Monday, August 31, 2015

back to raspberries and asparagus

I admit that this summer has been without pauses. Much of the blame rests with the unexpected shift in Ed's schedule. I did not help matters by including three summer travel adventures this year and by being content (hungry?) to spend many hours with Snowdrop.

Honestly, I liked the pace and for the most part, stayed above water! I feel we accomplished a lot. We learned a tremendous amount and we grew more patient when the days didn't always turn out the way we may have hoped.

When things get crazy around the farmette, what does suffer is the land. Not my flower fields -- I keep an eye on those and do spot weeding and pruning as best as I can. I should have transplanted more and I probably wasn't aggressive enough in the side beds, but for the most part, they're doing very well.

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What we neglect are things that we can't immediately see. The grass doesn't get mowed regularly. The orchard didn't get pruned. The grapes are crazily branching out in a very unprofessional manner. The tomatoes? Well, we're picking a lot, nearly every day, as every year...

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But they have to grow in chaos because we've stopped tending to the bed a long time ago.

All that is not too important. By next year, the veggie patch will be moved, we'll plant again, the cycle will repeat itself.

Where our lackadaisical manner really has a cumulative negative impact is in long term projects that we start with great visions and aspirations and then we let run away from under our control in subsequent years.

We worked so hard to clean up the raspberry beds the past two years! It takes only one summer for them to get weedy and overgrown again. The same with the asparagus bed which, after all, is a many year investment.

All this to say that after breakfast...

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... Ed goes off to work and I attack the raspberries and asparagus. And so my arms are scratched, my back is stretched to the max, my hands pick up a few tough calluses.

But at least I will be able to say that we did not lose our grip on the berry canes and the asparagus stalks this year.

In other farmette news, the two new girls, Oprie and Apple are still huddling together and keeping close to the coop. Which is a good thing. The two big girls pretty much ignore the newcommers. I expect as the new ones get bigger and gain confidence, they'll tag along with Butter and Scotch. For now, Oprie and Apple have each other. And me. I do check on them constantly -- from misty sunrise...

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... to dusk.

In the afternoon, I'm back at the house of Snowdrop. Does she wonder -- where has everyone gone? Ah well. The cats remain. Are they her friends?

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She thinks so. And I don't think she's wrong.

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I resume the mush feedings. Since she is wearing a Helsinki dress, I reach as well for the Helsinki bib.

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Snowdrop is enthusiastic, eager, messy and playful. In other words, she eats about as much as she did before: just a few spoonfuls.

She is, as before, energetic, adventurous and very curious. She requires constant oversight!

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And finally, one more photo. From our traditional walk around the little lake. The photo shows, I think,  that even fast growing Snowdrop remains our own girl -- the one we know and love.

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Good night! We all need a good rest tonight. Sweet sweet dreams to all.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Snowdrop's day

You'll understand that this day has a heavy family emphasis and so if you're more of a general Ocean browser, you'll forgive me my photographic indulgence and move swiftly through the post.

Early morning

Ed mumbles through sleep -- the cheepers!  Yes, we're curious how young Oprie and Apple made it through the night. I'm up at dawn. I look inside the coop. There is a mass of huddled feather in the lower section of the coop. The two big girls come strutting out. But shortly after, the mass of huddled feather unhuddles and the two little girls follow.

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Phew! So far so good.

Flowers get just a glance from me today. Doin' fine, in an early autumn sort of way.

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Breakfast on the porch. My two house guests -- my younger girl and her husband -- join us outside.

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And then we're off.

Snowdrop's baptism

We take up two rows at the Grace Episcopal Church -- the church to which my daughter and her husband belong. [Snowdrop has all her Midwest family present,  plus the godparents, who hail from California (the godfather) and Texas (the godmother).] She seems excited to be here!

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And she is sweetly quiet during the service. She has to wonder why all these familiar faces from her life are suddenly present here...

