Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Day In The Morning

A glowing Christmas Eve sunset didn't fulfill the promise of a sunny morning.

We arose a bit later than usual in deference to the day, to view a blue-grey sky quickly covered in pearly clouds.
It seemed the day would pass in the quiet somber hues that have been our company for many weeks.

At noon the sun came out. It is tentative sunshine, sometimes nearly obscured by cottony clouds.

The lane between our camper/caravans and the new house.
Even a partially sunny day needs to be recorded and appreciated.

Given our cramped quarters and tiny kitchenette, I have been relieved of holiday cooking this year.
No fruit pies or dinner rolls. 
The kitchen is fitted with an 18 inch propane 'cooker'. There are 4 burners, so tightly spaced that it is a juggle to manage even 3 pans. The bitty oven is intimidating; I've not attempted to use it.
My contributions to this year's Christmas feast [being ably prepared and hosted by daughter and SIL] are a 'fluffy' fruited jello salad, concocted yesterday, and the above dessert, 'Oreo Delight Pudding' aka 'Dirt Pudding' [for the crumbled cookie topping.]
It contains enough decadently fattening ingredients to be appealing: Oreo cookies, cream cheese, chocolate pudding, Cool Whip.

Jim continued with house siding yesterday.

Lower level entrance with a covered area that will likely be quite utilitarian.

Not wanting to waste mild temperatures and sunshine, Jim has continued this morning.
It is encouraging to see the house looking more 'finished' outside. A carport will be constructed alongside this entrance.
Interior work is now waiting on the man who is meant to apply foam insulation in parts of the house. 
Then drywall and painting can be done.

There's not been much I can do to help.
I have been responsible for applying the stain to much of the siding--the boards laid out on trestles in the house and the stain rolled on.  My right shoulder has definitely registered this contribution.
Beyond that, I keep the men stoked with [very] simple hearty food, the laundry done.

Housekeeping in the camper is at an untidy minimum with half a dozen cats in and out, coats and boots with no proper place to stow them, various household items shuffled from one spot to another.
At that, I'm reminded that the camper offers a warm, dry, temporary abode, surely far more comfortable than some.

I have moments of impatience for a 'real' house--such as when I slam my head one more time on the overhanging cupboard ledge while making up the bed. 
Meanwhile I can appreciate the focused progress that continues at the hands of two good builders.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Changing Faces Of A Neighborhood

The above link was shared by blog friend Mundi.

When we left our native Vermont in 1998, there was no Amish presence in the state. 
Driving through rural Pennsylvania and Ohio decades ago we noted immaculate Amish farms, signs posted to alert drivers that the roads were shared by horse and buggy traffic. It was something of a novelty to pass a field where a span of work horses pulled a plow or to point out distinctively Amish clothing billowing on a washing line.

When we traveled to Kentucky in late winter of 2010 in search of a new home, we were shown a number of Amish properties.
We learned that two Amish communities existed within the county, but that a general exodus of families had begun a few years earlier.
We became acquainted with some of our Amish neighbors who lived near our first Kentucky home.
Most of the Amish men heading these families worked as day laborers in local sawmills or similar semi-skilled occupations.
The women stayed at home, caring for their large flocks of children, tending chickens, milking a cow--if they had one--sewing the family clothing on treadle sewing machines, and somehow, in their 'spare time' creating traditional quilts.
They were decent and interesting neighbors, but we soon learned that they were not shy in requesting our services as 'drivers.'  While a number of retirees offered 'for hire' taxi service, shuttling children to the local Amish school, or conveying the women, toddlers in tow, to do their grocery shopping, it wasn't a convenience we intended to furnish on demand.

The exchange of our first property for the Amish farm brought us into contact with the remnant of a far more prosperous Amish community.
We learned that many of the Old Order families who had been in residence there for decades had already departed and that more would soon disperse.
Little more than a year ago the community had dwindled to a point that the remaining households were being urged to relocate.

Amish farm and workshop at dusk.

