Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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It’s over … mostly #gardening #minnesota #fall #autumn

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Remember the snow from last week’s post? And I had to scrape frost from my windshield a day or two later. No, I didn’t cover anything this time.

How do you spell relief when you are a gardener in MN?

FROST.

Yep. Killed pretty much everything not related to cabbage. This picture is from the vantage of the potato bed. Not a great shot, because I dug potatoes weeks ago. It does look pretty desolate though.

The peppers and the zucchini are now wilty versions of their former selves, along with all the remaining bounty. It was a great year for peppers; I finally stopped picking them because, well, how many stuffed peppers can two people eat?

My seasonal favorites weathered the cold just fine.

I’m finishing off the last of the beets, and brussels sprouts are next on the menu, I think. Or kale. Or both. The sprouts did really well this year. I have had some already, but after a frost they tend to sweeten up a bit. Kale, too.

The biggest task now is to clean out the garden and till it. I like to take all the raked-up leaves (when I feel like raking them, because with a grove, it’s like cleaning up kids’ toys just before they roll through again; looks like you didn’t do anything πŸ™‚ ) and dump them into the garden before we till it in.

We’ll leave the sprouts and kale alone. They’ll be fine for a while yet. Oh, and another bonus we get almost every year:

raspberries2raspberries

I suspect it’s the variety, but we usually get some berries in mid-summer, then another crop in fall, depending of course on how cold it is. The raspberry flowers are some of the few flowers still around for the bees. When I was picking peppers a couple weeks back, I checked out the raspberries. So many bees! I don’t think I’ve seen that many bees in one place all summer. They weren’t the European honeybees, though. They were wild bees, which are furrier then the European ones, but not as big as bumblebees. So. Cool.

The chickens are all laying eggs now, or at least most of them are. And the flock likes to follow us around; a couple of the black ones are really keen on being shadows.

chickens

Five of the seven: 3 black, one brown, one speckled

We keep discussing letting them out of the pen for a few hours (putting the dogs in the house, of course), but hubs said he heard a coyote during the day earlier this week. So, probably not letting the chickens out to roam. Not now, anyway. I feel bad because there isn’t any vegetation in the pen (hubs and son “re-landscaped” the area when they redid the pen this spring). I throw tall weeds in the pen for them; its’s a great use for those weeds that are too close to the garden fence to mow.

And more homework! I’m revising my next chunk of my WIP to send off to my writing teacher. I want to get the draft done before NaNo starts. A dream, unless I whisk off to an isolated cabin with heat, internet, wine, and chocolate for a week or two. Still, I’m going to try. Even without the chocolate πŸ™‚

So, as Dory says:

dory

Have a great weekend!

zoey_cr

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October Already?

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Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I’m still trying to figure out where September went. Or maybe I just blinked and it vanished. The trees are starting to wear their colors in our area. I was driving home from work and noticed the hills along the river have more yellow in the green now. There are a few brilliant pinks around, but more of the deeper magentas.

It’s my favorite part of autumn. The colors, fewer bugs, the garden is pretty much finished, and there’s something about the apples, pumpkins, and squash that are ready about now. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the cooler weather; a great excuse to find more “cozy”. You know, hot cider, flannel, fireplaces lit, curling up with a good book, but no snow. Not yet (except way up in northern MN, where they got a dusting earlier this week).

I haven’t grown pumpkins for a few years, but I might have to next year; I’m thinking it’s past time to make pumpkin bread. I’m not one for pumpkin pie, but I have a good recipe for pumpkin bread. And apple bread, but it’s the first part of the harvest, so I’m not tired of apples yet. I just bought my first tote bag (about a peck) of Honeycrisps. There’s a new variety out now, developed, like the Honeycrisp, by the University of MN: First Kiss. It’s the first year it’s available, so there aren’t many around yet, but I’m interested in trying it.

Yes, I’m already thinking about next year’s garden, and I know what I’m not going to plant: zucchini. Nope. No zucchini. I cooked up zucchini only once this year. I’m debating about cucumbers as well. But the chickens love cucumbers …

Saturday I’m off to another book festival, so Sunday is slated for writing. I still have a homework assignment I promised my writing teacher I would finish by Monday. And all those blog posts I’m behind on. So my word for the weekend is: FOCUS.

