Sunday, July 16, 2017


Each year, the swallows come back to nest in our garage. (This year, we have nests in the barn as well: it's as if the cousins and aunts and uncles have moved in with the original crew.) This is nothing short of remarkable: they travel all the way to South America for the winter and come back late spring to find us here, at the farmette in Fitchburg Wisconsin.

Our little green frogs have a much more local habit: they survive the winter by burrowing into the rocks at the base of the lily bed and they hibernate. (Some of our bigger frogs I'm sure burrow in our huge wood pile out back -- which is home to a diverse collection of living things, including groundhogs, rabbits, and chipmunks.)

On the other hand, I like to remind myself that life cycle of a mosquito is short: typically two weeks. If I don't zap them first with a battery charged paddle (so satisfying!).

But the life of the monarch butterfly -- now that's a miracle in its own right. I am always thrilled to see this great beauty pause on one of our milkweeds.

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The job of a monarch is to reproduce. This butterfly, like the mosquito, also has a short life -- maybe two to four weeks. But in that life, if there is nourishment, eggs will be laid and a next generation of butterflies will hatch. Four generations in one year.

I'm thinking we're probably on the third generation right now. It will be the job of the fourth and final one to travel -- all the way to Mexico -- to spend the winter there, before returning to reproduce here. This last generation has the burden of travel. But it is rewarded with a much longer life span -- of eight or nine months. Nature insures that they will live long enough to come back here again.

Yesterday, I was talking to someone who is considering moving to the city (meaning to Madison, from the countryside where she now lives). I nodded my head, agreeing that there is a downside to living away from sidewalks, stores, public transportation.

But I started my life living in the country and now, in retirement, I am back again, close to the world of butterflies and swallows. It is a world that you don't notice much when you live in the city. It is a world that I do not want to leave anytime soon.

A view toward the porch. The front row of day lilies is perhaps the most regal and splendid and I noticed today that the first blooms (the orange trumpets) were beginning to pop open!

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Standing now by the porch (swatting at bugs) and looking out, toward the driveway...

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And let me not neglect this bed that is just by the parked cars. It's only in its third year but it is a remarkable place of great variety and color.

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And always, a joyful nod toward the great bed!

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Breakfast on the porch. We're late getting to it. The usual Sunday house cleaning, tidying, and dallying. And we linger, watching the swallows for a long, long time.

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(Again, our view at breakfast and no, it is never the same!)

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In the early afternoon, Ed does some spot mowing -- meaning he goes over the grass in areas where I'm likely to wince at the height of the grasses, clovers and a plethora of other small weeds.

While he mows, I clean up the front bed. Again, it's impossible to photograph well (in my view) and so you get just a small corner of it.

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Then I get ambitious. I have a whole day before me! I fight off the bugs and clean up most of the day lilies growing at the farmette. It's a huge job, but made difficult only because of the bugs. It is immensely rewarding to emerge at the end of the day with a clean farmhouse and a tidy yard!

In the very late afternoon, Ed and I do what we had intended to do last week -- we hoist the bikes onto Ed's car and set off for a cycling adventure.

In the past, I would have regarded our chosen route as a tame enough ride. (Ed still regards it as a tame ride, though oftentimes, I cannot tell if he's bluffing.) Today, I thought the hills were going to do me in.

(A very lovely beginning: with two sandhill cranes moving out of our way...)

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We cover some two dozen miles of country roads. Looking very much like this:

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Dairy, corn, soy. And hills. Wisconsin staples. (Here's how the corn crop is faring: one and a half the size of me!)

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Your milk may well come from here...

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We have to pause a few times: to adjust my gears. And to adjust my hip (!) and his leg cramp (!).

Are we getting old?

Nah. We just need more tweaking than perhaps we may have some dozen years back.

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At home again, take-out sushi never tasted so good!