Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Archive for the category “Writing and editing”

Four times a charm?

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Moss season.

That’s how many times I’ve tried to compose this post into something coherent and cohesive, either starting anew or adding to the draft in progress. While the likelihood is high that I may fail again, I’m determined to try. It often seems to be a war between what might be my true self—the whiny, bitchy, judgmental, negative, stress puppy that I try to keep in check—and the person I see myself as, the person I strive to be: someone who lets things roll off her back, who doesn’t judge others, who has a positive attitude that infuses all areas of her life. Sigh. Lately it’s been mostly that old, small-self me, and mostly due to stress that I still haven’t gotten a handle on, that I MUST get under control if I’m ever going to get any better. Instead, it’s ramped up to levels I haven’t encountered for several years, mainly due to the day job and trying to do the work of three people at the office while people are out. This has been hugely frustrating to me, and I feel like no matter what I do, there’s no relief. I try to cover work for people who are absent, in addition to my own work, and all of it suffers. My own work is done with less care, the coverage of others’ tasks is haphazard (there was little to no training on most of the tasks I was expected to take on – most of which were unknown to me). If I speak up about the state of things I sound like I’m just making excuses (even to my own ear) yet the impossibility of the situation remains. All this at a time when I’m trying to heal and make time for relaxing and meditating. Instead it’s been triage-mode, and my health has suffered. I am so frustrated with myself for allowing this to happen, for getting so stressed about it that it’s run my internal dialogue all weekend long, with work brought home (to try and catch up on last week and hopefully get ahead for the coming week) hanging over my head all weekend along with my regular chores and work I’d like to do for myself.

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I kind of know just how this hammer must feel, if hammers feel.  I found it out in the woods when I was picking up tree limbs and other winter detritus. It’s been sitting there a little while, I’d say. Nature won this round.

Spending 60 minutes to create a blog post seems indulgent right now, but rather than wait until I have time, or worse, wait until I have time to pretend all is well and that I’m making progress in my journey to good health, I figured I’d let the reality of life write the post this week, however dreary. It’s often part of the reason the gaps between posts go so long, frankly, as I don’t like writing about or dwelling on the negative (even though this comes through regularly), yet getting to a good frame of mind to write positively isn’t always achievable in the free time I have. A friend recently reminded me, as I lamented (before the recent work burdens) about wishing I could have a month off to get caught up with life and to write, that writers just write. They put their writing first, carving out the time above all else—before chores, before work, before leisure – and how it’s not a waiting for the right time to come along. I do get that. I find I need a little more breathing room (ha! A pun!) around it, or else what comes out is a lot of stuff like this. I’ve done morning pages (writing first thing, every day, no matter what), and while it’s been over a decade since I engaged this practice, I remember having to force myself to stop, because I found that the stuff that came out was a lot of internal “yuck” and it became a horrible way to start the day. Perhaps if I stuck with it longer I’d have made a breakthrough and found my way to a higher place. As it was, I was taking a perfectly good morning and ruining it, coloring my entire day with the stuff that got dredged up—feeling bad about myself, about who I was/am, how I move in the world compared to those I admire, my talents being not as good, etc. Still, making time for things that are important to me—my writing among them—is also a key to improving my life wholesale.

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Stinging nettles love it here; their early spring growth is a great spring tonic vegetable – loaded with vitamins and wild good-for-you-ness…once you neutralize the stinging part (by cooking or drying).

So to circle back to the revelations I was making a month ago, with regard to my health and healing, I realized my ability to handle stress is sub par (understatement) – something I’ve known but thought I had handled better than I do. And I am trying to change how I view the world by changing how my brain works. I have to say when you’re sick it’s really, really, really hard to turn the ship around. To replace the fear and worry with positive affirmations is not only difficult but when you are able to do it, it frequently feels false and trite. Sure, my lungs are “strong and healthy, and breathing is easier every day” as I try and catch my breath after walking a half block with a 4% grade incline, stopping to gasp and let my heartbeat calm down. Trying to jog-trot a few dozen yards to make a crosswalk light leaves me huffing and puffing like I just ran a 6-minute mile. And I’ve stopped taking the stairs at work. The one flight up between floors–even taken very slowly—has me puffing enough that our receptionist says “geez, did you run up the stairs?” Perhaps this is dwelling on the negative, but these are also the current realities of my life, and trying to revise the thought process from woe-is-me to a healthy, healing, positive frame of mind, has been and is my challenge.

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While my days of week-long backpacking trips (hauling a pack nearly 1/3 my weight) are behind me, I do plan that I’ll once again be able to go on day hikes with the dogs.

Next post (hopefully sooner than one month out) I’ll talk about some of the very cool books and tools I’ve found that are helping me to slowly turn things around. I’ve had to slow the pace a bit, unfortunately, as the exciting incoming information became overwhelming and I ended up having to disengage from all of it. I know part of this is due to my health in general—the ability to concentrate seems to be another thing that’s in short supply with this condition. A recent long day at work meant that once I got home, after chores and feeding and caring for my very patient animals, that I literally didn’t sit down until 10 p.m. Hitting the books after a day like that isn’t going to happen, and a meditation session will just put me to sleep. So the process has been slow, especially for the past few weeks, when it really needs to be in high gear, or better yet, already set in place. Baby steps.

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Gratuitous cuteness: Daisy snuggled up on a winter’s evening, waiting for momdog (me).

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Waiting for Friday

Mungo's Monday morning bed head.

Mungo’s Monday morning bed head.

Another week has begun and the cycle starts anew. Waiting for the weekend. Those two days always have so much promise on Friday, no matter what the weather, plans or lack thereof. If you work for a living in the 9-5 world, wishing your life away becomes part of your routine, your being. Because that’s what we do when we look so forward to two days off that the rest of the week becomes little more than something to get through so you can have those two days. And you cram so much life into those two days! The Friday-eve list of things I want to do—everything from housework/chores and household projects, errands and needed shopping, to side trips, socializing, and entertainment—is usually more stuff than I could do in a week, never mind two measly days.

The cherry tree is going crazy this year!

The cherry tree is going crazy this year!

It’s always been a struggle for me, this bizarre mad rush we all do, clogging the roads to get to a building where we (usually) sit all day in cubeland, in front of a computer, or in meetings to discuss and plan what we’ll do on said computer, then rush back to the sanctuary of home at the end of the day. A twice daily migration, if you will. How did hunting and gathering devolve into this? But for a reason I’ve not been able to bust out of yet, I find this awful pattern, doing work for another in exchange for a paycheck, and being accountable to that other, easier than being accountable to myself. When I have the time off, instead of working toward my own success, I tend to waste a lot of time. I’m really good at telling myself this story – that I’m a Supreme Waster of Time, that the time I spend at R&R is necessary (it is, yes, but not to the detriment of my own success), that my dreams require hard work and financial freedom following those dreams is unattainable without a bankroll to start. It’s insidious.

Daisy hard at work to make me smile.

Daisy hard at work to make me smile.

I come home on weekdays wiped out emotionally and physically. After an arduous (I’m being a wee bit dramatic, sure) commute to work, 7 long hours of word processing work, and a frustrating, sometimes tear-inducing commute home (tears of frustration at everything I’m doing, including being (i.e., allowing myself to be) stuck in rush hour traffic with people who can’t seem to find their gas pedals), I’m instantly buoyed the moment I open the door to the house. The greeting, the warmth, the joy that surrounds my arrival lifts me up and centers me. The grim frown and slow, tired steps are replaced by a beaming smile and lightened heart, the weariness infused with the infectious ebullience of the dogs and cats, sheep and chickens. Sure, most of them are only glad to see me in an associative way – I let them out of their pen and/or feed them (sheep and chickens), but it’s still meaningful. I represent something positive to them, and they are happy to see me. I can’t say the same about the job I go to all day, leaving them—it’s like tearing off a Band-aid every time I leave them for work—to pay for the roof over our heads, the land we live on, the food I feed them, and it’s coming to some sort of a head for me. While I’m grateful for my job, it’s also leaving me with little more satisfaction other than the paycheck every two weeks. And that’s not really enough anymore.

It's been a very warm spring this year. Farley cools off after a round of fetch.

It’s been a very warm spring this year. Farley cools off after a round of fetch (squinty-eyed because I asked him to stay for a minute while I took the photo).

I know my recent health concerns have brought this to a point, as the days’ stresses and unhappiness compound to continue to affect my health adversely, and the overall structure has me struggling with all the existential questions in life. Recent losses by friends’ (mother, sister, beloved aunt) and my own (friend and mentor) add to the ticking clock of “are you just going to talk about it and wish, or are you going to actually do it?” I pulled in the driveway one evening, glum and spent with the day’s travails (woe is me, First World problems to be sure), and picked up the mail before opening the gate to drive in. And found a check for an article I wrote two months ago and sent to the editor. Last I heard, the magazine was maybe not going to be published, but I never heard anything more, and frankly, didn’t expect to. The editor I was working with left her position to be a full time mother while her children are young, and I hadn’t heard from a replacement editor (though wrote to the contact name she had given me in her farewell email – no response). It was one of those days where I felt emotionally bleak, wondering what the heck I was doing and how I could break the bonds and do what I wanted while also being financially safe, with an abundant income to live on.

Part I – on the cover!

Part II.  Check out that sweet byline!

Part II. Check out that sweet byline!

