Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas Day In The Morning

Weather on Christmas Day was in the high 60's F. If we had a picnic table we might have chosen to have the meal outdoors--or at least on the porch.

On the back porch, a 'wooly bear' awake from winter hibernation.

Men of the family gathered in the living room waiting for dinner.

Daughter and grandson chose to sit on the sun-drenched east porch.

The sunroom glows in noon light.

The main entry door at right of the photo and a view into the kitchen.
[My Sister-in-Law commented that she hadn't seen many photos of the house, so here are a few taken while we were reasonably tidy.]

I am very pleased with my lowered pastry counter--it makes rolling piecrust or kneading bread so much easier.
Counter tops created by son-in-law, Matt. Shelves and tile detail by son, Howard.

Shelf to the left of the sink.

At the end of the day--Edward, temporarily beribboned!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Days Before Christmas

The morning of the solstice dawned in quiet colors.

The sun lurked briefly behind the trees at the eastern edge of the meadow than faded into a soft pewter grey sky.

Clancy the black kitten sat in the window Jim had raised to let in fresh air--and let out some of the wood stove's abundant warmth.

Jim decided to take down the fire-ravaged tree that loomed uneasily over the site where we and our son lived in the two campers last winter when our house was under construction.

The wood is starting to go soft, but is still decent enough to put out good heat.

By Monday afternoon the woodshed was ranked with the result of his labors.
Notice how the chunks of beech glow in the sunlight.

Enjoying the warmth of the sun, a bit after noon on Monday I took the long way round the hay field to connect with the lane leading to the mailbox.
I hadn't really noticed this tree when it was covered in leaves, but walking past I was intrigued by the thick wrapping of vines now visible.

I don't think this is honeysuckle vine, but will take note in the spring to see if I can identify both tree and vine.
I spent Monday evening producing two entrees for Christmas dinner which will be hosted at our house.  Swedish Meatballs [I made 65!] will be served in gravy over mashed potatoes, and for those preferring a vegetarian dish there is  lasagna stuffed with several varieties of cheese and spinach.
We went to bed in a house smelling of meatballs [onion, garlic, worcestershire] and the warm breath of tomato sauce which covered the lasagna layers.

We have puttered through this balmy and sunny day before Christmas.
I lingered over pegging wash on the lines, drove down the ridge to the little store on the corner for a jug of milk and cartons of whipping cream.
I had an hour at the piano--practicing the music to accompany a friend's solo at church this week and then enjoying some of the less familiar carols that are my favorites.
Jim called on our Amish neighbors whose son was so badly injured in a logging accident early in November.
David has returned from the hospital, confined to a wheelchair without hope that he will walk again. 
I thought about this as I lingered outside tonight to enjoy the glorious sunset.
I grumble inwardly about the aches and stiffness of an aging body--but my legs still carry me on uncounted trips over the staircase each day and along the lane and around the perimeter of the field.

The sky to the southwest was already washed in golden sunset light when I left an apple cake cooling on the kitchen counter  and pushed a pan of brownies into the oven.

There was still blue sky surrounding the house and barn when I turned to look back from the middle of the hay meadow.

Jim had just wrestled an unwieldy chunk of wood into the stove and smoke billowed from the chimney, as dusk thickened. 

The sun going down in a blaze of glory!

Along the hedgerow to the east the sky deepened to dark blue, stained with the rich rose and smokey purple of the afterglow.

