Friday, September 30, 2011


One hard lesson that I learned not too many years ago is this: if someone says (or does) the wrong thing, don’t you, too, say (or do) the wrong thing. You don’t get a free pass.

I remember almost twenty-five years ago having a very lovely conversation with Mrs. Jahnke. She was the principal in a Milwaukee elementary school and she said – it’s when they’re most obnoxious, that’s when they need you most. That’s an easier statement to live by when it’s about kids.

These were my evening thoughts. The day was somewhat different. And the afternoon was somewhat wonderful. Ed and I biked to the Oasis EVP coffee shop and even though the wind was still gusting (and therefore keeping a balance was interesting), the light was beautiful.


At the café, Ed helped the owners fix an Internet issue and even though it wasn’t me that helped fix a perplexing problem, still I was delighted that one of us could help.

After? Well, I had to go back into town. Rosie helped me. And it was a lovely, albeit chilly journey.


All the way to the Discovery Institute at the UW, where the spaces are beautiful and the discussion was, at the very least -- passionate.


At night, Rosie and I found our way home. The stars were out and the air was crisp. Home. BTW, what’s the definition of household? I want to know.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

fair warning

Did you know this about Ed? I’ll fall asleep during a movie, or I’ll shy from kayaking down the Dordogne and so he’ll finish it (the movie, the river) alone. And, if it’ll be good, he’ll do it all over again with me, so that I can experience it. (The Answer Man, on DVD, last night.)

If you wake up in the morning to a weather alert (a mix of storms and rain and a promise of strong winds), it’s good to leave Rosie behind. She doesn’t like the wind.


The lake is rough today. I knew it would be. I made a point of walking down from my office so I could study the choppy waters.


Waves. Really.


Late in the day, I walk up and down State Street trying to find 449 State. Missed it twice. On the upside, it was kind of pretty out there, in a crazy skies sort of way.

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Ed painted the trim around the door of the farmhouse today. I asked for him to do that. If only part of the farmhouse is to look pretty this winter, let it be the entrance.

I made a salad. Beans and tomatoes from the market, eggs from happy chickens, mustard from one of my summer trips across the ocean.

And speaking of trips, someone pointed me to the New York Times piece (in the travel section) on Krakow today. Made me look forward to going back all the more. Even if my annual return to Poland is not for another two months.

They say a red sun is a sailor’s fair warning. I saw it glowing early today. I considered myself warned.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I miss those jingles, I do. The evocative happy tunes from a fake world of pink girls and bow-tied boys, harmoniously urging me to double my pleasure and double my fun with double good, double good double mint gum!

Ed mutes commercials. He will not listen to someone telling us to buy, even cool stuff. Sometimes I mind the silence in between show segments, but most often I don't care. It's not as if I'd get jingles -- remember the one that told us all to have a nice holiday, with C a N a D a, D r Y, Canada Dry, the best you can buy is Canada Dry? It put me in the mood for Christmas! Now I’m just not hearing stuff about how sick you can get taking medicines that pharmaceutical companies tell us we should take anyway.

So this morning, as I dusted off Mister Red and looked up at the blue sky, I automatically hummed -- Everything's better with Blue Bonnet on it!


I like the sound of those words together, in the way that I've always liked how "grammarian" rhymes with "Hungarian" in My Fair Lady. When the skies suddenly become sparky blue after a period of prolonged gray, Blue Bonnet on it seems spot on.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Morning. Dark when I get up. Dreary when I get going. Sigh, it's going to be a car day.

Yesterday I had run into a councilman from Fitchburg and I had asked about the future of public transportation between here and Madison. The immediate plans are to grow the system, but in directions that have little to do with my daily commute. In the meantime, he tells me -- I can drive or bike to the hub over by the Fish Hatchery (4 miles), from where I can catch the every half hour bus (runs only early in the morning and early in the evening) downtown. If you miss it, he says jovially, you can drive further in and catch another bus by Wingra Park.

Oh my, by that time, I will have driven a distance greater than the one between the farmhouse and campus!

So it's back to Rosie and Mr. Red and on days like this one, where I am on campus from 9 until 9, it's back to the last of the Red Hot Lovers -- a new name for my '93 Ford Escort without the bumper guard. Why that name? You'd understand if you'd taken a ride in it with me -- the previous owners had put in a huge red heart cigarette lighter which shines brilliantly each time you turn on the ignition. It is rather comic in a brassy sort of way. Much like the play of the same title.

It’s late now. I’ll end with a photo of my dinner companions. A superb group of people.


Once again I was too timid to order the Plaza burger. Next time. Maybe next time.

