Wednesday, July 29, 2015


It has come to this: at dawn, Ed and I set out for Walmart. He needs cat food, I need baby food, we both need chocolate for our late evening indulgence (Ghirardelli Cabernet dark with a touch of blackberry flavor is our current favorite -- sold, for some reason, only at Walmart) and neither of us has time to do this side trip later in the day.

On the upside, when you travel these rural roads at daybreak, you're likely to come across some pretty remarkable gatherings. This time of sandhill cranes, in fields of gold.

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Enjoying the morning quiet.

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Breakfast follows. On the porch...

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Before the trumpets of my beloved daylilies...

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With a walk through the fields of flowers.

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And then Ed goes off to "his" (temporary? is it temporary?) office and I clean the chicken coop and give the hens their daily bread. Our girls have bonded fiercely since Oreo left. I'll find Scotch picking bits of dirt off of Butter's feathers. They're quite inseparable. (The third hen, whatever her name is, usually catches up in the course of the day.)

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I have real food shopping to do as well -- Wednesday is an odd day for me to do it, but the rest of the week offers not a single hour of time for such errand running and so off I go, with a quick stop at Walgreen's to pick up passport photos. Not really for my passport -- or at least not for my American passport. More about that tomorrow.

And then it's splendid Snowdrop time!

Let's get that feeding photo up -- it shows her continued distrust of mush. Carrots yesterday fared better than pears did today. Bits of pear reach the floor, wall, drapes, chair, table. She is a very energetic "eater."

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She's energetic, period. Working on crawling...

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Rolling, jumping...

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(two pairs of eyes...)

It all takes its toll. Time for a quiet moment.

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Maybe a walk?

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Evening. It's time for the last summer Concert on the Square. Oh, the magic of this wonderful picnic in the company of, it seems, all of Madison! The music is gentle tonight: Butterworth, Addinsell. The weather? Unbelievable! The storms chased down the humidity. The skies are clear, the breezes are playful and cool. My girl and I eat sandwiches, Snowdrop looks on with adoring eyes.

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Take her out into the strange, complicated world and she sails through it all, if only the eyes of a mommy or daddy (or if those eyes are elsewhere, grandma will do) are upon her.

Night. The kind you think about in the bleaker months of the year. Or any time when things just do not line up in a good way. Today, they line up in a good way.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Breakfast is at noon. It's hot and muggy, but we put the fan on and eat on the porch.

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We're close to the flowers. Beautiful July lilies.

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Why such a late morning meal? Well, when you get to be 62 and if you have good health insurance and you're not Ed, sooner or later you'll find yourself doing a heart stress test. Early in the morning.

Each time I'm scheduled for one, the competitive fire within me flares up. Ed says I haven't a capitalist bone in my body. I make up for this deficiency in my gunning for gold during these tests.

I must beat whatever they think is normal.

I have a kind and chatty nurse standing by me on my uphill run on the treadmill. Here's a tip. If ever you need quiet (so that, for instance, you can concentrate on reaching some insane treadmill goals) and you're searching for a conversation stopper, try this: if asked where you're off to this summer, mention Russia. Instant silence.

It's as if the curious soul wants to hear about London and Paris, or, if they're really pushing boundaries -- Beijing or the Norwegian fjords. Russia doesn't fit in. I'm sure many are thinking -- aren't we at a cold war with them or something?

It very much reminds me of the first time I ever came to the States -- I was seven and the year was 1960. If someone would ask where home is, I would answer -- Poland. And this, too, would arrest the back and forth. Because what do you say to that? How is it there, under Communism? That just doesn't roll off the tongue as smoothly as, say -- do you plan on cruising the fjords?

The rest of the test proceeds in comfortable silence and when she tells me I beat the normal stopping point of a young person and I tell her to keep going, she realizes she has a crazy competitive person on that walking machine who'll die rather than calling it quits and so she draws the test to a halt and sends me on my way.

Now, let's get back to farmette life.

You may have wondered how Oreo the rooster is faring in his new home with twenty-one girlfriends. The answer is -- not that well. The savvy new owner initially kept him in a separate enclosure, but this weekend she released him into the bevy of girls. And they attacked him!

You might grin and say -- a bully gets his comeuppance! But we're all hoping for a better result. The wise chicken keeper took him right out and put him back in his own enclosure, but this time in their midst. Maybe they'll get used to his pogo hopping. Maybe.

And Snowdrop? Ah, if it's Tuesday, it must be Snowdrop at the farmhouse day!

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She is with me for a good while -- from noon to bedtime and so you'll have the usual enthusiastic grandma photos.

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(photo by Ed)

Napping, eating, grabbing Ed's beard -- it's what she does!

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In my spare moments (nap time!) I try to make use of the tomatoes that are starting to pour in. Chili. The hottest day of the summer and I make chili.

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...with so many tomatoes that I'm beginning to wonder how the beans will fit in.

In the late afternoon I take my sweet littlest one out in the stroller. Hmmm. Those seat straps were set to fit her as a winter newborn!

