Saturday, November 16, 2019

farmette life 18

The music uncurls with 
The soft vowels of inlets,
The christening of vessels, 
The titles of portages,
The colours of sea grapes,
The tartness of sea-almonds,
The alphabet of church bells,
The peace of white horses,
The pastures of ports,
The litany of islands,
The rosary of archipelagoes,
Anguilla, Antigua,
Virgin of Guadeloupe,
And stone-white Grenada
Of sunlight and pigeons,
The amen of calm waters,
The amen of calm waters,
The amen of calm waters.
(Derek Walcott)

By midnight, the sailors pulled into a cove of a protected island off the coast of Puerto Rico. (I know this from satellite charts -- they are still out of communication range.) I would guess that this is exactly what Ed would want to do, though he would push for something more remote. "Uninhabited" would be ideal. Turquoise waters, a sandy strip, perhaps a smell of a pine tree. Sleep there, under the stars. Swim out to sea, come back again.

My own Caribbean dream would be different. I would go inland. Taste their foods, smell their flowers, watch the people work, the children play. It would not be Puerto Rico, because the island is too big, too hard to navigate. But nor would it be remote. Derek Walcott's lyrical verse has me grow wistful. But I know, too, that his poem was written many decades ago. Tourism, including, hypothetically, my own, does not always benefit the islands. (One very good story about Walcott can be found in this New Yorker article from 2004.)

Every person deserves to come close to her or his dreams and I wish Ed had chosen to stay a little while longer out on the Caribbean. To sail out to some of those remote islands. To swim out, swim in, settle in on the warm sands and fall asleep.

*   *   *

Here, on the farmette, things are very calm.


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Breakfast.

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We've bounced back to November temperature normals.

The animals are behaving, hanging close to their sleeping quarters.


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My energies are slowly coming back, so that weekly grocery shopping, postponed from yesterday, feels doable. Well, sort of odd again because I'm shopping for a week with Ed in it, an Ed who may be trying on new hats. For all I know, he has turned vegan. Or embraced meat. People get very happy with their travel habits and vow, at least initially to keep them alive upon a return.



Friday, November 15, 2019

farmette life 17


Oh, the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin'
Like the stillness in the wind
Before the hurricane begins
The hour that the ship comes in.
(Bob Dylan)

Journeys come to an end. Always. Even if you are a lifelong sailor, each voyage has a beginning and an end.  Your boat must touch shore.

Sometime, in the Caribbean Friday night, Ed's sailboat came into port in Puerto Rico.

Does a sailor feel relief? Or regret? Perhaps a sense of pride?

Ed always claimed that these voyages are life changing. Perhaps he is right, at least with respect to younger sailors, but at our age, there's not much that can affect the course we choose for our lives. True, when I travel, I always learn something new. If the destination is especially challenging, I learn more. But I have traveled all my life -- from rural postwar Poland, to within other poor and prosperous countries, to distant and vast continents. Going forward, no one trip will likely transform me anymore. It's not that I've seen it all, it's that I'm too formed to be transformed.

Ed will be within communication range again and though he will continue to live on the boat for a day or two, the big sail is done. Boat safely delivered to the southern climes. The captain will remain there, his family will join him, but the men who helped sail the catamaran will fly to their respective homes, transformed or not!


It's a very pretty day here, at the farmette.


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I don't spend time reveling in its prettiness, but I take note of it, even as I'm still moving slowly. Rushing recovery is never a good idea. I should grocery shop. I don't grocery shop. I should visit my mother. She is 96 today! Neither of us thinks it's a good idea for me to cough my way into her apartment. I should tidy more. I do little of that.

I feed the animals,


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Eat breakfast...


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... and settle in for the rest of the morning on the couch.


In the afternoon, I play with Snowdrop.


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When she is here with her brother, she is oftentimes distracted. She ignores most of the games that would have been her mainstay before he began joining us here after school. Today (Fridays she comes to the farmhouse alone), she goes back to that standard repertoire of make-believe play.


