Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday - 219th

My, but it's cold! It rained last night, but only because we stayed a tiny breath above freezing. Tonight we will finally get our first deep frost of the season.

It's time to say goodbye to the scattered annuals. Because the nights are going to stay cold going forward, it's no use trying to shield them anymore. I love them for the way they carried us through the growing season, but their work is done. I pick a handful of nasturtium and cosmos blooms for the breakfast table -- one last reminder of how much beauty unfolds from one small seed, planted with the hope that always comes with spring.

Much of the day lacks a coherent theme. Call it a day of dabbles. I don't clean the house, but I clean the sink and I vacuum the play room. I do not work in the garden, though I do lay some stones. I don't take long walks, but rather I move to my 10,000 step goal in short bursts of activity.

Ed is taking a pause with his water heater replacement and so we have both heat and water for the day. I'm grateful for that and, too, for a functioning toilet! In the middle of the night, Ed whispered to me -- are you awake? the toilet is broken... Then, a few hours later -- are you awake? I took it apart and decalcified the fill valve. Not surprisingly, he slept in today and breakfast was very late.

Toward evening, I work on supper for the young family. Crunchy chicken, in the same way I've been fixing it for at least three decades. I do it with my eyes closed!



Both Ed and I deliver it to their home. He misses the kids. Masked and distanced is better than nothing.


And now we are home again. I've clipped all the annuals I can plunk down in vases. 


Time to retreat into the warmth of the house and eat our own portion of the same dinner. Comfort foods for a cold night. A perfect pairing.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Saturday - 218th

I have never paid much attention to wind before. It's windy? Oh, okay. I should probably tie my hair back. Pfft, wind forgotten.

But this Fall, it's on my mind all the time, and I swear we have had more than our share of fiercely windy days.

Wind gusts are important when I meet up with Snowdrop for our distanced, masked moments in her back yard. On these days, I bring her some art work, perhaps a sticker set, maybe some magnet toy. Most of the stuff scatters everywhere on a windy day. Worse, the blanket where she sits, even weighed down by her body and  a dozen heavy rocks, just cannot stay down. It puffs and heaves and flips every which way and you're left wondering if perhaps this time around the wind really is stronger than us mere mortals on the ground.

Unfortunately, today is another windy day. Plenty of strong gusts! Ed and I have some light outdoor work, around the new front steps, and around the path to the new flower bed..


But we eat breakfast in the kitchen (sorry, cats).






And after, we switch to indoor projects. His is a huge monster of a project: replacing the water heater in the basement. It'll take days. He has said more than once that it's not going to be easy. Today, we only have to make do without water. Towards the completion of the job, as he manipulates gas pipes, we'll have to be without heat as well. We're both hoping there will be no major hiccups along the way. Complicated projects never fail to produce their share of unexpected snafus.

(geraniums, or technically pelargonia, now inside...)

My visit with Snowdrop is, well, windy!

She runs out defiantly. No jacket needed for this young one!


And immediately, she loses herself in a story. No one does this with greater ease than this little girl. In everything, she finds a tale.

I only read her one book. Within an hour, she is ready to go inside. I don't blame her -- I'm ready to be in a place with calm air and preferably some heating sources as well.

I do still have an errand to run -- to pick up the CSA veggie box for the week. It's in the neighborhood where Snowdrop and Sparrow used to go to school and after I stash the produce in the car, I take a little stroll here, wondering if I can somehow bridge in my mind that entire school period before all hell broke loose in March with the days we are living now. Sure, everything has changed, but these blocks that we walked so regularly, with all their fall colors - they are still there and they will be there next Fall, and the Fall after that. 




You need reminders that even though much has changed, a lot more of life remains the same. We still love the same people, the same familiar spots, and at the end of the day, we still feel the comfort of the sweet smell of home.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday - 217th

It's amazing how one degree can transform a garden. We went down to 33F (1C) last night. Had we dipped to 32F (0C), most of the annuals would have done an instant and irrevocable wilt. But we didn't quite hit freezing and so I was granted one more day to save whatever I deem savable. 

