Monday, September 30, 2019

a reversal of fortunes

Well what a glorious retreat from the predicted rains and storms! We wake to a day that announces brilliance: prepare yourselves, it's going to be a good one! The weather gods have relented.

This confuses us all. The mindset for glory isn't there. We planned on a slow moving inside day!

(Here's a surprise: every single photo I take today is taken outdoors!)

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I feed the cats and go back to bed to mull things over. Ed snores, oblivious to the gift outside.

I go out again. Hey, where is everybody? Not a cat in sight. No chickens either.

I make my way to the barn. Well, now -- they've gone on an adventure. I haven't ever seen them spend time in the barn. Certainly not as a pack, yet here they are, nine cats, acting like real barn cats!. I take some photos. Remember this space, kitties -- there will come a time when you will like it here. (Ed and I are worrying about winter: how do you offer warmth to nine outdoor cats? We struggled with this last year when there were just three.)

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The chickens are in the thick of their own dusty adventure.

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Cats and hens, rooster and kitties, all acting as if summer is with us once more.

Breakfast? Oh, on the porch for sure! It's just heavenly out there today!

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We tell ourselves that this cannot be a farmhouse day. Whatever we do, it better be outside.

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At noon, we take out the bikes once more and pedal over to the disc golf course.

(en route)

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It's not all triumphant exuberance. Somehow my bike veers too close to the edge of the road. I overcompensate. Ed is biking next to me. I crash into him.

He bears the brunt of the fall on his arm and leg. Me, I soften the fall by tumbling onto him before bouncing off with my head on the pavement. It's the second time in my adult biking days that the helmet saves me from trouble. We stay still, dazed for a minute, then get up, inspect the damage and pedal on, me apologizing the rest of the ride over (and then some).

We weren't going to play a full game, but we need the period of calm recovery. The barefoot ramble. The look out onto the fields and fauna.

It's a good game, followed by a good ride back.

And then I hurry off to pick up Snowdrop, who is, for the first time in months, not wearing her rubber shoes. (Instead: boots, from Target. $11. Just like my friend's! -- She tells me proudly. Clearly said friend also shops at Target.)

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Yes, we go to the playground by the lake. Of course we do!

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She gets wet.

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And who cares! It's warm enough for it.

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Happiness is a surprise of this kind: sunshine and a chance to play outside without limits, without reservations.

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The warm weather will be fizzle away tomorrow. But hey, it surely lifted us up today! Thank you! We are grateful.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

it's what's inside that counts, day 1

An unusual weather pattern will flirt with us this week. Cool, the hot then cool, stormy, gray, wet. It will be the kind of week where you must test your ability to find color indoors. Typically, that's not hard to do. We have great wealth in our warm kitchen, comfy couch, a child or two passing through. And so I'll avoid groaning about all that isn't outdoors. Let's bring it all inside and find stuff to enjoy there.

The morning is a happy example of lots of good stuff: Snowdrop is here for a sleepover. She wakes just as I finish feeding the cats.

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Immediately she ropes me into a game, a story, a make believe delight.

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Followed by pancakes.

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Later, after Snowdrop leaves, I do what Ed does every single day and what I almost never have done -- I fall asleep on the couch. Just for a little while, but let me tell you -- I needed that!

In the evening, the young family is here for dinner. It's a wonderful meal -- first one that puts us back in the kitchen, first one that feels really autumnal. And of course, the kids are growing in leaps, so that there's great pleasure in watching them broaden their horizons. Here's Sparrow discovering (and loving) Snowdrop's doll house.

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Typically she protests his disruption of any of her setups, but tonight, she is too absorbed in a book (with Ed) to notice.

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After the meal, there is a moment of outdoor time. Not for everyone -- just Ed and Snowdrop, to put away the cheepers.

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(Others practice walking at home.)

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At home: that's the key, isn't it? Look in, look around, exhale. At home.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


We wake to a decidedly cool morning. I put on an extra bulky sweater as I go out to feed the cats. In fact, it's such a change from our warm sunny days that I wonder if my daughter and Snowdrop will want to do our usual Saturday trip to the farmers market downtown. (A quick exchange of messages reassures me that we're on!)

Breakfast, in the kitchen. It's late, but I swear, Ed could easily have stayed in bed for another several hours. It's the kind of day where reading under a warm blanket or quilt feels so good!

