Monday, December 26, 2011

Green Winter

Christmas morning in Kentucky

My Grampa Mac was wary of a 'green' or 'open' winter.
Growing up on a small farm tucked at the base of Tongue Mountain in the Adirondacks, he learned that winter was a time that called for preparedness. The woodshed needed to be well-stocked with dry chunks and kindling; hay for cows and horses was under cover; the last mellow days of autumn were filled with battening down the buildings to withstand harsh winds and days and nights of below zero temperatures.
Any loose shingles or boards were nailed tight; the screen doors which had been a blessing in summer's heat were removed and stored in the barn loft and the sturdy 'storm doors' set on oiled hinges in their place. Straw and leaves were bedded along the foundation of the house with tar paper wrapped over to keep this natural insulation in place.
In the house the pantry and cellar were well stocked with home grown root vegetables; barrels of apples went to rest in the unheated north room with a stack of clean horse blankets kept handy to spread over them on especially cold nights when only the core rooms of the house could be kept warm.

Woods along the west boundary line.
Grampa Mac moved the few miles across Lake Champlain to Vermont when he married.
The new farm had more open acreage, larger meadows and bigger barns.
There were more animals to be cared for, a greater expanse of roofs to be kept sound, more windows to be caulked shut with felt weather stripping.
When all was done in the way of preparation for the worst that the cold months might present, one waited on the weather.
Killing frost usually crept in on a clear moonlit night in late Septmember.  October was a month of whimsical weather in New England: there would be mornings when hoarfrost lay thick on grass which had lost its fresh green color; nights were referred to as 'nippy.' Mid-day was often bright with sunshine and skies of a blue so intense that the senses reeled with the attempt to absorb and hold the beauty against the dull days which November would surely bring.
November was a month which bore down on me during the Vermont years.  Snow might come to at least temporarily cover browned grass and congealed mud. The sun, if it rose at all, often lurked behind dirty grey clouds before sinking in the west at the end of a short day.
By December, in the average season, the frost had driven deep into the ground and snow, often several feet of it, had come to stay.
In the odd years when the temperatures didn't plummet and snow was replaced with the drizzle of icy rain or sleet, old timers made dire predictions. An open winter, they said, brought sickness.  Cold was needed to kill off lingering 'germs.'  Freezing temperatures and a thick snow cover, it was thought, would cause various insect pests to perish in their hibernating forms. Planting ground would benefit from the
iron cold of a hard winter.

Bare branches and trunks of trees are etched against a winter blue sky.

My grandparent's generation saw many changes; rural electrification was nearly complete. Telephones connected farm families with their immediate neighbors and with the doctor, the banker, the pastor, who lived a few miles away in the village.
Travel was still hard work in cold weather.  Car batteries went dead in the cold, heaters and defrosters worked sluggishly. Chains had to be fitted over tires for traction in snow and ice.
Even on a day of winter sunshine travel was kept to a minimum.
The carrying in of wood and the removal of ashes was a daily job. On nights when the temperatures plunged to 20 below zero [Farenheit] the last person to run water in the kitchen or the bathroom sink had best remember to leave the faucet at a steady drip in hopes that frozen water pipes could be avoided.
All too often a prolonged cold spell meant that rooms were closed off in the house and all activities were clustered around the warm core of the kitchen living room stoves. Someone was always at home to tend the fires---and to watch for that dreaded occurance--a chinmey fire.
Woolen blankets came out of mothballs; extra sweaters, fuzzy socks and mittens, knitted caps and scarfs were layered on in the effort to make outdoor forays bearable.

One of our neighbor's steers has made regular visits into our back pasture, leaving clumps of hair on the fence.

A white winter was beautiful in its purity of snow which covered stubbled fields and spread  blue-shadowed beneath the trees. Morning sun sparkled through  frost-etched window panes and bedazzled each ice-clad twig and branch.

Willis frisked about the yard, landing heavily in a clump of nepeta as D. and I walked along the edge of the flower garden on Christmas Day.

