Monday, January 27, 2020


January in Kentucky is proceeding in the way we've learned to call 'normal.'  Grey rainy days when the wind has a cold bite, interspersed with blue skies and climbing temperatures.
Yesterday was one of the overcast days with a high in the mid-forties.
I've been eyeing the amaryllis bulbs which, removed from their outdoor tub in October, refused to enter dormancy. 
I've never coaxed an amaryllis to rebloom, but Fred, our friend and former renter at the Amish farm, had success with this, encouraging me to try again.
Most of the fat white roots on the bulbs had shriveled to dry strings which I carefully rubbed off, then settled the bulbs into pots of fairly coarse soil mix.

I have three large bulbs and two 'babies.'

We've been noting that temperatures inside the greenhouse stay about 20 degrees above the outside temp, although even a few minutes of sunshine bring a quick climb. 

A self-sown catnip plant had burrowed into the soil in a big tub;  I lifted it carefully, discovering  a stem and pale leaves beneath the soil.
Do I need a pot of catnip?  Perhaps not, but the temptation to have a few hardy things growing was irresistible.

Lemon balm is one of my favorite herbs---not because I do anything practical with it. I love the dainty crinkled leaves and the fresh scent which links me in imagination with gardeners and herbalists of many centuries.
I grubbed about in the mud beside a rose bush where a root of lemon balm was hastily interred during our move in the autumn of 2018.
Although I couldn't work free much in the way of roots I'm hoping these bits will thrive and produce several new plants.

The foxgloves which should have been self-sowing abundantly by August didn't produce seedlings until the rains in October.  I found them  popping up by the dozens.  Most have languished not having time to develop good roots, but poking about in the sodden garden I found several small clumps of plantlets.
I brought one clump into the greenhouse and carefully unraveled the roots to find that I had 5 sturdy baby plants.
These have been given individual pots.  Being cold hardy they should quickly grow into strong plants for locating into the garden in early spring.

I trudged from the lower porch to the greenhouse many times relocating empty pots, buckets for mixing soil, small tools, all tidily stowed under the benches.

My largest rosemary, about 5 years old, hasn't been thriving in the window of the downstairs family room. Perhaps it will enjoy the greenhouse.

 I had to discard a rosemary plant which developed mildew.
I took clean cuttings from the tips of several branches and put them in a tiny vase of water which I placed on the east-facing kitchen windowsill.
About 10 days ago I noticed that roots were forming, so topped up the water.
This week I mixed seed-starting mix with a handful of perlite and tucked the tiny cuttings into a container.  They are residing on a windowsill in the sunroom.  I'm hoping I can grow them on.

Not sure yet where the greenhouse project will take us. Jim mentions installing a fan, maybe a small heater.  Watering won't be a problem as there is a stand pipe/faucet right outside the door. 
I suspect I will find excuses to spend many hours 'pottering!'

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Sad Passing of Charlie-Cat

It has been a week this morning [Thursday] since I found Charlie's lifeless body stretched behind the house.
Friends on Face Book know something of the sorry tale; kindly messages have been a comfort.
What J. refers to as a 'rogue pack of dogs' came through a little before last Wednesday midnight, just as we were falling asleep.
We don't know if they were coyotes or simply dogs running loose. By the time Jim got outside with a powerful flashlight the last canine--brown and white spotted-- was disappearing into the ravine.
We didn't know until early morning that in their mad yapping dash the dogs had cornered and mortally injured our Charlie

We shared the task of digging his grave, next to that of his daughter Mima who died 1 February, 2019.  I wrapped him in a thick towel, and when we had covered him with earth I built a cairn of stones to protect the spot.

Charlie was a buffoon--a 'village idiot' personality; noisy, demanding to be let in and right back out numerous times each day and evening. 
Attempts to keep him in at night resulted in his rampaging through the rooms, yelling in his silly loud voice until one of us stumbled from bed and escorted him out the door.
He wasn't 'bright'--he guarded the water bowl, sloshed its contents over the floor.

Charlie was companionable, a gardener's helper, a lap-sitter when it suited him. He knew that our dear daughter-in-law adored him--and he made the most of her visits.

Those of us who have pets--dogs, horses, cats--know the grief that is shared without boundaries when a loved creature dies--the more so when that death has been a violent and sudden end.

No pet should be terrorized and hurt in its last few moments.

We have anguished over whether we could have saved Charlie had we been awake and more quickly realized the danger. We want to believe that his pain was brief.
The house is calmer without his bustling busy presence, but he is missed.

Our daughter brought flowers--a tribute to Charlie-cat and to our loss.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Hibernation Time

24 F. this morning and now [at noon] 30F.
We've hit a patch of colder weather this week.  As native Vermonters who more recently spent 12 years in Wyoming, we have vivid memories of 'real' winter.  Even the rare heavy snow in south-central Kentucky is gone in less than a week. Both occurrences of being 'snowed in' here happened during the four years we were living at our Amish farm.

A few lazy flakes drifted down this morning while we were eating a late breakfast--crisp small flakes of snow melting to leave a damp smudge on the brick landing at the front door.  I have trudged up the lane to the mailbox, Jim puttered about for a bit, then came inside to park in front of his TV.
Nellie-cat and his brother Robert have been outside several times, returning with chilled paws.  They give the impression that we--their humble servants--should be able to change the weather to something they could enjoy. 

I've long thought of January as a month of hibernation. If one lives where winter is a cold reality, much energy can go to keeping houses warm, ensuring that vehicles will start, commuting on icy roads.  That sense of urgency has left us with retirement and the move to a milder climate.  I may sometimes yearn for the beauty of blue shadows on deep white snow, but I wouldn't exchange that for what we now have.
January is a time for the leisurely creativity I can enjoy with a season of gardening behind me and the next one still a matter of perusing the new nursery catalogs.