Monday, September 26, 2011


It felt like razor sharp pins were being thrown at me, hitting mostly my face, but relentlessly, at the same time that the wind knocked me and Rosie from one side of the lane to the next. It was not a good day for me to ride Rosie to work.


You gotta be tough, Ed tells me. Someday, you’ll get rained on. So what.
So what? So you can’t see the road, so it’s slippery, so I slow down to a crawl, so I get my face slashed by pellets of cold rain.

On the flip side, maybe it’s good for my face? Like a massage of pristine and pure water from up above? Nah. I bet we have acid rain.

A gray day. A photo from the ride in, as usual -- without any color manipulation:


Ed asks later, at the café, did you get rained on?
Funny guy.

I make soup tonight. First time. (Soup is my winter go-to meal.) With bread and cheese. Eaten on the couch. In case you think that’s too informal, let me assure you, we eat breakfast at the table.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday once more

In the scheme of things, mushrooms and pears are so commonplace. They grow, they’re shaken down or pulled out, they’re eaten.

It's Sunday. There are such small vicissitudes to this day! I clean (today, in an unusual move, we clean). I work, write, work, write. We pick mushrooms.


...and pears.

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Storms come, storms pass.


Ed and I chop and pull  at weeds.

The farmette is still lush...


...the cranes still parade at the end of the day as if there is no end to anything at all, just one moment followed by the next and the next...


I cook, Ed cuddles Isis, my daughter comes over for a Sunday meal.


A week-end day like all others or like no others, depending on how you look at it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

random moments

Last evening, as Ed fell asleep (so early!), I played music. The kind that makes your life spin before you, so that you can chastise yourself at all the points where you think you didn’t quite pull it off. Ever since I purchased the Beatles collection on iTunes, I can go pretty far back now – to when I was ten and didn’t do my French homework as required... or twelve and took my skateboard out on the streets of Manhattan even though I knew I shouldn't...

Over breakfast, I ask Ed about his lunch the previous day with his business partner.
Chinese, in Waunakee. All you can eat buffet.
I wasn’t envious of the all you can eat buffet. That kind of set up makes me fill up with foods like broccoli because I want to take advantage of the all you can eat idea without piling on the calories. And yes, there is such a thing as eating too much broccoli.
But I was envious of the Chinese. We never go to a Chinese place for dinner anymore.
You don’t like any of the Chinese places in Madison.
Not true! It's been years! Maybe there are fine new places. You know, fresh and honest.

At the downtown farmers market, things were looking so good! So very good! My daughter and I circled the square (!) and she nibbled the curds and I stared at the tomatoes. And the eggplant. And the apples. And the corn. I felt like I was leafing through a catalogue of favorites foods. Nothing seemed unappetizing. And it looked still so richly end-of-summery! As if a hard frost hadn’t come by to shut down production! (It hadn’t.) Raspberries! Flowers! Peaches from Door County!


At the farmhouse, Ed is painting again (after a four day pause). I ask him – if you’re going to do such a small detail, why would you do it in the most invisible spot ever? Because it’s the most difficult one and I want to be done with it.

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Okay. Makes sense. Still, I look forward to the day when I will approach home and think – my, what a fresh and lovely building! Not there yet.

In the evening, Ed asks – so, we’re going to a Chinese place for dinner?
But where?

We go to the Orient House on Park Street. Quite new. Call it a neighborhood place for us. A couple of soy/corn fields, a couple of city blocks and you’re there. Ten minutes door to door. And the food is fresh tasty and crisp (if a tad heavy)  and the waitstaff is young and charming.
It’s our special place now, isn’t it? I ask Ed.
He rolls his eyes at my sentimentality.

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On the way home, we stop on the county road, just shy off where we turn off to go to the farmette. A new road is going up, getting the highways dangerously closer to where we live.


It’s a threat. It could be, that five years from now, we’ll be surrounded not by market crops but by a subdivision.

Few things are today as they will be tomorrow. For the most part, that's a good thing. For the most part.

Friday, September 23, 2011

autumn stuff

So what’s early fall like on the farmette? Here’s the big point: every change in weather, every seasonal progression is noticeable.

You can’t help it. The temperature, the cloud type will determine how you’ll move around today. I had to go to campus, I chose Rosie. But I miscalculated. It felt cold. Too cold.

Even as we are still so early in the fall season.

(on the ride home)

I could not wait to get back inside the farmhouse, where I cranked up the heat a bit, just to feel warm again. It worked. Or maybe it’s that, just before pulling into the driveway, I paused by the flower fields and things didn't feel quite so chilly there.

(on the ride home)

As always, the women tending the flowers plucked stems for me. You live there? Take flowers home? Yes... Oh yes...

The farmhouse. I have one more harvested fruit to deal with here, at home: the pears from a somewhat erratic pear tree (the top half of the pear always tastes better than the bottom half.. who knows why). I had a couple of dozen fruits to work with. I’d made the dough for the crust and the almond frangipane earlier. Now it’s a question of throwing it together and letting it bake.

And then, an hour later, cutting it up for supper.


Ed tells me that entering the farmhouse with the smell of baking pears in crusty dough is heartwarming. To demonstrate his satisfaction, he exhales deeply and promptly falls asleep on the couch.

Autumn stuff. Hard to ignore here. And that’s a good thing.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

cool ride

Once again, a huge thank you to Ed’s motorbike-loving friends who gave me their jacket to use with Rosie. On a cool morning ride, it and the windshield Ed fastened onto Rosie keep me happy and warm.

(The road I take on Rosie parallels the bike route. No new vistas to admire, though everything feels different at 40 miles an hour.)


And on the return, on the way to the café, the pressures of the day are behind me, the prospect of a strong coffee just ahead... what could be better? I pull up and Ed's there. Hi Ed.


After? It's pleasantly late. We stop at the evening Fitchburg market, pick up some foods and I remember to keep little fruits tucked into the seat of Rosie, so that they don't fly away during the ride home.


Evening. The weight of the week is behind me. My, relief feels good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The wind blew, the clouds rolled in and still I biked.


With no regrets.


And back, too, after work, to the café (the Oasis: EVP - Fitchburg), where the owner is celebrating a first day launch of sandwiches. Phenomenal sandwiches and phenomenal prices, proving to be phenomenally successful from day one. Excellent. I like to see favorite businesses flourish.

It drizzled a little and I got whipped around too, but no matter, I’m still biking, the greater distances this school year notwithstanding.


Meanwhile, back on the farm, Ed has applied two square feet of paint to the farmhouse – a small area of white trim. You may think that’s a puny showing for two days’ worth of work. You’d be wrong. Nothing should be rushed in life. Nothing.


Be warned: I was ensconced in law school stuff from 7 am til 9 pm. You’re not going to get much lucidity from me now. I am spent.

But I want to say this much: it was one of those days where I was especially impressed with the students that I teach. The day ended with a meal with one of the first year groups, out on State Street.

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Or really off off State Street. The setting wasn’t much. I believe you’d properly call it a dive. The food? Let me find a word for it: predictably uninspired. But to their credit, the students seemed unconcerned. And the answers they gave to trivia games that happened to be played that evening at "the dive" were amazing. Who knew that law students were so spectacularly well prepared for the trivial aspects of life. Who knew.


For so many reasons, I was enormously proud of them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

as it should be

Sunday evening. Dinner, the Emmies, a daughter, only one daughter, because the other had to return to her home in Chicago. And Isis.


And now the weekend is over.

Monday morning. It’s what we’re known for, here in Wisconsin: a beautiful September day. Deeply blue skies, breezes that make the birch leaves sing.

I look at the clock. Too late for a ride in on Mister Red. Or is it?  I'm going to give it a try. Speed, speed past the fields of flowers, harvested early for the markets in town...


Speed until the lungs heave. Breathe in, exhale, breathe in, exhale. A hundred pants a minute. In, out, in, out.

Forty minutes! A record! in just seconds before class starts.

The ride back at the end of the class hours is gentler and longer. Past fishermen casting in the waters of the big lakes, shirtless now, in the warm afternoon sun.


Past birds. Huge birds.


Bees, too. I think. I pause to take a look.


...Which means that I am late for a meetup with Ed at the café. He’s halfway through his soup by the time I get there. Hi Nina... And within minutes, his eyes close shut. Asleep. That’s okay. I’m used to his odd hours.

At the farmette, I gather the last tomatoes for a salad. Ed is at the pear tree. No more pears for now, I tell him. I don't have the time to even consider what to do with them next.  And then he looks down, just below the tree. Yesterday’s rains have brought in a spectacular crop of wine caps. Ed brings them in. A handful, another, and another.

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Too much, it's too much!
Maybe we should dry them... Like your porcini...
I have bagfuls of dried porcini! Enough to last us all winter long. And beyond.
Pickle them? Should we pickle them?
Too complicated! I'll cook what you picked and let's hope for no more rain.

Mushrooms and eggs for supper.  And the last of the tomatoes. I'll deal with the pears later. Tomorrow. Or the day after. If only the fruit flies would quit multiplying. Why do all fruits, vegetables and mushrooms ripen at the same time?

