Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Projects for a Rainy Day

Monday morning I made a hearty meat and potato sort of breakfast and hurried through kitchen tidying as I had an appointment in town.
J. was awaiting the arrival of a friend [from Illinois] who used to visit in Wyoming.
I returned to find  J. and Rick downstairs discussing the finer points of the "family room" renovation.
They had already made a tour of the acreage and the two old barns, examined and pronounced on the tractor and haying equipment.
When I could get in a word I asked R. if we could offer anything to eat.
It turned out he had left Tennessee at 5 in the morning and not stopped for a meal.
J. hauled the turkey carcass from the fridge and set about slicing light and dark meat, toasting whole wheat bread, while I sliced tomato, onion and shredded a bit of cabbage.
Thus fortified by thick sandwiches we set out in the car to show Rick a bit of Adair County.
By the time we returned dark clouds were gathering.
Dusk came early and brought with it the rain.
The sight of trees swaying in the wind and rain pelting down the glass of the dining room door made me feel that comfort food was in order for supper.
Rick had voiced the hope that we might have fruit with the meal.
I made a batch of fluffy pecan waffles, served with our home made butter and
Vermont maple syrup. From our winter stash I opened a jar of pink applesauce and a jar of pears.
It was a heartening and homey repast, and I'm happy to note that our home-canned fruit is delicious.

Rick took his leave for home this morning after which I mentioned to J. that it looked a perfect day to change out the light fixtures.
[I suggested this in a very off-hand way as I have previously dropped several hints and the resident builder didn't feel the timing was right.]
I retreated to the basement to deal with laundry and upon returning upstairs was agreeably surprised to find
that J. had brought in the boxes of light fixtures and was assembling tools.

The ceiling fixtures in the house were all functioning but very dated.
The two in the kitchen/dining area dangled lop-sidedly on drop chains and during our March move-in had clunked the three tall Whitehurst men repeatedly until our son [the tallest at 6'3"] had hoisted them nearer the ceiling.
I felt that plain, clean-lined fixtures would be in keeping with the small, simple house, as well as being economical.  With that in mind, we chose some with gleaming stainless steel look trim, which matches the electical plug covers we installed in the remodeled kitchen area.
We need to buy some of the energy-efficient spiral bulbs next trip into town.
I'm pleased with the effect of our choices.

It has been two months since [in J's absence] I yanked wall paper off the bathroom walls and managed to trowel on a base coat of dry wall patch.
J. decided that the bathroom lights couldn't be installed without first completing the "mudding" of the walls.
This also meant pulling out a rather hideous mirrored "medicine cabinet."
I heard the screeching of nails, mutterings, the whine of a small power saw.
Poking my head around the door I asked if all was going well.
"Oh," said J. resignedly, "About what I should have expected.  Whoever put in this cabinet hill-billy rigged it!"

J. is using the "rough-plastered" technique which he perfected for the drywall bits in the log houses he built in Wyoming.
It has a rustic texture and means far less finish sanding--therefore less choking dust.
I'm not sure if I will be allowed to paint the small room or if I must meekly occupy myself elsewhere.

My own creative effort of the day was to dismember the roast turkey, closely supervised by
Raisin the Cat.
I produced a kettle of savory soup, adding a qt of home-canned tomatoes.
A nice slab of white meat has been frozen and the barn kittens treated to a plate of tidbits to keep up their strength during this dreary weather.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November Odds and Ends

J. has been busy this week sorting the clutter of our belongings which landed in the small garage when we moved here.  He took a break to clean the gutters on the west side of the house.
The weather has been a marvel of crispy evenings and frosty mornings, sunny afternoons.
This particular afternoon brought a spattering of rain and J. decided to clear out accumulated leaves before they packed into a soggy mass.

Work is nearing completion on the "family room" in the basement.
J. tiled the floor, troweled a spackle mixture on the two concrete block walls, which we painted in a soft yellow, labeled something like "oatlands gold." The color is deeper and richer than in the photo.
He has set some oddments of furniture here and there, but "decorating" as such remains to be done.

This color is also not true--it is a deeper russet with a brown tint.
J. finds renovations frustrating.
You can see that the line of the partition was not squarely built and he had no choice but to follow it when laying the ceramic tile.

Dartford Warbler posted lovely photos of her Liquid Amber tree.
As I viewed them the leaf shape seemed very familiar.
What a treat to find it is known here as Sweet Gum.
Ours has lost several branches during the summer; they simply crash down.
If you enlarge the photo you can clearly see the "gum balls" still clinging to the branches.
I eyed them yesterday with the thought that they could be gathered and hot-glued to a wreath--then reminded myself that merely bringing in a basket of them would encourage the cats to rattle them all over the house!

Delilah Yoder has been making traditional Amish candies
and presented us with a tub of peanut brittle and one of "buckeyes"--a peanut butter/confectioner's sugar ball which is dipped in melted chocolate.
Delilah is stocking huge sheets of  milk chocolate and white chocolate in her little store and reports that the Amish ladies of the neighborhood are buying the big blocks at a great rate.
If you imagine the size of a placemat, that's about the size of the chocolate blocks which are probably an inch and a half thick.

