Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Addendum

I worked on the 'February Gardening' post over the space of an hour or so--loading some photos and then coming back to create the text.
Along the way I decided my stitchery projects of the week didn't quite work with the gardening theme and so removed the photos.
Sometimes 'blogger' has a mind of its own and evidently the photos of the apron and pillowcases were visible for awhile.

A young woman from our church is to be married shortly and a bridal shower was arranged for her this past Sunday.
It was a lovely occasion, elegant and pretty enough to have graced Victoria Magazine. 
One of our church women has a talent for decoration and the creation of a perfect setting for any special event. 
The meal was delicious and made extra appealing with tables daintily set with lavender and white candles, flower arrangements and springtime accessories. 
A luncheon was presented prior to the fun of watching the bride unwrapping her gifts. 
I had inquired of the bride's mother for color preferences.
Her choice for kitchen accents is 'red'--thus the red and white apron.
I thought the heart applique was appropriate!
Turquoise and silver grey had been chosen for bedroom and bath.
I found the pretty batik fabrics at our local quilt shop.
I enjoy crafting items with a specific person in mind.

February Gardening

Fresh leaves on the nameless shrub rose. 

It rained last night [Tuesday] gently and intermittently, ushering in a pearly grey dawn, that gave way to a sunny morning.
The thermometer outside the kitchen window stood at 59 degrees F. at 6:30 a.m.--just as it had at 10:30 p.m. the night before.
We've had a run of warm days that prompt us to think in terms of an early spring.
Wild daffodils are in bloom, swaths of fresh yellow along ditches, billowing over meadow slopes and nodding at the edge of woodlands.
Folks in Kentucky refer to them as 'March Lilies'--an indicator of their accepted bloom time.

Perhaps optimistically, we decided to sow seeds of Swiss chard and beets yesterday.  I wanted to plant kale as well, as it is more cold hardy than Swiss chard; I was able to buy a packet of seed at the Beachy Amish produce farm last evening--too late and dark to plant and a tad too wet today to stomp about and compact the soil.
I worked outside yesterday for nearly four hours.
I wrenched away at the bleached stalks of weeds which enveloped the raised bed at the end of the workshop, clearing space around iris and the barely emerging pink tips of peonies.
Sadly, hundreds--make that thousands--of tiny weeds have already emerged. I troweled over much of the soil, but know that the battle is only begun.

Dandelions popping up.
I left the raised bed to scrabble along the edges of the perennial border. 
Many of the weeds that defied my layers of mulch are low-growing, mat-forming. Having lost a number of plants to the endless rain and heat of last summer, I wanted to check for survivors and ensure that they weren't swallowed up in weeds before having a chance at spring growth. 

Buds discovered on a clematis. 
I have been concerned for the well-being of my three clematis plants.
The stems seem incredibly slender and fragile.
I am heartened to see leaves unfolding.

New growth at the base of the clematis.  
This is 'Candida' the old variety growing at our first home in Kentucky.
I potted up a start before we left and it had a first season in new ground last year.
In scratching up weeds near the newest clematis, Duchess of Edinburgh, I unwittingly uprooted a stem sprawled under dry leaves.  I gently tucked it back into the soil, but it is damaged. I carefully lifted several other fragile stems and coaxed them against the trellis.

I was assisted/ kept company by Willis. 
He sometimes has to be urged out of the way--at which point he can become testy--but his loyalty is heartening. 

Willis eventually bedded himself down in dry leaves behind a barricade of thorny rugosa branches.
I had a pair of clippers as well as a slender trowel and a 'digger,' so the roses have had a
 preliminary pruning. 

The double orange day lilies near the side porch landing are flourishing.
A second clump of them was hastily interred by the pasture gate; I need to move them to a spot where they are better appreciated.

Daffodils are in bloom, tempting one to stop and admire at every bend on our winding back roads.
The urge to garden is stirring as it does each year at the first hint of spring.
I need to be realistic. 
[Four hours of crawling about on my knees does have consequences!]

We were interested to see that our Beachy Amish neighbors have started the seasonal work of their produce farm. Their front field which lies along the lane into their home and store has been newly turned. Neat rows of soil have been mounded up and are under lengths of black plastic--the plastic serves to warm the soil and to [hopefully] smother the first growth of weeds. 
I continue to long for a greenhouse--even a very tiny one.
Jim talks about it, but it remains too far down his 'list' to be a believable reality. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Family Breakfast

Oatmeal with dried cranberries, brown sugar, cream;
 butter-slathered toast from homemade whole-meal bread. 

