Sunday, August 30, 2015

August Kaliedoscope

A yellow swallowtail butterfly in a clump of Joe Pye weed.

Photos loaded, the Audubon Field Guide to Wildflowers consulted, words and phrases chasing themselves, but not sorting into coherent sentences, let alone witty paragraphs to record the 
month nearly ended.

We have continued to paint, achieving a cooperative effort whereby Jim uses a roller on an extension pole to apply a first sweeping coat of color, while I perch on the step ladder to 'cut in' along the ceiling edge, trace around doors and windows, or [easing my knees with a foam 'kneeler'] crawl along to paint above baseboards--in the rooms where these were previously installed. 
I usually go through the next day to 'touch up' with a second light rolling of paint where needed.

I have been slowed down a bit by a sore throat/laryngitis which nagged at me for about 10 days.  My voice still has a tendency to croak. 

On Thursday I opened the drawers which hold my 'good' table linens and discovered that traces of  pale powdery mold had invaded even there. I understand that we are not alone in combating this annoyance in a season of high humidity and pervasive damp. 

I have swabbed book covers, leather shoes and jackets, the edges of leather chairs, peered at the underside of table leaves, in this battle which seems to be a common aspect of life in the 'south.'

The drawers of the linen chest have been scrubbed set out to dry on the porch, the linens laundered, pegged out on the lines, put through a tumble in the dryer for good measure.
I've not had time to iron them, nor fold them back into the drawers.
I have read of 'airing cupboards' in English houses--perhaps I need such a space.

For much of the past week we have picked our way around displaced furniture in the living area and back hall.
Jim has applied a plaster 'texture' which must dry for a day before it can be lightly sanded, primed, and then painted. By doing it in sections, I can be applying primer while he goes on to another expanse of wall. 
On the third day [does this sound like a creation story?]  we can do our painting routine.

I had cherished the idea of installing paintable beadboard wainscoting. Jim looked the situation over and declared that beadboard couldn't be neatly fitted without removing all window and door trim and baseboards--which put paid to my vision.
We applied the darker paint--a golden olive--to the lower area of the walls and the lighter paint above .  Jim then created a narrow 'chair rail' of clear pine.  The lighter paint is off-white with a delicate tint of yellow/green such as one sees at the heart of a creamy-white flower.
I pondered over some 2 dozen paint samples of each color before I found the two which will compliment my curtain fabric. 
[Eventually there will be photos.]

Jim also constructed a medicine cabinet for the downstairs bath, utilizing the sliding mirrored doors from a quite ugly one which had been left here in a bedroom.

It should be noted that [finally!] this week we closed on the sale of the Bedford stone house which we bought and refurbished last summer.
The details of the sale spun out over three months due to the incompetence of the lending agency which the buyer used. We signed four extensions to the sales contract.
Buyers, sellers, and the two realtors involved, began to despair that the closing of the 
sale would take place. 
The new owners are obviously a couple who will take good care of the property, and are already talking with enthusiasm of the garden they will plant next year.
So, relief on that score after many times of downing paint brushes to rush to town and sign forms.

On Friday morning I sat in my rocking chair, a shoe dangling from one hand and declared to Jim that I hadn't the heart to paint yet another wall.
We decided we had earned a day off!
With two newly painted bedrooms to furnish I have wanted to find pieces which would serve as bedside tables. 
I suggested that a trip to Peddlers' Mall would be a pleasant outing.
I hoped to visit another area consignment shop as well;  that one had a 'closed for vacation' card on the door.
Peddlers' Mall, like any such indoor flea market, may feature anything from the sort of woebegone wares which I term 'early house trailer trash' to nice vintage bits and pieces. There are several larger stalls that I visit first.
In the one closest to the entrance I pounced on a vintage washstand which had been artfully refinished in a deep plum color with the top painted in a 'crackle finish' to resemble marble.  While I could have done without the faux marble look, I was taken with the freehand decoration of green vine and delicate white blossoms which traces the edges of the drawers.
The washstand came home with us as did a less distinguished but useful piece--an end table which had been painted flat black and 'distressed'--a bit rough and ready, but sturdy and will not look out of place to hold a bedside lamp and other essentials.
My last find was a quilt rack, plain and sturdy, painted a pale grey. 
I will repaint it in flat black or my favorite dark red.  At $9 it was a bargain!
A treat of ice cream and homeward we came.
I informed Jim that I am a woman easy to please in terms of shopping trips!

