This is the post I started yesterday, then completely scrapped just now. Starting over. Same topic. Different words.

Blame the dog park.

You see like the modern urban pet owner, we take our dogs to the dog park. I’ve rambled about it before. It makes “the dogs” happy. It does, but it also makes US happy. It is not just our happiness at seeing the pups bound through the tall prairie grasses and flowers, though I think that sparked a bit of what happened next, it is that WE are happier mucking through the mud, watching the seasons change, wandering where the only path is one designated by the dogs. We like sitting by the pond. We like cutting through the back brush. We like the dog park. 44-acres of puppy/people fun. The dogs come home content. We come home content.

We come home to a dense neighborhood. We come home to a house suited to our basic needs here in Chicagoland and even a house that screams US. We come home to a house that isn’t really what we will need post-young children at home. And we daydream and escape all of it. We’ve long daydreamed. Once upon it was of 5 kids and us together in a home. Then we daydreamed of a slightly better home of our own. We didn’t buy though. Nothing was quite right. Ok, we sort of still think about that house by the airport in Gainesville, that had an indoor pool and a warehouse. (What a great skate park! Place for the big kids to hang out and play their instruments! A big yard! A POOL.) Then since moving to Chicago and knowing before we even moved here that it wasn’t a place that would enfold us as “home,” daydreams of moving south again. Way south.

Not Gainesville. Not Charleston. Not Anderson or Atlanta. Not Charlotte or Asheville. Somewhere different. It got narrowed down to the area on the coast around the Florida/Georgia line. At first there was a lot of Amelia Island and the surrounding area. There are some great, fairly reasonably priced houses. Of course, with a beach house, we need an elevator. No getting Mama up and down long flights of stairs on a regular basis, not to mention the fact that knees are failing here, and none of us is getting younger. A Peter Pan house won’t work for a forever home.

So, we started to winnow into rather interesting but fairly suburban/small town/medium town types of houses. Then the dog park happened. Our search widened again. No longer just price points (below 200K), bedrooms (at least 3), bathrooms (at least 2). It changed from no horrible granite kitchen or bad electricity. Suddenly we were looking at homes with LAND. Yes, land. “For the puppies” Yes, we do daydream about being able to open the door and have the pups bound off and have their tails disappear into the tall grass.

Of course, when looking at houses with land…they often come with other structures. A pole barn. A pump house. A pond. Pasture. Fields. This of course sets my heart to thumping. You see, since I was a youngling, I’ve always wanted a “farm.” My grandfather had one. My mother’s family had tales of them. I lived in Wisconsin and fell in love with cows, gardening, and canning.
Soon the daydream of forever home started to include fruiting trees, bushes, and a big garden. But a stable or barn means…animals. So there prances along my family cow…the Jersey girl I’ve wanted for 20 + years. Then Denise has wanted chickens for a long time. I’m amenable to goats. (mmm fresh goat cheeese!) Ava suggests sheep. RJ suggests pigs. (She’s vegan? What am I going to do with a pig? Besides Denise is NOT of the mind that we will slaughter our critters. Erm…I haven’t told her the hard truths about chickens yet. Or male calves.)

Today I ended up on The Livestock Conservancy site. There I learned of Florida Cracker Cows and Florida Cracker Sheep, which led me to learn about Florida Cracker Horses and Pineywoods Cattle. These are all farm animals that will do well with novices living in a scrubby, hot, wet place. Hmm…the daydreams continue. Yes, we might have priced the Florida Cracker Cows.

Now, Ava asked when she heard of the cow plans, just how long I would like it–a week? And Denise keeps saying we will have to get Christopher to move back in with us to be our farm hand–because we have jobs. I tried to tell her that most farmers do. She pointed out that they weren’t me.

But still we daydream of the perfect house that meets our requirements, has some wild yard for the dogs to bound, room for my garden and for Denise’s fussy 5 flower gardens.

Here is where I talk of escapism. You see, not only is this an escape from loud neighbors or grumpy ones who don’t appreciate the dogs alerting them to the presence of raccoons and skunks, it is a mental escape. Denise can play with her phone and watch the properties on Zillow. She can look up ag land exemptions and ponder just what that is in that picture. I can plot the dream homestead–smaller than The Idyll. I can think of waking up to go milk the cows and let them out to pasture. Skeeter will run beside me and help herd. She’s good at that. We can take a sunset stroll around the property with the dogs. I can milk and tend while Denise washes up the dishes. Dinners will be home baked bread, vegetables we grew and I canned, fruits I preserved, perhaps some meat from our livestock from time to time. I will have some retro joy in this life. And I escape. I escape now to this “simpler world” and I will escape then I think. I block out the work, the illnesses, the fact that even in the south where everyone has an Aunt who lives with her friend from childhood, and they are called “the girls” that we as outsiders will be strange. Goodness knows, we are strange anywhere.

