Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Ten days of grueling, messy work, by the men, and the main floor of the house was ready for paint.
Jim announced that Howard and I should go to Lowes Home Improvement in Campbellsville and purchase 2 five gallon buckets each of primer and wall paint.
For months on each trip to Lowes I have added paint sample cards to my stash, spreading them out from time to time to compare the minute differences in shades of 'off-white.'

There are those who find 'off-white' totally boring. I prefer a neutral background--restful, non-demanding--which allows for what the decorating industry currently refers to as 'pops of color' supplied by my quilts, curtains and collectibles.
I narrowed my choices to three: 'Thistle Seed;' Quail's Egg;' 'Muslin Wrap.'  [Ever wonder who dreams up the exotic names for paint colors?]
I chose 'Muslin Wrap'--a warm cream that doesn't present as 'yellow.'
The open living area/great room will have wainscoting; the two main floor bedrooms will have chair rail with a different color paint below.

I pondered the options.  My color preferences in quilt and drapery  fabrics, as well as paint for refinished wooden pieces, have long been the 'Early American' shades of faded dark red, old gold, grey-green.  Bright 'hot' colors set my teeth on edge, pastels don't inspire.
I dithered between a warm golden yellow [Early Morning]  a color labeled 'Mystic Mocha' [used in several of the bedrooms at the farmhouse] and a sage green [Dried Sage.]
I stood in the bedrooms at different times of day, considering what the effect would be. 

Typically, the trip to buy paint was announced suddenly during breakfast on Thursday.
["If you want paint for those bedrooms, we're going to Russell Springs in half an hour!"]
I hauled my folder of paint samples from the cupboard, hastily shuffling out the favorites.

My fingers paused on a sample I have used as an 'accent wall' both at the Amish farmhouse and the Bedford stone house which we refurbished and soon sold.
'Hand-Loomed Scarlet,' a faded 'antique' red which makes a statement without screaming.

I applied the first coat to the north-west bedroom yesterday, working around the men who are now laying down floors.
If you've worked with paint, you know that reds are considered 'transparent' colors. It takes several coats applied to achieve coverage

These trim pieces were purchased already primed. 
I have applied two coats of semi-gloss 'Swiss Coffee.'
Yesterday I was directed to a work space set up in the back area of the basement, and instructed to paint a stack of narrow molding which Howard had already primed and sanded.
The boards were laid out on a trestle constructed of two folding sawhorses and 2 x 4's. I began painting but wasn't satisfied with the lighting that had been hung in the stairwell. 
[The electrical inspector is dragging his feet on the final permit needed to 'turn on' the permanent electrical service.]
I decided that working from the opposite end of the trestle would provide better light on the length of the molding strips.
I had finished about 3/4 of the work, carefully moving each painted strip to the far end of the 2x4's when the whole set up went down with a crash. The painted strips clattered to the floor in disarray; the paint cup and brush overturned splattering paint in dripping streams.
I bellowed in outrage and dismay--provoked to using a scatological term.
Jim and Howard pounded down the stairs!
Howard snatched up the overturned paint container and brush, while Jim righted the overturned sawhorses.
I was treated to exasperated queries: 'Why on earth were you working from that side?'  
'Couldn't you see that you were over-balancing the supports by loading the finished pieces on that end?'
No, I didn't see that or of course I wouldn't have done it!

I suggested that I should have been warned not to work from 'that side' of the set up.

'We didn't tell you because anyone in their right mind should have known what would happen!'

Howard, in spite of dire mutterings, was quickly brushing down the paint which had been flung on my finished work. I attempted to dip up puddles of paint which had landed on the floor, furiously lamenting the waste of paint and the spoiling of my careful work. 
Forcing a calm which I didn't feel, I took another brush and subsided, smoothing out drips, rearranging finished strips. 
With that accomplished, I excused myself from working on the remaining lengths of molding. 
I needed to settle my feathers and decided that folding clean laundry might provide a soothing interlude.
It has been suggested that I appear and continue with applying hand-loomed scarlet paint to the bedroom walls.
I shall bundle up against the windy walk up the lane, hoping for a stint of painting without drama.

