Thursday, August 29, 2013

Row Hopping? Naughty Zucchini!

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of 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. 
Tortuga Thursday comes on Friday this week. Not sure where this week got off to but I lost a day some where. I think it was just so jam packed with drama, big and small. To name a few:

  • My Rosette, Amanda in the Summer, released for an exclusive three months on Amazon. Lots of promo scheduling involved.
  • Sadi's first tooth broke through.
  • We had, maybe, a processing issue with the cucumbers but that's still being debated.
  • More rain causing various problems like the tomatoes slowing their ripening and a quagmire of muddy fields to make harvesting an adventure.
  • Medical issues with several family members (no one under this roof).
  • I had problems to work through on my current manuscript.
  • We have tons of peppers, so Christie devised a wonderful hot sauce making process. And the hot sauce is fantastic.

Golden/Butternut and Golden
I thought I'd share some photo's of squash, those sly veggies that insist on fooling around when no one is looking. They like to mix it up, cross the line like the Hatfields and McCoys or Romeo and Juliet.

Some Golden Squash crossed with Butternut. The crossed one has a slightly tougher shell like the Butternut but does great on the grill.

The Spaghetti Squash has definitely been messing around with the

Zucchini gets around as evidenced by these Butternut.

We made a discovery that saves time. We've frozen the Golden Squash raw and when thawed it cooks up fine.

Freezing Golden Squash
Cucumbers have slowed way down and the Golden and Zucchini have all but stopped. Green beans are done and about half the onions are harvested. Raspberries ended over a week ago. Potatoes have yet to start. Still lots of harvesting ahead of us.

Monday, August 26, 2013

I've Got...Gasp...Not Me. Writer's Block?


A setting in The Art of Love and Murder
At least I think that's what I've got. I've never had it so I'm not sure what it feels like, but it sure looks like Writer's Block. I found myself lost, not able to get from chapter fourteen to chapter sixteen in the second book of the series I'm writing. Wandering around the house, glassy-eyed and moaning, my son stopped me and said "Mom, I'm a lyricist not an author, but it would seem to me you have to write chapter fifteen to make that bridge." Louder moans from me.

True, my writing time has been sporadic for the last two months. It all started when we took a vacation, stayed a couple of days longer than we should have and came back to harvest season on the farm in full swing. Some days, I'm lucky to get a half hour to myself to write. But, really, I don't think that's the whole problem.

Phoebe saw prong horn while riding with Mason
It's all Chance's fault. Chance is the character in the first book of the series, The Art of Love and Murder. He's a sheriff and a strong, take charge kind of guy. Now I'm writing the second book in the series, Southwest of Love and Murder, and his twin brother, Mason, is the main male character. When Mason got into trouble, Chance bolted from his honeymoon in Mexico to come to his brother's aid. Trouble is he's stealing Phoebe's story out from under her. She's the main female character. With Chance around, Phoebe isn't acting as she should, and I  have no idea why the heck the bad guy is doing what he's doing.

The story has been coughing and jerking along until it died at chapter fifteen.

It took me a few days to figure this out. Now, the solution seems clear - stall Chance in Mexico for as long
Landscape near Mason's ranch
as possible and let Phoebe take over. Simple enough? Well, I have to go back several chapters and rewrite hunks of the story to set this up properly.

I sure hope this is the cure. Hard to know when I haven't experienced the ailment before. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Scoring the Big One

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of 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.

Lance scores a big one
Although some days it feels like the dog days of summer on the prairie, harvesting is going strong. And there are some crops that have yet to come ready such as potatoes. Cabbage is doing great!

Eight hundred jars and counting. Who needs a dining room? That's our pickle room. But then so is the kitchen. The cucumber plants continue to produce and pickling still ties up the kitchen all day long. As the season nears an end, the cucumbers are less than perfect as far as how they look. Because of that, we're doing more relish than pickles.

Ugly pickles probably won't sell. But I have to brag here, Frank's relish is outstanding. His standard relish is
sweet and dill at the same time. And his spicy relish is so very unique. These relishes will not be limited to hotdogs and hamburgers - think roast beef, pork chops and gourmet sandwiches.

I've been more involved this week than normal. I usually harvest the jalapenos, dill, bell peppers and onions for his recipes, but my duties have been expanded to helping in the kitchen a bit too. Christie is off the farm taking real estate classes. She's loving it. I'm missing her for more than her winning personality. Which she has. She normally assists Frank with the canning. I've also been doing dinner every night. Another chore that she doesn't consider a chore and gladly does. But I'll suffer through. LOL She'll make an excellent real estate agent.

Back to pickling. One huge draw back of this house is it's all electric. With the stove going all day long, our electric bill went up another $60. It's already outrageous because of the hot summer we've had. I also suspect the unit is old and inefficient. I'm having to rob other budget line items to cover our half of the electric bill. I'll report on the shortfall at the end of the summer and pickling season. My bailout plan of winning one of the smaller lotteries might not work.