But in the fairy tale land of escape today, it is all good. I will be far away from war, from police killing people for the color of their skin, from violence against transgendered people, from rape, from suicide, from death, from ignorance and hate, from hate toward refugee children, the mentally ill, women, gays, and all the things that ache my heart. Instead my brain is plotting what needs to go in the ground, what needs to be transplanted, how we will build a chicken coop and chicken tractor, whether to have honeybees, how we will tend the goats, sheep, cows. Just a Cracker pony to round up the cattle? Or should we get a pony for the grandchildren?

Yes, a fantasy life to escape the realities. I know it is fantasy. It isn’t as huge of a fantasy as The Idyll. It is more do-able. That makes it an easy way to slip away from obsessing about the pain and sadness in the world. Not for long enough, not enough to obliterate the worry for my family, my friends, for people I have never met and for people I have not yet met. And worst of all, people I can never meet. But in the meantime, I can slip into the escape of a sweet daydream with puppies bounding, cows lowing, and maybe even some sheep baa-ing.

And I won’t think too hard on the fact that my father dreamed of and finally escaped from the farm for many of the same reasons that I want to escape to one.

The Idyll–Christmas

A post about The Idyll at Christmas…and for the holiday season.

On Thanksgiving–we shall gather together all and sundry–the alone, the lonely, the poor, the ones needing family and have them for a meal in a home. That way I can justify a big turkey, pies, cake, table settings, multiple stuffings, a vegan entree, red hot jello, multiple cranberry sauces, sweet potatoes, cranberry bread, dozens of wonderful rolls, cornbread, biscuits, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, fruit fluff. We  remember and share the bounty we enjoy, the harvest, the things for which we give thanks, the things which we must share.

After Joseph’s birthday or Thanksgiving–whichever comes later–the decorating commences. The Flamingo House Idyll has a beautiful tall green tree in the curved window nook made just for the observation of the tree in the front sitting room. (ok–the rest of the year there will be a curved window seat) It is be decorated with all the sundry family ornaments. All those ones that mean something to each of us. Every childhood project, every vacation souvenir ornament, every gifted ornament–all of them. The tree slowly rotates so all can shine. There will be room underneath for a child to crawl under and gaze up through the tree lights at all the magic. Multi-color lights, some bubble lights, the angel with the feathered wings at the top. The front sitting room has, of course,  a fireplace for Santa. There stockings hang by the chimney with care.

A candle on a timer (or magically turns on at sundown) will shine from each window of the house. Large green wreaths with red ribbons festoon the front doors. Garland on the banisters and on the mantles.  In the dining room–Elizabeth and my nativity will hold court–though I am tempted to have a special table made for it and for it to go in the foyer or sitting room.

In the music room, a train runs around the tree there. (though maybe the train runs around the family room tree–decorated with wishes and kind words for each and every one in our lives) The Nutcrackers will march down the halls.

In the community center/recreation center–there is an aluminum tree with a spinning spotlight and retro space age Christmas decor throughout.

In the family room, the forest of all the different colored trees decorated by Denise. I suspect the mouse advent calendar hangs on the wall here.

There will be a holiday brunch. It will be my Mama’s classic holiday brunch–open house like. There will be Crock-pot eggs Benedict and seafood Newburg. Shrimp Noodley Stuff, Toast points. Fresh baked goods. Curried fruit. Ambrosia. Christmas Cookies.  Fruitcake and rum balls. Champagne Punch, Coffee, Eggnog (both dry and liquored.), a punch for the children.

There is a fancy holiday ball in the ball room. Fabulous evening wear, caterers passing delicious treats and drinks. A buffet full of beautiful foods–enough for dinner or light snack between dances. Punch. Egg Nog. Coffee.  Candlelight, chandeliers, a bit of mistletoe. A balcony to step out on for some fresh air. Some lovely seats to rest in or chat with others. There will be a band–but not so loud that one can’t converse. Dancing–reels, waltzes, lovely things.

Outside there is a nativity–I am unsure if the figures are ceramic, cement, or wood. Some of the farm animals will join them in the stable.

