Sunday, March 22, 2020

Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago, 21 March, 2010, we arrived in Kentucky.

We had been contemplating retirement for more than a year, and had spent hours online viewing properties in North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. 
It quickly became evident that Kentucky won in terms of affordability.

With our last Wyoming home sold during the final week of February, we loaded our car onto a trailer behind old Snort'n Nort'n [the '92 Dodge truck] and headed east. 

Hours of comparing properties had narrowed our list to roughly a dozen, mostly in Adair County, Kentucky. We had been in email contact with a realtor; I printed the listings which appealed to us, stuck the wodge of papers in my small suitcase.
We had reserved a motel room in Columbia, KY to serve as our base for a week.
We wanted a country property with acreage, probably one in need of renovation.

As usual on a road trip, Jim pushed along for many hours. 
The bottom land along the North Platte River was clustered with thousands of sand hill cranes and Canadian geese, not quite ready for their migration north. 
Stretches of farmland in Iowa and Illinois lay sodden in the grip of late winter; white clapboarded farmhouses stood bleakly behind leafless windbreaks. 

Jim timed our pit stops so that we would hit the biggest cities at other than rush hours.
The truck had been serviced a few days before we began our journey, but disconcertingly the headlights began to falter when we were about 40 miles from our destination.
Reaching Campbellsville about 10 o'clock at night, we decided it would be prudent to find a motel there, rather than blunder along unfamiliar roads, risking the truck quitting.
Jim was ruefully sure that the alternator was giving out.

 In the morning we limped into Columbia, located our motel and discovered an automotive repair shop just down the street.
With the truck delivered for repairs and our car unloaded from the trailer, we set off to meet the realtor.
Two days spent looking at our previously selected listings were disheartening.
While we had stated that we were up for renovating a house, several proved to be dilapidated beyond reasonable help. One that had seemed appealing proved to be situated too near a highway.
An Amish farmhouse was an attractive possibility--except that it had only a small plot of land.

Abandoning our prepared list, we spent evenings in the motel searching online and in local papers for alternative properties, deciding that we would need to move into a higher price bracket.

Accordingly we viewed a nearly new log home, very similar to what we had built in Wyoming.  Even the kitchen cabinetry was the style and brand we liked.
There were only 5 acres and it was on the outskirts of a busy town.
It seemed the best option we had found, and yet---

Back in town that evening, Jim learned that the truck repairs were done, a new alternator installed.  He walked down the hill to retrieve the truck while I let myself disconsolately into the motel room. 
I was tired from the long trip east, stiff with days of riding, a bit discouraged with house hunting.
Jim appeared, waving a business card; it seemed a local farmer had come into the repair shop, noted our truck with out-of-state license and learning that these visitors were looking for a rural property, had handed over his card, announcing to the proprietor, "Tell them I have a small farm for sale!"

 Jim punched in the phone number on the card, made arrangements to meet the farmer in half an hour--when he had finished feeding his herd of Black Angus cattle.
Over-tired, mildly cross, I grumbled that I didn't have the heart for another 'viewing' that I felt would surely be disappointing.
In the end, of course, I put my shoes on again and went.
We met the man, Mr S. at his immaculate farm, he climbed into the back seat and directed us a few miles onto a side road. 
Within a few minutes he told us to slow as he pointed out the boundaries of a 28 acre property;  a small yellow house sat at the top of a gentle hill, with two weathered barns in the back.  As he related the history of the little farm which he had acquired at auction a few months earlier, I stared at the house and the already greening meadows.

The house was small, 30 years old and built in the style referred to as 'ranch.'  It had never occurred to me that we would live in a house of that type.
The garage/shop was likewise small.
Still, the house had a few nice custom touches--a fireplace, a bay window, a built-in cherry sideboard in the tiny dining area. There were only two bedrooms, but surprisingly, one of them was big enough to accommodate our king-size bed and dressers. 
Jim and Mr. S. walked the boundaries, inspected the weathered barns, while I pondered the house, trying to think where furniture could be placed. 
Mr. S. had pointed out the towering magnolia tree at one side of the house, named the nandina shrubs along the porch, indicated the emerging daffodils that grew by the carport.

We were offered the key with an invitation to return in the morning, to view the property in daylight.
We did so, roaming through the house again, noting the updates needed--new kitchen cabinetry and appliances, removal of dingy carpets, fresh paint.
Outside the sun glowed in a bright blue sky, highlighting the reddish buds on the dooryard maples.

