Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tractors, Back Roads and Old Farmsteads

Jim's perennial wheelin' and dealin' has taken a busy turn recently. This obsession with "trading" is apparently a genetic trait, notable in this generation in  both his brothers as well.  [J.'s cousin, a meticulous genealogist, has shared excerpts from family wills and transactions that indicate his fore-fathers were kept busy down there in Pitt County, NC swapping parcels of land, horses, mules and wagons.]

My part in the process these days is to post various items on craigslist or to answer
the phone occasionally.

It is also important that I willingly load into the car to go on various scouting missions or clamber aboard old Snort'n Nort'n for pick up or delivery ventures.
Monday's quest took us along a narrow road that twisted beside a creek swollen with water from the recent rains.  Few houses along the road were occupied.
We saw several of these swinging foot bridges. Rutted tracks suggested that in dryer weather the creek could be forded, although the old farmhouses beyond stood forlornly abandoned in their soggy fields. 

Note the house trailer standing alongside the old two story house.This seems to have been a trend in poorer rural areas.
Apparently when an old house became too derelict to justify the expense of renovating, a 'single-wide' was moved in nearby to take advantage of the electrical and water hook-ups.
Now the trailer houses are deserted as well.

It turned out to be the wrong road [we needed to head up toward Gravel Switch] but it was a chance to see parts of Casey and Marion Counties which were unfamiliar.

Old buildings intrigue me and this quiet road seemed to have more than the usual share of abandoned farmsteads and derelict barns sagging lop-sidedly toward the ground.

All photos were taken from the moving car as we meandered through rain that [almost!] thickened to sleet, then gave way to feeble sunlight.

The oddly constructed church sits near the traffic light in down-town Bradfordville.

The downside of listing items for sale is the spate of phone calls
during the first few days after items are posted.
The phone shrilled at 6:30 this morning.
We were awake, but still thinking about starting the day.
I leapt from bed, heart pounding. [After all, a phone call at that hour surely means death, dilemma or something unpleasant to be dealt with.]
J. reached the phone first and I quickly gathered this was a man calling about a tractor.
He lived two counties eastward and was in the earlier time zone.
A second call came while I was cooking breakfast.
I picked up the phone and managed to decipher that this caller also was looking for a tractor.
His actual words, spoken in the local vernacular were, " At ere John Deere yur sellin'--has it done went yet?"
I hastily handed over the phone!
Early caller # one appeared in due course, bought the tractor. J. was planning to pick up another tractor [!] which he bought on Monday's expedition, so agreed to deliver one on the way.
I have now spent the better part of two days "along for the ride."
An old hand at this, I go well prepared with several magazines, a book or two, clothing to meet any weather changes, my camera.
A stop for lunch somewhere is part of the package!
I make what I hope are appreciative noises while J. extolls the details of the latest swap.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Week in Retrospect [with photo over-load!]

Early in the week I set myself to sorting the disrupted bedroom.
J. turned a conveniently deaf ear to my pleas for assistance in rearranging a framed picture or two, so I decided to risk the bashing of mis-placed nails and managed to hang the lower quilt block on the second try,
and got up the brackets for the wall-hanging--at which point I discovered I had never created a 'rod-pocket' on the back of said quilt--so down to the family room to some speedy hand stitching.

Most of my large quilts were made when we used a queen-sized bed, so there isn't much allowance for the king-sized bed.  The fabrics in this Bear Tracks quilt are some of my favorites, so I folded it over the coverlet where the autumn colors can be enjoyed.
The cats have decided they can deal with the rearrangement of furniture.

I moved the quilt rack to the end of the hallway below my g-grandparent's framed wedding certificate.
The pieced blocks in the blue Double Four-Patch quilt were hand sewn in 1916 by Esther Jane Lewis who was then 9 years old.  The quilt was in rough shape when I acquired it after her death.
I picked out the best of the blocks, including the signed one, and reset them with a fabric
which had a vintage look.
The quilt on the back bar is a very simple one stitched up on a snowy December day using remnants of winter-themed fabrics in dull greens, deep reds and old gold.

The day before Thanksgiving was cool, with intermittant showers.
Pebbles refuses to 'go in out of the rain' and grazes along the edge of her pasture.

At times during the afternoon the clouds parted over whisps of blue sky
and rather lack-luster sunshine picked out the leafless trees beyond the creek.

Frosty nights have blackened the most tender herbs in the little plot just off the back door.
This tri-color sage has grown fresh new leaves since I harvested sage and thyme last month.

This is one of the lavenders I raised from seed this season.
I have hopes that it will winter.

Gina and her cousin Susan hatched plans for a family Thanksgiving get-together.
S. and her family live about 5 1/2 hours away and are intrepid travelers.
G. and I planned meals, divided up the cooking and baking.
G. had sleeping spaces for the three teenagers. I plumped pillows and folded a Maple Leaf quilt over the foot of the bed in our guestroom/office for Susan and Mark.
I was in the midst of a baking orgy when the family drove in after lunch at G.'s.
[My out-put for the day was 4 loaves of bread, 3 pies, and a pan of cranberry/date bars.]
D. was designated to convey a pie and loaf of bread, still warm, to friends up the road who are in the midst of a house renovation.
S. is a multi-talented and creative person.
She brought us gifts of her homemade jams, pickles and conserves.
Whether at home or visiting, she is out of bed and showered, moving soundlessly about before daylight.
When I arose at 7 she was cozily installed in the rocking chair by the fire, stitching at one of her beautiful applique projects.