The sunset lingered, brilliant fire in the sky, hopefully a harbinger of another beautiful day--Christmas Day.
The house tonight smells of chocolate, and of apples, cinnamon, vanilla, and the caramel glaze poured over the cake.
My contributions for tomorrow's family meal are under control: the meatballs and gravy will go into the crockpot, the lasagna into the oven.  I will peel potatoes, perhaps make a Waldorf salad with the crisp Pink Lady apples brought home from the Beachy's Fresh Air Produce a scant mile 
down the road.
I will hoover up cat hair in the morning, take out the red-patterned tablecloth.
I don't set an elegant table--but the meal will be special, and we will enjoy our time with those of the family who can gather for the Christmas celebration.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

From Bleak To Bright

 I awoke at 5 surrounded by a wodge of felines. Strangely, the bedroom was chilly.  The last chunk of wood J. put in the stove at bedtime must have smoldered itself out.  I decided--as one does--to trudge to the bathroom and made a detour to confirm that the woodstove was indeed cold.  I resettled myself amongst the cats, turning to gaze at the winter-dark sky pin-pointed with the glint of stars. 

My pre-dawn reverie was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of a cat about to produce a hairball!
I swung out of bed in time to prod Nellie-cat off the rug. 
Turn on the light, clean up the mess, turn off light, return to bed.

By now I was chilled.  I could have done any of several things: clatter about building a fresh fire; fumble about in the dark living room finding the remote control for the electric heat; pull a quilt off the rack in the corner or fetch a blanket from the closet. The first two options would be too disruptive, and I was in that
 half-witted fog that made finding an extra  blanket unappealing.
One by one the cats returned to the bed and we lay bundled together until after 7.

There had been heavy frost overnight.  Sunrise was subdued, sending a band of light over a pale landscape.

As the sun slid above the horizon ice crystals began to sparkle along the wonky fence.

Willis, always on duty, soaking up the early sun.

There are snug 'nests' prepared on the back porch for the outdoor cats; Willis prefers the bench near the front door where he can keep track of doings.

By the time I walked up the lane to the mailbox the sky was brilliantly blue and the air had warmed. 
Puddles lingering after several rainy days had formed ice reflecting the sky.

It was far too lovely a day to stay indoors.  Camera in pocket, a fleecy scarf over my head, I decided to walk the perimeter of our open land.
I often forget that our deeded acreage includes this triangular sliver that runs from the bend in the lane down into the south ravine.

At the lower end of the property the Jane magnolia [planted by former owners] is wearing plump 'catkins.'

I've  often wondered why former owners built a house on the very edge of the ravine at the west end of the property.  Their back door must have opened onto this half-hidden path which winds steeply through brambles and small saplings.

In the shade ice crystals remained throughout the day.

 A tattered sycamore leaf.

"Someone" recently drove across the area where I transplanted foxglove.  J. insists he didn't do it. 
A strange place for wheel tracks even in this yard where tractors and pickup trucks are always towing things around.

Some weeks ago a night of heavy rain and wind toppled a dead beech growing in the side of the south ravine.  J. sliced up the branches that stretched onto the verge....

...and then pulled the trunk of the tree to the woodshed where it can be turned into firewood.

I think a limb was cut from this tree years ago and the 'wound' healed oddly.  By using a bit of imagination you can see an animal 'face' in the center of the circle.

Willis patrolled behind me as I made two rounds of the property.  He took time out to recline on a fallen log that was catching the sun.

Waiting for Willis to stretch himself and continue our walk I heard the rusty calls of sandhill cranes. 
It was a moment or two before they came into view flying from the north.
These moved swiftly on in the standard formation unlike those spotted several days ago as they hovered and circled.  J. suspects that group was 'resting in flight' or waiting on stragglers. 

At the top of the hayfield--dandelions!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Midway Through December

Sunrise on December 10th.

Although the sky was promising at first light the sun didn't gain in strength.
The air was damp and the wind nippy.

Mid-morning I was working in the kitchen when I noted J. outside pointing and beckoning. I stepped onto the front porch to inquire and he explained, "The sandhill cranes are going over, but they must be waiting for stragglers."
Usually when we notice the sandhill cranes on their early winter or spring migrations, they are a rather loosely formed group winging steadily across the sky, their cronking calls ringing loudly before they trail into the distance.
The behavior of this flock was different:  they circled, wheeling and spinning , staying above the house for nearly 10 minutes before the circle stretched and moved off to the south-west. 