"Would you eat oatmeal for breakfast?"
I turned from the bleak prospect of another grey and chilly morning unfolding beyond the kitchen window, feeling the need of hearty comfort food.
Jim, engrossed in a website catalog of vintage tractor specs, did not answer.
He has, over the past several years, expressed a dislike of oatmeal, his reasoning poised between, 
"I had to eat that for too many mornings growing up," to the more pejorative observation that oatmeal, at least as commonly prepared, resembles 'dog snot'--a substance surely seldom encountered at the table in real life.

Having fixed on oatmeal as a desirable breakfast and not wanting to reduce the amount to a single serving, I repeated my query.
Jim turned from his laptop, recited his findings regarding the horse power, model year and distinctive features of the Massey Ferguson tractor currently undergoing restoration in his shop.
As an after-thought he rather grudgingly agreed that he could eat oatmeal this morning if it
 wasn't 'sticky.'

As I measured water, waited for it to boil, added rolled oats and stirred, sliced homemade bread for the toaster, I pondered the family breakfasts of former decades.

My nature, like that of my late father, has always been decidedly nocturnal.
I've no wish to lie abed late in the morning, but the necessity of early rising when accompanied by a requirement to be properly dressed and in my right mind, to say nothing of eating an early breakfast, is challenging.
From junior high through high school I had a long commute, so such breakfast as I could manage was swallowed with one eye on the clock.

Mother did her conscientious best. By the time we children straggled downstairs she had already overseen Daddy's breakfast, the preparation of his lunch box and the fixing of a tall
 thermos of coffee.
In winter Daddy liked oatmeal, slow-cooked all night in a double-boiler pushed to the back burner of the kerosene cook stove.
In summer he consumed a large bowl of 'puffed wheat' or corn flakes, munched his two slices of toasted white bread, while staring morosely out the west-facing window of our tiny kitchen.
 It was not the thing to attempt conversation at such an hour.

Children's breakfast in winter was more oatmeal, varied by'Maltex' [dark and gritty] or an innovative hot cereal particular to Vermont, called 'Maypo' [finely cut oatmeal flavored with maple syrup.]
I remember 'Bluebird Orange Juice'--tasting rankly of the tin container after a day or so in the fridge-- later supplanted by a powdered orange drink called 'Tang.'
Hot cocoa [not a good chaser for orange juice] and toast rounded out the weekday morning meal.

During my own children's school days, I urged a hearty breakfast.
By then there were more options.  Hot oatmeal was often replaced by home made granola sweetened with honey or maple syrup, invitingly loaded with dried fruit, toasted coconut, chopped walnuts or slivered almonds. Home-canned fruit, good homemade bread, toasted or plain, was offered with the option of jam, peanut butter, or honey. 

Son Howard dutifully consumed whatever was set out.

Daughter Gina, gifted with a dramatically obstinate nature, found breakfast a pure misery, and managed to convey her distaste to anyone in the room.
A meager spoonful of cereal wincingly inserted into her mouth, was rolled about, finally swallowed with an audible gulp or [too often] spat back into the bowl with the threat,
 "That stuff will make me puke!"
I recognize, belatedly, that it would have made more sense to send her off with an apple or a granola bar to be consumed at morning break, but the rigid structure of school rules at the time didn't cater to individual preferences. 
Years later with the children grown and Jim often away for days or weeks at a time my breakfast preferences changed. While the kettle boiled for tea I rummaged the fridge for leftover soup or casserole, toasted an English muffin to spread with cream cheese.

Retirement in Kentucky finds us with a relaxed attitude toward breakfast. It is rare that we consume more than 2 meals per day. 
Breakfast is a movable, usually mid-morning affair--depending on weather, season, plans for the day.
We don't always choose the same components.  I may prefer yogurt and fruit, having started the morning much earlier with my one cup of coffee and a cookie! 
Often Jim has worked for several hours in the shop before coming in to suggest that we have waffles with maple syrup and a fruit sauce made from berries stashed in the freezer.  Sometimes we have turkey bacon with scrambled or poached eggs. Occasionally breakfast becomes the main meal with potato and veggies.
Jim may stodge up a helping of cornmeal mush or cream of wheat liberally laced with maple syrup and dollops of butter, an offering which I politely refuse.
I may be inspired to bake blueberry muffins to share with our neighbors or to create an omelette loaded with chopped onion, sweet peppers and shredded cheese.
In season we glory in fresh cantaloupe, strawberries. 