A bird's nest tucked in the ragged old apple tree.

Strawberry plants in the upper garden sport both red and green leaves.

Kentucky Colonel mint surrounds a sprig of catnip.

One of my seed-grown lavenders.

Willis parades along the sideboards on Snort'n Nort'n.

Willow and Wilbur wrestle in the cat yard outside the open door.

Wilbur, the shy boy.

December 30th.  J. took this photo when he went out to feed Pebbles.

Dandelions in the upper garden, December 29.

The herb garden by the back door.

Branches of a tulip poplar sketched against blue December sky.

My Grampa Mac's diaries record the weather and seasons of his long years on the Vermont farm. He noted temperatures, particularly the coldest ones registered on the thermometer tacked to the shed door.
He mentioned snow and ice, recorded the endless round of chores which kept the homeplace functioning in all weather.
He would have been mis-trustful, I think, of our Kentucky winter.
Last year, our first in this climate, there was snow on Christmas Eve. There were school closings throught January and February when freezing rain brought the hazard of 'black ice' on the narrow roads which wind
along the back sides of ridges and plunge into the 'hollers' which seldom see sunlight on a winter day.
"This isn't a normal winter," we were told, almost apologetically.
This year as our region basks in temperate days still green grass we are warned, "This is more like it--but we could pay for it in January--or even March!"
So we wait, enjoying the novelty of a December walk wearing a light jacket or down vest as outdoor clothing.  We gloat over the cabbage and carrots and kale which we still harvest in the garden.
We have kicked off the quilts at night in the snug little house.
The cats trundle in and out through the open sliding door, they stretch on the sun-warmed concrete step as the afternoon sun slants across the bacl yard before disappearing behind the woods in a
glow of apricot and rose.
The stout boots, the wooly gloves and the thick sweaters are handy by if the weather turns.
The woodshed is stufffed with dry split chunks of maple and hickory.
The shelves in the basement are lined with canned goods, the freezer and kitchen cupboards are stocked.
If the cold days and nights come, as they surely will, we are ready.
Meanwhile, we enjoy the novelty of a green winter.

Christmas in the Rear-View Mirror

Not all my haphazard Christmas projects came to pass--a fact which didn't surprise me.
I have traditionally made many of the items we present to family and friends, but I have a problem with being inspired until nearly the last minute; I'm not a 'Christmas in July' sort of person--summer and autumn are seasons for gardening and putting up produce.
In the days before Christmas this year I did suddenly recall an aborted plan to make a garland of cinnamon-dusted orange and apple slices.
I prepared the fruit in the dehydrator early in December, 2009, bought a bag of craft quality cinnamon sticks, a ball of twine.
In mid December 2009, J. decided to renovate our Wyoming house with the addition of a staircase to the attic--and the creation of a bedroom and bath tucked under the eaves.
All thought of a 'normal' holiday disappeared in a welter of sawdust, roaring power tools and excursions to buy flooring, bath fixtures, lights and paint.  Within a month, the house was under contract for sale and the retirement  move to Kentucky was suddenly something more than a vague plan for the future.

Last weekend I found the jars of cinnamon-fruit, newspaper wrapped and snugged into a carton marked 'fragile' where they have languished for two years.
The missing bag of cinnamon sticks needed to complete the project turned up this morning on a high shelf in the kitchen cupboard.
No matter.  I set the gleaming jars in a row on the buffet and removed the lids which allowed a lovely fruity/spicey scent to waft about.

Our Amish neighbors, the Yoders [who keep Dory the Cow] moved several miles up the road early in December.  J. supplies baled hay for Dory.  Joseph had round bales for his buggy horses which hadn't been moved.  J. and D. undertook to move hay two days before Christmas, lumbering up the road with old Snort'n Nort'n and the tractor.

When I worked at the quilt shop I stitched decorative pillowcases by the dozens.
These were created, practically on Christmas Eve, for our grand daughter in CO--a confirmed cat lover.

