Monday, July 31, 2017


Life isn't linear and neither is the evolution of a garden. There will be surprises in both, life and garden.

One surprise this morning is that there seems to be a lot to do outside. Picking spent lilies, I'm counting and the numbers seem high.  (Total for today: 586.)

Never mind -- everything's so beautiful right now: the lilies are mingling with the rest and it is such a happy camaraderie!

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(The cheepers always keep me company for all my morning tasks. Well, two of them do. Henny is still hiding out in the coop. Possibly she is terrified of Scotch, but, too, she is brooding, believing that becoming a mommy will do away with all her problems with acceptance and inclusion.)

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(The Great Bed, still strong, even if it is the last day of July...)

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(The front bed, dainty and playful...)

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View to the yard from our table on the porch...

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And very quickly it's noon and I'm scurrying to the bakery to pick up croissants (for Snowdrop) and cookies (for Ed) and now I am at the little girl's school.

She wears that look of a girl who was let down by a friend. And she was. Oh, to you and me, it's a nonevent, right? Snowdrop walked out with a tiny, really tiny sticker of a bird with a big yellow beak. A classmate, leaving at the same time, reached over to try to pull the sticker from Snowdrop's hand. Snowdrop uttered several words of surprise, but the girl persisted. The mother finally suggested that it might be Snowdrop's turn to play with said sticker. The girl eventually gave up her grip, but the teeny sticker was damaged. Snowdrop's face here expresses her disappointment.

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And now I remember what it's like to care deeply about the way kids treat each other out there on the playground of life. It's not that I think kids are born knowing how to do right by their friends. But if you witness something that you don't think is a good move on the part of your kid, why wouldn't you use this as a teaching opportunity? Why wouldn't you intervene and express dismay?

Oh, I know: it's just a (ripped now) sticker. I've heard the arguments: let the kids work it out. And they will. But I have to say, if I ever saw Snowdrop (or decades earlier my daughters) grab and destroy something precious belonging to another, I would be appalled.

I am so old school in this.

(Snowdrop, at the cafe, contemplating life...)

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(She has a snack. She rebounds.)

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Snowdrop has had a very busy weekend and she is visibly tired. But the pool gloriously revives her.

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(She asks to wear her water shoes in the pool. Sure, little one!)

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Her vim and vigor are restored.

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Later, we drive back to the farmhouse. I tell the little one that the fields are now mostly harvested and stacked into bales of hay. I haven't seen any sandhill cranes this morning. Perhaps they've moved on?

Snowdrop doesn't buy it. Kids have eternal hope and this girl's no different.

And today, she is rewarded: at least two of the graceful birds have returned.

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At the farmhouse. Snowdrop has had such a long day, but she is driven to her babies nonetheless. Ice cream for everyone!

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(Feelings of mommy love...)

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You rarely see that serious look of duty and responsibility on this two year old's face. I'm thinking -- it's so easy just to relish in Snowdrop smiles. But honestly, don't you want your charge to live through her woes and tribulations on your time, so that you can guide her to a better place? Out of deep waters and onto safer terrain?

And the summer sun keeps on shining and the flowers keep on blooming...

Sunday, July 30, 2017


Every photographer I know prefers the early or late hours for picture taking. By the time the summer sun is nearing its noon zenith, the light is too strong, too full of contrast. The subtlety has gone out the door.

My garden work was later than on a typical day and so I really was a reluctant picture taker today. And still, as always, I am pleasantly surprised. Enchanted actually! The day is brilliant, the lilies are not ready to give up (I pick 431 spent ones today), the patterns of shade and light are audacious and  lovely!

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This indeed is summer!

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The Great Bed has a back row of flowers that you rarely see here, as they're snuggle behind the tall monardas. Let's poke in and take a look: you can tell that we're on the final blooms. Each stalk has many snipped off buds.

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The front road bed moves between shade and light as the sun sweeps a grand arc to the south, occasionally disappearing behind tall maple branches. These gorgeous lilies too are near their final days.

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Though my work now is mostly with lilies, I see that they're sharing quite a bit of space with the phloxes and sunflowers. Once we figured out how to successfully stake the tallest plants (the mock sunflowers), they've come to require no work during the bloom period, though they'll benefit from a pruning job when the flowers are past their prime.

