Thursday, October 31, 2019

farmette life 2

... But give to me the snoring breeze
And white waves heaving high--
And white waves heaving high, my boys,
The good ship tight and free;
The world of waters is our home,
And merry men are we.
(Allan Cunningham)

The crew of four plus the captain gather in Virginia. They listen to weather reports and review the possibilities. They attend to the preparations.

Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, the weather plays devilish tricks on us, dumping another load of snow overnight. First time's a charm, second time -- well, it's getting to be a chore. Halloween is not supposed to look like this!

farmette life-5.jpg

(rare splash of color...)

farmette life.jpg

farmette life-10.jpg

Breakfast, alone.

farmette life-23.jpg

What's beautiful out there? Well, this...

farmette life-14.jpg

Leaves out front -- covered.

farmette life-25.jpg

Trees across the road -- weighed down.

farmette life-29.jpg

Cheepers? Unhappy.

farmette life-32.jpg

We get close to a half a foot of snow. A record amount for October.

I have this crazy idea that if I take out the bobsled, hauling the kids and their gear to the farmhouse will be easier.

It isn't.

(Snowdrop teaches Sparrow how to chill during the ride...)

farmette life-54.jpg

Inside, he likes things with wheels...

farmette life-66.jpg

She likes building places for people to inhabit...

farmette life-68.jpg

Hey, it's time to head out to dance class!

The snow, the cold, that's all tough enough. Add to it the ballet class gear, the Halloween paraphernalia and you've got a load. Still, there are the gorgeous moments. We alight at Hilldale -- the home of Snowdrop's Storybook Ballet. Hilldale -- the place of her ballet -- is itself sponsoring a trick-or-treat set of hours.

Costume time! (Snowdrop's hand is in the costume she is wearing...)

farmette life-73.jpg

 Both kids are ready for it. Mom too!

farmette life-80.jpg

The dance class follows.

farmette life-111.jpg

I would have guessed that after this full day, Snowdrop would have opted to stay home tonight. But no!

farmette life-119.jpg

Later, as I drive home, I see how bright the night can be once clouds clear away.

At home, the animals are antsy. When I go in, a cat follows, right to the porch door, to peer inside the kitchen. Hey, wait! Who are you and who taught you to use the cat door?? (An orange cat, heretofore unseen by any of us.)

And now it's quiet. I stick a pizza into the oven and wait for it to warm up. I tell Ed about all our adventures which, in my opinion, far exceed his, out there on the Virginia coast.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

farmette life 1

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.
(John Masefield)

Sometime in the middle of the night, Ed came upstairs, all packed and ready to lay down for a fleeting rest. We didn't sleep. We'd just learned that the sailing date had been pushed forward by several days due to inhospitable winds and so in essence, if Ed stays with the crew and the boat, he'll be gone longer than we had first expected.

A few minutes after 5 a.m., I drive him to the airport.

I'm not really hoping that he'll show up in Norfolk Virginia, take stock of the boat and crew, and turn around and come back. I want him to do this sail. He needs new stories of being out at sea. He needs to think himself to be a guy capable of the fiercest adventure. Still, it is no secret that I am not at all loving the idea of managing the farmette on my own in his absence. I'm no stranger to being alone. I traveled half the world without a companion. But the farmette is our joint project and sitting here in the farmhouse watching the last leaves tumble down as bits of snow cling stubbornly to the branches of the crab, the maple, the birch, I can't help but think that November is destined to be as dreary as they come and without the blessed comfort of evenings on the couch next to a guy who rightly claims he makes the best popcorn in the world.

I do have projects for the month and I start in early. Before dawn. I mean, what else are you going to do in an empty house that's too gloomy right now, despite the twinkling lights Ed hung along the path to it yesterday evening. Tidy, fix, finish -- there's much to do here and I'd be wise to get to it. Ed is a distraction. A welcome distraction, but a distraction nonetheless and I'm sure I'm the same for him. Perhaps I can benefit from being horribly undistracted.

Breakfast, same, but very different.

farmette life-3.jpg

A look outside...

farmette life.jpg

The animals are as usual full of their own comings and goings. Stop Sign and the kitties are missing, the other seven though are waiting for their grub. I let the cheepers out and fill up their food dishes as well. They aren't so good at foraging in the colder months. Clean the coop, check the water, return home, clean the house, light a candle, purely for the sweetness of that flame.

In the afternoon, I pick up the joyful twosome. These guys! (The drill is that I get him, then we both go to pick up her...)

farmette life-21.jpg

As we drive up to the farmhouse, there is this tug to run out and hit the maple leaves that are just beginning to come down.  Snowdrop is craving a jump in dry leaves. But you can't quite get that right now. The leaves are not yet fully down, the ones that are down are cold and wet. Still, we give it a go!

farmette life-39.jpg

farmette life-42.jpg

farmette life-46.jpg

Inside again, Snowdrop wants books. Lots of them. That's not quite fair to Sparrow, who already puts up with a good bit of reading even if it is above his pay grade. So we tango around the possibilities. Read a little, play a little, learn a little, watch a little. We cover it all.

farmette life-8.jpg

farmette life-74.jpg

And then the kids leave and I tend to the animals and reheat some supper foods and burn the popcorn.