Having hauled out a welter of fabric, I put on my favorite holiday CD's, stoked the downstairs fire and turned out more pillowcases, gift aprons, a table runner---and----

----sueded catnip-mice for our 'grand-cat', Smokey.
One of the mice has a definite issue with a humped back!

Its a pity that inspiration/energy/time didn't hit me a bit sooner as I realized I was enjoying my fabric crafting---something which has taken a back seat to house renovating and gardening since our move.
By 10 P.M. on Christmas Eve I had rummaged out paper, ribbon and tape to wrap these belated gifts.
Gift wrapping isn't something I do tidily--give me a whole pile of fabric to turn into a quilt any day!
Our two old lady cats, Eggnog and Raisin grew weary of trying to oversee my efforts with crumpling paper and recalcitrant sticky tape.

Although we don't do many under-the-tree gifts, the living room became a sea of torn paper soon after the family arrived from next door.

Willis the Barn Cat came in to investigate. D. has decorated him with a fine blue bow.

D. is a clown [guess whose DNA provided that trait!]
He posed with his new jeans and belt buckle, having taken on J.'s straw hat and  pistol as props.

G. and J.--a family resemblance!

My gift from D. was a handsome cedar-roofed bird feeder and a huge sack of birdseed.
He hung it for me on the front porch.

Talk about silly! [I can only imagine the mayhem if this family took to drink!]
Daughter G. has a habit of trailing about with a bathrobe over an odd assortment of 'leisure wear' when at home and is prone to arriving at our house with the bathrobe very much in evidence.
We all scold her for it--which makes her the more determined to wear the bathrobe.
Devin, Jim, and I were getting ready to head next door for our late afternoon Christmas feast, when I had the bright idea of arriving in bathrobes. [Mind you, I'm not the family member prone to this sort of silly!]
J. hauled out his old terry robe, D. squeezed into my recent Goodwill find--a fleecy garment bedecked with moose and pine trees, while I wrapped myself in a quilted pink robe.
We trailed our way out to the car bearing hot kettles of mashed potato, Hubbard squash, a steaming gingerbread--and then trooped down the hallway to M and G's kitchen bellowing, "We Three Kings of Orient Are--Bearing Food We've Traveled Afar!"
The three of us were chortling with hiliarity [inspired by D.'s comments] and it was well worth the look of astonishment on the faces of his parents.

G. was still cooking in her bathrobe--so here is the gallery of idiots posed for posterity.

M. carves the perfectly roasted turkey.

M. added the poinsettia to G.'s decorating--a vivid touch.
M. and G. took over much of the holiday food prep.
At first I wondered, "Do they think I'm too old to bake pies and rolls and cookies?"
That query was quickly stilled with the happy thought that after decades of orchestrating special meals, the time comes to hand on the torch.
We are blessed to have another generation enthused about planning and baking.
I made loaves of bread which J. took round to some friends--D. and M. delivered trays of fudge and cookies.  There are--happily or otherwise--leftovers to keep us eating for several days!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

Looking north this morning about 9 o'clock.

My father always called attention to the shortest day of the year.
The word 'solstice' was not in his vocabulary, nor the term 'equinox.'
Rather, he was a country man with an intense interest in weather and seasons.
He quoted the Old Farmers' Almanac, he kept thermometers fastened to outside windowsills on all sides of his house, comparing the temperature during a winter cold spell to the nth of a degree.
He marked the autmnal flights of the wild geese, announced the 'first day of winter'--observed the return of the springtime and commented on the 'longest day' in mid-summer.
His interest in the natural world, the changes of the seasons, the foibles of birds and beasts set the pattern of observation and delight early in my own life.
My son was born about daylight on December 22.  In Vermont that year we had been referring to the season as "winter" for many weeks.

The harvested corn ground, a neighbor's roof and the nearby hill framed by the back barn door.
I was standing on the mowing machine, using landscape setting and zoom.

