Peevish Pen

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

© 2006-2018 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), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Horse Pill How-To

Because Melody hasn't been doing too well lately and possibly has lyme disease, she's had to take 110 doxycycline pills a day—55 at each meal. How do I give a horse so many pills? Here's how:

Melody eats a one-pound coffee can of Triple Crown Low Starch pellets. First, I dump the pellets in a bowl.

Then I add water, so they get a little mushy. I want everything to stick together.

After the pellets get mushy enough, I put a dollop of apple sauce in the center and count out 55 pills. (Actually, I have the pills counted in advance.)

I dump the pills into the middle of the applesauce blob.

Then I add another dollop of applesauce on top . . . 

. . . and pull up the mushy pellets to cover the blob.

By the time I carry the dish of pill-laced pellets to the barn, they're ready to serve to a hungry mare who's waiting at the gate.

I empty the softened pellets into her feed pan. Everything sticks together nicely.

I serve it to her . . . 

. . . and watch her wolf it down. Melody has a hearty appetite. In the 17 years I've owned her, she's never missed a meal.

She's already eaten some of the pills, but she sniffs the remaining ones. 

Smells like applesauce—Yum! She keeps eating . . . 

 . . .  and finishes her dinner . . .

 . . . and licks the pan clean.

That was easy enough, wasn't it?

The pills are making a difference. Melody, who was very ill a couple of weeks ago, is almost her old self again.



In the spring, area dairy farmers cut silage to feed their cattle. This year is the earliest I've ever seen silage cut. Some farmers cut in late March; others—like the one who leases land across the road from my house—cut in April. 

The other day, I heard the sound of a tractor and the rumbling of trucks. When I looked out, I saw this:

Wednesday's rain interrupted the silage collection, and the fields have been drying for a couple of days.

The wagons wait for the field to dry enough for the operation to continue.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Good Will?

Warning: I'm ranting in this post.

I support a couple of  Goodwill stores by shopping there when I'm looking for certain articles of clothing, household goods, and books. In fact, I often blog about my finds on Becky's Frugal Living. One of the Goodwills I like is the Westlake Goodwill, which recently expanded. I decided to check it out yesterday.

I was impressed that there were now lots of doors. That meant easy access. I parked close to one of them. Unfortunately, that door didn't open. Neither did the next one. I had to walk all the way to the third one. No problem; yesterday was one of the days I was feeling pretty good, so I was able to walk that far without getting leg cramps.

The store was bright and spacious, but I didn't find much that I needed. I did notice the books, though. I browsed the shelves but only found one I wanted. 

Since the books were all pushed way back, it was hard to see what was on the two bottom shelves—especially if you wear tri-focals. It's even harder if your 66-year-old knees don't allow you to kneel very well. Here's a view looking down from about three feet back.

Consequently, I didn't bother trying to look at books on the lower shelves. But after I'd browsed elsewhere in the store, I noticed a twenty-something guy wheeling out a loaded cart of books. A closer look told me that there were some Civil War books I'd like to add to my collection. I reached for one. The guy told me I wasn't allowed take books out of the cart. I thought that was odd. If I wanted to buy something, shouldn't a store make it easy for me? 

Well, I could wait for a moment. I stood while he shelved some of the books. When he took one I wanted from the cart and was stooping to put it on the bottom shelf, I asked him if he would please hand it to me.

Nope, he couldn't do that, he said. Huh? Why not? Then he put that book and two others I wanted out of my reach on the very bottom shelf. He pushed them way to the back of the bottom shelf and moved to the next section. I tried to stoop to get the books. I couldn't even see them. I tried to kneel. The knees didn't cooperate. Finally I sat on the floor.

I reached for the books, but my arm wasn't long enough to get them. The guy, who was a few feet from me, never offered to help. To actually get the books, I had to lie down. At least one customer (who looked older than I) and three sales people watched me. 

Getting up with three books clutched in my hand was a challenge, but I managed to hold onto the shelves with my other hand and pull myself up. Fortunately the shelves were sturdy enough to hold my weight.

