31 January 2009

Jack Tar continues to become the finest feline canine I have known. He walks every- where with us, is amazingly playful and inventive with his games, and shows almost no fear of loud sounds (power saws, hammers, etc.). Cool, calm and collected. Here's an image of him after he dove into the leaves along the driveway as we sauntered out to learn if there was any mail awaiting us.

30 January 2009

Jack Tar's Name

Well, Lausanne, here's the story:

We fed the cat because he was hungry. Then it was REALLY cold so I picked him up and put him in the bathroom.

I sat with him there and thought "this guy needs a name we can call him. He's black but "Blackey" is dumb. He needs a diminutive too because Tam was a diminutive." At this point I realized that the was Mr Tam reincarnated. Just like Mr Tam, Jack told us his name and we added the "Tar" part. (Actually, Tam made us play Rumpelstiltskin.)

So why "Tar?" Because sailors appear unbidden and unwanted but, really, they can be an awful lot of fun. Just like our wee man.

- April

29 January 2009

This past Sunday, it being our common practice, Jack Tar and your humble correspondent set forth to visit Long Man creek. Being a fair day, warmer and less windy than those that preceded it, our perambulations were leisurely and desultory. Jack Tar is an ideal companion on such explorations, staying close by, either six to eight feet behind or an equal span in the lead. He finds and follows deer trails with alacrity. My most silent companion, Ginny, was always at hand as well, always ready to create a great noise should conditions warrant such.

The creek has thawed and is open water wherever struck by significant sun light; below the large hill he is yet mostly frozen. The copious quantities of bog iris on the flats are sending their bravest scouts forth to ascertain if the time is right for a massive uprising; as are the iris around and about the house. Perchance they know more than we humans that an early spring is planned? Animal and human life are both most grateful that the major ice storm which has just devastated the Midwest declined to visit our fair lands.

27 January 2009

April's Future Craft Room

I thought I’d share a picture of my new craft room. We only moved the bed out a couple days ago and there are two hundred holes full of putty to be sanded after I get all the clothing off the shelves. Oh yeah, and new adjustable shelves need to be put in too. Gotta choose and buy them first. Shouldn’t be long.

Why am I showing you this ugly picture rather than waiting until I'm done fixing the room up? First, because it’s the first time I’ve had a room that’s really MINE. Don’t have to share it at all. And second, because I want you to know just how boring the room is in its' present state.

26 January 2009

Small Town Living

So, what’s a city girl think of living in a reeeeeally small town?

I think it’s great. Yeah, it’s shuttered by 9 PM but then so was Santa Fe. Yeah, news of the new people gets around fast. Yeah, people know what you’re up to and remember everything in a truly phenomenal manner. But….

I needed to get some eye wash for Russ at half past eight on Saturday. Everything really is closed at that hour on a Saturday so I called the one and only pharmacy anyway. By quarter to nine I was on my way home with the product the pharmacist-owner, George Fetco, recommended. He was in doing some remodeling and decided anyone who would try at that hour probably really needed him to pick up the phone.

22 January 2009


A much warmer and sunnier day than in a while... rose to about 42F and was totally calm. We took the opportunity of the better conditions to drive up to Christiansburg and buy Sherwin-Williams paint for the living room and ground floor bathroom. Tomorrow should be in the mid-50s before a cooling trend returns - meaning I can paint and open the windows to clear the smell and speed drying. There are several hundred feet of crown molding and baseboard to paint before they are installed next week but that can be done in the shop (although those 16 foot long pieces are a challenge in a small space).

It was another superb and long-lasting sunset tonight. Click on the image to get a full-screen version to study the details in the clouds. The colour is fairly accurate in the clouds but the sky was a more intense blue.

Exchange rates

When we lived in Scotland we always kept our eyes on the exchange rates. The day we closed on our little place there, the Pound=$1.32 (if my memory is correct). As George Bush's ill-advised policies began to weaken the American prestige and economy, the dollar began a long slide against the Pound until it was over $2.00. We could no longer afford to live in our dear Scotland and essentially had to move back to the USA.

