Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008 - Update on Spring!

Update on Spring in the Bluegrass. It certainly is here now. The daytime temps over the next ten days will be in the 50-65 range, and nighttime temps won't get any lower than 35-40. Cold weather crops and early spring flowers should be doing just fine now. Herewith, a sampling from our back yard...

Daffodils - they grow wild here, and are almost past their prime. We have at least two types, one the traditional simple one, and the other that almost looks like a tulip when it buds.

Flowering Crab Apple -- I think; it looks like a Bradford Pear but the tree has a slightly taller and thinner shape and the blossoms are later.

Purple Lilac -- the buds are out about 1/2 inch, and will be blossomed well before the end of April. In Maine, we look for these around the end of May.

Holly -- maybe English Holly. These are the buds which, if fertilized, will become the bright red berries with which we are all familiar. We need to check with a nursery to see if we have mono- or di-oecious plants (one or two genders on the same plant), and if we have mono, we need to get a male plant -- at least we think this is a to tell?

The Bradford Pear. They are everywhere down here, and the best specimens are absolutely stunning. Our two ain't too bad, considering that they're only about 7 years old.

The Bradford Pear from the side deck. This is the bigger of the two. You may notice the direction from which the wind blows. The branches on the right are pushed up and those on the left are stretched out. The wind blows from the west most of the time -- from right to left in the picture.

This little wildflower is all over. I think it's a type of anemone but I haven't gotten out the Kentucky Wildflowers book yet to identify it. Anyway, it's a welcome sign of spring, and is the first or second wildflower we've seen this Spring.

And finally I couldn't resist. The cattle are grazing on new green grass. They've been subsisting for several months now, but with the new grass, they actually LOOK happy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday, 26 March - Planting

Unexciting but relaxing day today. This noon, we went to Wal-Mart and bought bags of humus/manure mix, cypress mulch, and sandbox sand for the garden. The soil here is so full of clay that when dry it bakes like brick, so it really needs extra organic material in it, hence the humus. Fertilizer (the manure) in the humus also will help greatly. The pH of the soil is generally what we need for what we're going to plant, or it can be adjusted easily, but the nutrition apparently is somewhat lacking. The sand is to mix with the clay for the carrot bed. I've always wanted to plant carrots in light, sandy soil to get nice long roots. Back in Maine the soil was so dense that the carrots were all short and stubby. Just ONCE I'd like to grow a 12" carrot!

On the way home, we stopped at the nursery just down the road. OH my, it's the largest nursery in the county, and we didn't get to see 1/4 of it. The plants are quite expensive, but the fruit trees are already several years old and have blossoms and buds, so they would fruit this year. I'm trying to convince Barry to buy another peach tree or maybe a plum so we can see how they do. He has ordered one of the type the nursery had but may cancel that order after seeing how the two trees he ordered earlier were delivered. They will actually grow, but right now they are 3' sticks.

When we got home from the nursery, Barry rototilled the front garden. I helped break up the sod and soil a bit with the Mantis tiller, but it's very hard work for that little machine. The Troy-Built tiller is made for the job, but the soil is simply so packed, Barry had difficulty, hence the assistance of the Mantis. That's the garden where we plan to plant the crops that will spread -- cantaloupes, watermelons, cucumbers, etc. It gets full sun all day long, so it should be great for those crops.

The strawberries and asparagus arrived today. Wouldn't you know, Barry was outside at 8:00 PM planting them. The strawberries are in, but the asparagus are simply staying in the "old whiskey barrel with dirt in it plant motel" until we can get those in the ground. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, so maybe by Friday that can get accomplished.

Since it doesn't get really dark until after 8:15, I can see us working outside in the evening quite easily. Remember, we're in the extreme western part of the Eastern time zone, so sunrise and sunset are about an hour each later than in Maine -- the sun rose this morning about 7:15, for example. Also the hottest part of the day here isn't at 1PM, it's often at 3 or 4 PM, so being able to work out after dinner is a definite advantage.

