Thursday, July 20, 2017


And the storms raged all night long. We are having a very wet summer, after an extremely wet spring (indeed, the first half of 2017 was the second wettest in Wisconsin's history).

But today at the farmette, we wake up to sunshine. True, the world out there is a buggy one right now (perhaps the second buggiest in Wisconsin's history?), but it's a lovely world. And so once again, I'm out with my bucket, snipping spent lilies.

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I do the "medium-well" trim -- it takes me an hour and no, I'll never get used to the buzz of the bugs, but I've grown to expect it and I push forward despite their annoying presence.

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They won't win this battle. The garden is too precious, too lovely, too important. (As is knowing that I have the patience and strength to work through the obstacles thrown my way.)

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A late but satisfying breakfast...

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It is a muggy and sunny day. You may not think that mid 80sF (about 30C) is especially uncomfortable, but the humidity takes away the delight. On days like this, air conditioning is a blessing.

And so I am dismayed that when I pick up Snowdrop to see her vehement about keeping on her sweater.

I tell her that she needs to make decisions that are brave and good for her health and well being -- because of course, a two year old is going to understand what the hell I'm talking about. But she can tell the quiet in my voice. And I can see the disappointment in her face. A sort of "I thought you'd understand, gaga..." look that makes me feel like I have let her down.

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I'm truly sorry, Snowdrop. I do know that when mommy and daddy are not there, a sweater fills the small piece of longing in your heart.

Well, we both bounce back quickly enough! She revives at the coffee shop!

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And she is delighted that the pool once more is in the offering.

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She is especially playful today. Perhaps you can tell from the selfie (there's a challenge: working a camera for a selfie in a crowded pool!).

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In one of her quick walks around the perimeter of the pool, Snowdrop stubs her toe -- enough that a shark would lick his chops at the sight of her foot.

I take her to the first aid station and they hand over the needed bandaid.
Is this the most crowded you've seen it here, at the pool? I ask.
It's pretty crazy!
I suppose it's worse on the weekends...
Oh no, not at all. Weekends are calm. Mostly families. It's the weekday school buses that give us these crowds. We have a capacity of 1000. We hit it several times this year.

Still, this community pool is magnificent -- for us, for the kids that are brought here from other neighborhoods and school programs. As I watch them play, I notice that every single one appears so very happy to be there.

It's time for us to retreat to the farmhouse. Ah, I see that we have a new favorite routine going...

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I think Snowdrop will ace the driver's test. She already asks about every switch, every knob, every device on the panel.

She is a girl that moves seamlessly between disparate worlds: one minute she is the driver of the great big car, the next, she's serving tea to the great big man in the farmhouse.

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Me, I shamelessly use the little girl to get at Ed's overgrown beard.
Would you like to watch me cut ahah's beard?
He never says no to her requests.

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And now it's way past your nap time!
But I want to take my bike outside and ride it...
No, Snowdrop! Rest!

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In the evening, I am at the local farmers market admiring (and purchasing) heirloom tomatoes.

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But I'm really looking for something else: is there corn yet?

We noticed when biking that the climate this year has been kind to the corn crop. And -- this is so amazing and wonderful! -- we live just five minutes away from one of the best (in terms of taste) corn growers in our state (and therefore the country! ) So I want to know -- are we close???

I do not see their corn at the market yet. But the facebook page (Stoneman's corn -- a family run business that has been selling corn locally for more than 50 years) tells me this weekend begins their (short but beautiful) selling season!

Such are the treasures of farmette life. As we listen to news stories about self driving cars (we're interested!), we think that maybe, just maybe, we can age at the farmette and not be bothered by the (short!) distance that separates us from the city.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017


What matters more -- the appearance of perfection, or the real thing?

Yesterday, as I fought off mosquitoes to come as close as I could to a very well tended garden, I would have argued the latter: I know what's there, beneath the pretty facade. I want it all to be the best that it can be.

