Saturday, April 10, 2021

100% rain

And again the weather forecast sets the morning activities for us. I read that by late morning we will for sure have rain. 100% sure. Well this is perfect: I'll seed the patches in the new orchard just before the rains come and then thank the clouds for sprinkling the planted soil with showers. That's the plan.

But three events messed with these good intentions. First, I had not given the new orchard wild flower patches (I don't count them as flower beds) much attention and so I had not noticed that they were completely overgrown with quack grass, dandelions and who knows what else. Out come the weed buckets, out comes the shovel. I set to work. Lots of digging in very saturated soil. Tedious work.

Now comes the second interference: the cheepers find me and delight in my shovel work. The wet soil unearths plenty of good bugs for them. Yummy.

That's fine, but the cheeper presence is most unwelcome when the time comes to sow the seeds. (And there are seeds I can put in now, even as we are not yet past our frost date). Their scratching and eating will undo all my work. Cheepers! 

(daffodils du jour...)

And here's another thing worthy of an eye roll: that 100% certainty? Can it be retracted? The pouting clouds are there, but the rains hold back. 

That's okay. It will rain. I'm as sure as anything. In go the seeds. And only then are we ready for breakfast. And so we sit down to our "morning" meal...

... just as the mob arrives for Saturday lunch!

Because there is that threat of rain (I felt a drop! Me too! Not me! Ah well...), we don't stay out long. A brief romp -- she climbs the tree...

(he wishes he could...)

(she comes down, he's happy with that...)

... then in we go. I'd say the orange couch was very popular on this soggy and yes, eventually rainy day!

Snowdrop discovered that she could quickly type in messages on her mom's phone (guess what! I typed in S and my name popped up immediately! And L brought up love!) and she occupied herself with this for a while. Sparrow (I'm sure) wished he could do the same.

A rainy day is also good for art and Snowdrop returned to her super pig sketches, while Sparrow concentrated on trying to do a picture of a baby. To his dismay, babies proved to be a difficult subject. 

We let Unie out for a brief romp, but she is now too big and too fast to be let loose in the house.

Sorry girls. We'll all have to wait for better weather before I can put you outside. 

The young family leaves, I reach for my kindle and lose myself in a story set in a place where I would like to visit for real, even as I know that's not going to happen anytime soon.

Friday, April 09, 2021

trees and worms

It'll be another rainy day today and considerably cooler. The daffodils are already sagging under the weight of past showers. But that's okay -- this is April weather, they'll survive.

As I go out to feed the animals, I take along my shovel and weed pail. An hour with only light rain is an hour to get more weeds out. The greening of our landscape is so very lovely, but my beds don't need the added junk sprouting there right now. (And it is junk: anything that spreads quickly and chokes out flowers that are struggling to establish themselves should come out.) So I work away at the wee hours of the morning.

Breakfast? Definitely in the kitchen. With some toppled daffodils in a vase.


During the morning meal we return to the topic of trees. Ed brings it up. He has an idea on how to protect them from weed encroachment. I listen. He's imagining discs that he would make out of a combination of wood chips and other stuff. Something biodegradable. It sounds complicated. 

You really don't have to do this...

But you were so adamant, after reading that damn "plant an oak tree" article!

I wanted something pretty and beneficial...

This will be beneficial and at least not un-pretty. I'm doing it as a birthday present for you!

And so I guess we're back on the tree planting boat again. We'll see how long it stays afloat.

In the afternoon, I pick up Snowdrop at school. 




As usual, on the ride to the farmette, we review her day. I ask about the best part, expecting to hear the usual -- recess. But no, today her favorite was definitely library hour.

How about recess?

Not so good, she tells me. Apparently her friends were dumping worms into puddles. At first she was an audience (Snowdrop will not touch a worm), but after a while, she decided to intervene. The teacher had told them specifically to not do this and, besides, Snowdrop is in her own mind a protector of the environment. In not so many words, she tells her friends that destroying worms will lead to the eventual extinction of the human race. 

