On the Writing Front

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Photo by M.A.D.

What is happening on the writing front? Not much these days. The state of our country, protests, the pandemic, and the political turmoil, have influenced my writing mode, and mood. My mind and heart have not been in the right place, and I have not been able to write my latest novel – The Girl Who Could Not Love – after the first five chapters. I feel as if I am not connecting with my novel, my writing, and my thoughts have been scattered. This presents a reality; I will not be able to meet my original deadline. If I do, it would be a miracle.

Many of you are going through similar writing experiences. It is called being human, and not a writing machine. Many of us draw from our inner emotions when we write. It is understandable that there might be a storm in the sea of emotions during this time. I am allowing myself the necessary time to work through this period. I am being creative in many other ways, which helps my state of mind and heart. I have decided to approach the writing of this novel in a different way.

Usually, I write the first draft by pen and paper. It is my preferred method. My thoughts flow freely, easily, and at times it feels as dictation. This is not working at this time. it is rare that I start a first draft on the computer, although my first novel, Moonlit Valley, was a combination of pen/paper and screen time. This time, I feel I need grounding, a way to slow down my feelings, so my mind can connect with the story. At this moment, it feels as if the story is somewhere out there, floating in the air (or my brain) and I cannot access it. All I know is that it is there, present, and waiting on me to find a way.

While I was planning my work the other day, I happened to glance at the old typewriter in front of me. I have not written on it for sometime, and it occurred to me that it could be the tool I need to write this story. It could slow down my thoughts enough that I might be able to listen to the story, and it may provide an audible rhythm, which could be beneficial in harnessing my focus. I am going to give it a try. Maybe it will be the bridge between me and the story.

If you are struggling with your writing due to the present worldwide (or local) climate, see if you can find a way to jumpstart your focus, but allow yourself enough time to work through your feelings/emotions.

Of Birthdays Passed

As time goes by, so do birthdays. A time comes when one acknowledges the day, feels grateful for another year, reminisce a little about other birthdays passed, and realizes that material gifts are not as important anymore. Meaningful moments and relationships take the place. A while ago, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday. My reply was, “I don’t need anything.” It was a sincere answer. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy things that I find beautiful or special, I just don’t see birthdays anymore as an opportunity to acquire more things. So gifts are not as important anymore. However, I gave it some thought and ended up settling on an antique book. It is something I like to collect. Old books are special. They are beautiful inside and out. The care that was put into printing and designing a book 100 + years ago, can be appreciated in every page. After scanning websites for an old book that would peek my interest, I settled on Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore. This particular edition is from 1900. I found older editions from the late 1800s with different covers; however, none of them caught my eye except for this one. The presentation seemed to have been made for a lady. The floral golden detail of the cover, the beautiful raised illustration, all of it spoke to me. The inside does not disappoint either; it is gorgeous as well. Add to it the scent of an old book, and it turns into perfection. One thing that I found odd was the placement of the preface on the left side, as you can see in the picture. I will make a confession; I am not one to read prefaces all the way. I try but most of the time I skip them, and find them boring. Well, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It intrigued me. If the preface is so good, I am about to be blown away by this story, I thought. I have never read Lorna Doone (Shame on me. Never too late) but I read the first chapter. All I can say is that it is beautiful, and that I need a dictionary of old terminology, of old English words, next to me. This will not be a quick read, and I intend to enjoy it. Besides, the print is very small, so my eyes will have to work extra hard, and at intervals. It will be interesting to learn some new (old) words. I am excited about it; and yes, I love my birthday present. This particular edition is gorgeous.

Richard Doddridge Blackmore (1825-1900) was a very famous English novelist, and Lorna Doone was one of his most known and famous novels. It is a romance, set in the countryside, and at that time a catalyst, a movement in romantic fiction. After reading his biography, and more about the book, I feel more compelled to read it in much detail, with much care and attention. Here are some pictures.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Unexpected Visitor

If you visit this blog from time to time, you know that I love to watch birds and take pictures of them. After the cicadas arrived, I noticed that many birds left, including my beloved crows. Also, missing were the Blue Jays and the Cardinals. The cicadas are gone, and many birds are back. I also noticed the absence of the Katydids. I love their loud song during the night in the summer, and I have not heard or seen any. The number of insects around here seem to be low as well, day and night.

