Saturday, April 30, 2011


I met Ed in the month of October. Several months passed before he worked up the nerve to invite me to visit his home – the rebuilt sheep shed at his farmette. A few months after that, I again spent some time at the farmette. I told him then – I could never live here. The time needed to improve the property – it would swallow me whole. And I couldn't not take care of things. If I’m plunked into a mess, I want to straighten it..

So, do I recall those early thoughts now that I'm in the thick of moving in? Yes, sure, and it's obvious to me that I was right and I was wrong about life at the farmette. Five years later, I am in fact facing the outdoor clutter. (though these days, I regard it as less of a clutter; more like mild disorganization -- some of it quite deliberate). And I cannot not take care of it. But here’s the surprise – it’s okay.  I do what I feel compelled to do. No more, no less.

So, this is a good thing, no?  I can't tell right now: I'm too sore to think straight. Surely  I pushed my limits today! We attacked the parking space. I planted the new perennials. And then, we began the task of pulling out the creeping Charlie, transplanting good plants that fared well, removing those that were a touch out of control.

Form eight in the morning, until four in the afternoon, we worked without interruption.


The end of the day. We drive to town to buy groceries. On the way, we pull up at Menards.  One grouting mix to return three electrical wall plates to throw in. Ed says -- that's it? Kind of sad not to have a long list.

The Geo is full of Woodman groceries as we finally pull out of the parking lot. Eight o'clock. It's just getting to be dark. Ed's car is acting up again: the headlights flicker, then die. We take back roads to avoid cars that may wonder why we're crawling along with hazard lights flashing.

All is quiet at the farmhouse. Just as you'd expect it. Just as you'd want it to be.

Friday, April 29, 2011

growing things

I feel I have neglected my commenters. So many good messages come this way on Ocean! Yes, I’ll get back to a conversational mode! Yes, as soon as the semester’s work lightens up and the work at the farmhouse is near an end.

I know. Decades hence. Or, maybe not so far from now?

This morning, you could say I reinvented my outside working habits. Some thirty years ago, before the trend hit hard here, I discovered perennial gardens. I was spending quite a number of weeks in England and Scotland and if you’re there, outside the urban areas, you can’t help but notice that the British know their flower beds.

Yes, it’s all about British habits today, what with the wedding and all... you didn’t watch the wedding? I did, here and there, remembering that thirty years ago I kept tabs on the other British wedding, wondering which would come first, the “I do” or my about to be born baby. (“I do” won, by a mile.)

Some time around the birth of child number two, I began work on my own perennial flower beds. We’d just bought a house, there was a yard, there was the will to make it less about yews and lawn and more about combinations of flowers. But here’s the rub: I never quite had the time for dedicated gardening. And truthfully, had I the time, I’m not sure I would have given it all over to yard work. There was so much yard maintenance that I thought of as necessary drudgery. (Lawn care, tree pruning, weed control, to name but a few.) The good stuff – planting flowers – that was a mere thumbnail in the tally of outdoor chores.

Things are different now, here at the farmette. For one thing,  I’m not in charge. These are not my three acres of land, not my trees that are in need of pruning, not my quack grass, nor creeping Charlie. And so I can choose and work long hours outside, but I don't have to do it all. And, Ed is equally lackadaisical, even though it is his farmette, and he does care about quack grass and creeping Charlie. Just not enough to make it rule the waking hours of every day.

The light is so gorgeous this morning, so utterly perfect, that all indoor tasks are put aside. Yes, I still have school work to attend to, but it can wait a day or so. Today is the long awaited day of outdoor work – however we want to define it.

And it evolves. Initially, I start by clearing the porch of construction debris. I branch out to then remove spent flowers from last year. Ed suggests moving the crocuses out of the driveway and before you know it, we’re creating a new flower bed, just by the big lily field by the porch.


Yes, we do other more mundane chores as well, but unquestionably, the gardening elements dominate the brilliant hours of daylight.

DSC06808 - Version 2

I continue to have no plan, no agenda for the land that surrounds the farmhouse, But I come to this place with a love of soil and plant life that I probably inherited from my grandfather. And so of course, I do want to make a garden grow (note yesterday's post). Some garden. Not any well-crafted garden, but a garden nonetheless. With perennials and a few annuals, for the lazy spells when nothing else seems to be thriving.

In the late afternoon we drive to the Flower Factory just a few miles south of here. I pick up a handful of perennials for the brand new raised bed created by Ed earlier in the day. Another  spring, another growing season. A fresh start, a measured, older wiser start.

DSC06815 - Version 2

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Ordinarily, I am sure to be up and about by the time Andy’s boys (well, okay, men) come to mud, patch, nail, paint. Lately, they’ve been coming early.

