Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Progress at the Cane Valley Property

This is the room which I have chosen as my 'study.' It is the larger of the two 'spare' bedrooms and is located at the end of the hall.
My first thought was to choose the smaller room.  Daughter Gina and my friend Gracie persuaded me that the smaller space would be perfectly comfortable as a guest room--used a few times per year, while I would likely use 'my room' every day.
Jim and our son Howard refurbished the rest of the house in terms of dry wall repair and painting--and a job it turned out to be, with wallpaper that had been applied to unprepped drywall or in some cases 
painted over.
This room was least in need of up-dating and Jim protested that he liked the wallpaper.
I felt it was too dark.  With him away, I knew I would tackle the redecorating on my own.
Thankfully, this paper had been applied over two walls that had been primed, so it stripped off like a charm.
The other walls had been painted with a too-glossy finish.
Painting the ceiling was nearly my undoing!
I spent 5 hours on Thursday painting the ceiling and applying a coat of primer to the 4 walls.
I concluded that women of a certain age have no business staggering about with a roller on a long extension daubing paint overhead.
I feared that I would have to apply a second coat.
It was a relief to return on Sunday and find that the paint had dried to a good even coverage.

This photo isn't an accurate representation of the new wall color.
The paint is called 'Evening Sun' and is a warm soft yellow with the barest hint of peach in some lights.
I began painting on the two more difficult walls, each having a window that required 'cutting in.' 
I ran out of paint [and energy] as I finished the third wall.
I bought the original gallon of paint to use in the hallway, then we discovered that we had enough of the 'Cafe au Lait' used above the living room chair rail to continue down the hall.
My son, who did professional painting before he took up carpentry, warned me that getting an exact match on the second can of paint is usually impossible. The best thing is to mix the two gallons before commencing to paint.  All well and good if the two cans of paint are purchased at the same time.
I bought the original gallon of Valspar paint when we were at Lowes. Ace Hardware also carries that brand and is on the route to the other house.
I stopped there this morning with the paint sample card and with the paint can lid which had an information label. The salesman scanned the code on the back of the sample card and programmed the computerized mixer. He tested a drop of paint on the card and it was a good match.
With the first swipe of my roller on the wall I could see there was a slight difference in color.
I fetched in the original can and smeared a bit on the card.
Lowes' formula wasn't an exact match for the sample!
Fortunately, as the paint dried the difference was minimized.
I stood back at last, pleased with the transformation of my room.
Painting, like gardening, has become a bit more laborious as the years roll on!
I am a clumsy sort--always having to be aware of where the paint tray is in relation to my step-ladder, putting the little bucket used for 'cutting in' out of harm's way when I pick up the roller, fitting the lid securely on the can after pouring paint into the tray.
If there is a possible way to make a mess, I can do it!
I folded the heavy industrial step ladder very carefully and managed to get it down the hall and out the door into the garage without bashing anything.
I cleaned rollers, tray and brush, rolled up drop clothes.
I eyed paint spatters on the floor, wiped up a few, decided that final clean up could wait until tomorrow.

We bought this round oak table several months ago at Peddlers' Mall and refinished the veneered top.
[The space seemed to demand a round table.]
I have kept the table layered in protective newspaper and it has been the logical landing spot for small tools and oddments which we have carried in each day.
This morning before tackling the paint job I felt the need to create a small tidy spot.
I cleared the table and layered pretty linens.  I have no round tablecloths, but was pleased with the effect of the vintage flowered cloth [a gift from Gina] over the blue checked one which I made years ago.
I picked up the vase for 25 cents at the charity shop on the way in this morning and cut a handful of cosmos for encouragement and pleasure.
During the Wyoming years we lived in 4 different houses which we were building literally over our heads.
I found it a real sanity saver then to establish one civilized corner however small in the midst of the 
construction uproar.

The dining room wallpaper had to be pried off almost inch by inch--a very tiresome job.
Howard suggested a troweled plaster finish which has a country look.
I love this paint color [Banana bread!] which is slightly lighter than it appears here.

