Posted: Jan 6, 2012
March was dry and warm. The Galts were baling the winter grass while Elke fine cut the outfield and edged around the infield. She was thinking about the strange behavior of one of the adult owls. First, it had introduced her to two new owlets. Then it began a habit of dropping a mouse in her lap every time she visited.
She mentioned it to Rafi. He told her the owl thought she had no one to hunt food for her, so it was doing it for her, since she was an old friend. She thought he was humoring her. One night when they rode out together, the owl came with the mouse. When it saw she wasn't alone, the bird went up on a limb and ate it.
He saw subtleties where she saw the big picture and group dynamic. He didn't compete with her, he complemented her. He had volunteered to dig out the stone grotto with a horse and wheel.
"It may take a couple years, but it can be done." he told her.
Tonight she was alone. Rafi told her he had errands, but would meet her at the house for coffee before he went home. That, too, she thought. He hasn't tried to move in either.
In fact, Rafi had met with Romy before the Board meeting and had another meeting afterwards.
The Board meeting was a typical rowdy late winter affair. The agenda included proposals for a Senior Living area, expansion of the Montessori school from pre-K and Kindergarten to six grades, a par three golf course, garages, a soccer field, more houses, and basketball courts, and an off road vehicles track. There was also a discussion of lowering some of the fees based on the large increase in visitor revenue.
Karl vetoed the track. "It'll spook the animals and sour the milk," he said.
The school idea was also rejected. "Our local system has proven to be one of the best in the state. There is no overcrowding. Heidi has proven to be an outstanding transition teacher for Farm children. For the quality of school we would want, it would also be very expensive." Romy told them.
The soccer field and basketball courts were approved. House lots had been plotted out. All they needed now was buyers. A design for a senior co-op unit would be submitted for the next meeting and the garages erected when
a location that would pass environmental muster was found. They also announced that Melody would be buying Sven and Heidi's house when their
new one was completed.
When they adjourned, Karl rushed off.
"Anything wrong?" Romy asked.
"No. Inga just called and said someone was at the house to see us. See you later." Romy smiled.
Rafi was pacing on the front porch. Inga told Karl she had offered him coffee, even a drink, but he refused. "He is not like this." she said.
Karl went up to him and said, "Let's get to the point. You want to ask Elke to be your wife and you've come to ask our permission. I'm impressed. Only Romy's husband did this. My sons and Marta told us afterwards. "
"Thank you, and yes, that's why I'm here."
"You know Elke is brilliant, independent, driven and impatient. That she will love you as she loves life, with great intensity. That she will need time to herself, to think and to observe. That her inner child will do crazy things because it is fun. And if you betray her trust, there will be no one on this earth who can save you."
"Yes, and she was rather graphic about the last part. The rest is part of life. She also said she would not go against your wishes if you said no.
She said the two of you knew her and would make the right decision."
Karl and Inga went inside for a few minutes, and then invited Rafi in.
He had passed the first test.
Reed lost his bet. The woman in Florida had offered a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on. Within a month, she had the names: a man from Caracas, one from Tokyo, another from Toronto and a Russian woman from Brighton Beach. The investigations in the loan offices led to fines and a few indictments as well as new loans being written. The principals lost
money, but claimed no knowledge of crimes being committed.
"They all touch base every week. The only one he is afraid of more than you
is the Russian woman. She makes him stutter. The guy from Tokyo is coming over in May. The one in Toronto also has an office in Buffalo. What do we do in the meantime?"
"Check them out. All rats leave trails. Be careful with the Russian rat. They have longer sharper teeth."
Posted: Jan 7, 2012
|Karl was watching Barry and his crew build Sven's new home. At coffee break, he asked him,|
"Why do you think the new lots are moving so slowly? The prices are reasonable and we build solid energy efficient homes."
"After you put a moratorium on building, a lot of people called me to put up fencing and shrubbery to make their yards private enough for home nudity. A few also added sunrooms. For those with young children, it is a lot easier to send them out in the back yard instead of packing up the car and driving here."
"Makes sense. They usually come for Women's Wednesday, and the big weekends, but otherwise not so much. With all the extra visitors, though, the Pond is still crowded. Still, I miss them."
Barry finished. "Don't worry. Pretty soon, a lot of the older kids will be starting their own families. Mike Snowe is one, Maia, Sam and Janet's girls, and don't forget your grandchildren."
"Ja, houses for the great grandchildren. I feel better now." Karl said as he headed home.
Bekka had finished the initial design for the Senior Living model. It had four bedrooms, three handicapped accessible baths, a community kitchen and living area.
"I spoke with Eric. He said he could set up a system where they can all watch different programs and listen to different music at whatever volume they want. They have an ear receiver to listen, so those who have hearing loss can crank it up without driving everyone else crazy."
"Good. Hopefully we can get approval at the next meeting and get started. You ran these by Jen, right?"
"Of course. Now Truman and Jack said they were interested, and that couple near Missy."
"What about Al Peterson?"
"Oh, Maddy and he are getting married next week and she's moving in with him. When they find another place, they are selling theirs to Dora."
"Speaking of Dora, how is 'No Love for Us' doing?"
Bekka replied, "Naomi is pleased. Groups are meeting on their own, usually at Edna's after work. Those with kids babysit for each other when one of them goes out. Melody met someone running through the woods training for the 10k race on Memorial Day. Even my sister and I have gone out a few times. So, what do you think about Elke's engagement?"
"I like him. I met him in New Mexico and thought they'd be great for each other. Mom, Dad, Sven and Karl has approved. Now we are waiting for Marta."
Marta and her belly were under the sink tightening the water hoses and securing the new sprayer. Elke was passing her tools.
"So what makes this one so special? Other than his obvious attributes."
"He doesn't mind hard work and physical labor. He likes to walk and explore. Dr. Paul wasn't into it after wrestling with sick animals all day.
We talk. A lot. You know how close I am to living things in nature. So is he, although he sees thing differently. Neither of us wants to stop learning. Most of all, he accepts me as I am, calloused feet and all."
"I doubt if it was your feet that attracted him, you goddess. Now pull your fat pregnant sister out of here. I'm done."
The two women sat on the floor looking at each other. Marta said, "Go for it. Momma's going to want pictures of you with a ring on for the Mother's Day portrait. One other thing. If he is ever bad to you, I will boil and barbecue him like in "Fried Green Tomatoes".
Heidi had slowed down. She rode the cart instead of scampering from place to place. Yet she never missed a day of school or an assignment. She showed her first graders her ultrasound at 'Show and Tell'.
"I'm having trouble going around corners now," she told Sven, "but school is over in six weeks and the baby is due in seven. By the time we go to the Cape and Granite Lake, I should be back to normal. I'll need to be if Josie and Marta go into labor out there. "
Marta was adamant about going. She told her mother that while she and Josie would look like two beached whales, they didn't care.
"Helicopters can land on the beach and take us right to the hospital if they have to. Nothing to worry about."
Meanwhile, Reed and his team had compiled a large file on each of the four
"What can we do with all this? If we arrest them, there will be a big diplomatic stink and they will run away and hide." said the treasury man.
"I think we can pick them off one by one, at least the ones not from here.
Just have to convince them it isn't profitable. I think the guy from Toronto was just looking for a warm place to spend the winter. That leaves the czarina from Brooklyn."
Reed asked, "Any of you still have friends in the Foreign Service? Not Putin's guys. The reasonable ones. My DEA friend here thinks she has something that might help us. We only have six weeks now until they are all here. Be vigilant. Watch what you say to people. Remember we are not just getting rid of bad people. Two little girls’ futures are at stake."
Jen and her family spent the winter peacefully, unaware that armed cross-country skiers and snowmobiles were patrolling the perimeter of Heartland.
Elke got her ring the day before Mother's Day, which made Inga's portrait
session a success.
Elke endured it all with good humor. Then she stopped. "I have exams to correct and grades to turn in. As soon as I'm done, Rafi and I are going bird and animal watching in New Mexico for a week. We thank you all for everything, but we have to go."
That evening, Reed got a call.
"The rats are all here. They have booked flights to Florida for the end of the week. Things should start moving."
Reed wondered if he would be ready.
Posted: Jan 8, 2012
|Reed received the call two days after Mother's Day.|
"They will be here on Friday. They want to meet you at a villa outside of town."
"Nope. Too remote. I want a more public place. I think the conference room at The Oasis would be perfect. We can tour the place after we talk."
"But everyone will have to be naked?"
"That's right. It is a nudist resort we are buying. Get back to me when you have it arranged."
He spoke into the mike after he hung up. "You have no problem with that, do you?" He heard chortling in the background.
"Of course not. I'll be a distraction while I'm checking them out," said the woman from Florida.
At least one of them will let something slip."
"I read all your reports. The Japanese guy could be an ally. He is a tough businessman but squeaky-clean. Hates the Yakuza.
Senor is looking for a place to go into exile. The current regime is very unhappy with him. He dabbles in the cocaine market, but we don't have much on him there. His wife is a home nudist and the kids dress when they feel like it.
Toronto is a regional crook who hates the cold. He wants to get a gambling license for The Oasis and add an escort service as well.
The czarina runs a payday loan and cash checking operation. Loans on the side to the Russian community at reasonable interest, but off the books.
The Oasis with gambling would be a great opportunity for her to expand her influence. Her front is a ballet and gymnastics school. I figure she's more likely to threaten children that any of the other ones."
"We'll go look at Toronto's Buffalo operation while he is away. As far as the Russians, no one will talk. Have to track down people who have moved out the last few years."
"Do that." Reed said. "I'm booking a room at the Oasis for the weekend. Any messages go through Eric. Back to work, everyone."
Elke finished the semester and headed off to New Mexico with Rafi. They rode nude horseback, hiked the nature trails and made love under the stars.
They had set the date for December 31st.
"Can't think of a better way to start off a new year." she told him.
"Or to end an old one," Rafi added.
Heidi finished school on Tuesday, went into labor on Thursday, delivering that night while Reed was on the plane. Mikkel Sven had arrived. Within a week, mother and baby were scooting around the Farm.
Melody approached Karl one afternoon. She said she loved the house but felt closed in. "I know I might seem picky, but I'm not used to the hustle and bustle around here. Could you reserve that last lot for me?"
"How soon would you want to build?" Karl asked.
"I spoke to Maia and she will need a place to stay after Elke gets married. She's planning on moving to Edna's, but I think she'd be much happier here. A house the same size. Can you get it done by the wedding?"
"No later than early spring. But you have to promise to get a dog for protection. I don't want you out there alone."
Mike Snowe had been traded to Sacramento after spring training. He lived in one of the motel units during home stands, pitched batting practice to Bix and started dating one of the women from 'No Love for Us'.
"It isn't all fun," Mike said, "You're at the ball park at noon for a six o'clock game. Long bus rides, sometimes with no air conditioning. Crummy hotels, fast food, bumps and bruises. I'm a pitcher so I get a little slack. This organization isn't as well off as the last one, so there are few frills. Still, I'll put up with it if it means I get to the show."
Bix impressed him. He told Jud, "He does the work. With a little luck,
he could be great." Cheyenne overheard them and thought, "He doesn't need any luck. He has me."
Marta had recommended Gaby Snowe to take her place modeling at the college.
"I'm going to be teaching a decorating class and swimming here so I can take the children with me."
Polly had kept a close watch on Edna. She saw the loneliness in her eyes.
"Not many of us left. We all had a good run. It's good to watch the tapes
and listen to us talk about all the fun we had. Sometimes I think they are
still here. Romy still comes and we talk. I think part of the reason she went back to school is that our little history fascinated her and led her to dig up everything we tried to hide. The nurses are great and our new American citizen and soon to be, doctor Maia is wonderful. Still, if it weren't for you and Romy, I'd have probably given up already."
Polly replied. "Spend whatever time you have left enjoying yourself. I don't care if it is in the past, present or future. You are bright enough to find ways to be amused."
Posted: Jan 9, 2012
|Reed received the call on Thursday.|
"Everything is set. I had to do some haggling to get time for the guy from Buffalo to play golf. I have a lady friend who also plays so that makes four. Do you know anyone who plays tennis? The czarina is looking for a doubles partner."
"I play passably."
"Good. I'll sign you up in the over 45 division."
"I'll be there Friday. I'll contact you when I get in."
After he hung up, he commented, “You’ve become more talented over the years. Golf, too?"
"Eight handicap. I'm always finding ways to meet new people. This way I get to flirt and you get Madame all to yourself." the woman from Florida replied.
Reed wrapped up the meeting, booked his flight and went to tell his wife.
"I will have backup. The meeting will be at The Oasis. When we're done, I'll come right home."
Their lovemaking that night was intense and clinging. A daughter was conceived.
Jud and Sally were staying home this summer after the previous year's
"We'll take it easy, and help Karl and Jeannine while Heidi and Sven are away. Inga will need help for Elke's wedding. Papa Karl and I take more time to get things done now. Staying home means we can pace ourselves."
"Bix has two weeks of camp this year. He will be playing with much older boys for the first time. We need to give him our support." Sally replied.
"Don't forget our daughter. She needs us as well."
Maddy and Al got married by Ursula outside Harmony House the day before Reed left.
"No fuss, no big crowds. We're just celebrating with close friends," said Maddy. The happiest of all was Angie. Her mother was moving out.
Edna kept reminiscing. "Remember, Polly, when we all started going out to the Pond during the war. With all the rationing, we didn't have gas or tires to go very far. There was no silk for stockings; it was all going to make parachutes. We witches had just gotten out of school; Portia and Cordelia were newlyweds whose husbands enlisted after Pearl Harbor. We all did stuff for the war effort. It didn't matter if you were rich or poor, there were a lot of women alone who banded together and prayed every day they wouldn't be getting a telegram from the War Department."
She pulled out one of the albums. "Look here. There's Heidi's two grandmothers, Ursula's mother, Ophelia's sister who died in a car crash,
the Galt's parents, the four of us and the scrawny one with the Nehi bottle is you."
They were all nude and smiling.
Romy was over her shoulder. "What happened to all the other little kids in the pictures, Polly?"
"Most of them are gone now, but a lot met GI's after the war and moved away. I get Christmas cards from the ones that are left because it was a unique time for all of us."
"What about the nudity? Didn't anyone complain?"
"There were a few comments about brazen hussies, but the comments stopped
the day Portia got up in church and asked the pastor, which was worse, sunbathing nude while writing letters to the men overseas, or browbeating parishioners for gas ration coupons for his wife's convertible. That shut him up."
Romy saw one shot. "Polly, I know that is Josiah and your mother, but is that older woman your grandmother?"
"Yep, the woman from Oregon. Even at that age and with the hard early life
she had, she was still attractive."
"Well, we know the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Edna, the four of you weren't too shabby looking either."
Edna replied, "Our brains were prettier, but we didn't mind the attention the outside got. We enjoyed ourselves with our men as much as you do with yours. We talked about it too, but only with close friends who could keep secrets. It seems like everyone knows who does what to whom and how many times these days."
Romy looked at Polly. "Should we tell everyone she's not really going deaf?"
"No, dear. She's using her brain she's having fun. She knows which secrets to keep."
Edna laughed. "Indeed, I do. Now let's have a glass of wine before my nap."
Reed's flight landed in early evening. Karl and Em recommended an Italian restaurant Jeannine had taken them to years ago. It was still in business. The food was excellent.
He checked in at The Oasis. He had just settled in when the door knocked.
It was an attractive woman in her 40s.
"You haven't changed much except for the blond hair."
"I appreciate the flattery. Do you have my gift?"
He handed her a pair of earrings.
"It's only audio but I figure we can get pictures from the security cams.
Where's your friend?"
"He's at home with his wife. He'll be here sucking up to everyone around
ten. He'll be leading the caravan from the villa in the morning."
"Good. You'd better rest. We have to be sharp tomorrow."
"I'm married now and I need to have a think." He said good night and gently closed the door.
Posted: Jan 11, 2012
|The following morning was hot. Reed ate a light breakfast and took a walk. He stopped at the entrance to the hotel and checked with security.|
"You checked with the sheriff's office. We can prohibit all firearms."
"Yes, sir. We also run all bags through the metal detector for other possible weapons. The sheriff has been good enough to loan us an officer for backup."
"Thank you. You have a nice place here and I wouldn't want anything to happen which would
damage its reputation."
They arrived a little after nine. Reed watched them from his room. Each of the four had a driver, two had a security person and the real estate man drove alone. At the checkpoint, there was animated conversation. The Russian woman took two baskets, gave one to her driver. The two women undressed, put their belongings on the conveyor belt and walked into the resort. Mr. Tokyo did the same. His driver undressed but stayed by the car. They were fit and without tan lines. The real estate man followed suit.
Senor was arguing with his driver. He pointed at the gate. The man left. Senor got nude showing a Speedo tan line and went in.
"Better than TV", Reed chuckled.
The man from Canada wouldn't let go of his bag.
His driver, a local escort, got impatient, removed her shoes and dress, put them on the belt with her beach bag and pirouetted through the entrance. The man's bag went back in the trunk. His pasty white body entered the Oasis.
The security people remained outside.
They were waiting in an anteroom when he arrived.
The Russian woman rose and shook his hand, as did the others. She asked, "Do you mind if my assistant sweeps the room for bugs? "
"Go right ahead. My real estate friend here has brought a stenographer, one that knows how to use an old-fashioned electric typewriter. This will be our record. She will stay on the premises and will turn over the typewriter and stenographer tapes before she leaves. There will be no computer records. Is that acceptable?"
It was. The sweep was finished and the meeting began.
Back at the Farm, Elke and Rafi had begun digging
earth from above the cave. Romy had done test borings and found that in most places the earthen cover was only eighteen inches to two feet.
."It's going to take a while. You are doing it by hand, and Elke will want to photograph and notate every crawling thing she sees. Once I get an idea of how deep it is at the top, I can take porosity readings as to relative strength and stability. Once that is finished, I suspect we will be able to dig out the entrance again. If there is sufficient good air in there we
can leave it open." Romy explained.
"Now, Elke, remember, you have to check in with Mom about the wedding. I know you have it all in your head, but she needs to write everything down to make her list. You know how it is. Have you decided who your maid of honor will be yet?"
"I will keep Momma in the loop, just to keep peace. Maia will be my maid of honor and she is going to catch the bouquet, understand? Heidi and Sven will take pictures, Marta will cook, and you and Karl will make sure everything runs smoothly." Elke said.
"Rafi, you aren't going to run away from us, are you? Just because we think living nude is wonderful, do outrageous things and have a lot of fun?" Romy asked.
"No, I find you and your family very refreshing. You look at ways to make new ideas work instead of giving reasons why they wouldn’t. You enjoy life. To an artist like myself, it is a wonderful situation. When things get crazy, or when Elke needs to slow down, we will go to New Mexico to unwind."
"Perfect," Romy thought.
The meeting lasted two hours. There was a review of events for Reed's benefit, an examination of the maps and pictures of The Oasis, and discussion of a new offer being made to the owners.
"Madame and gentlemen, I walked the grounds this morning and these pictures do not do justice to what they have to offer. I suggest that
those who are playing golf later in the day take a look at everything
while they wait to hit. Madame, I would recommend a riding tour after our
tennis match. It usually rains in mid-afternoon. The golfers are the last foursome and we have the court at six o'clock. In the meantime, I suggest a light lunch and the afternoon to rest or contact home."
