Sunday, April 22, 2018

a working Sunday

First of all -- thank you. Such sweet, sweet comments and emails! I truly love reading your notes -- many of you have been spending time with me on Ocean for a number of years and it feels grand to hear from you every now and then!

But now, there is no monkeying around anymore. I may be 65, but I surely have outdoor work to do today. Ed does as well, but he is hobbled a bit by the still frozen mountain of wood chips. His flower bed building proceeds in small spurts. Me -- I have no such excuses. Winter weeding must end today, seeding must begin right now, pot filling must start, chicken chasing must continue.

And the weather is perfect for it. Yes, it's barely 50F (10C) when I take out the breakfast dishes, but there's a hazy sunshine and a promise of an additional dozen degrees before the day is out. It will be the first time we will have passed 60F this year -- nearly a record for the latest warm spring day ever.

Our chicks will be six weeks old tomorrow and there is no question that their being outside is good for them and good for us. They are by now noisy and they mess up their box at a rate that I can only keep up with if I sit next to them with a shovel in hand. I am so glad that they've taken to the outdoors (in the kid playpen) so well, even though I protest loudly when Ed tries to take them out too early, when it's still nippy out there.   
They have their feathers!  -- he'll say.
Too cold still, wait another couple of hours, it's too cold!  
They'll be fine.

Like two parents, bickering about how many wraps their kids should have on their way to school.

Well, if the chicks can be outdoors for breakfast, so can we.

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Oh, but to eat all our morning meals on the porch now! The views, the air, the songs of the birds -- this is what spring and summer are like! We have put in our dues. Now come the rewards!

But it is a slow process this year. In terms of blooms -- yes, I noted a crocus or two as I was working the flower fields today, but honestly, only the blue scilla sibirica under the grand maples is giving us a feast of color.

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Everything else is still trying very hard to wake up.

As I glance toward the play pen to see how the chicks are managing, it strikes me that perhaps I could play favorites for a few minutes: Tomato is by far our most friendly and docile chick. She never runs from being picked up and so putting her out on the grassy knoll outside the pen should be fun for her and easy for me (though under a watchful eye: there have been a number of hawks circling our farmette these past few weeks).

Well, she hardly noticed that she was a free girl at last. She made every effort to get back to her two sisters. The racket they all made brought Peach and Java to the side of the pen.

Oh, Java! You are so my most perfect hen! You're full of grace and protective instincts! I see you now, walking up to Tomato, checking her out, making sure that no one is being harmed...

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Tomato has a lot to learn yet.

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May she take all her lessons in life from you, Java!

I don't plant the annuals yet. I'll be away for a few days and Ed has enough going on without having to worry wether to shelter my annuals for the night.

But I do put in the pansies. Where oh where would we here, in Wisconsin, be without our colorful early spring pansies! They'll lose their cute compact shape by midsummer, complaining no end when the heat takes hold, but right now (and again toward fall), they deliver!

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As I fill a tub with pansies, and sprinkle alyssum seeds here and California poppy seeds there, and push flowering peas by the trellis and sugar snap peas by the tee-pee, Ed does the laborious work of expanding my flower bed out front.

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In the meantime, Stop Sign has come and gone twice over and the birds twitter and sing and the sun warms every bit of our farmette land.

Evening. Snowdrop and her mom are walking up the path for a farmhouse dinner.

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It's somewhere between six and seven and yet the sun is high, streaming its beautiful light into our dining area. (Snowdrop is delighted with the birthday balloon).

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Since her father is absent (for a work event), the little girl sits at the head of the table...

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And after, there is lots of time for beautiful play.

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Such a grand weekend it was! The first of many in this best of all seasons. (If your birthday falls smack in the middle of a season -- you're allowed to play favorites!)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

another April 21st

How well I know this date! How happy I am that it has rolled around once more, making me, as of today, a 65-year old!

Each year, I feel a little immodest writing here about my own birthday, posting photos that inevitably include many more images of me -- and not of the silly selfie type, but legitimate pics taken by others. It's not as if I regard this as my day. It's happy insofar as I know that all people I care about are in a good place in life. And if I spend some moments with them -- in person, over the phone, texting, messaging, card sharing -- well now, my cup could not be fuller.

But it is true that I am very aware of the date. Most of us keenly feel the coming of our own birthday. (Ed may be the only person I know who completely seems indifferent to it.) Life is not always kind and so when you feel you've had a good year, I think it's reason enough to rejoice.

Today, I surely feel like rejoicing.

Let me put up just a few photos. Beginning with a mini-breakfast. For once, Ed takes the camera.

