Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Breakfast. Outside, of course. Looking toward the flowers, enjoying the splashes of color everywhere. (And the coffee. I really love my morning cup of coffee.)

farmette life-5.jpg

To me, it's just about the greatest show around: the parade of flowers through the month of July.

Does it sadden me that we are near the end of the month? No, not at all. When the quiet seasons roll in, I enjoy the quiet. In July, I look outside and at first I see the perfect tableau before me. Then I see what needs to be done so that it will remain good for the rest of the day. And I go out and do it, weather, bugs, time pressures -- whatever impositions there may be, I ignore them and get my hands dirty.

Ah, but it is (for me) a most perfect tableau. And I take no credit for it. I only bring together what nature has already created.

farmette life-4.jpg

It's been a while since I took care of Snowdrop in her own home. Today, I'm back there, greeting her at her wake up time.

(She is still in her octopus pajamas, but her desires are already as clear as can be -- can we go outside, grandma?)

farmette life-8.jpg

So (following the usual morning routines) we do just that. All the way to the distant coffee shop...

farmette life-11.jpg

Where it's iced tea weather for sure. (A cookie piece is good in any weather.)

farmette life-19.jpg

As always, we use the stroller to get there, but for most of the way back, she walks. She is a familiar presence in these blocks. And she herself recognizes past friends and foes. Here she deftly side steps into someone's yard to avoid an overly friendly dog who once, quite unexpectedly managed to slobber her with kisses as we walked by.

farmette life-30.jpg

At home, she is as playful as ever, inviting me to participate in her games again and again.

farmette life-33.jpg

farmette life-40.jpg

My granddaughter always seems so much older than the last time I saw her. I look at her and think -- she's not even 19 months old yet. And then I think -- she is already nearly 19 months!

In the evening Snowdrop, her parents and I walk over to the Capitol Square. It's warm still and there is a slight chance of storms, but the Wednesday concerts are drawing to an end. We don't want to miss too many. And so we head out.

And as in prior times, Snowdrop is mesmerized out there, on the vast green spaces, eating her picnic food, taking in the sights and sounds of Madison at its sweetest, kindest.

farmette life-5-2.jpg

It's a beautiful evening for her, for us.

farmette life-16-2.jpg

And then the concert comes to an end.

farmette life-24-2.jpg

We walk home, toting chairs and folded blankets. It's dark by the time we round the last corner. Me, I'm so glad the weather held. Snowdrop points upwards -- sky! she reminds us. Sky!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


A vacation can be composed of many, many days. Or, it can be composed of one day, with many chapters. Mine this year, with Ed, belongs to the latter kind.


I remember quite well that in 2014, Ed and I vacationed for sixteen days together (in January, in Turkey and Greece). In 2015, we scaled it back to six days (in July, in the Adirondacks). This year, we will have had only one day. Today.

Oh, but I am not complaining. It is a beautiful day -- weather-wise, we could not have willed it to be nicer. And it just happened that today offered a chance to spend this time together, as Snowdrop is occupied with an out of town visitor and Ed has a bit of respite with his machining project.

And so we are off! Well, not right away (and not far away). First comes breakfast. An early one. On the porch.

farmette life-1.jpg

And then Ed has a quick work meeting and I attend to the day lilies, leading me to the first real chapter of this post:

The Lily Love Fest

Oh, but I do love these flowers, even though, to preserve their beauty, one must attend to their cosmetic care every day. What other flower demands this much fuss?! Off come the spent flowers to make room for this day's bounty. And while I'm snipping, I take photos.

farmette life-4.jpg

There are many that positively inspire you...

farmette life-16.jpg

... to use the camera again and again. Snip off, snap photo. It continues like this for a good hour.

farmette life-17.jpg

(Oh! Do notice the little froggie! We love these guys -- they come back to our lilies every year!)

farmette life-14.jpg

I include today an early morning view of a fragment of the roadside bed (this year's new addition).

farmette life-11.jpg

But really, I am just so in love with the day lilies!

farmette life-21.jpg

(Okay, I also love the large flower field that marks the change in each season so well...)

farmette life-20.jpg

Greece 2016

As soon as Ed comes back from his meeting, we set out to visit Greece. Perhaps our bit of Greece isn't as crushingly beautiful as our run through the islands two and a half years ago (those same islands that have had the influx of migrants from troubled countries in more recent times), but still, Greece it is. We stop by the home of our Farmers Market vendor Vasileios, from whom we routinely purchase his Greek family's olive oil.

