Monday, August 29, 2011

Pleasant Hill Shaker Community

Last weekend Jim and I made the hour and a half drive to Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg, KY.
This is an outing we've been promising ourselves since our move here last year.
I took quite a few photos so will break this into several posts rather than one lengthy photo-heavy session.
Most of the buildings have a wooden sign in front describing the original use of the structure.
I wish I had thought to include those. 
The Pleasant Hill website is not especially appealing, more tourist info than background on the Shakers.  I've collected a number of informative links and will include one at the end of each post.

Walking from the car park toward the first building--where we needed to purchase tickets--we encountered a large black and white cat making his way up the grassy slope.
A few moments later we noticed that he had slipped into the building, which serves as a gift shop as well as dispensing tickets. One of the sales clerks spoke coaxingly to the cat--I think suggesting that he might like to go back outside.
A couple with two very young children spied the cat--and the children swooped noisily while the mother trilled, "Be nice to the kitty."
Cat flattened himself to the floor, then, with a grim backward look scooted for the exit.

The Bluegrass Region of Kentucky is lined with beautifully kept stone walls.
We were told that these were contructed in the late 1700's through the mid 1800's by Scots/Irish
stone masons.
J. posed for me here at the gate.

This simple stone building houses examples of Shaker-crafted furniture.
Pleasant Hill, at the peak of its vitality, was known for its thriving farming industry, while the Shaker communities of New England and Western New York produced more of the beautifully crafted furniture for which the Shakers are famous.
I wonder if the longer winters of New England fostered more indoor work.

The interior of the stone building was dim and my camera flash didn't do much to compensate, yet I found the floor lamps rather intrusive.  Peg rails were a common feature of Shaker buildings and were used to keep chairs off the floor during the intervals between meals.
Tidiness and simplicity were hallmarks of Shaker life. Everything had a place and order was kept.

A vintage plow.

This imposing building was constructed of quarried limestone.
The herb garden was not as well-tended as I expcted, and suffering from drought as are gardens
in the entire state.

A sprawl of thyme, a familiar scent for a sunny noon.
The garden contained both medicinal and culinary herbs.

A dormitory room in one of the family houses.
The Shaker 'families' who occupied these dwellings were seldom related by blood.
Men and women were strictly segregated!

A rocker and side chair both have distinctive seats of woven twill tape--a Shaker trademark.

This room was fitted out as an office.
Each item in a room served a purpose and was sturdily and beautifully constructed.

Note the deep windowsills which accomodate the thick brick or stone walls.
Many of the rooms had small black cast iron stoves.
The desk and chairs shown in the last photo are at the right of stove.

Examples of a cooper's workmanship--buckets, firkins, churns, tubs.

The basements of the family dwellings were deep and vast.
The kitchen area seen here is large and laid out well for a number of women to work together
preparing meals or
putting up garden produce.

A stately clock in a dwelling hall. Beyond is the dining room with long narrow tables.
Below is the link to the best of the articles I found giving background on Shaker beliefs and way of life.
Good reading for those who enjoy history.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Hard Working Cat

Willis the Cat confides in daughter G. explaining how he feels that someone
should take on guard duty, keep tabs on the pampered indoor cats, monitor how much kibble is being consumed daily from the self-feeder, in short, a watch-cat is an essential part of a well-run household.

The antique wooden dough bowl makes an effective hide.
A cat on duty can have a wee snooze and then pop up with
a startling "A-HA!" which announces that he was here all the time!

There are times when even the most concerned and alert cat has to take a break!

"Don't worry, I can hear in my sleep and my eyes were only closed for a moment!"

It has been nearly a year since the lean stripy kitten rode into the yard as a passenger on J.'s 4-wheeler.
He alighted with aplomb, settled his stripes and announced, "The name's Willis!"
Willis was told he could stay as a resident of the barn, sharing the dooryard and the accomodations with the recently installed tortie sisters.
The torties, Sadie and Sally, are perfectly content with their lot as outdoor cats.
They divide their time between the two big barns, keep us company in the garden, make visits to the porch.
Willis does all that, but early on decided that he needed to check out the domestic arrangements
of the house as well.
While he doesn't care to take on the indoor cat tribe, he's not overly intimidated by their stares of superiority.
By October he had claimed a corner by the fireplace, rearranged a section of the shelf above it to his satisfaction.  He sashays in and out through the day as he pleases.
The vantage point of the fridge and the really high point on the cupboard top
are something he has very recently discovered.
I think his tabby stripes have matured to a rather "tweedy" look.
[I imagine him in an old-fashioned flat-topped cap with a dashing pair of 'plus-fours' and matching waistcoat.]
He definitely lords it over his female companions, pouncing at them from behind a bush, or dropping from a tree limb to confront them on the path to the garden.
Likewise, he lets us know that he expects certain things from us--we are meant to cater to his wily whims.
Being putty in his paws, we do just that!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Cats Entertain Wildlife

Teasel stalks along the fence of the cat yard, intent on the progress of an insect.

