Saturday, September 18, 2010


A stiff wind sends the cat running. Brisk early morning temperatures switch on his frisky button. He streaks down the sidewalk and under the arbor vitae. A mix of white puffs, gray ominous clouds and high wispy stratus block any chance of sun peeking through thin blue areas of sky at 7 am. Johann says the clear night sky a few days ago showed so many stars they appeared to be groups of clouds.

Visits to the hummingbird feeders have trickled down to a few stalwarts. I removed the largest glass nectar feeder when ear wigs committed sweet suicide climbing through the sipping ports. If I filled two smaller feeders a week ago on a daily basis, the two half filled ones now will be dumped and washed by the end of the weekend. The little birds have been a constant since late April. Soon I'll be seeing juncos sorting through leaves at the bases of the privet hedge.

The center leaves of the pumpkin patch are faded yellow. No longer afraid of damaging young squash or jack o' lanterns, I create a path in the center of the 30X40 area looking for acorn squash. After 30 minutes of hunting, I have two dozen acorn squash and two deep orange pumpkins. Because of the proximity of the squash and pumpkin, a few have cross-bred creating some unusual squashkins. One looks like a zucchini on steroids. I harvest one dark, dark forest green pumpkin that keeps the jack o' lantern shape but crossed with the acorn squash for the color.

A mounded plastic dish tub of sweet bell peppers I picked yesterday are chopped and stored in the chest freezer. Johann picked all the hot peppers for hot sauce. He brings over a half pint of the finished product at dinner last evening. It tastes like the expensive, aged version on store shelves. Eight jalapenos plants are loaded with jalapenos that are almost black at the ends. Remembering the tasty deep fried jalapenos I'd get with my fillette de plancha at Casa Cardenos in Prescott, I fried three one evening while making fresh shoestring potatoes in the garage. They were so tongue numbing hot I had to toss the remaining two. Evidently the hot peppers and the jalapenos crossed.

A short drought ends with nightly rains that disappear in windy cool days. It's still warm enough to paint. All that remains of the breezeway is the rear door to the dog pen. The nine small windows require patience and steadiness for free hand trim work. The rock and roll station on the garage radio plays a mix of up tempo music from the past to accompany this mindless task. In the upcoming week Johann will be installing a wood railing on the stairs to the second floor. When we first moved in we tossed the aluminum railing some design retard installed on the oak steps. Having an experienced carpenter as friend and neighbor allows us to finish small but annoying put-off projects.

The new breezeway spurs us to make more changes for "warm and cozy". The entrance way at the rear of the house allows access to either the basement or the kitchen. A large closet is the only other component of the entrance way. In winter if the closet doors are closed, we could keep a jug of milk cold for a week. Originally this closet was a cloakroom for the school kids to hang their coats and stash their galoshes before the school day. The thinking is that a new Thermopane window in the entrance way will help ward off the chill. Johann removes the trim to the window to measure the rough opening. There's pink fiberglass insulation under the cheap wood paneling. My mind runs to removing the paneling, adding more insulation and installing drywall. The draw back is the slow ooze of dollars as a small project becomes a major one. The total cost for the breezeway inches closer to $2000 with yet another purchase of paint for trim when the stored gallon of trim paint runs out.

The Amish tell me that the time change back to "slow time" isn't until November. Already, Mandy and I go cat hunting at 7:15 in the evening to bring him in for the night. The kitchen clock remains on Amish time. I should put another one next to it with only four divisions-the four seasons. The little hand is on autumn and the big hand is sweeping toward winter. All the shrubs on the east side of the deck are wild and unruly looking. The pole beans have petered out, however, large pods of seed beans for the upcoming year are slow drying on the vines. On a visit for milk recently, the Amish matriarch asks me if I've ever eaten pole beans-the beans themselves. They're canning rattlesnake pole beans and find them tasty.

Horse radish I planted near the old compost heap should be harvested. I've given up on the turnips and rutabaga. Dawn gets four pints of canned carrots from the carrot patch. A disappointing harvest over last year's beautiful, sweet carrots. The basil will turn black in a frost if we don't get to it soon. Right now I'm too busy with wine making. The strawberry wine I started on June 28th is now snugly bottled in 18 green recycled wine bottles. It was hell drinking all that Merlot to get used bottles. After a temporary probation in the kitchen to ensure that no one bottle pops its cork, it'll age in the basement. The peach wine is next and I just started a batch of pear wine from 10 pounds of ripe pears a neighbor gifts us. Apple fest in Gays Mills is at the end of this month. If I don't find inexpensive, organic apples there the same neighbor grows organic apples.

Over the winter I'll keep Johann busy with building a chicken coop. After thirty years, it's time for us to settle down and grow our own chickens for meat and eggs. We don't travel on business like we used to. The hassle and annoyance of domestic flights puts me off. Memorable flights standing in a long waiting line for security clearance and glancing at the man in front of me holding a hand-gun in one hand and his police badge in the other thinking, "Oh shit, there goes another hour's delay." Besides, there's nowhere I'd like to go. A dog who can't be more than 20 minutes away from me and a cat that is getting to be a couch potato who enjoys mostly hanging out with the folks has already tied us down to day trips.

Time to run to the dump and catch up with town gossip.

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