Saturday, February 18, 2017

Waiting Out Winter

Watercolor of our cabin by Mom, aka Geraldine Bauhaus Williams.
Sorry for the radio silence for a while there. We experienced a little problem with our online access, as in we ran out of data. Apparently we've been a little too glued to the news. We blame Trump. For so, so many things.

Luckily there has been little to report from our little corner of the forest. No, there's been no snow. In fact, there's hardly even been much winter.  Maybe to make up for that, my mom gave me a painting of our cabin nestled in snow. Lovely, isn't it? She stays very busy in her art room and at the local community center, where I occasionally will model (fully clothed) for a group of painters.

A painting of me by one of Mom's cohorts.
My little Meyer's lemon tree finally produced a nice crop. Please notice those long, clean fingernails. This only happens in winter, if it happens at all. And they're about to get clipped off, because I'm headed back to the Barn Nursery next weekend. I'll only be working two days a week for the spring season. We had just done our taxes when they called to see if I was interested in working again. Timing is everything.

My first homegrown Meyer lemon. Yes!!

Last week we started the Great Firewood Harvest for Winter 2017-18. We felled a 100-plus-foot oak. I should have made a video of it; it's so spectacular to see such a majestic, massive beast fall to the ground. I always weep for the tree. Mason only weeps the next day, when he can barely move after all that chainsaw work.

It looks like spring is right around the corner. The daffodils are threatening to bloom soon, and I'll be starting a bunch of seeds inside next week. I've got to get the seed potatoes ordered, and convince Mason that I need another trailer load of compost. Yes, the fever is spiking.




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What's He Doing Now?

The old Farmall Cub got some action last week.
"What's he doing now?" Trust me, I ask this all the time. Usually not so much in winter, but we had a good stretch of springlike weather here, and Mason launched into action.

The project? A carport. Why now, after six years of mountain living? Well, Mason would say he'd been thinking about building one for years now because he's sick of picking pine needles off the car windshields before every trip to town, but if you ask me, it might have something to do with his new beloved truck.

Winter, southern style, is supposed to return this weekend, so it may be a while before the carport project sees any more action, but if there's news, you'll here it here first. Oh, unless you're a Facebook friend, in which case you've heard about the pine tree he had to take down. The 70-foot-tall tree that he said wasn't going to hit the trailer when it fell.

He couldn't have hit it more dead center if he had tried.
 What have I been up to, besides giving Mason a hard time? Distributing shredded leaves about the yard -- a poor gardener's mulch. And reading (this month's recommendation: "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle"). And complaining about a certain politician.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Winter Doldrums

Semi-evergreen leaves of my new tree: a Mountain Gordlinia called Sweet Tea.

We struggle in winter. After the easy routine of breakfast, we falter. We walk from window to window, looking for inspiration for the day. We watch the birds pick through our seed offerings. We scan the woods for deer. We strain to see the sun, shuffle over to the battery gauge, then shuffle back to a window. I put down the smartphone after scanning every fresh recipe I find; Mason picks it up for every fresh Trump news he can rant about. We bump into one another nestling up to the woodstove. If it weren't for Nick demanding his twice-daily walks, we would likely go days without leaving the warmth of our little cabin.

We struggle in Winter, and it's hardly been winter here yet. Today we hit 61 degrees. It was a gray 61 degrees, but still, how can we complain? We mustered the energy to play outside for a few hours. I planted a new tree and replanted a mess of tangled irises that deer had yanked out of the dirt before realizing they weren't tasty. Mason changed the propane generator's spark plug; that thing eats spark plugs.

But after lunch, the sky turned grayer still, and we couldn't pull our ourselves outside again. We fell back into winter habits; we went upstairs to read. Then nap. Then procrastinate about going back outside.

We will regret it, because it's 60 degrees out. And the real cold is coming later this week. Snow may even fall. How far will we fall then? More books, more naps, more recipes and rants.  I'm not sure how much more we can take.

Last year, Spring started sometime in February. In between our shuffling, we keep that happy thought.





Friday, November 18, 2016

Tears on the Mountain (And Black Helicopters)


Wow. Trust us, this helicopter was very close to our cabin.
Luckily, the nearby fire is at least a couple of miles away.

Emotions have been running high here on Flat Top ever since The Tuesday Our Nation Went Bat-Shit Crazy.  But politics aren’t the only reason for our tears. (And no, Mason didn’t really cry; Mason rants, and oh, how it has been nonstop.)



Our eyes are also watery because wildfires keep popping up nearby and we’ve been under a cloud of acrid smoke for nearly a week now. (Hmmm, ever since That Tuesday – coincidence?)  Today a military helicopter zoomed just 200-300 feet over our cabin with a bucket loaded with water that it fetched out of our little lake. Two minutes later it was circling back for more water. It must have made about 10-12 trips in a matter of an hour.



Just to remind those who aren’t familiar with our living situation: We live in a wood cabin, in the woods, with only one long road in and out, where we haven’t had rain in months and where the nearest fire station is NOT near and relies on volunteers.



To no surprise, I had a nightmare last night about the cabin catching fire.



