Friday, April 27, 2018

Taking Stock of the Garden

 It has been a cold and laggardly springtime.  There has been rain--not hours of deluge, but bursts of rain varying from persistent drizzle to brief but heavy showers that drummed loudly on our metal roof. The wind, stirring through trees that have held the slightest promise of green leaves, has had a bite that would have seemed better suited to March.
The sun has appeared just often enough to give us assurance that it still exits.
We have kept a fire, letting it putter along, enough to keep out the damp chill.

Last year my heirloom clematis, 'Candida', opened a first blossom on 5 April and within a week the vine was covered in bloom. 
Night after April night this year, temperatures have dipped a few degrees below the freezing point;  I draped the trellis in an old tablecloth, using clothespins to hold it in place.  
Inevitably the cold seeped under and around the covering and  I have fretted over the many frost-blighted buds.

The undamaged buds are to be treasured!

This morning I counted five open blossoms. 

Fog was heavy this morning when I ventured out before 7. The bend in the lane, the lower farmhouse, stable, and even the nearer goat pastures were swathed in white mist.

Looking down the brook it appeared as though someone had flung sheer white handkerchiefs over grass and twigs.

Bobby Mac picked his way through the wet grass and weeds.

Frost has not damaged the invasive wild honeysuckle. 

At a little after 8, sunshine was vanquishing the mist--and my camera, on the second trip outside, decided to change to the correct date.

The tulip poplar which looms beyond the kitchen window is finally putting forth leaves.  It is usually the earliest dooryard tree to break dormancy.

The strawberry plants in the garden strip at the end of the lane have blossomed abundantly in spite of the cold. Vigorous new plants have formed from runners.
Both the strawberries and the raspberry canes have propagated themselves--without regard to proper boundaries.

Jim decreed that we should do some dividing and transplanting this noon--as well as attacking the weeds which seem to be perennial.
The sun was warm, the rich soil alive with earthworms.
The baby goats [belonging to our renters] had been brought out for the day to a newly enclosed area in front of the house.  Even the two youngest, born Monday, are ready to caper about, bouncing with the three older ones.  When they are tired, all five fold into a companionable heap--a quick nap before they are up and busy again. 

Back at the house, I made a raspberry milkshake--thick with vanilla ice cream--carried it out to the side porch where I have seedlings to transplant into larger pots: rosemary and foxglove. 
I sowed cantaloupe, an heirloom variety, and some of the seeds saved from neighbor Fred's large 'pink' tomatoes.  [He lost the label last year, so they have become 'Fred's Pink!']

Since i was already grubby, I decided to work in the perennial strip. It was a decidedly disheartening attempt to create order.  The soil there is still too damp and heavy to work up well--and the plantations of mugwort and other nameless weeds have flourished in spite of my dogged efforts to be rid of them.  The winter brought losses: none of the salvia survived.  There are other gaps--but I can't recall what should be there!
I've been eyeing the butterfly bush [buddleia] with misgivings--not wanting to accept winter-kill.  
F. was here on a errand when I was poking dolefully at it.  He snapped off twigs here and there, confirming my fears and recommending that it be cut back to just above the new growth appearing at the base of the stump.  Jim made short work of it with the chainsaw and I dragged off the dry grey branches.  I'm hopeful the new growth with be strong and there may be an autumn flowering.  In the meantime, that corner of the garden looks suddenly bare.

I feel that this is the season when I must find solutions for dealing with the weeds which have persisted through applications of mulch; then there are the weeds which clamber over and under the pasture fence to invade. 
Do I give in to my rickety knees, abandon the plants which have tenaciously survived? 
At such times I mourn the garden I created at our first Kentucky home--hours of work to maintain, but good soil,  better options in terms of space and sunlight. 
I daresay I will persist--try to find ways to grow the flowers I love--creaking, grumbling, but still gardening!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday--Another Grey and Chilly Day

The red needle of the thermometer outside the kitchen window has scarcely wavered since 6:15 this morning, fixated on 36 F.  Jim stuffed a few hearty chunks of wood into the black range last night at 10 PM and there were still lively coals to be prodded into welcome warmth when I came downstairs trailed by the usual retinue of cats.
I was awake at midnight, still pondering the frustrating behavior of my computer, resentfully resolved that it would need to be taken to the repair shop in town, where past experience suggests it might languish for several weeks on a waiting list.

Having dealt with the woodstove and the cats, resigned to yet another unseasonably cold day, I switched on the desktop PC and rather gingerly navigated to my blogger dashboard.
My 'Reading List' came up, thumbnail photos intact; firmly squelching hopeful expectations I clicked from one favorite to another--all normal-- ventured onto my own blog.
Photos on the sidebar unscrambled, all seemingly in order.
Panda antivirus reports it has captured and impounded a 'Trojan'--my suspicious mind questions whether this has been the real issue--and, if so, why did the panda not pounce when the problem first manifested?
[I like to know there is a concrete WHY--even if the details are too technical for me to grasp!]

