The Temperature Roller Coaster

The end of January through the beginning of February has included a little bit of everything weather-wise. We’ve had snow accumulations, ice, ice and snow, frigid temperatures, and sunny days in the 60’s!

All of this has led to interesting arrangements of snow and ice to observe on the ground. Below is a gallery of photos I took on January 20 during a walk from my back yard to Patchwork Central and back. It includes the brick-edged streets in between both places. If you click on a photo, you’ll get a description of what you are looking at. Perhaps I should have taken a few pictures that show the bigger picture, but things were much, much prettier and more interesting when I could crop out the surroundings.

John and I had contemplated going somewhere for the long Martin Luther King weekend, but with the bad weather predicted we decided to stay home and enjoy quiet time there. On one of the cold days, we fixed ourselves some fancy cinnamon French toast with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and bacon. It was fantastic.

Then last week we had dangerously cold temperatures with some snow. That was followed by a morning of freezing rain. It was not fun weather, but I took some additional photos in the brick alley behind Patchwork and in Patchwork’s garden. With the wild swings in temperature, there is a ring of daffodils that have begun to emerge.

Through all this, my orchids have provided bright cheer indoors. Several of them always bloom at this time of year.

Meanwhile: the cats. Last week we celebrated two years since we brought the Ladies home from the Humane Society. They continue to be lovely. Morgaine is a champion napper, always finding new configurations to sleep in. She also loves to burrow under the covers on our beds so she can nap there. Ygraine remains regal. Perry remains a troublemaker, but he’s very compelling, too, and continues to work very hard to be a better cat. I used an online app to make him a trading card for the Puppy Bowl, which is held in conjunction with the Super Bowl.

Part of Perry’s problem continues to be McBalls, the stray male cat outdoors. McBalls seems to taunt Perry by doing things like sitting on the porch railing a few inches (and a pane of glass) from Perry’s face and then ignoring Perry banging on the window behind him. Perry gets upset, then lashes out at his human friends if we happen to be nearby. McBalls can sit there for a half hour, so it doesn’t stop quickly. The nickname we’ve given him is a little crass, but it summarizes his unfortunate life. I need to get him neutered, but he’s really skittish so I know it will be traumatic.

Last week, the Ladies were super interested in something going on next door. I looked and saw McBalls grooming himself in a pile of leaves on our neighbor’s roof. He’s quite the tomcat.

 

Starting 2019 with a Little Sun and a Little Snow

2019 has been pretty unremarkable so far. We’ve had a lot of the usual Southern Indiana winter weather. It’s quite a mix but often warm, usually cloudy, very brown, sometimes rainy, and occasionally snowy. A few days were warm enough that the Ladies were allowed to sit at the open back door to survey their domain.

There is not a lot to survey, though. The only bit of natural color that remains is in the leaves of the blackberry, which glow against the drab browns everywhere else. That makes snow a gift as it smooths everything over, highlights the remaining plant structures, and creates contrast against the browns.

We’ve only gotten one snowfall with accumulation so far. Last weekend several inches fell overnight, but they began to melt with the help of some rain even before we awoke in the morning. I got out early and got some photos before things deteriorated further. It was not a very high quality snow, but it was festive for several hours.

I’d never taken Perry out for a walk in the snow before, so I decided to find out what he thought of it. Turns out he’s not a fan. He did not like getting it between his toes, and he kept shaking his wet paws like it was the worst sensation ever. We came back inside after less than 10 minutes.

Oh, and we started 2019 with a really neat sighting. John went to take the trash out on January 1 and felt a presence no more than 20 feet above him. He looked up and there was a mass on the cable wires directly in back of our house. It was a barred owl, and it stayed long enough for John to find me and for us both to marvel before it flew off.

Other than getting snow between Perry’s toes, the cats are doing great, though. John and I enjoy their furry presences. Perry continues to improve ever so gradually. He still has a long, long way to go, though. However, the Ladies continue to be perfection. At Christmas we moved their giant cat tree into our living room with the other smaller one. The two cat trees now form a Cat Complex that the Ladies clearly love.

Everyone continues to be bothered by the interloper cat from next door. He frequents our yard. The other day, both Ladies were riveted by something they saw out the window. I looked, and the neighbor cat was on our opposite neighbor’s roof. He was up there for so long that I was afraid he was stuck, but he somehow leapt from the roof onto our magnolia tree. I missed seeing how he managed that and only caught his less-than-graceful dismount from the tree.

