February 21, 2021

Watching the sun-line sweep across the manor

Sometimes the sunrise is more about looking west and watching the line of brighter light hit the trees and creep closer and closer until the sun suddenly peeks over the top of the mountain to the east and the manor turns bright and sunny. 

It's just one of the many ways to enjoy a country morning. We don't notice this much in winter, being at we prefer to stay cozy inside the house. Watch the sun-line creep closer is more of a summertime activity if we're up and on the patio early. 

Whatever the time of year, watching the manor come alive in the morning is a great joy, one I never tire of. I fervently hope that when I'm "retired" I remember to sit quietly and watch it instead of bolting out the door to tend to the garden or some other chore. 

Life is too short to let the little things go unnoticed. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 20, 2021

Backing up the photo files

 Let me give you an idea of how old I am. 

I remember film. You know, that stuff you loaded into a camera without allowing bright light to hit it. I remember Kodak's instant developing film, too. I even have a few surviving examples of those. 

My very first camera was a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. I'm pretty sure it was old and used by the time my grandfather gave it to me. He would load the film for me. Then the camera was held down in front of you at waist level so you could see through this tiny round hole. I thought I was a big dog taking pictures until I'd used all twelve spots on the film. Then Pop would remove the film and take it to be developed. He may or may not bring a fresh roll of film home when he dropped off the exposed roll. Money didn't flow back in those days, not like it does now. 

Pop fostered my interest in a wide variety of activities. Where my parents thought I was "scattered," Pop saw something more. He saw me soaking up information about everything that passed in front of me and everywhere he took me. He was, and still is by far, the most influential person in my life. 

Taking pictures is much easier than it was back in the nineteen sixties. Everyone has a cell phone and digital pictures are easy to store. Just transfer the file to your computer or the cloud. I don't even know if I could find film to purchase for my old Pentax ME Super. 

What precipitated this blog is the newest backup of my photo files. I was using a couple of older jump drives and decided I needed to get one single stick with enough capacity for all of it. 

Holy cow...

I have almost 11,000 files on the hard drive. That translated to about 44 GB of pictures. Apparently, the man of the manor is correct. I really do keep everything. 

But then, so did Pop.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 19, 2021

Downed trees supply firewood

In all the years we've lived at Holly Tree Manor, we've only bought firewood once. That was strictly a thing of convenience, not lack of resources. We wanted to allow what we had split from on the manor to season for another year. 

We rarely even need to cut down a living tree just for firewood. Enough large limbs come down to allow us to build our woodpile throughout the year. During the summer, we keep an eye out for trees that have naturally died and those we harvest. 

A couple of summers ago, a large cherry tree uprooted and crashed to the ground in the middle of a dark and windy night. We'd been watching it, thinking perhaps it wasn't in the best of shape and sure enough - BOOM! This year, it will meet with my Stihl 192.

I've mentioned this downed tree before when one of the local bucks used it as a rub. The scars are still on the trunk but it's more difficult to tell what caused them than when the rub was fresh. 

Depending on how dry the wood is, we'll either stack the rounds to continue to dry, or go ahead and split it. Performing this task in the summer, I'd prefer to stack the rounds and wait for cooler weather to do the splitting. The optimal thing would be to leave the tree where it is until next fall, but we really need to be able to do some weed control in that area. The green briars look to be gaining on us. 

And If you think we should simply allow this huge tree to decompose, I have a caution for you. Termites like decaying wood. Would you coax them to come in close to your house? I thought not.

This land has been providing for my family for over one-hundred years now. I'm very blessed to be its steward. I hope those who come after me will do the same. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

There's video of our young buck here.


February 16, 2021

Can you read? KEEP LEFT!

Once again my faith in our education system has been validated. 

I posted a KEEP LEFT sign to help delivery truck drivers keep from sliding into the lower stone fence, or worse sliding OVER the stone fence and down a fifteen-foot drop. And, by the way, there's no driving away if you drop over that ledge. It'll be time to call for a rotator tow truck to lift your ass out of there. 

"Keep Left." The sign even has an arrow pointing to the left for those people confusing their left with their other left. It's not difficult at all. 

So far, ONE delivery driver has gone left. One woman out of all the drivers can actually read. Should I be impressed?

I've done my part. You idiots are on your own.

If you can read this, thank a teacher that you didn't become a driver for Amazon, UPS, FedEx, or a postal worker. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 15, 2021

Let there be light!

Our lane is nine hundred seventy-five feet long. I'm not guessing. I know. It was measured by myself and the contractor when he scraped off the topsoil and then brought in truckload after truckload of stone. It was an expensive endeavor, and to his credit, he didn't want to charge me for more than I got. Well, that and he knew my grandfather watched him like a hawk waiting to pounce at the first sign of price gouging. So we measured it. 

In the country, it's dark at night. There are no street lights to illuminate the way, just the moon and stars. Here lately, I've come to need more. Deuce is now five years old, and he's suddenly more adventurous when we go out last thing before bedtime. His fur is black as coal and he vanishes from sight far too often for my liking. The solution is solar-powered, motion-detecting lighting installed along the lane. 

I resisted doing this for a long time, but our thinking changes as we get older. And, of course, the solar-powered option didn't exist forty years ago. 

The first set of lights were easy to install. I screwed the bracket onto a large tree and set the fixture in place. Done! It worked the very first night and has worked perfectly since. I'm up to having four lights along the lane and I'm pretty sure there will be more added. 

As they only stay on for thirty seconds, I don't worry about "light pollution." The world has enough of that. The motion detector senses movement, being myself or Deuce, and the lights come on to illuminate our way and then shut off behind us. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I'm not sure what the fox thinks about all the light. Maybe it will convince him to move into someone else's woods. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 13, 2021

February snow, a winter's peace

 If the truth be told, I don't mind snow at all. Nature has a way of taking care of the earth and snow is just a part of it. Snow is really a marvel. It's been suggested that in the beginning, there was no rain upon the earth, just the firmament that kept everything in balance. I didn't live back then so I can't swear to any of it. 

