“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” — Albert Einstein

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Grab Hold Of Your Writing Life

To close out May (can you believe it?),  I thought I'd share a great post by Pete Morin on how to write fiction that others will want to read. It doesn't hurt that he ends with a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of my favorite "Beat" poets.

To close out May, I thought you'd like to see a picture of our cattle when they were first put out on pasture this spring, where they're supposed to be. It's a little blurry but can still say a thousand words, no?

And one of our plump hens:

My daughter's Corgi rounding one of them up:

And the solar panels at the farm:

To close out May, I'd like to boast that we've planted 140 tomato plants in two days, all by hand, but I don't have a picture of that. Now that the bulk of the planting is done, I hope June affords me time to research my A list for agents, but how do I show you a picture of that? Maybe this Scribbler Award that Tricia O'Brien, one of my oldest blogging buddies, gave me a long time ago will do.

See you all in June!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Book Is Like A Garden

Let's Move! Michelle Obama's new book, American Grown, promoting gardens and showcasing the White House garden, is out. It promotes healthy lifestyles and good eating habits. The White House grounds and gardens are part of our National Parks and all proceeds go to the National Park Foundation.

The next generation is estimated to be the first to have a shorter life span than their parents. With the growing problem of childhood obesity and diabetes, I think it's great that the first lady is talking about the importance of outdoor activity and nurturing good eating habits at an early age. Kids in America today spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of some sort of screen.

One of the first things Michelle Obama did as first lady was to dig up part of the manicured lawn at the White House and plant a garden. You can read more about the story here on the NPR site. I support her efforts. As the ancient Chinese proverb goes: "A Book Is Like A Garden". I can lose myself in both.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Where's Your Nest?

I awoke this morning to the honking of geese overhead. They flew right over our house to land on the pond. I know it's pretty nice around here but the pesky birds should be up in Canada by now, mating and nesting up there. I have a robin's nest in a shrub beside my deck. Three eggs of the purest blue are nestled inside. 

I hope our human activity doesn't disturb the mother. Why do they nest so low to the ground and close to houses? Do they like us as much as we like them?

A Sunday aside: Did you know you can buy Facebook "likes"? Doesn't that diminish the value? At a time when it's supposed to be the bomb? I can pay people to "like" me who don't even know me. Before you know it there will be a way to buy followers.  Remember, I'm just a poor writer who plants veggies on the side and can't afford to pay much. OK, enough already. Off to plant brussel sprouts and cabbage and chard before the heat sets in.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Gilded Age

I recently read The Devil In The White City which takes place in Chicago before the turn of the century. It's the story of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the psychopathic serial killer who operated undetected outside the gates.  Larson expertly intertwines the true tale of two men: Daniel Barnham, the brilliant architect behind the legendary fair, and H.H .Holmes, the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death in his World's Fair Hotel he designed for murder.

It begins with the story of how Chicago beat out New York to build the World's Fair on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was a fair of invention which brought us numerous "firsts". George W. Ferris invented the wheel specifically for the fair as an answer to France's Eiffel Tower. But his was unlike any you see today. Each of his cars held 60 passengers! Can you imagine the genius of constructing such a structure on time with less than a year to do it and then operating it safely? Dozens of other now famous American staples on a smaller scale were also introduced: Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit, and Shredded Wheat, just to name a few. The first skyscaper was built after the invention of what made that possible: the elevator.  Chicago was experiencing explosive growth and as land values rose, the sky beckoned.

I found this to be an amazing story that reads like a novel. It was amazing to me how the rise of  labor unions and a 40-hr work week coincided with the pressure to complete these immense buildings and elaborate exhibits on a tight timetable. And all the while, underneath the glitter and excitment and invention, the chilling activites of H.H. Holmes ran unabated like the River Styx through the underworld.

No one is alive today who knew anyone with first hand knowledge of the fair. It's through the meticulous research of books such as this that the amazement lives on and credit is given to those who got us to where we are today.

Five Stars!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Common Good - Magpie Tales

The Meal, 1891, by Paul Gauguin

The children sit with folded hands
And wait for the meal to begin.
Dressed in their best with manners on display,
They wait for the hostess to sit down and pray.
The hands that held the knife
Juiced the lemon and set the table
Fold and begin.
The mother is first.

The painting prompt comes to us from Tess at Magpie Tales. Thank you Tess and happy Mother's Day to all.  May you all enjoy a meal as fine as the painting by Gauguin suggests.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Digging In The Dirt and Telling The Truth

I haven’t talked gardening in a while. Now that it’s taking up the majority of my time, I might as well write about it too! Digging in the dirt is therapeutic and sometimes characters and ideas surface along with the roots of the quack grass.  So I can dig and hum and make up stories all at the same time. Humming and singing to oneself run in my family. You should hear us when we all get together.

My asparagus came up too early because of the sustained warmth in March. Then the April frosts set in and the spears were killed. My new asparagus patch was nothing but drooped heads bowed to earth, depressing as a line of penitents. I waited, thinking there might be enough life left in them to fern out, as asparagus will, making a beautiful frond forest. But there wasn’t, so yesterday I took a sharp knife and crawled up and down the rows on my hands and knees and cut off the brown spears and pulled weeds at the same time and threw the mix into the wheelbarrow to be carted away.  (I confess I once wrote a short story called The Wheelbarrow about dead things being carted away.) You don’t want to leave any debris in the patch that will attract the dreaded asparagus beetle. I do have new spears coming up so all is not lost and now that the dead stuff is cleaned out, that end of the garden looks healthier. I also planted parsnips for the first time yesterday. I like to try a least one new vegetable every year.   

If it doesn’t rain today, I’ll plant kale and broccoli next to the parsnips and then we’ll set out the cabbage plants I started in the greenhouse on March 16th.  I did notice my fingers are a little stiff this morning. Funny…I can sit at my laptop all day writing lies and creating havoc and my hands never bother me. But one full day of pulling weeds makes them ache. Maybe my hands are telling me something!