31 March 2009

empty bowls

Floyd is locally thought of as a COMMUNITY rather than a town or a county. In our visits before actually moving here, people would say "Welcome to our community" rather than "welcome to Floyd." It seemed to augur a strong sense of working together, of sharing, of united action. Indeed it was and last weekend was a fine action demonstration.

Noting that there are a number of children below the poverty level in the county, and that various programs address their proper nutrition while attending school, there is a high probability that over the weekend, they may well go hungry. Once a year, the local potters, cooks and the Jacksonville Art Center pool their efforts to raise funds to send these kids home on Friday with a backpack containing healthy food items to last them until Monday morning. This year, the local potters made and donated five hundred (500!) hand made ceramic bowls. Local cooks and students in the culinary arts program brought soups and stews to fill those bowls; rounding out the cuisine were craft breads and delightful cupcakes.

As you came in the door, a $10 donation allowed you to choose any bowl you wanted from amongst hundreds of candidates, take it into the 'dining hall' and have it heaped full of tasty local cuisine, and then when you empty it, take it home with you. Its hard to know how many Scots are in our reading audience but I'll bet no one is old enough to remember when an artistically made ceramic bowl cost $10 --- and it this one came full of food to boot, enhanced by live music.

The wee village of Floyd has perhaps 450 denizens (counting canines and felines), the county about 13,500 - maybe. Enough of them attended this three hour event to raise in excess of $6,000 for this worthy cause. People working together to help each other, filling locally known needs, taking care of their own. This is a "can do" group of people who rather than speculating why something cannot be done, spend their energy to make things happen that improve the quality of life in the community.

Any wonder we love it here?

28 March 2009

spring fogs bring...

Most valued reader, it has been another day in the fog and drizzle here on the farm; a 'dreich' day as they say in Fife. I took the opportunity to spread rye and fescue ("Kentucky 31") on areas that are low in green cover, to prevent erosion (hopefully). The day lily leaves are growing larger and denser, accompanied in some places by tulips performing likewise. If you click on the fog image to enlarge it and look very carefully betwixt the large trees, those with astute perception may locate a small light crescent - the light in the dining room - the house itself is invisible.

Lest the image posted a few days ago of our partly open dining room lead you astray, here is the basement area, filled almost to the ceiling - and virtually impassable by anyone with more than a 24 inch waist, who with adequate greasing, might be able to slide down the very narrow isle left by the movers. For the moment, it is impassable by either human resident of this house but a place of pleasure and amusement for the felines. My office is little better. Sigh. We have focused on imposing order on the dining room and the den, largely ignoring the remainder.

27 March 2009

And the answer is....


Miss Girlie Girl has been steadily making progress in becoming a great companion kitty. We can now walk up to her pretty much anywhere in the house and pet her. She even likes to be brushed. Girlie likes it enough that I even managed to get her to roll over onto her big fat side so I could take a look at her kitty nipples. By the looks of those mammary glands, she's definitely about to give us babies in the next couple weeks.

25 March 2009

Spring - maybe

Here in the Blue Ridge mountains, the weather seems more dynamic than most other locales wherein I have dwelt. In recent days, the sun as shown in all his glory, the wind has been negligible, very few clouds and definitely the feel of Spring in the offing. The daffodils are in their great splendor now and the forsythias seem to add more blooms each day. The crocus are now just past their peak (and Nutmeg seems determined to trample them all).

Today has cast doubt on that scenario; in the last 24 hours, the low temperature was 33.8F and the high was 35.2F, it drizzled nearly a third of an inch and late in the afternoon, another fine fog formed and seems determined to endure until at least dark. If this sounds less than desirable, it all depends on perspective (as with all of life). Having read (and believed) the five day forecast which called for rain and cool, I seeded part of the pasture in red clover and these are perfect conditions for its germination, especially if it is followed by more seasonable warmth.

It was a red letter day for the house- through diligent application, April has managed to excavate the dining room table at last - and tonight our eve repast will be served thereon. It may seem trifling to you, dear reader, but for us it is a benchmark of domestic order and the promise of a good life to come.

22 March 2009

Que paso????

Let's see... what's up on the farm?

As you can see, we've had more flooring put in by our lovely friend Eric. In one morning he ripped out the world's worst excuse for a "rustic wood floor" and put in a beautiful powder room floor from some of what's left after doing the dining room. Eventually we'll get it painted and have him restore the plumbing to its proper place. It's curenly vacationing on the ever-more-crowded back porch.

You know Nutmeg came home after a month living with the cows next door. She was doing remarkably well, considering, but it looks like we'll be needing to up her pain meds as her hips are really bothering her something fierce. Turns out calf placenta is a reasonable substitute for her soloxine / rymadil / phenobarbital cocktail and the exercise and irregular food got those last few extra pounds off... now she's greedily trying to put them back on! We're confining Nutter to the main level and the walled garden. Oh how she does whine, as only She can, to be let out the front door!

