Friday, August 22, 2014


I finally turned on the AC today. That says it all, I think. For the first time this summer, the air is hot, sticky, still. The cheepers hate it and they scratch huge holes underneath bushes where they can rest their feathered bodies in the cool earth. Unless we bring out scraps of food for them. Hot weather or not, the cheepers are programmed to run then, chasing us in a way that is so unbelievably cute that I always wish that I could have my camera out and ready for this moment (they're too fast, so I don't even try).

Breakfast? Oh, we do go out on the porch. The sun is temporarily behind something that is a cross between a fog and low lying cloud cover. So this is it -- our moment outside!


Friday is Ed's machinist meeting day and my grocery shopping day (a split so completely gender predictable that it makes me laugh) and so the muggy weather is rather irrelevant. It comes as a bit of a shock to learn that my '93 Escort has a functioning AC, which I don't use going to the store, but most certainly crank up coming back. And am grateful that the commute is such a rare event for me.

In the afternoon, when I go out to collect eggs and clean the coop, I notice that Scotch, for the third day in a row, has not laid an egg. There are the known reasons -- of shortening days, a molting interlude, etc. One of the white hens had a period of rest and then leapt right back into full production within a week.


In googling things to consider with chickens who pause (or stop?) laying, inevitably I come to the text on the aging chicken. Scotch isn't aging, I don't think. Her owners claimed she was a year when we got her (of course, that is what you're going to tell the enthusiastic new chicken keeper!). Still, inevitably she will get old, as will the others. And it strikes me that we will have to deal with that. There are many Internet instructions on how to kill your chickens. And this is when I realize how short-sighted we were when we get involved in chicken care. With cats and dogs, the vet conveniently does the job for us. The animal is old or sick, you say your good byes, shed a tear, move on. But an old chicken? Get an ax, calm her down and be sure to let the blood drip out before you throw her into the pot.

And if you're not saying ewwww to yourself yet, then maybe you should be the one keeping chickens! And maybe we should be thinking of what happens to these cutest of cute birds when they get old.

But, we're not programmed to think like that and so for now, I close the lid on internet searches and go back to hoping that Scotch is just having a pause. To rejuvinate herself for the months, (years?) ahead of her.

Supper? Well, we have a pot-luck to attend. We're mightily interested in the future of the land around us. In addition to liking the quiet of the farming community, we worry about the potential impact that any large scale development will have on our waters -- springs, lakes, wetlands. And we are surrounded by waters: we live in an area of nine natural springs, feeding the marshlands south and east of us and ultimately, draining into lake Waubesa.  So we go to community events (such as tonight's pot-luck meeting) and we listen to the latest studies and findings and we continue to hope that the prospect of high revenue (we are so close to the city center that we definitely tempt development) for those who have stakes in the land here wont lead others to stay blind to the impact this will have on the quality of the wetlands and the ecosystem supported by them.

I make a mediterranean chicken quinoa salad for the potluck. Why? Because we have the garden tomatoes and the cucumbers and the garlic and the onion, (we have the chicken, too, but as you can see, I'm not ready or willing to wield an ax over our hens, so the meat ingredient has to come from the store), and Ed really wants me to move the quinoa out of our cupboard and onto someone else's plate. Honestly, the man seems to have no stomach for good foods!

Flowers from today: still delightful. From just by the porch:


Thursday, August 21, 2014

how wet was it?

It was so wet, with repeat periods of pounding rain, that my newly supported flowers gave up and fell down again. This time in unison, as they were tied together in a clever figure 8 pattern that turned out to be not so clever after all. And we're not done with the rains: there is a whole week of iffy weather ahead of us.

On the upside, I do not have to water the garden. And so I am making fine progress on my writing.

Nor did I get up at dawn this morning. We had both fallen asleep on the early side so I thought it surely must be his turn. It's a fair division: he'll get the cheepers out, but I still clean the coop, as I truly think my cleaning skills are far better than his. Unfortunately.

Breakfast is not on the porch. I would not have minded the occasional downpours, but there is a constant threat of storms and it seems pointless to drag everything out in crashing thunder.


