Monday, January 27, 2014

Walking Along Big Creek [Post # 700!]

The ford at Big Creek.

I huddled in my rocking chair before dawn on Saturday morning, listening to the shriek of the wind in the chimney.
I had letters to write, a mug of tea on the small table beside me.  Several of the cats demanded 'out', so I went to the sliding door that opens onto the back yard. 
The yard light mounted over the garage door cast a yellow-green pool of illumination that faded off into the dark fields beyond. Snowflakes skirled and danced.  The boy-cats teetered on the step, ears flattened against the south wind that ruffled their fur and rattled through the frost-seared leaves of sage and lavender in the herb garden.
Pulling the heavy curtain across the door, I hurried to put another chunk of wood in the stove.
I wrinkled my nose, squinted my eyes at the puff of acrid smoke which sifted into the room.

The scent of a wood fire in early winter is homey, comforting, an aromatic tang that speaks of enclosing warmth and welcome shelter.
By late January, with fires stoked round the clock during a siege of frigid weather, the house has taken on a faintly bitter odor of smoldering coals and the sharp stale bite of the smoke which furls forth in that instant when the stove door is opened.
We notice it mostly when we have been outdoors breathing cold winter air and then step inside.

Ice in the middle of the creek.

Daylight came slowly, a murk of grey overlaid with a thick veil of  falling snow.
The cats were happy to scamper inside to the warmth when I held open the back door, bracing myself against the gale.
Nellie looked at me with his wide owl-y eyes, seemingly amazed by the snow melting into his long fur.
Bobby's feet were cold, his tail swishing with indignation.
Charlie flung himself onto my towel-covered sewing box near the fire, as out of sorts as though the early venture into the cold had been forced upon him.
I stood at the window watching the rapidly whitening road and dooryard, thinking of long Vermont winters, of ice-coated windshields and hazardous, though mercifully short, commutes to work.

Sunshine and shadows on cold water.

The storm blew itself out by noon, leaving soggy snow heaped beneath a pewter sky.
We ate lentil soup and cinnamon bread, sat by the fire.
A hint of color glowed behind the woods as dusk came on.

The creek ripples around a patch of snow-crowned ice.

The sun sailed aloft in a brilliant blue sky on Sunday, snow melted in the warmth of a January thaw.
There was a freshness in the air which lured me outside.
I pegged a small quilt on the line where it billowed gently.
The ground squelched beneath my boots as I crossed the yard, averting my eyes from the frost-ravaged  herb garden.
The shimmer of sunlight on the loop of Big Creek lured me across the road, my new camera on its strap around my neck.

The water is shallow here, running over the flat seamed rock of the creek bed.
The leafless trees loom over their distorted reflections.

I thought of working on quilt blocks this afternoon, but the delight of remaining outside on a mild day after weeks of enduring cold trumps returning to the stuffy house.
Walking along the road I wonder why I've never noticed the thick vine which clambers up this tree trunk.

The vine twists toward the top of the tree.
How many years have gone into its upward growth?

Treetops against the sky.

Moss cloaks the nearly horizontal trunk of a tree above the creek.

The road runs southerly along the base of a ridge,  flanked on the opposite side by a wide meadow.
The creek has made a loop away from the road.
On the shaded side of the road a grey bird bounces and scuffles, creating a tiny commotion beneath a sagging wire fence.
By the time I have the camera focused it has turned tail, ready to fly away.

Big Creek slices through the field to flow under the bridge above the Kemp farmstead.
Ice over the water is spongy, fragile.

I had thought to turn toward home at the bridge, but I am within sight of Matt and Gina's house, so I walk along, greeted in the driveway by the bustle of their dog.
Gina is in the back yard, gathering up twigs brought down by yesterday's wind.
Before we have time for more than a few words Jim wheels into the yard. 
He strides toward us, huffy.
'You didn't tell me you were going for a walk!'
He is indignant.
I decide that accepting a ride home is the judicious thing to do.
Jim  continues to sputter--about the vulnerability of women who walk along the road alone.
'It is daylight,' I protest, 'And surely I'm of an age that wouldn't appeal to an abductor!'
As I exit the van at our back door, Jim remarks, 'Now that you're here, I need you to drive the Massey to tow the John Deere into the shop--it won't start.'
I put my camera in the house, trudge up the lane to the barn, climb aboard the red tractor, watching while Jim attaches a tow strap to the green tractor behind me.
I wonder, but forebear to comment: perhaps J.'s concern for my where-abouts was more to do with needing me to tow the tractor than with the threat of being accosted by a malevolent thug on my Sunday stroll of a mile in the sunlight!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Its All About Weather

Cold winter weather continues to dominate our lives.
The warmest spot in the house is near the living room fireplace which has an inserted stove.
My rocking chair is on one side, J.'s recliner on the other side.
The north end of the house, where the bedrooms are located, is uncomfortably chilly.
My desk and PC are in the smaller 'guest room' so much of my online reading and writing is curtailed.