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And, she thinks it to be a good day for painting.


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Me, I'm just glad to be getting my voice back. It's rough to read book chapters when half the words you utter are without sound.

As I drop her at home and visit briefly with Sparrow, I think about how good this week has been for these grandkids. The days grow shorter, the weather stuns you with its cold, grandma hacks away all afternoon-long and yet they have thrived and blossomed. We feel overwhelmed by hurdles, kicks, stumbles. Kids, they just grow.


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Thursday, November 14, 2019

farmette life 16


The storm hath passed;
I hear the birds rejoice; the hen,
Returned into the road again,
Her cheerful notes repeats. The sky serene
Is, in the west, upon the mountain seen:
The country smiles; bright runs the silver stream.
...
If, by some monstrous growth, miraculous,
Pleasure at times is born of pain,
It is a precious gain!
(Giacomo Leopardi)

This morning, I lifted the brick that kept the coop door shut for the past three days. By 8 a.m., the cheepers were out. True, they merely moved from the coop to a corner of the barn that stays a tad warmer than, say, the open field, but still, I felt that they should benefit even this tiny bit, given my clearing head and my calmer soul. I have it in me to chase them down and lock them up again before the kids come.

It's still not quite November weather out there, but we're moving closer. By tomorrow, we'll be back in positive (above freezing) territory. That's reason enough to be happy!

As I sit down to a very late breakfast...


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...I think about the small ways in which being alone here has not been so hard. For a little while, you get to be selfish again.

You want the living room neat and tidy all the time? You can do it! (The farmhouse living room has been the epitome of neatness and tidiness for the past 16 days.) Tired of menu planning every night? Steam up some veggies, bake a potato, but some cheese on it, add a nice slice of smoked salmon and a salad and call it dinner. Oh, I would have occasionally done something similar for us when Ed is here, but this has been my dinner for three days in a row now! With a cup of soup straight out of a container ("super greens creamy soup"). With Ed, I always cook soups from scratch.

And the candle burns and the music plays.

These are small pleasures of course and they do not diminish my longing for Ed to be back again, because this place lacks a heart when he is away, but still, one has to acknowledge that there are, in fact, joys and pleasures for him out there on the boat, and, too, a small trickle of joys and pleasures at the farmhiuse as well.

I can muse about that again because, knock on wood, this morning, for the first time, I wake up fever free.The tumult of this week -- the sickness, the cat drama, the utter cold -- it's moving elsewhere. Here, at the farmette, it's time to imagine pleasure again. Can I interest you in a cup of Blueberry Hibiscus tea, with a splash of elderberry juice, a squeeze of honey and some lemon juice? [A thank you to Snowdrop's teacher who pointed me to the elderberry juice. It's expensive! -- I protested. Well, my grandmother had elderberries growing right in her back yard. Hmmm. Maybe Ed and I should pant elderberry bushes and then the grandkids will some day say -- oh, we picked those in Gaga's yard!]

*   *   *


It's one of those school pickups where neither kid is ready to stop what they're doing: Sparrow is solidly asleep and Snowdrop begs for more time to finish her book project!

It takes us half an hour to leave the school building.


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At the farmhouse, Sparrow always notices Stop Sign. Always.


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Snowdrop, overjoyed that there is indeed a Little Gray stuffie waiting for her...


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Evening visitors...


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The kids and I watch the deer, because we happen to be outside at the same time. I'm taking them to Snowdrop's dance class. It's a project, but today, their parents are helping me tremendously by meeting me at class -- to manage Sparrow while I makes sure Snowdrop is ready for class.


