Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2015 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm a retired teacher turned writer. Ferradiddledumday (my Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story) and Stuck (my middle grade paranormal novel) are available from Cedar Creek Publishing.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tanner's Snow Day

A Guest Post by Tanner the Kitty

I heard on TV how kids are getting snow days because of the weather. I think it means they have to stay inside. I stay inside all the time, so I will share some of my activities on this snow day in case the kids you know need something to do.

You can invite a friend over, but I hope your friend is better than this one who has no purrsonality whatsover and doesn't even move unless you push him. But if I try to push him, Mommy puts him out of my reach. I do not understand why because it's not like he would fall very far.

You can rassle. I like to rassle with my bestest friend George. (Chloe used to be my bestest friend but she ain't anymore because she smacks me too hard.) George has a big bald spot where his hair had to come off so the vet could fix something called an abscess that happened because another kitty bit him. 

It wasn't me who bit George. I think it was Radley who lives outside all the time. Mommy said if George didn't try to micro-manage the other kitties, he wouldn't get bit. I don't bite George much. Mostly I either smack him or kick him.

Sometimes I just give him a look so he knows how tough I am.

Sometimes I just walk away because George is a lot bigger than me.

You can climb into your kitty condo and play with the thingie that adjusts the blinds.

The thingie has a rubber end on it that comes off if you pull on it.

Sometimes you have to pull really hard.

If pulling doesn't work, you might have to use teeth.

It took me a while, but I finally got that rubber end off. I might have lost it again. Mommy doesn't like it when I lose it.

Sometimes you can invite a friend to share your condo. Only I didn't invite Chloe because she ain't my bestest friend anymore. She just takes over whenever she pleases.

I have spoken to her about her bad habit of taking over, but she doesn't pay any attention. 

Maybe I will blame Chloe when Mommy finds out I lost the plastic end of the blind thingie.

Or maybe I won't. Chloe might whip up on me if I did that.

Anyhow, I hope I gave you some good ideas on what to do on a snow day. 

But don't tell Mommy that I lost that plastic thing. Again.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter 2015 Arrives

For a while, it looked like winter 2015 wouldn't amount to much. We hadn't had more than a sprinkle of snow, and—despite the groundhog seeing his shadow—the days had been getting warmer. Tulips and crocus were even starting to poke out of the ground.

Then temperatures dropped and high winds arrived on Valentine's Day. The winds howled all night and blew over the light pole in our side yard.

It only broke off a few branches of the boxwood, but they'll grow back.

The light part is a total loss, though. Cats stayed in while the wind blew.

Birds waited in the trees for me to fill the feeders.

On Monday, the snow started falling. Only a dusting at first . . . 

. . . but by nightfall, we had over an inch.

On Tuesday morning, several inches of snow covered the ground and roads . . .

. . .  and the boxwoods in front of the house . . .

 . . . and Melody. Took me a while to chip the ice off her. The barn-cats sensibly stayed in the tack-room or shed. Good thing Melody has a heated bucket. Her water tubs were frozen over.

My husband used his tractor to scrape the driveway and the road from the house to the barn. Then he scraped driveways for a few neighbors with health problems in case they needed to get out.

By afternoon, we were able to go to Kroger. The main roads were clear, but the side roads looked bad. School has been closed all week, and more bad weather—only a little snow but bitterly cold temperatures—are expected shortly.


Monday, February 02, 2015

Ground Hog Day 2015

Despite predictions for bad weather today—rain or sleet—the clouds parted and let enough sun through to cast shadows.

Since we had really strong winds today, I doubt many groundhogs came out. This morning when I went out to feed the horse and barn-cats, I saw something I'd never before seen on Groundhog Day. Do you see it?.

A rainbow!

It wasn't raining and hadn't rained for over an hour. But the rainbow was there.

The sky did look ominous toward the east, though.

Jim-Bob must have seen his reflection in a puddle, but I don't think he was looking for his shadow.

As Chloe made her morning patrol, she didn't seem to notice the rainbow either.

She's looking westward here. I'm not sure what she's looking for, though.

But she kept looking.

I'm glad I was lucky enough to see the Ground Hog Day rainbow! You never know what you'll see if you look around.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Stealing Stolen

I stole this A to Z meme from Anita over at Blue Country Magic, who got it from Sunday Stealing. Figured I'd give it a try.

A. What are your favorite smells?
Lilacs and roses. Real ones, not the smell-less variety so prevalent today. I have a lilac that I grew from a slip picked from my grandmother's lilac, and a rose that was a slip from my mother's yard. Here's the rose:

B. Can you go a whole day without caffeine?
I doubt it. Gotta have coffee! But I've gone years without a soft drink.

C. Who knows more about you than anyone else?
Probably my husband of 47 years. But it could be various Internet spy-bots or whatever they're called.

