Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday's schedule

Yesterday, as I drove back to the campground, I thought about the Fall this year: we were ready for it and then it seemed so tentative. At times humid, at times wet, always buggy, with tempting days of brisk sunshine that never quite stayed around long enough.

But of course, right now it is splendid! And we surely are well positioned to admire the colors from where we parked for the night.

(Driving along the Wisconsin River)

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(The final stretch of road to the place where we pitched our tent)

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(The bluffs, at the close of the day)

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(Our tent, at sunset)

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(The last rays)

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There are somewhere between 30 and 50 trail building volunteers for a supper of tacos (beans for people like me who run away from ground meat), but most hover near the barn. A hardy few eventually follow us to the campfire.

(This photo is a selfie, on a time release)

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I tell Ed that campfires will always remind me of Poland. We had them all the time: young kids, gathering branches, building a hot blaze that would turn to embers and blacken potatoes we'd stick in the hottest places. There would almost always be singing. With guitar, often my own. Lots of singing.

Of course, we don't sing on this night. Many of the volunteers are tracking some ball games and the rest of just watch the flames dance. I add logs to warm a larger space, though on a chilly night like tonight, your back will always stay cold.

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By 9 we are ready to call it quits.

Ed and I fall asleep to the loud noise of coyotees. Packs came close, then retreat, always making a racket, barking, howling, acting like wild kids out to make trouble.

And in the morning, we wake to frost.

You don't really get cold if you have a good sleeping bag, but I went for comfort and brought my lumpy fat pillow and so I kept my head outside the bag. Every time I switched positions, I'd hit a cold spot on the pillow and my face would cringe.

All the more reason not to want to get up and get going. Indeed, we don't rouse ourselves until after 8 -- by which time the volunteers are off and away, building the trail.

Not us. Both Ed and I have full days today and there is no time for outdoor work.

But there is time to admire the bluffs in the morning light.

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And then, we take the ferry back, find a good coffee shop in Waunakee (a town to the north of Madison that boasts: "we are the only Waunakee in the world!") and have a very lovely working breakfast.

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And then Ed goes to his tech meetings and I plunge into the craziness of this day which includes a wonderful session of physical therapy to give me some hints on how to keep my lower back from bugging me when I stand (!), and it includes grocery shopping for a weekend of visitors (my younger daughter and her husband will be with us until Sunday!), and it includes getting a haircut (because I'm going to Poland next week and I cannot be seen by my friends in my most ragged state), and it includes meeting up with Snowdrop's other grandma and walking with her to pick up the little one at school -- a routine that she will be following by herself all next week.

So you get a few photos of Snowdrop, who is, of course, delighted to see the both of us at school.

(You see? I walk down all by myself!)

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(And I like to push the cart, like this!)

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I linger at Snowdrop's home. She takes off shoes, puts them up and away...

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She runs, she pretends, she plays...

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... but I do not stay long.

I'll be seeing the sweet girl later in the weekend.

I should mention that the day included a rather nervous return to the farmette. We had taken a chance with the cheepers. Most of them go to sleep on the light tree branches -- safe from most harms that can befall them. But Java is a coop girl and almost always falls asleep there, before Ed puts the other girls away with her and locks the door.

Before our night away, we toyed with the idea of closing the coop with no one in it, forcing Java to fall asleep with the other girls, but in the end, we wanted to keep the roost open and available in our absence. Not that the hens are laying much these days, but closing up their home would be confusing. We left it open. We rarely see predators and we hoped that this, too, would be a clam night.

It was and when I came home with groceries, all girls ran out to see me. I was very relieved!

Evening. Ed and I are just now coming together in the warm farmhouse. I had seen my daughter for a drink, he had seen a friend for lunch. We exchange stories. I prepare supper and remind him to lock up the cheepers.

He goes out and comes back within a brief few minutes.

We have a situation, he tells me with a bit of a grin.

This is something that I love about him so much: nothing ever fazes him.
I turn off the pot that's set for cooking tonight's veggies. What happened?
Well, as I got to the coop, I saw that two hens were in the tree, two hens were upstairs in the coop and downstairs, a possum was eating their feed.

Now, this could be terrifying. Possums eat chickens. At the very least they eat their eggs, but when things get tough, they'll go after anything.