The plants which I divided in May and brought to the strip along the front porch have settled in well.
I am especially pleased that I will have the spicy scented dianthus which is a favorite.

Cosmos and zinnias in a strip visible from the window over the kitchen sink.

The veg garden has gone wild during the recent heavy rains and hot humid weather.
Jim worked full time for a friend in town during the past month, so his labor in the garden was limited.
With my painting gear tidied away I spent a half hour pulling out all the bean bushes.
Not being there every day to pick beans resulted in some growing too big to be useful and it appears that at least a third generation of bean beetles had created havoc.
I seem to have picked and canned a plenty of beans.
I have given away beans.

The okra which sulked during July went into high gear this month.
I trust we will remember that half a dozen plants is more than sufficient for another season.
We like it in stir-fry, and Jim likes pickled okra--of which we have a goodly stash from last year.
I froze 5 bags of the whole pods this morning--they will be good sliced and added to winter soups.

Okra pods grow rapidly.
They have a rather phallic appearance.

The sunflowers at home, self-sown and early to bloom, are now spent and brown--no longer handsome.
These later planted ones should carry bloom well into September.

The most cheerful of all flowers!

This cleome seems to be one of a kind--a soft lavender--all the rest are from saved seed of 'Rose Queen.'

I bought a packet of mixed cosmos to add to my saved seed from the pink of several seasons.,
I must be sure to gather and label seed from this one.

A boldly hued zinnia--beloved of butterflies.

I was pleased to see that we have a garden spider in residence in a cleome by the front porch.
I spotted her about two weeks ago when she was a small spider.

The feral cat who comes to eat--having been fed by the former owners of the house.
Two kittens are sometimes with her; one is the image of her mother, the other is a tabby with white bib and paws.  The kittens were eating when I stepped quietly out of the garage yesterday.
At sight of me they fled--legs stretched, alarm in every frantic stride as they flung themselves down the drive, into the road and from there into the soybean field.
Sometimes they don't appear for days.
Mamma cat will hover and meow while we put kibble in the bowl--then back away hissing warningly.
I put my hand out to her just once--and she struck at me.
We call her 'Mamma Hiss-Hiss.'

View from the front porch.
Renovating is finished for now and we expect to begin moving in during the second week of September.
It will be a new experience to sort ourselves out with painting and such done beforehand.
Still, moving even 10 miles away is a daunting prospect.
At least this time it needn't be accomplished in one over-whelming effort!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Bit Random

I suspect I have become tedious lately--life has been dominated by the garden and its proliferation of green beans, corn and tomatoes.
The drought of July has been broken, and now we deal with frequent bursts of heavy rain.
We went early to the other place this morning, Jim hoping to run the tiller through burgeoning weeds and then mow the grass before the predicted rain reached us.
As has been usual lately, the rain came on before we had finished our work.
Jim dug the first of the sweet potatoes and cut an over-whelming quantity of okra which has suddenly shifted into high production.I set myself to picking green beans [sigh] and peppers, then wallowed in to pull the weeds which have taken over in my cosmos and sunflowers.
[I hate to admit that Jim warned me I wouldn't be able to manage that long strip of flowers!]

 Thursday was one of the nicest days weather-wise that anyone could imagine.
I sat on the porch for a few minutes after J. left for work--enjoying the freshness of the morning, the busy swoops and darts of the hummingbirds, the wisps of fog over the creek burning away as the 
sun climbed higher.
The loud voice of a bird in the maple tree to the right of the porch summoned Willis who immediately took up a vigil, staring up into the branches.

It was an odd sound, a bit like the call of a mourning dove, but louder, more strident.
I fetched my camera, peered intently into the leafy canopy, but could detect no movement. 
Whatever bird landed there apparently didn't choose to linger and come under the scrutiny of Willis.

Since I had the camera in hand I walked around the yard looking for a pleasant scene.
The old barns are just shabby enough to be picturesque.

The ghost of the moon still hung in the blue sky.

