Wednesday, December 31, 2014

with a bang!

Lyrics, dancing around in my head: five golden rays! four dirty pots, three cold hens, two stubborn people, and a cat with an upset tummy!

Yes, yes, it is the last day of the year and it's freezing outside and we are without water and Isis is rebelling against the uninteresting cat food we are giving him these days.

There you have it -- our day in a nutshell: a heck of a closure to 2014.

But oh, that sunshine! That misleading sunshine, distracting from the fact that it's 2F outside, with a brisk wind giving a real punch to any mortal attempting to work outside.

(The cheepers venture out for their morning treat, but then quickly retreat back to the barn. Why didn't you tell us it was this cold?!)

We eat breakfast. Plenty of clean dishes still, but the stack of grubby ones in the sink is growing. We have a large container of water, but it's not nearly enough to guide us through a regular day.


Ed notes that my voice has a bit of an edge to it. I have to admit he is correct. My plans for the day are in shreds and the farmhouse, instead of being polished and ready for the new year, is a mess.

We talk about places we have lived without running water: I note that my first years of life and many summers thereafter were spent in a village in Poland where my grandparents brought in water by the bucket from a well outside; Ed remembers the months at sea, sailing with limited water supplies and, too, long ago, several seasons spent in a shack in Tennessee without water or electricity -- a self inflicted Thoreau-like existence.

Yes, sure, I see how spoiled I've become: today I want my water. I want a clean house and I want to make a very special dinner -- lobster tails, purchased yesterday at $8 a tail, with potatoes and corn on the side. And I want to bake. And let's face it -- I want to use the bathroom as I see fit, luxuriously indoors, upstairs, with a view toward the gardens and crab apples. Spoiled, I tell you!

But I also want to be a good partner in farmette life and so I tell Ed that we can postpone attempting the fix of the water pump until tomorrow. Thursday's high of 30F seems positively tropical when compared to the single digits we're seeing today. And that wind!

But he knows that deep down, I'm longing for a resolution. Outside, he untwists the wires, finds another problem with a failed connection, drives once again to Pumps and Equipment (quickly! before the world shuts down to celebrate the passing of another year!) while I sit and wonder how it is that bringing water inside can be this complicated.

(While the cheepers watch and shiver. Or, is it the wind that shakes them this way and that?)


And now the new pump, the pipes, the wires -- are all laid out in the sheep shed, ready to be walked over and streamed into the well. As we step outside, the monster pipe suspended between us, Ed hesitates.
Cold? I ask.
No, the wind. 
I see his point: we have to hold that damn thing upright and steady while he bolts it into place and tapes wires to it every half dozen feet. I think about the stack of dirty dishes and the chaos inside. I know Ed's braving the horrible weather because he knows all I can think about is the sink with the dishes and the toilet that no longer flushes.
We can do this tomorrow, I reassure him.
He hesitates again, but only for a moment. Let's do it.


Among the most uncomfortable minutes of 2014, I'll surely include holding onto the pump and pipe with frozen hands and a frozen shoulder. Ed's made of hardier stuff: without flinching, he tightens the pipes, tapes the wires and somehow I do not let go of any of it to send the whole thing crashing to the bottom of the well. Sometimes you know that if you mess up, the consequences are just too harsh to contemplate, so you hold on.

And he finishes the outside job just as the last sun streaks disappear and the dusk of a New Year's Eve sets in.


It will be many more hours before we have water again. The wiring in the basement poses additional hurdles -- for no reason other than because Ed is, by this point, exhausted.

But by the time of the evening news, I can wash my hands, my face, my dishes, my worries away. We have water. I make our supper while my guy showers and warms up under the quilt.


2014 surely made its way out with a bang!

Ocean readers -- I know I have no great power to make your next year wonderful, but I do so hope it can be the best that it can be. And that we can help each other make it just a bit more cheerful and kind. Happy, happy 2015!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014


How cold was it today? Well, we never saw more than 14F here, at the farmette (so, at the hottest point we were at -10C).

But, the sun is out and that's very heart warming! So much so that you forget about how cold it really is.

The cheepers forgot. They came all the way to the farmhouse door for their morning treat...


...then buried themselves under the bushes, all tightly meshed in a hump to stave off the cold.

Ed and I eat breakfast in the front room, loving the sunshine, feeling its energy, scheming great plans for the day.