One day down, an unknown number to go!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

October surprises

Hello white stuff!

farmette life-4.jpg

It's not a total surprise. We'd been warned. Still, in October??

farmette life-5.jpg

Not that it's not pretty...

farmette life-26.jpg

But my gosh, hold off a little! Can't we save it for Christmas Eve??

farmette life-27.jpg

Guess not.

Of the eleven cats we appear to have hanging out here, only two -- Dance and Stop Sign -- have seen snow before. They can't love it! Still, it's a sunny day. Moods improve greatly in sunshine!

The morning belongs, too, to the birds. It's as if they have to hurry up and dig in now that winter's almost upon us.

(Can you find the bird in each picture below?)

farmette life-14.jpg

farmette life-17.jpg

farmette life-24.jpg

Yes, a morning for the birds! In all shapes, sizes and configurations.

farmette life-31.jpg

For us -- well, it's the last breakfast together for a while. (Unless plans go awry and Ed returns within minutes of being gone.) So, it's sentimental.

 farmette life-37.jpg

Still necessarily, we talk about the cats. Not out of attachment to the topic, but because we've encountered a hiccup in all this cat care and placement. It seems that Ed is quite allergic to the seven (or some subset of them) inhabiting his sheepshed (which does still serve as a workshop for him). He has tried fans and filters, but the cats are obviously everywhere and they don't do him any favors. The guy is wheezing and sneezing in ways that are not good.

The current thinking is that we're going to work on finishing some part of the interior of the writers shed and transfer the teens and Dance there. It's not as convenient -- there's no running water and we'd have to put in a heating unit, but at least Ed could breathe normally again.

But that's a project for later. Right now I'm trying to remember all that I need to know for the month ahead. He'll be completely out of touch with the landlubbers like me. It's now or figure out all those unfamiliar systems for myself. Or find people to help me make needed adjustments. Like an old car, this old farmhouse is constantly in need of an adjustment, or two, or more.

In the afternoon I pick up the kids again.

With a bunch of disc and vertabrae issues going strong, I am  prodding and pushing Sparrow to use his nearly acquired walking skills. Sometimes he's really into it. Other times  -- he wants the hug and hold.

farmette life-42.jpg

 We manage.

farmette life-57.jpg

Back home, the story line, as spun by Snowdrop,  gets to be complicated. Sparrow listens to see if there is any mention of cats. Cats make the little guy very happy.

farmette life-81.jpg

And then they retreat to their own home and I plunge into our own story here which, right now, surely is complicated. Not uninteresting. But complicated!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Monday once again

It's remarkable how much I have to do in preparation for even a brief trip (I consider one week to be brief) and even more so -- how much I have to do upon my return. I mean, apart from not washing his dishes as carefully as I would like, Ed maintains the place well in my absence. Nothing is ever broken, for he will have fixed it. He hasn't a lot of stuff and so his clutter is a modest (if a tiny bit annoying) affair. And yet, as we pulled in last night from the airport just before midnight, one glance told me there's stuff for me to do.

But here's the dig: my tasks in preparation for a departure are peanuts compared to what Ed has had to do in preparation for his trips.

Wait, what trips? Ed never goes away!

Except when he does. In the fourteen years we've been together, he has only left this place without me once -- to sail a boat for his friend last summer. It was a short trip -- in the range of a week or so. And now he is about to do it again -- sail that same boat for that same friend, only this time, if all goes well, they'll be sailing it into the Atlantic, taking it east and south. How long will he be away? The sailor's gorgeous must never ask. A sailor is a slave to the ocean and the weather systems that pass along during his journey. He could be back in a day. Or two. Or two weeks. Or many multiples of those. The sailor's gorgeous hopes only that the boat stays upright and that in his absence, one of the million things that can go wrong here, at the farmette, from fallen trees to broken water pumps, from clogged septics to burst pipes, choose not to go wrong in the time that he is gone.

And because I just came back last night and he is leaving in a couple of days, you can imagine how overwhelmed with chores we are today.

Instead of enjoying a romantic moment of reconnecting with my sweetie, I clean and clear and shop and stack and trail him with such annoying questions as "did you remember to do this or that" and "if you have a minute could you also check on the that and this."

A morning in bed, thinking about museums and croissants seems very very far away. And yes, as I grocery shop for the week, I think -- was I really in Paris yesterday?

*    *    *

You may be wondering what's up with the cats. (Perhaps you could not care less what happened to the cats, in which case you might want to skip this section of the post.) Well, a day after I left, a small pack of teenagers and baby Yo-Yo disappeared. Within the next few days, the wandering teenagers came back, but Yo-Yo did not. We have no idea what happened. Perhaps she was run over, taken hostage, aggressively attacked, lost, bewildered, confused. One thing we do know is that she is gone. It's been nearly a week. There's not much hope that she will return.

The teenagers and Dance are doing fine, sleeping now in the sheep shed, greeting us mightily each morning as we come out to feed them.

