Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Today is a quick film review, which I’m usually not moved to do, but anything to keep from heading to the field any earlier than I have to. (I’m a bad farmer.)

“Casanova” with the late Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller has been out since 2005, but I finally watched it yesterday, along with the special features, and wow. It’s a romp through Venice, shot entirely on location, and an interesting take on the Casanova myth. It seems to do a fair job of showing the two images of Venetian women, the closeted wilting flowers, and the bold. Venetian women, I believe, were among the most educated women of the period, but were cloistered away in the house, waiting for a man to rap on the door and make her father an offer of marriage to his daughter based on her wealth and purported beauty. (Of course, the rumors say that most rich women are gorgeous, so the wallet can do the thinking as well as anatomy lower down.)

The movie itself has quite a bit of CG that gets distracting on occasion, but the acting and comedic timing is great, so it’s historical fiction with a flair for the comedic, both physical comedy and comedy of manners and mistaken identity. It’s sort of like Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors” meets eighteenth century, including the cross-dressing. Overall, I’d recommend it to those that enjoy period movies and British comedy, but it’s easy enough to understand (none of that complicated Dickens and co. language) that those who like sumptuous movie sets and romantic comedy will enjoy it as well.

Oh, and don’t miss the scene with the pig.

Psyching up to spend the next 2-3 days raking and baling. Ugh.

Monday, June 28, 2010


by Robert Frost

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound—
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

Kinda sums up my weekend, except for it being quiet, quaint, and bucolic. Cutting hay is dirty, hot, sun-burning business but we got it all knocked down Friday and Saturday.

Then Sunday, it rained.

Damn Michigan weather. But it should come off ok with the ten days of sun we’re supposed to get. It’s fun getting to run the equipment and everything, but damn I’d get bored runnin tractor all summer long. Driving around quits being novel after the first five hours on an open station tractor, I tell you what.

Been reading some good books lately, reviews to be forthcoming. The Pirate’s Heart by Catherine Friend is a rollicking good read, great summer book, as it chases four women on a treasure hunt. Pirates, treasure, a lost treasure map, a mad dash to find the treasure, and an illusive island, this pirate novel by a sheep-farmer in Minnesota is a feel-good adventure with a reference librarian superhero heroine. Good time.

The other I’m liking is Haunting Warrior by Erin Quinn. Rory MacGrath can only see the woman of his dreams in vision, but the death of his Irish grandmother takes Rory home where he trips back through time to find himself in the middle of a violent political upheaval and war. Thick with Irish mysticism and passion, this is a rich book with great characters, especially for a romance, which, let’s face it, isn’t always known for its depth and scope. Granted, that’s not the point, but it’s nice to see.

In the research vein, I’m reading Madams: Bawds and Brothel Keepers of London by Fergus Linnane. Sex and violence, what’s not great about that? :) New project set partially in eighteenth century Britain required a library day yesterday (oh darn) and, again, I came away with far too much reading. Oh well, will give me something to do when J and I drive to South Carolina next weekend.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Days you wanna tell em to f*^# off, grab your shit, and leave

We’re finally set to knock down all the hay today. If we get through this hay season without me blowing up at Dad again, it’ll be a miracle. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great dad, but as any farm kids out there know, sometimes getting along and running a business and living together aren’t easy combinations. It’s not like we can leave our beefs at the office. We still come home and have to live together. We’ve got old age an treachery versus youth and vigor. And my dad is over sixty, so it’s all the more apparent. How he wants to do and manage things is not how I do, and vice versa. Making it work is a daily challenge, one I’m coming to dread more and more, since coming from a very closed-mouthed generation and being less than forthcoming to emotions and new ideas, my dad is getting increasingly hard to communicate with as he grows older. It’s a scary thing, not just from a business standpoint, but also as a daughter, to realize that you’re grown and suddenly a parent is failing, either mentally or physically or both. If anyone else has tips for dealing with this, I’d love to hear from you. I don’t want to spend the last years of my dad’s life fighting with him and being pissed off over everything. How do you deal with someone who doesn’t operate on the same level of reality as the rest of the world, either from personal choice or from failing mental faculties? Especially in a farm setting where if I were a son, I could have had an easier time taking over the business.

On a cheerier note, the cows are fat, black, and sassy with baby bellies and I get to see my honey tonight. =D

Thursday, June 24, 2010

B.o.B - Airplanes ft. Hayley Williams of Paramore [Official Music Video]

Tonight's Writing Music

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Passion. We most often associate passion with sex in America. We’re all uptight and sexually repressed so everything must have to do with sex, right?