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Evening. Remarkable in the fact that it is quite unremarkable!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

farmette life 15


Some people live in a house on the hill
And wish they were some place else
There's nobody there
When the evening is still
Secrets with no one to tell

Some I have known have a ship where they sleep
With sounds of rocks on the coast
They sail over oceans five fathoms deep
But can't find what they want the most

Even now when I'm alone
I've always known with you
I am home
(Vanessa Carlton)


The farmhouse, painted by us a "Caribbean yellow," stands on top of a hill -- in the country, yet so close to Madison. There's so much to love about this place and I knew this when I finally agreed to move here nearly nine years ago. We have made it our project: to care for the land, to expand flower fields, to encourage pollinators, to support the flora and fauna here. We don't always agree on how this should take place (I would like Ed to get help and cut back more of the trees), but this is trivial. We work together here.

Over the years, however, it became abundantly clear that I haven't the mechanical smarts to make much needed ongoing repairs and I haven't the physical strength to clear fallen timbers, move boulders, and maintain the land on my own. We could, perhaps, hire gardening help, but the mechanicals here would ultimately do me in. And so, if anything happens Ed, I will have to move. The farmhouse, for me, is only good when Ed is part of it. My home is here because he is here.

It should have been no big deal to be alone for two or three weeks. I mean, November gloomy and maybe a little sad, but manageable.  Nothing that a credit card can't solve.

Then came the cold days. And of course, let's put at least some of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the one who is responsible for much of the animal drama here: Stop Sign. In one year, we went from being catless to being flooded with cats. They're all over the place! And winter is coming and I felt sorry for them and so now we have cats in the shed and cats on the porch and cats under cars and cats on the road.

It is truly not the case that Ed should have stayed home. He should have done just what he did -- go help his friend sail a boat south. But my plate was already heaping before he left. Add some problems to is and the apple cart tips and everything falls apart.

So, perhaps we should have put some helpful pieces in place. And, from my own personal standpoint -- sympathetic utterances would have been super helpful. Words, gestures -- they matter!

Let me finish with Vanessa Carlton's last verse:

For me it's a glance and the smile on your face
The touch of your hands
And an honest embrace
For where I lay it's you I keep
This changing world I fall asleep
With you all I know is I'm coming home,
Coming home.


Or, you can just listen to the youtube clip. It's a song that had meaning for me when my daughters first left home and eventually moved back to the Midwest. And now it has this very real new meaning, something that became beautifully evident this month.





Breakfast. With a quilt.


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Kittens. Just two.


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Kids.

Snowdrop asks -- can we see the dead cat again? 
I buried her, little one.
Why? 
So she'll rest in peace.
She's resting?
Well, sort of. You say that out of respect. 
So, she wont come back?
No, but her memory stays with us. (Snowdrop has no memory of this kitten, so it's an idle point.)
And now we have only two kittens left.
Is one of them Little Gray?
No. Remember? We told you. (Clearly she does not remember.) Little Gray was hit by a car too.
So I wont be able to ever cuddle Little Gray again? Nooooooooooo! (lots of big tears)


And later:
Gaga, could you maybe sew a snugglie of Little Gray? So I can touch her?
Can I just find one on line?
No, can't you sew one? (Not gonna happen...)
I'll look into it. (Amazon to the rescue.)


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Evening. I feel that suddenly, everything is swinging upwards. Fever down, lungs clearing, temperatures rising, snow melting. And the sailboat is coming closer to shore. And there's a one way ticket for Ed, who is coming home.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

farmette life 14


Oh, something is missing here
Oh, something has disappeared
'Cause I'm all alone
Like a bird that's flown
Into the great unknown
On my own.
(Madeleine Peyroux)


The farmette is complicated. There are many components to it, most installed by Ed. I don't think he set out to make it complicated, but his lifestyle changed since he moved here several decades ago and so tweaks were made and connecting lines were installed and it all works fine, because Ed is good at installing things and tweaking stuff.

Until it doesn't work fine.

Before Ed left on his sailing expedition, we went over the various things that could go wrong here, in his absence. The list is long! And it's complicated. The set up for the internet alone is comically convoluted. Gas lines feed the sheep shed and the farmhouse. The water is heated one way here and another way there. The furnace heats the house, water pipes heat the sheep shed. And all this is somehow connected in ways that I do not understand.