Grey branches of the maple during the afternoon shower.

On his last visit here Mr. Rogers presented us with a container of pecans from his trees.
He mentioned, with a twinkle, that a pecan pie wouldn't come amiss.
Knowing that Mr. R. must be careful [at age 94] of his sugar intake, I sampled a thin slice of the pie before J. delivered it.
I used locally made sorghum rather than dark corn syrup for the sweetner and was pleased with my tweaking of the recipe.

My big desk shares space with the guest room bed.
I nearly always have feline companions when I am working at the computer.
I spead an old quilt and a soft wool blanket for the comfort of the cats.
Here we have Chester, Teasel and Jemima.
Note the tangle of legs!

Teasel is looking a bit crowded as Mima stretches obliviously.

There was heavy frost early this morning and this patch of mint looked fresh and hardy.

Frost melts to fat water droplets on the leaves of sage.

This branch of nandina caught my eye with its shades of deep red and green.

The egg sacks left by my summer resident spider have darkened and shriveled in the weather.
One was whipped from the porch post by the wind and skittered across the porch.
I retreived it and dropped it into the clump of sedum which had hosted the spiders' webs.

I sat in the living room rocker this morning, hands wrapped around a warm mug enjoying the considerable gymnastics of
cardinals, bluejays [called "jaybirds" in Kentucky!] and the resident bluebirds, all bouncing through the branches of the still unidentified small tree below the front porch.
I wasn't the only one observing, as became apparent when the incorrigable Willis hoisted himself nimbly into the tree.

Pegging sheets on the line I noticed two tiny short-stemmed violets
blooming shyly.
Over the years they have spread into a mat which survives being mowed and walked upon.
Wildflowers at the end of November are indeed a blessing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Indian Summer, Perhaps

After days of rain and gloomy chill, the weather did a turn-about.
On Sunday a tentative warmth began to dry the sodden landscape and  Monday we woke to blue skies and a warm wind that seemed determined to blow us away.
I put laundry on the old clothesline, securing garments and towels with extra pegs.
I invented small tasks to keep me out-of-doors, trudging about the yard with the barn kittens cavorting round my ankles.
The wash snapped and cracked, billowing almost horizontal with the gusts, then subsiding during momentary lulls.
Later I placed a duvet on the line to air, but after twice adding more clothespins, it had to be rescued when it landed like a fallen white cloud, settling near the trumpet vine.

The two old barns on the property are in need of some repairs.
As J. says, "They're on the list!"
Can you see the wrinkled piece of tin near the edge of the barn roof?
It clattered and whacked with each blast of wind, threatening to tear loose.
It wasn't the day for mounting a ladder to work on the roof!

J. climbed into the rafters attempting to tie down the edge of the tin from the inside--a very temporary
measure.  Both barns face south and before noon are flooded by the low-hanging sun.

This is the clump of ornamental grass near the garden gate.
[It was planted by the former owners.]
The feathery, bleached tassels thrashed in the wind.

Tendrils of dried grass near the bottom of the clump.

The seed pods of the trumpet vine bounced and rattled in the wind.

The moon rose early, huge and glowing, more golden than silver.
This was taken from the lighted carport, with the nandina shrub in the foregound.

When I looked out at midnight the limbs of trees and shrubs still tossed,
slender moving shapes etched against the night sky.
At 4, we woke to the rush of rain accompanied by the booming of thunder.
Today I noted that most of the trees which border our property to the west and across the creek to the east have shed the last of the clinging leaves.
Here in the dooryard the sweet gum alone has a smattering of  fading crimson leaves.
Most of the "gum balls" are still attached to the twigs.
J. has made good use of the fine weather to begin the horrendous task of sorting
the garage. 
When we arrived in March, everything which had been packed in our son's shiny horse trailer was hastily
decanted into the small dirt-floored garage [another upgrade "project" on J's long list.]
All summer we have rummaged through power tools, oddments of furniture, huge cartons of books, kitchen clobber, bits and  pieces.
J. has now trundled my boxes down the outside stairs and ranged them in the hallway of the basement--while I hovered and fussed.
He has conveyed tools and bins to the barn for temporary storage.
He had a bonfire.
[Men are not to be trusted when in a burning mood!]
Several mice have hastily exited the garage--to be pounced upon by Willis the Kitten.
By whatever name this bit of lovely weather is called,
we are making the most of it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Words for a November Day

We woke to a dreary, grey day after a night of gusty rain.
Pebbles, her coat dark with wet, waits in the end of the barn which has been designated as her shelter.

I squelched over sodden ground to the pear tree to collect treats for Pebbles.
Although I carried the camera in my jacket pocket the chilly drizzle meant spatters on the camera lens.

The old tobacco barn hunkers down in the misty and somber landscape.