This morning I greet the one (Adam) who has been working on the foyer (really, let’s call it what it is – mud room).
What’s the plan for today? I ask.
I’ll finish trimming and putting in the base boards. Andy and Sean will be here to clear the place and finish the shelves upstairs. And to caulk the window frame. We’ll be done today.

Done? Done??? Oh...

...unless you have something else?

I don’t. Ed is on the phone, chatting to a friend. I want to shake him off – Ed, they are about to finish up! What else? What else??? But Ed talks on and I have to confront by myself the fact that my construction crew is about to desert me.


I tell Andy that, as always, he has been my bedrock solid friend in this project. I tell him that surely we’ll call for help with the next thing and the next. But will we? Ed is such a “do it yourself” person. I tell Andy – sorry for the trouble we caused by so often interfering, bringing our own, changing the terms. Andy laughs. It’s been fun. I think he means it.

One grandson finishes the foyer, the other finishes the stapling, building, puttying. They carry out all their equipment. I have to go to work, but I know that when I come back, they will not be here. Gone.

I miss them already.

I come home and the house is empty. Done. I mean, not really done – my list of things to finish is long. Ed’s list is modest, but still with stuff on it. But, the major reconstruction is done. I had asked Andy – is this the most transformative reconstruction you’ve done? The man has been in construction for surely more than half a century. Yeah... pretty much, he tells me.

I wipe down the floor in the mud room (formerly: foyer). We’ve cleared the construction stuff out of the front room earlier in the day. These two rooms (the front room, the mud room) were the last to be “done” but now they’re surely done. Here, take a look:



There are those who’ll tell you that remodeling, rebuilding – it’s all a pain in the ass. But for us,  it hasn’t been that at all. Yes, sure, neither Ed or I had to live with the dust. But each stage was in fact more exciting than the last. And each stage, as a result of all our (well, okay, their) cumulative efforts resulted in something better, nicer, more beautiful than I had hoped for.

It’s been a fantastic reconstruction. Thanks Andy. And Ed.

In the evening, in the quiet of an evening, I go back to making a soup for several days ahead. Ed is messing with the "media center" (an ancient computer, a tiny TV and his ingenuity). He clicks on an iTunes song I had downloaded many years back on the ancient computer.

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow...
And make our garden grow.

I cry... How can I not? Nearly forty years ago, when I was an au pair (a nanny who also helped tend to things around the house), the parents of my charge gave me tickets to Candide. Go see a Broadway show! Take a friend! -- they said (they themselves could not use the tickets that evening). I was a fresh immigrant. I knew no one whom I could take to a Broadway show.  I was at the university during the day and with my charge in the evenings. I went by myself and wasted the second ticket.

I loved the show. I bought the record the next day and played it. Again and again.

So here I am, waiting to plant the garden. Forty years ago, I still imagined that being wise and good was doable. Now, there's a garden and the house is pretty much built and ...there you have it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the last day of classes

It tugs at your heart. The last class with this particular group of students, the last time to work with their dynamic. I grow to like them. Really a lot. I have three classes, three different groups, all good groups, never to convene as groups again after today.

Still, I so appreciate that I am done with class preparations. For a while. If I ever worried whether taking a salary cut was worth it for a summer off, I tell you, right now, in my most tired state -- oh YES!

I drive home. I haven’t biked once this year – an indication of how full my days have been. (Also, I admit it, it was easier to bike knowing that it would be a 22 minute ride, rather than what is, realistically now, one hour each way.)

Done. I leave the campus, the city, all of it. 


Hello you. Did you know I’m done teaching? Yep, absolutely done.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


If I had a slide show, I would provide this running commentary: Well now, here we are, sawing off the bottom part of the legs of a new “end table.” Here’s Ed, trying to talk me out of keeping the end table. Here, this is me, trying to convince him that, after looking at 1241 entries on the Walmart site, we can do no better than this non-Walmart, but still, a good deal table. The name is “Basque,” it’s made God knows where, but hey, it is infused with credibility with these words: "sustainable, kiln-dried solid mango wood." Crate and Barrel knows how to lure customers.

We’re fixing things that did not come out as planned.

The refrigerator was nicked by the delivery people from Sears. Sears wants to send us a new one. But we just can’t stomach the idea of sending back something so useable, even if it now does harbor a little ding. So we deliberate.

In the living room, the wood trim doesn’t quite come down on the floor. Do we fix it? I say no. Leave it alone. It’s fine, it’s fine. But Andy’s not happy. His grandson fills the gap with putty. “The builder’s best friend,” Ed comments.

The shower – now there’s a stumper! I did not want to spend money on a shower door. But the curtain that I use in its stead is leaking water. We have tossed around ideas, but none seem perfect.

