Wednesday, September 17, 2014

a day in the hills of Alto Adige

I am on the terrace outside my room, in the village of Kurtatsch, sipping a macchiato prepared for me by the innkeeper.


italy-2.jpg


The view is of the mountains and vineyards. There are a number of clouds, but the air feels wonderfully warm. Somewhere in the seventies, I'd say. We're on a slope and the valley carries sound well, so that in addition to the occasional car, I hear a stream pouring down from above and the noisy crow of a rooster. A child shouts out. A parent calms her.

I'm thinking -- if I had known September travel was this good, I may have been tempted to retire years ago.

It is, in other words, a confluence of all things that I find beautiful and quite spiritual, really. It's easy to be happy when you don't have to work at eliminating any of the irritants that so often threaten to spoil a day. The mosquitoes of our existence, so to speak.

Finding time to write and to work on photos and to fill each day with the walks I love is a challenge, but Ocean readers are very forgiving and if I spend more time on photos than on words (or vice versa), or if I give you too much of what I consider beautiful (and you might consider boring), I know you'll just scroll down and cut me some slack.

And you know by now that I find vineyards beautiful. Yes, there's the wine -- not a small bonus! -- but it's really more the expanse of vines, so well tended, producing beautiful clumps of grapes on often rocky and unforgiving terrain -- I just find it so gorgeous to behold and I could not be at a better time for it than now, when the harvest is just beginning, so that the ripeness all around me is obvious, at the same time that the vines are not yet stripped bare of their most beautiful fruit.

Yes, you guessed it. There will be numerous photos from the vineyards.

But let me start with waking up, way too early, excitedly opening the window to the view...


italy-1-2.jpg



... and then, of course, breakfast. I come down at 9 and I see that most have eaten already. I'm not surprised. When I asked Frau Pomella (the innkeeper's wife) where their guests come from, she said without hesitation: Germany. Also Austria and Switzerland, but predominantly Germany. If I may indulge in stereotypes - I think of Germans as being very punctual people.

I hadn't quite caught on that I could eat outside, but no matter. My table is by the window.


italy-6.jpg



As usual, I stray from my regular eating habits when I travel. Melon and prosciutto. Tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Regional cheese and dark bread. With blackberry jam and a Bolzano honey. Grape juice to drink. Oh, fine -- also granola with yogurt and fruit and coffee. Yes, enough food to keep me happy until dinner.


italy-7.jpg



The innkeepers recommend that I break the day in two: in the morning, I can take one of the many paths to the village to the north (Tramin) and in the afternoon, I can join a group tour that is unusual in that it hikes to the village to the south (Entiklar), studying the grapes and then sampling corresponding wines at a variety of wineries here.

I have to give a short wistful description of how easy it is to visit a place like this: the inn, in addition to feeding everyone so very well, gives each guest a card that is a free pass to all the regional attractions: tours, museums, wine tastings, buses, trains -- everything. It's like Disneyland, where everything is included except this is just a series of villages that have banded together to make things easy for people who come here. Get out of your cars already! Walk, explore, catch a bus here, return by train from there, join this group, go here -- it's all on us! What an incredibly wonderful concept!

So I walk to Tramin, where I stumble upon the world famous Elena Walch winery and, too, an 18th century frescoed church and only when I see that it' getting awfully close to 2, do I catch the small local bus back to Kurtatsch. But do, please take this walk with me, because it really is gorgeous on these quiet, west facing hills!


italy-32.jpg





italy-15.jpg
(whatever they're feeding the kids here must produce more boys than girls; take a look at this posted  list of first graders in the village: eleven boys and five girls.)




italy-29.jpg
(the village, looking back)




italy-19.jpg
(probably the gewurztraminer grape)




italy-31.jpg
(probably the unique to here lagrein grape)




italy-36.jpg





italy-46.jpg
(approaching Tramin)




italy-68.jpg
(very common: the cross and the geranium and, of course, the grapes)




italy-77.jpg
(looking back at Tramin)




italy-87.jpg
(catching a bus on the square; school children home for lunch)



At 2 p.m. I meet the small group of Germans (11 plus me) for the walking tour of the vineyards. Two things ought to be said about them: they are spry. All in hiking shoes. Fit and ready to go. Okay, I can handle it!

