Monday, December 26, 2016

New Year's Resolution

Since I retired from my farm chores, it's been hard to keep this blog going. The title, Farm Muse, keeps whispering, "Pssst. You should be writing about the farm, you know." Today I have new insight and, I hope, new freedom to write whatever I darn well please. First: the farm is my home, my address. That doesn't change, regardless of where I wander or what I'm doing. Second, muse is not only a verb; it's also a noun. According to, "... it means a person — especially a woman — who is a source of artistic inspiration." Tah dah! I'm an artistic, inspiring woman who happens to live on a farm. Farm Muse is just another one of my many names or titles. I'm free to be me and to write about anything or nothing.

Last week, Pat took me to Reynolda House Museum of American Art (in Winston-Salem) to see the Grant Wood exhibit. Photos weren't allowed, but I'm sure you'll recognize his well-known painting below. You can learn more about the exhibit and see more of his work by clicking on this link.

As you know, I've done my share of whining about farm life. Certainly the paintings on display at Reynolda House depicted more of the idyllic than the crappy, but I was strangely moved by it all. Right then and there I determined to be more aware of the daily blessings all around me, even if it means looking under the piles of junk or getting out the magnifying glass. It has become somewhat like a New Year's resolution: I will look with new eyes to see the good, and if I don't see the blessing, I'll be the blessing!

I'm determined to be the best farm muse ever. Wherever I am, whatever is going on around me, I'm going to look for the artistic, inspirational angle—and write about it! Or take a picture of it! Or sing about it! Or make some cookies to celebrate.
Are you with me?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

My Go-To Smile

Hello? Are you in there? Hello?
MMRROWW. We're hungry out here!
You can't retire from kitty cats. Not that I would want to. The little pests. I mean, the little darlings. Seriously, I love them. I gave the cats only one chapter in my book Crap Happens...Wallowing Is Optional, but they are part of my life every day. A good part! As Chapter 13 says, they're my go-to-smile.

I'm not overly obsessed with cats; I just enjoy them. Back in 2006 I painted a ceramic cat. It's the only house cat I have.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme & Mustard. Kit Carson. Spice Girl. Kitten Kaboodle. Winken, Blinken, and Nod. Dottie and Rambo. I've named over a hundred cats on the farm. Some people have tried to lighten the burden by giving me "cat name" books. If I remember correctly, the only name I got from these books was Indira.

I've purchased two books about cats ...

but I've taken hundreds of pictures of cats. Here are three recent ones.
Barbossa, who sneaked into the house TWICE the other day.

Gypsy and her four unnamed (as yet) babies.

Mrs. Mewer's unnamed four, plus Bear (topmost kitty)
When they're not being aggravating, cats and kittens are a delightful part of life. Kind of like people, right?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Perfect Day

At various times today, I said to myself or right out loud, "What a day! What a perfect day!" This evening, as I was thinking I should blog about it, I remembered I'm working on the Children's Devotional for the September issue of Forsyth Family Magazine. Its working title? "What a Day!" I guess it just goes to show you need to experience what you preach.

I had no agenda today, no to-do list. Of course there were kitties to feed and breakfast to get on the table and then dishes to wash, but after that the day just rolled out, smoothly, a bit at a time. Actually, the first big smile of the day was right after breakfast when the mail came. Look at my new mouse pad from Shutterfly.
My family! A smile every time I sit at my computer :)
The cookie jar was empty, so I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. Instead of making the whole recipe, I went with a half batch. That means there aren't any extras to put in the freezer, but it was a good decision. And, if I do say so myself, Yum!
I have fresh peaches, thanks to Beth and Edith making a trip to the fruit stands the other day, so I decided to make a peach cake. It's not a fancy cake, but it's easy and delicious. I have the recipe written on a slip of paper, but I don't know where I originally got it. The recipe here is the same except for the following: Whisk the eggs in the bowl and add 1 tsp. vanilla. Then add the other ingredients (except the peaches and nuts) and stir by hand. (No beaters to wash). I used only 1/2 tsp salt. When it's all combined, then gently stir in the peaches and nuts. Bake as directed.
Music blasting from the living room kept me bopping all day long. Casting Crowns,The Beach Boys, Selah, Lady Antebellum, Kutless - good stuff!

