Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Willis, The Stow-Away

Its difficult to find a comfortable spot to ride when the van is full of roses,
 flower pots, and rolls of insulation.

Not much better in the front--at least there's a soft flannel shirt on top of the coil of battery cables.

Returned to his own dooryard.

The advent of Willis the Cat came early in our first Kentucky summer--2010.
Jim rode the 4-wheeler across the north field and seeing our neighbor Dale in his driveway, stopped for a moment to visit.
A gangling, half-grown cat ambled across the road to sniff at the tires, rub against Jim's boots with a 
tentative purr.
"T'ain't my cat!" stated Dale. "You'd better take him home with you before he gets run over."
The tweedy-coated feline reached a hopeful paw to pat Jim's pants leg, mewed beseechingly.
Jim, soft-hearted but skeptical, replied, "No cat would ride on a 4-wheeler."
He did just that. 
I looked up from my careful planting of bean seeds when the 4-wheeler rumbled to a stop by the 
garden fence.
The young cat waited a moment in the silence, easy under Jim's hand, then hopped to the ground, stretched and looked about with an air of satisfied possession.
"Meow," he said. 'The name's Willis. I think I'll stay."
In the following weeks Willis strode about, acquainting himself with the territory.
He lorded it over the tortie sisters, his own age, whose arrival at the farm had pre-dated his by several weeks.  He patrolled the dooryard, showed himself adept at mousing, offered his help at every outdoor task.
As summer ebbed into autumn, Willis declared his right to come inside for the occasional warm-up in front of the fireplace.
Jim advertised baled hay for sale that first winter and we soon discovered that Willis had a passion for pickup trucks. A door left carelessly open invited a feline inspection. Checking for the presence of a small striped cat in a customer's vehicle became part of the drill.
A window left part way down on a vehicle in the carport was likewise an invitation for Willis to commandeer the space for a catnap.

At a neighborhood picnic in September, 2013, I learned, by chance, the likely origin of Willis.
Chatting with Betsy, an animal lover who lives a scant mile along the road, she made mention of her brother's kittens, Lewis and Clark.
Betsy's brother owned a machinery repair business, working from his home shop on a dead-end lane.
His young stripy cats had a habit of jumping into customer's vehicles or into his own truck which he drove to service calls. On a late summer day in 2010, one of the 'boys' went missing.

Betsy had noted the resemblance to the photos of Willis which have appeared on our local on-line magazine.
We concluded that Willis, a stow-away passenger, had once too often hidden in a vehicle, only to be turfed out at the end of the lane.  Instead of making his way home, he instead sauntered down the road, pausing to collect himself as Jim drove by on the 4-wheeler.
Considering the past behaviors of Willis, it shouldn't have been a surprise when a sleek dark form slid between the front seats of our mini-van as we headed down route 80 on Tuesday morning.

Willis had appeared, his usual helpful self, while I dug up and divided perennials to take to the Cane Valley property.  He must have been underfoot as Jim loaded in some lengths of insulation. Where was he when we loaded in plant pots, two bare root roses, various tools and buckets of paint?
Willis hopped on my lap, sniffed around Jim's feet, then retreated, worming his way through the insulation and making himself comfortable among the prickly spikes of the roses.
He stood on the driver's seat, paws braced against the window while we made a stop at the Burris woodworking shop. He was settling in for the ride by the time we detoured back home to decant him, with thanks, into the carport.
He shook his tweedy coat into place, washed a paw, then stalked off towards the garden as we backed the van and headed out for the second time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Admiring the Flowers

I finished stripping and scraping wallpaper from the dining room yesterday--it doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment for the day, but it was quite a process.
We were back at the 'other house' early this morning after rushing through chores at home..
J. continued painting while I made half a dozen trips to carry out all the wallpaper which had been removed from 2 bedrooms, hallway, living room and dining area. I managed to get a bonfire ablaze [we can do that in the country] and most of the rubble reduced to ashes before a shower moved in.
An early morning stroll among my flowers indicated that the first lovely flush of spring blooms is on the wane.
These photos were taken Saturday and Sunday.
The trellis full of clematis now holds only ripening seed heads.
The iris have faded.
The peonies are drooping and shedding their elegant silky petals onto the ground.
The tree lilies are beginning to open.
The orange variety is always the first to show its colors.

Each poppy is a 'queen for a day' before the petals drift to the ground.
I believe this shade of red is new this year.
There may have been one feeble red one last May--perhaps I shook the seeds around.

Passionately flamboyant!

A tousle of fringed petals.

Shimmering in the morning sun.

Capturing the beauty before time snatches it away.

Rosa rugosa, "Charles Albanel".
I despaired of this rose flourishing. It is a low-growing sprawler--rewarding my patience with fragrant blossoms this year.

Unlike most years, I didn't start trays of seedlings this spring.
I planted a packet of nigella [aka love-in-a-mist] in 2010.
A few plants have volunteered each year since.

The negella have expanded to a flourishing clump.

