Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Flurry of Small Accomplishments

We had a few days when the high temps registered in the 80's--a welcome change from the searing 90's that have been the norm for many weeks.
Mornings were relatively cool, a time to walk about outdoors.

I tackled the sprawling growth of the lavenders--which should have been pruned back weeks ago.
Several plants have suffered badly from so much moist heat; those I cut nearly to stubs hoping they will revive.
The rugosas along the steps have been clutching at me whenever I walked by. I put on gloves and attacked them with the clippers.
Edward was interested in my labors and kept me company.

You can see the most damaged lavender in front of the little fence.
The rugosas were encouraged by the cooler weather and produced a few clusters of fragrant blooms--which were quickly spoiled by Japanese beetles. 

I knew last spring that I should have culled more of the cockscomb seedlings.
It requires fortitude to uproot anything lustily growing.
The variegated vinca was totally out of bounds--and I did prune that severely in June.
It had clambered out onto the walk, trailed along the base of the porch, rampaged over cranesbill, attempted to throttle the garish petunias which are determined to seed themselves by the 
corner of the wall.
I hacked it off by yard-long streamers.


It has been pleasant to be out before breakfast, to walk down the lane before the heat of the day swallows up the morning freshness.

Contrails against a blue sky.

The waning moon.

A sparkling web festooning the fence by the dry goats' pasture.

The four nasturtium plants I settled in a big pot in May provided a climbing, tumbling mass of bloom through the sweltering weeks of July. I clipped back the long tired stems hoping to encourage new growth, but the stems went lank and wispy.
Last week I pulled most of them out, leaving a few infant seedlings that have generated from the parent plants.
Nasturtiums give up the ghost at the first hint of frost, so, while cold weather seems far away at the moment, there may not be time for the tiny plants to reach blooming size.

Indoors, during the hot hours of mid-day [and with the A/C blasting cooler air] I have canned a box of tomatoes purchased from the Beachy Amish produce farm nearby. We have usually bought tomatoes at the Mennonite produce auction in the next county, with Jim bidding in 8 or 9 boxes--an over-whelming amount to process at once.
My thought this year is to buy a box or two at a time and make the project a bit easier.

I swept down the walls and shelves of the basement pantry/root cellar and rearranged the canned goods from several years past. 
When sorted into regimented rows I found I had 48 qts of tomatoes on hand.  I would like to put up that many more.
I am reluctant to give up growing and preserving much of our own food, but several factors are forcing me to reevaluate. We don't have a good garden spot on this property, and thus far Jim has not made a priority of the raised beds which would make it more comfortable for me to continue gardening. He is balking at putting more effort into the shady plot at the south end of his workshop.

We have been considering which veg crops are more labor-intensive for what they yield [as in sweet corn enough to freeze]  the green beans [badly damaged this year by Mexican bean beetles]  which must be pressure-canned. 
I will buy locally grown tomatoes [we have been unsuccessful in controlling tomato blight] to can as I have never found commercially canned tomatoes that have anything like the quality of those which I process myself.  Beets, okra, Swiss chard, cantaloupe grow reasonably well 
in our rather heavy soil. 

Working around the tomato canning, riding along with Jim on several outings to collect tractor parts, I still managed to finish two skirts for myself. 
A perennial bugbear of my busy and productive spells is that my mind refuses to turn off at bedtime!
Creative endeavors have a way of sparking my imagination, reminding me of projects still to be finished, shifting my brain into an over-drive that refuses to quit!
Midnight [or later] finds me awake in my comfortable bed, body tired, mind busy with intriguing possibilities. 
I have been tired today--inwardly cross, my only creative accomplishment the four loaves of oatmeal bread now cooled and bagged for the freezer. 

Our extended forecast is for yet another week of  hot weather--too hot for outdoor work.
I have put in my order for 2 more boxes of canning tomatoes. 
There are several sewing/quilting projects in the 'to be finished' pile.
I need to finish transcribing my notes for a genealogy report undertaken for friends, need to continue with work on my own family tree.

I have been fairly successful at restricting time spent reading online about our deplorable election year battles--this does leave me more focused and with more time to work.

I wonder how the coming week will unfold.
Surely I will not be bored!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Plodding Toward the End of Summer

It has rained in brief but torrential bursts throughout the day.
Jim had an errand in Lebanon, KY, about an hour away.  He chose a winding secondary route which took us past fields of soybeans and corn, swooping around curves, descending into hollows, climbing hills. He drove with rain cascading down the windshield,, rounding a bend to find that the shower had passed and clouds of white mist were rising from the wet black surface of the road. 

I sat contentedly in the car, reading, during the nearly half hour that he was selecting what he needed at the tractor dealership.
Into Campbellsville by the more familiar and mundane route, where I had been promised a few minutes to collect some sewing supplies. 
I scurried around the JoAnn's Fabric and Crafts, finding a skirt pattern, zippers, lining fabric, hastily adding a quilting magazine to my shopping basket as I headed to the checkout counter.
I wouldn't have minded poking around a bit longer, but I didn't need anything else, so back out into the humid dripping heat to find that Jim had disappeared. 
I always have a car key in my purse, so unlocked the door, dumped my bag of goodies inside.
I was considering where to look for him, when he emerged from the shoe store next door!
The man collects more shoes than I do!
Lunch at the Subway sandwich shop and then home through the green darkness of a rainy afternoon.