(Yes, a different yellow shirt! Many hugs were given in recognition of this!)

After breakfast? I never do move out to the porch. The outdoor world feels too wet. Warm, yes, but very uninviting. (Here it is, looking out, briefly, from the porch.)


In between rain showers, I try to straighten the tall yellow bloomers that usually have such an easy time staying upright, but not this year!

And I do some weed pulling. One must pull weeds when the rains come down!

And in the afternoon, we go to the farmers market. The rains pause then and we stock up on corn, cheese and say no thank you to the zucchini. The market has a new vendor today -- a man who appears to keep beehives in locations close to us. One of them comes from a paradise of a garden just a mile or so east of us. I am a complete fan of local honeys and so I add this gentle pale one (bottom right) to our shopping basket.


In the evening I make a tomato-potato stew which sounds so terribly indifferent, but in fact, it is so fine on a damp day and especially if you have an abundance of tomatoes, potatoes, garlic and onion -- all growing in copious amounts at the farmette.

I'll leave you with a pair of flowers that did not give in to the rains today. Yes, you guessed it -- the ever brazen and gutsy daylilies.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Not all days are free of frustrations and wasted hours -- even retired people, I'm learning, can feel the rug of time pulled from under them so that at the end of the day, all they have to show for it is a plate of leftover zucchini sticks.

But, conversely, all days have glorious moments in them, even if, as in my case, these moments may be rather concentrated. Toward the morning, for example.

So let's talk about the morning!

Ed slept in again and so I went out to set the cheepers free. Isis made me do it. It's an animal pact that they have: Oreo starts crowing, which causes Isis to start meowing, and Oreo just keeps on going, so that Isis wont let up either until someone lets him out. Sometimes he'll want breakfast too. You have to get up, have a conversation with him and only then -- go out to release the cheepers.

But the fact is, the rooster crows oftentimes before sunrise. And whereas some of the hens are ready to get out and scratch and peck and search for chicken gold, others (take Scotch for example) look at you quizzically and appear to be asking -- what? so early? what are you thinking?

So you have rushed to set them free, even as they're perfectly content to stay in the coop until the sun really does rise.

The second problem with getting up and out before sunrise is that you're too early for that beautiful morning sky, all orange and pink and gold that accompanies the moment when the sun greets the world around you.

(Oreo, waiting for the sunrise)

So you wait a while, but of course, the predawn hours are not a good time to hang out, unless you relish the company of mosquitoes... Wait, did I say the morning gave me my set of good hours??

Well, it did. The sunrise, in the end, was pretty, in a calm, over the-field-and-through-the-woods sort of way...


(Oreo, satisfied, walks away)

And then I managed to snooze a little more, so that breakfast was late, but lovely (please do not frown at the repetition of the t-shirt on Ed. Let's pretend he just pulled it on for breakfast to annoy me).


And then chores and petty snafus and frustrations followed, culminating in Ed asking if perhaps I'd like to refrain from cooking tonight, to which I gratefully answered yes, resulting in us having the only fast-food take-out that I ever agree to eat -- Chipotle's. All this, while reading a book on the French eating habits which, BTW, never include fast-food take-out. At least not if my generation has anything to say about it.

I'll leave you with flowers. A late set of day lilies. On fire, in their loveliness!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

after the storm

When the rains finally came, I was too sleepy-tired to notice or pay attention. But rain it did -- not for long, but heavily enough to get that dusty dry look out of the farmette!

Ed was even more sleepy than I was and so I gave him the gift of myself getting up at sunrise to let the cheepers out. The clouds were by then receding. The cheepers were thrilled to be out and about. (I do wonder if they fear storms, or accept them in the same way they accept Isis -- some things just are.)


But of course, a late summer garden will suffer damage from a violent rainstorm. The clinging blooms will give up their hold, the stalks of my tallest of tall flowers will bend and groan... It all looks rather disconcerting afterwards. (Fine, blame me for planting things that grow to be that tall! I admit it, I'm, in part, the culprit here!)


And so after breakfast...


...I go out with a rope and prop things up a bit. The flower beds wont have the same free style exuberance as before the storm, but it's better than seeing them all fall down in a clump of smothered blooms.

