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Saturday, May 31, 2014

clouds and dreams

It has been a quiet week. There must be something going on-- except I am not sure there is. The weather here has been nice. As I write, out the window it's blue skies, lots of green, the last blossoms of the columbine, which means soon the cats can go into that yard. They have been exiled because of the hummingbirds which for some reason tempt them to hunt more than any other bird.

We were told the next valley over had a marauding cougar which killed two lambs right in the barnyard. The state hunter came out and tracked it down with dogs-- the way cougars always were hunted in Oregon until the law was changed due to a ballot measure-- once again city made choices for country. The result of basically no hunting (you try hunting a cougar without dogs) has led to a lot more cougar, a lot less deer with the possibility of the cougars going after livestock like ours. So far they have not, but we are keeping a wary eye out.

Those who know say that hay will be hard to find this year which is bad news for us as it's essential for us to get through a winter with cattle and sheep. The reason for its short supply isn't our area but California's demand to import hay from other places because with their drought, their normal fields aren't producing. Basically the climate change, whatever its cause, will impact more than those living in the regions hardest hit.

For some reason our little valley has had less rain than many surrounding areas. It seems the rain has been diverted around us. It's not been bad or anything yet. The creek is still running full, but it likely means we will have to irrigate sooner than usual. It's hard to complain when the days are so beautiful, but it does always make me wonder about the future. What changes are yet to come?

May 18th, I took a fall and if you are interested in more about that, I wrote about it in [Rain Trueax]. The only thing I want to say about it here is-- watch out for things that could trip you in your house! I thought I had been aware but not so much.

Recently has been a week for peculiar dreams. Not sure what that's about. Some of them probably speak to some insecurity I am not usually aware of. For instance one dream was about being in a restaurant where my daughter was the waitress. We got there early. We then sat, waited and nothing happened while other customers came in and she served them. Finally she came to our table, looked me directly in the eye and said-- I will not serve you food you cannot afford to pay for. I looked back at her with amazement. Why would you say that-- I have $300 in my wallet and a Visa that is good? Dream ended before I got an answer from her. 

The dream though didn't relate to my daughter at all. She and I have a fine relationship. She knows I don't go out on a limb for things I cannot afford. People are usually just vehicles in my dreams which means they are less significant than how they make me feel and the deeper possible reason in my life.

So I figured it related to other areas. I tried to think where might anybody think I haven't paid my dues or couldn't afford what I was doing. It could be out of my insecurity where it comes to my books and how I think others perceive me there. Some could feel I haven't paid my dues by going through a publisher or by not joining a writing clubs. That does not mean others feel that way because the dream was likely in one way or another something about my own insecurity.

Another night, the dream caused me to wake upset-- this time for something I had done wrong. For no sensible reason, I had shot my rifle across a wide valley into a distant mountain where I had no idea people might be and where the bullet could have dropped shy of the mountain and hit someone in the valley below. Totally foolish behavior, something I'd never do, but I woke feeling stressed. No gun owner with any sense would do such a stupid thing. But in my dream, I did. Reckless behavior without thought. Maybe it came from the fall as it did come after it.

There were more, but the last of the offbeat dreams came with a movie type dream. In these I watch but am never part of the story. The main character was a horrible woman, brutal and abusive who played a role for people pretending she was nice. I woke from it knowing its plot would probably make a good suspense novel, but there is no way that I would consider writing it. I wasn't even willing to relay the whole story here-- let alone spend months writing about the woman, having to live with her. No thanks for something that negative and brutal. I'll leave that kind of writing to tougher souls than mine. I need positive vibes in my writing and life.

So it's been beautiful weather, lots of flowers, birds, fun with the cats, recuperating from the fall, vegetable garden going gangbusters, and for me-- editing, editing, editing with gathering more images. 

More about the books, for those interested in my process, and sometimes guests who are also creative, in Rain Trueax.

One thing about skies with clouds-- they are ever changing and always entertaining if you take time to lie back and watch the subtle changes. All cloud photos are on our place, one May afternoon, and taken by Farm Boss.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


My life has been entwined with images and words as I consider the right cover for the last of the Diablo Canyon Trilogy which will be out in mid-June. Yesterday I figured out what energy I wanted in the eBook trailer which ended up better than I had imagined when I began. When I finish something like that, it feels good. 

