Ditch bouquet 2016

 

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Spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) on a flowering chicory (cichorium intybus). Copyright 2016 Jean Balconi.

This is photo is for Derrick, whose beautiful garden photos are one of the charms of his eponymous blog.

Years ago I used to have a running series on my first blog (now defunct). I called it “Ditch bokay” (a country spelling I used to see in the Thumb). I’d be traveling along fields or shorelines, only to stop short because of wildflowers or weeds in bloom.  I’d take snapshots with my low-quality digital camera and upload them.

Asters, lilies and the elusive buttercup – there are dozens of beautiful blooms growing in the fringes.

Dealing with the Budgetary Crisis

No, not Congress. La crisis presupuestaria de la Casa de Tontería. To non-Spanish speakers: Need mo’ money in da House o’ Nonsense, eh? (I added the last word so Canadian and Yooper readers would understand.)

Last week, I got one bid (and another pending) to replace the driveway and the walk. The previous neighbors had trees growing right at the edge of the drive, which heaved the concrete. The husband was reluctant to cut them down until I pointed out that they would undermine his own house’s foundation.

Since they left and the bank sold the house, the decaying roots caused the cement to tip sideways, creating a dam where the downspouts pour out.  The summer has been very dry, but marked by torrential storms that made a shallow pool between our houses. Not only was the tar-like sealant washing away, but air bubbled up when even a child on a bike crossed the drive.

The walkway problem is typical for the builder, known affectionately as Jerkface MacGuyver.  Because the backfill around the foundation wasn’t properly tamped, the soil has compacted and the concrete tipped. Now the sidewalk leading to the front step tilts toward the house. As with the driveway, it pours water toward the foundation.

I had money set aside for the Garage Plan (a three-year project so well-thought out and  thus far so well-executed, government project planners would weep over their relative incompetence. Not that I’m bragging. I’m merely stating the facts with a sneer.).  Since I envisioned a new driveway leading to the garage, I felt comfortable using funds for this masonry project. I still have time to add to the Garage Fund.

Or so I thought. Continue reading

Insects

A cicada is singing in the maple tree. For those unfamiliar with its song, imagine an electronic buzz growing louder until it crackles and suddenly stops. Several years ago, a friend from the UK was enjoying a trip to Stratford, Ontario, when I identified the sound.  Because it was high on an electric pole, she had wondered if it were a problem with a transformer!

August is the time of insects: cicadas, crickets, and spiders.

Every time I work in the garden, tiny crickets leap out of my way. Where there are crickets, there are their hunters, which means I must stroll around the garden before I mow. I haven’t seen any snakes (yet), but yesterday I had to herd toads out of the grass.

Spiders are everywhere.

I suffer a mild case of arachnophobia, so this afternoon I found myself explaining to a neighbor that I yelped because I was startled, not hurt. It was a false alarm anyway: a daddy longlegs isn’t even a spider.*

However, the grass spiders have been weaving their webs throughout the yard, especially at the base of the maple. A bright-coloured orbweaver made the not-so-bright choice of my car’s side mirror as a website.  Let’s not even mention the wolf spider. If you’re really curious, check out this link: Spiders of Michigan. (I double-dog dare you.)

I hate zebra spiders and always have. Sure, they’re harmless, but they love hanging out by the back door and they jump! So if I see them, I’m on alert for them to hitch a ride inside the house.

Inside the House of Nonsense, I generally have three arachnid guests. The main ones are funnel spiders, since they enjoy human habitats just like house sparrows.

Then there are the shiny black spiders that chase down other spiders. Yes, you heard that right. One of the worst moments in my first year at La Casa de Tontería was an evening when I collapsed into a chair after a long day. Then I felt a tickling at my neck and, by the light of the reading lamp, saw a funnel spider run down my shirt. It was followed by a small, determined black spider.**

Yet I continue to live here.

Last but not least is the cellar spider, which I have nicknamed the Bathroom Stalker. These spindly-legged spiders are easy to miss until you’re nekkid and bathing. Then they come creeping down from the ceiling to enjoy the steam from your shower, or climb up the side of the tub to hang out near your head. Because nothing says “relaxing bath”like turning and gazing eyeball-to-eyes with a spider.


*The crane fly that Australians call by the same name, we Michiganians call “mosquito hawk” because of its resemblance to our state bird, erm, insect. They’re harmless but occasionally annoying, like fishflies (mayflies) and midges.

**I see that it’s called a “false black widow.” I haven’t seen a real black widow, nor do I want to see one.

 

An inside job

I have written very little since my last check-in. I had guests, visited family, and started an intensive paper-taming project. How intensive? I had to “rest” the shredder until special-ordered lubricant arrived!

The weather inspired me to tackle this dreaded task. I started sorting files and editing content during record-breaking heat.  On rainy days, I hole-punched, created dividers, and labeled 3-ring binders. As I finish this project, flood watches are in effect. (Thankfully, I see no sign of locusts.)

The objective was to create a time-saving system for handling important paperwork like medical records and legal documents. However, the bulk of the files contain newspaper clippings, acceptance letters, and oh-so-many unpublished pages!

I wanted to rebury them as soon as I unearthed them – as I’ve done many times before – because they inspire strong emotions. Continue reading

Word-count

Since last Thursday, I’ve written 7041 words. I should clarify that I include only coherent words in my word-count; that is, words that form a chapter or complete scene. That’s why I haven’t posted a total since the early part of the July.

My total includes scribbling I did last week and the week before. I filled plot gaps, such as why the protagonist would agree to assist a shady character (restitution!). I also added character interactions because I despise novels in which everyone adores the main character despite him being an ignorant savage, a know-it-all, and/or because he’s the Chosen One.**

I continue to build two subplots so that they’ll definitely drive forward the main plot. The little one is the reconciliation of young lovers. The big one involves double-dipping. The  main character Wall has been hired to do the same job by opposing characters, but he’s secretly working towards his own ends. How will this blow up and destroy his plans? I don’t know! But it will be fun learning how!

Of course, this is still a rough draft. I’ll have to split this into chapters, with proper transitions. It’s dialogue-heavy, so I’ll have to cut during the final-draft phase. (No, not the banter!) Also there should be more description in this post-technological crash world.

But later. Right now, I’m having fun.


**Lyra in The Golden Compass is a twofer. She’s an ignorant savage who’s the “Second Eve” around whom a trilogy eventually revolves. The trilogy, by the way, is where I get one of my everyday pseudo-oaths: Sloths on wheels!

Distractions from writing

Although this is my second annual DIY Writer’s Retreat, I wish I’d seen Kristen Pope’s advice, particularly this: “If you need to look something up for your draft, make a note and look it up later.” She refers to the Internet; I’ve found the same is true of physical sources. Continue reading

Outlining during revision

Even if you’ve outlined your first draft, getting sidetracked is kind of allowed, because you’re exploring your characters, plot, and story in a different way. And if you didn’t change your outline accordingly, [the revision is] the chance to do that.

Kelsie Engen wrote the preceding quote in her guest post at A Writer’s Path, 7 Reasons Why You Should Outline Your Novel During Revision.

Reading it was serendipitous. When I reported my word count to my writers’ group, I commented that the outlined ending doesn’t seem to fit what I’m writing.

I got encouragement to finish my draft regardless of the outline, but I felt as if I’m letting the wheel go and allowing my ship to drift off course. But thinking that I revise my outline afterward makes me feel better about going with the flow and see where it lands.