transplanted in April has white blooms.
Japanese beetles are doing considerable damage to vegetable and flower leaves.

It has been of interest that the magnolia blooms have continued over several weeks of varying weather.

Last evening I worked in the deliciously cool air until I literally couldn't see the plants in front of me.
Rocking back on my heels I contemplated  this clump of white delphinium.  The delphinium have been disappointing, the leaves mottled and ill looking, yet in the darkness the flaws nearly disappeared and the white flower stalk glowed.

It doesn't take a lot to amuse me--if a white flower made an interesting night time photo, what about others?
This foxglove is nearly past its bloom time, but the pink shows up well against the night background.

The hibiscus of the morning is crumpled and tattered.

The green of the hollyhock leaves is intensified by the flash, making a dramatic surround for the white blossom.

I lurched about under the magnolia tree, trying in vain to get a good shot of the opening buds which were just above my head.  By morning this fully opened bloom will look like a brown paper shell.

Back in the car port the flowers in the planter are brilliant in the light from the fixture over the door.
Both my skill as a photographer and the capabilities of my camera are limited, but what fun to experiment.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

You See What I Mean?

This is about half of the moring's cucumber harvest.
They have been given a cool bath.  Do they join the pile languishing in the fridge?
How about a basket full taken to church and placed in the lobby with a sign, "Free cucumbers"--or--"Please take me home"---?
Would it be immoral, unethical, to uproot a healthy cucumber vine or two [or more] while they are in full production?
My mind boggles at the thought of more pickles.

Lantana and impatiens in the porch planter.
The brick planter is a very narrow structure which doesn't lend itself to "garden design."
The only option is plants in a stiff row.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If You Don't Hear from Me.......

Is there such a thing as too many cucumbers?  As fast as I finish a batch of pickles, J. lunges through the door with another armload. I've never considered myself a great creator of pickles, but its either make pickles or lob cucumbers over the fence at the neighbor's cattle.

Only two hills of zucchini as J. is quite sure its not fit for consumption. The things grow so quickly from shiny tender baby vegs to something resembling baseball bats.
I've been freezing green beans. I'm disappointed in the yields and don't think the bean bushes look as hearty as they should. I have a second planting coming on and may try a third for a really late harvest. Learning to garden effectively in zone 6 is an experimental process.
Summer has swept in very hot and steamy. We are in need of a refreshing rain.
By mid-afternoon the garden looks limp and exhausted.
Pebbles retreats to the relative cool of the barn lean-to.
We hole up in the house with the A/C chugging.
The kitchen is a welter of glass jars and kettles.

An Easy Way to Accept an "Award?"

I was presented with the above award last week by Dianne at Thinking About It. I began the laborious process of complying with the requirements for accepting the award--simple enough on the surface--just list 15 favorite blogs and pass on the tribute.
I had created the links--twice, in fact--each time "blogger" gobbled them up and whooshed them off the screen.  [Not my fault--blogger is the scapegoat!]
Another stipulation for dealing with the award is to compose a meme of 7 things which should fascinate my readers who don't have the priviledge of knowing me in person.
Here goes.
1. I am terrified of snakes. Any kind of snakes.
2. J. and I have been married 47 years this evening.
3. I am not a morning person, but I prefer to be the first one out of bed and about, snatching a few moments of peace before the day is launched.
4. I can--and do--read most anywhere there is light enough to see.
5. When I lose my temper, I lose it badly.
6. Quiet time is very important to me.
7. I have an imagination that works over time.