At the checkout counter, I complained about the difficulty in getting the books I wanted. I was actually even polite about it, even though I was majorly ticked off. The assistant manager was nearby and came over to explain that it was company policy that customers couldn't take an item from the cart (which I've done before there in the past), that the guy could have lost his job if he'd handed me the books (What? He can't be helpful to customers?), and that his handing it to me would be unfair to other customers because they might think the store was giving me preference over certain goods. 

At the Rocky Mount Kroger, I often take items I want from the cart when an employee is about to shelve  them. The employee usually smiles. One less item for him or her to lift. At Kroger, I've asked stock clerks to help me get items that are too high for me to reach. They do so cheerfully. Why can't Goodwill employees show the same good will to customers that Kroger employees do.

When I asked the assistant manager why the books had to be pushed all the way back, she said they fell over if they weren't pushed to the back of the shelves. (I wonder why library books are shelved toward the front?) Then she said that the books were only in the new area temporarily. When they finished renovating, the books would be moved back to where they'd been in the past.

I expressed surprise and dismay that Goodwill didn't want to help the elderly. The assistant manager said she'd get the manager for me to talk to if I wanted. I figured there was no point, so I paid for my purchases. She said the store would be arranged differently when I returned.

"If I return," I said.

The Three Civil War books I bought.

Later, I checked the Goodwill website to see if the company policies were listed. I couldn't find them. The site was geared to the people they will help and hire, not to potential customers. Here's what I found: 

Our Mission

Goodwill Industries International enhances the dignity and quality of life of individuals, families and communities by eliminating barriers to opportunity and helping people in need reach their fullest potential through the power of work.
Eliminating barriers, helping people. . . . Hmmmm. Further down the same page, there's this:

Our Values

We treat all people with dignity and respect.
We honor our heritage by being socially, financially and environmentally responsible.
We strive to meet the highest ethical standards
We challenge each other to strive for excellence and to continually learn.
We embrace continuous improvement, bold creativity and change.
Treat people with dignity and respect, socially responsible, continuous improvement. . . . Hmmm. And change

I think I know a way they can change. If they're not going to promote good will toward customers, they ought to at least post their "policies" where customers can see them.

Or, they could maybe embrace the idea of helping their customers—especially the elderly and physically challenged. It would be a welcome  improvement.

Note: These pictures were not taken while I actually shopped. After my conversation with the assistant manager, I took the interior shots.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three Writer Events

I've been busy. Three writer events in eight days!

A week ago Saturday, I participated in the "SCBWI Rendezvous" at the Roanoke Public Library. Getting there was a challenge because most of the streets in the vicinity of the library were blocked for the breast cancer walk. 

The library is to the right of the very green tree.

I'd hoped to park right beside the library, but I couldn't drive anywhere close to it. The closest parking place I could get was in the hospital parking garage, so I had to walk for several blocks. While making the long walk through the parking garage, I noticed tracks in the concrete.

My parking space was a couple of levels up. The tracks started and stopped in the middle of a wide swath of pavement. How did the animal get there and where did it go? Beats me.

By the time I reached the library, several writers and readers were already there. Soon more arrived. Tiffany Trent, the speaker and author of dark fantasy YA novels, gave an excellent presentation about vision and revision. Speaking about the road to publication and the difficulty in getting commercially published, she mention that aspiring authors should "hope but not expect." A lot of the audience participated in asking questions and answering them.

Several of us had our books there to sell and sign. Besides Tiffany with her several books, Angie Smibert was there with Memento Nora, Amanda Cockrell with What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay, and me with Ferradiddledumday and Stuck.

Angie Smibert and Marci Atkins watch Tiffany Trent sign books.

Thursday, I was one of the Lake Writers at the Moneta/SML Library's MOarts Meet and Greet open house. Besides writers, the place was packed with musicians, artists, crafters, and plenty of visitors. Thanks to Sally Roseveare, the Lake Writers had a long table. I took the space next to Sue Coryell, whose A Red, Red Rose just came out.

Sue Coryell with her new book.

While sitting at the table, I chatted with a lot of nice folks, sold several books, and listened to some good down-home music. When I wandered around later, I watched alpaca fleece being spun into yarn, saw some quilters at work, and looked at an array of artwork.

The musicians were a crowd-pleaser.