The house has central heat and air powered by a 'heat pump'--we don't often use the heating feature, feeling that it would be pricey--and seldom necessary other than for a few minutes on a chilly morning, or if we have been away on a cold day and the fire has languished.
Today, needing to be at my desk, I have kept the thermostat at 65 F--not luxuriously warm, but bearable.
Yesterday I lugged one of my sewing machines upstairs from the basement 'family room' [which has its own wood stove] and plonked it on the dining area table.
Faced with the need to crowd in the ironing board, space for a cutting mat, the necessity of trudging up and down stairs for such fabric as I might need, I became faint-hearted.
Bundled in a thick 'hoodie'--in addition to several layers of clothing, I trudged back downstairs to hem a pair of trousers and stitch the borders to the above small quilt top.
Hands and feet were well chilled when I finished these tasks.

The appliqued quilt was constructed using fabrics from an old line by Robyn Pandolf--'Folk Art Christmas.'
The small hourglass blocks which frame the applique are rather more attention demanding than I anticipated.
Don't know yet how I will have this one finished, as I can't bear to have my careful handwork rampaged over by the local quilter's looping patterns.

The quilt above utilizes the same line of fabrics--created when I lived in Wyoming.
It appears far more subdued in coloration as the reds and pinks are featured in small snippets and the background fabrics are quiet.

Detail of the applique--poor lighting, so not the best photo. 

Nellie and Bobby, who rushed in from the cold when M. stopped after work.
These two, along with Charlie-cat, feel that they must go outside about 4 A.M. regardless of frigid temperatures.
They hurtle inside at breakfast time and spend the morning hours crashed on bed or sofa, recovering from the chill, then they are out again.
They are not meant to be on the work island, but there they are, basking in a spot of late afternoon sunshine, doubtless covering my apron and oven mitts with fur.

Thursday offered brilliant sunshine, a bright blue sky and a bitter north wind that made going 
outside a misery.
J. drove to one of the local Amish sawmills to collect a bundle of ash slabs he had asked to have put by.

The slabs, added to our usual firewood, make for a quicker, hotter fire.

J. has rootled out a heavy cap with 'earlappers', his long johns and a variety of thermal-knit long-sleeve T's--most of which have not seen use since our move to Kentucky.

Some of us are wise enough not to stir away from the warmth of the fire.
J. folds an old puffy vest into his chair when he vacates it--it is meant for his elderly cat, Raisin--at the left and bottom of the pile.
Her sister Eggnog cuddles with her.
Both of them, elderly and fragile-bodied, are weighted down by Teasel's considerable furry bulk.
The long range weather forecast for the coming week isn't inspiring.
There should be a few days with temperatures above freezing--an improvement--but still cold for the 
time of year.
Jim builds a fire in his shop, putters out there, comes in for a hot drink, hearty comfort food.

I braved the assembly of my new food processor, made a batch of pimento cheese.

I hadn't eaten pimento cheese in decades, recalling it as a rather nasty  concoction which came packed in small glass jars when I was a child. 
Visiting our niece in October, we became quite partial to the home made version.
In early December, recovering from a cold/cough, I reread a favorite series of novels with a southern setting.
There was considerable mention of southern-style foods, including pimento cheese.
A google search turned up a number of suggestions using various cheeses and some quirky additives [pickle juice, anyone?]
G. and D. assisted me in the first few batches [I was intimidated by the instructions which came with the food processor!] and I quickly settled on a brick of Colby/Jack as the main ingredient, with an addition of cream cheese and mayo for spreadability. And, of course the pimentos.
J. dished out a portion of the latest batch and added a dash of Tabasco.
It is good stuff on whole wheat crackers and makes a nourishing addition to toast.
Lentil soup, scrambled eggs, a casserole, lemon squares, home made chocolate pudding with whipped cream---it seems to me that we must keep up our strength to deal with the weather.