With blogger issues behind me for this round, it is important to note that there were two [!!] days at the end of last week when the sky was deeply blue and temperatures neared 80 F. 
I was happily contemplating outdoor chores after breakfast on Thursday morning when Jim announced that he needed some plumbing bits and pieces, and had decided to visit the Lowes in Danville--a destination he declared as handy as our usual run to Campbellsville.  He offered the opportunity to shop for groceries in the Kroger supermarket--sufficient inducement for me to haul on more presentable jeans and shoes and declare myself ready to go.

Invasive strands of wild rose swarming up the trunk of a willow near the brook.

I made a tour of Lowe's garden center while Jim poked about in the plumbing department. Wind barreled through the open sides of the garden annex, setting astir the slender branches of potted shrubs.  Near the checkout counter  Stargazer lilies  diffused their heady scent, dominating the atmosphere with overwhelming sticky sweetness. 
Walking along the aisles between laden wooden benches I was disappointed that I felt no compelling need to bring home anything that was on offer.
We were driving away when I noticed that shrub roses were ranged on display outside the garden center--might those have tempted me?

Honeysuckle vine has smothered a weathered fence post down the lane.

Jim declared that he needed to shop for shoes--and turned into a strip mall with a shoe store at one end.  Inwardly I quailed; a shopping expedition for Jim inevitably involves a lengthy perusal of the goods on offer, most of which do not meet his requirements, at which point his mood deteriorates to testy impatience.  Amazingly, after nearly half an hour, he discovered a pair of shoes in his somewhat problematic size, which pleased him.  Placards along the display shelves announced a 'buy one get the second pair at half price.'  This being reckoned a good thing, I began scanning the shelves for another identical pair. [This was a self-service shoe store--no one popping up with offers of help.]
No identical pair turned up and the alternatives I pulled out were rejected.
At the check out desk Jim voiced his disappointment that he couldn't take advantage of the half price offer.  There followed a lengthy exchange with the cashier who assured him that she could take his address details and have another pair shipped to our address--shipping charges waived.

Bobby Mac enjoys the sun-warmed concrete of the landing while I prune straggling lavender.

Exiting the shoe store we were battered by wind, pushed across the parking lot toward the car.  Traffic lights bounced wildly on the wires strung above each intersection, sunlight glittering on the colored lenses.  Headed into the supermarket I felt my shirt flattened against my back, hair whipped forward around my face.
We anticipated a weekend visit from Jim's younger sister [inclement weather changed her plans] and enjoyed selecting fresh fruits [bananas, two varieties of apples, kiwis]  veg for salads, broccoli for steaming.  At the fresh fish counter Jim chose fillets of salmon.
He was unable to bypass a bakery case with frosted donuts temptingly on display.

Ranks of mayapple stand at attention in the woods beyond the stable.

The donut purchase reminded Jim that it had been awhile since breakfast--and that donuts are best washed down with freshly brewed coffee.
A one-way access loop took us past a fast food place that Jim rated as unacceptable, but another was situated on the highway that would take us home.

Making the loop I noticed across the verge a middle-aged man, nondescript dog on a lead beside him, holding out a placard which proclaimed in wobbly letters, "Hungry!  God Bless!"
'Pan-handling' [the more archaic term 'begging'] is an old sideline.  I am distressed by this--wondering if we drive on ignoring a genuine need, thereby adding to the discouragement of another human, or if by stopping to donate one is merely 'feeding' an addiction for alcohol or drugs.  I fretted aloud, noting that the presence of the dog fueled my unease.  Something in me wanted to buy a sack of dog kibble and take it back--compassion at least for the animal.

I remembered when as a child I was walking hand in hand with my father on a street in the nearest small city---a place where we ventured only a few times per year.
A man of about my father's age approached, and asked for money, stating that he 'hadn't eaten since yesterday.'  Somewhat flustered, I think, my Dad rummaged in his wallet, pulled out a bill and handed it over.  He drew me a few steps along the sidewalk, then turned to observe the man, remarking wryly, "I think I've just been taken.  If he was really hungry he would have turned in right there at the diner. Probably wanted money for cigarettes or drink."

Wild blue phlox in bud.

We ordered sandwiches at a fast food stop--mine eaten with twinges of guilt regarding the man and his canine companion. 
Gusts buffeted the car as we drove home through the bright and windy afternoon. 
The cats converged on us demanding their tea.
My message box bristled with communications: a note from Jim's sister explaining that the forecast of bad weather beginning there on Friday and stretching through the weekend would postpone her anticipated visit.  She had phoned daughter Gina wondering why she couldn't contact us by phone--which elicited a stream of indignant messages from G. to the effect that we had caused concern by 'wandering off without telling anyone!'
[The implication being that in our doddering state we might forget the way home!']

