Apr 202016
 

WW40cFirst of all, to my friends and family in Houston… I know some of you took some damage from the insane rains this week (Scott, Adam…). You have my sincerest sympathy. I know I whined about being scared by a tornado a few weeks back. You guys really didn’t have to do this just to show me up!  Thinking

I lived most of my life in and around the Houston metroplex. One thing I learned is that, while it doesn’t happen often, those floods can be devastating. I remember being stuck in my neighborhood a time or two, and MBH recalls being flooded out of her house when she was a kid. I even lost a friend during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 when she was told to move her car from a flooding underground parking garage. She took the elevator down, where the rising water shorted it out, trapped her inside, and filled with water. Kristie and I were both members of the Woodlands Writers Guild, and had worked on some writing conferences together.

And I guess this post just took a rather maudlin turn, didn’t it?

Moving to a more upbeat tone… I spoke to my mom this morning, and she seems to be recovering from her knee surgery wonderfully. The staples were removed from the incision yesterday, and she has regained motion in the knee to the point of being able to bend to nearly 90 degrees (although she says bending that far is still painful). All in all, she’s doing great.  Big Smile

Chucklers is moving right along. Restructuring the book has led to some rewrites and character expansions. Otherwise, most of the first book would be from Charlie’s POV, but interspersed with occasional chapters from other characters. In short, it would be completely out of balance without the reworks. But like I said, the work progresses. At the current rate, I should know soon whether the existing manuscript is going to be one book or two.

WW40bA final note. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve begun researching and applying some herbal medicine skills. There are a lot of pieces to those skills. You have to learn what plants have what medicinal properties, how to make them into infusions, tinctures, infused oils, salves, and poultices. But none of that knowledge does you any good if you aren’t able to identify the plants accurately. Well today I learned to identify a new plant. I’d read about it in several herbal medicine books, and seen it on various websites, but Plantain has so many variants that it threw me. And seeing pictures of something just isn’t the same as being able to put your hands on it and see it in real life.

Today, while I was walking the girls, I noticed a plant in a neighbor’s yard that looked very much like the descriptions and pictures I’d researched. And after all the rain we’ve had here (no, nothing like Houston) they were pushing up an easily identifiable flower stalk. But I still wasn’t sure, so I took a picture and posted it to a wildcrafting site I follow asking if it was, indeed, plantain. Sure enough, several wildcrafters confirmed it for me.

WW40aBut I didn’t want to go into the neighbor’s yard and start digging up plants. Besides, I sure didn’t want to make an infused oil from a plant that could have pesticide or other chemicals in it. So I decided that since I was now able to accurately identify this handy little medicinal, I went into my own back yard, hoping to find it there. It wasn’t until I had walked all the way to the back that I found it, but once I did, I was happy to see that there’s quite a bit of it near the back of the property. (Most of the broad-leafed plants in the picture to the left are plantain.) Specifically, it looks like I have Kentucky Plantain growing in relative abundance in my back yard.

Plantain is one of the better antidotes for insect stings and bites, snakebite, poison ivy, rashes, burns, cuts, and other skin ailments. When heated, the leaves can be applied topically to swollen joints, sore muscles, sprains, etc. Studies have shown that it is rich in tannin (which draws tissue together to help stop bleeding), allantoin (which promotes the healing of injured skin cells), and is an anti-inflammatory. There are other reputed uses, but I’ll stick with the ones that have scientific studies behind them.

So that’s my little bit of excitement for the day. Now I get to experiment with trying to dehydrate it, and make some infused oil out of it. I’m curious about whether dehydrating it significantly lowers its potency in infusions and oils.

I guess I’ll find out.

And that’s it. Time to get back to work. Stay safe everyone. I’ll see you in a week.  Bye

 

Mar 232016
 

WW37aNo writing news to speak of this week.  And much of this is a rehashing of a Facebook status I posted last week.  But there could be one or two of you who don’t follow me on Facebook, so here goes.

Spring has officially sprung. And as if to prove that she’s mellowing, Mother Nature has given us a few weeks of really nice weather, varying from daytime highs from the sixties all the way into the occasional eighty-something.  So last week I decided it was time to start getting ready for this year’s gardening.

Last year, I planted a huge 40 x 40 foot garden, planting hundreds of onions (don’t ask me why I did it, call it a momentary lapse of sanity), several varieties of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus, and some corn.