The laundry is caught up--thanks to the use of the electric dryer; the bed is piled with quilts and the charity shop comforter;  Jim carries in wood; I bundle up to deal with litter boxes and walk to the mailbox.
The cats continue to hope that freezing weather which greets them at the back door may revert to balmy temps if they try the front door.
Jim isn't likely to run out of Netflix to watch [sigh] and I have books stacked by my chair.
Best of all, the house is scented with the cinnamon loaves cooling under a cloth on the counter.
I think a mug of tea is in order!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

North Wind Doth Blow

Daybreak was a shading from night into a dull grey landscape--it is as dark now at noon as it was at 7 A.M.
We have been slow and puttery this morning, J. putting on heavy overalls and jacket before heading to the barn to feed Pebbles and the calico cat sisters.
I lingered by the fire, drying my hair.
The cats have been restless, their usual attitude toward changing weather.
The north wind is howling, sending cold draughts around the windows of the bedrooms.
One of these rooms houses my desk and PC. I've closed the inside wooden shutters and sit hunched over my keyboard.
Cold dark weather is forecast for the remainder of the week.
I find it interesting to note that I dress for the comparatively cold days of  Kentucky much as I did for winter in Vermont and Wyoming, where 'cold' meant temperatures anywhere from 20 to 40 degrees colder!
The boy cats have decided that, for now, they prefer being indoors to out trolling through the tall bleached grass in search of meadow mice.
J. has built a fire in the shop and betaken himself out to his current tractor restoration project.
I spent several hours with him yesterday helping to mask and tape tractor and wheels for painting.
It has been nearly 16 years since I worked in a friend's auto body shop, much longer than that since my son taught me to 'mask' for him when he painted vehicles.
Perhaps it is true that no skill thoroughly learned goes to waste.

I changed the layers of quilts on our huge bed on Sunday and bundled aside the thick charity shop comforter.
Teasel inserted herself into the folds creating a cozy nest.
The house, this blustery day, is littered with cats who have come in from the cold!

The dooryard is alive with cardinals and juncos, picking frantically for food to sustain them through the cold.
I miss having birdfeeders.
We gave them up last winter when it became apparent that the boy cats are avid and deadly hunters.
Both juncos and cardinals like to feed on the ground.
During the bitter weather two weeks ago [when the cats preferred the hearth] I flung birdseed on the gravel of the drive where it sweeps into the back yard.
The birds are still picking there.
I rarely have a good photo as they bob about or fly up as I press the shutter.

I've considered bringing my smaller sewing machine upstairs and setting up shop on the dining table.
Starting the fire downstairs doesn't seem a good option unless the cold deepens and we need again to protect the pipes in the back hall.
J. dumps an armload of wood beside the fireplace each time he comes in.
My fabric and 'tools' are all stashed downstairs in the big family room, but surely one of my 'works in progress' could live upstairs for a few days to pass the hours of bad weather.
It is a temptation merely to huddle near the  fire, settling into my rocking chair with a tipple of books piled round me, a mug of tea at my elbow.
This I feel, will not do!
A few kitchen chores call me--then, perhaps [only perhaps] I will be inspired to be a good 
steward of my time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Walking in Winter Sunshine

Looking east across the big meadow from the edge of the woods.
The week just past was one of slow days, grey skies,  frosty mornings, piddling rain.
J. has been working in the garage, getting a Ford tractor ready for painting.
I was in the kitchen when he hastened in one afternoon, dripping blood from one hand and demanding that I find gauze bandages and disinfectant.
The chisel he was using had slipped and taken a chunk out of his left thumb. 
I don't like looking at such things, but managed to help him get the gash bound up.
It left him with a clumsy hand which he was in danger of banging at every turn.
He enlisted D. to help for the rest of the day with the tractor refurbishment.
G. remembered that M. had bought some protective 'splints' when he did a similar number on his finger several months ago and the loan of these has helped to save the poor thumb from further insult.
This would seem to have been the excitement of the week, quite sufficient.

A weathered cedar stump.
I can't think that I accomplished much beyond the usual rounds of meal preparation, some desultory housework.
J.'s birthday on Thursday, so his favorite pineapple-upside-down cake baked and served with mounds of whipped cream. Matt, Gina, and Devin here to help consume that treat--and we had quite demolished it before I thought to record the event with photos.