In this beast of a month, we've had the snow. The freeze. I'm still sick. Cats have been sick. Cats have died. It's been two weeks of keeping this place afloat and though I'm sure the sailors have had their challenges out at sea, at least there are five of them. The farmette ship, on the other hand, is mine to handle. Alone.

I wake up to 5F (-15C) outside. That's brutal, even for January. It's insane for early November. The cats are hungry. I run through about a dozen tissues to clear my sinuses, seize control of my cough, and go out to do the morning chores.


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In the sheep shed, seven powerful cats (I can't believe they were once babies!) are clamoring for food.

Hold on! -- I tell them. I need to clean these disgusting bowls of yours!

And that's when I notice there's no hot water. Indeed, there's no water at all when you turn on the warm water faucet. The water heater is in the kitchen. It seems dead.

Perhaps this is not a big deal. I simply do not know. I do not smell gas, but then the sheep shed right now smells of machines and cats, so anything else would be well camouflaged. Is there danger? A gas leak? A malfunction requiring immediate attention? I have no idea and because I don't understand the complicated farmette system, I have to call Madison Gas and Electric and ask for an immediate visit (which in itself is complicated -- kids, doctor's appointments -- how am I going to fit it all in?)

It's going to be a crazy day.

*   *   *

I'm in my doc's office. Not because of the cold/virus/whatever, but because I want to find out why a report on my abdomen last week revealed that my gall bladder was just fine. I do not have a gall bladder. We parted ways more than forty years ago.

She looks at the report thoughtfully and concludes finally that it must be boilerplate language, pasted in when things are fine. I do like my doc very much and she is not the author of the report, but still, shouldn't we do better than to slap in boilerplate, especially incorrect boilerplate?

As long as I'm here, my doc listens to my lungs. I think you have pneumonia, she tells me. There is a crackle...
Am I okay around kids?
She notes that if she had pneumonia, she'd still be around her kids, but she gently suggests that I should also rest.

People point fingers at kids, but I want to say that they are not my problem! The strain is in dealing with the complicated farmette, the 17 animals and the most bizarre November weather in our history! There's the strain!

As I sit in the doc's office, I receive a message from the captain of the sailboat out there on the Atlantic, via satellite or some such nonsense. He asks if I can book a flight for Ed and assures me that Ed is enjoying himself.

I know that this is a family-friendly blog, but I don't care! My reaction is visceral -- are you fucking kidding me?? You think I'm sitting around worrying if Ed is having fun? You think, as I am cleaning animal vomit, burying cats, discarding squirrels and mice and chasing chickens before little Sparrow comes and requires my hands on care, you think in this coldest of cold months, with snow piling up and water heaters breaking, while I'm coughing up a storm and fighting a fever, that I'm really worried whether Ed is having fun??

Who are these strange people, the five sailors out there flying with the wind (or lack thereof) and testing their manhood against the elements?

I calm down. It's not my doc who is the author of the report, it's not Ed who is the author of the email.


*   *   *

Somewhere in there, there was breakfast.


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*   *   *

In the early afternoon, the Madison Gas and Electric truck pulls up. The two men inspect the gas water heater, do not understand how it all works (It's not just me!),  turn off the gas, just to be safe (with what consequences? I do not know) and depart, leaving a trail of wet muddy footprints all across the sheep shed (and seven terrified cats hiding in the barn). 

I quickly get into the car and head out to pick up the kids. Was it me? Was it the gas guys' truck? One of us, likely me (though I do not hear or see anything) hits a kittie who has parked herself in the middle of the road. (I see a second kittie, sitting on the road further down. I screech to a halt and chase her off. But it's too late for her sister -- the pretty little one with the orange patch on her white skinny body.)


*   *   *

The highlight of the day? Easy.


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*   *   *

The low point? Uff! This.


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Darkness and the cold do not keep me from burying the little one. Next to her little cousins.