The sky cleared about 6 p.m. and the slanting sunlight of evening shimmered through the mist rolling up from the creek.
I walked down the lane with tidbits for the goats, stopped to pat and cuddle the barn kittens--who are growing into lanky and sleek adolescence.

Shadow-cat follows me up from the barn, winding about my ankles, tail held high.
He has been told by Willis and crew that he is not to pass the fork in the lane and approach our house!
Here he is, sitting quietly at a safe distance.

The hibiscus by the front porch is experiencing a fresh burst of bloom.

Only one signet marigold germinated from seeds sown earlier.

Ipomoea Pandurata aka Big Root Morning Glory, Wild Sweet Potato, Man of the Earth.
 Naturalized, invasive, but beautiful with a fresh show of silky blossoms in the relative cool of early morning.  Long before noon on these sweltering days the flowers have shriveled.

I have read that if one wants the labor of digging the tuberous roots they can be eaten like a sweet potato--although there is a bitterness not wholly diminished by boiling in several changes of water.

Our neighbors have needed to be away for several days, so I was gifted with the glads that were ready to be cut.
Teasel examined them with interest. Mima had to be shooed away from the bouquet when she had notions of creating a colorful 'salad.'
I usually take the precaution of shutting a vase of flowers in the pantry overnight so that I am not greeted in the morning with the mess of puddled water and disheveled petals from an 
over-turned vase. 

One of the barn cats, Bonnet, has produced another litter of kittens.
They are darling [of course!] but--oh dear!
Our 7 year old great-niece was here for a day last week with her parents; we made several trips to the barn so that she could play with the older kittens and ever so gently cuddle the babies while the 
mom-cat hovered.

Jim removed a set of wooden stairs from the outside of his workshop several months ago.
[I have referred to then as the 'stairway to nowhere' although they led up to the unfinished loft  area above the shop.]
Jim and our renter/neighbor hauled them down the lane and installed them for access to the stable 
hay loft.

There is satisfaction in re-purposing rather than discarding!

A dahlia sent by my sister has bloomed in the weedy edge of my garden, albeit nibbled by some nasty beetle. 
The state of the garden is most disheartening at this point. I had it quite tidy at the end of June, fresh mulch laid down around the perennials, the vegetables and melons mostly free of weeds.
The long spell of damp sweltering weather has defeated me!
My hope is for a long and sunny autumn--and the stamina to tackle the mess once more!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Rainy Season

Thursday evening, after a late afternoon shower.

Recently every day has brought us some amount of rain--usually accompanied by the rumble of thunder. Clouds come rolling in and the sky darkens, usually late in the afternoon.
Pounding night time rain has battered my bedraggled flower border, soaking the base of lavender, achillea and dianthus plants, some of which are looking very poorly. the thought of losing cherished plants is very frustrating.
I look at the weeds which have poked up through the layer of mulch and I despair of ever controlling the unwanted invaders.

Four o'clocks are spreading and flourishing in the cloudy weather.

We had company from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning, Jim's older sister and her husband who have purchased a motor home for the purpose of having their own space while making some family visits.
On Monday we took them on a tour of winding country roads in the next county. 
Tuesday I commandeered the car so that Joyce and I could make a leisurely rummage at the Goodwill shop and also pick up a few grocery items while the men dealt with a small repair on the motor home.
We talked endlessly and shared simple but delicious meals.

Several of our cats do not enjoy having guests in the house, creeping warily downstairs only when they are sure that Jim and I are the only ones present.
The three 'boy cats' who usually like to pop in and out of the house during the daytime, have been content to spend more time inside sprawling in air-conditioned comfort rather than braving the outside heat and humidity. 

I have realized that attempting to work outside in such weather is not a healthy undertaking.
I  peg out laundry on the back porch, walk slowly down the lane to the mail box or to offer the goats slices of cantaloupe rind, then return to the cool shelter of dim farmhouse rooms.
I have puttered at the usual housekeeping tasks, done a bit of utility sewing.
I have sat at my desk reading way too many news articles regarding the current astonishing and disheartening political stunts of the day.
I need to restrict this habit before it becomes a serious time waster!

Last evening, working quietly at my desk after Jim had gone to bed I suddenly realized that several cats had lined up behind my chair and were staring intently upward.
This little winged creature was clinging to the wall.

Note the delicate pink shading on the wing tips.
I don't know where it went, but I'm quite sure it didn't fall victim to curious felines.

In these weeks of recuperating from the flu, of staying indoors to avoid the heat, there has been a sense of marking time--desultory pursuits, lack of visible accomplishments.
As I contemplate the changes of weather and seasons which will come about as the month of August progresses, I find that my mind is turning toward projects to be completed. 
I had nearly despaired, wondering if creativity had deserted me.
I suspect I need to shake myself into better order, concentrate on the quiet joy of making and doing rather than setting myself unreasonable goals.
Anticipation of returning energy is inspiring!