All cat food has been removed to places inaccessible.
Though not quit as far as the barns!

I've also been back into the greenhouse. This time to actually plant some seeds! I have 22 kinds of stuff in soil now and more to do... we're trying 2 of most things and starting herbs for the walled garden as well.

Finally, Girlie Girl ran off in protest when she met Nutmeg (who wouldn't?) but changed her mind enough to hang around for food on the porch. This afternoon she was persuaded to come inside again where food is constant and sub-zero temps don't occur. We're starting to wonder if she's preggers again. She's put on an awful lot of weight in three weeks... as in, she went from a scrawny 9 pounds to I'm finding her as cumbersome to hold as Mr Grover. Here's a pic Grover would hate for you to see so that you can get a picture of this in your head:

That's a full-sized jumbo PetsMart shopping cart. Girlie fills a distinctively larger space. By way of contrast, Jack Tar (the world's best cat) gained two ounces after living with us for a month. He is starting to fill out a bit but it looks like he'll always be a bony-butted cat after a malnourished youth.

Finally, Russ is starting to feel better. He's not coughing as much and able to stay awake until sunset without a significant nap. Blessedly, he can also taste again, so he can enjoy all the good food we're getting here!

19 March 2009

Foggy sunset

This fine sunset is from the last day of the recent fog. Just another pretty picture, nothing more.

18 March 2009

Rock stars

We knew full well when we contracted to purchase this wee bit o'paradise that catching up on "deferred maintenance" was going involve a substantial outlay of cash and time. Today saw the completion of the first issue: more gravel on the driveway. During the recent freeze & thaw cycles, portions of our rather lengthy drive became spongy - and the weight of trucks going in and out was beginning to indent the base course - which would lead to major amounts of gravel required to repair.

Today was forecast to be warm (near 60F) and dry, with moisture possible on Thursday - a perfect set up. On Tuesday I ordered two truck loads of gravel for about the first two-thirds of the drive. Promptly at 8:30 a.m., Johnie and Willie (Willie, I hope I remember your name correctly, if not forgive me,please) arrived. Johnie and I walked the crucial portion and he educated me about the physics of laying down gravel with a dump truck, issues which had never crossed my mind. Within 15 minutes, the stone was disbursed. It didn't go quite as far as I had hoped, so 40 minutes later, Willie came with a second load. By 10:05, 49 tons of gravel now graced the entrance way to our wee farm. Thanks, guys.

After about twenty minutes with the Ford tractor and blade, it was almost like a brand new surface. Time to head off to the Blue Ridge Cafe for a celebratory breakfast - my first time off of the farm in eight days...

17 March 2009

The Cats Are REALLY Ticked...

No, I'm not talking about the kind that suck blood (though we've pulled a couple even in the cold here.) We're talking about anger, disdain, betrayal. we're talking about that look that says "Why must I suffer like this?"

What could cause this in our happy little colony? Is it the #6 cat who thinks she should be #1? Is it the five days of rain and fog that's kept them all inside and miserable? Have we changed their food or litter?


Do you remember our eulogy for Nutmeg? We were so amazed that she had such decisiveness. Well......

It turns out she'd only run as far as the cow shed on the next property and has been surviving on calf placenta. (Don't get Russ started on the timing of calves in this climate...) Today the farmer got hold of her and took her to the pound.

So, now we're doubly amazed. And for once, she's had an adventure that didn't cost a bundle. Ten bucks impound fee and she was freed.

Welcome home, Nutter. You're muddy, skinny, and unsure about this new house.... and we're back to our conflicted love for you.

Situation normal.... one animal too many.

16 March 2009


Ah, devoted readers (yes, the both of you), your most humble correspondent apologizes for not posting for some time now, having been humbled by a serious respiratory infection, accompanied by bronchitis and asthma. It has been six days since he left the house - and that was an emergency clinic visit. Although the antibiotics are undoubtedly working, the rate of improvement is slower than the national economy's recovery speed. Yesterday was the first that the mental fog had parted whatsoever, and that briefly, and it was also the first day awake more than an hour at a time.

Normally therapy might have included a hot pad on the chest but we've no idea which of the remaining 500 or so boxes might contain it. Given the gorgeous landscape vistas available, I might have bundled up and ensconced meself on the couch where the various interplays of light would have produced pleasure and amusement - alas, the rooms with the great views, the dining room and the den, are unnavigable due to the piles of boxes and furniture - not only was no surface available for your writer's posterior, there was no way to insert said posterior into either room (since one normally keeps their eyes closed in a bedroom, we chose that room partly because it is the most lacking in views).