Upcoming events here include going to Lexington 11-12 April for two major races, the Maker's Mile, and the Bluegrass Stakes. Rick is coming over from Paducah for the Bluegrass, which is one of the most important races prior to the Kentucky Derby, the first Saturday in May. We'll be going back up to Keeneland for their Derby Party. At some point, we want (if we can afford it) to get down to Knoxville, TN and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There's so much to do here, we just need to keep a schedule of upcoming events going.

OK, now to take a hot shower to get unstiff -- I can only imagine how much Barry is hurting now, tugging on that tiller -- but it's a good, satisfying kind of hurting.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday, 24 March 2008 - Busy, busy week!

Sunday, 16 Mar - Drove to Louisville airport to pick up former student teacher, Klaus, who was visiting on the way home. Klaus (his last name, by which he is known universally) was probably the best student teacher I have ever had. This year he's teaching in a private school in New Hampshire, and from our talk while he was here, he's making himself indispensable to the school. Way to go, Klaus! The more you can show the school officials how good you are for them, the better you will be, and the stronger your resume will be if/when you decide to look elsewhere.

On the way back from Louisville, we took the long way. First, we drove a mile or so to Churchill Downs and the site of the Kentucky Derby, then past Cardinals Stadium (University of Louisville).

Then it was on to Shelbyville and dinner at Claudia Sanders's Dinner House -- she was Colonel Sanders's (of KFC fame) widow, and the fried chicken there IS the Colonel's secret recipe, unchanged from when he had his restaurant in Corbin (where Barry and I have also eaten, though it was the usual KFC one can find in Lexington KY or Lexington MA, or Beijing for that matter).

The road then took us to Frankfort where we drove by the state capitol, and the cemetery where Daniel Boone is buried. Then on to Lexington, where we showed Klaus Rupp Arena (read U-K basketball here), downtown, Commonwealth Stadium (U-K football), then down through Nicholasville to home.

Monday, 17 Mar - Sightseeing around Danville with Klaus. First stop was to northern Casey County, where we showed Klaus the house we almost bought in Butchertown. Hasn't changed a bit. Then it was on to the Perryville Battlefield, Old Fort Harrod, and then back to Danville, through the Centre College campus, and past some beautiful old mansions to Constitution Square and Burke's Bakery. In under 48 hours, we hope Klaus got a feel for a good section of the Bluegrass.

Tuesday, 18 Mar - Took Klaus back to Louisville. No problem getting there, everything was on time, and we took our time. On the way up and home we ran into rain -- the flooding rains that have ravaged parts of the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys -- but once we left Louisville, the rain stopped. Louisville got about 6 inches, we got maybe half an inch, enough for the Salt River to rise a bit, that's all.

Friday, 21 Mar - Drove to Paducah to spend Easter with Rick and Laura and her family. On the way over we were watchful of flooding, and we did see quite a bit. The Rolling Fork, normally about 50 feet wide where the Bluegrass Parkway crosses, was about half a mile wide, inundating fields as far downstream as we could see. Same with the Green River, though not as bad. When we got to Paducah, the water was very high, over flood stage, but still contained within the flood wall, at least downtown. There were areas that were blocked off, and the Tennessee River at Paducah was about 4 times its normal width and many feet above its normal height. That was truly spectacular -- and not in a good way!

Laura, you look beautiful! There's the glow that expectant mothers have, even with the morning sickness, back pains, and general discomfort. If men were the ones who had the babies, there would be NO overpopulation! Just remember, the "Baby's Room" here in Parksville, is ready to go for her first visit!

Saturday, 22 Mar - Basketball, Basketball, Basketball. The NCAA championships were on, and we watched so much basketball, we all got stiff from all the sitting! The University of Kentucky was knocked out in the first round, but Rick's alma mater, Western Kentucky University, made it through the first and second rounds, and is now in the "Sweet Sixteen" along with the University of Louisville.

