Thursday, November 30, 2017


It's so pretty outside right now! November weather, but with plenty of sunshine. The lesson from this is to never give up hope for a better tomorrow. All those complaints about winter coming too soon? Surely misguided!

Unfortunately, we haven't the time for play. Ed's fixing his truck, pushing forward his patent, monitoring the ins and outs of milling machine production -- he's one busy guy!

I'm equally preoccupied, though with less ambitious tasks. But they all need to be wrapped up by Saturday, as I'm leaving then on my annual December trip (another short one!) across the ocean. So I'm running around doing very many very unimportant chores.

Breakfast, squeezed in between phone conferences (Ed's), grocery lists (mine), and an unexpected but so very delightful visit from friends.

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I read that tomorrow is the meteorological start of winter. How funny! We're slated to reach the 50sF (above 10C) -- which has happened maybe once or twice in December in the past century.

As I pick up the little one after school, I'm assuming that she will want to spend her afternoon with me outside, at the park playground.

Not so. She does want to stay at the school playground for a while. Swings, yes, of course...

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... but what really draws her today is the vast sand play area. She takes off her shoes, ready to plunge. I protest. Too cold, too uncomfortable, too shady, too wrong for November! She looks me straight in the eye to see if I mean business and then decides (correctly) that I am putty in her hands.

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I do remain firm afterwards: you need to wash your hands.
She scoots away from me but then comes back. I'm sorry grandma...

Whoa... how did this girl grow up to be so... good?

I ask her then if she still wants to go to the park, or perhaps the coffee shop?
She chooses the latter. I understand. We're truly done with fall frolic by the lesser lake. There are better (warmer!) ways to spend our time together.

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(She still delights in playing school in the car before we head home... I mean, she can spin her stories here for a very  very long time!)

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Finally, farmhouse.

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Testing the new-ish couch.

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She approves!

It's her last visit to the farmhouse for a while. Still, I feel we haven't fully explored our play possibilities. I wanted to do this and that and then some more of the other!

It's a funny thing being a grandparent: on the one hand, your energy levels aren't where they may have been, say, thirty years back. At the same time, you've figured out where you could possibly help a child most. Even as there's never enough time to do all that you know would help.

But for now, she is at peace. As are we. November was one heck of a thrilling month.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

looking forward

We all look forward. Well, there are those that truly believe in The Moment, but most of us have an eye toward the next hour. And on a sunny (if cool) day, everything about the next hour looks so grand!

I put on our most beautiful Christmas music mix (compiled over the decades) and get to work on holiday cards. (What? You're not on my list? If you're a good Ocean friend, you should be! Send me your address!)

It's been a full morning. We sold our couch and made plans to pick up the new-ish one. We moved furniture. We made room for the newcommer. We looked for the kitties and found none of them and sure enough, in the two days without kitties, we've trapped mice in the basement. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Breakfast in glorious sunshine! Our old potted orchids are starting their winter bloom!

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And now the music and the cards. Ed is not in the farmhouse or I'd hesitate with the music. My daughter pointed out that she doesn't know many guys who love streaming lovely holiday offerings hour after hour. Well, they're missing something! The calm that comes from hearing hauntingly beautiful and familiar melodies is exquisite.

I pick up Snowdrop.

Her teacher tells me she and her buddy were very energetic and so she calmed them down by telling a story: of goldilocks and the three bears. The two imps seem properly horrified by the tale's twists and turns.

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I think that yesterday's gusty winds finally had an impact on Snowdrop. When I asked if she'd prefer playground over coffee shop she surprised me by choosing the coffee shop. So fine by me!

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A third day without a nap. She is tired.

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But it is in her nature to rally and to find that something to smile about. A doughnut? Yes, I love doughnuts, grandma!

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Revived. We walk back to the car.

Every inch of this route is familiar, yet we never tire of it!

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But today we have to hurry. We have one more music class to observe.