Amish families tend to relocate in groups. Within a generation intermarriage creates a large extended tribe, children are often  'double cousins,' the result of a family of sons finding brides in a nearby household where daughters predominated.
Thus, one reason for periodic relocation is the need to marry outside the immediate local bloodlines.

Other reasons have a darker cause.
Each community that lives and worships as a group is ruled by a local 'bishop.'
The traditions for living as Old Order Amish are many and stringent, many of them seeming contradictory to our 'English' reasoning.
'Plain' living in the most local community has dictated the use of outhouses or privies;  bathing is conducted by means of a primitive 'shower' usually rigged in a corner of the 'washroom' space where laundry is done.
In the community at the other end of the county it was permissible to have an indoor flush toilet and a bathtub--if the means for running hot water could be contoggled without the use of electricity.

If an Amish family purchased an 'English' house they were allowed to make use of the existing amenities for a year before being required to shut off the electric and revert to a simpler lifestyle.

A point of contention several winters ago became disruptive when some of the younger men replaced their traditional straw hats with woolen 'toboggan caps' during a particularly cold spell.
The bishop decreed that they 'didn't look Amish enough' and ordered them to wear the straw hats on top of the warmer head gear! 
Other infractions might include slyly acquiring a cell phone, a transistor radio. 

Each group of 'plain people'--the Old Order, the Beachy Amish, the Mennonites--have their [to us] rigid interpretation of what constitutes a proper tradition, and the breaking of rules is a serious matter requiring rebuke and discipline.
Apparently if a family feels that they have been singled out for a scolding while other families are perhaps doing the same, this can lead to several households packing up and moving to another community.

The proprietor of the local cafe and store lives with his family in a house purchased from a departing Amish family.  As we did with our Amish farm, he installed electricity and modern plumbing--the reverse process followed by the Amish who must strip an English house of such 'worldly' fixtures.

In our nearly 5 years in this neighborhood we've witnessed the conversion of several young Amish families who have 'gone English.'  This is a difficult transition as they are then 'shunned' by the Amish community, even by their own parents. Having a 'modern' lifestyle, a vehicle, being able to choose ordinary clothing, is a heady liberation, but there is also loneliness, the need to forge new friendships, to seek fresh worship alternatives, to find ways of interacting with non-Amish neighbors.
One young couple whom we know made the transition to English, reverted to Amish, then again left the familiar fold.

Local Amish schoolhouse with the wood fire stoked for the night.

During the past year, we heard cautious speculation that new families would be joining the local Amish community. The married daughter of one of the established patriarchs returned with her husband and several young children. Their home is an 'English' one that had been on the market since before we sought a property in 2010. 
A woman whose prosperous parents and younger married sister left the community several years ago has returned with her husband and teen-aged children, buying and renovating one of the few Amish built houses still available.  Lena's younger brother recently purchased a handsome English house and has already constructed a large white barn and workshop.  Her husband's brother has transferred his household here from the now defunct community at the other end of the county. 

In the waning days of autumn we noticed a gathering of Amish men working to cut grass, mow weeds and refurbish a long empty small house situated just along from the store.  A wash line appeared, blooming with blue shirts and trousers in descending sizes, wood smoke belched from a chimney; small boys have become a frequent sight, pulling a grocery laden wagon [rather dangerously] down the road between store and home
Several times recently, driving home from town in the evening, we have come upon groups of Amish young people out walking--have wished that they would carry a lantern or flashlight. 
There are fresh faces at the store--several pretty teenage girls who smile shyly, younger men who shoulder a bag of horse or chicken feed to tote home.
There are more buggies on the road, frequently a horse tethered to the hitching post outside the store while the owner does her shopping.

Alfred, the store owner, is in a place to hear the latest news from the Amish community.  He tells us that several of the 'new' families are the younger generation who were raised here. Others are older couples who, sensing a more gracious atmosphere, have chosen to return.
The man who has served, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, as local bishop, has relinquished that post to the elder who served as bishop previously.
Certain rules may be modified, the community may prosper again.

