Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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YAG – Yet Another Garden #mngarden

I had entertained an idea of no garden this year, but the thought of missing out on fresh tomatoes and peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers and tomatoes … well, you get the idea. I really like garden tomatoes!

The last few years I’m less enthusiastic about gardening. Actually, I think it’s the “preparing the garden” part. You know, laying out the soaker hoses, covering them with fabric mulch, putting up the panels for the tomatoes and cukes, and gathering mulch. Lots of mulch. And that’s all before I do any planting.

Yeesh.

We’re running out of the pickles I did a few years back (OMG, like 5 dozen quarts!), so it’s time to do pickles again. My son actually absconded with a quart, reminding me of all the times I did the same thing with my mom’s pickles whenever I came home during college. She made awesome pickles.

So, here it is. Take a good look, because this is the least amount of weeds there will be. Bonus: we left the perimeter fence up with the chicken wire from last year–take that, rabbits!

Garden laid out before anything is growing
Using some wood chips this year for mulch
Garden laid out before anything is growing
Pig panel for cucumbers to climb and cattle panels for tomatoes on the right

Did I hear you ask what I planted this year? Sure I did πŸ™‚ So, here’s the list, starting with my favorite: tomatoes, a couple zucchini, cucumbers, beets, kale (hey, I like kale), kohlrabi, onions (of course!), brussels sprouts, green beans, peppers, cilantro, dill, radishes, pie pumpkins (because pumpkin bread!), and I got a sample packet of basil. Oh, and marigolds this year, because color and marigolds just might discourage pests. Maybe. But they should be pretty.

I will say I’m glad I didn’t have to figure out where to plant potatoes this year. Hubs tilled another spot and planted potatoes and sweet corn (because I refuse to plant sweet corn anymore). Thing is, creeping Charlie is rampant in that location, or it was before he tilled. Yes, I warned him. And no, I’m not weeding it for him, which I also told him.

Oh, you’re wondering why I won’t plant sweet corn anymore? First, you have to plant at least 4 rows to get good pollination, because corn is wind-pollinated. Then, you have a limited window of time to pick it when it’s at the perfect ripeness. And it’s all ready at the same time. After that week or so, the corn starts getting starchy.

Yes, I know you can freeze sweet corn, but it’s usually ready when I’m in WI at my Writing Sisters reunion, and apparently no one else can pick corn. And a person can only eat so much sweet corn. A lot of the corn ends up staying on the stalk and aging out of the prime eating stage. Hence, I refuse to plant sweet corn.

Anyway. There you have it. As for writing, I’m still revising. Turned in my homework and got feedback. One more assignment to go, this one analyzes plot. I’m so glad I took the class; it’s really helping me focus on cutting the chaff, and notice what I’m lacking, at least at this point in the revision process. My instructor’s comments will help me through the next round of revision.

So, enjoy the glorious spring weather (in the southern hemisphere, enjoy your autumn πŸ˜€ ). Don’t forget to keep writing!

Zoey walking through grass


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Plants, chats, and more

Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings

Week 8 of working from home. I love my family, but I really miss my empty nest. And I really miss work days without the interruption of TV noise (hubs is a soft-core news junkie). Walks in the spring sunshine are a sanity-saving therapeutic!

Except Spring seems to be taking a few days off. Even though it’s the second weekend of May, I do live in MN. We shouldn’t be within spitting distance of freezing for more than a day or two this time of year, but the weather wonks are saying we have a week of frost threats coming up. In any case, I can still plant potatoes and some seeds that aren’t bothered by the chill.

My seedlings seem to like the grow lights. Check out my tomato seedlings above. I transplanted the pepper seedlings as well, and the kale babies look great.

Pepper and kale seedlings
Pepper and kale seedlings

The onions are doing good, too. I’m hoping to put some of the garden in next weekend, depending on weather.

Have you been keeping in touch with friends or family through video chats? Last week I got to “see” a number of author friends, and this past week I video chatted with my writing sisters, some gals from work, and our Sisters in Crime chapter had our monthly meeting on Zoom (an interview with Allen Eskens!). Luckily our internet behaved pretty well, so the video chats weren’t too broken up. We’re supposed to get our new internet service this week–yippee! Crossing my fingers the new service is as good as I envision.

Speaking of Allen Eskens, if you ever have the opportunity, try to catch an interview with him or listen to him speak. He’s local; he lives just outside Mankato, where my kids go to college, so an hour away. He talked about his writing process a bit, and the things he said about how to create an emotional response in readers made something click in my writer’s brain. My online class delves into emotion and conflict, so I have a venue for testing out some of his suggestions.

If you caught my post last week, I mentioned I have an announcement. What I didn’t mention is I need your help πŸ˜€

Drumroll, please.

