Monday, May 20, 2019


You step out to feed the kitties, you look around and you can't believe how stunning it all is! You say to yourself -- I wish I had my camera with me! And of course, you're just three steps away from your home, so you have the following conversation with yourself:

Everything in life does not need to be photographed. Sometimes you just have to stand still and love the moment in its magnificence. No props needed.

Yes, but in February, I'll be longing for this day. I'll want to remember it. Look forward to it!

You have plenty of May photos. Why not go easy on the camera today?

Why not? Because it's all too beautiful! And fleeting. I see the first petals drifting toward the walkway.

You run in and return with the camera, reminding yourself that in May, you should never again step outside without it.

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But breakfast is in the kitchen. It's a cool morning. A very cool morning.

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Though if you tilt your head toward the porch door, you still get that heavenly view of lilac and crab apple in full bloom. What more could you possibly ask for!

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(Well, you could ask the cheepers to quit using the blooming phlox patch as a comfy tromping platform!)

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It's not a good day for outdoor work. But that's fine -- I'm caught up with the flower beds for now! What I need is to find a plant for the newly created rock bed by the front door. It's a shady spot. Not many flowers sprout blooms in shade.

I take Ed along with me to the local greenhouses. (On our way there, we stop at Walmart to restock on cat food: these guys eat like there's no tomorrow! We can't keep up!) Ed isn't by any means a "decorator." Still, whenever he chooses to insert himself into decorating decisions, he comes up with clever and always very cheap solutions. Like this one:

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(A moment to admire the garden. Ed is very generous with his praise of my efforts here.)

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One last small task: I had been keeping three small annuals to fill in spots where animals/weather/etc have done damage, be it in the beds or in the flower pots. But why wait for a disaster? I find three old pots in the garage and by morning's end, I have a new center piece for the picnic table.

Is that all right? -- I ask Ed.
So long as I can still put my junk up there when I need to -- he answers. No one has ever used the picnic table for a picnic. It's a place of work. A base for tools, spare parts, garden paraphernalia and two deer antlers that we found lying around.

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When I pick up Snowdrop at school, there is a momentary break in the clouds. She asks for a walk to the coffee shop and neighboring playground. I hesitate. I mean, it's in the 50sF (lower teens C). But she is insistent.

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(Oh those swings!)

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At the farmhouse, she spots the watermelon in the mudroom. It is no longer Ed's post-bike ride watermelon. The girl loves it almost as much as she loves cherries.

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Evening. I'm thinking how hard it is to juggle care for those who need your care. Take the cats, for instance. You want to do well by the mother cat. You want to give her peace and quiet to eat her foods, to not have to look around her shoulder to see if someone is ready to pounce. Then there are her energetic young ones: each one deserves time and attention. 

The kitties eat in and around the garage. We've taken to placing Stop Sign's feeding dish on the porch, to give her space and quiet. That's all fine and well, though it does mean that she gets to peek inside our home!

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And so long as I'm on the subject of care for young ones, I should note that I'll be on the night bus to Chicago. Little Primrose is a bit under the weather. By morning, I should be with the little city girl. We'll see what's blooming in Chicago right now. If only it would stop storming/raining long enough for me to take a look around me, once there.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


Once again, I work around the weather patterns. It's dry and even partly sunny (for a handful of minutes) in the early morning. And so I am outside then, weeding my beds for two hours before Ed even stirs.

The soil is muddy. Of course it is. So much rain! Still, we've really worked hard at breaking down the clay, so that most plants don't sit in a water logged environment. For the most part, the garden is doing just fine!

Of course, the showstoppers right now continue to be the crabs and the lilac. Just a few days more of it and so you have to put up with my preoccupation with their magnificence right now!

We marvel at how enormous this complex configuration of crab apples is. Do you see the writer's shed to the right? Or the sheep shed to the left? They give you some perspective as to size.

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But I rarely look at this great big wondrous tree in its entirety. Instead, I love it for the little tunnel of petals it creates along the walkway. This is where the magic happens!

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Further down the pathway, the other trees take over. It's one brilliant walk right now!

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The largest crab apple is very fragrant, but of course, it has competition from the now blooming lilacs!

This old purple bush hits the corner of the porch from both sides. To the west...

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And at the front (to the north)...

