Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday, 28 April - Contemplation

I've titled this blog entry, "Contemplation," because of the three photos I want to share. They all involve thought and they all evoke different feelings.

On Thursday, 24 April, Barry and I visited the traveling version of the Viet Nam Wall. If you're not familiar with it, it's a half-sized replica of "The Wall" in Washington, DC. It travels all over the US -- I went to Farmington, ME, to see it several years ago, and last week it came to Danville. The local newspaper ran a story about a local woman whose husband was killed in Viet Nam in 1970, visiting the wall to see his name. Just as in Washington, people reached out to touch the names on the wall, even though in this version, they are not carved into the shiny black granite, as they are in DC. People left memoranda, and someone from Mercer County High School (in Harrodsburg) left photos of two graduates. Many of the photos of "The Wall" show someone contemplating, and being reflected off the granite -- hence this photo of Barry.

My feelings about this picture are that, once again, we are involved in a war, far away from home, that is killing young Americans, wasting precious resources, continuing to fight so that those 4,000+ who have already been killed will not have died needlessly (so it's necessary to kill 4,000 more?--illogical) and we really don't know why. Is the war win-able? Was it necessary? When will it end? How will it end? How can we thank sincerely those who serve (and served) without supporting the war in which they served? To me, it's like Viet Nam all over again only it's in a desert instead of a jungle. The photo asks, "why?" yet it doesn't provide any answers.

The second photo, taken early in the morning on 26 April, shows the barn just over our property line, just before the sun was blocked out by rain clouds. Seldom have I seen a rainbow in the morning! And I guess the barn is where the pot of gold must be located! Or at least, something is in there. No matter how old we get, there is always something exciting about seeing a rainbow. The bright colors contrasting against a darkening gray sky causes us to look in awe at what is basically a lesson in light-bending physics.

But a rainbow is more than just light refracting on raindrops, being bent to a greater or lesser extent depending on its wavelength. That is such a droll explanation.

Throughout time, rainbows have signified hope in the future -- just take out Genesis and read about the Flood. Whether one is religious or not, doesn't matter. When this rainbow appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, it was a sight beyond the physics.

Unfortunately, within minutes, the sun was obscured, the rain began, and the rainbow disappeared. But there will be other rainbows, other days, and whenever we see one, we will be joyous.

Finally, I had to include a nice portrait of another of our "neigh"-bors. We have seen her several times, but I haven't been able to get a nice close-up of her. She's apparently being sold by the people next door, to a gal on the other side of our neighbor, so she may well be hanging around in the same location for awhile. I hope so, because she's a beautiful animal. Does anyone ride her? How old is she? What's her name? What is SHE thinking as she looks at my camera? So many questions, so few answers, and the contemplation of what animals see, hear, feel, think...if anything...

On Friday night, we went into Danville to see Over The Tavern, by Tom Dudzick. It's billed as a Catholic Neil Simon play, about a 12-year-old Polish boy in Buffalo, NY in 1959, who questions the authoritarianism of both his Church and his father, and seeks a "fun" religion. The play brought back SO many memories of "catechism" classes through which I suffered, growing up Catholic. Many of the questions Rudy asked, I also asked, beginning at about his age. The play was performed at our local community theater, the West T. Hill Community Theater, and four of the players were 7th, 8th or 9th graders. How they can memorize ALL those lines is a mystery to me, but they did a great job. They're doing Into The Woods (Sondheim) in July, and up in Harrodsburg next month, their community theater is doing Bye, Bye, Birdie. And this is all BEFORE the Pioneer Playhouse opens. Kentucky has more open-air theaters than any other state, and we need to visit them all!

My next blog entry -- after Wednesday -- should contain some really joyous news...hold your breath...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday, 21 Apr 2008 - Patriot's Day in Maine; gardening here

Just a couple of quickies tonight -- posting some photos we took off the camera.

Barry shot this one of a dogwood tree almost in full bloom. Note how he happened to get the Robin in the lower left to pose in mid-flight! The petals of the dogwood start off green, but as they open, they turn almost an incandescent white -- even at night you can see them. I think the petals are actually just specialized leaves -- like the poinsettia -- the red "petals" are actually leaves. We have three dogwoods, hoping that at least one of them would be a pink one, but the white are pretty anyway. Paducah (in western KY) has a "Dogwood Trail" where everyone in the neighborhood who has dogwoods (which IS everyone) lights them up at night, and people even take bus tours of the Trail just to see the trees. We're either too early or too late for them to be at their peak, but one of these days we'll have our OWN dogwood trail here in Alum Springs.

We took a ride down to Hustonville to our favorite 24 flavor soft serve ice cream place. On the way back home, we just naturally drove over to see the old Butchertown place. What a surprise on the way! The sides of the Butchertown Road are full of "Redbud" trees -- and since they grow down in the valley, we were able to see some of them 40 feet up the tree. The Redbud isn't a tree you look at -- you can actually see right through it, so its flowers appear to float on nothing -- but when you DO look at it, you really notice it. The roadsides were pink with them. This photo, taken through the front windshield, doesn't do the trees justice though. People pay a good price to plant these in their back yards, yet, they line the interstates and back roads, like pine trees in Maine. They look SO beautiful that way.

