Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thursday - 48th

It's a stunning day. Absolutely stunning here, in Madison, Wisconsin. You have to take these wisps of beauty and run with them. Get your mind off of all that's not well. Because really, so long as we are chugging along, there are lovely moments to be had. Today was proof of that.

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Still a bit cold in the morning, so we eat breakfast in the kitchen.

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The grandkids come over soon after. Oftentimes one child's mood rubs off on the other, so that if one is boisterous, the other will be equally spirited. But today they diverged. Sparrow was giddy with mirth. Snowdrop came with a giggle...

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But then grew subdued. 

He was easy to please (I had just finished giving him a haircut...).

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She struggled to "find her stride" (what does that mean, gaga? it means it's difficult for you to jump into something that clicks, that feels right.)

But eventually, it comes together for her.

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And Sparrow? He just keeps on truckin'!

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As I drop them off at their (equally isolated) home, Snowdrop loses herself in the joy of unrestricted flower picking. The dandelions are out!

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Sparrow, want to try your hand at picking? No? How about holding?

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Sunshine brings out the best in all of us.

In the early afternoon, I do a "curbside pickup" of one more load of annuals and herbs from Natalie's Greenhouse. She is buoyant! People have been ordering online in large numbers. Things are looking okay!

At home, I concentrate on planting stuff. A peony here, a lavender there, a phlox in that corner, alyssum seeds in this pot. Ed and I move another tree trunk onto the porch and I place Natalie's beautiful basket on it. Oh, spring! You do your damnedest to boost us up! Thank you for this day!

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The last days of April rarely disappoint.

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Oh, sure, there were the slugs to the day. There were several issues to resolve for my mom. Too, my constant hand washing (from handling purchases) has my hands feeling like cardboard. And the news --  it's a given that if you follow closely the news of the world, you will feel the weight of the troubles faced by so many right now.

Still, we're all working toward the same goal: to find joy, to feel love, to move forward. We got a little boost from the weather gods today, that's for sure!

Dinner? A slab of fish from the Sitka Salmon Fish Shares, some pretty old looking asparagus, and the most remarkable oyster and shiitake mushrooms on the planet! (Thank you, FungiFarmers!)

And thank you to so many others. Today, scientists were on my mind. Our future, in their hands. Thank you for, well, everything.

With love.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wednesday - 47th

Everyday sounds that I love: the song of the sandhill crane calling to its mate, the song of any bird really, the wind moving through any leafy tree, but especially a birch tree, the slow boil of a soup on the stove, the rain coming down on the skylight. But not a truck honking incessantly just by our house at a very early morning hour. What's going on??

I look outside. The cheepers, whose coop door opens automatically some time just after sunrise (which in Madison  falls on 5:52 today), have made their way to the front flower bed -- a place that appears to have an abundance of flavorful stuff for them. They always head that way early in the day and they do get awfully close to the road. A truck driver was trying to scare them off. Successfully, I might add. They find car horns to be distressing. Might they step out on the road? Sure, but it's a theoretical worry. In all the years we've let them free range, I have never seen them do it. Still, the trucker was understandably worried. There must be a reason why the joke about the chicken crossing the road is so popular.

It was a loud beginning to a wet and cold day. (But pretty! End of April is always pretty!)

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And yes, breakfast is in the kitchen. Ed sleeps in and looks like he could do with another handful of hours when I finally tell him I cannot wait for that first cup of coffee any longer.

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It's a day for paying bills -- mine, my moms. Isn't it terrible how we take a day that's already pretty miserable (weather wise) and we add fodder to that misery by doing stuff that is hugely unpleasant?

No matter. Bills must be paid, monthly budgets adjusted. All is now tidy and ready for May.

In the afternoon, Snowdrop is here. I would have loved to spend even a few minutes outside with her, but who are we kidding -- the walk from the car to the farmhouse door is long (and cold and wet) enough.

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We use our afternoon for reading, playing, drawing. As usual these days, she starts off working on another page of her Super Pigs book...

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...but switches to adding color and detail to my Family of Five pictures.

And the winds howl, and the rain comes down, and we stay inside and we draw.

