Garden Glove Hack

I don’t know about you, but by mid-summer, I only have left-hand gloves. Who knows where the right-hand gloves go to. Maybe squirrels steal them.

About five years ago while trolling the aisles in one of the big-box stores, I saw clothesline and clothespins. Hadn’t seen those in a very long time, but the sight gave me the kernel of an idea. I threw them in the cart and carried them home.

That was in 2014. My idea was to hang the line and pin pairs of gloves to it. A sort of gardener’s “tidying-up”. But my request for nails in the ceiling–to string the line–went unheeded. Eventually, the packet with the clothesline disappeared into the black hole that is the barn. Somehow, I managed to hang onto the clothespins.

This year, 2019, in the annual garden shed cleanup, I found a gazillion garden gloves, mostly left-handed. Determined to put my hack into practice, I went through Jim’s barn looking for my clothesline. Never found it, but found some usable string instead. Using the nails hammered under the shelves (originally designed to hold tools), I strung the line and started pairing gloves.

As you see in the photo.

I ended up with ten full pairs of gloves, and threw away all my leftover lefties.

Maybe you already have a method for keeping right-and-left gloves together?

Sunny Sunday

Two days of sunshine after a week of rain and fog, rain and drizzle, rain and wind. We had four plus inches of rain last week–and the local weather predicts four or five more rainy days next week.

So while the sun shines, gardening is the priority.

Except when I opened my garden shed, I  knew it was time for my annual garden shed clean-out.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my new gardening glove hack.

Happy Sunday, all.

Starting with Character Milestones

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Sitting down with a blank page and just writing. It hooked me early on—maybe around age 12. Many years later I learned the term pantser. Oh yeah, that’s me. A confirmed pantser. No plan except the vague one in my head.

Until I found myself getting to The End and needing to start over. And over and over and over…

I tried half a dozen outlining methods. No dice. For me, writing was all about letting my characters do the talking. When I imposed structure, my characters got sullen and silent, and I got stuck. I needed their voices. If characters don’t—won’t—speak, nothing happens.

But what if I gave each character their own therapy session? What if I just let them speak, telling their life stories, focus on what’s important to them?

I started with my villain and learned all sorts of important things I didn’t know. Most important, it was writing the way I like to write: in the zone, stream of consciousness, inside what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow.

By the time I finished letting my characters dictate their milestones, I earned their permission to do some chapter-by-chapter plotting. They were happy. I was happy. A finished novel was the result.

The how-to is pretty simple. I start with a description of the character, then stay open to whatever they want to tell me. It never seems to matter whether in first or third person, present or past tense. My job is to take what feels like dictation.

Instead of my drudging through their goals and flaws and aspirations and hopes and dreams—making stuff up about them—my characters reveal what’s important to them. What happened at age 6. Age 12. Age 16. Age 25. Childhood. Puberty. Traumas. Struggles. Rebellions. Everything else emerges from those tales.

Nothing works for everyone, and nothing works for anyone all the time. But if you’re stuck with a character or a plot, giving your characters control is worth a try.

Query update: This week, an agent asked to read the full manuscript. It took me a day to get back to normal.

Thanks for your past good wishes and please keep wishing me luck.

Leafhoppers, Echinacea, and Eggplant

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So far this season, I’ve planted onions, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers. The only plants missing for a true Mediterranean feast are eggplants. And there’s the rub. All my eggplants–no matter what variety–end up devoured by bugs.

Except Ophelia eggplants. One year, I ordered this “super seed” variety and had bushels of eggplants. So many, I ended up gifting friends.

Curious about why I can’t grow regular eggplant, I did some research. Turns out it’s  the same reason I can’t grow most hybrid echinacea–darn leafhoppers. I can grow plain, old Echinacea. Just not the bright-colored new varieties. Leafhoppers destroy them. 

To grow regular eggplants, I might have good luck controlling pests using floating row covers. A lot of work in windy Kansas.

And now for the Ophelia. It’s so amazing that when I tried to order plants–in February–all the sellers were sold out. Sheesh. Only one seller had them available and only as seeds.

Growing anything from seed takes a bit of doing. Needed are shelves, lights, seed-starter mix, trays, pots, transplant-mix, sometimes fertilizer. I add to that chamomile tea, which when added to water will prevent the nascent plants from “damping off.”

So here in the photo are my Ophelia eggplants, seeds planted in February and transplanted once. When the weather is consistently hovering around 75-80F, I’ll transplant them in the garden. And we’ll see.

Windy Sunday

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Sunrise, Sunday morning. We’re expecting four days of rain. Meanwhile the temperature’s dropped and the wind chill is in the 30’s.

I’m a little worried about my tomatoes even though they’re protected by buckets. And so glad I waited before putting out the Ophelia eggplant.

Meanwhile, it’s a good day to stay inside and write.

Embracing Rejection

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As a technical writer, I didn’t worry about rejection. I worked for mid-sized agencies and companies and, for the most part, helped them grow through grants and business proposals. Rejections came only when the company I worked for decided to compete on the national level. Those rejections were less about my efforts and more about the company’s offerings.  

My life in fiction started off differently. I began submitting short stories in early 2017 and was dismayed by the number of rejections I received. Experienced writers are probably laughing right this minute at my naivete.

My editor/coach/mentor, Anna Yeatts said to think in terms of wallpapering my office with rejections. So, okay, I was trusting her. But I didn’t really feel okay about rejection. I mean—who does?

In January 2019 I got this message on my Duotrope dashboard: “Congratulations: Your acceptance ratio is higher than the average for members who have submitted to the same markets.”

And that’s when it came to me. I was doing something wrong. For a high acceptance ratio—given the number of acceptances I’d had—I wasn’t getting my writing out there often enough. I needed more rejections. I needed to embrace them.

That’s my goal for 2019. With querying agents and getting stories, both old and new, to market, I expect a boatload of rejections. It means I’m ready for my voice to be heard.

Wish me luck.

Where are the Bees?

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The dandelions are in bloom. Where are the bees?

I worry about the bees disappearing. We have apple trees in bloom, but without our  pollinators, we won’t get apples. It’s one of the reasons we don’t spray for dandelions—the emerging bees first food. And I let some of the bees favorite foods alone–like my Nepeta Walker’s Low, which is always crowded with bees.

This time last year, our dandies were covered in bees. Had to be careful where we stepped to avoid squashing a bee—or being stung.

This year, searching for bees, all I found was the one you see in the photo. Why?

The reason must be our cold spring. Bees don’t “work” when the temperature is below 57 F, and the daytime highs in March and most of April have been below 55F. Too cold for bees.

I found this bee last Saturday, a day when the temperature reached closed to 80. Hopefully, they’re not gone. They’re just waiting till it warms up.

For interesting information about pesticides and bees, check out this article from the Kansas State Research and Extension.

With bees disappearing, the one thing we all can do is stop spraying our lawns. Please.