Tuesday, April 30, 2019


No one from Wisconsin will be sorry to see April shuffle off to Buffalo (or wherever these dismal temperatures travel after they're done with our state). It really is terribly cold for mid-spring. It is mid-spring, you know. My calendar tells me so, even if we are a full twenty degrees below the average reading for this day.

My garden work is on hold. You just can't get excited about working on a bed in wraps and jackets that are more common to winter than to this season. I'm back to doing not much of anything in the morning (as recommended by the Dutch, who call it niksen according to this article in the NY Times). This is supposed to stir my creative juices, but I'm sure niksen as practiced, say on a porch, looking out to a sunny day, stirs many more juices than niksen done on a day like today, where nothing creative can happen, because everything within me is on hold.

In doing nothing and not being creative, I pick up a catalogue of one of my favorite flower retailers. I remember typing in a small order in the middle of February. It was really cold then! I thought April would never come. But wait. Where is my order? I look it up on line. Damn! Did I neglect to submit it? It's funny how sometimes you click "send" and then you regret your impulsive move. This was quite the opposite: I regret sitting on it. Because the trouble with sitting is that you sometimes doze off and miss the boat.

In continuing to do nothing, I think about how by late April, I always would have made at least one trip to our own Flower Factory for replacement plants (there will have been some winter attrition in my garden for sure). This wonderful flower grower always opens right around my birthday. This year, the weather just hasn't been right for it. We need a warm spell, that's for sure.

(The cheepers would agree.)

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(The late tulips are always spared from an attack by our resident tulip eaters. They should bloom in the first days of May. That would be this week! I'm hoping!)

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Breakfast, in the kitchen and rather hurried because Ed has an appointment.

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My total doing nothing time lasts about an hour. Was it worth it? Yes, I think so. I like letting the mind wander a bit. The Dutch are onto something!

In the afternoon, I pick up Snowdrop. Someday, I'll tell her how important it is to do nothing every now and then. Today though, we're busy. Lego castle-lette building time!

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In the evening, there are parent-teacher conferences and so the young family is here with pizzas for dinner...

(Snowdrop kills time waiting for her food by playing with finger puppets)

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(Ed sort of plays along.)

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(Sparrow -- totally happy to be sharing a meal with his sister...)

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And so ends April. It's always a rocky happy stunningly bumpy ride into the warm half of the year. But it's green. It's fresh. It's colorful. It's full of hope.

Monday, April 29, 2019


I think many people go easy on themselves as they get older. There's this running theme I hear often: "I don't care what others think anymore. I will wear what I want, say what I think, do what is right for me."

I'm much more torn about all of that. And I do think that the older I get, the less forgiving I am of mistakes I make. It's as if in younger years I could always say "I'm learning," whereas now, I think -- "how many lessons do I need already!"

A small reminder of this was an incident from last night. Snowdrop and I were playing a spirited game of school. We were taking pretend naps and she was charged with waking me up. She let out a high pitched squeal. We laughed our heads off. I went down for another nap. Her second squeal was even more high pitched, so much so, that I immediately hushed her -- you'll hurt everyone's ears with that loud noise! -- words that came out of my mouth without much thought to how she would hear them. (Snowdrop is very concerned about doing well by others, Perhaps too concerned -- I ask her teacher. She laughs: it's easier to scale back than to open a child's eyes to hurt!)

You could have seen Snowdrop's face deflate last night, like a balloon that suddenly lost all its air. She retreated to another room, shoulders slumped.
What's wrong?
I was not polite or kind. I hurt people's ears.
Not even a hug, not a laugh, not a smile, not a cuddle could bring that spark back into her little soul. We finally settled into a quiet game of writing books. She left happy, but this Gogs was left thinking -- talk about mixed messages! I play her game, I laugh with her, and then I shut her down. Oh, sure, she was loud. But there were a million ways to let her know that without wilting her little spirit. I should have done better.

It's not only with kids. The other day, I let out an exasperated comment to Ed about tracking mud into the mudroom. I mean, you can't help doing it. We have mud, soggy wood chips, rotted leaves everywhere. You can wipe your shoes silly, but you're always going to be bringing in stuff from the outside. Ed pointed out -- in one sentence, you managed to complain about someone being critical and then firing off a criticism yourself.

He was so right. I should have done better.