Today Jim has applied texture to the remaining stretch of hallway at the front of the house.
That leaves only the wall behind my desk which extends along in back of the woodstove. 
Upstairs the small room designated as my sewing room needs wiring and painting.
Perhaps most tiresome will be the painting of the kitchen ceiling.
We rejoice that the end of painting in this house is at hand.

I have gone on rather tediously about these matters, mostly because I need to look back and see that the swift passing of August has had purpose and accomplishment as well as 
frustrations and weariness.

The sun has shone more often than not.
There are wildflowers to enjoy as I walk along the lane.
The hummingbirds still buzz around the feeder at the end of the porch--although they are less vociferous than earlier.
Mornings are misty and cool.
Soon there may be time to enjoy this home, to sit back and admire the results of our labors.

Both the black and the yellow swallowtails are in abundance here, hovering over the wild plants flowering along the hedgerows and the edge of the stream.

Several of these distinctively marked blooms appear in the tangle of wild morning glory which drapes the lowers branches of the willows near the brook.

Many of the swallowtails are tattered and faded.

After a slow start in the over-whelming heat of early summer, the butterfly bush has asserted itself with panicles of fragrant bloom.

A brilliant cosmos from last summer's saved seed.

The common pink cosmos--pretty against the rough grey of railroad ties that form a retaining wall at the foot of the garden.

This brilliant one is from a new packet of seed.

Achillea in a brilliant red which fades to a gentler hue.

Tickseed [?] 

I don't have an identity for this daisy-flowered weed which billows at the edge of the now dry brook.

Dwarf Michaelmas daisies hurriedly thrust into the edge of the herb plot last October.

The rugosa by the concrete landing below the side porch.

Lavender and sage are holding their own in the gravel-mulched bed which Anna Miller prepared.

One of Anna's cockscombs favored by a Painted Lady.

Willis [of course] who appears whenever I work or prowl about outdoors. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nocturnal Visits of the Black and Tan Hound

Photo from website of

We have been awakened during three nights in the past week by the baying of a hound.
The first time it happened a bit after midnight--just as we had welcomed that first deep sleep.
Another night the sound assaulted  our open bedroom windows at around 2 A.M.
The hound's progress around the edge of the woods, down the lane and back up the ridge can be tracked by his ringing call:  "Bor-ror-ror, Bor-ror-ror"--steady and monotonous as a metronome.

His route is close enough to the house that Jim or I usually stumble from bed, plod down the stairs to turn on the porch light, checking to make sure the outdoor cats are safe.

The hound was a bit off his schedule this Sunday morning.
I was awake at 4 A.M. struggling not to cough from the sore throat that has plagued me 
for several days.
After a bit I crept to the bathroom for a drink of water, eased back onto my side of the king-size bed.
The cats resettled themselves at the foot of the bed, I tried to get comfortable.
Then, dimly, I heard the deep voice of the hound, coming down the trail through the woods beyond the stable.
I made no sound, but knew that Jim was now awake.

I felt the cats rise to attention, heard one of them thump onto the floor.
Jim was out of bed, parting the curtains at the window.
The grey wash of impending dawn flowed into the room.
I looked at the digital clock on Jim's dresser: 5: 15.
Jim reached for the shirt and jeans lying on the chair by the bed, dressing as he padded through to look out the bathroom window and then out the front window.
He returned, buttoning his shirt, headed for the stairs.
"Are you going after the dog?" I croaked.
"Not much chance of seeing him," Jim responded grimly.

I listened for a moment to his feet on the stairs, joined by the pell-mell descent of 
the boy cats in his wake. 
There seemed little point in trying for another hour of sleep.

Reluctantly I switched on the bedside lamp, pushed aside the quilt.
I fumbled my way into a pair of sweatpants, yanked a warm top over my head.

It was dark in the kitchen, but beyond the north-facing windows the shapes of trees, parked vehicles, the dark slope of the stable roof, were emerging from the mist-laden gloom.
I drew water, measured coffee, set the shiny pot on the electric burner, twitched the 
knob to medium-high.
Beyond the front door Jim brushed wet grass from his shoes, conversed with the outdoor cats.