Here they are, after my efforts to give support.


Not to brag too much on their behalf, but do note that the daylilies had no problem staying upright!
Note them here:


And in the big bed here:


(Thanks, btw, to my commenter on the sage advice on growing a Gaura that is native to our surroundings! I do like the pink ones as well, but I have to admit, the ones that made it through our beastly winter were white, much like the ones by the creek -- here is mine, along the driveway, flanked by another native -- goldenrod and of course, with daylilies and lavender stuck in for effect. It's into the sun:  lustrous and angelic, not unlike it appears in real life.


I do still try with the pink cultivar, in various strategic locations, including in a pot -- it does fairly well indoors during the winter.)

The air cleared and the wind picked up in the morning and I wish this kind of breeze and spotty sunshine would stay with us the whole week and then some, but I see hot air pushing back at us this coming weekend, so let me just take this day as it presents itself right now -- beautiful and blustery. Perfect for writing on the porch and perfect, too, for a late afternoon bike ride to the library and back. Not a huge challenge, but better than the utter physical (if not mental) laziness of putting my feet up and rocking gently in the chair out on the porch.

Supper is cheeper egg time -- a once a week extravaganza of eggs and veggies (and in answer to your comments -- I'm with you on this: how could anyone find the rather bland zucchini distasteful, especially when it's spiked with fresh herbs and garlic and all those magical things that come from our garden? N.B. Ed also does not like eggplant much! What's with you eggplant detractors? It's so... mediterranean! Is it the name that makes you recoil??).

I'll leave you with a photo of two of our three hens. Thanks, girls, for the eggs. (You're seeing them standing in the driveway as I take my Gaura photo. Obviously they're gossiping: why is she here? She never comes here with her camera! What's so special here?)


Monday, August 18, 2014

before the storm

I hate to look forward to a storm, but really, it's been far too long without rain. The drizzle that keeps British gardens in line just isn't the norm here and it's not unusual to have hot dry spells like we've had this summer. Gardens don't like them. Farmers don't like them. I suppose the one upside is that it keeps the mosquito population at bay. Still, let's forget about the mosquitoes: we need the rain.

I tell Ed (with a touch of optimism) that the good weather will be with us only in the early morning hours.

We eat a lovely breakfast (forget the shirt: it's what's within that counts!)...


I spot check the flower beds...



And when after all that the skies remain a hazy blue, I go for a walk.


It's such a simple thing in the summer! You decide to walk, you go out, you walk. No preparation, no bracing for the cold gust of air, no path to clear of snow or ice. Prairie flowers are at their best in late summer...


... and there are always surprises: like the wild gaura I find blooming at the edge of the creek. I bust my knuckles to get gaura to repeat itself year after year in my garden and here it is, growing like crazy without intervention!


Alright. I feel the rains can come now.

I stay on the porch, writing, editing. The farmette waits with anticipation...


But the storms do not come. Not now, not in the afternoon, not in the evening. We have a lovely game of tennis before supper and still -- no rain.

(For supper I saute some shrimp and cook up a pot of ratatouille. Ed does not especially like zucchini. I'm trying to make a convert out of him.)


Evening. Still warm. They say now the storms will come past midnight. Well maybe. Or maybe I'll wake up to a dry landscape once more and I'll have to put my faith in the next set of days. Hot days at that. Summer came in with pounding rain. It's choosing a different path for its grand finale.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


For me at least, writing is like exercise -- the more I make time for it, the more I want to increase the number of hours I devote to it. If my book writing thrives, I am anxious to update Ocean and spend some time here as well (just as when I biked and walked, I was eager to play tennis too).

And today I finally, finally felt enough on top of life's tasks and chores, that after doing a semi thorough farmhouse cleaning, and after a wonderfully protracted breakfast...


...I took out my book project again. Of course, since it's been a while, I had to start by reading (and improving) it. The final draft, if there ever is a final draft, will have been revised probably close to a hundred times. All these years of writing have made me terribly fussy about sentences, paragraphs, chapters.

And still, I am eager to move forward. And there is no better time than now, when the garden beckons me for snatches of time, but never for too long...