As Alfred puts it, 'these are some of the finer people who are returning.'
Amish men have a degree of contact with the world; their work allows them some travel.  They hire 'drivers' to take them on a day's outing--fishing, stopping at a cafe to buy a snack, going out and about to transact banking or other business.
The women are mostly dependent on each other for social outings. They may organize a quilting bee or gather to share the work of canning. They show up with brooms and mops to help a new family settle in, bringing food to share.

For the women, there is the anticipation of  Sunday gatherings of worship and fellowship, now enlivened by the 'new' but likely related households.
As Alfred puts it--we may not understand all their ways or agree with their traditions, but the Amish families tend to be good neighbors, ready to help when needed, otherwise minding their own business.
Given names in the inter-related Amish families follow a pattern that is bewildering to me; many of the names have biblical overtones:  Mary, Anna, Elizabeth, Hannah, Rebecca. Less frequently one meets a Delilah, Naomi, Lovina. 
 Men are called Jacob, Levi, Joseph, Menno, Mose, Eli, Daniel, Noah, Andrew.
Eli's wife, Mary, is a sister to Anna--who is married to Eli's brother Mose. 
When speaking of a particular Amish person it is becoming increasingly necessary to recite details of lineage, as surnames are also common. Several of the young women have married without the need to change their surname, "Miller."
I wonder if we will learn to assign correct names to the new faces. More likely we will be using simpler designations: 'Dan' who had the dog that whirled dementedly at the edge of the road when a car approached--here now from the community at the other end of the county; '
Rebecca' who is the daughter of Jacob and Mrs. Mary, who has a younger sister, Mary, a cousin Mary.
Slowly, perhaps some of the bearded visages beneath the straw hats will resolve into the various patriarchs, the faces framed by 'head coverings' will be sorted into family households.

For a time I think we'll be identifying our new neighbors as 'the ones who are building a sawmill' or the 'short gentleman who drives the pony cart, 'the pretty girl with red hair.'
In the meantime, we watch the revival of the neighborhood with interest.

Bleak Mid-Winter

I didn't take photos on this grey and dismal day, but this one from earlier in the month portrays our solstice weather.
After two days of relative warmth and sunshine, the weather deteriorated again on Thursday.
By bedtime a drizzle of rain had increased to a steady drumming on the metal roof of the camper. 
Jim, who finds this a snug and cozy situation, went early to bed.
When I joined him more than an hour later, he and several cats had appropriated most of the bed!

I had errands this morning; 3 gallons of Cabots stain to pick up at a hardware store in the next county, then a drive along the back way into town to the chiropractor. 
After, I poked through items on offer at the Goodwill store and braved Wal Mart for a few necessities, each stop resulting in a bit more moisture collecting on jacket and hair.
There was little traffic on the road coming home.

I stopped at the house to lug in the pails of stain, make admiring noises regarding the work of the day.
At the camper I was greeted by Willis the Cat, who poked his head round the shed door, then stepped daintily through wet leaves and gravel to escort me while I brought in groceries.

On this longest of dark evenings the camper seems especially confining--cluttered, untidy.
Still, I have sat to read with a mug of tea, bolstered about with the cats who are sharing my chair.
I have made soup for tomorrow--cream of butternut squash.

The increase of daylight will be slow, mere increments, scarcely noticeable for several weeks.
We live now in a part of the country where winter is more about freezing rain, sometimes sleet, with only an occasional snow of any account.
Accustomed for years to heavy snow, blizzards, temperatures hovering below zero F. we sometimes are amused at the school closings and cancellations here at the first dusting of snow.
Narrow winding roads, a landscape of steep ridges and deep ravines doubtless encourage caution.

In retirement we are blessed with the choice to postpone errands, to stay busy at home.
We may grumble a bit during a run of bleak wet days, but the sun does return!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Cat Comfort Zones

A well fed feline doesn’t seem to mind a few encounters with weather which will send me scuttling hastily indoors.
During decades of sharing our home environs with cats, I’ve noticed an intriguing behavior pattern re nasty weather.  The cat is going to go out!  Having sampled the cold/snow/rain, said cat will demand to come back inside and we, the humble servants, hasten to do his bidding.
The best chair or the pretty quilt spread over the bed become places of choice for grooming soggy fur, drying wet and muddy paws.

