Wednesday, October 31, 2018

last day of October

The month of October is showing off with a spectacular final act.  The skies are hazy at first, but the air is gently warm, in an autumnal kind of way.

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(The cheepers follow me to the front yard, rustling along the golden maple carpet.)

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For the next few months, Sparrow will be adding Wednesday mornings to his time with me. He shows up early, dressed for the last day of October.
Can you say boo?  Oh, that sounds more like an ahhh. Good enough!

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(Like any 4.5 month old, Sparrow loves to stare at himself in the mirror...)

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The little guy eats, but we put off our own morning meal until later. Ed isn't ready for it, I'm not ready for it.

Finally, long after he leaves, we do a proper later morning breakfast.

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As the day progresses, the skies clear. The kids could not ask for a better Wisconsin Halloween! Such a beautiful, beautiful day!

The robins are frantically going after those apples. I love watching them, but there is a price to pay for all that apple consumption: the birds do not digest the seeds and crab apple seedlings sprout everywhere! And what doesn't fall to the ground falls on the cars that are parked under the great willow where the birds like to rest after their eating frenzy.

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Never mind, it's all rather beautiful. Red birds, red apples, red sheep shed -- all in a petticoat of gold.

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In the afternoon I pick up Snowdrop. (The little girl and her puffin who goes back and forth each day with her, except on the day she forgot him. That was a morning of great drama. But not today -- today the hazy sun is with us and puffie is firmly in her grip.)

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(At the farmhouse: so many stories in that little head waiting to come out...)

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In the late, late afternoon, I tell her it's time to head home for Halloween!

 Okay okay okay! Right after a quick romp with the chickens.

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Trick-or-treating from one pumpkin  bedecked door to the next is such an American kid ritual! True, when I was a child living in a Manhattan apartment, I felt shy and silly going from door to door. I had a UNICEF box and I hid behind it and tried to collect pennies for that worthy organization instead of candy for myself, even though I was nuts about sweets in those days. Still, it felt strange knocking on doors. Then came Halloween in Madison with my own kids. Now that was a big deal!

And it is a big deal for Snowdrop too! Here she is, getting ready to set out with Sparrow. She is  Princess Aurora, he is Orca the whale.

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Since their dad has work commitments tonight, I am stepping in to help. A sitter comes over to stay at the house and give out candy (the sitter has many, many sitting talents; one I love is her ability to fashion anything and everything out of Snowdrop's hair; tonight, she crafts for the girl a princess bun).

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We eat a quick dinner then set out. (Sparrow is in the stroller where he promptly falls asleep.)

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The night grows dark, the girl grows bolder...

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... then, after many many houses and a bucket full of candy, she wears out. Double strollers were invented for the long walk back after a Halloween night out.

And Sparrow? Well, he doesn't get the candy, but he enjoys chewing on his whale fin.

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Snowdrop gets her sweet allotment for the night...

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She's happy as can be, even though she can't finish her three wee sized pieces of candy.

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The pleasure is all in the beautiful evening, surely not just in the swizzler stick (deep pink!) or in the Reese's peanut butter nugget.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


By the last days of October, the trees are typically bare. Even the giant maples, blighted in the past few years by a tar spots (a fungal disease), would have shriveled their leaves and dropped them into big piles.

But this year, everything is running just that much later. I've showed off the crab apple, which still has some lovely foliage, even on this next to last day of the month...

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And our maples -- much healthier this year! -- are just now turning a delightful gold. With the burning bush burning away in crimson, it all looks rather lovely.

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Breakfast is a little hurried as I have shopping to do and Ed has a meeting before him...

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And animal care requires a bit more time: Stop Sign, after a two day absence, shows up again, belly decidedly smaller. She is hungry and meows incessantly. Immediately after, she rushes off, presumably to look after her babies, wherever they may be.

In the afternoon, I pick up this babe from school (Oh, how she would protest if she heard me call her that!). As we drive the few minutes to the farmette, she tells me -- I did not have a good day in school today. (She is very in touch with her feelings.) She explains a playground friend situation. I listen, offer some possible strategies for the future, trying hard not to make a big deal of what is likely a small event.

A storm rages as we pull up the farmette driveway.

First order of business at the farmhouse: check out grandma's cookie supply.

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I have a question for her -- Snowdrop, I was putting away your toys last night and I see some are missing. Do you know where the rest of the (plastic) carrots are? There should be ten. There are only six.
Maybe ah-ah crawled up into the attic and put them there?

(Later, asking Ed to help fix a broken something or other...)

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She launches a story... It again touches on hospitals. She jumps into the role of a nurse. Ed is curious why not a doctor.
She explains, possibly with thoughts of the books about an extended family in Africa that have been the go-to series for her for the last few weeks: I better be a nurse. That is my option. (?!) Or the old dad would be disappointed.  I am amused. She did not worry about disappointing "old teacher" today when she was told to put away her scattered outdoor clothing.

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She settles into playing office again. It gets dark early now and of course, after this weekend, it will be darker even earlier.

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No matter! We have lights shining brightly on the porch. Lovely little lights for the longer winter nights before us.

Monday, October 29, 2018


Let it not be said that a small purchase can't give you happiness! I have now looked out at the new, colorful lights on the porch a million times (well, very many) and each time I smile at their utter prettiness. The leaves come down, the light go up. What a sweet mix of seasonal events! (No photos of lights for now: you'll see plenty of those all winter long! But here's one of the majestic crab, in the last days of her golden beauty!)