Moss gleams on another ancient stump adrift in oak leaves.
We missed our monthly first Wednesday grocery shop in the neighboring county as J. was away that week. [This is the day when those over age 60 are honored with a 10% discount.]
J. decided on Friday that we should stock up without the discount.
I must say, that it was simpler to get through the store without the usual crowd of elderly shoppers, many taking advantage of the stores' riding carts to bumble about the aisles.
We like to wander through Peddlers Mall if we have time-- a large building filled with stalls of goods for sale.
There are some stalls which have only junk--tired objects which appear to have been culled from basements or attics, dreadfully unappealing.
Others feature tidy displays of vintage furniture, collectible china and kitchen goods, small tools, decorative wares old and new.
I can often spot items which would be lovely to bring home--if we had a bigger house!
This was one of the few times we've been there when even the best stalls seemed disorganized and lacking in appealing wares.

A stem of dried vervain leans over an old cistern near the meadow ditch.
Friday was G.'s birthday [a day after her father's] so I brought home a bouquet of wildly colored mums --the tag called them 'neon blooms' a product of South America. I do wonder how such perishables can be picked, packaged and shipped from a faraway country to appear with an expected 
shelf life' of at least a week.
G.'s special dessert was a chocolate pudding cake--again with lashings of whipped cream.
[We are a family who brings on the whipped cream at the slightest excuse!]

Seed pods clinging to the remnants of summer wildflowers.

Fuzzy heads of goldenrod silhouetted against a rare blue sky.

The old disc harrow waiting for another summer.

Sunset this evening after a mild day of sunshine.
There have been few such days thus far this winter, giving an overall sense of a long spell of cold and dreary weather.
The forecast is for plummeting temperatures and cloudy skies moving in tomorrow to stay for the remainder of the week.
The prospect isn't a joyful one, but we have wood for the fires, cupboards full of food.
We have work to do, I have books to read, and I'm feeling a renewed commitment to quilt-making.
The family may have no need for yet another quilt, but I have a need to drive the cold winter away!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weather Journal Reprise, Normal Weather Resumes

Teasel in the cat yard on Friday, enjoying the warmer weather.

Friday would have passed muster as a 'normal' day of January weather.
The dooryard was squelchy, the lane to the barn muddy.
Pebbles greeted me with the exuberance of a much younger horse, kicking up her heels, plunging along the fence, tail lifted, head up.  She slid into the lean-to, blowing, farting, stomping her front feet.
I spread her hay, dished out kibble to the barn cats.
I allowed the fireplace stove to go out late on Thursday, and set the furnace thermostat to a conservative 68 degrees. I needed a break from carrying in wood.
This would be my last full day on my own.
I considered the things I had hoped to accomplish during a week when I didn't need to keep a schedule of meals or adjust my bedtime to J.'s
I meant to write several long letters. I hoped to create at least a rough draft of a neighborhood history project for which I began the research nearly two years ago. 
[The above sounds very self-important--its merely something which struck my fancy.]
I thought I would sew--and I did finish about 2 dozen small and simple patchwork blocks, working at my sewing machine while I kept the downstairs wood stove churning out heat.
My hand applique project languished in it's box by my rocking chair.
I read only in short sleepy intervals when I sat near the fire to be warmed.

With the best part of a day 'free' I found I was too unsettled and unfocused [possibly too tired?] to attempt any of the above.
I drove to the charity shop and had a desultory poke around. Two other shoppers were accompanied by toddlers who kept up a dismal wailing and roaring.
I left after a good rummage with two pair of dress slacks and a long flannel nightshirt.
I stopped at the Wal Mart next door thinking I would buy avocados and such for the salad I had craved.
In the middle of the produce section a vendor was loudly demonstrating some wondrous gadget and I had to detour around the throng of enthralled on-lookers.

The entire bin of avocados when reached were hard and green.
Instead of salad, I came home with a pair of wooly tights!
The afternoon whiled away in thickening grey clouds.
My son phoned earlier than usual.
After talking with him I managed to write one letter!
Deciding that a relatively early bedtime was in order I turned out the lights at eleven.

Within moments shafts of lightning flashed through the bedroom shutters; thunder banged and rattled, rain pelted the roof in torrents.
I remembered that Charlie-cat had demanded 'out' earlier in the evening.
When I opened the door into the carport he rushed in, mildly wet, complaining.
Standing at the sliding doors looking out at the lashing branches, watching the shimmer of lightning on rapidly forming puddles, I suddenly saw a slim tiger cat hurrying along between the nearest maple tree and the 
cat yard fence.
With a jolt I turned to verify that our two 'tigers', Willow and Willis, were inside.
Yet another stray feral cat looking for shelter and a bite to eat?
Could it [impossibly] be Wilbur, the surly boy who refused to use the litter box? I turfed him out over a year earlier intending to feed him in the barn. We never saw him again.

