Wednesday, July 18, 2018

it continues

It's a beautiful summer afternoon. As Snowdrop and I stroll over to the playground, she asks me -- grandma, what did you do this morning?

I don't know what prompted her to ask, or to even wonder. Three year olds typically are busy trying to figure out how to make the pencil work magic on paper, or digging into their lunchbox to see if it contains something yummy. At a rare philosophical moment, they'll maybe want you to explain whatever happened to your own grandma (Snowdrop asked that very question yesterday; when I told her my grandma isn't around any more, the girl pushed me further -- did she move?)

In my recount of the morning, I wanted to sound at once adventurous and responsible. Merely telling her that I spent several hours snipping off faded daylily blooms sounds pretty un-exotic, even had I bragged that I snipped off an astonishing 662 finished blossoms today. Snowdrop is a whiz at arithmetic in the single digits. She would not get that 662 is impressive (and perhaps an old time record for me).

Still, I discuss my garden a lot with the little girl. I mean, she's the only one who will listen! I name flowers, we delight in birds, I report my thrill at seeing monarch butterflies decide that our milkweeds are good enough to call home. So I answer her truthfully -- I worked among flowers.

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(while Ed watered tomatoes...)

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(Our beans are doing so well!)

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Tomato, wanting a treat.

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And then I visit with a smiling Sparrow.

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(Tummy time)

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And of course, now, in the afternoon, Snowdrop and I are walking to the beach park.

It's a beautiful day to be with little Snowdrop. (That's a song. I've been singing it in the course of 3.5 years' worth of walks.)

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Later, toward evening, I quickly make my way to a meeting of like minded people at a Groundswell Conservancy event. There are many reasons why the work of this organization is especially important to us (Ed has been involved with it for quite a long time), but today, even without their umbrella of support, we're likely to have been among the dozen or so people who came to a two hour "meet the farmers" event at the Parisi farm. Both Ed and I like to learn what challenges small family farms are facing here, in south central Wisconsin. Terry Parisi and her family are clever farmers and fantastic story tellers.

We listen to their struggles ("three climate events that sent all us small farmers conferring with each other on the internet: extreme cold in April, extreme rain in May, extreme heat in June. Add to it groundhogs and tomato worms -- phew!") and we smile in admiration. Terry's good natured approach to life's challenges is downright inspiring. And the tomatoes she shares with us are yummy!

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And the goats? Well, the goats are your best friends forever, especially if you feed them clover or are wearing a dress that reminds them of clover.

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We're offered cups of fresh milk from one of the mama goats. Only a few of us are willing drinkers. (I'm one of them.)

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It's late by the time I return to the farmette. Ed is biking, and I myself am wondering where my day went.

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Oh, I know: to gardens and farms, to Sparrow and Snowdrop. And goats. In other words, to the good things in life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

days of glory

We all have a time when we deliver our best. Suddenly, in this moment of greatness, we are who we want to be. It passes, of course. We fall back on old habits, we make mistakes, we succumb to tiredness. We lived our moment of glory and we return to normal.

But we always have another chance at glory. It needn't be the case that the last time all the stars were perfectly aligned happened in the second grade and since then we have been teetering or even plummeting into a less inspired existence. Each and every year of our lives, we have a chance at glory (big or small).

My flowers -- they only have one moment per year when all is perfectly in place and their blossomy faces are at their best. And I'm thinking that at least for some of them, that moment is today.

It's a full day, but not so full that I can't appreciate the beauty of the July 17th garden. Of course, it isn't perfect, but it is glorious!

My first task is to clean the flower fields. (I snip off perhaps a record number of spent lilies: 545.)

(new this year...)

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(the lily field is at its best when these orange front row beauties have their explosive show of color; this happened today...)

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(the cheeps: morning meander)

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(the wee bed by the parked cars...)

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(a snippet of the front bed)

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(for the love of milkweed...)

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(surely this whole bed is at its most glorious...)

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Breakfast comes next.

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After, I visit Sparrow.

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And then we pick up a joyous little Snowdrop. She has been drawing again...

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Teacher and mommy admire her coolest piece of art. Sparrow naps.

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We drive over to visit my mom. She has never met the little girl, let alone Sparrow. A photo is in order.

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We can't stay too long. We have dance! (But before that, we pause for refreshments...)

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What story are they acting out today in class? Madeline! "In an old house in Paris...."

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"She was not afraid of mice... she loved winter, snow and ice..."

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Good night little girls, thank the Lord you are well! Now go to sleep, said Miss Clavel.

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The garden (and my children and their children) -- so glorious now, this year, this summer, today.  Snapped in photos, so that I can look back and love it all again, and again, even when time has pushed us into the next season and the one after.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Brief encounters, snippets of conversation, a string of minutes. Nothing lasted for very long. Came and went. And yet they left their mark.

I start the day very early. "Up before the chickens" says it all. I need to do a thorough sweep of the yesterday's spent daylilies. It's their peak moment, in that the greatest number blooms right about now. The flowers are magnificent! And numerous. I count how many spent ones I pluck today, ever so gently, so as not to disturb emergent buds: 520. It takes me an hour and a half.