This young gentleman did NOT ride on top of the mattress which was being moved a mile down the road to Gina's house!

Thanksgiving Day was warm and sunny. Dinner was planned for mid-afternoon.
J.'s cow gave birth on Wednesday, and Thursday morning brought a distress call from the Yoders [where Dory the Cow is boarded.]
Dory was down with 'milk-fever' [hypocalcemia] and of course the farm supply store was closed for the holiday.  J. rushed to borrow a bottle of calcium solution from the Jersey farm up the road, had to visit another neighbor to find the rubber tubing and needle to administer it.
Dory didn't respond as well as expected, so a call was made to a local vet who provided another bottle of calcium as well as a calcium paste to be given orally.
[She survived--after a shaky few hours.]
There was still time for the men of the family to haul a load of firewood---a job undertaken with considerable good humor--before we gathered at G.'s house for the Thanksgiving feast.

Friday afternoon was a time for farewells and the promise to gather again soon.
The leftovers have been cheerfully shared and consummed.
G. [blessings on her!] is busy today decorating her house for the Christmas season.
Here, a mile down the road, its been a quiet Sunday---time this morning for me to read by the fire while J. poked at his laptop and Willis the Barncat appropriated his chair.
As the day draws into night's early darkness, our little house is filling with the good smells of
beef simmering in a thick gravy; J. has fetched in some of the last potatoes from the garden which have been scrubbed and tucked in the oven to bake.
Coleslaw made from one of our late cabbages is waiting in the fridge.
G. and D. have been alerted that we have dinner to share.

Migration of the Sandhill Cranes

The slanting November sun had made short work of the afternoon and was already sliding toward the trees that mark the western boundary of the farm.

Jim and grandson Devin were stacking firewood while indoors I cleared a project from my desk. A shout from outside sent me flying to the back door where the men were pointing at the sky.

The rasping voices of sandhill cranes heralded their progress as they beat across the sky from the north in ever-shifting formations.

We gazed at them with the sense of primaeval wonder which such sights always inspire. The birds winged through cloud wisps and jet trails over Big Creek Valley, veering southwestward.

The last shush of beating wings passed overhead, the strident cries of the cranes fading as the sun withdrew behind the woods, leaving a blanket of red-gold and smokey lavender to briefly mark its descent.

The dooryard settled into the sudden stillness of a November evening, the cooling air rich with the scent of rising woodsmoke and the sharp tang of freshly split maple.

Added later:  I typed 'sandhill crane migration' into the Google search engine. It appears that southern Arizona is the destination for thousands of cranes who over-winter there. The birds are fairly common summer residents of the rural mid-west and the interior west--we've seen them there. The cranes begin traveling north early in the spring and the North Platte River Basin is a stop-over where they rest and feed for several weeks before completing their northern journey.
When we moved from Wyoming to Kentucky, it was at the time of the spring migration and our route took us for miles along the North Platte.  The sandhill cranes were present in the thousands, along with Canadian geese.  I've added the photo above, taken from the truck window which caught mostly geese, but will give you an idea of the terrain. The ground teemed with birds with more of them always swirling above.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Busy November Days

The week began with overcast skies and gusty winds.
November is a time to cherish warm days, as darkness comes earlier each night
and we know colder weather is inevitable.
I walked out into the back fields on Monday afternoon, camera dangling from its wrist strap.
J. had rearranged Pebbles' electric fence during the morning which she always finds interesting.
She doesn't miss anything that happens in the dooryard or in the fields beyond her pasture.
I walked across the harvested corn ground until I could zoom in on this old grey barn across the road.
In summer it is nearly invisible behind the trees.  We think that at one time a house may have stood just beyond the barn, snugged up against the hillside.

Although the cornstalks have been cut the splayed roots are still anchored in the soil.

The combine missed some ears of corn which are providing food for wild animals and birds.

As I walked along the edge of the field a neighbor's dogs noticed me and bounded toward me
with sociable woofs.

Pebbles immediately moved to the edge of her fenced area and stared fixedly at the trespassing dogs.

From time to time the sun has lightened the grey billowing clouds.
This shot was taken looking west up the cornfield toward the neighbor's woodlot.
J. roared up beside me on the 4-wheeler at this point and invited me to 'hop on.'
[My method of getting myself onto the seat behind J. is definitely not 'hopping'--more like 
clambering aboard.]
J. had dragged the trunk of the fallen maple off the line fence and wanted to know what our neighbor, T.L. would like done with the rest of the big tree.
[Turns out he doesn't have a fireplace or wood heater, so J. has been gifted with more firewood.]