They all agreed. The Russian woman spoke.
"From now on I am not Madame or the czarina. I am Nedezdha Volchitsa.
Either Neddy or Volchitsa will do."
Reed nodded. Her first name was that of Lenin's wife. The last translated to 'wolf'. He remembered from listening to Elke and Polly that wolves could never be domesticated.
Posted: Jan 12, 2012
|They were eating lunch while it rained. Reed and the four other investors were at one table. The real estate man, the woman from Florida, the Russian, Japanese, local women, and one security man at another. They were giggling at the Toronto man's constant effort to keep his napkin over his lap.|
The Hispanic man told him to relax.
"They are just people on vacation, but without clothing. You don't see wild sex parties in the open. They go to their room with their wives and girl friends like everyone else."
Neddy added, "After the war, no one had money in Russia for many years. Even dance and gymnastics classes were held nude to save the costumes for competitions."
Reed saw an opening.
"I spoke with the manager at the residential area a while ago, and she said our real estate man had delivered a message threatening the owner's children if they did not sell."
"The Yakuza would do this, but they are yaban, savages. I would dishonor my family if I approved of such a thing."
Neddy answered, "As part of my business I sometimes lend money to countrymen who do not wish to use banks. I add the payment to the charges for classes. If they don't pay, their children are withheld from meets, which can get them sponsor money if they perform well. I do not need to make threats of physical violence."
"Not me. I am here for golf, women and sun. That would be too much work." Toronto replied.
Reed knew one of them was lying, but let it pass.
"Then you should have your agent speak more carefully or get another one. Enough of this. I need a nap and a massage if I am to keep up with Neddy. I will see you all later."
Lunch ended. He had planted some seeds.
The "No Love for Us" group celebrated their six-month anniversary by
having a party for two departing members.
One had met a man through her work. He lived an hour away. Over the months, they had gone out twice a week and talked about everything.
"When I mentioned I hated wearing bathing suits and cleaned house in the nude, he didn't blink an eye. One Saturday he showed up, took off his clothes and helped me clean. He even did the bathroom. From then on, we've been monogamous. I'll be showing him off Memorial Day weekend at the Farm."
The other, a single mom, had met her man at a flea market. They started fighting over a piece of furniture, which he eventually bought. She offered to buy him lunch to show there were no hard feelings.
"Things can get pretty tense in the heat of battle, but that's part of the fun. Sometimes you win and sometimes not."
They started seeing each other. One day he came to visit while the children were nude in the backyard pool. All he said to her was
he bet the kids were a lot cooler outside than they were.
"Within two weeks, we were all nude in the pool. It is going to take a while to get him nude in public, but I'm happy he is comfortable at my house." she beamed.
Most were dating. The rest were at least happy with more men in their swarm when they went out together.
They ganged up on Naomi. "You have been working with us so much you've neglected yourself. Even Bekka has come out with us and met people. For the summer, only monthly meetings here. No groups or one on ones. We are taking you shopping, to the beach, to clubs, anywhere but your house."
They played two sets and were tied in the third when their time ran out.
They were equal at the net. Reed served better and Neddy had more range on the baseline. Their opponents were the Russian driver and the female assistant of the Japanese investor.
"They weren't easy on us, but I suspect our subtleties balanced their youth and raw skill."
The Russian replied, "Like in business. The young and foolish sometimes do things that are not necessary. I believe I know the source of our problem and it will be dealt with. But not here."
The golfers returned in good humor. They had played well, gotten in 18 holes and no one had lost more than $10.
The following day they toured the grounds, had one more meeting and agreed to meet again in mid-September.
"We will restructure the deal with a number of options. We will also put in writing that no further threats will be made either directly or indirectly against the seller or her family." the man from Latin America said. He looked at the real estate man. "You are to tell the other three if any one of us breaks that last item. Understood?"
The man nodded. The group had brunch the following day. Reed headed home.
The audio transcripts proved interesting."The Senor and Mr. Tokyo's voice readings indicated they were telling the truth. Neddy and the Canadian were not in all instances." the analyst told the group.
Reed said, "We shall watch. I suspect there will only be three of them at the next meeting."
Posted: Jan 17, 2012
|The response to Karl and Polly's idea of a family arm to the Farm community proved interesting. In addition to the Hanlon's from Kansas, there was the family in Vermont who ran a small business and couldn't close for a week during the summer, one from Montana, another from British Columbia. There were also a dozen groups of two to four families in remote areas.|
"Aren't you worried about inappropriate behavior?" asked Inga. "We want people who believe in the naturist lifestyle like we do."
"People will let us know if they are," Karl said. "Either through our website or direct communication. There are many different types of folks under the naturist umbrella. Young people look at the world differently and are more accepting of differences than our parents or some our age. They want a tie to other naturists without having to belong to a club. Like the Young Nudists here. Besides, we will send the children to check them out over time."
Memorial Day and June flew by. Marta, now entering her final month of pregnancy, was getting very uncomfortable. Her ankles were swollen, her sugar was high and there was more bleeding. Josie was concerned.
"Are you sure you want to go to the Cape?" she asked. "Maybe we can switch with someone who is going after the baby is born."
"Nope. There are two good hospitals on the Cape. I need to be at the ocean. Ike and the guys will be there when we are. You don't think they'd let anything happen to either of us, do you, Buddha belly?"
"I suppose not."
"Momma told me the same thing happened to her when she had Sven and Elke. She just told me when the contractions start move. They popped out less than three hours after the first one. If it is placenta praevia, they will probably have to perform a C-section."
They arrived at their cottage in mid-July. The women were driven back and forth from the beach twice a day. The children were happy, the parents more relaxed.
Ike had a feeling he couldn't shake. He insisted on the night shift, where the smell of his cigars filled the summer nights as he sat or paced.
Thursday of the second week, he heard a scream about 3 AM. It was Marta. She had had her first contraction. There was a pool of blood on the bed. Ike, having delivered babies as a policeman, barked orders. Rescue made it to Hyannis in forty minutes. An hour later, Peter Desautel arrived and was immediately put in an incubator. Marta needed three pints of blood.
By the time Josie delivered three days later, Marta had stabilized and Peter was happily breastfeeding.
"No more," Eric said. "The doctors said you might not make it the next time. I keep having terrible nightmares about what life would be without you. The oven is closed."
Marta didn't argue.
No one at the Farm found about Marta's adventure until much later. Sven and Heidi had moved into their new home. Maia had moved into their old house. Construction on the senior living unit and Melody's cottage continued.
Cheyenne and Bix went to Heartland for a week, under the watchful eye of Greta. Elke had received a picture of fifteen behinds with "Toto's Girls"
and a little dog tattooed on one cheek with a message from Sam saying,
Borings and porosity readings had shown that the rock was safely thick. Apparently, the water came from underground and posed no threat to the walls and ceiling. The entrance to the grotto was opened. The influx of fresh air made breathing healthy. Solar and battery powered lanterns provided light without burning up oxygen. It became the cool place to go on exceptionally warm days.
Reed had received the documentation pertaining to the safety of Jen and her family. Security was cut in half. There were no incidents. In mid-July,
he received a message from the realtor stating that the Canadian partner had withdrawn from the partnership because of "unforeseen financial difficulties". Now there were three.
He knew his animus towards Neddy was excessive. However, he never forgot the stories his grandmother had told him about her experiences in World War I.
Her family lived in East Prussia, now Poland. Most had moved to America. Only she and her grandmother were left. The Kaiser's army was driven back in 1915 and the Russians occupied, pillaged their village and raped most of the women. She was 12, and escaped by hiding in various root cellars.
Others her age, and her grandmother, weren't so lucky.
It was a short occupation. Troubles in Moscow and a concerted effort by the Empire put the village back to the Germans, who treated them well.
A far different story than the atrocities by both sides in the next war.
By then, she was an American. She was safe. Not so many of her family, who were victims of Hitler and then Stalin.
His black mood was broken when Romy kissed him. He would be a father again, a blessing he never expected at his age.
Still, Neddy the Wolf could not be trusted. He would remain vigilant.
Posted: Jan 20, 2012
Everyone was coming back from vacation. Marta came back with her brood first. Peter was held and spoiled by the women, licked by Boris and Natasha, while Karl just watched him and smiled.
Heidi and Sven were next. Since they hadn't had a vacation since their honeymoon, they stayed an extra week at Granite Lake.
Josie told them," We're not coming out this summer. Al has to work, and I have to get the baby into a routine. We'll be there for Elke's wedding. I also think Marta needs to rest instead of entertaining us."
"She won't rest much. Volleyball war on Labor Day weekend." Sven told her.
"True. See if you can find another tall woman to help her out at the net."
"Already done. Em got one of Marta's classmates from 'No Love for Us'."
Bix had returned from his two weeks at baseball camp. The instructors found him willing to learn and take constructive criticism. He was rated the third star of the 250 boys at the camp. A scout told Jud that barring
injury, his son would be drafted high when he finished high school or
"Maybe I will get to see a game in Yankee Stadium after all. I'll probably be over 80, but to see Bix play there would be phenomenal."
Cheyenne was just happy he was home.
Polly, Elke and the two Mikes flew to Kansas to visit the Hanlons. Elke accompanied her because she was doing research on barn owls, and thought Lil Mike would be good company for the older dog.
She was right. Lil Mike was full of energy and could run around for hours, while Mikie had to pace himself. In turn, Mikie would show the pup little tricks about how dogs hunt.
When Elke wasn't watching the owls in the barn, she was in the kitchen with Cissy, learning spicy recipes and telling spicier stories. She also noticed how relaxed Polly was here. Nothing to worry about, no meetings or phone calls. She chatted, swam, took the dogs out and enjoyed herself.
Nyssa wanted to do another podcast. Polly said she didn't bring any equipment with her.
"Not to worry. I told everyone I wanted a system like yours for a wedding present. So that's what they got me. The big guy got all the other stuff."
The children of the Farm got another special visit from Polly.
They stayed a week, and then headed west in Rock's RV and two customized vans. One son stayed behind to feed the animals and do the chores. Eleven adults, six children and two dogs spent the next thirty-two hours on the road, stopping only for gas and to stretch. The side windows were tinted, privacy curtains hung in the rear and behind the front seats. Passengers rode nude.
Elke called Melody from Utah, reminding her that there was practice the following afternoon.
"Toto's Girls will be here in a week. We need to be ready. That trophy is not going back with them this year."
They arrived just before lunch. The two dogs bounded out to mark their territory and head home.
The children ran to the showers before heading to the Pond, followed by their parents, who had rented a house which Polly had had stocked.
As Lexxie registered, Rock pulled out the grille and tapped a keg.
Before Elke went home, she looked at Polly. "You look great. These people are good for you."
"They are wonderful. Now go take a nap. I'll find Rafi and tell him you are home. See you at practice."
Elke grabbed a bicycle from the rack and rode home.
Polly felt good. She would find Mikie and Rafi Then she would snooze. Queen of the Raft could wait.
Reed got a response from the taxman. "Neddy's extra charges are written as 'personal training' or 'special training'. Nobody who owes her money is going to talk. The ones who have sponsor aren't going to risk a scandal, or jeopardize family they left behind. You're going to have to find a gambit which beats her in the end game."
He had an idea, but needed advice from someone with more business acumen than he. He went to see Jack.
Edna really didn't miss Polly while she was gone. In fact, she didn't miss anyone very much. She spent her day reading journals and watching 8mm movies from the Fifties that Dora had found. There were always people coming in and out. She loved Naomi rattling on about the single women, asking questions about who they were related to and feeding information back so the young woman could better understand why they acted the way they did.
Still Rosie and Angie worried. The night nurse reported she slept little. They heard her cane thumping against the wood floor as she paced. She had lost weight.
Doctor Yoshi told them that for ninety-six, she was doing well. "Her mind is sharp, and her vital signs are stable. She knows she doesn't have a lot of time, but she isn't worrying about it. She's doing."
Inga enjoyed her quiet summer. She enjoyed her grandchildren, and loved the babies. She kept busy in the garden and with Women's Wednesdays.
Karl had added some buerre fin pear trees to his blueberry bushes, at Ruthie's suggestion. Marta's friend had proven to be an agricultural Wonder Woman, increasing yields, diversifying crops while doing everything organically.
In the evenings, he and Jud would drive down to the soccer field, which would be ready for Labor Day weekend. They would chat as they walked around, familiar topics drawn from four decades of friendship.
"I think we have done pretty well," Karl said.
Posted: Jan 22, 2012
|Maia surveyed her new home. Other than a king sized bed, some lamps, stools for the breakfast counter, a TV and a small sound system, the place was empty. Dismayed, she went to Inga.|
"Momma Inga, can you help me? I've never had a place of my own and I want it to look nice. I'm eating off paper plates, even my old coffee pot leaks."
Inga replied, "I'll get the girls together and we will go shopping. While we are out and about, we will also look for things for Elke's bridal shower, which will be fun. We will get the basics first. Then make a list for your mother of things you want from home. What she can't ship, she can bring when she comes for the wedding."
Rafi built bookcases. Inga took her to get a coffee pot, spices and kitchenware. They ordered a plush rug so Maia could lie on her stomach and watch TV. Two boxes came from Denmark with quilts, comforters and her large stuffed elephant for the bed. Marta repainted. Sven and Heidi blew up and framed family pictures, one of Maia and Elke in France, another of Heidi, Elke and Maia taken one Mother's Day.
Em found a farm table set at a yard sale. Karl refinished it, and they gave it to Maia as a housewarming gift.
Romy needed a recliner to make sitting more comfortable during her pregnancy. Maia got a convertible sofa.
Elke had Angie and Eric design and install a new desktop computer system with all the latest bells and whistles.
Maia's way of saying thank you was to cook for two days and inviting everyone to a late Midsummer's feast.
An appetizer platter, including, radishes, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, herring, sardines, cheeses, whitefish and salmon.
Danish rolls and pumpernickel bread
Salmon in a crust
Potato salad with ground fresh dill
Cottage Cheese pastry
Strawberry Cream cake
Coffee, tea, milk, beer and brandy.
The men set up tables outside. It was a glorious celebration. Maia had not hugged and kissed so many people, nude or otherwise, in one day. Her house smelled and felt like a home.
There were changes for the holiday. Because of the demand, Eric had set up a separate gaming area in the new activity building, which allowed room for thirty stations, instead of the twelve in the Cafe. The only rules were a two hour limit, and no food or drink. It was open six A.M. until midnight.
The soccer field and an adjacent mowed area were to be used as a practice area for the softball teams and for children's activities.
People started streaming in early, beginning with Toto's Girls late Monday. Activities began Wednesday evening with an outdoor buffet and mixer.
Polly walked with Rock and Lexxie to watch Elke's Owls practice, then Toto's Girls. Each team watched the other go through their drills.
They had both improved.
"They don't look like they like each other much." Rock commented.
"Only when they have their shoes and gloves on. When practice is over, they're just a bunch of young women. Just watch."
Dora arrived as the Kansans were finishing up, with two coolers in the cart. The younger ones got soda, the older ones wine or beer. When they finished, they paired up by position and headed to Sand Trap Pond, diving in two at a time. Elke and Sam trailed behind, sipping their drinks until a chorus of "Party poopers" began. The captains dropped their bottles in the cart, circled back, then ran full speed, and did a double cannonball.
Lexxie laughed, "Nothing to worry about. Just take off their team stuff and behold a pond full of giggling girls who are having fun together."
Polly chuckled, "That's what this is all about. They have different shapes
and features and backgrounds, but when they are all nude, they are equal.
They call themselves softball warriors and they are all on the same team."
Posted: Jan 24, 2012
|Reed bumped into Jan on the way to a meeting. He hadn't seen much of her other than to say 'hi'.|
"So, everything going well?"
She told him the work at Medical Hemp had been relatively easy. A few intruders, in-house smuggling, and one attempted hijack of a truck of raw materials.
"No, I mean you. How do you like living here with your tribe?"
She rattled on about how much Rex liked working here and his involvement with the artistic community. The children were doing better in school; Mo had adapted well and had a boy friend, Leo Elder. Larry and Jo played youth soccer and had lots of friends.
"Are you happy? You look well. I see you running with Melody and with the morning swimmers. You play tennis. You relax in Harmony House."
"Frankly, I was skeptical that living in a nude community would work out. I thought it was something Rex and I would like for a few months, and then get bored. We all love it. As a matter of fact, we will be buying our rental in the fall."
"Karl and Inga have created a special place. Look at curmudgeonly me. I have a wife, soon to be two children, am healthier than when I was 35, and I'm enjoying myself." Reed said.
"You are even playing dangerous games again. Just to keep your mind active, I'm sure." Jan laughed."Another thing. I've asked to extend my assignment here for another year. I'll be retiring after that. I've begun to enjoy life again."
"About time. The games are almost over, by the way. Another month. Then home. Baby coming around Valentine's Day. I have to help Romy. Gotta go. Car Show setup."
"Me, too. In the chili cook-off. Come eat later."
They hugged. They both felt better.
Marta, on the other hand, was not pleased. Her volleyball play was not up to her standards, and the team barely made it through their first match.
"I just don't have my power back, and I still feel fat. I never had that problem with the first two," she told her husband.
"Well, you didn't bleed all over the delivery room either," Eric, replied.
"It's been a little over a month. You're only six pounds heavier and you look gorgeous to me. I know the team needs you, but we need you more."
She removed Peter from her tanned breast and handed him to Eric to burp,
looked over her family and said, "That's right, Momma is here for all of you. Volleyball is just a game. I'll do my best. But if we lose, I won't be happy."
They lost in the semifinals. Marta was not unhappy, just tired. She felt worse for her teammates than herself.
Em told her, "We'll get them next year. Everyone knows you weren't your madwoman self. Let's go get a hot fudge sundae. Chocolate always makes me feel better."
"As long as they give me an extra cherry." Marta grinned.
Elke's team got their revenge. All the games seemed closer. With new additions from Montana, Happy Sun and Arizona, the competition was intense.
Nonetheless, it came down to Elke's Owls against Toto's Girls.
It wasn't close. Elke hit four home runs, Melody got eight hits, and they swept 14-5 and 11-3.
As Sammy returned the trophy, she whispered, "Rematch?"
"Of course. It wouldn't be as much fun without you. But now it's my turn to decide what you have to do. I'll let you know later. Right now, I need a
roast beef po'boy dressed and a beer. Oh, and one more thing. " MUDBALL !!"
The Hanlons had been following both teams. Nyssa had even filmed the finals. When Polly advised her to put her camera away, she asked why.
When the first mud ball splattered across her stomach, she calmly positioned the camera on a tripod and joined the fun.
Polly had buckets of mud, but didn't join the scrum when Rock and Lexxie were dragged into the slop. She had immunity out of respect; nonetheless,
the girls dumped one of the buckets over her head to make her as muddy as the rest. Including spectators, nearly a hundred fifty mud people were counted in the group picture. The following day, the raw footage was played on the large screen TV at the outdoor Food Court, to the delight of the crowd.
The Farm won a number of awards. Jan won third place for her chili, and Reed's Packard Caribbean finally won the 50's convertible blue ribbon.
