Spring brought a few weeks of heat, and a rush of blooms. I was able to get most of the garden planted, and about half of the exterior windows cleaned. More shifts at the restaurant means the beach season is about to get rolling full steam, so I’ll take the hours now so I can write later.
Scold of Jays has been on the market for a month. It was a sneaky release so I didn’t expect much notice. A couple of reviews have come in, but I’m not stressing too much about the low visibility. I’m already planning my winter of writing Plague of Gargoyles.
On an amazing note, my childhood friend, Rob, was inspired by Xabien’s melee and skinning blade, which he then made in real life. Rob’s a brilliant weapon maker and sculptor, and does an assortment of ulus. When he sent me Xabien’s ulu, I opened the box and just stared. This is such a spectacular work of art and craftsmanship that I couldn’t even find words. He just nailed the dragon Ryder King in all his weaponry glory.
I’ll be putting together a photo shoot as soon as I have the chance. More to come with pictures and props. In the meantime, you can see more of Rob’s work here, or visit his site. Yes, he does commissions!
I put my creative boosting sessions on hold this summer while the busy season at the restaurant is going. I hope this will also give me the chance to set up my website registration option for the autumn classes.
The autumn creative session will hopefully have a creativity workbook for students as well. The concepts I’ve been working on in writing my Innovation and Creativity manuscript will be tested on my workshops. So, I need the extra time to hopefully get that workbook laid out and ready for print. If I can’t make it in time for the autumn class, then definitely by winter class.
Stay tuned, new creative workshops are in the September 2019 queue.
The bees are installed and doing well. I’m still feeding them, and have put off cutting my grass and weeds just to have extra flowers available until the apples and blackberries come into full bloom. I’m going for the Wabi-Sabi look in the yard at the moment, which is to say it appears my cottage might be abandoned. Not the case, I assure. Just saving the dandelions and ground cover as long as possible for the bees to have a good head start this year.
Speaking of apple blooms, the trees are definitely beginning their bloom. I’ve been in this house for three springs, and the owner told me he’d planted the apple trees near the road ten years prior. The gala apple had two apples last year, and I never saw it blossom, though it had to have at least two blossoms last year—the tree has not “bloomed” since I’ve been here.
I’d tried fertilizer granules, then spikes, then pruning, and nothing would make the tree go into full bloom. So last summer I placed the chicken run beside the tree in hopes that they would fertilize all through the winter.
The gala apple in in full, massive bloom this year. I had no idea it could bloom so much! It’s beautiful. Even the small apple, the one that tilts, is putting out blooms and opening up. Finally, some food for the bees, and a chance at some apples this year.
I planted some flowers, an herb garden and some veggies. The rhubarb is bigger than my head and ready for early harvest. I just need some strawberries and I’ll have the makings of strawberry rhubarb crisp.
The chickens are thriving. They’re laying three to five eggs a day, and their addition to the garden beds over wintering has allowed for the rich beautiful color of the new shoots and the lush raspberry canes. The roses love it as well. In short, we’re off to a promising start.
All these little bits of mundane life are part of the long-term goal of being sustainable and creative. So, they may seem tedious and boring to many—it’s a huge part of drawing the web tighter to a center that will allow me greater creative freedom and output.
Also, who doesn’t love fresh honey and eggs? And a basket of fresh picked apples and a vase of garden roses?
There are many days when I think, “This was not the plan…” By now I was supposed to be traveling the world, writing at Parisian cafés and having whirlwind romances with beautiful, literate men, and walking through exotic cities, and taking pictures of all the fabulous architecture… not shoveling chicken manure into lopsided garden beds I built myself, and setting mouse traps by the feed bins, then going to work as a waitress.
Then I sit at my writing desk staring out over the creek and into the woods, I smile because I realize, “This is much better than my original plan….” I shrug. “I’ll get to all that other stuff eventually, for now I just want to write, and write, and write. Everything else doesn’t even matter anymore.”
Bliss is a funny thing. It rarely shows up in the packages you expect, and often in the packages you have intentionally avoided.
Scold of Jays appeared on shelves last week with little fanfare. Barely a notice. I’ll admit, by the time the launch date came I was so strapped for energy and cash, I did absolutely nothing to promote, market or celebrate. I was just that worn down. Still, I’m loving the soft launch approach versus the big events and huge energy drains of marketing and such. It’s been really nice to just push the “publish” button and go have a drink at the beach. It’s also been rewarding to see and know that longtime supporters are getting the book first and at the discounted digital rate before the big launch later this summer.
Small victories, I suppose.