My little 19 inch TV – it uses so many cables you could build a nest for elephants out of it. I wanted to invest in a bigger, simpler model. Ed tells me we can work with what we have. A little TV without cable, and a computer.  He bunches cords and hides computers to create a media center, with only the little TV showing.

The driveway is muddy, he throws woodchips down. My phone line is not working, he patiently talks the problem through with the company reps. We have no dinner foods, I throw together salads and bagels. These are our days now: one small step to repair one small issue, then another, and another.

My list of things to repair is long, but we have time.

But it would be wrong to count our days as repair driven. For instance, I wake up and I look outside – it’s raining. You would think -- damn. Rain, cooler temps – all that. Bleh.

But at the farmhouse, I take out the oatmeal, I cut up the fruit and we sit down for a late morning meal. I look up and see the wet branches, the slow drip on the lilac bushes, the gentle drops coming down in a steady rhythm... So pretty!


Yes, true, it is now evening and I am defrosting bagels and Ed is sawing off those inches from the feet of the end table. The rain has receded.

Monday, April 25, 2011

the home sretch

Because so many paint cans, saw horses, ladders, etc. remain in the front room of the farmhouse, I think we still have a lot to finish there. But today, two things happened:

First, Andy’s grandson attacked the foyer floor (which means that we cannot go in and out of the house in the way that we typically do for the next two days – an interesting issue, but solved easily enough by putting a step ladder to the other door). The foyer is the last of the big projects here for the crew.

Secondly, Andy showed up. He has been laid up, recovering from a medical procedure, but he is a guy who does not slow down and he is back on the job far in advance on when we anticipated. He hasn’t seen the house since I moved in and I have to think that he is taking some pleasure in seeing how together it really is. I had wondered if this is his last big job before retiring, but he tells me that it’s not. He wont retire. Loves his work too much. Yes, I can tell.

But let me explain why Andy’s appearance is relevant to the nearing end of our reconstruction. I want to hand him the list of things that I think need his attention and it strikes me that the list is very very short. So, this is the finale: within a week or so, Andy and his grandsons will no longer be part of the farmhouse team. It’ll be just Ed and me. (Gulp)

The sun is brilliant today. Warm? Well, enough for students to strip down to sandals, or bare feet.


Down the hill, they purchase food at the carts and find places to eat.

DSC06776 - Version 2

Me, I still have a jacket on. But I walk with an energetic bounce. Good weather changes things.


I am back at the farmhouse, climbing up the ladder that we'll use to get to the non-entrance door.


Inside, things are looking good. But you can’t rest yet. Ed is waiting for me. We need to drive down to Menards. Grout, plugs, switches – still on the to do list.

It’ll be Subway subs for dinner. No time to cook tonight.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

Late Saturday. A night on the town with daughters. An evening of lights and birthday drinks. Of deviled eggs and raspberry pound cake.


And then, it’s morning. Easter morning. The stove is finally connected to the gas pipe. I turn it on for the first time. A pot of water, a boiled egg for Ed. Truly, that egg does not understand how close it came to never being cooked.

Now I have to pick up speed. My girls are coming over for an early Easter dinner. The farmhouse, in its revamped form, will have its first guests. Ed’s tools must disappear from the kitchen counter. The lemon room needs to be made ready – not because anyone will stay there tonight,  but because I want this house, this yet again new home for me, to feel like a place where they can throw down their bag and exhale. Because if it is my home, it is theirs as well.

I tidy the kitchen. I pick up the pail that I use for compost refuse and take it out to the back of the barn. This is the moment when I make the transition to my new rural home – during that walk with the bucket. I listening to birds and look out on the land, cluttered with twigs from felled branches. I make mental notes of things that I must do here this spring. Country thoughts. The city is receding from my immediate considerations.

And still, I go back to Madison too on this day. Grocery shopping for dinner. A simple spring meal. Baked chicken with dandelion greens and tarragon spinach sauce. Risotto with peas and mint. Blackberry cobbler.

Dinner. They arrive and the house fills with the noise of family.

DSC06618 - Version 2

They look good here, at the farmhouse.


DSC06627 - Version 2


And then daughters leave. And I carry another bucket to the compost heap. I think of the days when I was much, much younger. When I would leave my grandmother’s house in the Polish countryside Sunday afternoon. She stayed at the front door, watching us leave. Most often, she cried. She was alone for too long until our next visit. I'm not alone. I go back and forth between the city and the countryside as if it were a trip to the backyard. But I see the pattern. Of family meals, of comings and goings.

Life repeats itself. And that’s a good thing. Flowers rebloom, children come back home to eat dinner with you.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

pipes, rocks and blooms

At the downtown Farmers Market, I pick up, in a burst of optimism, flowers for the outside gardens. I don’t have a plan for them. In fact, I will probably never have a plan for perennial beds or vegetable plots. I am following Ed’s lead here: we’ll cultivate as the whimsy strikes. We’ll maintain as best we can otherwise.