I decided to tackle the much neglected perennial strip nearest the drive.
The phlox and coneflowers faded early with the drought. I cut everything back about 10 days ago and with the rain there is now the promise of some September bloom.
In the lower left of the photo you can see the Michaelmas daisies [aka New England asters] ready to put on a show. 
There are some shabby spots in the strip--in part because I have divided plants; my heavy pruning has resulted in a very diminished look also.
The earth was moist enough that the weeds came up with relative ease.
Still, I worked there through most of the day.
This kind of intensive gardening labor is not kind to an aging body!
The lower strip needs to be cleared as well; it has always been a rougher area.
Both strips need a new application of mulch. 

The nandina recovered valiantly from the January freeze; the decorative berries are just starting to show a red tint.

Since Eggnog's passing Edward has been practicing at being a lap cat.
He is so large that he doesn't fit well in my lap and aggravates this by a great deal of turning and shuffling, so that I have to support him to prevent his slithering to the floor in a heap.
When I am at my desk he often installs himself in the bathroom sink, the half-bath being just off this 
small room.
Better there than landing on my desk or overflowing from my lap onto the keyboard.

Nellie has a very mellow personality.
He can sleep for hours on the bed or sofa in positions of utter relaxation.

On the way outside with veg parings after lunch I noticed that 'Wise Portia' had a half-opened bloom held up to the onslaughts of the rain.
The rose hadn't been savaged by Japanese beetles, so I snipped it and brought it inside to enjoy its 
color and perfume.
The ground will be too wet to garden tomorrow.
There are today's garden gleanings to be dealt with.
How contrary of me to be anxious each spring to plant a garden, only to grumble in late summer that I am over-whelmed by its success!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hours Swiftly Passing

I saw Jim off to work this morning, tended the cats, tidied the kitchen.
A quick tour of the front porch showed yesterday's transplants to be in good order--needing only
a gentle watering.
I loaded buckets and baskets into my van, added a change of clothes, and drove to the other place.
There was no sign of the feral cats, but the kibble dish was, as usual, empty.
The water bowl was dry, and has been the case lately, there were crumbs of dirt in the bottom.
I suspect that the resident raccoon is enjoying the cat food as well as whatever dainties it chooses 
from the garden.

I lined the pots of small roses along the back patio, noting as I did so, how well the Double-Red-Knockout roses are doing in their new situation.
One of them was hosting a gathering of Japanese beetles, so I marched back around to the garage to slosh some varnish remover into an empty paint can--I use a trowel to knock the beetles into this deadly solution. 
The Rose Queen cleome by the drive was showing damage from tiny green caterpillars. They are essentially the same shape and color as the seed pods which dangle from the bristly cleome.
The plants are not pleasant to touch or smell--I wonder why the caterpillars brave them.
I located 5 of the nasty little 'worms' after gingerly lifting stems and leaves and squinting intently.

In the vegetable garden both weeds and veggies have lurched into fast growth mode since the 
rains of the weekend.  
The okra which has been languishing suddenly realized what it is meant to be doing, and has thrust up a quantity of green pods.
The pepper plants have taken a new lease on life, each little bush loaded with dark green peppers in all stages of development. 
Blight has finally discouraged the tomatoes, the earliest cucumber and melon vines are spent and 
mottled with yellow.

I snaked the tired vines out into a heap at the edge of the garden, picked the green beans dangling from the latest sown bushes--noting that I missed a few while picking in the twilight of Monday evening.
I yanked up the oldest bean plants, now riddled by beetles and producing only thick misshapen beans.
The garden is still wet enough to coat my boot soles with a thick clumping of reddish mud.
We couldn't get at the long row of beans during the heavy rains.  In consequence many had grown thick and tough.  I leaned over the plants, removing the overgrown pods and tossing them on the ground.
Halfway up the row, back aching, I rebelled.

Collecting my containers of produce I stomped around to the back entry, pried off my muddy boots and headed in to take a much needed shower in the newly refurbished bathroom.
Emerging, clean and freshly garbed, I looked longingly at the wing chair by the open living room window. A glance at the clock startled me:  I had already been working here more than 4 hours--what?
No time to loll in the comfy chair!