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Though in reality, my day does not begin in the midst of beautiful flowers. Instead, I come downstairs and find this:

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The humbling reality sets in: the chicks had been given "Paris" yesterday. No more will they roost contentedly at the edge of the box. They want to explore. To scratch, search, discover. And so they set out. And I'm left with scrubbing the floors, eliminating traces of their poop.

Ed finds a screen. We put it over their box. You have lost your edge-of-box privileges! (On the upside, when the day warms a little, they'll have their outdoor time again.)

Too, the cat (dare I call her our cat?) comes calling again. Out comes the food. (The cheepers like her, she likes them.)

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Ed says -- she should have a name.
I tell him -- I'll suggest some names to Snowdrop and get her input.
Later: Snowdrop, we need to name the visiting cat. I was thinking, because today we're eating brunch at Sardine Restaurant, maybe we should call her Sardine?
Snowdrop is in the stroller and we're walking rapidly toward our brunch venue. She responds -- how about if we call her Stop Sign? And for a nick name -- Bicycle?
I tell the others -- she wants "Stop Sign." Ed responds -- sounds good!
I push this a bit -- maybe we should just call her Bicycle? 
Snowdrop interjects -- her name can be Bicycle, but then her nickname should be Car!

I think we'll stick with Stop Sign. Or Sardine. Or both.

It isn't very warm in the morning hours. Nonetheless, our quick stroll through at least a fragment of the Farmers Market is fantastic.  I mean, after a winter that would not go away, it's so grand to see the markets colors again!

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(A helpful child...)

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At Sardine Restaurant, the young family brings in colorful packages. Ed joins us and once again I think how this is the only time when Snowdrop seems so small -- when she is standing by him...

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She hands over cards and helps me with the awesome packages...

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We eat (she shares Ed's fries)...

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And eventually she crawls into my lap.

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There is a pastry, a song, a candle...

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There are happy grins.

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It's time to return home. Ed had come to the brunch by motorbike, I had driven over by car (so that I could do some market time with the young family). I'm home first. In fact, time passes and there is no Ed.

What happened??

Some ten minutes later he shows up with balloon and card in hand. If you knew Ed, you'd understand how much of a reach this is for him. I'll forever remember that on my 65th, there he stood, with balloon plastered to a card...

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In the late afternoon, he and I take the plunge and go to the greenhouse, where I pick up annuals for our outdoor flower pots (the greenhouse just opened this weekend for the season).

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There are only two or three others filling carts (prematurely!) with annuals. These plants are tender: they wont like night temperature dips into the thirties. Most anyone would advise a gardner to wait until we get a steady flow of warm days and warm nights.

But that's not me: I'm always an early planter. I'll watch the forecast and haul in the tenderest plants to the mudroom each night if I have to. I'll harden them slowly. And in the end, they'll survive and be fine. And I will love their color all summer long.

(Peach, the hen, is with me on this!)

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I'll end with a selfie. Why not! I'm 65!

(The sun comes out, I take out the shovel and dig up the crab grass and creeping charlie so that I can sow some seeds here tomorrow.)

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Evening. Take out Thai food and a newly opened bottle of fantastic white Burgundy. We watch Grand Designs (a show on architectural innovations in the UK) and listen to the chicks settle in for their night.

You can be a young child, you can be sixty-five -- it hardly matters. When you finish off a birthday, what you're left with is the year before you. Another chance to put your good foot forward. It doesn't have to be your best foot. A good effort will do. And then next year, if all goes reasonably well, you can rejoice again! With a deep exhale... And, one hopes, a wide smile.

Friday, April 20, 2018


Finally. All that we feel now -- that great swell of hope, of growth, of new potential, that warm air and the pleasure of stepping out without a second thought and without a wrap -- it's all here and it looks as if it's here to stay.

It was a supremely busy day for me: weekly food shopping, errands, haircuts, more errands. Then there was the cat. And new travails surrounding the young chickens. And too, there was Snowdrop -- inside, outside, out and about -- all this filled every spare minute of the day.

Oh, but what a day it was! Let's take a look at it, together.

Breakfast. It's very early. Ed has conference calls scheduled for hours that we normally regard as dozy time. And as always, I want to eat our morning meal before he and I lose ourselves to the day's events.

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All this early this and early that means that I am done with errands early. The sun is just hitting its noon peak when I settle in to do some writing.

It is not to be. The cat comes calling.

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We are still debating as to whether she is a feral or a wandering kitty that belongs to some household down the road. We think the former. She is a hungry girl.

She is beginning to trust us some. I'll come within a couple of feet of her to put the dish of cat food down. She no longer runs away. (Is she a femal cat? I'm guessing yes. There is an absence of assertiveness about her. We wonder how she survived the winter. She seems so terribly calm about life.)

