Saturday, February 29, 2020

Parrot pedicure

For some time now, we've been concerned because Younger Daughter's Quaker parrot, Lihn, had an overgrown beak.

So today Older Daughter and I packed Lihn into her small traveling cage and took off for a bird specialist in Spokane.

A group of young people -- honestly, none of them looked older than 25 -- operate a sort of parrot clinic on Saturdays in Spokane. These folks had been trained by the regional parrot expert, Sparky (of Sparky's Bird Store, an amazing establishment) and had taken over all of the beak trimming the store used to offer.

This private home was something of a miniature Sparky's, absolutely dripping with gigantic macaws and a selection of smaller parrots (an African Gray and assorted others I couldn't identify). The noise -- remember, we're talking macaws -- was incredible. Lihn, unused to such cacophony, froze in alarm.

Once inside, I was suddenly dive-bombed by an unknown bird which landed on my back. The employees (three women, one man) all burst out laughing, plucked the culprit off my back, and put it up on a door, where it observed the proceedings from on high. (You'll notice the top of the door looks well chewed.)

Well let me tell you, these folks knew what they were doing. One woman took Lihn out of her cage and started rolling her pin feathers free, something Lihn would only let Younger Daughter do. They were fearless and confident in how they handled her. Lihn was like butter in their hands, sweet and docile. (Or maybe scared to death. Either way, she behaved herself.)

They asked if we wanted her wings clipped, but I said no. We let Lihn out of her cage in the evenings (when Mr. Darcy is in another room), and she likes to fly around. Clipping her wings would deprive her of that exercise.

Two of the young women wrapped Lihn in a blue cloth, then started in on her nails, which weren't bad but could always use a bit of trimming. Literally a parrot pedicure, since after trimming they buffed the nails.

Then they moved to Lihn's beak.

Using a Dremmel with a soft buffing tip, they ground away at her beak, reshaping it. Frankly if I was in Lihn's shoes, I'd have been terrified. But she was calm and quiet throughout. Doubtless the blue towel helped.

The women took their time and did an excellent job.

While this was going on, Older Daughter made a friend. And I mean this bird wouldn't let her go.

We could do anything to this magnificent bird -- move her from arm to hand to shoulder, scratch her on the head, neck, or chest, or anything else. She was a beautiful creature.

But another macaw in the room was less friendly, and we were warned to stay well away from him. This other bird emitted ear-piercing shrieks so frequently that sometimes we had to shout to be heard. (I think this, more than anything else, is what freaked Lihn out.)

We got a brief tour and history of the birds in the room. Most were rescues, either from abusive and/or neglectful situations, or from people who reluctantly gave them up for housing reasons (macaws are often unwelcome in apartments because of the disturbance to other residents). All were lovingly cared for by this remarkable group of dedicated young people.

But the noise level was incredible. Coming from such a quiet home, Lihn looked frozen. When we bundled her up with a blanket around her cage and returned to the car, she looked positively shell-shocked. It took her quite a long time to relax, and then she slept a lot on the way home, doubtless exhausted.

Still, she looks so much better with that beak trimmed!

And methinks she's glad to be back in her home cage.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Welcome back, Orange Jeep Dad

Some of you may remember Orange Jeep Dad, the blogger with six daughters and a large following and characterized by, you guessed it, an orange jeep. This family has had a lot of ups and downs over the last year, including a devastating house fire in which they lost everything but their lives. (And the orange jeep.)

Well, guess what. Orange Jeep Dad has accepted a job at the local hospital and is moving up this way! We had the pleasure of having the family (minus one of the daughters) to dinner a few weeks ago, and found they're just as nice in person as they are online.

Orange Jeep Dad's blog lapsed over the last couple of years, but he's re-started his page and is documenting his family's journey as they relocate to this neck of the woods. I hope you'll follow this family on their new adventure.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Great Mother can cure you!

