Saturday, June 23, 2018

full blown summer

One of my favorite daylilies is called "Persian Market." It's deep rose in color and it has an even deeper rose halo at its throat. It's lightly fragrant and it's a rebloomer. I don't know what more you'd want from a flower!

I have planted several of these gorgeous lilies in the last two years. Inadvertently, actually. In February, I study the catalogue of daylilies and make a list of the ones that are just too beautiful to pass by. The Persian Market always makes it onto that list.

Most of them wont bloom until mid-July, but oftentimes the first season of a new planting will trigger an earlier flower and indeed, my newly planted Persian Market sprouted a bloom on the first day of summer. Today's flower (remember -- each bloom only lasts one day) is, I think, especially beautiful!


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We got our summer back! The day began with sunshine and pleasantly warm temps. It's breakfast on the porch once more!


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When a day is especially lovely, I feel the need to be careful how I use my time. I don't want to waste those good outdoor hours. For example, Ed asked me today if I thought it might be a good idea to trade in my moped for an electric bicycle. We began to study various such bicycles on the Internet until I finally said -- this is not a good project for a beautiful day. We abandon the idea and go outside to work in the gardens.

[Why even consider the trade? Well, nearly the entire reason for getting a moped was because it was easy to park in the city. I'd zip to the downtown farmers market, hoist it onto the sidewalk and be done. But, the city passed an ordinance that prohibits sidewalk moped parking, not even next to a bike rack and so the moped is now a problem. You can't take it into most of the downtown garages and there are few curbside spots that are open on, say, a market day. An electric bike gives you some modest assist when you're navigating hills and you can park it alongside other bikes. The downside? It's devilishly expensive. Even if I sold my Rosie moped, I'd be out a couple of hundred dollars.]

Much of this day is nicely set for me today and so I needn't fret about carving out a good plan. First on the agenda is a trip to a playground with Snowdrop and her mom. A parent of one of Snowdrop's classmates suggested a reunion of the old class (three year olds and already she has a reunion!) and so Sparrow stays home with dad and Snowdrop's mom asks me to join them for this delightful romp at a large lakeside playground.  The kids have a wonderful time swinging, chasing, spinning and doing all those grand playground things that are made all that much grander because of the stellar weather.


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And from there, we hurry for our usual walk around the downtown Farmers Market. It's the first summer market and you can see the slight shift in the produce: lots of peas, baby bok choy, delightful snapdragon flowers bouquets, some berries, and for me -- always the bunches of oyster mushrooms. 

Even though she rides the stroller for the long walk around the square, the little one needs a moment of rest after. Snuggled on mommy's lap.


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What's this! A school friend here too? We do live in a small town! Energy restored, Snowdrop plays a rousing game of sticks!


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And now we are well into the afternoon. I'm at the farmette, pulling and snipping my way through the gardens, admiring, too, the surprise bloomers -- like these late irises that pop open always at the end of June.


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Ed chops fallen limbs, Stop Sign comes around for her late day meal, the cheepers follow, ever hopeful that I will have with me a stale end of a croissant. Typical summer stuff. Calm, lovely, and so importantly -- sunny and warm.

Friday, June 22, 2018

second day of summer

The clouds stay with us. Ed comments that it's not shorts weather. I'm stunned: Ive seen him in shorts in February! I blame it on the constancy of the grayness. Here, in the Upper Midwest, we're used to a mix of brilliant sun and puffy clouds. The overcast skies tell me that the second longest day of the year wont seem very long at all. Indeed, we turn the kitchen light on as we come down, just to give a little glow to our morning.

Early Friday is always set aside for grocery shopping. The drizzle doesn't really bother me, though I know Ed will be wet on his motorbike trip to his tech meetings. Splish splash, back and forth, back and forth, wipers, rain, wipers, rain. I can take it.

But at the farmette, the rain gets to me. The puddles on the driveway are immense! The weeds -- they grow and inch and hour. It's one of those gardening moments when you almost want to toss it all aside and say -- I'll come back to you next spring.

And then you look up and you see the emergent day lilies and you roll up your sleeves and trample down the mud and pull as many weeds as you can in the time you have.


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Of course, all this happens after breakfast. An indoor breakfast. Ed has deemed it to be a chilly morning.


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(On the upside, a few pockets of colorful blooms have crept into the yard. Coupled with the potted annuals, they do make the gardens shine, even in the gloom of a cloudy day.)


