Peevish Pen

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

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Damage

Yesterday, Hurricane Irene hit the Virginia coast. Since we're more than 200 miles from the coast, all we got was wind. Yesterday's sky looked like this:

Toward the SE

Toward the NE

A little more east. Smith Mtn.  is visible.

The wind blew all day. Sometimes it howled.  With all those ominous clouds,  I thought surely some rough weather would blow in, but it didn't. We were hoping for rain, but we got only sprinkles, so our drought continues. Yesterday evening's sky was pinkish-gray. The photo below doesn't do it justice:

This morning, however, I found evidence that we'd sustained a bit of damage:

Two—yep, two—plants were overturned on the front porch. Well, I immediately started the cleanup proceedings and eventually had everything almost back to normal.

Almost back to normal. I still have to sweep up the pile of potting soil.

A lot of folks were not as lucky as we were. 


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Claiborne House

I love old houses. When my Facebook friend Shellie Leete invited me to tour her home, The Claiborne House Bed & Breakfast, I jumped at the chance. (Shellie's blog, Coffee Talk, is here.)

 It's located on Claiborne Avenue, about two blocks from the library, in downtown Rocky Mount. Walking through the door is like walking into another era. Here are a few pictures of some of the guest bedrooms:

And a view from a bedroom to outside:

The staircase, looking down:

You could see the back of a sofa in the previous picture. Here's the view from the sofa:

A couple of downstairs rooms had this elegant wooden ceiling:

One of the guest rooms, called the "Love Shack," is outback. It's a cozy and private little getaway:

The front porch is a great place to sit and look toward downtown:

The red brick building at the end of the street is the library.
It looks like a blur in this picture.

Here's a view of the front yard.

Resident dog, Junie, inspects a garden gnome on the porch.

This part of the porch leads to the Love Shack.

Doesn't the porch furniture make you want to sit a spell?

What's a southern porch without ferns?

Can you guess what object is under the mum?

I especially loved the back yard.

Junie led me down the walkway.

One of several shady places to sit.

The goldfish came from Wal-Mart a few years ago.

The parking lot is behind the fence (over the statue's shoulder)

Meanwhile, in the front yard, there's a huge stump where a 99-year-old sugar maple used to be. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of it, but Shellie is wondering what to do with the stump. In fact, she's having a contest: If you have a good idea, visit her blog and make a suggestion.

Innkeeper Shellie stands in front of the home and holds a copy of my book.
The stump is right behind where her head is.

If you're visiting the area and want a down-home copnvenient place to stay, you should check out the Claiborne House. 

*That item under the mum? It's an antique urinal.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whole Lotta Shaking

At 1:51 p.m. yesterday, I was at my desk. I felt it vibrating, then shaking. Then it sounded like something—a helicopter, maybe?—hit the roof because the roof was definitely rattling.

I posted this on Facebook: "A few minutes ago my desk started to vibrate. The the house shook and the roof rattled. We went outside to see if we could see anything flying overhead but we didn't. What's going on? Earthquake? Demonic possession?" 

Before long responses rolled in—earthquake!—and others posted about feeling buildings shake. The epicenter of the 5.9 (or 5.8, depending on your source) was in Mineral, Virginia—which is 150 miles from here. We went out to check the around the house. No damage. Nothing out of the ordinary.

I'd noticed a few odd things earlier that morning, though: the cats were hesitant to go out (they usually stampede as soon as I open the deck door), Melody hadn't wanted to go into the front pasture (she's usually eager to do so) and Emma the garage dog was missing. Every morning, Emma goes behind the boxwoods in front of the house and spends most of her day there—but not yesterday. I take her breakfast out there every morning, so why wasn't she there waiting for breakfast? In the picture below, Jim-Bob sits in front of the boxwood that Emma is usually behind.

I looked all around the yard, under bushes, etc., and eventually found Emma on the patio on the lower level. As far as I know, it's the first time she's ever slept on the patio. She didn't want to be near the rest of the house, though. She decided that the pin oak was a pretty good place to stay. Occasionally she had to move to stay in the shade, but she stayed in that oak's vicinity all day and way into the night when I finally took her to the garage.

A few minutes after the earthquake, Emma was still under the tree.