We make a peanut butter sandwich and Ed places it in a trap, just outside the coop. A half hour later, the possum is caught and released at a distance, and the cheepers are in the coop.

All is right with this corner of the world. And that's such a good thing.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I write this in the late afternoon, over a cup of coffee here, at the Blue Spoon in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.

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This is maybe the hundredth (maybe thousandth!) coffee shop that I have visited purely for the benefit of WiFi. And for as good a cup of coffee as can be had (which in this case is not bad at all) away from home.

Ed and I are indeed away from home, though a person who is clever about Wisconsin geography may say -- pshaw! that's maybe an hour and a half from where you live! If it's not home, then certainly it's your backyard, so to speak.

It's true. We are not far from home.

I would say we are celebrating, Ed would say we are merely doing what we love to do every now and then. We would both be correct.

Ed's birthday is today, though he never ever wants to do anything at all about it. Unfortunately, he is stuck with a coincidence: October 20th also marks the beginning of our being in some important fashion together. Eleven years ago, he and I understood that however different we are, there is a fundamental something that draws us to each other. It was obvious from the get go and we have stuck it out now for eleven years, mostly ignoring all the ways in which people may think we are mismatched.

So despite his distaste for celebration, he is forced to celebrate, because I do and, well, he's usually not too far from where I am.

Today is also notable for the confluence of several other unusual events: first, you already know that Snowdrop is visiting with her other grandparents and so I have no time with her at all.

I can focus on you, Ed! (said with a wicked smile)
Alright, gorgeous... (said with apprehension.)

Secondly, it is also the first day of a big effort to build a new segment of the Ice Age Trail. Perhaps you remember that Ed and I love hiking this trail which meanders through most of Wisconsin and that we usually devote at least one day each year to volunteering on trail work. (So that would mean we will have worked at least eleven times on the trail together.) This particular segment isn't too far from us, which suits me just fine as I am these days a reluctant driver and an even more reluctant car passenger.

Finally, the weather: it's crispy autumnal and promises no rain.

I suppose some would call the forecast unfriendly in that it warns of frost tonight. And did I tell you? Ed and I plan on camping with the volunteers on the trail.

But we've camped in frost before and honestly, a good sleeping bag makes the experience rather wonderful.

And so immediately after breakfast... (Happy birthday, Ed! Alright gorgeous...)

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... Ed and I take off.

We head north, crossing the Wisconsin River on the Merrimac Ferry on a blustery and gray skied morning.

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We pitch our tent in the prairie...

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... and join the others who of course have been at it since dawn.

The views here a grand! During the entire work day, we face the bluffs -- the same ones that rise over Devil's Lake and the play of light on the fall colors is just sublime.

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(Lunch break)

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(The clouds begin to break up now)

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(Selfie time! Alright gorgeous...)

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(An increasingly blue sky)

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(Working the pick against stubborn roots)

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(The beauty of fall...)

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I do stop earlier than the rest -- just so that I can drive down to Prairie du Sac -- eleven miles from where we are working.

(It's a pretty drive)

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Will we stick it out tonight? The food wont be good, the night will be cold. Will we pack up and return home by the light of the moon?

That's for tomorrow's post. Right now I'm heading back to the trail. Eleven miles, eleven years, or sixty-six, depending on who is counting what.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Every once in a while, I really do love being up early enough to catch the sunrise. Today is certainly such a day. The stunning colors last only a minute or two, but oh, what a minute it is!

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Very quickly, the clouds take over. Ed and I eat breakfast in the front room...

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... and you could say the cheepers join us, because they make a rare trip to the front yard, sensing our presence, wanting to be close. (Here they are -- just below the windows.)

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But after this meal, the day is a blur. I have my last long day with Snowdrop, so this, of course, fills most of the hours. (I'm not traveling until next Monday, but she has a bunch of other grandparent visits before her, so that I'll be retreating for a bit.)

Because I wont have her under my guard again until November, you'll see a lot of her here today. I know that there is such a thing as too many photos of a grandchild. But cut me some slack today!

As I lead her out the school door, she really lets me know that she wants to go for a walk and though I know she is tired, I give in  -- though it does mean that I end up hoisting her on my hip for a good chunk of our time out. Here, she is still happy to be tromping along...

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Enjoying the leaves, the still plentiful flowers...