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And at noon, I'm out to visit Sparrow. It's his sleepy dozy time. He eats, he naps.


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I give him his tummy time... He likes it! Well, either that or it fosters his sweetest dreams.


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Side time -- likes that too. Did I mention that this little one is pretty easy going?


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From his house, it's straight to Snowdrop's school for me. I am shocked to enter her class and find half the kids sleeping on their mats helter-skelter (with the exception of Snowdrop and a few holdouts). The little one is on the youngest end of the continuum and so it's not surprising that most everyone in her room has moved on to a nap-free existence. But the end of the week leaves everyone tired.

It doesn't take much to get her spirited and playful again. We go to the playground...


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Yeah! Get that swing going!


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Finally, at the farmette, I tell her it's time to check on the cherries. It's a group excursion to the young orchard!


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Yep, we find our young fruits..


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Her favorites: the golden red ones.


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Too, I let her pick the few pea pods that have appeared this week.

I feel we have finally struck summer gold. Cherries and foxy phloxy. Day lilies and peas in a pod. True summer indeed!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

first day of summer

How I love this long day of endless light! I look forward to it, I relish it, I would write poems about it were I talented enough to do so.

But every once in a while, this theoretically very long day plays tricks on us. Take today: in the late afternoon, I say to Snowdrop: hurry up! I have to take you home now. Put on your shoes and lets go! It's raining a bit. We'll make a run for it.
She asks -- grandma, can I wear my jacket and summer scarf?
Summer scarf? Oh, that one! (I smile: I bought it across the ocean in a place where people do indeed wear scarves even during the summer.)
And can I wear my cap? The one with pink hearts?

When we go out, she looks like this:


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Ah, the first day of summer!!


It's not that it's exactly cold outside. (But nor is it warm.) There is just something about the constancy of clouds and rain that makes you want to hide in the safety of a jacket and a cap. And here's the irony behind Snowdrop's choice: in the winter, she always insists on taking off all outerwear when in the car seat. But Snowdrop, the car is still cold ! -- I'll say. But, she wants to be free and unencumbered.

Don't you want to take it all off? -- I ask her on this June day, as I slide her into her car seat.
No -- she says, simply, emphatically. No.

Welcome to the summer season.


I suppose all this dampness doesn't really matter. I am so terribly busy these days that weather thoughts slip to the sidelines. Sure, it would be a lot more pleasant if our morning breakfast had streaks of sunshine coming in from the eastern corner, but on the other hand, the poor weather keeps the construction crews away and so we enjoy a quiet meal outside today.


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(The garden is waiting. It's tough to find bursts of color. Most plant buds are shut tight, holding out for the sun's warm rays. Here's an exception.)


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Immediately after breakfast the rush to get things done today begins. We're at Walmart. Ed needs shorts. I need toothpicks (for an art project). My mom needs chairs. We could always use some more Klarbrunn (sparkling water). Done!

My mom's move details come next. Doctor choices, furniture issues, dates, priorities. Okay, done (for now)!

I'm off to a friend's house then. I actually haven't seen her (correct me if I'm wrong, said friend) in a dozen years, but the dear soul read about my chaotic search for a cheap double stroller on Ocean and offered me hers. (Thank you!) So I pick it up. And while I'm doing this, I stand there thinking -- why are we all so damn busy all the time?

And then comes a moment of quiet: I go for my visit with Sparrow, who is, during the day (thus far), a very very chill baby. (Baby stripes on mommy stripes!)


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The parents run errands, he and I listen to music, just in case he really does want to become a conductor later in life (see yesterday's post).


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Or maybe a yoddler?


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I'm off again: to the bakery to pick up pains au chocolat for a Snowdrop snack and now, finally, I am at her school where I find her engrossed in rolling out pink play doh with her best school pal... who is, unsurprisingly, very reluctant to see her friend take off (the girl's day at "camp" is longer than Snowdrop's). There are many hugs before I feel I can take a very tired Snowdrop out of the classroom.


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And now here's a big admission on my part: even though I promised Snowdrop that there would be an art project all set and ready for her -- one that we talked about for a while now, where we make stick people out of pine cones and toothpicks -- I know this about myself: I am horrible at executing kid crafts. Oh, I have plenty of ideas, but the final product is always rather pained.