Second point: I show up at 1:59. They're all waiting for me. What did I say -- punctual.

I learned so much during this actually 4.5 hour walk! So much!

First of all, the guide, Margaret (a tad younger than me, born and raised in this village) speaks German fluently, Italian haltingly (she tells me that in her school years, it was all German; only recently have they started the kids on Italian from the early grades and English from the middle grades), and English not at all.

The walking tour is in German because, as I noted before, it's the Germans who come here. Repeatedly. (From my group, four had done this same tour just last year. They love the Alto Adige. I am not surprised -- there is a lot to love.) But this is how it worked in the end: Margaret spoke her bit in German. Then, as we walked, she did the best she could just for me, in Italian. Between her imperfect Italian and my imperfect Italian, I basically got some 75% of what she tried to convey. The Germans, who spoke no Italian, but spoke quite good English, helped with the missing 25%, though they were all stumped on how to translate nelke. It turns out it's the spice clove, whose nose is very present in Moscato Giallo.

Again, do walk with me. There's probably way too much info here about vineyards, but I have to say, it was such a splendid walk, with numerous tastings, stories, vistas -- all in the beautiful afternoon warmth of a mild autumnal day. With one American of Polish descent, eleven Germans and one Italian who is proud as anything of her Italian Alto Adige terroir (forgive the French) even as she is most at home with her German.

First, a few reminders: Kurtatsch is on the wine route (weinstrasse), in the heart of the Alto Adige. But, though Alto Adige wines are adored by the Italians, and the Germans, and to some extent the Americans (you may not have noted it, but if you you're at all a white wine enthusiast, you will have had a wine from this region in your lifetime), the Alto Adige produces only 0.8% of all of Italy's wine. (That speaks to how much Tuscany, Sicily, the Piedmont, etc etc flood the wine markets.) So we're talking small, select and 60% white.

We set out for the wine trail. (A spry bunch, I tell you!)


italy-12-2.jpg




italy-20.jpg



Our focus is on wines of the Kurtatsch vineyards (a subset of Alto Adige wines). Alto Adige grapes are mostly (i.e. 70%) used for big house wines (remember Elena Walch?), with private houses hanging in there at 5%, and coops churning out the rest. Our tour concentrates on the private houses and finishes off with the coop cellars. For our group of twelve people, in the course of the 4.5 hour tour, Margaret will have emptied out 7 bottles of good wine. For those of us supplied with a regional pass -- all this is free.


italy-28.jpg
(very unusual these days pergola style cultivation)




italy-41-2.jpg
(more typical: the upright training)


Along the wine route, there are stations of the smell. I know. Sounds weird. The premise is that you have to use three senses to appreciate wine: taste, sight and smell. Each grape grown in this region (there are 13 last I counted, from Pinto Grigio to Pinot Noir, from Gewurztraminer to Moscato Giallo, etc.) -- has a smelling station, where a tiny clay pot is infused with aromas you should recognize in a given grape. We pause, smell, make guesses as to what it is, then learn more about the essential characteristics of each variety.

So this is what we do. Hike, smell, listen, occasionally taste.


But a pride in one's region has to include here the valley's other bounty. If the vineyards span the steep mountain sides, the flat land at the base is the apple cart of Europe: it is the largest concentration of this fruit on the entire continent (step aside, Normandy in France!). At the head of the pack is golden delicious, followed by pink lady, gala and honey crisp. (It took some smarts to translate the varieties!)


italy-62-2.jpg
(the valley below)



Alright. That was a pause. Very quickly, it's back to the vineyards. Things to take note of: first, growing grapes here is terrifically labor intensive. Whether grown in pergolas or in upright rows, the vines are clipped, trained and then often pruned of leaves at the bottom so that they look like ladies in ballet skirts of dainty grapes.


italy-37.jpg



All by hand. Harvested that way too.
I ask -- who do you bring in for this seasonal job?
She answers -- Poles, also Slovaks and Czechs.
Huh. Yay EU.


italy-66-2.jpg



Toward the end of the tour, we are in a wein garten of a very old, family owned wine house (Schloss Turmhoff, owned and managed by the Tiefenbrunner family). There is the usual discussion of history, of taste, of smell. When we get busy with our swirling, sniffing and sampling, Margaret walks over to an old gentleman sitting off to the side of the activity, with a book and a blanket wrapped loosely around his legs. I ask her later if all this -- I wave my hand over the winery -- is his.
Yes, she says. He's the Padrone. But he's sick now.