Karl and Katie won the junior doubles, while the Senior team took second place in volleyball. Elke accepted the trophy for the Owls, but made the team come forward to get the applause while she stood in the background.
When they were done, they all merged in with the crowd, waiting in line for food or drink with everyone else or simply enjoying the festivities.
The Hanlon men drove back to Kansas with the children, sending the one left behind back by plane for a well-deserved week off. Billie and Romana
spent most days at the Pond with Lexxie, while Nyssa edited the mud ball footage down to twenty minutes. Cissy spent most of her time with her husband out of sight.
Rock worked in the garage helping replace the engine, pumps and hoses on the Toto's Girls bus until it was time to fire up the grille. He told Sammy, "You are lucky you got here. When was the last time you had things checked? Someone from the church donated a new engine, so all it will cost you is for the new pumps and the hoses. You are also going to need new tires if you plan on driving this dinosaur out here next year."
Sammy told Elke who relayed the news to Polly.
Polly said to Inga, "You'd think they'd lived here for years. They have become part of the landscape. Now do you know why I like them?"
"Of course. They are just like us. They work, help out, laugh, play, and love. With little or no laundry." Inga said.
Reed was packing. "Time to wrap this up." he told Romy.
He asked his son if he wanted him to bring anything back from Florida.
"Just you, Daddy. Just you. You're who I want back most."
Posted: Jan 26, 2012
|Reed found the trio in a jovial mood as he sipped his beer at Senor's open house.|
The Latin American and his family had been given asylum in exchange for information on the current regime, which had been a thorn in the side of the US during recent regional trade negotiations. His children, wearing aprons, served drinks and appetizers, and then relaxed by the pool. His wife, wearing only Cholas and pearls, was enjoying herself.
"No servants, no worrying about bandits or kidnappers, my husband has retired and it is like a second honeymoon."
Mr. Tokyo and his assistant were telling everyone about the improvements that had been made to the arboretum next door.
"Much improved. I am thinking of sending a landscaper from home to build a small Japanese garden as a gift of thanks."
Neddy was quiet. She motioned to Reed that she wanted to speak with him privately.
"I know you suspected me of being involved in those threats against the children. I discipline children and their parents in order to teach them responsibility, as if I would if I had had any myself. However, I would never cause them any bodily harm. I took it upon myself to get rid of the problem."
Reed started to say something but Neddy interrupted.
"You are a thorough man who pays much attention to detail and nuance. Your comments and notes on the contracts prove that you read all the documents instead of passing it on to lawyers. Your language is straightforward, practical and uses universal common sense. I suspect you have been as thorough in vetting us."
"I do my homework."
"Well," the Russian said, "Neddy the Wolf has something you don't know."
Reed felt tightness in his chest.
"After our first meeting, I sensed that this meant more than business to you. So I did a little digging too. I know about your wife, your son and
that another one is on the way. I also know that you are doing this to protect one of your wife's best friends and her children. You could have begged off, saying you were too old or too out of your depth. Instead, you have brilliantly orchestrated a campaign to your advantage by using your brain. In your own way, you are as much a wolf as I am. Protecting what is
"In that sense, yes."
"The others will never know. To one, it is a welcome escape. To the other, a way to make money and have fun. For me, I hate having cold feet and aching bones in the New York winter. My assistant will be taking over for me soon. It has been arranged. I will build my retirement dacha here,
and become the senior champion at tennis."
Reed felt the anvil lifting from his chest.
"One more thing. If you ever come to visit, we should play chess. I think we would have some very interesting matches."
The final negotiations were done in less than two hours. Lisa kept 12% with the remainder equally divided. Approval of any changes in the resort would require two-thirds approval, which essentially meant four out of five had to agree.
"It is better this way," Reed explained. "Divided votes could cause problems among the partners. We are here to enjoy ourselves as well as make money. Our other enterprises cause us enough grief. We need at least one easy investment. We will also add a buyout clause, with a provision that any new partner must agree this is to stay a naturist resort as stated in the original land trust agreement."
The vote was 4-0 with Neddy abstaining. "I would like a codicil added
which holds any heirs to the same restrictions. When that is done, I will vote 'yes'."
It was agreed. The next day checks were passed to Lisa's lawyer and the
new deed recorded at the City Clerk's office.
When the meeting was over, Reed immediately went to the nurses’ station.
An EKG revealed he had a slight arrhythmia, but not a heart attack.
The woman from Florida scolded him. "You idiot. You waited until it was over to have yourself checked. Now that it's over, I’m going to tell your wife. She'll never let you out of her sight again."
Reed smiled, remembering his son's last words. "That will be just fine with me. I did this all for the family that is responsible for my happiness."
"Then you are a wonderful idiot. By the way, the CIA loves Senor. He
has been very helpful. Also, Neddy may have to groom a new assistant.
She has been running her own operation and has been planting stuff to send the old lady to jail. We'll pick her up when they land in New York."
"So what are you going to do? Stay with him?" He nodded towards the real estate man, ecstatic with his huge commission check.
"Nah," she drawled. "He'll only cheat on me like he has on his wife. I'll
keep my membership here and maybe I'll find a bright man who likes to read and listen to the blues." She kissed him and headed out to the pool.
He headed to his room and sent out the news to the team, Lisa and Jen,
and his wife.
The team told him anytime he needed them to give them a call. Lisa requested the name of his bank, so she could cover his check and expenses.
Romy's response was brief: "Need snuggles. Waiting."
He booked his flight during the afternoon thunderstorm.
Maia first saw him an hour before dusk. He was in the middle of a field
setting up a telescope. He knew she was watching but went about his business. She loved watching the stars, and was intrigued, but she was on her way to work. She would investigate another night.
Posted: Jan 27, 2012
|By the end of October, Marta had recovered sufficiently to model twice a month with Gaby, teach her dance class and swim every morning. She helped Maia and Elke redecorate, and worked on the wedding committee. Keeping busy helped her overcome the post-natal blues.|
"You know when I sit and think too much, I get into trouble. I'd rather be doing things and think as I go. Like Momma."
Inga was happily checking off her to do list for the wedding. The invitations had been sent. Seating arrangements had begun. Maia was organizing the bachelorette party. The menu and cooking assignments had been finalized.
She and Karl were pleased that their children had found good mates. Em and Karl had grown well together, serious and task oriented on the one hand, yet with a playful and passionate side which made their home a happy one.
Sven and Heidi, ach the arguments they had but once they were over, they were over. Sven had waited for his wife to grow up, he had the patience of Job, Inga thought. Now, he was being rewarded. With Heidi's help and support, he had begun to enjoy himself, instead of being a crazed workaholic.
Marta had found her niche. She still loved her swimming, posing, dancing, decorating and volleyball, but being a wife and mother had given her the strong roots she had searched for. Eric, whom she had thought geeky, was very creative in his own way, and as earthy and passionate as his wife.
Then there was Romy. It took her a while to be able to give herself completely to one person. First school, then her career and her hard work in getting the Farm off the ground. Her poor choice of men, and her escape from the hurt through her friendship with Jen. Then finding Reed after that crashed and burned. The two damaged souls had healed each other, and
were happily awaiting the arrival of their second child.
Now, Elke, who had traveled the world in search of knowledge and adventure. Brilliant, outspoken, mischievous, and unpredictable, she had finally met someone to share her zest for life. She could just picture her teaching her children to climb trees and playing softball until she was 80.
"What will I do next?" she wondered. "It will be another ten years anyway for any grandchildren getting married, well five years for Bix, who is
also family." She smiled. "Maia."
Maia finally met the mysterious astronomer. She found out from Ruthie he liked fresh lemonade.
One evening she strolled out with a thermos and blanket and introduced herself.
"I know who you are. You stop and watch me often enough. Ruthie told me you were a doctor, not a gawker. It's about time you came. Pretty soon, it will be too cold to watch the stars come out without clothes. By the way, I'm Rick. I live in one of the bungalows behind the Wellness Center.You just moved into Sven's place."
She discovered he was formerly a bass guitarist in a band, but had gotten tired of the travel and crazy lifestyle. He had come to town two years ago and was training to be an EMT.
"While the rest of the group was spending money on drugs, groupies and toys, I saved quite a bit. Don't get the idea I was an innocent though.
Sometimes it is very difficult to resist temptation."
Maia nodded. She was well acquainted with temptation and groupies. She discovered that he was working at Medical Hemp in quality control.
"They test us every week. I'll even give you my results if you want."
"No, I just want to watch the stars. Can I take a peek?"
When they were walking back, Rick said, "You know that was terrible lemonade. You forgot the sugar."
"Oops. Sorry. I'll taste it first next time. Well, I do know how to brew tea. Would you like a cup before you go home?"
The tea was much better.
Romy was furiously trying to finish her thesis by the end of the semester.
Her faculty advisor had limited her to a hundred pages of text. "You need to be focused," he said. "You have enough material to keep you busy for years. One or two slices of that will be sufficient."
She went to see Edna. "The most exciting times for me were during the
war, and then in the '60s when many people opened their minds to different
ideas and people. Then the last years since your family arrived. Analyzing the recent past is always subject to review and interpretation. The sixties are too complicated for a hundred pages. Your best bet would be the Forties, say from early 1941 to the time from the 'X' article and Truman's upset of Dewey. The world changed dramatically after that,"the old woman told her.
"What about the nudity bit? How should I deal with that?"
"I'd mention it only in passing, if at all. Academics are funny. They claim to be unprejudiced, but you never know how they will react to something that doesn't fit into their vision of the world."
She finished by mid-November. She mentioned the Pond in a footnote to explain the solidarity among women of all classes during the war. Her defense was scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving.
Posted: Jan 29, 2012
|While Romy was nervously awaiting her orals, Reed was following Neddy's troubles with great interest. |
She and her assistant had quickly bailed themselves out after their arrest. The papers had quickly taken sides, describing Neddy as a kind, grandmotherly type who loaned money to people from her neighborhood when they were refused by lending institutions.
"Sure, I lent them money, but at lower interest rates than a lot of credit cards. No one lost their car or was evicted because of illness or unemployment. I declared it on my income tax. I cared for them when the banks did not."
They showed pictures of her with Olympic gymnasts and community leaders.
Her assistant on the other hand became the villain. Hints of ties to the Moscow underworld were rampant. One old man described her.
"It was always the money, or the favor, never about us as people. Some of the guards at the Gulag were nicer than she. Neddy always looked out for us."
Neddy had to deal with the IRS, paying fines and penalties for not properly filing. Because she paid her taxes, no criminal charges were brought.
Her assistant wasn't so lucky. All the information Reed's team had collected about her enterprises and attempt to frame Neddy was turned over to the Federal prosecutor.
There was public outrage when it was leaked. A few members of the criminal class approached Neddy and asked if she wanted them to eliminate her.
"No. That would be too easy for her. What I want you to do is find information connecting her to violent crimes. Not murder that would make her eligible for the death penalty. Just enough to keep her in prison for a long time. One more thing. No one is to harm her in jail. I want her to serve every minute of her sentence."
They went to work. Neddy looked at her financial situation and realized
she would have to liquidate most of her assets to pay her bills. She could
either stay in New York or retire to Florida. Her feet were cold from slogging through the December slush. It was an easy decision.
She sent a letter to the partners, explaining that they she would be keeping her investment at The Oasis. To Reed's, she added a note:
"I owe you. Thank you for your help."
Romy bristled when one of the committee members suggested the defense be postponed because of her "delicate condition". She politely refused. She still had eleven weeks to go, she replied. She also submitted a clearance note from Doc Elder.
The committee first commended her, and then attacked her resource material. Romy argued that the women who wrote them were highly educated and were the latest in a long line of woman diarists who were used as reliable historical references. She cited Mary Chestnut's Civil War diary, and the collection of women's journals at the University of Pennsylvania from the 19th and 20th centuries. Her notes and appendices provided backup from municipal records, newspaper accounts and documents from the War Department.
"These women were well educated and informed. One taught for over forty years, one was the head librarian, another copy editor at the paper.
The less educated women provided a more personal touch, and were typical of women all over the country."
When the male chauvinist asked about the nudity at the Pond, Romy simply
repeated what Edna told her.
"You wouldn't happen to have proof of this would you?" he leered.
"As a matter of fact I do, but I thought this was an academic defense. I will produce a sample of pictures if you need them. However, I will not
eliminate the reference."
The man pressed on until the other board members stopped him. "This not essential to Romy's defense and we feel you are baiting her." said her advisor. "If you are quite finished, I believe we can begin deliberations."
Romy spent a nervous half hour waiting in the hall until she was called back in.
"We are more than satisfied with the accuracy and quality of your work. The vote was 3-0 in favor of awarding you a Master's at the December commencement. We would hope you would continue towards your doctorate next fall. You live in a fascinating town. I, for one, look forward to a more complete history."
The baby kicked as she accepted congratulations. "Yes, my dear, you can celebrate too." she thought.
She bought a gallon of chocolate ice cream and enough Chinese food for a week on the way home.
As Reed helped her carry in the groceries, he said, "I see it went well."
Romy giggled. "Wonderfully. Now I can be nude, barefoot and pregnant.
I will have fun at Christmas, waddle slow dance with you at the wedding,
and give us the best Valentine ever."
She poured hot mustard on an egg roll and put it in Reed's mouth.
"No more talking. I'm starving."
Christmas preparations were in full swing as people started streaming in.
First, Maia's parents arrived with more housewarming gifts and tickets
for her, Elke and Rafi for the following summer. They were also pleasantly surprised when Maia invited Rick to dinner to meet them.
Then, Jen, Lisa and the twins. Finally a surprise. Carlos Mestizo returned from Central America.
"I had to come for Christmas and Elke's wedding. I have to see for myself that she is happy."
For Elke, Christmas was a blur. Parties, showers, presents, Maia's crazy bachelorette bash. It wasn't until she woke up on the 30th that it finally hit her.
"My last day as a single woman." she sighed. "It's been fun, but time for new and hopefully exciting adventures."
Posted: Jan 30, 2012
|New Years Eve|
Polly was up at first light and took Mikie out. It was a little cool but the sunshine would make it comfortable for the nude outdoor ceremony.
There were more lights on than usual. More flickered on as she and her old friend wandered towards the back path. As she reached Karl and Sven's, she looked up to the tree platform. Elke was sitting there in a lotus position.
"Too late to back out, you know," Polly cackled.
"Pol, no worries. Just wanted to sit up here for a bit to get rid of the butterflies. I'm fine."
She climbed down and joined the procession to coffee.
The scene at Inga's was a familiar one. Jud and Karl were sitting on the porch with their mugs, flanked by Boris and Natasha. Today, however, Elke got hugs from both of them, which lifted her off her feet.
"No wonder Momma and Sally kept you two." Elke winked.
Inside, Inga and Sally were cooking, while Marta, Em, Maia and Romy were setting up for breakfast.
"Remember; be at the Cafe at nine thirty for hair and floral wreaths with Ruthie and Tosh. Pictures outside after that. Marta, what time for dinner?"
"The ceremony and reception line should be done around one. Make sure they don't dawdle, Romy. With two hundred people and four courses plus dessert, we won't be done until close to five. What time is your flight leaving for Hawaii, Elke?"
"Eleven thirty. If we get there by ten, we will be fine. Do you have enough help?"
"Yes, a lot of the kids volunteered to do food prep, serve or clean up. Maddy and Heather will watch the ovens during the ceremony. Two or three of the Russian women too." Marta replied.
"You know they have a priest coming for the ceremony, you know." Inga told her.
"I hope he keeps it short. Now we have him to go along with Ursula and the rabbi."
"Don't be fresh. Olga's crowd thinks the world of you as do Bekka and Naomi, who asked the rabbi to come. An extra few minutes aren't going to kill you."
"No, but the shoes might." she laughed. "Now I have an excuse to go barefoot."
Karl, Sven, Eric, and Reed were ushers. Jeannine had bins of towels for those who had forgotten them. Inga and Rafi's mother had their corsages pinned to sashes.
Elke had everyone lined up and ready to go ten minutes early. Romy was impressed. Red wreaths for the bridesmaids and white for the bride, gold necklaces with a heart attached, and red shoes. The groom and his best man wore bow ties and shoes. Edna was in the front row. Elke ditched her
shoes. The music started.
Before she knew it, Elke had the wedding ring on her finger. She had promised to love, honor, and trust, learn and share her life with Rafi forever. She held him tightly as the rabbi and priest blessed their union.
She looked over the crowd as she floated back down the aisle. Friends, family, colleagues applauding. She stopped. "Just a minute," she told Rafi. She went and got Edna and asked if she would lead them out.
The old woman teared up, composed herself, pointed her cane at the choir
and said, "Hit the music."
Elke included her in wedding pictures and made Sven promise she would get one of the first sets. "She'll be wiped out for a week," she told Sven. "I want her to have something to keep her mind occupied until we get back."
Many of the guests were astonished and pleasantly surprised that the meal was home cooked and not catered. Meat and fish courses, with special recipes for the vegetarians were served promptly.
The dessert was the traditional Danish overflodighedshorn, an almond cake with white frosting in the shape of a cornucopia, with a bottle of akvavit in the center for the couple to take with them. Maia and her mother had created a heavenly dish.
As instructed, Maia caught the bouquet. Mike Snowe snagged the garter and promptly put it on his girl friend's leg, with much teasing from the crowd.
Before they left, Rafi called out all those who had helped with dinner. Then Maia's mother. Finally, Marta, who got a standing ovation.
Carlos Mestizo drove them to the airport. "I'll toast the New Year with relatives outside Foggy City, and then drive back in the morning. No sense
taking your family away from such a good party."
They were halfway to Hawaii before the party ended.
New Years Day: 3 AM
A few couples remained when the music finally stopped. Karl and Em
were the only Svensons left, the rest having left after midnight
to wish their children 'Happy New Year'. Karl and Inga had gone for coffee at Jud's and were probably sound asleep by now.
"Thank goodness the open house isn't until tomorrow," said Em. "We'd
never get this place cleaned up by then."
"Not to worry. By the time we wake up, Bix, Cheyenne and the cleanup crew will have it all done."
"Good. We're closed today. Brunch is when we get there. Melody and Dora are covering any calls to the Office. Do you think it was ok for
Karl to go to Katie's? And Christine to Olga's?"
"Yes. Christine was ready for bed and Missy will make sure Karl and Katie don't stay up all night talking. Or anything else."
"Now don't you think we should send everyone home and take advantage of our empty house?" Karl asked his wife.
She gave him a look. "We'll be home in ten minutes."
It took twenty.
Posted: Feb 1, 2012
While Elke was honeymooning, the two Karl’s, Eric and Jodie Starr, who was a member of Edna's group and a producer for the local access channel were working.
Nyssa Hanlon had floated an idea past Polly about producing programs by members of the Farm community. Polly had added that it would be a good way to prove that the members of the Family contingent to verify that they were genuine.
"We can maintain their privacy, but this will save us endless trips to check them out. Of course, if the video looks fishy, we may have to go anyway." Eric said.
"I have a better idea," said Poppa Karl. "Why not use our member
communities to help us. Granite Lake can cover the Northeast, The Oasis the South, Heartland and the Hanlons the Midwest and the New Mexico gang the Southwest. We'll do the West and fill in."
