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Monday, July 14, 2014

And she's back!

I kid you not. We did a year's worth of hard labor in six weeks at Casa South. It looks really nice now. And sellable, I hope.

We were actually done three weeks ago but we had major flooding in the area, and then the realtor had a death in her family, and then came the July 4th holiday. So we've been waiting on the realtor to come over and take pictures so she could list it.

With any luck it should list today. I know! It's insane it took so long. But I stopped beating myself up and allowed things to unfold at their own pace. (And that's not easy for an A++Tiberius Kirk personality.)

Those of you who follow me on Facebook probably saw the posts I did about barbecuing BBQ, the goat. (He was delicious!)  And how I embarrassed myself by not checking the sex of my rabbits. 

It turned out the one I lost was the male, not the female. In my defense, I took them out often for exercise. I probably returned them to the wrong cages.

Because of all the traveling, I had to turn down quite a few design jobs, but I got a couple in that turned out rather well.

Hopefully, my personal life will stop getting in the way and business will pick up again. I just spent a ridiculous amount of money on new graphics software. As my finger hovered over the 'send payment' button, it jerked into a drunken palsy desperate to keep me from doing anything stupid. 

I have nightmares of me pounding the pavement with a sign on my back. Will Design Covers for Food. 

You should've seen me when I wrote the check for my last car. I'm sure the salesman thought I was a nut as I struggled to write my name.

Anyway, it's back to normal for me until the house sells. There's so much to tell you about the homestead and the way things are transitioning. And BIG changes are coming to this blog and to Back to Basics. I'm not talking about redecorating either. I'll tell you more about that next week.

It's good to be back!

Oh, one of my email addresses will be going bye-bye soon. Spammers discovered it and apparently not even Norton could stop them. In the next few weeks I'll contact everyone who uses that address and send you the new one before I delete the old one.

Has your email box ever been mercilessly spammed? What did you do? My provider suggested moving to Mozilla Thunderbird but so far I haven't been able to get it to work. Has anyone tried it?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Have a Picture of a Flying Saucer While I'm Away

For the first time in the life of this blog, I need to take a prolonged break from blogging. Greg's relocation has become more complicated than we anticipated. I've had to turn down design jobs and favors to friends. 

Worse yet, the dogs have had to wait more than twenty minutes for a cookie. They've threatened to call the SPCA for my tardiness with said cookies.

Tank insists it's a sign of the apocalypse, but I've assured him that it's simply a case of too much on my plate.

Summer is such a slow time for blog traffic anyway, so why not take advantage of it.

I'll be back July 7th. That'll put me past the holidays and just before Greg's retirement. (Unless we don't sell the house, then he has to stay past his expiration date.) I'm glad his company is keen on keeping him. They've told him he can stay on for as long as he likes.

Until then, I'll visit your blogs when time permits.

In the meantime, here's a new picture of the flying saucer a few miles down the road from me. I was excited when they started painting it. First it was gray, and I thought great, they'll end up painting it silver, give it that UFO look. But no, they went with pumpkin orange! What was the owner thinking?

Both this blog and Back to Basics will be on hold until July 7. I'll try to post on Facebook more often so you won't completely forget me. See you in the cyber halls!

Okay, maybe one more week. I've got some last minute busy-ness to tackle. Can't wait to get back though. I'm looking forward to normal.

Monday, May 19, 2014

R. Mac Wheeler

When you publish a book, it's a big deal to the author. But when you publish 24 of them, it's time for everyone else to stop and take notice. Who is this prolific writer with very photogenic pups?

R. Mac Wheeler, of course!

Mac is currently celebrating this milestone and you get to reap one of the benefits. Just leave a comment on his blog.

He posts lots of pictures of the Florida landscape on his blog (in the winter, you'll be green with envy and palm trees). His dogs are also frequent targets of his camera. Does that make Mac a puparazzi? Hmm... No wonder his pups try to avoid direct eye contact.

No matter, he treats them well. So stop by and wish Mac well and congratulate him on his 24th. If you leave a comment at his blog, he’ll send you a mobi copy of New Order Apocalypse 1). Not a bad trade, eh?

Mac spins tales around rich, gritty characters with a lot of baggage, and puts them through a bit more grief than they can handle.


Visit Mac on his web site where you can peruse his titles or read an excerpt. And don't forget to leave a comment on his blog to score NOA #1

Congrats, Mac! Try to slip in a little sleep now and again. 


I'm at Casa South (again) in my world class attempt to see how much more damage I can do to my back. Internet connection is hit or miss out here but I'll try to visit everyone sometime this week for sure.

Monday, May 12, 2014

State of the Homestead

Relocating Greg has proved more daunting than I anticipated. My online time has been pared to the bone, but it's been too long since I've done a homestead update so here I am.

Bear with me. I'm sure things will get back to normal once we've sold the other house and moved him here. If nothing else, you'll be entertained by watching a grown woman cry uncontrollably, live online.

Garden: Everything is blooming. I've already harvested spinach (and peppers that were overwintered). Parsley and rosemary are always on hand. Grasshoppers have finally reappeared. They're not the plague they were last year, but they're still munching on my cabbages and cauliflower. Da bums!

This year we redesigned the main garden with raised boxes. There's still more work to be done there, but one problem at a time. Right? I'll post pictures next month. The new garden is pretty neat.

Chickens: Status quo. But egg production is way down. There's at least one snake who's made a home UNDER the chicken coop. I haven't been able to catch him yet. He's found the perfect safe haven because he's protected from me and one other predator...

The bobcat: I only saw him once in the woods behind the garden. There are a few other clues to his whereabouts such as a paw print in some soft ground, and a rabbit feeder that had been forcibly smacked to one side. He probably terrified my rabbits. Greg's going to invest in a game camera to see if we can spot where the varmint is going and who else he's after.

In the meantime, I'm trying to make as much noise as possible, and allowing the dogs to scent the area more often in the hopes that it'll persuade him to go elsewhere.

The goats: BBQ has gone to goat heaven. He was a mean goat and I'm not sorry he's gone. I still bear the scars of his time on Earth.

Interestingly, the first thing I noticed once he was gone was how calm all the other goats became. He bullied them too so they must've been just as relieved as I was. 

And no, we've not had a taste of him yet. There's not been a moment's downtime since the retirement countdown began.

Ray Charles snacking
Baby goats: As of this post, the babies are now 8 weeks old. There's Ray Charles, the baby born blind (who has since regained his sight), Pandora, the girl baby, and no-name goat (her brother). The no-name baby will probably be sold when he's a little older and weaned, but we'll likely keep Ray Charles and Pandora.

Ray Charles has been sick. I suspect a bacterial infection. Penicillin would probably clear him right up, but I'm trying to get him to resist the infection on his own. Penicillin is so overused that most bad bugs are resistant to it. I'm trying for more homeopathic remedies to help his body combat the infection on his own. It's been slow going, but I think he's improving.

Pandora (blue collar) and little bro
Pandora is the most vocal and skittish, probably due to her taking on the world from the moment she was born. Her no-name brother is very passive. He just follows along with whatever the herd wants to do. But Ray Charles, who had so many problems when he was born and consumed my every waking moment to keep him alive, is my shadow. He follows me around as if I were his second mama. I hope he always stays this sweet, but I know testosterone can make a boy goat do mean things. We'll see.

I'm trying to decide whether to keep these guys at all or switch to smaller dairy goats. It just depends how our joints and muscles hold up. Big goats can be hard to control. It's something I didn't take into consideration when we got these guys. They're young though, so I know even if we have to sell them they'll still have a long life on some other farm.

The dogs: My poor Tank had another toenail snap at the quick. The same one as last time. Lots of blood and pain. I'm going to have to keep his nails closely trimmed from now on. He slips and falls a lot which makes it easy to break a toenail. Poor boy. He suffers so much but he never complains. Greg drove 300 miles on his off weekend to be with him.

Nana has officially taken over as alpha leader, but she's a brash and obnoxious leader and I want to curb her arrogance. The trips back and forth to Casa South have been good for her. We see so few people where I live that she needs to be reminded of the world at large--and that she's not the only one in it.

Question, stemming from Ray Charles' treatment: I have a friend who's married to a doctor. Unless it's a major illness, he refuses to give his kids antibiotics. I, myself try not to use antibiotics unless I'm in a bad way. If my body hasn't fought off the infection in two weeks, I'll go in. How do you feel about this? Do you see a doc right away or try to fight it off on your own?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

I'm back, but I hope to make another trip to Casa South soon. Although the house is in pretty good shape, there's still some major clean up in his workshop (which is bigger than the house).

For the most part the only thing left to do at the house is to make it 'sale-pretty' which is my department.