Today the Pound is sliding against the dollar and is now equal to $1.37. This will certainly help restore the flow of American tourists to the Great Britain- and they do constitute the largest group of visitors to Scotland. Both countries have economies in free-fall but the world market has expressed it opinion that Obama probably has better solutions than Brown.

Here on the farm it is finally warming up to freezing; it has been about a week since the mercury reached 32F and it is expected to top out at 40F today and maybe as high as 56F tomorrow before returning to more seasonable levels. What a cause for celebration after this prolonged deep freeze.

The cat who adopted us, Jack Tar, is ingratiating himself nicely - he brought us a mouse a couple of days ago. He sleeps in the ground floor bathroom on these cold nights and seems perfectly content to be warm and full. Not once has he scratched at the door to be let out or uttered a single unhappy meow. In fact, when we go in to check on him, he wants mostly to have a warm lap to lay in. During the day, he stays close to the house and has become our official greeter of visitors. Life is good here for us all.

19 January 2009

Baby its c-c-c-cold outside

The night of the 16th the mercury dropped and dropped and dropped until it hit -4F. Thank goodness there was no wind. The Century Furnace, a sort of fireplace, was crucial to our comfort that night; I filled it with wood about 10:30 p.m. and added two more logs about 2:00 a.m. - which were still burning well at 7:00 a.m. It seems quite efficient and certainly pumps out an extended flow of warm air.

We are forming a Sunday tradition of walking down to Long Man Creek. Sunday was much warmer, maybe 32F (0C), but gusty and totally gray, that particular gray of winter. The farm has acquired a new beastie, Jack Tar, a six to nine month old black male cat who reminds us so much of Tam. He showed up on one of those terribly frigid nights and we put food out for him. Now he sleeps in the bathroom at night... totally socialized and very affectionate. Yesterday he followed us to the creek and back like a good dog. Four cats are enough in the house but Jack may become the mouser-in-residence at the workshop.

A little snow last night, just enough of a dusting to highlight the criss-crossing deer trails. Stay warm, fair reader.

16 January 2009

Ho, ho, ho

Merry Christmas - at least at Stratheden Farm. now that April is here and getting settled, we celebrated last night by opening our gifts and going out to dinner with SuAnne at Oddfellas. The tree came from the farm, of course. Lily is modeling for you... note the new paint colours on the wall, the new baseboard trim, and of course, the new pine floor!

We had no idea how cold it could be in Virgina; we feel certain that the previous owners for a decade said the lowest they ever saw was +6F and it rarely dropped below 15F. Well, the Alberta clipper which has sent the Northeast into a blast freezer sailed through here, too. The temperature at sunrise was +1F (or for our friends across the water) -17C. Yes, that is cold by any standard, and the high temperature will not even approach the freezing mark today. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

13 January 2009

they arrived safely

Gentle blogophiles,

I must apologize for backsliding; after promising NOT to have long blank periods, I have done so once more. Can you find forgiveness in your hearts for such a wretch as I?

There was a reason - working madly to try to have the house ready when April, SuAnne and the remaining three cats (Grover, Chet and Momma) arrived. Last night right before dark, they rolled down the driveway where I had farolitos lighting the way to the porch and LED lights around the porch pillars. It is not just that time is moving more slowly in Floyd (Einstein was wrong...) but we waited to celebrate the holidays until joined once more. Bless SuAnne's heart for joining April on that long drive.

Tonight the three of us will deck the tree, perhaps worble out a few traditional carols and then see what Santa Claus brought. Our good friend, Jim Webb, who loves not far away, gifted us with an incredible volume- one of his home made books, this one largely about the mechanics and history of Southern Mountain rifles, hand bound in deer hide. Jim is certainly one of the most knowledgeable people alive on this arcane subject.

The walnut floor in the bedroom lacks only the shoe molding to be finished; the same for the pine floor in the dining room. When they are complete, you, dear reader, will have photographic evidence on you screen.

08 January 2009

blow and snow

The last three days have been fine expressions of winter in the Blue Ridge (at least as I understand from oral histories, i.e., the folks at Farmers Supply). Grey but with occasional although rare burst of sun raking the forests, hovering around freezing, moving neither to warmth or frigidity, humid enough to form fog, rain or snow.