It all takes me back, of course. I remember it too well -- watching that excitement, the desire to improve, the work, the car rides to get us there.

And still, it's different.

(We walk through a fragment of a mall, with a paper store. Like me at her age, Snowdrop loves paper products!)

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I suppose having grandkids is like that: familiar, beautiful, yet completely fresh and unpredictable.

I take the little one home. Christmas songs play on the car radio. She sings along, paying minute attention to the various parts that bring a song together. Come on it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you... Ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! It's all rather magical: the darkening night, the lights outside, the music, her young voice: ding-a-ying-a-ying-a-ying-a-ying!

And now I am the farmhouse once more. The couch is on the truck. Ed and I hoist it, work it up through the porch, past the kitchen and finally to its spot in the living room.

Sleek lines, simple, pale colors, firm support. Perfect.

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It takes some getting used to: we no longer sink into a feather bed of cushions when we sit down. And that's a good thing. A fine thing indeed!

Now, about tomorrow and the next hour and the hour after that... 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


The day is a blur. Looking back, I see nothing of great consequence in it and yet it was packed so tightly that I am still panting.

Take this morning. Because we're buying a couch, we are, of course, selling a couch. Today I unearthed additional slip covers for it. Ad has to be edited, price has to be raised, even as people are writing to ask for details (including a very clever Craigslist scammy offer of a cashier's check; never ever go for that one!).

Someone wants to come see it, I have to get a haircut, Ed is off exchanging cheap computers at a bigbox store, the kittens are still missing.

Somewhere in there we eat breakfast, though I do not remember it at all. Without the photo, I would have thought we skipped it.

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A run to the library with overdue books, a run to the post office, then fluff up the damn couch, leave detailed instructions for Ed, on who will be showing up when and for what purpose and I'm off to pick up Snowdrop.

She is tired. Visibly tired. Still, she tries so hard to rally and we have a wonderful half hour on this warmish day at the playground.

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Afterwards, we sit in the warm car and munch on fruits and read her current favorite book. (No time to go to the farmhouse... the car is our pretend farmhouse.)

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(Read it again, grandma!)

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Snowdrop and her mom (and tag along grandma) have an appointment at the local arts center. The little girl is invited to observe some music classes. Just to see if she might like to take on some of these challenges when she turns three next month.

She definitely shows interest.

So much music before her! For now, she clasps her hands, then points to the moon shining at us from behind misty skies.

Look, mommy, look grandma, a half moon!

May it always shine brightly on you, little one...

Monday, November 27, 2017

weekend guests

It is another beautiful day here, in south central Wisconsin. The holiday is behind us. We face the next challenges with vim and vigor. Well, at least with vim.

First thing's first. Before we even sit down to breakfast, we go out to feed the kitties.

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What kitties? Were there kitties?

Today, they are gone. Nowhere to be seen. We call, coax, put out food. Silence. No meows, no little faces peering at us, nothing.

We leave the food out, partly covered, but very available to them and retreat.

Over our own breakfast, we talk abut what could have happened.

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If we never see them again, we'll never know where they went and what brought them here for that beautiful four day Thanksgiving weekend visit. Did the mother hustle them on to the next destination? Did something scare them? They were just getting used to us bringing them food! Where are they now?

Perhaps to distract ourselves from a day long stare toward the barn, we return to the topic of the couch.

Someone suggested that if I want a couch, I should just get the darn thing and ignore Ed's groans about the project. True. But it's much more fun when we're both on board, working together toward a common goal. Too, it then becomes a joint financial investment. But here's the real truth of the matter: Ed has migrated to doing nearly all of his work from that couch. He rarely retreats to the sheep shed -- something that is pleasant for me and for Snowdrop too. He works, reads, eats, and yes, oftentimes sleeps on that couch. Me, I hate the clunker, but Ed is comfortable with it. The replacement should make him equally comfortable.

In any case, Ed is now on board with getting a replacement. But which one?

