Sunday, January 31, 2021

End of January: Weather; Housekeeping; Cats. Journal Post

After the torrential flooding rains of last Monday, Tuesday broke fair, albeit very soggy underfoot.

The walk up to the mailbox was a chilly one. Our neighbor has several birdhouses along the line fence. This one appears to stand sentinel in a big puddle that reflects the swiftly moving clouds. 

I made myself walk to the end of the property and back up the slope that follows the north ravine.

As dusk moved in the waxing gibbous moon rose in the east.

Its interesting to note which plants hold green color through the winter. The clumps of foxglove are surrounded by self-sown 'offspring' which I will lift during February and pot up in the greenhouse. 

Along the retaining wall are two varieties of dianthus, both raised from seed. They are spreading nicely, although I had to drastically shear the one at the far left when I found it had been invaded by the parasitic dodders. The green of the dianthus rimming the center of the wall has deepened to nearly black with the cold weather.

In the far right corner of the wall long stems of centranthus ruber are trailing, brown and spent, but new growth shows green at the base of the plant. Most of the self-sown tiny plantlets will need to be re-homed in the spring.  I am quite determined that the inhospitable soil underneath my west window [far corner of the house] is going to be amended and set out with hardy plants, interspersed with more flat rocks from the creek at Howard and Dawn's place. 

Wednesday's sunrise showed promise, but by noon the sky was surly; 
snow began to fall at suppertime.

Its snow--not rain, slanting down in thick wet flakes.

The snow must have stopped shortly after midnight.  I woke about 4 with a spill of moonlight on my pillow. The snow glittered under the light of moon and stars. 
I took this photo shortly after 7 a.m. a zoom shot from the back porch.

The day after the snow, Thursday.

By Thursday afternoon the snow was melting along the driveway, beginning to recede around the buildings.

I spent part of Thursday downstairs in the basement area that is dedicated to my sewing supplies. My extensive hoard of quilting fabric has been stashed in big Rubbermaid bins for more than two years.  Howard donated handles for the two recently acquired cabinets and J. put them on the drawers.

I collected these batiks a few pieces at a time while living in Wyoming and working in a quilt shop.
I had definite projects in mind; somehow a series of moves put those plans on hold for too long a time.  

Most of the fabrics stocked at Wyoming Quilts were from Moda. We used many of the lines by Kansas Troubles; those are the two rows on fabric on the left.
I've made only a start on unpacking, sorting and organizing.
I was suddenly struck with a disheartening sense that this 'hobby' of mine, once quite important and absorbing, seems to have less purpose now.  In such uncertain and uneasy times can I justify hours of stitching to create quilts?  We no longer live where long cold winters demand layers of warmth. 
Over the decades I've gifted quilts to family and friends; does anyone need more?
Is it enough to think that since I have the supplies squirreled away I can use them to practice my skills, keeping mind and hands busy in the production of pretty things? 
Do I need to justify the time and energy spent? 
I don't quite know!

In a burst of house-keeping energy during the sunny hours of Tuesday morning,  I arranged this small quilt on the tulip poplar shelf/rack Jim made when we lived at our Amish farmhouse.  A larger quilt with an appliqued border has been in that spot and looked at home there.  
This piece was put together from 6 blocks left from the construction of a king-sized quilt.  I hand quilted it during the early days when we were working at the farmhouse. While Jim wrestled to install plumbing and electricity I sat by a window or under a temporary light to work on this. It has been displayed over the back of a chair or on a lower rung of a quilt stand. It seems at home in this new setting, the colors in the quilt echoing the tones of the tulip poplar rack and wainscoat trim.
 My glance has been drawn there, to the harmony of colors. 
Chairs and sofas need to be covered in a losing battle against cat hair.  Putting the other covers in the wash I rummaged out a pair of lined heavy cotton curtains made in Wyoming--one each to tuck around the cushions of the basket chairs. 
Repurposing, tweaking, making a nest.

The beautiful kitchen shelves crafted and installed by Howard were always meant to display vintage pieces.  Two of the boy cats, Robert and Nellie have felt that the shelves were designed as a 'runway' and lookout point. 
Jim has been rearranging items that have reappeared from boxes in the basement.
He announced that no cat in its right mind would now try to navigate the edges of the shelves.

This is Jim's cat, Robert. 
Robert has picked his way daintily along the top shelf, bounced lightly to the top of a cabinet, and smugly become part of the display.

This is Robert's brother, Nellie, a most amiable and often exasperating creature.  Nellie also likes to perambulate along the shelf and arrange himself atop a cupboard.

Nellie is a tad less graceful than his brother. Deciding to ascend via the small corner shelf where I  display small vintage jugs and creamers, he came to grief, bringing down this pitcher which shattered. In the process leaves were knocked from the African violets on the counter below. 
I was rather fond of that jug--filled with summer flowers it was a pretty thing.
It is a good thing that I am very fond of Nellie!

