Sunday, September 30, 2018


In a month or two I will again get used to the cold outside, but right now, a walk down the farmette path requires nerve and determination. It's cold, wet and pretty miserable out there.

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I am grateful that I brought back flowers from the market yesterday. Color once again becomes a welcome friend inside the farmhouse.

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And here's another thing that requires nerve: as you may know, on Sunday, I clean the house. Because I've been sniffly, my work isn't as thorough as it otherwise might be. Ed does help by employing his robot friend to do the vacuuming. We try as best we can to make things tidy.

Too, I do laundry, which means that I take the rickety steps down to the basement where the ancient machines reside. (Yes, they are ancient. Ed picked up the broken dryer at St. Vinny's Thrift Shop and that was twenty years ago). While down there, I typically vacuum up some questionable dirt with the permanently positioned there vacuum cleaner. I mean, I would never bring that machine upstairs. Who knows what stuff it sucks in, what with mice, bugs and reptiles having the run of the land there! (Remember? I once found a snake skin in the basement! A snake skin!!) While vacuuming up a week's worth of stuff, I see a big puddle under the furnace. Ed!!!

He comes down, unscrews something, notices a stream of water gushing out, goes to the end of a long rubber hose, gives it a blow. I see backed-up water and yukky stuff come pouring out by the furnace.

You just blew back some yukky stuff!
What yukky stuff?
I can't describe it. Yukky.

We're at an impasse.

I tell him -- here, let me blow into the hose and you watch what comes out. Understand, this requires me to pick up the hose from the drainage hole where all bad stuff (sewage comes to mind) eventually makes its way to our septic system. But I want the furnace to function. It's so cold outside!
You're never going to blow into that!
Just watch me.

He gives me a look of utter admiration. I blow.

Eventually he decides that we've pushed a blockage through and all is probably trouble free once more. Time will tell.
Do you think I'm going to get some horrid bacterial infection from doing that? I ask.
No, guys don't ever get infections from doing stuff like that. And for this one day, you are an honorary guy. 

An honor indeed. Still, my lips feel tingly for the next hour or so, even after (maybe because of) thorough washing.

In the afternoon, Ed gambles his money away.

Yep, the same Ed who has no interest in doing anything with money, let alone gambling with it, is playing a Victoria University (in New Zealand) sponsored betting game. The point is to guess the odds of certain political and economic events. (You can read about this market here. I should note that it is a research project and that the betting sum Ed invested is $50).

For the rest of the day he tracks the market and finds his "investment" losing money. (The question he bet on has to do with whether or not Mr. Kavanaugh will get the needed endorsement from the Senate by next Friday. You can guess what Ed bet by my hint that he lost money in the course of the day.)

In the evening, the young family comes to dinner. Various members are no longer sick, others are just becoming sick. We are a motley crew. Well, maybe not. One rallies when food is before you!

(Snowdrop loves predinner munchies and conversation as much as we do.)

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(Sparrow just likes being where everyone else is.)

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(It only looks like corn is the one item served for dinner! Really truly there was more to it!)

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One of Snowdrop's favorites things right now is to write a book. After dinner, she gets to work on it. Then she reads it to mommy...

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Then to daddy...

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And now that we're all familiar with her lovely work, she feeds us (toy) macarons.

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It is a notable moment because (in a departure from normal Sunday behavior) we are all watching a Sixty Minutes segment, where Senators are being interviewed about the Thursday hearings, and there is Snowdrop, feeding us macarons.

Sparrow is more interested in smiling back and forth and back and forth...

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Sweet little boy... So far from understanding (yet) what is going on in this room of familiar faces. Soon, Sparrow. Soon.

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Saturday, September 29, 2018


Sometimes I think Ed was put on this planet to keep us all from needlessly wasting stuff. Mend what you have. Fix rather than replace. His favorite words may well be -- we don't need that new thing.