All the vineyards in the world cannot make you happy if you're not feeling well.


italy-69.jpg



Margaret had told him she had in her group an American -- newsworthy only because we're in a garden with maybe a total of 50 visitors, all of them, so far as I can tell, German. As we leave, I pause just to say something nice about the experience of drinking his wines. I choose English, But I can tell by his friendly if sad smile that Italian would have worked better.


We are back now in Kurtatsch, in the cellars acquired by the commune of Kurtatsch, used for storing the commune's finer wines. Margaret serves her best for last -- a merlot and cabernet combo that you wouldn't necessarily associate with this region, even as it is, in fact, superb.

Or is it that the whole day is so very fine? Back home, I don't drink red wines much, but like whisky in Islay, red wine is different for me if sampled at a vineyard. The energy is palpable, the breeze dances silly dances around in my head, the nose rises from the glass -- it's all such a splendid experience!

...Even though I know it wont carry over to home. It's no use even trying. Unless you plan to open a bottle with someone who is willing to be transported for the moment to the place of the wine's birth (and not drinking merely for the sake of imbibing), it's really pointless taking it with me. In Islay, I'll smile at the dram served at breakfast, in Alto Adige I'll swirl the glass and think it's the most glorious wine on this side of the planet, but still - I'll take back all that I learned, but the wine will remain here.


Dinner at the Inn tonight feels more German than Italian. Maybe it's the salmon with horseradish and creamed potatoes. Or maybe I'm just steeped in German right now. Even as I'm in Italy. Without the Italian, but still, at the core, so Italian. [I suppose in the same way that "No" advocates in tomorrow's Scottish referendum will urge the voters to recognize that Scotland is so Scottish that it hurts, but at her core, her feet are rooted in the UK.]


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

the trip (pt.4): the arrival

These days I don't do close connections. Give me at least 90 minutes between flights, and many hours between plane and train, and leisurely transfers when jumping from train one to train two. I've spent so much time in my life running, with Ed, alone, running, always running that I feel the need to really put close calls behind me.

Nonetheless, on this trip, I have some iffy and tight changes. I couldn't help it: either I cross my fingers and try for a connection all the way through to my final destination, or I waste a night in Milan and continue the next day.

I choose to gamble. My flight from Amsterdam is scheduled to arrive in Milan at 12:10. I reserved a seat on the 2:05 train out of Milan's downtown Central Train Station. I know. Fraught with risks.

And so I wasn't all that happy when, instead of pulling out of the gate on time in Amsterdam, the pilot came on to tell us we had one of those situations where the passengers were no-shows, even as their baggage had been loaded. You know what's next: all baggage has to be taken off, the offending suitcases have to be identified and removed, everything then is reloaded. Even on a modestly sized intercity plane, it's a 20 minute game.

I write all this because the whole mess poses a challenge for me: to fret or not to fret? I try for the second, but as the minutes tick away and we remain at the gate, I'm finding it tough to grin. I am helped by the young man sitting in the middle seat next to me (I'm at the window). Clearly the missing passenger was in our row, on the aisle, as it's one of the two empty seats on the plane. The young man is a puzzle to me as he sits down. I smell aftershave. But his pants are like Ed's: well traveled. He is thin and deeply tanned. I wonder if he may be from a Middle Easters country.  Which of the many sides, then, would he take in today's very complicated conflicts?

No. I'm wrong in my guess. As the captain announces the delay, the young man sighs deeply, impatiently and says to me in quite good English and with great exasperation -- I am in Europe again! Then he promptly falls asleep.

After, as we get ready to disembark, he is eager to resume our necessarily attenuated conversation. It appears he is from Milan, but has been gone for four years -- two in Florida, two in Australia. After this brief visit home, he intends to return to Australia. That's where the girl is. He says -- Australia may be a little boring, but fuck! -- he says this deliberately, for my American ears -- I can't take Italy! All they do is complain and worry.  Well maybe. I always thought that an Italian desperation is kind of charming, but of course, I don't live here.