As I opened the envelope, realizing what it was, I knew, as I always have, that this was my answer. Writing the article took less than 6 hours of work, without a crappy commute on either end of it. It paid the equivalent of more than 1½ times what I make (hourly) at the office job – in a position/with a company I’ve been in for 10 years now, and not including a commute (yes, this is a BIG issue for me). Why, then, do I continue to struggle with the reality of it? Sure, I’d have to pay for my own health care and retirement (probably all of that extra 1/2, comparatively speaking), and taxes but no commute, no money spent on parking and fuel (wait – there’s my health care money right there), no coming home at 6 p.m. to face an hour or two of chores – in the winter this is in the dark, and usually in the rain and mud. The chores (caring for my livestock, pets, home and property) that don’t feel like chores on the weekends, when I’m not leaving for 8 or 9 hours to go somewhere else all day, leaving everything I love best in the world. So tell me again, Maureen, why you can’t do this? What kind of monster is hiding under your bed, whispering “can’t” and “not for you” all night long as you toss and turn in your sleep, trying to find the harmony of this current set up when there really is none. The possibilities are endless, as is your talent (word processing, writing, editing), and the faucet of abundance is just waiting for you to get over yourself and turn on the tap.

Gratuitous cuteness: Five inches of healthy banana slug crossing the lawn one evening - I love these guys!

Gratuitous cuteness: Five inches of healthy banana slug crossing the lawn one evening – I love these guys!

Relaunching the blog

129I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting, but the handwriting has obviously been on the wall (note to self: look up where that saying came from!) for, oh, the past year, with long gaps between my posts, and not even catching up with everything then (cause how could you?).  As another blogger said, I write a blog post every day, it just doesn’t always make it out of my head. I have good intentions, then time takes over (not enough of it) or just a lack of drive when it comes to actually sitting down and putting fingers to keyboard. I’ve even thought about getting one of those voice recognition software programs, where you just speak and it types for you. I still may, someday, but in the little bit of “don’t forget this moment/observation” recordings I’ve done on my smart phone, well, I’m not seeing the speaking of writing as something that’s going to work well (and I have some cringe-worthy recordings to prove it), but that’s a post for another day.

My purpose here today is to relaunch the blog with new focus and direction, up to and including the possibility of a second blog to hone in on…something.  When I started this blog, lo those many years ago (almost 6 years now), I was kind of using it as a way to record my journey from selling one home after living there two decades to finding my new place.  The search for the new place, or The Hunt, as my category states, was the goal, with various riffs along the way about the dogs and my life in general. After I found the new place, I of course blogged about it and all the things I was doing, from fencing to home improvements, along with the addition of the sheep, the bees, the garden, and everything else I’ve been doing here. Soon the care and feeding of everything I’m doing here at the farm became too much to keep up with, with regards to regular blogging.  Or I got lazy about it. Or both.

But I find myself now looking for community.  I love it here, even as I yearn for more—the embarrassing truth—and am looking for ways to connect with others with the same values and dreams, as well as pursuing those dreams myself.  At the top of the list of course, is the somewhat nebulous desire to work from home (I’ve written of this before; the desire is real, the nebulous part is not having any idea if/how I can do this), and to somehow make a living without having to leave for eight or ten hours, with a crappy, planet-killing commute to and from those eight hours elsewhere.  (Thankfully the job I’m commuting to is one I like, with coworkers and an employer I like, so it’s not torturous by any means (just the commute).  So I strive for those connections with others, especially those others that are following their passion and living the dream in a way more in line with my own vision of this for myself.

She makes it very hard to leave every day.

She makes it very hard to leave every day.

I can talk myself out of anything—one of the things I’m really, really good at.  Let’s call it my Virgo moon, always carping and critiquing and seeing what doesn’t work.  Why this could triumph over my Scorpio sun and ascendant is beyond me (well, it’s obviously deeper than three signs in my natal astrological chart) but here I sit, second guessing my abilities, and even my deserve level.  I have so much, have accomplished so much in this pursuit of my little farm, who am I to want more? Why is this not enough?  Am I just greedy?  Why can’t I make this soggy, shady, northwest facing hillside work for me?  And just what do I want?  More land (greedy), better exposure and location (ingrate), more outbuildings and easier access to all the systems to adequately care for it.  For example, currently my compost dump for dumping the soiled bedding and manure from the sheep shed consists of traversing the hillside, across and down, in a slippery, wobbly crossing of 50 yards with a loaded wheelbarrow, dumping said barrow (without losing it over the edge), then wrestling it back up the hill to the shed to be refilled.  Right now six fillings/traverses is about my limit before it starts to get dangerous due to fatigue.  A fall or clonked knee or shin or bashed ankle are usually all I get, but they add up over time, and I sit here typing with a tendonitis issue in my forearm that I’ve been nursing for several months now.  It limits nearly everything I do, and though I’ve curtailed activity and babied it (and completely avoided needed fall chores), it still aches.  I have an appointment for physical therapy next week and am hoping to get back on track soon.

Okay, so this post has taken a completely different direction than the one I intended when I started it (a week ago).  A week ago I was high with the inspiration provided by having gone to a couple of local events where I put myself in the company of those doing what they love—small businesses and blog writers growing a business, people working with wool—the product I grow—and the community around that.  The cynic has since come out, and I see that all of them have partners—usually a husband—who also contributes to the bottom line by providing an income separate from these small businesses.  Meaning, if they failed, they wouldn’t be destitute and out on the street.  Hard decisions would have to be made, no question, but in the meantime they have the luxury of building their business without it as the only income to pay the mortgage or feed the family.

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Minnie’s twins, Mungo and Trixie – trust me, they’re even more adorable in person.


So what can I do to follow my own passions, to find more contentment in what I’m doing rather than this blasted, near-constant yearning for something more, something closer to “it.”  I have many ideas, and the plan is to get them out of my head and get some action around them.  A lot of the ideas around growing things, be it wool, medicinal herbs, birds of the poultry variety, or green matter (veggies, native plants) may not work here.  I was at an event on Thursday that gave me ideas, ideas that require more work (meaning I need to get my arm better).  I want to increase my beeyard, and plan a medicinal herb and native plant garden (already have a buyer for one of the natives that grows here…if I can part with it), and get some structure—planning and organization–around the sheep products – raw fleeces and wool.  And, lastly, some action around my writing.  Because according to that astrological chart, that’s my Golden Ticket.143

My poor, neglected blog

I have no excuse, other than being my usual busy self. But I look at other farm bloggers – some of people I know, others I’ve gotten to know through their blogs – and wonder how they do it. My fellow shepherd friend, Donna, posts at least three times a week on farm and her other interests; Celi in the Midwest posts EVERY DAY, delightful daily updates on her farm (and of her travels, when she’s able to get away for vacations).  I am in awe of both of them, as I know how hard they work, and how many animals they tend.  But I’ve also noticed they manage to keep their posts a lot shorter than my novellas.  You’d think as an editor, I’d be able to edit my own stuff better.  I could, I suppose, if I posted more frequently like they do, instead of trying to play catch up each time I post.  But since posting this blog tonight took the better part of 90 minutes (not writing it, just trying to log in and get it posted), I remember the other reason this has defeated me before. WordPress doesn’t like Firefox, and it seemed none too happy with Google Chrome tonight either (nor my geriatric XP operating system).  My connection speed was glacial tonight, with every page taking several minutes to load…so who has time for this?  I guess I need to move to my laptop (Win 7) for posting from now on.

The pile.

I can’t tell you how many blogs I write, though, that never make it beyond the grey matter.  I wax poetic as I’m doing whatever it is that keeps me from my blog, composing in my head as I, say, move 12 yards of hog fuel (shredded bark and wood used as mud management/footing in animal pens) delivered one recent Saturday into the sheep pen. It didn’t have to go far (so close, yet so far…), but it was uphill and it was a lot. I was doing the calculations and figured it took about six wheelbarrow loads to move each yard.  I moved over 50 wheelbarrow loads (at 6 cubic feet each) but there’s still some left in the pile (27 cubic feet in a cubic yard). So either they gave me some extra, or the fluffy aspect came into play (it was nice and dry and light, freshly dumped and no rain, so no settling. Or maybe I just have the wrong calculations. 

This is going to take a while.

This is going to take a while.

At any rate, I was darn proud of myself and ended up surprisingly un-sore. I thought that I’d be sore on Sunday, after I’d filled and moved 20 loads on Saturday. But I got up that morning without any real soreness or stiffness. I moved another 33 loads on Sunday afternoon, running out of daylight and moving the last half dozen loads by garage and barn light. For sure I’d be sore on Monday.  But not really.  Tuesday then, in that way that exertion waits a day before the muscles really bind up. Tuesday came and went and nothing much. A little tightness in my calves, and my arms were a little sore, but considering how I felt on Sunday night as I moved the last load, and weakly raked it out (running out of steam), I felt great. 

I felt much better, in fact, than normal activity (not much at this time of year). It won’t surprise anyone that I’m no gym rat, and my activity is usually centered around doing stuff around the property.  My day job is sitting all day in front of a computer, so by the end of a day (especially after the commute home) I’m actually much less limber than I was after moving all that hog fuel, without a few hours of daylight to putter around outside after work.  And the other thing, maybe the bigger thing (from a mental affects the physical standpoint) is the sense of accomplishment I felt, that I rarely/never feel at work, pushing papers (usually virtually) all day long.  This was physical and totally visual – starting with a pile taller than me, and wider/longer than my car, and getting it all moved into the pen over the course of two days.  And

Making progress

Making progress

the best part is seeing how the sheep appreciate it. The hog fuel helps with drainage and once it was in the sheep were using the entire pen in a way they hadn’t been, and sleeping in little beds they scuffed up in the footing, and not having to squish through mud to get to their feeder.  There is the little problem of the stuff becoming wound up in their wool, but considering how the hay has already thrashed their fleeces, I’m not too worried about a little wood chip or three.