One magical evening there will be snow–confined to a sledding hill and an area to build a snow man. Twinkle lights through the woods, perhaps a bonfire and hot cocoa nearby. An ice skating rink? Horses drawn carriage rides through the woods.

The dance barn will have a more country Christmas decor. Strings of cranberries and popcorn. Burlap decorations. A tree for the birds. Each outbuilding will call its own decor or not. The buildings tell the occupants how to dress them for the days of darkness to which we bring light.

After Christmas Eve service in the chapel–a simple service with the birth story of all birth stories and much caroling, the family will gather in the sitting room and open their Christmas Eve pajamas from me. Then we will double check that Santa has a Coke and cookie waiting. There will be a locking and if the kids would like–booby trapping of the doors to the sitting room.

The next morning we will gather on the stairs outside the sitting room. Pictures of the children in their pjs. Pictures of the grandchildren in their pajamas. Pictures of all of the above and whoever else is spending the night as part of the Flamingo House Family Christmas in their Christmas nightwear on the stairs.

Outside the sitting room door, there will be a table with a carafe of coffee and a carafe of hot cocoa. I suppose perhaps some hot water if we’ve tea drinkers that year. There will be mugs for each person.

Then the doors will be checked for tampering. Then unlocked. Did Santa come? Yes! But how? Down the chimney of course. Magic. Don’t think too much of the secrets of the Idyll. A bit of glitter. A bit of magic.

I light the fire laid the night before…with the magic salts that change the colors of the flames. Then the stockings will be tackled. The Santa bags gathered from the hearth. They sit there unmolested since no pet can disturb them overnight. The unveiling of the Santa gifts. Then opening each of the other gifts. Homemade gifts from one to another–carefully thought out and decided upon. Meaningful. The quirky gifts. A game. A puzzle. A book for each.

To be continued…

The Idyll-The Beginning

I have this wee daydream plaguing me. Ok, it is a HUGE daydream. The best I can describe it in two words is “Hippie Versailles.”

I need to write it out though and maybe it will live on the screen and stop invading every moment. Maybe it will go from a daydream to something real. Maybe it will just become a collective daydream. I have no idea.

I know it is excessive. Expensive. Beyond reasonable.
All I know is I think “I am almost done with having a big family at home. We are reclusive sorts. We just will need a smallish home with enough room for the kids when they decide to visit.” I think tiny home. Or a smallish (or as they were known “mid-century” moderate size home)

But this space is one that begs for family, friends, and people I don’t know. It seems to be called “The Idyll” but I am unsure exactly why. It is saying “build it and the ones who need it will come and it is what you need as well.” I am unsure if those are whispers of truth or whispers of muse or ?

I thought I would start with the house with a fabulous bedroom, hot water, and a conservatory. That has been pushed away. I will instead start with the grounds. Roughly. I won’t spoil the rest. Then I will go section by section.

The grounds.

There will be a homestead type farm. In the farmhouse will live a great farm family that I haven’t met yet. They will know what to do and how to tend the creatures and the crops.

The crops will be food crops and there will be a lot of helpers to do the work under the direction of the farm family. There will be cows. Jerseys. Maybe some belted galloways. There will be riding horses and retired horses. There will be sheep and alpaca. There will be chickens. I suspect there will be some turkeys and a heritage pig or two.

The grounds will have creeks to explore, bike paths, bridle paths, places to wanders, trees and fairy rings. I suspect if you are really special you might find a special tree house hidden in the woods. The grounds will have forest and swimming holes.

There is an orchard–fruits and nuts of many types.

There are berry bushes. There are strawberries–not the commercially viable sort–but the smallish ones that make you smile when you taste them.

There is a boxwood labyrinth, (most likely a left handed one) with a fountain in the center.

There is an herb garden–garden herbs and medicinal.

There is an area thick with azaleas.

There is a Japanese garden-complete with koi, islands, zen meditation rock garden, bonsai and a tea house, of course.

A path with daffodils, hyacinth, tulips, and crocus. That path, the ones to the herbs and to the azaleas will be easily wheelchair accessible.

A wee beach. (We need to talk beach more later I think but I know that the grounds have at least a wee private beach.)

There’s a gazebo of course–with fairy lights.

There’s a beautiful field that fills with wildflowers in season.

There is a field that can be home to casual sports games, but will work for concerts and parties.

That is all for tonight. I tried not to mention any buildings yet–but know that they are coming. Many. One for you I think.

Let me know if I should hide this daydream away on a private blog or if I can just continue it here.



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