Here's your chuckle du jour in the form of a spam email I just received:

"Great Mother is Real... I am Aisha Kun and i want to testify about Great Mother how she cured me of hiv aids. I was diagnosed of this disease some time ago and i was worried. when i was searching the internet looking for a cure, i came across some testimonies of Great Mother how she has helped a lot of people and i decided to contact her on her info and explained to her.

She laughed and told me that she will help me and i was surprised. She sent me the cure and it was a spiritual holy oil and water which is more than a medicine. She directed me on how to take it and i did. I took the cure for 3 weeks and i went to the doctor for check up and to my greatest surprise the disease was no longer in my system.

I am so glad and i want to thank Great Mother for helping me. Contact her now on her website and her email is Greatmotherofsolutiontemple1@[redacted].com you can also reach her on her whatsapp number +[redacted]. If you have any disease, she can help you. Contact her now"

So there you go. Forget the rest, just go to Great Mother.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Some of our favorite homestead tools

The following is an article rejected by Backwoods Home Magazine. I thought readers might find it interesting.

Homestead Tools: Some of our Favorites

Sometimes it seems successful homesteading is little more than the acquisition of the necessary tools to get a job done. Everywhere we turn on our little farm, we trip over some sort of tool, big or small.

That's why it's unlikely you'll ever find a true homesteader who lives in a "tiny house" or has an extreme minimalist lifestyle devoid of personal possessions. The fact is, to live a self-reliant lifestyle requires the necessary tools to manage livestock, raise a garden, preserve the bounty, cut firewood, build infrastructure, and endless other tasks.

After more than 25 years in the business (nearly 17 years at our current location), we've accumulated a lot of tools. The best tools are the ones that make our lives easier, safer, and which save wear and tear on our bodies. The worst tools are the ones that tattle every deed to Google in the form of "smart" technology. (We avoid those like the plague.) Whenever practical, we opt for a low-tech hand-powered version of a tool. Whenever that isn't practical, we opt for the best quality we can afford.

It's important to remember we are on-grid. Our choice of tools would be somewhat different if we were off-grid. However we strive to have low-tech hand-powered options for every on-grid mechanical tool we own. (What can I say, we're preppers.)

Which tools are worthwhile? Here are some of our favorites.

Big tools

• Tractor + implements. For the first 12 years on our Idaho homestead, we didn't have a working tractor (unfortunately we did have a non-working tractor). Whenever we needed a beast of burden, we borrowed one from friends or neighbors, then returned it as quickly as possible. The rest of the time, we simply worked hard – sometimes too hard, hurting ourselves in the process. But no matter how much we pushed our bodies, there are some things that are impossible to do without a force multiplier. Finally we took the plunge, borrowed money, and bought a tractor of our own. If there is one thing I recommend buying early in one's homesteading adventures, it's a mechanical beast to do the heavy lifting for you.

Along with the tractor, we've acquired useful implements through the years: brush hog, rototiller, auger, rock rake, back blade, spring harrow, plow, sub-soiler/trench digger, bucket spikes, and seed spreader. Needless to say, these all have their purpose on a homestead. While we bought the tractor new (which minimized pre-existing mechanical problems), most of our implements are second-hand. After all, if it doesn't have moving parts, most second-hand versions are just as sturdy and efficient as their brand-new counterparts (and considerably less expensive).

• Log splitter. Since we heat our home exclusively with firewood, and since we need about six cords of wood to see us through a winter, a lot splitter saves a tremendous amount of wear and tear on our bodies. This is particularly true since we live in conifer country with no hardwoods. Splitting softwoods such as tamarack or red fir is (we found out) notoriously difficult with a maul. Using a log splitter not only saves on labor, it saves on time. Autumn is when we're preserving the garden, battening down the farm for winter, filling orders with our woodcraft business, and other critical tasks. Trying to split six cords of firewood by hand on top all that would be impossible. We do, however, have all the tools we need for splitting wood by hand (mauls, sledges, wedges, etc.) which we use on occasion for small tasks. If the log splitter should die, or if we couldn't get fuel for it, then hand tools are critical.