Yesterday, I went to Martinsville for Binding Time Cafe's Spring Book Festival for area authors. It was nice meeting some new folks and re-connecting with some others. Besides selling and signing books, I also did some promoting for the Mountain Spirits Festival on September 29. It didn't take me long to set up under the tent.

I've been trying to recruit author/publisher Tom Perry of Laurel Hill Publishing to bring his books to Mountain Spirits this year. I hope I convinced him. He has lots of regional history books that would interest Franklin county residents.

I'd been wanting a copy of Avis Turner's new book, In the Land Where Fairies Cried Tears of Stone: Grandma's Story, and I bought it from her. I started it last night and I'm already halfway through. Avis will have her book at Mountain Spirits.

Another author returning to Mountain Spirits is Libby Bondurant (below right), whose cookbook, Grazing Along the Crooked Road, is very popular in the area. Libby brought some tasty chocolate and pecan covered pretzels for folks to snack on.

Speaking of spirits, paranormal investigator John Salas (above) self-published a paranormal novel, Promises Kept. He'll be at Mountain Spirits, too.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Winging It

Did some fairies lose their wings in the grass?

No, these are seeds from the silver maple trees in my yard. The two trees produced gazillions of seeds that flew to the ground on their little wings. See?

Here's another view:

And a more distant view. Those seeds are everywhere. 

Most will not take root and grow . . .

. . .  especially not in the road. 

Some didn't even make it to the ground.

A seed is not a tree. 'Tis a pity so many fall by the wayside, and only a few reach treehood.

These seeds, like ideas, need the right conditions to take root and grow.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Dog Days of April

by Maggie Mae Mushko
(6-year-old border collie)

Yesterday, Mommy took me for a ride in the truck to Union Hall. Our first stop was at The Brown Place, which used to be called Shady Rest when the Browns owned it in the old days. It is our biggest farm with lots of interesting places for me to investigate. The first thing I did when I got there was get my little orange football out of the truck.

My little orange football is my most favorite toy. I forced Mommy and Daddy to throw it for me until Daddy put it in the truck where I couldn't reach it so I wouldn't lose it while I was running. I have only lost it once in several years—OK, maybe a few times—so I don't think it's fair that they take it away from me. 

I thought Mommy was going to walk with me, but she decided to ride the Polaris, which is an ATV or 4-wheeler. 

Usually Mommy is way slower than I am on a walk, but this time she was way faster. I had to run to keep up. It is my job to not let Mommy out of my sight—well, at least for not very long—when we are at the farm. Finally, I figured out if I got in front, she would have to go slower. That is what I did. Border collies are very good at figuring things out.

I was glad when we came to the creek crossing because it is my favorite place to soak.

When I finished soaking, Daddy came along on the tractor. He had been clearing trails around the fields.

I decided I'd better get in a little more soaking time while I had the chance.

After Mommy got off the Polaris, we walked along a trail by the creek. I stopped and stuck my head in a lot of holes along the creek bank and sniffed. I'm a very good sniffer.

After we left The Brown Place, we went to Smith Farm. I'm glad that Mommy did not take the Polaris. We were able to walk the regular way and I could stop and sniff things. Did I mention I'm a very good sniffer?

I like this part of Smith Farm because there are holes along the high bank. I had to sniff each one.

The trees along the creek bottom were so green!

Naturally, I had to sniff.

Then I had to soak in Standiford Creek. (Once I followed Standiford Creek all the way to the lake and was gone for a day and night. But I am older and wiser now, so I wouldn't do that again unless I had a very good reason.)

Mommy saw a big grapevine in the poplar trees along the creek, but I was not impressed with it. It was too high for me to sniff.

This is the little hayfield beside the creek bottom. I sniffed around in the tall grass but didn't find much interesting. When I started to run a trail, Mommy called me back.  Because it is my job to look after Mommy, I reluctantly returned.

Mommy found a narcissus in the woods on the way to the spring, but I was already halfway up the hill to where the old cabin is and where Mommy's truck was parked. Mommy said that in the old days her grandmother used to walk up and down this hill a couple times a day to get water from the spring.

Anyhow, I had a very nice time running around on both farms. And soaking in the creeks. And fetching my little orange football. And sniffing. All the things that make for great dog days.


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