Monday, October 24, 2011

Desultory Days

Desultory:   marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose [Merriam-Webster]

'Desultory' is a word I admire.  I don't often get to use it in a spoken sentence, but the above definition suits
my days and nights of the past weeks.
J. returned on October 19 from a month in Wyoming, where he worked on a construction project
with our son.
J.'s work has often taken him away, and I have always adapted to that, finding things to do, and in spite of missing him, I revel in the chance to stay up past midnight, to play the piano at strange hours, to snatch a hasty snack of cheese, toast and tea, then return to the project at hand.

I have spent a large portion of my time outdoors, rising to cool misty mornings, bundling myself in faded 'hoodie', a down vest and my wellies to do the "chores"--cleaning litter boxes, dishing up grain for Pebbles and putting out her hay, taking fresh water and kibble to the barn cats.
By the time that was acomplished the sun had spread a swath of warmth onto the front porch, where, in company with Raisin, the old lady cat, I sat for a few minutes, my hands wrapped around a mug of coffee.

As the heavy dew sparkled underfoot, a trip to the upper garden was next, to check what needed to be harvested.
One morning in particular is lodged in my memory: a stirring wind and birds everywhere: crows speaking in hoarse racuous voices as they stalked across the cleared ground of the upper pasture; the shriek of a bluejay who had doubtless spied the cats in their fenced yard; a plump bird [mourning dove?] atop the post near the goat-willow tree; a toss of bluebirds wheeling above the garden fence.

The broccoli came on suddenly, so I called on G. and D. to  help eat it!

The sun shone and the wind blew throughout  warm days, swirling leaves down from the maples and strewing them across the yard.

Pebbles roamed her pasture, sometimes kicking up her heels and galloping like a youngster, seemingly inspired by the playful wind.

A clump of late Michaelmas daisies, smokey purple in the upper flower border.
[These are either Purple Dome or Patricia Ballard.  The tags have migrated about and of course I don't recall which variety I planted in which spot!]

Hawkeye Belle continues to produce her lovely pink blooms.  This one is on the small plant which has sprung up several feet from the parent bush.

Willis, soaking up the morning sunshine which streams in the south-facing opening of the hay barn.

There have been beans to pick and process.
G. and I dragged chairs into the back yard and sat in the sun to snip these in readiness for the canner.
I put up 12 pints from the first picking, 8 pints later in the week.

When I unfolded myself [creakingly] from the bean rows I noticed this cluster of raspberries.
I didn't leave them for the birds!  The berries were cool and sweet.

I was hoping the butterfly would unfold its wings for a photo.
It is either a monarch or a viceroy---there are slight differences in the markings of the lower wings.

The zinnias were looking quite ratty overall, but a few blooms such as this one earned them a few more days in the garden. 
Our first frost [Friday, Oct 21] blanched the last of the blooms and I pulled up the shabby plants today.

As I worked outside I pondered the possible adjectives to describe such lovely autumn days:
'golden'--'mellow'--'ripe'--we use familiar words again and again because they conjure  memories of  colors and scents, recollections of other seasons lived in other times and places.

I stayed outside, crouched  grubbing in the flower borders until the sun slid into the woods behind the old barns.  With my tools put away in the cluttered shop, I blundered stiffly to the house to scrub crusted earth from beneath my nails, stand in a hot shower, retire to my rocking chair with a mug of tea and a bowl of soup.

The dancing wind blew maple leaves into the cat yard, entrancing the resident felines who have chased, skittered and finally collapsed in the crispy heaps.
Mima-cat curls near the fence, alert to the birds who pass overhead.

The upper border after an afternoon of weeding and dividing and moving plants.
There are gaps where I dug up hollyhock [continually raddled with rust and bugs] moved peonies to the garden which D. created.  Other perennials which were mainstays of my Vermont gardens do not survive the heat and humidity of Kentucky summers;  delphinium, Canterbury bells, lady's mantle will bloom briefly then disappear and the place there-of knows them no more!  I don't think my gardening budget stretches to buying these each year for an early May flowering. 

In our second Kentucky year I'm noticing that local flower gardens peak in late May, relying heavily on flowering shrubs.  Plants which were a New England mainstay of July and August [coneflower, rudbeckia, butterfly weed, monarda] blossom here in June, then everything gasps as the heat moves in. 
Another year I will rely on annuals such as zinnias, marigolds, comos, which can stand the heat and can be seeded in place to take over when the perennials need to be cut back. 