And this year especially, I am so focused on the farmhouse that I cannot think deeply about the work outside. We planted a large bed of lilies last fall in the hope that they will establish themselves there and take over the large space just to the back (or front – depending on your definition) of the house. Otherwise, I’ll do spot improvements. Flowers planted along the various paths and edges.

And so I buy just a handful of some favorites. Golden California poppies and blue forget-me-nots. And cosmos for their tireless blooming habit.


I didn’t take my basket to the market and so a farmer is packing my plants in a plastic bag. You don’t mind that it says “Menards”? He asks. Mind? I spent my commercial waking hours at Menards!

Just this morning, Ed and I were there, looking at tubes and nipples again. More fittings for the gas pipe job. He is hoping that he can manipulate an elbow into the right spot underneath the floors. But he keeps shaking his head – a sure sign of concern.

I leave Ed to ponder, pound and manipulate. My younger daughter is in Madison for the week-end (first time this year!). Mom’s birthday, Easter and the market – all good reason’s to come up now. My two girls and I do the market walk and even though it’s cool still, the colors are brilliant. Yes, sure, I know – it’s all greenhouse stuff, but it’s festive and so beautiful after the bland winter tones!

DSC06601 - Version 2

But right after the market, I’m back at the farmhouse as Ed and I try to work the pipe into position.
More rock, you need to chisel away more rock. Or something.
Let’s take it out and start again.

And so it continues in the farmhouse, hidden behind trees, but easy to spot because of the tall silo. All under the big big sky of the Midwest.


Friday, April 22, 2011

next day

From pleasant hours spent thinking about the passage of time to a day of chaos again. The air turns even colder (never moving past the upper thirties), the rain comes down and Ed tackles the issue of the gas pipes. I am useless in this, except very early on, when  I help him select the proper tubes at Menards, along with the T’s, the elbows and the nipples. (I get the "T" and the "elbow," but why "nipple"?)

I disappear to do my own work, tedious today, really, the kind of stuff that you put off, and all the while I am thinking – this would be so much pleasanter on a warm day.


In the evening, Ed is still hammering away at the rocks that are at the foundation of the house. The pipe must past through a slice of these and he is hoping that at some point it will all crumble and create space. It doesn’t.

He’s tired, I’m tired from watching him. The heat is off of course, but what a piddley inconvenience! There is still so much to do at the farmhouse, but I need Ed’s help for most of it and so I hold off, concentrating instead on washing windows. I’m always good at cleaning.

I have to wonder if Ed is tired of being the Hercules here, whether it was much pleasanter for him to think retirement type thoughts – to plant? To throw wood chips? To take a nap on the floor with his cat, Isis?

We’ll eat frozen stuff today, because there is a microwave now that can thaw and warm – a monster microwave, chosen by me for its price and good ratings, certainly not for its size. You could do a turkey in that thing. Maybe we’ll have to. If the stone refuses to crumble and the stove never meets the gas pipe.

How about some upbeat notes? Oh, there are so many! The table is cleared of debris, the living room is passable, and there are flowers, lovely spring flowers – the aftermath of a birthday.

DSC06766 - Version 2

And, too, there are the blooms outside. Still terribly lonely out there. Single children, trying to make the best of a cold, cold spring.

DSC06769 - Version 2


I’m here. 
Could you come down and help sniff? 
If you put your nose close to the joints, you’ll be able to tell if there is a leek. 
You’re relying on my nose???
It’s quite accurate, really.

It’s merely a doublecheck. The joints and links are solid as can be.

But, when Ed turns the gas back on, the furnace isn’t working. And the refrigerator door is banging the counter, and elsewhere the quartz is scratched.

We eat the frozen lasagna, reheated in the microwave. I never thought I’d say too many kind words about the microwave, but it surely gave us a very pleasant dinner. A needed break, after which, every good outcome seemed possible again.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

what if...

What if you wake up to a smell of new wood construction, even as you are in a house that’s nearly 100 years old? Your first morning in the farmhouse. You are fifty-eight today. Intentional symbolism?

It’s a cold morning. Unusually so. Frost on the fields and on the cars parked outside. But sunny, nonetheless, which is a surprise, although not really. I associate my birthday with sunny skies. Yes, I know that weather is what it is, but we all stray from reason every now and then.

Morning. First shower in a stall that is so darn fresh! First use of hot water, first this, first the other.

What if, after a hurried breakfast, you coaxed your landlord, who also happens to be your occasional traveling companion (wait, what is he really?) to take you to work? Just this once (or maybe twice. On special occasions like today). And in the office, the cupcake bakery had already made their delivery? There, waiting for you -- preordered, one hundred cupcakes for my classes today.