The day warms to a delightful 60F (15C). Ed sheds his jacket and stays in shorts all day long. Here he is, rebuilding the teepee for my climbing vines.

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And now I bring Snowdrop to the farmette. No way will she go inside! In my absence, Ed had taken out the little play fence I had once acquired (and then never used) for toddler watching purposes. Next, out come some old screens to create a roof. Finally -- the three young hens are placed inside for their first outdoor fling.

He brings out their food. Snowdrop helps him at every turn.

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It's funny -- had he asked me if I thought this outdoor time for the chicks was a good idea, I would have said no. They are not even five weeks old. There are still patches of snow outside. No! Too young!

At the same time, they're getting restless indoors. You may think that they're contained and thus innocuous in the huge cardboard box, but they are so active, that wood dust and dander fly every which way when they scamper about. I no longer want to eat breakfast in the sun room. It's too full of chicken life!

Needless to say, Ed's idea is a good one. The three young girls love their time with real soil. They peck at it, scratch it and bathe in it to their hearts content.

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And Snowdrop? The weather unfurled her imagination to new heights. She finds sticks for us all and proposes that we draw "decorations in the snow."

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When Ed protests that he doesn't know what decorations to draw, she suggests that he "use his imagination." (I have to think she picked that up from one of her teachers.)

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It is a glorious hour of play!

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I drive the little one home then, in part because I have another errand to do in her neighborhood (where there is a lovely children's store). My tiny shopping expedition is productive and I am especially happy to see how welcoming the sales clerk is of Snowdrop. I mean, I get it: small stores have to compete with online shopping. They need to make it worth your while to head out to their own retail space. Nonetheless, it is so pleasant when a store treats a young one with respect.

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As the little girl explains that she is digging out weeds, the clerk comments -- she surely has a fertile imagination. Yes, of this there can be no doubt.

(Back at her house, she discovers that the play computer knows her name. She is flabbergasted. Or amused. Or both.)

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Beautiful afternoon. With so many more just in front of us. Welcome to spring!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

dizzying day

I am sure that there aren't many on this planet, who appreciate today's glorious sunshine as much as we do here in south central Wisconsin! Yesterday's snowstorm was the final slap in a season that has been nothing but unkind to us. Whereas I read that it was 81F (27C) in Paris and 70F (21C) in Warsaw, we were stuck at the freezing point all day long. And the snow and ice fell hard, pounding relentlessly at the roads, at our gardens, at anyone who dared venture out.

Ah, but this morning, this still and peaceful morning, there isn't a cloud in the sky. I come out just at sunrise and though it is still just below freezing, I know that this scene of winter loveliness will not last long.

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It is enchanting!

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No matter where you look, there is a quilt of snow.

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And it stays with us all morning long.

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The farmette, in lacy loveliness.

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Should we ski? The snow is heavy and wet and that lovely sunshine is sure to do its bit to make gliding a challenge. Nonetheless, it is deep enough! As deep as anything we've had this past season! Let's go, now, before breakfast, before it melts, let's get moving!

(Hey, where are you dashing off to??)

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We head out to our local county park. Not surprisingly, we are not the only ones out with skis. Two other people are sporting that big grin that comes from having been handed a gift of a lovely skiing moment!

And it truly is a beautiful scene...

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No, the turtles are not out, but the birdsong is strong, vibrant, as if we were in a meadow with buttercups and forget-me-nots rather than looking out on a field of snow.

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At first, Ed complains that the snow is sticky. Glide, buddy, glide! The faster the better!

...With pauses to cast appreciative glances at the forest, so beautiful that it makes you smile at the magic of it all!

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It does help to know that within a very short time, it will all be gone and we'll be on track with spring once more.

(Camera perched on tree branch...)

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(One last one...)

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At home now. Breakfast, hearty and delightful after the hour on skis.

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By the time I pick up Snowdrop, the great melt has begun. In Madison, the south facing flowerbed at her school is almost without snow. And note that the girl herself is quite comfortable without a jacket.

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We play for a short while at the farmhouse...

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And then I take her home. We have a date to go to the park with her mommy.
I only need a sweater. Please, can you button all five buttons?

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Time to go!
But I'm starving! (She displays perfect expression of inner anguish.)

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Finally, the local playground, where, predictably, she is very happy.

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We're joined by a sandhill crane. Who knew that cranes liked playgrounds?

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Do cranes like stories? Here's someone who can tell you one.

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So many games to play and things to do on a sunny April afternoon! And finally, the day is warm enough to do them.