Passion is a noun, stemming from Middle English and dated to the 13th century, with Anglo-French and Late Latin roots. It comes from the Latin passio, meaning suffering, being acted upon, and from pati, to suffer. While the reference to suffering has largely passed out of use, one can see how it’s still applicable. Pleasure itself can be a way of suffering. That aside, in its basic form, passion refers to “the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces.” It’s an emotion, it’s intense, it drives, it overmasters, it’s a conviction, an outbreak, a feeling of ardent affection and overpowering desire.

Pretty intense, huh?

It’s supposed to be. And not just in a sexual sense, you dirty-minded 21st century repressed people.

In the Middle Ages, it was far more acceptable to display intense emotions. In present day, people can be animated, but usually it seems in a negative capacity. A “how much can I complain about the weather and how little can I get by with doing at work and bitch about how tired I am after a couch-session of five hours with Law and Order and two bags of movie-theater butter popcorn” kind of thing.

Passion is not sex. It’s a part of sex. Passion is applicable to everything. You have to have passion, you have to have an overwhelming drive. If you don’t, you’ll sit and stagnate. But in our society, being passionate (thinking little bookworm kid in love with libraries) or having a sense of wonder isn’t popular or encouraged. But for a writer, it’s an essential part of the stew. How then do you cultivate passion and a sense of the miraculous without wandering off into a Teletubbies or Barney special?

First, know yourself. Know what drives you, what you love. And if you don’t know, then what gets you up at 4 A.M. What would you give up sleep in order to do? What gives you a childlike sense of wonder?

Second, know those around you. If they don’t support you, get new people. There’s nothing wrong with having drive, with having passion, or being in awe, with running for days at a time on sheer enthusiasm and excitement over what you’re doing. If the people in your life don’t get that, it’s time to change it up.

Third, walk without looking at the ground. Scientists have proven (at least as far as PBS is concerned) that older people who’ve had a fall grow fearful. So when they walk, instead of looking out level, they look down, turning eyes and head to the floor, to watch where they’re walking. Well this reverses the lifelong training for the part of the brain in charge of balance. It’s getting new signals and can’t interpret them properly, often resulting in the person falling. If you don’t want to fall, you can’t look at the ground, you have to look at the 360 degrees around you. Like Wile E. Coyote, you won’t fall until you notice there’s just air beneath you.

I can’t give you passion. I can’t tell you what your drives are. But maybe it’s not too much to believe that being passionate can be cool. Besides, passion is hott :-P

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review - Afterburn by Zane

Book Review - Afterburn by Zane

Thanks, not just for Thanksgiving anymore

In searching for helpful tidbits on happiness, what’s astounding is the number of people trying to profit by selling the next magic bullet to happiness. It amazes me even further that people fall for it. It’s like the Atkins or Southbeach diet for happiness. Crazy.

J and I had a conversation recently about happiness and how it directs us in our lives. In the course of the talk I realized what a very happy and contented person I am, at least in comparison to those around me. There’s no magic bullet for it. I get down and depressed, angry, frustrated, the same as anyone else. But I’m thankful for the sunset. I’m thankful for a clean bed. Perhaps appreciating what you do have and not what you don’t is part of the key to happiness. But I think the Dalai Lama, the author of The Art of Happiness, captures it better than I do.

If one's life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation. - Dalai Lama

So find what makes you happy in a day, baby animals or books or freshly mowed grass, close your eyes, take it in, and be glad for it. Yeah, the world may be going to hell around you, but appreciate the good things. There’s too much bad already, no need to give it more notice and power than it deserves.

And if all else fails, here’s something to cheer everyone up: agave (hint: it’s what they make tequila out of).

Sunday, June 20, 2010


When ancient humans domesticated animals, several factors contributed to their selections. After all, there are only fourteen species of animals that are considered domesticated out of the thousands of animals that existed both then and in present day. So what factors made ancient man select these fourteen? One of factors was fear level. If an animal, like a deer or buffalo, has too high of a flight factor as a species, it’s impossible to contain or herd. Another was hierarchy, the animals had to herd together well and pay attention to the human herding them. They couldn’t be too small or it wasn’t worth their time and too large meant too much feed. Humans starving to feed their livestock hardly made sense.

