Sunday, November 29, 2020

29 November, Journal

Quiet early mornings, sunrise a subdued ochre stain along the south-eastern horizon. 

An hour later, a dappled sky turning pewter grey, drizzles of rain prompting me to 
build up the wood fire.

When I removed the amaryllis from its package [purchased 16 November] I found the poor thing had tried to grow. The bent stem and emerging bud were a waxy yellow green.

Positioned in the sunroom window, south-facing, the stem began to straighten and the flower petals to take on color.

Looking almost normal, though the petals are still not as deeply colored as the label indicated.

The first purchased amaryllis has been living on a table alongside the window of the downstairs 

I considered grow lights over a shelf in the [still] unsorted middle room downstairs.
Such an arrangement would mean enlisting help from Jim who has many other things to do.
He brought up this folding table and installed it in the sunroom where it is now crowded with rosemary plants brought in from the east porch, as well as the amaryllis, repotted begonias, and several African violets which have languished on a kitchen counter.
Not ideal, but I think it will work.  The Norfolk Island Pine visible in the right corner is 10 years old.
Shelby-the-Kitten has been interested in flinging earth out of that huge pot--which I have barricaded with strips of cardboard, rock chunks and several stakes.
The two largest rosemary plants are parked in front of the downstairs window. 

Mornings have been slow, temps in the high 40's -low 50's F.
The meadow grass which held a deep green color during our long mellow autumn is slowly fading, taking on a dull green-gold hue.
If the sun pops through by noon and there is no wind, it is still pleasant to work outside.
On Friday I pruned the line of red Double Knock-Out roses for the last time this season.
There were new leaf tips emerging which I ruthlessly cut back--yet again finding some of the tiny green caterpillars which have been so destructive.
At least I now know them by name!

Survivor violas spilling from a pot at the edge of the front door raised bed.
I'm considering leaving them out over the winter.

An offspring of the violas, a bit tattered, from a seed dropped below the plant pot.

A crumpled nasturtium bloom amid fresh leaves.
I brought this pot into the sunroom, knowing that it won't flourish there, but not wanting to leave it out to be frosted.
The other big pots of nasturtiums have been lugged to the greenhouse. Although the leaves will be taken with the frost, I think enough seeds have dropped to create fresh plants in the spring.
Its experimental.

I wondered why these are called Blackberry Lilies.  I raised nine plants from seed in the greenhouse, transplanted them to the new west garden where most of them bloomed. The ripening pod of seeds does resemble a huge blackberry.
Since taking the photo the seeds have all turned a shiny black and the entire pod is tucked safely into a labeled container--hopefully more lilies next season.

One last chilly coneflower. Coneflowers self-sow vigorously giving new plants to move wherever a spot of sturdy color is needed. 
There was a scrim of frost on the ground this morning and the sun never broke through the clouds.
50 F now at 9:45 P.M. and a light rain began at dark.
We are bracing for a predicted freeze with rain and sleety snow to start December.
It seems unlikely that the full moon will be visible.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Life With Shelby-the-Kitten


Jim bought a new desk last week; Shelby has helped him to arrange his belongings and  is ready to assist with transferring photos from the camera.

Shelby has been with us for nearly 6 weeks.  Although she recovered from the worst of the sniffles with which she arrived, I was concerned that she wasn't thriving as well as she should.
Shelby's follow-up appointment at the vet clinic for her second round of shots was scheduled for November 19, and I decided it would be good for her to have a check-up.

Our vet clinic is restricted to 'curb-side' appointments, so this meant bundling Shelby into the cat 'suitcase' and handing her over to the vet tech at the door.
After a wait Danna [vet tech and vet's wife/office manager] reappeared to say that Shelby had an upper respiratory infection which should be treated with antibiotics.
I expressed my concern that Shelby might be feline leukemia positive and it was agreed that testing would be a sensible precaution.

The desk provides a good vantage point.

I had a book with me, but found that I couldn't continue reading.
Years ago Howard brought home a Siamese kitten who in spite of having her inoculations  was harboring the incurable pan-leuk virus. As her health worsened we had to put her down, but not before two of our dear older cats were infected.
Remembering this, I worked myself into a near panic state of mind.
[It is worth mentioning here that my late Mother lived by the maxim that if one expects--and braces for--the worst scenario, anything less is a happy outcome!]