• Wood cookstove. We spent the first 12 years here in Idaho heating our home with a small antique parlor stove. This stove, as much as we love it, was inconveniently located in a far corner of the house (rendering the rest of the house cold) and was not efficient in terms of wood usage. We finally purchased a brand-new Amish-made Baker's Choice wood cookstove and situated it in a more central location. This was by far one of our better purchases and a game-changer in making our home more comfortable. The stove is air-tight, efficient, and heats our entire home (sometimes too well). We can cook, bake, heat water, and dehydrate foods with it. It allows us to stay warm and fed when the power is out. It also cut our wood usage per year by about one-third. It's more than paid for itself.

• Chest freezers. We have three freezers, though one is generally not in use except as a backup. Chest freezers are more efficient than upright freezers, and we primarily use them to store the beef we raise, as well as garden produce in the intermediate stage before canning (such as blueberries or tomato purée). Besides overflow storage, the "spare" (backup) freezer offers peace of mind, since nothing is more worrisome than a malfunctioning freezer on a hot summer's day (been there done that). We also keep enough canning jars in reserve in case it becomes necessary to preserve the meat in the event of a long-term power outage.

• Utility trailer. This is another tool we spent too long without. We now own a small lightweight trailer (4x8 feet) and a heavier dually trailer (8 x 16 feet). Endless uses for both.

• Generator. We have a power-takeoff (PTO) 6000-watt generator with one purpose, and one purpose only: to power our well pump in the case of a long-term power outage. Our well is far too deep for hand-pumping options (610 feet deep with a static water level of 450 feet). This generator will not be used to power the house in any way, so we are fully prepared to live without electricity in every respect except water.

Medium tools

• Chainsaws. We own both a gas chainsaw and an electric chainsaw. The benefits of a gas chainsaw are self-evident. But an electric chainsaw?

Every three years or so, we order a logging truck of salvage logs for our firewood needs. We have a cleared area near the house for yarding the logs. Because the yard is within 100 feet of the house, one year my husband bought an electric chainsaw as an experimental purchase. He became an instant convert.

An electric chainsaw is like a Sawzall on steroids. It's powerful and efficient enough to cut logs into rounds, but it turns on and off at the push of a button and it vibrates far, far less than its gas counterpart. It has plenty of power, but is much more lightweight.

Using a gas chainsaw for several hours is exhausting simply from the vibration and the weight. An electric chainsaw is much easier on the body. It also is more cost-efficient, because the cost of the electricity to run it is far less than the blended fuel required by a gas-powered chainsaw. Of course, its primary limitation is the distance of the power cord. We've found its effective lifespan is less than a gas chainsaw as well (about three years is average). But considering it cost four or five times less than a quality gas-powered chainsaw, it's well worth the expense.

• Back-up woodcutting tools. We have all the tools necessary to lay in firewood without electricity or gas. This includes a two-person bucksaw, bow saws, axes, mauls, and wedges. Obviously we prefer the labor-saving versions, but can revert to our back-ups if necessary.

• Wheelbarrows. First we got one. Then a second. Then a third. Then a fourth. All four are constantly in use – in our woodshop, toting manure to the compost pile, cleaning the chicken coop, harvesting the garden, transporting fencing tools … you name it, and it's been in a wheelbarrow. We also own a two-wheel garden cart and sturdy yard wagon. Being able to move things easily without using our backs is absolutely necessary.

• Dolly/handtruck. A sturdy hand truck is convenient to move awkward and heavy loads without killing your back. We have two, and there have been times when we've needed both of them at the same time. Dollys are used not just for moving boxes or appliances; we also use them as powerful levers to lift and support the ends of things, such as logs for firewood cutting or to pull fence posts.

• Peevee. This logger's tool helps turn large logs during the process of cutting them into rounds.

• Breaker bar. This heavy iron ramming tool has a pry on one side and a ram on the other. Endless uses, especially when it comes to fencing.