On Friday we opened windows to the sun and the wind. I laundered sheets and quilts, securing them to the clothesline with extra pegs. 
A gust of wind slammed shut the shop door, pulling loose the door jamb, leaving Jim to sputter about other people's lack of good carpentry skills as he realigned splintered wood and set new screws.

Willis and I walked along the flower-strewn track into the woods, Willis keeping me company as I gathered slender fallen branches to use as fire starters. 
Gina and Matt volunteered to come for supper to help us consume our abundance of fresh food.
After their departure, quilts rescued from the wind and folded away, I walked down the lane to visit the baby goats--there are now three!
Josephine the blue tortie barn cat rolled on her back at my feet by way of greeting, Renny the marmalade boy inquired plaintively if I had brought table scraps.

 As I meandered back up the lane, the air at dusk had a fragrant softness, a scent of awakened soil, of cool water splashing along the gravel run of the seasonal brook. 

Willis met me at the bend in the lane, laid back his ears when Sally-the Troll-Cat made a skittering dash in his direction. 

Small pellets of snow have fallen today in five minute bursts--clinging briefly to dry seed heads before melting away.

The promised stormy weather reached us during the grey hours before daylight on Saturday, some hours later than reported by our family in Alabama and Tennessee. Thunder rattled briefly, sending Bobby Mac hurtling  down the stairs toward his storm shelter--the windowless bathroom where he can wedge himself behind a laundry basket.
Throughout the weekend rain has pelted down, blown against the windows in icy bursts. Perennials stretching optimistically in last week's warmth, now huddle against the cold ground.
The boy cats demand to go out, return disgruntled and damp-furred.

Now, at 4 PM, the thermometer has fallen to 32 F. Fat damp flakes of snow are swirling thickly outside the kitchen windows.  I must pull on boots, a hooded jacket, gloves,  and once more pin coverings over my blighted clematis vines.
Our spring is 'far behind!'

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Issues with Blogger

For several days I've been unable to view photos on my own blog or on any supported by blogger.
Wordpress blogs are fine. I've run through my feeble repertoire of problem solving, so likely hauling the PC to the fixer shop in town will be the last resort.
The [very] slow transition into spring continues--two warm sunny days--windy--and more rain!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"Take It In F"

I thumped down in Grampa Mac's rocking chair--my refuge of choice--dropping my old sneakers on the floor within reach, unfolding a clean pair of socks.  Before I could toe off my fleece-lined slippers, Teasel-cat landed in my lap. 
Teasel, in plump middle cat age, is most gregarious on chilly mornings, wanting to be held or carried about while I croon, "Beautiful cat! Pretty girl!"  When I am in the rocking chair she remembers that the cat brush and comb are handy by on the end of the counter.

I've had a week with more aches and fatigue than usual, so a session of cat coddling near the warmth of the wood stove didn't come amiss.
Jim was gathering outdoor gear, ready for a day of wood-cutting.
Teasel trod happily about in my lap, purring, preening under the strokes of the brush.

"Look at us, " I announced wryly. "If I could take a 'selfie' it would be captioned, 'Old woman in rocking chair with cat.'

Teasel eventually decided the grooming session had continued long enough and with a contented "Purr--oww" bounced to the floor.
I pulled on my shoes, heaved myself up and in desultory fashion contemplated the small chores of the morning.  Passing my desk on the way to collect the laundry, I noted a message from my dear friend, Bunnie:  "Ray needs to talk to you about a song." 

The house phone rang almost before I finished messaging our number.
Our friend Ray, is a versatile self-taught musician, a guitarist with a warm tenor voice.  Bunnie often adds a gentle harmony when they sing together for our church.

Recently Ray has acquired a collection of Native American flutes in varying 'keys.'  He plays haunting melodies, sometimes adding an a capella vocal verse. 
Ray has decided that the mellow tones of the flutes are enhanced by piano accompaniment.

Depending on the chosen flute--flutes-- if there is a key change planned midway--the pianist needs to transpose hymn tunes or melodies.

One of the pleasanter legacies of my maternal DNA is the ability to 'play by ear,' create alternative harmonies, and to transpose a familiar piece to suit the whim of singer or instrumentalist. 
"How do you do that?" I've been asked.
My explanation that I hear the appropriate notes 'in my head' and sing or play them, is met by most people with expressions of bewilderment.
For me [and for my cousins who sing the same way] it is simply what we've always been able to do.

A few weeks ago when accompanying Ray, I missed a chord--we were playing in the key of C--nearly impossible to mess up--but I got slightly rattled and struck a G major chord instead of C major.

