Thursday, July 31, 2014



He comes up after letting the cheepers out and tells me - it's a pretty sun out there.
So I should get up?
Not necessarily.

But I do get up. And I walk over to the fields farmed by truck farmers to the east of us. Their crops don't have the visual beauty of farmer Lee's fields when you drive by, but I see that if you follow the path into the depths of where they farm, you come across fields of flowers. So pretty against a misty sun, pushing up in the early morning!


What About Us?

It struck me that certain flowers in my beds are feeling insulted. I talk about the lilies. I talk about the peak season being July. I show off the flashy trumpets, the composites of color -- all good, all glorious, but I neglect the little guys who are just coming into their own now. So, let me give a nod to the late phlox, the nasturtiums, the cosmos.. they will stay with my 'til frost and I love them to death, I really do.




When I glance at my step counter, it displays a number so low that I don't think I could even call myself a couch-potato. Yes, I'd enjoyed a prolonged breakfast on the porch with Ed...


...But after, I just stayed there. As if no life existed beyond that little corner behind the screens.

That cannot be. My steps tallied to 1000 by afternoon. They should have been ten times that amount.

So I go for a walk/run -- to the beautiful park by Lake Waubesa. The place where we cross country ski nearly every day of winter.

What a difference a season makes!


A ground hog runs across my path. Scared, he scurries up a tree.


I think about Martha (our groundhog) back at the farmette: I haven't seen her lately. Animals come and go. Cammie, the feral cat hasn't been around. Martha has kept quiet. You never know why some show up, others do not.

The walk is splendid. The prairies  surely are at their best. Monet would have been out with his easel.


One of the many park paths runs close to Lake Waubesa. I catch a guy sitting at a picnic table, just looking out at the water. In the wintertime, we'd sometimes come across someone just sitting in their car at the lot, motor running, heat on, staring at nothing in particular. Perhaps relishing the quiet. During the summer, they can do this outdoors.


But unlike in the cold seasons, it's never really quiet in the forest or the prairie now. Birdsong. There is always birdsong.



We play tennis, we go to the market, I cook dinner. All good moments. Except... except, one of the hens is not well. I can tell. Her red crown droops. She isn't interested in treats. Her bottom sags. Ed doesn't buy it. She's fine... Denial.

I think about when my own girls are not well. When they were little, their issues were small. They didn't seem small, but they were that. I understand it now. Would a cold spoil the fun of Christmas or a birthday celebration? So small!

Looking at my (according to me) sick hen I wonder what goes through her head during these times. Probably a feverish desire not to feel sick. Hen, you share that with half of humanity out there! A feverish desire for it to be alright. If not forever, then for a long, long time.

I leave you with a day lily. Because for a few more minutes, it's still July --  it truly is their best month, when all is well, all is beautiful.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014


It's a good thing that sleep for the farmette residents can be spread over all portions of a day. Were we limited to the night hours, we would be in trouble.

Why? First, there are the habits of the farmette master himself: he works on his various machining projects at odd hours. If inspiration strikes at 9 p.m., that is when work for him begins.

And when he finally crawls into bed say at 2 at night, that sleep may not last long if our ever the nocturnal cat decides to cry at 3 second intervals beginning, say, at 4:30 a.m. We interpret that to mean he wants to go out for a romp across the yard. The farmette master and primary caretaker of said cat will stumble down to let him out and then will wait until the cat decides he's had enough -- usually ten minutes later. Cat inside, master upstairs, once again trying to sleep.

At around 5, the rooster will begin to crow. We don't mind. He's not very loud. Since sunrise now is at 5:47 in these parts, we don't immediately respond to the crow (besides, he doesn't stop crowing just because you let him out). Indeed, we're afraid of releasing the cheepers too early. Don't racoons cavort sometimes just before sunrise? So we wait until closer to 6.