It is a strange thing to work alone in the big garden, to trudge in and out of the house which is familiar from our weeks of refurbishing, a space which holds oddments of our possessions, yet is a place where we have not lived.
It is odd to be in a house without the cats!
No furry shapes curled in a chair or lounging on the kitchen counter, nonchalantly eyeing the birds that fly past the window.

I bundled the containers of veg into the van, tossed in my muddy clothing, a routine that has become ridiculously familiar during the past month.
A detour to the shop at the edge of town where Jim is working--to hand over his cell phone which he had forgotten; a stop at Wal Mart [groan] for a few necessities, a quick word with an elderly friend waiting for her ride home.
3 PM by the clock in my own kitchen.  Veggies to haul in and wash;
supper to start for Jim.
At sundown I made yet another trek with peelings and such to tip onto the refuse heap behind the shop.
The boy cats skittered along the drive; at the edge of the freshly mown front field Willis hunkered, intent on some small prey. 
In the pasture across the fence, cows munched, placid in the gathering dusk.
A light breeze stirred my long hair, nipped at the back of my neck.
Behind the barns the sky glowed orange and dusky mauve.

I have a strange unsettled sense of having lost part of the day.
I know where I was, I have the evidence of my labors.
I feel fragmented, in need of gathering myself and my belongings into one place.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August Days

July blessed us with unusually cool  weather...temps hovering in the mid to upper 80's rather than the expected 10 degrees warmer.
That it was also dry made for comfort--but brought us perilously close to drought conditions.
This weather pattern changed during the first week of August--heat and humidity have since prevailed.
Jim's photo above was taken one morning at sunrise--you can see the shimmer of heat against the trees which border Big Creek.

The nandina along the front of the house was killed nearly to the ground by the harsh cold of January.
I loped it back and hoped for the best.
The shrubs all rallied, putting forth lush new growth.
Here one bush shows a single branch of shiny red leaves.

Finally the rain moved in, beginning with showers on Thursday evening.
The sky grew steely dark, pewter clouds billowed, the wind came up.
It seemed that the over night rain hadn't been enough to deal with browned lawns and drooping gardens.

By Friday night the rains had settled in for a real soaking.
Rain fell in pounding wind-driven gusts.
Tired grass began to green, leaves trembled with their burden of water.
By Sunday there were puddles!
Throughout this spell of rainy weather we continued our treks to the garden at the other house, squelching in mud that clung to our boots, getting drenched by sudden fierce showers as we labored to pick corn and green beans, to rescue ripe cantaloupes from the tangle of sodden vines.
The air was heavy, indoors and out--to step outside was to feel that one had been wrapped in a smotheringly  hot, wet blanket. 
The carport entry and kitchen took on the look of a produce market--baskets, buckets and boxes overflowing with bounty that must be dealt with while in prime condition.
Ranks of filled canning jars--green beans, tomatoes--crowded the table awaiting transport to the basement shelves of the 'other house.'
I find this sort of weather draining.
I am grateful for the A/C which makes the house a refuge after working outside in the thick humidity, thankful for the ceiling fan which whirs in the next room as I stand over a kettle of simmering tomatoes.

As we ate supper on Monday the heavens were rent by lightning, thunder slammed and rattled, rain was loosed in pounding torrents.
When the deluge slackened we headed for the garden, driving through a gloom of green.
We gathered melons, Jim picked sweet corn, I bent over the bean bushes, plucking the best of them.
Jim tucked green peppers, okra, tomatoes glistening with wet, into the containers he was stacking in the wheel barrow. He dug carrots and potatoes.
Still I picked beans in the twilight, seeing them now as dark dangling shapes rather then green.
At home Jim dragged the hose around and in the glow of the yard light sluiced the clinging earth from the vegetables.
Feeling damp, tired and a bit cantankerous, I headed into the basement to store the sweet corn 
where it is cooler. 
To my dismay I noticed water oozing under the door to the back cellar entry--a not uncommon happening when rain comes down in a furious deluge.
The drain outside the door at the foot of the bulkhead steps clogs easily--and I hadn't thought to check it.
Jim had already removed his wet shoes and settled in front of the TV.
I was still clomping about in my wellies so decided I was elected to do at least a preliminary examination of the offending drain.
I bailed muddy water into the mop bucket---lugged two buckets full up the steps and spilled the water down the driveway.
I scooped up a bloated and unsightly dead mouse---a 'gift' which I had noted and neglected to deal with earlier in the day.
Removing the drain cover, I cautiously plunged my hand within, meeting with silt and wet leaves.
At this point I stumped upstairs and demanded help!