We are down to two alternatives: a new one and one straight off of Craigslist. [When I passed on to Ed the comment about buying used and the possibility of introducing bedbugs, he was blunt in adding -- fleas, too.] There are benefits and downsides to each. Price, of course, but not only. The used one looks to be in exceptional condition. It's a mid century import. It would be fine. The new one -- well, I'm terribly annoyed at Pottery Barn, the sellers behind it, for misleading claims about discounts and delivery, so that I'm not keen on throwing money their way.

We agree that we should at least look at the Craigslist couch. But we're both leaning toward a new one.

We drive over. Not a long drive -- some 15 minutes from where we live. It's an interesting property, furnished all mid century modern. The woman who is selling it has lived there all her life. She has raised five kids in that house. Her dad farms the land just to the south. And she bought these two couches from our premier Scandinavian furniture retailer and she just doesn't like her original design. Sold one, wants to sell the other too. Less than a year old. Mint condition. You can tell.

And slowly, I come around to it. Oh, perhaps the new couch may have been swankier, but we're not swanky types. We liked the couch, we like the seller, we give her a deposit and tell her we'll pick it up as soon as we get rid of our clunker.

And then I rush, really rush to pick up Snowdrop, who is napless, but as happy as can be!

(The girl is really into climbing...)

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(The sun sinks into the golden tones of a late afternoon...)

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(She climbs some more...)

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It's always hard to pull her away from outdoor play, but I've got a good one up my sleeve: someone needs to finish decorating the little farmhouse Christmas tree!

Even before I tell her what needs to be done, she is on it!

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Is there a child who isn't enraptured by this sparkly, twinkly holiday tradition?

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Is there a  grandma whose heart isn't completely melted by watching her grandchild's joy?

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It's late now. Snowdrop leaves, Ed and I puff up the couch cushions, take some pics and put our clunker up for sale. Snowdrop will love the new mid century modern, I'm sure of it. She is a girl of great taste.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


You reach a point where you just give up on your couch. The slipcovers shift within two minutes of sitting down, the cushions are mincemeat. It's deformed, distressed and dysfunctional.

I reached that point unfortunately in the early years of the life of the couch. Since then, it's been a daily struggle to keep it looking like you'd actually want to sit on it. As I cleaned the farmhouse this morning, I kept thinking -- the seating arrangement here has to change.

But first, the kittens.

Are you here to feed me at last?

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We hope we're doing well by them. Questions remain, but for now, we bring out little bowls of food. We watch them eat, we watch them relax afterwards.

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We return to the farmhouse to eat a late and very sunny breakfast...

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I make my case for a new couch.

I'll sell this one on Craigslist!
You know no one will buy it...
That tells you something!
It's a terrible idea.
No it's not.
How about if we got a used couch off of craigslist?
No! Never!

We pause to play disc golf.

It's mid afternoon and still, we look up and see the cranes.

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They land in groups, they rifle through the corn fields, we watch, always mesmerized, in awe...

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Refreshed, we return to the farmhouse. I start in on Sunday dinner. Ed browses Craigslist for used couches.

Here's a fine one. Leather. Like new.
Leather?? You would sit on a leather couch? Unbelievable.
As between buying something new and making do with someone's used leather couch, I'd choose the latter.

Living with Ed has taught me not to be rigid. We spend the rest of the evening looking on Craigslist.

Interrupted by dinner with the young family.

It's been years since I've seen the little one! Years!! (Or so it seems...)

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She is happy, chatty, delightfully impish...

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And we are happy, chatty, perhaps just a little impish as well...

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After dinner, the young family returns home and we settle in for a quiet evening at the farmhouse. Now is not the time to fuss about used couches out there. Now's the time to sit back and exhale and smile at all the good moments that this past week has given us.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

farmette reflections on a late November Saturday

How beautiful it is when the sun is with us all day! I wake up to a cool morning, but I hardly notice. There is going to be plenty of sunshine. Our day will be made rich by it.

