Wednesday, November 25, 2015

scattered thoughts on the last Wednesday of November

Morning at the farmette.

farmette life-1.jpg

Sunrise. Cheepers are out!

farmette life-3.jpg

This is the time to indulge in the colors of November.

farmette life-5.jpg

farmette life-6.jpg

Back at the farmhouse. I take out my computer and mull over the morning stories.

A commenter noted how she did not like the word blog. In reading this I realized right away that this one seemingly insignificant detail -- the word "blog" -- has been irking me too, in all the years that I have been keeping a (hold my nose in disdain) blog. When I travel and people ask me about my various postings, I never admit to "blogging." Not only is the letter configuration unlovely, but the associations are (in my mind) also unpleasant. Blog conjures up (for me) a writing style that blurts out onto the pages of the Internet strong statements, for impact value.

You'll argue that there are blogs that have nothing to do with opinion or with the harsher realities of life. There are food blogs, photography blogs, travel blogs -- doesn't Ocean share at least some of those same pleasant intentions?

Perhaps. Even so, the word seems somehow offputting. Requiring an apology. I blog. I'm sorry. Writing a column for your local daily or weekly doesn't have such connotations. Can I just say "I write, using photos as illustrations?"


After breakfast, Ed wants me to watch with him a youtube video. Oftentimes, he'll have picked something that is up my ally. Perhaps a piece with some amusement value.

This time it is a perfectly serious instructional clip showing how you can take a "lightly soiled" diaper and mix its contents along with potting soil to make an excellent planting mixture. Interested? He asks. I shake my head. Clever, but the dead of winter is not the time to get me excited about repotting all my home plants.


We have had a running theme these past few weeks -- about the concept of relativity. Appropriate, given that I believe we're just at an anniversary of the publication of Einstein's work on the topic. But our discussions are less about the spacetime concepts and more about the ideas of good and the not so good.

Take geese, for example -- a nightmare for Madisonians, but perhaps splendid from a naturalist's perspective.  We have a lot of geese in this town and I thought tonight how, despite my distaste for all that they bring to our community (to take the diaper discussion one step further -- we have an abundance of geese droppings on walkways and bike trails around town), on a November evening, the flight of these birds toward the wetlands just east of the city is quite magnificent.

Ed and I are taking a (somewhat muddy) walk along what not too long ago were ski trails and we watch the geese take flight and really, much as I wrinkle my nose at the mere mention of the great Canadian bird, it is a lovely sight.

farmette life-33.jpg


Here are two things that are indeed good, in fact without doubt -- great: first (chronologically, not in order of importance) -- our early morning breakfast.

farmette life-7.jpg

And secondly -- a surprise text from my younger girl. She tells me that she and her husband have enough time to detour (on their long drive to Chicago) for a meal in Madison and could I possibly join them? Could I!

farmette life-12.jpg

(For dessert we split our favorite peanut butter cookie.)

farmette life-16.jpg

It's drizzling right now and tomorrow offers more of the same November wetness, but the air will smell of leaves and mushrooms and the car will get a good rinse and the cheepers will appreciate the disappearance of the last snow and I'll be able to shed my jacket and, like today, step outside (for a few minutes anyway) with just a sweater on.

farmette life-18.jpg

All relative, Ed would say. All relative.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Tuesday

You can, of course, declare any meal, or label any day of the calendar "Thanksgiving" and it will count. It is nowhere written that living the spirit of this holiday must be felt on the fourth Thursday of the next to last month of the year.

I can, therefore, call this my "Thanksgiving with Snowdrop" day. Not only is she with me for all her waking hours, but, too, it's the last time I'll be playing with her until the end of the weekend and so I shall think of it as my own turkey and Snowdrop celebration.

Not that I'm roasting a turkey for supper. Thankfulness doesn't require having a stuffed bird in the oven.

The day starts as it always does -- with me releasing the cheepers at some very early hour (and thanks to one of Ocean's longest readers, I have the proper wrist warmers for the task. In fact, I think I create the perfect image of a farm frau -- walking to care for her chickens in the man's ten sizes too large overcoat, so well suited for a walk to the barn, clogs on bare feet, woolly wraps around my bare hands. All you need now is a photo of the chickens (who are so cold that they do their funny foot to foot stomp).

farmette life-2.jpg

After tending to their needs, I hop over to the sheep shed to feed the very very aged Isie boy and finally I walk back to the farmhouse which, I think, looks properly ready for the winter holidays (icicles, sled and all).

farmette life-1.jpg

Breakfast in the sun room (wake up, Ed! I need to get going!).

farmette life-4.jpg

And then I'm with Snowdrop, just minutes before she herself wakes up.