I am Christian in my spiritual walk, so my observance of the solstice is not a ritual occasion.
Folklore and legends are fascinating and it is intriguing to see how the beliefs, customs, and celebrations of other times and older peoples have inter-twined with Christian traditions.

Another zoomed view of Payne-Janes' Hill with a swirl of birds against the clouds.

At this time of year I so often reflect that a reliable source of artificial light--electricity--is
astonishingly recent. Ages of earths' history have passed with only a feeble candle or torch or bonfire to create a small circle of illumination against the long dark of a winter's night.
Beyond that flickering yellow light anything might lurk; wild beast, friend, enemy, could not be reliably distinguished without entering the ring of light.
Little wonder that the lengthening of daylight--and all that implies of warmth, and green growing things--was welcomed with joy.
J. spent a winter or two in Alaska with his family as a young teen. He recalls the exhilaration of summer in "the land of the midnight sun" and the long stretch of winter when daylight was a feeble pall of grey barely distinguishable from night.

J. and I are New Englanders by birth and spent most of our lives there.
This marks our second winter in Kentucky following an interval of a dozen years in Wyoming.
We chuckle when folks here complain of cold weather!
It is still a novelty to walk outside with perhaps a down vest or a light jacket at mid-day.

I went  into the strip of woods which stretches along our western boundary.
It is not an appealing wood with towering trees, but a rather scraggly area of rotting stumps and vine-strangled oaks and flaring cedars.
Clumping along in my wellies, trying not to trip over fallen branches or lengths of trumpet vine, I was surprised to see ahead of me several shrubby trees with green leaves.
When I came up to the nearest one I realized I was seeing native holly.

Moss cloaks a rotting stump.

Bright fungi rise above a rustle of dry leaves.

The bare branches of this dead stump resemble antlers.

Evidence that one of the many wild turkeys met a violent end under the trees.
I would guess the predator might be one of the coyotes I have heard yapping and howling from the woods on nights when it is clear and the moon is waxing toward full.

Several of the twisted cedars show evidence of deer rubbing against the trunks and lower branches.
The deer forage for the ears of dried corn which the harvest machinery missed.
I have seen them bound into the woods as I walk up the back pasture, heard their warning coughs as they lift over the shabby fence.

The skull of an opossum, another victim of the coyotes, or perhaps of a fox.

Pebbles spotted my presence at the edge of the woods and stood watching with suspicion as I clambered back over the leaning wire fence.
I had gathered a handful of holly and white cedar with some idea of making a festive arrangement.
The branches are still on the old wooden trunk in the porch as inspiration fails me.

An old winter carol hums through my mind as I wander about in this mild Kentucky winter.
I noticed it in particular this December on a CD of Celtic Christmas music which I've had for several seasons.  I picked it out on the piano, then thought of an internet search.
Although sometimes titled "The Holly and the Ivy" it is more properly and traditionally known as
"Sans Day Carol", and is of Cornish origin.
I found several YouTube presentations of a John Rutter setting performed with cathedral choirs.
The one linked below is similar to the version on my CD and seems more authentic.
It is perhaps an example of an old carol blending the traditions of Christmas and Yule.

Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk,
                                             And Mary bore Jesus, all wrapped up in silk:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly!
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly!

 Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died on the cross:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly!
       And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly!

       Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died for us all:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
 And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
         Holly! Holly!
          And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly!

