Saturday, April 14, 2012


Three down, thirteen to go.

We’re at Paul’s café, stiffening into the comfortable couches. I am so appreciative of this place! For Paul and his fiancé, everyone’s special, everyone deserves a unique greeting, a send off, too. Everyone. Settle in... listen to the chatter... 

We may never get up and out of here. We’re that comfortable. And that tired.

The box of trees came this morning. Perfect timing, terrible timing. Ed hasn’t done his taxes, the weather is iffy tomorrow – all that.

DSC06268 - Version 2

On the other hand, there is this day and this day is a brilliant one, with a warmth to it that allows us to eat breakfast once again on the porch...

DSC06269 - Version 2

Breakfast with idle chatter.

Nina, why did you plant a flower so that we can’t open the porch door without knocking it down?
Because last year, when I did the planting here, there was no door to a porch. Not even much of a porch either.

How time has rearranged things for us! Several years ago, when I made occasional day trips to the farmette – these were years when Ed dutifully commuted to Madison to stay with me there – I had a half-assed approach to the land here. I liked it, I was overwhelmed by it. It seemed out of control, beyond his, mine, our capacities. And yet, I was tempted by it. Drawn by spaces that would profit by an interference. I scattered plants here and there, for impact value. I never thought I’d be here, that I would need a plan.


Of course, now I am here and our ambitions have grown. A flower bed to the north, to the west. A vegetable bed further out. And now, the biggest project of all – the tree garden.

We could not quite clear the land in time. Ed burned off some of the cut down timber, but most still remains there, along with rotten boards from a torn down shed and who knows what else. Our local fire department stopped issuing burn permits the day after Ed did his first bonfire. We’re stuck waiting until the rains provide some needed moisture.

Still, it’s an orchard, darn it, not a flower bed. We can do this! We can!

Ed takes out his ancient John Deere and hacks down most of the tall grasses and prairie growth.


We spot dig – places where the trees will go. Thirteen trees and, in a burst of optimism (it’s not the perfect soil for this), three blueberries. If they thrive, we’ll add more.

DSC06296 - Version 2

Each tree is carefully chosen – honeycrisp apples (three of them – they’re our favorites), moonglow pears, Anjou pears, and four separate varieties of sweet cherries – ones which can withstand our winters and our hugely imperfect soils.

Soils with boulders. Which I strain to dig up.


We’ve got awful clay here, the worst stuff for cherries, for pears too. I remember planting at my grandparents’ house in the village in Poland. So sandy that the water ran away when you poured from the watering can. [No hoses there, no running water – just a pond down the hill and yes, you had to go down, to fetch that pail (after pail after pail) of water...]

I’ve grown used to clay. In the suburban home where I grew perennials for years and years, the soil was perhaps even worse: compacted clay. Hard as concrete on dry days.

But what with the quack grass and the thick clay, digging at the farmette is painful.

We start off rather discouraged, but as I take to the digging routine, I grow more at ease with the prospects. And when our first tree goes in, I insist on a commemorative photo. It is, for me, a proud moment.

DSC06302 - Version 2

We have several such proud moments as we finish planting the apples. Three of them.

But tell me, when are we going to put in the rest?

At home, I rub some cream into my roughened hands. I purchased it at the market in Gargnano from the bee lady. A jar that caused me problems at the final airport security screening in Minneapolis.
It’s not a liquid, it’s congealed cream! Stiff as butter!
It’s a liquid. And it’s more than an ounce.
I didn’t think it was disallowed. In fact, neither the Milan or the Amsterdam airports had issues with it.
It’s a liquid. Is this your last security check?
Okay, but next time – know that it’s considered a liquid.

The cream is a little bit lumpy. Home-made, with bee propolis and lemon. I love it because it is so imperfect, so simple and just barely fragrant.

Okay. My hands feel better, my arms haven’t stiffened yet. One more tree maybe. Two more...


...each doused with a bucket of water hauled in from the farmhouse (the hose, even in its longest form, doesn't reach this far).


We end it at seven trees (though we had to redo one so my arms say eight). Six left, plus three blueberries. I wont be terribly upset if it rains tomorrow and we have to pause.

 I mean, we need time off, so that we can again listen to the bees.



  1. Your title says it all! Sounds like a lovely mix of fruits to enjoy in the many years to come. And I want to tell you how much I enjoy each day's photos of your yellow farmhouse surrounded by blooms!

  2. Nina, two years ago I got a wild idea and started digging up part of my dead lawn to make an area for a patio. That lead to a total yard re-do; new lawn, painted perimeter wall, three 20 ft. palm trees dug up and removed, patio, raised flower bed retaining walls, sprinklers, etc. I guess what I'm saying is that I feel for you after your day of work! Never been as fit as after a long stretch of heavy gardening :)


I welcome comments, but I will not publish submissions that insult or demean, or that are posted anonymously. I am sorry to lose commenting Ocean friends who are not registered, but I want to encourage readers to submit remarks only if they feel they can stand behind their words. I do not seek a free-for-all here. I like camaraderie far more than conflict.