When doing covers/trailers, I spend a lot of time looking at photos of the sky, landscapes, and of course, the right people to fit the characters. As an indie writer, there is a lot of pressure to buy your book covers from graphic artists (which ranged from the truly gifted to the prosaic). Prices vary a lot depending on whether the cover was already made or whether you are working with the artist to get something close to your own book. 

I choose to do my own because I like doing them but am always told my books would sell better if I laid out a thousand dollars for a good designer-- not to mention the same people would have me paying another thousand to a professional editor. Maybe they would sell better but there is sure no guarantee of that. There is a guarantee that I'd be a lot more depressed if they didn't sell...

For this book cover, I wanted red rock background, interesting sky, and then a man and woman who best depicted my characters. It's unfortunate that hot men and women are de rigueur for at least indie romance covers. Famous writers can get by with a single rose but not so a lesser known. 

Nothing wrong with good looking men. I myself chose one of them critters and enjoy the benefits. It's fun to look at something attractive for sure. As a writer, however, it's frustrating that the most common options in royalty free image sites (royalty free just means you don't pay each time you use the image-- not that they are free) are models. 

Happily at the site I have had for a month (5 images a day for 30 days), I did find a guy who fits Dirk in the last of the three books. But whether he will suit those who buy books based on covers... not so sure.

Outside, it has been a beautiful spring. We are making adjustments to our gardens. Removing the deck was a big improvement for the creek garden which you see first in the photos below. The veggies, herbs and flowers are planted-- slugs got most of the marigolds even with slug bait. Why do they want the newest thing with plenty of other greenerie to eat? 

The freeze last winter cost us one shrub which led to moving the Buddha to be balanced on that fence. I liked that shrub, felt bad when we lost it, but the new arrangement is actually better.

 look closely and you will see a rose thief through the fence.

And finally a small bee hive for the swarm, giving them a place to live for awhile. They seem to approve. I have sure learned a lot about honey bees and their interactions. There were many natural pollinating type bees in the wilds of North America, but the honey bee was brought in specifically by our first European arrivals. They are considered essential to certain big crops and hence a lot of concern over problems regarding hive destruction. I suspect the way the honey bee is used, ignoring their instincts, treating them as slaves with no more meaning than an inorganic tool, is contributing to the problem.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

what we can do

 wildflowers-- blue flags

Lately my weeks do not have a pattern to them. There are, of course, those things I must plan-- like getting my teeth cleaned. That requires scheduling. Same with doctor appointments, but generally I can pretty much do what I please. That doesn't mean lie around and eat bonbons, but I guess I could if it was what I wanted.

I remember years, when I had very planned weeks with kids in school and work schedules I had to weave my life around. Today I have freedom to make of my day what I choose. I am captain of my fate-- most of the time. 

As a creative person, I love the freedom to let a day take me wherever it will. My one constant is to write regularly-- but about what can vary quite a lot. Having been a stay-at-home mom, I learned long ago to be disciplined in work. There are always the unexpected additions that can turn a week from what I might have expected to something totally different.

A few weeks back on our little ranch, we began photographing bees. There is something wonderful about watching bees go for pollen. While they make our apple trees more prolific, they also are making honey. I shared those photos here (go back a week or so if you didn't see them). Bees are something I'd have once taken for granted but no longer.

The article is pretty good about describing what is happening and some possible choices we can make-- for instance not removing all the weeds we could nor using insecticides without realizing that they kill more than nuisance insects... and incidentally what did we think the birds were eating if it's not insects?

I've seen farms on my way to town where they are pulling out what used to be hedgerows, brushy zones between their fields where the wild roses and wildflowers put on a show. Wildflowers are regarded as weeds by those who only value dollar signs. I am sure those farmers are good people but have to be thinking-- wow, another acre if we get rid of all of this unprofitable brush. They probably also figure someone else will save ground for the bunnies, birds, lizards, snakes, and insects. It's always someone else who needs to do it, isn't it?

For all our talk about climate change, the risks we face if the oceans rise and become less saline, we are doing a lot of the damage to our immediate environment with our demand for dandelion free yards, with the love of these big landscapes of mowed grass, and spraying detrimental insecticides all around our homes. I recognize some areas need lawns. It's culturally expected. Those people can compensate for the lawns not being particularly helpful to birds and insects by adding those plants that are.