Short post this week, so I can practice FOCUSING. On the bright side, NaNoWriMo is coming up in a month. I always take the opportunity to reset the habit of writing every day. Which means, FOCUSING.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and keep writing!

zoeyprowl

On the prowl


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Harvest winding down #gardening #minnesota

L to R: zucchini, Mariachi peppers, brussels sprouts, kale. In back, cucumbers and tomatoes

I can’t believe it’s September already. Didn’t we just have the Fourth of July? The autumnal equinox is due in a couple weeks. Ugh. That means there will be even fewer hours of daylight. And it’s the official start of fall. Not that anyone told the mosquitoes they should shut down operations. I think we have a new batch; bloodthirsty little buggers!

We’ve been enjoying some great stuff from the garden. The green beans are done, the zucchini is testing my tolerance, and the tomatoes … Oh, the poor tomatoes! They have almost completely succumbed to the blight. The cucumber is hanging on, but production is waning. And as you can see in the pictures, I haven’t weeded for a long time.

Another angle. The kale looks great!

I picked the onions, since they were ready and for some reason a number of them had started to rot (gee, could it be due to all the rain we’ve been having?). I started digging out the potatoes last night, and have half a wheelbarrow full with about a quarter of them left to dig. Many are misshapen, with bumps and nodules and weirdly alien protuberances. That tells me there is some mineral lacking in the soil, and I suspect calcium is the culprit.

Potatoes front L, weeds front R, bare aisle where onions were

And here is a closer-up view of my poor tomato plants, along with my cilantro happily blooming with tiny white flowers.

Cilantro and tomatoes, with kale in the background. Oh, and weeds!

The other night as I was heading to the garden my husband showed me a surprise: the first eggs from this batch of chickens!

One of the chickens was camera-shy; we have seven chickens total. We have no idea which chickens started laying. Once all seven start laying, we won’t have to worry about egg shortages. In the winter, though, our chickens have always slowed down the egg production, so we’ll see how many keep laying through the cold months.

Another sign of fall:

Monarch butterflies!

Can you see them? It was hard to get a good picture from the house, but I didn’t want to go outside and scare them away. Monarch butterflies gathered on one of our trees. I don’t know when they left, but it was so cool to see! In case you aren’t aware, monarch butterflies migrate south. It’s one reason people are encouraged to have areas set aside for wildflowers, so the butterflies have something to keep them going on their trip.

I have an empty nest this weekend–yippee! I am going to focus on writing, damn it. Revisions, then moving on. Oh, and more homework, but maybe not until later next week. Our Sisters in Crime chapter has also put out a call for short story submissions for our next anthology, so part of my brain is working on that as well. Something twisty for that one.

Enjoy your weekend, and may the trees not start changing colors quite yet!

And your point is what, exactly?


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Harvest in full swing #gardening #minnesota

It’s that time of year again, when the veggies are going strong (so are the weeds 😐 ), so I figured I’d give you a little update.

I’ve been picking green beans for a couple weeks, and cucumbers for almost as long. Picking cucumbers is like a scavenger hunt. Or a game of hide-and-seek. How many cukes do you see in the picture?

How many cukes? I see three.

And of course, we can’t forget the venerable–or is it fruitful?–zucchini.

Hi, Zucchini! I see you.

The tomato plants are succumbing to whatever blight hit them, but we are getting some tomatoes. There is nothing like garden-ripe tomatoes! I just hope they ripen before the plants die. I thought I planted resistant varieties, but apparently they aren’t resistant enough. The plants look so sad I won’t post pictures of them. The blight, a fungus, lives in the soil, and even though I mulch them, they still get sick.

The rest of the garden is doing well, though (except for the zucchini plant I had to pull because it was sick).

From R to L: Brussels sprouts, green beans, peppers, and kale in the corner.

Speaking of brussels sprouts, this year some of the sprouts are looking really good despite the stupid cabbage worms. I couldn’t help myself; I picked some and will be enjoying them soon.

So, I got this variety of peppers, Mariachi, that I thought were like the snacking peppers. The little plastic tag with the picture on looked like the snacking peppers. So I planted two plants. Come to find out when I read the little tag more closely (after I planted them and tasted the first pepper, of course) that they are mildly hot.

Yep. They are.

Mariachi peppers–supposed to turn orange when ripe

They are less spicy than jalapenos, for the most part, but snacking? Depends, I guess.

The kohlrabi are standing strong against the cabbage worms, and I’m not even going to check the kale, because they are in the same family. I know they have those little green worms–sorry, caterpillars–on them. Anyway, we need to eat some beets first.

I picked veggies last night, and felt some pride as my daughter ate fresh kohlrabi and cukes we just picked for supper. And a little chicken breast for protein. My son? He would eat the green beans, but not the other stuff.

As I was in the garden, I thought about growing up with a home garden, and how of my three brothers and one sister, we all have gardens. Two of my brothers have younger families, so they have bigger gardens. My other brother is an empty-nester, but he likes hot peppers. My sister just moved to a new house, but she always asks my advice on what to plant, especially when she has little direct sunlight in the back yard.