This morning -- a sticky, cloudy, excessively warm morning -- I knew I did not want to spend another two hours cleaning out the post-bloom lily debris from the flower beds. But after a day of near perfection out there, in front of me, I certainly wasn't going to settle for total neglect. And so I did an hour's worth of work (believe me, hard enough, with the insect buzz as irritating as the constant traffic noise must be to a New Yorker).

To a passerby, it looks no worse than it did yesterday.

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The stunning lilies are spruced up -- especially in places where anyone (me!) is likely to see them...

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The entire porch-side bed is (nearly) spotless!

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Yes, it all looks grand.

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What's beneath the surface -- well, every garden surely has its underbelly that's there only for the gardener to take note of and attend to only when she feels inclined to do so.

Breakfast is, therefore, a whole hour earlier than it was yesterday and my hands are far less purple.

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The afternoon belongs, as always, to Snowdrop. I'd like to think that I influence those hours we spend together, but today, I considered the very real possibility that this girl has the day all figured out. I am a mere conduit so that she might sail ahead with her established goals.

With one important exception: I provide some of the vocabulary.

Here's our afternoon:

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Straight off the bat, she asks (politely) to go to the coffee shop. Of course: she needs food...

... And to catch up with the local press.

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As I lift Snowdrop out of the high chair (not that she hasn't tried jumping down from it herself...), I hear her use the words which I mindlessly throw out when I hoist her -- upsie daisy poopsie baby! I have to say, it sounds a lot cuter when she say it.

Then she tells me: the pool is open now!
You want to go to the pool?
Yeppers peppers! -- oh! another one of those unfortunate phrases I throw into our conversation!

It's a hot day and as we wait for the pool to officially open (four more minutes, I tell her, one two three four!), I watch the school buses pull in (sweater is off for the sun screen application)...

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It'll be a crowded day today. But not right away. We grab a handful of minutes of quiet play...

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... before the chaos sets in.

Later, at the farmhouse, she goes straight to her play stove and starts working the pots. She shouts out to me -- dinner is not ready yet!

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And then -- it will be ready in five minutes! (with a classic little kid hand out to make her point that she means what she says: five)...

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She is a sponge, alright. And I'm the propeller, the boat that takes her to her next port of call.

And tonight, there is indeed another port of call: it's Madison's Concert on the Square night and for once, there is no real threat of stormy weather.

Snowdrop, her mommy and I set out with our picnic foods, chairs and various necessities. It's quite a hike with all our gear, but we are not deterred!

And it is a joyous picnic on the square! Snowdrop eats with the enthusiasm of a child who knows a good thing when she sees it!

We're ready to listen, play, dance!

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And then an announcement is made that the concert (yet to begin), may be cut short because of the potential for storms moving in this direction.

Say what? I am a storm coward. I checked the radar. Nothing was on board for tonight! Ed is out biking who knows where! I don't get it.

Snowdrop hears the word "thunder storm" and she bursts out in tears. This is all so strange! She has never ever shown any fear of storms before! Is it the storm drill they had in school? What's going on?

I tell my daughter that I'm ready to pack up and head home. She calls her husband, he drives over and we head back to their place.

And I feel a little like I always do in these situations: guilty for perhaps overreacting. Potential for storms: what does that even mean? No one else packed up to leave.

I linger a while at my daughter's home and then come back to the farmette and the sirens go off and we are suddenly under a tornado warning. Ed is out biking, the sky is black.

Where did all this come from? Why wasn't it on anyone's radar screen?

I spend a very anxious set of hours waiting for Ed, who does come home and I am so immensely grateful. We're safe. That's all that matters.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I sit down to breakfast and look at my hands. Purple fingertips, blue-ish palms.

I'd scrubbed them well, but flower juices are strong. My hands are merely showing two hours worth of pre-breakfast garden work.

My intentions when I set out hadn't been so noble. Trim a few day lilies that were in my line of vision, that's all. I picked up a bucket and headed out front.

And then I got carried away.

Because the beds really do look so grand when they're well tended!

(A spectacular lily in the front road bed...)

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Scotch is hoping for some bread. She gets it. Eventually. Today, breakfast is very late for everyone at the farmette.