Returning the key, Jim and Mr. S. shook hands, agreed on a price;  title search and closing details were arranged.
We would return in two weeks with our worldly goods to take possession.

When the morning of our cross-country move arrived, clouds hung over the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming.  The cold tang of coming snow was sharp. Our household goods, Jim's construction tools, had been loaded three weeks earlier.  The new owners of our home had graciously invited us to use the tiny guest cabin until we were ready to leave. 
Jim parked our motor home close to the door of the cabin and one by one I carried out the cats, closing them into the bedroom area with food, water and litter box. 
The old horse was coaxed into the horse trailer and it was hooked behind the motor home.
Our son and our nephew were driving with us, Howard in the red Dodge pulling the trailer loaded with household plunder, Matthew driving Snort'n Nort'n and towing the tool trailer.

Leaving is always hard. We had said goodbye to dear friends; our daughter and her family were staying in Wyoming.
Our little convoy lurched onto the main road, Jim in the lead. 
I sat on the sofa in the middle of the motor home.  I did not look back

It was a horrendous journey.
The impending storm caught us before we reached the Wyoming/Nebraska border.
It swept across the Great Plains in a howling blizzard of snow, sleet, ice.
Road conditions were too bad to drive late at night as we would ordinarily have done.
The elderly horse needed to be walked whenever we stopped to eat and fuel up. 
Slowed by the loaded trailers and the wretched weather we lumbered across the mid-section of the country, the journey taking a day longer than planned.
On Sunday, 21st March, 2010 as we reached the eastern border of Indiana, the pelting snow became a mizzle of rain.  Into Kentucky, where verges and fields lay green, dotted with the gold of wild daffodils. 
Turning onto the road leading to the little farm, we met an Amish buggy. 
A neighbor, friend of Mr. S. had been in to turn up the heat; the little house welcomed us.
The sun was not shining, but the rain had stopped. 
Cardinals bounced in the shrubbery near the back sliding door, darting anxiously away as I carried in the traumatized cats. I held each one close in my arms, singing softly.

It took us about six weeks to complete the most urgent renovations--replacing ugly stained carpet with pre-finished wood flooring, installing a new kitchen, setting up new appliances, creating a laundry area in the basement. Other improvements indoors and out were ongoing.
All around us springtime burgeoned--redbuds and dogwood in bloom, 
The earlier owners had been gardeners.  I discovered peonies, clematis, iris demanding to be divided.
We made a huge vegetable garden, set out berry plants.
I created a beautiful perennial garden.

I thought we had found our 'forever home.'
We stayed there four years, often finding the house rather a tight fit, the workshop space inadequate, but loving the land.  We discussed building an addition to the house, enlarging the shop.
Ultimately, we swapped the little farm and house for a large Amish property--but that is another already documented adventure in renovation.

I dare to believe that we are--finally- in the home place that will 'see us out,' this house that Jim and Howard designed and built.

Recalling that late winter move from Wyoming, sifting through the photos of my first Kentucky gardens, pondering all that has happened in ten years, is a mental journey of sorts, one that inevitably tugs at the heartstrings.
Who knows if we will have ten more years?

Whatever the allotted span, we will go on gardening, cherishing the company of our pets, involved with family and friends, attending church, marveling at the turn of each season.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mid March

I enjoy taking photos which document the progress of each season where ever we have lived.
The sweet gums and maples were the first to show signs of spring earlier this month.
I noticed today that many of these scarlet buds have now drifted to the ground beneath the trees, looking like tiny scattered red berries.

This is the area where last year our camper trailers were parked while the house was under construction.

Crinkly lichen on a fallen log.

The dense tangle of the ravine.

The evening before the full moon. Once again clouds obscured the beauty of the full moon and for several nights of the waning gibbous moon--this has happened for 4 months running.

The property that Jim bought to renovate has a mature 'tulip' magnolia in the dooryard.
I brought home some branches still in tight bud to force inside.

The blossoms opened quickly in the warmth of the house.

Nearly every day I have walked to the site of the former house here [burned prior to our purchase of the property] to note the progress of bloom on the 'Jane' magnolia.

In spite of cloudy weather buds have been opening. I am intrigued as the fuzzy calyx slowly unfolds and the color of the flowers appears.