So Polish. (There, the birthday person brings treats. Joy comes with obligation.)

What if, after classes, after meetings, after all those cupcake runs, you made your way back to the farm and you said to your landlord (or some such) – we need to confront the couch situation? And he hemmed and hawed and finally said – later. Like really later. Later next year, later never.

I say now. Because later, meaning the next step, will have to be the installation of the stove. Right now, I have nothing to cook on and daughters are coming down for Easter. Of raw foods, at this point.

And besides, the living room is a mess. I have to put order into it because it makes my head spin to walk through it now.

But the couch is heavy and it will only fit if we jointly try to both lift and manipulate it through arches and curves. What if you can’t lift it? That’s not a thought process I care to confront.

I grit my teeth and stumble along half lifting half dragging and frequently dropping the damn thing. Ed asks – must we use a couch at all in the farmhouse?

Ed likes comfortable floors over furniture. I think – the farmhouse is a funky mix of spaces and places that make no effort to please those who will never step through its back doorways. It’s for us and it follows no set rules, except that in my mind, it must, somehow, retain the character of a farmhouse – which, in this size, surely had to have been a hodgepdge of affordable and livable spaces.

We succeed getting the couch in! But I say to Ed -- we'll skip the coffee table. It'll give you more space on the floor.

The day quickly passes to its final hours.  Dinner out. Daughter, traveling landlord (eh?) and I.  But no memorable photo to post. Wait, there's the one from early in the morning, when I stepped just outside the farmhouse door and inhaled a breath of fresh air.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the day of the big move

The success of the day should be measured not by the movement of furniture per se, but by where I am right now: at the farmhouse, with everything unpacked. True, not everything is inside the farmhouse. Take the couch – that’s in the garage. We fired the movers before they began their attempt to get it in.

But I’m getting too far into the day. Let’s start at dawn. I throw bedding into the washer. I need to do this before the movers come at 8. Yes, sure, the farmhouse has an old washer/dryer combo in the basement, but right now they are buried under construction. Best to move in with no dirty laundry.

(Clean but wet. Ah well...)

8:15: movers are here. I had asked for two and a small truck and I got a “free upgrade” of three (and a big truck). If I were to keep a tally, I’d say that right at the outset, there were two mishaps on their part. But, moves are like that: you cannot expect perfection. Shifting a residence disturbs, breaks, chips, splashes, spills things. It’s inevitable.

One of the movers tells me – I know your neck of the woods... I use to misbehave there as a teen. Great. I am moving to a neck of the woods where teens go to misbehave.

At the farmhouse, we see the remains of the most atrocious April weather ever.


At least it’s not raining. I tell the movers that our floors are fresh and immaculate. They reassure me they have runners. (So I want to know – why don’t they just step on the runners? I follow their every stride with a rag in hand, mopping up bits of snow and mud. Stay with me, immaculate floors! Stay with me! These guys will be done soon!)

The movers tell me they can’t get the bed frame up the stairs. I say – leave it alone, leave it alone, we’ll do it ourselves! I can’t wait to have these guys out of here. Andy’s grand-son-in-law (or some such familial connection) is in one of the side rooms painting and staining. I like having Andy’s team here. They respect the floors. They work calmly, systematically. They like each other, too. I feel calm being in their presence. But the moving trio is making me perspire. And it is a cold cold day.

The tough moment comes when I see that they have put a major rip through the floors of the upstairs lemon room. The lead man tells me – it was there when we got here.

Well now, you would not say that if you knew how we all babied these floors. We counted down days before allowing slippers to gently navigate across the boards. Nothing touched those well restored planks. Certainly not a sharp object that would gash a deep ten foot line across the center of the lemon room. 

This was my glummest moment. I admit it, I ran down to the sheep shed where Ed was hiding for the duration of the move  (who can blame him). And, like the hero that he can be, he went off to talk calmly to the men. They admitted fault, wrote up a damage report and I’m sure the company will cover the resanding refinishing remessing with the floor upstairs, should we choose to go that route.
But at this point, we were done with the moving crew. I assured them that if they would just unload the truck, we would finish up the job.

Why did you tip them? Ed asks.
Because. They did their work according to the parameters of what they have to do. They made mistakes. So be it.

In a funny twist, when I handed each his tip, the head guy said – oh, you could have used this to cover the damage we did!

No, I couldn’t.

With the movers gone, Ed and I get down to work. Quiet work. (If you’re wondering – I took a day off from law work for this, even as one never really takes a day off... ) Building, unpacking, putting together disassembled pieces of furniture.

I am thinking how cool it is that I never really had to buy any furniture for the farmhouse. That even though it’s twice the size of my condo, I could fit things nicely and not have to supplement. Indeed, I sold pieces: dressers, chairs – they all went.

I am also thinking that we are geared to a steady pace of work here that knows no frustrations and perhaps no end. With the help of Andy and his grandsons, the interior will soon be done. After, Ed and I will tackle the entrances, the porches, the peeling paint outside and the rotting wood. At a slow pace, if need be. Because we both have other agendas too: his – well, it’s his and so I’ll step back and comment on mine: what is it? I’m still fashioning it. From scraps of time.

What a year “57” has been! Lots of learning. And that’s a good thing.

Images of the farmhouse? Well, there are rooms that are far along to being done, and there are those where we're not quite there yet. From today:


DSC06733 - Version 2

DSC06738 - Version 2



DSC06737 - Version 2

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Alright, I admit it. This day was a tad too much. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Up early, wakeful spins through my own personal history of past moves, then out of the house at sunrise – it takes its toll.

But I have had many many days and nights where there was no time for sleep. Travel zaps my restful hours all the time and I'm okay with that. So no, I don’t think it was the sleep.

The snow? And sleet? And hail? ALL DAY LONG! In the second half of April! Yes, that was a slap.

DSC06725 - Version 2

But still, I’ve had even May days in Wisconsin when wet flakes covered spring flowers. So surely I am not going to be dragged down by the weather!

Teaching. Is it that it? No. I like students.

How about the farmhouse reconstruction: am I bothered that it is still so far from done? That the front steps are crumbling – unusable really, the back porch is a wreck, the interior still has weeks of detailed work – does it upset me that I am moving in tomorrow (tomorrow!) to a work in progress? Most definitely not: no upset at that. The spaces that I need are ready for me. Sure, there is still no hot water, no stove, no floor in the foyer – but there is so much! And the parts that are done are beautiful!

Perhaps it is the frustration with the appliances. Sears delivered: plunked the stuff on the (newly finished) kitchen floor and left. So who will install it all? The stove itself is a project, we knew that. But the dishwasher – whew! So many complicated steps! Ed favors saving on labor and doing it ourselves. Meaning himself, because believe me, installing a dishwasher is not my forte.

Tomorrow morning Two Men and a Truck will be here, ready to take... not much, actually. Two beds, a couch. Two dressers. Patio chairs. An exercise bike. That’s it.

I try to think back to when I moved here. I’m such a sentimental person! Why am I not sad about this last night here, at the condo? Is it because I had long figured that I would not be in this place forever?

Funny how that works.

After teaching, I move furniture, wipe down construction grime, push aside everything to make room for tomorrow’s deliveries. Later, I'll return to the condo for sure. For the few odds and ends that I’ve not bothered with. And for the clean up. The place needs a good scrub after the chaos of the past weeks. And for a moment of quiet. So that I can make sense of it all. Because right now, I just want the last bags packed, the last load laundered, all ready for the move tomorrow.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Let’s just band together in our misery today – filing your due tax forms, yes, that. Stepping up the pace and ambition in one’s move to an unfinished farmhouse – that’s my own burden.

Ed’s waking me before 6 to get going. We’re to load the truck yet again and haul a load over. And we have to go early. Ed needs to finish up electrical work that has to be done before the Sears truck delivers the kitchen appliances.

And there’s another reason to hurry. The clouds are low and gray – the kind that say to me “we’re loaded with rain.. now, where should we dump it all?”

So we hurry. And Ed wants to make sure we load the truck with no room to spare. Yes, I have to agree – the more we take, the cheaper the final move. He weaves legs of tables and chairs together, securing them with laws of physics that leave me convinced that it will all tumble back and crash up and down the streets.

In previous truck trips, we took local roads, but we’re in a hurry and so I give a "go ahead" for the Beltline (highway). We spend a hellish five minutes there. I’m pinned with a carton of pots on my lap, but I twist to look out to the back of the pickup. Oh! Ed, things have shifted! Ed pulls over. Cars whiz by in the morning rush hour. Ed inspects the furniture pyramid, comes back. It’s fine, it’s fine. We’re fine. You’re worrying needlessly. Laws of physics...

Two minutes later I make him pull over again. Nina, it’s solid. It’s not possible for anything to fly off. It’s secure. Still, he stops the truck and checks. All’s there. We continue. The clouds intensify. Rain, we’ve got rain for you!

Finally we pull into the farmette.

We unload.

And I wait. I want to catch a glimpse of the Sears delivery before rushing off for class. I use the time to carry crates of books up from the basement. I wait some more. A call to Sears explains the delay. Their truck broke down. There will be no appliances. Maybe tomorrow.

My construction team is slow today as well. Two of the rooms have much of the construction paraphernalia still in them. I will be moving in (Wednesday) with ready housemates: the sawhorses, saws, boards, paint buckets. Tile cutting machines, mudding tools.

I leave discouraged and immediately I kick myself for being bothered by such nonsense. Ed is amused at my hurry. He takes breaks, moves at his usual pace. I should let some of the lackadaisical attitude rub off on me.

I walk over to the cupcake store on State Street. Here’s a cheerful sight.


Far better to look at cupcakes than to think about the mess back home, the classes I have yet to teach, the two buyers coming for Craigslisted furniture tonight. No need to note that the condo is at once empty and cluttered. That Ed has yet to finish his taxes, even as Andy tells him the inspector is coming tomorrow to check on his electrical work. And there’s snow in the forecast again.

Cupcakes. Think cupcakes with pink frosting. Mmmmm.

Sunday, April 17, 2011 they loaded up their truck and they moved...

A day like no other. Clear skies, cool temps – perfect for transporting household belonging from point A to B.

But wait. I have movers coming this Wednesday. Can’t they do the hauling and transporting? Fact is, they’re paid by the hour, so that I can keep costs down by moving all but the biggest pieces ourselves.

We make two trips from the condo to the farmhouse, each time looking terribly like country hillbillies – insofar as that word denotes people moving from one place to another with an open truck that looks like it's seen too much life and is ready to offload some baggage on the way to wherever. 


(and then one more time)


Loading the truck. Unloading it. Stopping off at Home Depot for spray paint (for me to use on the large LR vents). Then, hauling books from the basement to the upper floors. Back-breaking work.

But let me not suggest that it was too hard, or too insufferable and unpleasant. For example, I remember catching the late light in the second farmhouse bedroom (hereafter called the lemon room, can you guess why?).

DSC06690 - Version 2

The world seemed like such a calm and mellow place there.

Then, too, consider the task of painting the living room heating grates. I want to finish this today, as twice this afternoon I stumbled on the open hole that needs a grill and I have a nice set of bruises to show for it.

The finished pieces look good! So much of what I thought would never look good here could, in the end, be repaired, refreshed and finished to a shiny new image.

Who would have thought that I would find this place so incredibly attractive!

And suddenly it’s evening. Time to quit for the day. As best as I remember, it was a beautiful spring close to a week-end. The crab apple is set to explode against the backdrop of an already bursting willow. Such beautiful sights. Quickly noticed, permanently recorded.

DSC06686 - Version 2

Saturday, April 16, 2011

moving along

And again, I am too tired to write with care here, on Ocean. The day is too full to acknowledge in any proper way. You’re left with fragments of thoughts. Like a picture book where the authors neglected to color in the illustrations.

Alright. A few obvious high points. The market. Madison’s farmers markets moved outdoors today (for first time this year) and I think next year they’ll surely reconsider this early step outside.  It was cold, wet and most unpleasant (unless you were that infant, huddled and protected from the elements).

DSC06666 - Version 2

It was the last time that I could do an easy market run to the Westside Community Farmers Market (across the street from the condo). In a way I’m glad that it was tame rather than ablaze with activity. Easier to let go.

DSC06668 - Version 2

After? Again, runs between the condo and the farmhouse. And again the weather is worse than bad. Snow, rain, wind – all of it quite miserable, unless you think back to the worst days of January. Funny how relative it all is.


I’d say it was a successful day of moving the small items from one place to the next. But there were irksome disturbances as well. A box ripped and all the plates crashed to the (newly finished) floor. Three broken dishes and a few small dings in the floor boards. Then too, Ed realized that the current pipe configuration will not support the addition of a stove and so he will have to rework the entire network of gas pipes in the basement. This, just two days before the delivery of the appliances, including the stove.

But, one gets used to these setbacks in farmhouse reconstruction. They’re so very common! And one gets used to long days that don’t always end on a high note. Yesterday, we were building a butcher block island for the kitchen and two hours into the project (late, so very late into the evening), we found that we had the wrong piece of wood.  So typical! Wrong boards, screws, nails, fixtures, wires, pipes, connectors, outlets, tracks, paints, stains – we’ve had it all.

Still, when we finally leave the farmhouse, to return for the night to the condo, I have that same feeling of enormous pleasure at having come this far.

So I’m tired and my notes here are imprecise. But the kitchen is nearly complete at the farmhouse (minus the appliances). And the other rooms are close to being ready as well. Yes, I can switch homes this week. Indeed.


Friday, April 15, 2011


The wind howled, the pelts of rain came down hard. It was a nasty day.


And yet...

The floors glistened, the furnace rallied. I moved the most fragile housewares from one home to the next. Don't break, don't break!

Nothing broke. It was a wonderful day.

DSC06662 - Version 2

(Just two trips and the the condo’s kitchen is almost emptied out. I’m getting there!)