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It's a week of market changes. Just a little here and there, but still, a definite movement toward closure (we have only a month of outdoor markets left here in Madison). For instance, the booth where we typically pick up a croissant or two to munch on has moved indoors. It's as if our blood, typically hardy and ready to take on even a fierce Arctic blast, hasn't yet been "winterized." We all feel cold, even though objectively, it's not that cold.

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Outside again -- this is the last week of Door County peaches. Once they're gone, our only market fruits will be apples and pears and the occasional melons.

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Flowers -- they're beautiful right now, in their final week of glory. Snowdrop picks this bouquet. I want to take a head on picture, but she tells me -- gaga, I'm at an age where I don't like pictures with flowers!

We compromise.

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I buy corn. Possibly for the last time. And more tomatoes. Another whole crate, at $1 a pound. For winter freezing. And arugula, and radishes -- somehow my bags fill!

(Snowdrop gets her favorites, including curds and a maple sugar sucker.)

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And all the while, you just can't ignore the change in temperature. Snowdrop, who initially shrugged off any need for a jacket, looks longingly at my bulky sweater. Sure, little girl. Anytime.

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In the evening, Snowdrop is at the farmhouse again, this time for a sleepover. It's been a while! As she gets older, the focus is so different! It's not just about playing anymore. We eat pizza (and veggies, because I'm the kind of gogs who never fails to push veggies), we read books, we watch a movie. Grown up things! Well, with a four year old's twist!

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I throw one last look outside. The clouds make for a dark night. There is once more a threat of heavy rains. But even if we had a clear sky, it would be dark out there.  It's the night of the New Moon -- a time when you cannot see even a sliver of moonlight with just the naked eye. It's quiet, the air is crisp, and so deliciously autumnal!

Friday, September 27, 2019


We aren't stuck in a Groundhog Day repetition of sunshine and loveliness. Today is drizzly and damp: perfect for all the stuff that must be done at the end of the week. (In addition to the stuff that must be done every day, like animal care!)

I cast an eye toward the garden, if only to acknowledge the flowers that make a brief comeback now. I've shown you the occasional blooming day lily. There is, too, the reblooming phlox.

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And the crazily exuberant nasturtium, climbing every which way.

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All this is very lovely, even on gray, wet days. In several weeks, I'll have to get my hands dirty and clear the yard and plant the bulbs (yes, the ones that I put in with hope, only to have them devoured by deer in the spring) and do all that needs to be done in preparation for winter. But not just yet. September and early October are resting months for this gardener!

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Breakfast is in the kitchen. I doubt this will change. Mornings will stay cool, I'm sure of it.

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The young family has some stuff to do with the little girl and so I have no Snowdrop with me this afternoon. Still, I take in a few minutes with her and with Sparrow, because Friday is a day of catch up with my daughter. I stop by her house and we head out for a few minutes of quiet chatting, away from routines and pulls and tugs from the world around us.

(A picture of Sparrow, because you haven't seen him much in recent weeks...)

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If this day seems slow moving and without pizzazz, I'm going to say -- and that's a good thing! Looking ahead toward October, November, December (I'm not even thinking about 2020!) -- I see a lot going on. Slow moving days are going to be a rare thing for me. And so it feels super luxurious to move pensively rather than hurriedly. Oh, I wouldn't trade happy tumult for anything, but it's best when there are pauses. On this drippy Friday, I take a solid pause.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


A fourth day of great beauty! A dreamy morning of blue skies and light tiny wisps of a cloud or two. Breezy, mild, heavenly.

It's not unusual. September in the upper Midwest often offers up these pots of gold. And we love them!

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Early morning belongs to the cats and as always, there is a new variation to the feral theme: Stop Sign is coming around more frequently. She still spits at the other kitties, teaching them, I'm sure, the worst of manners. But, I feed her nonetheless. Not only because her personality should not lead her to go hungry, but, too, she is probably hiding a litter somewhere. Her good health assures their good health. We'll see what develops in the days ahead.

In the meantime, we love playing with Dance's little guys...

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And try hard to relax the teenagers. Sometimes they seem to be almost comfortable with our touch. Other times, they run like the dickens.

And the flowers continue to bend with their weight of splendid autumn blooms and bees and Monarchs dance a wild autumnal jig...

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(But it is a little chilly in the earlier hours. We eat in the kitchen.)

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Ed coaxes me to a bike ride and a game of disc golf. It's probably our last barefoot run under sunny skies. We revel in it! And enjoy the views onto soy fields that are also as buttery gold as the prairie blooms and goldenrod growing all around us.


In the afternoon, I take Snowdrop to the local market again. She wants little golden tomatoes. I want lettuce. Ed wants cheese curds.

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"Can I ride the cow??"

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(Back at the farmette...)

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Dance class ends my time with the little girl.

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And late in the evening, Ed and I settle in for warm bowls of home made chili, made with a combination of homegrown tomatoes and ones we get from Natalie.

Glorious days like this stay with us long after the last sun ray has disappeared. Skies grow dark, stars come out, you give one last nod to the farmette animals and go inside with a smile. It's been a good week.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Are you a parent of many kids? Like, maybe nine? Is there a day where no one presents a problem? Without a worry requiring guidance or intervention?

I thought having two offspring was a good number. As they grew to be more independent, I worried only 65% of my waking hours. Now, of course, I have the equivalent of five: one tends to worry about grandkids, though not in the same fashion. Feeding them, making sure they sleep enough and do their homework is not on my worry agenda.

You cannot compare caring for feral cats to raising children (Ed would ask -- why not?), and yet, it holds true with animals as well -- the more you have, the greater the number of problems.

Some are small. This morning, as I put out food for what should be nine kitties, I noticed that Little Gray had a bunch of prickly seeds in his coat. I tried discreetly to pull some out, but his coat is thick so it's a tricky business.

More troubling was the fact that Yo-Yo, our second little one, did not show up for the morning feeding.

Oh, there have been times when all have dispersed for one reason or another. But they stick together. Or at least in groups and formations. The little guys never go away without Dance, their mom.

I searched all the usual places: old orchard, flower beds, garage. Nothing. By late in the morning, I had to conclude that she is gone. Was it a predator? One day this winter, Dance's brother disappeared overnight. He surely was the victim of some animal raid. Did we just lose Yo-Yo?

I linger until the cheepers come out. Funny how all the cats are comfortable with even the big rooster...

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Well, until he bellows loudly in their ear! Even then, they are curious, they come up from behind to see what's cookin'...

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It's a pretty day once again. We were up very, very early -- before dawn in fact -- sharing stories and anecdotes, and so the morning then moved slowly, on wheels coated with molasses. This is what happens when you don't get enough sleep, several days in a row! But, a good, leisurely breakfast out on the porch...

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... puts some oomph into our step once more. We opt today to work rather than play: all those seeds and burrs in Little Gray's coat indicate that there is a lot of junk growing in the old orchard (where they once in while hang out). Burdock seeds and other stick-tight seeds -- we find many, many clumps and they all have to come out.

You must dress properly for this: keep your arms and legs bare, take out your wellies or plastic shoes, tie your hair back. Even so, inevitably you'll be picking out noxious seeds from tricky places on your body.

Still, we clear the old orchard and while we're at it, we dive into the raspberry patch and pull out the offensive plants with burrs, and, too, bunches of stinging nettle from there as well. It's stuff you want to keep out of your compost pile and so we stamp it down in the wheel barrow and set the whole thing on fire.

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And then we play with Little Gray because, well, it's sad to think his little sister is gone.

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(Photos from an autumnal farmette...)

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The afternoon belongs to Snowdrop. I stay with her in school for a few minutes, because she is busy drawing letters in the sand...

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We half-play outside. Just for a little while. I think we're possibly taking this stretch of good weather for granted.

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Or maybe we're just hungry for a good long read of Ramona books. The protagonist's father just lost his job. There's a lot to explain and think about in that subplot.

In the evening, Ed is biking and I'm cooking up a pot of chili. I hear him pull in just as the big pot is ready to come off the stove top.

Hey, Gorgeous! -- he calls out. Yo-Yo is back!

Incredible. She'd been gone the whole day and at some point, Dance disappeared too, presumably to look for her little one. Yo-Yo must have gotten lost. Dance lead her back home.

As for Stop Sign -- yes, she came around again, hungry as hell. She has hairs missing around puffy eyes. We don't know why. She also has droopy teats. She really must be nursing kittens. Will we ever see them? History would tell us that sooner or later she'll bring them here.

For now, there are nine. And a half. And the sun continues to shine down on farmette lands. And we are grateful for that.