Saturday, April 30, 2016


May flowers, you better compensate for this wet and cold weekend! (April showers bring May flowers...) On the list of the day's distresses: sore hip (age!), gray skies, cold temps (never to pass the 40s F), seeds that stay in their little packets, even as they should have gone in days ago, tomatoes that can't possibly go out in this weather. And then there are the day's outings: Ed has a buddy pot luck picnic tonight (yep, in the cold rain), and I want to visit the women who sell their own plants down in Verona (17 mins from here). And the rain continues.

Have I kvetched enough?

On the upside, well, it was in fact a glorious day!

Yes, it does rain from the get go. Not good news for the cheepers, but I am not especially feeling kind toward them as they had dug up a plant I liked. At least you'll keep out of my flowers today! -- I say this in my sternest voice, but my heart melts and I scatter some tasty dried corn close to the barn door.

At first, the rain is light. I can take a photo (still admiring the daffodils...).

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But the desire to work on weeding is tempered by the stiff hip and the cold wind and so instead, I spend the next hour appreciating the very warm quilt covering our bed.

Breakfast is leisurely.

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And after we review the day's possibilities, I decide to try a little work outdoors.

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[Ed in the meantime cooks up his very own version of a potato salad for his picnic. This includes cooking the potatoes in the microwave. Hmm. I should note that when I'm around, he never cooks for us, because I don't like the shortcuts he takes and so I prefer to take control over all kitchen matters. Nonetheless, the man does not lack confidence in the cooking department and he is never disappointed with his own creations, which may or may not have something to do with expectations.]

As I work outside, Ed proudly brings out the finished product. I must admit -- it's great! Not too much mayo, well spiced, with pickles, only of the best kind, and eggs, ah the eggs!

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And here, let me interject that today is historic for our cheeper brood: for the first time, Java has laid an egg. True, it is a small one, but hey! All four girls are properly leaving their beautiful eggs in the coop now. (Each one is of a different color -- how cool is that!)

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We have a lot of eggs.

Though the rain comes down, I continue to work outside. Somehow, I'm not bothered by the cold, the hip joint, the muddy terrain. A few more plants go in, some transplanting of ferns gets checked off -- it all is moving forward so well that I even suggest to Ed that we go out and pay a visit to the Verona gardening women. Why not pick through their day lilies now, when no one in their right mind is shopping for plants?

I call Karen, the one who has most of what I want. Sure, come over! I'm working in my raincoat out back!

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The air is pungent with that wet smell of good soil. Ed comes with me (despite the very funny Car Talk radio episode we'd both been enjoying on the drive over). He talks dirt and chips and winter growing with Karen. I ogle the beautifully vibrant daylilies.

We pick out a few and the rain is really coming down now, but it doesn't matter -- my work outdoors can be put aside for the day. On the way back, we pause at a chocolate shop and then at Paul's coffee shop and like in the old days, Ed and I lose ourselves in printed newspapers that are scattered there, he with a bowl of soup, me with a cup of coffee.

At home, we unload the lilies, Ed gives a hen a hug, I go inside and read about Paris cafes on the internet.

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Yes, a strangely beautiful day. Unexpectedly so. Like Ed's bowl of potato salad which I'm still thinking about now.

Friday, April 29, 2016


I am immensely happy that on most days, ever since my retirement, I do not have to rush. Leisure to me is not doing nothing. It means I can go about my tasks without time pressure. That, to me, is the grand benefit of retirement.

Fridays, however, have been a challenge. Even though I never babysit on a Friday morning, I push myself to fit every appointment, shopping trip, and errand into this set of hours. And no matter how hard I try to stay focused on keeping to a schedule, I am always and for everything, five minutes late. And I'm sure that if I had that extra five minutes in my pocket, I'd be five other minutes late. That, for me, is the definition of rushing.

Today conforms to this pattern. Yes, there is a farmhouse breakfast, but it is rushed. Ed, don't make sour faces for my camera, and please just leave that dish in the sink and no, don't start in on a good story now, save it for later later later....  

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And I'm late everywhere and all morning long.