The last items I unpacked before crumbling related to the television - and mindless entertainment (OK, OK, its not entertainment, its brainwashing - but the fogged mind needed a clean as well) would have been an appropriate supplement to the medical therapies. Alas, Not all of the parts were ever uncovered and even if the TV was alive and speaking, there is no place to position it - or position myself to watch it in the den.

When dwelling in coastal Fife, it is impossible to ignore the 'haars' that roll off of the North Sea and onto land, swallowing castles and bridges like a giant monster, only to spit them forth again later. Those haars were a defining character of our wee neuk of Scotland, elusive, unpredictable, ill-defined and beautiful. When walking in the countryside through a dense haar, there a are huge patches of light and dark which glide silently past the spectator; almost certainly Bonnie Dundee rides within these yet.

Although an enjoyment of fog was developing slowly for your author, there was only the foggiest notion of the actual aesthetic appreciation which would heighten the intellectual experience. That remained for our friend from northern California, photographer Kerik Kouklis to deepen. Kerik is certainly one of the greatest and most practiced photographers of fog in the entire history of photography; only he could clarify fog's meaning and potential. Kerik was invited to Scotland to address the Royal Photographic Society's Scottish Branch and our time with him allowed rapid maturation in the fog aesthetic. Thank you, Kerik. Check out his web site's "square" gallery to see some finely focused fog photographs.

Today begins the fifth consecutive day of fog at Stratheden Farm. Although unable to position meself optimally, the occasional accidental view when briefly eating or sourcing hot liquids downstairs was rewarding, to say the least. The fogs of rural Kentucky rose out of the creeks and rivers and sat, as immobile as fat cats, on the land. Haars of Fife were dynamic, moving, boiling and marching forth from the sea and might encompass your reality for as long as three days. Neither compares to the variety and action of the Blue Ridge fogs. The ephemeral displays of moisture made visible are amazingly dynamic, performing for those who receive satisfaction from them. These last five days, when my eyes have been open and a proper window available, have been intensely rewarding. Had I been well, perhaps hundreds of exposures on film might have been achieved; as it happened, a few fast digital shots form the sole record, alas.

Well, my friend, there remains little energy within me and thus this essay closes, it being time once more to sleep.

15 March 2009

Lovely Ladies

More proof it's spring. The ladybugs are waking up. From all over the basement they make their way to the door to be let out. We must have had about ten thousand resident in the house. We've disturbed hundreds and hundreds with the decorating but they just seem to keep coming.

13 March 2009

Meet Girlie Girl

We tried not feeding her...
We tried not naming her...
We tried not letting her in...


you can't make a kitten's mama go away.

So now we have a resident Persian cross .
She lives in the area between the couch and the food bowl.
Just like all ornamental cats must.

11 March 2009

Is It Still Spring???

Do you remember a post from last week that looked like North Dakota? Snow... really deep... and rather cold? Good. That means I'm not hallucinating because it got up to 72 F yesterday and I wasn't sure but maybe we slept a bit longer than the usual eight hours Thursday night.

It being thoroughly pleasant, I took the opportunity to clean up the old greenhouse. Here you can see where I've painted all the exposed wood with good ole' Kilz. Hopefully it really will stop the decay for a few years yet. I'm still deciding whether or not to paint the green walls. They're peeling a bit... but then... they're also half rotted away in the wet places. I'll decide when this week's forecast rain has passed.

As you can see, I've also started digging a bed at the base. I think peas and spinach will do well until the shade takes over in high summer. The greenhouse had quite a bit of stuff in it, mostly old, dirty pots so my first job was to find a place for them that would be both out of the weather and out of the greenhouse. Intuition says dirty pots might just invite disease. This odd little block room is behind the greenhouse and hidden under the deck. We suppose the original owners meant to build a root cellar but the water that comes down the walls with every rain ruins that idea. The roof is otherwise quite tight so it makes great storage for "dirty stuff."

We brought the plastic shelves from Santa Fe. Wish I could remember where I bought them. Lowes? It's actually only two sets. The ceiling is about 6' at the rafters. Yes, even I, the little person, whacks her head going in and out the low door.

And here is my beautifully renewed greenhouse. All washed, twice scraped, and painted with lots and lots of Kilz. I even located the pinstop for the automatic vent opener and you can just see it working perfectly in the upper right. The high today was 71 F and the greenhouse got up to 85 or 90. Nice and cozy! Certainly a whole lot better than the 110 degrees I worked in on day one!

Now it's time to start filling the place up with seed trays. I already have six 32-cell trays clean, disinfected, and ready to go. (Thanks, Mary, for leaving them for us!) Now it's time to fill them with tomatoes, chiles, and all those other things one needs a head start on in Zone 6!