Even before breakfast, we're anxious to see if the kittie cats are still with us.

We haven't yet decided how to proceed. Perhaps they'll go away, though if we feed them, they probably wont. I go out and look all around the parked cars. Nothing.

They have done their disappearing act once more. I return to the kitchen and start in on cutting up breakfast fruits.

And then I see movement by the barn.

Sure enough, they're peering out at us. Waiting.

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One, another, a third. The two shy ones hang back, straining to see out of the groundhog's largest condominium.

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Ed brings out food in separate dishes. The bolder ones come forward right away. Within a few minutes, they do not mind Ed's presence. (Few cats ever mind Ed's presence.)

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The shy ones continue to hang back and the bolder ones capitalize on their fear: they devour most of the food. Ed mutters -- you take risks, you either get beaten or you push ahead. You can tell who the risk takers are in this pack.

(The kitties and the cheepers are very much aware of each others presence...)

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For now, we'll feed them. Of course we'll feed them. But it is true that there needs to be a long term plan. Ed is a regular contributor to our local chapter of friends of feral cats. He had, in the past, taken in two ferals that were easy to domesticate. They were wonderful cats, but I am firm about keeping cats out of the farmhouse going forward. Every pet brings change -- both the good and the bad. I am absolutely sure that I don't want to worry about cats, clean up after cats, and in general, care for -- which means worry about -- cats.

Of course, we've already embarked on the project of helping this brood survive. They were born awfully close to winter time. We estimate that they're not more than four weeks old. The mom is likely exhausted. (Ed saw her later enjoying a respite in the sunshine. For once, her kids weren't pestering her for more mice.)

If they become barn cats, yes, absolutely -- they'll need to be spayed. All this is before us. For now, we just enjoy their antics.

And the chickens get a little playful as well. Young ones rub off on you: their pleasure and giddiness becomes your own.

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We retreat to the farmhouse for breakfast.

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And then I have a small project that I want to take on this coming month: we have a family storage unit, where boxes of family treasures and junk had been put aside a dozen years ago, when we all moved in our own directions. The family house was sold, the daughters were off at the university, I was moving to a small apartment.

In the years that we have maintained (or more accurately paid a small monthly fee for) this small storage space, we have gone back no more than two or three times to see what's there. It's time we distributed the boxes and let go of the space.

On the one hand, no one even remembers what is there. On the other hand, once you step inside and start poking around, the memories are intense. Could you easily throw away artwork of your children who are now with their own families as you hold the sweet sketches in your hand? How about toys they played with? School work? And those VHS tapes of school performances -- no one ever watches them anymore, but still, the girls were adorable and so very young!

Still, I am the one who always pushes for sifting and sorting and getting rid of the irrelevant and today I drive to the storage space to see what we have to deal with now.

I can hardly touch any of the boxes or trunks. Everything is covered with thick layers of dust. It feels like the attic that has never seen a broom sweep through it.

It's going to be a tough project!

Late in the afternoon, Ed suggests a game of disc golf. I'm enthusiastic! I need to clear the dust from my lungs and the cobwebs from my head. The sun is already starting to set, but we don't mind. We throw the frisbees, chase them down when they go astray and, too, we watch the sandhill cranes above, doing their evening flight to their night resting place.

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Yes, they're with us still. They will be leaving within the next week, at most two weeks. But for now, their beauty is grand, especially in the golden light of the fading sun.

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Thanksgiving weekend draws to a close. The night air is crisp. The stars are out. It's a beautiful time to be at the farmette...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday after Thanksgiving

Unbelievable weather! We hit a record high of 64F (18C). It's a one day only spike. A gift. We must take advantage of it!

But wait, there are all these post dinner dishes to attend to.

Or are there? In one of those memorable surprises, as I sat down to post last night, fighting sleepiness all the way, Ed, without my realizing it, stacked the dishwasher and generally cleaned up for me.