Quickly, everyone!  Circle it!

The mole goes to earth in a clump of weeds while Teasel, Charlie and Mima are poised for it to pop back out.

The toad managed to escape unscathed from the attentions of the felines who were poking wary paws at it.

The toad, I believe is a female of the Eastern American Toad species.
The females are larger than the males and this is a big toad!

The house cats enjoy their little yard tremendously.
Every insect who zings by, bounces or crawls through the grass, each dragonfly or bird winging through the air is entertainment and interest for the cats.
Watching them I am reminded of films I've seen of their big cat cousins prowling the Serengeti.
We saw them yesterday morning as we finished breakfast--forking about in the drift of leaves that have already fallen from the maple that shades the yard.
Ever mindful of the possibility of a snake, I asked J. to investigate what creature had the cats so enthralled.
He announced the presence of the toad and shooed the cats away from it, where-upon it hopped through the fence.  I went out with the camera and hunkered down in front of Mrs. Toad.  She obliged by hop-bopping closer.  Wanting a slightly different angle for another photo I shifted slightly, causing the leaves to rustle.
I was amazed when the toad bounced closer and emitted a sound, "Phhttt!" Sort of a combination of a hiss and a spit. I left her to her own devices and turned to see the cats now intent on a mole who was humping about the yard.  The resident moles have been very busy.  The ground under the clothesline is spongey from their burrowings and heavings.
They have created  tunnels that cross the cat yard and have several times become an object of interest to be poked at.
Mima picked the mole up in her mouth and promptly spat it out. Cats seem to know that moles are indigestable.
I'm pleased to accomodate the resident toads--the moles are another matter!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cinnamon Roses

Cinnamon Roses photo from Cornhill Nurseries
In summer the back door of Grampa Mac's farmhouse stood open all day.  The narrow porch faced north and ran the length of the kitchen ell. It was a cool and sheltered spot on a hot day, flanked by the bulk of the house wall to the west and with the flat expanse of hay meadow lying below to the east. A clothesline took up much of the grassy space, and in my earliest memory a sour cherry tree leaned from the house wall toward the morning sun.  Rounding the corner of the main house a grassy strip was bordered by a bed of common orange daylilies--which had to occasionally be ruthlessly scythed back lest they take over the yard.
There were currant bushes at the bottom of the vegetable garden and the remnants of a fruit orchard shaded the chicken coops beyond.
A footpath began at the old pear tree, meandered past the plum trees which were already succumbing to black knot fungus, and emerged on the dirt road halfway to my parent's small house a few hundred yards away.
A huge maple dominated the bit of  yard below the westward looking front door. From one of its sturdy branches Grampa Mac had hung a rope swing. Between that green lawn with its stone well curbing and the path was a dense tangle of Cinnamon Roses.
Though the blossoms were prolific and had a pleasing spicy scent, they didn't often find their way into bouquets. The canes sprawled untidily and were viciously thorny. Any foray amongst them meant being raked bloody as the branches seemed to reach out and snatch at my scalp, my bare legs and arms, even ripping the fabric of my shorts or pinafore.
My Uncle Bill attacked the Cinnamon Roses from time to time, armoured in his patched Carhartt pants and wielding well-honed pruners.
At some time during the 1970's they were cut down and the area was bush-hogged, removing the last trace of the invasive canes.
A neighbor of my parent's generation, Sally Phelps, whose family farm was a mile or two from Grampa Mac's, to the east, mentioned Cinnamon Roses.  She remembered how prevalent they were in her childhood, growing in wiry sprawls along the roadsides. Her nostalgic words conjured a picture in my mind of Cinnamon Roses mingling with orange daylilies on the roadside near the old Cheney place. The grey ghosts of old buildings there were razed, the lot graded and a new house built on the site in the 1960's.
I was surprised to find a nursery offering Cinnamon Roses for sale as their invasive ways and rather clumsy form don't favor a neat perennial garden.