Mason feels like a man again.
The other reason for my tears?  I have become a truck widow. A few days after That Tuesday, we finally found a used pickup we really liked, and we really needed a pickup Pick-Me-Up, so we spent a tad more than we wanted; Mason has been “playing with it” every day since. OK, OK, I guess new brakes, a full tune-up and changing all the lubrication fluids (it's four-wheel-drive; there are a LOT of fluids) isn’t really playing. But it's made a dramatic improvement in his mood.



She’s a lovely 1988 Ford F150 Lariat XLT. Cream with a fat red stripe and black trim – my old high school colors. And she’s got big fat tires, and I have to climb up just to get in the seat. Oh, and get this: It has a cassette player. Anyone out there still own any mixed tapes? We got rid of ours just a few years ago. Damn.



I haven’t asked Mason yet, but I’m just gonna start calling her Hillary. (After all, she was the actual winner, yet the Electoral College is going to give the job to the second-place finisher, i.e. Loser.)






  

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Sky Ain't Gonna Rain Any More, Methinks


Our hickory trees turn a great yellow.
 Two months later, and still no measurable rain. We have been taunted by exactly two brief showers. The rain gauge crept up to 1/8 of an inch after one of them.

 I feel as if this drought is sucking me dry of my personality, or at least the better parts of it.

So what’s a garden girl to do in what’s now been labeled an extreme drought by the weather guy?  I reseeded my dead lawns. Brilliant. For 10 days, I was a slave to the water hose, moistening the seeds every two hours in unseasonably warm 85-degree heat. When I’m not watering the lawns, I’m trying to sustain the plants. The arugula and lettuce have fared better than some of the shrubs.

Gardening is hard on the soul. And the increasing masses of hungry deer only aggravate the situation. Every morning I wake soon after sunrise to count how many there are. I watched them chew on this and that for a while, but when they start feasting on my new lawns, I rap on the window and send them on down the road. Then I climb back into bed to wait for a more decent hour to rise.

Mason put up this sign a few months ago. He likes to think it keeps out the lookie-loos.
A cool front came through two days ago and finally we dropped back down into the 70s. In a normal year, I’d be celebrating the extra warm fall; but in a normal year, we would have had 6 inches of rain last month.

Adding to our gloom, the other day we noticed the screen atop one of our rain barrels had fallen into the barrel, and something furry -- and clearly dead -- was floating in it. A squirrel. Mason was quickly called in for burial rites. A few days later, after a trip to town to get some new screen, Mason emptied out the barrel to clean it up a bit before the new screen installation. It quickly drained of water, but not of squirrels. Three more drownings. Felt bad for the poor fellas.

The only thing that’s coming easy on the mountain these days is drowning our sorrows in Mason’s homebrew beer. A new one called Fresh Squished is all the rage with all two resident imbibers. We’ll be sure to have plenty on ice for Tuesday.


Nick, on an evening walk.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Sick Of This Hot-and-Dry Summer

Drooping leaves of my Shasta viburnum.
See those leaves up there? They look more like clothes drying on the line. They look how I feel: defeated. August came and went with barely an inch of rain and a whole lot of 90-degree days. We're now well into September and rarely have we seen even a cloud in the sky.

The average high for this day in Chattanooga? Mid-80s. I could handle mid-80s. Hell, I'd have a bonfire to celebrate mid-80s. But today? Back up to 91 -- again. Wait, hold on: The digital thermometer just hit 92. And that's up here on the mountain; Chattanooga runs about 5-8 degrees warmer. Poor Mom, down in the valley -- with her TWO air conditioners!

I have about a half-acre of landscaping that I must water by hand. In a normal year, Chattanooga's annual rainfall of 54 inches makes it all wet pretty easy. But not this year. I've only lost one thing so far, unless you count my sanity. Every morning and night, I must water two of the yard's six sections. Drag hose, turn on generator to top up well, turn off generator when the tank is full. About 6 minutes later, I'm out of water and back at the generator. In the winter, a tankful of water will last us 24 hours. In this drought, we must fill that tank maybe seven or eight times a day. At least it keeps on filling; we've heard some folks' wells are drying up.

The routine gets old. I'm getting old. Good god, when will we get rain? The forecast says maybe next Wednesday. Or maybe not.

The grass crunches under my feet. Like I'm back in Minnesota, except it's not the ice crunching. It's just the grass, dying off into dormacy. I don't water the grass; this ain't no suburb.

A few days ago Mason and I worked all day digging ditches on the side of our road for water drainage management. So if it does ever rain again, we'll hopefully watch rivers of runoff on either side of the drive, rather than right down the middle, which tore up our road last winter.

Yesterday I worked again all day in the heat, dethatching the lawn to get ready for overseeding. I'm paying for it today. I'm listless. As listless as those viburnum leaves up there. 




Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sticky August Eve

Just some photos from a sticky August evening...

The front garden is finally coming together... Just give me a few more years.

This Japanese Forest Grass has been a real success, even during our dry spells.



Remember all those annual seeds I planted? The deer ate most of them...