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Breakfast is very late. But very luxurious, as we both are done with our outdoor work! [Ed has taken on the task of managing the japanese beetle population. He has set up traps in the new orchard and by the grapes and each day he empties them and disposes of the thousands of bugs that accumulate there. It's not a fun job, but he is hoping to save the grapes and eventually make a dent in the beetle swell at the farmette.]

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As for our afternoon -- I don't know where the hours disappeared. Truly, I do not know. Finishing the farmhouse cleaning -- sure, a little of that. And eventually I begin dinner preparations -- yes, of course. But I feel the day moved far too quickly from afternoon to evening. Sundays have that uncanny habit of speeding up the clock on me.

Dinner is for a slightly larger crowd and once more, there is a lot of "local" on the table. Okay, the shrimp -- they're not Wisconsin. But the tomatoes and basil that accompany them are! As is, of course, the corn. And the arugula and lettuces. Dessert, too is every bit our own: sour cherry frozen yogurt. (And the cream in the chocolate sauce is definitely from our state's dairy herds!)

But we begin our meal with my nod still to Parma. I make fried bread pockets for the prosciutto, I bring out the Aperol and Prosecco for our summer spritzes. Olives, cheese -- yes, Wisconsin cheese, but I'm feeling like one foot of my meal preparation is still dangling in Parma's kitchens.

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Snowdrop climbs up on a high stool and participates. Olives? yum! Fried bread and prosciutto? Is there more??

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And cheese. Ahah shares.

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As I work on dinner, my daughter takes out an album of photos that I took when she was just Snowdrop's age. Such a lovely set of memories, recalled now on this summer evening, with glasses of iced spritzes at the side...

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Dinner. Always a happy event!

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And the girl today is hungry!

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But we all leave room for the sour cherry ice cream. It's just so good and so evocative of a Wisconsin summer out by the great Lake Michigan, where most of the cherries grow.

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Can I have more of the chocolate sauce?
The girl knows the good combinations in life!

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The night is cool and beautiful. Full of fireflies and stars. Twinkling, winking at us, reminding me and you that summer always does come around, delivering its singular joys.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


Early, very early today, when I step outside to work in the flower beds (mostly to snip off spent lilies), I think -- there's nothing more that I want to say about my garden. There is no photo that will tell a new story. I wont even carry my camera. I'll hang it there, on a branch, just in case, but honestly -- I've done my summer story telling! You've seen it all. No new flower images will appear today.

And it's not just puffery. I believe it.

And then, just as I twist to reach for a wilted flower, I see this hidden little apricot gem, in camaraderie with the phloxes, monardas, and (false) black eyed susans:

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And then, I look back toward the porch and the morning sunlight hits the lilies and it catches me by surprise! I put down the bucket and go for my camera.

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Worse -- when I take a few steps back and look toward the porch again, it's like I'm seeing an entirely new picture! The emphasis is now on the porch, standing in harmony with the garden. I'm glad I haven't put down my camera yet, because all this just looks so lovely to me!

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And so it continues: as I work in the front road bed, I think -- white flowers are such an excellent match for the yellows, pinks and purples! Let me just capture this symbiotic relationship between the flowers here...

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No new images? Ha!

I'm counting spent flowers again today and there's a reason for it: I know the numbers of lilies are going down. I can see it in the shift from an abundance of blooms, where every flower is bumping into one another, to a light and airy presentation of wistful long stems...

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Today's count: 431 spent lily blooms. We are surely on the final days of July. (On the upside, the weather is sunny and lovely and fewer blooms means I spend less time on this task which, while pleasant enough, is still a tad too buggy for a completely meditative experience.)


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And one last look at the morning garden -- mysterious, shimmering, and yes -- sublime.

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The rest of the morning has a slight twist to it, as my daughter's good friend who lives rather far away is visiting for the week. Rather than walking to the market with them, I opt to meet them there. And there's a benefit to going off on my own -- I can get to the vendors earlier and do some serious food buying and, because I have Rosie (my moped), I can buy more: the old girl can really take in a lot of food in her back basket and in the seat hold.

For me, the market stars today are the Door County cherries, including the sour ones which I need for a Sunday dessert...