Wednesday [11th] was clear and sunny, a day to bundle up and spend time outdoors.
There had been a light frost and fallen leaves were crisp underfoot.
I am fascinated by the patterns of branches etched against a winter sky.

The treeline on the north side of the house edges the ravine rather untidily.  Jim cleared some low-growing brush there, but left several dead stumps. The long narrow window in the main floor bathroom looks out into the trees. Drying my hands I glanced up and noted a large bird investigating the dead tree trunk. Several smaller woodpeckers bounced about in the branches of surrounding trees.  This was the best zoomed shot I could get of the larger bird. The distinctive black gorget and red swath on its head suggest a Northern Flicker.  The woods here are home to several members of the woodpecker family.

Walking back from the mailbox at the head of the lane I stopped to admire the reflections of our neighbor's cattle. 

The hedgerow which forms our eastern boundary line with  a small farm next door.

I wonder what sort of injury early on caused this tree to develop a twisted trunk.

Willis, faithful watch-cat. He likes this bench on the front deck, often staying there when we think he should be taking advantage of the greater shelter on the back porch.  It is typical of Willis to be waiting for us on our return, whether we've been away briefly or on a day long errand. 

The sun sank into a fiery sky on Wednesday evening and the nearly full moon climbed a star-strewn black sky.  In the wee hours of the morning, moonlight spilling across my pillow woke me, to turn toward the window and marvel. 
Thursday did not fulfill the promise of the brilliant sunset, and as the day progressed sullen clouds moved in. The full moon was hidden and the waning gibbous phase has likewise been invisible.

During the past several days of cloud and drizzle we have been busy indoors.
Jim asked where I wanted to hang this shelf which he made several years ago at the farm from a length of live-edge tulip poplar. 
It is now to the left of the woodstove displaying various vintage tools.

Rummaging through boxes I found this copy of a vintage sign which had never been unwrapped.  It now hangs to the right of the stove pipe. 

We had an errand in Campbellsville and strolled through the aisles of Peddlers' Mall hoping to find a small bookcase to slot in by my desk.  It needed to be large enough to place my printer on top. We found nothing suitable [in fact most of the furniture on offer was of the genre that I call '70's house trailer] so, pondering on the way home I thought of the small shelved unit which has been residing in the downstairs bathroom to hold towels and toiletries.
It is the exact width needed; Jim planed and fitted some lengths of oak lumber to make an extended top. This was an odd unit that we bought several years ago when we bargained for some cabinetry to install in the kitchen of our lower Amish farmhouse. It is a sturdy piece with shelves that can be positioned to suit items of various sizes.  The paint finish is more ivory than it appears in the photo. 
At some point I should paint it either white to match my desk or with my favorite matte black. 
It is very satisfying to repurpose and refurbish.

 My Christmas cactus in bloom in the sun room. 
I usually have amaryllis and/or paperwhite narcissus in bloom at Christmas, but forgot to order them this year. 

Rain has settled in, sometimes a mere damping drizzle, but increasing this afternoon to a deluge that is filling local streams, running along the roads in rushing, foaming torrents.
Thunder has boomed and rumbled.

The sun made feeble and unsuccessful efforts to break through steely clouds, to no avail.
We drove through rain to eat an early supper  at the local buffet we like, then home to make up the fire afresh and draw the curtains against the darkness.
The cats have found cozy spots; Jim is parked in front of his newly installed TV in the downstairs 'family room.'
I'm headed downstairs to press 24 quilt blocks and arrange them for the baby quilt in progress.

Each week our house takes on a more comfortable and familiar air as our small treasures are finally unpacked and displayed.
Yesterday I made bread and a cream of butternut squash soup--filling the rooms with enticing aromas that promised a lovely simple meal.
It is the season to enjoy the rare sunny days and to enjoy our home on the days when the weather keeps us housebound.