His son added, "We can also have them report on areas outside where people who just want to do things nude can go. We'll work with The Naturist Society on that. They took the ball and ran with it for a long time. We'll forward whatever we find to them. We are all in this together. I don't want any turf wars to get in the way of promoting nude living and recreation as a normal healthy part of life."
Jodie told them that the sound studio at the Farm could be used for taping and broadcasting via the net. "It's not like the old days when you needed cameramen to push around two hundred pounds of equipment and tons of wiring. You can buy almost everything you need retail or online."
"Jodie, that sounds great and Karl, you're starting to sound like a politician," his father chuckled. "All those years going to meetings has rubbed off on you."
"Funny you should mention that," Karl said. "The town council member for this district told me he was retiring at the end of his term and said he
would support me if I wanted to run."
"Wouldn't you have to give up your job?" Eric asked.
"No. I would only have to recues myself on things, which directly affected the Agency. I told him I would have to talk with my family."
Em and Romy were having coffee one morning in January when they both realized they would be turning forty.
"Time flies when you're having fun," Romy laughed as she rubbed her eight-month belly.
"According to Bekka, we are now going to be old people," Em replied.
"She's just teasing. She told Elke at her wedding that she was an old person now that she had a husband."
"What did she do?"
"Nothing yet. She told Inga she would behave herself on her wedding day. I suspect there will be payback."
"That should be fun to watch. Meanwhile, I think we should throw ourselves a party. After the baby, of course. You know, thinking about it, we have both come a long way since we first met and are much better people now."
"Definitely. Has my brother mentioned anything to you about his maybe running for town council?"
"Yes, and I'm not really happy about it. With work, the kids, the house, we really don't have a lot of time for ourselves. If he gets elected, we'll never have any peace. Plus I'll have to wear clothes for all those public appearances. Ick."
"You know Karl's sense of duty. He'll run if he thinks he can make people's lives better." Romy replied.
"That's what I'm afraid of."
Heidi delivered the wedding album to Edna as soon as Sven printed it.
"Sven had Rafi and Elke sign the first page before the wedding. So you have copy #1 with the original signatures."
It did keep her mind busy. She went over all the pictures with a magnifying glass and had Dora running into the vault to fetch earlier volumes for comparison. She was connecting the dots, and would record
her thoughts every morning when her mind was sharpest.
Romy visited. "I hear you have been keeping out of trouble."
"Nope, probably causing more trouble. I'm an old blabbermouth now and
letting all the cats out of the bag. Dora can keep a secret, and I know you and Elke can. By the way, when will the brat be back?"
"Monday. She has classes to prepare for the new semester."
"Good. I told her to drop by. Now, how are you feeling? You aren't
checking out the book cases like you usually do?"
"My ankles swell, I get tired and I have to pee all the time. Other than that, I'm fine."
Edna got up and felt her belly. "A month. No more. I feel another special
one coming. Now tell me about your charming son."
Romy told her about Reed in the first grade, how he was so polite and helpful to Heidi, how he helped the other students who had trouble.
"He told me that because he was smart, he had to help those who didn't
get things as fast as he did. He said everyone has their own special gift. His just happened to be learning. He told Heidi she was a wonderful teacher, but that sometimes kids could help other kids better than grownups."
"He is also very diplomatic, I see." Edna paused. "I know you two adore him and are very protective, but when the time comes, you are going to have to let him find his own way. Grow with him. When he makes mistakes, or disappoints you, and he will, we all do, don't shut him out. One last thing. Reed will be gone long before you are. Don't become co-dependents. I've been guilty of that with Polly and I was wrong, I confess. I am
glad you were there for her, because I was a rotten old lady for a while."
"You were a spoiled brat, and a wicked witch." Romy told her, "Like you said, we all make mistakes."
Romy felt a tinge of sadness as she left. Edna admitting mistakes, apologizing, speaking emotionally about the future. She wondered if Edna was starting to say good-bye.
Posted: Feb 2, 2012
|The Senior Co-Op opened at the end of January, about the same time Melody brought a mutt named Heinz to keep her company in her new house.|
The Co-op was located behind the Wellness Center. Romy and Bekka thought it a good idea for two reasons. It was close to the medical facility, and to children. Studies had shown that interaction between old and young had substantial health benefits for seniors.
Truman Monroe, Jack, and one of Olga's father's friends were the first residents.
"I think this will work out," Missy said. "Just the company will do them good. People living alone without pets tend to have more health problems, especially depression.
"Good," said Em. "Truman would just sit and mope and I know Jack drank a lot after Heather divorced him."
"Elena needs someone to nag and cook for. They will argue a lot and get along just fine."
Heinz had been rescued from an abusive household. The husband beat the wife, and beat the dog when it tried to protect her. When the woman went to a shelter and then transitional housing, she had to give the dog up.
Melody picked him out immediately. He would protect her, the property and be loved. Every morning at dawn, the Galts and Polly would see dog and woman running through the grounds. The dog would be fine if she stopped to speak with the women, but always got between Melody and any man.
It caused tension between her and her male running partner who had become the boyfriend.
Heinz hated him. The man gave her an ultimatum: the dog goes or I do.
Karl and Em had the first serious argument of their marriage.
"You do enough. The agency. The committees in town. Here. Your son
is going to be a teenager on his next birthday and he is going to
need you to be there for him. Nude community or not, teenagers have
a lot of issues to deal with, even more than we did. I need you.
You are the most wonderful man I have ever met, and I don't want to
share. Let Sven run. Heidi loves that stuff. Besides, it would be good to
get him out of that office."
Karl tried to explain his reasons, but made no headway. He went to see
"Look, I have a lot on my plate right now," Karl told him. "Em and I just had a big fight and she is very unhappy." He told him why.
"You have your other wife to take care of the Office," he teased as
Jeannine flashed him a big smile, "and Heidi would run interference for
you, protect you, run your campaign and destroy all your enemies. Edna's
been grooming her for years for this sort of thing."
Sven thought before he spoke. "Heidi would like it. Mom and Pop would
be proud. It would definitely break the monotony. Jeannine is more than capable, but you'd have to give her a raise. Then again, why not have
"The councilor said it had to be one of the family to get his support.
That means you or me."
"I'll do it, because I love you and Em. On one condition. If Heidi's
health deteriorates, I walk away. If that is acceptable to the councilor,
I will run."
When Karl stopped in to give the councilor his answer, the man stopped a
minute and replied. "Though you look like him, Sven is more like your father than you are. He is a solid businessman and a bit more outgoing.
Heidi is a lot like her mother Eileen. Bubbly, smart, fun, and tough as nails. They'll make a good team."
The reaction from their spouses after the announcement was made was true
to form. Em's blood pressure dropped, and she stopped snapping at people.
Heidi was ecstatic. Both husbands were amply rewarded.
Edna had been receiving a constant stream of visitors. Rosie and Dawn were concerned, and had Dr. Yoshi limit her to two sessions a day.
When she heard that Sven was running for office, she told Dawn, "Bring her."
Heidi arrived walking on air.
"You heard the news."
"Yes. You will win. There will be some nastiness, but that will pass.
I hope you remembered what I have been telling you. I am not going to
be around forever."
"It's there. I took notes too."
"Good. You have enormous resources available. The Group, Romy, both Karls,
Elke, Polly and Ruthie. Dora will research for you."
"You mean Ursula?"
"No, I mean Ruthie. Don't interrupt. Use them. If you try to do everything
yourself, you will get sick and Sven will give it all up for you. Do you
"One more thing. What is most important in your life?"
"My husband. My children."
Bethany Rose was born on Valentine's Day, as predicted. Reed and Romy
were ecstatic. She was healthy, happy and blond.
"Another dumb blonde in the family," Romy told him.
"Highly unlikely." Reed replied. "Now we can finish the new house."
Posted: Feb 4, 2012
|Bix had followed the same routine every day since he started school. He got home, threw his clothes on the bed, let the dogs out and headed to Cheyenne's. By the time he got there, they were sitting at the door, waiting for him. Then the dogs would run and dig and chase things while the their two humans spoke of their day.|
Cochise, the largest of the Springer’s, had been there for the boy since the day he had come home from the hospital. Bix had ridden him, wrestled with him and been protected by him. They had explored, hunted and gotten into trouble together. Sally remarked that Bix had three parents. Cochise had always been there.
He was in full stride when he dropped to the ground. Bix immediately knew something was wrong.
"Call Dr. Paul, Bix is hurt," he said to Cheyenne as he ran to his fallen friend. The dog was still alive when Bix reached him, but by the time Dr. Paul arrived, he was gone.
"He had a good life," Jud told him later. "He didn't get sick. His big heart just gave out on him. He died doing what he loved. The last person he saw was the one he loved and who loved him back the most. You can't ask for much more than that."
Bix spent two weeks walking alone, visiting places he and the dog had had fun. Then he was fine. He told his parents Cheyenne needed another dog to keep her company.
"She misses him too," he said. They found an eight-year-old retriever that Cheyenne liked and brought him home.
The girl Cheyenne let Bix mourn. She also noticed when he hugged and kissed her good bye, it lasted longer and seemed more meaningful. Other girls might have been insulted that feelings were being transferred from an animal to them. Not Cheyenne.
She knew that whomever Bix loved, it was without reservation. Cochise was his love as a boy. She would be his love as a man.
Men were a constant topic at the 'No Love for Us' meetings. The good, the bad, the ugly, the mistakes they had made and the good ones some had found.
It was warm enough to hold he march meeting out at Edna's pool.
"So, did Edna call all of you in yet?" Bekka asked.
They nodded. "It was a combination of grandmotherly advice and a scolding," one said.
"She asked me if I had gotten rid of the bum I was dating and checked out the man at the Post Office. Her exact words. I thought she was going to whack me with her cane when I told her I hadn't. But, you know, she was right. I met him at the diner one morning before Christmas, and we have been seeing each other ever since. He actually asked if he could deliver at the Farm when the regular person was off, just to see what it was like. He will be coming with me and the kids when we go. The bum is history. I told her today when I came in and she gave her 'I told you so look'."
"She has known us since birth, and she's no fool, even though she is old," another of the town girls said. "What she told me made sense."
Naomi countered, "She keeps pretty good tabs on us too, even though we have only been here a relatively short time. All she said to me today
was, 'This is a lot happier group than the sorry lot that dragged their butts in here last year. Keep them focused.'."
She had tried. Many of the women had found partners. Others were working on it and some just preferred being unattached right now. She and her sister were in the latter category, lots of friends to go out with, but no one special.
Dora was making sure everyone had sunscreen when Bekka asked, "You still going out with the same TWO men? Dora, it's been over a year."
She turned crimson. "Please don't tease me. I still can't make up my mind."
In late March, Edna saw Ursula, Sally, and Inga. Then baby Bethany with Romy. Then Elke and Romy, together and separately. Finally, Polly.
She was sitting in her rocker the week after her ninety-seventh birthday. She was going through her mental checklist every evening as she had done
for decades. There was nothing left to be done. She called for a glass of brandy and sat quietly.
When Rosie and Dawn came to dress her for bed, she was gone. A note was scrawled on her notepad.
"I love you all. Good bye for now."
Posted: Feb 5, 2012
|Shock waves rippled through town with the news of Edna's passing. |
Most were saddened. She was remembered as someone who was always interested in people. She had helped many. A few were glad she was gone.
"The old busybody was a thorn in our side for years. She and those other old women knew everything. Maybe now we can get some slack."
At Edna's instructions, people paid their respects at the library and at the Farm.
The pictures and videos were as much a history lesson of the town's last century as they were a portrait of Edna's life. She was cremated and her ashes were placed on the mantle in her study.
The will was read. The residence and grounds were deeded over to the Farm. Rosita and Dawn Angel would live rent free in exchange for maintaining the principles of the house.
Eight million dollars was placed in a trust, to be used for scholarships for needy and deserving students. Only the interest could be used for this purpose.
A million dollars was earmarked for establishing a Montessori School.
There were individual bequests for each of the Group members. Romy, for one, got to pick the books in the library she wanted. Missy got the grandfather's clock, Ursula a painting she had liked.
The attorney stopped reading. "Edna also prepared a video with further instructions."
Edna appeared on the wide screen.
"I guess I'm dead if you're watching this. Don't feel badly. We've done a lot of good things together and had a lot of fun. Nonetheless, life goes on and you have work to do.
Dora, you will collect all the journals and keep them safe.
Ursula and Missy, make sure that school gets built. A lot of new babies in town. We need it to avoid overcrowding and offer a different style of
education for those who want it.
Heidi and Madison Snowe, stay in the system. You do great work, and we need you there to keep the standard high.
Dawn and Rosie, this is a living house, not a mausoleum. Make whatever changes you deem necessary to keep it up to date.
That reminds me, Romy, make sure the 'No Love for Us' group gets a grant as long as it is up and running. Not only are the women happier, but so are a lot of men. More things get done when people aren't miserable.
Finally, the work of our group goes on. Ursula will remain chair, but Romy will assume my position as executive director. Polly and Elke are next in line. She is more than capable, has more patience and a lot better disposition than I do.
There is a book of instructions and comments for all of you to consult. Use it. I didn't stay up half the night for a month writing it to amuse myself.
I love you all. Now go back to work."
Romy delegated. The group members were intelligent women able to work in committees and get things done.
The only thing she involved herself in directly was the archive and the scholarship program.
Edna's death gave hope to those who opposed Sven's candidacy. They assumed that the women's network would be in a power struggle that they could use to their advantage.
Some women weren't overly pleased with the will. They felt because their families had been there longer, they deserved more influence. Because Romy was more democratic, they were reluctant to walk away. Still, snippets of information dribbled out.
Little had to do with Sven. Other than being a naturist, there was nothing to dig up. Good student, married his first love, attentive father, savvy businessman, and close to the pulse of the town. So he chose not to wear clothes. You could say the same thing about a lot of people in town.
They went after Heidi. Her use of legal marijuana brownies for her PMS
made her a drug addict. Her zealousness meant troublemaker. Her occasional impetuous actions meant unstable. How could you elect someone who always has to keep one eye open for what his wife will do next? It was a whisper campaign. Sven sensed the difference the second time he went door to door in the district. The support was more guarded, and polls showed the gap had narrowed between him and his opponent.
Polly had gotten wind of this. She went to Heidi.
"I'm fine," she said.
"Did you go see Ruthie as Edna asked you?"
She shook her head.
"Just because she is gone doesn't mean you don't have to listen. If you love your husband, you will go see Ruthie. Today. I will take care of the rest."
Ruthie gave her an herbal regimen of tea, bath and foot soaking
mixtures to wean her off the brownies.
Heidi asked, "Will this make me as affectionate as the brownies?
Sven gets extra special treatment after I eat them," she giggled.
"I don't know," smiled Ruthie, "But if the discomfort and pain go away,
you will feel like your normal self. Which means Sven will not be neglected."
The group got testimonials; the online town zine interviewed her.
Business leaders praised Sven. The PTO spoke highly of Heidi.
"All of her issues disappeared after she began her medication, prescribed by a doctor and approved by her insurance company. Both she and her husband
believe in family, children and the continued success of our town. We look forward to working with them."
The whisper campaign got laryngitis. Sven won convincingly.
Romy was furious that confidences of the group had been compromised.
"When someone puts you in charge, you can only be nice to a point. It's time to send a message."
Justice was swift. There are few secrets in a small town, and the malefactors were ferreted out.
"Our group has different political opinions. All sides of an issue are examined and hashed out before we take a stance. One thing this group has never done is use private information about another member for personal gain. Two of you did. You are despicable and no longer welcome here. The other members voted unanimously. You may leave now." Romy said.
"But..." one sputtered.
"No buts." Romy brandished a folder. "All the evidence we collected is here. You not only betrayed the group but also disgraced yourselves. Officer Phelan will call for a patrol car to escort you out if necessary."
They left, telling people Romy was as bad as Edna was. The message had been delivered.
Posted: Feb 8, 2012
|They were in bed one night talking about places they would like to visit.|
"What do you mean; you don't have a driver's license? I see you driving around here all the time."
"In a golf cart or the mower, never a car. I rode my bike and even roller-skated to high school and at college. I used public transportation in Europe. Or I walked. The train here drops me off three minutes from my office. I can read, daydream or do class prep instead of getting road stress. Why drive?"
"Rafi, it has always been more efficient, cheaper and easier for me. I do see your point though. Getting places faster. Keeping you from getting too tired. Safety. Errands. I'll get the license. Just to make it easier for you."
Elke loved being married, but there were all these adjustments she had to
make. She was up at dawn. It took a shower, some snuggling and two cups of coffee for Rafi's eyes to focus properly by nine. Dealing with the fact that Rafi squeezed the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, and appreciating that he learned to put the toilet seat down. He helped with the housework, but left with the dog when she vacuumed.
Sometimes Rafi would be at his studio most of the night building furniture
or carving. Elke understood. When she was working on a project, she often forgot about time.
They worked it out. When Lil Mike came back from his midnight stroll, it
was bedtime. The dog would wait until it became quiet in the bedroom.
Then he would curl up at the foot of the bed and join them in happy dreams.
The laughter had returned to Marta's house. She was healthy and motivated again. Peter at nine months was a happy child, already trying to get rid of his diaper to be nude like the other kids. He made funny faces and had already taken his first steps by holding on to the dogs, sneaking behind her then grabbing her leg for balance.
"Can't live life moping around," she told Inga. "Too much to do, lots of fun to be had."
Mikkel spoke at nine months and was walking around six weeks later. His first words were, "Da" and "Hot stuff", which is what Sven called Heidi
every day when he came home. Sven thought it was cute, but agreed to call
her Mommy until Mikkel parroted him.
"You have to be careful what you say in front of him," Em said, "He sees
how much you like it when Sven calls you that, so he thought you would like him saying it too. Your Abby always called you mommy and daddy, so you
thought Mikkel would do the same. Just didn't work out that way. He's gonna keep you on your toes."
"So I'm not 'Hot Stuff' anymore?" Heidi pouted.
"You will always be Sven's 'Hot Stuff'. Just not in front of the kids
until they understand only he can call you that."
Sven, for his part, learned very quickly not to take phone calls directly
from people he didn't know. He set up an issue line and separate email account for his constituents. He would research the complaint, find if it was legitimate and answer accordingly. He assisted, referred and followed up, just as he did in managing the Farm.
Most issues were routine. Unleashed or noisy dogs, requests for speed humps or stop signs, poorly maintained property, junk vehicles and teenagers speeding through back yards in ATVs. Some were heartbreaking. Elderly people lost and unable to find their way home, troubled children, people just down on their luck. He did what he could.
Polly told him, "Point them in the right direction, and for those who are worse off, walk part of the way with them. Your job is to help people, not to save them. As for those who think they deserve special favors because they voted for you, even the ones who voted against you will say that if they think it will get them something. Be sparing with favors.
Recommendations, letters of introduction, fine. Anything that will cost
the town money, leave to the Mayor and Personnel. One last thing. The
budget is nothing like one for a business. Read it carefully and ask questions. Don't vote for anything unless you are satisfied with the
Romy was surprised when Eric came to her with a scholarship candidate.
"I heard from one of Toto's Girls. One of her teammates wants to go
to college, but doesn't qualify for hardship loans. She is a good student
and from what I saw of her, a terrific softball player. If she can't go,
her family is going to send her off to do missionary work."
"Where did she apply?"