They ignored her. She walked away indignant, seeking solace and a minute of peace in the "butterfly garden" to strategize the next step. I decided that next time I'll ask them how would they feel if a whale picked them up and dumped them for some other fish to eat

To add insult to injury, her friends picked school daffodils (against a teacher's directive once again) and dumped the flowers into the puddle, along with the worms. I asked what happened then.

Gaga, I didn't stay to see. Maybe the worms ate the flowers, but I don't know if a worm is a carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, or insectivore. 

Recess, her favorite time, was a bust.


At the farmette, Snowdrop now finds total pleasure in spending time in the crab apple tree. 




I get it. I liked tree sitting too when I was her age. And older.

More rain expected tomorrow. Because, you know, when it rains it pours.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

celebrating rain

At last it rains. Every gardener in south central Wisconsin must be breathing a sigh of relief. Too many beautiful days without rain. Finally, the thirsty roots have that satisfying drink of water.

And the landscape changes overnight. The greens now dominate and they are magnificent!

Breakfast, in the rain, on the porch.

(on the other side of the screen: a wet landscape)

I have loads of "paperwork" (none of it actually on paper) all saved up for just such a day, so don't ask me what interesting stuff filled my morning. I did keep the door open and the sound of the falling rain against the roof of the porch was intoxicating! 

And then, the skies brightened a bit and we put the chicks outside and we welcomed "Dan" to the farmette. He's the guy who looks after the prairie fields out in the Brooklyn Wildlife Area. He came out to give us some advice on what to do with the land out back.


I don't know that we'll follow any of it. We already have competing visions for this land and someone else's take is interesting, but it does not give a clear answer on what should happen next. We are drifting in a sea of indecision. Of our own making.

Spring break is over: time to pick up Snowdrop at school. I will forever love that joyful run to Blue Moon...

At the farmette, she walks her "secret short cuts" and pauses: where is my little white flower? In fact, the snowdrops are finished. We're moving on to the next and the next. It's not up there with realizing that Santa is fiction, but I do think that on this day, she let go of the (beautiful but so innocent) idea that favorite flowers will bloom for you all season long.

Her spirit revives in the daffodil field.

... and in a contemplative moment in the crab apple.

Rain returns in the evening. Light, soundless, wet. April's gift to the garden.  Cats and chicks retire early. All is very quiet.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

last day of summer...

Hot. Pleasantly hot. Of course, truthfully, none of this is necessarily good. Everything is opening up quickly, beautifully, with trust that we have crossed the finish line. But we haven't crossed the finish line! Frost is a lurking northern menace that looks for an opening to come down and visit with us once again. An early spring is happy news only if it isn't followed by stinging, blustery weather.

Still, ignoring for the moment the theoretical possibilities here, I am going to stay happy with what we have. Because it truly is beautiful.

The daffodils haven't been battered by rain storms and so they stand upright and bold. The effect is perfect!

Yes, I'd say today their bright faces are at their freshest and fullest. Some of the late varieties have yet to bloom, but this is true the whole growing season: there is always something around the corner, waiting to surprise you. We learn not to wait, but instead to love what's there at the moment.

Breakfast, warm and wonderful, outside.

The entire rest of the morning and good part of afternoon are spent on my mom's potential move. The issues multiply with each step I take, but I am not daunted. Yesterday it was "impossible." Today it's "we'll see what we can do."

Then comes a long afternoon stretch (bookmarked by buckets filled with dug up weeds) of time on the porch with my friend who is in town after a year of being cut off from her Madison family (and friend!).  It's still hard to grasp -- from Zoom meetings to porch moments. Safe because of a vaccine. How incredibly beautiful is that!

Hot air is usually followed by a storm and we were promised a storm and rain -- all of it. 100% certainty! Ed and I rushed the chicks inside quickly. He put away his tools, I put away mine, but the rain never came! Should I go biking? -- he asks.