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The Baptism itself is conducted by the very delightful priest who also attended my older girl's wedding and was there in the hospital the day this child was born. Here he is, being very modern by reading from his tablet during the ceremony.

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Snowdrop really wanted that candle. Not this time, little one...

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Her aunt and uncle and Sophie the giraffe keep her happy for the rest of the service.

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Here they are, posing with her in her full Etsy regalia.

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And here is her aunt from Chicago (who happens to be my Russia gossip pal this weekend, as her professional work centers on art from that country).

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The Brunch after

Snowdrop's parents host an elaborately delicious brunch at their home. Ed, who is always quite willing to sit out traditional ceremonies, is coopeted into letting in the brunch caterers while we are at the baptism. Here he is, happy to see the little girl arrive. She's equally tickled.

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My older girl frets that everything should be perfect. She needn't worry. It is.

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Let's do a close up of the godparents. Snowdrop is tired as can be, but she's hanging in there!

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The godmother is also the mother of a girl just two months younger than Snowdrop. If you think Snowdrop has had a full day, credit this other young family for having had so much more to navigate and contend with on this weekend. Their daughter is a saint indeed, even if in the next photo, she thinks that perhaps Snowdrop's friendly overtures (Snowdrop loves babies!) are the proverbial last straw in a whole series of complicated travel moments. Utterly heroic to have traveled this far and put up with all the difficulties of a chaotic weekend!

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Here you see the godfather (to the right) with his partner. They're being helpful: champagne is poured, distributed, held up to honor Snowdrop.

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Toward the end, the sweet wee one gets a tad sleepy as the hours pass and nap is not happening, but still, she never once complains for all that is thrown her way today.

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Just a couple more...

Of Snowdrop with her awesome parents...

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...and finally she gets her lunch...

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And a hug from her proud mom...

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(I get a hug too!)

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Post Scriptum

I do think the world of my girls, their families -- immediate, extended. But I also know that I am no different than all those grandparents strolling with their grandkids through the Summer Garden in St. Petersburg or the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. I am like the ones who write reviews of playyards and toys on Amazon (I bought this for my grandson and he loves it!). The ones who fill in when their own children need to go to work. The ones who live close or sometimes, unfortunately, too far and so they wait for the cherished photo sent via email, or posted online. We're really all just adoring grandparents, seeing in our youngest part two, part three, part four of the enduring story of life.

At the farmette, the newest cheepers are still a bit intimidated by the big girls who strut with greater confidence these days...

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Never mind. They find a quiet spot in the barn and do a thorough dirt bath together.

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Ed and I spend a quiet evening eating leftovers.

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There are plenty of leftovers. Bits of food, strands of thought. All delicious!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

a Saturday to remember

I admit it -- I would have liked a bit of sunshine, so that our guests could stream seamlessly in and out, onto the porch on freshly constructed steps, through a grand patio door, then back in again.

But despite the absence of warm summer breezes, it was really an extraordinary and dazzling day -- the kind the farmette does not see very often.

Of course, we are up early. I want to leave plenty of time for last minute details, even though I had done such a thorough job preparing the farmhouse yesterday for the arrival of the guests today, that at one point, I sat down on the couch next to Ed, who was casually reading reviews of canoe trips we could take this spring and said -- I have nothing left to do!

Earlier, at dawn, as I set out to release the cheepers, I wandered over to the neighboring fields farmed by our handful of truck farmers. We've been told by some to help ourselves to things they grow there, but we've never done it. The farming families work hard for what little they get from the short season. It seems inconsiderate to snip away at their livelihood (or bits of their livelihood, as they all seem to maintain jobs beyond caring for these fields).

But today I'm tempted to pick a few flowers for the tables...

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No, I can't do it. I have enough blooms in the yard. I can do some hefty yellow bouquets out of those.

Alright, breakfast. We eat outside, even though it is a cool morning. (Flowers picked. Note, too, the nifty light-filtering steps to the left. Ed likes to point out that he built them from leftover bits of plywood and boards and bricks lying around the farmette.)

