Monday, March 01, 2021

Monday - 353rd

Our march to spring takes a little March pause today. Sunny, but cold. Puddles froze overnight. No matter. I give them two days to melt into mud once again.

(There is still snow on the farmette lands -- just less of it. Lots of bare spots.)

Breakfast, after I greet the chicks. They look like they're growing!

(good morning Rosie, Cherry and Uni -- did I get the names right, Snowdrop?)








Then I basically go blind to the world. I mean, I have my long overdue eye check and you know how that goes -- many drops cloud your eyes so that by the time you leave you can see absolutely nothing with any clarity whatsoever. That you should be set loose to drive yourself home afterwards does not seem right. Especially on a bright sunny day. It's a good thing that I know my way home with eyes closed because they may as well be closed.

And don't you think that this is just about the best possible moment in your life to go ahead and purchase a new car? When you can't see anything? And you don't want to spend any time inside any dealer's showroom because, you know, there's a pandemic raging across our planet right now?

The car purchase issue has been on my mind for a while now. After much misery with working through the problems in my rusty old Mazda, I had decided weeks ago that it's time for a change. And last week, I actually "bought" a car. Without any visit to any dealer, without even seeing any car at all, I made a deal with a car sales guy over the phone. To be finalized on or before March 1st. Oh, Ed and I had many discussions as to whether this was a good strategy. The old Mazda can keep going probably for a while longer, but each repair has been more costly than the previous one and, too, if the car breaks down on me, then selling it would be a challenge. And finally, you don't see interest rates like these very often: 0.9%. I mean, really? 

And so toward noon, Ed dropped me off at the dealer's and the tortuous process of purchasing a car -- one that I could only sort of kind of see, what with my impaired vision -- began.

You'd think that it would be easy and fun. After all, I had negotiated the model, even the actual car, rolling off the delivery truck just last Friday, certainly the price. 

It was not fun, it was not easy. I had to go into the showroom constantly (double masked) to attend to various stuff, sanitizing my hands obsessively as papers were passed to me for review. In between signings and elbow bumps, I waited outside -- on this one cold day of the week, and as I looked over this piece of new machinery I tried to feel the joy you're supposed to feel when you hand over a sizeable chunk of your income in exchange for a tangible good. I even gave the new car a name -- Blue Moon, because, well, it's blue and the purchase by me of this and any car at all happens once in a blue moon. Like maybe every fifteen years, or maybe never again, given my age.

In a sense, everything was smooth enough. Everyone was nice, everyone was polite, tolerating my desire not to sit anywhere or linger inside or touch anything there. And the car -- well, it's really lovely and its functionality is perfect: big enough to fill with a pack of kids in the back seat, but only two inches wider than my current Mazda, so it should fit in nicely into the parking space at the end of the driveway.

But at the close of three hours, as I got into this very nice car, I thought -- this can't be mine. I don't belong in new cars. I can't appreciate them because they don't matter that much to me. In the end, it's just a car. And, too, I let myself be conned into adding on a rustproofing guarantee (for 7 years!) just because my past two (used) cars were so rusted through that I craved a protection against road salt. They knew my vulnerabilities! They called it a fancy name (environmental something or other), zapped on a nice price for it and promised that if ever even a hint of rust or paint fade or bug stain or anything threatened the car's exterior, I could just bring it in and puff! They would magically mend it.

Ed straightened me out properly on that one. As I later told him about it, he reminded me what I already knew: insurance, warranty, promise -- loaded words, banking on the susceptibility of the foolish and the weak. 

They wouldn't have sold it to you if they thought you would actually need to use it....

I know Ed, I know.

Still, let's be positive about the whole messy day: the eyes will clear eventually. the car is lovely and it will protect me and my loved ones better (all those safety features!), and tomorrow, spring-like weather will return.

From Ed: Be sure to read the informational materials, gorgeous. (He knows me too well.)

(Evening walk by Lake Waubesa: still a tad wintry)

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sunday - 352nd

The day is so like a hundred others in past years -- ones with young families at the heart, with my eyes firmly focused on the youngest ones in our midst. But of course, the day is uniquely its own, because the past 352 days have been nothing if not unusual for us all.

