Saturday, January 31, 2015


Alternate post title: "good news/bad news," or -- "how to waste your day without really trying."

I was up with the cheepers. I'm thinking --  lovely sunrise! It's going to be a grand day!


I open the coop -- oops, low on water. Let me get some refills here. I come back. Three chickens hover, expecting a treat.

Wait now. Three? Where is the fourth? Where is our egg laying, non-molting, ever enthusiastic Butter??

I search for her. The barn is big, the sunrise is beautiful...


No Butter.

I throw them their favorite snack -- Butter is always the first in line for that!


My worst fears realized. Ed was late locking them in. There are coyotes in the area. Damn!

Ed, we lost a chicken.
Seriously? You're not teasing?
Seriously. I looked everywhere. Butter is gone.
Any Butter remains?
No. Nothing.

We talk for a bit about whether to replace her, come spring. I'm against it. Ed reminds me how cool it is to have them stick together in their pack of four.

I go down to fix breakfast. Ed goes to the barn to look for other tell tale signs of a massacre.

He comes back quickly, with a grin: all four chickens in place, accounted for!


I'm not even going to speculate what happened this morning. Did she spend the night huddled elsewhere? Was she roosting in a hidden spot? Was she in some post traumatic stupor, so that she missed my morning calls? We'll never know. We are not likely to ever fully understand the workings of a chicken mind.


To continue with the report of good news from the day: Apple has (finally) released it's update to the new operating system! My computer no longer drops the Internet!

Back to the not so hot:

I talk to Ed about replacing my car. Generously, he offers to trade me his 2000 Hyundai. He'll take the 93 Escort and continue to work on it. In the alternative, I say to him, I could buy a newer Yaris (the smallest of the Toyota cars).

And now comes the craigslist search. And the calls. And the weighing of the possibilities. (There are many used Yaris cars in Florida. Do I want to go down there and drive one back? I do not. But the cars here are getting rusty. Some of them. And when there is a dealer, there is always an unpleasant discussion to be had. No, my limit is $5000! For a newer Yaris? Ha ha ha ha ha! But we have an excellent vehicle available at...  No! Leave me alone!  How about buying directly from an owner? So many of them are dishonest. Or stubborn. I'm hating this, nearly as much as Ed is hating the idea of me looking for a newer car!)

After many frustrating ineffective, stupefying hours engaged in The Search, after rejecting a drive to Gurnee, Lynwood, Menasha and Tampa, I tell Ed that I'm tempted by a Yaris sold by a dealer right here in Madison. It has an enormous amount of miles on it (190,000), but beggars can't be fussy. To me, at 2008, it is almost as new as a baby's bottom, though perhaps not as squeaky clean.

We go out to look.

Here you see my 93 Escort next to the 08 Yaris.


The price is greatly reduced. It drives beautifully. We almost finalize a deal. We get stuck on the last $500. We walk out. They don't call us back. I'm relieved.

The car project remains stalled.

In the early evening, I pop in to see Snowdrop. It would be entirely hoggish of me to linger. Her aunt (on the dad's side) has traveled great distances to see little Snowdrop and I stay just long enough to say hello and to touch Snowdrop's soft little cheek.

Her aunt is wonderfully talented -- she can answer all my questions about her fascinating current residence far far away and have Goldie the cat hover by her ankles (I would have tripped, or kicked Goldie by accident) and rock Snowdrop, all in one fell swoop.


Little Snowdrop is one lucky girl!


Tomorrow, her aunt takes off for her place of work far far away, a snowstorm will finally inch closer to our farmette land and if all goes well, I will be hosting Snowdrop for the evening. Ah, but that's tomorrow. Tonight, the skies are still calm, the chickens are safe and the cars are as they were yesterday and probably as they will remain for many days to come.

And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Friday, January 30, 2015


It's a messy day. What can I say. Ed has meetings, I have multi-store grocery shopping, the car is acting up, the cheepers still look stripped of their protective coats, messy, I tell you!

Breakfast is fine, even if includes Isie boy. (I want quality non-cat time!)


On my various drives around town, I begin to think about replacing the (reasonably) trusty 93 Ford Escort. Ed thinks this is nothing short of silly. Like him, I am not bothered by (and some would say even proud of) the appearance of this red piece of scrap metal. But unlike him, I begin to count the number of small things wrong with it and they add up to something that is just not that pleasant to drive anymore. And with Snowdrop visits, my driving time (at least in the winter) has greatly increased.