I'd already carried in the orchids, herbs and big geranium. What else might survive in a very mildly sunny windowsill inside the farmhouse? I dig out and pot a couple of more geraniums. That's it. I don't have space for more and besides, most annuals do not like the home environment. I can almost hear them complaining: this is it? You've taken away the gentle breezes, the bees, the cool night air and you've given us this? Forget it! We'd rather fold up and call it a day.

 But it is hard to say good bye to all those potted plants outside and the cosmos and the nasturtium and the alyssum that carried me through the growing season with their colorful and often fragrant faces.


The cold morning air does not keep me indoors. Yes, there's the farmette walk, under brilliantly blue skies.

And after, I stay out and return to digging weeds in the new bed. Ed joins me and we shovel away until it is nearly noon and I get very hungry for my morning coffee and breakfast. And because we had been working hard, breakfast on the porch does not feel too cold at all, even though it iss barely 41F (5C).

Afterwards, we continue to work. I build a couple of paths into the new flower bed, Ed chips the soil. It's the kind of work that makes you feel so good! The brisk wind, that persistent sunshine, and the prospect of finishing a job that just two days ago seemed impossibly difficult.


(Path, leading out to the new bed)




And speaking of finishing a job, our mason guy and his sidekick finished building the front steps to the farmhouse. Now, this may be a ho hum feat in your eyes, but to me, it's huge! Since I've lived here, I'd been wanting to fix that horrible ugly mess out front, but we just could not come up with a design idea that would please the both of us. He wanted something simple but fitting. Farmhouse compatible. Not suburban. After a few years I stopped coming up with ideas because I was convinced that he simply did not want to find a solution. It's as if something about that crumbling unfinished mess appealed to him. But, this year he finally agreed to move forward and after much discussion (so much discussion!), we got our ideas to merge into one beautiful whole, and that whole is finally done! Well, Ed still has to fill in dirt and build a platform at the foot of the stairs, but hey, we have ourselves a proper front entrance!

Lunch is late. Like, close to dinner time. But the satisfaction from this week's outdoor work is tremendous. 

We are ready for winter! I think.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thursday - 216th

You could say that the weather played a familiar trick on me. It threatened cold. And yes, it's a cooler day. Definitely. We will reach a high of around 50F (10C). My morning walk is brisk.



(Tuxie is our calmest and most beautiful cat...)

Our breakfast is on the porch,...



... but a few minutes into it, I tell Ed I'm just too cold. He offers me his clunky jacket and we linger. But we're not likely to do this again. Breakfast is a time of no worry, no rush. Thinking about how cold you are does not fill you with a sense of contentment and well being. It makes you want to get up and hide inside.

But then this wonderful thing happens -- the sun comes out and though it's cold, you'd never know it. Ed and I go back to that newly developing flower field. We had tilled it yesterday but today we are there with the shovel, going for the big weed roots. Slowly I shed my jacket. And then I shed my sweater.

Between the physical work and that glorious sunshine, I'm feeling mighty warm out there!

Once again, my FitBit goes wild with pleasure. I pass 10,000 without a thought to the whole enterprise.

In the afternoon, I pause to visit with my friends. Well, okay, it's a Zoom visit. Nonetheless it's a terrific way to sit back and give yourself a few hours of downtime. With friends who matter.

And then it's evening and it's getting dark but hey, don't let this get in our way of doing more digging, more dragging out of weed roots... until we can't distinguish a root from a worm because it is just too dark and Ed steps on a cat's paw and we throw down our shovels and call it a day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wednesday - 215th

 I had an epiphany on my morning walk. You know, that stroll around the barn and into the young orchard.

It struck me that if Ed and I followed each others wishes and sprinkled our ashes on farmette lands, within a few years there would be a development here and we would be mixed into the foundation of a garage, or maybe underneath a basement full of someone's stuff. Ed hates stuff.

And so, during breakfast, out on the porch, on this cold but otherwise pleasant morning...

... We revised our plan. A new ash sprinkling idea emerged: our beloved prairie in our county park! So that dragon flies can swirl over Ed and swallows can dive for bugs over me! A terrific idea, don't you think?

Today is the last of the warmish days. With tomorrow comes a cold air blast and that cold air will stay with us until.... April! I have to move temperature sensitive orchids, geraniums and herb plants inside. This, to me, is one true marker of the arrival of the cold season. (I have this tendency to divide the year in two -- the cold and the warm. In south central Wisconsin, the cold begins sometime in October and the warm begins sometime around my birthday in April.)