Monday, November 11, 2019

farmette life 13


Lord, I'm one, Lord, I'm two, Lord, I'm three, Lord, I'm four
Lord, I'm five hundred miles from my home
Five hundred miles, five hundred miles
Five hundred miles, five hundred miles
Lord, I'm five hundred miles from my home...
(Hedy West)

If I'm reading the nautical data correctly, Ed is still some 500 miles from his destination, traveling at just under 5 mph. I hope I'm not reading the charts correctly. I hope it's last week's data and he is as we speak sitting at a bar in Puerto Rico enjoying a Medalla Light (the island's most popular beer).

500 miles is just so far...

In the meantime, we have one more week of bitter cold. And snow. Several inches of dry powder blew in last night. And I mean blew in: the porch is snow covered. The farmette paths are snow covered.

I feel my patience with this November is being tested.

Added to the woes of the day is the fact that I really do have a fever and the malaise that comes with a fever and a chest cold. I had to give myself a pep talk before I could stumble out of bed and make my way to the barn and shed to feed the animals. Right on the spot I decided to keep the cheepers locked up for the day. I may not have the energy to corral them into the coop in the afternoon. And it's not as if they want to go out and scratch the snow.

The porch cats are out exploring this morning. That's a problem. If I put out food for them, it will freeze. But I can't wait for their return! I just want to crawl back in bed!

I put out the food and it freezes, of course, and this is just one example of how caring for all these cats can be one giant headache.


The snow, I suppose, is sort of pretty, especially when we get a minute of sunshine later in the day...


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But I can't get excited about it. It's too cold and I'm too sick.

As for breakfast -- aren't you supposed to feed a cold and starve a fever? What if you have both? I compromise by eating my morning meal at noon.


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On the upside, Motrin is very effective against fevers. And here's another bonus: the furnace is chugging along! When Arctic air comes your way, think how wonderful it is to crank up the heat in your house!

Fortified with several cups of herbal teas, I set out to pick up the kids. I mean, I'm sure I'm on the upswing. A morning rest does wonders!


(Rediscovering Duplo: Snowdrop is trying to imagine state fairgrounds, ferris wheel and all...)


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(Sparrow is happy with whatever has wheels!)


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And when I am just too tired to be entertaining and stimulating, there's always Olivia on YouTube. Their brains will not rot with an hour of video clips about a spunky pig and her baby brother.


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Evening. How about some chicken noodle soup? Sound good to you? Me too!


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Sunday, November 10, 2019

farmette life 12


But through the clouds I'll never float
Until I have a little boat...
(William Wordsworth)

I woke up thinking that it shouldn't be terribly hard to locate a small boat out at sea these days. We have satellites. Ed's sailing with a registered crew of sailors. They leave a trail.

But I didn't set to the task of finding out more straight away. My sniffles have fogged over my entire brain and it seemed ambitious enough to go out and deal with the animals. [All of them managed just fine in my absence, though the cheepers were worst off: I left them plenty of water and feed. Or so I thought. Everything was dry and empty last night as I shined a flashlight into the coop upon my return.]

After the laborious hike to the barn, shed and back again, I climbed into bed and thought more about whether I really want to know where Ed is, especially since I'm not positive I can track the correct wee boat of theirs. And what if they are making slow progress? Do I really want to know that? Strong winds would have put them in Puerto Rico tomorrow, but I'm fairly sure there are no strong winds now over that part of the Atlantic.

Nothing like stirring the bug of curiosity: once you pose a question (where are they?), you want an answer.

And I think I found them! Terribly far from any shore. Like, not anywhere close to P.R.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps they will have made it in record time. I remind myself that I really do not understand nautical charts well and that it could be that my days of cleaning the sheep shed after seven rambunctious cats may be drawing to a close.

I thrive on optimism.

Breakfast. Very late. It's a droopy dreary day. We're anticipating snow again and then a blast of coldest yet air. An insane November, weather wise! And I know that after breakfast comes farmhouse cleaning. So why rush breakfast!?