I returned to bed, tried to settle.
The thunderstorm ebbed into the distance, then returned to bang and rumble.
This cycle repeated in varying force until nearly 4 A.M.
The ringing of the phone a few hours later woke me; J. with our daughter and son-in-law, expected to be off the cruise ship shortly and headed to the airport. 
'Do you have a cold?' inquired J. 'You sound stuffy.'
'I don't have a cold,' I replied, knowing that I sounded sleepy, stuffy and rather stupid.
[I refused to admit that the phone call had caught me still in bed at nearly 8 o'clock!]

The day was mostly cloudy, a chilly wind whipping about, a watery sunset.
I found that I missed the fire.  The furnace was keeping the house at the modest level of heat I had chosen, but without the friendly presence of the living room fire a familiar comfort was lacking.
I crumpled newspaper, laid in twigs, carefully arranged slender bits of kindling and set a match to it.
As the flames caught and grew I added first small 'limb wood', then settled a seasoned  chunk of oak in place.  As the heat crept into the room, the cats assembled on the hearth rug and I settled happily into my rocking chair.

D. appeared, speculating on how soon his parents would arrive home--not wanting at 19 to admit that he had missed them.
He rummaged in the fridge, taking out the remains of shepherd's pie, cutting slices from a loaf of bread.
The boy cats gathered round, wanting him to entertain them.
Fueled by an inhalation of catnip, they leaped and twirled trying to snatch the cloth mouse 
dangled from a string.
Moments after D. left  J. was suddenly here, startling me.

He relayed the highlights of the family trip, flicked through the photos on his camera, ate a sandwich.
He listened to my tales of record cold weather from the vantage point of one who spent those days in the tropics.  He loaded wood into the fire, bumbled along to the bedroom.
When I went in a scant 10 minutes later he was asleep, the light still on.

Sunday morning: frost sparkle, sunshine, mist rising from Big Creek.

 A mellow day, crisp and clear.
M. and G. walked in as we finished a hearty mid-morning breakfast, come to collect their vehicle.
G. has not regained her land legs after the pitching motion of the ship.
M. and J. didn't suffer that lack of balance.
J.'s laundry done, clean shirts and trousers returned to the closet.
I've sorted his photos onto my PC, then transferred them to his laptop, shared them on Face Book in the family album.
J. tinkered about outside for a bit, then came in, thumped into his recliner.
He has been watching Netflix--with his eyes closed.
We are neither of us seething with ambition!
For me, the week past seems a blur--long hours devoted to keeping the house warm, the horse watered, few hours of sleep.
I've been tediously journaling these days and nights--not in the sense of providing a fascinating report, but in the hope that looking back, re-reading, the week will belatedly sort itself into a more coherent memory.

[I went back and replied to the comments on the previous post--sorry for the delay. Comments are always a pleasure.]

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day 4 of the Weather Journal, Mid-Afternoon

I am in danger of falling asleep at my desk.
I was in bed slightly before midnight,
A few minutes before 6 A.M. the usual cat shenanigans started.
'Be quiet!' I snarled, not raising my head from the pillow.
Skitter, scrabble, a tinny clatter as some small object was shoved from my dresser.
Swinging out of bed I roared, 'Nellie!' and reached the light switch in time to see Nellie scoot beneath the dust ruffle while his brothers made a dash for the hall, not wishing to be registered as accomplices.
All three crowded at the sliding door no doubt sensing that a reconnoiter of the dooryard would not this morning freeze their paws.
I shoved a chunk of wood in the living room stove and went grumpily back to my bed.
I didn't want to start the day, nor did I want to fall into that troubled dawn sleep that usually ends when a thunderclap sounds in my skull, jolting me awake.
[The crash is silent as the proverbial tree which falls in the woods without a human hearer to define the sound.
I think its called 'exploding head!']

I lay curled under the quilts, reviewing muzzily those items which are not 'worries' but are cached in the mental file of 'chronic concerns.'
Rolling over to glare at the digital clock--a few minutes after 7-- I thumped along to the bathroom and stood under the shower, brief and hot.
Dress in shabby warm clothes, feed cats their tinned treat, set coffee to perk.
[I became a coffee drinker at some point after I turned 50--the one morning cup has become a habit I can take or leave.]
I huddled in my rocking chair taking a weary assessment of myself.
I was aware of the fine persistent 'thrumming'--is it in muscles? nerves? bones?--which is the usual result of prolonged physical effort.
I considered what it might be like to simply vegetate--stay in my chair and read.
I glanced around at various pockets of disorder--large, over-flowing pockets, if truth be told.
It is difficult to sit still and ignore Things That Should Be Done!