I recall sometimes in wonderment the breakfast consumed daily by Grandpa Mac.
He appeared in the farmhouse dining room at 7:30 each morning, having milked and fed the dairy herd and tended to various 'chores.'
He waded through oatmeal, followed by a platter of eggs with a side of bacon or ham, progressed to  a succession of sourdough pancakes liberally buttered and swimming in maple syrup, the lot washed down with several cups of milky coffee. 
When this hearty fare had been stowed, he set his plate on the floor to be polished by the faithful collie who had waited, paws folded, a respectful distance from his chair.

I'm told that today's children are served breakfast at school or daycare. 
Commuters swill coffee from styrofoam containers thrust at them through a drive-up window, nibble at a sticky pastry while maneuvering through traffic.
Breakfast, as my generation knew it, has become something of a Sunday treat, perhaps the one morning meal of the week to be anticipated and enjoyed at relative leisure.

Jim and I continue to appreciate breakfast as a meal which varies in both menu and hour--one of the pleasant choices of retirement.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Making a Shirt

A tunic length shirt with cuffless sleeves which can be rolled up.

There was a time when I had the process of shirt construction down to a stream-lined art.
I became serious about making classic shirts when our son in his early teens stretched to a slender height above 6 feet.  Finding jeans, let alone anything such as casual trousers, developed into a hunt that still continues.  Shirts are easier to find in 'Tall' sizes, but most of them assume that a tall man also has considerable girth.
I was an experienced home sewer, so chose a basic men's shirt pattern and proceeded to customize it. I split the sleeves and body of the tissue pattern, measured and inserted sections of paper to lengthen, taped tucks to decrease un-needed fullness and set about creating a wardrobe of shirts for my son.  I had access to remnants of fine oxford cloth, warm chamois flannels, traditional checks and plaids.   
I usually laid out and cut several shirts at a time, fashioned the collars and collar bands, cuffs and pockets before working on the shirts in an assembly line manner.

Along the way I was also making a variety of shirts and blouses for my daughter, myself, various nieces and friends.  It was the era of Gunne Sax shirtwaists, made to resemble the ones worn by young women of the late 1800's.  I bought fine broadcloth, crisp lawn, dainty pinstripes and spent careful hours adding lace and ribbon trim, tiny pearly buttons. 

It has been nearly 2 decades since I have made a shirt!
Last week, rummaging through a bin of fabric I discovered several yards of a soft cotton flannel.  I purchased it during the years in Wyoming, but have no idea of its intended use. Blue isn't a color I wear--except in denim--but there it was.
On a rainy day whim I decided to see if I remembered the process of creating a shirt.
I rootled out a shirt pattern, never used, not quite what I wanted,
 but do-able.
I wanted a loose, longish shirt which could be popped on over a pair of jeans with a T-shirt as an under layer.
I fussed with some alterations to the pattern, pressed the fabric carefully, lined up and pinned the bars of the plaid along the selvage edges and began cutting out the pieces.
I had forgotten that the layers of a lightweight plaid are prone to skittering and that it is best to cut such bits as sleeves and yokes one at a time so that the plaid bars can be meticulously matched.
Looking at the finished shirt it is noticeable that while one sleeve lines up fairly well with the body of the shirt, one does not. 
I wanted a lined yoke which the pattern didn't specify and, for the life of me, couldn't recall the best way to achieve that. Still, with all the fiddling I was nearly done with the shirt by evening. 

I always attach the sleeves before side seams are stitched so that I can make
 a continuous French seam. 
At 9 in the evening I was not paying proper attention and discovered  I had stitched those long seams with the right sides together which would leave the finished seam on the outside.  I picked up my seam ripper, started to pick stitches and then balked. 
There had to be a work-around.

The make-do solution was to finish the French seam, then press to one side and stitch it down on the right side of the garment--a modified flat-fell seam!

I"m annoyed with myself for botching the plaid match in places and for being slow to recall some of the finer points in the construction process.
However, I've created an everyday-wearable garment which is at least the equal of the few women's flannel shirts which I've seen available locally.
I might make another shirt--if only to prove that I can do it right!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Hours of Sunshine Before Rain

Sunset on Saturday evening.

Our house sits in a narrow space between two ridges which create an effect of sundown while the bigger house down the lane is still wrapped in daylight. 
Passing the windows which face onto the front porch I was startled to see this thick pillar of fiery gold stabbing through the bare hillside trees.

I snatched up my old down vest and my camera and hurried outside to record this strange
 shaft of light.

Turning, I traced the path of the contrail spanning the sky.