D. What song did you last listen to?
I can't remember. I can go whole days without listening to songs.

E. Do you wear socks to bed?
When it's really cold.

F. Can you change a car tire?
The last tire I changed was on my 61 Ford Falcon in 1966.  Could I do it now? I don't know.

G. If you could choose one color to wear for a whole year, what color would you choose?
Black. Most of what i have is black. Second choice would be blue, my favorite color.

H. Do you cook often?
Every day. I've stopped eating processed crap food, so I need to cook if I'm going to eat.

I. What’s your least favorite season?
Winter—it's cold and often has dangerous weather. Plus it's so bleak, and my electric bill is higher because of the heat.

J. Can you sew?
Enough to do basic repairs. I actually have a sewing machine that I've forgotten how to thread, so I haven't used it in years. I did take hoe-ec in 7th and 8th grades, and costume construction in college.

K. What is your favorite fruit?
Blueberries and strawberries, which are the most diabetic friendly. I don't eat much fruit because of what it does to my blood sugar levels.

L. Are you health conscious?
As a gluten-sensitive diabetic, I certainly am. I'm also conscious that a lot of medical advice (from the American Diabetes Association, for instance) is pure crap and/or propaganda from Big Pharma that wants to sell meds and treatments—not cures.

M. Do you think you’re very conscious of the feelings of others or more self oriented?
Depends on who the others are, and how I'm feeling. But, as I've gotten older, I've gotten more empathetic.

N. Do you curse a lot?
Not much. Only when a situation requires it.

O. Do you remember lyrics easily?
Sometimes. I can remember lyrics from 50 years ago, but I can't remember any recent ones.

P. Can you roll your tongue?
Yep, but why do I need to?

Q. Is there a certain food you often crave for no reason?
Sometimes chocolate.

R. What was the last book you purchased?
Does it count if it hasn't arrived yet? I pre-ordered James Nagy's Smith Mountain Dam and Lake, but it won't get here until mid-March. The last one I purchased that I've received was Talk About Trouble, a collection of oral histories collected in the 30s by WPA writers.

S. Where was your last vacation?
I'm not even sure when my last actual vacation was. Maybe to Lancaster Pennsylvania in the mid-80s.  I prefer short trips to vacations.

T. Last movie you watched? Did you enjoy it?
TV movie, Amazon Prime on the iPad, or in a theatre? The last movie I watched (all the way through0 on the iPad was Pride and Prejudice. Loved it! I won't watch a movie all the way through if I'm not enjoying it.

U. Think of your oldest friend. If you met them now do you think you would still become friends?
Which oldest friend? From childhood? We lost touch long ago. From college? A former roommate of mine and I don't see each other very often, but we can still pick up the conversation where it last left off.

V. Paris, London and New York… which one would you live in, which would you visit for a day, which would you visit for a fortnight?
Wouldn't live in any of them! I wouldn't live in any big city again. I like living in a rural area with a small town or two not far away. Visiting London would be interesting, since a lot of my ancestors came from England. The only one I've visited is New York City.

W. Do you usually sleep with your closet door open or closed?
Closed. I have a very inquisitive kitty that will climb the clothes to see what's on the top shelf.

X. Have you ever broken a bone? If so, how did it happen?
I flipped off a runaway horse in 1977 and compressed a couple of vertebrae. A few years later, I broke my hand when I hit ice while shoveling snow. And I've had a toe broken by a horse who stood on it.

Y. How do you like your eggs?
Scrambled. That's how I fix them every morning. I also like my eggs fresh from the farm. See my previous post.

Z. What was your last argument about and who with?
I don't remember. While I might have disagreements, I rarely argue. It isn't worth the trouble.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I'm no fan of grocery store eggs. They look exactly alike and are thin and runny. I won't even speculate on the factory-farm chickens that produce these inferior eggs. Instead, I buy locally produced eggs that look like this:

Or this:

They're not all the same color or size, though many of them are very large. Instead of pale yellow, the yolks are a rich orange.

These eggs taste wonderful.

To get these eggs, we drive about three miles from home to a farm where the chickens live. It's a self-serve operation. A cooler by the back door contains eggs that were gathered that morning. We return any empty egg cartons we have, select however many dozen eggs we want, and drop the money in a cup. Usually a cat—or even a herd of cats—watches us.

After getting our eggs, we drive out past the henhouses. One flock is turned out during the day.

There's another coop to the left along the driveway. Usually those hens stay in the a, but sometimes they're out, too. Sometimes we have to stop for a chicken to cross the driveway. A few times, we've had to wait for the cat herd to cross the driveway.

So—this is where we get our eggs. After eating these eggs, I don't think I could go back to eating store eggs on a regular basis. 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Search and Research

Warning: More genealogy that is probably only interesting to me.

