Peevish Pen

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

© 2006-2015 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), and several ebooks.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thursday Paper

The paper on Thanksgiving Day was so stuffed with ads that must have weighed five pounds. Here are the only parts I actually read:

All the rest was junk—sports, ads, etc.—that I have no interest in. George wasn't interested either. All these will go straight to the recycling bin (except for George).

I found something irregular with part of the paper that I did read—or tried to read. See those scallopy lines:

They fold down to reveal a blank expanse of paper.

George couldn't figure out why the newspaper should have a blank double-page spread like this.

 Neither could I. And what's with the little silvery thing at the upper left?

That puzzled George, too.

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Monday, November 16, 2015


I first read The Songcatcher, by Sharyn McCrumb, shortly after it came out in 2001. I liked it.

I recently reread it and loved it. Here’s why:

   In 2014 I became interested in my family genealogy. As I did research, I discovered that I descended from folks who came to America—particularly to Virginia—in its early years. Some came first to Pennsylvania or Maryland; some landed on Virginia’s coast and worked their way westward. McCrumb’s novel chronicles her McCourry ancestors and how they came to the Appalachian region.

 McCrumb uses multiple viewpoints to tell the story. Each ancestor narrates his or her story, and a song that the first one in America heard aboard ship connects their narratives. Plus, a third-person narrator tells the contemporary story of a folksinger searching for a song she heard her older relatives sing long ago. I'm a big fan of first person narrative, and I really like stories told with multiple narrators.

   McCrumb captures the melody of Appalachian dialect without resorting to misspellings, dropping of gs in -ing endings, etc. She uses phrasing that early settlers would use. Diction and syntax trump misspellings. This makes the book so much more readable than if it were bogged down in phonetic renditions of what the speech might have sounded like.

    There is a strong sense of place throughout the novel. Any good Appalachian novel should have a strong sense of place. Plus, the characters are interesting and well-rounded and believable.

You can read online the reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Historical Novels Review.

The book is available on Amazon from various resellers (hardcover and paperback). It became an ebook in March 2015.


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Saturday, November 07, 2015

November 2015 Spam

Note: Because this is basically a boring post about spam I received in my inbox the other day, I will add some random pictures of my kitties to spruce it up a bit. (The spam is in blue.)

Oops! I used this pic of George in a previous posting. Sorry!

Apparently someone thinks my website (which is indeed in need of updating) is a piece of crap.

Hi Team,

There is no "team." Just moi.

Hope you are doing well.

I doubt you hope that. My blood sugar is too high, and I'm not walking very well—so, I'm not doing "well" at all.

Olivia and Tanner don't usually cuddle.

A quick analysis reveals your website having different technical glitches, where organic/natural traffic is very low.

Organic? Natural? What the heck kind of "traffic" is that? And what "technical glitches"?

This might seem irrelevant, but we think you are losing a major portion of traffic and revenue that your business deserves.

Business? What business? I'm retired! Granted, my website does provide info about my books, but I haven't written anything new for years.

There are many companies who work only with standard SEO strategies; however we stand out by making directed efforts on research based competitor analysis.

Companies? I'm not a company! I don't need CEO strategies, whatever they are. My website is a personal website. NOT A BUSINESS SITE!

Let's have a look at the issues related to your website

  1. Low online presence for competitive keywords or, phrases.
  2. Don't forget to make sure that, your website is compatible with different types of mobile devices.
  3. Technical errors that restrict your website from being indexed by search engines.
  4. Lack of theme based quality back links.
  5. A meager social presence is a reason to ponder too.
 Where do I begin to correct your errors? How about if I point out just three?

1. "Competitive keywords or, phrases"? Whom, pray tell, do you think I'm competing with? It's a personal website!
4. "Theme based" should be "theme-based." Please learn to use hyphens correctly.
5. How many folks, I wonder, are actually pondering my "meager social presence"?

Your website is the face of your business. If you are not aware about Digital Marketing prospects, you will lose your hard-won supremacy.

It's NOT a business site.