Jim resignedly stuck his feet into dry shoes, collected the plunger.  When this proved ineffective, he poked the hose into the drain and ran water until it gave a 'glug' and began to make its way underground to the outlet on the far edge of the front lawn.
There is an inside drain as well, so I fetched an old broom and began coaxing the invasive water in that direction.
I was wet, tired, and grubby--and felt quite ill-used!
A quick shower, a fresh nightgown and a session in my rocking chair, with a book, restored my sanity.

Tuesday dawned with sunshine and a drop in both temperature and humidity.
Still very much 'summer' but bearable once again.
I eyed the buckets of tomatoes with a jaundiced eye, tidied the bedroom and leaving the kitchen to fend for itself, decided to tend the long-overdue transplanting of the herb seedlings languishing on the front porch.
I mixed potting soil, sand and perlite, dragged out a motley assortment of pots.
I lost some of my rosemary seedlings to neglect earlier in the season--when our days were spent refurbishing the other house.
I now have 15 sturdy transplants in various stages of growth.  All are exhibiting the prostrate habit of the parent plant which succumbed to a February frost. 
I still regret my carelessness, forgetting to bring that cherished large rosemary inside on a particularly cold night. It had flowered profusely and from those tiny blue blossoms I have this wealth of seedlings.
[What I may do with 15 rosemarys, I have yet to determine!]

Four of the biggest rosemarys in their new pots.
Gina came up trumps with pots she gleaned from a yard sale.

I started thyme by the simple expedient of dumping a whole packet of the tiny seeds onto the soil mix in a smallish pot.  I think every one germinated.  They have been over-hanging the pot for several weeks, crying for attention. When I have bought thyme plants I noted they are usually poked into the sales 'cubes' in wiry clusters of three or four.  The stems are so thin that I decided on this method. I expect that I will lose a few, but there will likely be more than I need--to plant at the edge of an herb garden which at present exists only in my dreams!

Lavender also was bursting from small '4-packs' and a collection of flimsy plastic pots.
[Can you tell we recycle every possible nursery container?]
I ended with 15 rosemarys, 10 lavenders, and a gaggle of potted thyme which I did not count.

I tided away buckets of soil, rearranged geraniums and begonias; shook out the damp rug at the edge of the porch, bundled the throw on the wicker loveseat downstairs to the wash.
I swept and tweaked, stood back to admire the tidy porch.