Not too many words for you here -- I haven't time for lengthy writing today. A few photos, yes, of course. My own grandmotherly Thanksgiving photos.

What now, grandma?

farmette life-33.jpg

Lap bouncing's fine!

farmette life-14.jpg

I'm concentrating here!

farmette life-28.jpg

A dance and a hug? Okay! I like to watch the little light flash on the camera before it clicks! All by itself! Amazing!

farmette life-39.jpg

More serious play...

farmette life-42.jpg

Which can be exhausting! Familiar Snowdrop thumb suck follows.

farmette life-48.jpg

But it's always short lived. Life offers too many opportunities for lighthearted romps!

farmette life-60.jpg

I'm so very thankful for all this. Every day I think about the wonderful moments that flow my way. A call from a daughter, a message from the other, a day with Snowdrop.

But let's put some trimmings and trappings of the holiday onto this day. Snowdrop, how about some turkey and root vegetable mush for lunch? You first turkey -- yum!

farmette life-6-2.jpg

After a big turkey meal, a walk is highly recommended. It's above freezing, but just barely so.

Going out in winter sure is complicated! 

farmette life-1-2.jpg

Off we go!

farmette life-19.jpg

Look, Snowdrop! The lake is starting to freeze!

farmette life-30.jpg

And now the afternoon light fades. We hurry over to the farmhouse for that one last sled ride before the snow melts in the days ahead!

Is she happy in her little blue snow rocket? Well, the protest is loud and persistent until I hand her the bread we are to feed to the cheepers.

farmette life-14-3.jpg

The then mood changes. Cheepers! Now that's fun!

farmette life-12-3.jpg

Grandpa Ed can't resist joining in on the fun.

farmette life-10.jpg

Back in the farmhouse, it's the same -- he tries to find instructions on the Internet on how to fix my headlight, but Snowdrop thinks hanging out with him is just the bees knees.

farmette life-1-4.jpg

Next time I look up, they're figuring out the headlight problem together.

farmette life-6-5.jpg

She eats...

farmette life-2-4.jpg

She naps, she plays. And then it's time for her to go home.

Thank you for your superb enthusiasm, Snowdrop! I'm so grateful for all that you bring to the table.

Here, she's telling all of us -- do have yourself a very happy Thanksgiving week! With love.

farmette life-8-2.jpg

Monday, November 23, 2015

good routines

So much of what I do each day is just a repeat of what I did the previous day. Getting up to open the coop, preparing breakfast and later -- dinner. Caring for Snowdrop. Sipping tea in the afternoon. Eating squares of chocolate in the evening. I mean, you're yawning, right?

Oh, but I love it all so much! And I look forward to the next set of minutes and the one after. Is it because I'm so often away that I remain so excited about, say, a regular old Monday?

On this regular old Monday, I am up with the sun, which is always a grand way to begin the day.

farmette life-1.jpg

And we have breakfast in the sun room...

farmette life-7.jpg

And then Snowdrop arrives (because it is Monday).

farmette life-12.jpg

Just a few morning photos with her: reading her favorite farmhouse book...

farmette life-15.jpg

Dancing (yes we are, even though it may not seem like it!)...

farmette life-18.jpg

Exploring her environment for the nth time, but of course, each time everything is a little different...

farmette life-19.jpg

When the sun is at its highest, I suggest a run on the sled. She's not to keen on the idea. I can almost hear her saying it -- why can't we just play in the farmhouse? And me answering: because it's beautiful outside and you can glide over the snow and maybe we can even build a snowman!

We do glide and though I'm sure you're laughing at this small imitation of a snowman, well, you have to start somewhere!

farmette life-24.jpg

But all the while, I can hear it in her babbles -- can we go home now? Can we?

And I wonder about why she wouldn't instantly fall in love with sledding and of course, it's not too hard to guess that the novelty of it all is a bit overwhelming. This girl is so tall and toddler-like in so many of her behaviors that one forgets she is just ten and a half months old. Sledding has not been part of our routine. But it will be!