To cross off the ordinary chores and errands, I do the weekly grocery shopping. As Ed helps me lug the bags into the kitchen I point out to him that the water pressure in the kitchen is really low.

"Probably the filter..." he tells me. Out come the tools, the coils, the filter. After a few minutes the pressure is even lower.


We're in the basement now. I'm playing my usual clueless assistant role. I turn switches when asked to do so and stare at boxes of wires thinking that maybe one would be frayed and I'll discover it and the problem will be solved.

Ed is gently cursing. A broken water pump at the farmette would be a big deal. A huge deal, in fact.

He takes out the starter, switches the capacitor, cleans the contact points. No luck.

We call Farm&Fleet. They have a new starter. Ed goes down to check one more time if everything else is operational.

It isn't.

"It's not just the starter.  It has to be the pump," he tells me. Shit. 

The pump is, of course, submerged. 50 feet under the ground. In the well. It's heavy. Connected to a pvc pipe.


It takes both of us to pull it out and in the end, it snaps off. Just like that.
"Good thing I had the foresight to connect it to a rope."

One broken pump and snapped pvc later, Ed is on the phone calling Pumps and Equipment. Who even knew that there is a store called Pumps and Equipment?

A bit of luck here: it doesn't close until 4:30 and it is now *only* 3:30. I remind Ed it gets dark early. It is, too, biting cold. The cheepers are still hiding -- they refuse to go back to the barn -- the sun is low, it is just too cold for them.

Was I singing "all is calm, all is bright" not too long ago?

In the middle of the entire operation, the Chicken Mama -- the true owner of our cheeper brood -- stops by to visit with the hens and Oreo. (Yes, Oreo has forgotten her and pecks away at her ankles.) I glance at my watch. Why does the sun go down so fast? Is it a race? Come on, put the brakes on!

Ed is off to pick up a new pump. Well, not so fast. He'd left the ignition on in his car. Battery's dead.

Of course, I can count the ways in which this calamity isn't a true disaster. We have another car -- my trusty red, fender-less Escort. Then, too, Ed can figure out most things that break. And he can fix them (that has its downside: he wont hire help). And the Pumps and Equipment store is open, and it's not their holiday, and it's not our holiday, and I don't have house guests, and my older girl lives 12 minutes away, and she has water. I know all that. But right now it just feels cold and the busted pipe and pump are lying on the frozen ground and we still have to put a new contraption on and work the thing back underground and connect it in some mystical fashion to all the wires dangling at the side.

Hell-kite! (That's straight out of Macbeth and sounds much better than a repetition of the standard shit.)

Ed comes back with various pumps and pipes and starters and all other relevant bits of equipment. It is, by now, dark and so of course, the installation has to be put off until tomorrow.

It will be a night without water. On the upside, the furnace is working magnificently!

Monday, December 29, 2014

catch up

The first thing I did this morning is get up and freeze. I was not prepared for the sudden nip in the air when I went out to set the cheepers free. Jacket for sure next time!





And then, after a wonderful breakfast...


...I hunkered down to write. I had this story idea several days ago and I did with it what I always do -- I put it down in draft form. It was awful.

Typically, when this happens, I return to it again and again until I'm satisfied that it's not an embarrassment to the human race. You know, in case we implode and some future Martian finds it as an example of the written form.

But this year, Christmas took all my emotions and energy out of writing and into family and fun and so the bad story festered.

Until today. Now it's no longer an embarrassment. I will eventually find a home for it, but at least that future Martian will no longer think that we were weak in our abilities to formulate sentences.

Ed and I had wanted to bowl this afternoon but both of us were so lost in our projects that time came, time went, and eventually time disappeared.

So here I am, touting chicken photos again. Just know they are sweet, sweet chickens. Spoiled to death, sure...


But ever so sweet and earnest.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


This is it -- the final bit of holiday. And, too, the final set of hours when both young families can come together around a large table and share a meal with us.

As if to emphasize the utter splendidness of this year's long holiday week-end, we wake up to a full monty, in terms of sunshine. You would not be able to paint a more brilliant sun, giving that deep blue to the sky that we love so much on winter days here!

Ed and I are up earlier than the younger set, because of the cheepers...