(four and twenty black birds...)

(facing the farmhouse)

...and I am content as anything to sit back on the porch and to dive into the text that has been on my mind now for too many years (decades?). Time to get it out and move on to the next thing.

I did pause after a few hours -- dinner preparations for our Sunday meal are not hugely time consuming, but I did feel it was time to bake another cake - mixing this time raspberries and peaches and borrowing bits and pieces from various recipes to create a cake that would speak to the season and, too, would make do with ingredients I have at home. (For example kefir instead of buttermilk.)

(a quick taste with a cup of coffee, as the tomato sauce percolates)

My daughter and husband are here, the air is pleasantly warm, the summer progresses in the most beautiful way and I try not to notice that this weekend we've turned the corner: we're in the second half of August. Not many weeks left when I can live with windows wide open all day and all night.


I'm appreciating every last bit of it!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

hot Saturday

You may read this variously. For example -- hot Saturday! what was she up to?? But I mean nothing more than to say that for once, the day felt very warm, from beginning 'til end. As it should be on a weekend in mid-August.

The garden suddenly feels dry. Oh, I've been spot watering places that seem to especially need it, but in a way, I've given up. It's maintenance work, but it's not going to make it feel lush anymore. Many of the flowers surely feel robust, but things are drying around the edges.


For our animals, it's too warm. Oreo's tail is drooping.


Isis walks up the farmhouse path cautiously, always with an eye toward the cheepers, wanting to be inside now, where it's cooler (and where there are no cheepers). Flowers with red or orange in them dominate.


Breakfast feels pleasantly warm. I picked the last of the strawberries -- you see them in the little dish. They deserve special mention because we had so few this year! (Thanks, chipmunks.)


I have a date to walk to the farmers market with my pregnant daughter (nearly halfway toward the birth day!) and I decide to push myself a bit more and bike to her place. Not far -- just six miles if I take the bike path, past our neighboring farmers...


...and prairie fields.


And of course, by the time I arrive at her home, I am hot. I pause at her place, refreshed by a glass of cold water and a quick visit with the two new adoptees.


(She reminds me that their older cat needs a photos as well!)


And then we set out. Lakeside walk, very very pretty now in August -- calling forth memories of this spring, when the ice cover refused to melt.


And of course, the market: full of the flowers that my girl especially likes. None of this tame pink white blue and yellow that I so associate with May. We're talking vibrant ruby red, purple and gold!


Walk back, bike home. Lunch on the porch. Water the big flower bed. Very warm.

So you'd think that this would be enough, right? Needed movement checked off. Photos taken, flowers admired and tended. But no! It turns out in life that the more you move, the more you want to move some more, so I coax Ed into a game of tennis (it doesn't take much -- we both love to play) and that, too, is very warm. Delightfully so.

Supper foods for a warm summer evening (and I say warm, because it's not so hot that we feel the need for air conditioning)? Oh, nothing special at all. A chicken brat day with lots of market corn. I never feel like fussing in the kitchen on a day like this.

Oh, but I do love these summer days! So very much!


Friday, August 15, 2014

it's Friday...

Restless nights don't always lead to restless days but they surely increase the likelihood of an appearance of one. A further contributing factor (to a restless day) may be to have scheduled for it yet another visit with the endodontist (the same one who last week retreated a root canal for me).

But first, before all this, there is breakfast -- that wonderful meal that this morning required a jacket. It was that cool. (For me, not for Ed.)


The endodontist -- an incredibly talented and wise man, has seen far too much of me lately, especially since the last half dozen visits have been freebies. (He feels compelled to fix this tooth at the set initial price, even though we've gone mountains over that piddly first set of hours.)

Well now, if you come here this often, we'll run out of family milestones to talk about. I already know about your daughter's wedding and your older girl's pregnancy -- he smiles, but not very broadly.
Let's try a different topic -- how's your weekend shaping up?
I think about how I should answer this. I don't really have a week-end anymore. The only thing that makes a weekend a weekend is that my older girl and her husband typically come over for supper on Sunday. So I know then that it's a Sunday.