Closing Out 2018

Time passes through my garden. Like the wind, it touches all the plants there. It has finally sapped almost all the color and structure from the marigolds and hostas whose demise I’ve been documenting for the last several months. Meanwhile, it has burned brighter colors into the ajuga and it has brought beautiful blooms of seed structures to the autumnal clematis.

Also passing over my garden these days are waves and waves of snow geese. Below you’ll find a video showing just one portion of one huge formation of them.

With slower changes happening in my garden, I’m left to photograph my cats more. They’re pretty cute as they snuggle into warm spaces in the cold weather and as they accent the Christmas tree.┬áLady Morgaine is a champion napper, always curled up in new formations on her heated cat bed in the windowsill or forming random lumps under the covers as she slumbers on the bed for hours. It’s been warm enough for walks with Perry, which he has enjoyed. His behavior is always better after a nice walk.

A Little of This and a Little of That

It’s mid-December, and I’ve been to a variety of places in the past several weeks. At home, my garden has slowly been going further and further into dormancy. The previously frozen flowers and leaves are drying, their color fading further to brown.

I got my final harvest mid-November. I’d attempted some fall greens and a few came up. I needed the space to plant my garlic, though, so I picked the greens and some small garlic shoots that had been growing all summer from discarded garlic cloves. The greens and garlic leaves made a delicious fried rice. The garlic that I planted in the space they vacated will grow all winter and spring and will be ready to harvest sometime around next June.

 

The day after Thanksgiving, I ended up in my hometown of Archbold, Ohio for their 20th annual Festival of Lights Parade. In case you have never seen a parade in a small Midwestern town, they usually include a wide array of farm implements plus fire, rescue, and police vehicles from as many surrounding areas as possible. Archbold puts a twist on it by holding their parade after dark and requiring everything to be coated in lights.

The last time I saw a Festival of Lights Parade, someone had even covered the village’s septic sucker in lights. I was disappointed that there was only a minimally lighted garbage truck this year, but the Archbold Fire Department did go all out by installing a smoking chimney on the back of their big ladder truck. Of course, there was also the Sterlina the Cow with a nicely lit wreath around her neck.

It was good to be back for the parade after many years. Nothing rings in the Holidays like some lighted farm implements.

 

After Thanksgiving with my family, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to do an arts residency. I’ll write more about that on my art blog, but here I’ll say that I need to remember to schedule residencies only when the days are longer. By the time I was finished teaching at the school every day, I only had about an hour of daylight left, so I didn’t get to see much of the city.

I did fit in a visit to the Franklin Part Conservatory, however. Their interior had some special plants and lighting for the holidays and they had special light displays in their exterior gardens. I could appreciate some of the exterior lights, but the display I most wanted to see was not turned on yet. It was in the Japanese garden, and the printed descriptions made it sound like there would be projections on the white fabric banners I saw suspended in the space. They were still interesting to look at, though. I was sad that I was just a couple days too early for the Conservatory’s evening hours.

 

After I got home from my art residency, John and I made sure to go out and get a Christmas tree. As is the tradition at Patchwork Central, we drove out to some reclaimed strip mine land and cut an Eastern red cedar. In the past, someone from our group would get the proper permits and training, but now it’s just John and I getting a tree, so we simply dash in and grab one before anyone notices.

The scarred land is beautiful with scattered cedars everywhere, brown grasses, and small ponds. Over the years, John and I have learned that trees look a lot smaller while growing in a field than they do when indoors. In the past we’ve come home with some giants that needed every inch of our 12′ ceiling heights.

The first tree John found looked great…until I realized that it was at least twice his height. We kept searching and found another very pretty specimen that wasn’t much taller than John. Perfect!

Once home, we soon had it decorated. It’s the first time the Ladies have been around a Christmas tree, so we weren’t sure what to expect. The only time they showed any interest was when I first brought out the lights. Once Lady Ygraine completed her lighting investigation, both Ladies went back to pretty much ignoring the tree.

