Sunday, September 30, 2012

30th September, Pear Harvest

Rather a typical day for the time of year--a morning with fog rising in filmy swaths from Big Creek, then burning away as a gentle sun. gained the ascendency.
I sat on the porch with Little Edward the Kitten cuddled beside me, absorbing the difference in sounds and texture between this autumn day and one in spring.
At first I thought, "How quiet it is", but as I settled to watch and listen I realized that, like the colors of autumn--the emerging golds, russets, hints of burnished orange--the sounds of birds are merely muted.
Several bluebirds teetered on the power line, serene, with the frenzy of mating and nest-building behind for another year.
Even the mockingbirds had little to say as they flitted from the lantern post--to the goat willow tree--to the maple--and back around.
Three crows flew overhead--and crows are seldom silent. They carried on a desultory hollering as they passed slowly by.
The branches of the centenarian pear tree were burdened with fruit--rough yellow-green shapes
demanding to be picked.
More of them had fallen and were lodged in the pasture grass--many show a large 'bite' taken out; others have become a feast for wasps with incredibly long yellow and black bodies.
I think the photos tell the story--I'm needed in the kitchen.
One canner full of bottled pears is boiling furiously, more are simmering in light sugar-syrup, ready to be poked into the line-up of glass jars.
The floor between back door, range and the living room where J. is peeling pears, is becoming a
trail of stickiness. 
We will rejoice in this bounty come winter!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Butterfly Weed

Each summer comes to its end, and as the days draw in, the annuals in my flower garden get down to the business of setting seeds.

The zinnias have gone shabby, though still vividly colored...handsome from a distance.

Many of the dwarf sunflowers have shed their brilliant petals, but the seeds
haven't plumped enough to harvest.

The garden draws me, even in this season of its decline.

I note with frustration the weeds that have pushed through layers of mulch, fret over the gaps where some  perennials gave up during the heat and drought of July.
I cherish those hardy plants that have revived for an autumn flowering.

My clump of butterfly weed [asclepias tuberosa] had its beginnings as a wildling. In years past I ordered seed of this brilliant member of the milkweed family--seed which never germinated. During our first summer here, I was delighted to recognize the plant growing in vigorous patches in the horse pasture.

Butterfly weed is sometimes known as 'orange milkweed.'
I moved a root to my perennial strip, and while it hasn't spread as fast as I expected, it seems well established.

The seed pods are more slender than those of its common cousin, but the seeds are borne on similar silky parachutes, filmy threads which catch the sun as the promise of new life is
carried away on the autumn wind.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meet the Garden Crew

Dark morning skies warned of rain and wind to come.
I headed out to harvest seed from zinnias and cosmos.

Little Edward and Nellie are ready to lend a helping paw or two.

Bobby McGee, having slipped in through the fenced cat yard, thinks that the cushions on the love-seat are a cozy place to spend a blustery morning.

The sunflower seeds need to ripen before harvest.

J. checking for ripe tomatoes is joined by Little Edward and Nellie.

"Look at them sweet-taters!"

Too much help!

Little Edward has endearing ways, even when being a nuisance.

Bobby McGee has joined his brothers and has a purposeful dig about in the loosened soil.

Nice! A new latrine!

Willis: 'Things were just fine without those kittens.  I wish they'd go away!"

"If I don't look at them--they don't exist!"

Clouds are rolling in, thunder growls in the distance, the wind is picking up.

Chasing falling leaves is a delightful new game.

'While it rains, we'll take a nap
Call us if anything interesting turns up.'

Inside, while a brief autumnal storm hurls rain against the windows, I gloat over my seed harvest, set aside for packeting  and labeling.
Muffins, laden with dried cranberries, cherries, and coconut, are baking; we chop carrots, onions and some of the salvaged tomtatoes to add to the simmering kettle of lentil soup.
The kitchen is cheerful with good smells.
The garden crew, human and feline, can take a break.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mill Springs Civil War Battleground

We have had a run of nearly perfect early autumn days.  The day of the equinox saw the sun coming up to warm a nippy morning and burn away the heavy dew.
It was a beautiful day for an outing.
We have several times passed the signs for the Mill Springs Museum on the site of one of the few battles fought in Kentucky during the War Between the States.
J. decided, rather spur of the moment, that we would make the drive--about 45 minutes.
I took this photo of a cemetery just up the hill from the museum parking lot.
Yankee soldiers who fell in the battle [19 January, 1862] are buried there as well as some local families of that era.

