Madison is a busy place. It's not a big city, but at any time of day you can hear the noise of traffic, sirens, lawn mowers, trucks, kids down the street, the neighbors chatting over the fence. Most of the time, I like the feeling of being in the middle of things, knowing I can get to the store or farmers' market or library or what-have-you in a few minutes by bike or car. But every once in a while, it is nice to be in the country where the noise of the city is absent (I wouldn't say it's quiet, but it's certainly a different kind of noise) and there is plenty of space and open air and the only fences are there to keep horses in their pen or rabbits out of a garden.
The kids and I were in such a place for just a couple of hours today. My friend Pat owns some farmland (several acres, maybe 50) with her partner out in the country. It's not very far from Madison (less than 20 miles), but far enough to feel rural and quiet. We went ostensibly to help her plant her garden, but it was really an excuse for a visit and a chance for Daniel and Anya to experience some hands-on agriculture.
We spent a good two hours out there with Pat, and the only actual gardening that got accomplished was planting a single row of beans knocking some malicious-looking bugs off the asparagus plants. Pat could have done all this herself in fifteen minutes, I'm sure, but I don't think she minded having us there. Daniel was marginally helpful; he put in a row marker and held the hose and helped count out the bean seeds for planting. Look, he even has his own garden gloves:
Anya...bless her heart...was eager to participate, but she's got a little ways to go before she understands how this works. She kept dropping the beans in the wrong place and scooping more dirt on top than we needed. We finally told her that it was very important she dig in the corner of the garden plot a few feet away from the bean row.
The highlight for the kids was playing on an ancient toy ride-on tractor that Pat's partner unearthed from the toolshed. Pat can't remember if he bought it at a yard sale or rescued it from a dumpster, but either way, this tractor has seen plenty of use. It's so old and rusty Daniel could only manage pedaling if it was pointed downhill, and the steering was a disaster. Anya had to be pushed and guided the whole time, but it didn't thrill her any less.
I think if Pat doesn't mind, we'll go back next week and see if those beans made it up out of the ground!