In the evening I bring in today's haul from the driveway (where deliveries are made): a bag full of mixed mushrooms from local mushroom farmers. On the one hand, mushrooms are so, well, nonessential. A luxury really. On the other hand, these farmers have been deprived of a market this year. Oyster mushrooms, shiitakes, growing. Unsold. So we sign up for a drop off. This week's frittata will be spectacular, that's for sure!

But not today. Instead, we have an easy dinner: leftover chili. Lots of beans, lots of spices. Lot's of tomatoes from last summer's market.

You know what's a good sound? The muffled pop pop pop of corn popping in an otherwise very quiet house.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tuesday - 46th

What a difference a day makes! Perhaps that has been our lesson this spring. One day you're sending your kids to school, kiss kiss, have a good day, you pick up your cortado with skim milk and board the subway to work,  and the next day they're home, you're home and most everything is closed and you can't buy Tylenol or toilet paper for beans.

I had a mild swell of that feeling of change in the last twenty-four hours. Yesterday the weather was good, the kids were lively and happy, the COVID trends around here were mostly in an acceptable direction and talk of vaccines moving forward rapidly made your heart swell.

But the day drew to a close and things went a little helter-skelter after that. There was, for example, the matter of the fiendish tooth that has been giving me grief since the beginning of our lockdown. Last night it asserted itself once again, leading me to spend the night weighing my options rather than sleeping. In the end, after consulting with two dentists who themselves are mostly in isolation, I decided on home treatment for now. It may work. Maybe. The point is that the night was shot and Ed and I spent lovely moments lying in bed and reviewing future grocery shopping needs. Only with the coming of dawn did we finally give in to (a very short) sleep.

Porch breakfast. With strong coffee for me!

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I spend the morning with the grandkids at their place. This is a good set of hours.

(He loves to play with "Let it Go," aka Elsa. And yes, two Elsas are better than one.)

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(She's in the middle of a story, but she keeps an eye on what we're doing...)

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Sparrow is hellbent on making me laugh and Snowdrop can't resist joining in on the silliness.

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But in the middle of all this, I got a call from my mom's assisted living residence. There followed ten more phone calls as decisions were made as to what to do next. It turns out she had tripped and she fell and now she has a small fracture somewhere near her shoulder. As I write this, she is back in her home with a sling and a wheel chair. As far as we can tell, she should mend and be fine in some amount of time, but her care needs greater coordination right now. I'm workin' on it!

Back at the farmette, the daffodils are at their fullest at this moment. Here is a photos that surely shows off their greatness. Feast your eyes, because we have strong storms and rains rolling into south central Wisconsin. Chances are high that the flowers will have fallen by tomorrow.

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In between rain and rumbles of thunder, I pick up a delivery dropped off by Matt, our friend and farmer from Blue Valley Gardens. Two pounds of beautiful fresh spinach, to tide us over until our own plantings reach some decent level of growth. And, too, there is our weekly grocery drop to deal with. Not fun during storms, but still, we are grateful: we got a lot of good foods for the week ahead!

And one more piece of sweet news: state parks are opening this Friday! That means our local park down the road from us will once again be available for short hikes on days when there just isn't time to do anything big (meaning on most days). We are very happy.

And more importantly -- grateful. To so many, for all that they do,

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monday - 45th

It was a whirlwind of a day, with plenty of good elements in it. Let's run with those!

I was roused by the phone -- an early perfunctory call over some future scheduling issue. Well okay, I'm up, may as will move the day along. Feed the animals, smell the earthy fragrance of spring.

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And now my phone rings once again.  I'm thinking -- future appointment issues once again? I need not have worried. This time the call came from Primrose, my Chicago granddaughter.

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If you want a energetic, bouncy start to your week, do a FaceTime with little Primrose! She must have had a dozen play and book and game ideas in the twenty minutes we were on the phone!

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Have an excellent week, sweet child! (I'm sure you will!)

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Breakfast. Should we eat on the porch? It's just one degree short of acceptable outdoor eating weather in my book. (We're at 59F, or 15C) Eh, let's go for it! We've waited long enough for porch breakfasts!

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This is where Snowdrop and Sparrow find us as they arrive for their morning at the farmhouse. (The Madison young family is as isolated as we are and so the kids continue to spend time here for part of each day.)