In the end, we arrive in Milan at 12:32. And here I am, running like a very crazy (and now somewhat older) person once more.

Luck stays with me. I hop on a city bus that is just about to leave and there is no traffic coming into the city. Don't know why. Maybe the whole city is on strike. It's Italy after all. And though I still have to print out my train tickets at the station, I grab the one machine without a line of confused travelers and set to it. If you can believe it, I was out of the plane, out of the airport, on the bus, at the crowded to high heaven train station, printing tickets and done, done, DONE by 1:15. I mean, WOW.

At the Milan station there is a lovely bistro where you can eat sandwiches, drink wine and open your computer to good WiFi and this is where I spend my saved time. Eating actually not a sandwich but a prosciutto-melon plate, with a Prosecco bubbly on the side.


AMS-7.jpg



My train to Verona leaves on time (yes I know; furious luck!)...


AMS-12.jpg


...and I have plenty of minutes in Verona to make a connection to the small local train to Ora, where I catch the bus (one minute late, but who cares -- it's the last connection!) to Kurtatsch.

And there you have it. Journey completed. And in a better frame of mind for most of it. (I can't say I was lighthearted and chipper during the dash in Milan. And too, the final bus ride was standing room only, as we were taking school kids back to their various villages in the early evening. I was pretty much counting the minutes 'til the end, rather than thinking reformist thoughts of bettering the travel experience.)

Now, I should explain where I am. Chances are you've never heard of Kurtatsch -- a strange name for Italy, you may be thinking.

I am just at the foothills to the Alps and specifically the Italian Dolomite Alpine chain. If I went just a little  further north and east, I'd be facing dramatic snow topped cliffs and peaks. But I wanted to be closer to the region's vineyards which spill out every which way here, to the south of the mountains.  I think a landscape of steeply climbing vines in the fall has to be beautiful.

Kurtatsch is very small (population of about 2000). And here is one important other thing I had forgotten about this region, but quickly remembered on the bus with all those teen agers returning home. This is the somewhat autonomous, Austro-Bavarian region of Italy -- the South Tyrol. They don't speak Italian here. They speak German. It's sort like eating pizza in a German Beer Garten. Only not that either: I am in serious wine country. I hadn't realized that either when I booked my stay. A few vineyards -- I thought... oh, great, how pretty! No, not just pretty. Alto Adigio  (aka South Tyrol) is known for fantastic Italian wines. Even as most of us wouldn't think of it as such (and so I see no American or Japanese in the crowded inn dining room tonight. They're all in Tuscany. And I will be too, shortly, but I have to say, I'm kind of blown away by the glasses of local wine they serve me with dinner here tonight).

So I'm between two cultures. Were you speaking about Kurtatsch to Italians further south of here, they'd say -- oh, you mean Cortaccia, but don't try that here. It's Kurtatsch for the locals.


italy-8.jpg



I'll end with my arrival at the Schwarz Adler Turm Hotel -- a family run inn right smack in the middle of the village. With views toward the mountains and vineyards. Here is what I see out my terraced window:


italy-10.jpg



Tomorrow, I'll poke around and see what's what. Today, after dinner downstairs (it's included in the price of the room), I'll plop down on those puffy quilts they neatly fold on the beds.


italy-11.jpg


BTW, I do not speak German. Good morning and thank you and good bye. Oh, and Ich habe genug (I have enough) -- from a Bach choral piece. That's it. Well this, too. I mean, everyone knows this: gute nacht.

the trip (pt.3): almost there


 It is, of course, quite wonderful when a long flight lacks excitement. The overseas segment is not too long today - a scant seven hours - and not only is it a smooth ride, but it is, as the one before it, an on-time departure and an early arrival.

Ah, but what about the flight? Is it possible to train yourself to look at it differently than just a handful of hours to endure?

To a point. It is a fine beginning: instead of zoning out, I chat to people before boarding and feel great empathy for a flight attendant who is looking to unload his exasperation with a passenger who had suitcase issues. I spend a while, too, thinking about my seatmate -- a woman perhaps in her forties, from Colombia, who sits down with a large cup of coffee (an interesting beverage to consume just before a night flight) and a thick (and I mean thick) text book titled Christianity.