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She's patient with me. I fiddle. It's hot. Eventually  we get going. She settles in.

... Only to be removed for a photo (or two) by the truck farmers' fields of flowers. Snowdrop is such a good sport. It's as if the camera has become part of our conversation and she accepts the blinking light of a self-timer...

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In the evening, Snowdrop bounces in her jumparoo with such strength and velocity that honestly, she may as well be a test baby for the toy's hardiness and durability.

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The evening winds down. We have some quiet time, where she discovers the wonders of a Richard Scarry book.

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The young couple pick her up, the house grows quiet. The sound of an owl outside, nothing more.

Monday, July 27, 2015

a new week

A new week of new habits, which are quickly becoming old habits. Up early, check on flowers,

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... eat breakfast,

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... shoo Ed off to work.

And of course, play time with Snowdrop.

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True, I am now thinking ahead more carefully -- as if I were going to an office myself: make sure I have dinners in mind, make sure there's a recipe in my head for all those tomatoes we picked yesterday, make sure the flower tubs are watered -- it's going to be hot hot hot this week! Make sure, make sure, keep a list going, check things off, write in new details, don't mess it up -- others are counting on you!

Retirement is what you make of it and many of my insane days are that way by choice -- my choice, no less. I offer no complaints. But please do not be surprised if for the next few days, my posts will read like notes scribbled on a paper dinner napkin -- you know, a little rough and hastily drawn around the edges. With spills. Think: Snowdrop eating carrots (as she did today, when I fed her, this time in her own home).

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And while I'm bragging about Snowdrop's great accomplishments, let me show you what that little girl is up to right now.

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Yep, she's swaying on all fours, ready to take off. I feel great trepidation. Are we all ready for this?!

And still, I know that this crazy busy time -- it's all transitional. Ed applies himself fully to his new commitments, but they will either recede with time or become part of our everyday. There will come a day when he'll be late coming home in the evening and I'll yawn, because of the sheer regularity of it all. [I don't feel that way tonight, as I'm still used to him being here for dinner pronto, because really, you cannot be late walking from the sheep shed to the farmhouse. Today, when the dinner hour comes and goes and he is not here, I despair with the freshly made pizza, then vow to myself to talk him into finally, finally getting a cell phone. A person who goes to work needs a cell phone, so that he or she may be called and asked to pick up a bag of mozzarella on the way home from the office, or to be yelled at by their partner for being late for dinner.]

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By the end of the day, Ed and I return to a steady and solid equilibrium. We take a walk into the fields farmed by truck farmers to the east of the farmette. Crops are doing well this year. The harvest will be rock solid. At home, too, our flowers are bursting with enthusiasm.

It's contagious.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015


If you were a guest at the farmhouse, sleeping in the lemon room (and you would have to sleep there as the farmhouse has only two bedrooms and we're in the other one), one of the views from your window would be this:

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I thought about it as I was doing my usual Sunday housecleaning which included refreshing the lemon room. (Unfortunately, Snowdrop was not there to help me.)

Views are important to me. They connect me to outside spaces, even in the dead of winter. They let my mind rest on something unique. They take me outside of myself. It's very useful to step out of a preoccupation with your immediate space every once in a while.

Ed and I eat breakfast on the porch...

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... and then we falter a bit. Over the last weeks, our various to-do lists of routine and even pleasant tasks have grown. (Case in point: unfinished patio door installation.) And so on the one day where neither Ed or I have to be anywhere at all, we lose all ambition to do much of anything.
Want to take the boats out on the Yahara River?
Maybe... Or maybe we should walk?
Or play tennis?
Yes, we should...
And the vegetable garden -- we really should take a look to see how the tomatoes are doing.

We talk like this for a while. Finally, that view onto the garden pulls me outside. I can pull out the creeping never-bearing strawberry plants from the garden paths. (They really are supposed to be ever-bearing, but the animals are so quick to eat the fruits that we never see any.)

I get to work.

And once I start getting my hands dirty, you can't stop me. I attack the path, the beds -- a wide swath of land and Ed comes out and helps by loading cartfuls of wood chips to spread on the cleared spaces.

We work so well together! This is what we needed -- a day of hard physical work. There, too, you can step outside of your own preoccupations and focus on the job at hand.

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The flower fields are still peaking, still throwing abundant new blooms...

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Working in their midst is humbling.

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We don't stop there. We go over to the tomato field and pull out some bindweed, but more importantly, we do our first bigger harvest.

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And life feels normal again.

After that -- tennis, yes we do get to the courts and though our games aren't good today, we keep at it for quite a while.

Normal, too, is our Sunday dinner: the young family comes with Snowdrop and suddenly the farmhouse bounces with her energy. Snowdrop is almost ready to help me in the kitchen. Almost.

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To the fish main course, I add grilled summer veggies. (Yes, they're our tomatoes. We already have too many!)

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On the porch, Snowdrop jumps in her jumparoo with total gusto.

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We sit back and let the evening seep in. Ed tells me -- you're all like an image from a Norman Rockwell painting... Couple, grandma, with enthusiastic baby... 

Are we?


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