We pick up a bottle of oil, but honestly, we have come over because he'd been telling us about his two little goats (or rather, his kids' kids!) -- inviting us to have a look at their animal adorableness.

farmette life-30.jpg

Wonderful goats. But in need of care and attention! In answer to the question I'm predicting you may have for me -- no! No more animals! I say this as we coasted on fools' luck last night. Ed locked up the cheeper coop, but we failed to secure one of the doors and I found it this morning flapping in the wind, with the cheepers set loose, out and about on farmette land. Phew! No predators stopped by to inspect the possibilities.

Vasileios is a good cook and he invites us to try some of his freshly baked spinach pie. Delicious.

farmette life-35.jpg

I'll be stopping by to cook with him (and others) in the months to come.

The Beach

From Greece in Wisconsin, it is but a short ride (on Ed's motorcycle) to La Follette County Park. This is a really tiny park with not much to show for it, except, if you follow a secret path across the rail tracks, there's this:

farmette life-37.jpg

These are the shores of Lake Kegonsa. You wont necessarily see this just by looking at the map, but there is a very thin strip of beach (very thin!) and more importantly, there is a beautiful stretch of lake water -- shallow and sandy. Wonderful for splashing, swimming, enjoying a vacation moment.

farmette life-43.jpg

A mile or two down the shoreline, there is a pub -- Springers. The kind of place you'd like to find if you're hoping for a cold draft beer. With a few tables at the shorefront. Perfect.

farmette life-57.jpg

After, it's just a matter of finding your way home, past fields and farms, pasture and cattle.

farmette life-66.jpg

We pass a small road that I remember so well! We turn into it. Yes, this is where we came on our very first date in 2005. Ed showed me then where the river flowed into the lake, where the birds settled at the end of the day. Yes, it was right here...

farmette life-70.jpg

Today, Ed has a more leisurely approach to things.

farmette life-73.jpg

Field Table

Fifteen years ago, I formed an organization that I called Field to Table. In those days, it was not especially trendy nor popular to pay attention to the farming of foods that we eat. Yes, there were restaurants that cared about food sources. Yes, there were popular farmers markets. But they were niche entities. I thought then that it would be cool to take Americans to France, where the attention to food sourcing was moving at a faster pace.  I took two groups of travelers, but I chickened out soon after. I didn't think I could take this on at a time that my kids still needed me at home.

That's a very long winded way of saying that when a new restaurant opened in Madison, calling itself Field Table, I was intrigued.

Still, Ed and I rarely try new places. I like to cook. We rarely go out for dinner.

Tonight, on our vacation night, we do go out. Field Table it is. Lovely drinks, delicious food.

farmette life-2.jpg

The motorbike ride home is heavenly. The air is sweet, exactly warm enough, the breeze -- just right.

The vacation of vacations. Or at least -- the vacation of 2016. Beautiful and complete.

Monday, July 25, 2016


A bright summer day. That description really fits the bill. The sky is blue, the colors are intense. The bugs retreated for a while, the humidity dipped -- all this and flowers too!

 farmette life-7.jpg

(Unusual: a double lily!)

farmette life-5.jpg

(The bed that almost never appears on Ocean: the one lining the driveway.)

farmette life-13.jpg

(A look toward the sheep shed, with that intense look of midsummer.)

farmette life-10.jpg

(Last year's new bed, getting a lot of traction here on Ocean, because I'm watching closely its beautiful development.)

farmette life-11.jpg

Breakfast. Wonderful in every way.

farmette life-2.jpg

It's Monday and Snowdrop spends a full day at the farmhouse. Or, rather, at the farmette. Once she arrives, there's no keeping her indoors. Not for long, anyway. When I ask her -- want to pick blueberries? -- she torpedoes herself to the door, pushing mightily on the handle to let us out.

(Here she is, munching from the cup which itself has blueberries on it.)

farmette life-25.jpg

farmette life-26.jpg

We go to the tomato patch. She's familiar with it and she is excited by the fact that we can finally pick a tomato for her to taste. (Wouldn't you love a sun warmed small tomato right off the bush?)

farmette life-41.jpg

Yes, there are a few minutes indoors. For those favorite upside down swings with ah-ah-eh (that would be grandpa Ed)...

farmette life-54.jpg

... and always, always, a few precious moments with books, and with penguin, and with a book read to penguin...

farmette life-61.jpg

But when I ask her if she would help me water the pots outside, she's right on it!