A flight from Detroit to Amsterdam is inherently interesting because you can assume that most people are not from Detroit and the vast majority are not going to Amsterdam. (The city is a gateway not only to any number of European destinations, but, too, to a large number of African and Asian capitals.) I remember myself traveling this way to get to Japan, just because I was intrigued by the idea of going, for once in my life, around the world. And so today I make a good effort at imagining myself to be only on the first step of a much longer journey. Time passes differently depending on how much you've allocated to a given project. Was I successful? As I said -- to a point.

The most important hour is, in the end, the one just before landing. When I first moved to the States, I traveled to Europe as frequently as I do now. It was a frugal set of trips then -- hard earned by countless moonlighting jobs. And then, after marrying and after the girls were born, the travels greatly diminished. A half dozen years passed before we found the time and money to pack the family for their first trip across the ocean.

That first trip after a dry spell was thrilling.  I truly could not imagine sleeping through the flight. And the final hour was indeed sublime, knowing that the adventure was now just a breath away from being real.

And so doesn't it make sense to concentrate on making those final flight minutes sublime again? To imagine all you've planned for your vacation, to think about the cultural shift that's about to take place, to finally realize this experience that had been only in the imagination thus far?


Dawn comes much later now in Europe. I haven't traveled in September for such a long time that I'd forgotten this. We land in Amsterdam just as the first wisps of light appear on the horizon (even though the landing time is 7:30 a.m.)

And I am, in fact, hugely excited to be here!

(posted while waiting for my final flight -- to Milan)

AMS-1.jpg
(Amsterdam airport breakfast)

Monday, September 15, 2014

the trip (pt.2): traveling

(two posts in one day!)

As I get older I tell myself that I must try to be more attentive to the details of travel. My mind is less cluttered with the mess of work, I have more time, and, too, a greater understanding that nothing in this world will ever be as perfect as the day that you wake up still moving, still thinking, still capable of smiling. Those are the prerequisites. Nothing else. So maybe I should think about making a day of air travel actually, dare I say it, fun?

First, let me not rush the trip. And let me not tune out during the travel hours.

Because honestly, that's been my modus operandi for many years: tap tap tap the foot until it's time to board, sigh deeply at the first sign of a delay, zone out once in the air, waiting, waiting until we're there already.

But to be, as the cool people would say *present* during the trip requires, for me, a major shift. I have to teach myself to be interested in the fellow passengers, in the details of the boarding, in the simple act of thinking broadly about the flights (rather than plugging in whatever recording device is available and distracting myself with endless movies and mindless TV episodes until gosh darn it, shouldn't it be time to land already?).

Let me tell you to what degree I am successful:

On the short flight to Detroit, I had a very pleasant set of minutes looking hard at each person who came off the plane and then at those who boarded. I imagined for them life stories. I studied their physique and wondered if they walked through the day with aches and pains or with energy and indifference to life's burdens.

During the flight, I read productively as opposed to mindlessly.

But it really helped that the flight was only 45 minutes.

Now comes the biggie: the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam. The challenge here is not to hate the overnight aspect of it. I'm coming on board with a restless night behind me (too many things that I still needed to do and they all rather swim within me when that happens, so that I can't sleep), so the challenge has suddenly doubled.

I remembered my worst overseas flights ever (at least as stands out in my memory): one when I was just twelve and the engines failed and so we made an emergency landing in Canada, and the second just about a year ago when we had to turn back (having gone one third over the ocean already) because a patient had a heart attack and the crew decided to take her back to Canada. In a sense, they were my most interesting flights too and I go back to them in various settings and story telling opportunities. You never hear me recalling the last flight which was absolutely without interesting dimensions (and true to form, I tuned out, like the zombie that I become in those instances).

So maybe I can approach things with an open mind?

I'll let you know tomorrow how it all went. For now, I have to run. We're boarding for Amsterdam.

the trip (pt.1): leaving

It's never fun to leave the people you love and so the day of departure, for me at least, has twinges of nostalgia. (But no melancholy! see previous post.)

It doesn't help that it's gloomy outside. Gray, cool, half drizzly.

These days, it takes me a full 24 hours to prepare for a trip. It's never the clothes packing. That takes half an hour of thought and two minutes of loading. But everything else has to be carefully considered. Which chords, plugs, currencies. What reading material. Any maps? And so on.

And, of course, I spend most of my hours just before leaving on tidying and setting up the farmhouse for Ed-use. Not that he needs it, but it still, there have been times when I did not discard bunches of flowers from the table -- to come back to something that resembled a bouquet of very limp, half rotten stems.

Finally, a glance at the early autumn garden...


farmette-4.jpg



...at the porch that serves us so wall all summer long...


farmette-5.jpg



...a breakfast with Ed, in the sun room, though without the sun...


farmette-3.jpg



...and I'm off. Glancing at my ticket, I see that I actually purchased a routing via Detroit and Amsterdam, to arrive at my first destination tomorrow, if all plane/train/bus connections work in my favor.

Until then, buona giornata!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday

Very early this morning, instead of sleeping, I was browsing this site and the other, ending with a closer look at some of the more marginal stories of the NYTimes. One caught my eye: the title is about self-control and how you can learn to exert it and yes, that's all very interesting, but even more interesting is a fragment of an interview in it with Prof Mischel (of Columbia U) -- the guy who once tested little kids for the degree of self discipline they had over something so simple as a piece of confection.

Prof Mischel is getting older now (84) but I smiled as I read that he still made a point of spending every summer with his girlfriend in Paris. And, too, that he still writes. I pulled out just one quote for you from the interview with him. I suppose you could view it as an answer to the question -- and how do you manage in life? He answers -- [You need to be able] to distract constructively; to distract in ways that are in themselves satisfying; to do things that are intrinsically gratifying. Melancholy is not one of my emotions. Quite seriously, I don’t do melancholy. It’s a miserable way to be (bold added by me).

It was immensely pleasing to know that someone who has actually thought more than fleetingly about these things has pretty much the same approach to the everyday as I've historically succumbed to. Makes me feel better. Maybe it's not so weird after all to perfect the art of blocking and smiling your way through the day and saying leave me alone to the naysayers out there.

All that was in the predawn hours. Subsequently, as the sun rose clear and bright, I dug in and, with Ed's help, conducted a massive farmhouse cleaning operation. Because I like to come home to a tidy space.

And so breakfast got pushed back. Significantly. Until some afternoon hour. Like maybe 12:30.  On the upside, we ate on the porch. True, the temperature reading was a scant 57 F, but by then I was plenty warm from scrubbing floors and, too, I realized that it may well be the last porch breakfast we'll have this year. (I thought this without a trace of melancholy.)


farmette-8.jpg



There were several walks through the yard in between scrubbing, folding, sorting, etc etc...


farmette-6.jpg
(toward the porch)




farmette-5.jpg
(ripening grapes on the sheep shed)




farmette-2.jpg
(the yellow nasturtium are crazy blooming right now)




farmette-1.jpg
(the beloved farmhouse)


And in the late afternoon we had a sweet game of tennis -- poignantly so, because this, too, may be our last one this year. Though who knows - when I return from my trip (three weeks from now), we may be hitting a warm spell... Something to look forward to.

The day ends as so many Sundays end -- with a delightful family dinner.


farmette-9.jpg



Tomorrow I set out. As always, there is the chance that Ocean postings will be disrupted. Certainly, for the three weeks I'm away, it all will follow a different pattern. Which, I truly do think is a good thing.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

over the ocean

As my small world of farmette rituals takes me from Thursday, to Friday, to Saturday and so on and so on, I keep an eye on the troubles brewing elsewhere:  in the country of my last European travels. I notice with some interest that today's New York Times talks of the terribly divisive vote on Scotland's independence (the vote coming up, this Thursday!) from the perspective of those living on the isle of Islay, and then, too, in another article, from the perspective of those living and doing business in Berwick Upon Tweed -- my two summer destinations. Is it that I pick representative spots to settle into when I'm in Europe?