Weldon came in about 4:00 and asked if I could come help him for a few minutes. Nothing was in the oven or cooking on the stove, so off I went. He was working on the baler and my job was to slip a bolt on either end of the big roller when he got it in position. Unfortunately, that never happened. That sucker is HEAVY!
The good news is that neighbor Clay stopped to help. I hurried out with some cake for him to take home. The bad news is that the bolt Weldon had didn't fit or wasn't just right in some way. The good news is that, after supper, he was able to get a bolt in town, so hopefully he can put it back together tomorrow. We're ending on the good news!

When I went out to feed the kitties, my heart almost stopped beating. There was Adorable (French pronunciation, please)! She has been gone for three or four days! She was coming across the yard, leaning into each cat she met, as though to say, "I'm home! I've missed you." She was a little thinner than usual, but otherwise looked good. She just kept leaning in for snuggles. So sweet!
Adorable (pictured) and Beatrice are the only two left from the first-ever batch of attic kitties :)
Today was an all-around beautiful day. Every time I went outside, I stretched my arms out in airplane mode and let the sun do its warming thing. I was glad I didn't have to be out there working, but I love the sensation of the sun soaking in a bit. Haiti memories :) Not only was the day lovely; my heart was calm, peaceful, and content. Beautiful.

What a day! What a perfect day!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

UFO Sighting

Friday evening, July 8, 2016

After feeding the cats, I hurriedly took a sample of my freshly baked Cherry Berry pie to Edith's.
Not wanting to get caught in the soon-coming rain, I didn't hang around to chat. However, as I crossed her yard, the brilliant rays of sunshine, coupled with the burgeoning clouds, grabbed my attention. I made a quick detour to the grassy area just outside the milk barn to get some photos of our beloved Pilot Mountain. The sun was at such an angle that I couldn't see what was showing up on my phone screen. Pointing and clicking, in the space of a minute or two, I blindly took 8 or 9 photos. When I got home, I checked out the photos, deleting the obvious junk. That left the five photos below.
Photo #1, taken at 7:07pm
Photo #2, taken at 7:07pm
Photo #3, taken at 7:07pm
Photo #4, taken at 7:07pm
Photo #5, taken at 7:08pm
Photos 3 and 4 are lovely, but nothing out of the ordinary. In photos 1, 2, and 5, however, a little sphere of light caught my eye. Do you see it? First I thought it must have been the sun peeking through the clouds, but NO. The sun is shining brilliantly in the upper left corner of the photos. Oh, maybe it's the moon. Again, NO. The moon would be on the other side of the sky, totally outside the range of these photos. The very strange thing is that the orb shows up in 3 different places: photo 1, directly over the Pilot; photo 2, way to the "left" of the mountain; photo 5, to the right of the mountain!

Next step: I enlarged/zoomed in on the specific area of the photos. See them below.
Photo 1, zoomed in.
Photo 2, zoomed in. This one totally amazed me.
Photo 5, zoomed in.
Weldon was intrigued. He studied my phone, turning it this way and that, asking questions. Then he asked me to send him the photos. His verdict?
Unidentified Flying Object!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Still Farmin'

This is Farm Muse, but it's been a while since I actually posted about the farm. (I'm better at musing than farming.) You may have questions about how Weldon spends him time now that he's "semi-retired." I have answers.

1. Does Weldon still have cows? Yes! Although he stopped shipping milk commercially in January of 2015 and sold his best milkers, he has plenty of cows and calves. He's currently milking nine cows, and just yesterday I had to yell, "Cows are out!"
2. Does he still bale hay? Yes! He bales the "good stuff" for the cows and bales the junk just to get it off the land.
Do you see him down there?
A man and his tractor. It's a beautiful thing.
3. Since he doesn't have so many cows, does he still plant corn? Yes, indeedy! But he doesn't have to plant as much as in years past. He planted early corn that's already about 8 feet tall, and the "regular" corn is coming along nicely. This year will be kind of sad because he won't have corn growing on both sides of the road coming into the farm. Neighbors and passers-by will be surprised.
This corn, planted in front of Edith's house, has grown quite a bit since I took this pic.
The corny blogger standing amidst the early corn.
4. Has anything else changed on the farm? Nope. Deer still eat corn. Coyotes still eat kitties. Machinery still breaks down. Following are a few miscellaneous photos.