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This north side is where in the summer, the lilies reign, but right now, what stands out are the blooming yellow iris. Oh, and the nearby peony bush is almost ready for its stellar moment in the sun. 

Alright, time for breakfast. On the porch. Ed's on his way (right there, behind the wheelbarrow, in the yellow t-shirt).

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Stop Sign is hanging around more and more. It's not a good sign. We both doubt that we'll ever see little Tulip again.

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We go through a period of steady rain. That's fine -- I need to clean the farmhouse. And when I'm done with that, the rains have moved on.

I tell Ed that there is a wee problem outside that I would like to solve. It has to do with the aesthetics of the entryway. It's a mostly shady space and there is a spot of dirt just by the doorway. We've put wood chips down and over the years, I've planted small ferns and other shade loving plants there. It hasn't worked: the cheepers often descend, especially during hot summer days. The soil and chips here are almost always cool and moist. They dig up anything you'd try to grow there.

We try a different approach. Ed has removed many rocks of varying sizes from around the farmette lands. He heaps them in a pile by the sheep shed and we search through them now for interesting ones that may be used here.

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There, that's better! (The plant is a pace holder. We need something that will thrive even in shade.)

And now I have to stop thinking about the outside and concentrate on the inside. The young family is coming over for dinner and, too, my daughter's terrific college friends, women whom I have known and liked for a long long time, have flown in for a visit. They'll be with us for dinner tonight.

Time to up the predinner snacks! Add some prosciutto to the cheeses, olives and peppers and bring out the ingredients for Negroni aperitifs!

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Well now, look who came along with the crowd! Hi Sparrow!

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And Snowdrop, showing off her new necklace and bracelet.

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The wonderful kids once more...

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And now I am collapsing for the night. Ed is long out, the post is almost written. The night is quiet. The scents, coming in through the open windows,  are hefty and enchanting. It is the weekend of the full flower moon.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


I have read recently that for some people, the very beauty of spring fuels depondency. I can understand that: joy, renewal, engagement with the land are gifts and not everyone is able to share in them equally or at the same time.

Both Ed and I are lucky in that we thrive when the land around us begs for our attention. We respond. And with that physical effort comes the reward of feeling at peace with the world around us. I recently told a friend that when I dig, pull, scrape, saw and sow, I disengage from spinning worry, from fretting about the big and little annoyances that always seem to chase our days. The wheels up there slow down. I slow down and recharge. I am better at life after I have worked hard at the farmette.

This year, though, you really had to be retired, with flexibility to spare, to put in a good share of effort. Pockets of good weather came and went. If you weren't ready for them -- too bad. They didn't stick around.

Today was so typical. I felt like a person playing double dutch jump rope -- you know how two people spin two ropes and you jump in and out? It was like that with the weather: starts cold, with drizzle, but stops early, with promise of dry weather until the evening. That promise is not fulfilled. At 11 there is a thunder clap and the rain comes down, feeling like it's here to stay. But it doesn't stay. By 2 it's gone. The air turns sticky warm. For a while anyway.

Again, Ed and I are lucky: we can bounce with it.

I suggest we go to the market downtown. I want asparagus. The season for this wonderful vegetable is upon us. One month of fantastically fresh asparagus! I do not want to miss a single week of it.

And so I do a quick walk of the farmette land... (I also do not want to miss the joy of inhaling lilac blooms right now...

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... nor do I want to miss admiring the full beauty of the crabs!)

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Then we eat breakfast...

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... finally, we ignore the cheepers and set out.

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Matt, one of our favorite asparagus farmers, is there with his assistant, George (the writer, to the right). We catch up and stock up.

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We also pick up beautiful bunches of tulips mixed with lilac. One for the farmhouse, one for my mother. We head to her place then, to finish building some tables and hanging more pictures on her apartment walls.

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And this is when the rains come down. You have to feel sorry for the farmers who count on this day to sell their produce. Many of the big market days have not been kind weatherwise.

Ed and I are ready to have a restful day inside. Oh, we can always step out for that heavenly scent and a close encounter with our blooming trees. (No, I can never have enough of this combo...)

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But, if it's to be a wet day, we'll concentrate on indoor stuff.

Except, as I said, the rains stop. You cannot waste an afternoon of calm, warm air. I suggest we weed last year's tomato bed. We're moving the veggies elsewhere this year. We had considered letting the old bed go to weed. Or grasses. Or both. But I have a half a bucket of wildflower seeds left. Wouldn't this be a fine place to sow them?