When Dad and I went to California recently, we had the opportunity to spend time at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and that is always a pleasure. My fav animal? Of course, the elephant. I feel little stupid saying their like big cows, but their social structure is very similar to the bovines I’m familiar with. It’s easy to just stand there and watch how the females interact and the males try to climb out of their pens to get to them.

Very farmy indeed :p

Cattle were domesticated, though, not elephants, mainly due to their size. Humans had no way of containing elephants in fences and if the giant critters wanted to wander off, I can’t imagine the gooseboy they sent to watch them up in high pasture had much choice in the matter. Even in captivity today, elephants are large enough to be dangerous, so while taming them is possible, domestication, more than likely, is not. But that hardly detracts from the amazingness of their intricate and lifelong social systems and incredible capacity to care for and take care of one another. PBS has a wonderful series on elephants titled Echo of the Elephants, following a herd on the Kenyan Amboseli National Park.

Fun elephant facts for the day:

  • An elephant can drink 80 gallons of water per day.
  • It’s trunk alone can hold two to two and a half gallons of water.
  • It’s the only mammal that can’t jump.
  • In 1916, an elephant was tried and hung for murder in Erwin, Tennessee. (Only in the south.)
  • An elephant can live up to the age of seventy, or in some cases even more.
  • Elephants purr just like a cat. It’s used as a means of communication.
  • An adult African elephant eats approximately six hundred pounds of food a day, almost four percent of the elephant’s body weight!

Check out this chick!

I fell in love with "Airplanes" the first time I heard it, I mean what's not to love about Halley Williams from Paramore and Eminem? Was searching YouTube and found this girl. Great voice!!! Keep up the hard work!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


You may have noticed our guest blogger, Dana, debuted on Farm and Lit yesterday. Her article, "Running for Recovery" was pub'd in Ultimate Runner recently and she's incredibly pumped about it. Stop by to congratulate her.

By a Nose...

I get stuck on blog topics quite often. Sometimes I get a topic in mind, start writing it, realize it’s not what I want to be writing about, and wander back to my WIP. Sometimes there’s a vague tickle in my head about a topic, but when I start writing it, it doesn’t come out nearly as interesting as it sounded going in. With a blog centered around farming and writing, you’d think I’d have plenty of fodder. I usually do, however, sometimes that fodder is rather hard won. Like the hay this year.

So this time, after listening to a webinar with Peter Shankman, and of HARO,, I decided that rather than whine about nothing to write about, (taking my own writing advice as well,) I’d keep it positive. The news is so depressing and negative lately that we can all do with a little positive in our lives. And since one of my special superwriter skills is keeping the mood upbeat and making people laugh, when I’m having a bad day, I should try to make someone else’s a little cheerier. A little overzealous cheerleader, I know, but what did being happy ever hurt anyone?

So today’s happy moment is brought to you by slugs. Did you know slugs have four noses? Crazy. I wonder if they smell sweet, sour, bitter, and salty with each individual nose, the way the human tongue tastes different tastes with different parts of the tongue. Even if they don’t, I wonder if the female slugs sit around talking about the size the noses, you know, and the male slugs whistle at the “noses” on her.

And if you fit a slug having four noses into a piece of writing today, you get a cookie. :-p

Friday, June 18, 2010

I am Published

As of May 3, 2010 I am officially published! Of course there was the whole Master Thesis thing back in 1996 but unless you are interested in forage science research you probably wouldn't have run across it.

Here's the link to the publications:

As of late I have coauthored a few articles with Axie. Very fun and certainly a learning experience. I am now figuring out what to do next.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cow Facts and Kryptonite

On average, 350 squirts are needed from milking a cow to make a gallon of milk.

No wonder our hands cramp, lol.

Heard a really interesting webinar yesterday with Peter Shankman from HARO as the key speaker. For those of you not familiar with HARO, it’s Help A Reporter Out, an email that comes three times daily with listings from reporters all over looking for experts, laypeople, quotes, ect on various topics. Pretty fun. Anyway, the webinar covered “How Self-Promotion Will Change the World.” Pretty big claim. But after listening to the discussion, it makes perfect sense. If you help others more than you help yourself, it’s not self-promotion. It’s getting others to do your self-promoting for you because they like your product or brand. And building a brand or product with an unselfish, positive image these days is far more ambitious and effective than just ranting on your soapbox collection of social media sites.