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I stay indoors, move slowly and neglect my to do lists. By the afternoon, I know I'm spiking a fever. I can't afford a fever. Please go away.

The day passes. My woodsy soy candle burns brightly, music coming out of my computer is fabulous. I will myself to get over this bug quickly. Tonight, I have the young family here to feed.

A rest: that's always good! By evening, things improve. And by the time the young ones arrive, I'm more or less back on track. Kids have a way of bringing you out of your own misery.



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Our evening is lovely. They want to hear all about my visit with Primrose and her mom. I want to hear about their own weekend adventures. All over a warm meal that will give me plenty of leftovers for the week ahead.


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(Post supper exhale. On the couch.)


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I do think the powers that be should address the problem of curing the common cold before taking on more glamorous projects, but, since this wont happen in my lifetime, the best we can do is ignore the menace, rest, and hold on to the belief that someday soon this too shall pass. Boats come back to shore, sniffles go away. Thank goodness.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

farmette life 11


Come all ye young sailors and listen to me,
I'll sing you a song of the fish of the sea.
Then blow ye winds westerly, westerly blow,
We're bound to the south'ard, So steady she goes.
(traditional)

Do the men fish out there on the sailboat? I know Ed's not one to pull in fish from the ocean, but do others? What exactly do you do with yourself when you're not taking your four or six hour shift at steering the catamaran? Ed, who leans toward solitude, is on a tiny boat with four other men. How do you not trip over each other in the course of the day?

I think about this as I ride the speeding bus back to Madison. I had a beautiful and full second day in Chicago with Primrose and her mom (dad was out of town) and now I'm returning to my own quiet -- not one that I particularly love, or at least not when it is so quiet that I have to occasionally say something out loud, so that I can remember what the human voice sounds like.

Unlike Ed, Primrose does not lean toward solitude: she is definitely a social and verbal child. Being with her means that you will hear plenty of impassioned conversation.

Here, she is eyeing the quesadilla I brought from Madison's Finca. I rather thoughtlessly put it on the breakfast table and of course Primrose is adamant that it should be the meal's appetizer.



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Here's a quiet moment, requiring total concentration...


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Primrose's mom has stuff to do and so the little girl and I spend the morning just the two of us.

The little one has a fantastic memory for things she and I always do during my visits. When I ask if she wants to do the timed release photo, she drops her toys and flies into position.


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One word that she repeats again and again today is "mango." I'd cut up one for breakfast and she was disappointed when the three of us polished it off (she being its main consumer) down to the naked pit. When I asked if she wanted to go outside, she asked with great hope "mango?"

How much should I humor such a request? The store with good mangos is far. I tell her -- let's just head out and see where the wind takes us.


(always my happy adventurer!)


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It's not terribly cold today. Winter is taking a day's pause out here in the Midwest.


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In the end, I give in, but not entirely. I take the girl to Local Foods -- a store concentrating on foods grown and produced in this region. But it's not entirely consistent. You can pick up bananas and lemons. To my knowledge, neither come from Illinois. So I have some hope for mangoes.

The produce manager shakes his head. Mangoes are too far out there. Sort of like pineapple. People would get really mad at me if I sold either!

Okay, no mangoes, little one. Can I interest you in a free sample of curried cauliflower mash? With coconut? Produced locally?


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I'm told there is to be a musical program for kids. I hesitate. I mean, what kind of musical program and for what age?

I'm assured that it's for everyone (possibly because the grocery store audience is small and an addition of two more would be appreciated).

I suppose that's sort of correct. A woman dresses in a costume that is to make her look like Elsa from the movie Frozen and tries to entertain kids with some story that may or may not be from that movie. Punctuating the story are songs (sung by the Elsa look-alike) that definitely span a wide range of musicals, from Frozen to Cabaret. Perhaps the best part for the kids is that she does take out a bubble making machine.  Primrose tries her hardest to catch a bubble but of course, you can't. Too, older kids are chasing and popping most everything before it reaches her. Still, she is a good sport and does not shy away from the activity.