You did that? And you scraped the dishes too? (To my knowledge, Ed has never stacked a dishwasher in his life. He had never had one and I rarely use the one we had put into the farmhouse.)
No, of course not.
Ed! They were crusted and greasy! No rinsing at all?

And here's a surprise: this morning, I open the dishwasher and find remarkably clean and shiny dishes! All those years of scraping and rinsing! Unnecessary! The darn machine gets them clean anyway!


Breakfast, which is for me a stroll down Thanksgiving lane (spice cake, cranberry corn muffins) ...

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... And then we both walk over to the barn to visit the kittens. Ed had rigged a shelter for them with hay bales, leaving a dish of cat food to entice them in.

But there wasn't a sign of kitties. No scurrying noises. No faces to the warm sun. The food in the dish was untouched.

I speculate that these kittens weren't raised in the wild. Maybe they are our neighbor's, coming over for a playful romp here, but returning home at the end of the day.
Our neighbor isn't a cat guy.
So maybe they were just passing through for a Thanksgiving visit...

We return to the farmhouse and plan the rest of the day. The weather is the decisive factor. A hike is definitely in order. One that doesn't require a long drive.

This is a lot of decision making, on the day after Thanksgiving no less, when the brain and the body both work very slowly. It's after 1 by the time we put on our hiking shoes and make our way to the car.

Wait! What's this??

The cheepers are by the two cars and the truck. And so are the five kittens.

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Ed hurries to the barn to retrieve the uneaten cat food. Slowly, with little noise or jerky movement, we push the dishes of food to where they are.

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The bolder ones come forward right away and eat with great enthusiasm. The shy ones hide in the groundhog condominium, dug out under the truck.

The mom appears out of nowhere. She is carrying a mouse. One of her brood gets it and he enthusiastically settles in for his own Thanksgiving extravaganza.

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We watch, quite spellbound. The mom is off to hunt again. She has raised five babes in the wild. She works hard to keep them fed.

This raises a host of questions for us. Should we continue to feed them? Does this create reliance? The cheepers are curious about the dishes of food, but of course -- they can't eat that stuff. (Much of cat food is based on chicken scraps.) I distract them with scraps of bread for now. The kitties and the hens are very aware of each other. How will all this play out in months to come? The cold cold months ahead of us?

Eventually, when the kittens have polished off all the food in the dishes, we shoo them out of car range and drive off.

It is a late start for a hike!

We head out to the Ice Age Trail segment, just west of Madison. And boom! We cone to that sign that warns us of the hunting season this week. The trail is officially closed. Just as well: with all the cat distractions, we forgot our blaze orange vest and cap (on the weekend when it's really important to wear them).

So where to now? We both agree that our state park, the very beautiful Governor Dodge Park is a good bet. You're not going to get shot down in a state park, right? True, it's still a good 38 minutes away from where we are at the moment and it it nothing short of dumb to start a hike at the end of November in Wisconsin at 3 o'clock (the sun sets at 4:25).

Still, it's a beautiful drive along the back roads of our state. For a while we track the Wisconsin River. Yes, the light is lovely in the late late afternoon...

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Finally, the state park. What? At the entrance, the sign tells us -- hunters welcome!

I ask the park ranger if we will get hunted down, what without orange clothing.
We haven't lost a hiker yet -- he tells me somewhat reassuringly.

And in fact, though we come across many a huntsman, our loop takes us away from any gunfire. Here, follow along with us!

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The descending sun is a playful companion.

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The shadows grow very long and finally, there are no shadows at all.

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The sun does a final dip...

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A fishing boat pulls in. The thin ice that had started to form at the water's edge is nearly gone now...

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It is time to head home.

One last look at the sun from the crest of a hill...

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And we turn away from it all and drive back to the farmette.

The moon shines brightly over our landscape. Good night daughters and granddaughter, good night all, goodnight kitties, wherever you are.

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