My mind lurched from the possibility of having unwittingly brought home a kitten who in a month's residency might have infected our other cats, to the prospect of having to allow Shelby [if infected] to be put down on the spot without my being allowed in to hold her.

Even as I fretted I reproached myself; we have three extended family members and a friend currently under-going chemo/radiation for cancer.  As I anguish and pray over their illnesses, how dare I go to pieces over the possibility of losing my kitten?
Its a rhetorical question, a situation of quiet guilt that pet lovers must deal with.

Fifteen minutes later the clinic door opened and Danna came toward the car, cat carrier in hand.
I stumbled into the bright sunshine, inwardly braced.  Danna called out, "The test is negative!"

Gratefully I handed over my credit card and installed the carrier on the front seat of the car.
Shelby had been cultured for worms and though there were no active parasites, she'd been given a cautionary dose of wormer which had caused her to drool copiously. Her ears were laid back and she gave a pathetic 'Mew' when I spoke to her.

Shelby has been good about the twice daily doses of antibiotic--a bit less cooperative when I have to apply ear mite medicine and clean her ears.
She seems to have two extremes of behavior--either going full tilt, scampering, chasing a plastic toy, hurtling through the rooms with Clancy, or--stretched out flat in a sound sleep. 
Shelby is naughty.
Nothing on my desk is safe; papers are tugged from folders, the corners nibbled and torn; pens are pawed from the big mug, various cords are attacked.  If I push her off one corner of the desk she pops back on by a different route, her head bobbing behind the monitor.

Human bedtime signals a feline uproar--Shelby and Clancy thunder through the house, skid across the rug, sending my line-up of slippers and shoes into an untidy scramble beneath my dresser. 
A tiny white paw pokes at the book I'm reading, a leap takes her to the bedside stand where a lovely tipple of books, spare spectacles, a box of tissues, cascade to the floor.

When I finally click off the reading lamp and slide beneath the covers, the shenanigans continue until I feel the soft weight of a small body landing on the bed. Shelby gives a muted 'Purr-upp' and settles, long stripy tail curled over her face, seldom moving until near dawn.

Capturing a blurry photo when Shelby is busy--checking out a desk drawer.

I will help you type!
[The lining of her ears is still a bit irritated in this photo, better now.]

Whenever anyone goes near the sunroom door Shelby rushes to her bowl and does her 'starving kitten' act.

A typical pose--always soliciting human attention.

Mighty leaps!

Who could resist this little cat face?
We aren't trying!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

17 November, Journal

Gusty winds on Sunday, blowing great puffs and shreds of clouds across the sky.
Intermittently the sun ducked behind a billow of cloud turned grey around the edges and the air suddenly felt cold--hinting of winter weather to come.


Dawn had an errand at Lowes on Monday and invited me to ride along.  I've not been in Lowes in months since [for once] we aren't building or remodeling a house of our own.
I wandered out to the garden center--rather bare except for some tired-looking potted shrubs, faded mums, trays of pansies.  The store was gearing for Christmas with trees and wreaths, both real and artificial.  
I came home with another amaryllis bulb and a package of paperwhite bulbs in a 'kit'--a plastic pot and  a cake of compressed growing medium to be soaked until it expands.

During my Vermont years I could buy paperwhite bulbs from bulk bins at Agway [a farm store] or shops that catered to gardeners.
It was a treat to choose the bulbs one by one, bring them home in a small paper bag to be planted in a shallow bowl filled with smooth pebbles. Staggering my plantings I had the joy of watching the green shoots stretch tall, form buds and open into exotic blooms. The very intense perfume wafted through the rooms, almost too heady.
In Wyoming I had to order the bulbs online. This is the first year that I've noticed them available in Kentucky; I'll take them, kit and all.

A run this morning to the South Fork community and a favorite store, Misty Mountain.
Like most of the shops in that area MM is an emporium owned by a Mennonite family.  It reminds me of an old-fashioned general store: several aisles displaying fine quality kitchen gadgetry--non-electric--supplies for canning and cooking, small tools, wood burning stoves, fabrics and sewing notions favored by Amish/Mennonite women, stationary, children's books, Bibles, shoes, ready-made Mennonite clothing.
The beautifully crafted horse and cart is a new item.  Lucky child who can have one!