I remember how eating elicited once a big grimace. And now:

farmette life-13-2.jpg

Too, surely grandpa Ed  took some getting used to. (That was a while back!)

farmette life-1-2.jpg

So in the afternoon, we try again with the sled and the snowman and we'll try many times in the months ahead. Coveted routines are ones you learn to love. Over time.

farmette life-4-2.jpg

(What brings out the smile is a visit with the cheepers, who leave the shelter of the barn for a few paces, enjoying the sunshine, the cleared path and a few bits of stale bread.)

farmette life-6-3.jpg

And of course, if you venture out into the strange (one hopes one day thrilling) world of sledding, the return home to the farmhouse is that much sweeter.

farmette life-1-4.jpg

Grand routines, lovely days. Such really lovely days.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

quiet Sunday

As I wake up at my usual early hour, I think - might there be a pretty sunrise over the snow-covered fields? Should I be up for it? I glance outside. Misty skies at the horizon. Not likely to let the sun do a splashy, colorful entrance. And there isn't a reason to open the coop this early. Will the cheepers even bother leaving the coop, given that it will not get above freezing today and snow has blown in through the barn door?

Still, it's a pretty morning. I'm up and out, taking in the brisk and cold morning.

As I lift the lid to the coop's roost, I see that the cheepers are feeling a bit like shut ins.

farmette life-3.jpg

They take the leap and quickly retreat into the depths of the barn where, in fact, there is no snow. We're off to a good start.

I go back to the farmhouse and retreat under the quilt. Ed is still snoring. I luxuriate in keeping warm, in not rushing, in dozing, reading, not really caring about time. The consequence of this is that the farmhouse cleaning is off to a very late start. Indeed, I'm not done with it until after the noon hour, but it doesn't matter.

Breakfast  (or is it lunch?) is especially sunny and delicious. The coffee I drink is magnificent (or at least I deem it so). The week ahead is easy and full of opportunity.

farmette life-7.jpg

Opportunity to do what? Well, after Tuesday, I'll have many days to write. And to revel in how good it is to sit back and sip that coffee and how these quiet times of merely lifting a cup or glass up for a leisurely sip (tea if it's the afternoon, wine in the evening) is such a pleasure because it allows for reflection and a moment of peaceful contentment. 

Which brings me to the topic of Thanksgiving -- a topic that right now has everyone talking. And so I was not surprised to hear a discussion of the pleasures and travails of the Thursday meal on the radio just a day or two ago. The NPR guests (I hadn't paid attention to who they were and it hardly matters) uniformly agreed that they had very mixed feelings about their own family reunions over that holiday meal. They all thought that there was, this year, much to argue about, since world events, plus our own presidential elections have encouraged great polarization and created schisms among family members who, in the best of times, found it difficult to get along.

And this made me wonder: are happy family gatherings really on the decline? Because I always believed that most people anticipated with pleasure these festive family meals, even if there was the proverbial grumpy uncle or difficult to please cousin to contend with. Is it the case that where Congress goes, so goes the American family? That it is increasingly difficult to find peace and compromise, because, what with the various ways in which people can express themselves, that loudness of opinion carries forward to the dinner table, making life miserable for most gathered together for the grandest of grand meals?

Me, I love family gatherings (even if this year Ed and I are on our own on Thanksgiving... but there's Christmas!) and fussing over a meal is, in my view, a grand way to share space with a mix of generations and personalities. But maybe those who feel great anticipation are fewer in number? Reassure me that this is not so!

In the late afternoon, Ed and I are back on the Brooklyn segment of the Ice Age Trail. What a difference a snowfall makes!

farmette life-12.jpg

I did forget that this week initiated the deer hunting season. Neither he nor I are wearing blaze orange and when we find pools of blood on the trail, we know that we may be just a little too incautious. We come across a pair of deer hunters and I ask them if we should turn back, what with our somber-colored clothing. They assure us that they will not shoot us. We trudge on.

farmette life-17.jpg

It's incredible how fast the sun goes down once it decides to move toward the horizon. We had started with clear blue skies and lovely afternoon dapples of light on the trail...

farmette life-26.jpg

... but very quickly, the sun retreated to a lower point.

farmette life-30.jpg

Another hunter! This time we come face to face with a bit of a lost soul trying to figure out what's public hunting grounds and what's private land. Just don't shoot at us -- I tell him.

farmette life-35.jpg

We reach a look-out point and now I know we must hurry back. The moon is lovely, the air is still. It was freezing all day, but it's especially cold now that the sun's warmth has retreated for the day.

farmette life-39.jpg

Just one selfie...

farmette life-42.jpg

A look out on the wintry farmland...

farmette life-52.jpg

The sun is so low now...

farmette life-62.jpg

And then it's gone. Just as we reach the parking space where we left the car.

farmette life-64.jpg

The drive home is in the November dusk. We pass deer. I want to tell them -- you're the lucky ones. You escaped the hunters.

farmette life-70.jpg

Lucky. Me too. So lucky to have days like these. So very lucky.