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I must admit, it’s absolutely delightful to have my older girl working on campus. Sometimes, weeks pass and I don’t see her in school, and then, on other days I’ll run into her on my way in or out and I can’t stop smiling. Her bouncy pony tail and buoyant, energetic manner make thoughts of tiredness dissipate. For a minute, I am like her, spirited and ever enthusiastic.


Today, I had such a fleeting encounter. And that’s a good thing, because it was otherwise a very very long and busy work day.

And so I did not really care that it was cold, that the flirtatious summer air had come and gone. I barely made it out the Law School building.

I am home now. I have, coming up, a whole batch of even more intimidating times. Five days to sort, discard, pack, think through everything, before Two Men and a Truck arrive at the condo early Wednesday...

I put it all aside and spend the evening hours on writing a story on the side. Man, that felt good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

in came that rooster

There has been a lot of buying and selling taking place via my computer. I sold six dining room chairs this week-end. I have no need for dining room furniture at the farmhouse. Shopko farmhouse Windsor chairs, purchased some while back by Ed, are a better match. We buy unfinished doors, sell old warped doors, pass on one thing, gain another. Stores that have supplied the farmhouse include Target, Walmart (what can I say...), endlessly Menards and Home Depot, and Sears. My old friends, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware are in a different league. They’re not missing entirely here, but they are a grain of sand, pinch of salt, nothing more. One curtain panel, one small rug, and a dish rack.

We sold and donated so many household items! Old lamps, cabinets, appliances, countertops, sinks, anything that has two feet and can walk. So to speak.

Most importantly, though, and making this move possible, is the sale of my condo. What a relief.

Anyone in the Midwest will confirm that today was a step into June weather. A promise that there will be warm days. A glorious, wonderful, sunny moment in the impish month of April.

I had to stop at the farmhouse on my way to work. Ten minutes, I tell myself. Ten minutes to drop off linens and vases. Very necessary.

The floor finishing process is underway and for the next four days I cannot go inside.

And so I direct my attention to the outdoors. Because, really, isn’t the big lure to this location the magnificent outdoors?

...where the blue “glory of the snow” have burst forth...


...and the crocuses are ready to deliver that first jolt of spring color...

DSC06634 - Version 2

The farmette is throbbing with new life. Including the life of the rooster who appears to have set up residence in the old barn. We don’t know why he showed up here – none of the neighbors raise chickens that I know of, but he definitely has settled in.

DSC06650 - Version 2

And, on the side of life’s transitions, we find, in the shadow of the tree limbs,  these in the back yard.


I’m back at the condo now – my last Wednesday evening here. I’m looking out at the balcony – the place of many breakfasts... oh! The old grill is there... I need to clean it and truck it over to the farmette. All the years that I lived at the condo, I never knew (until this week) that the rules here do not permit charcoal grills.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the gallop

Quiet, but not farmhouse quiet. Condo quiet. I’ve been up since... what, three? It’s getting close to that hour again. I am looking around at empty cases and half packed closets. Quiet. I feel the quiet of a spring evening at a place that I once thought of as home.

I wake up always now at two or three. I arrange things in my head: what must be done, how I must proceed. Sometimes I return to sleep, sometimes I do not.

You think that it’s just a move. No, at my age, it’s never just a move. My move reverberates. On my children. On my parents, too. I need to make changes on documents that are difficult to change, and that are not mine to change.

And, even as I am moving to Ed’s place, it’s not that I am doing this in any conventional manner. I am reinventing many wheels and I have at once a partner and a puzzled child next to me in the process of doing this.

All that and the semester too.

The day is brilliant. Cool, maybe that, but sunny and brilliant. For the first time this year, students settle in with their minutes of time. Golden time.


I don’t pause. I’m in a hurry. Back to back classes followed by a long stream of students (I have office hours today). By five, I am completely spent.

But I want to take some fragile things over to the farmhouse. I catch the bus home, I pick up lamps and such and I drive over to the farmette.

The same sense of urgency – to get it done! – is not felt by my future landlord. For Ed, life moves at a gentle pace. You cannot hurry a day. My dismay now at finding counters piled high with clutter that should have been removed days, no, months ago is not shared by a person who will get to it all. Eventually.

I gallop, Ed strolls.

I have a dinner meeting back in Madison in a few minutes and I know already I am going to be late. And still I need to wipe down surfaces before the crew comes to varnish the downstairs floors tomorrow.

I am dismayed at how much dust there is still. Construction blows into the air a hellish amount of grime. It’s like a mud bath everyday, but without the cleansing aspects to it.

I think about how different life will be once I move to the farmette next week. (And I can do so, for sure! All the essentials are now in place!)

DSC06622 - Version 2

Sometimes I think that I am amply prepared for it. Other times I think – well now, this is going to be interesting.