"State colleges and Worthington, where Elke teaches."
"My sister impresses her without intimidating her. That's good."
"If you want to know what kind of person she is, ask Elke. Better still
ask Cheyenne and Bix. She hung out with them a lot when she was here.
I'll set up a vid interview with her when you are ready. Just let me know."
They had already agreed on one candidate, a Farm boy whose father had
died in Afghanistan. Edna had not put any restrictions on recipients.
Romy would investigate.
Posted: Feb 9, 2012
|Romy did ask Elke.|
"Who? Libby? She's a great softball player. Sammi told me she used to
slide headfirst until she got breasts. You might remember her as the one with the big raspberry on her butt. Hustles, trash talks, smart, my kind of player. She applied to Worthington? I'm impressed. If she can make a couple friends and survive the first year away from home, she'll do well.
I'll speak with Admissions and see what her grades and test scores are like."
She invited Bix and Cheyenne to come visit Bethany. Cheyenne held her while Bix watched her snuggle and make baby faces.
When Romy took her to breast-feed her, she asked them about Libby.
"She plays second base like me, and she is super good. All business. But off the field, she is really nice and kinda shy. We gave her the tour and did stuff with her after the games were over" Cheyenne told her.
"She even knows how to climb trees." Bix said.
"She knows a lot, but nobody pays any attention to her at home. Her family thinks schooling is a waste of money. They want her to be a missionary and then marry some uppity up in the church to improve their social standing." Cheyenne added.
"She wants to help people, but in a different way. Going to college and expanding her knowledge she thinks will help her find out how." Bix
Romy thanked them and thought of girls back home who were discouraged from going to school and paid the price when the life their parents had planned for them turned sour.
She asked Eric to set up the vid conference.
Maia had been having a wonderful time getting to know Rick. Dinner, movies, dancing, and a lot of stargazing. One night they were snuggling on the couch when Rick said, "You know, I’ve been talking to people at Hemp and they wondered why there are not any clothes free events in town. They said the bowling alley is dead early in the week. The fitness club said they have slow days as well. They are always looking for people to play co-ed volleyball and tennis, and they have a big pool. Afterwards, they go eat somewhere."
I dunno, probably because no one brought it up. Let me go ask Mamma Inga tomorrow and see what she knows. Now is time for watching vampire movies and kissing."
Inga was straightforward. "When we came here, we didn't know how the town
would react to us. New people, inheriting property, living a clothes free
life, certainly different. Karl wanted to show them that we were regular people who lived a bit differently, but who wanted to work with them to make the town a better place for everyone. Polly was a big help. She introduced us around town and her idea of Women's Wednesday at the Pond
was a stroke of genius. When the wives and girl friends reported back home about what we were doing, it broke the ice."
"It didn't hurt that Carlos moved in, that Missy and Olga worked at the hospital, and that Heidi's mom supported you."
"No, but I think the thing that brought them over was that first 4th of July, when Jud, bad hip and all, marched with the Veterans in full uniform
with all his medals. A connection was made."
"The rest is history, as they say. So you built the Farm, gave people the option to visit as long as they dressed like us, and set up a good working
relationship with the business community."
"Pretty much. Farming is farming pretty much everywhere, only the crops are different. Karl did well after people found out he was tough but fair."
"Ok, so fifteen years later, The Farm is wonderful, but the next generation
wants to try different places to do things clothes free that are not available here. I think it's great." Maia said.
"Nude bowling, you said. Now that's something I would do. Sign me up."
The town council approved special licenses for nude bowling nights and
clothes free events at the health club. They stipulated that the front entrance had to be covered, changing areas provided and that no alcohol could be served.
"No Suits Tuesday" became popular at the health club. Attendance was
primarily people in their twenties and thirties.
"We work hard and we play hard. The Farm is cool and we will still go
there, but we have lots of other interests." one man told Bekka. “On the weekends, we go into the city or explore new places. The good thing about having an event here is that most of the people are our own age. It's a lot more fun than speed dating or meeting someone on the net. You actually get to know someone."
"Right," Bekka replied. "We also don't go through the anxiety of wondering what other people look like without clothes on. It's already done, and in a neutral environment."
Bowling was for all ages. Inga never got really good, but she had a lot of fun. It became a place where an entire family could go out for a night and do things together at a reasonable price.
Karl was pleased. "We offer a lot but we can't provide everything. It is
good that our young people have opened up these new avenues."
They were heading into the summer season. It would soon be the fifteenth
Mother's Day they would celebrate here.
Posted: Feb 11, 2012
|Over the years, there had been changes made to the Mother's Day festivities. Inga still had her floppy hat parade, and family pictures were taken. Someone brought up the idea of taking pictures of all the children born at Farm, as a group and with their mothers. The grounds were closed except for relatives of the residents.|
This year was the initial appearance for Peter, Mikkel and Bethany, as well as the Galt's first great grandchild.
It also marked the first time all the Svensons had spouses.
What struck everyone most, however, was the fact that the children were growing up. Bix, the oldest, would be fifteen in November. The two sets of twins, Katie and Karl, and half a dozen others were now teenagers. The boys' voices were changing the girls were becoming women.
Poppa Karl whispered to Inga, "How many? Forty, fifty? A bumper crop ja?"
Inga hugged him. "Look at them. They all line up by height and the older ones have taken charge of the babies. Some teasing and jostling for position, but all in good fun. The tweens are a little self-conscious and shy at times. But they saw the older ones go through it and survive. They will too. The fact they have seen each other nude since they could walk has
eliminated a lot of angst as well.
"Life is a lot different than when we grow up, mostly for the better," Karl said.
"The world keeps changing. Remember the only way we got news of relatives back home was by letter. With a lot of stamps. Now we just turn on the
computer and we can see what they are cooking for dinner."
"Speaking of food, do we have enough for everyone?"
"Karl, Marta would be very unhappy if she heard you say that. I do so little now I feel like a princess."
"You have always been a princess. Even when you had to wash the wooden floors on your hands and knees. And you always will be."
"Not a queen?"
"Queens get old and frumpy. Princesses stay beautiful."
When brunch was over, they spent a loving afternoon together in the cabin.
Around this time, Reed received a package from Florida. It was from Neddy.
"Sorry I am late, but I wanted to send a birth gift for your new daughter. Then I thought about it, I had to get something for your son as well.
And your wife. Finally, you. I am enjoying retirement. My feet are never cold. My tennis is getting better. My goal is to win the over 65 tournament in November.
Senor is doing well. His wife rules the roost, and he dotes on her. Our Asian friend brought his wife last month. He is happy to be making money with so little effort.
Please read the note attached to your gift. Best wishes. Neddy."
Romy and Bethany received eggs. "Faberge, oh my."
Romy's had a painting of a nude male and female angels flanked on the sides with a boy and girl cherub inside were a smaller egg with an eagle on top. The final egg contained sculptures of a deer, a doe and two fawns.
Bethany's had a painting of a young nude woman reading, flanked by lambs, and with the eagle topped second egg and the third displaying a gymnast.
Young Reed got a chess set, with figures carved from the armies of the Persians and Alexander the Great.
Reed finally opened his. It was a framed picture of Tsar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm and their wives, with the coat of arms of the Romanovs and the Hohenzollerns on each side.
The note read:
"How similar they were. Eagles on their family crests, first cousins, and friends. They were drawn into war by foolish treaties drawn up as if
international diplomacy was a parlor game. It destroyed all of them and killed millions. Is it not time to make peace?" N
Reed translated the Cyrillic text into English.
Romy thought a minute and replied, "No sense carrying century old grudges any longer. Neddy has made a sincere gesture. These gifts are
magnificent and incredibly beautiful. A card would have been sufficient."
"It would be the final step in my transformation from savage beast to
human being. All because of you. Do you think we could entice her to come
for Labor Day week with promises of Russian delicacies and tennis? It will take me that long to find an appropriate gift."
"You've never been a savage beast. You were relentless in your work
because you didn't have anyone to fill in that big void in your heart."
She put her arms around him.
"Now don't mellow out on me totally. There are times I want you to be a
Posted: Feb 12, 2012
|Marta made sure everything was set for Romy's 40th birthday surprise party before she left for Granite Lake.|
"Momma, the menu is set. It's mostly fruit and veggies, which we can get
the day before. Elke has the chicken breasts to do. Maia and I are baking the cake."
"Remember, there are three turning forty this summer, so you need three cakes, one for Em and another one for Jen."
"Jen is coming too? Cool. She likes chocolate, so that will be easy. Em likes white cake with pink frosting. Yum, tasty fun. How long are Jen and Lisa staying?"
"For a week. They will be back in early August to celebrate Jack's 70th. Jeff thought it would be nice for all the grandchildren to be here for that."
"I see the twins and Angie but I forget about Jeff. I know he does a lot of physical therapy here and in town and he is right there when we ask for help, but he is so quiet and unassuming."
"He has been a solid member of our community. A wonderful husband to Angie, a good father, and he was super with Maddy after Sal died. Remember how he helped Jud after his hip surgery? That's how long he has been here."
"True, it seems like he has always been here. Oh, before I go get Tara, does Romy know anything about her present?"
"No, your father has that under control. The good thing is that she will be in and out on business most of the next month and won't have time to snoop around."
In fact, a lot of people were away. Romy had gone to help the family community in Montana for a week before heading to Toto's Girls club to do some surveying and get their modernization project off the ground.
Bix and Jud were in Texas at the invitation of Mike Snowe, visiting Dallas and Houston to see his team play the Rangers and Astros. Bix would then be gone most of the summer, playing for an AAU team.
Cheyenne was not happy.
"Better get used to it, honey" Moonie told her. "If you really want to spend the rest of your life with him, and Bix plays ball for a living, this is the way things will be for a long time."
Elke and Rafi stayed home and prepared for Denmark with Rick and Maia later in the summer. Karl and Em took the children to Disneyland and SeaWorld. Their son was overjoyed when Missy and Barry agreed to let Katie go with them. Heidi and Sven stayed home. They would be going to visit
Carlos and Daisy at their B&B during winter break. Even Reed left. He went east for a few days and met up with Romy in Kansas.
"Everyone is so busy," Inga said to Polly. "At least we have all the dogs to keep us company."
Boris and Natasha, Jazz, Mikie and Em's Tigger were all sprawled on the grass in the shade. A new Springer Polly had found on Craig's List, Sunshine, had joined the group.
"Mikie won't be around forever, and he likes the company, so it's good for both of you." Inga told her. "Besides, they are like children. They keep us young."
They watched the children. A pick-up ball game. Frisbee in the field. Splashes and laughter heard from the Pond. Teenagers sunning and chatting in the Sand Trap.
"Shall we have a sandwich and take this mob down to watch Queen of the Raft?"
"Good idea. The dogs will make the kids chase them so you can take a break. Then all of them will sleep well tonight."
Romy woke up at daybreak and was breastfeeding Bethany out on the patio.
"Happy birthday," Polly said as she walked by with Mikie and Sunshine.
It had come. She was now forty. Sipping her breakfast shake, the morning breeze massaging her body, she thought, "Don't feel any different.Still love my husband and babies, my brain hasn't shut down, I don't have a sudden urge to start wearing clothes. Life has gotten better every year.
In fact, I'm looking forward to the next forty. The only problem I have is finding out what happened to my car."
Romy's red car had been built during the Clinton administration and was now
officially an antique. She told everyone, "It works. It's an old friend. I'm not getting rid of it." While she had been away, it had mysteriously disappeared from the garage.
Reed, Karl and her brothers had taken it into town to get it refurbished and reupholstered.
"I suppose I'll have to get something eventually, but it won't be the same," she shrugged as Bethany burped. "C'mon, little one. We're going to Grandma's for breakfast and we can't keep Daddy and your brother waiting."
The two of them had told her they were going fishing, which they often did summer mornings.
The first inkling she got that it was not going to be an ordinary day was
the sound of Marta laughing. "Nice surprise," she smiled, "I hope she made blueberry pancakes." She walked a little further down the path and found her son with twin blondes.
"I thought you and your father went fishing," she said.
"We did, Mommy. Look who I caught. Misha and Freya."
They all laughed and ran back to tell everyone Romy was on her way.
"Jen and Lisa are here too. Great. Jen's 40th is next week and we can celebrate together."
The crowd serenaded her with "Happy Birthday" when she came into sight.
There was a flatbed parked in front of the barn.
"We found the car and it just got towed in. Want to take a look at it?"
She nodded and feared the worst. Smashed, violated, ruined. They peeled off the tarp from back to front, making sad comments and shaking their heads. When she saw the new coat of paint, Jud waving behind the wheel and heard everyone yelling, “Surprise !!", she turned to Reed and said, "You terrible man, making me think the car was gone forever." She handed him the baby. "Thank you. I love you. Now I'm going for a ride."
Down the driveway and out on to Polly Benson Road she went. It wasn't until
she got to the stop sign at the reservoir that she realized she had nothing on. "Oops." She turned around and had the giggles all the way home.
Posted: Feb 13, 2012
|Marta was on the porch when Romy returned, holding a wooden spoon.|
"Oh no, you're not gonna spank me with that. Forty whacks are what Lizzy Borden got. I'll never survive."
"Nope. Just here to stir your oatmeal. I've got your breakfast today, Em's tomorrow and Jen's the day after that. Three cakes too, before I go back and rescue my mother-in-law from the kids. And you go nude joy riding."
"Oatmeal?" Romy made a face. "You know I only use that vile stuff for spackling and wallpaper paste."
"As long as you give me a ride in that race car, you'll get blueberry pancakes instead. Happy birthday, big sister."
Romy was not normally big on public displays of affection, but everyone got hugs and kisses.
Conversation stretched breakfast to mid-morning. Elke told them Libby from Kansas had been approved by the committee for a full scholarship.
"She busted her butt with her academics and made first team all-district. She'll be coming here to help us out in early July until she goes for orientation."
"Does that mean she'll be playing for you in the tournament?"
"Nope, she'll play for Toto's Girls. I promised Sammi."
"So what kind of place is Worthington?" Lisa asked.
"It's a lot like Bennington in Vermont, but warmer and all girls."
Karl told Jen that her father had adapted very well to communal living.
"He is happier, has only one beer a day and eats regular meals. Your brother thinks he looks five years younger. Your mother is doing well too. She is semi-retired and works two days a week in the ER. She still lives in town, but visits almost every day. The two of them are regulars at Nude Bowling."
Lisa said "Oh that reminds me." She pulled an envelope out of her purse.
"Reed, you saved our family. Karl, The Farm used a lot of resources to help me out. I have checks for each of you as a small measure of thanks. Truthfully, there is no amount of money that can repay you for what you
Karl tried to give his back. Reed was about to rip his up when Romy stopped them.
"Lisa, Jen, you are very generous, but we really don't need the money. Let me offer a suggestion. One of Edna's requests, make that orders, was that we build a Montessori School here for children who would perform better than in the traditional curriculum. We would also like to hire a third shift nurse for the Wellness Center. If you could write the checks to them, it would help us a lot. We'll even put a plaque on the building."
"How much for the nurse?"
Romy told her.
Lisa took out her checkbook, looked at the amounts on the original checks and wrote new ones.
"One year's salary and benefits for the nurse. The rest is for the school. Every June on Jen's birthday, I will write a check for the Wellness Center. Is that agreeable?" Jill said.
"Look. I'm not religious, so I don't give money to a church. I believe in high-level medical care and quality education. This is from the profits Reed so nimbly negotiated for the sale of 66% of The Oasis. It is also part of my atonement for treating you all so horribly when I was young."
Polly spoke for the stunned group. "Edna would be very pleased. She was fond of Jen and sad when she left. But she was very pleased that she found happiness, and that's because of you, Lisa."
Inga finally spoke. "Marta needs to make cake and the children want to go out and play. I suggest we do the same. We have the next two breakfasts
and desserts to chat. Romy, I want a ride in your nude mobile. Why don't
you come back after you show Jen and Lisa where the school is going to be?"
Romy beckoned them. "Let's go, ladies. The birthday girl is gonna take you for a ride in your birthday suits."
They acted more like fourteen than forty as they ran out the door.
Reed asked his father, "Why is mommy acting so silly?"
He replied, "We surprised mommy with her present and she is very happy all her friends are here. Even mommies have a right to be silly when they are happy."
Posted: Feb 14, 2012
|At breakfast the next morning, there was more news. Marta told them Gaby Snowe would be going back with her to help Zelda with the Art Show.|
"I can't do that and take care of the children too. Gaby loves the art scene and will model as well. Josie and I will do some family shots over the summer, but there will be all new male and female models this year at the show. All from local clubs."
Heidi announced that Dora had finally made a decision about her two boyfriends. "She dumped both of them. Told them she couldn't choose one and hurt the other, she wouldn't be married to two men at once, so they both had to go."
As she finished, they heard a car park. A woman came to the door and said, "Emily? I'm here to pick you up and take you for your day of pampering at the spa. Happy birthday. Don't bother to get dressed. I have a huge towel that will cover you on the way and while I do your hair. The spa section, you know is already clothing optional. Don't forget. No jewelry except for wedding rings."
"Mommy's gonna go get beautiful," Christine said.
"She's already beautiful," said her brother, "The spa is just adding some fine touches."
Over the next few hours, Em was scrubbed, rubbed oiled, had her haircut and highlighted ("to cover the gray ones," she told the stylist), fingers and toes trimmed and painted.
On the way home, the car made a turn down a side street.
"This isn't the way to The Farm."
"I'm only following instructions, Ma’am," said the driver. He pulled into a driveway at the end of a dead end street. "The last thing I am supposed to tell you is to follow the hearts. Enjoy."
Em followed the hearts until it came to high-gated wooden fence. A note was posted: "Clothing not necessary beyond this point".
She unwrapped the towel and threw it over her arm. The hearts past a deck with a hot tub, into a bedroom with the biggest bed she had ever seen.
"Not yet. Keep going."
The dining area was the final stop. On the table were honey melons,
salad nicoise, and fresh strawberries with a dipping dish full of warm
chocolate. Karl came in nude with a bottle of champagne and two glasses.
"This is a new B&B. I asked the owners if I could have it for the afternoon. When they found out why, they agreed. The car is picking us up
at 645. Cake is 7ish. Would you like to eat now or after we try out the bed?"
"Bring the strawberries and the champagne. The rest can wait."
"You look ravishing after your morning at the spa. How...?"
"Hush." She put a finger to his lips. "The bed is calling us."
Marta had just finished frosting all the cake. Pink with sugar pearls spelling out 'Em' on the big cake. She had also made a pan, which would be cut into smaller pieces, which the children could eat more easily.
She looked up and Tara was staring at her. "Mommy, you have frosting on your milk machines."
She looked down. Crooked pink smiley’s on each one. Then at the two large breast prints in one of the cake pans.
"Tara, sometimes my milk machines get in the way. I like them very much, but sometimes they do things all on their own because they are big."
"So even though I don't listen sometimes, you still love me because I am part of you."
"That's right. Now go get your brother. There's a little frosting left in the mixing bowls."
She didn't laugh until Tara was well down the path. She tasted the frosting before she cleaned up. "Not bad," she said. "I wonder how the chocolate will taste tomorrow."