I've got the house about 75% empty. Greg still needs some furniture to keep living there, but it won't be quite so daunting to pack up what's left. Everything is freshly painted. I've scrubbed the floors and all the cabinetry. It no longer looks like a 'slovenly bachelor' lives there. I've threatened death and dismemberment if he doesn't keep it neat from now on.

This trip, while exhausting was way better than my last trip. Last time, there was so much to do, it was hard to know where to start. I just kept hopping from one project to the next. This time it was more about packing and throwing stuff out.

We threw out TONS of stuff. Appliances, electronics, outdated technology, lamps, motors, grills, luggage, even a well with pump. People snatched them off the curb almost as quickly as we put them out there. We were never going to use those things again and it was too much trouble to take any of it with us and sell at some future garage sale so we gave it all away. Better than letting it sit in a landfill.

Right now I'm sorting through dozens of boxes, trying to decide if I want the minutia in my house or if it's better off in someone else's house.

It's really tough merging two households. I'm finding stuff I haven't seen in almost 40 years.  There are embarrassing pictures of me in hideous '80s fashion, and a 19-year old Maria in a sweatshirt I still own today. (I also had the '80s disaster dress, but I had the good sense to donate it during the last closet purge.)

The most exciting thing we found when we were boxing stuff up is almost $400 in cash! It was in one of Greg's old duffel bags. Neither of us remember taking the money out of the bank and we have no idea why it was in that little bag, unless Greg took the money out right before our last vacation (Washington, DC). 

I know we're old and decrepit, but you'd think one of us would've missed that much cash. Sheesh!

For now, I'm glad things are calming down to baby hurricane strength instead of the Category 5 we've been experiencing.

A lot has happened on the homestead too but that post will have to wait for another time. Gardening is in full swing in Texas, but because of all the traveling, I only put in one garden this year instead of two.

And for those of you interested, I've got a guest blogger on my Back to Basics blog this Wednesday. He's going to pique your green thumb interest with hydroponics. This guy lives in Chicago with a tiny yard! If he can grow food there, you can grow it anywhere. Stop by and visit this Wednesday.

I'm tired! What have you guys been up to? Have you ever found money in a pocket or old purse?

Monday, April 28, 2014

On Hiatus


Monday, April 14, 2014

One More Push

This week is my LAST chance to get things in order at Casa South. To say that I'm stressed out is putting it mildly.

It makes me angry beyond words that the house still isn't ready. My only option now is to give it one more Herculean push and hope it's enough.

I nagged Greg for YEARS--years, mind you, knowing these last few months would be hell on earth even under the best of circumstances. But you can't convince a procrastinator that chores clone themselves when you're not looking.

Don't get me wrong. It's ridiculously hard to keep a ranch running all by yourself. We're running two ranches simultaneously pretty much by our lonesome. That's all the more reason not to let the little things pile up. I'm not as strong, bright, or mechanically adept as Greg is, so I'm always busting my keester trying to stay one up on problems when they appear.

Putting a house on the market is serious business and everything has to be perfect. I'm depending on him to keep the house and acreage immaculate once I'm gone.

It's a rotten job to be the nag, but I can't be in two places at once, and it's not like any of this was unexpected. We both knew the timetable.

At least most of the big chores are done. My biggest concern right now is painting the house, which I'll do this weekend, and mowing the acreage so it looks nice and neat.

I'm already dead tired from moving a mountain of dirt (by hand), birthing baby goats, and jumping up in the middle of the night every time Tank so much as makes a whimper. My shoulders are one giant knot from putting in the garden. And I haven't even had the chance to mow and rake my place yet. It'll have to wait until I get back.

I tell myself that it's just one more week of giving it all I've got, but I gotta be honest, I'm not sure how much I've got left in me.

My goal right now is to empty Casa South as much as possible. Less clutter will make it easier to keep neat and presentable.

All I want right now is to put this behind me. Wish me luck--or send me a truck full of hardy elves!

Monday, April 7, 2014


It took four hours and two brain tumors, but we finally finished our taxes. We were way later than we usually do them, but we had to find a time when both of us were at the same place at the same time.

Taxes take all the joy out of freelancing. I'm pretty good at keeping accurate records but it still takes forever to document each and every job. And let's not talk about the deductions.

When we were near the end, I found two more deductions for Book Cover Diva, but Turbo Tax (the software we used) wouldn't let us go back to my business deductions. We could access all the other deductions but not the ones for the business. 