My mother instilled a love of gardening in us, or at least we were all exposed to the gardens she had while we were growing up. I find it both interesting and comforting that we all continue the tradition. Even my dad, who now lives in a townhome, has a cherry tomato plant on his tiny patio.

Peppers, kale, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes in the back

As for writing? I’ve been crazy busy this past week, with my dad having eye surgery, and me being the good daughter and providing taxi service and a watchful eye. I finally have a few days to decompress, and write. At least that’s the plan right now, so I’m intending to get back to book 2. And my homework.

Have a wonderful writing weekend!


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Of gardening and marketing #gardening #minnesota #author #mystery

Summer should be relaxing, shouldn’t it? I mean, it’s when most people go on vacation, right? Summer tourist season starts on Memorial Day weekend and ends Labor Day weekend, at least here in MN.

So why do I feel like I’m struggling to keep up? Is it really that whole getting older thing? The “time flies faster the older you get” thing? It sure feels like it.

Or is it all the extra “stuff” I get to do? You know, like mowing the lawn and weeding the garden. Or maybe it’s because this year in particular I really do have a lot of stuff going on, like author panels, book signings, and homework.

The past couple of weeks have been busy, with an author event the day before I went to my brother’s house to visit, a couple days with family, a trip out to the South Dakota border–well, 7 miles short of the border–for an author panel. I was a last-minute sub for another author, but it was a fun day. Various appointments, and this weekend is another author event at a bookstore close to where I grew up. I’m hoping some of my old friends will be able to come; it’ll be nice to see them.

And the garden! I added mulch earlier this week, so the space between the rows is starting to get smaller, or is it the amount of space covered by mulch is bigger? I am eagerly awaiting my first two ripe tomatoes!

In the meantime, I picked enough green beans for a couple servings, and picked the first kohlrabi to reach the size of a baseball. I even picked some kale. Anyway, here it is.

Oh, and our latest chickens came out for a photo. Right now we have seven: two left from the original batch where the other 4 died during a major storm/gnat invasion, and 5 from a lady who thought her kids would be more interested in taking care of them.

Five of the seven.

I wish I had some writing wisdom to share, but right now I’m working on critiquing pages from my Writing Sisters and doing homework, but not at the same time πŸ™‚

Speaking of, next weekend is our reunion, so be on the lookout for wisdom or wisecracking from my Muse (hey, he’s been enjoying himself, I think I should get my turn). I am so looking forward to our retreat! We’re staying at the same B&B we did the past two years. It’s a really nice place, and the proprietors are great people. And can’t beat the Crystal River just out the back door.

Anyway, I have to get back to pages. Enjoy your weekend! Stay cool, stay dry, and Keep Writing!

She is WAAY too comfortable in my chair!


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How does my garden grow? #gardening #minnesota

Figured it was about time to give you an update on the garden. Not that my rambling about writing is dull (it is), but I checked on the garden and I have to say it’s looking pretty good. I managed to weed earlier this week before the rain. This weekend is supposed to be hot and sticky, so no sweating in the garden for me; I’ll do my homework instead πŸ˜€

I did replant the potatoes, and they are coming up nicely now (closest to the camera). A few still haven’t surfaced, but the majority look pretty good. I had to replant the cukes, zucchini, and some beans because they weren’t coming up. That clump of leaves four rows over is volunteer borage, which I like to leave for the bees because they love it. Seems that lately, though, there have been fewer bees around. Makes me sad.

The tomatoes are big enough for me to start tying up, and the Early Girls have little tomatoes on–yay! The peppers are doing well. I put tomato cages around them because they have a tendency to split and/or topple. Besides, I can’t use the cages for the tomatoes; those get too heavy and always fall over. Hence the cattle panels. Those seem to work well, and they are very sturdy.

The kale is looking great, the onions are doing well, and the brussels sprouts are much greener and look healthier than they did before the rain. I pulled the last of the radishes, and I might put more in later. Other fun things I’m growing are beets, green beans, and kohlrabi this year. One lonely spinach plant is all that came up, and I even used fresh seed. Note to self: plant more in a month or so. I’ll be planting cilantro and maybe some dill later as well, otherwise they mature way before the tomatoes and cucumbers. I have a ton of volunteer cilantro and dill right now, but those are flowering, and the other stuff is just getting going.

For those who are wondering why flowering herbs make a difference, it has to do with the taste of the leaves and how you use it. When plants start to flower, the leaves have a tendency to get bitter, which is more an issue with leafy veggies like spinach, arugula (rocket), and dandelion (that’s why they say pick your dandelion leaves when they are really young in the spring).

