Friday, October 31, 2014


I listen to a record from my past today. Many, many times. I got it decades ago -- I don't remember how or why. It's about children.

My day today is devoted to cooking for my daughter's Saturday shower, at the same time that I have ongoing communications with my sister over details of administrative matters we're attending to in Poland (or rather she is attending to, since I am merely a shadow to these transactions). And so I jump between Poland and the shower and my girls and the girl that's about to be born and in fact, it's not a great leap at all.

I especially love one song on the record (it's a vinyl!), even as these days, it makes me cry. Each time. Total nostalgia. Click here to listen (and ignore the unfortunate photo someone used for the youtube link. The record actually has lovely sketches of children on it.)

Here's the real record cover, dating back to 1975:


I'll post the lyrics throughout today's entry. Polish pop music was, in those decades, very sensual and poetic. Quite different than what you'd be hearing here in the 70s. The translations are my own.

Dziewczyno, żono zakochana
Dziewczyno przy nadziei
Popatrz dokoła, jak od rana
Świat się do ciebie śmieje

[Young woman, wife -- in love
Young woman with hope
Look around you, from early morning
The world is smiling at you]

Jesteś - idąca miejskim świtem -
Natchnieniem tego wiersza
W swojej sukience śpiesznie szytej
W swojej sukience śpiesznie szytej

[You are - walking in the city's predawn -
The inspiration for this poem
In your dress, hurriedly sewn
In your dress, hurriedly sewn
The most beautiful]

(we wake up to a dusting of snow)

Dziewczyno, żono, przyszła mamo
Dziewczyno, mamo przyszła
Która oglądasz siebie samą
W lustrach ulicznych wystaw

[Young woman, wife, future mother
Young woman, mother of tomorrow
You, who looks at herself
in the mirrors of store windows]

I myślisz, idąc białym światem
Ach, kiedyż będę lżejsza
Ty jesteś zimą, wiosną, latem
Ty jesteś zimą, wiosną, latem

[You think, as you walk in the predawn light
Oh, when will I be lighter
You are in the winter, spring and summer
You are in the winter, spring and summer
The most beautiful]

(breakfast, with Ed and his visiting co-op days friend)

Na naszym piętrze nowina
Na naszym piętrze nowina
Już niedługo u sąsiadów
Już niedługo u sąsiadów
Narodzi się, narodzi się
Narodzi się dziecina

[On our floor, there' s news
On our floor, there's news
Soon at our neighbor's
Soon at our neighbor's
A child will be born, will be born
Will be born]

(looking out the kitchen window as I cook)

Dziewczyno, zakochana żono
Mąż twoje włosy gładzi
Na niebie dobre gwiazdy płoną
I ludzie są wam radzi

[Young woman, wife in love
Your husband smooths your hair
In the sky, the good stars shine down on you
And the world is your friend]

(fennel blood orange walnut salad)

Wyszywasz kwiaty na fartuchu
I czekasz dnia powicia
Mąż ukląkł przy twym pełnym brzuchu
Mąż ukląkł przy twym pełnym brzuchu
Słucha życia

[You sew flowers on your apron
And you wait for the day
Husband kneels by your full stomach
Husband kneels by your full stomach
And listens to life]

(carrot tahini chick pea pistachio salad)

Na naszym piętrze nowina
Na naszym piętrze nowina
Już niedługo u sąsiadów
Już niedługo u sąsiadów
Narodzi się, narodzi się
Narodzi się dziecina

[On our floor, there' s news
On our floor, there's news
Soon at our neighbor's
Soon at our neighbor's
A child will be born, will be born
Will be born]

Tomorrow is a very full day, but I'll be back with at least a quick synopsis. Bitter cold out there tonight. Stay snug!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

two days before

In my mind, there are four types of farmhouse cleaning: the quick mop and dust of a surface, just to give it a shine, the light going over all essential spots, the basic whole shebang -- but not with a lot of elbow grease, and then, finally, there is the all out, spare no corner, wash everything that can be washed, lift furniture, do vinegar soaks, chase Isie out of the bedroom -- that kind of cleaning.

I hardly ever do that last one.

But because there will be a baby shower here on Saturday, I throw myself into it today. I'm determined to make this place shine.

It takes hours. I wanted to be done before breakfast, but I can't do it. And so we pause, we eat...


... and then I go back to the cleaning, playing, too, the role of inspector -- trailing after Ed and his vacuum cleaner and pointing to spots that he missed.

Finally, done!

It used to be that I could do party preparations all in one day. Pans would fly, sauces would percolate, ten different pages of recipes would be stacked, one on top of the other.