Em didn't realize how good the cake tasted until she had a slice for breakfast the next morning. After the bed had been proven sturdy enough, Karl had also given her earrings, a navel stud and a tongue stud with moonstones, and new toe rings. Her quiet, practical husband had created a birthday present of love she would never forget.
They had to set up tables outside for Jen's breakfast. Heather and Jack, Jeff, Angie, their twin sons all came to celebrate.
"I'm the one with the news today," Jen said. "My whole family will be coming back with us to Heartland after my Dad's birthday. We will all be together for ten days, then Jack and Heather will be staying on until we come back for Christmas. Mom has gone to an on-call basis at the hospital when she is here, and Dad will still be able to do the quarterly reports for Sven electronically. Isn't that wonderful?"
The Svensons hoped that this would bring the family back together again.
"There are still some ruffled feathers to be smoothed out and they have
to work on understanding why things happened the way they did, but at
least they are willing to spend time to hash everything out."
Karl agreed. "When you take everything away, family is what is left. When it is broken, life just isn't the same."
Posted: Feb 17, 2012
Karl, Inga, Jud and Sally flew east after the fourth.
The women went immediately to Granite Lake, the men landed in Washington. They saw the Senators, watched the Orioles get pounded at Camden Yards, took in an afternoon game in Philadelphia and followed the Phillies on to Pittsburgh, where they posed in front of Honus Wagner's and Roberto Clemente's statues before the Pirates won an exciting 14 inning game.
"Not bad, two old guys spending a week watching and talking baseball with people. I mean the other sports are good, but you really can't have a conversation with anyone except at a baseball game," Jud said.
"We've got what, seven parks to go before we've hit them all?" Karl asked. "Have you heard from Bix?"
"Before we left. It took him a while to adjust, with the travel and the better quality pitching. He's having trouble with the off speed stuff.But he's playing every day, so that's a good sign. He tries not to show it but he misses Cheyenne terribly. And it's eight plus Yankee Stadium."
"Two more years and we will be done except for one. We'll have to wait for Bix to go to New York."
"Let's fly instead of driving. With a good night's sleep' we can help our brides pack the van tomorrow."
We can spend our week at the Cape listening to games on the radio like we did when we were younger. Marta tells me the reception is really good there at night."
Back at Granite Lake, Inga had an uproarious time watching the grandchildren, especially the daily battle between Marta and Tara. For Sally, it was a real break. For over ten years, she had been working on her fitness line, from videos to books to teaching classes. She had a loyal following, but in recent years, newer glitzier programs had taken the spotlight.
"I'll teach at home, I'll update the videos, but it is time to do other things. Jud has been my inspiration and backbone. He made me believe in myself. I'm not the fat little wuss I was when we came here. I've grown up.'
"Yes, and right now we can't wait for them to get back. I don't know about you, but I don't sleep very well alone."
Back at the Farm, Elke was whipping her softball team into shape. Her mind needed a rest from academics and this kept her busy. Maia was taking her med boards and had locked herself in. Libby had arrived from Kansas, been assigned to Ruthie in the garden and was living with Dora, who was
prepping her for her placement exams during orientation.
"You get waivers on the introductory stuff and you can spend time taking
classes on subjects you really like." Dora told her.
"I know. I'd rather have room to explore instead of getting stuck with the
history of Physical Science or Intermediate Calculus. Been there, done that. I'd just coast through and I want to show everyone I deserve the
scholarship based on my brain, and not just because I am an athlete."
In the office, Heidi and Jeannine were having an odd conversation.
"Remember how Edna used to call me in and yell at me for doing stuff?"
Jeannine replied, "Sure, you'd come back here with your head down and
in tears half the time."
"Well, at the beginning mostly. Edna understood a little better when I
told her that I would get this feeling. Like a voice telling me, that time was running out and I had to get all these things done. So I would go into overdrive and make everyone crazy."
"Well, things are going well. If you are telling me the truth, the last
physical you had said you were fine. Ruthie's herbal remedies and the
occasional brownie have worked wonders. Sven and the children are happy.
You got cheered when you walked in the 4th of July parade."
"Still, promise me please. If anything happens to me, I want you to look after Sven and the children."
"I'll be an old lady before that happens."
"Doesn't matter. Sven trusts you. He will need someone like you who loves him to keep him strong. I will feel much better if I know this."
"Heidi, of course, I will. Now stop being so gloomy. By the way, Sven
asked me to look after Mikkel for a couple hours this afternoon. He also wants you to get your hiking boots and bring your notebook. He needs a break and wants to go take pictures with you this afternoon."
These were magic words. Heidi's face brightened and her feet barely touched the ground as she rushed home.
Jeannine turned to Mikkel, who was napping on the bed in the office. "I will take care of all of you to make sure Sven is happy and safe."
Posted: Feb 18, 2012
|Rafi and Elke were sitting in the office waiting for Doc Elder to come back with their test results. Elke was having a hard time staying still.|
The Doc came in with a folder of paperwork. He said, "You are in excellent health. No problems or even hints of problems. Now, before I go into the issue most important to you. I have to ask how active has your love life been?"
Elke winked at Rafi, who immediately put on a pair of Bugs Bunny ears while Elke donned floppy pink ones. "Answer your question?"
Doc had never gotten a response like that. "I guess it's been good then," he laughed.
"Elke, your eggs are fine and Rafi, your count is high, so there is no problem there."
He asked for specifics. After getting the details, Doc said, "I would suggest you reverse your morning routine on days you are fertile. If that doesn't work, come back and see me and we will try something else."
"Ooh, ooh, you know when next time is, Rafi?"
"Beginning of next month."
"Yes, we'll be in Denmark. If this works, we will have a baby with dual citizenship. Momma will be so happy."
Rafi thanked Doc and shook his hand. "Sorry about the rabbit ears, but Elke thought it would break the ice. At times, she has little patience and felt if you had a good laugh, whatever the news was it would come out quickly. Now where has she gone?"
Doc cleaned his glasses with his tie and said, "A pair of pink ears just headed towards the Pond."
"My wife is a brilliant woman, and very serious, but she always lets the child inside her come out to play. She will be a wonderful mother."
He put his ears on the receptionist's desk and went to find his wife. He could retrieve Bugs on their next visit.
Except for Cheyenne, the teenagers were having a wonderful summer. Karl and Katie did everything together as did the two sets of twins, John and Jason Gelsch and Emerald and Jade Greywolf. Mo Saunders was part of the crowd now, playing volleyball with Jacques and Francine, Jeannine's two, the Elders, O’Brien’s and the rest in the morning, hanging out at Sand Trap Pond in the afternoon and going into town together to meet with high school friends.
Others would work in Eric's office with the college kids, writing programs, building computers and communicating with other nudists their age all over the world. Angie, who was in charge while Eric was away, locked the office from three to nine to get them out into the fresh air. She also shut down the office main frame at one a.m., for "maintenance".
"You'd be here all night if I didn't and get into mischief. You'd be too tired to do your work share, and then I would be in trouble. I was a teenager once, and I want you to have fun, but there are limits to everything."
Libby had trouble at first dealing with the much faster pace of things, the variety of activities available and all the people there she hadn't noticed when she had come to just play ball. She was exhausted and lost weight.
Elke was supportive but Dora took her under her wing.
"You are going to be around for at least the next four years. You don't have to do everything in six weeks. Some of the girls headed to college are going shopping for clothes and stuff. Worthington is very eclectic; pick yourself a style you feel comfortable with and no one will care.
But we do have to do something about your hair and nails."
"All right. But only if a bunch of us go together. I wouldn't want to get special treatment."
There are activities, which bond modern women of all ages. Invading the mall to go shopping, going to a salon for beautification, or stopping somewhere to eat are a few. Dora reported back to Elke, "They're eating Chinese leftovers, modeling shoes and showing off their nails. Red for the fingers and black and blue with sparkles on the toes for Lib. The other girls think it's cool. All is well."
Karl and Inga returned the day before Elke left. Mother and daughter went for a walk. Maia was waiting for them when they returned.
"You have to brew a pot of tea and the two of you have to drink a cup from it. The good luck is one of you will get pregnant. You also have to put honey, sweet breads, and fruit for Freya inside your bedroom before you sleep. She will look favorably on your bed if they are fresh." Inga told her.
"I'll take care of everything. My mom knows the ritual. As for the tea, no problem. The good luck is supposed to last a year and who knows what will
happen with me and Rick?" She grinned. "Life isn't about just being a doctor. I love being his girlie girl."
Posted: Feb 21, 2012
|Maia's mother was usually good at keeping secrets. However, she was so |
excited about helping Rafi and Elke conceive that she told her mother. By the time the plane landed, candles had been lit in church, a novena had begun, and fertility paraphernalia had arrived at the cottage.
"Momma, you are so bad. Suppose now they feel too anxious to do what they are supposed to do?" Maia said.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't think it would get out of control like this. But you have also lost your sense of humor. I hope your disposition improves when the test results arrive at the end of the week."
"And if I don't pass, you can put out an order for hemlock and build a raft to burn my body and send it out to sea."
"What about Rick?"
"Oh, that handsome debonair man behind me? I changed my mind then. I promised to take him into Copenhagen to feed him heavenly dishes and get him drunk on strong summer beer. Oh, and show him the sights too. You're coming too. I want you to find out for yourselves what a wonderful man he is."
In the background, they could hear Elke and Rafi laughing. They were reading the notes attached to the fertility symbols and getting sillier by the minute. One of the last audible things they heard before Rafi closed the door was, " I know Freya liked to have a good time, but with all this stuff she may get carried away and give us quintuplets. Please, please, just one is all we want."
Polly, Mikie and Sunshine were in Kansas at the Hanlons. It wouldn't be as crowded this year. Nyssa was having a difficult first pregnancy and she and her husband would be staying behind. Cissy would be traveling with her YWCA charges that had made Toto's Girls.
Mikie seemed stronger this year, able to do more things, but he never wandered far from Polly's side. The night before she left, Cissy came up to her and said, "Mikie's waiting for you to say something to him. I don't know what, but he hangs on your every word."
Polly knew what he was waiting for. She just wasn't ready to tell him.
Reed had found Neddy's present. It arrived mid-month and he showed it to Romy.
"How many people did you have to bribe to get that?" she said.
"Thirty years ago it would have been a lot. Today, just a case of Johnnie Walker Black. I think she will be pleased. Now tell me about how you are going to take care of the baby and go back to school?"
She had classes two days a week. She would drop Bethany off at the Day Care, go to class, feed her during her break, and then pick her up when she was done.
"Why not just leave her here?"
"Reed, she's still breast-feeding. Besides, you need time for yourself and with our son. He's been very good and is busy with school, but he still needs special time with Dad."
"He mentioned something about a new theme for the holiday train and car display out in the barn. Said that he noticed in pictures that buildings in town had changed over the years and wondered if we could do something like that with the layout here. We'll go meet Jud and Karl and see what he has in mind."
"First grade and looking at the details already. The wonders of an exploring mind allowed to grow in an atmosphere that encourages rather than stifles thought and creativity. How lucky we are to live here."
Things were not going well with Bekka and Naomi.Naomi hated Bekka coming home, dropping her clothes on a couch she had reserved for clients, cooking, and eating during sessions. Bekka resented Naomi's getting up at noon, not doing housework, rearranging her work station and bringing company home at all hours when she had to get up for work. One morning, she packed all her stuff and moved to Edna's.
She told Romy, "I love my sister but we are living different lives. We are trampling on each others personal space. Moving gives us both breathing room and allows us to stay friends. Rosie let me have the downstairs bedroom so I could set up my workspace there as well. We haven't had an argument since I left."
Peace was restored.
Posted: Feb 24, 2012
|Late Friday evening, Maia ran out the front door of the cottage towards the beach. She got on her knees and bowed several times to the heavens.|
She thanked whoever was up there for granting her wish and making her happy. Then she ran into the sea yelling,
"Jeg er en laege!! Jeg er en laege!!"
She had passed her boards. Her medical license would be waiting for her when she returned to the States.
Rick had been watching her water dance from shore. When she saw him, she soaked him, jumping in his arms.
"Life is good. Let's celebrate. We can get our blood tests tomorrow and married on Monday or Tuesday. Freya can spend the rest of the week in our room. Rafi and Elke have had their week."
Rick was surprised but relieved. He had brought a ring with him to propose at the right moment and this was as good a time as any. He put her over his shoulder, carried her back to the porch, and quickly retrieved the box as she dried off.
Maia was ecstatic, parading around at midnight, knocking on all her relatives' doors to show off the ring and deliver her news. She got her Uncle Ejnar to agree to perform the ceremony at her parent's house so no one had to get dressed.
At two in the morning, she jumped into bed with Elke and Rafi to tell them the good news.
Elke said, "What would you have done if we were in the middle of something, silly girl?"
"I dunno. Probably the same thing. I'm just so happy."
The two couples spent the rest of the night in animated conversation discussing their future.
Marta returned from Granite Lake in excellent shape. She weighed three pounds less than she had before her last pregnancy. Her two-mile daily swim and innumerable games of volleyball had left her toned and relaxed. She was more than ready to atone for her poor performance the year before at the Labor Day weekend tournament.
When Inga told her about Maia, she was pleased. Inga also said Elke thought she was pregnant.
"We'll find out when she gets home and see what Mikie thinks."
The old dog had had a peculiar knack over the years of knowing when the Svenson family women were pregnant. He would sit in front of them as if wanting to have his head scratched. As he leaned forward, if they were pregnant, he would lick their belly once or twice right above the navel. Polly had picked it up after Em got pregnant for the second time. When he did the same for Marta and Heidi's first, she mentioned it to Inga. He had been right on target for the other six grandchildren.
"Elke will be back in a week. Polly will be back from Kansas with the dogs around the same time. Let's see if age has affected his nose."
Maia's weekend of planned revelry in Copenhagen became a rush to find rings, order wedding food, and restricted tourism to a quick two hours at Tivoli Gardens.
"We'll be back every year. Plenty of time to be tourists." Maia told Rick.
At midnight Farm time, people watched the wedding on the wide screen in the Cafe. It was eleven in Denmark. The sun was out, and you could hear the surf in the background. The ceremony was brief. Elke was witness for Maia and her brother Noah for Rick. Uncle Enjar spoke in Danish and English
wishing the couple many years of happiness and love. Balloons were
released, flowers were strewn along the path to the reception, and their room at the inn for that night filled with gifts for Freya.
While her father had doubts, Momma Sorensen was pleased. “Rick and I had many talks over the internet while Maia was at work. Papa too." She told Elke. "He is just not used to things moving this quickly. They say good things come in threes. Maia the doctor is one, Maia married is two. I wonder what the third will be?"
Posted: Feb 26, 2012
|In the days before Elke and Maia, returned home, other changes were occurring at The Farm. Bekka's exile to Edna's proved to be short lived. Sam and Janet, her parents, announced that they were moving back East to care for their parents. |
"We hate snow and don't like the cold, but we are not going to just throw them in a nursing home and forget about them. The good news is that we will be the maintenance team at Granite Lake. Charlie wants to retire. The bad news is that we don't know when we will be back."
Bekka had mixed feelings. She asked Romy if it was all right if she left her workstation at Edna's. Romy suggested she renovate the carriage house so it could be used as an art studio and a place for her to work in peace.
"It won't need much. A bathroom and shower, and open space for artists on the first floor and a workspace for you and one other person upstairs. The floors above are wood and simply need refinishing. The stable area needs a concrete floor, industrial tile and one or two large windows for light. A separate room for pool and yard supplies as well. With rents going up again, we need the room in the house for women who need it."
Barry had hurt his knee working on a roof in town and was also scaling back. "I'm 65. I won't close down the business, but I'll be delegating a lot of the responsibilities to my crew while I'm recovering from surgery. Missy wants me to be able to chase her around the house again, and she's the boss."
Doctor Yoshi announced his retirement. With the addition of Maia as an onsite physician, he felt it was time to scale back.
"I'll fill in during vacations and be here for flu shots and Health Fairs, but I want to spend more time with my bees and Mrs.Yoshi. Maybe even make a trip to Chile to see Ichi and his family."
Jen and Lisa had returned with the twins for Jack's 70th. Jen thought it the nicest time everyone had had since her parent's divorce. Maddy and Al\ were happy. She had lost fifteen pounds and Al had found them.
"He was too skinny from not eating right after his wife died and I was too fat from eating Sal's portion of food after he went."
Heather was back at her ER weight, and was looking forward to spending time at Heartland. Jack hadn't been drunk in almost a year.
Jeff looked marvelous. A tinge of grey in his hair, currently winning the lifelong battle with his weight and very proud of Angie and his sons.
Lisa had chilled out. With Florida resolved, she had concentrated nearly all her efforts on Heartland, with one big difference. Spending time with Jen and the girls took precedence over work.
She toasted her father, and then wondered why Romy wanted to see her. They'd had a pleasant lunch yesterday. Bethany was a beautiful baby. Ten years ago, she never could have pictured her friend as a mother. After watching her seamlessly breastfeed, change, bathe and put her daughter down for a nap while cooking and eating lunch, she realized that it had just taken
Romy longer to put everything together.
Romy came to her. "I hate to throw work at you while you are on vacation, but I got this in the mail from a client and immediately thought of you.
You know how we used to ask clients to add one dream item to their project? You would take a blanket and pad, go out in the field, take a written description and transform it into something wonderful?"
"These are really nice people, and there's no rush, but I'd like you to do your magic. Please."
"On one condition. You and the family have to come visit us."
"Yes, silly. Friends are always welcome."
They were heading towards the Cafe when two dogs ran by.
"Sunshine and Ratty. The Hanlons and Polly are here. Labor Day week has begun."
"He's good for one long trot a day. Otherwise, he is with Polly. Has to keep an eye on her you know?"
Posted: Feb 29, 2012
|Neddy arrived without fanfare, unpacked and headed for the tennis court. After a short wait, she ended up being paired with a man in his twenties against two women in their thirties.|
"They are pretty good," the man said. "I hope they take it easy on us. I need the practice for the tournament."
"I hope they don't. I play three sets a day in Florida and am entered in the old ladies division. I plan to win. I didn't come here to be patronized."
The women overheard this and decided to pour it on against the brash newcomer until she asked them to back off. They won eventually, 7-5, but they had to work for it. Neddy's skill at the net and the range of her partner kept it close.
"You aren't just blowing smoke," one of the women told her as they were toweling off after a shower. "If you get a good partner, I wouldn't bet against you."
She asked for directions to Reed's house and followed the path. Romy was in the yard cutting flowers, with Bethany sleeping in her Porto-crib next to her.
"What a beautiful child," Neddy said. "Do you know where I might find Reed?"
Romy was startled. "Why do you ... oh, you must be Neddy."
"How did you know?" she tapped her head. "The accent of course."
"The New York one as much as the Russian, I think. Come in. He and our son are playing chess."
Romy escorted her into the house and the two were discussing moves.
When Reed saw her, he stood and motioned for his son to do the same.
"This is Neddy, Reed. She is the nice lady who sent you this chess set."
"Thank you so much," the boy said as he extended his hand. "It is much more fun than playing with the boring Staunton set."
"You are very welcome. I also appreciated your thank you note. It has become a lost art."
She addressed Reed. "I think we both look healthier than the last time we met. I find retirement enjoyable. I can read, play tennis or just do nothing. Romy, he is keeping busy but not getting into trouble, I hope."
