Thursday, November 30, 2023

All that glitters

We've been having cold but clear weather lately – well below freezing at night (averaging about 20F) and no higher than 38F during the day (yesterday it didn't break 28F). This means we're getting some exceptionally heavy frost.

Early mornings, when the sun backlights everything at a low angle, are the most striking.

Even ordinary barbed wire is all dressed up.

In the driveway, the fallen willow leaves are glued to the ground.

Every stalk of grass in the pasture gets lit up.

As do any remaining oak leaves on the lawn.

This glitter will end today as we head into cloudier and warmer weather. Over the next week, high temps are supposed to rise into 40s and even low 50s, and nighttime will be well above freezing. As the saying goes, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.

Bonus photos: Full moon rising.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Writing résumé

Back in July, I had the opportunity to meet my literary agent, Bob Hostetler, in person. (It was for this reason, and no other, that Older Daughter and I braved the insanity of Las Vegas.) We had only communicated by email before that, and it was delightful to meet him and his wife.

During our two-hour chat, Bob mentioned some additional fiction projects he thought might interest me; but he also mentioned in passing some possible rural-themed nonfiction projects.

It was these nonfiction projects that kept nagging at me. What kind of projects did he have in mind? Finally I requested a phone consultation to discuss the issue at greater length. I put Bob on speaker phone so Don could listen in as well, since we often collaborate on nonfiction projects.

To my surprise, during this phone call it became clear Bob had no idea of the extent of my nonfiction writing. Since he's always focused on my fiction work, I guess he thought I merely dabbled in nonfiction, rather than having the extensive résumé that I do. On my end, it never occurred to me to inform him otherwise, since I didn't need an agent for any nonfiction stuff. He requested I send him a few magazine clips as well as a copy of "The Simplicity Primer."

So I did. I gathered a few clips, tucked a copy of the book into an envelope, and mailed it off. But I also did something I never thought to do before: I compiled a brief list of my magazine articles and other nonfiction writing. And holy cow, that résumé was a lot more hefty than I imagined.

Here's what I came up with:

Backwoods Home Magazine/Self-Reliance Magazine
107 articles

Backyard Beekeeping
36 articles

Backyard Poultry
5 articles

53 articles

Goat Journal
30 articles

Lehman’s (corporate blog)
53 articles

Mother Earth News
7 articles

Grit Magazine
2 articles

• Crafts Report Magazine (now called Handmade Business)
80 articles

Molly Green Magazine
13 articles

• E-books: 51 self-published e-books

• "Bear Poop and Applesauce: An Urban Migration to the Country"
(e-published, no ISBN)

For magazine articles alone, that's 386 articles, and I'm certain I've undercounted and missed a few. And of course, I have 4000+ posts on this blog.

In short, I've written more than I realized in the last 15+ years.

On a separate-but-related note, I've been organizing the loft in the barn above Don's shop. In this loft are three and a half totes absolutely stuffed with magazines (Backwoods Home, Self-Reliance, Countryside, etc), many of which have our (Don's and my) articles in them.

We actually winnowed out a lot of magazines and stored only the ones pertinent to our writing career. It's a lot of magazines to store, but every time I think it's time to get rid of them, something crops up that makes me glad I kept them. Needing clips for editors is one of those reasons.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Wild rice stuffing recipe

Several readers have asked for my wild rice stuffing recipe. I routinely make this dish for Thanksgiving and absolutely stinkin' love it.

It's been so many years that I may have it wrong, but I believe originally I got this recipe from a Martha Stewart cookbook my mother used to have. At any rate, here's what I wrote down:

In case you can't read my chicken scratch, here's the translation:

• 2 small onions, finely diced

• 2 carrots, diced (I use canned carrots since they're already soft)

• 4 T butter or margarine

• 1 spring thyme (I usually add about 1 tablespoon dried thyme)

• 1 bay leaf (I invariably skip this ingredient)

• 2 cups wild rice (or a blend of wild and white rice; I use half wild, half white)

• 3-3.5 cups boiling water

Directions: Sauté vegetables in butter until soft. Add herbs, rice, and boiling water. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (My original recipe calls for excess water to be drained off, but I never have that issue since I use a white rice/wild rice blend; it's probably necessary if only wild rice is used.)


Thursday, November 23, 2023

A quiet Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!