No more. I prefer the slow and steady approach. So today I clean and shop. Tomorrow I cook. Saturday, along with my younger girl, I put it together (and we're getting help from the local bakeries, so it's not as if we're cooking the whole thing). That's the plan.

It's a good day to be out in the grocery stores. The colors there are far more radiant than the colors outside right now. It's a cold and gray day -- perfect for thinking about food preparation.

By late afternoon I'm home again. Unpack, put away, fold, discard, done!

Ed's pals from the days when he was heavily involved in the coop movement in Madison (this would be forty years ago) are in town and we all go to the Dane Pub for an early supper. They then proceed to attend some coop meeting or other and I return home. Not a spooky home. A cheerful place where only the cheerful tread.*

On days like this, all you can hope for is cheeper photos. And the hens help me out today! They all put forth their best profiles and so you get all three, in separate poses. They are, indeed, the spark and color at the farmette right now. With the occasional stray bloom thrown in to adorn their stately presence.




And since it was a farmhouse cleaning day, my last photo will be of the puffed up cushions and pillows on the couch. Yes, there appears to be a theme here. Indeed.


*This is my opportunity to respond to comments on my post of yesterday. In answer to the question  -- what did happen out there, at 2 am?? The answer is so straightforward and bland that I am surprised that even in my sleepy stupor I did not hit upon it. Here's the play by play: It's 2 a.m. The outdoor sensor chimes. It is, in fact, Ed, leaving the farmhouse to try something out on one of his machines in the sheep shed. I do not know this. I'm asleep upstairs. By the time I recognize the chimes, get down to the front door, he has walked to the shed, setting off his own sensor lights there. Yes, he looks kind of sinister from a distance. Like two persons, cloaked in black. Especially to a person who is not wearing her glasses and who is sort of confused by the world around her. No money changes hands, no one has makes a late night delivery -- legal or otherwise. No one gets into a car, or on a bike to ride off in a hurry. The night is full of wind, the cheepers sleep, Ed proceeds to work at his machine and I return to bed feeling not a little foolish.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Two o'clock at night. I hear the motion sensor go off outside. I curse under my breath. Isie boy, I need my sleep!

Ed isn't upstairs yet. He'll now and then work on his design project late into the night. I'm thinking the cat followed him to the sheep shed and now wants to get back to his favorite bed -- ours, in the farmhouse.

I stumble to the front door, still shaking off a dream that was interrupted by the disturbance. I open the door -- nothing. Damn! Must be night animals. But wait, what's this? I don't have my glasses on but I see the sheep shed outside sensor lights are on as well. A figure moving in... looks shady... Hey, what's going on?? Does Ed have nocturnal visitors? I look up and down the driveway. No car, nothing. I go back inside, my heart is racing. It's a drug deal! Or a dalliance! Or extortion! Or maybe all three! Oh hell, my peaceful life has suddenly become very complicated! (My mind works in weird ways after midnight.)

Ed, a criminal? Scoundrel? Spy? But I know this guy so well! Ah, that's what they all say! No, no, really, really well! Something doesn't fit! My heart races. I look at the sheep shed window, bright with lights from inside. There he is, still in his jacket, sitting at his machine, working away.

Oh. Huh. Well yes, of course.

All this has surely taken the last bit of sleep right out of me. I'm fully awake now. Back in bed, I pick up my mystery novel that fell out of my hands as I fell asleep earlier in the evening. But soon I hear a ping. An email message. I reach for my computer.

It's my sister (who is across the ocean). Want to Skype? I have a question for you.
I call her. We chat very briefly and set a time to Skype the next day.

In the morning, she and I talk about my various projects and ideas for next year. She jumps in enthusiastically and gives me some helpful tips and links. Suddenly, what was just an idle daydream seems very real. I can do this! Just be patient, be patient. Soon.

Ah, but there is before me a very real day with real minutes of cool but lovely weather. There is, too the morning breakfast.


And here's great news -- I have a very real success! The mousetrap reveals the corpulent form of a captured rodent.  I have outsmarted a mouse! Ed will be so proud of me!

The little guy hugs the corner of the plastic, see-through mouse box. Soon, little guy, soon -- I tell him. Ed and I have a shopping trip to our discount grocery store scheduled for later in the day and we take the mouse along with us for a release in the park a few miles down the road.
Don't worry, buddy -- I whisper. We'll bring you your family members tomorrow.


To the store, then back again, along the rural roads that lead toward the farmette. Scene after scene that surely is ripped right out of Rogers and Hammerstein.

There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant's eye,
An' it looks like its climbin' clear up to the sky.

Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day...