"A new baby and a son with a very active mind are keeping him occupied. Even though we have been married for a while, we keep learning about each other all the time, which he tells me, is his favorite challenge." Romy replied.
Reed went into the study and returned with a box. "I was considering
giving you this after they awarded you the tennis trophy, but here is better."
Neddy slowly unwrapped the package. She opened the lid. Her eyes opened wide and she asked, "Where did you find these?"
"I don't know exactly, but someone who admires you in the old country and loves scotch managed to find them."
She nodded. "Good people. I am glad they are well."
Inside the box were two medals: one a bronze medal she had won many years before, the other a gold for being the winning coach.
"I never gave much thought about seeing them again. Getting out was the only thing that mattered at the time. This is very very special and I thank you very much for this."
She hugged and kissed them all on both cheeks.
"I understand you will have Russian food this weekend. Let me take you to dinner the night they cook. Now I need to rest. I did a foolish thing, playing tennis right after I got here. I forget sometimes I am not forty or even sixty anymore."
After she left, Romy asked Reed if he knew how old she really was.
"Older than me, but younger than Polly, from what I could gather. I'm a
gentleman, I never ask a woman her age. For example, you are thirty-two."
"You are a terrible liar, but a sweet one. Now let's get cleaned up and have dinner early. After the children are asleep, we can watch a movie and cuddle."
"A perfect way to end the day."
Posted: Mar 1, 2012
|Bix had returned home as well. Forty-eight games in fifty-six days were a new experience. His parents and Cheyenne wondered what he would look like.|
The reports Jud read were encouraging. After a terrible first two weeks at the plate, Bix went to a lighter bat. Over the course of the season, he learned not to chase outside pitches too much. He found out most of them were balls.
He ended up playing every game but two, hit .280, and led the team in walks the last half of the season. His fielding reports were stellar, only six errors, excellent considering his range. The coach wrote that he was an unselfish player, good with his teammates.
Cheyenne was concerned that some pretty girl had turned his head. His emails came much less frequently. After moping for two weeks, she had enjoyed the summer with her girl friends, going into town for a movie or to shop, innocently flirting with the boys who followed them. She gave a lot of hugs, but didn't kiss one. Her sisters had more than made up for that with the Gelsch twins all summer.
Sally was just happy he was home. She missed her son, but thought he needed to get away from home after the death of Cochise. He would be surprised to see how his sister had grown, and how well the new dog got along with the canine Cheyenne.
The train stopped and Bix appeared. He had grown a little, his bare arms and legs were more muscular, but his smile and happy demeanor were the same. He hugged his parents, then picked up Cheyenne and swung her around.
"Grew a couple inches, and put on about five pounds. You've blossomed too."
On the ride back, Cheyenne quizzed him.
"Did you meet any pretty girls?"
"Lots of them."
"Did you kiss any of them?"
"Of course, you have to be nice to the fans."
Cheyenne was getting really upset.
"So, I'm sitting at home all alone and you're having all kinds of fun?" She started to cry.
Bix realized she didn't know he was teasing.
"Cheyenne, it was just like when we are together and we kiss our friends hello and good bye. Nothing more than that."
She looked at his face. He was telling the truth. Before she snuggled into him, she wagged her finger and told him never, ever to tease her like that again.
Bix spoke later with his father, "Dad, you tease Mom and she doesn't get mad."
"Bix, I've known your mother for a long time. After a while, you get to learn what you can say and what you can't. I can say things about other women to your mother and she knows I'm fooling. She knows I don't need any love on the side.
But I can't say anything about her weight. She is very sensitive about that."
"Why. she's in perfect condition."
"She wasn't always that way. I'd love her no matter what, but it is important to her that she look good for me. I tell her she's always the perfect weight for me."
"Cheyenne knows I want to be a ball player more than anything else."
"Yes, she does. She spent a lot of time talking with Mike Snowe's wife about coping. It made her feel a lot better when she found she wasn't alone. Remember this is the first time you two have been apart more than a week since you were born. You had games, practices, and bus rides to keep you occupied. Cheyenne just had her garden chores and a lot of free time."
"Gee, being with someone is more complicated than I thought."
"Let me put it this way. This summer you learned a lot about baseball, right?"
"All kinds of new things. It's like each level you play they add another layer to the basic game."
Jud smiled. "Yes, The same thing goes for friendship and relationships. As you get to be friends longer, layers are added as well. In baseball, you get to a certain point, and then level off. Relationships never do, because life keeps changing."
"Thanks, Dad. Cheyenne and I will be back at suppertime. Is that all right? I think we need to go to the tree platform and talk."
Jud watched his son move toward the Greywolf's, dogs following behind. He was looking forward to the conversation at supper.
Posted: Mar 2, 2012
|In the past year, Mikie had adopted a set routine.|
Mid-morning, he would walk over to the main cabin to visit Karl, Inga and Marta's family. He would stop at the top of the incline, tail up, watching the goings-on in the fields. Occasionally he would go for a trot. Mostly he went to check on the Svensons and lay out with Boris and Natasha.
During the school year, he would wait until he heard the school buses and go out the back trail to visit Heidi, Em and Romy and their children.
His final stop would be at Elke's to visit her and his son Lil' Mike. By the time he was done, it was nearly suppertime. He would not deviate from his route unless he was with Polly.
That summer, he started earlier and was done by noon to get out of the summer heat. Even when someone was on vacation, he would stay and sniff
around to make sure all was well.
He was happiest when everyone was home.
The week before Labor Day, he stopped by Elke's as she and Maia were having lunch. He ate the carrots they gave him and he sat down right in front of Elke. He stared for a moment, and then walked around her lawn chair as if he was deep in thought. He finally came up to her, sniffed at her navel, and then licked once on each side. At the same time, Lil' Mike licked Maia right above her belly button. Then Mikie turned around and went home.
Both women thought it a bit strange. Later that afternoon, Elke told her mother what had happened. Inga started laughing and replied, "Have to call Momma Sorenson. You are both pregnant and YOU are going to have twins. You can get the blood tests, but all it will do is confirm what Mikie and his son told you. He did the same for all the other grandchildren. Ask Polly."
Elke, a woman of science, was skeptical. Maia was also not convinced.
"I know we nearly broke the beds in Denmark, but we can't both be this lucky."
Mikie was right.
By Thursday morning, The Farm was packed. Softball had begun. Preliminary rounds of volleyball and tennis had also started. Marta was stoked.
She had recently watched 'Lawrence of Arabia" and her favorite quote throughout the tournament would be, "No prisoners". The Smooth Mommas blitzed their first round opponents.
"I let you down last year. I will never let you down again." Marta told her team.
The softball teams were very even. After the first day, two brackets had three way ties for first and would have to play a double elimination to
determine which two would advance to the next round. Elke's owls were one of the teams, and she was not happy. An umpire had made a bad call and refused to consult with the other umpire when Elke asked her to. In the ensuing argument, Elke said some magic words and got ejected. It might have been worse had her teammates not dragged her away.
"Out of position, the other umpire was right there and she refused to
consult. She had been terrible on balls and strikes for both sides all day.
I told her she guessed on the call just like she'd been guessing behind the plate all day, and she tossed me. We lost by one. Now we have to play the same team tomorrow just to get to the next round."
Neddy's day on the tennis court was much quieter. She got a good partner and won her match in two hard fought sets. Romy and Reed won easily in the mixed seniors and Katie and Karl hugged and kissed after they won their first round under 18 match.
Mac Washington was busy trying to keep things running smoothly. This year,
men and women's water volleyball had been added as well as men's beach volleyball. Temporary courts had been created next to the soccer field to accommodate the extra players. He got help from a host of volunteers, mostly local teenagers. Karl let them eat for free.
"The problem isn't the players. We are on such a tight schedule that if officials are late or don't show up, we have to scramble or take on people
who really aren't that good. Thankfully, some of the players are also trained officials, and most of them have agreed to help us out." Mac
told Karl that next year they would probably have to start all events on Wednesday in order to finish by Sunday afternoon.
"Either that, or you could reschedule some of the sports earlier in the summer."
Karl loved the Labor Day weekend. He and Inga visited all the venues, met
lots of people and made sure everyone had enough to eat. Food, drink, games, all ages, sizes and degrees of color, competitors and spectators,
lots of towels and no clothing.
By Friday, however, he realized that The Farm had reached its limit. They were already at 80% capacity, and the weekend visitors were still streaming in. He remembered that as a child he hated the crowding, pushing, discomfort and long walks to the parking area at the county fair. He didn't want that to happen here.
He thought of his priorities. Completing the school and getting the last seven houses built and sold was first. Another ball field definitely.
More RV hookups and another motel unit, maybe.
He would speak with the children and ask their advice. They would be carrying the torch after he and Inga were no longer there.
Posted: Mar 4, 2012
The weekend ended with surprises. Elke's team came out flat and lost their semifinal game. Neddy and her partner advanced to the semis as well, losing to a team nearly twenty years younger in three sets.
She was philosophical. "Silver is better than nothing. It means there is room for improvement. We will do better next year."
Teams from six different states won gold medals, a new record. The only Farm team to win was Marta's Smooth Mommas, who played their matches as if possessed.
"We know we are better than you," the captain of the second place team told her, "but you were so focused and determined, we couldn't break your will to win."
"No prisoners," Marta replied. "That's why."
Heidi won a blue ribbon," her first ever", she said. She and the children got themselves body painted and won the family award.
The biggest surprise of all was Romy's restored relic winning a first in the 1990's division.
Afterwards, Karl and Inga called a family meeting.
"This was a wonderful weekend and everyone seemed to have a good time, but I am wondering if we have overextended ourselves with all the activities."
Sven answered first. "We were at capacity early Saturday. The hotels in town were happy, but some of our visitors were not. They wanted to be on site. I also heard complaints about how far they had to walk, waiting in line for showers, and too many things going on at the same time. We had plenty of food and drink. No complaints there."
Young Karl was next. "The tenting area had no problems except a little muddy Saturday morning after the shower that night. Plenty of Porto-Lets, replaced daily. I thought it was a bit crowded. What I do know is that they had fun: musicians, jugglers, body painting, midnight swims in the Pond, always heard clapping and laughing when I stopped by. A happy group.
We could use a bit more signage, especially a schedule board. If they lost their flyer, they had to walk to the diner."
It was Elke's turn. "We need at least one more field. With a lot of extra inning games, there was little time for the players to rest. It was hot this week and very humid on Friday. I was concerned about the players getting injured or heat exhaustion. At the end it wasn't fun, it was a struggle to survive."
"So you are making excuses about losing?" Inga asked.
"Nope, no excuses. Everyone faced the same issues. We deserved to lose. We stunk."
Marta added the same critique about crowding and tight scheduling. "Eric was swimming and I had to play. I also missed seeing Tara in the children's parade."
Romy had been taking notes throughout the discussion.
"Because I floated all over the place, I got to see a bit of everything. I'll just add to the concerns.
"First, we needed more help at the First Aid station. Maia took the load off Doc Elder and Dr. Yoshi. However, Missy and Olga had to get some of their nurse friends from the hospital on Saturday and Sunday to handle the traffic. We should have had personnel lined up already."
"Second, there was a lot of crowding around the schedule board. Too many events, people stood there trying to decide where to go and it just got really congested at times."
"Third, the volunteers are toast. Usually, they can start easing off by Sunday noon. This year it was late Monday."
"Finally, we have done very well here. Jack and Heather were supposed to go to Heartland Tuesday. It's Thursday and he won't leave until all the money is counted. We have gotten great publicity. TV, Internet, we even had a talk radio team here on Saturday doing their show."
"Quantity is good, but we made our name with quality. We can space things out over the summer, some events for National Nude Week in July, and the rest on Labor Day weekend."
"My recommendation is to keep volleyball where it is because Marta is away in July. I also think softball should stay where it is because it is a little cooler. I also agree with Elke about another field. We can put off building another senior unit for a year or two."
They decided to get feedback from the volunteers, residents and visitors, and meet in a month.
Posted: Mar 6, 2012
|Maia and Elke were walking back from the Wellness Center with their test results.|
"Doctor Mikie was right again," Elke said. "We are both pregnant. They won't know for another two weeks whether I'm having twins or not, but I'm going with the dog's prediction."
"How are you going to manage work?" Maia asked. "As a doctor, I am used to crazy hours."
"If they arrive on time, I'll take them with me. They'll be eighteen weeks by then. I'll feed them on the train on the way in and back, and in my office in between."
"Elke, babies are not predictable. They are not going to be hungry or poop on a schedule."
"I know. Rafi will keep me from going crazy. He is more laid back and will take everything in stride. What about Rick?"
"I think he is going to be a nervous wreck for the next eight months. After that, we'll see. You probably won't show much at all. I'm short. I'm gonna look like a gigantic beach ball with reddish blond hair and swollen feet."
Elke laughed. Maia gave her a swat.
"A small beach ball if you get your lazy butt out of bed and walk with me, do water aerobics with Sally and eat right. We'll talk more after dinner. I have to go to a board meeting. Later, Mommy Maia."
The board meeting was mercifully brief. Karl announced after reading Jack's financial report that lot rent would be reduced by $50 a month
based on increase in net income. The senior independent living unit was tabled for a year. Approval was granted for the addition of another softball field. Missy announced that the Montessori school would be dedicated the following July. The final item on the docket was discussion of event scheduling. Feedback indicated the following: (1) the softball tournament should stay put. Both the players and residents were in
agreement. (2) The volleyball tournament created a lot of congestion in the central loop. Another concern was for those who liked both softball and volleyball and couldn't see both. The players contacted really didn't care as long as the competition continued.
Over Marta's objections, it was moved and carried that the tournament be moved to National Nude Week in July. The grass tennis courts could be converted to beach volleyball and leave enough time for restoration. Water volleyball would be rotated. Men are in July, women's on Labor Day, then switch the following year.
(3.) The car show would stay where it was. None of the other shows wanted to swap weekends.
They said good-bye to Sam and Janet Rosen, and were saddened to learn of Brian's retirement.
"My crew will be here if you need anything. I may be retiring, but if you have any concerns or questions, feel free to drop by."
Everyone left happy except Marta.
"Sure, you solved all your problems. Now I have to deal with my mother-in-law about ten days Eric and I won't be there. She complains as it is we don't spend enough time there."
Summer gradually faded into autumn. Romy returned to class, taking Bethany with her. The Group met at Edna's once a month, discussing projects and worthy causes, they might support. Dora continued to archive the century
of documents and pictures from the vaults, plus new items Edna and her cohorts had hidden between pages of books, recipe boxes and old suitcases.
"There is a lot here about what happened after the war. There are some thin volumes about the town in the library, but they are mostly about
business and development and not about the people."
Romy replied, "I'll help you over the winter. If we do it in fifteen-year
increments, we should be finished annotating in about two years. It has to be done. We owe it to Edna."
Heidi was welcoming her tenth first grade class. Some teachers may have gotten bored, but Heidi always found new ways to explain the same material.
She loved the way the children expressed themselves, each one unique and special.
Sven was busy. His council duties and running the office didn't prevent him from spending time on his favorite hobby. He had inherited the love
of picture albums from Inga. Mother and son would spend at least one afternoon a week grouping pictures and writing little captions underneath.
Karl and Em had made a decision. They would both retire from the agency in five years.
"We will both have spent twenty years there. Time to let some new blood in.
Our son will hopefully be in college, and Christine will be in high school.
Mom, Dad and Jud aren't getting any younger. We will be needed here. We also will have more time for each other."
Marta had made peace with her mother-in-law. She would spend Easter vacation week there. "I'll shovel snow if I have to, in order to keep her happy," she grumbled. "When she nags Eric, Eric nags me.I don't need the extra aggravation. I already have Tara."
By the time the Sorenson’s arrived for Christmas, both women were showing,
but in good humor.
"Marta, it's nice to be able to fit in your bras, but it's not worth it
if I have to be pregnant all the time." Elke teased. Marta stuck out her tongue.
Maia was happy Rick had taken over bathroom cleaning. "He saw me washing the floor with my belly dragging across the tile. I'm so happy. He does such a good job."
Posted: Mar 9, 2012
|Maia and Elke gave birth within twelve hours of each other. Maia had a son, Johann, while Elke had fraternal twins, a dark haired son, Antonio and a blonde daughter Sofie, who arrived eleven minutes before her brother.|
"Sofie is like me. On time. Rafi and Antonio will get along well, always late." Elke quipped.
Inga told Karl, "I think this will be the end of the grandchildren. Eleven is a good number. The oldest will be fourteen, so it won't be that long before the great grandchildren start coming."
Karl nodded. "We will be young enough to be able to enjoy them too. May the other parents here be as lucky with their children."
Bix had a good school year. His grades improved, his performance on the field was more relaxed.
Cheyenne's jealousy and possessiveness did not get better. Bix broke up with her after the Fall Mixer. He went out with Lilith Elder and Mo Saunders, who were much more laid back and accepting of him as he was.
Cheyenne was devastated. Moonie told her she had only herself to blame.
"He has always been your friend, he never lies to you, but you got him all stressed out with your unjustified suspicions and accusations. You treated him like you owned him, not as a person you love and respect."
"But I love him so much."
"He loves you and he always will. If you want him back, you are going to have to change your attitude."
"You never loved anyone like I love him,"
"I did, and I lost him because I didn't change soon enough. I love your father. He is a good man. We made each other better by listening and talking, not demanding. But every once in a while, I wonder what life would have been if I hadn't been so pigheaded."
Karl and Katie were different. They had their own friends and interests. Karl ran cross-country Katie was a cheerleader. He liked science and
history. She liked writing and languages. She had more friends, and brought Karl with her to help overcome his shyness. They shared passions for tennis and movies. She taught him the latest dance moves. They had fun together.
Bekka was supervising Farm projects while Romy was in school. She met someone at Heartland and had been carrying on a long distance romance for the last six months. Naomi's latest had moved in.
No Love for Us went out of business. All the women who wanted to find someone had done so. The monthly meetings became more like a sorority party than a group strategy session.
Melody had dropped out. She told them she preferred being alone and didn't know if that would ever change.
Dora was uncommitted. "I have a social life, I'm enjoying myself, and I'm getting closer to where I want to be. I had a lot of catching up to do."
The babies came home. Mikie came over to inspect them and gave his approval. The following Sunday, they posed for the Mother's Day pictures.
A few days later, Mikie got up on the bed as he always did and stayed until Polly fell asleep.
At first light, Polly opened the door to let the two dogs out. Sunshine bounded out, but Mikie didn't move. Polly sat on the floor next to him. She patted him and scratched him until he went to sleep for the final time.
Jud found her there an hour later.
"Are you all right? Sunshine came to our door and I wondered if something was wrong."
"Mikie's left us. He waited for the babies to come. He waited for me to be strong. Could you please call Dr. Paul for me? I already made the arrangements."
The vet took the dog away. He was cremated and Polly put his ashes on the mantle below her favorite picture of him.
The community reaction amazed her. Flowers, pictures drawn by children, even sympathy cards were dropped off. Sven ran a slide show celebrating Mikie's life in the Cafe. People told stories about him.