This morning, at his daughter's home for the week, Ray had 'only' three flutes with him.
He announced [over the phone] that 'we' were going to play the classic, 'O Sacred Head Now Wounded'--rich with plaintive minor chords and the embellishments of J. S. Bach. 
"Are you near the piano?" 
I hastened to the piano, clutching the phone, forgetting that I could have put it on speaker to free both hands. 
I plonked unhappily at black keys as the notes of the flute floated over the airwaves. 
I floundered hopelessly--4 sharps?
Ray tried the next flute--more black keys, perhaps 5 or even 6 flats.
"Ray, I can't do that!"
"Well, hold on, I've got one more."
Again the familiar melody--"Hold that first note--I've got it!  Key of F!"
By the second time through I had the harmonies, the rich and somber chords.

This time, however, I won't trust to memory, won't risk being rattled.
Several friends have told me of computer programs which transpose a melody to any chosen key and miraculously produce a printable score.
Much as I detest the learning curve associated with an unfamiliar program or gadget, I daresay I need to explore such an option.
It is one thing to sit down and play through a piece, varying the chord progression slightly with each verse.
It is quite a different undertaking to transcribe the correct notes by hand to staff paper. 
Struggling with brain fog I went through several sheets of paper, sitting at the piano to ink in notes, returning to the kitchen table, trying to achieve a neat copy.

My working copy isn't perfect; I blacked in a chord here and there which should have been left 'white' to indicate a half note; I misplaced a measure bar or two.
I've not written in the walking bass notes or the modulations in the alto line--for those I can trust my ear and familiarity with the original arrangement.

When playing hymns I tend to strike melody, alto and tenor with my right hand and add the bass in octaves. There are only a few individuals in our small congregation who read music and 'sing parts.'  When they are present, I need to limit myself to the harmony as written.  Otherwise, I embellish the harmony spontaneously.

As I worked at my messy transposing today, I remembered the years in Wyoming when we often sang informally with a group of gifted musicians, most of whom played without 'reading notes.'  
Old cowboy songs, bluegrass gospel, classic country music--most of it typed or hand-written on loose-leaf notebook pages, chords penciled in.
Someone would choose a song, announce, "Let's try this in G."
"Too high," might be the protest after a few bars.
"OK--take it in F." 
A new riff from the rhythm guitar---fresh chords struck on mandolin, upright bass, guitars, and we were off, strong lead voices, high and lower harmony, ringing with the pure joy of making music.

Sadly, my singing voice has become a ravenish croak, the 4th finger on my right hand has stiffened.  My confidence in my musical abilities is a tad bit shaken. 
But, I'm doing my homework, the inky notes wobble across the paper, Bach's harmonization is on loop-play in my head.
With any luck, we'll take it in F.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Turning the Page: March to April

The first two days of April haven't been an auspicious representation of what is meant to be springtime.
March is always a capricious month in terms of weather; this year balmy days at the end of February encouraged pear and cherry trees to bloom, roses to put forth leaves, only to be blighted by nights below the freezing mark.
March, 2018, will be memorable for a succession of grey days, mizzling cold rain that sometimes grew to downpour status.

Peonies clambering through a tangle of mugwort and dried grass.

Perennials--and weeds--have continued to emerge from the chilly soil.
Having learned that my most invasive weed is 'mugwort'--a plant with thuggish characteristics--I'm not optimistic about keeping ahead of it. 

Jim discovered that a large sweet potato living beneath a pantry shelf had sprouted. 
Sweet potato plants are sold here in bundles of 25 slips--really more than we need. If these sprouts grow on well there should be enough for a decent crop.

I was amused to note that our neighbor's goats didn't recognize me when I walked down the lane during a sunny break in the cloud cover.  If you look closely you will see their guard dog, Aneto, huddled behind them.  Starting to the right of Aneto, the goats are named Chinkapin; Zenobia; Delphinium; Edelweiss; Daffodil. 

As happened last year, the nameless rose in the fence corner has been hardest hit by frost.
When we have a dry and sunny day I will give it a sharp pruning. 

Blue skies and sunshine have been rare enough that they must be recorded.

 Creeping phlox must be a short-lived perennial.  The roadside bank below the big house at the end of the lane was covered in mats of bloom--pink, blue, lavender--for the first two years that we were here.  Now only a few bedraggled patches remain.

Cobwebs dotted the browned area near the side porch on Saturday morning.  This sloping area isn't worthy of the term 'lawn'--it is a rough area of mixed grasses, invading dandelions and low-growing weeds--Jim keeps it mowed, but it gets no other refinements. 

Tulips planted by the former owner have [finally] blossomed at the foot of a cedar where the 'lawn' meets the gravel lane.

Violets are appearing in the verge along the lane.

The potted miniature roses have been moved to the south-facing edge of the side porch.

We wait for the season to sort itself, hoping to experience a gentle spring before pitching headlong into summer.