Yes (just as a commenter noted), when you move out into the country, especially here, in the Upper Midwest, what strikes you most is the grandness of the sky. The great big beautiful sky.


And the leaves continue to fall and the crab apples bring out the birds...


...and the yellow farmhouse looks at her best right now, in the late afternoon crown of gold sunlight and maple leaves.


Well, her autumnal best. Just wait until winter snows. And springtime daffodils. And summer daylilies.

I go inside and reheat some chili. We're heading for a cold spell tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Well, I'm stumped again: how can a cracker with peanut butter, wedged into a plastic mouse trap be missing without a sign of the offending mouse? The door swings shut once you're in nibbling at the cracker!

I fret about this for a long time. (Though not over breakfast. There are better things than mice to talk about during this important meal.)


Ah! I have an insight! I tell Ed -- I placed the cracker too close to the entrance! Big fat mouse, well nourished by our tidbits, didn't have to go all the way inside to get it! For tonight, I'll push the cracker into the back and dabble some more peanut butter to entice it at the edge!

Ed looks at me with a broad grin. Wow. You're smarter than a mouse.

Well now, that's a good thing. A mouse's head is even smaller than that of a chicken. And honestly, oftentimes I cannot figure out what runs through a cheeper brain.


By early afternoon it becomes clear that Indian Summer had been but a one day affair. Today, as a commenter foresaw, surely could be described as windy. The trees are increasingly bare and there's a benefit to that: so much more sky is visible at the farmette now!


Ed and I had set aside time for a walk and we do just that: the Nature Conservancy trail is about a mile up the road from us and at this time of the year, you can hike back and look down toward the wetlands that drain toward Lake Waubesa.


If the wind blew a hefty load of clouds our way when we set out...


...toward the end of our not especially long hike, it had blown them out of our range again.


The beauty of Fall isn't only in the color of the maple and birch leaves. It's the composite of all that is radiant and golden now.


Night time. Ed comes in after putting the cheepers away. He's twirling some metal gizmo that has been the focus of his designing attention lately. I look at it, take it apart, put it back together.

You have to hit it more.
What? How?
Just clamp that part down. I do that.
Am I like one of the guys now? I ask.
Well, they wouldn't have had to be told to clamp it down. Unless they were really dumb about their ER 8 spindles.

I come back to Ocean with a smile, finish my post and click "publish."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Indian Summer, Indian Lake

There are any number of associations that you may have with the expression "Indian Summer." Most people think of warm, unusually warm Fall days. Indian Summer. Our local TV news person said the other day -- we're in for some Indian Summer! The Farmers Almanac begs to disagree: apparently to qualify for that description, we would need warm air that briefly invades in November, following a hard frost. Not so for us: we did have a frost, though not a hard one. And it was in October.

Me, I think of a 1975 French song by Joe Dassin called "L'Été Indien." It's not that I turn to France for definitions of Indian Summer. I mean -- how ridiculous! It's a North American concept. (And the lyrics say as much.) But when I first heard the song forty years ago, it stuck.  And it's sticking today as I wake up to the warmest, driest 27th day of October.


Breakfast, in the sun room. Don't even think it could be elsewhere. With a window cracked open.


After, Ed and I both do catch up work indoors, but I can't sit still. Avoiding the rooster as best as I can, I do some garden pruning...


...the late Fall kind that I should have done weeks ago even as it doesn't really matter: nothing will change in the composition of the plants at the farmette between now and the end of April.

The hens look on.

("what do you think -- will she throw us a treat?")

In the afternoon, I suggest a spirited hike and Ed agrees. We go to a place that's not to far from here, maybe half hour?

Indian Lake.

I've been coming to this county park since I first discovered it some three decades ago. My daughters love it for the walks. Ed likes it for the challenging cross country ski trails. I like it for the the quiet, the seasonal shifts and today -- for the end embrace of the most beautiful autumnal weather.


We hike, we deviate from trails and follow foot paths, we sit on benches to take in the views. And I take a  few photos. So, hum your favorite autumnal melody and follow along.






Honestly, this month has been remarkable. So many shades of sky, so many colors on the tees, so many days where you could stay outdoors for hours and never notice that it is actually remarkably close to winter.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Could it be that I am not such a recluse after all?

An email from a friend suggesting that I join her, along with two other pals on a day long outing got my attention. I want to do this! Yes, I'm on board!

Anyone in the Midwest will tell you that this was slated to be one hell of a beautiful last Sunday of October. And it delivered! Sure, it started with a bit of a chill. The thirties. And breakfast was terribly early, as my friend wanted to get going. Ed sweetly kept me company in the sun room for the morning meal, even at this beastly (for us) hour.