Snow is one of the perks of living in the country. We've had snow on the ground for about two weeks and it's just as beautiful as the day it blanketed the earth. It hasn't turned gray and dingy from too many cars and buses, and too many people stomping it down to mush. 

On February 7th, we woke to falling snow. I had to wait for daylight to go outside and get pictures, but it was worth it. On what would have been my grandfather's one-hundred-eleventh birthday, the snowfall created a white cathedral here on the land he loved in his honor. I believe his spirit was here to see it. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 6, 2021

Holly Tree Manor #100 - Where next?

A little over a year ago I started Holly Tree Manor. I was concerned that too much of my "real" life seeped into the pages of Between the Keys and that perhaps it was of no interest to my readers. I've continued to blog at Holly Tree Manor and find myself at the time to write blog entry number one-hundred.  

Number one-hundred puts me at the point where I decided the decision to open the blog to my readers or keep it as a much-needed journal would be made. 

Journaling is a useful tool. Social workers and other mental health support personnel often suggest journaling as a way to get in touch with your innermost feelings. For me, it's more of a way to remember my feelings at a particular moment in my life. It helps me keep my thoughts organized. 

Holly Tree Manor is about my day-to-day life outside of writing. By that I mean I don't blog about my word count. Who really needs to know I wrote 1017 words in a manuscript before I closed the file and went to Between the Keys, Deuce's Day, or here to relax?  

Not everyone has the need to compartmentalize their life in as much detail as I seem to need to do it. I wonder if the joy I have in my dog, Deuce, my love of living in the country, the satisfaction I feel when I practice the old-time skills my grandmother taught me - are these things that people want to know about? Do they care about my concerns for the future? Do my opinions matter? Will my opinions turn off my readers to the point they will no longer support my books? Can I really lay myself bare to the world? These are questions I don't have the answers to and that is why Holly Tree Manor has been kept separate. And silent. 

There has been a lot of division in the world lately. I'm feeling the brunt of it as there are sweeping changes being made that will impact the quality of my life. My RURAL life. It is as though my entire family no longer matters. Our simple way of life no longer matters. I'm paying taxes to support a government that no longer supports me and my family, but instead is taking from us. I am in distress. 

I know I am not alone in my distress. Those who see a dystopian future are stupidly hell-bent on bringing it to pass. I have maybe twenty years left to live in this natural realm and for the first time in my life, I'm not afraid of dying. I UNDERSTAND why people choose to die when their world collapses around them. I'm more frightened of owning that understanding than actual death. 

So where do I go from here? Do I open Holly Tree Manor blog up and in turn open myself and my country life to the ridicule of city dwellers and urbanites? Do I force myself to cease worrying and share the blog in the hope that it will resonate with some people? Are one-hundred blog entries enough and should I say goodbye? 

It appears I have no answers at all.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 3, 2021

How to measure a snowfall using a milk can

Two of my most prized possessions are the old metal milk cans that sit on the porch outside my sunroom office. They belonged to my grandparents and when Pop said he needed to get them "out of the way," I jumped. I brought them home, cleaned and scraped the rust off with a wire brush, and shot them with a couple of coats of Rustoleum spray paint. That was forty years ago now. 

They're different in that one is short and squatty and the other taller - more like antique lovers would expect to see in a milk can. They aren't placed with any great care. I move them around all the time but I always make sure one of them is out from under the eaves. For decades, when it snows, I open the door and stick a ruler down to see how much snow has fallen. 

The man of the manor used to scoff at this. He didn't believe the milk can could be accurate, but winter after winter my measurement has matched his, and I didn't need to put on boots to trudge outside to take mine. Yesterday, when the snow finally ceased falling, I measured a firm nine inches of snow. The man of the manor got the same number on the walk that leads to the patio on the other corner of the house.

The milk cans are more than a country porch decoration and occasional snow gauge. They are a daily visual reminder of my grandparents and because of that I will never part with them. They remind me of a sunlit fall day when my Pop settled his Orioles ballcap tighter on his head and said he'd better start the tractor and get them up the lane to my new house before I changed my mind. 

As if I would, Pop. 

The Lady of the Manor

February 2, 2021

And it snowed!

It's February and it's snowing. That's nothing new. The February full moon isn't known as the Snow Moon just on a whim. I stepped out onto my patio this morning at six o'clock and this was my view - a study in darkness and light.

The world was completely still, save for the falling snow. There was no wind, no sound. It was truly a visual delight. 

The snow is beautiful as it falls and as it covers the manor in a pristine white. This is the first time in several years we've had a snowfall last three days. Luckily, the flakes are powdery and accumulation a fraction of what it could be for a three-day event. The last time I measured we were at about eight inches. It does appear to be slowing and the radar shows it is about past us. Now the fun begins.

It's drawing close to high noon as I write this, and that is the time I've set for myself to put on my winter gear and fire up the John Deere 1023 and snowblow the lane clear. It won't take too long. One pass out and back in does the job. I only need to clear off enough snow to help it melt and to walk to the mailbox and back. The Silverado doesn't really need the snow cleared to drive it, but a faster melt is important for my Charger, which I won't even bother to clean off at this point. I will not drive it until the roads are completely bare. 

Having the John Deere has made life a lot easier. In years past, even with a four-wheel drive, I parked at the end of the lane and walked in and out. I wish we'd gotten a tractor two-decades ago, but everything happens in its own best time. Living in the country teaches that lesson, and it's one we on the manor willingly embrace. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor