Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tuesday in four very short chapters

Early Morning

Wake up to the promise of sunshine.

farmette life-1.jpg

It's not a forever and ever promise: the stormy clouds will come, the rain will descend -- all that. But in the wee hours of the morning, the golden light is warm and welcoming.

farmette life-9.jpg

I spend an hour in the new orchard, clearing bind weed from around the young trees and examining our grape vines. I'm surprised to see them thriving: they grow in the distant corner of the farmette and it truly is an "out of sight out of mind" affair. The vines need more attention than we've given them. I do a half assed weeding job this morning and make a note to return here in the next couple of days.

What blooms capture my attention today? Oh, without a doubt this beautiful, first of the season day lily!

farmette life-5.jpg

No, I wont ignore the noble iris...

farmette life-14.jpg

And I'm so appreciative of the pots of annuals that line the walkway to the farmhouse...

farmette life-15.jpg

But still, the first day lily signals to me that transition from spring to summer.

Finally: breakfast. On the porch.

farmette life-17.jpg

Snowdrop is Snowdrop

I whisk the little girl away for a walk (much to her delight) as soon as I arrive to care for her. Rain is in the forecast and I can tell by the skies that they mean business. 

We make it all the way to the distant coffee shop and I smile to myself in recalling all the times I had taken Snowdrop here in preparation for the cafes she was sure to encounter on her trip to Paris. Well, in fact, she really did not encounter a single cafe there. Instead, she slept through one lunch and ate her way in the company of us all through many a meal thereafter. But no coffee shop.

But the little one did have her share of Parisian berry tarts and this must have spoiled her somewhat, because today, when I presented her with the typically coveted bits of apple cinnamon scone, she ate a small morsel, then looked decidedly unenthusiastic.

farmette life-40.jpg

At home, she pulls me to the refrigerator and tries to open its great doors. She wants berries.

(Grandma tries to sneak on a hair clip.)

farmette life-58.jpg

(Snowdrop catches me at it.)

farmette life-66.jpg

What to do on a rainy day? Oh, dance, of course. Snowdrop loves, loves, loves to move to music. (The photos are on a self timer.) (Grandma is a little nutty.)

farmette life-68.jpg 

farmette life-70.jpg

farmette life-71.jpg

Not sure I can take you out in public, grandma.

farmette life-75.jpg


Nothing that we do on the farmette traces the work of real farmers whose livelihoods depend on the crops they grow. We're hobbyists. If all our tomatoes fail, we will still eat well this winter. The barn shields chickens in the cold or wet weather and, too, it shields an ancient John Deere, but we use that tractor mainly for cutting quack grass and for hauling boulders.

Still, today, we play the part of farners just a tiny bit more authentically: we have a half acre that had been cleared for the Laotian farmers who used it to supplement their other truck crop farming to the north and east of us. But this year, we just could not communicate well enough to get them to clear the field and plant it again. We'd set dates, no one would show up -- that kind of thing. 

In deciding that they simply did not have time to work this bit of land, we then had to make a decision as to what the next step should be. Weeds were already taking over. Our window of opportunity was rapidly closing in on us.

In the end, I drove out to the farmers' coop this afternoon and purchased some twenty three pounds of winter rye seed -- a very indifferent ground cover that's cheap and easy to apply.

We sowed the seeds...

farmette life-7-2.jpg

farmette life-2-2.jpg

(And I watched Butter follow along and pick some up after us...)

(Man, this stuff is good!)

farmette life-9-2.jpg

And only then does it strike me that we should have, instead, put in buckwheat.

If you're Polish, you'll know buckwheat. We eat it by the truckloads there. (Or at least we did when I was growing up.) And the flowers it bears! Oh, the lovely pinkish white flowers that attract the beneficial insects we so want to invite to the farmette!

So tomorrow I'll wear my (imaginary) dungarees again, go back to the farmers co-op and bring back some buckwheat. 

Snowdrop at the farmette

In the evening, Snowdrop is with us at the farmette. It's a gorgeous time of day and predictably, she is delighted to be outside. With her ball.