• Ladders. My goodness, who doesn't need ladders? We have everything from stepstools for household use to tall extension ladders for accessing roofs. Ladders also make great temporary emergency fences and gates (such as keeping errant cattle out of the chicken coop when we allow them to graze the driveway area).

• Clamshell post-hole digger. It's hard to substitute the uses of this tool with anything else. While my husband uses the tractor-mounted auger most of the time, if he needs to put in a post somewhere the tractor can't go, the clamshell works best. And even if he drills a fence post hole with the tractor, usually the only way to clean out the loose dirt that falls back into the hole is by using the clamshell digger.

• Food-grade barrels. We own a dozen of these and use them either for storing grain (outside) or emergency water (inside). They are surprisingly handy. You can also partially fill them with water, secure the lid, and use them as a roller/packer on fresh gravel.

Small tools

There are so many small tools we use on the homestead that it's almost an exercise in futility to try and list them all, but here are some of our favorites.

• Garden tools. One time while attending a gardening seminar, I was given a massive catalog – at least half an inch thick – filled front to back with "essential" gardening tools to increase productivity and make life easier. Frankly if you're one of those people who believes all these tools are necessary, then the best "tool" you might as well buy is a gardener to do all the work for you.

People have gardened for thousands of years without all the fancy-dancy tools listed in this catalog. That said, there are certainly some necessary tools every gardener should have. These include the usual suspects (shovels, rakes, hoes, pitch forks). I'm also inordinately fond of my hand-weeder, which is a simple implement that looks like a notched screwdriver. I've found it to be the perfect weeding tool. Ninety percent of the time, this is the tool I reach for.

• Gardening gloves. I used to trash my hands every summer until I started using gardening gloves. Duh, what took me so long?

• Fruit-picker. This clawed basket-at-the-end-of-a-stick is wonderful for plucking fruit off tall trees. We have two of them, mounted on different-length poles.

• Drip irrigation system. The benefits of installing drip irrigation in our large garden are enormous. It saves water, it saves time, it's efficient, and the plants thrive. Because our garden is so large, we divvied it up into watering "zones" and water one zone at a time. During hot summer months, we drip-irrigate the garden daily, which takes about three hours to cycle through all the zones.

• Stock tank heater. Even when it dips to -15F (thankfully, a rare occurrence), this submersible wonder keeps our stock water tanks ice-free, which is essential for the winter needs of our livestock. It tends to suck up a lot of electricity, though, so be prepared for an extra jolt to your power bill. Also, the heating element cannot be exposed to air or it fries the unit, so the tank must be deep enough to keep the element submerged at all times.

• Float valve. This inexpensive addition to stock water tanks means your water tanks never run dry. It connects to a hose and the faucet is left on, and the tank automatically refills whenever it dips below the level of the float valve. These cannot be used in colder weather, however, as the hose and faucet will freeze. (Combining it with a stock tank heater doesn't work.)

• Hoses. We have many hoses ranging from short to long, thin to sturdy. You can never have too many hoses. Worn-out hoses can be shortened with new fittings added.

• Crowbars. We have several, ranging from small to large.

• Come-along. This is a ratcheting tool for hoisting large, heavy, or reluctant (yes I'm talking to you, cows) objects closer.

• Extension cords. As with hoses, we have many lengths and many gauges.

• Sawzall. Very handy for fast cuts in difficult material. We have two beefy electric ones and a lighter battery one.

• Ratchet straps. Essential for securing loads. We have lighter ratchet straps for everyday use, and heavy straps for securing vehicles or other heavy items.

• Shop tools. This is an exhaustive category and contains all the usual suspects: screwdrivers, chisels, hammers, saws, drills, clamps, pliers, wrenches, fasteners (nails, screws, bolts, etc.), staple gun, tape measures, levels, vice, and on and on. You name it, we have it. Every one of these tools is instrumental in maintaining our homestead.

• Heated chicken waterer. This is a fairly recent addition to our homestead, and my goodness what a relief not to be bringing the chicken waterer into the house twice a day during subfreezing weather to de-ice and refill. It greatly contributes to the comfort of the chickens as well. The drawback is these waterers only last a winter or two (mostly because the power cord separates from the unit), but they can be used as regular waterers in warmer weather without being plugged in.

