Thursday, May 30, 2013

Finding The Way To Living It Up

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

View from our window
The end of May seems like the end of spring to me. June always marks summer. As I write, I'm in a hotel room in Laughlin, Nevada. Summer comes early to this part of the country. One word - hot. Before you think we're crazy gambling when we barely have enough to afford the necessities, let me tell you we don't. Oh, we might put $5 in once or twice in a three day period. But if you've read any prior posts, you'll know the reason Frank comes is to fish Lake Mohave and the Colorado River while I hole up in the room to write. This might be the last time we do this since we now have the RV and the truck. Next week we'll get a hitch to use the home on wheels.

The financial side of this - I did promise to let you know how we were managing (with nothing in the bank but love) back when I started this blog.

More view from our window
I think I explained the free hotel rooms but here it is again. The first couple of times we came to Laughlin, we found which casinos had rooms for around $20 a night, during the week only. Weekends are always more expensive. After staying a couple of times, they started sending us free nights. At first, they would send us two free nights a month. Now, we get three. Some times we get coupons for dollars off food but not often. The days of cheap meals in casinos are in the past. Once in a while you can find breakfast specials or buffet specials. But honestly, $8 for a crappy buffet is not a deal to me. If we spend three nights a month here, we can't afford to eat even for that. So we wheel in our ice chest. I make dinners up ahead of time and we bring the fixings for sandwiches and snacks. We also bring a coffee pot. These are no longer provided in the room. This time we did receive six coupons for free coffee.

Lance putting nets on blackberries
Now as for the RV and truck, that's a matter of credit and our living arrangements. Even though Frank was out of work three of the last five years before he retired, and I also lost my job that last year, we managed to keep our credit rating. Yes, we lost what we had in the bank to retire on, but we never missed any payments. And the second part of that is how we now live. Sharing a home, a farm and all the expenses that go with it with another family enables us to make ends meet. We're managing to live on social security supplemented with my small royalties thanks to my son and his family. It's a symbiotic relationship that is suiting us all for varied reasons.

So, summer is coming to the farm. The only farm problem right now is the sweet potatoes. Our slips came but only half as many as I understood we were getting. Of those, two thirds are dead. The company is replacing that whole order and sending two
Summer comes to the farm
more orders via free shipping, but it might be too late. If they don't grow fast before fall arrives with cooler temps, we won't have sweet potatoes for the winter. Maybe we'll have an extra long warm summer.

Monday, May 27, 2013

You Don't Know What You Want Til You Have It


I've missed two Muse Monday postings, but with the hubbub lately I couldn't decide what to write about. Now that I've changed course, I can tell you about my path.

One question writers always get is how/when did you start writing. If you've read my bio you know I started life as an artist, although I'd always loved writing. When I took some creative writing classes after Lance was born, I turned away from painting and started writing short stories. I didn't start out to write romance but the genre found me. Back then, I hadn't read any of the stereotypical romance books and still don't. Romance is a very broad genre, and I think readers realize that now.

There's a saying (and a song) you don't know what you have til it's gone. With me, it's you don't know what you want til you have it.

Once I decided to write a book, I wanted an agent. This was before the eBook  revolution and the big publishing houses still ruled the world of publishing. To this day, writers can't get one of the 'big six' to deal with them without an agent. My dream was to get an agent and walk into a big chain bookstore to see my books on the shelf. While seeking the agent, the industry started changing and I ended up publishing with a couple of small houses. I would occasionally go to agent appointments. On my sixth agent appointment, I landed an agent who'd been in the business forever. I was ecstatic. I'd started my three book love and murder series. She said she'd represent me and the series.

Rosette to be published soon
Meanwhile, life outside of writing changed. My husband retired and we joined forces with our son and family on the farm. Life inside of writing changed too. The new world of publishing started chipping away at my old dream. I continued writing my series while my publisher shopped it. But I also wrote a short that The Wild Rose Press contracted as a Rosette. It felt good to publish something.

After waiting nine months for something to happen with my series, I reevaluated what I wanted and what I can do. The old style houses, the big guys that still have a lot of influence over the Barnes and Nobles of the world, move slow. And they have their own style and could determine my pace. In other words, have more control over my writing.

With the farm and Frank's retired lifestyle, my goals changed. I bowed out of my contract with my agent. Hard to believe that something I wanted for so long ended up not what I wanted. I'm pretty happy publishing with a smaller house. I write everyday, but I also have farm and family so I can gauge how much time to give each of my loves.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cyclone Season on Tortuga Flats Farm

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

The veggies that got their start in trays in the greenhouse are all in the ground. Now the greenhouse is being utilized to grow herbs.
Lance has a few veggies in there also to see how they do in a more controlled environment.

