Monday, October 31, 2011

When farm boys get bored

I managed to pick up a doozy of a bad cold, courtesy of Younger Daughter. (hack cough wheeze blooooow honk....) My office garbage can doth overflow...

...(I figure, why empty it since I'll just re-fill it tomorrow?)

So, in the absence of any genuine mental capability, and since I'll be away from home almost all day long tomorrow (and thus unable to post anything), I'll merely leave you with some amusing pictures a reader sent me.

When Farm Boys Get Bored

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Looking for someone!

I'm sorta-kinda caught up on most of my backlog of older emails, but I haven't been able to find one particular email I've been looking for.

Several months ago a woman who runs a homesteading-type blog in Alaska emailed with some kind words. Usually if I don't get a chance to answer someone right away, I keep their email in bold font so I can go back and answer later. If I un-bold an email, it often gets lost.

Well, I must have un-bolded this email, because I simply cannot find it for the life of me.

So -- if you run a homesteading blog in Alaska, and you contacted me before but never got an answer, would you please drop me another email at ??

UPDATE: I should probably have mentioned that this mystery blog is NOT Frontier Freedom. Jenny and I are cyber-pals and have emailed each other quite a bit. Nope, it's another blogger.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ding dang deer

Okay, I gotta confess. Despite my frustration with deer when they eat what they're not supposed to, I just love 'em.

This love goes waaaaay back. When I was a teenager, even before I realized I wanted to be a biologist, I used to do what I called "deer watching" which was to go out into the hills, hide myself up a tree or under a bush, and stay very very still just to watch what animals would come by. I saw some pretty neat things (including a mother skunk with five baby skunks toddling after her), but the most common animal I watched was deer. I admired their delicate grace and alert stance.

Early in the mornings, when I go outside to let the chickens out of their coop, I've learned to bring my camera with me since there are usually deer in our driveway area.

The other morning, our usual crowd (a doe and her two fawns) were hanging around... I stood still on the side porch and just watched them, quietly taking pictures. All of a sudden one of the fawns came around the side of the house, mere feet from me, and sniffed at a corn cob we'd given to the chickens the day before.

Since my camera was already up by my face, I didn't have to move as I took photos, so she never knew I was there. (Dumb deer.)

She rejoined her mama and sister...

...and then the whole crew wandered behind the barn into the open corral. I quietly went inside the barn, poised my camera, and waited for them to walk into view.

They never even saw me.

This one couldn't have been more than five feet away.

They nibbled their way across the corral...

...and went out the other side.

They skirted around our pile of logs...

...and disappeared into the woods.

Yes they're a hassle sometimes, but they sure are pretty animals.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What have I done?

I did something wild and impetuous tonight. I registered for NaNoWriMo.

Before I explain what that is (though many writers among you will already know), I'll blame it on my friend Patty.

Patty and I are old and dear friends. Unfortunately she now lives far away, so our occasional phone calls will often turn into two-hour marathons of yakking. This afternoon was no exception as we caught up on each others' lives.

And the subject of writing came up. Patty was contemplating doing NaNoWriMo, and she talked me into it too. (See Patty? This is all your fault.)

So what is NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month's time.

It's a crazy thing, the concept of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. But can it be done? Yes. And here's the thing: I have an idea for a novel bubbling about in my subconscious. Maybe this will be the kick-in-the-pants I need to get it on paper.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo about ten years ago but never had the urge to participate. Then a few years ago I picked up a book called No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. Frankly I had very low expectations about the book. I've read dozens of how-to-write book over the years, and they're all pretty good but not profound. But writing a novel without a plot? How the heck can you write a novel without a plot?

But to my utter and complete surprise, the concept is enthralling –- and sensible. Inspired by the nagging of the author, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time about three years ago. And wow, did it blow me away.

Nothing came of that pathetic banged-out proto-novel. But so what? The point is, I did it. I wrote 50,000 words in a month.

With NaNoWriMo, you take the month of November and just write. Don't let trivial details like a lack of plot or talent get in the way. Just sit down at your computer and write. Rather surprisingly, if you can get through the doldrums of Week Two, your incipient novel may actually turn out to be not half-bad. This means, in the immortal words of the author, "you should lower the bar from 'best-seller' to 'would not make someone vomit.'"

Here are some excerpts from No Plot? No Problem!:

• The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It's the lack of a deadline. Give someone an enormous task, a supportive community, and a friendly-yet-firm due date, and miracles will happen.

• Which is how most of us becomes "one day" novelists. As in, "One day, I'd really like to write a novel." The problem is that that day never seems to come, and so we're stuck. Or we were stuck, anyway. Because as far as artistic deadlines go, this book comes with a doozy.

• If there's one thing successful novelists agree on, it's this: the single best thing you can do to improve your writing is to write. Copiously.