Last night Ed offered to make popcorn. We're weaning ourselves off of late evening lentil chip munching. Popcorn works. Except that the microwave did not work. It popped just a handful of kernels. Everything in the bowl seemed cold and under-waved.

When we gutted the farmhouse and put in a new kitchen some seven years ago, we instaled a built-in microwave. Great idea until your built-in microwave produces unpopped pop corn.

At breakfast I suggest what I always suggest when things break: let's get a new one! I do that as a joke. There is no chance, none whatsoever that Ed would go out and buy a new machine when there is at least a shell of an older one to work on.

And so after breakfast...

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... he watches ten million youtubes on how to test different parts of a microwave for possible failure spots and then proceeds to take the monstrously heavy machine out (I'll unscrew it and you catch it. No, I'll unscrew it and YOU catch it!)  and conduct his tests. All day long. And he finds nothing.

In the meantime, I meet up with my daughter and Snowdrop at the farmers market. The little one insists on full winter garb which appears to include this year the bucky badger cap and mommy's scarf. She is wise to cover up: it is a cold morning.

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I was shocked to see this corn farm still selling just picked corn. I don't remember ever buying sweet Wisconsin corn in the last days of September.

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Plenty of bouquets of dahlias and sunflowers. I picked this one. $5 is so very reasonable!

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Our market trip these days always includes a side step into the Capitol building. Snowdrop is forever awed by the numerous stairs, balconies, by the cupola, by the echo in the vast spaces and the solemnity of the building. Isn't it humbling that a three year old can find beauty in these halls of such power and might?

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Snowdrop is a mommy's girl on most of our Saturday outings or joint family adventures. She wants her hand to be in her mommy's hand. And it is. And she is buoyed by it.

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Back at the farmette, I notice one important detail: the nasturtium are blooming their heads off. That means that, though we came dangerously close to it, we did not get a frost reading (32f/0c) last night.

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I'm glad. I'm okay with Fall. I'm not quite ready for frost just yet.

Friday, September 28, 2018


Here's a quick summary of this day: I am tired. Not like "running a marathon" tired but like "this cold is ridiculous" tired. Ed says I do not incorporate enough germs and dirt into my life. But after offering this piece of wisdom, he does bring up a warm cup of chamomile tea to me at 5 in the morning, so I forgive him.

(He also says that we are soon going to explode from all the news we have been digesting in the last several days. He could be right there.)

Breakfast, in the kitchen.

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I should have taken many many pictures of garden annuals today. We are under a frost advisory for tonight. Meaning we could lose all the annuals in one fell swoop by tomorrow. But I didn't do that. I was sniffling too much in the early morning. 

Here's one though. The garden does have pockets of prettiness!

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By late morning, I push myself out the door. I needed to do a bunch of errands and more importantly, I needed to shop for groceries. By the time I come back, it is early afternoon and the idea of falling asleep on the couch is very appealing.

Equally appealing though is picking up Snowdrop. She is in a really beautiful phase right now.  You can laugh, you can joke, you can tell stories together.

(I give her free reign to pick flowers. After all, by tomorrow there may be none. But after years of being restrained by me, she is her own guard right now: just two or three, Gaga. Just two or three.)

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It's getting to be chilly. You'd never know it by looking at Ed.

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Inside, I do admit to turning on an Angelina video for Snowdrop. I want to keep her buoyant, without having to be buoyant myself. I sip lots of tea and then we have a beautiful period of play.

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So I'm thinking this is the tail end of my sniffles. I mean, it's the first cold of the season. Those never last long, right?

In the meantime, I make red lentil soup, sprinkle lots of spicy stuff into it and pour a very tall glass of wine. All feel good props, even though honestly, I feel really good, despite the cold, despite the news craziness, despite the freeze tonight.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


I remember now this other downside of the colder part of the year: people get sick. And here's something else to consider: when families grow, the chances of someone being sick on any of the fall and winter days is, well, pretty high. There are three members of the young family in Chicago and four in the Madison bunch. Add the farmhouse duo and that's nine, with three that are at a vulnerable age in terms of sniffles and the like. Inevitably someone will have a cold.