I sighed, told myself to quit being dramatic, pulled on my outdoor clothes and boots.
First order of the day: deal with the horse water tub.
Not much water remained in the tub after D. heaved out the huge chunks of ice.
There was only a skin of ice there and it broke apart when I gave a poke.
I wondered if the tub was frozen to the ground.  On the first tentative shove it seemed so.
I rolled under the fence, heaved at the side of the tub.  Over it went, spilling splinters of ice and dirty water.
Into the shop for the long-handled brush J. uses to wash vehicles. Into the house for a 
bucket of soapy water.

The tub still has a rim of stain which would need a more determined scouring with a stiffer brush, but it is cleaner than it was.
J. leaves the water hose stretched out along the slope of the back lawn so it can drain in cold weather.
[He installed a frost-free hydrant near the water tub two years ago. In October while we were in Tennessee, Pebbles used it as a scratching post and broke it.  Resulting water loss before it was discovered by M. was 100 dollars!]
I found the end of the hose and began pulling it round. It was flexible until about 10-15 feet from the faucet, at which point it lay in the heaviest shade from the north corner of the house.

Decades ago in Vermont the retro-fitted water pipes beneath our 150 year old farmhouse froze regularly in winter. I remembered that J. crawled about in the confines of the frigid space with rags and the teakettle which had been simmering all night on the wood stove.
In the kitchen I filled a bucket with hot water from the tap, piled in a collection of clean rags kept for messy jobs. It required two buckets of hot water, my whole stash of rags to wrap the frozen length of hose. 
The last bit ran behind a large shrub [viburnum? I always forget] and its twiggy branches pulled hair loose from my braid as I crawled clumsily about.
On my feet again I was preparing to fetch another bucket of hot water when I heard the faintest of tinkling sounds. Sure enough--water was swirling into the horse tub!

Pebbles has been twice to her clean tub to slurp up fresh water.

Indoors at noon, divested of boots and insulated bibs, ashes taken out, wet rags and other bits of laundry chugging in the washing machine.
I took out a package of ground beef that needed cooking, assembled the ingredients for shepherds' pie, one of the few dishes I make using prepared items: canned mushroom soup for the sauce, canned corn for the veg and [horrors!] instant mashed potato kept only for that purpose.

As I chopped onions, added spices to the beef in the skillet, I considered this is surely one of the times I would like to come indoors from hard labor and find that someone had a delicious meal ready to serve.
I pondered what I would request in such an unlikely circumstance.
A salad, made with a mixture of fresh greens, with small cherry tomatoes, bite-size pieces of broccoli, Greek olives, a mere crumbling of feta cheese, avocado in sickle-thin slices, delicate vinaigrette.
French onion soup served in a brown ramekin, dark and steaming, with a round of crusty bread and cheese floated on top.
Opening tins, stirring ground beef, I warmed to this pleasant fantasy.
No entree needed.
Let's move to dessert.
Something light and decadently rich, dark chocolate, mounds of whipped cream.
Oh well.
I layered the shepherds' pie in two casseroles: a small one to sustain me for the next 2 days, a larger one to stash in the freezer.
Darkness has fallen early. The temperature holds at 40 F.
 I've moved 4 of the rosemarys to their usual place on the front porch.
The 5th and smallest one, always more delicately branched,  looks as though it had been dried by the wind--whether unto death I'm loathe to declare.
The cats are all inside, slumbering in furry heaps.
I washed and dried all their blankets which cover the furniture.
I should like the imaginary 'someone' to fetch me tea:  fragrant brew in a fat pot on a tray--slices of lemon, a flowery cup and saucer, dainty cookies.
Since that's an impossible dream I'm about to put the kettle on and slice some lemon bread.

I've not had time to respond to comments, but am most appreciative of my friends in faraway places who have been cheering me on through the freezing weather.
Thank You!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Weather Journal, Day 3

Out of bed about 6:30. Cats clamoring, house chilly, but not dreadfully cold.
Decided to keep downstairs fire going as there was a nice heap of glowing orange coals.
The usual, feed cats, make my coffee, stoke the upstairs fire.
Bed spread up smoothly--the covers are barely disturbed when I'm the only one sleeping there.
The battery for the new camera was charged, so went out to the porch to record the sunrise.