The tomato distraction
This morning, I headed out to pick green beans as I do every other morning and got sidetracked by tomatoes. I couldn't help stopping and picking. They're way more fun to pick than green beans which require more bending and parting leaves.

Carrots are the hardest to harvest for me. It's tough to get them loose
A rainbow of carrots
from the soil. I some times have to dig. I've been known to break them down in the dirt. We have red, yellow and orange carrots. Wonder why we only see orange in the grocery store.

Onions are kind of fun to harvest. They come up easy and in all sizes. We have three varieties. Not too fond of tying and hanging but love
White onions hanging to dry
onions so much, it's worth the trouble. 

At least I got my harvesting in before the rains hit. As I'm writing this on Wednesday afternoon, out my window I see Lance trudging back and forth through the mud. Better him than me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

About Three Generations of Women


One week away from the first release of my Rosette with The Wild Rose Press. First release? Yep. The Wild Rose Press has hooked up with Amazon so that their books and stories release first with Amazon, exclusively, for three months. After the three months, the World Wide Release happens. Mine is scheduled for December 18. Amanda in the Summer is a fifty-five page Rosette.

Three generations of women…and the secret that strengthens their love.

A line of women, all named Amanda, stretches back for generations. Each with her hopes, her joys, her pain—each pouring out her heart in correspondence with a dear family friend who shares their lives, understands their loves, and joins in their sorrows.

But within the correspondence lies a secret. And as the youngest of the Amandas retraces the journey through the years—beginning in post-war America and following through to modern day—the letters reveal, layer by layer, the Amandas who came before her. Soon, the truths and lies hidden in the letters lead her down a path of self-discovery that forges a bond between her past and future.

Today, and for the next few Muse Mondays, I'll post some excerpts. This first excerpt is from the first Amanda. She mentions her daughter, Amanda, and her husband, Robert, who is the only male to have a roll in this story. Hope you enjoy the glimpse.

August 24, 1968

Dear Tilly,

A few days of bliss with no one to talk to but the
seagulls. I have you to thank for this. I’m so glad you
popped back after Amanda, Robert, and Mother left. The
strain I put on all of us while you were here would’ve
dragged on for who knows how long if you hadn’t
returned. Once again, Tilly, you read the tea leaves and
righted things.

My moods have been so ragged of late. Jealousy of
all things. Jealous that you could talk to my daughter,
get along so lovely with her, which I’ve had difficulty
doing these last few months. Jealous of your longer
running friendship with Robert than with me. I’m not
sure if I was jealous of him or you. You’re both mine.
And angry that the two of you are uncomfortable around
each other after so many years and not making sense of
that. When Robert left, I tried to give him the blue
swimsuit you had left behind and asked him to drop in
on you to return it. He said no, I could do it when I got
back. This was so unlike him and did more to unsettle

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Meatball Trees and Pasta Bushes

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of 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.

First, I have to give a shout out to all the readers of my blog from around the world. I'm not much of a statistics person, but today, I decided to look at the stats for this blog. I had no idea there were so many of you from Latvia looking in on my blog. I'd like to say hi to all of you who stop in from the U.S., Latvia, Poland, Canada, Russia, United Kingdom, China, South Korea, Columbia, Indonesia, Germany, India and Austria. I'm not sure blogger lists all of the countries so, if I didn't list yours, give me a shout back. I'd love to hear from you.

Picking beans, wading through grass
I'm writing this on Wednesday to post on Thursday. Here's what happened today on Tortuga Flats. Lance and I rose at 5:30 - not purposefully together. We just have similar body clocks. We drink different coffees so I made mine and he made his. While we drank our coffee, news and email got checked, mine on my laptop and his on his iPad. By 7:30, Christie and Sadi were up. Lance and I headed outside. Not too long after, Frank got up and after some breakfast he canned and canned and canned cucumbers. Meanwhile, I harvested today's garden peas and green beans. Then I edged the lawn, front and back. After that,
I pulled weeds from around the the outside of the yard fence. The last thing I did was pull weeds in the squash row. While I was doing those chores, Lance worked on the fifth wheel hitch and went for manure to compost. He had the lovely job of turning compost and mixing with the manure. Christie helped Frank by chopping garlic and adding the other ingredients to the pickle jars. As I write, Frank is still canning, Christie is cleaning and Lance is harvesting. A day in the life of Tortuga Flats Farm.

Squash rows
The hook worms are still munching on tomato plants, and we've found a few in the pepper rows. We've heard that in Chino Valley farmers are fighting blister bugs. Sure hope they eradicate them, and they don't move over here. Our biggest debate is the grass invasion. We've just not been able to keep it out of  some of the areas. Last year at this time, we'd all but given up on weeding. We were doing flood irrigation and with what was going on other than farming (like a wedding) we lost the battle. This year, with drip irrigation, we've been much better at keeping the weeds under control.
No meatball or pasta trees but the rest grows here.
But there are a couple of areas we were not on top of and now grass, looks like Bermuda, is a real problem. The debate is how to take care of it this year without chemicals so we don't have the problem next year. The debate rages on.

