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Down on the farm

When Drew and I were on our honeymoon (of which I need to write and post pics), we agreed that every six weeks or so, we would take a weekend trip somewhere. Just to get away from everything, silly as it may seem for newlyweds to need to get away.

This past weekend marked six weeks since we returned from our glorious trip to St. Thomas. It’s incredibly hard to believe that the wedding everyone stressed and slaved over for months is already nearly two months behind me!

One of the things that first made me think Drew was a sympathetic soul was his love of the middle of nowhere. On our first date, he asked where I was from. I started describing my childhood home in the Central Valley, saying I missed the mountains desperately. He said he understood, that the mountains were what he missed most from his time in Arizona. I remember being a little surprised that this city boy from the prairie spoke so warmly of my beloved rugged wilderness.

The farmhouse at twilight.
The farmhouse at twilight.
A few weeks after we started dating, he started talking about how much he wanted to go visit his family’s farm in Wisconsin. It wasn’t appropriate, I thought, to go spend a weekend there alone. After we got engaged, he said more than once, “I can’t wait to take you up to the farm.”

So this weekend, finally, we went.

It was glorious.

Since we intended to leave mid-Friday afternoon, I arranged to work from home, planning to work via iPhone hotspot in the car for a few hours. Thursday evening, driving home from a church event, I said I was looking forward to getting away. “Let’s just go now,” I joked.

“You want to? I’m serious, do you want to?”

So at 10 p.m., we took off. That sort of impulsive move doesn’t come naturally to either of us, which may have been why it felt so very adventurous. We had a gourmet dinner at McDonald’s around midnight. Both of us felt just a little bit guilty for thinking it was so tasty (but in our defense, they fried fries just for us!).

The lights got thinner and thinner as we approached 2 a.m. Suddenly, Drew drove off the road into a lawn, and I saw the stone walls of a house ahead. He announced that we had arrived.

A light drizzle was falling as he got out to find the key. He came back without it.

Ten minutes later, after searching around in the dirt under the unit, the grass around the unit, the doormat, and a variety of other unrelated areas, Drew gave up and called his dad. “Sometimes he’s up at weird hours,” he said. “He doesn’t normally sleep near his phone.” I mentally prepared myself to sleep in the car. Not that it would have taken much to get me to fall asleep at that point; not being in the drizzle would have been good enough!

I was relieved to hear, “Hi, Dad!”

It was past 3 in the morning when we finally fell asleep on the squeaky queen-sized bed downstairs. (Have you ever shared a queen bed with a six-foot-six man?) It felt wonderful.

Working at a coffee shop never results in overcaffeination.
Working at a coffee shop never results in overcaffeination.
The next morning was almost a tragic one.

“We forgot to bring the coffee maker. And all that’s here is a percolator and a can of Folger’s.”

We were both pleasantly surprised by the lack of burntness in the finished product. (So tolerable was the product that we used the percolator for the rest of the weekend.) To sit and sip and hear nothing but birds and the occasional truck fly past on the two-lane road outside: that is the best part of waking up.

But it was Friday, and we both needed to work. However, we soon discovered that three bars of Edge created a hotspot that made dial-up speeds desirable. After the second phone call Drew go interrupted even this snail-like service, we headed into “town” to see if we could find a coffee shop.

Couldn't have been more than eight people there.
Couldn’t have been more than eight people there.
As luck would have it, the nearby town of Green Lake has precisely one coffee shop: Sugar Lips. Up the stairs, past the giant white concrete planters molded like the lower half of a woman’s face (sporting bright pink lips, of course), we found a spacious, comfortable shop devoid of any life. The shopkeeper didn’t even seem to be about. We set up shop anyway, just as the older lady who apparently owned the place came in with scones fresh from the oven. Small-town USA is sometimes a very tasty place.

Dinner, Wisconisn-style
Dinner, Wisconisn-style.
We stayed there for the next six hours or so, drinking the most delicious coffee and eating scones (and doing work), watching the town and its visitors come and go. Finally, when the shop closed at 5, we wandered, a little dazed and a little coffee-hungover, to a tiny local farmers’ market. Drew nearly couldn’t contain his excitement for Macintosh apples, and I bought peaches for cobbler while trying not to bounce to the accordion music coming from the lawn.
There were no stars that night: it was overcast and cloudy. But there was New Glarus beer and fresh cheese curds for dinner. The loudest noise was the crickets, chirping slowly due to the onset of chilly weather.

He actually shared the deep-fried curds with me. Now that's love.
He actually shared the deep-fried curds with me. Now that’s love.
The next morning, after percolator coffee and fresh apples, we drove into Princeton, a town of about 1300, for “the largest weekly flea market in Wisconsin.” Despite the brisk weather, the little town square was packed to the gills with bundled-up folks hawking everything from “stuff we found in our garage” to bison jerky. The scene-stealer, by far, was the deep-fried cheese curds. I do not know HOW I have lived this long without experiencing the wonder that is deep-fried cheese. I was expecting it to be battered and doughy, somewhat like a corndog, but the batter it had on it was so thin as to be indistinguishable from the cheese itself. Salty, stringy, chewy, and hot on a cold day, they are a treat from which I am glad I am several hundred miles removed.

We bummed around the flea market until early afternoon, picking up cheese less than a day old, jerky, fresh brussels sprouts and onions for that evening’s baked potatoes. For the remaining ingredients, we hit the only grocery store in town: Sherm’s Piggly Wiggly. Oh, the Midwest!

Upon depositing our piggly goods at home, Drew offered to give me a tour of the property. It was chilly still, so we took the Jeep off-roading. Tall, late-season grass whipped over the hood. Had it not been so cold, I would have been reminded very much of the place I grew up, with the rolling hills, the oak trees, and the sound of semi-trucks engine-braking in the distance. We stopped near the back of the property to explore a ravine that Drew said has always been his favorite part of the property. It was obvious why: the sunlight through the trees made the place feel like an enchanted forest, and the multitude of tall, thin trees dampened any sound. I found myself speaking barely above a whisper. Only when we started to get cold did we leave.

That evening I cooked bacon and brussels sprouts and potatoes, and peach cobbler. Drew played sous chef, and then played his guitar while I finished. There’s something so lovely about being disconnected, with nothing more pressing than arranging peaches just so in a pie pan.

Sunday, before we made our way back to civilization, Drew decided he wanted to attempt to find “the old farm.” His grandfather, who bought the farm we stayed on in the early ’90s, purchased another farm a few miles away decades earlier. The family was trying to sell it, now, and Drew’s dad was close to closing a deal. Drew’s best guess was that he hadn’t been back in ten years or more. His memory is just as photographic as mine, though, and got us there after only three or four wrong turns and a phone call to his dad.

A few small, dilapidated buildings were all that were left after the farmhouse burned down in years prior. The land was much different than the farm a few miles away: near a lake, this ground was much sandier and marshier. When we got tired of bushwhacking, we returned to the outbuildings. Drew showed me where the grapevines his grandfather planted behind the farmhouse still grew. We poked our heads into the remaining shed and found remnants of occupants long gone: a ’60s-era tube TV, an old boat, some mostly destroyed study paintings by Drew’s grandmother.

We left after that, and turned rather unwillingly back to Chicago.

“I wish we could spend summers here,” I said, in much the same tone I’d used Thursday night when I said I wished we were on our way to Wisconsin.

“Honey, I am so down with that.”

Maybe someday we’ll find a way to make it work.

Drew on the old farm
Drew on the old farm

Published in Antics Family