Saturday, December 31, 2022

December: Looking Back

Sunset on the eve of the solstice

Mid December mornings were frosty, but often clouds parted mid-day and let the pale sun through for a few hours. The wind most days was brisk. 
J. was finishing the outside work to enclose the west porch--he was glad when he could dismantle the staging and work inside. 
Temperatures were dropping rapidly during 23rd December and the wind became brutal. 

The 'barn cats,' Willis and Sally, have shelters set up in the unheated greenhouse and also padded boxes and a kennel on the back porch. J. wrapped the back porch kennel with insulation batting and I added extra layers of fleece blankets to their favorite lounging spots.
The cat water bowl on the front porch had to be brought inside almost hourly to have the ice layer tunked out. I served dollops of tinned cat food to bolster the two cats.

Herman--the tabby stray who has been a regular evening visitor for months, disappeared during the coldest weather through the Christmas weekend. 

27 December and the temperature right at the freezing mark at 8:30 a.m., but an improvement over prior mornings; the high point of the day was 43 F. mid-afternoon. 

That evening Herman-cat returned, looking none the worse for the cold.
We suspect that though he may have no 'fixed address' he has places to shelter and eat other than here--he is not thin or frail.

The sun makes a shallow arc this time of year, setting southerly beyond the ravine.

Snow, blown into icy drifts, greeted us on the 23rd.

We had no need to drive anywhere; the back roads here wind and plunge uphill and down--skirting the edges of ravines and creeks; fortunately freezing weather or snow is short-lived.

 Surveying the frozen and inhospitable landscape I worried for the birds, hoping they could find shelter and seed heads to nibble.
In other years and other places I have put out bird feeders--in our present situation with cats who are avid hunters I fear I would be luring birds to certain death.
Scurrying through the cold to dump kitchen scraps behind the barn I was heartened to see a group of juncos picking at frozen veg peelings.

Sunrise on Christmas morning; 13 F. at 8:30 a.m.

Looking west toward the sheds, mid-day. 
Christmas day stayed clear and cold. 
We drove to have Christmas dinner with Howard and Dawn who live about 20 minutes away.
The food was wonderful, their house warm and cozy.

Here are H and D's two rescue cats sleeping in Howard's chair in front of the fire. 
Callie, on the right, has been with them for over a year.
Ginger was rescued in mid-summer--and went in for spaying on the 27th.
Both were frail and hungry when taken in; now both are plump and devoted house pets. 

Callie is a busybody who offers to help Howard with his projects.

Howard has finished creating this lovely storage unit in the upstairs hallway. 
Throughout construction the cats have used it as a playground.

A decorative feature on one of the shelves!

Howard had a few hours to spare helping J. finish the inside of the porch room.
J. found the flooring at a local surplus/salvage outlet--half price!
I put the first coat of poly on the bay window, swept and then hoovered the floor. 
 H. moved in the basket chairs.
I started upstairs with the oak side table and [of course!] got stuck before I was halfway and had to bellow for J. to come and rescue me. 
He hoicked the table up the stairs, muttering testily, 'Why didn't you ask me to move this--you should have known you couldn't manage!
[I suppose I did suspect that--but I wanted to 'do it myself!']

We've kept a rustic ambiance similar to the center sunroom that leads into the now enclosed west porch.

I need to make washable  fitted covers for the chair cushions, alter some ticking stripe curtains [created for the kitchen in our Amish farmhouse] and make some throw pillows.
The table mat was pieced and cleverly machine quilted by J.'s cousin in Vermont

The cats have been quick to explore the new area. Rosie kept me company while I arranged things.
I'm looking forward to bringing out a few favorite collectibles--not forgetting that anything on the wide windowsill could be subject to investigation by felines.

Rosie is rather naughty, but darling.

So--December ebbing away into its last few hours, a new calendar needed tomorrow.
The month has passed in a rather desultory way--baking, making soup to share, reading myself cross-eyed; work on the current quilt blocks; a genealogy project triggered by a random memory [an intriguing way to spend a snow day.] 

I rather expect that January will be much the same.
There is the joy each year of watching the slow return of daylight hours.

My favorite seed catalog is on my desk--do I dare dream of new gardens?


Friday, December 16, 2022

Blundering About

Looking beyond the shadows at the north side of the house, Thursday, mid-afternoon.

