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This Writing Thing – It’s Still Winter on the Homestead

This Writing Thing – It’s Still Winter on the Homestead

This writing thing…

…it’s become all-consuming, this writing thing. It’s still very much winter on the homestead so I’m taking advantage of the last quiet days of the season. If I’m at home I’m working on the book. Thanks to Brenda at Forest North, the process is going well. She’s taught me a few things and given useful feedback to help me get and stay on the right track. “What’s up with the peas, Robin?” “I’d like to know more about _______.” The suggestions she’s given me on some nontraditional ways suit me well. The uninterrupted time I’m spending writing is different than time spent in previous winters. This time will continue through the year. There is a big change. Some of you will flinch. I’m cutting back on coffee. Two cups in the morning and that’s it. I’m drinking two cups of tea in the afternoon and a lot of water. I realized how sluggish I am when the caffeine wears off, and how much more caffeine I needed to feel energetic. I’m as energetic as a sloth going up hill during a March blizzard in Maine, but it will get better. So, there’s that. A writer who isn’t binging on coffee.

Bobcat Update

It’s quiet around here. We’ve had another blizzard, this one not as bad as the first. I’m ready for spring but happy to have more time to snowshoe. The bobcat is still passing through but not coming close to the house or poultry. I like knowing he’s around even when it’s a pic of his back half on the game camera. With fresh snow, we might to get track him a bit this weekend.

this writing thing, Forest North, Forest North BooksSeed withdrawl is getting to me. I haven’t started a single seed yet. I keep saying I’m going to and then remind myself that I’ll be buying cool crops from Shanna, and that we aren’t sure yet when we’ll have the high tunnel recovered. No rush this year. That’s a big adjustment.

Coming up – I need to do something. Something that requires being out of this chair. I have rosemary and orange essential oils and will be making soap soon. There’s an anti-bacterial balm I want to make for cuts and scrapes.

Winter’s Middle – We’ve reached the half-way point

Winter’s Middle – We’ve reached the half-way point

Winter’s Middle

We’ve reached winter’s middle, the half-way point of the season. It finally feels like a real winter this morning. When I went out to let the ducks and chickens out, bring them water and yogurt I don’t like, and a drink of water water that will melt the ice in their indoor pan, it was 0°. Some days zero doesn’t feel bad but today it’s sharp and stinging. I thought I’d go for an early morning snowshoe through the woods to look for animal tracks but came back inside instead. I’ll see how well it warms later on this afternoon.

winters middle, february 2, groundhog's day, imbolcAs I type I’m watching a blue jay resting in the hydrangea bush, recovering from a crash into the window. It’s awfully cold to not be at their best. He breathed hard and hunkered down, and I waited for him to fall off the branch into the fresh snow. The blue jay pictures were taken through a layer of plastic over an old farmhouse window and two pains of glass. I thought they were a lot more clear than they are.
winter's middle, blue jay, February 2

Inventory Day

February 2, inventory day on the homestead. A well-stocked homestead still has at least half of its needs on this day. Firewood? Check. We have more than half of the winter’s supply and all of next year’s cut, split and partially stacked. Vegetables?  Check, but close. The absence of fresh greens and roots from the high tunnel is missed. How I’d love a fresh cut salad with spinach, tender beet greens and winter-hardy lettuces, thin slices of just-pulled carrot and turnip, and onions from the pantry… The snow and rain is washing the soil this winter. We’ll recover it when I decide the soil has had enough spring rain.

Meat? This date doesn’t apply to meat for us. The bear went into the freezer in September, the chickens and partridge in October, turkeys in November, and half a pig in December. I hope we have more than a year’s worth of meat now. I hope in the spring we add four wild turkeys (we won’t, but one or two might happen) to the larder. We won’t hunt for meat again until September when bear season opens again. We intentionally put up more than a year’s worth of meat because I’m not raising any this year.

More Daylight

Daylight is 65 minutes longer now than on Winter Solstice. It’s noticeable and welcome. The ducks started laying again late last week, first one and now two. It shouldn’t be long before there are for or five duck eggs each day, and then for a short time seven. The chickens are doing well too with none of them broody and trying to hatch straw at the moment. It’s the first time since November that there’s been a full carton and more in the fridge.

After a while the blue jay noticed me watching through the window, turned as though to say goodbye, and flew away. I think once its aches and pains are gone it’ll be just fine.

My plans for the day were changed at almost last minute so I’m going to plow through writing work. I’m attending a workshop on Saturday and have a lot of reading and critique left. This weekend’s On The Fire recipe (homemade Italian sausage) has to be written. And there’s a big piece due on Monday that I’ve only scribbled notes on so far. I wish I were at the half-way point of something in the writing work right now. Maybe by lunch!

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Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking ahead is one of my favorite things. It’s a lot like day dreaming.

thinking aheadThere are a few things I’m planning to do in 2017. Not resolution type things (I have a couple of those but that’s not what this is about) but more of a to-do list crossed with things I want. Thinking ahead is fun when plans are for things that make a life in the wild nicer.

Mason Bees

Thinking ahead is something I’ve been good at with bees. They’ve been on my want list for a long time. We like honey and some of the fruit trees don’t get pollinated well now that the wild honey bees have vanished. Steve hates bees and they know it. I think 2016 was the first year in at least a decade that he didn’t get stung by a bee, wasp or hornet. I’m on my own with bees so I’ve taken my time learning about them and their care. Start up runs around $500. Two weeks ago I decided I can buy a lot of honey for $500 and save myself the work (I’m cutting back, remember) and the headache of dealing with bears. I’ll be looking for places to buy mason bees and local honey.