Ta-da!

Murder in Plane SIght is a 2020 RONE Award nominee for mystery
Save the date!

InD’tale Magazine gave Murder in Plane Sight a great review in the July-August 2019 issue. Head over to my website to find an excerpt from the review and a link to the full review.

Readers vote for the finalists in each category/genre. Yes, the annoying thing is you need to create an account in order to vote (but you don’t have to keep it). You might want to; the magazine has some great author interviews, and they review indie books and small-press books in loads of genres every couple months.

HELP! The voting window for my genre opens on Monday, May 11 and closes on May 17. So, I’m asking you to put a reminder on your calendar for this week to pop over there and vote for Murder in Plane Sight.

Please. Pretty please with sugar on top.

Thank you, thank you in advance! I’ll be posting reminders on Twitter and FB as well.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone! Enjoy your special day, then get back to writing!

Zoey sitting outside


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YAW (Yet Another Week) and more Spring!

Spring flowers - squill
The squill are blooming

As I cross week 7 off the calendar, I’m finding it harder to focus (like that’s different than any other day). Then again, at least this whole work-from-home stuff is happening as the weather is getting nicer rather than as winter sets in. At least I can get outside and enjoy sunshine and new green growth and allergies–um, wait, scratch that last one.

Seems my allergies kick in now when the boxelder trees that make up most of our grove are blooming, if you can call the little dangly things flowers. And for those wondering, yes, boxelder bugs are associated with boxelder trees, but they focus on the female trees (which, oddly enough (ha!) ) are the ones that flower. They are harmless bugs, but creepy (which is why I am not going to include a picture here, but you can see for yourself). They really don’t become a nuisance until late summer, when the seeds are ready to helicopter down from the trees.

Now that we’re past the late snow point for the most part here in MN, I’m thinking about the garden. Hubs tilled the spot once so far. I want him to till it again before I plant. Here it is in all its naked glory:

bare ground of freshly-tilled garden area

The raspberries are popping up everywhere, and I mean, everywhere! That’s the one thing to remember about raspberries: they spread by subterranean runners. They have expanded beyond the original patch and are invading the asparagus. Which, by the way, is doing nicely so far:

Asparagus patch
Asparagus, with misbehaving raspberries

All that green behind the asparagus is raspberries blatantly flaunting the informal boundary between raspberries and asparagus. You can see there are more than a few poking up within the asparagus spears.

In any case, I got to enjoy my most favorite springtime treat this week (even if I had to share with hubs and daughter).

First asparagus harvest of the season
Mmmmm, aparagus!

The harvest has been declining, due, I think, to a combination of competition from the raspberries and the shade of a renegade tree we haven’t cut down yet. We need to do that (should have done it ages ago) because it’s right at the corner of the barn. I hate to cut down any trees, but luckily the boxelders grow like weeds. Or unluckily, because this renegade is a boxelder.

In any case, I need to find a new place to establish an asparagus patch. The question is where, both in a sunny spot and out of the way of summer mowing and renegade trees. You’d think with eight acres I’d be able to find some place to put it.

Anyway, hubs tilled a new patch of ground for the potatoes. Great, except for the fact that the spot was previously conquered by creeping Charlie. Crossing fingers the potatoes can/will outcompete the invading creeper. On the bright side, that leaves me more room in the main garden for stuff like tomatoes and cucumbers.

I’ll post pics of my seedlings before I plant. They are doing pretty well, and seem to like the grow lights. It’ll be a couple weeks before I plant, just because I know (like everyone else in MN) that we can still get frosts in May. Not often, but it happens. I’ll keep you updated, because it seems a lot of people enjoy it. Thanks!

This weekend I plan to clean a bit (ugh!) and focus. I’m about halfway through the first round of revisions, and of course as I go I have those head-slapping “duh” moments that force me to go back to an earlier chapter to adjust so later chapters make more sense. And watch for a special announcement next week!

Until then, enjoy the weather, the spring green, and write!

Zoey rolls around on the dog's rug bed
Zoey rolls around on the dog’s rug bed when the coast is clear!


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Cabin fever yet?

Today I finished my second week of working from home.

Needless to say, the home office idea is climbing on the to-do list. However, it’s still below spring cleaning, mostly because every time I see a cobweb or dust bunny or muddy dog prints on the kitchen floor I am reminded how much better I am at procrastinating than I was yesterday. Or last week.

On the bright side, we had SUNSHINE today! Yippee! And warm weather, around 50 F. I enjoyed a couple nice walks. It’s amazing how good a sunny spring day makes you feel.

So, in the spirit of a long-awaited awakening of trees and weeds, and a drier yard (short-lived low mud levels since we’re supposed to get rain this weekend), I have a couple pics of my baby plants.