I finally gave up and let it go. It wasn't worth a third tumor.

Do you do your own taxes?


I'm really beginning to get a sense of Greg's retirement. Next week, my favorite house and dog sitter is taking care of the homestead while I do last minute updates at Casa South.

It's all starting to get very real. It's already made some changes in how the rest of the year will pan out. One of those changes is the newsletter I planned to put out. I think I'm going to wait until Greg is truly retired. Right now I'm doing a dozen things at once and I don't want to get distracted.

Tank is constantly on our minds too. He's slowed down some more, but still in good spirits. When that second part changes, we know we'll have to make some hard decisions. But not today. He still wants his cookies!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Tale of Two Fishes, Marian Perera

Marian Perera writes some killer fiction (no pun intended) but this time she went all out with a sharkpunk tale--a story about a girl and her bonded shark.

Only a writer could make the connection between pet bettas and sharks. Check it out. Anyone out there with an aquarium?

Fish Tales

Demon was the most aggressive fish I ever had.

He was a betta, a Siamese fighting fish about two inches long. But he wasn’t afraid of anything. When I put my fingers in the tank, he would try to bite them with his tiny mouth, while flaring out his gill covers to make himself look bigger. He terrorized all the other fish. He was my favorite, and I always saved the freshest brine shrimp for him when I bought them.

He was lovely, too. Sapphire scales, long trailing fins tipped with crimson, and evil little red eyes, hence his name. But one morning I found him floating belly-up. I think the other fish finally had enough of his bullying, ganged up on him and beat him to death somehow, because he wasn’t diseased at all.

I dug a little hole in a flower bed and buried him there, because I couldn’t bear the thought of flushing him. And I never had another fish quite like him.

Bettas manage to be both beautiful and fierce fighters; pit two males in an environment they can’t escape, like a tank, and one is likely to die. It was probably a fondness for them which made me curious about sharks too. I’d call those the bettas of the ocean, except they’re much less showy and territorial. Then again, they do have more impressive teeth.

Jaws first made me interested in sharks, but by the time Deep Blue Sea came out, I wanted something different, something other than the usual trope of sharks swimming around with a kill-all-humans mentality. The more I read, the more variety there seemed to be among them, not just in shapes and names—megamouth, angel, cookiecutter—but also behavior. Grey reef sharks, for instance, are social and gather in groups of up to twenty. So if you see one fin breach the surface, don’t look below.

Sharks can sense magnetic fields, learn to press a target to get a reward, and understand who’s who in their pecking order. I decided to use all these in a story, though since most sharks can’t be successfully kept in tanks—they’re not Demon—I needed a fantasy element. In my story, a secret organization called Seawatch captures sharks young and mentally bonds each to a trainee—also young, seven to eight years old.

The link calms the shark, so it doesn’t dash itself against the walls of a pool in a panicked attempt to escape. After that, each pair is trained in scouting and sabotage.

Not that this makes the sharks safe. They’re not Flipper. More like Ripper. Seawatch operatives never feed the sharks, so they won’t connect humans with food, and because the sharks sense emotions through the link, the operatives quickly learn not to become angry or afraid. But there’s nothing quite like riding a huge apex predator through the sea—or under it. With their speed and strength and instincts honed over millions of years, they’re unstoppable.

Except Seawatch’s enemies have killer whales.

The Deepest Ocean, a sharkpunk romance, was released by Samhain Publishing on April 1st and the sequel (shark vs. kraken) will be out in August. There are so many tales to tell about these bad boys of the sea—and the people who entrust their lives to them.

What fish do you find scary? Barracudas, deep-sea anglerfish, piranhas, megalodons? Shout out in the comments—you might give me an idea for another book!

Bio : Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States and lives in Canada. For now. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, her blog, and Twitter (@MDPerera).

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mini Update

Maybe because too many things kept going wrong, or maybe because it was my birthday week, but I found myself at a point where I just wanted to be nice to myself for a change.

I'm a martyr. Well, not really. But I tend to suffer in silence for a long time before I'll complain. Over the weekend, I met my Waterloo. 

Once Greg got here things improved greatly, and that's when I decided to stop pushing myself and treat myself kindly.

The best thing that happened was that he fixed my water lines. No more hauling water to the animals. Woo Hoo!!

It's funny how the simplest of pleasures can mollify me. I want to turn over a new leaf and spend a little time (and money) on myself for a change. Nothing drastic. Just a few new clothes and maybe a day at the hair salon once in a while.