For those of you who have never seen a "knob", here's one of the best examples. These rounded, conical hills, are all that's left after erosion has taken most of the soil around them to fill in the river valleys. The stone on the cap is harder than surrounding stone, so it doesn't erode, making the cone-shaped hills which are typical of much of this area. The soil in the Knobs is generally poor except in the valleys, where the soil eroding from the hills has settled. Back in Butchertown, we were maybe 500 feet below the tops of two knobs, which meant that the sun didn't rise until 9AM and it would set by 5PM in the winter. Where we live now, the "Knob Region" begins just across the street, and the sun is up at 7AM and it stays light until well after 8PM. Take 4 or 5 of the knobs in a string, then imagine the road going around, through, over hills like these. No wonder the accident rate in Kentucky is so high!

Finally, we came home, and Barry watered the garden. I couldn't resist taking one more photo at sunset. Incidentally, the hill in the right background is a knob. The leaning tree is a cedar which almost touches the ground when the wind is strong and out of the west; the pink tree is a Korean cherry, and the small dark green shrub is a holly (female, with LOTS of flowers which I hope will mean LOTS of red holly berries this coming wither).

We've already had fresh lettuce twice, parsley once, and other herbs are growing to the point where we'll be able to begin harvesting a few leaves here and there shortly. We planted some red onions today, and the tomatoes, now on the side porch, may be ready to go in the ground in another week. Then, we start thinking about the warm crops -- which will be planted on the front side of the house

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday, 16 April - Tree of Evil, plus Jake and Nick

We were out walking awhile ago out back, and we spotted a tree that was, to say the least, unusual. It looked like something out of Star Trek -- remember the episode where the crew beamed down to a R&R planet, and they were all assaulted by "feel happy" plants? Well, this tree could have been one of the stars of the Wizard of Oz, on the side of the Wicked Witch of the West, of course. Cowardly Lion would make himself scarce just seeing it, Tin Man's heart would beat so fast it would shatter, and Scarecrow would lose his mind. Dorothy would surely be grabbed by the 3" sharp thorns, and would never get to see Auntie Em again!

It is absolutely horrible to look at, and it is sure to cause nightmares to small children -- or retired old men for that matter.

After diligent research (yeah, right, we just googled "Kentucky tree thorn") and came up with some pictures and a few descriptions that fit our Tree of Evil to a "T".

It's called a "Honey Locust" and it's considered a noxious weed in parts of Australia. One website said this is one of the few trees that can be identified by "feel" especially when backing up! Civil War soldiers in Kentucky used the thorns as common pins to hold their clothing together if they lost a button.

Of course others could think of absolutely EVIL uses for this tree. All in all, though, the seed pods are edible, the seeds are 13% protein, and the "sauce", for lack of a better term, inside the pod is 40% carbohydrate.

But you ain't gonna catch ME hanging around this tree for ANY reason!

FINALLY, I got an email from former students. I wasn't sure they liked me any more, but today Jake and Nick emailed me. It was SO good to hear from them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday, April 15 - Income Tax Day and our first "green stuff"

After a frost last night, and a possible one tonight, we may be out of the woods now. Temps yesterday were colder here than in Maine, but they'll be up to 70 by week's end. We picked our first lettuce -- granted, only 2 leaves to go on top of sirloin burgers (we ground some inexpensive steak). The first of the flowering trees have gone by, but there's always something else coming along.

BTW, if you haven't figured it out, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

The Bradford Pear is now all green, having lost all its white blossoms. They're everywhere around here -- some people have a couple of dozen of them lined up their driveways.

The forsythias are beautiful -- they don't get winter-killed as so many do in Maine. There's one down the road that looks like a bright yellow fireworks display! Ours is fairly small, but still quite nice looking. Maybe in a few years if we let it naturalize, it will become more spectacular. These were about the first flowering shrubs to bloom in Maine, and I always looked forward to seeing them. It surely meant that spring was on its way.

Many people also have flowering crab apples. We happen to have three -- two of one variety and one of a third. The two are deep red, and the other is pink. We're not sure of the actual genus or even the common name, but the nursery down the road can probably tell us.

One sign that summer is almost upon us in Maine is when the lilacs bloom. Well, ours aren't quite out yet, but in another 3-5 days, they probably will be. That's fully a month earlier than what we are used to seeing. NICE! We also have a white lilac, but it's mostly leaves now, with a few blossoms here and there hidden, so it's not going to be as attractive as the blue lilac. But it's nice too.

Finally, there's a tree here that has a very weird name. When we first saw it two years ago, I asked Laura, Barry's daughter-in-law, what the tree with the red buds was called. Her answer -- a Redbud Tree! I thought she was being wise. Nope. There are several varieties, and they grow apparently wild all along the roadsides. Some are up to 20-25 feet tall, and the really weird part is that the flowers can grow directly from the stem, not just on the branches. We have one here that technically isn't on our land, but we're the only ones who can see it, so we've sort of adopted it.