(Morning garden photos)

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(Pepper and Tomato)

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(Mama Java follows me to the front flower bed. Protectively. To make sure I stay off the road.)

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(A flower field is nearly indistinguishable to me from a painting...)

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Since I've braved the bugs in the flower fields, I may as well continue my morning adventure and go to the farthest edge of the farmette, where we have two blueberry bushes. I pick a plateful. The cheepers follow.

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And now it's time for breakfast, on the porch,
(with the blueberries) despite the roar of construction to our east.

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A few more snippets of conversation and my beloved friend and weekend guest departs.

Ever since the monarda flowers have started to bloom, the humming birds have come to call, again and again. Their visits are brief but charming: how can a bird flutter its wings at such great speed? This small creature can do 80 beats per second! Remarkable.

Late in the morning, I drive my mom to an appointment. It's not far and I'm there only to make sure she goes to the right place.

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Too, it gives me a chance to assess where she is at. It's been a week since her move. She is unpacked and waiting on some new pieces of furniture. I make a note to get to this project for sure tonight.

Since I am not too far from the bakery where I buy pain au chocolat for Snowdrop, I hop over now to do my bakery shopping. And there I run into an old friend. She belongs to an era of married life that predates this blog. I run into her at the grocery store every few years and today, I meet her at the bakery. We sit down to catch up: I hear about who from that set of once friends is sick, who is well, who has grandkids, who does not.

We laugh our way through recounts of tragedies and near misses. I mean, at the age of 65, you're allowed to laugh.

In the afternoon I pick up Snowdrop. 

She is full of vim and vigor! She proudly shows me a picture she'd been working on (the big girl in the center of the page with the face-wide smile? That's a self portrait).

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I only have a small handful of hours with her today. I offer the pool. From early season timidity, I have before me a girl that's raring to go!

If I had to choose a perfect day in the pool with her, I'd likely pick today. It helps that the weather is ideal. And that last Friday, she came to this very pool with her school (when it isn't open to the public), and that yesterday she went swimming again with her parents and baby Sparrow.

In other words, she is on a pool roll!

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And an after-pool shower roll.  
The changing room for girls is pink, Gaga -- she explains to me this new realization. But boys can change here too. 
Did boys and girls change here last Friday?
Yes, but the girls went to this small room. Right here, Gaga. 
I am learning the ways of a school swim.

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And Snowdrop's mood remains downright bubbly!

Evening. An hour on the porch, just in time to catch the fireflies outside and the flutter of the occasional bat.

It's a beautiful night. I wish you could look out at it with me. Here, let's sit back and exhale together:

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I'll leave you with Robert Frost, on fireflies.

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

weekend visit, continued

It's mid-July. Warm, lovely to the core. As I do my very early, trimming of the garden, snipping this spent flower and the next, I'm back to filling my head with music. Remember Purcell's Nymphs and Shepherds? No? There is a famous recording of it from 1929. 250 schoolchildren from Manchester, England, with no musical training, were given a chance to perform it. And they did. And it's innocent and lovely. Listen to it if you want a backdrop to this leisurely day of flowers and berry cakes. Of summer views and farmette moments.

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Breakfast, on the porch.

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What, Ed -- do you think you're free of my camera today? Nope.

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An entire morning and then some making Yotam Ottolenghi's lemon and black currant stripe cake (only I can't find black currants so I'm using mixed berries).

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It's one of those complicated projects that I would not otherwise undertake, but my friend is here to chat me up as I work away. (Theses are her pics)

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Make the puree, make the oddly complicated but oh so delicious buttercream, then the cake, and then start rolling it all together.

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Nearly finished. Just needs the frosting and a dribble of the leftover puree. A pause to watch Diane play with the cheepers.

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We paused, too, to watch the final ten minutes of the World Cup. I suppose it's fitting that, apart from the cake (Ottolenghi is an Israeli-British chef), dinner will have a French twist to it. The young family is here to eat with us: kir royal (yes, it's a Sunday favorite around here) to sip at the outset (with stinky cheeses for those who just are too hungry to wait for dinner) and a salade niçoise (I like the recipe from Saveur best) for the main course.

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(I've photographed it before, but it's just so colorful and a little different each time, so here it is again...)

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Of course, there is also a home twist of the fantastic Wisconsin corn (it's very very hard to find corn on the cob in France: they mostly import it)! The perfect mid-summer meal.

Okay, let's get the dinner out onto the porch!

(What about me??)

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(You can come, you just can't eat a salade niçoise yet...)

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All followed by the cake, of course.

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With the clever interior...

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After the meal, we retreat inside for a post dinner moment. Snowdrop, somewhat energized, works hard at wearing us all out! She plays "family," she tells stories, she dances, she whirls and twirls and we sit back and wonder when any of us had that much energy.

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Goodnight, goodnight, sweet post weekend dreams to the little and big ones in our lives!