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Having snipped and clipped the front bed, I of course had to do the one that lines the driveway. Which leads me to attack the bed by the parked cars. And how could I not work through the main lily bed by the porch?? I needed to clear that one out! It all looks so much finer once I'm done!

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Leaving me then only with the bed by the western edge of the porch and of course the great bed the grand dame of them all. I could not neglect that!

After the work view toward the barn:

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View toward the farmhouse:

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Nearly a full two hours of work and it would have been wonderful, meditative work except for the mosquitoes. I did wear a mesh jacket, but my head and legs were bare. You know you're torturing yourself when mosquitoes fly into your open mouth, your eyes, your neck.

Ed commented that I should have stopped, sprayed and dressed in full protective garb, but I told him I never intended to do the whole thing. I just worked from one flower to the next and could not stop, because the vision of that completed field was too lovely.

Even though I know that tomorrow, dozens of spent blooms will again fill the yard.

Breakfast. At 10:50.

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This is what we see from the porch table, looking out toward the front:

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And this is what we see looking out toward the west side (I rarely photograph this bed, but it really is a pretty potpourri of blooms):

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I tell Ed that he could not possibly enjoy the long breakfast as much as I am enjoying it this morning. Two hours of swatting bugs followed by an hour of total bliss.

When I pick up Snowdrop, I really begin to feel the heat of this day. The sun comes out and the air feels still and heavy. The little girl is always just a little tired after school and today, when I ask her if she wants to linger at the play ground or the coffee shop, she chooses the coffee shop.

For once, I'm glad of the air conditioning. Snowdrop's sweater is not inappropriate there!

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After a double snack, Snowdrop is revived and ready to go to the pool. Though perhaps she wants to conserve her energies, because she asks -- can you carry me, gaga?
Oh, that's way too far. It would wear me out and who will then carry gaga?
She gives this some thought and then answers honestly -- I don't know... She then reconsiders: Snowdrop!

Yes, I think she's feeling peppy again.

At the pool, I take time with the sun screen. This is how she looks without a sweater!

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Here's how things look when we enter:

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Snowdrop is joyful to be in the water again!

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But if yesterday the crowd was tame, today, it's as if all the school programs decided to pack the kids into the pool to cool them off. Slowly but surely the place begins to fill up.

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Snowdrop holds her own, even in the thick of the chaos that ensues. She is mindful of the dashing splashing, screaming kids around her and she watches carefully, oftentimes trying to imitate or at least make sense of someone else's game.

After an hour though, she is tired. She has had a long day. Can we go to the showers gaga?

Back at school, where I left the car: Can I sit here? And then: what is this? And this? And this? Everything on the dashboard interests her! It's a long while before we head back to the farmhouse.

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Happy girl. A brief play with babies...

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A few good old books, a couple of new ones and now comes the much needed rest period. For me, this means a prolonged period on the porch, looking out. The afternoon light is different, but the garden is still fresh, vibrant, thriving. My beloved lilies, in the company of so many other "friends" are doing just fine!

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And so are we.

Monday, July 17, 2017


When I do a thorough farmhouse cleaning, typically, as this week, on a Sunday, I tell Ed to please keep things squeaky clean for that one day. I don't set (many) (any?) rules as to how things should be the rest of the week. We muddle through: he tries to remember to be at least a little orderly and I silently straighten things that I cannot ignore. The farmhouse is our home and it has to be comfortable for the person who is fussy and for the person who is the antithesis of fussy.

But as I step out into the garden this morning, it strikes me that raising day lilies is like letting a hundred Eds loose each day, without any rules or requests. Why? Well it's obvious: yesterday's perfection is today's spent garden. All those lovely trumpets are long gone. New ones will have emerged, but the old ones droop and wither, ruining, or at least diminishing the aesthetic somewhat.

All this to say that I really do like to spend the prebreakfast hour tidying things up a bit, even if it means I have to wage war with the mosquitoes. To me, it's worth it.

(I do not have favorites in the garden, but these beautiful trumpets take my breath away each year. In the past, I've paired the photo with Bach music clips. So sing to yourself a favorite Bach melody!)