You can find Peter Shankman at or on twitter under skydiver. You can sign up for HARO at

What was most surprising about the webinar and positive self-promotion is that the idea actually has some root in Buddhism, at least from what I can connect to what I read in “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama. Being happy and bringing happiness both involve doing for others and doing outside of yourself. We are a very me-centric culture. What if we thought about others before ourselves and spent more time analyzing how our branding, how our self-promotion, could help others rather than glorify us? What kind of a world would that be?

Probably still one where I think it’s cool that a cow can sleep standing up. :p Again, facts courtesy of Happy day all, and fingers crossed for upcoming interviews!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cows cows cows

 And here I thought I knew everything about cattle. Found this at

 Dairy cows can produce 20 to 35 gallons of saliva a day.

Cows drink anywhere from 25-50 gallons of water each day.

Where does the leftover water go? Hmmm….

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How to Read the Classics and Keep Your Sanity

Check out the latest addition: How to Read the Classics and Keep Your Sanity.

How's everybody's week going? It's rainy here. So glad Dad went and cut hay. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Too Much?

A short weekend but a good one. J came up Saturday night and Sunday we ate breakfast with my grandma, aunt, uncle, a cousin, Dad, and Momma J, then moved cattle to the back pasture and walked fence, fixing the multiple spots with deer damage. Weeds are pretty heavy on the fence so I don’t have a good pulse, but a little is better than nuthin’ and at least the cows are pretty used to staying in where they need to be.

We then went and walked the ledges, a pretty trail along the Grand River, and met up with Dad and MJ at the local bar for pizza and beer before J and I continued on to Iron Man II. Great blow shit up movie. Loved the lightning whips. I showed J the first soybean field he’d ever gotten up close and personal with. There’s a lot of firsts with the two of us I guess.

So the tension is starting to leave my shoulders and that panicky feeling has subsided a little. I work ten days on and four days off, but lately has been closer to eleven or twelve days on and two off, sometimes not even with days off occurring together. And even if I’m not at work, I’m thinking about or working on the farm, or writing, so unless I’m with J, I’m more or less constantly working or brooding about it. Does anyone else have this problem? And what more, is it a bad thing? Is there a point where we work too hard, too much, and maybe need some rehab? I sure as hell don’t know. Leave me a comment and let’s figure it out.

And while you’re at it, let me know what you think of these two images, only with the second one, the cow hoof print, in place of the dog paw print inside the heart, but with the hoof print in the same color scheme.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Pause for PR

Whoa mental burn. Lotsa words this morning. If you don’t believe me, check out on Suite 101. Or go directly to my profile at to check out my book reviews, scuba diving article, recipes for drinks a la Hemingway style, and a girl’s night in with dinner and a book.

So boring blog today, mostly a PR thing. The book reviews I wrote came out and those are at
Sacramento Book Review and San Francisco Book Review. And watch for my book reviews on Amazon as well. I'll publish a list of the books I review every so often so its easier to keep track.

Working on linking up all my internet social networking sites with all this publishing success (said with tongue in cheek, since it's web content, not Shakespeare), so just for quick reference, I'm on and Facebook so stop in and bug me there too whenever y'all feel like it.

Cardio time now. And dishes. And mowing lawn… When is it supposed to start raining? (grin)

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Some years there’s a bumper crop (still have no idea what that means, other than ‘good’) and some years just suck. For me, last year rocked and this year anything green that I breathe on dies. So today’s topic is what to do when your garden dies.

Mourn with impunity.

Go through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief.

First comes denial. “This start will make it, I know it will. Just give it some water, sunlight, and time.”

Next comes anger. “Damn plants! I hate you!” As you throw clay pots of wilted California peppers and Miracle Grow-enhanced potting soil against the walls.

Third is bargaining. “If I had just started earlier… if I start sooner and do better next year, could you (reference to Higher Power) please spare this tiny little marjoram seedling?”

Depression hits next. “I am a worthless, dirty person. I can’t even get tomatoes to grow. Why should I even bother when I am such a failure?”

Wow, that’s a downer and I’m already through this. Moving on…

Acceptance. “It’s Okay…” Try the Tracy Chapman song of same name. Pretty awesome.

Pick Your Battles

Even if it’s late in the season, it’s not too late to purchase some pre-started plants and try it again, or (gasp!) throw in the towel, cash in your chips, cut bait, whatever cliché you like, meaning dump the whole project. Ask yourself if a garden is really that important to you, and to your family. Why do you want a garden in the first place? Would a few containers do? Or do you need the food to make it through the winter? Only you can answer these questions, but if the garden is more of a chore than a fun thing, I know what I’d do, and I wouldn’t be coming home with any fish.