And speaking of Europe, I am pleased as anything that I gave up this year on using Air France in crossing the ocean. That airline wont let me book a bulkhead seat and so I switched to Delta -- which does allow it. Well now, as I prepare for my departure on Monday, I see that Air France is about to go on strike this week. I am breathing a sigh of relief. (I do have an intra-Europe Air France connection, but once in Europe, it's quite easy to figure out how to get from point A to B, should your flight be called off.)

One more comment on things across the ocean -- they are having a pleasantly warm spell on the continent. I'll welcome that, especially since our own temps dropped down to a ridiculous 38 degrees overnight (that would be 3 C). When I woke up to free the cheepers, I felt it!

farmette-5.jpg
(old barn, morning moonlight)




farmette-8.jpg



Breakfast is inside alright and we move it to our favorite winter venue -- the sun room to the east.


farmette-27.jpg



There is, in fact, plenty of sunshine and so I have no complaints in my weekly walk to the market with my now visibly pregnant daughter.


farmette-28.jpg
(visibly pregnant)



farmette-29.jpg
(though a puffy vest hides things still.)


At the farmette, the mosquitoes have almost disappeared and Ed is working on replacing some rotten boards just at the level of the roof...


farmette-38.jpg



...and I am enjoying a somewhat more backseat view of the garden -- from our kitchen window. (Were I to be outside more, I'd see that there definitely are some strong-willed, long-lived flowers still holding their own.)


farmette-10.jpg
(with morning dew)




farmette-19.jpg




farmette-20.jpg



In the late afternoon, I take Rosie (my moped) out for a spin. The old girl has a "use it or lose it" attitude and she needs the occasional run around. True, it is a cold ride. I never remember to dress well for a motorcycle ride when it gets this cool. But the world around us is so beautiful! Let me again assure you how much I love where I live!


farmette-34.jpg



We eat chili tonight. Of course we do. We have another cold night before us. You have to warm your soul from the inside. It's the only way.


farmette-39.jpg
(Isie, in his winter position)

Friday, September 12, 2014

the same but different

Oh, I could really run with this blog post title!

Let's begin: the morning was the same, but different. It was the coldest of the nights thus far and so we slept deliciously well. And when I say we, I mean Isie too. He has now slowly morphed into his hibernating mode. Instead of being summer-restless (in, out, sleep, wake up, wants food, wont eat, will eat, walk, hunt, stay put, out, in -- etc) he is now more winter-sleepy. He has positioned himself on our bed and he rarely moves far from it. That cat has a bear gene running through him!

Breakfast? Ditto. Similar foods, but now indoors for sure.


farmette-3.jpg
(in a hurry; it's Friday)


Then, my weekly grocery shopping -- but I'm buying differently now. Since I'll be leaving on Monday, I stock up on snacks and foods that Ed can easily throw together, or not cook at all. The man eats in a very uncomplicated way when I'm not here.

Did I mention that it is dismally gray and wet? We were to go this evening for a boat ride with Ed's machining work friends, but the weather is so awful that at the last minute I bow out. I'd have been shivering all evening long.


farmette-8.jpg
(she's stepping gingerly over wet grass)


But let me get back to the theme: I finally wrapped up plans for a dinner in a few weeks. I'll be in Poland, albeit very briefly (and I mean *very* briefly), toward the end of this coming trip and I will definitely see my friends from university days. I am delighted that the whole pack of eleven can make it (they all know and love each other as well, so it's a pretty tight group) and as I begin work with the restaurant on the menu, I realize that not one person has voiced any food preferences/aversions, even though I pushed them to tell me what they ate/didn't eat.

Would you get that kind of compliance and uniformity if you asked a dozen of your good friends over? Would you? I'm genuinely curious. Is it a Polish politeness? The belief that you should do the best you can with what's before you? Or is it that the world of western allergies hasn't quite yet hit Poland in the way that it's commandeered the gut of Americans?

I still had a day full of bureaucratic details to work through today. Some, so frustrating that I threw up my hands and asked Ed, patient, placid Ed to step in (who then commented -- you're right... this is pretty impossible...)

But, I'm on my last days home right now and I'm getting to that point of nostalgia where I think-- must I leave so soon? Must I?

It's a rhetorical question. I know the answer.

Still a weekend before me. A cold, but sunny weekend, they say. Perfectly autumnal.


farmette-4.jpg