Sunday, 23 Mar - Brunch at the Paducah Country Club and coming home from Paducah -- last 15 miles in a SNOWSTORM! That about says it all. Friday was beautifully warm. Saturday and Sunday weren't. Brunch was great -- thanks Buel and Nancy -- you are both such wonderful hosts, and we thank you for making us feel at home in Paducah. Unfortunately, we always eat too much of Buel's great cooking! Jack and Alan, it's always good to see you guys too.

It takes two hours to get to Paducah and four hours to get home. Of course, that's because of the time zone -- we gain an hour going west, and lose an hour coming back east.

For the last 15 or so miles, we ran into sleet, then snow. By the time we got home, after dark, it was like driving in blizzard conditions. The ground was white this morning, but by 10 AM all the snow had melted.

Many people around here can't WAIT until Spring -- Snow on Easter Sunday? That's extreme!

Monday, 24 March - Southern Illinois University School of Law finally has the sense to admit Rick. Due to problems at the law school Rick has been attending, he applied to SIU.

He got his acceptance letter today!
Now Rick, just let us know when we can help you move to Carbondale for the duration. You won't need a 27 foot Penske truck like the one you drove for us from Maine to Kentucky, but we'll be available to help in any way we can. Luckily, it's only 66 miles from Paducah, so you could actually come home mid-week, provided you save time for studying and reading! Just don't try to do it on I-24, OK?

Rick, did you hear the one about the lawyer who ...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thursday, March 12 - Back in the Bluegrass

Know that I don't ski, I don't snowmobile, I don't ice fish, and I hate snow. That's one of the reasons I moved to Kentucky. So why on earth would I come to Maine in March? Well, my house in Waterville is selling. Finally. It's an owner-financing deal, which isn't what I was hoping for, but it sure beats paying oil bills and trying to manage a two-apartment building from 1300 miles away.

The fellow who is buying it has already done a great deal of work on it, so he's obviously interested in improving the property. Primarily, I flew up to meet him and get a feel for how the deal would go. I'm pleased. So is he. It's a good thing.

It's really wierd, staying in a motel a mile from my house in Waterville, and that on Wednesday, I'm going "home." For 60 years, Maine WAS home. But you know, you can take the Mainer out of Maine, but you can't take the "Auyh" out of the Mainer.

Several highlights so far -- having dinner in Portland with Maureen and Josh. Visiting school and the warm welcome (and the "what the heck are you doing here in the winter" questions).

I taught two classes, answered questions about living in the south, and Kentucky in particular. The topic was the Progressive Era -- but the textbook only talks about the movement in the North, assuming that the nation as a whole experienced what the North did. The South didn't. Issues of racism, political intimidation, and several other topics were important for the kids to know, and I had some first-hand information to share with them.

It was great to see Alison and Glen, Marshalyn, Michelle, Linda, Bobbi, Steve, Tracy, Diane, Mark, Anna, Sue B, Hannah, Rick, Tom, Sue F, Paul, Eisa, Liz, Jon (forgive me if I forgot anyone), but I missed Blair! Blair, were you hanging out in the gym? I wanted to tell you personally how much Barry and I appreciated your help last July when we moved. We tried to pack this time the way you did it, but we couldn't come close to your competency. How you got ALL that stuff into the Penske truck, we will never know, but your help made the move possible for us. So MMS staff, when you see Blair, pass our thanks on to him.

Senora, it was such a pleasure visiting with you again, seeing all your beautiful artwork -- the Cardinal is FANTASTIC and will look perfect on the dining room wall overlooking the bird feeder in the back yard. I hope we got your computer setup done so it meets your needs though.

What a great bunch of people you all are. And special thanks to those of you who told me that you read my "blog". As much as I enjoy retirement, and as much as I do NOT miss all the garbage that's going on in education now, it was my colleagues and "my kids" that I really miss (oh, and Moxie, which we can NOT get in Kentucky, and good Chinese food a.k.a., Ming Lee's, which does not exist anywhere in the US but Waterville). I only hope the parents, board of directors, administrators, and taxpayers of the Messalonskee School District really know how great you all are.