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And sure enough, our pinecone family ends us having just one member and she should be thankful for her arms and legs because it wasn't a given that they would stay attached for more than ten seconds.


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I am so happy when Snowdrop is ready to move on to something else.


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Summer solstice. A playful day, a ridiculously merry day, a summer's day. Welcome, summer.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday

The last day of spring. The season came slowly and now it's departing with a sulk and a groan. I gave you a garden, my work is done. And the rains and clouds keep coming, and the green landscape turns even greener, and we wait for sunshine, because everything is just so drippy wet. Saturated, squishy muddy gloppy wet.


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I find a few more day lilies and I am grateful for their loveliness...


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We eat on the porch, happy with the quiet around us. The construction site is a pool of mud. Nothing can be done until it all dries out a little. We eat and we strategize. I have a few crazy weeks before me. Ed, who for better or worse is always such a solid rock, is keeping me sane.

In the late morning, we drive over to the apartment building where my mom will be living in a couple of weeks. We need to check the internet connection in her unit and, too, we need to coordinate the staggered move that will begin all too soon.

Check. Done.

Back at the farmette, we're left with finding a way to establish plain old unbundled uncomplicated phone service in her new home. You'd think this was the easiest task on the planet. You would be so wrong. It is noon before I can write in a "check!" and leave the farmette to visit with Sparrow.

The little guy takes all this in stride. He acts as if he's heard it all before. The details of life are complicated? Tell me about it!


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Now, let me show you how to direct an orchestra. Strings, are you ready?


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Beautiful, trumpets, simply beautiful!


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I leave him to his orchestral performances. 



And from there, I hop over to Snowdrop's school. I suggest an outing to the park and playground, though I caution her that we may get rain.

She goes straight to the swings.


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She is joined by a girl. Russian, I think. Her dad has that unmistakable accent. She, too, speaks in the way I did when I first came to this country. Snowdrop immediately launches into explaining life to her, but I interrupt with establishing some basics. First, the weather: Snowdrop, we should go soon, it may rain.
No, gaga, no! I don't want to go!
But there are clouds...
The girl on the swing next to hers chimes in: they are white clouds. They do not have rain.
Snowdrop is reassured: Silly gaga! My gaga is wrong! My gaga is actually Nina, but I call her gaga.
The girl looks at me curiously.
How old are you? -- I ask her in my friendliest of tones.
Five and a half.
Snowdrop, how old are you?
Three, Gaga! (As in -- obviously!)  I will be three and a half soon and I will have a big celebration! (That's news to me...)
I have a big celebration every day! -- the girl will not be outdone.
I have a good friend and her name is Clara -- this from Snowdrop.
I have a good friend and her name is Sonia! -- the girl is keeping up!
I had a friend named Sonia in Toddler House...

I interrupt again: want to go play on the structure? I suggest. Snowdrop is on top of it: want to play "family??" -- she asks.

The dad and I exchange smiles. Oh, girls -- I mumble for want of something more intelligent to say.
Boys, they would be talking about trucks! -- he tells me.

It's true that Snowdrop has little interest in trucks. When she and her "good friend" stand chatting outside the school and a truck goes by, both girls automatically cover their ears.


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Still, Snowdrop is a girl of many passions. It's just that right now, family and especially a growing family is very much on her mind.


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We go back to the farmhouse... (yes, you may pick that pink flower... just this once!)


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....where she is excited to resume our game of the last two days. Yes, you guessed it -- art class. Drawing.


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Family pictures. Lovely, lovely family pictures.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday

Once again the rains are with us. I mention this because the world around me is so soggy right now that you can't just brush aside this seemingly inconsequential weather event. Don't mock me for my words, come February, but the outside world is too green! We need sunshine to bring back a wider palate of colors.

As if to add emphasis to my point, when I go about fixing breakfast, I hear a loud crackle outside. Our sensitivities being what they are, I immediately think someone is shooting at our chickens. They come running toward the farmhouse, feathers flying. Then comes the crash and I know that we have another felled limb on the old willow tree by the orchard. I tell Ed that I'm waiting for the day when the other willow, the one that gives shade to our parked cars throws down a branch on their roofs. For now, we have one chunk of tree for him to chop up and throw onto the wood pile.