'Bye Ed!

The four of us set out due north -- first to the International Crane Foundation. I've blogged about this place before, but honestly, each trip here sets your soul dancing. The ICF is home to the most beautiful birds! (It is the only place, I'm told, where you can find all eight crane varieties, from all corners of the world, some on the list of endangered birds.) There are cranes that live here permanently, and there are those that a visitor cannot see -- cranes destined to be released into the wild. Mostly, it's a Foundation that devotes its soul and being to the precious life of this graceful bird.)


You know, the upside of living near wetlands (the farmette is near wetlands) is that Ed and I are close to a crane habitat. We hear them nearly every day and you don't have to go far to cross paths with a crane during the summer. I've posted many photos of them in the fields. (The downside of living near wetlands is that, in bad years, you have mosquitoes that will leave you gasping for air.) I do not know anyone who does not love this loud, graceful, ferociously strong bird.


Seeing these guys again surely is a highlight.


(My photos are mostly of the whooping cranes.)


(Though not only.)


After, my friend drives the few scant miles to Devil's Lake. Now, for Madisonians, this place is the perfect weekend escape. Just an hour out of the city, it is a whole 'nother topography. There is the glacier era lake, and too the cliffs, the forests... It's a wonderful spot and we all love it, despite its great popularity. Long time readers will have seen many photos from hikes here and in warmer months -- swims in the clear lake waters. But you can never have too many Devil's Lake pics. Especially in Fall.


We didn't hike great distances. Just enough to soak in the views.


And there were a lot of good views.




On the drive home we stopped at an orchard to pick up cider (a favor for Ed back at the farmette) and, too, we stopped at Dr. Evermore's metal scrap sculpture garden. I can't really describe this place and I'm going to post very little from it because it's one of those places you either love or feel mildly horrified by and I must (secretly) (okay, obviously not so secretly) place myself in the second camp. It's art that's incredibly imaginative and on a grand scale. Is it beautiful? I don't know.  I feel lost walking among the clever dinosaurs and orchestra players. I am, in the end, always happy to head out.


Home. Sunday. Dinner with my girl and her husband. The farmhouse. Isie boy. Ed, still in his deeply orange t-shirt. I make risotto, and we stuff ourselves, too, with roasted beets, cheeses and olives.


I do not have to tell you that it was a spectacular Sunday. You'll have guessed it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


We continued our talk on entrepreneurship. In answer to my question -- How can this person I know be successful doing that kind of thing? Ed answers, over breakfast...


...You can make anything out of anything. It's not just the thing you're doing, you know that.
So it doesn't matter if you hit on a brilliant idea? What you're saying is that the idea itself doesn't have to be brilliant?
It's not necessary and it's not enough. The stuff that I design? I have to pay equal attention to designing the process of putting it out there...

Of course, I know that in my life, I neither generated marketable ideas, not was I skilled at marketing the few sellable ideas that I did generate. I'm just not programmed that way. And those around me weren't that different. Not in Poland, during the pre-market epoch, not in academia during my adulthood.

You could say that I am a capitalism misfit.

(and there you have it: The Haircut)

But hey, never too late for anyone (especially an immigrant) to adjust to her surroundings!

We move on to a discussion of specifics. (This is what I'll return to here, on Ocean in a couple of months.) But not for long. I have a market date with my 29th week pregnant daughter.


Even though this is not Madison's last outdoor farmers market, it surely feels that it is slowly wrapping up. Though the stalls are brimming!

(biggest radishes ever!)

I had taken Rosie to my daughter's house and as we returned to her place after the market, it struck me that I have to take Rosie right back, because it would be so perfect to bring home mums for the farmhouse path. Imagine, $10 for a pot of these!


And I'm still not done shopping. My sack is filled  with many pounds of carrots for carrot soup, fennel, oyster mushrooms, corn, spinach and now of course the mums, but I want to go to a bakery, to order some treats for next weekend and so I spin the old moped girl to Batch, our second most wonderful bakery -- this one, too, selling yummy breads, croissants, cakes and pies.



It is a challenge to ride Rosie now. The mums are in her rear basket, the produce is slung over my shoulder, the breads are dangling on her handle bars. But, she and I are a good team!


We follow rhe winds home.

And this isn't the end of it: the day is so gorgeous, so brilliantly sunny and unseasonably warm, that it's easy to coax Ed for a hike on the Ice Age Trail. 

("you're leaving us again?!")

(cheeper rivalry: "do you think I'm as sweet as Scotch?")

The forest will make your jaw drop!




A quick stop at the chocolate store...


...then home. To the golden crab apple, against the bluest of blue skies.