I nibbled a cherry tomato or two as a reward for my labors,
and set off with spade and pots to rescue several Therese Bugnet roses which have popped up in the path of the lawn mower, running out from the parent plant.
It was noon and the sun was hot.
I dug up two of the rose babies and was carrying them to the shelter of the carport when I heard 
the phone shrilling.
I ducked into the house, snatched the receiver with a muddy paw.
The caller identified himself as an assistant to our real estate agent.
He had received a request for a viewing of our property 'in about 2 hours!'
A realtor from a firm in the next county had been asked to view on behalf of an out of state client who had seen our listing.
I managed not to squawk in dismay!
With a bit less than my usual coherence I spluttered that the kitchen was a mad jumble of garden produce
and the carport lined with a clutter of containers holding yet more veggies waiting their turn for attention.
The young man was soothing, assuring me that everyone's kitchen looked the same in August.
"Do you want to postpone the viewing?"
I collected myself, managed to sound coherent.
'No," I replied, with what I hoped was a tone of calm optimism.
" I doubt I can have the house as tidy as I like for a showing, but if you will warn your client of that, I'll do my best to have it presentable."
I hung up and stared for a long moment at the messy kitchen, mentally assessing what needed done in the rest of the house.
I decided to phone Jim at work and let him know that someone was coming.
He was on his noon break.
"Do you want me to come home and help?"
I left that decision for him to make, and tackled the mounds of produce.
I had assembled the various containers more neatly in the carport and was wiping down kitchen counters when Jim arrived.
[He has for the past three weeks been assisting a friend who has a backlog of tractors to repair.] 
He had managed to bush-hog the tall grass of the front field between showers on Sunday.
Now he roared about mowing the lawn.
I bundled things away in rather desperate haste: an over-flowing pile of papers crammed into a buffet drawer; a tipple of books by my rocking chair quickly straightened; bathroom floor and fixtures quickly swabbed.  I raced downstairs and stuffed a load of laundry into the washer, giving thanks that I had dealt with cat litter boxes early in the day.
I flicked a clean checked cloth over the dining table, set the small vase of rosebuds in the center.
Jim wielded a broom through the kitchen and hallway, then descended to do the same in the now seldom used downstairs room.
I pegged out the wash, scurried about hiding away small oddments.
I dared not risk a shower on borrowed time, so settled for washing my face, brushing my hair and whipping on a clean shirt. 
We surveyed the house, decided it would pass muster [as long as no one opened drawers!] went outside to admire the tidy front porch and gloat over the newly trimmed green lawns.
I made a pitcher of iced tea--and we sat down to wait.
We had begun to think that our efforts had been for naught [this has happened before!]
when a smart Mercedes coupe stopped in the lower drive.
A man emerged, pointed a camera at the front of the house, then drove slowly up.
He shook hands, gave us his business card, explained that he was viewing several properties in the area for his out of state clients--who wanted a retirement 'hobby farm' in a warmer climate than their native Minnesota.
He was a personable fellow who trekked eagerly up the path to exclaim over the lofty structure of the barns, the beauty of the surrounding quiet fields.
When he came inside the cats all decided they liked him and formed a bustling escort as we went from room to room.
The realtor spent perhaps 45 minutes with us; he was gracious and complimentary.
A showing that goes well does not, of course, guarantee a sale!
We have learned from past transactions that a potential buyer usually makes contact in less than a week.
We have done our part---the timing of an eventual sale is not in our hands.
We looked about after the realtor's departure, noting with satisfaction that the place looked both 
tidy and homey.
I felt suddenly tired and rather unwilling to immediately disrupt the clean kitchen by making supper.
Our buckets of produce not-with-standing, we decided to go out to eat!
It has been a long--and productive--day.
Tomorrow Jim will return to work at the tractor shop.
I will deal with the buckets of tomatoes.
I will likely trek over to the garden to haul home yet more produce!

Friday, August 1, 2014

This Garden May be the Death of Me!

Daughter Gina and I have been trekking to the 'other house' every other day to pick whatever produce is ready. This was our haul on Tuesday.
With two of us working this takes 2-3 hours.
Then there are beans to snip and can, tomatoes to stew and can.
In between I seem to be reduced to witlessness!

First picked of the watermelons weighted in at 27.4 lbs!

Every counter in my small kitchen groans with heaped up produce.
Ripening tomatoes need to be set on trays or with newspaper underneath. The odd one turns weepy and smelly when I'm not looking.

Thursday morning's garden gleanings.

I hoisted this watermelon and staggered with it to the shed where Gina helped me lower into a wheelbarrow.
W have been giving away produce--handing out canteloupes, offering tomatoes and cucumbers, pleading with friends to have a few green beans.
I'm aware of the truth we reiterate--that it is lovely come winter to browse the basement shelves and bring up all manner of canned goods to make a meal--but at the moment I am more impressed with my creaking back as I pick the long rows of green beans.
Surely next year we must plant in moderation!