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The kids are in such good moods. It's Monday, it's spring, there is color in the air!

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We play, read, eat lunch.

And just as they are getting ready to leave, my Zoom call with my Polish friends kicks in. We start off showing our various face mask creations...

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And yes, COVID 19 is still the topic of discussion. Getting family updates is high on the agenda. But eventually, we stray toward other things. And it strikes me that even in this brief time and over a screen that shows little of everyday life, I can feel that Polishness filtering in from their living rooms. It's almost as if I were there (rather than they were here). I see it in the sandwich one of my friends is eating: open-faced, with a piece of swiss cheese over dark bread, and slices of cucumber on top. I'd never find it here on a supper plate. In Poland? I don't know a person who hasn't had it. Hundreds of times. And yes, most of my friends stay with the traditional Polish eating schedule: big meal in the afternoon and perhaps that cheese open-face sandwich in the evening.  (We also had an affirming, lively conversation about pickles. I reported the horror of trying to find a pickle in an American grocery store. You can't do it! They were properly sympathetic.)

It rained this afternoon and so garden work had to stall. No matter. We need spring rains to help our plants along.

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And by evening, I see streaks of that April sunshine. A little here, a little there. Enough to make you smile.

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It still isn't easy to give in to spring effervescence. I mean, there's the news to worry about. Still, we are here, we are well. We are among the lucky. We are grateful.

With love.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sunday - 44th

This is what spring looks like!

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Can you go outside? Do you have something bursting into bloom right now? If so, isn't it just a sight to behold?!

(Calico, coming out of her hiding spot to "smell the flowers...")

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It's a beautiful day in south central Wisconsin! It cannot be improved upon! (Ed brings out the three pots wintered over in the sheep shed)

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Needless to say, after breakfast (and this is the only photo you'll see of the indoors)...

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... Ed and I go out to work on any number of things in the gardens of the farmette. For me, the top priority is planting Natalie's annuals. They're in small containers and they need room to grow. Into the tubs and pots they go! I do them all! Right now, they offer just a handful of blooms, but there will come a time in early fall when their color will be deeply appreciated. If only the cheepers would quit nibbling on the buds!

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I'm not using as many flower flats as I typically would, but I have seeds to help me fill the pots more fully if need be. It's a glorious day for this kind of work!

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I stop in the mid-afternoon to fuss a little with dinner prep. Shrimp tacos, to be served on the porch -- our first outdoor meal of the year!

The young family comes over, but we don't go inside at all. The kids... well, they do kid things.

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For a minute, I am transported to last summer, when meals outside were a routine summer thing and Sparrow couldn't walk yet and Snowdrop danced and pranced, making up little games, while we all talked about such things as swimming lessons and county fairs. Sometimes we were six, sometimes the younger family would come up from Chicago and we were nine.  Lovely days then. And they will come back and we will once again talk about swimming lessons and county fairs -- perhaps wistfully, but with the expectation that this too will pass and we will be frivolous and carefree again. I can tell that today, because honestly, the weather begs for such feelings of hope and optimism. We will get there. This weird stuff is not forever.

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(Snowdrop loves trying to find fragrance in a flower. She says it cures a sore tummy...)

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So, I do hope you are well. I hope all the tired people who work way too hard during the week had a moment to exhale. Outside maybe. A good long exhale.

With love.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Saturday - 43rd

How quickly a brand new experience can morph into a habit! Six weeks ago, I knew nothing about curbside pick-ups or shopping for food on line, to say nothing of disinfecting containers of berries, or parsley inconveniently packed in a plastic bag. Now? I'm becoming a pro.

As it happens, much of this weird new shopping fell on us on this morning. My schedule would have struck me as bizarre just two months ago. At 8 a.m., we were to pick up any pre-purchased Farmers Market goods.  (That early slot is handed over to people with a last name that is toward the front of the alphabet.) At 10 -- we have a drive to Verona, to a grocery store that gave us this curbside pickup time for anything we put into the basket all week long. For us, it's a great supplemental grocery run. At 11:15 we're expected for a pickup of our prepaid perennial flowers from the Flower Factory.

So how did it all work out?