Do you think the cheepers will play ball with me?

farmette life-4-2.jpg

The terrain here is not exactly easy to navigate for a toddler. It's rough, uneven and twiggy and I am impressed that in these last two weeks, she has become confident and strong, so that moving across it is suddenly a breeze. 

farmette life-8-3.jpg

And inside the farmhouse, she rediscovers her books and toys (but especially her books). These have been her true friends here -- the penguin line up, the Maisy stories, Slinky Malinky, oh, so many that I have used in the past months to help her manage hours of winter and early spring. She is just ecstatic to be with them again. At her table.

farmette life-16-2.jpg

Ed comes in from his workshop and here, too, there is the joy of the familiar, the missed routines, the tumbles and upsidedown time.

farmette life-26.jpg

I tell her we are to make pizza for supper and she is, as always, a great sous chef.

I think that's quite enough cheese, grandma!

farmette life-30.jpg

And an even better consumer of the finished product.

farmette life-34-2.jpg

There you have it: the day's four chapter. All short. All sweet.

Monday, May 30, 2016


A day of quiet.

farmette life-2.jpg

Work? Oh yes, of course. Plants to move, weeds to pull -- yes, I suppose you would call it work. But I don't rush it. I take the time to regard what's before me.

farmette life-5.jpg

We're reaching a transition now. First came the daffodils. Then we have the the peonies and irises. In another week we'll be moving on. For now, we're reeling in waves of great loveliness.

farmette life-14.jpg                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

A late breakfast on the porch...

farmette life-11.jpg

And again, pockets of work. Water this, support that. The new bloomers? A purple and yellow (german) iris...

farmette life-4.jpg

... and one purple against a bed of yellow (siberian) irises.

farmette life-17.jpg

 Oh, the beauty of a late spring garden!

Although it surely feels like summer. It's a warm day -- the kind of day that you know invite the storms the next day. But I can't worry in advance of it all.

(Chicken in purple.)

farmette life-15.jpg

I'm grilling for the family tonight. Snowdrop hasn't been to the farmhouse for a while. What does she find first? Penguin!

farmette life-2-2.jpg

Dinner is a total delight.

 farmette life-3-2.jpg

Snowdrop loves her corn, her chicken brat, her asparagus.

farmette life-19.jpg

And -- no surprise there -- she just adores the farmette rhubarb cake with whipped cream.

farmette life-17-2.jpg

While the adults linger on the porch, I take Snowdrop for a walk. Oh, what a difference three weeks make in a little girl's life! Yes, there are elements of the same. Cheepers!

farmette life-13-2.jpg

But there is also the new twist or turn: a love of playing ball, for example.

farmette life-7-2.jpg

farmette life-25.jpg

Perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping her out of the flowers.

farmette life-22.jpg

But really, is it so important? Yes, for the lessons it teaches about respect for growing things, but then, why do we let her pick dandelions? Besides, Snowdrop is not one to tear into a flower bed. She may pick one bloom -- always to give to a loved one nearby -- and then she'll return to her spirited play.

farmette life-38.jpg

I hope your Memorial Day was... grand.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Picture this: partly cloudy skies, a brisk wind, temperatures hovering in the seventies F (mid twenties C).

Isn't that the perfect set up for a day of outdoor work?

I'm up with the cheepers at 5:30 and though I fully intend to get back in bed and continue the countdown to a good night's sleep, I cannot walk to the coop without noticing something that needs to be done in the yard and once I start working, I keep on going.

Initially, I work by the driveway (such a perfect place to watch a sunrise!).

farmette life-4.jpg

(It's the week of the heaviest bloom  for my Weigela shrubs -- my variety is aptly named "wine and roses"  and it is just such a stunning border plant!)

farmette life-2.jpg

I weed the new bed by the front of the farmette as well. It'll be a while before it  fully fills in, but there's a certain dainty loveliness to it even now. Here's one heavy bloomer:

farmette life-8.jpg

The cheepers follow me, but I tell them that the main road is no place for chickens. If anyone were to drive by, they'd be surprised to see free ranging chickens without the barrier of a fence to keep them away from the traffic, but I never worry that they would run out onto the pavement. Why does a chicken cross the road? That's not a question that worries us at all. I need only say "chepers!" loudly and they'll move to wherever I want them to go.

farmette life-9.jpg

By late morning I force myself to switch attention to the farmhouse. Sunday is cleaning day and I've been away from that obligation too long.