Mud free, happy sheep

Mud free, happy sheep

So after that we had a week of frozen weather – I loved it!  No mud is always the best.  At the end of the week, though, the pipes froze – at the well or at the tank – and the pins and needles all week, hoping it wouldn’t, then when it did, takes some of the enjoyment out of the weather.  It was only out about 48 hours, so in addition to thawing water buckets for the sheep and chicken waterers, I was buying jugs of water to keep us all hydrated.  I find I really miss being able to wash my hands properly.  That and it’s awfully cold outside when you have to drop trou to answer the call of nature in subfreezing weather.

Something new

Frosty fleece

Frosty fleece

I’ve been experimenting with different blog themes lately, getting tired of the same old thing.  But it seems like I keep ending up back at the same version I originally started with (revised and updated, but essentially the same layout).  I’m not sure what this says about me.  I could pick that one apart for a while, but will spare us both.  Suffice it to say, I like a clean, easy to read blog, not too austere but not too cluttered looking either.  I like a font I can read, with enough density and size that it doesn’t require a trip to the eye doctor to be able to read a post.  Some of the theme fonts would need a 200 zoom to read easily, others look like they’re ready to fade away.  One them I liked had a font that was a little too large, which was disappointing.

I also like to be able to customize a bit.  A little photo header and background that I can change as the need or whim arises.  Nothing too crazy, yet…  I can’t tell you how many themes I looked at, nor for how long.  I’ve spent a crazy amount of time perusing, previewing, reading theme details, liking one part but disliking another.  After a brief stint recently with an industrial-looking theme, I came back to this one, the updated version of the one I’ve used pretty much since starting this blog in 2009.  And for now I’m going to stick with it [maybe; I just noticed that once posted, all the photos are washed out a notch, until you run your cursor over them…aaargh!].  And instead of perusing the themes for hours after I log in, I’m going to write a blog post.  What a concept!

On the farm front, Colin the ram went home this past weekend. He stayed with us for 35 days, more than enough time to take care of business with the girls.  Ewes cycle every 17 days, so if for some reason he didn’t make it on the first go around he had another chance to find the right rock to stand on.  The past week or so before he left everyone seemed more settled than they had been.  He was more relaxed and the girls just seemed calmer somehow.  I find that they get a little skittery in the fall, as they cycle.  Less friendly,

Minnie looking for chin scritches; she hasn't been this friendly since she was a lamb.

Minnie looking for chin scritches; she hasn’t been this friendly since she was a lamb.

more wary and not as relaxed about every day things.  It’s very subtle, and in the past week or so, the changes I’m seeing are just as subtle.  Oh, Cinnamon and Nona would still rather go through a fence than let me get within 30 feet of them, but even they seem a little more settled somehow.  I’m holding this up as a good sign they’re all percolating.

Colin rode in my car like a champ.  He was a little reluctant to get in the car, but that’s yet another reason to love his small size.  I have 100 pounds on him and lifted his

Colin rode better than any of my dogs ride. A nice calm little guy.

Colin rode better than any of my dogs ride. A nice calm little guy.

front legs and placed them in the car, then picked up his back end and pushed him in (Daisy was beside herself, inside the house at the front window–she has such a thing for Colin).  After a minute or so he settled down for the ride and didn’t even get up when I stopped to get gas, preferring to munch on hay while I filled the car.  When we got to Sally’s he didn’t want to get out!  He’s a nice little guy I’ll kind of miss having around.

Words not needed here.  Daisy hoping Blackcap will run, Blackcap cursing Daisy and all her ancestors.

Not that this eloquence even needs a caption, but really, it’s just Daisy hoping Blackcap will run, and Blackcap cursing Daisy and all her ancestors. Let the games begin.

Another one bites the dust…jacket

Why is it that when I sit down to write my mind goes blank?  I have all these good ideas tumbling around in my head and all I get is dead air when I open up a fresh page to write.

I recently read of another blog that’s going to be published as a book.  I’m not sure if the fellow was soliciting to publishers or if the publisher made him an offer (I’m pretty sure it’s the latter), but it does give one pause.

I will state right now that I never started this blog (four years ago last month!) with anything other than a way to keep up with the little things in life, and didn’t then nor do I now believe it’s anything more than that.  There may be a post or two that could, with minor

My adorable Farley-foo, most handsomest Setter ever!

My adorable Farley-foo, most handsomest Setter ever!

modifications, be reprinted in a magazine, or as part of a book (how-to or memoir), but most of it is just a bit of self-centered nattering about my favorite subjects – the critters, the farm, the garden, and the work to keep all of it going.