Hold on - why do I write "we?" The responsibility for cheeper care has shifted to the farmette master -- that same guy who has a soft spot for the unpredictable rooster. And the routines have changed somewhat from the time when I did the job back in the spring months. Nowadays, the white hens perch on the fence at bedtime, and Scotch, the brown hen, goes in the coop, and the rooster rests somewhere on the pile of logs behind the coop, so that the night chore consists of shooing the hens off the fence and picking up the rooster and giving him a final sweet rub on the cheek and then making sure they are all inside the locked coop for the night. Only when Ed had the summer sniffles did I take over once again. Now that we're both well, he does the chicken care.

Well, that's how it mostly works. This morning, I felt sorry for him, what with the late night and the incessantly meowing cat and so as 6 a.m. approached, I said to him -- sleep on, dear man. I will do chicken duty this morning!


I go outside and.... what's this? The chickens are running toward me in a morning greeting that is sort of unreal. How is it that they're outside??

Ah! Someone forgot to do the evening chore of locking them up for the night! Only because members of our local animal kingdom (racoons and possums come to mind... I haven't heard the coyotes lately) chose to rest this night and not prowl around for food do we have chickens scampering about the farmette at all!

The cheepers do appear to be a tad disconcerted. As if that freedom wasn't so comfortable after all. As if the break with routine made them feel at loose ends, not knowing what's next, or what the day's agenda may be for them. Shortly after the morning greeting, they retreat under a bush and feign sleep. Or maybe they do sleep. A late night party requires some compensatory shut eye.

As if all this wasn't enough to set everyone in a tizzy, it is the day that two families of wild turkeys decided to march across the farmette land, right by the cheeper noses. When each party noticed the other, it appeared for a minute we would have a scene straight out of a Capulet-Montague confrontation. With dire consequences for some involved. But, I heard the squawking and threatening noises, and my presence caused the turkeys to retreat and the cheepers to settle back into their comfortable positions under the birch tree. Crisis averted.

The good part about having had a morning stroll is, of course, the loveliness of that garden walk then. Just a few photos -- I'm sure you think you've seen all blooms from all angles already. Not so! They're ever changing!


And now that August is almost upon us, they are going to recede. Our gardens peak in July.


On a calmer note, I must note that breakfast was back to the old paradigm again...


...and, too, today marks the last evening Concert on the Square (and if that isn't a mark of a summer in retreat, I don't know what is!) and my daughter and I attend (along with 35,000 others). We eat supper on a spread out blanket...


...and look up at a Capitol awash with lights...


...and after, I return to the farmette and the cheepers are put away already and (I hope) all's right with the world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

a quiet Monday

You'll say -- how is that different from the other days? They all seem quiet!

Well now, I suppose that's right. How often do I step out of this farmette and rub shoulders with the wider world?

Ah, but I travel -- I'll answer. And when I return, home again, "quiet" is a very desirable entity. It's as if I need it to digest everything.

Today I did not step out much. I dutifully rode the bike to the library...

(past harvested wheat) return old stuff and take out new stuff, and my stepper applauded me for my efforts, but aside from this, I stayed put.

I could end the post right now, because if I stayed put, is there more to add?

Yes. No day is the same. So for example, for the first time in a long while, Ed and I did not eat breakfast together. It was one of those moments where he almost forgot a meeting at work and when he did remember, it was impossible to imagine that we could fit in a morning meal. This was his breakfast:


And this was mine (much later):


Otherwise, let me fill your space with flowers, okay? So, this batch is for you.

(toward the sheep shed)

(north of the farmhouse)

(west of the farmhouse)

Monday, July 28, 2014


In my mind, the transition from July to August should mark mid-summer. These are the two warm months of the year -- split them down the middle and you have the first half of summer, then the second half.

In reality, it isn't so straightforward. When you have school age kids, August is all about getting ready for the next academic year and indeed, many schools begin activities in the second half of the month and so August starts feeling more and more like fall.

And when you teach in the fall, August requires you to work, to get ready for it.

