Saturday, June 30, 2018

hotter hottest

When the weather throws you a heated punch, you look for sidesteps and workarounds. It truly is hotter than hot and it feels especially toasty hot because, well, because it already has been so hot!

The lilies are waking up. The true lilies are first in line. These tall flowers are off the wall magnificent!


Breakfast. Despite the heat, I would have like to eat outside, but the construction crews did not break for the weekend and the slam of the tailgate is just too loud. We eat in the kitchen.


Immediately after, I rush to meet up with Snowdrop and her mom. We're going to attempt a market run, but it has to be early! The temps are going to climb through the roof today! (Sparrow stays home with his dad. He can't possibly have the stamina for this yet.)

As has been the pattern now, we again run into school friends of Snowdrop.

(What I love about this image is that it's so much a picture of every child who waits patiently, wrapping herself in mom's skirts as mom talks to grownups.)


Snowdrop survives the market! The girl is well trained.

(A pause to swing her pretend character on the pretend swing.)


(Snowdrop loves a good laugh, even if it's a laugh at herself.)


Happiness is...


On these market days, there is always a sidestep into the cool interior of the Capitol Building. Today, she climbs many stairs with her mom so that she can look down at me from a higher perch.


There is a public art project on display this summer: 85 six-foot tall Bucky Badgers (mascot of the University of Wisconsin) are positioned throughout the city. You can get a list and check off as many as your parents will indulgently take you to. Or, you can find one and love it for its... pig.


And now I'm home again, checking the garden for signs of heat stress (none found: these front bed flowers are loving the warm sunshine!)...


Snowdrop and her mom pay a visit. We were to go to the pool, but frankly, the idea of being outside again, even in the cool waters of a pool, is not quite pulling at Snowdrop. Can't we just play inside?

And why not!


(A Snowdrop pretend game is like a story without an ending...)


Evening. Storms rumble. They say the hottest of the hot air streams will be moving to the east. Oh, poor souls of the eastern states! Stay cool, drink lots of water and if you must go to any outdoor market, say a kind word to the farmers who labored in the blazing fields to grow their crops and now are working hard to keep their produce looking fresh and lively in their market stalls just for me and you.

Friday, June 29, 2018

hot hot hot

Steamy air, humid, unrelenting, pushing the heat index up, up toward 110F (above 43C)...

One small things follows from the next. Big heat, big bugs. Little interest in reaping the benefits of garden work. Peas hang, waiting.


Loud truck rumblings keep us in the kitchen for breakfast.


This sweet little boy knows nothing of the heat, nor of the bugs. No need to go out today. Stay home where it's cool.


Talk to mommy about the big trip from up the stairs to down the stairs then back up again...


Hot, hot, hot. I pick up Snowdrop and offer her two refreshing choices: a dip in the community pool or a splash in the farmette wading pool on the porch. She responds: I just want to stay inside the farmhouse.

And we do. And she dances.


...and messes with ahah...


We draw on index cards and she falls into her story telling: polka dots all around, where the blue jays sing...

I listen and add an occasional mouse or flower to her picture.

Evening: so still! Like air trapped in a steam pot. Hot hot hot.

A new daylily opens up...


...the sun throws one last path of light.


The fireflies come out and dance and sing -- hot hot hot. Summer's here. Is it ever! Hot hot hot!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

... of times

The mind generates cliches and overuses slogans so quickly that sometimes one forgets that any one day is far more complicated, with subtle twists and turns that add spice and beauty and horror and challenge that defy generalization. 

summertime when the living is easy...

When I sit down to write here, I fight the urge to put an overused caption to the post. But it's hard to resist! Today, I ignored the great urge to start with --  it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...

The machines outside roared, the bug invasion swelled, the sun beat down with such force and heat that it made me feel foolish for longing so hard for its summer appearance. My computer, the one that I just had fixed this week, redeveloped its sticky keys problem, the cheepers shook from the noise of the machines and the buzz of the mosquitoes, the weather alert bulletins warning of dangerous heat kept flooding my inbox. As if I didn't know!

On the other hand, the lilies are beginning to make their appearance, Ed says the bugs are down by 10% (!!), Snowdrop and I played "family," Sparrow loved a book about cats, and on the family photo page, I saw Primrose wear the sweetest little cloth maryjanes on the planet!