I've been thinking a bit about why we create blogs, why we "follow" certain blogs.
I expect there are many more good writers publishing than I have discovered, but there have to be limits on how many I can keep up with.
Shared interests are the initial key in reading a blog. I have found most of my favorites through visiting other bloggers' lists. I don't have to have everything in common with someone who becomes a valued blogger, but several key factors are a common thread in those blogs to which I return eagerly. 
I enjoy people who are observant and can distill the essence of an experience or a particular setting and then share it in a manner which makes me want to know more. 
I am drawn to bloggers [as well as "real life pople"] who are creative--who make beautiful things in most any medium, whether it is a craft that I share or not.  Reading about, seeing photos of what others have made, is inspiring.
I return to writers who are "word-smiths"--who take care to search out just the right phrase or word to express themselves, writers who have an individual "voice."
There are blogs which appeal for a short time only.  There are great bloggers who seem to fade from the scene and their last post is disappointingly from weeks or months ago.
I think most of us would agree that we love comments!
Sometimes the exchange becomes so lively that we end up with a new pen-friend, one whom we would love to meet, to share an outing or a cup of tea.
I suspect that many of us create blogs because we simply are compelled to write, have always done so in the form of a private journal or in vast and bulky letters to family and friends.
I enjoy my little community of blogging friends.  Your comments add much to my days.
If you would enjoy passing on the award, I will enjoy your participation.  If you are busy or not inspired to do this exercise, that's OK too.
Do try some of the blogs on my list--you may find a new kindred spirit. These are listed in no particular order and all the links were working when I tried them.

Letters from a Hill Farm
Morning Ramble
Glimpsing The Past
Mac n Janet
Crivens Jings and Help Ma Blog
Journaling the Journal
Railway Cottage
Codlins and Cream 2
We Three, Ginger Cats Tales
Circle of the Year
Thread Tales
Lanier's Books
Where Beechmast Falls
Somerset Seasons

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Giles Home at Spout Springs

The quiet pond which lies in front of the Giles house.

The yellow rose which has been planted in front of every Giles home on "the ridge" since the first of the family arrived there many generations ago.
The rose is mentioned in the books which Janice Holt Giles set in her husband's home neighborhood.
There were only a few shattered blooms left to mark this season.
The rose appears similar to one in the dooryard of an old home where I often visited as a child.

The large living room. Henry and Janice Giles purchased several old log structures, had them dismantled and moved to this property, then set about having them reconfigured into this sprawling house.
They found the house nearly impossible to heat and were forced to shut off several of the large rooms during the winter months.
After their deaths, the house settled into disrepair. A pleasant and knowledgeable docent showed us around, relating tidbits of Giles lore.
The Giles Society has rechinked most of the structure and had a new roof put on. Looking at the many juts and angles J. commented that the roofing job must have been nightmare-ish.
The docent mentioned that when the house was first entered to assess what repairs were needed, several snakes were found residing in the corner of the living room near the side porch door.
The bathroom hasn't been restored to working order.  Janice and Henry cut down an antique table to fit the wash basin.
A caretaker now lives in a small cottage on the property and rest room facilities can be entered there from an outside door.
The cottage is called "The Becky House."
Henry Giles deeded a quarter acre to a nephew and his wife, Rebecca.  They started building a small structure there before deciding to move away, at which time Henry and Janice re-acquired the bit of land.
Henry, wanting his own retreat, turned the "shed" into his own "office", where he wrote and amused himself.  The docent told us that Henry's drinking was often of heroic proportions and when he was the worse for it, he didn't return to the main house at night, but slept in the "Becky House" on a cot.
Janice in her auto-biographical writings maintained  a cheerful facade meant to convince the public that Henry was also busy  writing and co-authoring several published works.
Her biographer learned from letters exchanged with her editors that in fact, other than relating stories of the ridge families, Henry had very little involvement in Janice's published work.
It seems to have been a difficult--but devoted--marriage of two people with very different backgrounds and temperments.
The museum is only open on weekend afternoons between June and October. The surrounding trees were casting long shadows when we were there. This is from the side-back of the house and shows how the several log buildings were joined with their multiple roof lines.
In the past weeks I have re-read Janice's "Piney Ridge" trilogy--set in Adair County.  I've also revisted "The Kinta Years"--the memories of Janice's childhood in Arkansas and the Oklahoma Territory where she was raised with a younger sister and brother as their parents' teaching posts moved them from one small settlement to another.
I have read two of Janice's novels which have not been widely available, and will be reviewing them.
I sampled the portions of her biography which are on-line and found I had to have the book, bought at the museum and completed today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hot Colors/Hot and Humid Weather

The trumpet vine is another delightful surprise. I didn't recognize the twisted woody stump that lurked near the crab apple tree. I clipped it back, wondered about it each time I walked by. Last week I noticed some roadside renditions of this, and a few days later this one was in bud. Trumpet vine was marginally hardy in Vermont, but one climbed the front porch at the home of my elderly friend, Esther Jane.