                                              Now the holly bears a berry, as blood is it red,
Then trust we our Saviour, who rose from the dead:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
                                            And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
                                                                          Holly! Holly!
                                         And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Music Goes On

Music claimed most of my waking hours last week and intruded upon the hours when I needed to sleep. Those of you who are fellow musicians likely know how that happens. Practice, whether vocal or instrumental, is all about repetition; it is about going over--and over--a problem phrase--in my case, trying to train my fingers to land on the correct combination of piano keys.
I hesitate to refer to myself as a 'musician.'
The term suggests a dedication, a degree of excellence, and perhaps most importantly, a consistant discipline which I have never achieved.
That fact honestly confessed, I can also honestly admit that what I possess is a gift for making--and enjoying-- music, a natural ability that has been generously passed along in the DNA of my mother's maternal line.
This musical heritage is confirmed both by family tradition and by news notes in the archived editions of The Ticonderoga Sentinel which describe church and social occasions where my great grandfather, his brother, his two daughters, son, nieces and nephews were the featured musicians.
That tradition was carried on by my mother and her cousins.
My mother played the church  pipe organ in the small New England town where she lived out her life, debuting at age 12 or 13, when she could barely reach the pedal board. []

I was not quite 5 when she began teaching me to read notes.  I was given a year or two of piano lessons by a lovely local lady--Mother's theory being that I would take the lessons more seriously from someone outside the family.
When Mrs. A. moved away from town, Mother undertook my instruction, fitting informal 'lessons' between her regular piano students.
I didn't enjoy playing scales and 'finger excercises.'
I wanted to make music.
I well recall the Christmas season when I laboriously thumped my way through a book of standard carols--as opposed to 'simplified' versions.  I can only marvel at my mother's forebearance as there was no escape in that small house from the sound of clashing chords and halting notes.

Christmas also brought a month of special choir numbers at church.
Junior Choir met early on a Saturday evening. As Mother was involved with the Senior Choir as well, I could linger and enjoy the preparation of the anthems. For a small town there was a goodly
amount of musical talent.
There was my mother's teacher and mentor, Mrs. Y. who shared the tasks of music selection, rehersals and performance.  Mrs Y.'s sister, Mrs. T. had studied vocal music in Boston as a young woman and added her precise contralto, as well as her pithy comments on the music choices.  [She scorned what she called 'tinkle music'--preferring numbers based on the classical model.]
Mrs. S. had a sweet soprano.  She didn't read music, but could be patiently coached as a soloist on special Christmas numbers.  She had a day job as a secretary in the large town 30 miles away, and came to choir rehersals still wearing her trim woolen skirts and soft pastel sweater sets, her dark hair waved, her careful makeup setting off delicate features.
Her plump prettiness and femine charm inspired much gallantry amongst the
tenor and bass sections of the choir.
Mrs. H. had a reliable alto and a fund of common sense that were welcomed.
Miss E.M. sang alto--heavily and a bit precariously as to pitch.
Sopranos came and went.  One family supplied a succession of attractive and musical young women--they sang until college and marriage took them away.
My pretty music teacher, Mrs. A. had a clear and beautiful soprano voice.
Young people from the junior choir, girls like me--boys whose voices had yet to change--were regularly drafted to fill out the soprano section and as Mrs Y. put it "sing the tune."

The tenors were a law unto themselves: Mrs. T's son [and later her grandsons] Mrs. Y.'s grandsons home from college at Christmas to swell the ranks;  Mr. A. who nervously fussed that he couldn't 'find the tenah note.'  There was our neighbor, Harry S. a farmer, who arrived dapper and voluable for choir rehersal.
He had a true and ringing tenor--a voice which we could sometimes hear in our own dooryard if he was working in a nearby field when the wind was right.
Anyone's husband who had been nagged into coming along as his wife's chauffeur was directed to stand in the tenor section.
Mr. B. was the bass section.  He was blessed with a deep basso voice and was fond of recalling the pastor who decades ago had taught him to follow the bass line in the hymnal.  He stood calmly by while the tenors had to be drilled, always instinctively knowing where his own notes were to be found. Mrs. Y. frequently stated that you could depend on G. B. [she always spoke of him by both names] to balance the choir, never drowning out the smaller numbers that showed up to sing on an 'ordinary' Sunday, but well able to anchor the larger holiday choir.
The music was traditional.  Some of the folders of anthems residing in the file cabinets had copyright dates from the previous century.  The hymns were the 4-square standards of Protestant heritage.