Shelby-the-Kitten at her most beguiling. She has just pawed my bed into disarray--something she seems to do whenever a fit of boredom overtakes her.

So, a week of homely tasks; cinnamon rolls made to cheer a day of drab skies.
Bread, warm from the oven and gracing the house with an aroma of sustenance.

Cold rain, snow, wind; sunlight, blue skies, billowing clouds, moonlight.
Tomorrow another month. A month with more of the 'unknown' than usual.

I welcome February with cautious hope--and a dash of trepidation.


Monday, January 25, 2021

January Thunder; Journal Post, 25 January, 2021

Slight clearing of the sky at dusk--followed by more rain.

I woke in morning darkness to the sound of rain.  I turned carefully to view the digital clock, mindful of cats wedged round me. 
6 A.M.
I considered burrowing in, to perhaps sleep again. In the living room a sudden clatter as a chunk of wood settled noisily in the stove. The cats shot off the bed, Jim's feet hit the floor. 
The decision seemed to have been made for me. 

Pulling on my down robe, I waded through cats to raise the window blinds, open the front door enough to hand out kibble to Willis and Sally.  
A damp dark morning, but at 44 F. it was 20 degrees warmer than those of the past week.
 Measure water and coffee into the electric pot, return to my bedroom to dress in jeans and warm pullover.

The two boy cats, Robert and Nellie, who love to rush outside in the morning went out, quickly returned to shake wet paws, disgruntled, expecting us to fix the weather for them.

As we finished our breakfast oatmeal, thunder boomed.  
It rained all day, sometimes in wild torrents.
At intervals thunder crashed.

Comfort food was in order--a hearty beef/tomato/macaroni soup; pumpkin pudding with whipped cream.
Jim put up the cupboards in my craft area; I ran the dustmop around downstairs with Shelby Kitten firmly attached. 
An hour or two of squinting at vital statistics written in French, puzzling over these long-dead ancestors.
Several quilt blocks stitched.
A day in the life of retirement; a day in this strange continuing world of political and social upheaval.
I find that I need to again scribble notes in the daily spaces on a calendar--the weather, small accomplishments--anything to remember the march of days.

Below a few photos from Saturday when the sun shone and the air was crisp.

Beech leaves still clinging to understory trees along the north ravine.

The fallen leaves are thin and fragile, the colors bleached and sere.

Skeletal weeds along the old shed.

Looking back at the shed from the lower end of the property.

A visit from our daughter and son-in-law--and a wonderful gift.
New Englanders, born and raised, maple syrup is our sweetener of choice.
I buy it here in quart jugs and look at the labels--most say 'product of Canada and US.'
To be sure there are maple trees in all of the New England states, in eastern Canada; syrup is even produced in northern tier states such as Michigan.

This syrup is the real thing, produced a few miles from our old home in Vermont by the enterprising son of a family friend.
Jim suggests that we need a new waffle iron--the better to enjoy the syrup!


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

January 13, 2021: Journal Post

This cactus bloomed at Thanksgiving, and now in January

Two stunning days of sunshine, so welcome after a mostly grey and chilly month thus far.
Morning temperatures have been in the mid-20's F, the grass crisped with frost.

January has always been for me a contemplative time, a quiet hibernation of sorts, with the prime effort one of keeping warm.
Living now in south-central Kentucky we don't experience the long weeks of severe snow-bound cold.
The days without sunshine are damply chill, a sameness of colorless skies and bleached meadow grass.

Coneflower seed head.

When the sun shines I walk the perimeter of the meadow and notice that beneath the yellow-beige spears of grass there is still green.
Three of the cats, Robert, Nellie, and Willis, are intent on patrolling a specific area of the meadow, crouching for hours in the cold, shoulders hunched, eyes fixed in the hope of an unwary mouse appearing.  I have several times seen one of the cats strolling down the driveway, prey dangling helplessly. 
The juncos and bluebirds , though avidly stalked, seem to have a built-in wariness as far as the felines are concerned.

Established clumps of foxglove are wintering.
In the west wall garden at least two dozen self-sown seedlings are with-standing the cold nights.

Fresh growth of Lemon Balm, only slightly frost-tinged.

The shrub roses in the west garden foolishly insist on thrusting out new leaves.

The rough turf of the lower meadow, patched in subdued green and brown.

On the days when the wind doesn't bite cold, I bundle up and stomp around the perimeter of the property, sometimes only once, more often two or three rounds. We own slightly more than 20 acres, bounded on the north and south by deep ravines tangled with undergrowth of briars. I don't venture down onto the prickly slopes.

Violas sheltering under the sere stems of buddleia.