In other news my new colony of bees arrives Saturday. I spent the morning yesterday re-positioning the hive bricks, and leveling the new location with sand. I’m not super thrilled about having the hive so close to the deck and rose garden walkway—but last year’s hives were in constant stress due to the other proximities of activity (dust from the road, falling trees, smoke from the burn pile, etc.) There’s just not a better place to keep them safe, so I’ll have to manage this year with the hive in a more protected spot—but closer than I’d like.
We’ll find the happy medium eventually. Still, the boxes have been cleaned, and the foundation leveled. Bees arrive this weekend, just in time for the salmon-berry and apple blossoms.
The garden is showing signs of early life. The raspberries, freshly pruned, are bursting with new leaves, and the blueberries have bright green new growth. The rhubarb is curling out of the winter layer of leaves, and my sprouting trays and cups are quickly outgrowing their nursery beginnings. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands in the dirt.
The restaurant season is ramping up which means much of my writing and creativity work will be put on the third burner until autumn. I’ll be in summer season of tourism and working the grow site so my winter world of publishing will go dormant for a while. This always makes me a little sad, but there’s some relief in knowing I work hard during this season so I can afford to shut everything else down and focus solely on writing and creativity through the autumn and winter. It’s a trade off. It’s currently my only way to support the artist lifestyle—so forgive me if I’m less available than usual during the “make hay” months.
In all, I’m still in recovery from the last book and launch. I’m still struggling with a little bit of burnout and the need to transition the way I’m interacting with my daily events. More specifically, how much I’m investing in jobs and habits that don’t return in expectation or investment. It’s a work in progress.
In final news, I’ll mention again that I’ll be closing my Patreon account down next month. I just don’t want anyone to be surprised when it goes offline. It was a difficult choice, because I’ve really enjoyed being able to interact with supporters and patrons, and be connected. I’ll be working on a new supporter option with subscription-based patron tiers, and a portal for contact and interaction through my website. Hopefully this rotation won’t take too long, but it is entirely at the whim of access to the internet and time to sit and build out the site. In short, I’m closing the door on one method of interacting, and opening another soon.
Here’s to spring and the preparation for summer. Next time I check in, I’ll be knee-deep in gardening soil and hopefully recovered from the launch burnout.
Happy Spring, everyone!
As Scold of Jays is about to sneak onto shelves, I’m setting up the plans for this year’s garden.
The work season at the restaurant is ramping up, so this year I need a new watering plan. Last summer I worked such long days, I didn’t get home in time to water, so my garden stunted around July.
This year the plan is to put in barrels with soaker hose lines. I’ll be able to run the auto-water to the barrels, which will dispense through the soaker hoses throughout the day.
A sprinkler system would be awesome, but of course, I’m on a budget, AND my property plan is really spread out and disjointed. The new garden beds will be going in behind the house next to the creek because my light is best there for corn, tomatoes, the figs, roses and grapes. The bees will also be in the sunny locale. The actual gated garden is slowly being filled with beans, potatoes, squash, herbs, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries, and cucumbers. The chicken coop will be extended this year, and that will eat up another chunk of the gated section. As the gated section has partial shade in the second half of the day it can’t do the heat/sun loving tomatoes, BUT the blueberries, some flowers, and the potatoes do great. Those raised beds also have the best soil as it’s been tended and amended.
So, the watering will be a trick of which areas need the barrels, most of which can be filled by rainwater from the roof spouts, and the other patches of watering with barrels that need a slightly more acidic addition. (Can’t water the blueberries with the same barrels for the beans as I’ll be adding acidic amendments to the barrels for blueberries, potatoes, and roses with the same ph range. Corn/beans/cucumbers will all be on a different water tank, see?)
I am not a gardener. I suck at growing anything, really. But I get better every year. This will be my third year with this garden, and I feel like I’m finally getting a handle on the soil ph, the light patterns, and the critter containment.
However, whether it’s the type of some plants I’m choosing, my inexperience, or the failure of the type of crop—I’m having fairly inconsistent results. My first year I just planted a bunch of stuff from seeds off the grocery shelf. (only the potatoes made it)
The last year, I went for a combination of starts and hybrids (some GMO seeds designed to work in my environment).
I did better – BUT—I didn’t like the flavors of the cucumbers (hybrid GMO), I wasn’t a fan of the starter lettuces, also hybrids, and I couldn’t make my peas grow more than a few inches and they gave stunted weird peas. Plus, everything sort of tasted, well, blegh. I began to realize the “dummy versions” of starts and GMO seeds were flavorless, and also not fail-proof, even though they still did better than the off-shelf grocery seeds.