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We return home without a mango, but she seems content with a lunch of other foods that I find in the fridge. And shortly after, her mom returns...


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... and it's time for me to say good bye and head for home.

Oh sweet girl, stay on course and don't change a thing! You're doing so well! Be your determined and strong sweet self!


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Sigh... it was so good to see the two Chicago girls!

It's dark when the bus pulls into Madison. I'm feeling the onset of sniffles and I wonder if I can just feed the animals and not do anything more demanding tonight. Maybe. We'll see.

Friday, November 08, 2019

farmette life 10


Lo! The unbounded sea!
On its breast a Ship starting, spreading all her sails -- an ample
Ship, carrying even her moonsails;
The pennant is flying aloft, as she speeds, she speeds so stately--
below, emulous waves press forward,
They surround the Ship, with shining curving motions and foam.
(Walt Whitman)

I finally caved and looked at a broad weather chart for the western Atlantic Ocean. (I'd been avoiding doing that because I fall into the group of people who know too little to make sense of such information. Still, living in an information vacuum is hard and so I peeked.) There may be some micro horrors taking place, but for the most part, things look very calm. I'm greatly relieved, of course, but, too, I know that a calm ocean is no friend to a sailboat. You cannot "speed" or "fly aloft" without wind. I'm told that calm seas mean that you drift. And so the wait (my wait) continues.

At the same time, it's an insanely busy morning for me. I am doing a quick-turn-around trip to Chicago to spend time with my granddaughter, Primrose. I can't be gone too long because of the darn animals. You wouldn't worry about feral cats and cooped up chickens under normal circumstances, but these are not normal circumstances. I woke up to 10F (-12C) outside. Everything is frozen solid.


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The porch kittens are huddled in their ever-so-lighty heated (meaning: you call this heat??) lair, and the plugged in water dish is preventing their water from turning into a block of solid ice, but food is a problem. Not only would it freeze within minutes, but, too, I may be attracting unwanted visitors to the porch by leaving a full bowl of kibbles there. But to leave less? Stop Sign is insatiable. She eats more than half the energetic cats in the shed put together.

So I feed everyone well, leave some dry stuff out anyway, cross my fingers and head out. At some point, I have to stop worrying about cats that have clawed their way into my world (especially in the last ten days).

I have an early morning appointment and from there, I'm aiming to catch the 10 a.m. to Chicago. I'm in luck. There is a window between the two and I have just enough time to scoot over to Finca for a morning coffee before getting on the bus.


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The barista packs a sweet quesadilla for my journey. A gift, he says. God, I love that place -- so full of warm light, good music and lovely people!


And now I am in Chicago. I go straight to Primrose's school and, with some degree of excitement, bundle the little girl up andpack up her belongings to take back home. Unlike with Snowdrop, where the spillover is tremendous, here, everything fits into Primrose's wee little backpack.

We do stop in a store to pick up some flowers. Just because, it's ridiculously cold outside and flowers help you remember that this too will pass.


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It's been only three weeks since I last saw Primrose, but she is at an age where even a few days can make a real difference.


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(Like Sparrow, she builds towers, except she attacks them from the top!)


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(I'm sure her parents wont be amused with my small gift of a cheap (and I mean cheap) toy phone that beeps and talks and is altogether annoying.)


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Oh, the beautiful moments of a young child's life! You hope they'll stick with you forever, but in fact, they are continuously replaced by the next ones and the ones after...


My daughter comes home from work and sets about fixing a supper for a very hungry little girl.


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And then it's Primrose's bedtime and her mom and I can now sit down together and think back and think forward, to all those beautiful things that are before you. To see your daughters grow up and face life with wide smiles on their faces -- this really is a magnificent thing! Sort of like growing a peony flower flush with petals, or a many hued day lily, only better! So much better!


It is another night of stars and moon beams casting their milky light over the Midwestern landscape. And, too, over the western Atlantic. Over children sleeping, over a boat pressing forward.