Horse fed and pilled. [I feel quite smug that I'm getting the meds down her, stuffing the pill into a 
slit in half a carrot!]
Sloshed two buckets of hot water onto the layer of ice in the watering trough, gave a few half-hearted bashes that opened only a tiny hole.

Juncos bobbing about in the driveway, clustering in the redbud tree, watched by Bobby and Nellie.

The camera's zoom captured a junco.

Bobby McGee walks with his shadow.

The tortie girls were waiting for me in the barn entrance.
This is the south exposure and I often find the barn cats there on a sunny day.

Can you see this giant clod of ice in the center of the photo?
Grandson D. attacked the water tub ice late this afternoon, using a large hammer.
He then wrestled the chunks of ice out of the tub using a big shovel.
The ice was even thicker than I imagined.

Pebbles, just before sundown, at her tub, surrounded by icebergs!
Tomorrow the temps should be in the 40's F.
I'm hoping I can clean out the tub, deal with the water hose.
I'm a bit wary of turning on the outside faucet--
[For those who may be new readers I should perhaps mention that ordinarily these outdoor chores don't fall to me.
J. is away with three of his siblings and an assortment of the younger generation--trip planned well in advance of the great January freeze.]

Mid-afternoon I went downstairs, determined to work on the small quilt for which I appliqued the center panel while visiting our niece at the end of October.
I needed the quilting book which was nowhere to be found.
While I'm not the tidiest soul, I can usually locate my books and crafting supplies rather handily.
The book wasn't where I thought I had left it.
I rummaged.
My attitude is often that if I keep poking about where the object in question should be, I'll miraculously lay hands on it.
In frustration I went through the basket of magazines by my rocking chair, neatly organized weeks ago.
Finally I sat downstairs by the fire, cudgeling my brains, feeling time slip away.
At such times I am literally praying to recall what I have done with my belongings!
Sitting there, staring around the room, something 'clicked.'
Sure enough, the book had been pushed off the stack on the end of the tall cupboard and was caught between cupboard and wall.
Snatching up the book I had a memory of Nellie, sprawled on top of the cupboard the last time I was at the sewing machine.
It is his favorite place to keep me company and he usually manages in his stretching and turning to send something onto the floor.
I stitched small hourglass patches until weariness overtook me.
I'm allowing the downstairs fire to go out tonight.
I've stocked the fireplace stove.
I've had a bedtime snack of hot milk and a hard boiled egg with maple pepper.
Tomorrow the weather will return to something more common for January in south-central Kentucky.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cold Weather Journal, The Second Day

Wild horses, Muddy Gap, Wyoming, 2007

I am nearly too tired to write.
That sounds rather pitiful, sadly dramatic.
A bit after midnight I realized I was winding down from my second 18 hour stretch of being awake and busy.
Standing by the fireplace I changed into nightgown and robe.
I made a mug of hot milk spiked with a pinch of ginger and a dollop of honey.
Easing into my rocking chair I faced the unwelcome, but not unfamiliar awareness of having pushed my limits to the edge of physical stamina.
I couldn't concentrate on the book open in my lap.
I blundered downstairs to stuff yet another chunk of wood in the downstairs fire, turned off lights, wobbled along to my bed.
Turning my face into the pillow I reviewed the long hours of stoking fires, carrying wood, smashing ice in the horse trough, lugging buckets of water to offer the horse, who spurned this refreshment.
Thankfully I tumbled into sound sleep before self-pity swamped me!

I woke at 6:15 with the sense that I hadn't stirred for hours.
Feet poked into chilly slippers, wrapped in a fleece robe, I checked first on the downstairs fire.
A deep bed of coals and the room still passably warm except for the drought that billowed in from the open door to the back hall.
I loaded in wood, trudged back up to the fireplace stove.
That also held glowing coals, though the room felt chilly and unwelcoming.

The cats milled about--sure that it was breakfast time.
I considered dressing, feeding the cats, starting my day.
It was too dark and cold to go outside and batter at the ice in the horse's water tub.
I scuttled back to the bedroom ignoring the pleading indignation of the felines.