Chloe and Jim-Bob walked around the property with me. Below, Chloe inspects the drought-ravaged lawn.

I looked east, toward Smith Mountain, and hoped the dam hadn't been damaged. Since there was no rush of a gazillion gallons of water, I figured it was OK.

 Here's my study window.  I was looking out it when the earthquake occurred.

Melody wanted to stay in the run-in shed.

Finally, Jim-Bob went to his office area.

Chloe kept patrolling for a while.

Their mother Olivia continued her nap in the old gazebo as if nothing had happened.

Another view of Jim-Bob's office:

He checks his log for structural damage. It's OK.

And everything is back to normal, as if an earthquake never happened. But for 15 or 20 seconds there was a whole lotta shaking going on.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Round This Mountain

Last week, I arranged to swap books with one of my Facebook friends, Oma Boyd who lives in Cana, Virginia. I mailed her Stuck and she mailed me Round This Mountain.

When Round This Mountain arrived last Thursday, a quick look told me I wanted to start reading. It's my kind of book. I love the old stories that older country folk—particularly those in the Virginia mountains—have handed down. This book didn't disappoint me; in fact, it delighted me.

Round This Mountain is a collection of recollections by a person Boyd calls "the Old Woman," a name she got from her husband Check when she married him at sixteen. They were married at the "marrying tree" which straddled the Carroll and Patrick County lines because the law at that time decreed you had to get married in the county where you resided. Since she lived in Carroll and he lived in Patrick, they each stood in their home county while the preacher performed the service. The Old Woman and Check were married 60 years before he died, and she had plenty of recollections of their life together. 

In the front matter, Boyd notes: 

Any names of actual people either living or deceased are purely coincidental. The names of people and many names of places were changed as the Old Woman told these stories. She suffered from dementia and although her mind wandered back to an actual time in history, her days were filled with confusion of the facts.

The Old Woman's voice rings true throughout the book, which is divided into four parts: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. She uses expressions I've heard my older relatives us: "Lord have mercy" is one interjection; "Law" is another.

The tales the Old Woman tells provide a glimpse into how mountain folk lived in the early years of the 20th century. From page 7: "Didn't know what 'lectric power, bathrooms and the likes were in those days." She recalls the doings of local characters, deaths, chores, and everyday life—everything fom the graphaphone to the sawmill whistle, how to get rid of chinch bugs to drying apples, canning to gathering chestnuts, Thanksgiving to the smell of Christmas.

One story she told was about how she gathered chestnuts when she was a girl to earn money to buy herself a rocking chair. From page 62:  "I was little but I picked  up what I could. They didn't weigh enough to buy a chair but Mammy finished paying for it. It's in yinder now in the back room."

Here's the chair:

The chestnut trees are long now, and so is the way of life that the Old Woman described. Thank goodness Oma Boyd has saved these stories of this time now past.

Round This Mountain skillfully captures the spirit of mountain life. It's a must-read for all y'all who enjoy old-timey things. I highly recommend it.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cutting Silage

All day, I've listened to the sound of a tractor and bigs truck. Across the road, the cornfield is being cut to provide silage for the milk cows at a nearby dairy.

From my study window—and from my front yard—I have a front-row seat for the action.

Part of the field has been cut.
My lawn is in the foreground.

Behind the standing corn (r. of the tree-clump) is the tractor and a truck.

You can see it better here.

 A tractor cuts the corn, chops it up, and blows it into the bed of a truck that runs parallel to the tractor. When one truck is full, an empty  pulls beside the tractor.

A loaded truck heads for the farm up the road . . .

. . . and another returns.

Tractor fills truck. This happens over and over.

A closer look.

Empty catches up to almost-filled truck.
The tip of Smith Mountain is visible above the filled truck.

When one truck is full, another pulls in to catch the silage. I'm amazed how easy this looks from a distance. But silage-cutting is tedious and requires skill; the drivers have to pay attention so the silage doesn't get dumped on the ground.

By five p.m., the field is almost done.

The tractor turns to get the last section.
The truck maneuvers into position.

The bare field.

The result of today's labor will feed the dairy cows this winter. Now you know where your milk really comes from.

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