Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2016 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Worst Food Ever

Want to know where to get the worst food ever? Check into a hospital! At least, that's what I've learned from recent experience. You'd expect hospitals to promote healthy eating, but I discovered they don't. They don't even serve much real food.

Above image from
In late May, I spent a couple of days at my local hospital where I was relieved of a gallbladder and several gallstones. I hadn't been able to eat for a few days before going to the hospital and couldn't eat on my first day there, and—the next day—I didn't want to lunch so soon after surgery. Later that day, though, I was served some kind of broth and some unsweetened iced tea. It was bland, but I didn't particularly care. My appetite was returning.

For breakfast the next day, I was offered coffee (with some low-fat milk and artificial sweeteners—two substances I'd never eat—on the side) and oatmeal and apple juice, but I explained to the food lady that oatmeal would make my blood sugar level soar. The apple juice would have been even worse—that stuff is almost pure sugar. (The hospital knew that I was diabetic and gluten sensitive.) She wondered what I could eat. "Eggs," I said. Consequently, I was served something vaguely egg-like and very dry. I doubt that this substance ever originated within a chicken. Had I not been so hungry, I wouldn't have tried to eat it.

Other food I was served during my hospital stay included overcooked canned peas with a packet of "whipped spread" on the side, a tough leathery inedible piece of something vaguely chicken-like, a cup of what was supposed to be ice cream but didn't look like ice cream, a container of sugar-free chocolate pudding that had numerous ingredients listed in print so tiny I couldn't read them, slice of "pork loin" so tough I had to spit out the bite I'd taken because couldn't chew it, a large serving of canned peaches, and large serving of canned pears. Even though the fruit servings no doubt played havoc with my blood sugar, I ate them. I was that starved.

Apparently—when feeding their patients—hospitals go for what's cheap and convenient rather than what's good for folks. And the food-like crap—rather than real food—fills the bill if not the stomach.

Are you eating food-like crap? For some examples of food-like products that aren't food, see "19 Foods That Aren't Food."

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Kubota Scam

Every so often, a scammer tries to use Craigslist to make a bit of money. I've already posted about a horse trailer scam in May 2015. A lot of folks commented that they'd run into similar scams. Today my husband, who checks out farm equipment on Craigslist noticed an on the Lynchburg Craigslist that was just too good to be true—a Kubota backhoe, worth $20,000 for only $2,500, in Evington, VA.

Now, besides the way-too-low price, I noticed something else. The phone number wasn't a Virginia one. So I Googled a bit and found what looked like the same Kubota (with the same phone number) on the Morgantown (West Virginia?) Craigslist. Only this was a "KuBota."

The "LOader tlB dieSEL bAcKhOe KuBota HyStaT beautiful - $2500" was in New Salem. And the dirt it was digging was exactly like the dirt in Evington! Coincidence, or what?

A bit more Googling revealed the same tractor with the same phone number on the Cedar Rapids Craiglist, and this tractor was in Swisher. Not only did the ad have the same weird capitalization as the other two ads, but the tractor was digging the same black dirt as the other two. And doggone if the dead tree is just like the one in the first picture. Wow! What a coincidence.

Or maybe it isn't a coincidence. Maybe it's a just a scam. And that phone number—it's in Utah.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hay June 2016

It's been a good year for hay, and last week was perfect hay-making weather—dry, hot, and windy. Our hay isn't finished yet. The Brown Farm is still  in progress, but Polecat Creek and Smith Farm are done. Polecat Creek made 75 bales; Smith Farm 72.

Here are pictures of the point and front fields at Polecat Creek Farm and the front field at Smith Farm:



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Thursday, June 09, 2016


"Nature abhors a vacuum," the saying (attributed to Aristotle) goes. From my viewpoint, nature seems to want to fill in any empty spaces it finds. At least, that's what's happening around here.

We've had a hot rainy spring, so everything growable grew. I've had more health problems than usual, so I couldn't keep the flowerbeds in line the weeds whacked back, or the shrubbery trimmed. Here's what the front looks like:

The boxwoods are blocking the lower half of the windows. It's hard to see out. You can't even see the front porch.

The hemlocks should be narrower and pointy. Not round blobs.

In back, the patio is hidden by assorted vegetation.

Most of the deck is still visible, though.


But the steps leading from the  bottom driveway to the deck have vanished. You can see part of the handrail below.

The flowerbed beside the upper driveway is way overgrown. Even the big rock is partly covered. 

It's difficult to tell what's what.

At the end of the bottom driveway is the old gazebo, but can't see it for the overgrowth.

The dark area leads to its entrance. 

Beyond the old gazebo is what used to be my kale and mustard patch, but it got away from me. I'm letting it reseed itself before I chop back all the overgrown plants. 


