Friday, October 31, 2008

Cleaning up for "winter"

The previous owners of our house had planted numerous trees out back -- several of them much too close to each other. In particular, a black walnut was planted (or planted itself, maybe) right near the Kwanza Cherry. Black walnuts emit a toxin which kills all other trees around them, so if we had let the walnut grow, the cherry would have been killed. The cherry is absolutely beautiful in the spring with its large pink double flowers -- there was only one choice -- the walnut had to go.

Barry fired up the chain saw, which hadn't been used in about 3 years, and after some time coaxing the machine to wake up, he succeeded. The walnut came down and the back yard opened up a bit.

Not being content with his successes here, he then tackled a maple tree that was shading a dogwood very badly. Not a good idea to do that when there's a man with a chain saw in his hand thinking, "TIMBERRRR!"

When the chips cleared, several major low-hanging branches bit the dust. Now that area is more open and more light can get to the dogwood.

We'll see what tree next challenges Kentucky's version of Paul Bunyan!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Understanding the problem

The Problem: Why I can't write in this blog more often.

After careful thought I think I have defined the problem. When I blog, I try to be complete with what's going on down here, I over-edit, I include pictures whenever I can, and I tend to run off at the mouth too much. End result -- I don't blog very often because it takes too much time the way I am doing it.

Solution: More frequent, shorter, less-detailed blogs.

But first, one more long one, to catch up.

October 10
- my Dad died.

He was nearly 95, and had been in a nursing home for quite a long time, and was unable to recognize me when I was in Maine in September. I didn't figure it would be long. It wasn't.

The nursing home called me at 1:00 pm on October 9, to say that he was failing, and asking me if I wanted extraordinary measures taken. Having talked with Dad when he was lucid, I know he would not have wanted that, so it was simply time to "let him go." Barry helped me pack, we checked out plane fares, but I decided that driving up was the best way. I didn't know when Dad would pass, so I couldn't really plan on a return plane flight, and one-way flights were just too expensive, so at 3:00 p.m., I was on the road driving back to Maine. I got to Morgantown, WV Thursday night, then Friday morning, my birthday, I was on the road at 6:30 a.m.

Passing through Connecticut and Massachusetts, the traffic was horrible. I figure it took me about 2.5 hours longer due to bumper-to-bumper traffic in Danbury, Waterbury, Hartford, and all the way from Sturbridge to Lowell. I was going through the Hampton tolls when Maureen called. She was crying, and I couldn't understand what she was saying, though I knew. Josh (my son-in-law) told me to come to their house, not the nursing home. Dad had died about an hour before I got there.

Now you have to understand Dad. When he got it in his mind to do something, he did it. No real planning or hesitation, he just went ahead and did it. So even in death, he did it his way. Way to go, Dad!

The funeral was simple, no visiting hours, the way he wanted it. Yet I was totally blown away at the number of people who showed up. He would have been embarrassed (yet pleased) at all the attention. I have to hope I did it the way he would have wanted it.

My grandmother (mom's mother) died on Christmas Day in 1968. For years, I couldn't really enjoy Christmas because it was always a reminder of her death. But while teaching Adult Education, I had a student -- yes, I'll name her -- Jan Gagne -- who put things in a whole new perspective. Jan told me instead of being unhappy on Christmas, I should light a candle for "Babka" and remember her. It worked. So now, using Jan's advice, I'll light a candle on December 25 for my grandmother, and on October 10 for Dad.

He had a good life, and he went out the way he wanted to. I miss him, but it was so sad seeing him the way he was -- he would not have liked it.

One real pleasure of the trip to Maine was having Maureen (and Gannon) meet Bruce and Shirley. We're sorry we missed Carol, but I wanted Maureen to meet Barry's family, and it was a very nice visit. Shirley, Maureen said it was like she had known you for years -- you're so warm and friendly -- wish everyone we know were like you... And Bruce, Barry got the doorbell fixed just fine and the house is still standing.

And yes, I stocked up on red hot dogs and Moxie again. Only wish I could have been able to bring some lobster back but no good way to keep it cold enough long enough.


Oct 12. The ruby-throated hummingbirds left for the season. It was a pleasure watching their behavior and learning about them. If you want to feed them, DO NOT PUT RED FOOD COLORING in the sugar-water -- it can damage their livers.