Once warmed, the cat inevitably requests to go outside again.  Teetering on the doorstep while cold drafts swirl about the ankles of the attending human, CAT beseeches us to change the weather.  Surely we beings who provide food and the comforts of home should have it in our power to raise the temperature, calm the wind and call a halt to falling sleet or snow.

Sally prefers the wicker bench which has been a mainstay of the front porch in our several Kentucky homes. 

We always provide a variety of inviting ‘nests’ to shelter our outdoor cats from cold and storms.
Willis, that grandest of feline overseers, takes full advantage.  We are atuned to his desire to have his blanket draped canvas chair turned to catch the rare sunbeams that glance into the half open door of the shed.  His food tray is replenished so that should he  need a midnight snack there is no need to cross the chilly yard for a nibble from the bowl on the porch.

At our first Kentucky home, the small farm in Gradyville, grandson Devin and I went to great lengths to provide snug winter accommodations for the outdoor cats. Clambering up the stairs to the hay barn loft, we stacked hay bales to create several draught-free 'caves' which we lined with old down-filled sleeping bags. The cats, who had supervised this project, appeared quite indifferent to our solicitous arrangements. 

Willis, annoyed at having his afternoon nap interrupted for a photo op.

It was not uncommon to open the east-facing front door of the little house on a cold morning and find an assortment of ‘barn cats’ occupying a snow-dusted bench, whiskers and eyebrows bristling with frost.  

Chester, claiming one of the recliners in the camper.

The indoor cats, pampered darlings, step daintily into the cold, shaking  disgruntled paws at the first touch of snow or wet, while Willis and Co, wrapped in their ‘fur-abouts’ look on with the smug aplomb of hardier souls.
Once inside again, those with indoor/overnight status, are quick to stake out the coziest places.

Teasel has taken 'my chair.'

On my way to bed one late evening, I noted this cat pile:  Teasel, at left; Nellie, sprawled at center; Mima.

Bobby Mac [aka Robert] is the most intrepid in claiming his outdoor privileges--but appreciates a soft bed.
Chairs and sofa in the camper are draped in an assortment of throws, blankets and rugs--a vain attempt to protect upholstery!

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Few Sunny Hours

Documenting the on-going dreary weather doesn't make for good reporting.
I fear I may run out of suitable adjectives to describe this autumn and early winter of seemingly endless rain and chill.
Wednesday had been a typically overcast day, but suddenly at sunset, the sun appeared--a red-gold orb plunging toward the western horizon. 

In the path of the setting sun, leafless trees took on a fiery glow.

Even these few moments of light and color lifted our chilled spirits.

Sunday had been notable as a warm day with sunshine.
It was warm enough to crank open a window in the camper and let fresh air sweep through.
I pulled on my wellies and made a project of trundling the wheelie bin up to the burn pit; I invented small tasks to be done outdoors.
There was enough daylight remaining when Howard returned from the weekend at home to begin putting up the double-decker porch.
The shooting boom, rented for a month, was due to be returned on Monday.

By the end of the day the bottom posts were in place.

Shirt sleeve weather!

Planning for the second tier of porch posts.

By Monday morning, temperatures had plunged.  That evening brought snow--thick wet flakes.
The men soldiered on through the week, placing the rest of the porch posts and  nailing down the decking.

I do not do well with 'heights' and I don't parade along the edges of the deck!
The ground underfoot has been muddy and the wind has a definite bite.

Most afternoons I take my camera when I trudge up with hot drinks.

The construction of the porch puts the house in better balance. 
The mid upper section will become a 'sun room.'
Today [Friday] the plumbing is underway and the electricians appeared!
Although the weather has reverted to grey skies and chilly temperatures I am encouraged that progress is on-going!