Yes, definitely. No rain expected until much much later.

He goes and I watch the clouds do an unexpected twist and turn and I'm thinking -- if he doesn't get rained on, I'll be surprised.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

if you had time...

I heard an interview on NPR with an author of a book about being a mother to young kids. Oh, and the mother has a job. And the kids have school and activities and so the mother (sorry dads, it usually is the mother who does this) is getting the kids, their lunches, their instruments, swim suits, school projects etc etc ready every single day at the same time that work demands spill over to her home time and she can't forget about that either. Exhausting stuff, requiring a sharp focus and a steady presence of mind. So what does this mother crave, had she free time? The author says -- not a massage. Not a fancy meal, not any of that. What she most likely craves is time to just sit and stare into space.

I have to say, I agree with that. I'm not (anymore) a working mom with a million tasks to attend to. Nevertheless, sitting still with an uncluttered mind and staring at something before me ranks high among favorites. You could say that all the work of gardening is toward that beautiful goal: to provide a feast for the senses, enjoyed by doing nothing more than letting it all sink in, as I sit and allow myself the pleasure of drifting in spirit from one lovely scene to the next. 

This morning offers a fine illustration of this love of just sitting and staring. I am up early. The weather people tell us there will be rain, maybe. And we will continue with the warm spell. High of 78F (25C) -- that's just two degrees shy of a record set more than a 100 years ago on this day! I feed the animals and fill a big bucket with more weeds (they pop up insanely fast!) and by then Ed is up and I look at the sky and yes, a brief but thunderous rain comes down. Thank goodness. We need it! Do I really want breakfast on the porch when there are lingering claps of thunder? I do!

And the rain passes and the sun comes out and I am still on the porch and I just don't want to leave. The smell of wet earth, the gentle sway of the daffodils in the flower beds, the greening of the crab apple along the path to the barn -- it's all beautiful and there is no greater pleasure (is there?) than to just sit quietly and stare. Our porch chairs have a gentle rock to them and occasionally, I'll give myself an ever the slight sway, but mostly I just sit, look, listen. [Ed tells me the noise of construction in the new development still comes through and it is disturbing, but I don't care. It's not constant and I can still hear the birds. Too, it's part of the more distant landscape: somewhere out there men (it's always just men) are working on the new roads and houses, while at the farmette, there is the coo of the doves and the chirp of birds that I can't pretend to identify and that smell of damp earth.]


(from the porch...)

Eventually I do have to let go of the serenity and the peaceful stare. I have my mom's potential transfer to attend to and it's proving to be like the forest out back: finding the trees, or in her case the right place is only 1% of the battle. The rest is proving to be far more difficult than I imagined (isn't that always the case...) and one phone call leads to another and then another and then a half a dozen more. Will it come to pass? Like with the forest of saplings -- all stars will have to align themselves well. 


Evening. Doors, windows open, as if it were summer, as if suddenly the outside was part of our indoors and the scents of cooking mingle with the scents of that damp earth, compost and new growth, wood chips and swaying daffodils. Summer weather. April flowers.

Monday, April 05, 2021

a cooldown

No, it's not chilly outside. The clouds rolled in, but the temps remained unseasonably warm. The daffodils are in their prime.


But at the farmhouse, I sense a real cooling of the jets. We came close to finally doing something productive and environmentally friendly with the back acre of farmette land. A forest. Such a fine idea! Perhaps a little late in our life -- after all, what one footer is going to grow past my height in my lifetime, but still, it was a good way to ensure that there would be trees and the weeds would have healthy competition. 