A morning of variable weather, dark clouds gave way to billowing clouds, sunshine, a nippy wind.
The ground is still soggy from the wind-driven rain that pelted down until nearly dawn on Thursday.

Seed pods on tulip poplar.

Tulip poplars are handsome year round. In spring the blossoms look like stiff tulips made of yellow and orange paper. The shell-like seed pods cling on through the winter.

Siding being applied to the outside of the porch room.
We are noticing that the new stain is not a perfect match, although I'm sure [at least 99%] that I ordered the correct color. At this point we have to hope it will weather a bit and become more of a match. Its not going to be done over.

A rubble of tools, ladders, sawhorses and staging are part of the process.

Peering up toward the window is the stray cat I call Herman.
He is not bony and starved looking, but is very wary of humans. Sometimes merely peeking through the window at him sets him off. Willis [on the top step] seems to have made peace with Herman.
I've not seen the other stray, Hector, for some weeks; last time he came to eat he was limping on a sore front paw.
The visiting cats are tidier than the raccoons or possums who come by.
One raccoon at a time usually eats without too much mess; if more than one, there are 'food fights' and  dishes are flung over the edge of the porch to land in the herb garden.

'Someone'--whether raccoon or cat--left a 'deposit' in the corner of the porch Wednesday night. Perhaps after over-eating the thought of hastening to the bushes in a downpour of rain was too much [?]
Dealing with this after [another] nearly sleepless night, then going downstairs to discover a hairball upheaval was disheartening. 
I keep old quilts and throws on the furniture and they need frequent laundering--part of the work that goes with a family of cats.

Nellie likes shelves and accesses this one via the utility cart, then onto the fridge top and along the shelf to his favorite basket. 
These are collectible Longaberger baskets and really shouldn't be occupied by cats.
Knowing Nellie as I do, any effort to coax him down can result in a welter of breakables.

The look of innocence. 

Another innocent--Miss Rosie.
J. found the tinsel tree in a trailer he was helping to clear out, brought it home and insists on displaying it. The red ribbons are frequently tugged loose.

The beauty of flowers is so fleeting--I look at them and think, 'Oh, please stay with us another day or two!'

Afternoon sun shining through red velvet petals.

The lovely Christmas arrangement delivered last evening by Dawn.
I enjoy every detail of the florist's artistry. 

I'm glad to report that Rosie has not molested the flowers today. 
Dare I leave them on the table overnight?
When humans turn the lights out at bedtime it usually signals a feline rampage.
They may have been plonked here and there, on beds, chairs, the top of the piano, but once the house is dark all kinds of mayhem takes place.

Blundering and bumbling about--a more prolonged bout than usual of insomnia has left me feeling stupid. My mind whirrs on while my body longs for sleep. 
A family failing passed on by my Dad, and one to which I am accustomed but not resigned!

I've mogged through daytime this week, doing the usual chores, even a bit of sewing, but glad I am not required to go out to a job or to 'operate machinery!'

On such nights I often turn on my bedside lamp, read until I feel my eyes closing and the book falling from my hands; turn out light, snuggle into the blankets, and immediately I'm awake again.

About the foggiest I've been today was so concentrating on preparing cabbage rolls that 5 loaves of bread were pushing over the tops of the pans before I remembered to turn on the oven.

Isn't it odd that wakeful during the night, pondering a dozen projects, one doesn't simply get out of bed, dress and do something? 


Thursday, December 8, 2022

Early December Journal; Projects

 The west wildflower garden, so-called, after the hasty pruning I managed during the afternoon of 29 November. 
The day began with sunshine, then the sky became grey and the wind picked up.
I nearly despair of finishing this project. The photo shows where I started to take up and rework the stone path in early summer, an effort curtailed when my back rebelled against heaving rocks. The smaller slabs of creek rock aren't an issue--the large flat ones that comprise most of the walk are another matter. 
I still have notions of getting out on mild winter afternoons and accomplishing a bit more, but possibly I am over-optimistic. 

I first tackled the wildly overgrown butterfly bush, tossing clipped branches onto the ground; I trundled in the old wheelbarrow as a sensible alternative to picking up heaps of trimmings. I was ready to wheel off a towering load to dump at the edge of the south ravine when I realized Nellie-cat had burrowed his way into the heap of cuttings and made himself comfortable.

It took a bit of coaxing before Nellie was convinced to leave his brushy hide-out.