Don’t grow anything I don’t want to eat. (That seems stupid obvious, but in the beginning, I was just trying to grow anything that would grow—then give it away.) So I made a list of types of foods I like to eat, cook with, preserve, and share.
When I really got down to the nuts and bolts of what I put in my body that I can potentially be responsible for—I was shocked.
I don’t actually like modern hybrid corn. I’ll eat it, but I’m not a huge fan of the cardboard nutrition-less, flavorless staple. I’d been trying to grow corn because I remembered doing it as a kid. (I do like corn on the cob with enough butter and garlic). I don’t eat radishes, but they’re in nearly every garden seed set. I began to realize that the expected staples of gardening were not the usual foods I’d go out of my way to prepare or work with.
I only eat green beans in casserole or when I’m on a keto diet. I only like peas when they’re fresh. Nothing beats fresh sugar snap peas off the vine. And so on and so forth.
Part of the problem with my avoidance of these foods is also that I am a huge flavor profile eater. I EAT FOR FLAVOR. And many of the store-bought, canned, overcooked, modified, and nutrient-deprived supermarket versions of these foods just don’t turn my crank anymore. Why waste the calories?
Since I’m not currently gardening for survival, why don’t I garden for curiosity and discovery?
Game changer for the newbie.
Because I have an interest in high flavor foods, AND I feel a responsibility to heirloom practices, AND I have a stake in stewardship of this land I decided to split the difference.
I would choose 1/3 new seeds and plants from heirloom, and odd, weird breeds I’ve never tried before to see if I like them better than their hybrid GMO counterparts. (atomic tomatoes, purple Brussel sprouts, black maize corn). I’ll experiment with the plant growth, and with the product to see if it’s a win for my lifestyle. I’ll also give away in seed share the heirloom varietals to see who has better luck in the growing process.
For 1/3 of my produce I’ll add tree stock, both fruits and nuts. (I currently have hazelnuts and apples, but will be adding cherry, fig, peach, and pecans)
For the last 1/3, I’ll do starts from nurseries and providers I’m familiar with for plants I know I’ll still eat, and need a fast, easy crop (herbs, peppers, and pumpkins, and strawberries).
Once I narrowed it all down, the garden beds needed to be shifted for companion planting, and the watering schedule. I felt so stupid that I’d never plotted the garden out by what I wanted to eat before. I’d only plotted and tried to grow based on what seeds were on the supermarket shelf, and what I thought might sprout.
Rare and heirloom seeds have been ordered from Baker Creek Seeds. Stock plants for tomato trees and such have been shipped from Burgess. New stock from Four Seasons is queued up, and my starter tray list is ready to go from the local nursery.
My new bee colony should be here the third weekend in April. As I was cleaning out my bee hives to get ready for the new colony, I discovered one of my hives had molded. Talk about super bummed. It was an old hive, bought cheap as a hand-me-down, and so likely needed extra special treatment I didn’t provide through the winter. I certainly can’t put a new colony in it, so it went to the burn pile with a dozen frames. I was so mad at myself that I hadn’t thought to check them sooner or find a dry place to over-winter.
The materials for the new raised beds and watering system will be ordered in May. This includes the frames for all the climbing plants, and the stakes for the giant tomatoes.
The raspberries are pruned, and half the winter deadfall is cleared, though there will be a bonfire of epic proportions for the dead tree and some big debris as soon as it dries out enough to keep a flame. (I think this means I need to be planning a BBQ menu for that day as well)
The garden beds are plotted, and ready to be turned, and the chickens are absolutely ready for a new coop this summer. That they haven’t mutinied on me is a miracle. They are not fans of the small run with the bird netting roof. But they are back to laying eggs and ready for a change in diet.
I have no idea if the rare and weird Chinese snake python bean will grow out here, or if I’ll enjoy cooking with it—but I won’t know until I try. I don’t know if purple Brussel sprouts will be more flavorful than store-bought greens, or if the atomic tomatoes will make good pizza sauce. But I’m looking forward to building a garden that produces interesting, repeatable (heirloom) produce that I’ll want to grow again and again; food I genuinely want to cook with, and products I’m delighted to share.
Now that I’ve plotted based on curiosity and flavor, it’s the most excited I’ve ever been about gardening. That’s my simple little life in a nutshell. I’ll post as I’m able through the summer. Hopefully by the time fall rolls around I’ll be launching my new online storefront (books/merch/cottage goods) patron program, and membership platform. Stay tuned!
Have a wonderful spring, folks.
P.S. Right before I posted this a coworker gave me a pack of cucamelon seeds… Can’t wait to see how those turn out!