For now, I'm just thinking about what the next step should be, but it is a lonely process because Ed, who would be willing to work his knuckles raw to help me fix mechanical issues with the old car, is less happy to help me figure out how to find a replacement. Not surprising. He is still riding his '80 Honda motorcycle. We really do look like the couple who has been plucked straight out of Cuba with our antiquated and patched up mechanical vehicles.

The non messy part of the day is (predictably) the part spent with Snowdrop. She gave us her quiet self...



...and her playful self.



And then, of course, her tired self.


A perfect package.

Evening. I take the time to make a careful dinner. I actually follow a recipe, that's how thought out it is.

And we watch a movie. Ida. It's Polish. It's nominated for an Oscar. I kept correcting for Ed the translations. All my life I have listened to English movies translated to Polish and Polish translated to English and they are never perfect and I cannot understand why they falter in the way that they do. I suppose life is messy and one person's rendition of a mess isn't necessarily the same as that of someone else.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Thursday morning empathy nearly always pushes me out to set the cheepers free. Ed plays a vicious game of volley ball Wednesday evenings. It takes him a bit of time to recover.

It is not a pretty morning. Pellets of ice are coming out of nowhere. The sky seems unusually dark for a sunrise moment. The cheepers ignore me and stay inside.


Breakfast is interesting: I open up the sun room to let in some heat so that we can hang out there over the morning meal. I recall to Ed the many winter mornings we've eaten there.


He reminds me that typically it would have been on sun drenched days. Henceforth, we'll go back to eating breakfast in the (heated) kitchen, or (heated) front room.

On my way to visit little Snowdrop, I glance at the barn and see that the cheepers are making a valiant attempt at stepping outdoors. Remarkable, really. I guess they, too, feel shut in and anxious to experience the freedom of the outdoors.


But it doesn't last. I throw them some table scraps and usher them back into the barn. It really is too windy for them to be gallivanting outside its protective walls.

Okay. Farmhouse chores done, I head for my daughter's place. There, I find Snowdrop snuggling with her mommy.


Stripes against stripes. It's the kind of scene you love to encounter: total serenity and adoration.

In my hours there, Snowdrop and I play some...


... then she lets me know that she needs a pause. Against my striped stomach.


My daughter and I spend many minutes commenting on her perfection.


Little Snowdrop half listens, in her various positions on my lap.


Today, she is happy to while away the minutes on her tummy.

Evening.  I have a dinner date with Ed. He and I rarely go out (because I rarely want to), but today seems perfect for it. We do our favorite -- sit at the counter of Brasserie V, share a frisee salad and eat pots of steamed mussels with fries. Here's a reflection of us in some very shiny brass surface at the bar.


Delicious. Every last stripe of it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


For upper Midwesterners, January has to be the longest month (followed by March which, in late spring years is interminable). You know there is still a February before you. You're willing to put up with that February. It's short and sassy but it's followed by spring. Yet here you are, forever stuck in January.

Well okay, so be it.

I make a greater effort to embrace January.


This morning, I take my turn at bringing fruit scraps to the cheepers. They eat them, though (the feather shedding) Scotch at least strains to see if I have something better to add to the loot. I oblige with bread, corn and nuts.


And then attend to our own breakfast.


I am with little Snowdrop on the early side of this day. She is radiant and alert and I am absolutely positive that I saw on her face one huge (probably inadvertent) smile!


After watching her enthusiastically track everything from books about love...


... to stuffed animals that play music and sweet cats who don't get what's so great about a piece of blanket on the floor...



... she gets a tad overwhelmed and so I do what she loves best (today): I sing.

I work through all of my recollection of Mary Poppins then decide there is no reason why she could not be exposed to my rendition of West Side Story's Tonight. She settles in my arms. We sit down. I resort to Youtube on the computer and the full collection of Chopin's Nocturnes.


Yes, this little babe is perfect. And adaptable. Even if I did hand her back to her parents completely worn out.

Tomorrow I'll do better.

In the afternoon, Ed and I go to Brooklyn Wildlife Area. It is one of my favorite short range hiking places (helped by being only some 20 minutes from where we live). It's cold, but there is a spec of a sun up there. The trail weaves through the forest...