And Last but Not Least…

If you do decide to pack the gardening in for the year, three words:

Learn. To. Crochet.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


So what to do after having cleaned up your dog manure mess of a word-hoard? In a word: recover. These are tips that help, not completely cure, but help, after cleaning up the mess or even after making a mess, and spewing words across the page in manic fashion. As many writers out there probably know, there’s a kind of depression after that, when the endorphins die down. Some of these might even work for that wonderful rejection letter we’re all bound to receive at some point.

  • To start, sprinkle the scene of the crash with baking soda. This kills the smell and may help keep you away from trashcan hats.
  • Realize you’re not the only one. I think I’m safe in saying that all writers go through the dog-mess, post-writing depression, and rejection blues. Even Shakespeare got bad reviews. Recognize your connection to the wider community of writers and…
  • Realize that it’s ok. It’s okay to mope, for awhile. Go ahead. But don’t stay there.
  • The goal is to recover and recoup, not to wallow. After you roll around in the initial blahs, get out and do something fun that you enjoy. The cuts and rewrites may hurt, the rejection may sting, the high may be missed, but ultimately the work will be stronger, regardless of what propels it there. Discover who you are outside of the clean-up, the rejection, the high, the whatever. Do something physical, something you enjoy, just a leisurely walk or a new endeavor with a friend, rock-climbing, surfing, wherever your passion runs. Hit the sheets with your lover or go out and hold hands with him/her at a movie. I can’t recommend alcohol unless it’s in the first wallowing stages or it’s canoeing with friends. Alcohol in the writing process should be used in celebration, not recovery.
  • Bath salts. Can’t overstate the value of quality bath salts.

Basically, take some time to get your head back on straight. Nurture yourself as the font of words, don’t punish yourself for the algae growing on the bottom of the pool. Pamper yourself, but don’t forget to write on. After all, the recovery is only part of the writing journey. To be a writer, you actually have to sit down and get words on paper.

Good luck.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

First of June and... crap

Sometimes writing is a lot like cleaning up dog shit. And I don’t mean nice, neat little turds either. I mean liquid, nasty ass black and green junk that smells like it crawled out the ass end of a skunk with traveler’s diarrhea and a bad attitude. It’s great of course when writing isn’t like this: when the character’s are flowing, the narrative voice is working, the words and metaphors tie together and ring true. It’s a high. It’s endorphins. It’s bliss of the purest kind.

But a lot of days, we writers clean up dog shit.

One thing I’ve learned lately is that the words we transcribe are not sacrosanct. Neither is the order in which they appear. Nor are the scenes. We might have to murder our darlings and this is hard to do. Much like it’s hard to go out in the mudroom on a hot summer day and start scraping liquid manure into a plastic bag with your bare hands and a butt-load of paper towel. But eventually the shit stench will drive you out of the house and into a homeless, babbling idiot on the street. And how cool does that sound? “I couldn’t clean up the dog shit, so now I’m homeless, jobless, and wearing a trashcan lid on my head so the government can’t steal my thoughts.” Rather than let the eau de dog, or eau de writing, drive you from your home, instead go in prepared and armed.

First, unless it’s absolutely necessary, for instance, your mother-in-law is coming to visit, don’t hit the mess right away. It might sound gross, but hot dog shit is harder to pick up than cold. Similarly, hot writing might be too hot to handle. It’s too new, too close to the bone, still bleeding on the page. Only tackle writing that has had time to cool. Unless of course there’s a deadline in the form of your mother-in-law. Then… the gods help you.

Second, go in with what you’ll need. Take the time while the shit is cooling to collect yourself and what you’ll need for the job. Paper towel, any pertinent research, carpet or floor cleaner, a rosary (if the stench is bad enough), and a whole lot of deep breathing, preferably through your mouth to avoid the major olfactory nerves. Think long and hard about how you’ll tackle the project and be as prepared as you can be.

Third, take a deep breath, maybe holding it, and jump in. Go page by page, scrape by scrape, and don’t be afraid to jump outside and puke. Keep what you can and throw the rest in a plastic bag to burn. Don’t throw out the entire carpet just because one corner is bad. Cut off the corner and smooth it down, don’t just hide it with sofa. And when it’s over, you’ll realize that either a) it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought, because you were prepared and had all the right tools, or b) you need to utilize the yellow pages and find a good Haz-Mat team.

I wish I had all the answers but, ladies and gents, some days its all good and others… well, butt-loads of paper towel.