Monday, April 30, 2018

for the beauty of the earth...

A splendid sky, a warm breeze, an awakening landscape.

True, it is dry. We need rain. The forests, prairies, fields are parched and waiting for a good steady drizzle. It will come. For now, I am completely lost in the sunny beauty of the season.

It's the kind of day when you can't stop singing in your head.

...hill and vale and tree and la la, la la, la la, la la.., sister, parent, child...

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Breakfast on the porch! How grand it is to eat the morning meal outdoors once more!

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We go about our morning routines. Chicks out, box cleaned, big cheepers fed, flowers and tomatoes taken outside. The tomatoes right now are Ed's job. They're doing well! All 96 of them!

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And then we walk the farmette lands.

The construction of the development to our north has just begun. We want to look out at the trucks and diggers that are moving back and forth...

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And we want to check up on our young orchard. So far so good! (The cheepers follow us everywhere!)

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But all this is small stuff. We have a goal for this morning: to make my annual pilgrimage to the Flower Factory -- the perennial wonderland which happens to be a mere twleve minute drive from the farmette.

We take the circuitous country roads and this takes us right past a place that we rarely visit, because we see these people weekly at our local farmers market.

It's a small business (Natalie's Greenhouse) and it's run by two lovely people who grow their own everything! And right now, even though spring has just this week taken hold, their greenhouses are incredibly rich in color and beauty!

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We just can't get enough of that whiff of greenery and the rich palate of color!

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But it's only a stop over. The Flower Factory is our big time destination. Here is where my gardening habits really took hold!

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There's little about this place that I don't know or love. It has grown and I have grown with it. The dozen greenhouses, the rows of potted plants inbetween -- they follow a master plan established decades ago. I know exactly where to find a false indigo, a siberian iris, a daylily with a pink blush.

Our constant flower bed expansions make it possible for me to introduce a few new plants each year. It takes me forever to decide what's best. I'm always surprised that Ed puts up with these long flower hunts. (These days, he brings along a book.)

Done! The fun of planting is still before me. It's best when I don't rush it: preparing the beds, tending to them in critical times during hot summer months -- that's all fine, but planting is uniquely special. This task of planting will fill most of May for me.

And suddenly, it's time to pick up Snowdrop!

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Long time readers of Ocean may notice something different this season: she is no longer  fiercely attached to her sweater!

She can't wait to come to the farmette and attend to her bug pies in the sand box!

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It is a spectacular afternoon! 80F (26C)!  Who would not want to be outside?!

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Snowdrop asks to pick a flower. I steer her toward some toppled daffodils (thanks, cheepers). She is so happy with her nipped bud! She brings together all farmhouse flowers -- real and not so real -- just to behold their enormous beauty.

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Inside, it's as if she hasn't seen her toys for years instead of a mere week!

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... but eventually she has to return home and Ed and I have to attend to our routines, only in reverse: put away the tomatoes, the cheepers, the chicks.

(Chasing down chickens who have just discovered the world is.... a challenge!)

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After a supper of leftovers, Ed and I collapse into a solid recline. A beautiful day needs to be followed by a restful sleep! We are so ready for it.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

this is what we wait for...

Days like today make us love the Upper Midwest! Warm but not hot, sunny, inviting, gloriously delivering the beauty of a new growing season. Perennials are rapidly getting fatter, fuller, taller, tree buds have popped their swell, giving us the lovely fresh green of spring.

It could not be a finer day!

But we don't immediately start in on farmette work. We have animals to care for. The stray cat comes for her morning visit (we do, in fact, call her Stop Sign, as per Snowdrop's request). To feed her, we must chase the big hens away. They're all buddies, but Peach would love to sample some cat food and we have to be clever in distracting her from it.

Then there are the little chicks. Little, my foot! We think they're feathered enough that they can withstand even the cool air of this morning and so we place them in the playpen in the garden.

Only then do we sit down to breakfast. I comment to Ed how quiet it is now that the cheeping girls are outdoors for the whole day!

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There are countless small things to attend to outside, but my big goal is to plant the dozen pots with the annuals we picked up a week ago. But we get distracted! Feeling somewhat heady with spring, we decide to open the gate and let the little chicks roam free.

To say that they love it is an understatement. Happy, happy girls!