... and uphill for a view of the rural landscape all around us. I love this place in all seasons and I am reminded how even in January, there is so much to admire here.


So much.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


If it's Tuesday, it must be grandma's farmhouse!

We have this routine going and so sure enough, after the usual morning preoccupations -- the morning walk to let out the cheepers...


...followed by breakfast...


... I ready the house for my little visitor.


Ed looks at little Snowdrop.
Does it have teeth yet?
No teeth and she's not an it, she's a girl.
What, do you want to give her labels? And have her earn 80 cents to the dollar? Don't you want to keep the she or he out of it?
She's a girl. Want to hold her?
Maybe later.
Maybe now?


Little Snowdrop stretches her hand, Ed stretches his, supporting her tiny fist. I notice that his hand is longer than her entire arm.


She's in pink.
She wears all colors. For now. Until she has her own opinion. I dressed my baby in oshkosh b'gosh overalls, until she was old enough to tell me she preferred skirts.
Do you think girls care more than boys about how they look? This from a man who cares not a single bit about how he looks. For the camera or otherwise.

We speculate a little about appearance, and choice, and socialization -- topics not normally part of Ed's repertoire. 

It is the beginning of a good visit.

(Though Isie boy retains his doubts. I coax him to check her out. He does. Reluctantly. Then disappears.)


No time to cook tonight. I play with Snowdrop and ask Ed to pick up some take-out Thai.


When he returns, he looks around. No Snowdrop. Where is she? -- he asks. Do I detect a tiny expression of regret when I tell him she went home?

Monday, January 26, 2015

a new week

You lose your bragging rights to an inch or two or even three of new snow, when you know that the east coast will be getting a foot or two or even three of the white stuff.

And yet, it is delightful to see the bare spots covered again with a very delicate coating of white flakes.


We eat breakfast in the kitchen, in full view of our courtyard.


After, Ed takes fruit scraps to the cheepers in the barn -- they're hungry for greens now! For a few minutes, the snow swirls and thickens, but it doesn't last.


And looking ahead toward the next ten days, I do wonder if this winter will go down as the one when we will not have skied at all. All the major storms have passed us by and though I understand that this is wonderful news to those who need to commute to work or school, I have to say, to kids with sleds and to two big time cross country buffs (us!), it's just a tiny bit disappointing.

What's not disappointing is my afternoon visit with little Snowdrop. She is three weeks old today! So many changes in her life already! For instance, she can almost let her mom eat lunch and catch up on her email. Almost.


She can fully enjoy the company of a musical octopus.


And she is sure to let you know when you've tuckered her out with all the music and rattles and books with big blobs of color.


I leave her just as the rush hour traffic picks up. Freezing drizzle has iced over my red wreck of a car. The roads are slick, the evening is dark. But I'm in no hurry. Dinner can be late. Time is gentle. Time is, on this evening, on my side.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Another dusting of inconsequential snow. Cold winds, below freezing temperatures. Stay indoors weather.

I think about how lovely it would be to take little Snowdrop out for a walk. Not today. certainly not today.

Instead, I turn to farmhouse cleaning, trying to convince myself that I am engaging in a terrific regimen of exercise, working muscle groups that aren't normally called upon to do much. And I don't need a gym -- just a two story house with many surfaces to wipe clean!

Sometimes, that kind of pep talk works. Sometimes.

At breakfast, I relax. I even manage to make Ed laugh. That's a rare event: quiet people tend not to guffaw on a daily basis.


In the afternoon, I visit little Snowdrop. Afternoons almost always offer up her best hours (though I'm told she is also grand in the mornings and too, quite pleasant in the *early* evenings). This is at once terrific for me...


...and a bit of a shame, since I want her to give me her most challenging moments. I need only experience them for the few hours I am there. Lay it on, little Snowdrop! I can take it! But, babies haven't an "On" or "Off" button for fussiness and so I take her in her most delightful state and we have a fine old time admiring toy animals that play music.




At home, Ed and Isie boy are ready for an adventure. No way, Isie boy! You stay home!


It is just a short few minutes before sunset, but Ed and I ignore the hours and set out for our county park again. It's colder today: the wind is sharp and the air feels brittle. But the colors are heavenly ...


A January forest sunset, at its best.


We drive home on rural roads, past field and farm...


... to a warm kitchen where I prepare a supper, stir-frying a bunch of veggies and a few handfuls of small shrimp.