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And perhaps even more spectacular -- the first farmers market corn.

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We do love our corn, here, in Wisconsin! The rains have produced a thick mat of green stalks, but the ripening has, I think, been slower. Our great local corn farmer has not had enough corn to keep his barn stand open this weekend. I am very happy to be at the downtown market in time to pick up our first sweet corn of the season!

And now I meet up with Snowdrop, my daughter and her friend (whom I have known for a long long time)...

Hey, little girl! So happy to see you!

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You too, friend!

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As I pack up Rosie, Snowdrop shows more than a passing interest in the motorbike.

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Sweet girl, that helmet is heavier than your head for sure!

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We've walked the market, I've purchased my needed foods, time for me to scoot back to the farmette. And of course, the beauty of riding Rosie is that you can pull up to the side of the road and gaze out at what you have before you. For instance -- just at the approach to the farmhouse, you can take in these fields, still worked by the truck farmers. (The development that is slated to fill so much of this space has been stalled by a squabble about how best to introduce water and sewers... I have to shake my head at that one: for seven years the developer has been pushing to start his building project, against great protests from the environmentalists among us. And now he gets the green light and the disputes begin!)

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Nearly dinner time. I need to check on the cranes congregating across the road. Again -- you've seen the cranes here, on Ocean.  But aren't they magnificent in their new formations??

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Suppertime. Now, as we transition from July lilies to August harvest, new ideas open up:  this is the time to be a locavore in Wisconsin! We eat picked this morning sweet corn, Harmony Valley lettuces and arugula, Ed and Nina baby tomatoes, Java and Scotch (scrambled) eggs, along with Indian Valley farms oyster mushrooms.

Outside, the sun still throws the occasional ray onto my garden. (I wasn't going to photograph it! You've seen versions of this, but really, it has never quite looked like this before!)

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Ed locks the door on the cheeper coop, I polish this thing and the other, humming a song to myself. Yes, every once in a while, I take to humming -- you can only hope that I'll be quiet about it if you're there, say, trying to read a book or think deep thoughts.. Ta ta ta ta tum, tatata tum! Everybody loves Saturday night! Everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody loves Saturday night!

Friday, July 28, 2017


I guess I do tend to overthink the garden a bit. For example, I counted snipped lily blooms today again. I couldn't help myself. I needed to know!

And guess what: I came up with 603 spent flowers that went straight into the bucket. 603?! Wasn't that yesterday's exact total?

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Of course, each plant produces a varying number of flowers, oftentimes being light on blooms one day and heavy the next.

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But the garden will be quieting down in the next weeks. August is not July. In August, the summer greens start to hint at post-summer golds.

I am out in the garden very early today. It's my grocery shopping day and if I'm to clip the whole place, well, I better be out with the bucket not too long after sunrise. I am rewarded with a different light... a lovely early morning light.

(Three pink flowers, having little in common but for the color...)

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I'm standing somewhere in the Grand Bed, looking toward the farmhouse:

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(Working the front bed by the road...)

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Done! Breakfast at last. I nearly hurry through it!

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Even as everything about the day -- the beautiful weather, the perfect views, the bug free porch -- invite us to linger... (Looking out from our place at the table...)

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Off I go now! No cranes this morning, but there are other compensations...

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And at noon, I am at Snowdrop's school. The kids had played under the sprinkler. The day is sunny and bright after all. (Just open your eyes going down the stairs, little one.)

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Will she want to swim anyway?

She does. Gaga I can wear my swim suit from school!

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Yes, and you can splash and shout like the best of them here!

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At the farmhouse, when she naps, Ed and I take out computers to the porch, just to sit in that afternoon light and take in all that gold the is our outdoor world right now...

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(She wakes up... Where is everyone?...)

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Farmette summers... Even if you don't want to hang out in the fields with the bugs, you still find yourself drawn to that world of flowers and butterflies, of beautiful landscapes... (And yes, in the evening, when Ed and I ride out to play tennis, we see that the cranes have returned...)

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They fill their stomachs with the grains, I fill my soul with these images. For the winter.

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We open the farmhouse windows for the cool night breezes... Time to listen to the sounds of a summer night. Time to exhale.