Since I moved here, I count myself lucky to have seen my first mixed flock as well as my first Snowy Owl (during the day) perched on a tree near the back woods. I don’t think Snowy Owls are supposed to be in Virginia, but I saw one last year. Sadly, I could not get my camera fast enough. By the time I went and retrieved it the owl was gone. The other day, I got a treat from nature. I saw my first large woodpecker. I have seen many on the small size range, but never one this size. I was able to grab my camera and take a few pictures, although not as many as I wanted to take. It also kept moving, pecking the wood, so its head came out blurry at times.

This is a picture of a smaller woodpecker that I took when I lived in Jersey.

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Photo by Maria Diaz

Here are the pictures I took a few days ago. These were taken from the inside through glass because I did not want to scare the bird. It was very hard to photograph because it kept moving all over. I feel I have to apologize for the quality, but at the same time I wanted to share this beautiful sighting with you.

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I never know when I am due for a treat from nature, so now I keep the camera downstairs, and hanging from the coat rack.

 

 

The Lighted Pathway

Since the pandemic hit worldwide, my mind has not been in the right place to write my current novel. It shall pass. Instead, I have been helping my other half with projects around the home, much of them waiting for the right time. We have finished many projects, and more are due. I have been sharing some of these projects on the blog. We continue to fix this old farmhouse, trying to conjure the vision we had for it. Sometimes, it feels as if the old house is not agreeing with our plans, so we listen, and find common ground. This post will be about alternative ways for outdoor lighting and security light options, while keeping a budget in mind (as we always do).

When we moved here we discovered how dark it can be at night time. Our closest neighbors have security lights through the electric company but we did not want the extra expense on our electric bill. Electricity in this area is more expensive than in Jersey, where we came from, believe it or not. We decided to go with solar lighting, which was affordable, lasting, and came in a variety of designs and prices. We decided to use solar lights around the house, at particular spots, and also along perimeters and driveway. We were not sure how it was going to work, so we started slowly, testing areas, adding lighting, until we reached a point were we were almost satisfied. My husband and I love lights, we are crazy about them, and that is why I say almost satisfied, because I know it will evolve at some point. We have found that solar lighting is very reliable as well as cost efficient, and fits our budget perfectly. Not only does it serve the purpose of illuminating the necessary areas, it also looks beautiful and brings a cozy feeling to the surroundings. If you are not sure about solar lighting, start small, test a few ideas, and keep adding to different areas over time. For us, it works fine. Here are a few pictures of some areas to give you an idea. They range from less to more needed illumination. The pictures were taken at twilight to best tell the placement/area.

The side entrance is usually more dark than the front entrance, so we placed some small solar lights around, and a few spot lights nearby. We also added a solar light on the wall next to the entrance that illuminated the entire area (not shown on this picture).

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Photo by M.A.D.

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A before picture of the same area. Nightmarish and challenging. A total run down disaster waiting for us.

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A view of the front side solar lights.

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View of the same area before – spooky charm.

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We decided to place motion lights at the four corners of the veggie garden. Many times, I have seen deer late at night. One night, I saw two large figures near the garden – two bucks fighting, each standing on their back legs.

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Photo by M.A.D.

We had placed motion lights on poles near the faerie garden and parking area, and these proved to work great, so we decided to listen to the house and carry the theme by the entrance and driveway. The poles were painted barn red. The 6×6 poles near the fairy garden are from recycled wood. These are cut at 4 feet each, and down into the ground 1 foot. They are treated wood. For the rest of the poles, we decided to go with 4×6 treated wood. Each 12 feet pole was cut to render 3 four feet poles. We only had to buy two. These were placed in the ground at the same depth. Each pole has a solar light attached. They are always lighted but increase intensity when motion is detected, so if we are walking down the driveway at night, there is plenty of light. In this case, the house spoke. Our original plan was to do old fashioned lantern poles down the driveway, but these fit the character of the house better, as well as our pockets.

Faerie garden poles (6×6)

For the driveway, we decided to go with 6×4 treated wood. The 6-inch side facing front.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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View at night with no motion.

 

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View with motion. My husband testing the sensors.

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Photo by M.A.D.

My husband made this for me when we first bought the house. A lighted replica of our vision. Later we decided on blue instead of red for the porch. He has to make a blue star for the replica to match the one we placed on the house, and the real house still needs a new roof, which will be blue metal.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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I hope this post was inspirational, and gave you ideas for lighting options, or inspire you to create something for your place.