I was a little puzzled by some hanging clumps among the branches. At first, I thought they were insect related, but I couldn’t pull them off so I thought they were part of the tree. They looked great as part of the decorations, but I decided I’d better do a little Googling. Turns out they are cocoons for moth larva. Ick. They’re gone now.

 

And speaking of the cats, they are all enjoying their warm and cozy life indoors and they are repaying us in cuteness. The outdoor interloper who John and I have nicknamed McBalls continues to stir things up for our three indoors. Lady Morgaine continues to love her heated cat bed. And, Perry is still a huggy, bitey mess.

 

 

Golden Leaves to Snowfall

Two weeks ago, we were at the height of the late but brilliant fall colors. Golden light rained down on my garden. The marigolds and the toad lilies still bloomed. Leaves began to fall. Then came several nights in the 20’s and chilly days. Tender leaves froze, their water-filled cells bursting then thawing into pulpy masses. The leaves began to quickly leave the trees. Then came a light dusting of snow. Then a “wintery mix” that accumulated overnight and collapsed the broken plants under its weight. The progression is remarkable and beautiful. It is what autumn is all about as the natural world prepares for the dormancy and barrenness of winter. You can follow the process in this series of photos.

The Perfect Day for a Birthday

Because the fall colors were a little bit behind this year, I had the unusual convergence of a Saturday, my birthday, and the height of fall colors plus John wasn’t preaching on the following Sunday and we ended Daylight Savings Time so I had an extra hour to enjoy it all. John and I headed to Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois. We took a picnic lunch and ate on the top of some cliffs before and after we did some hiking. It was a very beautiful day.

Approaching Autumn

Fall is coming to my garden. We’ve had a couple light frosts and many nights in the 30’s, though my thermometer has yet to register anything below the freezing point. Fall color has slowly sneaked into the foliage, and certain exposed flowers and leaves have been severely damaged by the cold. However, things continue to grow and bloom until a hard frost puts an end to it all.

The first serious cold air blew in two weekends ago. I went out on a beautiful day before the cold and collected all the lima beans I could find. They hide very well. I was sad that I didn’t find a single bean of prettiest ones I planted. They had brown stripes and were called “ping zebra.”

I also had fewer big Christmas limas than I had expected. They have fruited well for me before. Perhaps the problem was that I got the beans planted a little later than I should have. It was early July when I got them in the ground. Maybe bigger beans take longer to grow.

Other lima varieties did just fine, including one called “Alma’s Pennsylvania Dutch” that I got from a garden blogger in Eastern PA. She’d reported on her blog that it hadn’t been particularly prolific for her, but it’s done great for me.

I’d also planted some Native American beans that a friend had given me. One variety turned out to be a kind of scarlet runner bean. They were pretty, but didn’t produce many beans. Another non-lima that I grew was a pole bean called “Penndragon.” I ate several as green beans, but they seemed to quickly get too large to be good raw, and I let many of them dry. I’ll probably use a few of these beans to plant more next summer. I’m a sucker for a great plant variety name.

The photos below begin to capture autumnal changes in my garden, even though they only cover a week from October 20 through October 27. The changes are subtle at this point, but they are there.

Also subtle: the cats have begun to choose the spots where they will each stay warm for the winter. The Ladies have ignored their heated cat bed since spring, but suddenly on the first truly cold day, Lady Morgaine was seated upon it. It’s on a window seat. It’s been a regular nap location ever since.

Meanwhile, Lady Ygraine has been hovering at the furnace vent on the stairs. The blast of hot air is strong there. Sometimes she naps, but sometimes she plasters herself to the vent.

The Ladies also have been sleeping in noticeably tighter formations at night. Normally they join us in bed, but with the colder nights I’ve felt them squished close together. One night, I got up, grabbed my camera, and turned on the light in an effort to capture the cuteness.

Unfortunately for Perry, his behavior does not allow him to join us all in bed, but he has his own heated cat bed that he sleeps on at night. But, it is a minor heat source compared to his new favorite spot: the dryer just after it has completed a cycle! John added a little step stool so Perry can hop in and soak up the toastiness. He’s fierce and bitey, so he doesn’t let you put the next load in until he’s good and ready to get out.

Meanwhile, we continue to take walks outside. I’m not sure what will happen when it really starts to get cold. Maybe Perry will still enjoy it. We’ll have to see.

Maybe he’ll like snow.