The main trunk of the tree was badly damaged by the fire; some of the exposed wood is soft and I expect the life of the tree is challenged. There are shoots forming near the base which I hope will survive even when the damaged parts of the tree may need to be cut out.

I have been carefully tying up the delicate stems of the clematis.

I've not yet moved the lemon verbena outside. The tub is heavy and having lugged it twice to the greenhouse and back I've decided it can remain in the house until I'm sure warmer weather is here to stay.

  The magnolia today--19 March.

A lovely color on an overcast afternoon.

Forsythia at the bend in the lane.

I found a few shy violets today.

Life has not [yet?] changed greatly for us with the restrictions and concerns posed by Covid-19.
As retirees we don't have strict schedules, places that we are expected to be.
As life-long country dwellers we have always kept a deep pantry--baking supplies, home-canned goods, grains/cereals, a well-stocked freezer. We have the makings of many a nutritious meal.
Fresh produce for salads is more of a concern during the winter months as we live too far from town to shop for those items more than once weekly.

Thus far we are living with very little difference than usual. Our church had services last week and the tentative plan is to continue unless there is a more localized threat.  There is always the option of not attending.
I am never bored.  There are books to read, sewing, baking, the daily round of keeping house.
The internet offers endless options for reading or studying whatever may be of interest.
It has thus far been a rainy month, but whenever possible I am outside, pruning roses, looking to see what perennials are breaking dormancy, prodding at the copious weeds which remained green through the winter.
We are entertained by the cats--for whom an extra supply of kibble and litter is on hand.

I completed two genealogy projects last month and realized that too much screen time was straining my vision, so have been sewing or reading 'real' books as an alternative.

The current work in progress is a quilt with Ohio Star blocks.
I've made 42 and now started on the alternate setting blocks.

My seed order arrived this week and I've spent time in the greenhouse happily 'pottering'--with the help of Willis.

Like everyone else we have concerns for those of our friends and relatives who are elderly or have compromised health; we think of the impact for those still in the work force, for the threat posed to the small local businesses here and elsewhere.
We acknowledge the many uncertainties, the unknowns--but we continue to take each day as it comes, being sensible, realistic, without borrowing trouble.
It is all we can do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


 The weather varies not only from day to day, but often from morning through evening.
Tuesday began cloudy, but by late morning the sun broke from behind the banks of grey and the sky turned  blue. 

I decided it was a good time to do errands in the South Fork community.
I needed a fabric for my current quilting project, and was very 'good'--although I enjoyed looking around the quilt shop and imagining how various prints could be used, I bought only the needed 2 yards, then progressed to the produce market and the discount store.

Driving back along the creek road--bottom land flooded from the recent rains.

Wild daffodils always begin blossoming before the season has settled into real springtime warmth. 
In many spots they have colonized to the very edge of the winding roads.
I searched for a spot where it would be safe to pull over long enough to point the camera out the window.

At home late in the afternoon we heard the rasping cronks of sandhill cranes flying northward.
There were two groups; the one in the lead circled and hovered until the second smaller flock  caught them up.

Today's weather was the reverse of yesterday with a brilliant blue sky morning which segued into overcast by mid afternoon. 
Our neighbor is a good steward of his property, barns painted black and the roofs a cheerful red. 
I walk past this view going to and from the mailbox.

The bluebird house matches the rest of the buildings.

A wreath of barbed wire.

Walking along the lane from the mailbox, our land begins to the right of the fence. A forsythia bush marks the corner.  I brought in seven more branches to force.  In this way the tallest branches are being trimmed to keep the bush more compact.

It was too lovely out this afternoon to stay indoors.  Poking about I discovered that two clematis are alive and putting forth new leaves.  This is my favorite, the heirloom, 'Candida' which has now moved with me twice.  The frail clematis cuttings which I cosseted through last summer are looking fragile still--one shows tentative signs of life. The Spring Hills Nursery catalog once again pictures stunning clematis--after a quick look I put the catalog in the fire--I refuse to be tempted again by their offerings!

My cherished lemon verbena is showing fresh growth. For now, until all danger of frosty nights has passed, it is living in the downstairs family room.  An unidentified cat amused himself by stirring the soil, so I have barricaded it with two large rocks, a small trellis, a plastic picnic knife and an old glass insulator.  So far, this cat-proofing seems to work!