In the afternoon, I am with Snowdrop, though not fully so, because she decides to take a three hour nap and suddenly time stands still and all those five minute tardies seem so ridiculously of another era.

Funny how time arranges itself in ways that are unpredictable, testing one's resolve to stay mellow and calm despite it all. 

At least I did not begin the post with a scathing rebuke on the subject of the weather. The day deserved it, but I feel quite optimistic about May, even if I do admit that weather wise, the end of April is a bust. 

Snowdrop photos? you're kidding, right? Too little time! Ooh, here's that word again -- time. In fact, there's always time. So long as you're able to lift your feet and stomp them on the ground, there's time.

Enough even for a Snowdrop photo.

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Or two.

What is it that you're doing, grandma? Ironing? What's that? My dress? Really? Weird!

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P.S. You're asking, too, what's blooming at the farmette? Oh, we are beginning to get layers of stuff. Take a look. With Java in the background. 

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Thursday, April 28, 2016


There is nothing kind to be said about today's weather (for late April anyway) and so it's best to stay silent on the topic.

I let the cheepers out at their usual time (just after 6). Suffice it to say they made a bee line for the barn and stayed there the better part of the morning.

Breakfast is in the front room and it is late, because I take the time to warm up before officially starting our day. We're leisurely about eating, too, which is always lovely. Rush through life if you must, but give yourself plenty of time for the morning meal. It's a meditation on the day ahead.

(As we clear the table after, Ed asks -- do you want the jar of molasses moved? I remind him -- It's buckwheat honey! Poles like the slightly bitter taste of this dark honey, but I rarely see it in stores here and so I was surprised to discover that a local bee keeper actually stocks it.)

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Outside, it's barely 40F, but there is hope: our beautiful crab apple is about to deliver her week of grandeur.

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As I go to the car to drive over to Snowdrop's home, I see that the rains have paused and the cheepers have ventured all the way out onto the driveway. Move over, girls! No, no, I have nothing for you! Ohhhh, alright. Let me get some bread.

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Snowdrop is happy to see me and anxious to get started on the reading.

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And we do that and I think she is settled in for the day, but no. Shortly after our time with books, she gets my shoes and takes my hand. And I think -- well, in winter, this would have been great weather for walking. Fine, let's go, little girl! But with a hoodie and a fleece and blanket around your legs!

At the distant coffee shop, she eyes someone's smile...

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And now what are they doing over there? - she seems to be asking.

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We warm up, we walk home. But we don't stay there for long. I'm thinking the little one will benefit from a romp across the farmette lands if in the later afternoon the rains continue to hold back.

But she wants to be out from the get go. Okay, briefly. To feed the cheepers.

With Snowdrop, there is no such thing as briefly. Here she is,  insisting on a pause with the flowers...

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... Taking off then to the sheep shed (I'm going that way, grandma!)

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... with an asparagus stalk in her small fist. (The cheepers are wondering if there may be more bread somewhere in that little girl's hand... no? too bad... we're not that into asparagus -- you can keep it).

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Here she is imitating chicken noises...

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And then I insist we go inside.

Snowdrop is with us until her bedtime (which is not too dissimilar from my bedtime!) and so there is plenty of time for play.

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And for sharing a dinner. Curried cauliflower, garden asparagus with parmiggiano, grilled cheese and cheeper eggs. Followed by mango and blueberries. She likes it all.

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Just before it's time for Snowdrop to go home, she and Ed go out to put the cheepers away. She'd already had plenty of time outside, walking the farmette land, admiring its singular beauty. But she never says no to an outdoor adventure.

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Was it cold outside? I guess so. Somehow, by the end of the day, I had forgotten that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Hang in there, Madisonians, two more days of colder air!

Here's a view you haven't seen since winter -- toward the fields to the north of us: planted and awaiting sunny days.

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I'm happy to see that there is a touch of sunlight in the early hours of the morning and I pause on my cheeper walk to admire the farmhouse as it catches the light of the rising sun from the east.

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Ed is up early as well. There isn't much time (nor much enthusiasm -- it's cold!) for work outside, but we do finish pruning the last of the peach trees...

