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.


  1. You took the "hibernation" word right out of my mouth. January is one of those months it is only too easy to waste entirely as the weather is dull, cold and miserable and there is not a lot to do outside. Walks are perfunctory, gardening normally not possible (or enjoyable if it is possible) and it is difficult to summon the interest for anything much.

    I have wasted my January so far by having a cold, but it is good to hear that you have achieved lots and that beautiful quilt is finished. I am sure that the addition of the cat fabrics will delight the recipient. That tote bag is just perfect to present it in too.

    Snap over the greenhouse, though mine is another temporary plastic one (many thanks to Tam, although she is a keener gardener than me and desperate to get seeds started here.) We will have to situate it amongst the orchard trees in the paddock to keep it from the worst of the weather.

    Good to see your cats all happy and relaxed. I have been viewing Big Black Sam's infiltration into the favourite beds of the inside cats in the house and he even made it onto Tam's bed yesterday!!

    Keep warm and enjoy refinding your fabric stash!

    1. Jennie; What a downer to have a 'cold' as a start to the New Year. My son has been experiencing that and commented that he wished people who have one would quit shaking hands!
      I'm anxious to be starting seeds--needing to be reasonable about what I can manage--I surely don't need dozens of foxglove plants this year!
      Don't cats have a way of 'infiltrating'--given the run of the house they choose their preferred spots and even a shut door presents a challenge to achieve the room on the other side!
      I told myself I would walk every day unless it was sheeting down in rain--but--I don't really want to be outside when the air has a bite!

  2. A very interesting post! You're certainly a busy woman! Love those cats! I wish I could keep one in the house.

    1. Red Hen; I had been chastising myself for a lack of accomplishments--it helped to list a few things--and then I remembered other tasks completed. I think I was giving myself a needed pep talk!
      Most days I feel that the companionship of our cats is worth dealing with the litter box and the ever renewable accumulation of cat hair.

  3. Thankyou for a lovely post.
    I wish we had people to quilt for us here, I'm sure if I scoured the internet there is someone somewhere who could do it, I hate that part of quilt making.
    The cats look just about how ours do at this time of year, all strewn about the place but candy to my eye.

    1. Briony; I googled this poem for you--I only remembered a line or two:
      Cats sleep, anywhere,
      Any table, any chair
      Top of piano, window-ledge,
      In the middle, on the edge,
      Open drawer, empty shoe,
      Anybody's lap will do,
      Fitted in a cardboard box,
      In the cupboard, with your frocks-
      Anywhere! They don't care!
      Cats sleep anywhere.
      Eleanor Farjeon

  4. I always enjoy your posts dear Sharon. Thanks for sharing your life and that of your critters, they all look comfy. What a nice quilt with matching gift bag. As always a great job.

    Down here in s.e. FL it is supposed to go down to around 40 tonight and with the windchill factor feel like it is around 30. Tomorrow night should be up in the 50's. Time will tell if I'll have to get my heater out of hibernation. Right now it is around 70 inside.

    Looking forward to seeing the inside of your greenhouse. I know you will enjoy it.

    Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; I can't remember a winter--anywhere--that has been this comfortable. My husband and son constructed our little house so well that it is often a surprise to find how cold it is outside.
      30 degrees--in Florida or elsewhere--is cold enough to call for a warm sweater indoors and a winter jacket when going out. I hope your little heater warms an area around your feet--and I hope none of your beautiful flowers feel the nip of frost.

  5. Well, you have certainly not been hibernating as in sleeping the winter away. The two of you have accomplished much! I can imagine how much you are going to enjoy that greenhouse. I love the barn door and the quilt!

    1. Hill Top [Mary?] Jim considered painting the new barn door, but the more we looked at it we don't want to cover the patterns in the wood--so on a warm day we'll give it a couple of coats of polyurethane.
      We are still considering how we can best configure the space inside the greenhouse.

  6. The word Hibernation is an apt word for January month where we just go in sleep mode and nothing much can be done outside. The tote bag is just a perfect piece of work. Good to see your four cats all happy and relaxed. Keep warm and enjoy !!! ��