Wednesday, August 31, 2011

my face is my windshield (Wednesday, continued)

Eventually, the sun recedes to the very edges of the farmette...


...Ed goes off for his Wednesday ride, and I take Rosie downtown for a burger dinner on the square with my daughter.

DSC09481 - Version 2

That is always a splendid way to spend an evening. But what I hadn’t expected was the further treat that followed the meal – a ride after the sun had just set. By one lake, then another – ahhh, magnificent.


And such colors! A sky doused with the hottest chili pepper sauce!


As I steer Rosie away from the city, I notice the evening bugs – the ones you typically catch on your car windshield. They don’t go away just because you’re on a moped. My face catches one, then another and I think – my, you have piercing body parts! Because truly, evening bugs are sharp!

Still, what a night! Rosie and I take the back way, so that we can creep up on the farmhouse quietly, away from the main road. And we are rewarded by a beautiful vignette – with a gentle mist rising from the warmed fields, overseen by the smallest sliver of a moon.


Rosie and I slow down and I think -- this is a good way to exit August.

when the day is through

We’re sitting on the porch, our feet up and resting on the ledge. The canvas chairs permit us to sway a little. An iPod is crooning some mild jazz, but really, the noise of the crickets is far louder. It’s nearing five and the shadows have crawled over much of the flower patch and driveway. I say to Ed – it feels like early fall. He answers – it feels like summer. He and I look out differently. I notice the movement of sunlight. He notices the warmth in the air. I am looking for an interesting photo. He is thinking of his bike ride in an hour or so.

It completely makes sense to me that people who have been around some should love a porch so much. Say you’re a parent: you’ve pushed your kids plenty. You’re not worrying about feeding them oatmeal anymore. You have more free time. Work is done for the day, now what? Read some spirited debate on the Internet? Forget it! Controversy is for the babes out there. You’ve heard the debates, the arguments, the nonsense. You know that no one is ever fully right. So, feet up, eyes out toward the sky. Crickets and a receding streak of sunlight are so much more interesting. We listen and watch and occasionally comment on what we see before us and really, we could go on like this for hours.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

fresh run

I watch students cross University Avenue. The 1-Ls, the first year law students. A big deal day for them. How many times in life do you get to plunge into something fresh and new like this? Though maybe it’s not all new. And maybe you never really start afresh. You bring along your life into the classroom and then, at the end of the day, or the semester, or law school years, you pick up the essentials of your life again.

Me, I was distracted by my newborn at home when I was a 1-L. I thought about the law when I was on campus and then only about her, my tiny one, when I was off campus. Still, I took my work at school seriously. It was the last time I would be doing school. I wanted to do school with care.

And as I met with my 1-Ls today, I thought – they all care too. Ah, to do well by all of them! That is the goal.


I’m in my office again. Looking out on a green lawn, ridiculously being sprinkled today on this partly rainy day.


Later, Rosie and I do errands. We’re in town, so we do town stuff: picking up a bus pass (a symbolic gesture – there is no bus that comes within a mile of where I now live), a few groceries. Oh oh. It’s getting wet out there. Rosie and I battle the raindrops, all the way to the Oasis, where finally we meet up with Rosie’s garage-mate.


A good day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

another day, another season

I come outside in mid afternoon and notice that the sunlight is almost completely off the dirt driveway. It’s not a summer sun anymore. And even as I look forward to the changing seasons at the farmhouse, I know I’ll miss this easy season – of bare feet and warm fresh tomatoes. Of an open window in the bathroom so that I can listen to birds as I run the shower. I’ll miss that.

Isis has taken to coming in in the morning and, after sniffing in his usual nose-into-everything fashion, to jumping up on the window sill in the sunroom.


He’ll sleep there for hours unless I disturb him with kitchen noises. (He prefers to watch me cook, even if the cooking is only perfunctory – like it is at breakfast time.)

My daughter spent the night at the farmhouse and she said the words I have come to expect from visitors here: I sleep so well at the farmhouse! What is it about the place?

I know the magic. It’s the quiet, the sunshine, the lemon rug and the linen curtains. It's the ice cream, freshly churned and the just picked tomatoes on the counter. Evocative of a country serenity and of stress free times. The kind we don’t know much anymore.

DSC08599 - Version 2

Later, in the evening, I zip over to listen to music of Ernan Lopez-Nussa, a superb Cuban jazz pianist. He’s playing in a trio at the home of friends. Here they are -- the trio and the pair of friends in the background:


It's a maiden night voyage for Rosie and me. On a scooter, you feel the cool air seep in when you pass through the lowlands.

I had, earlier, put in another solid morning of writing, under-the-gun writing – I have so little time left!

I feel satisfied. Despite the travel or maybe because the periods of travel this summer, I was able to double the text on my book. If I edit throughout the year and put in as many pages next summer, I shall be done by the end of 2012. Maybe on December 12, 2012, just to give it a little symmetry. It will be a very satisfying day indeed. Even if it’ll be in the dead of winter.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The last undemanding day of summer. I wrote furiously, as if there was to be no tomorrow. Five pages, delivered. A record for me.

In the evening, I put it down. I reached for the apples and pealed them, one after another. I rolled out the dough, cooked the crème patisserie and threw it all together.


It’s rare that I bake complicated pastries these days. It’s rare that I have last days of summer where words tumble like apples from a neglected apple tree.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


A bit of competition may be good for you, but when the competing entities are animal rather than human, it can get nasty. When a visiting dog leapt forcefully at a door behind which lurked a suddenly timid Isis, Ed decided that keeping the two animals apart for the remainder of the visit was a good idea.

That meant that Isis had to sleep in the farmhouse. You could nod your head and say – yep, I knew it, he’ll have you holding a "welcome, Isis" sign up at the farmhouse in no time. But, the circumstances were unusual. And it was only for one night, because Isis was feeling threatened, the poor thing.

Later, when it was time to head for coffee and, in conjunction, to the public library for our usual swap of viewing matter, Isis was again content, without hound nor stranger to scare the daylights out of him.

Unfortunately, at the library, we ran into a friend of Ed’s. Said friend of Ed’s happens to be taking care of a stray cat. And the question arose – might we want to help by caring for this homeless beast? She is as cute as a button, which is a good thing, as they’ve been calling her "Button." So should we spring a surprise on Isis and add a Button to the farmette? And will that mean that the farmhouse will suddenly have not one, but two cats constantly begging to be let in for movie time in the evenings? I haven't an answer just yet, in the same way that I don't know whether one day, we'll have chickens here.

The nasturtium looked especially stunning today. Vibrant. Almost red in their profound orangeness.


In other news, I think there is mild competition of another sort. My bike does not like all the accolades I throw Rosie’s way. When I pedaled to the downtown market this morning, I could sense a pouting resistance. As in – why does the moped get to have a special name and so much attention? To which I would respond (if the bike could really converse) – I gave you a name too, didn’t I? Wasn’t it something like Mr. G? Which I would then have to admit -- isn’t very attractive. So let me hereby change it to Mister Red which sort of sounds like Mister Ed which confers a nod to the person who influenced me toward more serious biking in the first place.

In days that I forget, I can call it “the bike,” because that’s what it is. As in -- today I took "the bike" to the market.



Still another note for Ocean: the farmette harvest includes, this year, apples. Lots of apples from one prolific apple tree. They aren’t the type to die for and they have an exceptionally short shelf life, but they are tasty enough and though we’ve ignored them, being somewhat overwhelmed by tomatoes and peaches, this afternoon I agreed to take stock of the orchard's shower of apples.



Tomorrow I’ll crank up the oven. Apple pastries by dinnertime. That's the goal.

Finally, let me note that this was the last August farmers market day and so you could say that it was the last summer market day. Given that I have orientation sessions with my students this coming week, I have to say that for me, summer ends now.