(Even though it's not an easy watering can to handle.)

farmette life-73.jpg

(I need more water, grandma!)

farmette life-78.jpg

And suddenly, I am reminded of something. I do not pretend to do things here that follow in the noble path of the Impressionist painters. But looking over the photos from today, I have to smile at the similarities.

farmette life-82.jpg

(Isn't it just a tiny bit in line with Monet's "Garden at Vetheuil?")

And this one:

farmette life-80.jpg

Didn't it for a minute recall for you another impression, this one by Renoir?

It's not that I have here, at the farmette, anything that is special, or unusual, or worthy of a canvas. The greater truth is that we all do this stuff: we grow flowers and delight in seeing our toddler lift up a watering can, and yes, great artists have painted it and us lesser beings simply live it -- the canvases of life's happiest moments.

So yes, terrible things take place daily. But those of us lucky enough to escape the horror, we almost have a duty to recognize our brilliant everyday. The flowers. The child with the watering can. The smiles that are around us, even in trying times.

farmette life-17-2.jpg

I do. You do too, I know that. And I am delighted and grateful for your comments that tell me so.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


On this very hot and muggy day, something pushed Ed and me to do the unpleasant, the unthinkable, the totally wrong for the day job of farmette maintenance.

Rototilling the courtyard. Clipping dozens and dozens of spent lily blooms.Weeding the out of control strawberry patch. (Let's call it the former strawberry patch, because I have to reimagine that space next year; all those berry plants simply support the tastes and habits of the groundhogs and chipmunks. No more! Next year, there'll be flowers. Of the kind that appeal to no animal that passes through this way. Divided day lilies come to mind.)

More: after a rather toasty breakfast (did I mention it's a hot day?)...

farmette life-12.jpg

(with a cool view toward the side beds...)

farmette life-13.jpg

... Ed turns all soft and amenable to doing things I've wanted to do for a long time now: trim some of the big limbs from ancient old trees that are overhanging the large flower bed. He takes out his power saw and we get to work.

By now we're completely drenched. I've chased off scores of insects and still we continue. But at the grape trellis, we finally slow down. Our vines are nearly ruined by an invasion of beetles. Ed's discouraged. I vow to come back and work here on a cooler day, though I doubt we'll have a spectacular grape harvest. For now, we do some mild weeding and, too, some mowing around the new roadside flower bed and then we turn to the wonderful, blissful, without doubt most heavenly of  all possible diversions -- we take turns standing under a cold shower to wipe away the grime, sweat, and slapped down bugs. Sublime.

So the garden looks pretty okay again. Let me post a few photos. The entirety, that's so important to me:

farmette life-19.jpg

farmette life-16.jpg

And today, I'll break out of my general reluctance to make art out of individual blooms. Macro photography (super closeups of individual flowers) is not really my favorite thing, but right now, the most spectacular lilies are in their final chorus and somehow I feel compelled to make an exception -- to recognize their infinite beauty, down to the very last vein. Here are three close ups, just because I want to remember this moment in their brief performance.

farmette life-8.jpg

farmette life-6.jpg

And one more, with just a little distance:

farmette life-15.jpg

And now I really will expect no more grandness from the flower fields. I'll be satisfied to watch it do the gentle retreat.

Even as today, there is no indication of a retreat.

farmette life-21.jpg

Late afternoon. It's still hot. This is the time where I love sitting behind Ed on his motorcycle. We take it over to the nearby corn farm, where the earnest family of farmers has just finished picking a batch of bi-colored corn. And I think  -- we're so very fortunate.  Corn that will be cooked minutes after picking. Inexpensive, delicious. Remarkably delicious. Just ask Snowdrop.

And speaking of the little one, in the evening the young family is here for dinner. They vote for a meal indoors. Who can blame them? The humidity is so high that each time I step out with my camera, the lens fogs over.

Snowdrop is very happy to have her daddy home again (he'd been away for a few days).

farmette life-3.jpg

She's also pleased to eat her share of predinner snacks -- carrots and roasted beets for her.

farmette life-4.jpg

And she is delighted that ah ah eh is willing to play with her the game of "toss the stuffies."

farmette life-10-2.jpg

We eat. Yes, corn is on our plates, to Snowdrop's delight.

farmette life-11-2.jpg

An after dinner walk...

farmette life-22.jpg

End of a weekend. I'm already looking ahead to the week before us. That is, of course, tomorrow's story. A good story, I hope: for you, for all of us.