Stop Sign is spending more time on the porch and she sometimes brings a couple of the kittens here as well. We can never quite count them, because the minute they see us, they skidaddle. These are not going to be tame, domesticated kitties. They make an appearance with the Tough Mama every day or two, sometimes staying for the night, or for a nap...

farmette life-16.jpg

In sum -- seven in the sheep shed and four or five occasionally, on the porch.

farmette life-45.jpg

*    *    *

As for the farmette lands  -- well, they're getting into that last phase of autumn: there's a lot of gold still out there, but there is, too, a lot of brown and bare branches creeping into the canvas.

farmette life-9.jpg

What a difference a week makes!

*    *    *

Of course, we have our routines and we stick with them. Breakfast!

farmette life-2.jpg

And in the afternoon, I head out to pick up Sparrow and Snowdrop.

farmette life-18.jpg

farmette life-28.jpg

Ed helps me carry the big loads these days. Today it's Sparrow.
Gorgeous, let me bring him in.
Do you know how to hold a baby or toddler?
Of course I do!

farmette life-36.jpg

farmette life-48.jpg

farmette life-47.jpg

farmette life-49.jpg

So, like any other Monday after a return: confusing, somewhat hurried, and ultimately -- terrific!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

time, rain and the trip home

If ever there was a day to stay in bed late -- this is it. In Europe, the clocks are pushed back this weekend (the vocabulary I hear for this is that we're going into "winter time"). And so I get one more morning hour in my hotel room. In bed. After all, there are no cats to feed. No breakfast to fix, no room to clean. My flight home is insanely late for a European return (leaving CDG 3:40). If I leave my hotel at noon on a Sunday (low commuter train traffic day), I'll still have plenty of time at the airport.

Oh, you're shocked. I can tell. Paris! Go out, walk! It's the place that's so hard to get to. The place you spend days and weeks agonizing about: should I travel there again? Should I dig into my retirement savings for one more trip? The carbon footprint of travel weighs on me. Leaving my family, leaving Ed weighs on me. And now I am here, no two ways about it. Here. In that best room in my favorite little corner of the city. Stay in bed? Are you kidding me??

But it's raining. And suddenly chilly.  Large bed, many pillows, mmmm! I have such a tough month before me at home (more on that later). Why not just stay under the quilt and think easy thoughts about the luxury of not having to get up?

*   *   *

Eventually, I shower (oh, the water here is so good for the hair! Our water at the farm is hard and so full of minerals that you come out with half the earth's deposits on your scalp). Everyone has their own definition of luxury. For me, it has to be this morning of idle. Of a slow paced movement from bed, to shower, to breakfast room at Le Baume Hotel by the Odeon Theater.


[It feels odd not to have Bee across from me at the table. I feel the pang of her absence. But, I have lived all these decades with friends scattered across the globe. They've made my life rich even if they cannot be part of my everyday. A successful life is one when you are comfortable with adjustments to your expectations. And hey, sometimes a sweet surprise will come your way. When you least expect it. Like when Bee decided to meet me here.]

*   *   *

Alright, I brave a walk. With an umbrella, wetting my boots, wetting my camera, but I feel I must. I have this nagging image: it's of me, grocery shopping in Madison after a return from Europe. I always have the same feeling then: here I am selecting breakfast fruits and veggies for the week as if I never went anywhere at all! The trip belongs to the past, along with every memory of stuff long gone. But I'm not there now. No grocery list in my hand yet. Today, I am still in Paris.

Where to? Let's try the Luxembourg Gardens, in the rain. 



I have never seen the park so empty, especially on a Sunday!


Truly, what a difference a day makes!


There is, of course, great beauty in a late autumn day here, wet or otherwise. Puddles, fallen leaves, the occasional person walking fast, adjusting the umbrella against the steady rain...


Lovely in its emptiness, in the offered colors, in its aura of peace and quiet.



Out on the streets again. They aren't necessarily flat, or straight, or smooth.


I feel I must turn back or I'll be traveling with wet clothes. One more look up this wide, glistening sidewalk...


Yes, the rain can be beautiful. Wet, cold, beautiful.


What, you're missing the Eiffel Tower? Okay, I'll finish with it!


*   *   *

The trip from hotel room to airport gate should always be so smooth. No lines, no waits, no train strikes. No hurry, no worry.

And it continues thus. Plane on time, weather calm. Arrival improvements in Detroit (at least for those who are not flagged) -- no more forms, no more check-in kiosks at immigration, no more lap top removal at TSA (the new machines look more like MRI equipment -- serious stuff!). I do what one does when one travels -- eat constant meals. Breakfast, first lunch, second lunch, afternoon lunch, supper... on and on. Food for the weary traveler. But honestly, it has been an easy trip.

In a few minutes, I'll be boarding the last flight -- to Madison. Home, lovely farmhouse home with all its animal dramas and ever changing gardens. And when I work away outside in gardens that cannot  imitate the Luxembourg cacophony of blooms, or set the table with a new tablecloth spread out on top, or a grandchild flashes by wearing something from one of those little Left Bank shops, I will remember -- in October, there was Paris.