In sorting gardening books last week I found I had marked the following paragraph in my
copy of 'The Fragrant Garden" by Louise Beebe Wilder.
The book was first published in 1932 and in this excerpt it appears that
Mrs. Wilder was quoting an earlier source.

"R. cinnamomea, Cinnamon Rose.  Candace Wheeler speaks of the Cinnamon Rose, 'braiding its odors with those of the sweet white Syringa blossoms, quite undisturbed by a new generation of rose-lovers.' 
It is a small, flat, tumble-headed pink rose of fine, if faint spicy scent, often found flourishing by the dusty highway, or pressing its quaint blossoms through the broken palings of old and deserted gardens.  Not now found in Rose lists but it was popular with our grandmothers who cherished many sweet and simple things."

My Google search for Cinnamon Roses turned up the short story linked below.
The author's name, Mary Wilkins Freeman, set off a clang of memory in my rag-bag mind.
A bit of pawing in a box of books and I had my hands on the above pictured paperback.
"Cinnamon Roses" isn't included in that collection.
Mary Wilkins Freeman's 'characters' speak in the verncular of New England, a speech with which I am familiar in several of its variants. She was complimented by later reviewers for a less cumbersome use of regional dialect than many of her contemporaries, still the dialogue must have been awkward to transcribe.
If you enjoy old stories, take a moment to read 'Cinnamon Roses.'

Mid-August Week in Photos

 The weather sulked a bit last week--partly over-cast skies brought welcome respite from the intense heat and humidity of July and the earlier August days.
A few showers, all too brief, at least 'laid the dust.'
I pulled out spent vines of cucumber and squash, uprooted the sorry remnants of tomato plants,
and J. turned the soil afresh using both the large tractor-pulled rotavator
and the Troybilt tiller.
Matt and Gina have labored at the garden space being resurrected at their house
and came up to take advantage of a sunnier strip here for a few things.
The late garden is pretty much in place and we have only to weed, water, monitor for insect pests and
hope for autumn weather that will give us a harvest.

J. took this photo Saturday evening when sunset reflected orange against
billowing clouds to the east.
Moments later, as twilight approached, a thunderstorm moved in with a pounding of welcome rain
and pleasant showers during the night.

A cool and misty morning; looking south down the Big Creek Valley.

Payne Janes Hill is wrapped in grey mist which obliterates the view of farm buildings and familiar landmarks.
The ancient pear tree [not fruit-laden this season] stands sentinel over the green and dripping landscape.

Mist rolls along above Big Creek as we sit on the east-facing porch.

The second planting of beans.

We are hovering over the melon vines awaiting the first of the cantalope.
Last year we had them by the wheelbarrow full by the first week of July.
Our early planting this year coincided with a cold and wet spell of weather---no early melons!

Green peppers have been great this year--I've been chopping them for the freezer.

No idea of the variety of grapes. The vine had gone rampant with neglect, even putting out branches which rambled along the top of the ground and then rooted in.
J. experimented on Friday with home made grape juice.

The field corn in the 15 acres J. leased to a neighbor.
It was a late planting due to the cold wet May, but is thriving.

Clusters of elderberries hang in shiny purple-black heads.
I expect I should be manufacturing jelly from them.
An elderly friend in our church during the Vermont years produced a much-anticipated elderberry pie each summer for a pot luck dinner.

Profligate and prolific trumpet vine.
The main vine has clambered up a crabapple tree, rampaged over the wood pile, cast out new plants within
an astonishing radius.

A sunflower sporting rain drops from a shower early on Sunday morning.

Bees hum in the sunflowers.

The 'hot' colors aren't my favorites, but when it comes to sunflowers
nothing is too gaudy.

Although the old apple tree at the edge of the back yard doesn't provide us with fruit,
it creates a welcome circle of shade for Pebbles and her water tub.

J. took this photo after the morning mist 'burned off.'
The sun is capricious today, the air sweet and cool.

Teasel stalks a 'bug" in the cat yard.

The kittens are uproarious at night.
When I shut down my computer and close the door on this room
we hear thumps and bumps as we prepare for bed.
This is the sight which greeted me when I came in this morning with bowls of 'poultry platter'
for the kittens.
Wilbur appears astonished that I don't appreciate his ingenuity with a roll of toilet paper!