Lovely shades of lavender and blue.
I will definitely harvest and save some seeds.

My forays into the garden attract feline companionship.
Nellie 'hides' in the fronds of achillea.

What lovely green eyes!

Bobby and Edward relax while I twitch tiny weeds from the herb plot.

Achillea [yarrow] raised from seed.
I had several large clumps of this color so have taken one to he fledgling garden at the 'other house.'
Willis saunter over to give his advice.

The peonies are blowsy--past their first beauty.

This foxglove, raised from seed, pleases me immensely.
Comments are much appreciated, though I haven't found much time to respond.
I tell myself that the renovating of houses and gardens will eventually slow down and whatever is left of me will be free to write, read, settle my feathers!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Roller Coaster Week

All photos in this post are of the existing plantings at the 'other house.
This is at the western boundary. There are two evergreens, one appearing to be some variety of juniper.
Iris and a rose are huddled in the tangle of weeds which have thrust through a barrier of landscape paper.
Earlier, creeping phlox and candytuft were in bloom on the far slope.

The rose has bloomed in spite of being quite shaded.

This bank slopes sharply to the road. Some effort has been made to establish iris and a few lilies, but the area is rank with vetch and other weeds.
I doubt I can tackle it this summer.

A small circular bed on the front lawn is home to tree lilies and a peony.
J. hacked through weeds on top of landscape fabric to set in divisions of tree lilies which I brought from home.

The peony is well established--a shade of rosy red which I don't have in my 'collection.'
I spent several days last week dividing plants at my 'home' garden and hauling them to the other house. 
Common sense tells me that I need to down-size. 
When I go into my gardens here I yearn over plants that must be left behind.
A garden is an evolving creation.
Surely as my new plantings establish and fill in I will enjoy them.

While I was digging, planting and watering, J. and H. labored on in the house, removing layers of painted on wall paper, scrubbing dingy ceilings, applying texture and primer.
From time to time I went inside to gather up strips of sodden wallpaper and carry them out for later disposal.
Howard experienced problems with the transmission on his truck driving across country, so it had to be delivered to a repair shop on Monday.
Another trip was made to Ace hardware for several gallons of primer.
On Monday evening we went to a local auction to bid on an oak table and chairs. The auction house is a rather unsavory place--blue with cigarette smoke even in summer when the doors are open.
Much of the goods on offer are cheap and shoddy, but there are usually some good pieces of furniture on the block.  The bidding quickly went high on the oak set--higher than J. had determined to pay.

J. and H. were off early on Tuesday morning while I dug more plants and loaded them into the van.
I made a stop at Wal Mart for bottled ice tea, fresh fruit and snacks to fortify the painters.

On Wednesday, my gardening on hold, I attacked the dining room wall paper. This was pasted on with a substance very resistant to my efforts at removal. 
I picked, peeled, pried, freeing up small patches at a time, feeling frustrated.
J.'s sister and her husband were expected in from Ohio, planning to stay overnight before continuing on to the family wedding in Florida.
I hurried home, showered, and prepared a good supper.
Chuck very much wanted to help with our renovation project so he cheerfully climbed up on a step ladder the next morning and began removing wall paper border while Jane and I sponged and peeled that 
wretched wallpaper.
By mid-afternoon Chuck and Jane were on their way, intending to find a motel for the night to break up the remainder of the journey to Florida.
Howard's repaired truck was ready to be retrieved, so we quit work a bit early and drove him to the transmission shop.
The phone was ringing as we came in the door at home.
J. snatched it up and I listened with growing dread as he exclaimed, "An accident?  Where? "
Our dear sister and brother-in-law had been involved in a crash which totaled their car after traveling a mere hour away. Jane was chatting with Gina on her cell phone when their car was rear-ended by a pickup truck. The driver, a young man, emerged from his own damaged vehicle and apologized saying that he 'must have fallen asleep!'
At the moment of impact Jane's phone flew from her hand and landed somewhere in the crumpled back seat.
G. on the other end heard the crash, could hear voices, so knew that C. and J. were alive.
There followed a frustrating hour of trying to contact them.
They, meanwhile, were being whisked to the ER strapped to backboards and unable to answer their phones.
Eventually we learned where they were, so J. and I went tearing off to the rescue.
Both were shaken, achy and distressed, but not seriously injured.
We waited through the long process of X-rays, paperwork and protocol until they were finally
 released at 10 PM.
None of us had eaten since noon.  The only place still open was a drive through where we settled for fries, chicken on a bun and Coca Cola!
Home at last--and all of us too over-tired for a decent night's sleep.

Jim and Chuck were on the road early Friday morning to track down the wrecked car at the impound yard  near the crash site and retrieve their luggage.
Jane and Chuck's daughter and son-in-law would be flying in to the tiny airport in the next county to take them home to Ohio. The sleek company plane was already parked on the tarmac when we pulled into the parking lot.  The family rushed out with hugs and greetings that of necessity quickly became good byes.