The lily bulbs were a "free gift" included in our Starks Bros nursery order.  This is the first one to bloom.

Nothing can look "hotter" than vivid orange.

Achillea, "Paprika" is holding up well in the heat.

Monarda or "bee balm."  I think this is the variety "Jacob Kline"  Looked for the plant label this morning but it has gone away.  It isn't the old "Cambridge Scarlet"--could be "Gardenview Scarlett."
This echinacea is the variety "Summer Sky."  It opens in an orange sherbet hue and then fades to a pink.
[And I'll have you know I took a flashlight outside just now to read the label.]
I planted French marigolds amongst the squash and cucmbers.  Who knows if it really repels bug-kind?  It makes me feel that I have done something "green" and constructive.

The chrome yellow of zuchinni blossoms.
J. retches dramatically at the thought of zuchinni--I find them ever so versatile.

To cool us down after all those brilliant colors, the hydrangea.  I was hoping it would be the old-fashioned mop-headed type that goes a pinky-beige when it is fully opened.  I think I won't like this if the flower heads become huge BLUE puffs--I like them right now with their chartreuse hue.

Cool and pretty.

I was able to weed in the flower border for about two hours this morning before the heat became stifling. When I stand up from my labors and feel my head go "giddy" I know I need to to quit.  J. spent the time hoeing the potatoes.  We speak of them as "his" potatoes.
We are running the A/C in the house the past few days.  To step outside is to feel as though one is being gently smothered in a hot, damp blanket.
The cats are liking the smooth cool wood floors--they sprawl in odd places and I have to walk warily.  They have sulked a bit that the sliding door is shut.  They can see the birds, but can't hear them twittering.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How the Garden Grows

A row of green beans--variety Bush Blue Lake.
Photo taken on Tuesday--by Wednesday the beans were in blossom.

J. keeps his eye on the tomato plants.  He has been known to haunt the garden, salt shaker in pocket, to enjoy the first tomato of the season fresh from the vine.

Today's salad--all from the garden.  A variety of lettuces, the first tomato [Bush Goliath] two cucumbers and an onion from the row of bunching onions which are much-loved in the area.
Salads in progress.
And to finish the meal, raspberry-rhubarb cobbler.
J. did a bit of a favor Monday evening for the young Amish man down the road.
We paid Joseph to help get up hay and he was strong and willing help.
He in turn tried to pay J. for bringing the tractor to spread some crushed rock in his driveway.
[Joe attempted to do this with a drag made from planks and hitched behind his buggy horse--not a workable plan.]
J. refused the money but was happy to accept a bunch of rhubarb which Joseph's wife brought from their garden.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Old Hopper

Those of you who follow the blogs of artist and writer, Jackie Morris, may already have read her tribute to her Kiffer Cat who so quietly died this morning.  Reading of Kiffer's early perilous life before he was rescued by Jackie, has put me in mind of a strange  feral cat who visited our Vermont home for several years.

We met Old Hopper as he came to be called, through the noise he was making outside our small log house in Vermont. Working in the kitchen late on a grey and cheerless winter afternoon I heard a series of thumps and scrapes drifting up toward the kitchen window from the area near the basement door.
Going down, I encountered the sight of a cat's striped rear view and shoulders.  His head was thrust inside an empty tin can which he had rootled from the garbage bin.  He lurched forward, bumping into various obstacles, reeled backwards in a crazy attempt to free himself from the can. I managed to get within reach as he bumbled about and in one quick wrench freed his head from the tin.  Slightly dazed, he glared at me as though I had been the cause of his dilema, rather than his rescuer. Then he scuttled toward the bottom of the garden.  As he hobbled away, I saw that one back leg was only a stump--the paw missing.

I didn't want him there.  He was a tomcat, he was wild.  He had surely never been vaccinated.  But--it was cold, he was certainly hungry, and it didn't appear that anyone else wanted him either.