Of course, the mosquitoes still do make my head spin. They're intense at the farmette, but they are also significant in the neighborhood of Snowdrop's school. Walking with her to the park playground, I had to do a lot of hand waving to get them away from us.

And then, toward evening, Ed and I take the motorbike to our local market. There are just about a dozen farmers, growers, cheesemakers there, but it is really special, because we know them all. As I pick out some peas from one of my favorite stands, I comment on our mosquito problem. The farmer says -- whatever problem you have, ours is worse.

His farm, like the farmette, is near wetlands, though his farm is closer to the marshes where bugs thrive and multiply.
The mosquitoes come in clouds and right now we have the gnats and black flies too.
Will they stay all summer long?
So long as we have these crazy downpour days and then the hot humid weeks after. I don't know what's worse -- the bugs or the high heat. Both just drain you. Today, one of my field workers walked out at midday. He just couldn't take it anymore.
I look at him and his daughter - they have smiling faces and their produce is just so beautiful!

For me, it's a question of cleaning up my flower beds and getting the kids in and out of the car/farmhouse quickly so that the bugs don't have a chance to land. However miserable these tasks are when bugs are buzzing every which way, it surely is a small deal compared to working in the fields to bring these beautiful peas to my table.

And now for today's illustrations:

 (color in the garden!)

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(emerging here, there, and slowly everywhere...)

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(a happy crowd of day lilies!)

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(each ravishingly beautiful)

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(Breakfast inside. It's loud and hot on the porch. A friend stops by, we linger...)

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(Later, at Sparrow's home, he chills on my lap, the three cats chill on the floor...)


(Awake! Pensive...)


(Cats again, this time in book form. Interested!)


(And now a change of scene: with Snowdrop, after school, at the park. Lake closed for swimming. Water quality not good. Too hot, too wet, too everything. But swings? Exquisite!)


(Do you want to play "family"?)


(Even weedy flowers can be beautiful...)


(At the farmhouse: engaged in their back and forth chuckle.)


(A final exhale: with her doll house family.)


And my final exhale? A glass of rose, a few ginger snap cookies and a look back at a summer day, when the living was easy, except when it wasn't, though relatively speaking it was, and then some.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

holding pattern

It feels like I am in an airplane, circling at the same altitude, waiting for clearance to land. The rains have passed, but the clouds remain. And the mosquitoes remain. And until their population goes down, working (or even walking) outside is no fun.

Ed clings to the belief that his mosquito traps are working. That this is a swell of a new generation of bugs, and eventually their numbers will diminish, as a vast number will make their way to his traps. It's a belief born of hope, because he knows that if things do not improve, I'll start pushing for a garlic oil-rosemary-peppermint combo spray offered by a commercial mosquito service that promises to significantly deplete your mosquito colony.

Just wait a day or two. Give it a chance, he tells me.

And so I wait. For the sun to come out again, for the lilies to respond with radiant blooms (right now, there are so many buds, and so few clumps of color)...


...and for the mosquitoes to make their way to the traps.

(The cheepers are turning vegetarian!)


Breakfast is on the porch. Waiting for Ed to come back from the store with two more fans...


(A rare show of color in the front, street side bed...)


(Tiny fallen flowers, on my kitchen window sill...)


And now comes my visit with Sparrow. I always hit the hour when he eats and rests. And smiles to himself.


Did I mention this guy is tall? Top percentile tall? When he stretches, he takes up a lot of baby room!


See you later, Sparrow.

And at school -- hello, Snowdrop. What are you doing here on the classroom floor?
Waiting for you grandma.

She is a tired girl.

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She had wanted to spend the afternoon "celebrating summer," but even her swing energies are low.

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But as always, a little quiet time, a few minutes with a book or a sketch pad drawing summer flowers, and she revives.

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I take her home and we continue our "summer celebrations" there.

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(Sparrow is not to be left out...)

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(Showing him her current favorite stuffie...)

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Evening. Ed bikes, I cook, look out the window, cook some more...

The sun did come out late this afternoon. You can see it here, throwing a band of light over the flower bed.