We poured coffee, moved to our respective desks which reside in the wide hallway which connects the kitchen area to the living room.
Jim grumbled morosely about the irresponsibility of dog owners; Launched unwillingly into my third day with a bout of laryngitis, I could only nod.

By 7 A. M.  I had made the bed, tidied the bathroom, collected the laundry.
Passing through the kitchen, headed down to the washer and dryer on the ground floor, I looked through the window at the exact moment the hound trotted out of the woods beyond the stable.
He paused to sniff at the gravel drive.
"Hound!" I managed to force out the word.
At that moment the hound announced his return in ringing tones.
"Bor-ror-ror!  Bor-ror-ror!"

Jim was out the front door and firing up the 4 wheeler before I could make another sound.
I watched in fascination as he whirled around the end of the house, gravel spurting under the tires.

The hound seemed frozen in astonishment as the noisy machine headed his way, then he took flight.
I dashed to the porch in time to see the hound shoot under the garden fence and pound along the edge of the dry brook, Jim careening after him.
The cacophony of madly braying dog and snorting 4-wheeler faded as both disappeared at the bottom of the lane.
I brewed a cup of tea, added honey for my throat, collected a magazine and headed into the sunroom.
I sat huddled in the bedraggled wing chair, Teasel Cat on my lap, forcing tiny sips of scalding  tea down my stinging throat.
I felt slightly discombobulated, catapulted into the day before I was ready.
It was perhaps half an hour before I heard the 4-wheeler roaring back up the lane.
The front door opened and shut, Jim strode through to the sunroom.
I gave him an inquiring look.
"Ann was out in her garden.  I stopped to ask if she knew of the dog.  She thinks it belongs to her brother-in-law and that he has turned it loose."

"Would you shoot it?" I rasped.

Jim had gone out capless, such hair as he has left was standing on end.
"You know I don't enjoy shooting an animal," he reminded me, "but that dog barking by the hour, night after night, is getting old.  I was on his heels all the way down the pasture, half-tempted to run into him." 
He swiped at his wild hair, grinned ruefully.
"I figured if I got close enough to give him a good bump, the ground was so rough I might flip the 4 wheeler. I hope I convinced him this isn't a good place to be.  He dove into the culvert when we reached the road."

It is never, in these cases, merely the dog, although the poor witless creature becomes the focus of our exasperation. The real problem is always the owner of the dog [or dogs] who takes no heed for its where-abouts, has no consideration for the nuisance caused to neighbors.

On his outward swing around the ridge, the hound trots, baying, through the dooryard of our neighbors half a mile down the road.  He lingers there each time long enough to pee on their porch. I suppose we should consider ourselves blessed that thus far our porch has not been anointed.

Rural neighborhoods face slightly different issues than those in the suburbs where each house is rigidly bounded by a fence or line of shrubbery. Offensive noise there is apt to come from the sound of traffic at all hours, or the blare of someone's music when a party goes on too late.
In the country we deal with livestock that has gotten out and about, tomcats who prowl, dogs left untended to nose about, overturning trash cans, barking and baying in the wee hours.
One can run short of patience, longing for a quiet night, instead jolted awake by the relentless baying of a roaming hound dog. 
We wish his master would keep him at home.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Photos, Few Words

A box turtle at the edge of the lane.

Cockscomb--self-seeded from Anna Miller's plants.

One of the roosterish seedheads.

Willis--who is omni-present.

This 'weed' growing in clumps above the retaining wall. 
The flowers indicate it belongs to the labiate family--I may have put the green-bound wildflower book in the glass-fronted bookcase--but too tired to go looking for it and a possible identification.

The unknown rose, disinterred from a dry corner of the foundation planting and reestablished at the edge of the perennial strip below the workshop.

Strangely patterned insect.

A bounty of hips on the rugosa rose by the side porch steps.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Substantial, But Not Grand"

Several weeks ago, headed out with Jim on errands, I  hurriedly chose the above book to take along.
[I've learned that its best to have something to read as there is often a stop along the way with no need for me to be involved in the errand.]
I've owned the book for a number of years--one of those that is easy to enjoy, full of interesting photos and text.  I gather that Emma-Louise O'Reilly may be more familiar in the UK as a contributor to decorating and craft magazines than she is in the US.
Her comments are rather pithy, her observations a bit dictatorial.
A phrase caught my eye, 'substantial, but not grand.'
Emma-Louise was describing a modest vintage farmhouse originally built by German settlers in the Texas hill country.
The two Amish farmhouses which we have acquired are also substantial, plainly built, of simple layout--nothing remotely 'grand' about them.