Because it is so wet, the construction crews are taking a day off. We're not totally without their bother: there is a puttering hum of an engine that appears to be pumping water from one of the ditches dug to the east of us. With that, the wind is blowing the distinct smell of diesel fuel. One engine, quite a way away and yet we smell it. We've grown used to cleaner air. 

This is what we grew up with in the cities of our childhood, Ed comments.
The smell reminds me of Poland -- I add. Tractors, trucks accelerating on rural roads -- all commonly powered by diesel. Poland still suffers from poor air quality, but it's not diesel that you likely to smell on the peripheries of big cities there right now -- it's coal and the burning of wood. You don't appreciate your good air until you travel through a place where regulations are less stringent and enforcement is lax.

Still, we eat breakfast on the porch. One relatively quiet engine somewhere in the distance is not going to put us off.


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I walk the gardens, picking a few weeds along the way, understanding that this wont do, that I must spend more time propping long stems and pulling the inevitable seedlings and grasses that grow after each new rainfall.

But not today. Let's just admire the emergent (wet!) day lilies!


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And, too, the true lilies:


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Toward the close of the morning, I go to visit Sparrow. To the delight of all family members, you can now catch him (inadvertently) smiling, especially at nap times.


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Yes, yes, he does have plenty of wakeful times.


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But at this moment, in his second week of life, he is still in his sleepy mode, at least until evening, at which time he deems himself to be stressed by the day's excesses and is in need of more attention. As is his sister, who comes home right about then. Now isn't that the picture of every young family's evening life?

My afternoon is, of course, spent with Snowdrop. She is adjusting terrifically to the presence of a baby brother at home, but she enjoys, too, her hours at the farmhouse, where she is still in completely control of her play time.

Today, she is back at the table working at her art.


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And eventually, she turns to music. First, she bangs out her stories to the sounds of the xylophone...


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Then she asks for the guitar. I play, then she plays...


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... and then I play once more. I make up the lyrics to suit her recent interests while she dances. And dances. Until her dad comes to pick her up.


For us, of course, the evening is quiet. Unlike young children, we deal with any stresses or excesses by settling into familiar routines and predictable patterns. I write posts, Ed reads. On good days, we can stay awake long enough to watch a show afterwards, or a movie. The day will end for me with a few pages of a current book. You could not structure a more serene set of moments.  But always, the mind wanders just a bit: what are they up to, these wee little ones? Are they sleeping? Are their parents exhaling yet?

Goodnight little ones, older ones, good night, good night. May the night bring sweet dreams and the well earned peace to all.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday once more

It will be the start of summer on June 21st and unlike the last season, which was slower than slow in coming, summer is very much with us already. Even if you didn't know that it is steamy warm here today, you can tell we've left spring behind, just by casting your eye on the flower fields.


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I spend the morning doing all that one does when a big family weekend has come and gone: wash linens (to have things ready for a future visit), fold napkins from the wonderful family meals, straighten this, put away that, thinking all the while how good it was to have everyone here.

And in this way, slowly, I transition to the week ahead.

(Morning walk, just to check up on possible garden trouble spots, with a detour to feed the chickens...)


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It really is too steamy hot (and truck noisy!) to eat breakfast on the porch. The morning meal is supposed to transition us to the demands of the day, no matter what they may be. But if you're fighting the heat and noise, you've lost your calm already. That wont do.

(View toward the gardens, from the porch...)


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We eat in the kitchen.


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The day is a bit interesting: Sparrow comes to the farmhouse to be left here while parents attend to stuff. It's when you're alone with your youngest ones that you really begin to study them as individuals, separate from their parents. It is when they learn to tolerate your peculiarities and you begin to notice the tiny stuff that make them uniquely delightful.

(Here, Sparrow is testing Snowdrop's old play quilt: he doesn't mind the occasional pink... he's cool about color.)


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(With eyes wide open...)


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And now the rains start coming, one cloudburst at a time. Snowdrop comes to the farm straight from camp and she considers her options.


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Inside. Everything about the day suggests that we play inside.

For the few hours she is here, we do nothing more (and nothing less) than play pretend. Here, we're in the thick of Art Class. I'm the teacher (so says Snowdrop). The assignment is to draw a house with something in it. A family!  -- she tells me.

And now her stories begin.


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And so we've all found our new normal. True, nothing about young children remains the same from one day to the next. Still, we search for patterns and slowly we find them. And a Monday becomes a Monday once more.