Years ago we went to a seminar in Corvallis where the speaker was talking about Jesus from the perspective of historic or mythic. He spoke one evening about his interest in the environment by ending lawns on his property. It made total sense to me. The next summer, we restored our front yard to natural environment by plowing it up, putting in a natural waterway (helps a lot when we have too much rain coming off the fields), and planting four trees (actually five but a buck broke one off by rubbing his horns on it). 

The past of that yard carries with it many memories. I remember well how for figteen years I mowed it, finding different patterns to make the job more interesting. Today it's a natural looking landscape as if it had always been this way.

Then a few years later I got the idea of fencing in a veggie and flower garden area next to the house and then giving the sheep the rest. That took a lot of work from Farm Boss but eventually we had it as we do today. Fenced personal space and sheep just beyond. I love it, like hearing them so close, but also they do a neat job on making the lawns look mowed. 

 looking toward our home from the gravel road
If we don't let the sheep be anywhere too long, the weeds, the grass, the shrubs, all benefit from their presence. (the bird feeder had to be moved up for reasons obvious in the photo below).

 below the house and above the creek

Managing range land is part of a rancher's job-- and in this case turning our lawns into pasture benefited them and us. We haven't mowed a yard in years which means no fuel used and a natural environment around the home-- mostly free of poisons... (I swear men do like their sprayers).

 large swarm- more photos earlier this week

So after the individual photos of the bees, we then had the joy of seeing a large swarm that landed in our pear tree for a few hours as their scouts went beyond to find a new home. Generally this happens when hives divide. The old queen takes off when the new queen is ready to take over responsibility for the old hive.  Where we live, what they are looking for are hollow trees. 

The first big swarm took off after a few hours in the pear tree. The next day a smaller swarm landed there. We are not sure if the pear tree is big enough for them but we'd be delighted if it was. Evidently when hives divide, it can involve several stages.

 small swarm

We would love it if the smaller swarm can find our pear tree to be a proper home. Either way we hope they find healthy ground on which to live. 

We don't believe in monoculture. We plant many varieties of shrubs and plants to provide feed for the bees and butterflies. It's the least we can do for insects that keep us in food. It's a good thing for us all to remember next time we reach for an insecticide. Sometimes there is nothing we can do. In many situations, there is. 

Will our small changes be enough? Well like so many choices being made in our culture today, it might not; but at least we will know we did what we could for the small things. In nature's big picture, we're not as important as some of us like to think.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

bees on the move

These bees are on the move. May 13th we saw a very active swarm had settled into one of our pear trees. We were not sure if this was to be a location or a rest stop. Turned out to be the latter. With late afternoon, they took off.

If you haven't seen honeybees when they swarm heading for a new home, be sure you watch the second video. Stay with it awhile as you see them not just flying but moving the whole congregation to some unknown destination. Farm Boss then got in his car to drive up the hill to see if he could find where they were going. They disappeared into a forest. They are looking for the right site to build a new life. The process of creating a new queen, why the hive settled near us before taking off, their sending off scouts to find a suitable location is in the following link:

We wish them well and hope they find a insecticide free zone. We humans need to be far more aware how often we actually need to use insecticides as they are hurting insects we need if we hope to keep growing food that requires pollinating.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

behind the covers

 Cytisus scoparius, Scotch broom, regarded as a noxious weed by many, quite prolific in my part of Oregon. It has lovely flowers in the spring which cause all kinds of allergy problems for those sensitive to it.

For any of you interested in creating book covers, check out my Rain Trueax blog for today. I have several done by writer, Charlene Raddon who has gotten into the business of creating covers under her pen name Jenetta Dodge. I also show how I put together a background that likely will not be a cover but will end up a trailer for my next Arizona historical (which follows characters in Arizona Sunset and Tucson Moon) aimed to come out in July. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

be careful what you wish for

While I have committed that I won't do politics here (I have the Rants for that), I did say I would do cultural issues and I think we are looking at a very big one right now. It is how government is seen by disparate groups. It is what the answer is to unfairness-- assuming there is an answer. It is what do we do now or is it too late?

