Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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How my garden does grow #mngarden

The fun has begun! Cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, kohlrabi. Come one, come all!

Seriously, though, it’s starting. The rush to pick stuff and use it before a) it goes bad, and b) have to pick more.

So, cucumber cascade anyone?

Everything is growing everywhere. The pumpkins are spreading, the cucumber plants are climbing and spreading, and I’ve had to prune the tomatoes a few times. It’s been hot lately, so the plants are a little wilted. We might get a storm tonight, but if not, I’ll water tomorrow.

Zucchini, with a background of tomatoes

The zucchini is, of course, prepping to feed an army. I’ve made a couple batches of zucchini/onion/mushroom sauted in butter (because everything is better with butter 😀 ), and the chickens have gotten a few treats already.

Diva cucumbers–spineless, non-bitter skins, tasty!

I was looking for the variety of cucumbers they sell in stores as snacking cucumbers. They usually come in packs of six or so. The closest one I found was a new variety called “Diva”.

Cucumbers everywhere!

The pickling cucumbers are starting to come in. The worst thing is you have to pick more than once to collect enough cukes to warrant a pickling session. So it means rounds of picking, refrigerating, and hoping to get enough cukes to pickle before the refrigerated ones go bad. The dill is at the right stage now, too (got lucky!).

Green beans and onions, with peppers in background.

This weekend we should get our first batch of green beans. My son loves garden green beans (he won’t eat canned or frozen). He’s home part of the weekend, but it sounds like he’s leaving before harvest. I’m sure we’ll have many more meals of green beans.

Green tomatoes not turning red fast enough!

I’m starting to think I have too many tomato plants, even though none of the fruit is ripe yet. Let’s see, I think I have ten plants. Erm, yeah, maybe a little overkill this year. The plants last year got sick (blight) and died earlier than expected, so this year I hedged my bets. So far, the plants are doing okay. I tried to get blight-resistant varieties, and so far only one is showing signs of blight. Crossing my fingers!

Basil!

The basil is doing fabulous! Now, to figure out how to use it … Pesto, right?

Overheated brussels sprouts 😦

The brussels sprouts are weathering cabbage worm attacks, as usual. I’ve tried to get out almost every day to pick them (squish them!). The plants do not like the heat. At all. Members of the cabbage family prefer cooler weather, but if I planted them later in the season, I’m not sure if they would have enough time to grow. My beets are looking sad, too. I think I could plant them later in the season and they would be okay; they like cooler weather as well.

Marigolds in foreground, yellow-crowned dill rises above

I keep waiting for the marigolds to flower, but no buds yet. The dill is flowering, so is at the right stage to use for pickles. Hoping I get enough cukes to pickle while I still have decent dill.

And there you have it. Julie’s Jungle, with mosquitoes just to keep you on your toes. It’s been hot and humid, as in tropical hot and humid, and little wind, so the mosquitoes are out in force. Swarms of them. They sound like those old WWII movies with all the planes, but at a higher pitch. Ugh. Weeding (what little I’m inclined to do in the heat) is an adventure in micro-vampire avoidance. I think we need more mosquito repellant!

Hope everyone is doing well! I started my new writing class (yay!) and will be digging into Book 2 second round of revisions. My Writing Sisters virtual writing retreat is coming up as well. Man, I’m going to miss gathering in person, but this year it’s safer to Zoom it. Anybody know where I can return 2020 for a refund?

Happy Writing!


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Garden Update–because inquiring minds want to know #mngardening #garden

It’s about time for an update, right? Especially since I just finished weeding again, and everything is doing pretty well. (yes, even the weeds).

By request, I have a lot of pics. You can thank one of my writing sisters for that (CH, you know who you are 😀 )

Note to self: Taking pics before the sun is behind the trees might work better 🙂

I’ve learned that the more mulch, the merrier. I have soaker hoses under the lines of mulch between the plants, which works great, until a hose has a leak. Sigh. New hoses are in order, but they’re getting tough to find.

I have three surprise potato plants, as in “Surprise! You didn’t plant potatoes, but we’re here!”. Luckily they’re all at one end of the garden, so they’re not in the way too much of other plants. The pumpkin (lower right by the potato) might think differently when it gets going.

Mulch to the left of me, cukes to the right …

And yes, you do see radish carcasses. I plant the radishes with some of the seeds, like beets and dill, to mark the rows. We don’t eat them before they get too big (radishes grow FAST), so I pull them and discard to give the other plants more room. Sometimes if they aren’t in the way, I’ll let the radishes go. They get pretty tall, and flower. The seed pods are edible and taste like mild radish.

Cucumbers and tomatoes

This year I’m planning to make pickles, so I have three (not 10 like last time!) pickling cucumber plants, along with a few of a new variety of regular cucumber (which I don’t normally plant). The biggest difference between pickling cukes and slicing cukes is the texture: pickling cukes are less watery, more crunchy 🙂

L to R/front to back: Dill/basil/onions, kale/pepper, volunteer borage/kohlrabi

I learned a couple years ago that starting kale in the house helps them survive attacks from cabbage worms because they’re bigger (I also found out cabbage butterflies prefer to use kohlrabi over kale and brussels sprouts). I started my black kale, and planted seeds for the curly stuff. I prefer the black because it’s easier to clean, and find the caterpillars.

Way in the back you’ll see some tomato cages. Those are my peppers, which could look better. My peppers seem to tip over when they get bigger and have fruit, so I started using the cages (which, by the way, are worthless for tomatoes).

Brussels sprouts and green beans, with onions on the side

The brussels sprouts are looking good, but the cabbage worms haven’t started their main offensive, yet. I try to check them every day to pick (squish) the caterpillars. The green beans are doing okay, but I’ve seen them in better shape in the past.

Better shot of peppers, with kohlrabi and beets in the back

I also have two pumpkin and two zucchini plants this year, a pie pumpkin variety (supposedly somewhat sweeter than usual, but the jury is out on that), and the usual dark green zucchini (mostly for the chickens; I’m tired of zucchini).

Since we’re still all working from home for the foreseeable future, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the extra cukes, zucchini, and whatever else. Those are the things I like to bring to work to share, and my co-workers appreciate it, since a lot of them do not have gardens of their own for various reasons. Which means canning, pickling, or freezing stuff (provided my hubs doesn’t fill the freezer with other things like chicken breasts and whole turkeys and frozen hashbrowns).

The corn and potatoes are doing well in hubs’ garden, and yes, I did help him weed once, because he asked nicely 🙂 . No, I didn’t take pics of those.

The dill, cilantro, and marigolds are doing well, and I planted a second run of dill and cilantro, because experience tells me the first sowing doesn’t time right with the cukes or tomatoes. Basil is the only herb I’ve planted for years, and I did this year only because I got seeds free when I ordered others.

I’ll remember to take pics before the shadows reach the garden next time. I’m a lousy photographer to begin with, but at least the lighting should be better.

Hope you all are doing well and writing 😀 I’m working on pages to submit to my writing sisters for our virtual retreat. We’re planning to return to our favorite B&B next year; crossing my fingers that works out.

Happy writing!

Zoey sitting outside


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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 🙂 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 😀 ). 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 😀

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!