A strange thing happened as Polly finally started to throw Mikie's things away. Lil' Mike came in, took Mikie's blanket and dragged it home. The only time anyone heard him growl in anger was when someone tried to take the blanket away. Even when Elke had to wash it, he would guard the washer and dryer until it was done and drag it back to his bed. He used it as his pillow the rest of his life.
Posted: Mar 10, 2012
|While the Svenson’s didn't realize it at the time, the birth of the twins and the passing of Mikie began a new era at the Farm.|
Karl announced at the June board meeting that he had thought it over and he would retire as Chairman when he turned seventy.
He would turn the reins over to Sven. "My son has been running the day to day operation here for a number of years and I can think of no one better qualified."
Sven spoke with him privately and asked whether that would be a conflict with his councilor duties and how his brother would react.
"By that time, you will have served three terms. That's enough. Jeannine will take your present job. You will have plenty of time to find her a
capable assistant. Your job will require some traveling and vacation. You and Heidi work very hard, too hard sometimes. This will give you and your family the opportunity to spend time together while visiting new places. If you want a week to yourselves, your mother and I can look after the children."
"As for Karl and Em, young Karl will be in college and Christine almost out of high school by that time. Em will retire after she graduates. They will be The Farm ambassadors to the outside world, visiting members of our network part of the time. The other thing they have mentioned is starting a theater group here. You know how Karl has done the Abe Lincoln performance for years. Em has a flair for comedy. I don't know how good they will be, but they will have a lot of fun."
Sven thought for a minute and replied, "Karl knows the business. He is more than capable of filling in. I can depend on him in any crisis to do the right thing. He can teach, perform and run programs, but he keeps most people at arm's length. Customer relations are not his strong point, especially when it is really busy."
"Exactly. One on one and in small groups he is fine. He may be disappointed at first, but Em is the most important person in his life. Once he sees how happy she is, he will be fine."
"What about Marta?"
"Marta has already told us that she will be taking care of us when we need help. You will all pitch in of course, but she is the earth mother. You know how all the young children flock around Heidi? Well, as they get older, if they have problems, they go talk to Marta. She feeds them, makes them laugh, and talks straight to them. No manure, no sugar coating."
"She will feed you, amuse you and be there for you always. There will also be times when she aggravates you. Unlike her sisters, she feels before she thinks."
"I find that easier to deal with than my other two sisters. I feel like they are on a level way beyond me sometimes."
"Look at it this way, son. Elke knows every type of creature that lives here, and their habitat. This is her living laboratory. She will know if the ecosystem is compromised way before anyone else does, and she will find out why. It may appear that she is goofing off, walking aimlessly or sitting up on that platform, but she is watching all the time. She knows you are busy. She will come to you only if there is something wrong."
"Either that or she and Maia will be teaching them how to play practical jokes on people."
"It is their way of blowing off steam and they are never mean or dangerous." Karl reminded him.
"Come to think of it, they are pretty funny, and half the time they give it away they are laughing so hard."
"Now Romy. The obvious you know. Civil engineer, surveyor, environmental landscaper, soon to be a Ph.D. in history. Took over the Group after Edna died. Revamped it. modernized it,while keeping the best of the traditions. My right hand person in dealing with the town. Knows all the rules, regulations and procedures. Has on site knowledge of all the nuts and bolts of our network. Can be a bit ruthless."
"What isn't obvious? I know her house looks like a building in the Smithsonian, with all the books, music, artwork and other stuff they have.
She and Reed spend a lot of time with young Reed and I expect they will do the same with Bethany. They are devoted to each other and have a way of communicating in code that is unique to them."
Karl stood. "That's part of it. I'll give you details on the way home. In simple terms, Romy is the protector of Edna's legacy and The Farm. If anyone threatens this, she will respond. I am concerned about how far she might go."
Posted: Mar 13, 2012
|Sven looked puzzled.|
"As long as Reed is alive, everything will be fine. They mesh well intellectually and emotionally. However, their approach to threats is radically different. Reed would rather block them or put them in a maze they can't escape from. Romy would rather exterminate the threat altogether. He said the most critical time would be while she was in mourning. After that, she would be fine. He is hoping to stay alive long enough to have someone, preferably young Reed, able to keep her balanced. If not, the four of you will have to."
"I don't have a clue how to do that."
"Just run the business and keep Heidi out of trouble. Marta will keep her from getting too depressed. Elke can reason with her, but she will listen to Karl."
"Will this be long term? I mean Melody's husband has been dead ten years and she is still in mourning."
"I don't think so. No more than a year is my guess. Bethany will probably still be at home. Besides, she will still have responsibilities. Look, it may never happen, but I wanted you to be aware. Here's hoping Reed lives another twenty years."
Another summer passed. Romy and Reed traveled to Kansas to deliver the statue of Hilda to Paradise on the Plains. After that, they paid their first visit to Heartland, and spent a delightful week with Lisa, Jen and the twins. When they returned, Romy started studying for her comprehensive exams. She also began work on a book with Dora and Polly about life in the 50s as seen by Edna and her cohorts.
"We've got all those folders to work with." Dora said, "Now we have to find a projector for all those canisters of 8mm and 16 mm film we found
behind the walls. Too bad the library and school departments threw theirs
away after they converted their old film to DVDs
"Call Hiroshi's antique shop. Jack can track one down for us." Romy suggested.
In their last year in the under 35 division, the Smooth Mommas lost to the Flying Dragons. Toto's Girls made it to the finals again only to finish second. Elke's team again fell in the semifinals.
"My fault," said Elke, "I didn't push hard enough because of the babies.
No excuses next year."
The big surprise came on Labor Day when a statue of Mikie was unveiled
facing the front gate. "He always waited for the children to come home from school," Polly said, "And I can see him when I open my door every morning."
Without Cheyenne as a distraction, Bix played much better in the eight-week AAU league. Mike Snowe took Karl, Jud and their wives on a three-city road trip to Toronto, Cleveland and Detroit.
"We saw Florida and Tampa in the spring when we went to The Oasis,"
Karl said. "What's left?"
" Atlanta, Cincinnati, Minnesota and the last one," Jud said, "Unless
someone builds a new ball park, we may be done with three of them in
a season and a half."
Sally teased them. "Good. You two have so much loot you have gotten over the years; you may need to build a new building just for that."
Inga saw the look on their faces and laughed. "Sally, they never would have thought of that if you hadn't said anything. Between baseball, cars and train layouts, we will need to implant homing devices to get them home for meals."
"We need something to do now that we are practically retired. It will be for all sports memorabilia, not just ours. We'll put something in the newsletter when we get home to see how much interest there is." Karl said.
There were two major developments that autumn. First, Sven, Romy and Karl found themselves on opposite sides during hearings on a comprehensive plan
for the town. Karl wanted more starter homes built. "We need to upgrade
housing as it ages and account for residents added with the growing business base. The rental market is tight and they would be paying less on a mortgage."
Romy had reservations." First, the area is too compact. Your past projects have been scatter sites, which allow for better integration into the community. Second, I believe your site also abuts a former Superfund site from a closed lumber mill. Records indicate it was exempted from cleanup. At the very least, you need a brown field’s analysis to make sure no one will be at risk."
Sven saw it from another perspective. "More homes, more children mean more police and fire personnel, more teachers, more schools and additional congestion. The property taxes they will pay don't cover the expense. I am
willing to accept something on a smaller scale, but right now, I'd prefer
a temporary moratorium on future housing projects, including The Farm. Approved developments can move forward, but nothing new. I have to recuse myself on both matters because it is a conflict of interest, but that is my proposal."
A two-year moratorium was approved, pending a cost benefit analysis.
Romy tried to be diplomatic. "Karl, you don't want to build something and then get sued because you didn't do due diligence. Plus you've always told me you hated affordable housing projects isolated from the rest of a city
like they were stinky cheese. Sven is right. People will resent it if they have to pay higher taxes, and they will point their fingers at 'those people at the old mill'. That's the last thing you want."
"No hard feelings." Karl said. "Listen, it's only ten. Want to go to Nude Bowling Night? We all need to unwind."
Arm and arm, they headed to the Bowl-a-Drome.
Posted: Mar 15, 2012
|The second major development was the opening of the Montessori school, grades 1 and 2.|
Perhaps the most relieved person at The Farm was Marta. She knew her daughter was bright and had a mind of her own. She told her mother some of their exchanges.
Tara: "Mommy, you are very pretty in that old picture. I hope I grow up as pretty as you."
Marta: 'Thank you, Tara, that was very nice of you and I am sure you will be very pretty."
Tara: Even though you are old now, you are still pretty. Except when you put your mean face on."
Tara: "What are you and Daddy doing in the morning with the door closed?"
Marta: "We are telling each other how much we love each other."
Tara: "Oh, you are having sex. I'll have my cereal and wait until the noise stops before I knock on the door. Then we can go swimming."
They fought all the time, except in the mornings when they went to swim.
Tara had been difficult during pre-school. She read well, but math bored her. She would do her numbers and just leave the group to do something else. When the teachers asked her to come back, she would ignore them. She was never rude, never talked back. When asked why she left the group, she would say she already knew that and wanted to read or color or watch the fish in the aquarium.
When the teachers called Eric and Marta in for a teacher's conference, they were told Tara would probably learn more in a less structured environment than a public school. They recommended she go through the Montessori program.
Marta and Eric were delighted when Inga texted them that the building had been approved while they were at Granite Lake.
Marta told Tara.
"Good. Does that mean I don't have to wear clothes to school?"
"Except when it is cold or rainy, all you have to bring is a towel and wear shoes."
"It's a brand new floor and the teachers don't want it to get dirty from dirty feet walking through mud and puddles. You will probably be able to take them off when you get there."
"Thank you, mommy and daddy. I really didn't want to get dressed every day for school. I will be good, I promise."
Her parents crossed their fingers.
Reed was also going to enter as a second grader. He had done very well in public school, but Romy and Reed agreed that this would allow him to learn at his own pace, which was far ahead of nearly all the other children.
"He is reading at a fifth grade level, and is already working on fractions. We could probably home school him and have him in college by twelve, but he would miss all the social interaction with children his own age." Romy said.
Reed agreed. "He will grow up soon enough. Let him enjoy his childhood. We don't want him to have gray hair before he learns how to relate to people."
"I have three silver hairs and you are a handsome platinum. You may be an old soul, but you have a very young heart." Romy held him and gave him a sloppy kiss.
There was also a large contingent of Farm teenagers at the high school. In addition to Cheyenne, her twin sisters and the Gelsch twins, there were Lenny Elder and his sister Lilith, Mo Saunders, Jeannine's son Jacques,
Katie and Karl, two O’Brien’s, Bix and a dozen others. They mixed in well with their classmates, who had grown up with them and often visited them at The Farm. Harassment and taunting was not tolerated.
"They are just like you and I except when they go home, they don't put on clothes. They do homework; work after school, and like the same music and gossip, we do. If they come to our house and have to stay dressed, they do. When we go there, we go nude. No problem. It doesn't make the girls easy either. We already know what they look like so we get to know if we like them as people. Doesn't mean they don't have the same raging hormones we do. But the rules are the same. 'No' means 'no'." said one football player.
While Bix played fall baseball, Cheyenne got a job in town. A year ahead of him, she was putting money away for college and a car. She never said a bad word about Bix, nor he of her. They had different friends and hung out at different places in town. When they did meet, usually at nude bowling night, they would say hello, hug then go off to opposite ends.
Madison Snowe, who taught in the high school, reported to Edna's group that all of them were doing well academically and none was behavior problems. "You have many people at The Farm who are willing to share knowledge with them in areas they like, that we don't have time to go
into. It is really nice to see that kind of community and family support."
Romy was pleased. Her parents’ dream of this kind of community had come true.
Posted: Mar 18, 2012
|The Farm had not fulfilled Karl and Inga's dream by remaining static. Nearly half the families who had bought homes had remained. Some, like Carlos, had left because of the death of a spouse. Others had moved due to work or divorce. One family had inherited a 30-acre piece of property and left to build their own naturist community. A family of seven had even won the lottery.|
"We need a bigger house and room for our children and grandchildren. We want to live close by so we can all visit. But we want to build our own dream like you did."
They left their house to The Farm, bought property an hour away, and came
to all the big events.
Some of the children also moved out after school. Jack Hiroshi moved upstairs from the antique shop after his father passed away. TJ Snowe had decided to make the Navy a career. He had met an Austrian woman on vacation in Greece while deployed in Naples with the Sixth Fleet and married her. They went to naturist venues often.
His sister Gaby loved New England so much she transferred to an Eastern school.
"High speed rail can take me to New York, Boston, or Montreal within three hours. I can shop, see a new art exhibition, or visit Little Paris and be home for a late dinner. The beaches are great and there are plenty of naturist areas. I may come back some day, but this is where the action is."
Leah Elder got pregnant her senior year of college, had the baby alone, and was working at a Domestic Violence Center in Foggy City, while litigating for child support.
Others simply left to pursue their own dreams.
In their place had come a smorgasbord of new residents. Because Karl kept the prices affordable, some people from town had moved in. Others traveled as far as two thousand miles. They came from many backgrounds. Walking through the grounds, one could hear conversations in many languages. Informal classes were held.
"We speak English here, but if you go to our country, you will get better service if you can carry on a basic conversation, even if you don't speak well." Olga told them. "Well, maybe not in France, but then again, they are rude to everyone."
It was not only language, but also the food. Women would trade recipes, or cook together.
One would learn new things just by walking into someone's home. Children, unaware of past hostilities among various countries, would simply soak up new information like it was a great adventure. They didn't care where ancestors came from. They just wanted to eat tasty food, play with their friends, and listen to stories.
There were occasional political flare-ups among adults, especially about politics, but rarely to the point where it became mean spirited.
"Thankfully, we have gotten over the adolescent rigidity of the past and now work to come up with solutions that are mutually beneficial." said Karl. "There was a time when no one would compromise and everyone suffered. Honest differences of opinion are respected."
Posted: Mar 20, 2012
|It was a noisy Sunday breakfast at Marta's. With the entire family, Polly, Jud and his family, there were nearly thirty feasting on pancakes, scrambled eggs, muffins and French toast, fruit and gallons of milk and coffee.|
While the children were cleaning up, Karl suggested they all go for a walk around the property.
"We can put the youngest ones in a covered cart, strap them in and take turns driving. We'll bring another cart with drinks and snacks to the picnic area near the school."
"Why all of us, Poppa?" asked Elke.
"We meet for breakfast on the weekends, and for the holidays, but rarely does the whole family spend time together. Your mother would especially enjoy it. She misses you. So do I."
They all thought it would be fun. They started around the back path past Karl's, Romy's and Sven's homes. Inga stopped at a clearing and said,
"Elke, when are you going to build? You said you'd be ready after the babies were born."
"Momma, in the spring. But I have a question. Can you build two houses together so Maia can move back here too? People are knocking on the door all the time asking her medical questions. This would give her some privacy. Besides, she is family. Momma Sorenson calls you her American mother."
"It can be done without violating the moratorium. Since the house we received as a gift is going to be a museum of sorts for community use, we are allowed one more home. Yes,Sven?"
"I checked. That would be permitted."
Romy looked at Elke. "You two come see me and tell me what you have in mind. When Bekka comes back from Heartland, we can put something together."
Tara spoke. "Can we go watch Alice get the eggs from the chickens while you are talking? She talks to them and they talk back. She is really nice. She let us hold the chicks when our class went to visit."
Karl nodded. "All right. Grab an apple from the basket outside the greenhouse if you want one. Do what Alice tells you. I don't want to hear her or Mr. Galt scolding you."
"I'll try, Gramps." She marched off with her brothers, followed by Christine and Bix's sister Tanya, who were sent along to keep an eye on them.
They walked through the garages, adorned with murals on the exterior, then to the gardens, where the women picked flowers and put them in their hair.
"Hippie women?" asked Karl.
"No, silly, nude farm nymphs," replied Em.
They passed the activity building and office. Jeannine waved as she sat outside with her children.
"That building has really evolved over the years," said Sven. "Remember when all we had were the knitting and dance classes over here. Now we have Eric's computer lab, a soundproof section for musicians and filmmakers, an art studio and rooms for yoga, dance, needlework, macramé and even jigsaw puzzles. There is still enough open space for classes."
They got to the Galts. Mrs. was riding the lawn tractor, wearing just a cowgirl hat and headphones.
"She must be listening to Johnny Cash today," Polly said.
A smiling Mr. Galt led the children from the barn.
"They were very good. They helped Alice crate the eggs and went to say hello to the cows. No one stepped in anything either. I'd come with you on
your walk but my grandson is coming today with the newest great grandchild."
He hurried off. Tara took off her shoes, threw them in the cart. Then all the kids ran towards the school to get to the drink coolers first.
They stood at the top of the rise.
"You know, looking down there, it isn't a whole lot different from where we grew up. The athletic field, two softball fields, the school and parking lots, and Melody's, Mike's and Bekka's houses on the end. Nearly a third of a mile square of farmland in between. We grow cow corn and bale hay for animal feed." Marta said. "Maybe that is why we have always felt comfortable here. We are still very close to the land."
"There is more water, animal and plant life too. Ruthie's work in the gardens and Poppa and Jud’s blueberries and fruit trees have made us able to feed the whole farm with our produce in a relatively small space, and even have a surplus." added Elke.
Inga and Karl spoke quietly as they strolled down the path. When they reached the picnic tables, Inga said. "Your father and I have been talking. We agree that when the last houses and Elke's are built, that will be enough. The only other things we can think of are a small pet clinic when Dr. Paul and Brigitte move in. When the school is completed, the pre-school and day care will move down here. Then we can expand and upgrade the Wellness Center. It is fifteen years old and needs improvements."
The family agreed. Maintaining the quality of the community housing stock and Farm services was paramount.
"We owe it to our extended Farm family, the community and ourselves. We got a warning last year when we got stretched too thin." Karl said. "We won't let that happen again."
Posted: Mar 24, 2012
|Karl kept his word.|
The two ponds were drained and dredged, new grass filters were planted, and the raft rebuilt. New murals were painted on the garages and activity buildings. Grants were obtained to make the housing even more energy efficient. Shade trees were planted around the school and athletic fields.
The museum building was filling up. Mac Washington had donated an old uniform and bats.
Mike Snowe had sent autographed pictures of teammates, from Oakland and Kansas City when he was traded.
Olga donated a uniform, stick, and gloves as well as a framed picture of a cousin, who played defense on the first Detroit Red Wings team to win a Stanley Cup since Lidstrom retired.
Karl and Jud made their wives happy by carting over boxes of their memorabilia.
Polly and Ursula started an informal food bank. Extra produce was dropped off to people in need. If people insisted on paying them something, the money they collected was put into a Christmas fund.
Maia and Elke built their house, two living spaces connected by a communal kitchen and family room.
"Our husbands are away a lot, and it makes no sense to have two kitchens. We would be eating together anyway. If one of us wants a romantic evening, the other will cook and watch the kids," said Elke.
"The same goes if Elke needs to work at home or if I am on call." Maia added. "We are best friends and I don't see that changing."
Life was peaceful at the Farm.
At Edna's, Romy had finally gotten a projector and was beginning to watch the old movies. After one session, she remarked to Dora," I don't know if I can put some of this in my dissertation. Or even if I can make it public. We better get Polly and see what she thinks. She is the only one left who can give us an explanation, and she knew the four women who lived here better than anyone."
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