Yes, Tocqueville put out his treatise years ago while Piketty just put out a book which is selling gangbusters especially to the liberal world as some would say communism is our only hope. And by communism, I mean the philosophy of dividing up the wealth, not the current rendition which frankly proves that communism doesn't last much longer than capitalism-- neither of which are actually in a pure form.

I have not read Piketty's book but from what I have read about it, he's addressing how we got to where we are which is heading toward an oligarchy. The goal of some is to take us back to feudal times where the wealthy control the world for the good of all *cough cough*. The question has to be asked-- if the truly powerful in terms of money are to be blocked from taking over-- how can it be done?

If you spend much time reading comments on any sort of political or cultural issues of our day,  you learn a lot about how the right and left see the country and its problems. One view that comes out constantly from the right is how the federal government is a corrupt and evil body which is trying or has taken over our world.  Federal government is to them an invading force that must be overcome. I thought of an analogy for how I see it and how differently that is from the right.

The government is us. It is who we elected, who we donated our money to put in office. The government is made up of citizens. True, some are very removed from the reality of real life in the United States, but they are not outsiders. They are us. The mentality that they are someone else is how Terry Nichols and Timothy McVey felt it was the right thing to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City. What ended up happening with most of the dead being babies in a day care center, I guess that was just collateral damage to that kind of mindset. Where did that destruction profit their cause, which is posse comitatus? The cause didn't go away as we have seen with Cliven Bundy and his vigilante supporters who are eager to shoot those who work for the government. It has gone underground at various time but again pops up in other equally destructive ways-- like refusing to pay grazing fees on leased land.

The analogy that I came up with for how I see government is the disease of cancer. Some see it as an invasion but it's not. It's when the cells in the body go rogue. Cancer is us. It is inside us. We have to treat it that way to get rid of it. 

We can do that to the government if we see it's doing wrong, setting in place laws detrimental to one of the United States' founding principles-- a government for the people, by the people
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
When you see the government as outside of you. When you have decided voting doesn't work but terrorism does, when you want to throw out your existing form of government by revolution, watch out for what comes next. When you talk about government as being evil, when you support not voting to change things but those who want a more violent answer, well, in the end you get Oklahoma City bombings or others like it which can come from the left as well as the right. Terrorism is based on killing to instill fear and get your way. It's not about logic.

Logic says that we can vote. That if we convince enough people that our way is right, we can bring about a change because this system of government was created with ways to make changes. But it's not what appeals to the emotions and hence you had right wing yahoos claiming that Cliven Bundy was a patriot. You had him saying he didn't recognize there was any federal government and then turning around and riding his horse with a United States flag on a pole streaming behind him. 

Cliven Bundy became one of those caught up in being a celebrity, a folk hero created by the likes of Sean Hannity, to appeal to those who fear that the 'other' is taking what they have. The fact that it's actually him who has been taking what they have, is not something they consider. He is 'them' even though he's not. 

Personally I think this tactic works because so many have given up on logic and are relying purely on emotion. It's how one of those sheriffs, who they would like to have running everything said-- when they come at us shooting, we will put our wives and daughters out front to be killed first and then the nation will see our cause is just. Seriously, it's the gist of what he said. And a certain right wing mentality supported that. After all what are women-- collateral damage if they can win the cause by having them killed or hurt. Who supports that kind of thinking-- those who believe in posse comitatus-- and if you don't know what that is, look it up. Cliven Bundy was about a lot more than land use.

Friday, May 09, 2014

it's the columbine time to shine

The bees and hummingbirds all love the columbine. The columbine season keeps the cats out of their yard for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

privacy concerns

This week I got an interesting email from Samuel Bowling, from Single Hop, asking if I'd take part in Choose Privacy Week (May 1-7). The idea is we need to be part of keeping our lives safe from those who would hack into our passwords or read our words and maybe end up on our doorstep or using our credit cards.

The question was-- what 5 things would you never share online. I probably have a lot more than 5 but easily could come up with those. I wonder if readers here would be willing to contribute their own things they feel are not wise to share or would be even dangerous to put out. Some are probably pretty easy like our passwords, phone numbers, addresses, etc. Well, you'd think that'd be obvious. But what else comes to mind?