On a sadder note, Maureen has been at her grandmother's camp, helping her cousin and aunt fit the place for grandmother. Grandmother is terminal, and wants to die at camp, so everyone is doing what they can to make that happen. I can't do much but I did help out on the gas, food, etc, as much as I could. Regardless of what has happened in the past with my ex-family, it IS in the past, and now is the time for us to ignore the "ex" part and just be a family. If I hadn't been flying out Wednesday, I'd probably have stayed a couple of more days just to be here in case I could help.

We will be back in Maine this summer, partly to escape the Kentucky heat. There are a few things at the old house we need to bring home that I can't fit this time in my checked luggage -- like the table saw, the Bridal Wreath shrub, and the LLBean greenhouses! That will give us a chance to visit relatives whom we haven't seen since the move.

Bruce and Shirley, and Carol, I wish I had the time to drive over to Waterford to see you all, but know that at least I would have if I could have. So when are you all coming to KY to visit US?

Before leaving, I had some great Maine seafood at Governor's (can't get in Kentucky), I got a good night's sleep, then visited Dad in Portland and drove to Manchester NH to catch my flight back to the Bluegrass. I'm home now, but with regrets that I can't spend more time with you all. But at least the cat, who missed me, is eating again, the spinach and swiss chard are up, the peach and nectarine trees are planted, and the asparagus bed is ready to go!

Spring HAS sprung (despite the photo just below this entry)!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saturday, March 8 - Blizzard in the Bluegrass

I guess it was too much to hope for, at least for awhile. Roses leafing out, grass turning green, birds mating (stupid me, I thought they were fighting -- but then aren't mating and fighting one and the same sometimes). Then reality hits.

Today we have 4 inches of snow and it's blowing. Everything is covered with the white stuff. It probably looks worse than it is, considering that even in the biggest snowstorms so far down here, we can still see the tips of the grass underneath. This time we can't. I wish the birds at the feeder had boots, or at least hats and gloves! Luckily, I do, so I went out to shovel a bit. Yes, we did bring a shovel, though we sold the snowblower before moving here.

I'm flying out of Lexington tomorrow morning -- well, actually, the PLANE is flying out and I'll be on it. It should be interesting to see what Lexington looks like after 5" of snow. We'll see. The next post will probably be from Maine, where the huge snowstorm we have had here in Kentucky will make Mainers laugh their butts off. Looks like we won't be using the deck, lawn furniture or grill for a day or so here!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thursday, March 6 - Gardening gives way to WINTER?

Just had to add this pic...our neighbor's dog, Lady, and I went for a walk down by Salt River -- we had just experienced quite a rain storm and there were flash flooding warnings all over. This little, peaceful stream rose over a foot in 6 hours, and further downstream, it must have risen several feet, due to the debris we noticed on the banks. Interesting that we don't get flooding like that in Maine, but the placid little stream here was a torrent for a few hours. When Lady and I got back from our walk, I came in -- she wanted to, but we aren't letting her in. We don't want her to get used to it, plus we have a 14 lb black terror who would attack her if he got a chance. Actually the cat is brave enough as long as there's glass between him and the "enemy" but in person, face to face, he's under the futon shaking! Anyway, this picture of a "fox squirrel" is one of the better ones I took, so I'm sharing it. The Gray Squirrel is the state rodent, but these critters are more common, at least in our back yard. The cat just watches them for hours as they eat the seed the birds drop out of the feeder.

Wednesday, Barry FINALLY got his wish. With potting soil, seeds, and planters in hand, he planted spinach, swiss chard, and other sundry greens. We're putting them in the spare room we call "The Baby's Room" or "The Greenhouse" depending on who's staying there -- plants, or Rick and Laura's little one (due about Memorial Day). The weather was chilly for early March (30's) but today was much nicer.