• Kerosene lamps and fuel. I love the beauty and practicality of kerosene lamps, and have at least a dozen. I keep three filled and on standby for immediate lighting during a power outage, and the remaining lamps can be brought in and filled if necessary. I often light lamps just for ambience as well.

• Ear/eye protection. With all the varied tasks we do, protecting our eyes and ears as needed is vital. This protection is cheap in price, but the injuries they prevent are priceless.

• Breathing protection. We have paper masks, N-95 valved masks, and cartridge respirator masks as needed for shop work, or any spray applications.

• Pressure canner + other accouterments. Canning is my preferred food preservation method, and my faithful All American canner has processed literally thousands of jars of food in the 29 years I've owned it. Additionally, we have all the other accouterments needed for canning: jar lifter, Tattler lids, pots and racks for water-bath canning, etc.

• Dehydrator. This was a late addition to our tool repertoire. Over the years we flirted with dehydrators, usually because we found a cheap one at a thrift store (which was in a thrift store for a reason). We finally bit the bullet and purchased a new Presto Digital Electric Dehydrator (model 06301) along with its extra accessories (nonstick mesh screens and extra fruit roll sheets). This little machine has been worth every penny for how it has expanded our food preservation repertoire. There are many dehydrators on the market, and nearly every one of them is worth the price (depending on how much you'll use it). Since canning is still my preferred food preservation method and dehydrating is secondary, a smaller and less expensive unit is fine for us. For those who prefer dehydrating as their primary method, a larger and more expensive unit is recommended.

• Food strainer. This hand-cranked mechanical strainer makes processing garden produce a zillion times easier. Anytime something needs puréeing, this is the gadget to use. The amount of work it saves is tremendous, and it produces beautiful and consistent results. Once you've puréed 150 lbs. of tomatoes with this contraption, you'll never go back to slipping tomato skins in boiling water. Trust me.

• Grain grinder. Having started with a cheaper model, we upgraded to a sturdy Country Living grain mill. Believe me, processing wheat into flour or corn into cornmeal is a whole lot easier with a grain grinder.

• Pitch forks, hay forks. These tools are not the same thing. A pitch fork is a short, sturdy tool used for digging in soil, pitching manure, or other heavier tasks. A hay fork is for pitching hay to livestock or other lightweight work. Both are essential and we have several of each.

• Carpentry hand tools. Since Don is a woodworker, he has all the tools necessary not just for our home woodcraft business (table saw, band saw, belt sander, etc.) but also for projects and infrastructure improvements on the homestead (cordless drills, hand belt sanders, circular saw, jigsaw, etc.). But since all these tools are powered by electricity, over the years he has collected non-electric versions of various critical tools, such as planers, draw knifes, chisels, rasps, brace drills, hand saws, hammers, etc.

• Scythes. Yes, we use them. They're wonderful for harvesting wheat, taking down tall weeds, and otherwise conquering vegetation.

• T-post pounder. Noisy and heavy, but still the best way for a small homestead to sink T-posts into the ground.

• Wire stretcher/splicer. The ultimate tool for stretching wire fences. It's moderately priced and makes fencing immensely easier. It also makes a great clamp for holding heavy things, like posts or beams together while drilling or nailing.

• Sharpening tools. Keeping various blades sharp (everything from kitchen knives to axes to scythes) is essential for efficient tool usage. Having the necessary specialized sharpeners is important. We have an electric grinder sharpener, a manual crank sharpener, and numerous sharpening stones.

• Leatherman multi-tools. None of the attachments on a Leatherman are superior to their stand-alone counterparts, but the Leatherman has the advantage of being pocket-sized. An excellent tool in a pinch. My husband usually carries two with him.