10 March 2009


It's official. The daffys are giggling at us. Spring is here. More snow is, of course, predicted but the plants don't care! My little experiment in "Winter Sowing" has succeeded in producing seedlings... these are poppies from the spice isle in the grocery store. Guess they weren't irradiated after all!

We also have English lawn daisies, leeks, and a hollyhock sprouted. Now to see if they really don't die in the coming bad weather. It'll be difficult not to put them in the greenhouse!

09 March 2009

The Honourable Company of Horners

Treasured reader, grant me a boon if you will and allow a gentle detour from the affairs of Stratheden Farm to another topic which occupies the mind and library of your humble author: powder horns and horn work more generally. Unbeknown to perhaps the majority of our faithful browsers, your correspondent was the first Guild Master of The Honourable Company of Horners and has possessed a life-long interest (alright you sticklers out there - since I was perhaps seven or eight years of age...) in powder horns, the necessary accouterment of muzzle loading firearms of the era before cartridge guns were invented (arbitrarily, let us agree on a date of circa 1866).

As the interest in powderhorns grew and matured, an more general interest in horn work flowered, concerned with items as diverse as Viking drinking horns and medieval lice combs. Eventually my inclination towards issues of technology and invention was directed to how horn objects were created and utilized. At the prompting of Pennsylvania horner Roland Cadle, a conference was held which brought together interested parties from around the country to discuss hornwork; at the conclusion of this conference, about a dozen dedicated practitioners and scholars wrote the charter creating The Honourable Company of Horners - which now is composed of nearly 300 members.

The Guild holds an annual conference in the eastern or midwestern region of the United States during March. The location for 2009 was The Museum of Appalachia near Norris, Tennessee. It was a perfect location, surrounded by 18th and 19th century log cabins and other pioneer structures, and they proved marvelous Southern hosts. Founded and led by the vision of one man, John Rice Irwin, the museum is sited in a lovely small valley and simulates a small pioneer settlement.

One would be hard pressed to find a more congenial group than the Horners and the atmosphere is always warm and open. Collectors share their knowledge and objects, master horners teach/demonstrate their skills, members display their wares, and intense conversations abound. There is no place on earth where there is more knowledge of hornwork than at these meetings. Collector and scholar Dr. Jay Hopkins gave a illuminating lecture on Southern powder horns, historical painter David Wright presented a light-hearted condensation of his journey through the centuries and well known Kentucky frontier artist Frank House was the key note speaker. A most enjoyable and educational conference, if I say so myself.

08 March 2009

Genuine Virginia Deer Repellant

The following is from Craigslist Roanoke....

~~TIGER POO ~~ (Natural Bridge)

Date: 2009-03-04, 6:01PM EST

Does your garden get ravaged by deer, rabbits and mice or other little critters? Do you need something to keep them away? Can’t find the right scent to keep them out? Have you tried Tiger and Mountain Lion Poo? Yes you read correctly:) What deer is going to venture into a garden protected by Tigers?!

We offer it by the 5 gallon and 2 ½ bucket. Packed tight with smelly, thick, sticky, wonderful tiger and mountain lion poo, sealed up with a lid. (You wouldn’t want to ride home smelling it.) Once in the yard you won’t notice it, but all the animals will know to stay away! $50(5 gallon) $30 (2 ½ gallon) All Poo sales go to help fund our new Tiger Exhibit and future Mt Lion Exhibit. It's a very poopy fundraiser!

02 March 2009


April in the hay field. Picture by Mr. Dogwood
Yes, she is wearing a skirt over leggings.
Very practical.

It's the real thing... condensed water! We got at least six inches, maybe eight, and drifting to fourteen. Chetworth has a Flickr Photostream of the better pictures. Isn't he a clever cat? Enjoy this small selection.

We'll start with yesterday which was COLD and dark....

... and move into a sunny Monday afternoon.
A balmy 21 degrees!

is there enough space?

Well, dear reader, I left you hanging with "the goods" being loaded into a United truck at ye olde hoos. I left an hour ahead of them and 1,700 miles later, arrived at the new house about four hours behind them (letting Nutmeg out for walkies added about 2 hours to each driving day).

Once more, the "Power Rangers of United" kicked into high gear and unloaded all of our earthly goods in two very long days. Chrystian and Neil are skinny for a reason- they work like mad and don't eat a lot...

The cats seem to delight in the new interior landscape, sort of a jungle gym for felines, boxes rising almost to the ceiling in three rooms, furniture and boxes crammed into a nearly solid mass in all of the other rooms; the only two rooms which escaped were the bedroom and bathroom. Think of total chaos and you will approach having the right idea.