Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday - 18th

There are three ways to view time right now: maddening in its fast progression (anything having to do with treating the sick would fall in this category), insanely slow (perhaps being stuck in tight quarters with very young kids and a stack of work, and no clue as to how long this will last can be lumped here), or the third -- a wild ride between breakneck speed and a grinding slow pace. Sometimes I think I'm right smack in the middle of the third: I alternate between having too much to do and having too much available time for stuff like reading news.

I just at this second promised Ed that I will greatly improve my time management skills with the first day of April. That would be tomorrow. I'm on it!

I suppose the coming of spring follows similar distinct paths. Sometimes it comes charging at us with the speed of lightening. (This is rare.) Other times? Slow as anything. Like one of those inch worms taking its sweet time crossing your path. Hurry up already! Then there was last year's spring: fluctuating wildly between the two -- giving us snow in the middle of April, but plenty of sunshine before and after.

So what's this year like? It feels slow, but perhaps world events have shaded my thinking about it. We want to move away from where we are now, even as we understand that we cannot. So, too, we want the colors of spring to take hold, even though that's an unreasonable expectation. I mean, it's still March today! I'd say we're not doing bad, considering!

(Looking toward the lily bed...)

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Breakfast. Oatmeal for both. His is always with maple syrup.

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For now, our schedule is such that on Tuesdays I go to the young family's place in the morning to play with the kids there.

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It's not something that they're used to, which has its good sides: I can explore their books and toys with them from a new angle, since it's all unfamiliar stuff for me.  On the other hand, it doesn't offer them a change of scene. Still, there's plenty to do (even though it's a cold and gray day and so you really have to work hard to get your giggles out. I think we managed okay!).

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...With some solid reading and quiet play times thrown in and some spirited games of "hide the treasure" in between, which I think passed Sparrow by, though he did love yelling "hot!" and "col!" at the top of his voice, just like his sister.

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Toward evening, Ed bakes brownies. His cookies are long gone. I guess we're more of a sweets eating family than I thought. Or it could be that chocolate laced treats are more appealing at a time when spring seems pokey and life has suddenly grown complicated.

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Dinner? Oh, leftovers from Sunday. Ed has taught me a lot of things -- one of them being to truly love leftovers.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday - 17th

I've taken to asking Ed when I wake up -- anything good out there to report (he is always reading stuff)? Lately, he always says "nope."

It's a signal that I should start the day with something other than reading the news (in the course of the day, I actually read two national papers, one from Chicago and one from Warsaw. Sometimes I add a British one and a third national. Plus some magazine stuff. We err on the side of being too well informed.)

Of course, not having anything good to report doesn't necessarily mean that it's 100% bad out there. When I do sit down to do my browsing and reading, I look for the bright notes in a sea of tragedy. And those bright notes become the topic of our breakfast discussions.

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One tiny bright note for us this morning is the reappearance of sunshine. It's so lovely to see it once again! The cheepers do their grooming in its glorious warmth, the cats bounce from one end of the path to the other, and we all walk with that sprint that's been missing the past few days.

The kids come over in the morning and again I start them off with yoga.

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Sparrow does try to keep up, but Cosmic Yoga is just too fast for him.

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Snowdrop, on the other hand, is thrilled to see that the episode I chose tracks the story of Frozen. She is a devoted Frozen fan.

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Monday play, Monday art. Monday reading. The kids are easy to please on this first day of the week, for obvious reasons -- they have been stuck at home for several days and the farmhouse once again appears quaint.

Lunch? Oh, nothing original. Their usual choices.

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Afterwards, I drive them home in a warm car. It's been a long time since I have opened the door to a warm car!

In the late afternoon, Ed works on getting the veggie bed ready. Little Tomato always helps. (She's our greatest worm spotter.)

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I take a solo walk. Nothing big, nothing fancy. I think about how luxurious it is just to walk, even as so many people have to rush to a workplace that is suddenly so very terrifying. Not for a minute do I forget to appreciate how beautiful it is to have nowhere to go, except up the road and back home again. Especially on this still cool but very bright and springlike day.

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(along the road...)

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Dinner? Cheeper eggs and broccoli! Both beloved here, at the farmette.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday - 16th

You want to go out for a hike?
Not at all?
It's too cold. With a threat of rain. But okay, I guess we have to.