A layer of shade added
The sun is pretty brutal here so he added a shade cloth over the greenhouse to help keep the temperature down. Fans blow at both ends in addition to the attached exhaust fans.

The greenhouse just missed disaster two days ago.
The dust devil escapes

A gigantic dust devil
was headed right at us. Lance called me outside in time to see it pick up various debris from two houses over including a couple of large pieces of sheet metal. I ran for my camera, but by the time I had it open and ready to shoot the cyclone hit our neighbor's property and dropped the huge pieces of metal in their backyard. All I was able to snap was the underside of it as it disappeared into the sky.

Blackberry bushes
A few blossoms and tons of buds are appearing on the blackberry bushes. With a lot of help, I got them all weeded and mulched. I used grass clippings this year as mulch. I didn't mulch at all last year so the hope is that the mulch keeps the weeds from coming back too strong. Weeding thorny blackberry bushes is painful.

The potatoes have sprouted. Getting antsy about the sweet potatoes. We had
Golden potatoes to be
to order them on line and thought they'd be here by now. A phone call to a very dull sounding fellow told me they'd be shipped this week.

The youngest member of the household, my gorgeous granddaughter, continues to grow and amaze. She's so alert and insists on being held in a sitting position most of the time.

The oldest four-legged creature in the house is now on pain meds. Rusty has joint problems and has been so miserable. He has trouble keeping up with his two younger companions with all his aches and pains. We made the decision to put him on meds and he's a happier old man.

Wild grass that looks like bermuda is our biggest problem so far in the veggie fields. The roots go so deep that pulling it all up isn't possible. Not sure what the solution will be. Organic farming presents its problems.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

One More Dream Come True

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

We bought an RV, a fifth wheel. After all kinds of should we, shouldn't we, what are we doing, how can we not - we decided if not, then when? If not now, then never.

The decision did not come easy but makes sense for so many reasons. First a little history. Many years ago, Frank and I decided we would retire doing the RV thing. We've been shopping RV's for over fifteen years. We wanted a fifth wheel. Then one year, after some financial mishaps, our plan changed a bit. Or at least Frank tried to talk me into changing it. If we were going to be RVers, we'd have to sell it all and actually live in the RV. My resolve faltered. I wanted a home base. We kept shopping, and he about had me convinced when the economy really took a nosedive. The RV dream died with like dreams of many people our age.

Peppers going in the ground
Bring us up to 2012, when our two families joined together to farm. The original idea had been for us to actually get an RV and only help on the farm if we felt so inclined. It seemed possible if we were sharing expenses. But that was easier said than accomplished without much in the bank (except love). So, we hunkered down under one big roof and carved Tortuga Flats Farm out of the dusty prairie. And it's been rewarding as well as an adventure.

Fast forward to 2013. The other family is growing - I might have mentioned once or twice I have a beautiful baby granddaughter. The crops are more organized and this experiment is a minor success. The idea of creating more space started as a dim flicker in my mind and I let it grow. We looked at adding on to the house or building a guest house. Neither turned out to be financially feasible - close but too scary to take on. Then the old RV idea surfaced. It certainly adds space to the living area and it just happens to be mobile. Frank and I are gypsies
Tomatoes going in the ground
at heart. We found what we wanted, they were having a sale, the payment was unbelievably low, we bit our nails, and bought it. Since we will be able to travel more, not be home quite as much, we're trading ends of the house with Lance and Christie. They will have the large end now. This seems fair since there are five of them (counting dogs) and three of us.

Only one minor glitch - we don't have a truck to pull it. We may have been able to maneuver buying a new fifth wheel, but we'll have to go used on the truck. We're shopping and have a car salesman friend on the look out. You might think we put the cart before the horse, but I'm okay with that. We'll get there. I'm just anxious to take our first voyage.

Sunrise over the greenhouse
Meanwhile, the potatoes are in the ground as are the peppers, tomatoes and onions. All seeds are planted for various other vegetables. I've seen a few buds on the blackberries. And Frank's declaration a few days ago that we will have no fruit on the trees this year may have been an early prediction. Apparently, a few apple blossoms are just now opening. No peaches, pears, plums or figs. Keeping our hopes up for a few apples. Looking forward to our first RV trip.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hula on the Farm

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Red and gold seed potatoes
I'm sure you've heard enough from me about the wind and dust of Paulden. Most of the time, I accept it. Not much else I can do. And most of the time the wind doesn't bother me, but I'll never embrace the dust. Now and then something rides with the wind that really bothers me. Today my eyes are burning so bad I'm  having trouble focusing on the computer screen. Too bad the cucumbers haven't come up yet because I understand they're good for the eyes - used on the outside.