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And I trim and transplant the potted house pelargonium. Small stuff. Pleasant work carried out on the picnic bench.

Let me include a shot of Henny in the front flower field.

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Both she and Java are exquisite scratchers and I have to admit, at times, I can hardly hold in the frustration with their clawing at the flower fields. But I do remember the three very important reasons why we keep these guys: we know we have a lot of land to share with others. They love it and their happiness makes us smile and smile. Second reason: well, the eggs. Thirdly - they  destroy pretty much all our ticks. If you read the anecdotal evidence on the internet, only guinea fowl are better at vacuuming out the undesirable bugs off your property.

Naturally, I suggest to Ed we also get guinea fowl. Ed's response - They're loud!  This surprises me. Oreo the rooster was loud, yet that never bothered us. But, there's loud and there's loud. You can read a wonderful depiction of their racket at this site that talks about why you should not get guinea hens.

Breakfast. Sometimes when we sit down to a lovely morning meal and the sun comes in at just the right angle and the bouquet of farmette flowers is especially enchanting, I'll comment on how content I feel and Ed will say, teasingly, you'd rather be in Paris and of course he is wrong (he would especially be wrong today, as there is an ice shower in Paris and in general, France has had a miserable spring thus far). These days, I almost never want to be doing something else. (I write almost never, since I do remember thinking that weeding the raspberry island yesterday was not great fun.)

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The rest of the day I spend with Snowdrop.

And yes, very early on, she starts working the "let's go out" card.

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As soon as her hair dries (from her bath), I surprise her with the magic words -- let's go for that walk! I'm watching the weather maps. I know this is our window: cold, but at least dry.

And she surprises me too. I tell her to fetch a favorite penguin for the ride. She comes back with bunny.

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In the next photo, you may think that she is unhappy. Not so. She is processing the immense beauty of the branches above her.

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At the coffee shop, she knows exactly what's what. She's off to pick up her high chair.

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And of course, here, she is studying the other patrons.

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And one last photo for you - here because of that smile, that "I know what's important in life" smile of hers that makes you want to smile right back at her, at the day, at everything before you.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Well it's cold alright. I let the cheepers out, then go straight back to bed to warm up for a bit. And I follow that by a hot shower. 45F just doesn't measure up to 70F, no matter how good a spin I'd like to put on it. (To be fair, it will go up to 52F today -- that's 11C for those of you who can't make heads nor tails of our strange numbers. I understand that besides the US, the Fahrenheit scale is used by the Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands, and Palau. That's it. Impressive, no?)

Well, no matter. It's April. But breakfast is in the front room and with a sweater (though not for Ed -- I'm not sure he even owns a sweater).

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I then scoot over to Snowdrop's. As she wakes, I try to tackle the task of giving her another bangs trim (parental request). She wont sit still for it and even though I have learned to start longer (to even out a jagged result if need be), I cannot get that perfect straight line going. I come back to it several times and she is amused. And I think -- heck, let's eschew the conventional straight look and stay with the artistic French slope.

But after a bath and some reading time, Snowdrop wants to go out.

Don't you understand, grandma? You always say "get your penguin!" and here I am, holding him! Let's go! Please?

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It's still in the 40sF and of course, that's within the range of sane, but it's not fun to venture out on this windy, chilly morning when memories of yesterday's sleeveless romp are still so fresh.

In the end, we have a different kind of adventure: we go to Paul's cafe and get pickles for Ed (and a coffee for grandma and a muffin crumb for Snowdrop)...

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... and then cross over to the library, where she spends an enchanting hour tracking the movements of other children.

That big girl spelled her name on this board! Am I spelling my name, grandma?
Sure, sweet one: S-N-O-W-D-R-O-P.  Go for it!

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Of course, the beauty of any library is its vast book selection and Snowdrop loves to run over, select a random one and bring it to the table where she deftly turns the crisp pages.

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We could have done this for a long long time, but the stack was getting large and her lunch hour came and went. I whisk her to the farmette and spend the rest of the afternoon there.

Want to see a happy Snowdrop? Here she is, after her nap, when I tell her we can go outside and feed the chickens.