 

 

The Recycled Veggie Garden

As soon as I spotted this old farmhouse, I had a vision for it. It took my other half a bit more time to see it, but from the beginning he saw the potential it had. Immediately, (as it usually is for me) tons of future images began circling my head, and those would evolve into plans. One of those plans was to have a vegetable garden. For that to happen, we had to clear out a lot of years of grown vegetation, trees, bushes, and later on decide what type of garden we wanted. That took some time and a ton of hard work, but between my husband and I, we managed to get to a point were we could plant and grow something. This garden has not disappoint me. We decided not to plant on the ground because it was easier to control growing in raise beds, and I had an issue with the many (I mean many) critters that walk/crawl around. Also we have many deer coming through so we decided to create a fenced garden. The goal was to spend as little as we could, and most materials used (except for mulch, a few solar lights, soil, and paint), are recycled/repurposed/reused. That being pots, wood, garden accessories, and décor. As of this writing, I have already harvested lettuce twice, and a few peas, the rest is still growing, but soon it will produce. This year we planted two varieties of tomatoes, peppers, three varieties of lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, and peas. This will provide plenty for us, and to give away as well. We set up a spot in the back of the house to plant squash and pumpkins, but I am not sure how that will grow. It is not fenced and deer prance around. Eventually we will add another raise bed to this garden, as there is enough space for another one and more pots, and I think for a small portable green house as well, one that could fit into a corner. We placed a recycled shelf to use as a potting station and storage underneath. It works fine. The construction was made using recycled wood and pallets. Here are a few before and after pictures.

This is the area as it was, abandoned for many years, overgrown with all kinds of trees and bushes intertwined.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This is during clean up. The larger trees and bushes remained at that point. Before removing a tree or bush, we thought hard about it. If it was salvageable we left it, but most of them were inside a morass of weeds and three or four varieties growing together at once. So it was difficult to separate them. We were able to save a few.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This is today. View of the area where the vegetable garden is.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Deer wishing for a veggie bite. She is next to a tree that we were able to save.

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Photo by M.A.D.

At night, I enjoy seeing the garden come alive as well. I placed solar lights in a few areas.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I painted this in 2012. It is the farmhouse as I saw it, abandoned, but I saw beauty in it.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This garden will continue to evolve with us, according to what is needed. It is in the beginning stages, but it has room to place more containers where we will grow other varieties of vegetables. There is enough space to add to it if we need to. I hope I have inspired you to create a simple garden if you have been thinking of building one. It does take work, but not a lot of money if you recycle materials. You don’t need a lot of space, and if you live in an urban area, a small area in your porch/apartment can accommodate pots or hanging baskets. You can plant something anywhere. It has been a fun and interesting project so far. For me, it is a place to grow food but also a place where I can find relaxation, a peaceful retreat, hence all the bunnies … I hope you enjoyed this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sign of the Times

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Photo by M.A.D.

As of today, it is mandatory (yes, mandatory/law under state executive order) in Virginia to wear a mask when you are out and about in public. For a while, Virginia has had a law that it is illegal to wear a mask or face covering in public (unless needed for job, health, costumes, etc.). I find it interesting. At least for a while, it has and will continue to be part of my outfit. I never thought that the day would come when it would be a common item found near the door.

The Beauty of Creation

I believe that God made everything. The beauty of nature has no limits. I have always enjoyed watching nature, even as a kid, I would spent hours observing it, whether it was ants, butterflies, birds, the ocean … Those are some of my favorite memories as a kid. These days, many years after, I still love to watch my surroundings. It recharges me, somehow. Sometimes, one can see the hand of God in the most unusual and tiny places.

One of my favorite wild flowers dressed in the perfect blue.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Four leaf clovers – I have found three around here so far, but I am sure there are more.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Mushrooms are beautiful. There are so many shapes and colors.

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Acorns abound in all sizes. A perfect pair.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Even rainy days offer surprises – water  diamonds.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Trees present their offerings. This year we will have tons of pinecones, more than in previous years.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Critters that play around, always welcomed.

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Nature will always be a special treat for me, a sanctuary, the perfect gift from God.

A very young me, one of many hats I’ve worn over the years.

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M.A.D.

Hope you enjoyed this post.