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The bugs? Ed tells me -- I think they're down by about 10%! Pretty good for day one, don't you think?

Well no, I don't think that this is great or even mildly good, but I do so appreciate Ed's efforts to calm things down a bit. And the clouds have dispersed and the garden is beginning to take in some depth and yes, even color. Could it be that our holding pattern is coming to a close? I'll let you know tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Looking back, I'd say this was a day of small drama. Personalities clashed, nature intervened and upset many apple carts, the peace that usually reigns in this small corner of the world was disturbed.

And it started so gently! The noise of the machines outside has moved to more distant places in the vast area slated for development. The storms passed, the rains subsided, the flowerbeds looked refreshed and ready for their summer work.


(Tomato enjoying a nibble of her morning "salad...")


But as we sit down to a breakfast on the porch...


... I bring to the table a troublesome report: in my walk to the barn to feed the cheepers, I was swarmed by mosquitoes.

We are under attack. Time to fight back! (No??)

But first, a visit with Sparrow. Did I mention that he's a laid back little guy?


And here's another sort of remarkable trait: he's got the core strength of a horse. Or at least of a little pony. He's 2.5 weeks old, but I swear he's figured out a way to hoist himself up so that he can get that body rollin'. I mean, he can't even focus his eyes yet, but he rocks like a boat on choppy waters.


From here, I go on to pick up Snowdrop.

At the farmhouse, she repeats many times -- "I am excited!" If you look at her feet, you'll guess why.


The girl really does love to dance. Today we are to resume ballet classes.


"Is it time to go yet?" -- she asks this so often that I cave and let her watch a video clip of an Angelina Ballerina episode just to help her with the tedium of having to wait.


Her summer Storybook Ballet class starts at 5. Typically, it's a 15 minute drive from the farmette. But nothing about this afternoon stays within the bounds of what is typical. First come the storm warnings. Tornadoes to the south of us. Well okay, to the south. I mean, not okay, but at least safe for us to head out.

Then come the bugs. I run the little one to the car, snap her in, slam the door and still, I can't keep the damn mosquitoes out. So I drive, pause, swat, drive, pause, swat.

And then the rains come down. I mean, really come down, as if the heavens had a water overload and all damns burst in unison. I've never seen a child be scared of the rain, but in that drive -- a stop and go drive along the highway, because, well, things just weren't moving much -- Snowdrop was scared.

She finally dozed off and I'm thinking -- a textbook case of a child blocking the horrors of life through sleep.

Needless to say, we arrive at the ballet class very wet and just a little bit late.

So let's forget about little dramas for a while and concentrate on the loveliness of the little girl dancing out the Thumbelina classic. (You may recall from her previous encounters with this dance group -- at the end of each class, they don some form of costume and act out the story of the week.)




It's grand to see the little girl so full of spirit and joy!

And then I return home and the mosquitoes attack me again and I tell Ed -- it's time to look into getting some help with this.

There are in Wisconsin many professional mosquito control services. For obvious reasons: we have mosquitoes. But we've only used such services once: for my daughter's wedding here four years ago. Otherwise, I'm kind of with Ed on this: we live in a place with lots of mosquitoes. It is the one big downside of the farmette. Marshlands to the south, east and north of us aggravate the problem ten fold. It is what it is.

To spray for these guys is to introduce an unknown. Who else will be affected by it? Some companies claim that their "natural" sprays have no impact on pollinators. Ha! Prove it! -- Ed will say. Much as he hates the pesky blood suckers, he hates random disturbance of the ecosystem even more.

But this year, I'm wondering if we should stay so dogmatic in our approach. Why not try one of the sprays that's based on garlic, rosemary and peppermint? It's likely that it wont work -- Ed says. My retort -- can't we at least try? I thumb through the services in town: Mosquito Joe! They offer it. They have satisfied customers. Why not go for it? (And even as I ask this rhetorical question, I know very well why he does not want to go for it...)

Isn't it often the case that when you are frustrated with a problem, you come up with an imperfect solution and then point an accusing finger at the person who stands in the way of implementing it?

Evening. Outside, the fireflies flicker -- on and off, on and off. Funny how lovely bugs can be. And how dreadful are the ones that test our patience with the natural order of things.