Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


15 Comments

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!


16 Comments

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!


21 Comments

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


31 Comments

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


24 Comments

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?


20 Comments

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!


28 Comments

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!