But, that said, it does make me think a bit about it all.  Like many bloggers (and non-bloggers) I follow a dozen or so blogs from fellow bloggers.  Usually with similar interests (small farms and/or livestock) or things I’m interested in (cooking), but it’s a fun way to see what others of like minds are up to.  There’s Bliss, a fellow dog (Rottweiler) person, whose Blabs are always entertaining and often thought provoking.  Or Emily in the UK, an apprentice beekeeper who puts my beekeeping practices to shame.  Another is Donna, a fellow Shetland shepherd and mentor, whose ram, Jocko, sired my two ewes’ twin lambs (four lambs total) last year.  And there’s Michelle, another shepherd nearby whose posts are always informative and there’s generally lively discussion on the comments, too.  There are another half dozen or more I read regularly, plus the random blogs I catch here and there.  I’ve learned from other blogs, made recipes posted on them, and admire these other bloggers.

I learned of this latest blog to book deal via the host for my blog, WordPress, touting the blog and the deal.  I went to read it, with it’s romantic sounding name, and left feeling a little deflated (but not defeated!).  It’s another of those stories that make me feel envious, that my life is dull and I have no sense of adventure.  It’s written by an ex-pat living in New Zealand with his partner/husband, and the stories revolving around the 20 acres they purchased where they raise chickens, pigs, sheep and olive trees, and even bottle the olive oil for sale.  The blog posts are sometimes quite long, but usually always entertaining.   Certainly the twist of doing this as a couple of city boys from the U.S.A. in a land as beautiful as New Zealand makes it much more adventurous and appealing than someone who’s just lived her life yearning to be on a farm, surrounded by animals

The sheep hanging out  last weekend.

The sheep hanging out last weekend.

and becoming as self-sufficient as possible while still bathing regularly and paying the power company for lights and heat.  Sure I’ve kept a small flock of chickens for most of my life now (the tipping point came a few years back, much to my wonder – it sure doesn’t seem that long…), and had a few years of dairy goat keeping back in the mid-80s, but mostly it’s just been coveting.  I still think of the property in the Okanogan that I almost went to look at; when I drove by it six months later the people who’d purchased it were doing exactly what I would have – some goats in the front yard (it was 20 or 40 acres with oodles of outbuildings and rolling hills…sigh.  (I’m ready to dash off to view some RE websites now.)

Still, it makes me think, this blog to book thing.  How can I make my blog more interesting, more readable?  And do I really want to?  I’ve been struggling to make it more succinct (not succeeding), but now I wonder.  Maybe if the story is compelling enough it doesn’t need to be shorter, and making the mundane seem, if not profound, then at least appealing and  interesting, with observations and thoughts along the way, is pretty much all we do as bloggers.  I do plenty of that, I think, but it always seems so self-absorbed and kind of icky, so I reel myself in much of the time too.  I’d like to make it more readable–more followers would be great, a real following, so to speak.  Must work on this.

Blue moon

Tonight’s blue moon turns out to be a good analogy for the frequency of my posts here in the past couple of months.  An exaggeration, sure (as that analogy almost always is), but it has been a while.  Good intentions went by the wayside as summer finally hit full swing and the days of sunlight and warmth began. By the time I make it inside each evening I’m usually squeezed for time for the inside chores and turning on the computer doesn’t even happen most weeknight evenings.   That’s changing a bit now as the days grow shorter (sob!) and it’s full dark by 9:00, though after spending eight hours in front of one at the day job, there isn’t much appeal to boot up at home.  Not when there are balls to toss, gardens to weed, eggs to collect, sheep to tend, and even a moment or two of relaxing on the deck with a glass of wine and a book (if only Farley would let me…).

I took a new position at the day job – a lateral move, technically, to a new department – and I’ve been busy, with overtime hours to prove it.  The work is similar, but with a lot more of what I’m good at: editing, formatting, word processing.  I like it a lot, and it’s good to be busy and even needed.  It kind of took me by surprise, and while I’m enjoying the work and staying busy all day,  I also long for a little more down time.  The eternal dilemma (for some of us) of time vs. money.  I’m at a point in life where the time is more valuable than the green stuff (though that’s been true for me pretty much my whole life) so it will be a trick to see how this plays into the coming months, when the newness has worn off and I’m up to speed with the routine tasks.  Right now it doesn’t leave much time for growing my own business, or writing at all.  The one thing I do carve out time for is my down time – the do nothing, lazy Sunday morning stuff, where I sit in bed reading with a cup of tea while the dogs sleep off their breakfasts next to me.  I still feel mildly guilty when I spend a day accomplishing little more than soaking up the sun and puttering around the house and yard.  I know it’s essential to my well being though – mentally as well as physically – and recharging like this is necessary.