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It is Monday and so my grandson Sparrow comes early to the farmhouse. Actually, you could say that Sparrow is asserting himself in my grandmotherly embrace this week. Hey, don't you want me to play here more often? You do? Great! I'll be here with you Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday too! Parental work demands are severe this week. I can surely help a little more.

Here he is, dressed for an autumnal jog!

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Only let's get those shoelaces tied before you take that sprint up the farmette path!

And now let's see if I can coax a smile out of the two men at the breakfast table:

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And you, Sparrow?

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A morning smile is a regular event for the little guy.

He is a patient boy...  (Okay, Sparrow -- let's get to work on those laces!)

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... Except when you get him ready to eat, then hold off the bottle in favor of a picture!

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It's a pleasant day today. I mean, I've reset my expectations to a late October template.

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Snowdrop, my grandgirl, is, as always, very happy to see the both of us at pickup time.

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We eek out a few minutes of outdoor play, both outside her school...

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... and at the farmette.

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(She finds the repeat blooming Phlox and I encourage her to both pick it and smell it. As sweet as honey, no?)

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Sparrow, of course, could use a long afternoon nap, but he never sleeps when Snowdrop is back with us. Eventually, toward the end of the day he will get very very tired, but for now, the two of them are a joy to watch...

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Toward evening, the kids leave, the sun throws its last rich light on the crab apple.

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It's a beautiful world there, just outside our doors. Ah but to save it, enrich it, nurture it for generations to come...

Sunday, October 28, 2018


So windy, so cold, so close to the feeling that winter is around the corner. I suppose all of November is like that: a constant reminder of what comes next. You think this is chilly? Just you wait!

Feeling rather Novemberish, I sat it out today. Farmhouse stuff. Warm, snuggly farmhouse stuff.

This includes breakfast.

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One peek outside... Oh the big crab is losing its leaves so quickly with the wind!

I'm scouting around for Stop Sign who hasn't been around for two days now. I'm guessing she's giving birth to babies somewhere. May they all be safe...

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In the afternoon, I press Ed to work with me on our winter lights. We both take this project very, very seriously. It's not that we are driven to decorate for the holidays. Ed surely isn't a holiday kind of guy. But over the years, we have developed this fondness for (a modest amount of) holiday lights. And they must be just so.

We need to replace the porch lights and you would think we are engaged in the illumination of the Eiffel Tower.  These are not bright enough! No, not those either! I would love to include a purple light! This one! Yes, this one! Are you sure? Not sure... Let's check a few more stores....

In the end, as always, we find something we both like. We set up strings of lights around the porch, the door, and the path leading to it. By the time the young family comes to dinner, everything is in place. And I have at least one appreciative little girl here!

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Baby Sparrow looks on at this, as on everything else, with eyes wide open.

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Oh, babies!

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Dinner... new lights in place....

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"There's still time for play, isn't there? I'm selling things. Would you like to buy a mouse? A phone?"

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A phone, if you insist. But honestly, I need nothing more today.

Sleep well, sweet grandkids, mine, yours, and all others. How I wish you could all sleep well!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

for the birds

Ed tells me -- I have to use pliers on your hair. There's no other way.
Maybe I should just cut it off. Will you love me with a crew haircut?
Of course. But let's try the pliers.

I had gone out to feed the animals. Ed was sleeping in, the day was gray but not unpleasant. Robins darted for crab apples, fighting off their kin, as if there was only enough for one of them.

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So many of our feathered friends are territorial!

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I pause to do some more garden pruning. It's good to do it in fits and starts. To not waste a whole day on it. To pull and clip for an hour, then move on.

Hitchhiker seeds. You know them? You look down and out of nowhere, several dozen tiny clawed seeds are now all over you sock. There's a lot to watch out for. We  have, for example, nasty burdock seeds, but they're the size of a dime. You really need to walk with your eyes closed to miss them. But Virginia stickseed is something else: the seeds form on thin stalks. They're numerous and their lethal. I've been attacked in the past, most often when I am pruning the raspberries. But occasionally they migrate into the flower beds and today I just did not see them until it was too late. Way too late.

They are on my socks. They are on my sweat pants. They are on my bulky cotton sweater (all terrible clothes to wear when you're weeding, for exactly this reason). And worst of all, they are in my hair. If you bend down to clip and your hair dances near a stickseed plant -- bang! You are done for.

Typically patience and I mean supreme patience will get you far: you can maneuver out one seed at a time, wiggling, pinching, grasping, pulling. But this time I had unwittingly let my hair dance around the clump of seeds. Less than a quarter inch in diameter, they are coated with prickles that stick.

I try to patiently get them out. Nothing. Ed attempts to untangle the mess. Nope. A shower with lots of cream rinse? I can almost hear them laughing at me.

Finally, Ed looks to youtube for help. Pliers. Squeeze them tight, hair shaft and all, pulverize them, then remove the bits left behind.

One hour later we're done.

Breakfast is very, very late.

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In the afternoon it drizzles. I could really gripe about that, since we are at the end of October and I feel the season has sped ahead and I haven't had my fill of it at all. But there is a pause in the rain and in that pause, I suggest Ed and I head out to Owen Woods.

This compact but beautiful conservation park is perhaps Madison's most underappreciated natural wonder. And it is absolutely at its best toward the very end of October. The diversity in flora is dizzying and when you take an hour's hike, weaving your way through woods, across the prairie, skirting the birch grove or the oak savanna, you can see it all!

I'm going to post seven photos from our walk. The colors here are as they were for us today.

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I began this post with birds in our crab apple, I'll end with that as well. Our young girls have always been terrific flyers. Here they are, checking out what all the robin fuss is about:

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Nothing much, girls. Just an autumnal day with exquisite fall ornamentation, that's all.