A dandelion!

Willis, interrupted in hunting mode.

Robert, strolling along the edge of the ravine with me, stops to hone his claws on a convenient tree trunk.

Willis takes a break from hiking to roll on the gravel in front of the old shed. His shadow gives the impression of another cat mirroring his every move.

The mid-winter days move quietly, a quotidian round of simple chores and brief errands--a contrast to the uproar of contentions and accusations that daily bombard us with conflicting reports. 

I've spent a week squinting at vital stats written in French, learning more about the Canadian families of my paternal bloodline. 
I've read my way through the first three Brother Cadfael mysteries and into the fourth book. 

Seed racks are out in the aisles at Wal Mart; nearly a dozen nursery and seed catalogs have landed in my mailbox.  I think about gardens, note the perennials I hope to start from seed, the new to me varieties of tomatoes which suggest resistance to blight. 

I read news reports and opinion pieces.
I can do nothing about the troubles that beset our country.  I increasingly lack faith that those in control will work honestly and effectively.

So, I plod along through these chilly days that comprise the mid-winter of my years--hoarding the sudden piercings of joy--two sightings of the barred owl this week; the mist of tiny blue blossoms on a rosemary plant; the devotion of my cats;  the smooth taste of chocolate, the comforting clasp of the tea mug that fits my hand. 
There is a certain reassurance in the sense that the seasons continue to move in response to an eternal plan--Something beyond the sorry disruptions of feeble humanity.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Welcome Surprise

I had removed my spectacles before walking up the lane to the mailbox, but even the resultant slightly blurry view of the label on an Amazon box, declared me the designated recipient. Nestled beside the box was a padded envelope also directed to me.

Living in a rural area with limited shopping venues, I often place orders through Amazon.  Books, household gadgetry, items of hardware which Jim requires, but I could think of nothing on order.

I questioned whether I might be losing my memory!

Jim poked his head out of the shop as I came down the driveway.
'What did you order from Amazon?'
'I don't know that I've ordered anything--no idea what this is.'

I wasted no time in sliding the parcels onto the table and fetching a knife to slit the packing tape.
A fat pouch of blueberry-laced dark chocolate;  a beautifully decorated box of tea.

A typed packing slip stated that it was a gift from someone whose name I didn't recognize.
I pondered this; the unknown sender surely knew my preferences.
When the smaller package was opened all was made clear.
The gifts were sent by my oldest grand daughter who lives in Colorado--the only name on the first packing slip was that of her significant other--who I never think of by his surname.

When Kelsey was a small girl we made a ritual of tea time.
This gift of tea will not be casually sampled--each mug brewed--and each bite of chocolate savored will stir happy memories.
Thank you, Kelsey and Rhys for collaborating on a surprise that made my day!


Friday, January 1, 2021

The Week After Christmas: 2020 Final Journal Entry

Christmas Day was bleak in terms of weather; sullen dark skies, the ground sodden with the scum of wet snow which began on Christmas Eve. 
We had a good day at the home of our daughter and son-in-law--a lovely meal to which we all contributed. Driving there on roads that were patched with wet, I looked up to see several ribbons of flying Canadian geese; watching them thread their way across the sky always lifts my heart.

I was in the kitchen when our grandson shouted from the dooryard that sandhill cranes were cruising overhead.  I'd not seen or heard any this autumn--but by the time I dashed down the hall and out onto the front steps--they were gone.

The sun struggled out on the 26th, melting the remnants of snow. 
Boots were needed outdoors. 
Jim 'turned' the garden with tractor and plows on a sunny day before Christmas and the heaved up soil gleams wetly brown.

Willis, the faithful cat, follows me to the spot where our drive meets the lane, waiting there until I return from the mailbox.

Willis is slower now, in his 11th winter, but he is always alert to my outdoor presence, trailing along behind me.

A week of fitful weather--glowing slow sunrise, pearly lavender skies at dusk.
Drizzles of chilly rain, late afternoon sun breaking through swift-moving billows of cloud.

The moon was brilliant on the night before full, but next night cloud cover was a thick blanket.

A soft grey dawn.

 One of the more colorful early mornings of the week.

A morning that promised sun--but didn't deliver.

A desultory run of days--out of sync from the holiday, a disruption of small errands, routine chores; the preparation of meals, pegging sheets on the line to billow and snap in a day of wind.  
I finished reading a thought-provoking biography, brought out the Brother Cadfael mysteries first read two decades or more ago. Prepared the notes to facilitate a Bible study via Zoom.

Now at nearly 10 P.M. on the first day of another year, the waning gibbous moon is climbing a wind-tossed bank of clouds. Wild rain last night and again through the morning, moderating to fitful sunshine, air heavy with damp. 
We don't really begin again--we continue.