You often use herbs differently when they seed. With cilantro, I use the leaves when I make pico de gallo, and they are a nice add to taco meat as well. Once they start to flower, the flavor seems less intense in the leaves, and the leaves get less “leafy” and more “wiry”. Ever hear of coriander? That is cilantro seed. I personally don’t use coriander in anything, but it’s not suited for pico de gallo.

Dill is kind of the same. Dill leaves are used to season stuff like potato salad or like you use basil or thyme or any other leafy herb. The mature seeds are used like any other seedy herb, like fennel, mustard, or celery seed. When the immature seeds are fat and still green, before they start turning brown, they have the most intense dill flavor and are best for making pickles.

Anyway, that’s the update. The biggest task now is keeping the weeds at bay (and the mosquitoes–damn things) and making sure I keep the tomatoes pruned and tied up. When the cucumber is big enough, I’ll make sure it climbs the cattle panel as well. It’s a lot easier to pick cucumbers when they climb “up” rather than “out”.

Next week is a holiday week for those in the US, so it’ll be a short work week. No post next week, just a holiday note, and the regularly-scheduled program will resume after that.

Happy Writing!

What? This is my chair.


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Getting back into it #amwriting

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I swat at the cloud of gnats swarming my head and dart through the back door of my writing office. With the door safely closed and most of the bugs left outside, I pull off my head-net. Best. Investment. Ever. Although, one can tolerate a cloud of gnats around one’s head–even one safely ensconsed in mosquito netting–only so long.

“Seriously, love?” My Muse is leaning on my writing desk, arms crossed. Until he swats at a rogue gnat. A teeny wisp of smoke fades.

“Dude, did you just fry that gnat?”

Another teeny wisp of smoke drifts toward the floor. “Would you rather I corral them and coax them back outside?”

“Hell, no. Why don’t you nuke all the ones out in the garden so I don’t have to wear this head-net and spray down with bug repellent.”

“Not my job.” He crosses his legs at the ankles. Which is when I notice he’s wearing deck shoes, no socks, tan cargo shorts, and a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt. Except the shirt is tye-dyed rather than the usual black. “Besides, they’ll be gone in a week or so. Now that you’re done playing in the dirt …”

“Playing? Excuse me, but I was trying to weed. You know, before I couldn’t stand listening to bugs in my ears and flying around my eyes.” I peel off my long-sleeved button-down shirt. Ugh. Eighty degrees outside and I have to wear long pants and long sleeves just to weed without turning into a snack bar. A stray buzz by my ear sounds like a mini-buzzsaw. I slap at my head. Damn fricking bugs. Needless to say, I didn’t get a whole lot of weeding done. “Whatever it is, it’s going to have to wait until after I shower.”

A slow, crooked grin stretches across his face. An eyebrow arches.

“What? What’s funny?”

“Best you don’t know, love.”

Ahem. O-kay. “Hey, I don’t need any shit from you. I’m writing. I even have the first chapter done. I knew that class was a good idea.”

“Yes, you are, and yes, it was. And I’m not going to let you slack off because your writing teacher is conducting a week-long writing retreat this week. She wants to see the next chapter.”

“And I want to write it. But shower first.” The sharp pine-ish smell of bug spray just reminds me of bugs. Bloodsucking bugs.

“I’ll be waiting.” He crosses the office and settles into one of the recliners in the corner before he reaches to the mini-fridge and pulls out a craft beer. “Hurry up. I have some ideas for the next few chapters.”

“Good. So do I.”

I have to say, I am sooo glad I took this class. The units and exercises are set up to walk through the process of building a novel. So far, in the unit I’m on, my assignments included a logline and the infamous Central Question, a review of the book as a bestseller, as well as my main character’s best personality trait and her Fatal Flaw.

By writing the review, specifically looking at the character, plot, and transformational arc, I discovered a few things, one in particular that “clicked” as part of Sierra’s arc. By really thinking about her fatal flaw and why she has it, I hit another revelation that will help me with the story.

My next assignment is the first 20 pages. I have the first nine done as part of an earlier assignment, and I feel good about keeping things going. Being accountable is a big part of this, but also the coaching. My mentor is a great coach; she always manages to say something or make a suggestion that turns on the lightbulb and makes me want to dig in and move forward. I even took a day off next week to give myself some additional time to write. And work on promo stuff.

Enjoy your weekend, and to all the fathers out there, whether you have your own kids or you fill that place in someone’s life: Happy Father’s Day!

zoey chair 3