You know that I am in Chicago for a weekend with my daughter and her family. (They are not yet vaccinated, but I am.) And you know that I haven't played or hugged or chased or eaten with Primrose (who is almost three) since this summer. That I haven't played or hugged or chased or eaten with her mother either. These months have been a tough slog here as we waited for the vaccinations, but really, if I would compare them to the months of others who are still waiting, or saddened by losses of any kind, or not well themselves, well, we've had a pretty calm year. Isolated, quiet and calm. So far.

But now, starting with Friday, we have reentered the orbits of the young families, though one at a time and with spacing in between. We feel safe because they are so careful! And they should feel safe too, because Ed and I are continuing to isolate for their benefit.


Sunday morning in Chicago. I let the parents sleep in a little while I play with the little girl. I help her get ready for the day and she helps me, admiring all my creams and shampoos and combs, playing her guitar for me while I shower. She picks out her own clothing...




...and then we're off to build caves and hide with snakes and loud dogs in them.

And eventually we hear stirring upstairs. Her dad is making us a breakfast of Swedish porridge. It's fantastic! Pearled barley, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, crushed wheat, crushed rye and water, soaked then slowly cooked and patted with butter, a dash of milk, maybe a dab of jam.

Fortified, we resume our play. (After her hair is properly clipped back by mom.)


I haven't mentioned the weather -- it's been spring like!! Above freezing every day so that the snow is melting. Slushy at times, puddly at other times. Good walking weather!

First sprouts! (One has to acknowledge that Chicago gets these a few weeks earlier than we do.)

And now we're home again, eating a delivered lunch from Lonesome Rose. This feels truly like a collage of memories. On previous visits, we would often end our time together with a brunch at Lonesome Rose. Their breakfast burritos or bowls are totally modern, fresh and honest. We can't go to their restaurant of course, but here we are, eating their foods nonetheless!

With bakery treats from Lost Larson to finish the brunchy lunch.

And then I have to leave. And it would be super sad indeed (such a beautiful weekend!) if it were a departure riddled with uncertainty, but I am confident that we are all moving to a better place, certainly to a place where we can resume being with the people whom we love so deeply! So, a goodbye laced with hope and a love you so so much, and a see you soon!

I drive home. Well, not entirely home. I go a little further to deposit some boxes of baked goods for my other daughter and her family. Here, the masks have to come back on for me, and a great distance has to be preserved. For a handful of days, so that I don't mix household stuff.


At home, Ed gives me a report on the farmette weekend. Yes, the chicks are alive and well. The visiting cats will sit on top of the box where they live and look down at them. We can't tell if it's out of curiosity or something more sinister, but so far, no one has done anything naughty. 

There's still snow on the ground, but not a whole lot. How quickly we jumped to better, brighter, balmier weather this year! How utterly wonderful to have had this gift of an early spring.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Saturday - 351st

If you looked here yesterday, you'll know I'm in Chicago, with my younger daughter and her family. Having had a long stretch of time without such visits makes this one precious and extra sweet. But too, it means that I write less about it, because I don't want to give minutes to something like writing, which is inherently lonely. This is not a weekend for hiding behind closed doors!

I'll include a sprinkling of images from our day. From when Primrose wakes up...

What would you like to wear today, little one? 

This, grandma.


With breakfast treats from Masa Madre...

And of course, our usual time released selfie...

To a long walk with the young family to Lincoln Park...

And more playtime at home (she is recording a birthday song for a friend)...

A game of chickens...

A dance, or two, or three...

With lots of splendid hanging out.

All this until evening, when we eat another family dinner, one that I did not plan, prepare, serve and clean up after. Take out from a pizza place they say has been their lifeline to good food during the pandemic (Bungalow by Middle Brow).

Best way to describe the day: one with lots of time to just be with this young family whom I miss in the best of times and have missed excruciatingly in not the best of times.

A weekend to appreciate and love with my heart and soul.

I do hope the full moon shines brightly over all good people everywhere tonight.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Friday - 350th

The most important thing to remember about this day is that I reenter the world of my Chicago grandchild, Primrose.

Of course, it's the vaccination that makes this possible, though there isn't much guidance as to how best to reunite safely with your kids and grandkids after getting your shots and so the cautious approach is probably a smart idea. Meaning, you don't just jump into everyone's space at once. You assess their vulnerabilities, you count the days, you discuss with your kids who goes first and what amount of time should be wedged between the two visits and then you proceed.

I haven't had an indoor unmasked meetup with Primrose since July. The family is endlessly, tirelessly isolating, but the little girl goes to school and so our only get togethers have been in a park, with masks. Today all this changes.