T.'s wife raises miniature horses for show.
He delighted to tell us about them.  The dark filly is only a year old, but has placed in several
shows as a "promising" young mare.
Her coat was clipped when several strange lesions appeared during the summer.
The vet wasn't sure if the small circular wounds were caused by an insect or by a fungus infection.
The filly's back is healed now and her coat growing in time for winter.

This one seems to know he is a pretty boy!

On the way home J. stopped the 4-wheeler and scooped up two ears of corn for Pebbles who was watching for our return.

Rain began on Tuesday and continued through the night.
When it let up on Wednesday I put on my wellies and slogged about.
This poppy will surely not blossom before cold weather.

Several more poppies have germinated where the parent plants dropped seed before I gathered the
dried seed pods.
I hope most of the seeds will lie dormant til springtime.

The sweet gum tree is the only one in the dooryard still clinging to leaves.
[Note the 'gumballs.']

Blue sky today and crisp clear air.
J. cut down the shabby Redbud tree which overhung the carport.
Redbuds [also called Judas tree] grow untidly, dividing into several trunks a foot or so above the ground.
They tend to be brittle.
One trunk of this one was cut many years ago leaving a rotten stump.
Several branches have clattered down onto the roof.
The branches had tangled with the sweet gum tree, shading its growth on that side.
The sweet gum stands clear now, but quite lop-sided in shape.

I was possessed this morning to shift the bedroom furniture--no easy task to move that huge lodgepole bed!
J. moved it from one side of the room to the other, dragged dressers about, then hastily betook himself to his tree cutting, while I stood gazing in dismay at the disruption I had created.
The lodgepole bed was very much in keeping with the rustic lodge type houses J. built in Wyoming.
It looks rather silly and cumbersome in this small cottage.

Charlie is distressed by the disarranged furniture.

Teasel doesn't like the mirror and the cat basket dumped on the bed.
I phoned an SOS to G: "Help! I don't know where to put the bedroom furniture.  Nothing fits!"
G. and D. arrived.  Various suggestions were made.  J. and D.shooed us ladies out and firmly shut the bedroom door.
We listened in alarm to the sounds of heavy furniture being moved about.
When the door opened, the mammoth bed had been positioned in front of the double windows.
Not ideal, perhaps, but allowing for a more symetrical arrangement than previously and better access to both sides of the bed.
G. and I tweeked things; I rehung some pictures, removed some cluttery bits.
I have informed J. [who is trying not to hear me]
that he needs to hang the heavy mirror over the dresser.
The room is not photo ready at this point, but is looking better.
The cats are still suspicious, tip-toeing around, considering new routes.
I have ended up with a rocking chair and a small table which don't fit anywhere!

Buttery shortbread and some sinfully good 'chocolate ecstacies'
made yesterday afternoon filled the house with warm smells on a rainy day--and provided
a treat for tea today after our strenuous labors.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Winter Wood Supply

A neighbor several miles up the hill had a hedgerow cut last summer.
J. going by daily during haying, speculated whether the loggers would make use of the "tops."
Some months later, there they were, strewed in the pasture, so on Friday J. made a visit to ask E.K. if he might buy the tops as firewood.
This was a courtesy inquiry, and E.K. made the expected reply, telling J. that he would be pleased to have the tops cut up and hauled away with no thought of payment.
J. speedily drove home, drafted me as helper and alerted G. that he was harvesting firewood.
We piled into Snort'n Nort'n and roared up to our neighbor's pasture--taking great care to shut the field gate behind us.

The day was blue-sky-bright with a brisk wind.
I had pulled my hair back into a loose braid, anchored with an elastic band and several clips.  Within moments the wind had teased my hair into whisps which blew into my face.
G. and I began moving the smaller branches into piles as J. cut them free from the larger limbs.
G. began working bundled in her brown hoodie and down vest.
We all removed layers as we labored.

Given the curiosity level of bovines we weren't surprised when several of Farmer Ed's prize Jerseys ambled over to see what we were doing.

This handsome cow seemed to have important information to relay to J.!

G, became enthralled with this cow.
"I want a cow and some chickens," she stated--a wish she has reiterated since moving to Kentucky.
'No," we said in unision--also a reiteration, "You really don't want a cow and chickens of your very own!"

We noticed a pleasant scent as we moved around in the uncut grass.
I traced it to this plant growing in clumps along the brook and under the trees.
I can't identify it, although the dried stems appear square suggesting the mint family.
The browned leaves gave off a suggestion of anise more than mint.

One of the trees along the brook had thorny barbs.
Not knowing the correct identity for trees and plants frustrates me!

Peaceful and pastoral.

The weekend stayed warm and breezy.
By Monday the sky was overcast, but the day was warm.
Early in the morning I heard the wind ruffling through the waxy leaves of the magnolia tree just beyond my bedroom window.
The landscape has taken on earthy somber colors, the red and gold of autumn leaves lie drifted in
faded heaps on the ground.
J. is working at the chunks of maple which we harvested in March.
The smell of the wood permeates that corner of the yard.
It was warm enough to let the fires die out for several days.