 Jim's creativity this month has included the crafting of a sturdy and handsome door for the opening on the south side of the barn, as well as construction of a long-promised greenhouse.
[We've had various greenhouse components for years and not 'stayed put' long enough for the building of one to move up the list!]

Jim built a very humble lean-to greenhouse for me years ago in Vermont--using the sort of plastic sheeting that held up for only a season or two.
It was unheated and sometimes well into May I had to cover trays of seedlings with layers of newspaper or move the trays into the garage if frost threatened.
I felt such peace working in that little space--usually a cat or two joined me, and an enormous toad resided under one of the benches.
Home from work in late afternoons, I put on the kettle while changing into old jeans;  with mug of tea in hand and the radio plugged into a long extension cord, time stood still while I pricked out seedlings for transplanting, sowed seeds in 'flats' contrived from waxed milk cartons, lined up bigger pots to accommodate the special small plants arriving via mail order.

Here in south-central Kentucky we have a long growing season. A nursery in the South Fork Mennonite community offers every variety of tomato I might wish to grow--both 'heirlooms' and the newer hybrids. No need to start tomato seedlings.

My plans for the greenhouse include early crops of salad greens--and a deeper bed or two where I can protect fall crops of greens and broccoli.  The greenhouse should also make possible the decluttering of the lower porch--room to store buckets of soil mix, oddments of pots and tools,  a work space for anything gardening related. 
Jim has taken out a thermometer to monitor temps inside--20 degrees warmer than outdoors today--and he is pondering a fan to keep humid summer air moving and a tiny heat unit for late fall crops.  We shall see!

When days are sunny and mild, I usually walk at least once around the perimeter of the upper meadow and back down the lane to the spot where our campers were parked during the winter of house construction.

Although evenings are noticeably lighter, it seems that mornings are tardy.

A  brilliant sunrise doesn't always mean a sunny day.

This quilt isn't completely a January effort.  I pieced the blocks and completed the top over a number of sessions in early December, then took top, backing and batting to the quilt shop in South Fork where it was picked up by a local woman who has a long-arm quilting machine.

The baby shower [for our pastor and his wife, expecting their first child] was scheduled for 19 January.  By early last week I was fretting that the quilt wasn't returned for me to apply the binding.
The quilt shop personnel made inquiries for me and a phone call from the quilter assured me she could be finished by Wednesday.

The expected baby is a boy.  His dad is violently allergic to cats, so I doubt one will ever be a pet in that household!
I rummaged through my fabric stash, finding a 'fat quarter' pack that I was gifted when I worked at Wyoming Quilts.
I created the quilt blocks in Sawtooth Star pattern using bits of batik fabrics for the star points and 'corner stones.'

Green cats!

The backing fabric was also in my stash.  I purchased the fabric for the binding to coordinate with the marbled grey tones of the sashing and borders.

I have no patience or skill with paper, tape and bows to wrap a gift!  Appropriately sized gift bags at the local Wal Mart are priced above what I want to spend for a throw-away item.
At the last minute I decided a matching tote bag would do as a useful way to present the little quilt.

When I say 'last minute' I'm describing a Saturday evening effort! 
"Crafting" isn't really my forte.  I pulled out an older, but never used pattern, sliced out the pieces and with a hasty glance at the instructions, plonked myself at the sewing machine.
What could go wrong in such a simple process?

What went wrong was bringing my over-tired brain to focus on a construction detail that was different than that used when I have made a few totes in the past.  I couldn't get my head around stitching the corners!  I was using a foam interfacing recommended by the quilt shop which also presented some unfamiliar challenges. 
I left the bag unfinished at 10:30 and fell into bed feeling cross-eyed, frustrated and STUPID!

Sunday morning, back to the sewing table and literally praying for a light bulb moment.  When the 'light' eventually switched on, the process [of course] was simple and obvious.  If only the instructions had directed 'stitch sides and bottom of bag, leaving corners open!
With that vital bit of information registered and the wrong stitches picked out, the lining and finishing of the bag was speedy.
I had time to make a pan of brownies to contribute to refreshments and to tidy my sewing table and change my clothes!

My other [invisible] accomplishment for January has been the completion of a family history project undertaken for good friends. The research has been difficult, involving an adoption for which the records are sealed.  I've worked on this intermittently for a number of years with only the scantiest of solid clues.  In the end I arranged a detailed timeline for the adoptive parents and another for the woman whom I suspect was the birth mother.  Perhaps my friends can work through the legalities of Vermont's adoption records and finally prove their late mother's family of origin.

The notes for two other family research projects are littering my desk and boggling my mind.  Neither presents burdens of 'proof'--its more about arranging the information, transcribing to type-written pages--for me a process which increasingly leads to blurred vision when I work for more than several hours at my PC screen.

Of course there's all my lovely fabric which has been emerging from storage bins, along with a renewed urge to stitch. 
These intriguing projects all have to fit around the desultory tasks of house-keeping, laundry, meals; there is the rotation of duties for church--music to practice and lesson notes to prepare for the one week that teaching a class falls to me.

It is good to be busy--good to have interests.  
Good to retreat to a comfortable chair with a book, absorbing the warmth of the wood fire when evenings are lengthy and dark.

I leave you with photos of cats 'hibernating' through the chilly morning.
Temperature has risen to 37 F, so they will venture outside; I will put on my jacket again and trudge back to the mailbox at the head of the lane.

Edward [aka Eduardo Gordo]

Clancy--who is thus far a house cat--resting after an hour of wild antics.

Nellie--who should know he's not meant to be on the window ledge above the kitchen sink.

Robert, subsiding after an hour of sitting in the window with ears laid back.