Rick, Barry's son, bought us two tickets to the University of Kentucky - University of Arkansas football game. First live football game I've watched since 1963, when Kennedy was President! We went up to Lexington about 1PM for tailgating, even though the game didn't start until 7. Great time, walking around the stadium and environs, people-watching, food-eating, etc. The game began at 7, and our seats were in the middle of the Arkansas section, so we were nearly the only "True Blue" fans in a large section, until the empty seats filled with other Kentucky fans. The game was a blowout by the beginning of the 4th quarter, 17-7, and with traffic concerns foremost, we decided to leave early. We could listen to the rest of the slaughter on the radio. Guess what? Didn't happen. Kentucky won 21-20 in the last 5 minutes, while we were stuck in Nicholasville Road traffic. Car horns were honking, people on the sidewalk were cheering...interesting evening.

Last summer I had promised Barry to build him a potting bench. He's done so much work gardening that I thought it would be nice for him to have a place to do the work in one place, have tools, pots, soil, etc. available. Anyway I planned the project in my head for months, while the weather was too hot to actually work. Finally, when it cooled down into the 70s, on Oct 21, I struck. Off to Lowe's for lumber, then in 2-1/2 hours, the finished product. It's 8' long, 2' wide, and should give him plenty of room to work. Problem was he thought it looked to nice to get it dirty. So now it's in his bedroom in front of 8 foot windows covered with plants for the winter. Makes the bedroom look like a greenhouse. Beautiful! Now if I can just convince him that it's a potting bench, not a plant stand! Well, maybe I'll just build him another potting bench in the Spring.

Next project is a railing along the back deck, but that may have to wait until Spring, too.

Three times, now, we've taken in the sensitive plants due to frost or freeze warnings. Last night it did get down to 33.1 degrees, and a week or so ago, we did have a nip of frost. So I guess it's going to come one of these days. After all, it is the end of October. But our Swiss Chard is still going strong, Barry dumped all the rest of the left-over seeds in the garden to see what would happen, and some plants have re-seeded themselves; sunflowers are close to blossoming, lettuce, radishes, spinach -- all are up enough for us to have a nice salad. We even have a millet plant, obviously growing from some of last winter's birdseed that got into the garden somehow. Trees are turning color here, and those that haven't lost their leaves due to the extreme drought, are getting brighter. Another week or so and the fall colors should peak.

Yesterday, we drove down to Columbia (Central Time Zone, Adair County) to get some Christmas presents. Can't say just what 'cause we don't want to give it away. Instead of coming home the same route, we took the Cumberland Parkway (4-lane, divided STATE road, soon to become Interstate-66) to Somerset, at the head of Lake Cumberland. We had seen a doughnut shop mentioned on the Kentucky Educational Television program "Kentucky Life" -- Amon's Sugar Shack. So we stopped, and filled a box of goodies for just $10! On the way home, we found Freddie's, which used to be the best Italian restaurant in Danville. It's now at the Dix River Country Club in Stanford, only about 15 miles from here. And now, Barry is on the hunt for Maine lobster in Kentucky! Actually found several places, one in Louisville which looks really good. Louisville is only about an hour's drive away, and we haven't been there since March, so maybe after payday, we'll head up for some lobster and scallops.

OK now, I need to close, and to write less quantity and do it more often. Let's see if that promise falls by the wayside as quickly as a politician's promises during an election!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wednesday 7 October 2008 - IT'S RAINING!

Yup. The back deck is damp. First time since about September 9 we've had ANY rain, and we've had less than 2 inches since July. Everything is brown and the trees are dropping their leaves not due to normal leaf-fall, but to drought. There are several major forest fires to our east, and we can actually smell the smoke.

But, any rain is welcome rain!

Last Saturday, we drove up to Harrodsburg to see a comedy, "The Foreigner." It's about an uptight Englishman in the upland hills of Georgia staying at a redneck lodge and dealing with how the Klan reacts to foreigners. Really funny, especially after we got used to the accents. It was weird though, a play dealing with the Klan -- down here in the South. Considering that organizations similar to the Klan are responsible for the fact that most Blacks around here were driven out after "The War", it was really odd watching Kentuckians, including some Blacks, react. Like, there was no visible reaction.

Of course, many Kentuckians will NOT vote for Obama because he's Black, though they were never admit it publicly. But I digress...

Next week it's back up to Harrodsburg for a variety show, and Oct 18, it's off to Lexington to see our first University of Kentucky football game, against Arkansas. It's homecoming weekend, and we've been invited to "tailgate" with one of Rick's friends in Lexington. Gonna be really cool! Of course, we need to get UK sweatshirts, or at least new UK t-shirts for the game! GO BIG BLUE!

Temps are down to 66, having been up to 82 today. It's really like a typical August day in Maine. I picked some more tomatoes today and made some salsa, and we probably have another 10 lbs of Swiss Chard to pick. We've eaten fresh greens since April!

Oh my, I just heard we MAY have a THUNDERSTORM! Nice!