And because we're plunging by some twenty degrees tomorrow, I know that if I'm to enjoy outdoor work (rather than trudge grudgingly through it), I better get to it today. And so I do. Weeding, snipping, preparing. More hostas, cimicifungas, and other shade loving plants to dig out and move elsewhere.

Once the new area is cleared of good plants, I have weeds to consider. And it becomes clear that there are just too many. I can't just dig them out. I have Ed haul out the rototiller. It's small and very wimpy, but if you run it over a spot of soil repeatedly, it will bring up the weeds.  And so I till while Ed rakes.

There's so much shaking and pushing involved in tilling  that I don't even notice the FitBit going wild with excitement over my 10,000 goal! Honestly, I feel I did twice that amount of work. 

I am very happy to stop the hard work and drive over to Snowdrop's home for a late afternoon distanced masked visit.

("oops! forgot the mask!")



Yes, she is wearing shorts. For most of our time together she insists she is not cold. Me, I'm sitting with a sweatshirt and wondering if I should fetch the blanket from the car. 

Well yeah! A sleeping bag is warranted! (She comes prepared for all eventualities.)


Evening. There's a tiny drizzle. Enough for Ed to postpone his Wednesday biking. We return to the patch of weeds. I till, Ed slices the trunk of the fallen tree into discs. I could use some to make another path...


It is very late before I start in on dinner: isn't it a fine time to bake a frittata? Onions, garlic, mushrooms from the funghi farmers, broccoli and potatoes from the CSA, eggs from the cheepers. I'm sure you've missed my ever-the-same frittata photo!

It is such a perfect transition to a quiet evening of popcorn and our current series on TV, but, some small detail of my photo storage application isn't working. Boom! We lose our moments of peace and instead spend many hours searching the internet for ways to fix the upload problem. It's very late now, but all is well. Today's issues --  fixed. Ready for tomorrow's batch!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tuesday - 214th

 Morning, mostly cloudy and cool. Morning walk -- mostly lovely and full of that October burst of color.

(hi, cheepers!)

 (morning walk)

(lilies, one last time)

We eat breakfast on the porch, even though it's just 51F (10C). We may yet eek out another morning like this, but it's not a given. Yes, Friendly the cat will miss our presence going forward. (Dance is out and about, so Friendly has joyfully taken her place on Ed's lap.)

I have work to do in the yard. I have a new plan for the space created by Ed's chopping down of the tree. Step one is to dig out the hostas growing there. With two trees now gone (both were Carpathian Walnuts, both died) from the spot, I have a reasonably sunny area begging for flowers. Hostas are not the right choice. So I dig them out. (Into the wheelbarrow they go, six at a time, one on top of another...)

They are huge! Monster hostas. I move them to the large, weedy spaces by the sheep shed and barn. Seventeen transplants later, I am wiped. Everything aches! 

I'm not done yet. I still need to dig out weeds and prepare the soil in the new bed for spring planting. Ah, but it's exciting to imagine a new place for more lilies, more phloxes, and for early spring -- daffodils and English bluebells.

 And of course, once you focus on a new planting area, you want to improve everything about it. I coax Ed into trimming the curly willow growing at the edge of the bed. The dead limbs are so high that even he takes extra precautions in bringing them down -- note the head helmet!

These Fall days have been stunning to the core. They're begging us to add just a little bit of joy to these somber times. Just enough to smile when you stroll past a golden birch, or a scarlet spindle tree. Autumnal colors came to us earlier this year. But, the cold temps stayed away longer. Tradeoffs: in nature, there will always be tradeoffs.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Monday - 213th

 It's not clear to me how long I can continue my 10,000 steps a day goal, but I do think that if I fail one day, then I'll slack off and ignore the count thereafter. In other words, I have this resolve: let's keep this thing going no matter what! I've been racking up the steps since October 1st. Let me not stop now.

I need this little pep talk, because the weather is turning normal. Meaning it's colder, wetter, more like you'd expect for mid-October.

Yes, I do my morning farmette walk. And yes, it's beautiful!


(Java, our oldest girl...)


 A hidden sheep shed...