By the time I was in junior high I could read either the soprano or alto part from a score, could usually manage to play the accompaniment.  Mother drafted me to stand behind her at the organ when a score had many pages to be turned as she poured her soul and her skill into a Chrismas prelude from Bach or Handel.

I was in my early teens when Grampa Mac [a tuneless fellow who had married into the family of musicians] purchased a neighbor's old upright piano, saw it installed in his square, lace-curtained parlor, paid for it to be tuned.  My uncle, rummaging in some dark cupboard, produced stacks of my grandmother's music.  There were  song books and hymn books, sheet music of numbers popular in the lead-up to WWI. There were yellowed copies of marches, waltzes and rags.  I hurried to that old piano after school, bringing my homework with me.
I spent winter afternoons there, hunched in a heavy sweater, my feet warmed by the tiny electric heater which Uncle Bill had plugged in, my fingers chilled as they dashed over the stained ivories.
During my last year of high school I was often excused from regular classes on music day to play for chorus rehersals.  When the chorus director informed me one day, "If ever Norma is ill on a concert date, you will play for the performance," I prayed fervently for Norma's continued good health.
While I played and sang constantly at home, once past my confident and untroubled childhood  public performance caused me to feel a bit rattled and clumsy.
To my mother's disappointment, I didn't tackle the pipe organ.
I didn't go on to what might be called a serious study of music.
I had discovered the family gift of 'playing by ear' as well as by note.
I could transpose a song to another pitch.
I found that I could play the old hymns after the manner of my great-aunt Minnie who added the flourish of runs and octaves and chords to the notes on a printed page.
Married and attending the church of my husband's heritage, I filled in whenever an extra pianist was needed.
Back in my home town after years away, I was once again pressed into service when Mother needed an alto who could sight read a choir score for a Christmas performance.
When in her late 70's Mother's energies flagged and she wanted to 'sit downstairs' during the church service she contrived an elaborate schedule of alternate musicians:  one of her former organ students lived in town; another woman familiar with pipe organ moved in and was willing to take on a Sunday per month.
Mother approached me to take up the slack.
"You could have learned the pipe organ," she grumbled, 'its still not too late if you would apply yourself!"
"If your congregation can deal with the piano, I will play for you," I stated firmly.
I played for my mother's church.  I traveled to play for other area congregations who found themselves temporarily bereft of a musician.
I played on Christmas Eve in the next town when the regular musician went down with stomach flu hours before the service. 
I provided the music for several family weddings.  I played hymns for funerals when my eyes were so awash that I couldn't see the march of black notes on a page and my tears fell on the keyboard.

I played and sang with an immensly talented and rather eccentric family of musicians who had family ties to my home church.  Red-haired G. C. and his family were never on time.  I would sense a rustle of movement behind me during the prelude, the snap of instrument cases being opened, the shuffle of music stands. During the invocation G. would slide onto the piano bench beside me, sheets of music were propped on the rack, while he jabbed a finger and hissed, "Piano here. String quartet alone for these measures.
You come in again here."

Music has memories.  I play from books which are marked in my mother's beautiful handwriting.  Other pages bear Mrs. Y's reminders of the organ stops to use.
Some of the frail yellow pages have scrawls so old that the ink is scarcely legible.
Last week I brought out G.C.'s mimeographed pages and realized with a jolt that nearly two decades have passed since I last made music with his family.
The voices that swelled the choir of my youth have, most of them, been silent for decades.

I felt besieged by memories of other Christmases as I struggled to perfect my selections for our church service. I determined to play the notes exactly as written.
Perfection eluded me.  At night, staring into the soft darkness, I heard alternate harmonies, snatches of melody replayed monotonously in an endless shuffle.
My fingers moved on the quilt, reaching for an impossible chord.
On the day, the music went rather well. I played with care, mindful of the spots that might trip me.
Our pastor's wife sat behind me, adding a flute descant to the well known Christmas hymns.
I fumbled a few notes on the last line of the postlude--when the congregation, released from the hour's quiet, wouldn't notice.
Bonnie and I sat on, turning pages, playing together, musicians of imperfect caliber, yet inspired by the music we were creating.