The barn kittens are often in the carport by the time I enter the kitchen in the morning.
When I go out with their food they scamper up the path to the barn
dashing between Pebbles hooves, rushing back to make sure I really have their morning treats.
Today there was no sign of them until I was almost at the barn.
They appeared out of the dimness and waited, dry-footed, for me to arrange their dishes
and serve breakfast.

I waded through sopping grass toward the ancient  pear tree.
Stripped of its spring beauty of blossoms, with the summer gloss of green leaves rusted, and the bushels of golden fruit gathered in or abandoned to the wasps and small rodents, the tree shows its age.
On the left side are gaps where branches have broken in other years, on the right over-burdened limbs bow toward the ground.

Pears still lie in golden, softening heaps,
blotches of color in a day of somber, rain-dulled landscape.

A few pears still cling to the branches, out-of-reach
among the weathered foliage.

Skies are ashen, skeleton tree trunks are black with moisture.

Boundary line of the back field. The wood is shadowy, the light within crepuscular at mid-morning.

Only the areas of greenest grass seem alive in the rain-drenched gloom.
The garden is quiet, with no movement of foraging bird or vanished butterfly to recall the abundance
of earlier weeks.
Overhead a hawk sails the lowering sky, its voice sharply plaintive.

Pivoting full circle all I can see are leaden skies, dripping branches, frost-bleached pastures.

At lunch time a brassy sun broke free of the cloud overhang and
briefly relieved the gloom.

Cloud masses rampaged across a brilliant backdrop of blue, driven by a wuthering wind that clashed through bare branches.

Pebbles strides along the garden fence her coat rough-dried in the sharp wind.
Behind her to the north gunmetal clouds seeth.

Bathed momentarily in the harsh light, the pear tree appears greener, less haggard.

The sweet gum tree just beyond the carport flaunts a few coppery leaves.
Behind it the maple is a silver-etched silhouette.
Within moments the sun had vanished.
The afternoon dissolved into surly shadows.
Inside the house I listened to the moaning and keening of the wind, the occasional clatter of
objects knocked helter-skelter on the porch and in the car port.
The cats were twitchy, seeking warm dark corners, curling into circular mounds, noses tucked into paws, tails wrapped protectively over furry faces, shutting out the uncertainties of the weather.
Dusk came early.
J. who is responsible for milking Dory the Cow while the Yoders are away on a family visit,
declared that he had better go while he could still see.
He came back in the dark, stating that he was thankful for the windbreak of the small shed that Joseph constructed to shelter cow and milker in nasty weather.
The milk has been strained and put away to cool, except a bowlful taken to the barn kittens.
We have made stacks of toast and for me, a large mug of tea.
Both the big stove in the basement and the fireplace have been stuffed with wood.
Outside the harbingers of winter prevail in wind-driven rain
and falling temperatures.
The old barn provides hay-heaped nests for the kittens
and Pebbles can retreat to the dark shelter of the lean-to--if she will.

I have doubtless be-labored the exercise of finding colorful words for this day of wildly unsettled weather.
Stomping about this morning in my tall rubber boots, with wisps of mist-dampened hair straggling from under one of J.'s caps, I thought how cliched our descriptive terms become, perhaps because their very familiarity calls up the representative mental image.
Sodden: the sound of the word is heavy with wet and chill, a drenched garment cast off in distaste.
Dreary, dour, lowering:  I can see the greyness, feel it even--enfolding, dispiriting, compressing one into a small cold space.
Wuthering, gusting, howling: the wind has many voices, conjuring up old tales and ancient superstitions as it ushers in a storm.

How do you describe the weather in your corner of the world?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Autumnal Chores

As I became busy with a variety of chores [such as canning pickled beets] the weather
changed almost without my notice, leaves falling, days growing shorter.
I took these photos on a busy afternoon early in November, loaded the photos, never finished the blog post.

I was intent on potting up the gernaniums and begonias which spent the summer on the porch.
Some plants were gently lifted into different pots, many were tided and cut back.
This Robin Hood geranium is one that needed fresh potting soil.
Reaching into an opened back of soil mix, I scooped out several handfulls and strewed them around the plant.
One handful felt quite lumpy.
A moment after setting aside the potted plant my eyes were drawn back to it.
The soil was heaving and this toad suddenly hulked into view.

I prodded him to hop onto the ground where he immediately blended into the leafy background.

Working on through the warm afternoon I pulled spent marigolds, still with brilliant splashes of color spangling the frost-shriveled shrubby plants.

Marigolds on the trash heap.

My evening bonfire.

Seedheads enough to plant miles of marigolds in the spring.

The Michaelmas daisies were the last of my border flowers to bloom.
Since this photo was taken the flowers have faded and the plants are covered with fuzzy seed heads.

Sunflowers started from the fallen seeds near the mother plant.

A pale pink cornflower.

Echinacea from seed sown directly into the ground in June.
These husky plants should winter well.
Today brought a mizzle of rain and a dank chill that seeped into my bones.
Suddenly the coming of winter, an unknown quantity in a new homeplace, is a reality.