The manure spreader broke down some time ago ... obviously. Makes a nice planter, doesn't it?
Manure still has to be moved, so Weldon hauls it in this wagon and dumps it on/near the fields.
Flat tire on the truck.
Kitties are still a joy and a heartbreak.
They can also be a "neckbreak" if you don't keep your eyes on the ground as you walk.
 5. So Weldon is as busy as ever? Not quite. He admits he has slowed down some and can't "keep at it" as hard as he used to. His favorite pastime, when morning chores and breakfast are finished, is computer time with his "tractor nut" friends. But, sooner or later, the real world of farming and it's never-ending needs call him back to the great outdoors. Somebody's gotta do it!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Day in the Kitchen

Whew! I was hoping to get off the farm today and "do something." I did something, alright, but I didn't get off the farm. Actually, I barely made it out of the kitchen.

After breakfast and washing up the breakfast dishes, I started a loaf of bread in the bread machine. I had a black banana that needed using or pitching ... so I pitched it into the bread maker to make Banana-Raisin Oat Bread. I realized I didn't have any milk, so I walked down to the milk barn and filled a jug. Look at that! I got out of the kitchen! After all the ingredients were in the machine and it was merrily doing its thing, I washed up everything I had dirtied in the process, and filled the sugar and flour canisters.

Next, I tackled the "stupid" black raspberry jelly that didn't gel when I made it last week. It was barely syrup consistency, so I opened the jars and poured it all into the pot. I washed all the used jars and got them ready for the new and improved product. I boiled the flopped jelly till it reached the jelly stage and ladled it into the waiting jars. It's now almost the consistency of gummy bears. Not quite, but ... :)

I washed the pot and utensils, wiped the sweat from my brow, and started a raspberry cake. I'm never surprised when I do something goofy in the kitchen. Sooner or later I'm going to drop, knock over, or spill something. Sure enough, the edge of the bowl caught the handle of the measuring cup, spilling the sugar in the process. I started to sing, "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child." Don't ask me where that came from, but it certainly made me laugh.

Cake in the oven. Previous stack of dishes dried and put away. Newest batch of dirty bowls, measuring cups, and spoons washed and stacked. What now?

Hey, I know! As long as all the jelly making paraphernalia is out, why don't I make another batch of black raspberry jelly? I had juiced enough berries last week for two batches. I made the one batch that didn't gel, but surely I'd have better luck today. The timer rang, I pulled the cake out of the oven, and I got everything ready for more jelly.

Made the jelly. Cleaned up the mess. Washed the dishes. Again. Timer went off on the bread machine. I put the loaf on the cooling rack.

Edith called to say she was going to come mow the yard, so I left the kitchen (yay!) and went outside to pick up sticks from the yard. Came back in to get supper on the table. Fortunately, we had leftovers. Thank God for leftovers. BUT, we had fresh raspberry cake for dessert. And then I washed the dishes. Again.
The cake was supposed to have a glaze over the top, but that's just more sugar and more calories that we don't need. Instead, I sprinkled mini chocolate chips on top before I baked it. End result? Delish!

It looks like the new batch of jelly did what it was supposed to do. Weldon will give the final verdict at breakfast tomorrow morning. Or maybe tonight when he comes in from chores. And, yes, I had a little chunk of the bread - because I can't resist fresh, homemade bread.

The photo is a little disappointing. I worked way harder than what you see here :) It was a good day, but I won't do a repeat anytime soon. Whew!

Monday, May 23, 2016

It Takes a Village

When I first started toying with the idea of writing a book (almost 4 years ago), I never imagined where it would lead. All I knew was that I wanted to write. So, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more. Then I learned about editing. So I edited. And rewrote. And edited some more. I did all of this by myself, sitting at my desk, pounding away at the keyboard when no one else was in the same room with me.

This is good work for an introvert. But, as the "book" looked more and more like it could really be a book(!), I had to start reaching out to people. Gasp. "Will you please read my book and give me honest feedback, including corrections, additions, and questions about farm stuff that doesn't make any sense to a non-farm-type person?"