7 things I never share on line

1. my grandchildren-- not their photos nor their pictures. I decided years ago that it simply wasn't a good idea with all the perverts out there. But also they have a right to privacy in case someone did come across my blog and recognized them.

2. my kids-- again not their photos, details about their lives or their names. It's for the same reason as above-- their safety and they didn't sign up for this blog. I did. I've put up a few pictures of them as children but lots of luck on figuring out who they are today from that.

3. my home base either here or in Arizona. Besides not using addresses, I have a lot of photos of the ranch here but make sure they are without identifying landmarks. While I do use photos of myself (I did sign up for this), I had experiences years ago with chat rooms to recognize that some people do get obsessive, create imaginary relationships with someone they haven't met but get to thinking they know. It's just safer to keep how to reach me for those I know well enough to trust.

4. personal info about my relationship with my significant other. You will never read about our arguments, our special moments or anything specific about how it is going for us. I know there are journal type blogs. Mine is not one of them. I write about ideas, photographs, my work but never about my personal relationships.

5. and that includes my friends. I might write about doing something with a friend but if I use a photo of the get together, I got permission for using it. I don't write about my friends' problems or their relationships. This isn't so much to protect them but to keep friends. :)

6. my name. My name here (the name I write and do art under) is searchable all over the internet-- lots of luck finding it to use on a Google map. I think it's fine for some to use their legal names but there is a risk attached if you get someone who either is angry at what you said or gets a fixation on you. I decided years ago (again based on early experiences in chat rooms) that some people you do not want to be able to show up at your door.

7. trips. I might tell about a trip after I get back but generally do not get specific on when I left or how long I'll be gone. I don't know that it's ever mattered but better safe than sorry.

So what 5 things (yeah I had more than 5 and have more than 7) would you never share publicly online?
Both photos are fields of Camas, a one-time staple in the diet of Native Americans from this region-- just don't eat the white ones ;) Photos taken by Farm Boss when he was at a business meeting in the foothills of the Cascades.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

bees and blueberries

It was interesting for me to do a whole series, a week long, of bees and blossoms. It's been beautiful to see them hovering over the apple and blueberry blossoms--  but for awhile we had some concern. At first, we did not see honeybees. They had been seen earlier this spring but then we had a hard freeze rather late. We worried that they had lost their home. Bees out here are mostly wild and live in hollow trees along the creek or in the forest. 

Then I saw a bee in the house trying to get out through the glass. It had flown in the cat door. I thought about swatting it-- then thought better of it. I got a plastic glass with a wide mouth, nailed it over the bee and slid a postcard between it and the glass. The bee was safely inside. I was not stung. A win/win when I released it outside. 

When Farm Boss went out with the camera, he got photos of the honeybees to prove they are here. I don't think in the numbers previously, but they can build their population back up.

Perhaps bumblebees could do the jobs of the honeybee in pollinating our fruit, but it should be of concern for us when something we take for granted is not there. I think we need to, as individuals, seriously think about avoiding insecticides. 

If we let the wasps and yellow jackets hang around, they will eat a lot of the insects we'd rather not be here. There are, of course, places we cannot permit a yellow jacket hive, but we need to be sure that is the case before we poison. If we sicken these insects with our overuse of pesticides and removing their natural habitat, where will that leave us???

If you are one who thinks the smallest things don't matter, I don't envy your life in any arena... And no, I do not believe that God will step in and save those who abused this creation-- believer or not believer. Take care of the small things. You're not as important as you think. 

I used the following quote as one my heroine loved from my second Oregon historical. It pretty much says what I think--  

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
and Eternity in an hour."

William Blake

The photos above are of honeybee and bumblebee. Next week-- look for more photos of bees and blossoms :)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

bumblebees, blossoms-- and Beltane

Just have to add a word here with this one. My father was born this day in South Dakota, the year 1910. 

I am bringing out my second paranormal, The Dark of the Moon, part of a trilogy called Diablo Canyon on this date. 

May Day is significant in many pagan traditions-- spring really does end today. Beltane is totally the beginning of summer. Forget what our orderly calendar says, the Celts had it right, and this is the day! We all know it by how the weather is, the flowers. It is the light part of the year and each day is lengthening! Yes, the birds and bees know! If you don't already have a celebration for it, check this out for an idea-- ritual for welcoming summer.