So, it's high time to think about your online presence. Our technical experts are here to help you without any CONTRACT or SET UP FEE.

I don't care if it's high time or low time. I don't want help from your technical experts.

Interested? Revert back now. We will send you a clear analysis report (FREE) using our corporate e-mail ID.

No, I'm NOT interested. What the heck did you mean by "revert back"? Did you mean "reply"? If so, that's the word you should have used. And you can take your "corporate e-mail ID" and—well, use your imagination. 

 Best Regards,
robert horn |DM Consultant

Oh dear, Robert (or robert), you must have severe self-esteem issues if you don't capitalize your name. Or perhaps you graduated from a substandard school. What must your potential clients think when they see your uncapitalized name? Do they see you as uneducated? Ignorant? Uncaring of what others think? 

At any rate, I—a retired English teacher— can help you. For only a moderate fee, I can proofread your work for capitalization errors. Punctuation errors cost more, though.  

Jim-Bob cuddles his mama Olivia.

P.S. Robert (or robert), your website really does need some kitties.


Friday, November 06, 2015

Fall Color 2015

The trees this fall haven't been as bright as in past years. The road to the farm was less than spectacular.

In late October, the big crape myrtle by the deck  lacked its usual splendor.

The brightest color in the backyard was the burning bush by the road.

Across the road was a bit of yellow.

Under a stormy sky in late October, the trees barely show up.

November's sunshine revealed a bit more color.

The dark woods at the farm revealed something else.


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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Following the Tractor

Today, my husband wanted to take the bush-hog to Smith Farm in Union Hall. He already had his hay rake over there but wanted to clean up the farm a bit before he began raking. I followed him so I could bring him back to get his truck. He left a few minutes before I did, but I caught up with him on Novelty Road.

The dirt road to the right is where logging truck have been going in. There's a lot of logging being done in the area:

There's an old schoolhouse opposite the Indian Cave Road intersection. Since the woods have been cut, the schoolhouse is now visible from the road.

On Route 40 and headed to downtown Union Hall—or where Union Hall used to be before the old buildings were demolished:

Just turned off Route 40 and onto Kemp Ford Road.

The old Union Hall grocery still stands, but it's been empty for years.

A closer look at the old grocery:

Just beyond the store is "Kemp Crossing," an out-of-the-area developer's scheme to make money. It's nowhere near where the old Kemp crossing (or ford) used to be. That crossing is under the lake now.

Approaching our woods and field (on the left). As soon as I had taken the picture, an SUV with North Carolina plates sped past both my car and the tractor.

The edge of our front field:

A closer view of the cut hay:

An even closer look. The hay on Smith Farm is pretty sparse this fall.

Smith Farm has been in the family since my grandparents bought it a hundred years ago.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pawpaws 2015

The pawpaw harvest down along Polecat Creek this year wasn't very good—nothing like the 2013 harvest.  Last week, I rode the 4-wheeler down to the bottom to see what I could find.

There are plenty of pawpaw trees, but very few had any fruit. And the fruit had ripened a few weeks earlier this year than in previous years. Maybe the hot summer and the recent dryness had something to do with it.

Even the few pawpaws I could find weren't very big. Some trees didn't have any.

Consequently, the whole harvest was maybe two dozen, and not all of them were good-sized. This is it:

If you've never before eaten a pawpaw, it's a custardy fruit. You cut it in half and spoon out the contents, taking care not to swallow the numerous seeds.

 A pawpaw tastes a little like a banana, but a lot better.

Maybe next year we'll have a better harvest.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Desk Cats

Every evening, after a full day of doing cat-work, Jim Bob likes to sleep on my desk. Tanner likes to join him.

Two cats on the desk makes for crowding.

Tanner likes to cuddle other cats even thought they don't especially like cuddling him. He also likes to wash—and be washed by— other cats. Sometimes Jim-Bob will oblige.

 Sometimes Tanner gets a little pushy.

. . . and sometimes the situation escalates.

So Jim-Bob tells Tanner who is the boss.

Their fights usually result in things avalanching off my desk.