That summarizes my attitude toward the great outdoors right now: no, but okay, I guess we have to.

In my head I have this mental calculus of 40sF (upwards of 5C) in March, 50sF (upwards of 10C) in April, 60sF (upwards of 15C) in May and so forth. We're not off course. It's March and we're in the 40sF. But this is no early and beautiful spring. Instead, it's the kind of weather we usually like to dislike. Weather that leaves us grumbling -- why can't it be real spring already??

Breakfast is late, house cleaning is late, everything is late today. We use the hours of the day to touch base with this person, that person. People we care about. It's time well spent.


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And yes, we do finally go out to our small county park. Forced pleasure! Not quite the same as the exuberance one might feel if, say, it were ten degrees warmer and a lot less cloudy.

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(Hi, great big oak tree, standing next to a boggy, muddy pathway...)

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In the evening the young family comes over for dinner. We're still all in total isolation, which makes these Sunday meals possible.

Time to bring out the cheese and crackers and red pepper strips, just to get us in the dinner mood...

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And to cook up the much washed with soapy water squid (don't ask... washing freshly handled squid was an experience not worth repeating)!

And the usual pasta, home made sauce, shrimp, salad, and one last go around on fresh corn for the kids.

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Evening again. Warm, cozy, evening. Dishes done. Another calm and peaceful day behind us. How insanely lucky to have had such a day. So very very lucky.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday -15th, but really it's March 28th

This day belongs to my little granddaughter, Primrose, who turns two today. She is in Chicago and I am here, just outside Madison. Despite the sadness of not being with her on this day, I have to smile at this unexpected distancing: she is the only grandchild whose birth I missed too, because she came early and I was, well, in Paris.

We live in a connected world and I am happy as anything that I can at least spend time with her via the Internet. I had a little virtual party planned out in my head, but I tossed that idea out when the early morning call came from Chicago. Instead, I let her take the lead, though I did manage to get a youtube going of a very loud birthday song. So loud that Ed, who can sleep through anything, called down  -- how's Primrose? (I had thought he was asleep.)

(opening grandma's present at the breakfast table...)

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It's raining hard in Madison, but it will rain even harder in Chicago today. This is very upper midwest stuff: end of March rain and storms. The precursors to a beautiful spring season. I'm grateful for the rains, though I would like to put in a bid for lesser storms. People don't need to worry about tornadoes right now.

In fact, I'm grateful for a lot of stuff. That we have a steady supply of food. That farmers will do their damn best to keep those shelves stocked. Yes, grateful for all those who suddenly have to work so hard under such difficult conditions.

Ed and I merely have to keep out of everyone's way. And to give thought and thanks for what is good all around us.

Which, of course, brings me back to Primrose. Being a super-child, she can give me the impression that she is right there in the room with me -- she is that focused on all that takes place around her. Smart as a whip, she wont let me merely sit back and watch: she engages and is engaging and our little party is a blur of movement as she scoots toward me with the speed of a two-year old on the go!

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Oh, Primrose, how I love you! That bit of color that first showed up in early spring... Twenty years from now you wont remember your second birthday. But we all will remember it mightily: the day your smile and happy prance filled everyone's heart with giggles, on a day that needed exactly that little boost!

Happy happy birthday, little one.

In other news -- well, did I mention that it rained? Perfect day for Ed to bake cookies.

I offer help. Can I give you some suggestions?
None needed!
Remember, I worked as a baker at L'Etoile for several years
(flaunting my credentials here, just to make a point).
Impressive. I baked cornbread in the sheep shed regularly for years.
From a mix.
It was delicious.
It was all ingredients you couldn't pronounce.
Great aroma too!

It's not that Ed is overly confident. He's just not shy to take on any project in any domain at any time.

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At the end of the day, he wont take excessive praise.
Super yummy! -- I tell him.
They're just okay. Could use more vanilla. 

Always ready to tweak and improve.

While the great baking project is underway, he notices a small amount of activity around my honey jar. Well now, if that isn't a true sign of early spring! The ants are back!

As predictable as mosquitoes in the summer, and mice in late fall (except for this year, when the shed cats have hunted down all mice everywhere!), spring ants always come in right about now, looking for a place to settle in for the rest of the warm season. We don't use chemicals to get rid of them -- just a vacuum cleaner. And so we began that routine today. The vacuum will be on the ready throughout the day for the next couple of weeks.