Am I ready to end the longest vacation of my adult life? Well now, work time can rarely compete successfully with free time. But, we'll see how it all plays out in the  days ahead.

Friday, August 26, 2011

protecting the turf of the little guy

Rosie’s red lips kissed the dust good bye and away she and I flew on an errand morning.

She rewarded me with a clever maneuver when someone pulled out from a side street and did not spot me, or her. How could you not see Rosie? She is so stunningly beautiful! And spicy bright red. Jeez, get off the cell phones already, people! Look out for the small fry on the road!

We flew home together unscathed, moods swinging high, passing hills and vales and struggling cyclists.

Home, finally. Or almost home. Slowed down to wave at the farmer across the road and in seeing us, the farmer perked up and ambled over to her wheelbarrow...


...where she reached for the finest flowers and handed them to us, out of the generosity of her heart. (Or a secret love for Rosie.)


Later, I fired up the grill. Ed’s friend is in town and that is occasion enough to grill brats (of the chicken and hot pepper variety) and corn and to make blueberry frozen yogurt.



Because Ed’s friend came with his dog, Isis jumped high into the rafters of the garage and stayed there until I coaxed him down. Last I heard, the dog wanted to play chase. Isis would have none of it. Smart animal. One should always avoid being chased by those who are significantly larger and more powerful than us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

cant get soft down at the farm

Ever since rosie came into my life, I’ve given up doing long hauls on the bike. Oh sure, we bike to the Oasis, but that’s 3.5 miles away. Rosie is so much fun that if I need to go further, I take her, rather than the bike, for a spin.

That’s not good.

Country living is supposed to toughen the body and soul. And so I made today a 100% no matter what bike day. And it was no stay at home and write kind of a day either. I had an appointment on Madison’s west side, I had meetings with students on campus and then another appointment on what is no longer even Madison on the west side.

Forty-four bike miles for the day.

And sure, the weather is on my side.


And the mock sunflowers are having their shining moment. As are the black-eyed girls.


And the Madison streets aren’t crowded and I get to revisit past favorite spots, like Owen Woods...


...and the ever beautiful, meditative lake shore bike path.


...and see the band do its practice – something I no longer see on a regular basis, ever since I moved south to the farmette.


So it is a good day.

(the last mile, photo by Ed)

Now, can I have my Rosie back tomorrow and the next day?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

preserving summer

Could it get more homey than this? I tell Ed I’ll address the peach problem today. The thing is, we have a peach tree and it bends so much that you cannot walk the path to Ed’s sheepshed. The branches stand in the way. They're loaded with ripening peaches. Curious fruits, these peaches are. Small. The size of apricots.


And you have to pick them at the perfect moment. Too early and they’re hard. Too late and they’re cottony and dry. And chewed over by beetles. But when you hit their fine hour, you have yourself a lovely batch of peaches.


So I pick the ripe ones and peel and pit them and put them on a tray for freezing purposes. And so the freezer bounty grows. Raspberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, peaches. All from the garden.


Remind me to use them come winter. I tend to forget.

In the evening, my daughter comes...

DSC08516 daughter goes. Ed bikes with Wednesday Night bike riders. The night light sets in. I’m so glad I’m done with peach preservation.We can move on to Fall. Reluctant, but ready.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

cloudy, with storms passing through

There are some fine days ahead of us – sunny, summery, Wisconsin bright days, but today is not one of them. We wake up to thunder that strikes if not the bedroom, then most certainly something awfully close by.

Do we have a lightening rod? I ask Ed. I know the answer, but I’m hoping that the question has suggestive value. And a follow up: what would happen if lightening struck the house?
Oh, all the electricals would be fried. Every last one of them. I want to point out that my iPad is not plugged in. It would escape slaughter by electrocution.
And the house?
It could burn down.

Ed is so reassuring.
So you’d think it would be a good idea to put on a lightening rod, no?
And a thick cable... you’d think. He’s only sounding agreeable.

Another crash. He plugs himself into the computer and leaves me to ponder thunderstorms on my own.

