Friday, May 27, 2011


The beginning of Memorial Day week-end. One of three – the others, of course, being Fourth of July (which isn’t technically a week-end, but so often feels that way anyway) and Labor Day – that are, in my mind, quintessentially American. In a good way.

And they wrap summer, snugly and securely: school ends after one, the grill is in full swing on the second, and school begins again after the third.

The best, the beginning of summer, is also the saddest of the pack. Celebrate, commemorate, remember, look forward.Ufff!


Sort of like life itself.


I branch out in my work beyond the space that abuts the farmhouse today. I attack the strips of land at the sides of the dirt driveway. In my mind, this stretch ought to be pretty. It’s the welcome sign: hey, glad you drove up! Instead, it has last fall’s dry leaves, long strands of crab grass and a heap of tarp covered dirt...
Ed, can we remove the heap of dirt? 
I may need it someday... 
Can we MOVE the heap of dirt? 
Where to? 
Anywhere, just not here!  
I’ll put it on my list.

There are exams to grade, a coffee to bike for, more weeds and crabgrass to pull out.


Memorial Day week-end. May you have a good one.

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I make one last trip to the condo today. To make sure all is clean and ready for the move-in of the new owner. I note that someone has been there in the last couple of days (I have my way of knowing). The door is locked after and so it would have had to have been someone with a key. Odd.

Not surprisingly, I run into another condo owner in the elevator. So, after downsizing, you’re upsizing? -- she asks. But I’m not! When I took out a new policy for my worldly belongings, the sum total was very small. I was happy to note that. The premium was small as well. You have nothing of value? The insurance agent asks. No, really, nothing at all. Even as, it’s true, I am living in a larger space now.

At noon I hand over a check for a million dollars (or some such large figure) to the Title Company. It’s odd to be selling property and not only not getting any cash for it, but having to pay someone to take it away from me.

So I’m done with the condo. A place that was to be forever, but lasted only not quite four years.

Will the farmhouse be forever? The way the realtor shook my hand, the flowers she gave me made me think that she’s looking ahead. You’ll be back, she might have been thinking. And I’ll be here waiting to show you the next set of properties.

She would be wrong to think that way.


Ed pays a visit to a neighbor – a woman who once owned much of the farmland around us. She lives across the road, just next to where these truck farmers now work the land.


She is old and knows more of the history of our farmhouse than anyone else here. Indeed, she grew up in it. Let’s see... she thinks back. There were the Lalors – farmers, but he also worked at a gas station on Park Street. He was killed in an explosion there. His wife died soon after. Then we moved in – bought it off the court house in 1946. Yes, I’d say the farmhouse was even then at least forty years old.

So that makes it more than 100 years old now? I ask.
Seems right.

When I’m “in town” I go to the various favorite grocers and stock up. I don’t come to Madison very often. I’m learning that it’s not hard to shop infrequently.

And now it’s the afternoon and I am peddling hard to get to our favorite (and closest) café before it closes.

Just me today, I tell the barista (who is so often assisted by his dad, just because) – Ed regrettably has a conflict. In fact, realizing that he can’t go to the café, he said this morning – damn. That’s my favorite part of the day. I wasn’t sure if I should feel pleased or insulted.

I find out that the barista’s dad has spent a good amount of time in Italy. And so we talk about Italy – about how best to describe and distinguish an Italian from, say, a Greek or a German.

And somehow, very quickly, we get to the theme of community. And it’s clear as anything to me that the best thing about coming to this café each day is that we now know the proprietors and they know us. And we recognize the flow of the place and watch the last customers come and go just before the place closes for the day.

It’s after 3. I pedal just a short distance and I am at the Fitchburg weekly Farmers’ Market. I know – weird to have a market on Thursdays, from 3 – 6. But it’s fitting, too. A place to go to after the afternoon espresso.


And what a surprise – my favorite bakers (La Baguette) on either side of the Mississippi have a stand here!


Familiar faces and familiar breads and baked goods – so important to make you feel like where you’re living is not just a village without a post office (see previous post; note, too, the farmette in the photo below -- it's where the distant clump of trees is).


In the evening, I stir-fry shrimp, peppers and asparagus. Lots of local asparagus. After, just as the sun sets, we go out and work in our set areas. Ed dumps woodchips around the fruit trees, I plant a hollyhock I’d bought at the market. What’s a 100 year old farmhouse without hollyhock at the side. Not too far from the lilac.

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