(Well, can't run the vacuum when Calico and Cutie are resting on the porch. It would scare them silly!)

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I wish I could tell you that the skies cleared and Ed and I sprinted outside to log in a spirited walk. That didn't happen. No problem! All the more time to look at past photos of Primrose, singing "happy birthday" quietly, under my breath, all day long.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday - 14th

I think I need to step back and get a grip on organization. Today, I felt like time just ran away.

I blame the weather: just warm enough to work outside.

I blame spinach and tomatoes. We want to plant both. Soon. We need to clear the strip of land behind the barn of weeds. I begin that project today. It takes forever, even with the help of Ed, Dance the cat, and the cheepers.

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I blame having to wash the squid with soap. We had a grocery delivery today and it included squid. Snowdrop loves squid with her spaghetti. The squid needed a soap bath. It took forever to then get the bubbles out of the tubes and tentacles.

I blame the fact that I was convinced I had tossed my driver's license out with the trash. It had been in a paper bag. Precautions. Don't ask. And then it was nowhere. How do you replace a driver's license if you're self-isolating? I dumped all trash out of the can (there was a lot) in my search for it. I looked in every possible corner of the farmhouse.

I began to sweat.

Only later did I remember that I had tucked it into a pocket of my purse for safe keeping.

People like me thrive on getting a lot done on automatic pilot. For example, typically, I grocery shop without a list. I know what to put in the cart. It doesn't change a whole lot from week to week. But of course, now everything is newly established. Routines don't work anymore. You have to think your way through the day.

That's a challenge!

Mostly, I blame me. Too loose on the organization. Do better!

(Was there time for breakfast? Yes of course.)

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In the afternoon, Snowdrop is with us.

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(Playing the memory game once again. He wins. Then she wins, even though to me, it seems that she's hardly paying attention...)

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Evening. It is always the quietest time here, at the farmhouse. Perhaps in your home as well? I cook up some salmon burgers and I steam a treasured bunch of fresh asparagus. 

Ed cooks up popcorn. We listen to the sound of the rain outside.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thursday - 13th

If it wasn't for my granddaughter's birthday this Saturday, I'd be completely lost in terms of calendar dates. Are we still in March? Do you know where in March?

But of course, the garden knows. And the weather gods know. March 26. Not the 13th day of anything, but March 26. Nearly April -- the month when Wisconsin forests and meadows will turn green and the color palette will grow and multiply.

We haven't yet had the big rains, the storms that race across the prairie toward us, the hail, the swell in rivers and streams. But we will. Spring never slides in without a rumble and roar. But when all the noise is done with, we revel in the beauty of a transformed landscape.


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Both kids come to the farmhouse early today. Well, probably not early from the parental perspective!

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Perhaps you've wondered if at least these two grandkids are bored with all this time in isolation. I think from the point of view of the one and a half year old, the answer is no. Toddlers can do a repeat play without noticing that it's repetition day in and day out. Sparrow always goes back to arranging his current favorite characters around a plastic table. He will never turn down a chance to draw with markers. Reading his favorite books can drive you nuts, because he'll sit through them again and again, no matter how much you've grown to despise that cow that says moo.

With Snowdrop it's different. She got a great boost, I think, in "playing" with her school friend over FaceTime last night. I hear they lasted almost an hour. More importantly, I think returning to the continuity of that friendship was huge. Something essential for her was preserved.

But the girl can sometimes lose steam in trying to imagine the next game or story in her head. She is happy when I come up with a new book to read. She will draw on most any day.

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But inevitably, she will stall. Today she said -- I wish you had... (a certain toy is mentioned, one that is her current favorite at home). I thought this was a good thing. I could tell her that this wouldn't be a good idea (even if I were willing to spend the money for it, which I'm not) and so she had to look beyond that particular favorite. It took her ten minutes, but eventually she plunged into a set up that got her so excited that her dad could not get her to stop when he came to pick them up.

And no, I do not feel compelled to come up with new games, new ideas for play every single day. I feel Snowdrop is taking a good bit of responsibility for making her day a success and this is a good thing.

Still, today, I did suggest that we do something new -- something that both kids have had at school: kid yoga. (Cosmic Kids Yoga on youtube is pretty good, though perhaps too fast moving for a toddler.)