 Following the path to the new orchard...

But it doesn't add up on the FidBit. And then the rains come. And so I turn on that dreadful monster of a machine -- the treadmill -- and force myself to endure the boredom of a half hour on it, just to give that boost that I need to reach my hefty 10,000 goal.

After breakfast, of course. (There's a cat in his arms.)

In other news -- well, I've been meaning to post a poem I like, but my late night Ocean writing has meant that I avoid straying into side issues like poems, songs and other musings that fill my head when it's not spinning with thoughts on the health and welfare of my beloveds, my friends and everyone else on this planet, animals included. You know how that goes: when you start making cuts, the arts are the first to go. 

But today, with the colder air outside and my walking goals nicely behind me, I can bring up poetry.

I know not everyone is a fan. But hear me out on this one. And you should, because I am about to write out the words of this year's Nobel literature laureate, Louise Gl├╝ck. If you haven't looked at her work, now's your chance to sample something. 

I'm thinking of a poem of hers called "Snowdrops." I'll write it out for you, without explanation, okay?

 Here it is:


Do you know what I was, how I lived?  You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn't expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring--

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.


I'll end with a photo from my morning walk. Just because.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday - 212th

It was getting to be late in the afternoon. I had started in on Sunday dinner, to be delivered to my daughter tonight, but I had paused to help Ed with his farmette project. Except that things derailed and now here I am, frantically pouring nearly a cupful of olive oil on my head, extra virgin no less, while Ed looks on. I am a mess.

How did we get to this point? 

Well, it was a normal start to a day. Breakfast, on the porch, though it's a stretch. No more heatwave.

... With a view toward a very pretty crab apple. That tree looks its best in the spring and fall. We're witnessing its ruby gold glow now.

Ed then returns to the project of the tree. He'd promised to attend to it this fall (when the flower beds, bearing the brunt of fallen limbs, would not suffer) and this weekend he'd started in on trimming the branches as best as he could. The dead tree is precariously positioned, smack halfway between two problems: the house and the power lines. If it falls on either, we're in trouble.


All day long, he saws and trims and I help stack the fallen branches. This really does take up the better part of the day.

Then comes the most difficult part -- taking down the entire trunk, along with the one remaining upright branch. I wouldn't be much help here. Too, I'm not sure I want to watch. So I retreat to some of the flower fields to trim them for the coming season. And while I'm cutting down some invasives, I completely miss seeing the virginia stickseed plant growing to the side.

I hate this plant. I know, hate is a strong word, but the seeds of this horror cling to everything! You walk past it and your pants, socks, shoes are covered with little burrs. Impossible to remove! Well, today, in bending down to snip back some invasives, I get my head, my head close enough to the stinker that dozens, many many dozens of prickly burrs find a nice nesting place in my hair.

I have had enough experience with this sucker to know I am in trouble. There is absolutely no easy way to get the burrs out of hair and since I have so many of them, my scalp is fast matting into something that you couldn't invent for Halloween if you tried.

In desperation, I do the obvious: shower, pour lots of conditioner on my scalp, pinch, pull -- all of it. To no avail. I call in Ed for help. We google solutions. When all else fails, they say, you have to cut off the hair.

How do you think I'd look without hair? 

Like a person without hair.

One last recommendation -- pour vegetable oil on your head and twist and work each seed free. Hence the olive oil. And the greasy mess. And a good part of the afternoon spent on the couch, twisting and separating matted hair clumps and releasing stickseed, one sticking burr at a time. Dozens upon dozens...

We emerge victorious! I return to the delayed dinner, Ed returns to bringing down the tree. This is the toughest part for him. If it doesn't fall exactly where he wants it to fall, we either lose electricity or we get a hole in the roof.

He uses wedges, and saws, and green paint, and a good deal of thinking power.


And he succeeds! It falls to the ground, halfway between the two obstacles. Yeah!

I deliver the dinner to a hungry young family. As my daughter finishes up the details in the kitchen, I play ball with the kids. Across the fence. With enough distance to scare away any virus.



The little guy hasn't changed: he'll still bring me the ball...


I wont say how late it is before Ed and I sit down to our own evening meal. But, we're burr free and we have both electricity and a roof over our heads. We are grateful.