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We discuss the day. We've been (foolishly?) tempted to supplement our cheeper pack with another hen. Or two.  Our two girls are getting old. Egg production will diminish, if not cease altogether this year. Shouldn't we increase the size of our little family? Wouldn't they all be warmer if huddled next to additional hen bodies? Craigslist revealed some tempting choices.

Ed asks -- you want to drive out to see the Brahma hens for sale just to the west of us? A half hour away?
I respond -- I don't have time!! And then (foolishly?) I reconsider -- well, okay, no earlier and no later than 3, because I have the tables to set and the cakes to pick up and and...

We never leave days alone to let them meander at their own pace!

Alright, table is ready...

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A drinks butcher-block cart is stocked...

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I pick up my cakes from Madison's newest pastry shop (blueberry dacoise -- made with almond meringue, opera -- layers of sponge, coffee and chocolate, and a tarte tatin -- aka apple upside down cake)...

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I pop in to say hi to Snowdrop and catch her in the finest of spirits, just as she is waking up from her nap...

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A chance to feed her and give her a great hug...

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... and then I quickly scoot out.

Ed and I have just enough time to drive out to Cross Plains and get not one, but two young Brahma hens. Names to be determined, but the running favorite of mine is Oprie and Apple. See if you can guess why.

We know, of course, that we will have to go through a period of adjustment. Pecking order has to be reestablished. I feel confident Scotch will not be overly aggressive. And still, our two old girls watch intently as Ed puts down the caged new girls...

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We place the speckled little hens (they're four month old, so they have not attained their full size yet) in the coop, just to let them know what's what...

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And the last update is that no one has attacked them yet, though Scotch is squawking terribly loudly. (And, this: one of the newbies is definitely more adventurous than the other huddled mass of feathers.)

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Meanwhile, back at the farmhouse, my wonderful guests arrive. The food is delivered. The party begins.

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...and continues.

It's so good to simply sit back and fall in love with everything around you.

Friday, August 28, 2015

getting ready

Two notable details about this day: the rains came and I did not see Snowdrop. I know what you're thinking -- a gloomy post will follow!

Not so. I have a weekend of activities and I needed the day to get ready for them. We will have weekend house guests and, too, we will host a dinner for 15 tomorrow (though two of those are, at best, sampling mush right now). This means that the farmhouse gets its most detailed cleaning job.

Right after breakfast...

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... Ed takes off for "the office" and I set to work on housecleaning. I have my gradations. On a scale of one to ten, where one is a mere wiping down of a few surfaces and ten is everything (including throw rugs) is laundered, polished and spiffed up, I'd say I aimed for a 9.5 today. (I did not wash windows.)

I had hoped to put in a couple of hours in the yard -- it looks fine, but I know there are places that could use a manicure (actually, if you stand back, it can look quite wild!)...

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...but the rain, a nice, steady shower that is so very good for growing things, keeps me indoors. For the most part.

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(admiring the day lilies that will not stop!)

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(loving the lavender)

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(Scotch strains her neck to see if I have any bread for her)

You wonder why I'm not fussing in the kitchen. Shouldn't I be cooking right now?

When I first offered to host the dinner, I wasn't sure how much time I would have to get things ready and so you're looking at a cook who has abdicated her responsibilities and handed over the job to caterers -- very favorite caterers, actually, and so the guests will only benefit.

It's important to note the occasion that triggers all this hustle and activity. On Sunday, Snowdrop is being baptized in the church her parents belong to. It's a small ceremony, but family that lives in the Midwest is driving up and down and if you tally up the group, we have ourselves a count of fifteen, including the babe herself (and also a baby of one of the atendees).

And so the photo count for this post paltry. But I'm happy as can be to be seeing my younger girl and her husband tomorrow and I'm delighted that Snowdrop will have the attention of many. Like all children, she adores the watchful, loving gaze of a family member. A jiggle on the knee is alright by her as well.

More tomorrow.