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And what's blooming at the farmette?

The indelible Silene Rolly's Favorite.

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An anemone that escaped the chomps of our resident plant eater(s).

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And here are a few more tulip survivors, a bit ragged around the edges and tightly shutting their petals against the cold.

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A few more daffodils. We're just about to pass the peak now.

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And if that passage isn't a sure sign of a full spring, I don't know what is! So let's take heart and revel in all the green around us. The soothing color. The color of growth.

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Monday, April 25, 2016


When you undertake a gardening task, it can come to be regarded as one of those transformative, great ideas, or it can be checked off as a regrettable choice. With eight flower fields to care for, to say nothing of the young orchard and the huge raspberry patches and the vegetable garden that hasn't even been planted yet, you have to allocate your time carefully. Regrettable choices on good weather days use up precious time.

Those were my thoughts this morning at 6 as I let the cheepers out and stayed out to clear the raspberry island to the far east of the farmette.

We had last tended to that island when my daughter was married here several years ago. Since then, our interest in maintaining it has waned. There is always so much else to do! The raspberry island isn't even especially productive. But we still have a mountain of wood chips and I suggest to Ed that he may want to throw a bunch of loads there. I'd clipped the spent canes, so there was hope for a renewal. He responded that the weeds are so high that covering with chips wouldn't help. I answered brashly, stupidly -- well then I'll weed it. First thing in the morning!

And that's what I found myself doing from 6 until 9 -- the tedious, dull, and annoyingly hard job of pulling out quack grass and creeping charlie from the raspberry island. Even as seeds need to be sown, plants need to be planted, weeds elsewhere have to be carefully controlled and yes, holes (dug by the terribly bothersome claws of the cheepers) have to be covered back up.

Well, never mind. We now have a fine raspberry island that maybe will add to the raspberry harvest come late summer.

In this same early morning period, I took two photos of tulips. They are my miracle tulips.

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I had actually planted several dozen last fall and 90% of them have been consumed by (I presume) the groundhog. Ugly squat stems remain. Thanks, pal. And thanks, too, for eating up the violas in one of my pots. The bergenia too. Grrr! But these two groups of tulips heroically remain. Here's the second one:

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This is the last of the warm and dry April days (we're getting our share of rain and cold for the rest of the week) and so we have a magical breakfast (well earned!) on the porch.

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And immediately after, Snowdrop comes over.

Visiting the asparagus bed is first on her agenda. And once she secures a stalk, she is off!

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That way now!

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Snowdrop, the cheepers and asparagus.

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The sun feels so warm on our backs that both she and I take off our sweaters. Snowdrop loves to do what Ed and I both love as well -- walk the land, inspecting it, appreciating it -- in her case, with asparagus stalk in hand.

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She doesn't stop. Around the barn, up toward the farmhouse, and now along the driveway...

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And toward the front yard where I'm planting the new flower field and where she and I find violets to pick, hold and admire.

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Happiness is sunshine and violets and the freedom to explore...

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... and to hold on to your own personal stalk of asparagus.

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Back at the farmhouse, she climbs over grandpa Ed...

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...and I'm sure she'd continue, but I remind her that lunch and nap are a must for a girl who is so very active.

Late afternoon. I think about what to tell my daughter when she asks for a report on Snowdrop's day: well, she played outside, she played with grandpa Ed and she read countless books. In my lap. On the floor. And in the afternoon -- at her table. Here she is laughing, because the book ends with a mirror and she sees her own face.

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And she sees in that mirror shot that she is wearing a ribbon that I had clipped on when she hadn't been paying attention. Ha ha, grandma! I'm on to you! Off it goes.

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More shenanigans with grandpa Ed...

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And then she and I take one final walk. Snowdrop may well be the only one here who appreciates the finer side of creeping charlie. She loves the tiny purple flowers! She'll walk, pause and plomp down to sit in their minty magnificence (in her eyes).

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So beautiful, grandma!
Yes it is, Snowdrop. All of it.

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Late in the evening, when she is home again and I turn to chopping up the garden asparagus for soup, I glance out the window at the burst of yellow there.

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So beautiful indeed!