The Ant and Other Farm Stories: Garden Kingdom, illustrated by Jodi Maas

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Illustrations by Jodi Maas

In a small patch of garden near the old farmhouse,
Lauren’s mother had some trouble with a troublesome mouse.

The reason for this conflict is as old as seas are deep.
In order for all life to live, all living things must eat.

Now feeling that the garden had enough to go around,
the little mouse saw little harm in eating what it found.

However, Lauren’s mother didn’t feel that this was fair.
It’s not that she is greedy and she doesn’t want to share.

It’s just that she works very hard to make the garden nice.
She also knows the mouse has other food that would suffice.

So, on the day she saw the mouse had gnawed at a potato
and then – as if this wasn’t enough – chewed up a prized tomato.

She stomped her feet and shook her head, “I’m lost without a clue!
How can I stop a mouse from doing what it’s born to do?

But if that naughty, little mouse continues at this rate,
I won’t have any food to put upon my family’s plate!”

Now Lauren, who’d been working in her own small garden patch
said, “Mother, I can help you if it’s Bess you want to catch.

She’s queen of all the field mice for as far as you can see.
It’s best if you just talk to her – invite her here for tea.”

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“I see,” smiled Lauren’s mother, “I must ask this mouse to tea?”
“Let me,” replied her daughter, “We’re as close as friends can be.”

“I’ll leave it up to you then,” smiled her mother as she turned,
“I’m sure she must be very wise with such a title earned.”

So Lauren went to find the Queen to bid the invitation,
while in the house her mother sighed, “That child’s imagination!

Imagine that! Invite a mouse for tea and conversation!…
And not just any mouse,” she laughed, “but one of such high station!”

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All morning Lauren’s mother laughed about her daughter’s plan.
Yet some voice deep inside her said, I wonder if she can?”

She watched as little Lauren set the table for the tea,
clearly wanting everything as perfect as can be.

Her daughter set the table with her finest cups of all –
for it’s not everyday that one has monarchy come call.

At three o’clock that afternoon sweet Lauren came inside.
“Well,” she said, “I’ve done my best – at least I know I tried.”

“I’m sure you did, my darling,” said her mother with a smile,
“You must be quite excited for she’ll be here in a while.”

But Mother, you don’t understand. The Queen has come and gone.
She said that she was sorry, but she couldn’t stay too long.”

“She said she hopes to meet you when she comes again for tea
and promised that from now on, they will let your garden be.

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Queen Bess has made a law for all the field mice on the farm.
They’ll be the cat’s next meal. she vowed, if any more is harmed.

Lauren’s mother hugged her and then whispered in her ear,
“That cat is really far too fat. Those mice have little to fear.”

And just as Queen Bess promise, all the mice stayed far away
and if you ask sweet Lauren’s mom, she’ll shake her head and say,

“Who’s to say that one can’t talk to life both big and small.
It seems that our girl, Lauren, knows the language of them all!”

 

The Ant and Other Farm Stories: Nightfall, illustrated by Jodi Maas

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Night wraps around the land like a great, cozy comforter, as life on and around the farm settles down for another winter’s eve. A gentle snowfall coats the fields and farmhouse with a frosty, white layer – like icing on a cake.

The sound of the wind against the windows and through the trees makes Lauren snuggle further beneath her blankets and cuddle closer to Noble curled contentedly at her side. In the dark of her room, she tries to imagine the shapes of each tiny snowflake and soon dreams of a land with castles made of ice and people made of snow; while Noble dreams of chasing rabbits and diving into snowdrifts.

Somewhere in their sleep, the two friends meet and walk side by side across the farm, making tracks in the snow everywhere they go to say hello to life on old Cunningham Farm.

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The End

Wisconsin Days: March

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Photo by ac frohna

The sun shines brightly through the bedroom window and beckons me to rise even before Eva begins her morning ritual of cooing me awake from the nursery next door. Stretching long and hard and hesitating before throwing the warm comforter aside I gaze out the window at the bright blue sky and bent, barren treetops. It has not been a very harsh winter, nevertheless it’s March and in the Midwest that means winter has already been two months too long.

Delaying the departure from my bed, I try to recall what the first days of spring smell like, instead of the stale odor of a house that hasn’t ushered in the outdoors for many months. Inhaling long and hard, I imagine the sweet smell of a newly mown lawn and the swelling winds just before a summer thunderstorm.

Closing my eyes and, rather than the same leafless branches I have seen since November, I picture the first tiny, bright green leaves about to unfurl all along the branches of the oaks, hickories, and maples in the neighborhood.

I even try to imagine a spring shower dampening my face and the cool moist dirt beneath my fingernails, and just as I am about to take a great, big, imaginary bite out of the freshly picked tomato, I hear my daughter gurgle and murmur and wrestle with her bunny. With a dreamy sigh, I toss back my covers expecting to be hit with a blast of winter cold, but much to my delight the late winter sun has filtered in and settled all around me. Climbing from bed, I make my way to the window and open it, hoping the day outside will be just as kind.

It takes no imagination to hear the enthusiastic morning warbles and cheeps, twitter and tweets of the birds already enjoying this happy hiatus from the cold. With a great big smile and an excited pang in my heart, I clap my hands and scurry to Eva’s room singing, “Spring is coming, Noodle, spring will soon be here. Let’s go outside and greet the day, for spring is very near!”

Rushing through our morning routines and happily neglecting my deadlines, I dress Eva and strap her to my chest, call for the dogs, and hurry outside to welcome the pleasant day. Although the cool winds still instantly summon thoughts of winter, there’s no mistaking a change of season is upon us.

I can feel it in my bones and smell it in the air.

As I wandered from one dormant garden to another, my excitement over the impending season is very powerful – so powerful that I feel as if I concentrate hard enough I can almost will the buds to spring from the earth before my eyes – and even find myself a little disappointed when nothing issues forth upon command.

Yet I know very well that life will soon stir without my urging.

As we slowly make our way over to the vegetable garden, I begin to make a lengthy mental list of all the things I’ll try to grow this summer and all that has to be done to prepare the beds for the coming harvests. I imagine Eva, now bundled up and bound to me, soon crawling across the sweet smelling earth and playing beneath the hot sun, taking her first steps across the dewy grass and chasing the summer-slim barn cats.

My smile grows even wider when I look ahead to the days when my daughter will have her own little garden patch where I will teach her the simple pleasures of digging in the dirt and making something grow.

With Timber and North at our heels, and Eva at my chest, I head across the prairie behind our home. Each time a blast of wind strikes our faces, I hear my daughter suck in the cold air and squeal with delight at being out of doors and out of our snowy asylum.

So on we continue, ignoring the remaining winter’s icy reminders.

Whispering in my daughter’s ear, I speak of spring; of swaying fields and stormy skies, of prairie grass and wild asparagus, of hillsides blanketed with wildflowers and woodlands scattered with secret patches of subtle flora, restrained and fleeting, of puddles of rain and fat, buzzing bees.

We walk and talk and throw sticks for the dogs all morning and in these hours, I, like the earth, stir toward reawakening.