Then, too, the world around you changes in August. Harvested fields. A tinge of yellow on some trees, a dusty green on others. Summer has peaked. Perhaps it's all in your mind, but August makes you think about the first drying leaves.

But not this year! Not for me! I am in the thick of summer and it feels grand!


Ed has a slow wake up this morning and so I spend a long while deadheading spent flowers (and admiring those that are showing off for me and you right now).


By breakfast, I've put in a hefty chunk of time in the yard (and racked up some 1000 steps -- which isn't much, but trimming plants is all about stretching, so couple that with yoga like poses and please ignore what the damn step counter tells us).


Our morning meal never changes for me, but it varies for Ed. Pancakes, cereals, left overs, eggs -- these shift according to his whimsey. Oftentimes he'll say "just fruit." Maybe with a big gulp of kefir.


And since I had worked from the early hours, there is no guilt at all in taking my computer, my magazine, myself to the porch now and staying there. Because the air is lightly cool, the sky is partly cloudy and it is just so exhilarating to gently rock and look out occasionally at the world before you. (When I'm on the porch, the hens often congregate right outside.)


But, it also feels significantly decadent. Reading about travel possibilities feels decadent. Being without a schedule this week feels decadent. Not worrying about a syllabus for classes feels ultra decadent.

It can't last, can it, this luxurious world of free time?

We do push ourselves some in the later afternoon. It's been a while, a really long while since I've gone on a longer bike ride with Ed and so we do a rural road loop today -- not more than twenty miles, but with some hills, which is always painful for me and effortless for Ed.

Why do I need to pedal ten times for your one push?
Why do you always ask this when we go biking?
Are there more hills?
I can't recall. Probably. You can walk them.

Why not?
I want to keep up!

A typical conversation I'll have with Ed while trying to retain a sprightly pace on the bike.


I suppose the scenery says it all -- at first, I'm convinced we are just at the cusp of summer.

(bee hives!)

...eventually, I see enough to warn me otherwise.

(harvested fields)

Wheat isn't the most commonly encountered crop here -- we're all about corn and soy -- and so when I see wheat, I am entranced. I grew up in wheat and potato country. I know these strips of gold.


Funny how this season has you wishing for just a bit more time, even as winter has you counting the days until spring. Summer here is that good.

We pick up corn at a roadside stand. It's young and tender and wonderful. Supper takes no imagination.  Whatever you make now is going to be good. I promise. (Just don't overcook it!)

Sunday, July 27, 2014


A dazzling sky, brisk gusts of wind, just a tease of rain clouds in the distance (we haven't had rain since I came back and there is none in the near forecast so it would not be a bad thing to get a sprinkle of showers). That sets the stage for my Sunday.

So what to do with it? Give the morning away to farmhouse cleaning?

No. Or, not entirely. I give the place a fifteen minute wipe down. That's it.

Ed suggests a bike ride.

No. Those clouds on the horizon might tease us right into a thunder shower. We have great weather coming up all week long. We'll ride another day.

Breakfast on the porch?

Yes! After a quick garden prune (deadheading a few spent lilies).

We're so pokey with the meal that one surely might call it lunch.


And then? A walk through the garden...



...and this is the delightful part. The highlight of the afternoon.


And then I turn my attention to the terribly unsexy project of weeding the raspberries. It has to rank right down there with cleaning out the chicken coop as the farmette's most unappealing task. The raspberries hold a good portion of our mosquito population -- we never spray there, not even cedar oil and so they know they have a safe haven. And it's prickly work. And the ground is hard for want of rain so pulling weeds, even through wood chips, is tedious. Need more reasons?

But I'm determined. We got the beds in order this year. So much work went into those darn beds! So long as my hands are functional and my back is not protesting, I'm not letting them fall back into disarray!

So I pull weeds and clip spent canes and now Ed does have sympathy pangs and comes out to join me and sure enough, we get the job done. Good for another month or so (with minor touch ups of course).

And now lunch?