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I do not aim for perfection, just (as in the farmhouse) a modicum of visual loveliness.

(These "girls" remind me of a flight of butterflies...)

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(Speaking of girls, here are the two who rarely scratch in the summer months; mostly they hide under the cars, but one loud "cheepers!" call is enough to have them come running for the usual scraps of bread.)

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Breakfast: long and lovely. It is the perfect weather day. Zero complaints. Totally perfect.

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For the rest of the morning, I go out in ten or twenty minute spurts -- to pick over the grand bed...

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... and the front road bed (seen here from another corner).

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It's a well known fact that achieving success, however you want to measure it, requires effort. And so I slap away the mosquitoes and tend the flowers. Yes, it's worth it.

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When I pick up Snowdrop, she asks immediately if we can go the pool.
We don't need to go to the play ground or coffee shop, Gaga. We can go straight to the swimming pool.

The good news is that I am prepared for swimming, but of course, we have to kill time before the pool opens later in the afternoon.

We play games at the play ground. (Hey, gaga, you go to that house and I'll go to this house and then I'll climb up here and hey, you can go up there ... etc. "Hey" is a favorite word of hers these days.)

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At the pool, we are, as always, right at the opening hour. So yes, Snowdrop has her sublime moments of total quiet, before the crowd descends. Or perhaps I'm the one who enjoys the stillness. She rather likes watching all the kids play.

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But here's a surprise:  in the ninety minutes we are there, only one school bus delivers kids from some program or other (last week, one very warm day had twelve buses here). Perhaps pool comes as a reward for a few days of work? I cannot tell.

(Snowdrop is delighted to have baby with her again. She is a nonstop chatter box and baby gets a lot of advice, reassurance and instruction, as well as a few tosses!)

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I consider myself to be a rather hovering type of grandma. I do not necessarily think this is a good thing, but I cannot help it and surely in the swimming situation, better oversight is just fine. But it's so easy to miss something! As Snowdrop roams the pool (she is getting more adventurous each time we're here), I watch for a few seconds another child managing a difficult social situation. I then turn my head toward Snowdrop, only to see her completely submerged. Perhaps she tumbled. She is certainly up and laughing quickly enough. But I have to say, I am glad that, in addition to my presence, the pool is well staffed with a whole crew of roaming life guards. For that moment when, like me, you get momentarily distracted.

(A favorite Snowdrop activity: to go out and run in screaming. Like the big kids!)

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(At the farmhouse, dressed up and ready to play. Can I ride the bicycle? No! It's time for a book and a nap!)

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I think I wore her out today. Or, more accurately -- she wore herself out. She sleeps a good long time.

(What's this around her mouth? Oh, she spied a leftover cupcake from Saturday's party.)

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A more serious dance around the living room...

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... and she's whisked away home.

I settle into evening routines, but with windows wide open. It really is a gorgeous evening! Too, I'm pan frying fish. The fragrance of fish goes out, the smell of summer comes in.

It's hard to get me to do anything big or bold after dinner, but today is somehow different. Is it the perfect weather? The beauty of a summer evening that's flawed only by the bugs close to the land?

You want to play tennis?

Without hesitation, Ed is up and we're headed toward his motorcycle. But here's a surprise: our favorite hidden and not really well tended tennis courts are being used!

How about the ones near the lake? Those are even more dilapidated. Surely no one will be there.

Indeed. These Lake Waubesa courts have weeds growing in every crevice and believe me, there are chips and crevices throughout. The net is missing. The place is a mess.

But we're here and we haven't another option and so we give it a try.

And I swear, we have one of our better games ever. Perhaps it's that it doesn't matter. When you are faced with ideal conditions, maybe the pressure does its work on you. It feels like you are being watched and judged. Here, you are doing the courts a favor just by showing up. In the same way that any garden pruning that I do, under adverse conditions, is a glorious benefit. Who cares that it's far from perfect?

The air is cool now. Ideal sleeping weather. But who wants to sleep when the evening is this grand?