Raising a new house or barn for an Amish family is often a neighborhood affair.
While a 'builder' may be hired [usually another Amish] much of the labor is contributed by relatives, in-laws and other Amish neighbors.
Some of those working on a house may not have the skill level of finish carpenters.

As Jim has labored to install plumbing and electrical wiring in these houses he has discovered an interior wall slightly out of plumb--which has interfered with properly hanging a door, stairs in the lower house that are not evenly spaced, slight discrepancies in the spacing of wall studs.
None of these things affect the stability or integrity of the buildings, but they do make 
for frustrating moments.
By far the most annoying to me is the quite unprofessional finish of the sheetrock on the walls. 
This resulted in visible joins in the sheetrock and 'mud' that wasn't smoothly sanded prior to painting.
I have learned that interior painting is handed over to the women of an Amish household--and I suspect that any female capable of wielding a paintbrush or roller was handed one and told to have at it.  Jim has patched and smoothed some areas, but the complete reworking which would make for a professional appearance isn't feasible in terms of time or budget.
I sternly tell myself that I must relinquish a perfectionist stance and enjoy the transformation of carefully chosen paint colors.
We have continued to plod along through the weeks of heat and humidity, and great progress has been made.

I painted the ceiling in the downstairs guest room last winter. When the spell of frigid weather arrived I closed the door and abandoned the job.
Knowing that our son and daughter-in-law would be arriving for a visit at the end of July inspired me to again pick up my brush and roller.
The actual paint color, Canyon Peach, is less pink than it appears in the above photo.

The room as it looked the day I finished painting.
The room ready for company.
The furniture belongs to our son who is dis-inclined to move it to Florida.
I made the pale sage grey/green curtains for one of our houses in Wyoming.
The vintage trunk at the foot of the bed came from my grandfather's attic.

Making a bed is a task beloved of cats.
Teasel knows that she enhances the quilt.

The following photos demonstrate the simple sturdiness of the buildings.
This is the back door which leads into the Amish 'washroom.'
This room contained a wood-fired boiler, a primitive shower stall, a sink with cold water.
The family laundry was done in a gas-powered wringer washing machine.
The enclosed space to the left of the door is the outhouse--NOT in use at present.
Eventually the pit will be filled in and the space can be utilized for garden tools or such.
We still refer to this area as the ''washroom.' 
The freezer resides there as well as receptacles for recycling. During the winter we stored kindling and some firewood in the space.
Eventually it will become a garage with an overhead door.

The workshop was built a few months before we acquired the property.
We planted a garden in the area below it. Topsoil had been hauled in and perhaps in a less rainy summer a garden could flourish.
The season-long mess of mud and rapidly growing weeds has been disheartening.

The ground falls away rather steeply from the south end of the house,
The guest bedroom is in the extension.  Below it, in the finished basement is a well insulated space for storing canned goods.

South-facing side porch. 
The cement steps leading to the ground floor entry are rather crudely made and a bit uneven.
My feet are learning the varying intervals.

The lower farmhouse has a larger compartmented barn, as well as a shed which sheltered buggies and a wood store.
We have the small stable built to accommodate one horse and a buggy.
Renovations continue, although I haven't documented the progress with photos.
Over the past month I have painted the sunroom which adjoins the downstairs guest room.
Upstairs, Jim paints ceilings, I paint walls.
He has been installing electricity, creating the space for the shower in the master suite, constructing trim for around windows, bedroom doors and baseboards.
[In all the Amish homes we have seen, upstairs bedrooms are not finished in terms of trim work.]
The large upstairs guest room has been painted and finished, small guest room painted and trim being installed. Furniture and oddments are shoved from one space to another to make room to work.
I do what I can to help.
I have to confess that painting rooms is not as easy a project for me as it was several years ago.
I clamber clumsily up and down my step ladder.
I sometimes want to sit down on the floor and wail with weariness even as I tick off 
another job finished. 
Soon, the major renovations will be complete.
Soon I can unpack pictures and small treasures, consider how furniture should be arranged.
Soon we can look around with satisfaction and know that we have created a home--not at all 'grand' but comfortable and welcoming.