If you haven't grown wiser in your dealings with other people by the time you're 66, you may as well give it up. You can go on being the person who says the first thing that comes into her head...

But in the alternative, you can be more careful.

I'm going to stick with the "more careful."

I write all this because it's one of those days when your attention is on details of the home and soul rather than on the garden and the outside world. It's cold and wet and it will remain cold and wet until April is over and done with.

Because it's Monday, Sparrow is here with us. Breakfast actually starts with just Ed...

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... then, as the big guy shuffles off to a work meeting and the little guy sits down to eat his meal. He's all set, pouch and spoon, ready to go!

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Our timed release "selfie:"

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His charming play...

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A guy who has been everywhere, seen it all...

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He studies the book ever so carefully. I tell him it reads a lot better right side up. He's skeptical.

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Twice, with Ed...

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Lunch with purple carrots...

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We never make it outside. Not until it's time for me to pick up Snowdrop. And the girl, unsurprisingly, has no intention of spending even a minute outdoors.

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I had wondered if she would find the new gate, segregating safe toys from unsafe ones for toddlers objectionable. Turns out she regards it as an opportunity for more stories: today, we play "next door neighbors." I stay in my "toddler space." She is in her "big girl space."

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Ha! All the good stuff slowly migrates to the "big girl space."

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Our final game is straight out of Mary Poppins (the movie): she's flying a kite of course.

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And then she goes home.

The evening is cool. Not freezing, but cool. Still, our kitties aren't going to be house bound. The garage is their base, but they are no longer happy just to sit on the blanket and watch the world go by.

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As the sun peeks out for a fleeting few minutes, so do I. It's wet. It's cold. But it's unmistakably spring.

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Ridiculous, beautiful spring.

Sunday, April 28, 2019


We woke to a sunny, but brittle morning. The wet clumps of snow had frozen around fragile blooms. Predictably, the delicate daffodils were not happy. (The rest of the farmette stuff survived.)

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If you are not a gardener, I suppose you may even find it kind of pretty: snow and the fresh green of spring -- it's not an unattractive mix, especially on a sunny day.

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(the tips of the willow, iced over...)

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But I'm mourning the loss of all those tall yellow girls. Having grown to their full height, they just couldn't take the heavy snow-turned ice. Ah well, it could have been so much worse.

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Breakfast, definitely indoors.

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We don't immediately go outside. It's a little cool and I have a lot of farmhouse cleaning to attend to. I want to wash all the kitchen windows (there are many!) and scrub out the entire mudroom, in addition to the usual weekly house cleaning stuff. In the meantime, Ed occupies himself with creating support stands for my peonies. He's trying out a new design -- its most important attribute is that it is made from scraps. We have a number of peonies and though I know many gardeners don't mind if they fall to the ground, most (though not all) of ours look better in an upright position.

What feels really good is to take the flower pots outside again. They're big, heavy and numerous, but it really is an act of joy to set them out again -- this time for good. We anticipate no more big dips in temperatures!

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In the evening, my daughter comes with her two kids for dinner (dad is otherwise occupied). There is a lot of play and some modest amount of good food. Let's run through just a handful of pics that well describe the evening.

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The day ends ever so calmly. No frantic worries about plants or blooming flowers. No constant refresh on the weather website. Calm. With a smile for all that's ahead.

Saturday, April 27, 2019


Out of life's most trivial mishaps and perturbations, few things can suck the joie out of the vivre out of you as readily as waking to a snowy April 27th, with an added bonus of a basement with a big pond of muck from an overflowing septic system.

None of this stuff catches me by surprise. They've been predicting for this day cold, snow, snow, cold for weeks now and when I go out to feed the cats, I take one last appreciative look at the daffodils...

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... sigh deeply and go inside. Breakfast, in the kitchen.

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It is a day to dig in on farmhouse chores. This includes doing laundry. And in doing laundry, I come across the basement pond that tells me that for the fourth time since I moved here (some five years ago), the septic system has a blockage.

I blame the curly willow, Ed blames the brand of toilet paper. In reality, it's a function of both. The curly willow was planted (way before my time) too close to the house and right over the septic pipe. Me, I would have chopped the tree down. It's too big for where it is and as of this year, we cannot prune the dead lower limbs because they are too high up, even for Ed. Thus it is starting to be unattractive, in addition to having gnarly roots that make their way into the septic pipe.