Finally, a late breakfast. On the porch.

farmette life-16.jpg

Ed and I talk then about things that really need our attention outside. I'd clipped off large limbs that were blocking light. I'd weeded, I'd cleared the ever-spreading raspberries from paths, I'd transplanted errant cosmos. What next?

Ed has to clear some honeysuckle from the side of the property -- a very unsexy but necessary task. We both need to finish mowing -- he, with the big mower, me with the hand pushed little guy that will work the tight corners.

All the while, I feel so happy with our efforts. I look around and I recognize the imperfections, but I know this to be true: we did all the work ourselves. All the chipping, the pruning, the planting -- on and on -- we gave it our time. It's immensely satisfying. We don't quite keep up with it in the way that I think we should, but we do alright by this land.

(Ed asks: are the peonies supposed to be this big? I say -- no, but this year, they are!)

farmette life-17.jpg

In the late afternoon I take a walk around the lesser lake with Snowdrop and her mom. Oh, is she full of enthusiasm for this venture!

farmette life-8-2.jpg

This love of outdoor walks is surely born of her adventurous spirit.

farmette life-12.jpg

Today, she insists on holding both our hands even as she is in the stroller. For a brief second, I am reminded of pushing her stroller in Paris as the rains came down and I struggled to keep an umbrella over the both of us. One hand pushing, the other -- holding an umbrella, or today -- her trusting hand.

They say this grand weather will continue. Really? I could ask for nothing more.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


And now the farmette landscape takes on the radiant colors of youthful glory -- the pinks, the purples, the dainty yellows -- so full of vigor and cockiness! Oh, how I love to see our land transformed in this way. If it can change from the dull brown of March to this, well then there is hope in this world for the best transformations, isn't there?

I'll start with the early morning walk to the coop. There was rain, which is a good thing -- rain and sunshine in good amounts are needed now. My rose, my poor poor rose that keeps on giving blooms every year even though by early summer the beetles will come and her leaves and petals will take on the impurities that nature gives to all living things. Right now, though, it displays its first flower and it is a beauty.

farmette life-2.jpg

And now look toward the barn -- because this grand flower field is where the peonies are most exuberant, especially when coupled with those explosive irises.

farmette life-3.jpg

All those weeks of planting, tending, weeding -- they are for these brief moments when it all comes together like this.

(Looking now toward the porch of the farmhouse.)

farmette life-5.jpg

(With a quick peek at another iris that likes to nestle its blooms deeply inside the green stalks.)

farmette life-39.jpg

Ed and I have a lovely breakfast on the porch -- honestly, I dream about these mornings in the winter months.

farmette life-7.jpg

And now I sprint a little, because my daughter and granddaughter are waiting for me so that we can all walk downtown to our main farmers market. I worry that this is a long haul for Snowdrop -- the walk there, the stroll around the square, the walk back. She is a strong and active girl and even on our terribly long walks in Paris, she always had her periods of play in the park.

I needn't have worried. You could say that she had a modest version of Paris today: a croissant at the start of the market stroll (though I swear, she has that expression that says -- is this as good as it gets now?)...

farmette life-16.jpg

... and then a really superb romp on the grassy lawn of our Capitol.

farmette life-28.jpg

Yes, it may as well have been the Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. Snowdrop is delighted to be set free.

farmette life-33.jpg

Just rewards for being such a good stroller child.

farmette life-30.jpg

In the afternoon, Ed and I set to work outside.

We finish planting the tomatoes. The tally: we have 99 strong growers and another 11 little guys that may or may not make it. And we have 10 cucumbers. Ed does finally admit that we may have over planted, but the fact is, the seed packets come with so many seeds and though they're not supposed to all germinate, most of them do. And so now we have tomato craziness out there.

I also do some hand mowing around the tough spots and of course, there is the perpetual weed pulling. Too, I have to undo a chicken mess: I'd planted cosmos seeds and the cheepers scratched the soil and scattered the seeds, so that suddenly I have sprouting cosmos in ridiculous places. Thanks, girls.

farmette life-41.jpg

But all the work is against a backdrop of this:

farmette life-37.jpg

It's just simply sublime.

And now comes the tiredness of a good day's work. The breeze is strong, the air is warm, the scents are heavenly.

It has been a brilliant day.