Since I work on Thursdays, we had our feast yesterday (Wednesday). We started by writing down a menu so we'd know what to make in advance vs. what to make the day of the feast. (We later dropped mashed potatoes and just had Older Daughter's fabulous scalloped potatoes.)

Preparations started on Tuesday, notably the dinner rolls, the stuffings, and desert (strawberry trifle).

Bread stuffing ingredients:

I'm not crazy about bread stuffing, but Don and Older Daughter like it. However Older Daughter doesn't like onions, so what I do is divide the pan into the "onion" side and the "no onion" side. Works beautifully.

My weakness is wild rice stuffing. Since no one else cares for it, I can add all the onions I want. Bliss.

I concentrated on pulling together all the component ingredients for strawberry trifle (defrosting the strawberries, making the cream filling, crushing the graham crackers) while Older Daughter made dinner rolls (here the dough is rising).

I also pulled a bunch of potatoes out of storage.

Yesterday, the day of our feast, started with prepping the bird that's been living in our freezer for three years, and our refrigerator for the past week.

I don't do much by way of fancy prep work on the turkey. After rinsing and patting dry, I merely rub the skin with shortening and put it in the oven (basting it periodically while cooking, of course.

Because we did so much prep work the day before, our Thanksgiving Day was actually rather leisurely. Here's the trifle assembly station...

...and the finished product.

Older Daughter made green beans in oyster sauce and scalloped potatoes, then started setting the table. She likes to fold the napkins in elegant shapes on Thanksgiving. While she was working on this, she suddenly stopped and realized she was making four place settings, not three. Even after all these years, it's hard not to miss Younger Daughter at such times.

While the turkey was baking, Don sharpened knives. It's become something of a family tradition to sharpen the knives for Thanksgiving. The reason for this stems from a time we had our beloved pastor (David "Spike" Shine) join us for Thanksgiving. He offered to carve the turkey, since he was quite good at it. To our everlasting embarrassment, every knife he tried was dull. Don hastily sharpened a knife, and Spike was finally able to carve the bird. Since then, every year without fail, Don gives a bunch of knives a good sharpening on Thanksgiving. (Rest in peace, Spike. We still miss you.)

The bird came out looking very nice.

While Don carved (with sharp knives!), I made gravy.

At last we all sat down to eat, a feast worth waiting for.

Besides the gratitude for our family, our health, and our food, we're also grateful we were able to stay home. Consider this video of holiday traffic, and you'll understand why.

A blessed, abundant, and safe Thanksgiving, dear readers!

Monday, November 20, 2023

Drama at the bird feeder

I started filling the bird feeder a couple weeks ago. I only fill it during colder months, as during summer and fall I don't young birds to grow up thinking there will always be free food at the feeder, and thus never learn to find it themselves.

Collectively I refer to the small birds as LBJs (Little Brown Jobbies), a universal term my grad school ornithology professor used, since sometimes they kinda all look similar and can be difficult to identify at a glance.

But unlike years past, when small birds dominated the seeds (Cassin's finches, pine siskins, goldfinches, lesser goldfinches, Oregon juncos, etc.), this year larger birds are jockeying for position. The most frequent visitors are Steller's jays, California quail, and ringed turtle doves.

Among the bigger birds, by far my favorite is Steller's jays. They're showy and quarrelsome and greedy, but I enjoy them.

We're also inundated with ringed turtle doves.

Next, California quail.

We even had a starling, which is actually an infrequent sight.

And of course, when the bigger birds aren't around, flocks of LBJs gather.

What I've been noticing is the pecking order among these various species.

Pecking order: Starlings > doves.

Pecking order: Quail > Steller's jays.

Pecking order: Quail > doves.

Pecking order: Doves > Steller's jays.

Pecking order: Quail > doves.

Pecking order: Quail > Steller's jays.

Pecking order: Doves > LBJs. (Actually, everything > LBJs.)

What it seems to come down to is Starlings > quail > doves > Steller's jays > LBJs.

Bonus photos: Red-shafted flicker. They don't eat seeds, but spend a lot of time winkling bugs out of crevices.

I have mixed feelings about red-shafted flickers. They're showy and handsome birds, and most of the time they're harmless and even beneficial. But in our last home, their quest for bugs led them to do severe damage to the side of our house to the point where we had to have the whole siding replaced.

Because of that experience, whenever we hear a flicker pecking on our walls or roof, we do our best to chase it off before it can do any damage.

So there you go. That's all the drama at the bird feeder.