This year hubs and I decided to try using genuine grow lights for the seedlings. For years we have been using shop lights with fluorescent lightbulbs. They worked great in the beginning, and hubs rigged them up so I could adjust the height as the plants grew.

Thing is, those bulbs weaken over time, so the last time I started seeds, the plants ended up leggy (tall and spindly) even though I had the lights almost touching the plants. Plants get leggy when they are stretching to get more light. That’s why being able to adjust the distance between the lights and the plants is important. Keep the light close enough so the plants don’t need to reach for it.

Anyway, grow lights tend to be pink in color because apparently seedlings like red and blue wavelengths in particular. These days, grow lights are often a combination of red and blue LEDs.

Ready?

You sure?

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture.

Peppers, onions, and more peppers. Can’t see the tomatoes very well.
Peppers, onions, and kale in the blue container

Do the plants like the grow lights better than regular lights? It’s hard to say so far. Once the plants get big enough to transplant, it’ll be easier to tell if the oh-my-god-PINK light makes a difference.

Now, to help your retinas recover …

I’ve worked from home before, and Zoey has a routine in the morning: come downstairs (she sleeps in my son’s room), stretch and roll around on the floor, snack, then beg to be petted. Since I sit toward the front of my chair, there’s room behind me for her to jump up and hang out behind me.

Has she ever sat on my lap while I’m working? Nope. That is, until this week.

I’m not sure if she was just curious about what I was doing, or just felt needy since my son had returned to his apartment the night before.

Anyway, it was fun while it lasted.

Hope everyone is staying safe, washing hands, practicing social distancing. Remember, you can still enjoy the outdoors, just not within 6 feet of anyone else. Sunshine does a brain good!


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Now for something a little bit different #minnesota #spring #gardens

It’s time. I start getting seed catalogs around Christmas, and stash them until about now. I’ve been getting those pesky marketing emails from other seed catalogs too, but there’s something about looking through an actual catalog to feed thoughts of spring and warm and gardens.

Not that the past week has been miserably cold. It’s been downright balmy here with temps around freezing. Warm enough to make snowmen, and we have enough snow. Part of me is tempted to build a snowman for old times’ sake. Part of me says, “You know, you should be writing. Or at least cleaning.”

I know a lot of you like my garden posts, so I figured I’d share my pre-garden fun (because hey, why not?)

Every year when I plan my garden, I have the old standbys I always plant: tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, green beans, radishes, brussels sprouts. I always like to plant something new, or something I haven’t planted for a while.

Last year I got all my starts from the local greenhouse; I didn’t start any of my own seeds. That was convenient, but also restrictive: I’m limited to the varieties the greenhouse has. Which is fine, but I like particular varieties of some veggies, like peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

I don’t know what onion variety I planted, but the onions were far smaller than in previous years. I like the Candy variety, which are usually baseball-size or larger onions. I intended to plant sweet snacking peppers, but the variety I got at the greenhouse ended up being too spicy for snacking. The tomatoes were okay: the Early Girls did fine (but they are small tomatoes), but the other variety succumbed pretty quickly to the blight that plagues the garden. I thought I had gotten a resistant variety. I thought wrong, apparently.

Over the years, I’ve learned what veggies grow best, or at least which ones I have the best luck with. Every year is different. Last year was bad for tomatoes, meh for onions, but a great one for brussels sprouts and peppers.

Garden, 2019

This year I’m planning to buy some starts, like brussels sprouts and peppers, and start onions, tomatoes (some tomatoes anyway), and maybe kale.

For new stuff/stuff I haven’t planted for a while, a pie pumpkin is on the list this year. I haven’t planted pumpkins for years, because, like cucumbers or zucchini, one plant = lots of pumpkins. I’ve been thinking about making pumpkin bread, so what a great excuse πŸ˜€ I can bring the overstock to work and pawn it off on them πŸ™‚

No zucchini, though. I think I cooked one zucchini all last summer, and brought the rest in to work. I can use that space for something else. This year on my “new” agenda is Persian cucumbers, if I can find seeds. Somewhere they were listed as the type of cucumbers you find in the store as those snacking cucumbers. We’ll see. I haven’t made pickles for years (I learned my lesson the year I pickled over 3 dozen quarts), but maybe I’ll do a dozen this year. Maybe.

I have to thin out the raspberry patch, too; they’re starting to choke out the asparagus (which also should be moved, or a new patch started). I love raspberries, but they spread! The problem is deciding where to move them: someplace close enough to monitor, exposed to sun, and not in an area we tend to mow. I know, with eight acres that might be a challenge πŸ˜€

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on that front again. In the meantime, take a break and page through some seed catalogs. The pictures of flowers and veggies always reminds me spring is coming!


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

poorgarden

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?

nature-2609978_640

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