• Rope/wire/chain. Believe it or not, the humble string was one of the game-changing inventions of early man that eventually led to endless inventions, everything from fine cloth to heavy anchor ropes. Today rope (in all its forms) is just as important on the homestead. We keep a good selection on hand, ranging from thin string to baling twine to heavy winching ropes. Into this category I'll also slip wire and chains. We have many thicknesses and lengths.

• Reference books. We are voracious readers with a personal home library of nearly 5000 volumes. Within that collection is a large repertoire of homesteading reference books covering everything from making soap to butchering livestock to preserving food to building fences to constructing a root cellar. While we use the internet just as much as the next person, we also have all the (low-tech, non-electric) necessary information at our fingertips when we need it. We have books not only to reinforce current projects, but to give us ideas for future projects.

Tools We'd Like to Acquire

No one can ever have too many tools, right? However, after all these years we have most of what we want – with two notable exceptions:

• ATV. We do not own an All-Terrain Vehicle, but it's a purchase we would like to make in the future. Especially for those with larger acreage and with livestock, an ATV is much nicer than chasing cows on foot (news flash: cows can run faster than you). Coupled with a small pull-behind trailer (or even a small push-ahead snowplow), this machine can provide a lot of bang for the buck.

• Root cellar. This is another big "tool" we do not own, but desperately want. Along with canning and dehydrating, a root cellar offers a vast expansion of food storage possibilities. Hopefully in our next home.

Intangible tools

No discussion of homesteading implements would be complete without a brief mention of intangible but critical tools. Ready for a lecture?

• Attitude. A positive attitude will buoy you over the most difficult times. No homestead is built without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears – and that's literal. Homesteaders must be willing to learn new things and push past failure. Keep your eyes on the prize and know you're doing a great thing by becoming more self-sufficient. Enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

• Patience. Many things take a lot time to come to fruition (fruit trees). Other things take a lot of serene hand-work (shelling dry beans). Yet other things take a slow-but-steady approach (fencing). In all instances, don't lose your patience. Don't rush. Enjoy the process.

• Humor. If you approach homesteading tasks with grim determination and sense of long-suffering, where's the joy in life? Look at the funny side of things. When you sink your new shoes into a wet cow patty, feel free to curse all you want – and then laugh.

• Frugality. Very few homesteaders are rich, but with patience and perseverance – and a huge amount of frugality – their homestead can gradually transform from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. Just don't put yourself into debt to rush the process – or at least, if you're going to go into debt, make sure it's worth it (such as purchasing a tractor).

Even a bull is a tool!

You're Seeing a Snapshot

This impressive list of tools is a snapshot of our current inventory. I need to make it clear we didn't have these at the beginning of our homesteading adventure – we acquired them, slowly, through many years, and as we could afford them and as we determined the need.

The last thing I recommend is to rush out and purchase every tool listed in this article. The best gauge to determine what tools to get is to first gauge the need. We never bothered to get a lathe for our woodshop, for example, because we don't need one. Sure, it would be fun; but since we don't require a lathe for the manufacture of our woodcraft items, we prefer to put our money into tools we genuinely need. Your needs may be different.

Remember that: Your needs may be different. Use that as your yardstick to build your tool stock. And don't forget to enjoy the process – it's all part of the fun of homesteading.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Those crazy birds

When I was a child, we had a colorful book of poems which contained this rhyme:
The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then?
Poor thing.

He'll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing,
Poor thing.
I still have that book, and I read the same poem to our girls when they were young. It's just one of those things that always stuck with me.

Well last Sunday, February 2 -- let me repeat that, February 2 -- I was sitting near a window when I heard a crazy noise: robins. I looked up in the leafless tree outside the window, and sure enough:

Those crazy birds. It was February 2.

Not unexpectedly, weather rolled in shortly after I saw the robins. We had wind, we had rain, we had snow, we had sub-freezing temperatures. What were those robins thinking, coming back to North Idaho on February 2?

Sure enough, I didn't see them again.

But this morning -- February 13 -- I heard another noise. Looking out the window at the same tree, I saw a red-winged blackbird singing his heart out.