The quilts on display at Misty Mountain showcase fine piecing and hand-quilting workmanship.
The same quilts have been on the rack all summer--no doubt the covid-19 crisis has diminished the number of tourists who are the potential buyers.

Detail of hand quilting.

This is a vintage applique quilt on display. All the quilts are covered with a sheet of heavy clear plastic to keep them clean--making for odd reflections in a photo.

The last colors of sunset--and the chill of evening very evident.

A sliver of new moon hanging in the treetops over the south ravine; the scent of woodsmoke, a crunch of drying leaves underfoot.
Such are the quintessential elements of late autumn, so often mentioned in prose or poetry as to be near cliche status, and yet so dear in memory of other autumns in other places.

The western boundary at nearly dark. When Howard drove in an hour later there were several deer grazing under the stars.

Last night's animal visitor was not as pleasant--a skunk, unfortunately spotted by Dixie when Howard took the dogs out after their supper.
Old Katy-dog ignored the skunk; fortunately Mudgin ran back to Howard when he shouted.
Dixie, typically recalcitrant, chased the skunk--with predictably unpleasant results.
She was duly hosed down, scrubbed with white vinegar, followed by an assortment of shampoos.
She now smells a bit odd, but not rankly of skunk.
A great assortment of towels and bathmats, as well as everything Dawn and Howard had been wearing have been laundered and hung out to dry in windy sunshine.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

12 November: Wandering, Camera in Hand

Waking early in the morning, if I turn on my pillow toward the west window, the tallest tree in the group at the end of the field is centered on the window.
Yet if I go outside and stand below the window, the tree is off to the left. Perhaps the fact that I earned a barely passing grade decades ago in plane geometry has something to do with my puzzlement about angles, both real and perceived. 

For several weeks the sun edging around the barn at an ever more southern cant set the top of the tree aglow with a gold/bronze light.
The gentle intermittent rain and accompanying wind which began on Tuesday evening and continued through Wednesday stripped many of the remaining leaves which now lie in deep ruffs on the lane and the grass verges.
The oaks cling to their leaves still and the ash as well.

 Near the north west property boundary.

Burning Bush [Euonymous alatus] has naturalized in Kentucky to the point of being considered an invasive pest. When I first recognized them growing here and there along the ravine edges I was surprised.  I can forgive their invasive habit for the sake of the brilliant fall color.

A blackberry briar nearly as brilliant as the burning bush.

The concrete slab where we parked our 5th wheel camper while building the house is visible to the right behind this oak.  I hadn't previously noticed how the tree trunk is scarred, perhaps from wire fencing.

Hardware imbedded in the trunk.

The north-facing side of the tree is damaged--perhaps from proximity to the fire [of suspicious origins] that leveled the former owners' house.

Several dandelions glowed against the drab shades of fallen leaves.

At the edge of the south ravine a scrubby oak sapling sports scarlet leaves--strange coloring for an oak.

Strolling slowly back to the house I stopped to assess the results of my weeding and mulching.  I've done nothing with the lavender but let it grow against the angle of the raised bed.

Several of the thymes raised from seed have flourished beneath the window of the guest bedroom on the lower level. Several planted to the left of the window failed to thrive, swallowed by the Mexican torch flowers which sprawled out of bounds.

One last coneflower, edges frost-frayed while in bud.

Lady's Mantle--one of only two plants which survived from seed, mulched and 
hopefully secure for the winter.

On the east porch--the surprise of a rust-red nasturtium beside the yellow ones--a seedling from an earlier flowering.


The coneflower loaded twice and I don't see a 'remove' option with the new format.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Journal Post: 10 November

Journal: French 'jour'--a daybook, diary.
I read somewhere recently that to keep a journal is a narcissistic exercise--navel gazing.
I suppose it could be that--an introspective recital of one's thoughts, reactions, anxieties, or endless ponderings.
I prefer to think of it as record keeping; not only the quotidian round of small duties and errands and responsibilities that are accomplished, not a mere recording of the weather or the neighborhood news, but a thoughtful way of observing how these various things fit together in a particular life.