Tomatoes still in trays
We got the seed potatoes a few days ago, red and golden. They are sunning by the living room window until they go in the ground next week. Learning how to grow potatoes was one of those REALLY? moments for me. I would never have thought they came from those little root things that pop out on them when they start going bad in your cupboard. We mail-ordered the sweet potato slips as we can't get them locally. Same process. Lance's potato rows are 115 feet long. I think we'll have a few potatoes.
Setting up tomato trellis

We're experimenting with three different ways to grow pickling cucumbers. We intend on  making a lot of pickles and relish. Cash crop. They vine and Lance wanted to experiment on which method will have them climbing the best.

Last year, we planted a lot of rows of tomatoes and we let them grow helter skelter with total abandon. That was wild and not too easy to harvest. And remember that wind? If you were reading last year, you'll remember the tangled mess we had after one big blow. This year, we'll train those vines.

Peas are popping!
A few rows of seeds are in the ground. This year's improvement of a drip system is working great so far although it does not cure the weed problem entirely. We aren't getting the uncontrollable amount of weeds between rows from flooding. But the rows themselves have hundreds of tiny weeds popping up. Trouble is at this point it's nearly impossible to tell the veggies
from the weeds. Once we can tell, we'll hula hoe those little suckers right
Hula Hoe
away. The hula hoe is like the greatest tool. You can clear tons of weeds and not have to hand pick for hours. Just scrape it over dry ground and voila! Weed-be-gone.

Remember I put out a Quarterly Newsletter about my writing and books. If you'd like to receive it via email and have a chance to win gift cards in July and September, go here to join: 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pickles, Pines, Pretty Baby

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Trellis for the cumcumbers
I strolled around the orchard, main garden and blackberry rows today making notes of what I could take care of over the next ten days or so. My disappointment spiked in the orchard. In May, last year, we had golf ball sized pears on the trees. There is not even a hint of fruit. They bloomed too early and the frost and heavy winds never gave them a chance. A couple of the apple trees show promise. Time will tell.

And it's time to start weeding.

The greenhouse is still not 100% in use. The trays of plants are there in the daytime but at night all trays except the onions are moved into the garage. Tonight and tomorrow night it will dip into the twenties. We happen to be in a cold spot. Last year, we noticed that several times we got frost when the forecast said we'd be okay. Paulden is too small to have our own weather station so we rely on the readings from the south end of Chino Valley, which can't be more than ten or twelve miles away. We bought a gauge that holds the lowest temp in the last twelve hours and discovered we run eight to ten degrees colder than the forecast. That is huge for our baby veggies. The garage is warmer so every night Lance has been carrying the trays to their warm station.

Tonto Creek behind the resort
Ponderosa Pine
Another money saver tip for you - sign up for emails from Amazon Local Deals or some other such site like Groupon or Crowdcut. Frank and I just spent two nights at Kohl's Ranch Resort in the pines outside of Payson, Arizona. This is a beautiful resort with full amenities. We got two nights and $25 toward dinner for $129. You
can get deals on everything from painting your house to doughnuts to resort discounts. I get emails daily and of course have to delete them but once in a while something pops up that saves us big time.

My hair is the longest it's been in many years - as a result of ratcheting down the finances. I've been using the local beauty school but even so on an infrequent basis. And less frequently of late because I'm saving to go to my hair lady in Phoenix. I figure twice a year I'll get a consistent cut and color. This next week I'll combine a trip to see my mom, attend a writers' conference and get my hair done. Not a huge thing to report but I did say I'd share the nitty gritty/pros and cons of this experiment. Getting my hair done on a regular basis was a casualty. The plus side is I rather like my hair long again.

Sadi Belle
Something else that is growing besides my hair and the veggies is my granddaughter. She is two months old and amazing. She now smiles frequently, recognizes if someone is a stranger and grabs for her favorite bear. Every morning, I can hear her at the other end of the house "talking" to her bear. She has a voice that carries like her singer-daddy.

Here's a final thought for you - where can you see a thirty-some year old lady in a green tutu and flip flops, a seventy-some year old man in army fatigue pants and Grateful dead tee shirt and a cowboy with long white hair who has a German accent? No not Walmart but certainly at the Paulden Post Office.