I’m scaling back this year.  I still have a bit of variety, but I’m cutting back on the quantity, in most cases planting only one or two of each cultivar.  For those of you keeping track at home, in the main garden I’m planning:


• Red Malabar spinach
• Bloomsdale spinach
• Anaheim Peppers
• Texas Cream peas
• Jalapeno peppers
• Iceberg lettuce
• California Wonder bell peppers
• Black beauty eggplant
• Bibb lettuce
• Black Beauty zucchini
• Poblano peppers
• Black Krim tomatoes
• San Marzano tomatoes
• Straight Eight cucumbers
• Cherokee purple tomatoes
• Orange Oxheart tomatoes
• Golden California Wonder bell peppers
• Roma tomatoes
• Better Belle bell peppers

 

And since some of last year’s strawberries not only survived the winter, but are actually spreading, I decided to take some of them and put them in the top area of the Garden Tower (which was a huge success last year). Additionally, in the “pockets” of the tower, I planted:

• Cilantro
• Lemon basil (from the seeds I gathered from last year’s growth)
• Garlic chives
• Oregano
• Cimarron Romaine lettuce
• Buttercrunch lettuce
• Little Gem lettuce
• Common chives
• Sweet basil
• Arugula
• Iceberg lettuce (which probably won’t grow in such a confined area, but it’s an experiment)
• Genovese basil

Additionally, I still have the four pawpaw trees, two Cornelian Cherry trees, one tiny peach tree, three of the cold hardy Issai Kiwis (though one is male), two Honeyberry bushes, two Sea Berry bushes, and my wife’s fancy honeysuckle. The newest addition (planted just last week) is a new seedless white grape-vine we planted in the back, southwest corner of the fence. We planted it there so we can train it along the fence rails as it grows.  I also have some bocking #4 comfrey that I’ve grown from root cuttings in those two white buckets in the picture.  Comfrey is a fantastic medicinal plant, as well as a natural fertilizer, so I’ll be transferring the two I’ve got from the buckets into the yard near the other trees in a few weeks.

And since the cantaloupes were such a huge success last year, I’ll be planting more of them this year, as well as some Black Diamond watermelons (I saved seeds from the one good melon we got last year, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed).

In the front bed, last year’s rosemary plant not only survived the winter, but is now three times its original size. And the peppermint is coming back as well.  Additionally, I’ll be planting more basil there, (because you can NEVER have too much basil), and more Swiss Chard and Kale.

Hmmm…  You know, when I actually write it all out, it really doesn’t look like much of a scaling back, does it?  But it really is… I think.  Struggle

WW37bBut here’s the real kicker.  You remember how I mentioned that Mother Nature has been all mellow lately?  How the temps have been so nice?

Well Mother Nature can suck it!   Teeth  Don’t let her fool you!  She’s a lying, deceitful, conniving bitch who was just waiting for me to commit those seeds!  And of course, the day after I did was the day I found out that we had some “unseasonably late freezes” headed our way.

Now, I’m not too worried about the seed trays.  Those are easy enough to bring inside while it’s cold.  But the garden tower is too big and heavy to bring in out of the cold.  Luckily, I still have the economy pop-up “greenhouse” I bought last year.  And while some of the parts have been scavenged for other uses (the metal support poles make great tree stakes), there was enough left of the main structure that MBH and I were able to put it up around the garden tower.  Hopefully it will be sufficient to get us through the next week or so of freezing temps.

That’s it for now.  Next week there will be more interesting items to post, I promise.  But for now, stay safe.  I’ll talk to you later.  Bye

Dec 022015
 

The new homesteadEach day on Facebook I get a reminder and a link to a set of posts that I made or participated in on the anniversary of the date.  Today’s reminders contained a link that started this reflective mood.  One year ago today is when I first posted about having turned in my notice at a job I had held for seventeen years.  I wrote about it on this blog in the post titled “Rebooting My Life“.

Reading back on that post made me reflect on all the things that led up to that decision.  More than that, it made me look back on the year that has passed since then.  Needless to say, not everything in the last year has worked out the way I expected it to.  Some of it has worked out better, some worse.  Of course, I suppose that’s pretty much the way life is.  No complaints.  I’ve got a good home, good life, and a wonderful wife to share it with.

Sure, there are things that I wanted to accomplish in 2015 that didn’t pan out the way I planned.  There’s the book that I spent the first several months of the year writing.  Chucklers now languishes unpublished in the virtual drawer awaiting a fresh perspective and rewrites.  My second writing project of the year is Year 12, the sequel to Half Past Midnight.  If things had gone according to plan, it would already be published.  But it’s also still unfinished.  In fact, the only thing that I’ve managed to publish this year is a horror novella that I wrote in 2014.  It sold well for Halloween, but now is barely moving.

Then there’s my gardening.  I had high hopes that I was going to be able to help cut costs on our groceries by bringing in all sorts of fruits and veggies.  Instead, between the bad growing season we had this year, and the money I spent on getting good soil into the garden, I think I probably managed to cost us a couple of hundred dollars more than what we would have spent just buying the groceries.

But here’s the thing… I learned what to do next year.  I learned where I messed up by planting too early, and so stunting some of my veggies.  I learned that the huge garden I have is simply too big for me to handle.  So I’ll be scaling it back for next year, and I’ll hold off on planting for next year until late April or early May.

And for my writing, I should be set up pretty well for the next year.  My plan for Chucklers is to clear up the confusing timeline issues by splitting it into two different books.  And the first draft of Y12 should (hopefully) be finished by the end of this year, setting it up for publication next year as well.  If all that goes according to plan, I could have three new books published by this time next year.