No. After working hard, we're rarely hungry. He picks up his favorite coconut popsicle and I take a banana and we position ourselves on the porch and gaze out at the sky: a sure set up for an afternoon nap. But do we nap?

No. I have some minor meal preparations, because it is Sunday and my daughter and her husband are here for supper which surely calls for baking a blueberry pound cake...


And just as I step out to get the grill going for dinner, the rain comes down. With great abundance.

No matter. We're on the porch -- safe. Always safe. From the bugs, from a harsh summer sun, from the rain. With color -- somewhat bleary and impressionistic in the rain -- on three sides. A place to let go of worry.


The downpour doesn't last. By the time dinner is ready, the sun is peeking through and the world glistens and sparkles, refreshed, ready for the next round.


My next round is tomorrow. But it surely was a splendid Sunday. For you as well, I hope.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


If I were to compare this day with most that came just before it, I'd say this had a faster pace.

The zip began early - with Ed poking at me in the delicious moments of a morning sleep and asking if I wanted to play tennis.
Well yes, but maybe not at this second?
Before it gets hot.
Before breakfast?
Of course!
Can I have ten minutes to wake up?
Meet me out front at 8:20.

So we play tennis.

(a selfie! by Ed, whose arm is that long!)

And yes, after -- there is breakfast (of course there is breakfast!)..


... and then, without pause or interruption, I head out to my daughter's and she and I walk over to the downtown farmers market.


After the return, my irritating but at the same time lovable step counter pings -- "you've hit a new record!" Well okay, but don't expect me to play tennis and walk 90 minutes every day before noon. This day is unusually energetic.

At home, there's the predictable work with flowers...


And every time I approach them from a different angle, it's as if a new canvas springs before me!


This is the peak blooming time for the day lilies, so of course, they get my full attention.


It is a rich world of flowers out there right now.

In the late afternoon, Ed and I do something that is about as us as it gets: we head over to Farm and Fleet for cheeper treats, car oil and wire cutters, then to Candina's for chocolates (letting me pick a small box of chocolates at Candina's is Ed's way of acknowledging feelings, helped tremendously by Candina's proximity to Farm and Feet), then to the library to take out a whole stack of movies we'll probably never watch.

Supper.  Ed hauls in the first of many many batches of tomatoes from the garden, including the indigo blue, right there on the top.


So supper includes tomatoes. And the cucumbers and the.... oh, you really don't need to know all the ingredients of a summer meal. Yours are good, mine are good -- it's summertime, how can it be otherwise!

Friday, July 25, 2014


If I ask Ed to help me rip up an acre of land, dig out a tree, remove boulders, lay several ton of wood chips, he'll do it. Right at my side.

If I ask him to help weed or water -- well, I wouldn't ask, because I know that's not his thing. He creates, designs, labors to effectuate a design. And then he's done.

It's a fine match, because I am your maintenance person. I keep things neat and tidy. I dust, weed, and water. I don't let things disintegrate into their past state of chaos.

Still, I tell Ed today that it feels awfully lonely right now, because what the yard needs is maintenance. And so I work alone.

Yes, there is our beautiful breakfast.


And a moment to give a nod to the flowers.



And then we slink into our world of Friday chores and when we resurface, he picks up his projects and I hit the beds and there you have it: day is done.

Though not really. Not tonight. My daughter is popping by for pizza on the porch while her husband is away at work...


Pizza means no cooking, right? Well yes, more or less. But how could I not add a salad with gardens veggies -- beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. And too, Ed has a sudden interest in home made ice cream. I'm willing.
What kind would you like?
I stare at him. Vanilla?
Of course!

So, we eat pizza and salad, followed by vanilla ice cream. With a few raspberries from the garden  sprinkled on top.


And we watch chickens do their chicken thing and before you know it, the light fades and we are nearly into tomorrow. If it continues not to rain, my rituals wont vary much: maintenance. Water. Weed. Ed will probably watch from his big window at the sheep shed, throwing out the occasional smile and an encouraging word.