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Last dish put away, leftovers from Saturday’s meal stored. Outside, the rain comes down in that steady stream that looks never ending. Nothing fierce, just constant.

We take the car for an afternoon coffee. Past gray skies and golden fields of harvest ready soy.


They say fall colors aren’t coming to this part of Wisconsin for several weeks yet. Nonsense. There’s the soy, of course. And at the farmette, we have the very last crop almost ready for Ed’s fruit picker.


Watching the green turn to gold is remarkably satisfying. We ignore what comes next: the brown months. No one I know likes the brown months.


I wonder, do older people seem a little dated to their children? Do they seem without memory? A tad antiquated? Do the kids, not kids really, but your kids and so for all intents -- kids, will they all eventually want to write books about the oddities of the generation that came before them?

A Saturday at the market. I’m not going to post market photos. You’ve seen them, last Saturday and the one before that. But how about of leaves as they begin to crinkle inward...


And of the special chicken presentation, which Ed and I attended, thinking for a whole hour that we would someday raise chickens at the farmette. Until we talked ourselves out of the idea.


Young people. The farmhouse was abuzz with them tonight: daughters – both of them! – and their friends, all spilling onto the porch where the food is plentiful and the heater Ed put up is quite wonderful.


They look like a serious lot, don’t they? Maybe. Except when the parent speaks in the way that my generation speaks. And then their faces light up with laughter -- abundant, youthful laughter.

Friday, September 16, 2011

seasonal notes

As I get closer and closer to the super extra over and beyond duper busy months (October and November), I think about how utterly wonderful it is that after, it’ll slow down again for me. For a while. I look forward to that.

...even as I really love these months too. For example: in cleaning the farmhouse this morning, I had a chance to do some love-filled polishing. True, Ed didn’t notice. And Isis ignored my efforts, preferring to sit back up on the table to lick his fanny. But I noticed and it felt wonderfully decadent to have everything shiny bright ahead of the week-end (usually I clean on Sundays).

And here’s another piece of utter decadence. Ed took me out to dinner tonight. We don’t go out, the two of us. When we travel, yes, of course. But at the farmhouse, I cook. And most often, he eats. But, something moved us to return to Brasserie V today.

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And so the days move forward. Toward the next season. And the next.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

plummy ride

If the frost touched the tomatoes, I wouldn’t know it. In any case, I think we’re at the tail end of the growing season. All that was meant to be frozen for winter consumption is frozen. You could say we’re bracing for the first snow storm.

And man oh man, that was a chilly ride this morning. Had to rev it up, too. It’s too easy to set out just a half hour before class is to start. Then I worry and rush. It sets the tone of the day as one of rushing. I prefer a gentler approach. I’ll do better. Get up even earlier. When it’s still dark. Oh! That’s not that early these days!

By late afternoon, the air had warmed to a toasty 52. Scooting down to the café, I thought about how well I know the cracks in the road by now. The sync of the lights. All that. And still, taking Rosie out for a spin is always interesting. I ride pedantically, slowly, stopping for pedestrians. I am the older woman, with graying hair flying, leather jacket zipped tight. Around me, the youth weave in and out, shorts, no helmets, no protection against the elements (even as the elements are sunshine and wind, nothing more).

On the return trip, I have a food cart in front, a protest vehicle behind, and the mildly warm sun on my back.


Oh, I know Ocean has become about the trip there, the trip back. But believe me, the journey is that interesting.

It was even more interesting as Ed and I drove away in our respective motor bikes from the café toward the Fitchburg evening farmers market and then, squash, plums and onion in my back crate, home. It is unfortunate that I did not notice that the bag with the plums sprung a leak and so I left behind me a trail of the best European plums ever. Ed, riding behind me, noticed the Hansel and Gretel plums and attempted, in the midst of rush hour traffic, to pick up the fallen fruits. I was oblivious to it all, concentrating hard on staying warm.

We’re at the farmhouse now, a few plums with us, the rest, well, back in their natural setting. Yes, the journey is that interesting.

at the market

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

cool ride

Frost alert for tonight? Really? On September 14th?

I biked to work – sloooooowly, against the wind. In my face going in. Skies were gray then, but gray and gold go well together.


Okay. done. Time to head back. Biking to the café after work takes forever. Only eight miles, but really, too far, too long when you’re tired and longing for a cup of coffee with your neglected pb&j. But, Ed is there waiting and the barista and his dad are there waiting and you really cannot have a better end to a work day than that.

Oh, I suppose it could get better. Say you biked home from the café and encountered two sand cranes, casting the long shadows in an early evening. Yeah, that would have been cool.