Resignedly I found an old shallow pan, put in a cupful of kibble with what I hoped might be an appealing assortment of leftovers and placed the pan near where he had been raiding the garbage bin.
Nearly every day that winter we saw him.  He approached the house with his hobbling gait, peering anxiously about. If I opened the door or window he retreated. As the winter advanced his retreats became less hasty.  He limped to the edge of the frozen vegetable patch, humped himself around to face me, squatting in the snow.  His eyes were wary, his thin body tense, but sometimes he allowed himself a tentative meow.  Once in a great while, if I inched toward him while he was eating I could lay a cautious hand on his back.

With the coming of summer Old Hopper's visits were less frequent.  We saw him sometimes crouched in the rough grass of the pasture or at the edge of the meadow.  We assumed his hunting must be productive.
When the days grew short and cold, again he accepted the offerings put out in the battered pan.

During the second or third summer of our acquaintence with him, Old Hopper began to stay closer to the house and garden. We were outside a good deal, working in the garden, taking tea on the porch, strolling around the yard.  Old Hopper would venture cautiously near, twitch and glare, mew in his rusty voice, back away, then inch forward again.  We had the impression he would prefer that we go inside--away--leave him the yard and the porch to enjoy in solitude.

"We're not going," I told him firmly.  "We were here first."

If I was alone and carried a book outside to read, Old Hopper began creeping forward to take advantage of the shady spot beneath my chair.  He could never relax, was always alert to spring away.  Cautiously I began to reach toward him at such times, lightly stroking his bony spine, patting his head.  Sometimes a croaking purr rumbled from his throat, sometimes he raised his head almost eagerly to my trailing fingers. Sometimes, perhaps overcome by his own termerity in accepting human affections, he would suddenly growl, hiss and run for the edge of the porch, where he would huddle, staring at me in a wild manner, before creeping slowly closer again, almost as if he recognized his own lack of social graces.

I never attempted to pick him up.  To do so would have frightened him horribly and I knew he would struggle and claw.  He seemed to be resigned that during warm weather he had to share the dooryard and the gardens with the humans who kept his dish supplied with food.

Through that summer and autumn Old Hopper followed his pattern of short-term disappearances and frequent visits.
As cold weather came on perhaps he was relieved that he had the yard and the garden and the woodpile to himself more often.

Sometime mid-winter I realized that it had been nearly a week since we had seen him. Days were short and  bleakly cold, nights were long and frigid.  As the weeks wore on, I suspected that we had seen the last of Old Hopper. His dish was untouched, his unique footprints no longer marked the snow at the back door.
Feral cats don't live long, harried as they may be by dogs, foxes, other territorial cats, or by humans who won't tolerate their skulking presence.

We couldn't invite him in, but we could feed him. We never knew his story--where he came from, how his life ended. I remember his uneven gait, adapted to  his three and a half legs, his precipitous arrival and his desparate maneuvers with the empty tin. I remember that, however reluctantly, he was finally able to accept my touch--in exchange for a meal.
Drawing a line in time: Earth, ashes and song  The story of Jackie's Kiffer Cat is here, with a eulogy for him at the ginger cats' blog here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cool and Quiet

Pebbles has a hood to keep flies off her face.  We tried several repellents which were not satisfactory.
There were two fly masks in stock when I bought hers--"with ears" and "without."
This is not a custom fit--she has a dainty head.
I've offered to do "alterations" but J. hasn't presented the hood when he removes it at night.
Pebs doesn't balk at having it fastened on each morning--we think she has realized that it is "for her own good."
Saturday morning was cool and the air was sweet after a thundershower on Friday evening.
We made the rounds of dooryard and garden.

J. has been "weed-whacking" and some more of Mr. Rogers' garlic came to light.

This garlic was planted with the peonies--seemingly an odd choice.

Garlic seed heads.  I like the papery little caps.
A tomato is turning red.  This is J.'s "cheater plant"--a Bush Goliath that had been potted on and greenhouse grown to a larger size than the usual offerings in tiny black plastic cell packs.

Tiny cucmbers are setting.
The ubiquitous zuchinni.

View across the upper garden.
The sweet gum tree is producing dark sticky "gum balls."

A newer variety of Echinachea.

The magnolia blossoms are so lovely and so fleeting.
After a day the petals resemble damp brown paper.

A glorious deep red achillia.