A few minutes later I ask -- so, on a different note, what should we do with the newly formed wasp nest at the porch entrance?
But an occasional wasp gets in.
Yes? We can let it out.

I change the subject again. Good weather coming up. Maybe we can move ahead with our outdoor projects. (The front entrance needs a new design and painting the house looms before us too.) He listens politely then returns to his online business program.

Rain. A good indoor day.
I should finish putting in the shelves in the closet.
Yes, a fine idea.

The day passes.

And now it's late afternoon. We bike to get a coffee at the Oasis. Another storm is brewing and I urge us to leave quickly. I want to get back before the rains come down. As I bike, I weigh our earlier conversations. I can’t decide if it’s harder to be a tenant or a landlord at the farmhouse.


Monday, August 22, 2011

back home

I did not think that I would be washing windows today. All nine, the ones that separate the kitchen from the porch. They just seemed dirty. Even Ed commented on it.

So ho hum, we’re home. Tired, so tired that I even slept during the drive from Milwaukee, waking occasionally to ask – Ed, are you okay? Sure you’re okay? Go to sleep, he’d answer, rather predictably.

This morning, I did the first think you want to do when returning to a farmette. I surveyed the state of the crops. Well, not really crops -- we don't grow those, but we do have a fine share of tomatoes creeping around the wood chips. Here's today's haul:


...and there are the perennials, the ever faithful, ever expanding and reblooming perennials.   And the nasturtium. Monet would be proud of me.


In fact, the entire farmhouse looks, to me, so very splendid. Dappled with color...


...but also ready for the next stage of renovation. We had stared at front porches and entrances up and down the Gaspe Peninsula and came to the conclusion that the easy way out may not be the best way out for the farmhouse. There are some pretty porches out there and we ought to do well by the farmhouse. So we are imagining and drawing plans.

But let me repeat, the place, in my eyes, is lovely already.

Isis greeted us as we pulled into the dirt driveway. Atta cat, Isis. Loyal to the core. He’s been hanging with us all day as I, well, washed windows, pruned plants while Ed worked on installing a windshield on my Rosie.

And I spun out to the store on Rosie, and she felt smooth and wonderful, and my older daughter came over and we all went out for a snack at the Oasis, and can I be any more enraptured with the everyday?


P.S. I received a lot of feedback on my bear encounter on the Canadian hiking trail. And I read how so many would never venture out to the parks here, or in Canada without firearm. Well now, I have to respond. With two points. First, I consider myself to be an okay marksperson. I learned at army training camp (in Poland). But no way would I think that I, nor anyone could shoot at a charging animal while hiking. Oh! Bear! Let me reach into my pack and get out the gun and aim and fire! Such fantasy. Second point: between 2007 and 2009, 446 pedestrians were killed just in New York City.  About 148 per year. Between 1960 and 2009, 55 people were killed by black bears in Canada and the United States combined. True, most of those were in Canada, but still. You gotta have perspective.

By the way, Ed uses similar data comparisons to convince me that my fear of being struck by lightening in a storm while hiking is irrational. There are fifty deaths per year in this country from lightening strikes. You could say one per state per year. All of Canada has, on the average, 3.4 lightening related deaths per year. He runs that statistic by me and it has no effect. When I am hiking and there is a storm raging, I want shelter. Fast.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

out with a splash

There is a festival in Quebec City right now. I cannot remember being here when there wasn't a festival. Lobster festival, ice sculpture festival, and this time there is something combining music and beer. But, as we descend down to the old port section of the city late Saturday night, we ignore it all. Food -- we're very much in need of food. Somewhere along the way the should have had a breakfast and a lunch, but here it is, almost 9 in the evening and we've had neither. Long bus rides can be very disruptive to your eating habits. No matter, we find a place now that serves moules frites, in any one of twelve different ways. You could not make Ed happier. Nor am I complaining. Mine, in a Provencal broth -- mmmmm.