We spend a couple of hours pulling out thistle, dandelions and bindweed. And when we're more or less done, I sow the seeds.

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We try our hardest to keep the cheepers away (they follow us everywhere...)

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It's useless -- they love the little seeds! It's their perfect dessert after a feast of worms. Still, we hope that there were enough seeds for both cheepers and flowers. Ed thinks the weeds will dominate. I told him to tuck his pessimism away -- we're going to get that field to sprout some wildflowers or else!

The early evening remains dry.

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I move another plant, Ed builds another peony stand. And finally we jump out of the yard and into the house, fully expecting that tomorrow will be exactly the same -- hours out, hours in. Like in that jump rope game.

Friday, May 17, 2019


Back when my kids were in school, I remember the last weeks of the academic year as having lots of outdoor special events and activities. You always fretted about the weather and with justification! One year, on the first or second day of June, my daughter went with her grade to a water theme park. You know the kind -- crazy slides into vast outdoor swimming pools. The whole lot of them sat huddled in sweatshirts, trying to stay warm on a particularly blustery, cold June day.

It's not only Wisconsin: one July vacation in Paris had us shopping for warm wool sweaters. We were woefully under-dressed for the cold days that ensued.

In other words, cold days happen. In spring and summer, they can pop up unexpectedly. Again, unless you're a farmer, or an 8th grader wanting to slide down into a pool on a school outing, it doesn't deserve much thought or worry.

And unlike in April, when you have just had it with the cold and the bleak, in May there are so many delicious rewards to the season, that poor weather (as opposed to dangerously violent weather) takes a back seat to other stuff that's going on all around you.

So today's unusual cold air is just one of those things. It has no impact on the utter magnificence of the farmette right now. If it wasn't for the fact that I am such a day-lily nut (and day lilies reign in my gardens in July), I'd say that this week, perhaps this day is at the top of the top. The entirety is just so outrageously beautiful that you can't imagine anything being this grand again. Until next year, all over again.

(The reason for it lies, of course, in the line up of our blooming crab apples...)

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(But do not underestimate the power of the lilac!)

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(Oh, but those crabs!!)

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But breakfast is indoors, which is a shame, if only because the heady fragrance of the fruit trees and the opening lilac bundles is truly intoxicating.

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Our morning is busy. Ed has two work meetings and I have my weekly grocery shopping. But more importantly, this morning is "grandparents at school" time at Snowdrop's school. The little one is super excited to welcome me to her classroom. And I am super excited to be there!

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She has it all planned out. First, we have to sample the muffins she and the kids baked yesterday!

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(a timed release...)

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She then shows me her favorite work stations. The art table takes top billings. Drawing, cutting, pasting -- she demonstrates all of it.

This being a Montessori school, there are many many ways to grow in your dexterity, self sufficiency, curiosity. She runs through a good half dozen with me...

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(I found this one to be maybe the most smile inducing: you are to polish this wooden, ornate pair of characters. Decades of oil have been wiped onto the bellies of the figurines.)

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Despite his various work commitments today, Ed asks if he can stop by. She is delighted. She shows him the magnetic maze. He is hugely impressed by her patient resolve to get it done.

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(She insists that he has a muffin. There aren't enough little chairs to go around and arguably, Ed is too big for one anyway, so he sits on the floor.)

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(Well in that case, she'll join him there, perching on his lap.)

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Snowdrop is utterly serious in her demonstrations.

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But at group time, she turns outward...

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I know this girl well, but this peek at her school day was special. A child in a school setting is particularly vulnerable: the teachers, peers, demands placed on her, rules thrust upon her -- it's a storm of experiences. No wonder she falls asleep each afternoon. The hour on that mat is the needed quiet time, where nothing else matters but rest.

In the meantime, the skies remain cloudy. The threat of rain is with us, even as a glance outside gives us that spectacular view to the powerhouse bloomers right now.

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I pick up a tired but happy girl.

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And, what a surprise... She is again drawn to art.

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And now it's evening. I made up a pot of soup last night, in part because I thought the upcoming cool weather warranted it. Ed and I are big fans of veggie soups!

I think about the weekend ahead -- there surely is flower field work to be done. But the biggest chunk of it is behind us. We're slowing down already. And once the tomatoes go in, we'll be coasting to summer.