Perhaps it is because the house sits on a ridge, or because we are in the mountains, but the winds, gusts and gales even out-do Santa Fe. It has blown for nearly 40 consecutive hours now, and the gusts can shake the entire house - or simply cause the windows to groan. Once we can afford the equipment, a wind generator is high on our priorities for future independence.

The wind blew away the fog and propelled sheets of rain yesterday and the day before (over an inch of horizontal rain). This region is, in theory and government assessment, in the throes of a drought but with five weeks of data, that seems impossible. Last night as the temperature refused to drop much below freezing, finally a light, granular snow fell, the first of the winter. Like many places in America and Scotland, it does not snow here with the authority & vigor it did forty or fifty years ago. I've heard tell of a Floyd county winter in the early 1960s when the drifts went up to the eaves of the houses; now an entire winter can pass without a significant accumulation.

Today the winds are forecast to continue to blow but the temperatures are on strike and refuse to move either way. Friday should be sunny and with some encouragement, the mercury may rise to 50F. Hmmm, warm enough to put the outdoor holiday lights up!

06 January 2009

Floyd, Scotland, USA

Fair and diligent reader, I have been most genteelly upbraided by one of your own, an urbane and sophisticated gentleman (in the auld sense) for not updating this blog more often. Said correction has been taken to heart with the utmost immediacy; fear not, no long gaps shall arise to deface this space in the ether.

As I arose at 6:30 a.m. today, there was a dense fog and the temperature was 38F. Now at 5:30 p.m., there is a dense fog and the temperature is 32F. The effect was elating, the vistas in constant flux, appearing and then disappearing as if in a rowdy reel. Nothing reminds me more of Scotland than these gifts from the weather faeires. As I savoured a cup of Queen Margaret's Hope tea from Whittard's of Dundee, the sounds of our friends voices seem to materialize and vanish into the mists. Ah, bonnie Scotland, we miss you. Even our lane, Falling Branch Road (above), looks so rural Scots.

After a trip to the bank, the cafe (catching breakfast in the last few minutes it is served before they switch to lunch), the Wills Ridge Building Supply Company, the Jesse Peterman Memorial Library, the final remaining errand was to the Mennonite operated Bread Basket to procure fresh sustenance for today and the near future, especially if the roads become iced for several days. I'd not shopped the Bread Basket before and assumed, quite wrongly, that their main content was baked goods. Actually, they carry many bulk foods and an amazing selection of seasoning plus meat, notions, etc. I stopped at the freezer and stared. And stared. Finally one of the young ladies working there asked if I needed help. The answer was yes, thank you for breaking the spell. Reaching into the freezer, I slowly and with great tenderness withdrew the remaining bits of some local cow (now in the transmuted form of ground beef). It was not the product which had entranced me but the label:

Hieland coo meat from Virginia? No, clearly something had malfunctioned on my teleporting machine and I was simultaneously in Scotland and Floyd. As if I required any further similarities to Scotland, this was the final, the finale. Ah, heaven on earth found: Scotland without the Scottish government.

01 January 2009

Happy New Year - 2009

Sending across the airwaves (hmmm, I guess they really aren't airwaves anymore...) wishes for a more peaceful, prosperous and HAPPY New Year than the year we leave behind.

To mark yet another holiday, I once more took a stroll to the southern boundary of the farm to Long Man creek. The recent days have been beautiful with hardly a cloud in the sky; a little above freezing on the day but in the mid-teens at night. Much like Santa Fe, it is comfortable outdoors even at 25F if you are in the sun and out of the wind.

I was surprised to discover the creek beginning to freeze over. It flows fairly rapidly but the its sweep across our farm boundary mostly lies in the shadow of a large hill- no direct sun at this time of year falls onto the creek bed.

The winter light is much like Fife - golden and glorious although it does not wrap-around objects in the way of Scottish winter sunlight. This is a view looking down the valley carved by the creek, and although taken from our farm, all of the land shown is on neighboring farm(s).