Lately I've become interested in family genealogy—especially on my Smith side. I've long wondered from whom I descend. For the past few months, I've been doing a lot of searching and have already posted some things I've learned about my Martin great-grandmother ("Martin Mystery" and "Martin Mystery II") and my recent discovery of my Hancock ancestors who lived right in the neighborhood ("Lewis and Celia Hancock").

But, while scouring family trees on, I've run into some glitches. The Hancock side has provided a lot of mysteries. It was easy to find that Lewis Hancock descended from John D. Hancock who descended from Benjamin Hancock, but further back gets a little fuzzy.

Apparently I—and a gazillion other Virginians—descend from William Hancock, born 1580 in Devonshire, England. Unfortunately, he had the misfortune to be massacred at Berkley Hundred in Jamestown on March 22, 1622. However, back in England he left three sons—Augustine (b. abt. 1605), Simon (b. abt.1612), and William (b. abt. 1615)— who eventually came to Virginia when they came of age. So now we have a William II (who died in 1693 in Surry County, VA, where a bunch of Hancocks ended up).

But—some websites say that this son William died at Bacon's Rebellion, which was in 1676. A William Hancock is on the list of participants, but it doesn't say what happened to him. On some sites, another William Hancock, born in 1640, is identified as being the one in Bacon's Rebellion. This site identifies him as the son of William II. But other sites say that William III was the son of Simon. Confused yet? So am I.

At any rate, the Bacon's Rebellion William only had one son, John, who was born around 1670 and had eight children, though some sites give his birth as later—like this tree I grabbed off the Internet which has John being born three years after Bacon's Rebellion where his father supposedly died.

Do you see anything else confusing about that tree? The birth dates of Benjamin's parents, maybe? It's a bit had to believe that William was sixteen and Elizabeth was fourteen when their son was born. Since John Hancock (1670-1732) had sons named William and Benjamin, I'm thinking that the two brothers somehow got onto different lines in the above chart. But I could be wrong.

Since the Hancock family had to get to Franklin County, I keep looking for westward movement as I check family trees. Lewis came from Fluvanna/Albemarle, his father John D. was in Albemarle, so that movement makes sense.

I've also been wondering about the Haynes line that ties into my English line. This tree for Dinah Haynes on another line in my family is even stranger than the Hancock tree above. Do you see the problem?

If this tree is to be believed, Dinah Haynes' mother Mary Smith was also her father's mother. But wait—the dates are different for the two Mary Smiths even though they have the same parents. So, is it possible that Guy Smith and his wife (Miss Perrin/Grace Perrin) had two Mary Smiths, born 31 years apart?  And that Guy fathered the 1670 Mary when he was five years old!? (If so, he must have been quite a guy.) And—even stranger—"Miss Perrin" (born 1685) gave birth to Mary fifteen years before she herself was born??!! My mind boggles.

I'm pretty sure that Dinah's father was indeed Henry Haynes, because he mentions his daughter Dinah and her son Henry in his will (he died in Henry County the year before Franklin county was formed):

Item, I give to my daughter DINAH ENGLISH my Negro Boy named Barnaby during her life and after her decease to my Grandson HENRY ENGLISH forever and also my using Skillett to her forever.

Though Henry was born in King and Queen County, he moved westward and southward, acquiring and then selling land in Spotsylvania and acquiring a patent for 400 acres in Orange County in 1739. In 1753, he moved closer:

1753 Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Henry Haynes acquired 400 acres beginning at the mouth of Bull Run Creek, thence down Blackwater River. Also 400 acres in the fork of said Bull Run Creek. Also 1753 Henry Haynes acquired 300 acres beginning at Robert Walton's upper line on Bull Run, thence up both sides of said Run, also 400 acres beginning at Randolph's lower lines on Staunton River, then down to Smith's Mountain. 

Part of Pittsylvania County eventually became part of Franklin County. (Franklin County  was formed from parts of Henry and Bedford Counties in 1785, a year after Henry's death.) Some of his land is now under Smith Mountain Lake. Some of it was owned by my Smith ancestors in the late 1700s. And I now own land on the upper part Bull Run Creek that once ran into the Blackwater River but now runs into Smith Mountain Lake.

So, I think Henry is my ancestor. But I wonder about ones before him—I'm not so sure the ones on the above tree are correct.

I also wonder whatever became of the "using skillet" he left Dinah. I wonder if one of her descendants is still using it.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Rocking Chair Cats

When it's cold outside, certain cats like to lounge in front of the door to the deck. Below, George and Dylan try to soak up a bit of sun.

George really likes lounging under the old rocking chair.

Tanner figures that what's good enough for George is good enough for Tanner, too. 

It can get a little crowded under there.

Sometimes it helps to stretch.

And that's that.