Willow has learned that looking pretty has a mitigating effect when one has been a naughty cat!
She sprawls innocently on a bin of the genealogy materials which I've been sorting in odd moments.
The kittens and I say 'thank-you' for commiseration about fleas and suggestions for managing them.
I'm still finding a few on the kittens' tummies when I do a twice daily flea search, but the numbers are declining.  I augmented the Zodiac 'spot treatment' with a very cautious spritz of flea spray in furry armpits.
Brewer's yeast isn't available in our local market [think Wal-Mart--sigh] but I plan to get some on our next trip to the whole foods store.
I think it would be a good nutritional supplement for all the resident felines.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wilbur and Willow Have..FLEAS!

Wilbur, who is shy and often reluctant to be held, seems to find it pure bliss to be
plopped on his back while I rake through his soft white belly fur in pursuit of fleas.

On Thursday I worked at the computer, pecking away at family history notes and slowly bcame aware
that Wilbur and Willow stopped their play several times--to SCRATCH!
I picked up Willow and looking her over, suspected that we had fleas.
J. had errands at Tractor Supply on Friday, so I went along to stock up on pet necessities, including some of those tiny tubes of flea treatment which are applied to the back of a cat's neck.
The day was full of things to be done and I didn't corner the kittens to daub on the flea stuff.
Gina arrived late on Saturday afternoon as I sat here sleepily reading.  She made a dive for Wilbur who was reclining on the toilet tank--his favorite cool spot for a hot day.
She hastily dumped him back down and went "EEEEUUUW!
I looked where she was pointing and saw the telltale bloody spots and minute brown specks on the white porcelain.
I picked up Wilbur and then Willow, upending them and peering at their white undersides.
I brought out medicated pet shampoo, scrubbed as much of each kitten as I could get without actually submerging them in the sink. They were toweled off and held down while the tubes of "flea control" were applied to their little necks.
G. and I were in agreement that every bit of bedding needed to be stripped and laundered.
I began pulling off the heavy quilt, the sheets, the pillowcases, while the damp kittens huddled in the adjoining bathroom.
G. rushed home for an insecticidal 'bomb.'
We relocated  the kittens to a cage in the basement, draped the desk with a sheet, stuffed newspaper in the seams around the closet door and set off the bomb.
I entered in the morning to throw open the windows and scrub the woodwork.  G arrived with her 'power head' vac to clean the carpet.
The kittens passed inspection with only one or two very sluggish fleas each,
which I dispatched with the time-honored method of squishing them--not for the squeemish!
Finally they were returned to the very clean room.
We've not had a problem with fleas on animals in many years. They were non-existant during the Wyoming years, and none on our long-time resident felines since moving to Kentucky.
But then...where did the kittens come from..?
As G. says, "Imagine some half-starved scruffy mama cat having these kittens in a dirty forlorn place...and you have fleas."
All has seemed better--until I put Wilbur on my lap this evening and found more than a half dozen fleas roaming about on his belly.
It is too soon to reapply the material from the tubes--its meant to be 30 day intervals.
The mere idea of harboring BUGS sets me to scratching...imagining that I, too, have fleas!
I am reminded of my late mother-in-law who arrived for summers in Vermont bringing with her a small yappy, wooly dog who was perennially and liberally infested with huge southern fleas.
MIL didn't have much use for "chemicals" [as in flea spray] so daily mixed up noxious concoctions in my mop bucket and dunked the wretched beast, plunging it in and out like a yo-yo.
Lestoil and water; tea tree oil infusions; I forget what-all.
Mostly these ministrations caused the fleas to hop off the dog and bounce about on the floor.
When we complained about the fleas MIL indignantly stated that she was sure they couldn't possibly have ridden in with her from Georgia--must have been here all along!

Wilbur submitting to flea check.

At the moment the kittens are enjoying minimal furnishings--an ancient quilt on the bed.
Their naughty explorations dictate that books and genealogy materials be confined to boxes.
My desk with its piles of "stuff" is at risk.
Its a good thing the kittens are already well-loved!
Tomorrow the flea war will continue.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cats Enduring Hot Weather

Willis, who has house privileges, has a favorite spot--behind J.'s recliner with his back to
the fireplace cupboard.
I left the doors open while moving books and returned to find his majesty in with the books, doubtless improving his mind while it is too hot to do catly things outdoors.

Easier to read the titles in this position.

So, where are the books about CATS?
[They have a shelf to themselves in the big cupboard downstairs.]

Some of us prefer the bedroom and have learned there are two A/C
vents along the east wall.

We who live in the small office/guest room have decided that white porcelain
has cooling qualities!
Wilbur sprawls on the toilet tank while Willow composes herself on the lid.