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Too, their interaction with the big hens is quite good. I have to credit Java, who will forever be my very favorite hen, for her calm grace even under adverse circumstances. Yes, there is a pecking order, but Java's idea of teaching the little ones that they must be followers rather than leaders is to gently lean toward them with her beak. She doesn't jab at them: it's more of an air kiss! They understand.

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The threesome explore, but not too far and after a couple of hours, they know to retreat to the pen for a rest and refreshments. I close the gate then. Enough for one day. Besides, I have pots to plant! These tubs of flowers will carry the garden all spring, summer and, too, a good bit of fall. Their enduring beauty ties the garden together for me.

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And the giant willows sway in the breeze and the crab apples look graceful and young and the birds sing their spring songs all day long...

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... and the daffodils burst with their sublime butter faces!

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In the evening, the young family comes for dinner. Snowdrop had her first soccer game today!

Did you like it? -- we ask her.

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What did you like best?
The coach!

Well that's a good sign! As in dance, Snowdrop is probably the youngest on the team. And yes, it's a team. This isn't soccer 101 -- the kids actually play against another team. For Snowdrop, there are a million firsts in this. I've heard many of the newcomers to the sport simply choose to stay on a parental lap all game long. Not Snowdrop. She doesn't quite have the game under her belt yet, but she is out on the field, chasing the ball with the rest of them.

Dinner. An Asian stir-fry today...

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And after -- well, the young family should be heading home... It's a school night, it's getting late, but Snowdrop so wants to see the little chicks...

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And she is determined to pet Java...

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And the sandbox! Is it really accessible now??

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The cart --  don't forget about the cart! You can ride in it...

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...or push it! Either way...

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All that play!

We save it for tomorrow and the weeks ahead. Days of spring, weeks of sunshine. All noble, all just before us.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

home again

At night, I tossed in thoughts and dreams between Chicago and home. Good images, ones that, were I awake, would have made me smile. And it's not that I am in love with grandmotherhood. I am, but what really makes me happy is when I think of the two young families and the way they go about the business of life. This is what I thought about inbetween cycles of sleep last night.

I wake to a message from a very longtime Ocean reader and by now -- friend. He's responsible for directing me to the song I quoted in the comments to yesterday's post. Today, he pointed me to another song. I love music -- classical, folk, jazz -- pretty much anything that has good melodies and heartfelt lyrics. This one has both and it's as if it was written to give voice to my nighttime images. Listen to it as you read along.

 ("Song For a Child" by John Fullbright)

Early in the morning, I check to see if anything is blooming. Yes, the first daffodils! (The cheepers follow me everywhere.)

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Breakfast. Of course. Did you think otherwise?

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And then I hurry to meet up with my older daughter and Snowdrop at the downtown Farmers Market. It's a cool day (all of my spring days have been pretty cool thus far!), but it's beautifully sunny. Energizing!

Our Wisconsin badger mascot and marching band are setting the mood!

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But my mood needs no boost! I mean, one wee babe back in Chicago and now this exuberant little girl back in Madison!

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In her beloved pink.

Are there brighter, bolder colors to be seen?

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Oh, my world of daughters and granddaughters!

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How full of magic you are!

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And yes, we are fully immersed in this season of beautiful growth.

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Is it a surprise that a smile comes so naturally to a little one?

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In the afternoon, Ed and I work outside. It's all about preparation, restoration and repair. I'm not planting yet. We're to get a mild freeze tonight.

Perhaps you're wondering about the baby chicks. Not such babies anymore! We keep them outside in the toddler enclosure and bring them in for the night.

But today, I test the waters of integration. How will the little ones fare with the big girls?

I take out Pepper. She is our medium little girl. Cupcake is huge, Tomato is teeny. Pepper, I can catch. And so I let her loose to forage with the big girls.

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She is excited! She runs to Peach, thinking perhaps that it's her long lost mommy! She looks like she wants to snuggle into her big feathered fold.

Peach does what a chicken is wired to do: she gives the little twirp a big peck to send her flying. Pepper cries a mournful disappointed cry and runs back to the toddler fence, begging to go back inside.

I would like to kick Peach and send her flying, but, I've learned from past chicken encounters that the best strategy is to leave the girls to work out their own pecking order. We're not talking about middle school bullying. We're talking about chickens.