I weeded down the back length of the border until I reached the lemon-scented southernwood which has been eclipsed by the clump of Michaelmas daisies.  My intention was to relocate the southernwood.
I realized suddenly that the daisies were alive with bees--honeybees and a few bumblebees.  I quietly removed myself from their busy activity--the southernwood can be moved when the bees are resting on a rainy day.

While I retreated from the Michaelas daisies, Willis did not.
I hadn't realized he was lurking that close to where I was working.
With his tweedy camouflage he has a disconcerting way of suddenly appearing when I least expect him!

The double knock-out roses continue to bloom.
It is easy to see why they are popular here--undaunted by heat and humidty, in nearly constant bloom until hard frost.

Yellow Simplicity takes a few weeks to revive between times of bloom.
These autumn roses are to be cherished, opening slowly in the chill of dewy mornings when the low slant of the sun is slower to reach them.

Inside the house, Willow the Kitten is proving to be a naughty little minx!
Since recovering from her "operation" she has become a determined climber, balancing daintily on the divider between the front doorway and the living area, teetering along the footrail of our huge bed, parading across my desk.
She is also determined to uproot the plants which I have repotted and brought in from their summer stay on the porch.  My cherished Christmas cactus has been hurled from its pot 3 times in 24 hours!  This is not about using the potting soil  as litter.  J. and I have both caught Willow in the act of flinging dirt and plants with joyful and unholy glee.  Stones, bits of broken pots, even a barricade of stout twigs around the rim of the pot have not deterred her.  She has been scolded, squirted with cold water, but I don't think she is cured.
Her brother, Wilbur, watches her bouts of destruction while reclining with folded paws on the table!

Today I separated the battered remnants of the cactus into four smaller pots, cutting a circle of black weed-barrier fabric to fit inside each pot under the topmost inch or so of soil.  I have arranged small stones on top.  I have hidden two of the pots amongst other plants brought in to winter under the grow lights in the basement laundry area.  Among those plants are 3 rosemarys and a scented 'snowflake' geranium.
As I washed up our supper dishes tonight, Willow wove lovingly about my ankles.  I picked her up, cuddled her.  Her fur smells of rosemary!

With J. home again the strangely patternless [desultory] days slide toward a more predictable routine.
Nights have been chilly, a wood fire morning and evening is welcome.
I attempt to sort particular moments from the blur of several weeks:
I recount to J. the night that coyotes yipped and howled at the edge of the woods as I was preparing for bed shortly after midnight.  I tell him how I stood in the yellow-white circle of the yard light and bellowed at the coyotes, "Git!  Go away--shut up!" They went quiet and I imagined them [startled?] slinking away among the tangle of trees where I have never walked.

I think of the mornings when my booted feet left a trail in the dew-sopped grass; when Willis the Cat found a sun-warmed spot on the porch to lick his tweedy paws dry after following me on my rounds.
There were hours and meals shared with our daughter and grandson.
There were busy hours of quiet---I'm not one who needs a radio or tv running as background noise.
There were times when I sang--for my own encouragement--and to the astonishment of the cats!

The garden is winding down--some beautiful cabbages yet to harvest, kale flourishing for
an early winter crop.
J. has wood to cut and stack.
As the angle of the sun slides lower and the days grow shorter, my mind turns to quilts that need to be completed, stacks of books which remain to be sorted into shelves--or relinquished to the Goodwill shop.
I will be baking more, soup will simmer on the back burner.
And I will watch the timeless turning of autumn toward winter, never tiring of the
changing of country seasons.


  1. A far from desultory post MM. Lovely prose, super photos and days filled with activity and observation pour from the page here.

    And I'm liking the new look to the blog too.....


  2. I loved this post, words and pictures. I could just picture being there with you. Thank you for this little mini vacation into your autumn world.

    Hugs ~ FlowerLady

  3. I so look forward to your posts ..again a another wonderful insight into such a different life and wonderful surroundings....I cant imagine canning and bottling so much produce ...let alone growing it all ...and you do so much more too.
    As for Willow ... there is always one ...although in our case three ...that seem to defy training for distruction ...and drive one to distraction ...but then they look at you with big eyes and all is forgiven.

  4. Really enjoyed your post, I was an Army wife and often alone so I know about filling the long days.

  5. Nice to find a fellow piano player. I find that my piano serves me well, I play it when I'm down and I play it when I'm up. If the house were burning down, after first getting the cats out the piano would be next on the list.
    Lovely post

  6. So well written! You take us there for all the sights, sounds, smell and sensitive touching. Just SUCH a pleasant visit.

  7. A beautifully written post. Far from desultory. Don't know if you've dropped by my blog lately but there's a cat photo that I took specially for you!