The endodontist comments -- reminds me of my friend who just retired. His wife asks him -- what are going to do today and he pauses and answers -- nothing. And she asks him -- so what are you going to do tomorrow and he answers -- I haven't finished doing nothing today yet!

I laugh, but were I not with all forms of paraphernalia in my mouth I'd explain that it isn't really like that. I do have things on my plate and each day I make small progress and get closer to picking them up again. It would help if I didn't have to spend so many mornings at the endodontist -- I want to say.

After, I do the weekly grocery shopping and by the time that's behind me -- boom! It's afternoon.

I water the garden contemplatively, thinking about whether I should put the motor on and get to my projects.

And I decide I'm going fast enough. Your sense of time changes when you retire: a packed day may be the bees knees for some, but for me, if there's no time to leisurely pick up a book (for example), then I feel I've crammed in too much.

In the evening we play tennis. A good game. Relaxed. Unhurried. Why should it be otherwise...


Thursday, August 14, 2014


I watch this day fill up, starting from zero -- nothing planned, nothing expected, then slowly, as if I let the hose on and point it into a wheelbarrow and within minutes, it becomes full (I say this because in the afternoon, I actually do fill a wheelbarrow -- to water the strawberry hydrangea out front).

It begins early. At sunrise. Or just minutes before. Ed insists he's up for letting the cheepers out, but instead of rolling over and succumbing to delicious morning sleep, I think -- wouldn't it be nice to see the sun come up over the lake again? I haven't chased a sunrise in a long long time. It's a clear morning. Why not do it now?

And the minute I pull Rosie (the moped) out onto the road, I remember how stupid it is to go out like this without properly pulling on warm clothing. It's in the low fifties this morning. On a moped -- it feels really really cold.

Never mind. No time to go in for an extra jacket. It's nearly six. Sunrise happens around now and once the summer sun breaks through the horizon, its climb is brilliant and rapid. And so I continue and just as I pull up to the shore, I witness that beautiful moment, right there over Lake Waubesa when night is no longer night.

lake waubesa-5.jpg

Satisfied (and cold), I leave the lake, awed by how quickly that speck of orange becomes a ball of golden fire...


...and I turn back to do my rural loop home.

Past cornfields...


...onwards, with deer crossing my path and two sandhill cranes standing, watching...


...while wispy strands of morning mist still touch the fields around us.


Oh, I'm so cold now! I pull up the farmette driveway, past the old orchard that always looks so good just after sunrise...


...and into the farmette courtyard, noting that the cheepers are out and about and Ed is in the sheep shed already, working on his latest machining project.

At the farmhouse, I bury myself deeply under the quilt --  but it's no good. Still cold. Not until much later, when I stand under a hot shower do I let the morning chill leave me and I feel like I am waking to a summer day again.

Though the "waking" part comes rather late.

And the breakfast part comes even later, since just when I'm ready to get going, Ed comes back to take a morning nap.

It is nearly 11 by the time we take our morning meal out onto the porch.


And shortly after, I am ever so happy to meet up with my Albuquerque friend -- she is in town and she has a window and that window is right now and so out comes Rosie again and off I go downtown. It's been only two months, but it always feels like life has taken so many shifts and turns since our last encounter. Time to catch up!


And then I am back at the farmette, but not for long. After rolling that water filled wheelbarrow down to my hydrangeas, I hop on behind Ed on his motorbike and we make our way to the local (evening) farmers market.  We mean to pick up only corn and to do our weekly exchange of eggs for cheese curds, but the beets look good as well and before you know it, we have a bagful of fresh produce.


Home then? No, not yet! We have our tennis rackets and so we stop in our secret forested courts and we play a dynamic if brief game of tennis.  Why brief? Because it's already late and there is supper to fix and freshly picked tomatoes to sort through (every two days Ed brings in about this many)...


So that wheelbarrow of mine surely filled quickly and I have no complaints because every hour today was (in my book) good, even if in the retelling it all seems rather straightforward. I assure you, it felt quite beautiful.

Oh, did you miss a posting of farmette flowers? Here, I haven't forgotten! At noon, in full sunlight: