Monday, February 28, 2022

End of February: Journal

Tiny leaves emerging on one of my older clematis.
Most years the earliest leaf and flower buds are blighted by frost. 
The nameless [as in I can't remember it] weed which spreads in dense evergreen mats is flourishing, threatening to choke the clematis and foxgloves in this flower strip.

Finally! Blue skies and sunshine.
I note the weather of the day in the blocks on my desk calendar, usually adding the morning and evening temperatures. February, 2022, is thus recorded as cold with blustery winds, sleet, hard rains. Strangely, though there were sunny days the overall retrospective of the month is one of darkness and unpleasant weather.
Scuttling out to the household dump with a container of peelings, eggshells, leftovers, I shivered, noted the scrim of snow lodged on bare tree branches or edging the grass closest to the wall on the north side of the barn. Walking to the mailbox at the head of the lane I bundled myself in layers of clothing, a hoodie or scarf drawn snugly about my head.

The cats who have outdoor privileges clamor to be let out, pad about in the cold, fur ruffled by the wind. They ask to come back in, shake themselves, lick chilled damp paws and then return to hover at the front door, imploring it to open on more favorable weather.  They resign themselves to staying in, lethargic and cantankerous by turns, designations which may fit their human keepers as well.

Jim has tinkered in his shop, waiting on tractor parts to be delivered. He comes in to make a hot drink or a snack. Meal times have lacked a firm pattern. We made thick sandwiches, piling wodges of rolls or home-made bread with  thin-sliced pastrami, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese.

Feeling sluggish from lack of time outdoors, I read myself squint-eyed;
Maisie Dobbs series of mysteries re-read in anticipation of the new one to be released at the end of March; also a new book documenting the re-investigation of the infamous betrayal of Anne Frank and her family in occupied Holland during WWII. My immersion in that story coincided with the thoughtlessly inane remarks of Whoopi Goldberg re the persecution of Jews. 

A sense of marking time rather than one of accomplishments.

 A friend in Illinois posts photos of her amaryllis--large pots crammed with vibrant blooms. Our friend [former renter at the Amish farm] summered amaryllis bulbs in the compost-enriched soil of his garden, lifting them in autumn, potting them up and bringing them into brighter light one at a time to bloom.
Each fall I faithfully follow what seems to be the same procedure with my collection of  bulbs producing only lanky straps of foliage.
Yesterday, watering all the plants in the sunroom I noticed that one bulb--the largest, on the far left of the tub, might be pushing up a flower stalk! If so, why? And why not the others?

Every spring I purchase at least one geranium; they look so brilliant and cheerful standing in their close ranks on the benches of my favorite nursery.  By mid-summer on the porch they inevitably become straggly. This fall, pressed for space in the sunroom, I decided not to save the geranium, but at the last moment cut a 'slip' to root in the vintage blue glass bottle on the kitchen windowsill.
Several weeks ago I moved the potted plant from behind a forest of large rosemarys and put it on the windowsill. Although the new plant is leggy there is nothing better than  red flowers for brightening gloomy weather.

Our internet connection has been feeble for nearly two weeks, sometimes blipping off and on repeatedly. More recently it is mostly 'on' but so slow to respond that often it 'times out' when trying to reach a website. 
On Sunday night I waited while 3 photos took 45 minutes to upload for this blog post. Repeated attempts to transfer them to the blog page failed.
Today, in two different sessions I have managed to load one photo at a time, each taking 12-15 minutes to upload.
I should, of course, report a problem to Windstream.
There is no local service number. Past experience has proved that one waits on the line [with dreadful scratchy music blasting away] for anywhere from a half to three quarters of an hour before the call is answered by an operator whose native tongue is definitely not English.
I have balked at placing the call, hoping that the local dispatchers are aware of problems and they will be resolved without my intervention. Could it be that the recent torrents of wind and rain have disrupted service? 
With the blessing of several sunny and warmer days I have been able to work outdoors--and am feeling more alert. Grubbing about yesterday afternoon along the west wall garden I discovered numerous plants of ground hugging 'pinks' had taken root below the wall. I shear the plants back in mid-summer after seed heads have formed and apparently some of the tiny black seeds fell onto the hard-packed soil along the wall, took root and quietly flourished during the mild weeks of November and December. 
I raised the original plants from seed the first season we were here and had enough seedlings to set in part way along the wall. The second spring I raised another variety to plant along the remaining length  of the wall. I didn't like these as well; The flowers were red orange while the originals could be described as magenta. I wasn't totally displeased when the second batch didn't over-winter. 

I pried the newly discovered plants from the cold damp soil, removed my gloves to tease out sprigs of grass and weeds, then tucked them into the empty spaces along the retaining wall. 
There are the usual small self-sown seedlings of foxgloves at the edge of the wall; As the weather warms I will pot these up in the greenhouse and grow them on. 
Prodding about below the wall I noticed several plants which I'm hoping may be well-grown foxglove rosettes.  It would make sense, as the spires of the gone-to-seed foxgloves lean over the edge of the wall.
The light was going and it was chilly when I noticed them late this afternoon. 

I finished outside by digging up several violas which had seeded into the mat of tough grass and creeping weeds which we call a 'lawn.' I freed the roots of heavy wet soil, tweaked out bits of grass and settled them into a wide shallow pot of their kindred. 
Daylight fading into a brilliant sunset, my hands cold, I trimmed dead stems from potted catnip, inspiring Nellie-cat to a rapture of wallowing. 
I hoisted Nellie under one arm and clutching a few sprigs of catnip in muddy fingers, we came in.
I shoved a twiggy bundle of dried thyme and lemon balm stems into the languishing wood fire.
They blazed up when Jim stoked the fire for the evening, creating a  pungent wisp of scent that links me in imagination to the generations of gardeners through the ages who have tended their treasured plants.

Friday, February 11, 2022

2ND Week of February: Journal

Sunny days and warm afternoons have resulted in letting the wood fire die down and opening the door into the sun room. 
Shelby-cat has been in trouble for flinging soil out of the large pot I used to pot up several of last year's amaryllis bulbs. I have two friends who successfully encourage repeat flowering of the bulbs, but thus far I've had no success. I have made a fence of plastic spoons stuck into the dirt around the bulbs--a rather frail barrier but the best I can contrive.
Shelby was roundly scolded for her cultivating efforts. Apparently taking this to heart she was inspired to wedge herself amongst the rosemarys on the long table. I didn't know she was there until she moved slightly as I watered the plants.

Jim felled a dead oak on the rim of the north ravine not far below the house and has been working it up.
Robert and Shelby, who normally prowl about in that area have been put off by the noise of chainsaw, tractors and wood splitter and have spent hours in the house while this disruptive project continues. 

A fiery sunset on Wednesday evening.

The setting sun cast a glow to the east, outlining the boundary trees against a billow of pale clouds.

The sunset colors change even in the time it takes to snatch my camera from my desk and go outside.
The half moon rises early in the east, hovering over the south ravine, seeming to float behind the bare trees. Going out after first dark to call Nellie-cat I observed the stars and noted the strange rim of light along the western horizon. While the rest of the sky had become inky blue-black, there were still layers of faint color to be seen in the west as though light shone through a veil--a pale rim of gold-touched azure fading into indigo.

Today [Friday] has been strange weather-wise; it was 54 F late in the morning with sun. As the afternoon wore on the temperature rose to 66 F although the sun was capriciously skidding behind banks of cloud. The wind was fierce, roaring through swaying tree tops, yet one could walk along the lane and feel only an intermittent  gust that swept down to send dry leaves skirling across the sodden garden to catch in the tangled pale grass of the meadow. 

Walking to and from the mailbox I felt buffeted, pushed sideways by the force of the wind. 
Stepping outside just now [9: 25 p.m.] I looked up at the sky. No stars are visible and shreds of cloud sail across the face of the moon calling to mind the 'ghostly galleon' of Alfred Noyes poem. 
I'm calling it an early night--not planning to read for hours in bed.
Perhaps the wind will sing me to sleep.


Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Emerging [Maybe] From Hibernation

The 4th day with sunshine! Now, at 6:40 P.M. there is still a hint of daylight remaining and 51 F.
Looking back at the notations on my January calendar page, I see  there were days when the sun shone and temperatures rose above the freezing mark, but the general effect was one of lingering grey skies, cold rain, snow, chilly wind, weather that didn't lure me outdoors except for necessary chores. 

January days slid one into another, the quotidian round seldom varying.
We had a Sunday meal to honor the three family members with January birthdays.
Jim kept the wood fire burning; we are grateful for its steady warmth, in spite of the film of fine dust it creates and the presence of the wood rack, kindling bucket and such which clutter the tiled space behind the stove.
Meals have been simple hearty food, breakfast eaten mid-morning, a second meal in late afternoon.

Sycamore/buttonwood tree standing on the edge of the north ravine.
It was inspiring yesterday to pull on my tall wellies and stomp about the perimeter of the fields with my camera.

Looking into treetops near the north ravine.

February 1st was sunny and by afternoon the temperature reached 60F. 
I celebrated the mild day by pruning the tangled mounds of nepeta that edge the east retaining wall garden--something of a mistake as I quickly remembered that nepeta does unpleasant things to my sinuses. I also trimmed the clump of red valerian on the west wall revealing this heart-shaped rock discovered and placed there two seasons ago.

Dandelions survived snow, freezing rain and cold to bloom on the south side of the barn, near the greenhouse.

Cold weather inspires baking--bread made with a combination of white whole wheat and unbleached white flour.

I hadn't intended making cinnamon rolls but Jim asked for them.

The cats have been disgruntled with inclement weather. I made up my bed with this heavy quilt of flower-patterned fabric, then had to put other blankets on top in an almost futile attempt to collect cat hair. 

Sunrise on a snow covered morning.  I'm noticing that the sun now appears farther east on the horizon--when it bothers to rise.

Looking west toward the small barn known as 'the snake shed,' so called for the several snake skins we've found clinging to the rough wooden walls.  Its not a place I like to enter.

Frost on the trees, blue shadows on snow, cold that bites at uncovered skin.

During January I finished piecing this huge quilt top [96 x 110] and today delivered it for the 'pro-stitch' machine quilter to work her magic.  She has more than 100 quilts in the queue.

All the fabrics in this quilt are batiks. The center fabric in rich shades of burgundy, smoky purple, deep blue, was purchased more than a decade ago in Thermopolis, Wyoming. It wasn't possible to 'fussy cut' the individual wildlife images, but in most blocks the creatures are recognizable. 
The quilt is intended for Howard and Dawn to use on the massive lodge-pole bed he constructed in Wyoming.  I think the quilt 'grew' a bit from my original plan. That happens!

With my usual lack of accurate math calculations I ended up with a bounty of 1 1/2" strips left from a project completed about 8 years ago. Discovering the strips during a rummage in various bins and containers I was impressed that they needed to turn into--something.  The strips were cut from good quality yardage and I couldn't bring myself to discard them. Making these simple Rail Fence blocks a few at a time was rather mindless work.  Last week I trimmed them to size, layered them with 'leftovers' of  batting and backing. While I vowed that I would never  attempt another 'quilt-as-you-go' project, I'm fairly determined to find a way to finish a few 'everyday' quilts without paying a machine quilter. It will at least become a quilt that can be spread out for the comfort of the cats!

The month has seemed long and rather dreary. We are weary--and wary--of the news, tired of the threats and uncertainties which lack resolution.  The cost of goods and services continues to rise.  We know we are blessed to own our home and vehicles mortgage-free. We have several nearby venues for frugal shopping, a well-stocked pantry.

I've not been creative this month--beyond the daily house-keeping tasks, I've spent hours reading, online as well as with a book in hand. 
Re-reading the Maisie Dobbs series in anticipation of the next installment coming in March; one of Sharon Kay Penman's massive historical novels which had me looking up the various dynasties of the time. [Reading usually until midnight!]
Background reading for the Bible lesson I facilitate once a month at church; music prepared for the weeks that I am the designated pianist. 
I list these things trying to convince myself that I've not wasted the month.

I continue to enjoy the blogs I follow--and yet, I've made only a few comments.
I've thought of blog posts I could write, thoughts to share, only to draw back into a lethargy that has seen me content to absorb someone else's words rather than making the effort to assemble my own.

Still, in these weeks of semi hibernation there have been joys to cherish: 
the splendor of the Wolf Moon  in all its phases of waxing and waning;  
the Great Blue Heron standing majestically near the icy pond; 
a Pileated Woodpecker bashing noisily on a tree trunk while below four Flickers foraged for any treat uncovered by melting snow. 
One afternoon, hurrying, shivering, on my way back from the mailbox I became aware of strange wittering sounds. Across the pond a group of about a dozen large birds were shuffling through the leaves that had drifted into a narrow hollow. They had the hump-backed shape of guinea fowl--could they have been a group who flew off from captivity [as they are prone to do] to procreate and survive in the wild? Most had the mottled and 'checkered' pattern I associate with such, but several had plumage that presented as a pale grey/white. 
I hoped for a few more minutes to observe them, but a noisy truck turned down the lane and the birds fled up the pasture hill, squawking and muttering, half flying, half bumbling.

So, all these meandering sentences to, if nothing else, fix in my mind the unraveling of an unusually prolonged 'cold spell.' 
I hope to find that with noticeable returning of daylight and warmth I will be energized into creativity.