The stumbling block is that the project manager (Ed) cannot move quickly on brazen ideas. And computers have slowed him down even more, because he has to read everything on any matter before moving forward. And because the planting time is right now, and nursery supplies were running thin (Nina, did you know we could have ordered the trees from the Department of Natural Resources? I hadn't known that!), there isn't the time that the guy needs to proceed with implementing the forest plan. Heck, my sweetie can't finish fixing the base wall of the sheep shed because he has to contemplate possible solutions to the crumbling wall. And remember how long it took him to finally agree to a plan to fix the front entrance to the farmhouse? All those years of rotted steps -- he wouldn't budge because no idea on how to proceed fully appealed to him.

So at breakfast today (outside, because it really is warm enough for it)... 




... I told him -- let's forget about the forest. It's really not fun to work with him on a project when you know he is in psychic pain every step of the way. It's like traveling -- you sense the gloom. You don't want to be doing something with someone whose attitude exudes weariness.

What happens then to that acre of weedy land? Nothing much, unfortunately. Ed suggested we aim for next year. I laughed, which is the equivalent of rolling your eyes.

My April is now going to be focused on the grandkids, the garden, and on trying to move my mom to a different residence. 

And speaking of grandkids, here are two of them!

(The spring flowers are never too far away...)

(He is "telling a story." She has that look of benevolent indulgence, liking his effort, even as it is the effort of a two year old who wants so much to be like his six year old sister.)

(Today she also discovers the joy of tree climbing... He tries it, but very quickly asks to be placed on more solid ground.)

(We haven't done a timed release selfie in a long time!

The day does have an element of the extravagant: for the first time since last February, I meet up, face to face with a friend. I cannot believe we are not on Zoom! She is (finally!) in town to visit her parents and since we are both vaccinated, we set aside a piece of the afternoon for a coffee.

Fourteen months without coffees with friends. And at least the "no cafe visits" record remains in place: every cafe in the area is closed. We sit outside pretending we're at a cafe sipping coffee.

So weird to be back in that particular saddle again! But of course, I had many decades of cafe life with friends before the pandemic, so sitting down with her (unmasked, but outside) feels like there was no year without friends at all. It feels normal. 

When I return to the farmhouse, Ed tells me -- I've talked to another guy to see what he can tell us about clearing the land for planting. I nod, with mild interest. That is so Ed -- pack it away, cool it down, then slowly reconsider.

So are we planting a forest? Who knows. Probably not. Or maybe yes, but only if the stars align themselves just exactly so for us this spring.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

happy spring, happy Easter, happy healthy sunny days

What total perfection! Sunshine, a mild and gentle morning, a warm afternoon. This on Easter is so rare in Wisconsin, but this year, at least in terms of weather, we are hitting gold! 

 My Easter postcard for you, if you celebrate this holiday (and even if you don't!):

I'm up early. I have an errand to do: bakery treats from Batch are waiting for me at their curb. Driving downtown, I notice how utterly still the lake is...

I've picked up some stuff for the young family and so I head out there first. They're just getting up... Happy Easter, happy kids!

By the time I return home, Ed is up and on the big mower, trying to make a dent in clearing the land for a forest planting. Somehow I could have predicted that he would do at least some of the big job himself. I call him in for breakfast. Wait, that's wrong -- not in for breakfast, but out for breakfast. Our first meal on the porch! Always important and memorable and utterly wonderful.

Unfortunately it cannot be a put-your-feet-up kind of day. Weeds. Always the weeds. I really need to get the new plants in soon or I'll be forever weeding the waiting beds.

Here's a welcome pause!

Happy Easter, little Chicago girl...

Happy Easter to all of you!




And now it's time for dinner. The local young family comes over and yes, it's an outdoor evening! 

How can this be? April 4th, out on the porch? For every stumble in life there is a good surprise nestled somewhere in there. This weather surely is one of the best gifts. April delivered. And then some.




Let me end with something sweet: two little cakes. One -- raspberry, the other -- chocolate. I did not bake them, but I do think they add a holiday touch to the post. So -- happy Easter to you if you're celebrating. And may spring bring us closer to all that we are missing right now.