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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mist and Webs

Heavy fog this morning. If you believe the folklore, foggy mornings in August foretell snows in winter.

Not only was this morning foggy, but there were more spiderwebs about the property than I have seen for a long time. Why were there so many? Does that foretell something about the weather?

Webs hung from the pines.

The webs on the lawn looked like fairies had pitched tents.

Webs bedecked the bushes.

Some were heavy with dew.

Webs even hung from the tractor.

Obviously the spiders were busy lat night. But where had they all those spiders come from? Why did they make so many webs? Are the spiders trying to capture enough food to get them through a rough winter? And where were the spiders this morning? I saw lots of webs, but they didn't have spiders in them.

There are lots of spider superstitions. Maybe these apply to the plethora of webs I saw this morning: 

When spiders are many and spinning their webs, the spell will soon be very dry. 

An old saying about grass spiders: when there is dew on their webs in the lawn in the morning, it will be a beautiful day.

When spiders spin their webs 'fore noon,
Sunny weather's coming soon.

Meanwhile, it's a mistery—er, mystery. But the sun has burned off the mist, and today indeed looks to be a beautiful day.

As for the snows this winter, time will tell.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Farm Walk

This evening we took Maggie the border collie and Hubert the old beagle for a walk on the Brown Place, one of our Union Hall farms. My husband had mowed a trail yesterday, so we had a good place to walk. Maggie ran long and hard. All the pictures I took of her are blurred, so you won't see her in these pictures. You'll catch a glimpse of Hubert, though.

The sand pear is loaded with pears.

A leaf hangs suspended in a spider web.

Hubert wades in one of the pools in Bull Run Creek.

The trees look like sculpture.

The pawpaw grove was green, but no fruit were on the trees this year.

The spicebush berries have turned red—won't be long until the leaves turn yellow.

A grapevine hangs from the top of this tree.

Hubert wades in another part of the creek.

The above picture is upstream from here Hubert waded.

Leaves were luminous in the early evening sun.

The old house, built over a hundred years ago by John Tom Brown, is falling apart. No one has lived in it for a half-century or so.

Most of the out-buildings are gone, but part of the chicken house remains.

We had a nice walk. The dogs should sleep well tonight.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Late August

Hints that fall is near: The garden is pretty much gone. Some leaves are starting to turn. The mornings are crisper, cooler. July's oppressive heat is a memory. Across the road, the corn is being cut for silage.

A tractor cuts the corn and spews it into a truck.

The truck hauls the cut corn down the road to a dairy farm. An empty truck will pull alongside the tractor when a full one leaves.

Over the cut part of the field, buzzards circle in hopes of finding a snack of field mice or other little critters that didn't get out in time.

Soon an empty truck returns . . .

. . . and follows the truck being filled . . .

. . . which soon heads down the road.

Where the corn once was looks barren, empty.

On another day, the remaining corn will be cut.

Soon this crop will be a memory.

Meanwhile, the concrete cow next door sports a football helmet—another sign of fall.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Passion Blue Review

Victoria Strauss's YA novel, Passion Blue, won't be out until November, but I was fortunate enough to score an advance reader copy. Jim-Bob checked it out before I read it.

I was intrigued by the cover—my favorite shade of blue. Would the book be as good as its cover? Yep, it is! Here's the synopsis as posted on

I've loved Renaissance Italy since ever since I took an art history course in college. Of course, during the Renaissance, the painters were male, and females had little choice in the direction their lives might take. Therein lies the book's premise: Giulia has two passions—she wants to be an artist, an almost impossible career choice for a girl in her time, and she wants a husband and family of her own. While her father is alive, she is allowed to live and work as a seamstress in his household. But when he dies, his wife uses Giulia's dowry to buy the orphaned girl's way into a convent. Desperate, Giulia acquires a talisman that will help her get what she wants, and she manages to hide it and some of her sketches as she's stripped of all her other possessions at the convent.

When a nun who maintains a painter's workshop in the convent acquires one of the sketches, she realizes the talent Giulia possesses and arranges for her to be an apprentice. under the nun's guidance, Giulia develops her talent and learns a lot about painting, but she still yearns for a family. When she meets a young artist, she soon is sneaking out to see him in the orchard at night. I won't give away the ending, but Giulia does get what she wants—although it isn't what she originally thought she wanted. Did her talisman help determine her destiny? Well—

Strauss has successfully captured the concerns of a young girl who searches for both love and a way to follow her dreams. While Passion Blue is written for young adults, who—like Guilia—might be struggling to find their own identity, it is enjoyable by us older readers, too.  Strauss skillfully blends character, plot, and setting into a richly textured novel—one that intrigues and satisfies the reader on several levels.

I highly recommend this book, which can be pre-ordered from now.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Washer Woes

On Friday evening, our 1994 KitchenAid washing machine stopped agitating and spinning. I'd tried to do a load of laundry, but everything was still soppy because the machine's spin cycle didn't seem to work. Over the past few days, I'd noticed that the laundry I put in the dryer had been progressively wetter and required a couple cycles to dry.

But Friday was the worst. The clothes were so water-logged, I could hardly lift them. Oh, woe! Then a test run revealed it wasn't agitating either. Woe again! Figuring the washer was pretty close to death, I was lamenting that I'd have to spend big money to replace it when my retired electrical engineer husband decided to see if he could fix it.

On Saturday morning, I returned from feeding the outside critters to find the washer and dryer moved from the laundry closet into the kitchen, a bright shop-light shining into the washer's innards, water on the floor, and a tool-brandishing hubby intent on some sort of appliance mayhem.

During the next hour or so, he managed to pretty well dismantle the ailing appliance. I mopped up the puddle.

An impressive amount of tools (only a few are shown in the picture below) were required to help diagnose the problem.

After some exploratory surgery on the comatose machine, he found some problems. A gizmo that does something or another inside the agitator thingie had some deformed-looking toothy thingamabobs.

And this whatsis wasn't in the greatest shape either.

He checked the Internet to see if he could get replacement parts. (Note: For this purpose an iPad is essential because you can have it right there beside what you're trying to fix. Saves walking back to the other room to use the computer.) 

Indeed, parts were available. Ordering online would take a couple of days to get the parts though. . . 

Before ordering, he checked a local source less than 10 miles away. The place had 'em! Off we went to Palmer's Electronics in Glade Hill.

While hubby got the parts, I checked out new washers just in case. Nearly $700 for a fairly basic one I liked!? Aarrgghh! The replacement parts only cost $24.26. But would they work?

After a trip to Tractor Supply (a special on cat food!) and the Purrfect Treasures shop (for what I bought at Purrfect Treasures, see here), hubby transplanted the new parts. It took a while. The first resuscitation didn't go well. The water wouldn't cut off after it had reached the level where it should, so I had to mop up a pretty substantial puddle. (I won't go into details, but lots of towels were involved.) The washer still wouldn't agitate either. Hubby messed with it some more, re-connecting a tube and other stuff.

Finally, he revived it. I washed a load of towels, and the washer did its thing. It agitated and spun. It also leaked a little water onto the floor, but that water could have been left from the earlier overfill problem.

Then I redid Friday night's laundry, and that seemed to go pretty well. Finally, he moved the washer back into the laundry closet where it belongs. 

Now I'm noticing the 1994 dryer seems to take longer to get stuff dry. . . .