It's one thing to have a book on your computer, but quite another thing to turn it into something you can hold in your hands. I had no hopes of getting a publishing house to take my book and, after lots of studying on the matter, I was pretty sure I didn't want to go that route anyway. Instead, I read many books about self-publishing. I had pages and pages of notes about what needed to be done, but if I had to learn how to do all these things, the book might still be locked up in my computer.

Enter daughter Katie, with years of computer savvy under her belt and the patience of a saint. I told her what I wanted/needed and she did it ... or gave me an idea for something even better. We spent hours working together; she in New York, I in North Carolina. The innards started to look like the real deal, complete with chapter titles, headers and footers, table of contents, source page, and even drop caps. Then she continued her magic, turning my ideas into a gorgeous, funny, eye-catching cover.

On October 31, 2015, Crap Happens...Wallowing Is Optional went "live" on A real book was born. Then, after reaching out to the expertise of a few more people, the e-book was born on Thanksgiving Day, 2015.

I would have sat back and said, "Whew! That was fun. A lot of work, but fun!" End of story. But, no! The story was only beginning, because I have a whole village around me, encouraging me to sell, write, and get out there! A whole village of naggers ... and I'm very thankful!

My book is in five local stores, four bookstores, and one gift shop - and actually selling in all those locations. Family members carry books with them to sell to others, and friends buy the book and share it with their friends. Crap Happens...Wallowing Is Optional was reviewed in Yadkin Valley Living Magazine (March/April) and Foothills Times Magazine (Mar/Apr), and I was interviewed for an article that will appear in Forsyth Woman Magazine in June. I can assure you I didn't approach any of these establishments on my own. It's this village of family and friends who are pushing me to walk through the doors they've opened for me.
Local magazines are spreading my name around town.
Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC
Writing a children's devotional each month for Forsyth Family Magazine has been a "side note" blessing, again because of a friend who put my name out there. It keeps me writing without having to deal with too much crap :)
Devotion in May issue of Forsyth Family Magazine
I can take full credit for reaching out to one venue only: On June 4, I will be selling my book at NOMAD Farms Festival of the Arts in Tobaccoville, NC. Even so, I will depend on my "village" to help me find a tent to use, give me some pointers on making my little area interesting and inviting, perhaps sit with me for an hour or two during the afternoon, and then help take it all down and get me home again.

Whew! If this had depended on my marketing skills, I would have sold a handful of books. If I had relied upon Amazon's selling platform, I would have sold less than 100 books. But because of my awesome village, I have sold and/or given away almost 400 books. Writing and selling a book involves a whole lot more than I ever imagined. I'm loving it, but I couldn't have done it without a village! Thanks, peeps and neighbors, friends and relatives. You're the BEST!

Friday, May 06, 2016

Spring 2016

 In case you haven't noticed, it's been a while since I last posted here. I've been busy! I've been having fun! BUT, I know some of you have missed me, so here's a brief synopsis of the last two months. You'll most likely be terribly jealous, but try not to hate me.

March 5-9: North Myrtle Beach with the Ladies' Bible study group. Yes, we studied every day but we also ate well and played well.
When I got home, spring was bustin' out all over.
The yard was covered with violets.
Peach trees were blooming.

Even the tama-no-ura camellia had two flowers.

March 19-24: Road trip to Savannah, GA with my daughters! Waterfront, squares, parks, gardens, churches, cemeteries, FOOD.
Love the hanging moss.
Wormsloe State Historic Site
To the ocean again! Tybee Island.
Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden on our way home.
Amazing! See the movie: A Man Named Pearl.

April: Mama cats are having babies! And, yes, Rita has babies in the attic again.
Mrs. Mewer has FIVE babies.
Saturday, April 9: Weldon and I took a historic steam engine train ride from Spencer, NC to Lynchburg, VA. Up at 4am, back home at midnight.
April 22-24: To Lake Junaluska with our church youth director and two young ladies for a confirmation retreat. My first time to this beautiful location in North Carolina.
In spite of lots of rain and cold weather, the flowers have been blooming well, with no help from me. And the skies have been amazing, almost every morning and evening.
Early morning iris.
Confused Christmas cactus.
Peonies are showing off and standing pretty well against all the rain.
The skies displaying the handiwork of God!
I told you I've been busy :) Next post, I'll fill you in on my new experiences as an author. Till then, keep loving life!