But not if I don’t get my phatass back to work.  So enough reflection for now.  Be careful everyone, and stay safe.   Bye

Jul 082015
 

Almost forgot to write my Wednesday posting. Luckily, there isn’t really any contentious news to take up any of our time today. There was the holiday weekend that those of us here in the US just celebrated. MBH and I took advantage of the long weekend and went to visit friends and family in Houston. It was a little rushed, as holidays go, but it was also a well needed and greatly appreciated respite from the day to day.

And when we got back home we had some surprises waiting for us. Our cantaloupes are finally beginning to actually produce some fruit. They’re still small, to be sure, but it felt great to find them in the garden. If all the melons that are currently growing manage to mature, it looks like we’ll get about a dozen of them. Of course, the weather has taken another turn, and it’s been raining for the last few days, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll ever mature at this rate.

There are also about a dozen ears of corn trying to grow, and a handful of grape tomatoes. And we still get the occasional strawberry or two, and Royal Burgandy bush beans. But the weather has just been too crazy this year for us to be able to depend on any sort of real return.

But I’ve learned a lot during the course of this first big garden, and hopefully next year will be more productive. Not that I’ve completely given up on this year. I just realize that the growing season is passing me by, with very little to show for it so far.

What else? Hmmm…..

Oh! MBH and I have found a new show that we really enjoy watching. It’s the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire“. It’s a weekly bladesmithing competition where they have four bladesmiths competing for a weekly $10k prize. It’s really reminded me of how much I used to love making knives. The blade in the picture here, is one that I rough-ground, but never got around to finishing. Maybe I’ll get a chance to get back to it again one day.

Hey! It could happen. LOL

And if you are interested, and haven’t already seen them, here is a link to some of the kit knives I used to make and sell.

Writing

The writing is moving along. Not as smoothly as I would like, but it is moving. For those of you who write, you know how sometimes the story just seems to flow from your fingers and you knock out three, four, or five thousand words at a sitting? Then other times it’s a fight to get one thousand? I seem to be running into a lot of those one thousand word days lately. I hit a speedbump in the story that has forced me to throw out a few thousand words, and getting back on track is a real struggle.

But I think I’m just about back where I want the story to be. It’s still rough, but it’s a first draft. Polishing it will come later.

Speaking of writing, I need to get back to it. So that’s it for now. You guys stay safe, and I’ll talk to you in about a week. Bye

 Posted by at 11:14 pm
Jun 222015
 

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve already fallen off on my resolution to post here daily. I thought about it before letting the blog slide for a few days, but had a couple of people point out to me that the time I was spending on blog posts was time that I wasn’t working on the WIP. It’s a valid point, and after considering it I’ve come to the conclusion that my time would be better served by blogging less, and spending more time on the book.

I’m not yet sure how often I will end up posting, but it will probably be at least once a week… maybe more. Maybe I’ll make Wednesdays my blogging days – “website Wednesday”. Who knows? But today is Monday, and I’m here, so…

So, what’s happened lately? The obvious one is that yesterday was Father’s Day. It was a peaceful relaxed day, with my wife trying to pamper me, and me feeling guilty when she did. The kids all called to wish me a good one, so that was really nice.

The hardest thing about it was trying not to dwell too much on the fact that it was my first Father’s Day since my dad passed. I kept finding myself thinking about him, and at times had to make myself busy doing something else to keep from tearing up. I guess it’s natural, and I know there are so many people who have gone through the same thing or worse. But it’s new for me, and I’m still finding my way.

20150622_071322We spent several hours of Friday evening and Saturday morning on the yard. With it being a much bigger yard, it takes MBH and I working together for a good three or four hours. And for the last two times we’ve mowed, we’ve noticed that the riding mower seems to be cutting crooked. This morning when walking the girls, we got back home and MBH looked at the yard and said, “It looks like one of those crazy hair styles where someone was trying to cut a pattern into their hair.” Personally, I think it looks more like drunken aliens were trying to make crop circles, and couldn’t quite hold the pattern. Either way, it doesn’t look like a well maintained lawn. I don’t know if you can see the lawn art in the attached picture, but there it is. I really need to take a look at the deck of the mower & see if there is some sort of adjustment to straighten it up.

But the garden is growing, the yard is mowed, and today it’s back to writing. Let’s see how that works out today, shall we?

Oh! A PS for the person who left a comment asking whether or not I built this website myself – First, I am using a discontinued WordPress theme called “Suffusion”. It’s very adaptable, and you can pretty much make it look however you want. I elected for a relatively simple color scheme with light print on a darker, static background. Here’s the thing though… your comment appears to be clickbait spam. Granted, if it is, it’s better written than most, but it’s suspicious enough that I’m not going to allow the pending comment through. If you are an actual person, please feel free to reply to this & let me know who you are, but until such time as I am convinced, your link will die in limbo.

Stay safe, everyone.   Bye