This photo shows flowers growing directly on the trunk. Never seen anything quite like this before.

Tomorrow, I finish painting the front porch, then I tackle the side porch. The previous owner put a primer coat, but didn't get to the finish coat, so I'm working on that. We'll mow for a fourth time as well. We didn't think we'd need the riding mower here with only an acre of land, but it's nearly all lawn, and it would take all day to mow with the other mower, which we do use for trim, and along the hill.

Barry, as usual, is a planting maniac. He's put in (or will tomorrow) about a dozen day lilies, ten calandulae, half a dozen hostas, who knows how many hollyhocks, and that's only what I can remember. He's happy as a pig in **** with nearly an acre of rock-free land to play with. PLUS, right now I'm feasting on a gingerbread cookie with cream-cheese frosting (a Betty Crocker gingerbread mix, baked into cookies!) -- and WOW are they good! We do limit ourselves to one a day though. I always tell him, "Thank you for cooking my eating" whenever he does ANYTHING in the kitchen. Gawd, he's a great cook! I can't wait until he begins to harvest the garden for the dinner table.

OK, got to go back to work on Boyle County cemetery records and census transcriptions. Who said retirement was going to be boring? And we have 2 movies to watch from the county Public Library.

Life is good!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wednesday, 9 April - Spring business

OH my, I really haven't written in quite a while, have I? Well, we've been busy outside working, and by the time we come in after 8PM some nights, I'm just too pooped to write much. I need to get over that!

The back garden is in, but not much has come up. A few beets here and there, so far, but we're hoping for more. The strawberries are doing fine, as are the broccoli, lettuce, and cabbages we planted from seedlings. But most of the seeds aren't up yet. Maybe it's been too wet, or maybe it's the soil which, when it rains, becomes a brick-like cake. At least the onions have rooted and are sending up their green shoots. The birds didn't get any probably because the clay-muck solidified around them!

We had several breezy, dry, sunny days, so I was able to get out and sand and paint the rails on the side porch. The previous owner put a primer on but never got to the finishing coat, so I'm doing that. Next comes the deck itself, but I need some super-hardy deck paint for that, plus I'm out of the white exterior I used on the rails. The front porch is in pretty sad shape paint-wise, so that has a high priority as well. The carport needs touching up here and there too.

We've now mowed three times, and though we were wondering if we could continue to use the tractor here, it's a big help. We have an acre of lawn, roughly, and since it's flat, I don't feel like I need a seat belt on the mower!

Barry got in this afternoon from fertilizing most of the lawn and planting grass seed over the areas that were killed off by last year's drought. They have come back, but with light green weeds, so at least it's not brown, but a nice green lawn would look much better.

We've also researched black walnut trees -- seeing that we have two of them just over our property line. Any black walnuts that fall on our lawn are OURS! We'll need to husk, wash and dry them for several weeks, but next winter we two NUTS hould have all the walnuts we want!

I just wish I could name everything that Barry has planted here. No doubt, I have done so at one time or another in these blogs, but to remember everything all at once? Let's see -- peach tree (2), nectarine tree, blueberry bush (2), day lily (too many to count), lavender, chives, parsley, spearmint, oregano, rosemary(?), strawberries, spinach, lettuce, beets, swiss chard, white onions, yellow onions, garlic, asparagus, kiwi...and right now he's transplanting tomato seedlings into larger containers. Left to go are cantelope, watermelons, corn. There, I think I've named it all -- feel like Old Mother Hubbard who had so many plants she didn't know who they all were!

We're headed up to Keeneland (THE most beautiful race track in the world) Friday morning. In addition, we're going to the University of Kentucky Library, where they will download for me a copy of a map of Boyle and Mercer Counties done on 1876 that shows all the homeowners. That way I can tell who lived where here on our road, which in turn will help my genealogical research on all the inhabitants since the area was settled. Old genealogists never die, they just lose their relatives...

At Keeneland on Friday, we'll watch the Maker's Mile (sponsored by Maker's Mark Kentucky Bourbon. It's a G-1 horse race, which means it's in the same class as the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont and the Preakness. On Saturday comes the Bluegrass Stakes (CBS, 5:00 PM I think). Watch for us on TV! Some of the horses there will definitely be running in the Derby the first Saturday in May. We're staying over, partly because of the price of gas, but mostly because we'll be attending the Maker's Mark street party in downtown Lexington -- we're "official" Ambassadors - which simply means we spread the word about how good Maker's is!

Off topic -- did any of you catch the video of the two turkeys fighting on the Maine Turnpike exit at Biddeford? It was on Lexington news, and CNN of all places! Only in Maine, huh? Just "Google" "turkey" and "Maine Turnpike"!

There. That's about it -- except, Alison, what the heck is happening at Messalonskee HS? Please let me know but do NOT use school email!