The walk back up to the inn is summer warm. The streets of Quebec are filled with strollers.


So satisfied and satiated am I after dinner that I again doze off before posting. I wake up at 3 and finish the half written paragraph. Travel can really wreck your writing habits too.

In the morning we wake up to rain. Not just your pitter patter kind of shower -- real rain, big splotches of wetness streaming from thickly gray skies. We have only this one day in the city and though neither of us feels compelled to sight see (I used to come to this place often enough in my young adult days and even though I'm an old adult now, I can't say that it has changed significantly), still, I feel we ought to move some. When you've been hiking, it's hard to just stop and recline.

We borrow umbrellas and head out. Upper city, then lower city. And oh does it rain! The vendors are having a slow day.


The streets have few hardy souls, but not many.


The St Lawrence looked sadly gray, so unlike the radiant blues we'd gotten used to.


The boardwalk -- slick and so bare, considering it's Sunday.


In the lower part of the old town it's like that as well. A few determined souls, holding tight to their umbrellas.


Still, I keep thinking how easy this walk is. The luxury of the umbrella, of a place to dry off -- indeed, thousands of places to dry off, the smooth walkway, all of it. So it's raining. Big deal. Makes the roofs all shiny and bright.


And the window displays are unaffected. Here's pleasure, on a plate.


We had wanted to eat a big lunch as it would also be our dinner for the day. We have a bunch of evening flights and then a night drive home from Milwaukee. Best to fill now. There is a sweet little place that serves savory buckwheat crepes. That was the goal. But we come to be distracted by the market. Yes, I know, it's not Saturday, not market day, nor am I in need of vegetables, but this is a huge covered market of local products and if you aren't, say, into the berries...

Untitled may admire the syrups and honeys and all the other foods from the province. And there are tables off to the side where you can eat some prepared sandwiches, or you can put together your own meal from market foods. Ed and I do just that.

Gravlox from the fish vendors.


Tomatoes, a baguette, then, a return to the fish vendor because we see someone eating cupfuls of the delicious little shrimp that are so abundant here. We want those as well.


A shame to pass on these... (I remember how in France this June I asked if the lobster on the menu was local. Oh no, the waiter said. Too expensive. We get ours from Canada.)


But we do add a delicious pint of strawberries (they are in the thick of the strawberry season here right now), and also, I cannot neglect our very first purchase -- the superb wild blueberries, that remind me of my summers in my grandparents' village home in Poland.


We eat very very well.

And now we're bumping along the cloud saturated skies over Canada, heading home, happy as anything with our Gaspesie week and happy, too, to be almost home.

oh Canada, how short the summer months...

The skies are misty blue, the air is still. The wind turbines are quiet. We hike to the central gas station in Cap-Chat. It's where the bus will stop on its way west and south. A Saturday morning in what I must now call late August. I get the feeling somehow that there aren't many summer days left here. That suddenly it will be beautiful, all orange and gold in the mountains and then, equally suddenly, there will be the beginning of the longest season -- winter.

Am I imagining that people are in a hurry here? As if you'd be foolish to waste these precious warm days of an already fading summer?

I look around me. Salt bags. I can't figure them out.


Not for snow. Let's not be ridiculous here. And what's sulphur moose salt? And why does this bag have salt with apple flavor? When you end up in small communities far far from where you live, you try to imagine what it would be like if fate placed you here instead of, say, in Madison. Would I be saying 'salut' to the people that come and go, filling tanks, containers, motorbikes with gas? I give hugs to the town boys? Would I smoke cigarettes?

And would I be sick of crabe, crevette, and homard on all menus? Would I learn to say dejeuner for beakfast (instead of petit dejeuner, as they call it in France) and diner for lunch (instead of dejeuner) and souper for dinner (instead of diner)? Would I have great upper body strength from shoveling snow?

One last look over the calm as can be waters of the great gulf...


...and we're off. The bus is nearly full today. The ride is long, with a change in Rimouski. By 6 in the evening we are in Quebec City.