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And now comes lunch. Grilled cheese for Sparrow and prosciutto and strawberry jam for Snowdrop. I'm letting their creative juices guide them!

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In the early evening, Ed and I take a short walk. Just to the wetlands across the road from where we live.

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We all need to walk. I know that. And I take deep breaths of air that smells of damp earth and a composting wood pile. The beautiful smells of early spring. So typical of... March 26th. It is March 26th, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wednesday - 12th

There is an ongoing dance between clouds and sunshine this week and thus far, the clouds are winning. But, at least there is a dance. And even if the clouds seem all powerful, you and I know that their time will come and go. Sunny days are inevitable. You just have to be patient.

In the morning hours, after breakfast...

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... I listen to broadcasts and interviews, read updates on New York, then put aside news reading in favor of FaceTime with Primrose in Chicago. We chase snakes and talk about favorite animals. I hear all about a favorite book and I show her farmhouse kitties and of course, the ever handsome Happy, who poses nicely for her. (Happy is always a little confused by my presence. He knows I bring food, but otherwise he hasn't quite placed me in his limited world of hens and predators. Still, we like him quite a bit. He is handsome, nonthreatening, and his crow is constant and magnificent!)

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I join her (remotely) for lunch, grateful to the core for the piece of technology that allows me to do this.

In the afternoon, Snowdrop comes to the farmhouse...

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... for a bit of quiet time while her brother naps at home. I suggest we play Memory. You know: the goal is to find matching pairs of cards.

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It is clear as anything that I am terrible at this game. If allowed no breaks, Snowdrop would probably tie with Ed for the winners' circle. But, since it is her first game, we cut her some slack (her worst vice: to reveal to others what she knows to be a match). She is thrilled.

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And in the evening, I cook up a big pot of chili. This should be our staple right now. We have a lot of tomatoes and onions and I have finally been able to up the supply of kidney beans. To all the grocery store workers and food suppliers -- thank you. You're doing a tremendous job.

With love.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday -- 11th

I thought today -- never has so much depended on us simply staying put...

But of course, just because we're staying home, doesn't mean that we're idle. I have saved tabs of all the wonderful things people have suggested for your periods of isolation! You can take a course on the Science of Well-being, offered free, by a Yale prof. You could bake (though I understand AP flour is scarce and I have not been able to get my hands on yeast at all). You could walk through museums on line. Listen to your favorite musician doing their bit by posting informal performances on youtube. I mean, the list is endless.

I haven't been able to get to any of it and I am sure that working parents haven't either. The day just disappears into thin air.

Breakfast. Just a few berries and a lot more apple.

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As I drive to my daughter's (through the long corridor connecting her isolated home to our isolated home) to help with the kids, I struggled to come up with an explanation as to why I am going to be (just a few minutes) late. Is it the animal feeding routines? The reading of news stories? I have no answer.

At her house, the kids were eager to show me their favorite thises and thats. I'm rarely there and so it is tremendously helpful for me to see what they love about their own turf. The favorite books, chosen by someone other than me (Snowdrop's favorite was the Story of Jackie Robinson, Sparrow was a little more random, pulling off one book after the next, just because). Their favorite toys. And so on.

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I came home after lunch. Again, where did the afternoon go? On trying to figure out a needed delivery to my mom? On preparing for Primrose's birthday, coming up this weekend (it will be a remote celebration, but special to the core!)?

A little time went for a walk in our county park. This particular trail never has anyone on it and it's becoming a favorite for us: prairie, forest, with Lake Waubesa just to the east. A totally unfrozen lake, with bobbing coots, a sure sign of spring!

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Since our range of movement is so limited, you'd think we'd get bored with the same trail. In years past, we'd be impatient with it. So brown still! Where's the new growth?

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But today, we have such different expectations! Just being outside, in a quiet space is heavenly. The weather? Magnificent, for its March ordinariness. Warmer than February, with a promise of even warmer days ahead.

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(the other familiar bird that signals spring -- the sandhill crane)

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Dinner? Egg time again! Our girls are really churning out the eggs. No, Ed. We should not hatch more chickens. Absolutely not. Nope. Just our five, with Happy, the Rooster. And a bunch of cats. (Here's Dance, our "feral" mama, coaxing Ed for a little rub behind the ears.)

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