Ed refuses to take the tree down (as in -- it's not the tree's fault) and instead forges an alliance with the guy who has a profitable business cleaning septic pipes ("I like to chat with guys in the basement during a job!"). His pal (they've been friends for years) says it's the extra strength toilet paper that just does not easily dissolve. I would like to finish the sentence with "when caught up in the gnarly roots of the curly willow," but Ed is already amassing evidence by bringing up Consumer Reports ratings of toilet papers. Ours does appear to rank low in terms of "how easily does it disintegrate." So now, in addition to having a wet basement that sort of smells, I have to change our brand of toilet paper.

It is during this troubling morning, that my mom calls and asks if we could go couch shopping. Actually, she suggests that she herself go couch shopping, which of course is silly and ridiculous, considering that I am not busy with gardening or kids or anything more significant than mopping up a basement mess (and frankly, that kind of mess is best left to dry up and sweep up).

We go out shopping and I work hard on improving my mood, but it takes a while, in part because snow is whirling every which way and you just don't like to drive out onto your road on April 27th and see this:

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My mom does locate a most perfect for her couch...

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.. and the snow is far less copious that I had thought it would be, so things are surely looking up, though try telling that to the cheepers!

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In the afternoon I finally tackle the problem of the farmhouse front room. It's become Snowdrop's playroom and it has many, many bits of toys that are possibly not safe for her brother or her cousin. I wanted to purchase a new fence and gate to segregate a safe area, away from the Snowdrop collection of incredibly small Lego pieces. Ed urged me to work with what we have. Today we worked with what we had -- pieces of plastic fence that I had once purchased with the idea that any toddler needed a secure enclosure. It was a dumb idea and we've used the panels for other stuff since.

Didn't we last make an enclosure for the cheepers out of that?
I cleaned it.
But it's wobbly!
Let's secure it with bricks.
But it's funky weird looking!
No it's not. Though maybe Snowdrop wont like it... 
This is not a worry. 
What do you think?
Well maybe.

We struggle for hours creating something that might work.

Outside, the snow continues to fall.

Rough times for us spring loving flower growing types!

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And for chickens!

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And for the daffodils.

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Friday, April 26, 2019


It's not a normal Friday. Nothing about it fits previous patterns. The world has flipped and so we must flip with it.

It's a beautiful day -- stunning, brilliant, with a touch of a cool breeze, but nothing distressing. Just your regular great spring weather. But all that is to change tomorrow. We have been warned: a winter storm is heading our way. Not only will we be chilled but too, we'll get the snow. Lot's of it.

Whatever else we do today, we surely have to figure out a way to take the pots of annuals indoors. Too, we should move ahead with clearing the fields by the sheep shed of creeping charlie. Ed read me an article about the noxiousness of this invasive plant (it's everywhere!), so now I think we should attack it full force.

We have our hands full!

But our activities are flipped in other ways too: Snowdrop's school is closed today and so the little one is coming to the farmhouse in the morning and staying until after lunch. If she is here early, I must start work earlier. And I do! By 7 a.m. I am out pulling creeping charlie from the more distant beds.

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I feel a whiff of sadness for the daffodils: they will suffer if there is indeed a heavy snow. The cold wont hurt them, but the heaviness of big fat flakes will topple them for sure. Let's take a good look at these lovely spring blooms in case we lose them tomorrow.

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Snowdrop's about to come. Let's eat breakfast, Ed!

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The girl and I play inside at first, but within an hour, we are out. Ed's been pulling out garlic mustard. She is excited to join him in his noble pursuits.

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At first, I stick by her. But I notice that she is inventing all kinds of games for herself. And so I join Ed in weeding the plot of land, as Snowdrop flutters this way and that, full of energetic outdoor games.

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Sometimes she calls us to join her...

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... but more often than not, she is on her own. Or with the rooster. The umbrella? It's from the kiddie pool, but I'm sure it's part of a Mary Poppins story. Snowdrop is heavily into Mary Poppins these days and that woman always traveled with an umbrella.

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(farmhouse lunch: grilled cheese sandwich and an apple)

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Eventually her parents pick her up. I should head for the grocery store to do my weekly shopping, but we still have so much weeding to do! And so I linger and work until it is too late to work anymore.

I swear I could easily fall asleep standing up. Ed is equally exhausted. It's a good type of tired. Tomorrow we'll rest and watch the snowflakes fall.