What recharges your soul?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Nature Sings

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been hearing a mysterious sound, and I thought it was farming machinery at a distance. It was a cross between light grinding and the engine of a plane flying very high, far. The sound seemed to be at a distance, and it stopped when we had continuous rain for almost a week. Today, the sound came back, louder and closer. It doesn’t stop. Finally, I realized that what was making this sound were tons of cicadas, which are due to come out this year in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. It is supposed to be Brood 9, which comes out every 17 years. I had seen a few funny looking creatures with black heads and big red eyes walking around, and shells of creepy crawlers over the past week or so, and while researching them, I found out what they were, but I never put the three together, mystery sound + creepy looking shell = cicada. They seem to be clumsy flyers, and today they are everywhere. I cannot use the side entrance because they have decided to park themselves near it, and even on the steps. I guess they are coming out of the ground or from a big old tree near that entrance. I have seen them fly down, and fall down from it. They walk and they just turn over, and take an eternity to flip back over again. I have seen them stretch out their wings and legs, as if coming out of a deep sleep, looking a bit messy, later to have stretched their wings. At first, I was disgusted by their appearance, by now, I am intrigued, and even caught myself talking to one that was near the side door, on top of the railing. Did I find it cute? I think I did. Today, there were more than 10 staring at me from the side steps, and it looked like an airport out there, when the sun was shining for the first time after a week of heavy rain. My husband tried to blow them away with a leaf blower, but they kept coming back. I think they like the blue color of the railing. Thank God they are staying on that side, and I can go out if needed via the front door. I am happy to have discovered what that mysterious sound was, but I cannot wait for these critters to come out and fly away, and disappear for another 17 years. I cannot decide if I like them or not, but I don’t want them near me. I was able to take a picture of one of them. Are you seeing these where you live?

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Photo by M.A.D.

No More Skeletons in the Faerie Garden

Continuing with the old farmhouse posts, I will do another before and after of the garden area. It had been a lot of hard work to start getting this old place into shape, and this year, it is starting to look a bit better. It has been almost five years since we moved here. For those of you who are wondering what happened to the older posts, I had an out of body experience and one day woke up wanting to make this blog only about writing. Without a second thought, I deleted all those posts and the memories with them. Later, the alien inside my brain crawled out and I realized that this approach was not working for me, and I missed the old ways. I am more a glimpse on all sides person, so I decided to bring back those glimpses on this blog. I don’t think I can get back the deleted posts, so I am moving forward with some before and after posts. Hope you enjoy these.

The faerie garden was an area that was covered in bushes and weeds. It had a large carcass of a dog or coyote (I could not tell the difference) resting on a small piece of concrete. After clearing out the brush in the area, we discovered that the small concrete area was under grass that had taken over and continue to grow atop, alongside some moss. We scraped the area and uncovered a generous size concrete circle where we decided to place some patio furniture, a grill, and create a small faerie garden, which has always been a little dream of mine. The area has a large amount of kelly green moss growing and expanding, and I have always been a fan of moss, so it happily worked out. Every year, I add something to the area, whether plantings or any decorative feature. We tried to work with was already there, and it works for us. Here are some pictures of the faerie garden area before.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This is the area as it looked before, although we had cleared out a bit at that point, the skeleton gone. There was an electricity pole that one day just disappeared. It was puzzling; how does a gigantic pole disappears? When we inquired, it happened that when the previous owner closed her account after selling the property, the electric company came and took the pole out of the ground. I found it hilarious. Here are two different views, one of them uncovering the concrete circle.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Here are a few pictures of the area as it is today. I am sure that we will add to it over the years, more on the form of plantings, garden lights and stones. The flowers in that area will bloom around late spring/June. It is mostly a shaded area so I am happy that something blooms.

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A closer look of the critters and mossy area.

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Viewed from another angle. Al the stones, wood, and cinder blocks were found on the property, either around or in the woods behind. We dogged out many stones. The goal was to utilize what was already there, and find a way to create areas with purpose. When we start a project, we set a very low budget, and we consider existing/found/recycled/reused/restored/vintage first before spending on new. This approach has worked out for us.

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We added solar lighting to the area by  utilizing recycled wood, and painting it. All the outdoor lighting is solar. The area continues to emerge over the years.

I hope you enjoyed this post of the faerie garden. I will post more before and after pictures of other outdoor areas/projects in the future, as well of the farmhouse work.