Us grownups tend to be a little hardier. We don't get everything that they get. But we do pass around bugs freely. Perhaps we even introduce ones into the mix. After all, aside from Ed, we do go out and about where viruses run rampant.

All this to say that I had a disappointing day today. I was to go to Chicago to visit with Primrose, but a few days ago I picked up a familial cold and it's lingering. I decided it's unfair to the Chicago bunch to arrive with a good case of sniffles. So I stayed home.

I remind myself that this trip can be recreated soon. That it would be far worse if we had a special event, a holiday, travel plans. A bug can really mess with your plans then and there is nothing you can do but give a disappointed sigh and move on.

So what do you do with one of those annoying head colds? You feed the animals, glance at the garden...

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... then spend the rest of the morning watching television. And for once, there was something to watch.

We sat down to breakfast with the TV on...

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... and it stayed on until Dr. Blasey finished testifying at the confirmation hearings that are today taking place in DC. By then it was time to pick up Snowdrop.

(After that I only listened in bits and pieces. The girl, perhaps in possession of supernatural powers and therefore anticipating that at the farm, there would be the quiet hum of the TV in the background, begged to go to the park. Good idea! When you have a cold, being outside is sometimes a good thing. You're not sneezing at everyone in the same room. Snowdrop often uses swinging time to explain something to me: today she makes a strong case in favor of winter as the best season of them all!)

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(The prettiness of purple...)

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Toward the end of the afternoon, we returned to the farmhouse where we played "the dragon scares the babies." She appointed me to be the dragon.

I am cheered by all this. I'll be going to Chicago soon. Playing with my granddaughter was awesome. And the hearings were pretty interesting too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Each season has its pretty days and its tiresome, dreary days. If you asked me which are the dominant ones, I'd say pretty, for sure.  The Upper Midwest isn't prone to northern Europe's stalled weather systems that can give a full summer of rain, or like this year -- an entire summer of uncomfortably warm sunshine. It doesn't have the never ending darkness of winter: the sun pokes through and you forget that its presence is short-lived and that soon you'll be turning on the kitchen light, even though it's still early.

Unfortunately, this perception that I have (of a mostly beautiful seasons) makes me spoiled. So that when the sky is beautifully blue and the sun is brilliant (like today), I don't rush out to take advantage of it. It's just one of those lovely days! There'll be more. I throw a glance at all that prettiness and return to my tasks, which, today, includes more editing.

(Short walk: to the barn and back)

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Breakfast is late and in the front room. It's time to move things around in the morning!

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And in the afternoon, I pick up Snowdrop.

(Getting ready to go home)

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"Look, Gaga! Stop Sign is napping on the old truck!"

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Indeed. Stop Sign now spends a considerable amount of time at the farmette. And today I saw him deliver a mouse to a more petite Stop Sign. Could it be that this cat is a mom?

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Snowdrop is in a playful mood. Getting her to pay attention to this day's schedule is a challenge. Finally, we're almost ready to head out to dance class. Almost.

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(We're on time! Amazing!)

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Today's story is Swan Lake. I had gone to the trouble of getting a young person's version of the tale and we went through it earlier, if only because I had some concerns that she would not love the sorcerer's evil magic spells. I needn't have worried. Their story and dance in class had only a modest similarity to the Tchaikovsky classic. Nonetheless, as always, Snowdrop loved all the pretend stuff that is so part and parcel of this dance program.

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At the farmette, I'm in for a quiet evening. Ed is still riding his bike every Wednesday evening. I cook up some eggs and brussel sprouts and think about how quickly a good day zips by.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Most authors of any note don't state their message clearly, in the form of a direct hit, with bold words letting you know that this is the message, the theme, the denouement! I want you to get this out of my humongous volume! They're subtle, leaving you to form your own opinions as to what is really going on.