Even so, I’ve managed to accomplish a few things over the summer, with more on the docket.  I’m finally getting around to painting the  interior walls.  Some of them.  Soon.  So far I’ve only purchased the paint, but with the holiday weekend I’m hoping to get the entry and part of the living room painted in the next couple of days.  And I’m hoping I like the colors I’ve picked, once they’re on the wall and dry.  I painted my front door (exterior) a couple of weekends ago and am still not sure if I like it.  It was black before, which always looked kind of odd and even a little creepy/ominous to me.  The house is painted a pale yellow with white trim, and the black door was the only thing black.  Even the back door is white.  I thought I’d go with something vibrant, a green or a blue – my favorite colors – in a style similar to those great colored doors you see on row houses in Europe.  After weeks of indecision, and paint chips taped by the door to see how they looked on the yellow and in every lighting, I settled on Monterrey Bay Teal, not too light, not too dark, and a rich mixture of the dark blue-green color I’m drawn to.  I guess I like the color, though next to the pale yellow it looks a wee bit 1980s/1990s teal.  That awful decor theme that was so popular (and I didn’t like even then) – the mauve and teal, with geese graphics as the animal du jour (usually with a mauve or teal bow around their neck, and often wearing an apron).   Maybe it’s just me.  Or maybe it’s time to paint the outside of my little house, too.   Ha!

The garden is finally hitting a bit of a stride.  It’s been a less than stellar year, with germination issues, dog and sheep issues, and lots of insect issues.  I grew different varieties of carrots this year, and either that or the late germination has avoided the rust fly maggots that attacked last year’s crop.  The carrots are gorgeous, but not nearly as tasty for raw eating as last year’s, so I’ll be making lots of my nummy carrot soup.  I already made one vat of it (double recipe) and not much made it to the freezer.  I missed it, so made up for lost time and ate so much I should be orange. mmm.  More this weekend for sure!  The kale crop has been so-so.  It’s definitely not as vigorous as last year, and with more pests (aphids and cabbage worms) to contend with.  The volunteer plants – a variety I didn’t grow last year, and seedlings coming up in places I didn’t sow any seeds – are strongest.  I’m not sure where they came from; I didn’t have any kale even go to seed last year (thinking of some kind of hybrid), so it’s kind of strange.  As with all volunteer plants though, they’re hearty and vigorous, relatively speaking.  The volunteer cucumber plants sprouted weeks after the ones I purposely planted, but are thriving and outproducing the intentionals (same variety, as far as I can tell).  I’ve already harvested 10 pounds of potatoes from the volunteer plants that sprouted.  The mice or meadow voles enjoyed them too, with all of the largest eaten and damaged beyond salvaging.  I’m not sure if they’re digging their own tunnels or repurposing mole tunnels (I have a very active mole in the garden – part of the reason many of the plants aren’t as vigorous as they should be: their roots are high and dry  half the time, as the mole tunnels  under everything looking for worms).

The sheep are well, and the lambs gorgeous with their fluffy first fleeces.  I’m planning to shear them this month…maybe.  They’re all so cute and fluffy now I almost hate to shear them, and I’m still half on the fence with it for this and other reasons, but am afraid if I wait until March I’ll end up with the same problem as last year – too much crap in the fleece and matting issues.  Their little fleeces are beautiful right now, though Pebbles’ daughter, the adorable and super friendly little Minnie, has plenty of junk in her black fleece.  She is dog-like in her friendliness and enjoys attention.  As I scratch her chin and pet her, I find cleavers seeds galore, and bits of leaves and blackberry vine, etc.  Her brother, Fergus, is much the same.  Of Cinnamon’s twins, one is definitely friendly, though she’s loyal to her freaky mom and sister, too.  She will almost come up for petting on her own, and often pushes in with Minnie and Fergus, though contact is brief.  It’s definitely a case of nature over nurture, as her inclination is to be bold and friendly, unlike her mother and sister who are both on high alert and ready to bolt if I even look at them for more than a passing glance.  I wish I could tell them apart, but other than temperament I can’t find any noticeable (to me) distinguishing marks or conformation.

Writing, books, and me

So I’ve recently been kicking around the idea of writing a book .  Again.  It cycles around regularly, and I’ve been pretty good at talking myself out of it for one reason or another (the old monster, Resistance, coming into play).  First of all, what would I write, fiction  or non-fiction?  Or perhaps memoir?  My most recent incarnation was a non-fiction idea for canine health, focussing on canine epilepsy.  In a quick perusal of Amazon I found a comprehensive, well reviewed book already written on the topic that I’d forgotten about (I never purchased it because of the cost–$30 for a medium length paperback seems a little much).  Dang.  What now?

