Saturday, July 22, 2017


Today my young girl and her husband are visiting and so all else falls by the wayside.

Right, Scotch? Step aside! I'm rushing through garden work!

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Ohhhh! Lovely flowers!

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I do a thorough clearing. Thorough! (I am reminded of preparations so many grandparents make for the arrival of their children and grandchildren -- preparations that are unnecessary, but ones we want to make nonetheless because who else is this important? This deserving?)

Lilies by the porch...

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Lilies by the front road...

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And then I am off and I never slow down, not for one minute.

We're at the farmers market and Snowdrop is just thrilled to see her aunt!

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Most of the time she spends clutching her hand...

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Hugging, playing...

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Afternoon: my little girl (not Snowdrop, the other little girl, the one that lives in Chicago) comes over to help me cook dinner. We're ambitious! And a bit Parma-Itlalian oriented. Fried bread stuffed with prosciutto,  Tomato gnocchi. Then homemade chocolate cookies stuffed with peach ice cream.

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Snowdrop arrives...

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We continue to cook...

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She helps...

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Ed chimes in...

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We all take a break every now and then...

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... frying the bread...

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...sitting out on the porch, eating the foods we put together for this day.

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The evening continues in wonderful ways, even as I slowly wear down. Good night, good night! Don't let the mosquitoes bite! Can't wait till I wake up and see everyone in the morning!

Friday, July 21, 2017


Sometimes it feels to me like everyone wants to write about the small things out there. It's what matters! Those big time spectacles we see played out on the news or in the papers? Don't sweat them: it's the little things that make us happy.

I'm almost in total agreement. You need only leaf through a few pages of Ocean to realize that no big event has made its way here in many a blue moon. I talk small, look for small, delight in small.

But just to be clear: sometimes the big can be mighty exciting!

(This is not an introduction to any big announcement. I just want to go on record for wanting to strike a balance.)

True, the big news from our corner of the planet has to be the weather and it's not a happy story: we just get rain again and again, hard falling rain, loud, forceful rain. Thunderous rain. Everything feels squishy, slippery and wet. And the bugs are just in heaven!

Well, never mind. Very early this morning, I do a fifteen minute lily clearing - enough to keep the visuals in check (just please don't look past the first line of flowers!), and enough to get annoyed at the mosquitoes, and at myself for not spraying, covering or taking any other precautionary measures.

Just one photo from my morning in the garden (I'm in a hurry to do my weekly grocery shopping):

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Breakfast, lovely as always.

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With a view toward the (more or less) cleaned up lilies.

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And now comes the noon hour. Snowdrop's mom has taken some hours off to share in her little girl's after school routines. We're especially eager to all take part in the pool experience. And of course, what do we get? A prediction of rain. Storms too.

Oh, bother with it all! Let's at least try to get a little of our adventuring under the belt. Pick up a happy little girl, walk to coffee shop! (Where we admire the paintings of birds...)

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And though the clouds are looking mighty dark and dare I say it -- mighty fierce, we make it to the pool... So far so good... Mommy and daughter are out in the (pretty empty today! no surprise there!) pool...

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Snowdrop is extremely happy to show mommy her games...

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She relishes the attention too. I'm much more to the side of her play when she and I come alone.

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But I'm so very happy that we have had this time outside, that the rains held off... Until they didn't anymore and we make a dash back to school where I left the car. And just as we come to the farmhouse, the storms roll in again.

Never mind. Ed is back from his meetings -- wet from the motorcycle ride, but still happy to play ball...

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And the little girl of course returns to her babies, because, well, a mother's work is never done...

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I am grateful, really I am. Yes, there are heavy storms predicted for this night, but we had our few minutes of outdoor play. We all needed that.

(On the porch, during the afternoon rains, looking out at the gardens...)

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Snowdrop wakes, she plays.
My hair is in my way!
You want a ponytail? 
Yes! (Gaga smiles.)

 This is gaga and me on a motorcycle...

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Ed picks up the camera.

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You'd never know that storms were raging outside...

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Until it's time to head out.

Torrential rains.

Still, we are lucky. Our basement is sporting only one small leak. Our roof is solid. And we have screens on windows that keep bugs out! How good is that!

Small stuff, right?

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.