Grapevines have covered the pergola in the lower yard, but you can see a bit of one of the benches at the right. 

 On the road, where the upper driveway begins, the mailbox and paperbox have all but disappeared.

There are more than two big rocks here, but some have been hidden.

You can barely see the really big rock on the other side of the driveway.

The gazebo beside the upper driveway is all but hidden. Seven years ago, this space was bare.

The brick walkway is covered in weeds.

Even from the side it's hard to tell the gazebo is there.

Eventually, I'll feel well enough to get the place looking civilized again. But it'll take a while.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Prayers the Devil Answers

I'm a great fan of both Appalachian literature and Sharyn McCrumb. I recently read Sharyn McCrumb's new book, Prayers the Devil Answers, and enjoyed it. This novel featured multiple points of view, a technique that I especially like. I liked it's strong sense of place and time—a sense I consider important in an Appalachian novel. I also found the main character, Ellendor Robbins, interesting.  

Prayers the Devil Answers begins in the early 1900s in Appalachia, where six girls hold a Dumb Supper to see who their husbands will be. This supper is held at midnight in an abandoned cabin, and the girls must follow a set ritual. They must not speak and must set the table with their backs turned toward it. They must serve also serve any male guest with their backs turned. But Celia drops a knife and tries to cover her error. (For those unfamiliar with the dumb supper, the Blind Pig and the Acorn had a post about it a couple of years ago.) Only two men show up, and they eventually marry the girls who served them. The homely Greer sisters remain spinsters, and unmarried Celia becomes a school teacher.

Soon the action moves ahead several years to the depression era, where Ellendor Robbins—who has no previous connection with the Dumb Supper—has moved with her husband Albert and their two young sons from the mountain farm owned by Albert's brother Henry to a small railroad town.

 In the same town, artist Larry Varden has been hired to paint a mural in the post office. When he decides to paint the Cherokee Attack at Fort Watauga, he needs to research how the fort looked. Thus he visits the school teacher Celia. Eventually he marries her.

Sidenote: During the depression, many artists painted murals in post offices across the country. Here's my copy of the one that's in the Rocky Mount, VA, post office:

Albert soon tires of his job as a machinist and becomes a deputy sheriff.  He successfully runs for sheriff, but dies three months after he's elected. His widow, left with two sons and no means of support, takes over his job. Eventually, Ellendor Robbins, Lonnie Varden, and Celia are connected by unhappy circumstance. Could what happened at the Dumb Supper have caused it?

I won't give away the ending, but suffice to say this is a dark book. But it's a compelling one. I kept turning pages to see what happened next.

I was hoping to get Sharyn to sign my copy next Tuesday when she'll speak at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta. But, alas, my recent surprise surgery and its resultant recuperation time will prevent my attending.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Arlo's Art

by Arlo (Tanner's Sidekick)

Since Tanner interviewed me about my art, I have been working on more creations. I have moved from newsprint to the brown paper that comes in the box with Mommy's books. I like the texture better and it coordinates well with the paper bags I sometimes use in my disassmblages.

I have my current disassemblage exhibit installed in the front hall which makes a great gallery and is easily accessible. Plus I have room to run if I want to. Check out these pictures, and you can see how my art has evolved in the last few weeks.

Notice how I have used the brown paper as both a contrast to the rug as well as an integral part of it. The twisted paper provides a counterpoint to the flat rug—it rises above it and reaches out—but the rug anchors it and holds it captive.  But bits of the paper have escaped the rug's confines and are scattered on the carpet to symbolize parts leaving the whole to become entities of their own.

I am also working some of my possessions into the composition. In the picture above, to the right is a little black toy mouse that symbolizes creatures who haven't been ensnared by the paper coils.


Notice how I juxtaposed two toy mice with the paper bags. This detail is from the far end of my disassemblage.  I think it means—well, whatever you want it to mean.

Sometimes I have to do a bit or rearranging, so my disassemblage makes the statement I want it to make. 

I try to look at it from several angles.

Sometimes I have to get inside of my art to truly understand it.


 I'm always reaching out for new ideas.

It takes a while to get it just right before I let any art critics—like Tanner—see it.

But I'm usually proud of my finished—Wait! What's happening here?!

Tanner, did you put Mommy's books in my art? I do not like having my art photobombed by someone else's creation! It's going to take me a while to disassemble everything again.

Maybe I'll just lay low until Tanner leaves.  He does not appreciate art.

Comment from Tanner: "Arlo is NOT my sidekick. He usually kicks me in the head when we cat-rassle. And maybe I did put Mommy's books in what Arlo calls his art. And maybe Mommy did give me a few cat treats to do it. But Mommy put a lot more work into her books than Arlo does in whatever it is that he does!"

P.S. from Tanner: "You can buy Mommy's book here."