Quiet farmland spreads out in every direction, much as it must have looked 150 years ago.
We watched a short film about the battle history, then browsed through the museum displays.
There was the expected collection of rifles and swords, along with the oddments turned up years after the battle--bits of camping gear, axe heads, spent bullets.
A tiny cabin had been built of saplings to show the sort of crude shelter which might be put up in a temporary encampment.
One room of the museum is designated as a library.
I could have spent hours there.  The highest shelves hold large faded volumes which could only be viewed with permission from a staff person.
Other shelves hold more familiar works, such as Carl Sandburg's series on Abraham Lincoln.
Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote, both well known researchers/authors were well represented.
Other sections display copies of military records, both north and south, maps, back issues of a Confederate Journal.
Perhaps the most interesting to me would have been the various diaries and memoirs of those soldiers or civilians who lived through the war years.

The commander of the Rebel forces at the Mill Springs battle was Brig. General Felix K. Zollicoffer.
Zollicoffer fell under fire early in the battle, near a huge oak tree.
The oak became a sort of shrine in later years, with one local family in particular dedicated to keeping a wreath ceremoniously placed there on 'Decoration Day.'
When the oak tree died after a lightning strike and had to be removed, a stone monument was created at the site.

Beyond the monument words chisled on a simple stone tablet inform visitors that we are walking over an area that became a mass grave for the Confederate dead. It is shaded and quiet there beneath tall oaks. Near by, in a open grassy area, are ranks of simple headstones of unpolished marble.  Most bear the name and rank of a soldier who died on the battlefield.  Others have been left blank.
It was many decades later before dedicated research into military records produced the names of some of the men resting in the mass grave.

Split rail fences have been built to enclose the graveyard and outline a trail through the woods and along the ravine where some of the fiercest fighting took place.

We walked beneath tall trees--oak, hickory, black walnut and a few spruce--moving from deep shade to patches of bright sunlight.
I found it difficult to imagine the chaos and clamour of battle that took place here on a dark, foggy and cold January morning.

Woodpeckers and flickers have made good use of this standing dead tree near the site of a long-vanished blacksmith's shop where some of the wounded men were carried after the battle.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The 3rd Annual Catnip Harvest

I cut catnip today [nepeta cataria] and placed it on baking trays in the oven with the heat
on its lowest setting.
As soon as the pungent aroma of the drying herb filled the kitchen, my cats began to mill excitedly about.
Willow inhaled the delicious scent, then rolled on the stove top.

In the carport, fresh stems were offered to Willis and the three boy kittens.

Nellie chewed up several leaves and became very mellow.
G. placed him on her lap where he lolled limply for the next half hour.

Catnip affects cats in various ways.  Some become excited, beligerant, even.
Others, like Nellie, seem mildly uncoordinated and foolish.

"Yes, I think that's my tail--can't seem to get a grip on the thing."

"I'm sooo sleepy."

"Whoops--I 'm all legs and paws."

Wide-eyed--'stoned' out of his gourd--but quite happy.

Nellie, recovering in the herb garden.

Little Edward, who is rather a quiet kitten, became initially rather frisky after a good wallow in strewed catnip.  He even arm-wrestled with Willis.

"Mom, I feel  funny, I think I need to hold on."

Bobby McGee was full of energy after his catnip treat.  He raced about, chasing bugs and butterflies, before finally crashing in exhaustion.

From the 2010 catnip caper:  Teasel searches for the source of the intoxicating scent.

"Now why has Mom sealed it away in a bag?"

"There!  I fixed Mom.  I rolled in the tray while she wasn't looking!
I feel...fine [?]"

"I need a bit of quiet time. Maybe I've had a bit too much catnip!"