Holy cow, you little avian wonders -- it's the middle of February! What are you thinking!

........Unless they know something we don't know............

Friday, February 7, 2020

A week of writing

If I've been unusually quiet on the blog lately, it's because I've been writing my fingers to the bone.

It's been crazy. My (early) morning starts when I team up with my fiction writing buddy, Ann Malley. She's on Eastern time and I'm on Pacific time, so it's good that I'm an early bird. We coordinate by email and put in a dedicated half-hour of pounding the keyboard on our respective fiction works (such as my current work-in-progress, an inspirational suspense). We call this our mini-NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month, the crazy practice of writing a 50,000-word book in a month). Writing for a heated half-hour allows us both to progress steadily in our work, usually about 1000+ words at a time, without blowing our brains out like NaNoWriMo does.

After that, Ann and I collaborate on some short (800 words or so) romantic fiction pieces we're working on. We write them separately but edit each other's works. Our goal is to eventually combine them into a collection called "Five Minute Flirts" or something like that.

After that, we peel off and go our separate ways for the day. Ann has many fiction works in progress, and I turn my attention to nonfiction. And it's the nonfiction that's been taking up the bulk of my time lately. This month, endless articles are due.

Naturally I have my weekly WND column to submit no later than noon on Friday. Usually I have to decide what I'm writing about by Tuesday so I have a few days to noodle around the idea. Fortunately I have, at present, 868 files I've created over the years (in which I collect links and ideas on various subjects) from which I can pick. Other times I create something out of thin air. This week's column was a "thin air" column.

This past week has been heavy on Lehman's stuff too. As many of you know, I write for the Amish store Lehman's, specifically their blog. I've become their go-to "interview" person to introduce any speakers they plan to have at the store. The season is gearing up, so I received three assignments in the last two weeks. These assignments are fabulous opportunities to "cyber-meet" some amazing people. I'm a Lehman's fan to the bone, so I consider these writing assignments a huge privilege.

I usually also have something in the works for Backwoods Home Magazine and Self-Reliance Magazine. Don and I both write for them, and at the moment we're collaborating on a large article involving pioneer/frontier skills. This piece was getting quite scattered because the subject is so huge, so on Monday we had a conference call with the editor to get a better grasp of what she wants, as well as what our word-count limitation is. After the call, we put together a proposal and sent it to the editor. She refined to proposal, so now we're both working on that article which is due February 14.

Actually, the editor liked everything we pitched in the proposal, but it won't all fit into one article. I have a feeling this will turn into a two- or even three-part article in order to address all the subjects sufficiently.

Knowing this article was looming, and in addition to the online research we're doing (including diaries and other original sources), we've bought a couple of reference books. This one is a library discard printed in 1961 which amazingly detailed and an excellent purchase.

I also had a shorter article for Backwoods Home I sent in this week as well, for which I sent 17 possible photos so the editor can choose which ones she likes.

Then there's the magazine Handmade Business. I had pitched an article idea back in December which the editor wanted by late February, so I was able to finish that one up well ahead of deadline. The editor at Handmade Business often sends me article requests (usually one at a time, but sometimes two at a time) with short deadline notices, and I make it a point to get them done in a timely fashion. I like writing for this magazine and the editor is great.

I've also been collaborating with the editor of Goat Journal and Backyard Poultry (the same person edits both publications). She requested a Goat Journal article by the end of the month, so I've only started the preliminary research on it, not the actual writing. But I had a Backyard Poultry article I just submitted, and we've been going back and forth about suitable illustrations for it. Don pulled together two of the illustrations, but for the rest I'm in the process of requesting permission to reprint photos from various sources. This is a frustrating activity because the sources don't always get back to me, in which case we have to find alternate sources.

Oh, and we're also working on the tail end of a massive order of tankards. We shipped the bulk of them out this past Monday, and the rest go out the door this upcoming Monday.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to this week. It's been a balancing act trying to get everything accomplished, but it gives you a peek into the life of folks who work at home.