• A handful of participants have gone on to edit and sell their creations to big-time publishing houses. The biggest success stories of National Novel Writing Month, though are rarely the published ones. These are the stories of everyday people who, over the course of one frantic month, discover that literature is not merely a spectator sport. Who discover that fiction writing can be a blast when you set aside debilitating notions of perfection and just dive headlong into the creative process.

• The first law of exuberant imperfection is essentially this: The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy...By giving yourself the gift of imperfection, you tap into the realms of intuition and imagination that your hypercritical brain normally censors.

From its rather pathetic inception in 1999, NaNoWriMo has blossomed into the biggest word-press on the planet, involving over 200,000 people from dozens of countries.

From Wikipedia: "No official prizes are awarded for length, quality, or speed. Anyone who reaches the 50,000 word mark is declared a winner. Beginning November 25, participants can submit their novel to be automatically verified for length and receive a printable certificate, an icon they can display on the web, and inclusion on the list of winners. No precautions are taken to prevent cheating; since the only significant reward for winning is the finished novel itself and the satisfaction of having written it, there is little incentive to cheat."

Anyway, for better or worse, I'm enrolled. I finally have an excuse to take this nascent idea I've had kicking around in my skull, and put it on paper. 50,000 words divided by 30 days is 1667 words/day. Skip a day, and I'll have to double up.

If my prior experience with NaNoWriMo is any guide, I'm in for a wild, crazy, laugh-and-cry month. It means I'll have to fit those 1667 words around my regular schedule of writing, homeschooling, working, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, taking the kids to lessons in the city, etc.

Patty and I are embarking on this together, and we'll see if we can make it happen. But whether or not we cross the finish line, we'll have more of our novels written at the end of the month than we did at the beginning.

Making this announcement to you, my readers, is rather brash... because it also means I'll have to live up to your expectations.


Bedding down for the winter

It was time to button up the strawberries for the winter. I'd been reading up on this, and it seems I was supposed to wait until the temperature reached 20F, to encourage the strawberries to go dormant.

So the other morning, bingo. Twenty degrees. We've had three mornings in a row in this range, so I figure the strawberries will be about as dormant as they'll ever be. Time to bed them down.

The idea is to cover the strawberry plants with several inches of loose straw. So I raided the barn and came away with a wheelbarrow full of straw. But when I went into the garden, I was in for a nasty shock. One whole strawberry bed was eaten down!

It wasn't hard to trace to culprits.

Seems the ding dang deer had been back for a snack, just like they did during the summer, despite the protective netting over them! How????

The netting was sorta tangled up and partially pushed back, which is how the deer got access to the plants. But how did the netting get pushed back? Deer aren't that smart! Fortunately except for my annoyance, the damage could have been worse. The plants are pretty much dormant, so I'm confident they'll recover next summer.

Meanwhile I loosely shook some hay over the bed.

As I worked, I was able to piece together the sequence of events that led to the plants being eaten. Obviously a deer had gotten seriously tangled up in the bird netting, since I found long jagged tears, one on each side of the net "tent." This stuff isn't easy to tear, so the deer must have had quite the battle with the stuff. And obviously, once she broke free, why not enjoy the now-vulnerable plants as a tasty late-night snack?

So I wove together the netting on first one side of the bed...

...then the other.

I also re-tied the strings holding the frame up, since the strings had snapped during the deer's struggle.

With the netting repaired and the plants covered with straw, the damaged bed is ready for the winter. I was originally planning on taking the netting down, but now I'm not so sure. I think I'll wait until there's a nice snowfall before removing the netting.

The other strawberry bed was undamaged.

It even had a late-season strawberry, which I picked. However it was so bad, I spit it out.

I also covered this bed with loose hay and re-covered the bed with the netting. The strawberries are now officially buttoned up for the winter.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Random pix

A few random pix from the last few days.

Here's Matilda, nursing both Polly and Thor. Like they need it, the greedy things. They're nearly as big as poor Matilda.

Older Daughter walked down the driveway to visit a neighbor. Lydia was focused. "Wait! Come back!"

This is a clean trash can filled with 200 lbs of chicken feed. We will NOT be dipping into this unless we're snowed in. We never know what our winters will be like, and since we're nearly two miles off-road, being snowed in is not uncommon. There have been a couple of times when we're run dangerously low on feed for the chickens. Ain't happening this year!

The girls and I went walking the other day.

We saw a train go by in the canyon below us.

A tiny bit of fall color.

Older Daughter was walking ahead and kept hitting patches of sunlight, which I thought made for cool photos.

Fireweed gone to seed.

Some birds bathing in a puddle. I believe they're house finches. Female...

...and both male and female.

A meadowlark on top a sign.

Some pretty tableaux:

Brit, our horse, comes over for a little attention.

A cartoon drawn by Younger Daughter's fiddle teacher's kid.

Sunrise through fog. Beautiful.