Sunday, May 27, 2018

long week-end, continued

Sometimes (today, for example), I feel like the farmette was clapped together with the pioneering spirit of adventure. The place used to be a working farm, but the barn burned down (smoldered for years, the neighboring farmers said), the farmers grew old and eventually rented out the farmhouse to people who thrived on neglect. About fifteen years ago, Ed moved in and mostly with his own hands, graded, fixed, rebuilt and added on components that make it a safe and welcoming place. When I moved in, we really went at it and revamped the interior of the farmhouse.  And of course, slowly we have been reshaping the gardens, extending flower beds, sowing ground cover, planting orchards, pines and anything else that enters the imagination.

In many ways, the farmhouse looks very ordinary. One bathroom, two bedrooms, a common space  and a basement where we do laundry.

But I have learnt that it is not an easy place to manage. When everything works -- it's lovely. But every now and then, something malfunctions. Well of course. That's true in any home. Yet at the farmette, it feels different. Things function in ways that I don't fully understand. Sure, after several dramatic events, I've learnt why the sewers back up and who to call to pump things out and get things moving again. But the water pump is a mystery to me (even though Ed and I replaced the thing ourselves one very cold November day). The internet is beyond a puzzle: the way the routers link the sheep shed to the farmhouse and how it all fits together -- I don't really get it. The roof sort of kind of has a leak, but since after a careful stomping up and down that slanted slope we can't find anything amiss, we leave it alone. Until someday we'll find ourselves with a flooded attic crawl space I suppose. Not that I've ever been there -- I leave that nasty job to Ed.

I write this because once again something broke today (the internet -- completely, totally) and honestly, if Ed weren't here, I would be clueless as to why and how to go about fixing it. (It's not the provider, he tells me. How does he know? I haven't the foggiest.)

Before he and I started our adventure together some dozen years ago, I was in all my adult years in charge of household maintenance. I may not be handy, but I am savvy enough to know who to call when something breaks. But it is imminently clear that I am over my head here. It feels very strange to say it, but it's true: if it wasn't for Ed's grasp of the mechanics of this place, I could not live here. The adventure could quickly turn into a nightmare.

So, today, we are without internet. Oh, and the truck has developed a brake issue. The tomatoes are succumbing to some unknown something. Ed spends the day on working on all the above.

It is, nevertheless, a lovely day. True, it's hot. Very hot. I worked in the garden in the early hours of the morning pulling out ferns and moving things around a bit, but I couldn't keep at it for too long. The searing heat and the mosquitoes eventually won that round. I retreated to the farmhouse.

But do not think for a minute that I didn't notice or appreciate the emergence of new flowers! Things are moving so quickly now: in all the flower beds there now are accents of brilliant color. For me, each flowering stem is best viewed in its setting. Yes, an iris is beautiful, but it is downright stunning when nestled next to, oh say a false indigo. Mixing things around in a flower bed is an art and I am not nearly as good at it as I should be by now, but still, any combination is better than staying with a monolithic display of the same flowers, all looking indistinguishable from each other.

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Breakfast is on the porch, but with a fan turned on to give us a gentle breeze.

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Afterwards, we cart off my beloved grill. I agreed to give it up in favor of moving a kiddie pool onto the porch and we have a taker! The young family! We strap it onto the truck and proceed to their place, spending a few minutes with Snowdrop while there. She has developed fantastic puzzle solving skills!

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(And she is in love with all the paraphernalia that is now in place waiting for the arrival of her little sibling.)

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By evening, the internet problem is solved and we address the issue of moving an inflatable pool into the porch.

We overcome the challenges: there is a perfect tarp to lay under the pool. We find a spot that is far away from any electrical outlet. We position it just so. Ed inflates it to 80%, as per requirements. Chairs set neatly around it -- perfect! Tomorrow, it's going to be a searing 97f (36C). I told my daughter -- bring Snowdrop over! We'll swim!

Not so fast. With the functioning internet, we start reading about how we should treat the pool water. True, the pool is away from the elements and away from any animal life. Too, Snowdrop will be the only swimmer. Child to child contamination is not going to happen. Still, if you read the articles on pool safety you can get overwhelmed. Bacteria, algae, slime... Use clorox, use borax, scrub it daily, measure chlorine, measure PH levels, do this, do that, oh my! And then dump it all out every few days and start again.

And here's an ominous threat: don't do any of this if you don't care about the health and safety of your child.

My grandmother spent many years alone in a village house in Poland. The house was hard to manage, especially in the winter, but if you did the work, it rewarded you with an uncomplicated livable space. There were few surprises. In the summertime, we played in the meadows where cows grazed and chickens squawked. We swam in a river that probably wasn't without issues (note cows nearby), but it certainly looked clean. My grandma worried about keeping the house spiffy and neat and warm in the winter. She worried about having food on the table. She most certainly did not fret about kiddie pool ph balance or about the computers talking to each other across the courtyard.

I don't long for her days. I would not want to live with her crude and basic burdens. Everything about her life was hard. Still, I do wish I could have put out a darn kiddie pool on the porch, sat back in one of our gently rocking chairs and watched Snowdrop or later Primrose play and splash without feeling anxious about chlorine levels and borox amounts in the water. Life was tougher then, but it's way more intricate and complicated now. We have more information -- surely that's a good thing. But we also have to respond to it. And that's not always easy or fun.