The resident experts on all things construction and paint related.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Chance Encounters


The 'stilts' leaning near the wall have exceeded Howard's expectations in facilitating the finishing of drywall.
He discovered them on a local craigslist post and made arrangements to collect them.
The owners gave him their address in the next town which he entered into the GPS app on his phone.
I was invited to ride along, as did Jim and of course, Howard's dogs.

The precise directions delivered in the cultured tones of 'Siri' took us along familiar routes and then directed a left hand turning onto a side road. This was quickly followed by another turn onto a narrow one lane track. Although a bit unexpected, such back roads aren't uncommon here.

The track followed the bends of a steep-banked creek;  clear brown water danced and dappled in the sunlight which pierced the tangle of bare branches overhead.
The road crossed the creek bed at several points, again not uncommon in rural Kentucky.
I was ensconced in the back seat on the side where I had a good view of the creek bank.  I remarked that the route seemed an unlikely one, but the men were jovial.
"Can't back up, no place to turn around, so on we go, " replied Howard the driver.

The track ran out at last onto a more civilized road; Siri guided us across a narrow bridge and into the back yard of a simple white farmhouse.
A slender grey-bearded man was loading items into the back of a pickup; a tall woman emerged from the garage, faded tawny hair cascading below her shoulders. Around them danced a throng of barking dogs, whose tails wagged in greeting.
Katy and Dixie answered them adding to the canine cacophony. 
Jim and Howard descended from the truck, hands reaching to pat and reassure the dogs

Whenever I'm invited along on errands I have either a book or a pile of magazines to occupy me during what can become extended waiting.
Katy and Dixie subsided and I settled back, enjoying the antics of the resident dogs.

There were four of them; an elderly Golden Retriever, shaggy and white muzzled; a busy black lab; a comical small caramel-colored creature of indeterminate ancestry.  The 4th dog was black with white on his chest and missing one front leg. He lurched gamely about in the milling throng. Every few moments the man stopped his work to speak to the dogs, pat the nearest head.

I sat in the sun, turning the pages of a magazine, absorbed in the photos detailing the renovation of a country home.
After a time I wondered what was taking so long. Howard and the slender man were conversing, Jim and the tall woman were out of sight.  Immersed again in my magazine, I didn't notice Jim approaching the truck and was startled when he tapped on the window.
'You have to come in and see this house!'
I landed on the spongy ground beside him, automatically putting out a hand to the exuberant young dog.
'Why do I need to go in?'
'You'll see.'
The woman was waiting at the back door.  She had smoothly chiseled features, fine lines at the corners of eyes and mouth, stood tall in faded jeans and a warm quilted jacket.
A short entry hall led into the main house.
I looked about appreciatively.
Dark pine floors, walls painted the color of bleached linen.
Upholstery, cushions, accessories, all mirrored the rooms in my favorite magazines.
I admired a reproduction primitive hutch.
'My ex-husband made that, made most of the furniture.  I'm putting the house on the market, fully furnished.' A tinge of bitterness crept into the quiet New England voice. 'Twenty eight years. I'm not taking anything with me as a reminder.'
We finished the tour of the house making neutral conversation: houses, the work of building and restoration, mentioned the New England museums where our mutual love of early American houses and furniture had been nurtured.

We stood outside, the five of us, the four dogs, in the bright sun, in the rising wind.
There was in that random meeting a sense of fleeting recognition. 
I patted the dogs again, the gallant three legged chap, the little bouncing minx.
The men shook hands, I thanked the woman for showing us her house. 
The gentleman's eyes were kind beneath the blue bandana that covered his hair against the dust of his tasks. Glancing from me to the dogs, he laid his hand lightly on my shoulder as he said goodbye, acknowledging, I think, the kinship between all those who love animals and country places.