We actually got out to garden this afternoon. The front garden will be for heat and sun-loving crops like tomatoes, canteloupes and watermelons. It will be about 28 x 25, and it's already staked out and ready to rototill. The back garden (where the previous owners already had some flowers and perennials) will host corn, strawberries, spinach and chard. On the sunny side of the storage shed we'll be planting asparagus (5 x 20 ft bed) and a couple of kiwi vines (pic is Barry in the back garden).
Barry's online right now trying to figure out what variety of peach trees to order!

And "Mother's Rose", which had weathered the trip from Waterford, to Waterville, to Butchertown, has finally been planted where we hope she will grow to a beautiful, healthy old age (unlike we two old coots). She's endured so much, so many moves, such unfavorable conditions in so many places, she's positively radiant. Her leaves are coming out already, and she's only been planted for five days! Actually, she may have been ready to burst out of winter anyway, but it's nice to think it's because she's "home" now.

Now for all of you in Maine who are ready to kill me for writing these posts, we have a


for Friday into Saturday for what may be the biggest snowstorm in the past several years. We're supposed to get ... are you ready? -- really ready?... FOUR INCHES! Louisville may be getting up to 14". The weather bureau is already saying that travel Friday night will be difficult if not "impossible." And considering that few people around here slow down for snow, ice, sleet, hail, or tornadoes, it will be disastrous for some. Hopefully it will all melt before I head for Maine on Sunday morning! Good news is that the weather here when I return on Wednesday will be about 49 and sunny -- a normal March day.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday, March 2 - Wildcats fail, cows escape

Temps got up to 65 and the wind was down, so Barry decided that today was the perfect day to begin planting. First up was the rose he bought his mother back in 1998 -- "Mother's Rose". It has been moved from Waterford, to Waterville, to Butchertown, and now has a permanent home in Alum Springs, right outside Barry's bedroom window, where she can truly be enjoyed.

Next up was the hydrangea that came from Dad's house in Westbrook. It was pretty much growing wild in back of his house, so I rescued a piece a few years ago. Again, the plant went from Westbrook, to Waterville, to Butchertown, to Alum Springs, where it is now planted on the northwest side of the back deck, facing the May Cemetery. Hopefully "Dad's Hydrangea" will blossom profusely here in the Bluegrass.
We also had our share of visitors today. Our first Robin of the season showed up with about 100 of his friends on the front lawn, grubbing for worms. Since our move to Alum Springs, we've seen, if I can remember them all, house finches, tufted titmice, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers, cardinals, bluebirds, cooper's or sharp-shinned hawks, crows, dark-eyed vireos, and almost beginning to turn yellow goldfinches -- they're actually olive-colored in the winter, and turn yellow in the spring. But...

And these little furry critters are actually "Fox Squirrels." They are about the size of a small dog, and have habits more like prairie dogs than squirrels. Squirrel hunting season is in June, and that month the stomachs of many Kentuckians turn to fried squirrel with gravy, so much so apparently that one doctor here warned people not to eat squirrel brains -- they can carry a virus similar to "mad cow disease." With the size of these things, I can see how early settlers survived quite well on squirrel meat. Quite like a modern-day roasting chicken I'd say.

"Lady," the old, lame, blind-in-one-eyed beagle that lives in the house in front of us, regularly chases the car/truck at her "slow" speed, then comes up to greet us almost every time we come home. I don't think her hind legs work independently, as she always hops where she goes -- funny watching her "chase" a rabbit last week -- not a chance that she would EVER catch it but can't blame the old girl for trying. She lost sight in her left eye when she was run over years ago, as she was running alongside a car and then ran in front of it. We're VERY careful to know where she is at ALL times! She's a delight, and if we can't have a dog of our own, she almost makes up for it.