First of all, forget the Farmers Market (for now). And indeed, we may give up on it this year altogether. The set up is such that you have to drive up to each farmer and load up on prepurchased foods. Rumor has it that the waits are hours long. Our alternatives? First, I'm in communication with several farmers to see if other drop off possibilities are in the offering. Too, we have signed up with Harmony Valley Farms for their Community Supported Agriculture produce. We will be getting thirty boxes of food, spread out from May through December. You get what you get and you don't get upset (this is a quote from Snowdrop's dance teacher; she says it each time she hands out dance props to girls who inevitably have their hearts set on landing a certain favorite).  Ed asked if we would for sure use up all the boxed produce. I smiled at that. He and I eat vegetables like there's no tomorrow. A bunch of asparagus? Gone in one setting. Broccoli bundles? Never a leftover. And so on.

The upside of having given up on the "driveup market"  is that we can sleep in! Ed seizes the opportunity! I have to call him several times to say that breakfast is ready and our curbside pick up is waiting for us in Verona.

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The Verona trip goes well. We get most of the items we ordered. I see that yeast is again a prized commodity, but no matter. We're not baking bread. Yet.

I scramble to transfer foods and wash the frozen stuff before dumping it in the freezer. This used to be challenging. It's become routine. Our mudroom looks like a restaurant storage closet, with foods sorted by date of acquisition.

Finally -- the trip to the Flower Factory. This is super nostalgic for me. It may well be my last trip there ever, as they are closing down after this season and by the looks of it, they've already cut back their stock considerably. Because of the pandemic, they are only doing curbside pickups. This, of course, is the right way to do business at the moment. Nonetheless, it's a bit of a sad trip. Going to the Flower Factory in late April was a rite of passage for me for some thirty plus years. It was thrilling to walk through the hoop houses and to study the hundreds, indeed, as the business grew -- thousands of flower varieties. I learned so much from just walking, looking, chatting to the owners and staff.

Today, there were just a few tables, with boxes of prepurchased perennials...

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And this dude, loading your trunk up with your flowers.

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Thank you, Flower Factory, for decades of flowers. Our beds have a lot of you in them!

So is it time to plant yet? A little today...

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A lot tomorrow. I'm waiting for the warm up. 53F (11C) is not good enough for a long outdoor spell. I'm aiming for at least 60F (15C) and some sunshine!

(Feeding the little cats is a challenge these days. I have to sneak a bowl under the car and distract the chickens and scare away the teenage cats.)

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As for our moods -- we are hanging in there! Ed's mood is as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow. Me, I cry every time I read about something good and kind. I can imagine how much it means to the recipient of that warm gesture. (Call me stoic for tough news, though I do have my limit. Today I told Ed that we cannot have late night discussions of the latest pandemic developments. We simply cannot.)

In the evening -- I take out my ball of pizza dough and get to work. I hear that people have been instagramming photos of their sour dough bread creations. Those who do not like to bake or have no time for it are complaining. I get it.  We've actually used a brownie mix, which is very amusing, considering that brownies were probably invented to take the sweat and tears out of baking. Me, I think bread photos are very nice, but we haven't gone there yet, so for now, I'll post a photo of a pizza, with lots of garlic, mushrooms and cheese. Few things, in my mind are more photogenic than melted, slightly browned cheese!

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How about drinks? Where do I fall on the continuum? I read that most New Yorkers who do drinks have been purchasing very large quantities of cheap wine. Elsewhere, I see that many are creating beautiful cocktails, reminding us that in these isolating times, any hour can be a happy hour. Both directions are tempting! But on the other hand, if you want to at least try for a fitful sleep, sticking to your old habits probably is best. A kir is as fancy as I get. And a glass of white is enormously satisfying. With a bowl of warm popcorn, sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan. Sometimes the smallest things have the best impact.

Late evening. I heard that in Missoula, Montana, people come out each evening at 8 p.m. and howl like wolves, to honor the health care workers. I like that idea, though if Ed and I howled out here, no one would hear us. So I'll just say a quiet thanks: to the guy who put flowers in our car today. To all those who keep on loading our cars, delivering our stuff, day in, day out. And of course, to our health care staffs. Always remembering our health care workers.

With love.