I'm not as encouraged by the appearance of the amaryllis--although I brought them back inside from the greenhouse when cold nights threatened, I suspect there was a night when temperatures dropped too low for them.
Outer layers on two of the bulbs were soft, as though frost-nipped. They've not been showing signs of growth in the big window of the family room. I carefully peeled back what I considered to be damaged bits and carried the four pots back to the greenhouse. I've managed in the past to keep amaryllis bulbs alive, but never coaxed them to re-bloom. 
Our friend and former renter, Fred, was successful at this, and bequeathed the amaryllis to me when he moved. 
I missed having blooming amaryllis this year to brighten grey winter days.

I invented small tasks in the greenhouse--mere puttering--but came inside when the late afternoon sky turned grey.
I went through my marked copy of Select Seeds catalog, editing my wish list to a practical size, then placed an online order.
Select Seeds tempts with heirloom varieties of both annuals and perennials, seeds and plants, as well as interesting hybrids of familiar plants. 
Since most of their seed offerings are at $3 or $4 per packet, I've decided that I can be content with the more common varieties of herbs and flowers that appear on seed racks in local venues. 
None of the seeds from earlier seasons, sowed during the warm spell in January have germinated.  
I realized the seed might be too old--and temperatures in the greenhouse too chilly for growth, but the urge to plant and nurture is strong.
Spring is a capricious time--advancing with sunny days and warm temperatures, then retreating with a bluster of chilly wind and icy rain.
Still, the hopes of dedicated gardeners continue to flourish.

Jim brought home a container of soil from his new property several miles away, pointing out that it is of  a better quality than what we have here. 
[He would like me to show some enthusiasm for that project.]
I commented that I envisioned an enlarged area for herbs and flowers between the front steps and the border along the retaining wall. Perhaps some 'good dirt' could be moved in!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Revisiting February

 I loaded these photos taken over several mid-February days, just prior to setting up my new desk-top PC.  I have wrestled in great exasperation to set up a photo program compliant with posting new photos to blog or Face Book.  Various online 'helps' weren't helpful.
I think I've achieved a 'work-around' but some tweaking needs doing as well as the rather time consuming process of clearing years worth of photos onto zip drives.
I sit here at 10 P.M. perched on the edge of my favorite old rocking chair, drawn up to the tiny folding table where my laptop resides.

On sunny days--of which there have been too few--I pull on my ancient down jacket with the frayed cuffs, wrap a scarf around my head and trudge around the open spaces of our property, figuring that several turns around the field can be counted as decent exercise.

Willis walks with me, sometimes seeming to wonder why we go round and round.

On a barely sunny afternoon Willis and I braved the overgrown path which runs along the edge of the southern ravine. It is a very short walk, looping into the tree line across from the house and providing a scramble back to level ground farther along. The tumble of brush must be the winter quarters of a rabbit family; one burst from cover in that frantic zig-zag dash peculiar to rabbits.
Willis stiffened, considered pursuit, thought better of it and followed me as I hauled myself over the edge of the slope.

The terrain can change quickly from open clearings to tangled brush and trees.

There is a forsythia bush at the edge of the field where our driveway joins the common lane.

One small clump of wild daffodils grows near the old shed at the lower end of the property.

Considering the forsythia I went back to the house for my garden clippers.
Standing on tiptoe I pulled down seven long branches and cut them to force in front of the kitchen window.

It took two days for the first color to show.

The above photo was taken when the branches had been inside for a week.

Yellow flowers are encouraging when the weather outside is bleak and grey.

Geraniums and rosemarys which summered on the east porch have adapted well to winter quarters in the sunroom. Note the small square tub on the windowsill--it holds 4 well-rooted cuttings of rosemary.

The trailing rosemary, Huntington, has produced several pale blue blossoms.

A close up of the baby rosemarys--since tenderly potted on into larger pots.

A large beefsteak begonia occupies a chair near the window. The tiny pink petals constantly fall to the floor--a small inconvenience to pay for a flourishing plant.

Each colorful sunrise or sunset is treasured in the muted landscape of  late winter.
Oddly, the short month of February can seem tedious--days of variable weather, a sense of marking time. I have no shortage of indoor projects, but sometimes feel a twinge of 'cabin fever'--the urge to go outside without considering how many layers of clothes will be needed for comfort.