And almost last but not least, I was working at the computer when I looked out the window. I forget what I said, but I must have left a little pile of brown in the seat, because galloping across the back lawn, through the garden, came this HUGE BLACK COW. The cat must have been at the sliding glass door watching, because by the time we figured out what was going on, we found him hiding under the futon in the living room! The cow had escaped, run toward the house, around the side, and off toward the sunset. Luckily, the neighbors managed to corner the "hamburg on the lam." By the time I got the camera, this was the best shot I could get...ain't every day in Maine you see a cow literally in your back yard.

And finally, the University of Kentucky basketball team lost to the University of Tennessee, the number 1 team in the country, but only by 3 points. UK beat UT earlier, the only team to do so, and today they almost did it without their star player, so it was actually a really good game.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Saturday, March 1 - Is winter over now?

Our house in Alum Springs taken on 19 February, 3 days after we finally moved in. This is looking from the northwest corner of our lot toward the southeast. The hill in the background is a "Knob", like the ones that surrounded our other house in Butchertown. Here we're just north of the knobs, actually in what is called the "Outer Bluegrass" region. We have had snow several times, at most 2 inches, and it's all gone now. As I write this, it's sunny again -- for the first time since this photo was taken -- and Barry and I will be working outside in the garden and the shed later. The daffodils are budded, the dogwoods and bradford pear trees are ready to burst out, and with the exception of a few chilly days next week, it looks like Spring will finally arive in the Bluegrass.

The front of the house. We have a 4-car carport that will help shield the vehicles from rain, but when it snows and the wind is from the west, my truck is totally white on the driver's side! The barn in the back isn't ours, but we can look at it regularly, and notice the horses and cows that gather around it. The May Cemetery is just to the right of the barn. Barry and I are working feverishly to trace the ancestry of everyone who is buried there. I'm in contact with a guy in Texas who is descended from a Revolutionary War veteran, Humphrey May, who is buried there. Together, we hope to appropriately mark Hump's grave for Memorial Day!

This view is taken just over our east property line. It shows the Salt River, and the gravel path is Old Salt River Road, once one of the major thoroughfares in this part of the county. It was probably put through about 1790, when the area was settled. Interestingly, much of the land had already been cleared -- Native Americans used to fell trees and burn the fields regularly to keep a good grazing area for the tens of thousands of buffalo that used to roam central Kentucky. By the way, we learned the other day that Danville has the largest cattle stockyards east of the Mississippi River! Indeed, we see far more beef cattle than horses here.

This is the Salt River. It actually rises about half a mile south of here, and eventually becomes one of the major rivers in Kentucky. The field in the picture is usually filled with beef cattle. It makes us kind of nervous eating hamburgers while watching "dinner" in the field.

Early settlers used to boil down the river water to produce salt, an absolute essential in the days before freezing. People would travel miles just to get salt, and this river apparently produced a fairly good amount of the mineral, hence the name.

On a totally different note, I'm flying back to Maine to sell my house in Waterville. It will only be a fly-in-fly-out trip from Lexington to Manchester NH for 4 days while I settle with the realtor in Waterville. Hopefully I'll get to see a few relatives and friends while there, and I can almost taste the Pad Thai at Ming Lee's already! And I will have Moxie while there. Can't get it here! Can't get decent Chinese food here either, though the steaks are fabulous (and I wasn't that much of a meat eater until I moved here).

As I'm writing this, you folks in Waterville are supposed to get 12-18 inches, and the snowbanks are dwarfing Katahdin as I understand it. Looks like we moved to Kentucky just in time -- missing the snowiest winter in Maine and moving into the hottest and driest summer in Kentucky -- both record-breaking events! University of Kentucky football had a great season (unusual), UK basketball has had a poor season (unusual) and UK baseball is off to a good start (also, unusual), and the February outbreak of tornadoes was also record-breaking. We've apparently upset the order of things here! Can we look forward to a frost in July then?

More later, with more pictures to post as I can get them up. The birds are getting used to us, though there are many fewer of them than in Butchertown, and we haven't seen the variety we had there. Barry's anxiously awaiting the first robin. That will be a day to celebrate!