Sadi Belle is growing like a weed, too. And that's okay!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pickles, Pickles Everywhere...

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of 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.

Four hundred and eighty jars and growing. We have cases of pickles everywhere. It's a wild schedule around here during the day. Cucumber harvesting, washing, icing, washing again and processing goes on all day long. We're all involved in it in one way or another. I happen to be the least involved directly with the pickling. Add to that the other crops, maintenance, household chores, a new baby and a multitude of other tasks. In the middle of all this work, we each have our own projects. But whatever we're doing, we're constantly working on something.

Nicknames have been tagged by the chores we've each fallen into most commonly. Frank picked his up first - Pickles. He created the recipes and is the lead when it comes to pickling the cucumbers. Digger pretty much sums up Lance's activities. I wanted to call him Farmer since he's the one, but I was told that's a profession not a nickname. Christie is nicknamed Cookie. This is a dual moniker since she loves to cook and does a lot of it AND she bakes a good many cookies. My alias is Weed. Lovely, huh? But, dang, I hate weeds and I can't hardly pass one up. Takes me a while to walk across the field because I keep stopping to pull.

Cucumber 2 1/2 weeks ago
Once the cucumbers have slowed a bit, we'll get the labeling started.
Cucumbers today
Once we get the logo trademarked and labels created, I'll reveal the final product.

Someone asked me today if our experiment is working out. We've ironed out a lot of kinks, been through a great many changes over the last year and a half. Yes, it's working, it's enriching and there's still so much to experience and learn.

Me picking greenbeans
Grass choking the vegetables - the next big problem to tackle.

Monday, August 5, 2013

One Writer's Comfort Zone Is Another's Coffee Cafe

My current favorite corner
When I first began writing seriously, I had environmental limitations. Or maybe I should say ambiance requirements. I had a standard computer on a computer table in the corner of the bedroom of our townhouse. The room was bright, seaside decor and I looked out my window on green grass and the nicely landscaped yard of my neighbor. The house had to be quiet. My coffee cup sat to my right. I couldn't write under any other circumstances. I couldn't go longhand. I couldn't have music playing. I had to be in that room. A good deal of my writing took place in my head first - in the car. But when I put it to print, my room and my corner were the only way I could write.

I had friends who loved to write in coffee cafes, or to music or in airports. Of course I couldn't try that without a laptop. And I couldn't create writing longhand.

Eventually, my restrictions took a toll. When I traveled, no writing got done. Making notes on paper were possible but no real progress. My book would never get done. I got a laptop. Theoretically, I would now be able to carry it everywhere and write anywhere. It didn't work that easy for me. Noise bothered me. I was easily distracted. I was working full time outside the home at that time. My opportunities to write were few - fifteen minutes before I left for work and a couple of hours on Sunday.

A company in trouble changed my writing hangups. Work became so slow, I'd sit for hours with nothing to do. I'd offer to help others, but everyone was in the same situation. Total boredom drove me to emailing myself chapters from home to work. Within a few days, I found I could write, answer the phone and get right back to the story. People would be walking back and forth in front of my office, talking, laughing, whatever and I didn't hear a thing. Salesmen would come in to tell me something and I would answer with glazed over eyes only half hearing them. "Are you writing again?" was a question I heard often.

My favorite places to write nowadays are my corner in our bedroom or in the RV. But at least now I can write anywhere, for any amount of time with almost any noise, except for football. Something about the constant roar of a football game on TV drives me crazy.

Although I ended up out of work when the company folded, I'm pretty happy they trained me well for my writing career. Sick, I know, but I do have my priorities.

Reminder: 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 (next one in September), go here to join: 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Green Slime On My Face

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of 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.

Nasty tomato worm
When I was young, maybe six years old, I asked Daddy at least twice a week if we could live on a farm. He humored me. "We might do that some day." I'm sure he didn't want to spoil my fantasy, but he knew I'd outgrow my farm dream. I'm not sure I outgrew the dream or shoved it to the bottom of my wish list. I think he'd get a big kick out of where I've ended up: farming with my child and, eventually, grandchild. And weeding row after row of veggies, crawling in the dirt to harvest green beans, or squishing giant green worms.

Not all golden zucchini are created equal
Giant green tomato worms! This has to rank as the nastiest thing I've done yet. They're huge and the first one I cut in half squirted green slime on my face. My technique needed improving. Organic farming means no poisons and some of these pests can only be handled one on one. Three of us entered the tomato rows with knives and clippers to do battle. We've declared war for the rest of the summer.

If Daddy were alive, I'd also have conversations with him on my daily struggle to balance my writing with farming. My old dream of farming is my son's passionate dream which I'm happy to be a part of. Writing is my current passion. But how cool is it that I can do both?

Cucumbers chilling before pickling
Around Tortuga Flats Farm, Frank is known as Pickles.

Healthy cucumber plants
The cucumbers are now harvested everyday, some times twice. Pickles is canning twenty to twenty five jars a day of pickles and relish. He's been experimenting and tweaking since last summer. His perfected recipes are now going into jars and will be marketed come fall. More to come on that!