Peevish Pen

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

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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), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Floored by Choices

Because my farm home has white carpet in the hall and light beige carpet in the den (I didn't choose these colors—they were here before we bought the place),  I'm going to have the entrances to each room tiled. I figure the mud clean-up will be much easier with tile.

Now, my problem is which tile. I went to Lowes and looked around. I found three (relatively cheap) possibilities. Here they are in the den, where the final choice will be in front of the sliding glass door:

Which looks best with the carpet? The dark tile coordinates well, the medium tile is close to a match with the kitchen counters, and the light tile brightens up the place a bit.

Now, here they are in the hall, where the area just inside the front door will be tiled:

I don't think the dark tile looks good here. Check them out against the wall:

I think I can eliminate the dark tile. But do I go for the light one or the medium?

Too many choices, even if it's only two.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Immediate Action

Every day brings more junk mail—like this plea for me to buy life insurance.

The outside of the envelope sounds so urgent, doesn't it? They want me to take immediate action. So—I opened the envelope.

Another plea for"immediate action." But I don't worry about my "final expenses being a burden and getting life insurance coverage won't give me "peace of mind."

Look at all the stuff from inside the envelope.

Do you believe this crap?! "Easy pay option"—yeah, right.

I'll take action all right. I'll rip it to pieces. . .

. . . and then I'll file it in the appropriate place.

There! All ready for the dumpster!

If they really want me to have "peace of mind," they shouldn't snail-mail me this spam.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Farm Appreciation Day

Saturday was Farm Appreciation Day at the Farmer's market in downtown Rocky Mount. 

This display of woodenware was impressive.

Old school books and a basket of lye soap. (I bought a cake of the soap for 50 cents.)

Flour sacks were once a source of yard goods for home seamstresses. 

Take a closer look. You might have to click to enlarge the photo to read the sign. 

This dress was made of flour sacks.

I should have taken pictures of the cows (I arrived too late for the milking contest) or the farm machinery, but I didn't. I see plenty of cows and farm machinery in my neighborhood.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Summer Sunset

On the last day of summer 2010, after the first rain in two weeks, we drove to Union Hall to check the farms. The hay had been finished just days earlier. The road into the old Mattox place looked like this in the setting sun: 

The hay on the Brown Place hasn't yet been moved. Bales lay like toppled monoliths.

The pear tree I planted long ago still bears fruit. 

The end of summer glowed pink.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

I first met Chuck Sambuchino on July 5, 2008. Editor of the Guide to Literary Agents books, he was guest speaker for a special meeting of Lake Writers. I blogged about the meeting here; he blogged about it here on his Guide to Literary Agents blog.

He seemed so normal. I'd never have guessed that he would write a book that was so, well, weird. And funny. Really funny.

Garden gnomes are not among my current objects de yard arte. But if they were, Chuck Sambuchino's tongue-in-cheek how-to book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (and They Will), might make me a little worried.

The book is written so straightforward that it seems believeable. And helpful. And—well, words fail me. But the book is a hoot that appeals to my dry sense of humor. Check out some of the illustrations:

The gnomes pictured above are so adorable, aren't they? Who could image that they might lurk in your bathroom, hide in your hall, or invade your bedroom with the intent to kill you. Sambuchino imagines these scenarios, that's who. He divides his book into handy sections—Assess, Protect, Defend, and Apply—to help the reader stay focused on the steps that need to be taken to avert a gnome attack.

You can read some excerpts from the book at Scribd. There's an author interview with him at and an AOL story that's classified as weird news. (Gee, I wonder why?)

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (and They Will) is perfect to display on a coffee table. Think of the fun you'll have when your guests notice it. Will they look around to see if diminutive creatures are sneaking up on them? Will they look at you as if you're totally nuts. At any rate, fun will ensue.

The book would also make a great gift for a gardening enthusiast—especially if the gardener already has some garden gnomes. Or bundle the book with a garden gnome and let the recipient really wonder about you.

Here's the How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (and They Will) book trailer:

Thanks to this book, I'll henceforth check my mailbox before sticking my hand in (Oh, wait! I already do that!), keep a weapon in every room (I live in rural America where I think this required—but I don't have a hockey stick among the arsenal), and practice rising from the bed in attack mode (Difficult to do when I'm surrounded by cats, but I'll give it a shot.).