I came awake again at 8:45, saw sunlight squeezing through the closed interior shutters.
I hastily pulled on sweatpants, yesterday's shirts and socks. I was setting out cat dishes when a glance through the sliding doors registered Pebbles standing by the water tub.
Abandoning the cats, I yanked on my insulated bibs and my warm boots, ran hot water into a bucket.
Pebs had moved away from the tub and was licking snow as I dashed steaming water over the solid ice.
I picked up the implement J. had been using to crack the ice and gave a ringing blow.
The metal bounced on the ice sending a judder  through my wrist and up to my shoulder, down my spine. Several more blows had the same effect on me while the ice remained unscathed.
I fetched another bucket of hot water and rummaged in J.'s shop for a heavier tool.
I found a heavy, long-handled splitting hammer, so heavy that I could barely lift it to shoulder height to swing down in a mighty thwack against the ice. Several more attempts and I had gained only a small 
opening in the ice.
Muscles protested.
Pebbles sauntered over, spluttered in the warmish water which swirled, now cooled, against the layer of ice.
Temporarily defeated, I walked to the barn, spread hay, fed the tortie cats.

Inside I served breakfast to the cats who had nearly despaired of being fed.
I placed stamps and return address labels on two envelopes and started for the mailbox.
Partway down the drive I came upon two lengths of thin silvery cable lying atop the snow.
Stepping carefully over it, I traced it to a pole in the north meadow, turned and followed it with my eyes to where it draped from another pole across the south boundary fence.
In this territory where utility lines criss-cross and sag, I had no idea if it was an electrical power line or was related to the phone. Both services were up and running.
Tracking snow into the kitchen, I punched in the number for the rural electric co-op 
located in the next county.
My call was answered in the local dialect: "Taylor County Rerr'l 'lectric."
I was passed to customer service, assured that someone would be out to check, probably mid-afternoon.
Moments later, back at ice smashing, I saw a utility truck turn into the drive.
I put down my mighty hammer, wiped my nose and crunched over the snow to the truck.
The driver got out, considered the trailing wires.
"Ground lines," he affirmed. 
Looking out the front window a few minutes later, my hands clamped around a mug of hot coffee I watched a larger truck turn in. The drivers conferred and the bigger truck lumbered across the 
field to the power pole. 
The telescoping boom unfolded, a man climbed into the basket and was raised to the top of the pole. 
Men on the ground fed the drooping lines up to him.
I should think being a lineman is one of the more dangerous jobs.

The day was moving toward noon. The old thermometer in the carport stood at about 10 degrees F above zero. I had left my befogged spectacles on the table and stomped about in a slight blur, emptying the litter box, carrying in more wood, hauling out ashes.
I leaned against the kitchen counter to eat a bowl of soup, sat down at my desk, still booted and bibbed, to post some photos of interest on Face Book.
The day wore on in rounds of fire tending and ice bashing.
I managed to break loose some chunks of ice, scoop them out and drop them in the snow.
Why can't the wretched horse come down to drink in the brief moments when I have created an opening in the ice?
Late afternoon and the approach of evening brings a renewal of cold air as the sun slants away 
behind the ridge.
I feel heavy and slow.
Hot shower, shampoo. 
A black cotton turtleneck, wool socks, an old pair of flannel-lined jeans.
As I step into the jeans I hear the crunch of wheels on gravel.
I zip the jeans while I hurry down the hall.
A brown UPS van is headed down the drive.
A package is on the metal stand outside the back door, the cardboard is cold to touch.
I place the box on the table, switch on the kettle.
In the bathroom I swallow an Ibuprofin, hasten to the bedroom to root out a warm cardigan.
It is a recent charity shop find, long, with pockets, rather matronly except for its color, a lively orange red.
While my tea brews I open the box.
Everything is there in separate nests of cardboard or plastic wrapping: my new camera [red] the carry case [red] the lithium battery, battery charger, memory card, carry strap. 
[The reasoning behind the new camera is for another day, another post!]
I realize I need to eat, slice a cold baked potato and chicken breast into gravy in a skillet.
Teasel comes to my elbow, makes admiring remarks to the remnants of gravy as I set my plate aside.
For dessert a slice of the frozen fruit salad made at Christmas time.
Load the stoves.
Turn the pages of a book.

Pebbles in a Wyoming blizzard.  Snow came there during the first days of October.
Note the green leaves on the aspens.

It is too early to go to bed.
Outside all is still.
A half moon sits on its curved bottom like a sliced fruit on a dark platter.
The yard light glows, greeny yellow.
The branches of the maples cast gangly shadows on the snow which has been dented with my boot tracks.
The cats are inside, delighted with the choice of two warm hearth rugs.
I have to trust that all is well at the barn.
I spread more hay, refilled the kibble bowl before dusk.

A break here for my son's nightly phone call.

Stepping out to the carport for a moment I see that the old thermometer is holding at about 18 F.
That's warmer than forecast, and the night air has the scent of a 'January Thaw.'
Tomorrow should be easier!