Pretty-Up the Hen House

There’s a story to the hen house that I should tell you. The current story is that the hen house is ugly as sin. It bugs me. A lot. It needs a new coat of paint. For reasons I don’t know, the hens peck at the fresh paint until they’ve stripped all of the wood they can reach of its shiny red paint, leaving behind bare wood. Not wanting to settle for slapping a coat of paint on it, I’ve held out until I can put up the siding I want and replace the windows and door.

Observation Hut

The popup was taken down when the snow got too heavy and the time spent there is missed.
thinking ahead, 2017, popup, hunting, blind, camo blind, Ameristep blindHunting huts at Peter’s double as observation huts eleven months out of the year. Speaking of hunting, here’s a hunting story, in less than a minute. You’re welcome. As an outdoors write I crave outdoors writing time but when it’s too cold, windy, buggy or raining I don’t like to sit out there to write. Paper and laptops don’t do well in uncomfortable weather. We’re going to build a hunt that sits four feet off the ground, has windows on three sides and a door on the fourth. I’ll be able to work there while watching the wildlife. For the coldest days we’ll have a small heater.

Make More Cheese

One of my favorite foods is cheese. Good cheese. Not that I won’t eat a slice of American “cheese” now and then but turn me loose in Boston Public Market where I can find a hundred different real cheeses and I’m a happy girl. “How well does this melt?” “What is this farm like?” I’ll soon be cooking with a cheddar I bought at the market. Steve bought me a new smoker because I’ve outgrown our little one. I want to make and smoke cheeses.

Learn to Tan Hides

Having a hide tanned can be expensive. I want to learn how to do a small hide or two; a problem raccoon or ermine/short-tailed weasel, snowshoe hare…

More Creativity

thinking ahead, 2017, homesteading, American goldfinch, winterAnother of the things I’ll do in 2017 involves creativity. I got out of the habit of taking photography rides, bouncing along backwoods roads with three cameras on the seat beside me. Steve took me on a couple of rides to find moose in November, reminders of how much I enjoy photography, and a realization of how little I missed it because I was too busy to notice. I have some nature craft ideas I’d like to try out.

Camp in Baxter State Park

To get the photos of moose I want to take at Sandy Stream Pond, I need to be at the pond before sunrise. The gates don’t open until after sunrise and then it’s more than an hour to drive into the campground, park, sign in, and hike the four-tenths of a mile to the pond. Taking pen and paper with me will give me time to write while I’m waiting for the moose and deer. I’m going to camp at least two nights there.  Cabin, lean-to or tent? That hasn’t been decided yet.

More Writing for Myself

I’ve mentioned this before and now it’s well underway. Working with Walden Publishing has been wonderful. Cleo will mold me into a better writer through her feedback and calls for rewrites. It’s been a strong reminder of what freelance writing should be, and that makes me happy.

There are two writing workshops in February and March to attend, and I’m watching to see who’s instructing at Black Fly Writing Retreat. The women’s writing retreat is also on my list. Finishing the book and spending time here in the blog are at the top of my list.

What are you planning to do in 2017? If you’ve written a blog entry about it please drop a link in the comments. If not, still tell us what you’re doing. It’s nice to share ideas that might spark an idea in someone else.

 

Silent Writing Retreat

Silent Writing Retreat

Silent Writing Retreat

My pointed effort to unplug from the internet and phone started in 2014 when I attended a silent writing retreat. The location doesn’t have wifi and cell reception is sparse; if you walk through certain spots at the right time your phone might connect long enough to download a text or two.  Texts are mostly left to be read when I get home. Unplugged 2016 starts tomorrow when I leave for the same silent writing retreat.

Bear Mountain, Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Life Center, Women's Writing Retreat, silent writing retreat
Main House, Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Life Center, Women's Writing Retreat, silent writing retreat
canoes, Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Life Center, Women's Writing Retreat, silent writing retreatTwo years ago I sat down with pen and paper and wrote my heart out. Holed up in a cramped, homely bunk room by myself, I wrote almost every free moment, and what I churned out was excellent, especially for a first draft. I less involved last year as I worked through a couple of more difficult things. This year I’ll be fully immersed again, writing like a madwoman, and taking two workshops rather than one as I was last year.

Writing & Reading

Plans change. The piece I wanted to write before I leave wasn’t written. There were too many other things I had to do in writing and life to get to it, and now I don’t know what I’ll read. There will be writing assignments in each workshop so choosing one of those pieces is an option. I used to be excited about reading my work to an audience because it was nerve wracking, something I needed to take a deep breath and dive into. Now that I’m no longer nervous it’s lost its edge. Maybe I’ll find something new about reading to an audience that excites me this year.

Silent Writing Retreat?

Silence. Not completely, but the right amount of silence to not interrupt anyone. We’ll be laughing and talking in places like the beach and dining hall but in our cabins, on the trails and in other places where writing happens, it will be quiet. We nod to acknowledge each other on paths but there’s no talking because someone you pass might be writing in her head.

Unplugged

Unplugged 2016 – no outside news at all. I see a little local news in the morning when Steve has it on.

Can you imagine being completely, totally away from the news and outside world for seven days?Click To Tweet

I keep the television and radio off stations that carry the news but I can’t get away from news and negativity of this modern world but still see it on social media. It’s wearing. It’s depressing. Being unplugged will do a lot for my heart and soul. Each year I’ve come home to spend less time on social media and more time unplugged, and I’m sure this year will be the same. Maybe more so.

Do you unplug for a while? Could you? What do you do while you’re not being dragged down by the outside world?