November 30th was sunny. J. and grandson D. worked on the porch enclosure while I drove to shop in the South Fork area. I stopped at Discount Market, Misty Mountain Mercantile, Sunny Valley Salvage Foods, and then chugged up the perilously winding steep road to The Quilters' Trunk.
Nearly all the small shops and businesses in South Fork are owned by Mennonite and Amish of various persuasions. I enjoy the scenery--small farms, greenhouses, clotheslines pegged full of 'plain' clothing. 

I drive slowly, ready to overtake an Amish buggy, school children on bicycles, a lumbering iron-wheeled farm tractor. I slow to a mere crawl hugging the verge when an over-laden log truck bears down 'taking its half from the middle of the road.'

D. perched on a ladder.

When I returned from my shopping expedition the bay window had been hoisted into place.

December has come in with persistently gloomy weather: dark, but with a humid chill. 
Over several days the porch room was closed in.
Siding and matching stain have been collected from the lumber yard.

 The grey siding which covered the two formerly exterior walls will remain; the new walls have been clad in tongue and groove pine. J. suggests finishing the pine with a clear poly sealer. Knowing the tendency of pine to 'yellow' with time I've proposed a transparent white stain. The builder's decision has not been announced. No floor covering has been chosen. The east porch has prefinished manufactured wood-look flooring, a possible choice for this area.

My lanky Norfolk Pine has managed to take over a corner of the sunroom between the east and west porches. The topmost branches were brushing the ceiling. The tree was much in the way of tools and lumber being carried through the door to the new room on the right. Dragged across the floor and parked for ten days against the far wall, the tree leaned tipsily toward the light.

This morning I enlisted J. to haul the potted tree back to its usual corner; I then clambered onto a chair and ruthlessly clipped off the top set of fronds.
Whether or not that was a good thing to do remains to be seen.

My amaryllis have been unbothered by the commotion around them and have bloomed in spite of the sun's disappearance.

I wish the duration of bloom was longer.
I considered buying two more when I was in Tractor Supply on Monday, but their displayed bulbs are in sad state, the stalks growing crazily out of the cartons.

My projects are not as exciting as the renovation of a porch.
My visit to the quilt shop was to choose fabric for a set of cuffed pillowcases I decided to make as a gift for a friend.
[It was strong-minded of me not to succumb to any other fabric purchase while there!]
I made this type of pillowcase by the dozens when I worked at Wyoming Quilts and have made many more as gifts.
In the several years since I made the last pair I developed a 'mental block' regarding the layering of the fabrics.  Annoyed with myself I found instructions online, stared at them, feeling cross, until the method 'rebooted' into my brain.
Feeling belatedly pleased with myself I made a second set to match the batik quilt created for Dawn and Howard; I didn't take a photo of those, and they have gone home with Dawn.

On evenings when I can persuade myself that I don't need to codge up in a corner to read I trudge downstairs and work on quilt blocks.
The large 'Flying Geese' units which create the center pinwheel are fairly quick to make using the 'tool.'
Each block requires four sets of the smaller 'goslings'--a more fiddly process. 

Rummaging out chunks of fabric as possibilities I was initially skeptical of including the green check.
This has become a favorite of the blocks I've finished.
No time for sewing this week.

It is my scheduled turn as pianist for church; since I am lazy about practicing regularly, I've been hauling out folders of Christmas music as well as happily floundering through The Oxford Book of Carols. 
Many years ago I borrowed from a library [where?] an older copy of the Oxford Book; I hoped that I could locate the same, but never found it in my usual sources for used books.

I was surprised when this new edition, divided into two spiral bound volumes, was offered on ebay at $48.  I offered $35 and was accepted.
I've discovered several old melodies previously heard on CD's--songs with plaintive minor keys and delicate harmonies.
My fingers are not as flexible as in former years [practice might help?] and I'm hoping that friend Ruben will be there with his flute. Ruben's lovely improvisations do much to improve my efforts.

I realize that I start each week with high-minded goals of accomplishment. As the days spin out with routine chores and duties, the unexpected errands or interruptions, the times when a nearly sleepless night leaves me stupid and blundering--each week I come up short of my intended goals. The 'leftover' projects must either be abandoned, postponed or tagged onto the new list.
I wonder if this happens for most of us, some of the time? Most of the time?
Or--sad thought--is it an inevitable affliction of old age?
Que sera, sera!