Evening. How beautiful the sunset! How gentle and quiet the night that follows.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday in Chicago

I used to live in Chicago very many decades ago, when I attended graduate school there. When I moved to Wisconsin, I thought I'd never seen such a vast grand sky before. 

It's a typical reaction when you leave a city, I suppose. Your eyes in an urban neighborhood tend to focus straight ahead. In a more rural landscape, you take in the sky.

In fact, of course, Chicago, too, has a vast and beautiful sky. Here's a secret -- it's the same one that hovers over the state to the north!

You just have to look up...


I check out of my hotel in the morning. I will be traveling home tonight.

But now it is still early in the day. It's brisk, but the sky is a beautiful blue! (That tall tower belongs to my hotel. No wonder I can see so much sky from my top floor room!)


I walk the familiar path to my daughter's house and we settle into our familiar routines, which include, of course, breakfast.


I watch Primrose nap. What dreams do babies have? I hear that toddlers dream simple images. But can we even guess what might be going through this tiny girl's mind? She surely is expressive!


There, problem solved!


She wakes up to bath time. I can almost hear her saying "my face is plenty clean already!"


There. Dressed and ready to go!


And indeed, we do get ready to head out. To lunch!


It's a good walk, all the way to another neighborhood of the city. Primrose is lulled in her warmly covered stroller. She isn't really asleep, just enjoying the ride. And I'm enjoying the push.


Our destination is carefully chosen -- Floriole Cafe -- again a birthday treat, picking up on the elements of a French meal, topped off by exquisite pastries (my choice was from one of those below...).


And eventually, I make my way to the airport, where I catch the bus back to Madison. But I'll leave you with the image I have in my head -- of my girl with her girl, across from me at the lunch table.


My visit may have been billed as one where I could help, given the usual abundance of work around a newborn. But it became something more: I stepped into this brand new family unit and in one fell swoop fell in love with all that they've become.

Finding a way to be a good grandmother in my children's lives is of utmost importance to me. Both daughters make me feel that I'm moving in okay directions in that role. This to me is just so grand!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thursday in Chicago

Call it the lazy person's exploration of Chicago: looking out the hotel window to take in the city's landscape. Except perhaps it's not lazy at all. In the last days of April, you have to be up and watching pretty early to catch those ribbons of predawn color! (Sunrise in Chicago today was at 5:54.)


Of course, you can crawl back to bed then and wait for the moment the sun first shines at the sprawling city before you.


Perhaps you can tell -- it's a beautiful spring day in Chicago today!

At an appropriately polite hour, I set out for my daughter's house.

We eat breakfast together, my girl and I. There is a routine now: I arrive, we work around the schedule of Primrose, eventually we sit down to our oatmeal and fruit.


Primrose sleeps.


Eating, sleeping -- such important steps in a young child's life! Okay, in all our lives!


And now she is awake!


We play. She likes the mirror! 


Some elements of play require reassurance. I'm on it!


Sure, I am here to help. But at this stage of Primrose's life, my help is limited. And so I turn to other small things I may do for the young family. Today, I cook up a bunch of comfort foods: crunchy chicken and tomato risotto have been childhood favorites for my girls. Out come the pans!

And in the evening, my daughter and I set out for a walk with Primrose. The goal is to pause for a glass of wine together.


We're at the Robey's lounge. We settle down for a glass of rose cava.

Primrose has other ideas. She does not think she should be left out of this eating/drinking business.

You have to laugh at her insistence! We go up to my room, where she settles in contentedly, enjoying, I'm sure, the view onto the city.


Afterwards, I walk with my girl and Primrose for a bit, pausing by a store while my girl buys some foods and I insist that Primrose admire the spring flowers that are (finally!) blooming...


And then we part ways. They return home, I stop by Bonci -- an immensely popular pizza place where you buy slices -- cut to your preferred size! -- of very original, very delicious pizza. I choose the smoked salmon cheese and zucchini one and an incredible slice with spicy eggplant and octopus.


... and of course, I look out my 12th floor window -- at the golden light of the setting sun.


If ever there was a time for me to love this view onto the city of Chicago it's now. Home to half my family, home to Primrose. You look at things differently when there's a child in the picture. Very differently.