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And of course, the pumpkins. She spots them instantly! Papkins! -- she tells me excitedly as I try to think of a reason why we should ignore them and move on.

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They're big. Snowdrop has a solution: gaga help pick up!

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Time for distraction.

Little one, can I interest you in an oatmeal raisin cookie at the coffee shop? 

We walk on.
Inside, she points to the pain au chocolat. That one!
Oh, the croissant?
Okay! Kwason!

We eat it outside, toward the front of the cafe, but she knows that there is a playground in the back.

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I don't think she quite has the stamina for it. We walk back to the car and drive to the farmette.

When she first comes into the farmhouse, she almost always goes straight for the bike. She eyes it, touches it, tries to make the wheel turn. But she doesn't want to ride it.  The trikes at school -- she loves those! They don't wobble. This one not only wobbles but falls down. He gut tells her to proceed slowly.

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The rest of the day? Well, of course, she wants to go outside.

As I spin around the rural roads and rutted pathways, I notice how quickly we move into the season of the brown tones...

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Snowdrop wants to walk, but I wont let her do that until we move away from the road and into the farmer fields.

There, we review the remaining flowers..

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And as we reenter the farmette lands, we discover pine cones! Oh, do we have a good few minutes finding them underneath the tall white pines!

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The afternoon draws to a close. We go inside, I get her to try on a pair of winter boots... These are wonderful moments, though not particularly photo worthy...

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She plays with toy foods (new additions: shrimp! pizza! croissant!)...

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She pulls Ed out into a game of ball...

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(So happy to catch it!)

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And for a long time, she and ah-ah engage in a drawing frenzy.

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She's inspired!

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One last photo, just to show that both Ed and Snowdrop have that impulse to release their most inner tease:

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So this is it for now. I'll surely see Snowdrop in the days ahead, but far less than I see her now.

In the meantime, I have an unusual day tomorrow. I'll be here, though not really here. I'll find a moment to post, I know it! But I don't yet know how that could possibly happen, given that I plan to sleep under the stars...

But I am hopeful! Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The internet's down. I'll go down to the basement and reset the router. I'm trying to not always ask Ed to fix things.

I pick up the black box that we perch on top of the water heater. What's the darn piece of plastic stuck to it? Or is it something else? It's a snake skin! A snake skin??? We have big fat snakes in the basement??


He comes down to confirm my worst suspicion. I just rebooted the machine a few weeks ago so this is pretty recent.
A snake has passed this way fairly recently??
On the upside, they eat mice...

There is always an upside.

It's a brilliant day today.

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It's getting cool, but not so cool that we can't eat breakfast on the porch.

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And when I pick up Snowdrop after school, there isn't a doubt that we should spend at least a little time outdoors. The sun is strong, the leaves are gorgeous!

I take a different route today and we pass a house where some enterprising kid is selling pumpkins out on the front lawn (with a can nailed to the porch steps to collect cash when, as now, no one is there). Snowdrop had already been to a big pumpkin patch with her parents over the weekend, but she does love those pumpkins, so why not bring another one home?

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This then will give us Part I of our fall colors on Ocean: Snowdrop among the pumpkins.

(Let's buy the very smallest one, Snowdrop. This one! It's only $1.)

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(I appreciate your love of the bigger ones, but I don't think that one will fit in the stroller.)

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(Oh dear. I do not have a single dollar bill. Let's go to the coffee shop where I can get some change! And yes, I'll get us an oatmeal raisin cookie.)

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(Ready to go? We have to find the house with the pumpkins again so that I can leave my dollar.)

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(She likes the pumpkins, but she also likes the leaves!)

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(Are you sure we can't manage to haul these home, gaga?)

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(Fine! I love my little one! Warts and all!)

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(It fits perfectly in the toy stroller!)

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Part II of fall colors? Well, it happened after my time with the little girl. Ed had taken a kayak out on a river that I had absolutely no interest in navigating. And so I had timeto kill before I needed to go home and start in on dinner.

I go to the Arboretum.

The light is so beautiful now, toward evening! Sure, the fall colors aren't at 100% (a website rates them at 75%). But for me, they are sublime!

Here we go, fall colors Part II:

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(The wild turkeys again...)

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(So pretty!)

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(And ruby red!)

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Was it a grand day? Yes! -- snake skin notwithstanding.