Sunday's rising sun washed the side hill in warm and burnished color--so different from the monotonous shades of grey and brown which have greeted us for many days.

Jim had the excuse of a bonfire to tend--a great pile of brush below the small stable, legacy of the previous owners.  I could think of no useful tasks that would keep me outdoors, but had no intention to waste this rare sunny day lingering inside.
After a scanty breakfast I collected a container of scraps for the barn cats, banana peels for the goats that live in the pasture bordering the lane, pulled on sturdy shoes and headed out.

Feathery contrails intersected the bright blue sky.

My shadow stretched in front of me when I stopped at the end of the lane to acknowledge Munchkin's friendly greeting.

Spruce Pine Creek ran clear in its gravely bed.
I was wearing leather boots rather than wellies so didn't wade across at the shallows to walk the perimeter of the back field. 
Deer have been gathering at the edges of the front field, leaving deeply indented hoof prints in the spongy ground.

I wasn't ready to be indoors and nearing the house, stood for a moment where the lane divides to loop around the house and shop.  I eyed the track which scrambles up the steep ridge.  It is not an easy walk, but I decided on a whim to tackle it. I was scarcely into the trees and headed upward before I felt the hot twinge of laboring muscles in calves and thighs.  Pause; breathe; clamber on. I began counting my steps, considering that each one carried me a linear foot farther up the steep track. Forty paces and I'll rest again.  No--surely I can do fifty--fifty five, round the sharp corner, rest for a moment and out on the higher flatter ground. 
Sparrows bounce, chittering, in the underbrush. Dry leaves rattle on the branches of a tree that I [tentatively] name as an ash.
The trees are dense here, oak, a stand of persimmon, rearing toward the sky.

Woodpeckers have built a multi-level condo in the trunk of a persimmon.

I crank my head back, gazing dizzily at the twisted pattern of treetops against the clouds, 

Standing at the head of the track, looking into the sharp bend that pitches down the side of the ridge.

Jim prodded at his bonfire for much of the afternoon, coming inside occasionally, smudged with soot and reeking of smoke. 
I pottered about, dished out their 'tea' to the cats who had set up a clamor as soon as I came in.
I stirred the fire in the wood range, made myself a grilled cheese sandwich--gooey yellow cheddar between thick slices of homemade bread, washed down with a mug of darjeeling.
[Hearty fare, if not strictly healthy, but justified as restorative after the climb up the ridge!] 

Late on Saturday evening I had read the first few chapters of "Thin Air" the latest of the Ann Cleeves Shetland mysteries. 
By the time Jim came in to clean up and make his own sandwich I was settled into my rocking chair, finishing the book.
[By way of review, I must state that this latest wasn't the most engrossing or best plotted of the series.]
On Monday, a day out with Jim in the truck.  He was off on miles of narrow and winding back roads to purchase a front-end loader for the latest tractor.
We took a break to wander through a rambling old building housing a second hand furniture store--having landed unexpectedly in a town that wasn't part of the planned route.

Jim concluded after miles of back-tracking that the 'side road' which he needed wasn't marked with a proper sign. When finally located, it was a one lane paved track that twisted around blind curves, reared over sudden small hills, pitched crazily along creek banks. 
Jim, an intrepid driver, remarked that if one met another vehicle there was literally no place to get out of the way; verges were non-existent. 
An hour later, with the bucket loader lashed onto the back of Snort'n Nort'n [the old Dodge] Jim decided there was an easier route home--once we had made our way out of the enfolding
 'hills and hollers!'
The sky by this time had resumed its familiar cloudy grey; occasional bursts of rain streamed against the windshield.
I was pleased when we spotted one of our favorite chain restaurants on the Danville bypass--within moments we were seated near the log fire in a Cracker Barrel dining room.
A good dinner, a stop at Lowes for bits and pieces, the drive home through gathering dusk.

Two more aprons constructed before bedtime.
And today--rain again! 
Desultory housekeeping tasks--laundry, hoovering up the nasty Asian lady bugs which blunder about on the window sills and walls on each warmer day.
The bed purchased last week for the downstairs guest room has been assembled, neatly made up.
I have trolled ebay for fabric remnants, sorted and organized magazines which I intend to keep.
I have paged through a favorite seed catalog, wishing for a more lavish garden than is possible.
I have ventured onto Face Book long enough to check on family and friends, resolutely 'hiding' the repetitive posts which those of either political party feel compelled to 'share.'

I have journaled myself up to date here--now husband and cats are indicating that it is time for bed!