Today J. and I have done almost nothing.
We didn't leave our own dooryard.
We rounded up the cats and administered the monthly application of flea prevention.
We sat on the front porch, watched birds, ate a meal of leftovers.
J. took a nap. I curled on the wicker loveseat with a book which kept falling into my lap as I nodded off.
This evening I walked along the row of full blown roses in my garden.
We checked in several times with Chuck and Jane, not at all surprised to find that they too had opted for a very quiet day at home.
Tomorrow another week begins.
We are all agreed that quiet monotony would be preferable to the uproar of last week.

Willis the Cat and Katy the Dog

Our son, Howard, was with us for several days earlier in the week.
This is his short-haired Border Collie, Katy.
Katy was adopted as a young dog, hungry, frightened, her hide scarred with cuts from barbed wire.
During her early months with H. she was inclined to be suspicious of strangers and snappish.
It is still not a wise idea for a stranger to approach when she is 'guarding' Howard's truck.
She is a lovely, intelligent, well-mannered dog--but her herding instincts are strong.
When she is visiting she wants to herd the cats.

Katy tried to round up Willis who spat at her and promptly shimmied up a handy tree.

Katy has bounced and yelped--trying to make friends with Willis.

Willis doesn't wish to be friends with Katy.

"I can stay up here longer than you can stay down there!"

"Don't even think about climbing my tree!"

"Has she gone?"

"I think she went away in the truck.  Maybe I'll come down."

"It's not that I'm afraid of dogs, mind you, I just don't want to play."

"Down I come!  Its my dooryard, after all!"

Willis, back on dooryard patrol.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Working on the "Other House"

View from the lower front yard of the Bedford Stone house which we purchased  early in April.
The former owners had a 30 day occupancy, so it is only in the past week or so that we have been able to get inside and begin assessing what needs to be done in the way of refurbishing.

The property, an acre that is deeper than wide, is bounded on two sides by a dairy farm.
Since we are of farming background, the smells and sounds of a farm are not offensive to us.
This is the view to the west.

An ornamental Japanese Maple at the right of the drive.
Both long boundaries of the property are lined with locust trees.
Eventually some of these will be removed to let in more light and to give other trees more room.

The garden spot at the back of the lot.
The soil is mostly red clay--heavier than at the farm.
We have moved the newest of our blueberries, set out strawberries.
Potatoes are up and after a slow start due to a cold wet spell, melons and cucumbers are emerging.
We have set out tomato plants in several places.

The kitchen was updated several years ago with custom-made oak cabinetry.
Today J. and our son, Howard, pulled out the faux wood paneling above the cabinets. When the ceiling and walls have been touched up, the look will be much lighter and there will be room on top of the cabinets to display many of our vintage pieces.

Another kitchen view.
Cook-top and wall oven wouldn't be my first choice of an arrangement for cooking, but I can live with it.
Not the pattern of formica counte-top that I would choose either, but nearly new and I don't expect that we will replace it.

Looking into the kitchen from the hallway.
The ruffled valance over the sink is typical of the curtains left behind by the former owner.
She had every window swathed in floor length, double-ruffled priscillas!
I have taken them to the Goodwill charity shop.

View from end of kitchen into dining area and door into back entry.

The chandelier was an immediate bone of contention.
I think it is quite dreadful and pretentious.
Our son agrees.
J. and G. think it the utmost in elegance.
[I don't do elegance!]

We have taken over oddments of furniture.
The decorating is very 1980's, not my colors at all.

Looking from living room into dining area and kitchen.

I began tearing down wall paper in the master bedroom and was dismayed to find that only the face of the paper was peeling off, leaving a backing firmly stuck to the wall.

Luckily for us and our refurbishing projects, H. is here for a few days enroute to a cousin's wedding 
in Florida.
He insists that he can't 'sit still and do nothing' even after a long drive from Wyoming.
He tackled the hallway after we discovered that the walls had been finished by painting over a layer or two of wallpaper. We made a trip to Lowes where H. gathered up a product which is diluted with water and sprayed on the wallpaper.  It loosens the glue so that the wallpaper backing can be lifted off with a wide putty knife.
H. is texturing the walls with a light spackle which can be primed and painted.
Decidedly a few more steps than we anticipated.
His expertise is appreciated!

J. in the bedroom peeling the soggy remnants of wallpaper.
I spent much of the day transplanting roses and perennials which I divided and moved from my existing gardens.  The porch is still lined with pots containing peonies and tree lilies.
All of this redecorating and planting is going to take more time than I had hoped.
Some of the areas of landscaping I can't tackle before the heat of summer sets in, so they must wait for an autumn overhauling. 
My elderly bones and muscles are in protest mode tonight.
J. graciously treated us to supper at the Pizza Hut in town as I couldn't think of anything to quickly prepare at home. A hot shower and clean clothes, an Advil for aches, a load of laundry done.

I treated myself to a walk around my gardens as the last glow of sunlight was fading behind the barns.

It is more of a wrench to leave a garden and a familiar view than a house.