But first, there are the morning farmette routines, the animals, the walk to the barn -- all in beautiful sunshine.

And of course, I spend time with the new farmhouse residents. You're always a tad anxious when you come down to their boxy home after the first night: did the temp stay at the requisite 95F (35C)? Did they stay warm enough? Did they survive??

It did. Plenty warm. They survived.

Breakfast, near them in the sun room.

We do have a double agenda: getting them used to us of course (the last three chicks we raised were plenty used to us in the farmhouse, but once released to the flock, it became all about their own pecking order and we were pretty much ignored), but also getting the cats used to the chicks.

Our cats are hunters. We're never going to be able to put up cute videos where they cuddle with baby chicks. They hunt mice, chipmunks and every once in a while, they'll go after a bird. Or a bug. It doesn't happen often, but we've certainly seen them bring in small feathered friends. The chicks will surely tempt them. At the very least they'll be chased and tortured by the cats, especially the Unfriendlies, who think themselves to be in charge of patrolling the farmette's boundaries. And so until they are nice and hefty and ready to join the flock, we have to keep them safe.

Dance is the most frequent farmhouse visitor and she is definitely intrigued by the big box. We've let her peek inside, hoping that some form of acceptance will occur, but we're not betting on it. The box is covered from all sides. No cat can get in.

But shortly after noon, I leave all this behind, pack up the rusty but still trusty silver Mazda and head for Chicago.



It is so strange to be coming up the steps to their unit once again! So strange not to use precautions! So wonderful, too.

(picking Primrose up at school)


(Home, the young family's home. Playing with Primrose once again...)

(And yes, it was grand to see my daughter and son-in-law once again. To talk late into the evening, to visit!)

It's like riding a bike: face to face visits -- something that we haven't done for soooooo long! -- are as easy to return to, as if you never had to leave them behind. And yes, you want to forget that you did have to leave them behind. Thanksgiving, Christmas, all that happened only via video calls. And they were great and they brought us closer together, but you never want to do them again. At least not as any new normal. May the new normal -- face to face, hug to hug. -- may that happen soon for all of us. This is my most fervent wish for you, for me.

With love.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Thursday - 349th

The good news is that the sun is just pouring into the windows from all sides. Well, mostly from the south side, but it seems wonderfully bright every which way I look.

(farmette animals at play)

Breakfast, now routinely in the front room. We are, after all, creatures of habit.

During the morning hours I work diligently on my writing. But by noon we get distracted. First of all, there are car issues to mull over, but that's not going to be my topic du jour. Save it for the day when I stop mulling and take decisive steps! More importantly, Ed and I lose ourselves in the last details of the chicken project.

You remember perhaps that this year we lost two cheepers to possums. All in one day. It was awful and heartbreaking, as one of the losses was our docile, sweet old Java. The question arose: should we get replacements?

On the one hand -- no. We have three girls and a happy Happy -- the docile rooster. In the growing season,  they scratch up my garden, especially in the spring when the baby greens are just emerging. I positively hate having free range chickens then. I want to offload the whole batch to the first person I see. And the worry that goes along with predators! Hawks, possum, coyotes -- they're a constant threat and when they attack, it is awful. 

So no. 

On the other hand, Ed is convinced (and I sort of kind of am too) that the cheepers have decimated the tick population here at the farmette. We work outside all the time and we have not brought in ticks. The kids have had no tick issues either. That's nothing short of amazing, considering the prevalence of this menace in Wisconsin. Too, Peach is getting old and we should be forward looking. Introducing young chicks is best in this early spring season. You raise them in your house and then you let them out just as the weather warms up. So now is perfect.

Finally, they are so cute!! (That is, before they get to be bigger than a fist, at which point they're noisy, dusty and hard to control indoors. But I'm not thinking about that.)

On balance, we decided to go for it! Three new ones, purchased on the first day of the arrival of the spring chicks at the store! It's a plan!

Until it unravels. The chicks come in to the Farm and Fleet stores at noon -- a day earlier than expected. By 2pm, when I call to see if more have arrived, I learn that the first batch is already sold out. In this COVID year, Madison families are longing for fun projects. Backyard chickens are the thing! As a result, we lose our bid for the breeds we favored.