We've spoken several times, Jim and I, of that farmhouse with its gracious, somehow familiar rooms.
Had it been on the market 6 months ago would we have offered on it, or would we have seen the folly of taking on [again!] a five bedroom house, spaces so much larger than we need?
I've thought of the big kitchen, warmed by a wood-burning range. No central heat or air, so much to keep and maintain. Not far away if one drives the correct roads, but away from the neighborhood where we chose to remain and build this one last home.
I wonder who will live there--who will cherish the white farmhouse of many rooms so charmingly styled by other hands.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mornings and Evenings

It is still dark on these winter mornings when I lever myself cautiously out of bed, wary of thumping my head on the rim of cupboards which jut over the head of the bed. I feel for my slippers in the narrow space between bed and adjoining wall, my bare foot encountering the fur of Charlie-cat who has taken to sleeping along-side the bed. 
Negotiating the step down into the tiny hallway--toilet cubicle on one side, shower on the other, I hear muffled thuds as cats decant from the foot of the bed to follow me into the kitchenette.

Closing the sliding door, I fumble for the handiest light switch, then pick my way across the camper's living space to push up the shades on the east facing window.
Jim leaves a work light on in our house-in-progress, a few hundred yards up the rise of the lane; the faint yellow glow of the lamp through early morning murk is the only break in the darkness at 7 a.m. Eastern Time. 
I open the door to let out the cats who have spent the night with us, take kibble to the two 'barn cats, Willis and Sally, who are waiting for their breakfast.
Jim emerges when the aroma of coffee perking on the gas stove becomes irresistible. 
He opens more of the folding blinds, settles at his desk which faces an east window.
If the slow dawning of the day shows the faintest blush of pink, I go out, slipper-footed, camera in hand.  In this mid-winter of grey and bleak weather any morning which hints at sunshine deserves to be recorded.

Sunday morning had promise. The damp of the lane bit through my slippers as I stood below the house watching the sky.  Heaps of displaced soil loomed around me, my zoom lens moved the hedgerow trees closer, foreshortening the field beyond the house site.

A retinue of felines trailed behind me as I turned and trudged back toward our winter encampment; the shed built by former owners, our large camper, Howard's smaller one, both sited to take advantage of the electrical and septic systems in place when we purchased the property.

By mid-morning the day had gained a warmth suggestive of springtime.

I found that once my housekeeping tasks were done I needed to be outdoors.
I marveled at the deep blue of the sky, the fleeciness of white clouds, the sharp tracery of branches. 

I aimed the camera at treetops, dizzying views.

Is it my imagination, a trick of light, or do these branches show a hopeful hint of renewed life to come?

The land drops steeply in the northwest corner. Birds busy themselves in the tangle of shrubbery and trees which straggle down the ravine.

Sundown came with a palette of apricot, amber, rose and gold, melting against darkening blue.


The sun slid behind the ridge in a final blaze of peach and fiery coral against a backdrop of dusky lavender and mauve. 
[My mind struggles at such moments to define the shifting panorama of color and light.]

Monday's sunrise was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Color exploded into the eastern sky, wrapped around the entire horizon, spreading hot pink, coral, rose and lavender high above the tree tops.

The vibrant colors washed along the southern tree line, seeped into the western sky, surrounding us in vivid color before seguing into a brilliant blue which rivaled that of the preceding day.

We had errands to do and rode through the morning of climbing sun and scudding white clouds. Contrails sketched intersecting lines which disappeared in the distance. The whole landscape seemed dominated by the enormous bright sky.

I had to drive into town after lunch.  The road winds south by southwest, into the sun at that hour.  The temperature stood at 66 F. I pulled down the sun visor against the glare of brightness.
A wind had come up pushing cloud formations in crumbs and shreds, streaks and billows.
As I neared town I noticed an edge of grey bleeding upwards into the expanse of blue. Walking around the town square to the bank, the rising wind whipped my hair.

By the time I headed home the brilliance of the day had dwindled to piled masses of cloud in every shade of grey.  Fine needles of rain spotted the windshield, never enough to turn on the wipers, but enough to warn that we have enjoyed our two days of sun. Time again to be enveloped in the pale skies of winter.

Tonight's dusk brought no rich shades of rose or gold.
Smokey grey clouds curled along the horizon.

Evening drew in. The cats, usually reluctant to come inside, were quick to crowd through the door at Jim's heels. 
The night is quiet with only an occasional riff of wind, a light spatter of rain against the camper windows.