Anyhow, if you're looking for a laugh, I recommend this book.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rolling the Hay

Yesterday, Melody spent a lot of time gnawing on the round bale we put in the pasture last week.

This gourmet hay was made a couple weeks ago, and it was now cured enough to eat. The mares loved it—especially since the last two weeks of drought left them little grass to eat. This bale should have lasted at least a week. Imagine my surprise when I went out to feed this morning and not much was left of the it.

Did two old mares spend the whole night chowing down on the hay? Um, no. No doubt, under the light of the full moon, they decided to unroll the bale because, as any horse knows, the best part is in the middle. I know they did this because they left a tell-tale trail.

The trail started at the top and wound down the hill. . . 

. . . toward the kennel . . .

. . . and then turned left. . . 

. . . and ran  along the gravel at the bottom of the hill. . .

. . . and ended at the gate . . .

. . . where the prime suspect munched. Another suspect wasn't far away.

Melody: Hey! Why are you blaming me? Your evidence is purely circumstantial. Maybe the cats did it.

Meanwhile, just outside the gate, Twiggy claims the spare bale.

Twiggy: This bale is mine! All mine!

Spotz: Not so fast, Ma. I've had my eye on it for a while.

Spotz: Mine at last! Uh-oh. Sherman, what are you looking at? And what's Jim-Bob doing way back there?

Melody: See, I told you the cats did it.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Days of Destruction

For over a week, I've heard the whine of saws, the groan of earth-movers, the crack of falling trees. Just down the road and across the field, Appalachian Electric Power is clearing right-of-way for the big power line that will take electricity from Rocky Mount to Westlake. Doing so requires destruction of woodland, grazing land, and wildlife habitat. Here's how the area looked this morning:

The brown area in the middle of the above picture is where trees were cleared from the dairy farm a quarter mile down the road from me. My property is to the right of this picture.

Here's a closer look. Usually Holsteins graze in the pasture on the other side of the fence. The picture below shows what;'s happening on the other side of the road. The foreground is a pasture where beef cattle graze; the middle ground was woods a few days ago; the background is a hayfield.

In the above picture, you can see one of the big pieces of equipment; below is a closer shot. You can see Bar Ridge Road in the background. On the other side of Bar Ridge is another swath recently cut through the woods.

The picture below shows a close-up of that swath.

And another close-up of the same swath.

A pile of trees lies to the left of the above scene:

The picture below looks toward where I took the first picture in this post. Above one of the big machines is a corner of Jack's Mountain:

The picture below was taken from my pasture. Beyond the tobacco patch is the same brown area in the first picture. Above it is Chestnut Mountain. Before long, big power poles will disrupt my view of the mountain.

The lines will run close to this old cemetery.

The views, they are a-changin'.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lit Spam Redux

Warning: This posts contains a rant about spam, grammar, and punctuation.
Thanks to writer buddy Ed Wennerstrom for sending me this jpeg.
In this morning's email, I received yet another book-promo from the vanity publisher that's sent me several others over the last week. Here's the e-mail header:

Would you trust a vanity publisher who can't even spell "author"? Or who puts the book's title in parentheses? I didn't think so. Once again, I clicked the "Remove" link and once again I asked to be removed.

I also contacted the author whose book was advertised in the spam. He needs to know that not only is his vanity publisher turning off potential readers by spamming them but also that this vanity publisher makes punctuation and grammatical errors in the book's synopsis. Do you see them? (To avoid embarrassing the author, I've obliterated identifying info.)

Do you find it odd that "the big fisherman" is "scheduled to hit the streets"? I assume the book is really what is supposed to "hit the streets," though it would be more appropriate if it "hit the bookstore shelves." Someone needs to correct that misplaced modifier.

Did you notice the comma in the first sentence of the second paragraph? A comma doesn't belong between a subject and its verb unless it sets off unnecessary information.

Those hyphens (-) in the sentence fragment aren't correct either. Do you suppose whoever wrote this meant to use em dashes (—)? Neither hyphens nor em dashes should have space on either side. Commas would have worked much better here—but the sentence fragment doesn't work either.

Neither does the synopsis. "All things religious" is awkward and ambiguous. Why use it twice? A synopsis actually tells something about the plot. It doesn't trail off (and if it does there should be four ellipsis points at the end, not three.)

That little ad promoting the vanity publisher is tacky, and it demonstrates the company's disregard for basic rules of capitalization.

But if You want to be an Authror and Publish Your next Book Today. . . .