The afternoon is a chaos of phone calls to Farm and Fleet stores near and far. In the end, we decide to head out in hot pursuit the minute the store's agriculture clerks leave for the post office to pick up the next batch of chicks. We are there when the boxed chicks are brought in for unloading. 

We don't quite have the choice we expected, but never mind. We pick two Cinnamon Queens and a Light Brahma. Then we change our minds and return one Queen for an Easter Egger. Then we change our minds again and return the Light Brahma for another Cinnamon Queen. The  sales clerks think we are possibly nuts or are grossly deficient in decision making capabilities.

We do this quickly and with double masks of our highest quality and with gloves on. We're not ready to reenter the world of stores or the world of people. This dip into the retail world was tough enough!

Why the heightened caution? Well, it's because of the kids. We want to see them again and we do not want to bring a virus into their safe worlds. More on that at another time. For now, we are home, listening to the gentle peeps of the day old chicks. I tell Ed -- this is the funnest week of chicken raising: the first one!

He agrees.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Wednesday - 348th

Let's not dwell on the unfortunate small details of the day. Why make yourself feel bad for being a distracted driveway backer outer yet again? Why not focus on the pretty sunshine early in the morning...

... and skip over my hurried exit down that driveway, because that exit resulted in me grazing the snowbank yet again and so there I was, stuck in icy snow, wheels spinning, clock ticking.

Ed! I'm so so sorry to wake you but...

Although we are adhering to strict protocols of isolation still, I have resumed the regular medical screenings and checkups that have been postponed for years now, first because, well, for no reason actually, but then postponed for a good reason -- COVID.  Time to get back on track, starting with this morning and this is when I back out into a terribly unpleasant snow pile.

Ed cannot push me out in time for my appointment and so I hop into his car (so happy we dug that one out yesterday!) and drive off, as he continues to rock the rusty baby back and forth, back and forth. By the time I return, the car is in its proper parking spot and all is quiet with the world.

Breakfast. Quietly, sweetly, gratefully.

I had just bragged to my doc, that saintly person who has been putting in double duty in the hospitals all COVID season long, that Ed and I have been walking/skiing every day, every single day and now the morning turns to afternoon and the afternoon turns to late afternoon and we're not walking. We are having March weather: the temps are just a hiccup above freezing (finally!), which is nice, very very nice, but this means that the piles of snow are slowly melting, leaving behind ice and slush. If you're lucky you'll avoid both but then you have to contend with mud. It's not the best time to be out on hiking trails! So we revolt and stay on our couches, except that the guilt is too strong, way too strong.  I go outside. Alone. Ed thinks an occasional do nothing day is just fine. And I'm not too ambitious either: I do a quick loop around the new development. And the late late afternoon sunshine just feels so good on your face...

 (looking toward the farmette from the new development...)



Lots of good spring days are ahead of us. For sure.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tuesday - 347th

Well, if you didn't float spring thoughts in your head today, then you were not looking out the window, perhaps a cracked open window, at a golden day in south central Wisconsin. One that makes you smile!

(She looks like she is rubbing her paws to keep warm!)

The animals are all over the place and predictably, some of the chickens know the route between barn and garage well, while others, the older girls, well, just one girl now -- Peach, gets stuck in the snow and I have to rescue her.



Still, there is movement in the air!

There is, however, little movement in terms of Ed's car. Even though we are above freezing for the second day in a row, the wheels of it are in an iced groove. We spend not a small amount of time rocking the thing back and forth. Finally! It's released from its icy prison.

We are all liberated!

(Breakfast, still in the front room...)

And an afternoon walk down the lake shore road that hugs Lake Waubesa.


Oh, the feeling of spring! It's effervescent!

And toward evening, we drive over to pick up my partially fixed car. It's clear that I'm pouring millions in keeping the thing going. The cash guzzler is sucking up all my spare cash. Is it time to call it quits and move on to a newer model? The mechanic hints at this. And still, I push back. Purchasing a car is one of the most uninteresting ways to spend money. What does it matter if you're in a rusted vehicle or one with a newer body and a rust free engine? You're not made happier by it. It's just a seat that carries you from one place to the next. Still, at some point, if you live on the farmette, you're going to need a working car that will have loads of reliable life left in it.


Fritata time again. With mushrooms and onions, brussel sprouts and potatoes. And cheese. Always load on lots and lots of grated gruyere and parmesan. Car problems recede, the evenings turns mellow, so beautifully mellow.