...and because I have things to do in the kitchen. But before I pull out the knives and whisks, Ed and I sat down to a light breakfast together, just the two of us, to tide us over.  And yes, today we can eat in the sun room! (Most of the heat in this room comes from the sun and throughout the two week period of cloudy skies, we'd had it closed off.)


(The cheepers bask in the sun too...)


Then come the brunch preparations. I like to do a full mise en place (meaning I like to get all ingredients in their final stages of preparation before I start to cook).


I am also a ridiculously orderly cook. I don't like leaving messes around me. Clean up as I go along.

The brunch menu isn't at all elaborate and everything comes from a cookbook that my girl requested for Christmas (Huckleberry): A cauliflower-mushroom-gruyere frittata (thank you, cheepers for the eggs!)


...and Honey Crisp apple flapjacks.




The farmhouse is at its sunny best and the kitchen table is just the place to linger for a long long time.


Of course, eventually, the Minneapolis couple has to take to the road, but it is a happy send off because we all know that within at most two weeks, they'll be back.

(They are a committed soon-to-be aunt and uncle!)


(To the joy of the expectant couple.)


In the afternoon, I help my older girl and her husband take down their tree. Typically, they keep it up 'til the New Year, but not this year! They want order in their house and we are able to do the full clean up in the light of this brilliant Sunday afternoon.

(Though their cats could not understand why we were removing their very favorite place of rest.)


(Last photo by the tree before it comes down!)


Job done. I drive back to the farmette just as the sun is setting.


Oh, I hope your week was equally full of the pleasures that matter most to you! And if you haven't had enough sunshine this month, may the next few days dawn as brilliantly for you as they did for me today.

(At sunset: )


Saturday, December 27, 2014


It is a day of rest. We are all indulging in it -- catching up in the physical, the visual, the peaceful.

Ed and I had an early breakfast, before the young people were awake and about...


(The cheepers, too, were early risers...)


And then the kids came down and it was so clear that what they needed more than anything else was rest. and so I reached into my miniscule DVD collection and we watched three yes, three food movies in a row. It was so decadent, so rich, so... funny!

(So not for the camera... Oh wait, the cheese and crackers and sausage! I'll post a shot of that.)


In the evening we gathered for one last time at my older girl's place. Supper? Oh, eventually, after hours of reminiscing about who did what and when and for what reason, we ordered Laotian food, delivered.


Peaceful days make for quiet blog posts.   And that is exactly what I want to leave you with tonight: the quiet.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Friday, December 26, 2014


As if this set of days hadn't provided enough warmth and generous spirit already, today threw in the cherry on top -- something so luxurious and decadent that I don't know if I can properly describe all the fine detail and trimmings. You'll just have to believe me: it was over the top grand. Let me lead up to it:

First, it didn't take long to understand that it would be a fine day. Just waking up to a sky clear enough to display sunlight was a treat. I actually volunteered to let the chickens out. It was wonderful to look out east just after 7...



But you wont get a breakfast photo of Ed today. My girls wanted a breakfast out in a diner and several of the men dropped out of the outing. Not everyone thinks the half hour drive across town is worth the rather standard fare, but we do. So our own small group gathered at Hubbard Avenue Diner and this was already deliciously fun...


And now here comes the good part.


No no, not that -- I mean yes, the photos are always wonderful, but there's more: we went to my older girl's home to hang out.

That's it.

The cats were curious, coming in occasionally to check on us...

(all whiskers and ribbons)

...but otherwise, it was just us -- with no agenda. No task, no plan, no burning questions. We looked at the array of cookbooks Santa had variously delivered, and babybooks, and no books at all, and we commented on every inconsequential point and topic and honestly, I cannot remember when we last had this luxury of time together -- nothing more nothing less, just time.



It was heaven.

To be tucked away and remembered for the ages.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day in pictures

Finally, the great Midwestern sky...


Casting blue streaks over the farmette...


I'm on my way to my daughter's place for the family Christmas gathering. Both girls are here with their husbands. Their father is here as well. Predictably, everyone wants to see the nursery...

Right now, this one is the family littlest one, but not for long...


Presents! Let's get to them! Islay scarves anyone?


Ocean author with the littlest one...


Food prep time. Check the recipe!


Quick! We need garlic!


Seven of us at the table...


Could not ask for more perfect daughters...



And to all a good night.