I actually have two novels about half written.  I occasionally go back and reread, find that they’re pretty darn good, if I do say so, and even start adding to them.  After my computer hard drive crashed last year I haven’t gotten back to them (they’d been saved to disc about 8 months before the crash).  I’m embarrassed to say how long ago I started them, but let’s just leave it at “over 10 years.”  After my ex-husband and I split up, I read a lot.  Well, I always read a lot, but I found I read a lot of romance novels, whether in an effort to imagine a happy ending, when mine so obviously wasn’t, or just flat out escape from reality, it was classic, perhaps even Freudian.  I quickly found out why they’re often called “trashy romance” and of course “bodice rippers.”  A lot of them are dismally bad, bringing to mind the immortal Dorothy Parker book review line: “This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly; it should be thrown with great force.”  And I did that on more than one occasion.  Whether from bad writing, poor plotting, obnoxious or simpering characters, bad dialogue, or other element, I learned to stick to a few authors who could (and do) deliver excellent writing, good stories with beleiveable plots, and strong female characters with whom you could imagine sitting down and having a cup of coffee.  In answer to the many subpar books, I said to myself, I can do this, and sat down to write.  I even took a class on writing romance, where the class assignments each week was a book list of various well known authors.  I read my first, and last, Danielle Steele novel for one week’s assignment and continue to wonder at her bestseller success, though I don’t want to single her out – there are plenty of bestseller status writers of all genres that make me scratch my head in wonder.  And I’m  no literary snob, if that hasn’t already been established by the topic.  Crap writing, plotting, dialogue all show up on the best seller lists regularly.  But hey, at least people are reading something.  Right?

Anyway, I found out that writing a decent, non-cringe inducing romance novel isn’t as easy as it sounds.  And it explains the many not so decent ones out there.  The same could be said for mystery novels, suspense/thrillers, horror, fantasy, and sci-fi.  Writing a page turner worth reading is hard work, with edits and rewriting as important as the original idea. 

This year I toyed with saddling up for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, held every November.  From November 1 to November 30, the goal is to write 50,000 words, roughly a 175 page novel.  It’s gotten more sophisticated over the years, with a website where you can sign up (it started out a mere decade ago with a group of writers in the Bay Area), forums, and tracking tools.  When I read the rules, I realized I wasn’t up for it, since my idea was to use my half written novels as a start.   No can do, it has to be from scratch.  Okay, maybe next year.  In the meantime, where’s that back up disc?

Editing vs. writing

So which is it?  I do both for a living, though not enough of either.  (2009 goal: get more clients/write more).  This blog was created as a way to keep myself writing , though I’ve been falling down a bit there.  The block I didn’t quite anticipate (but should have) is my “self edit” button, a.k.a. the monkey mind.  I rationalize by telling myself that if I didn’t stop myself, the blog would just be a series of rants (and it already has some of that going on).  Ranting about work/job, about how stupid people are about recycling, j0289199about how people seem willfully ignorant about climate change and their part in it (I can not believe how many people burn leaves and yard waste in this little town!  It’s an outrage–smoky-ass fires of wet vegetation that blanket the whole valley in smoke.), about asinine veterinarians who have no respect for knowledgeable pet owners who don’t believe in using a mallet when a finish hammer will do, about politics, about…well, you get the idea.  I stop myself because who wants to read all that?  I mean even if you agreed with me (and I don’t know how any rationally-minded person wouldn’t), there’s no use adding to the planet’s negative energy with a printed “spew.”

So, no ranting. Got it.  Now what do I write about?  Butterflies and flowers?  A j0091157little more compelling, hopefully.  I could blog daily about critters, about puttering around in the front garden at dusk, the dogs meandering with me, the cat twining under their chins as they sniff, and a couple of hens pecking around them–a golden moment, about the dogs’ antics and how happy they make me, or their health issues (and issues with trying to find decent medical care for them), and may create a blog just so I can indulge myself that way.  I wanted to keep this blog a little broader than that, as well as keeping a continuum of sorts.  And this is where monkey mind really shines.  Everything’s got to be frickin’ Shakespeare before I can hit the “publish” key. 

Of course I exaggerate, but the perfectionism issue can’t be avoided.  It would be so easy to jot off something disjointed, a series of random thoughts threaded together.  At least you’d think it would be.  Not for monkey mind, basking in her own brilliance and censoring anything that doesn’t sound FABulous (in her mind–I don’t pretend that my blog posts are high literature by any means).  I do find, however, that this perfectionism hobbles me.  Heck, I can’t even post to my Twitter account with any regularity–you only get 140 characters, but it has to be a profound 140 characters–but that’s a whole ‘nother issue (primarily that I really don’t get the point of Twitter, or don’t see it’s usefulness…yet?  And why are all these people following me?  Is that really Hugh Jackman posting?)

Which brings me to the editing part.  I really like reading good writing, and seeing a piece cleaned up and full of zinging sentences that give you great visuals and paint a full picture.  At the very least, let’s get the punctuation and grammar and spelling on track.  I went to an editors conference last month and it made me realize how I enjoy this and how I want to do more of it.  More of both really.  It was invigorating to be around others with like minds, who count a dictionary and a style guide as their most useful tools, sharing tips for marketing, working with clients, and navigating in Word’s Review tool. 

In short, the desire is there, in both courts.  And monkey mind does serve a purpose, ultimately.  I simply have to override a bit more instead of just getting in the back seat.  Thanks, monkey, I’ll take the wheel.

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