In my Great Writing Project, I'd say that I strive for subtlety. Still, if you haven't the patience to read all those pages (someday, when you actually can read all those pages), I'd say go to the 37th page of chapter 6. You'll get a good idea of what the book is about there.

I mention this because in my current edit, I finally got to that page today. And so if you asked me what I did this morning, I'd say that there was breakfast, in the kitchen... 

(This is what you'd see if you looked out the side kitchen window)

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(We tend to stare out the big window, toward the porch and beyond. Or, we stare at each other.)

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... And then I worked to improve that page. Done! I am immensely happy to have finally moved beyond that point!

Garden photos? Sure, but let's stick with the annuals today. They are like the sprinkles on a chocolate ice cream cone. They add zest, color and fanciful ornamentation to a rather plain at this point landscape.

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In the afternoon, Snowdrop is here. (In case you aren't yourself buying clothes for a little girl, tulle for the everyday is quite the rage these days -- something that no doubt pleases this particular bambina ballerina.)

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What will our time together be like? I cannot tell until she steps through the door and considers the possibilities. But rare is the day when there isn't a story, with long bouts of imaginative play. Today, she fills all her hours with this.

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And so it's a day of story telling. The rains return, the storms threaten, but inside the farmhouse, we spin our tales.

Monday, September 24, 2018

round and round and round we go

It feels like the wheels of time are spinning in many directions. Forward -- Snowdrop grows and grows, developing the skills of a toddler and now a little girl. Then back I go to a time when I'm with  a babe -- Primrose -- who is just now sitting by herself. Forward again, while Snowdrop regales us with stories, then a back slide, to a three month old's (Sparrow's) gurgles and grins and baby naps. I feel this swing in time especially today because we're officially starting our fall schedule (stalled by my travels) where Sparrow comes to spend his Monday, from morning til evening, here at the farmette. It's like caring for Snowdrop all over again, only ever so slightly different.

It's a beautiful day once more, a day with those brilliant skies and pleasant early fall temperatures.  The young family is in a morning rush. One child dropped here, the other at school. For now, I am just with Sparrow. Welcome, little lobster man! Do you know about grandma's magic camera?

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Ed and I are just getting our breakfast routine going. He joins us. On the porch!

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I'm wondering if he needs a sweater... Snowdrop wont mind if I share her pink one!

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But, the air warms and in the end we set out for an introduction to farmette life. He is somewhat shocked to see the chickens. They are more ho hum about his presence. Another baby? Oh, ok!

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Sparrow, like Snowdrop, like Primrose, is a smiling happy child. Perhaps all babies who are well fed and well loved are that way. My eyes, are of course, so focused on the three grandbabes.

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In the afternoon, we pick up Snowdrop at school. The girl is very excited about having her brother join us at the farmhouse. These are chickens, baby Sparrow!

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It's cool how these same chickens offer arithmetic lesson opportunities. Ed is forever asking -- how many new ones did we bring into the coop this year? And how many old ones are there? And how many eggs did we get today? So now how many do we have? (Ed, the answer is that we have too many! We get on the average five eggs each day!)

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(She finds my Polish chocolates. Okay, Snowdrop. Just one!)

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A snack, one book reading moment, and then she is off and spinning tales! (Yes, that's Ed playing a part in it. We all do. She assigns the roles.)

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Ed is trying to work out some techie problem via the TV screen (something about linking screens in a remote communications scheme). Snowdrop sees that he can project multiple images of any one of us on the screen. She is fascinated by it all.

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And now this too is part of her story.

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While the lobster guy looks on.

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 Evening. Kids are home, one hopes in bed, perhaps even asleep. The farmhouse reels back to a state of utter quiet. I'm thinking about an Ocean post, Ed is thinking about an ocean sail. But for now, we are here, feeling lucky, feeling utterly content and at peace.