The best published journals draw us into a life, a place, a time, in such a way that one often begins to feel a kinship with the author. 
There are journals that have long been my companions, those by men or women who had a keen eye for their surroundings and the gift of fluent phrasing.
Several favorites:
Northern Farm by Henry Beston
Hill Song by Lee Pennock Huntington
Home: Chronicle of a North County Life
Edge Season--both by Beth Powning

Canadian author Lucy Maude Montgomery began journaling as a young girl in 1889 and continued until her death in 1942. At some point she began editing and typing the diaries she had written in longhand, as one of her biographers put it, 'Writing a Life'--crafting the memories she would leave to posterity.

As I girl I read her 'Anne' stories with their setting in Prince Edward Island.  Several trips to the Maritime Provinces as an adult increased my interest in 'Maude. ' When her journals were edited and published in the 1980's and 90's I requested them on library loan.  They were delivered, 3 volumes at once from the state university library with the stipulation that they must be returned in a week.

Plowing through them at night after work was a total--and not always comfortable--experience of being immersed in the joys and sorrows of a perceptive and articulate woman who had died several years before my birth.

In the 1990's I was given a copy of 'The Artist's Way'--a workbook of sorts by Julia Cameron.
While I didn't follow through on all the exercises, one to which I gave an effort was the habit of 'morning pages.'
The idea was that on waking, before doing anything as mundane as showering, dressing, preparing breakfast, one was to begin jotting down whatever thoughts came to mind, however random or disconnected.  This was meant to deal with mental 'clutter' and free one to creative pursuits.

I found that I don't do 'stream of consciousness' writing. I speak and write in tidy blocks of words, editing as I write.
Since childhood I've been aware of a continually running narrative in my head, a background to whatever I am doing or experiencing.  Usually the narrative takes the form of a third person observation as though I were on the outside taking notes. 
[Okay, enough of that!]

It is sufficient to report that in the past several years--as part of the process of culling and down-sizing--I've gone over those journals and destroyed all but a few pages.
I'm under no illusion that my jottings are of great literary quality, but they serve as a record of my seasons. As an introvert I've no wish to spill all my thoughts, worries, or personal family details for public consideration.
As I look back at saved letters, blog posts, notes, the pared down facts serve to unleash many incidents I may have thought forgotten.
Usually that is a good thing.

I enjoy those things which others of similar persuasions have shared, whether in blog posts or in the pages of books. 
Particularly in the strange and uncertain times in which we live, it seems worthwhile to attempt a daily or weekly record to define a span of time that threatens to stretch on without the usual markers.

Monday: another day of warm temperatures, blue skies.
I drove to South Fork to the discount store and produce market.
My favorite of several routes takes me by this church, built two years ago to replace a more rustic and slightly shabby structure.

Many leaves blown down from the trees along the edges of the ravines that run along the north and south boundaries of the property.

Not sure of this tree's ID but the autumn leaves have a gloss as though varnished.

The joy of one more--surely the final--blossom on Duchess of Edinburgh.

Afternoon temps have edged into the low 80's F during the past few days.
I open the door into the sunroom [where Shelby-the kitten goes to eat her special food] and also the one that leads onto the east porch.
Not wanting to turn on the A/C again we have opened windows in the great room area. The bedroom windows that face west have to remain closed to barricade the Asian lady beetles who love to swarm in by the dozens and creep about on the walls and ceiling.

With rain in the forecast I took myself back to the west garden today to grub out more of the small weeds that encumber the ground. Many of them --names forgotten at the moment--remain evergreen through the winter.  I had two bags of bark mulch left from summer purchases.  I dragged these onto the creek-stone walkway and spread the damp black stuff around the roses, between clumps of thyme and Lady's mantle. 
More tiny green worms on the pruned back roses!  I pinched them with a vengeance! 
I know at last what they are: sawfly larvae aka rose slugs.
Another summer will find me on the attack!

The sky was darkening with grey clouds, my knees aching before I used up the second bag of mulch.
Time to gather laundry from the lines, prepare supper.
Baked russet potatoes;  home grown butternut squash steamed and 'dressed with butter and maple syrup;
two of the smaller cabbages harvested, trimmed and sliced into the heavy skillet with a bit of water, olive oil and a pinch of cayenne pepper; beef hotdogs for the men.
Lemon pudding cake to use up several lemons that have languished in the fridge, topped with whipped cream.
10 PM and still 70F. outside and a not so comfortable 78 inside. 
The two young cats, Shelby and Clancy have been roistering for hours. 
Time to close the porch door and prepare for the night.