I am tired.  By Sunday afternoon I wanted only my chair in the untidy corner by the fire, my book, my beloved Teasel on my lap.

A friend from church phoned yesterday to confirm what J. and I will be singing as our contribution to the final Christmas program. We took turns lamenting our lack of perfection as musicans.
We took turns reassuring each other, "Its OK, really. We do our best, here where we are,
where we are needed."
The songs, the voices, the scenes of other Decembers haunt me, a tumbling kaleidoscope of color and scent and sound.
And--the music goes on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Still Here!

After several hours of tinkering last evening I went to bed despairing of the blog.
The whole thing 'locked up' while I was playing with colors, changing the header photo, experimenting.
I've done this before, not always liked the result and simply put things back.
I admit the options available have all the temptation of a big box of colored pencils when I was a child--one wants to see what all the pretty colors look like!
One of those nasty notices came up informing that my browser did not support blogger [blah, blah, etc, etc] and that I must install goggle chrome.
I did so and still couldn't get into the blog.
I lay awake fuming.  I am not of a technical turn of mind--don't especially care about the HOW of things.  I simply want things to WORK!
A bit before midnight I padded out by the fire and turned on my laptop.
I immediately found that the blog dashboard appeared in the upgraded format.
I scratched away at the 'gadget' page and sorted the photos for the sidebar, feeling that I had conquered cyber-world.
Of course when I turned on the desktop PC this morning that was still in a bind.
I reinstalled Chrome.
I updated Internet Explorer.
I downloaded and ran a 'Fix-It' tool
It seems that a Yahoo toolbar which activated without my permission locked up everything else.
Toolbar de-activated, blog saved. Temper soothed.
Now I have to become familiar with the new posting format.
At least this one lets me view the photos I've selected for upload.
Hopefully later in the week I'll have time for comments and something more creative than a 'rant!'
The photo above is Willow.
Dear, naughty, stripey Willow--who removed the buds from the new Christmas cactus during the night and left them in a neat pile on the table.
How do I know it was Willow?
[I just know!]
This has been a day of mild dampness.
I harvested two lovely cabbages from the garden this morning.
J. split wood.
The grand accomplishment of the day was resurfacing the backsides of two pair of jeans for grandson D. and patching a long three-cornered tear in the leg of one.
D. wears his clothes hard!
I've always believed in patching jeans--a finicky job, as you'll know if you've wrestled them around on your sewing machine.
There's something about the soft, much-washed denim and the raggedy patches of an old pair that is very suited for hard work in the garden--or painting--or grubbing.
I daresay mine may be the last generation who patches and mends!

Grampa Mac as he looked when I was a child [left] and later when he was about 70 years of age.
My dear Grampa Mac, a widower, used to patch his denims on Sundays.
He used a huge darning needle threaded with the white twine he saved when he opened sacks of chicken feed or cow grain.
He sat in the rocking chair which is now my favorite, the radio blaring at his elbow.
His big calloused hands which had mended harness, groomed his horses, planted garden seed, hovered over the worn denim trousers, setting large firm stitches.
At any given time he surely  had newer denims neatly folded away, but his sense of frugality would have been insulted to discard that which could be mended and made useful.
When I learned to use my first sewing machine I took over the task of patching.
My parents and grandparents had survived the great depression and they passed on the
ethic of frugality and Yankee thrift so foreign to a later 'throw-away' mindset.
My current sewing machine is 'state-of-the-art' with capabilities we couldn't imagine even two decades ago.
There is still satisfaction in a job of mending accomplished--and the sense of being appreciated by a young man who clattered down the stairs to my sewing area to say, "Thank you, Meme, for mending my jeans."