I have a bad habit of doing without and I'm starting to scare myself in the mornings.

A little mini update of the last three days...

• We left the back door ajar allowing Tank and Nana to make their escape. Tank did his old man wandering, but Nana came to find us (we were in the back forty) and tattled on Tank. We nearly had heart attacks when we realized the door had been left open. Fortunately Tank didn't go far, and Maggie and Iko were unaware of the open door. Crisis averted!

• The baby goats are doing so much so much better. They are jumping and running around like normal little goatlings. The blind goat can see now! They are exactly two and half weeks old today.

• Both my heaters in the house went out at the same time. Greg hasn't figured out why yet. It's not a big deal since we haven't needed the heaters in a while. I only noticed it when I flipped the switch on accidentally and noticed it didn't come on.

• We bought custom blinds for the last remaining windows in the house. These things are expensive but I couldn't put it off any longer. Greg is happy. His den will finally have proper window coverings.

• Half my garden is in.

• My birthday was nice. Despite the lightning storms and losing power, it was good to have Greg home. Tank was so happy to see him. We stayed home and I made dinner. Greg brought me a cake from my favorite bakery in SE Texas.

Do you ever reach a point where enough was enough and you make a conscious effort to change it? If you could change anything about your circumstances right now, what would it be? I'll see if I can send a little extra Karma your way.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Taking Some Time Off

Still dealing with critter issues, plumbing issues, and Tank issues. I'm playing the long-suffering, abandoned wife beautifully though. :grin:

This Friday is my birthday. Another chance to blow raspberries at the devil.

Talk to you soon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

State of the Homestead

Lucy's baby girl
It all started with a bunny foundling...and ended with baby goats.

I don't even know what day it is (this happens when you get very little sleep) but I'll try to run down what's happened in the last few days.

Thursday morning I went out to feed animals with Nana riding shotgun in the golf cart. As I made my turn, she jumped out to investigate something in the brush. When she didn't return I had to find out why. I go over there and she has this sopping wet pile of fur in her mouth. I make her give it to me and it turns out to be a wild baby rabbit.

Bad Nana!

I feared for the baby's life so I took it in determined to nurse him back to health. My internet search said that domesticated orphans can drink kitten replacement milk, but wild bunnies should only drink goat's milk. Lucky me. I happened to have two goats with udders full of milk.

I make him a nice warm bed and go off to finish my chores and get a teaspoon of milk from one of the goats.

That's when I found Heidi going into labor. I led her to the birthing stall and gathered my supplies. Hard labor lasted two hours but that kid wouldn't budge. I slathered Heidi in KY jelly. In the next contraction the head finally pushed out.

Seconds later, the rest of the baby came out. Whew!


I barely had time to clean him off when I started hearing a grunting noise in the outside pen. Now Lucy was in labor! No time to get her in the shed. She was having her baby NOW. 

Lucy was amazing! That birth was pure textbook delivery. The first baby barely wobbled on its legs when the second one decided to come out.

Meanwhile, Heidi was not doing well. I scoured the internet and contacted my experts on the goat forum. A shot of penicillin and Vitamin B and she started to feel better. But baby had not improved. 

I trust my gut when it comes to animals. That newborn just wasn't right. He  should've lifted his head and followed his mama but he didn't. That could mean one of two things. If it was a selenium deficiency his muscle tone would be impaired, but the other prognosis floored me.

He was blind. 

My friends on the goat forum assured me that it was possible it could be temporary if it was caused by trauma in the delivery. In the meantime, I have to help him nurse every couple of hours. He's maintaining but still not as active as his cousins.

By the time this post airs I'll be at a vet's office to see if they can sell me a drug I couldn't get elsewhere. It's next to impossible to find a vet who treats goats, but I'm going to try the equine vet down the road.

Da Dogs: Tank has been having a bad few weeks. He's lived far longer than we expected, but some days aren't as good as others. It breaks my heart when he's not feeling well. I am not going to take his death well.

Me: I'd been sick for a while, recovered, got sick again, recovered.... I'm well now, but in dire need of a good night's sleep. I've been on call around the clock with the goats since Thursday.

Orphan Bunny: More web surfing informed me that wild baby bunnies are often left alone almost all day by the mother. She only comes back to feed them at night. I waited until dusk to return him to his nest. When I did, one of his litter mates made a run for it. Good thing Nana wasn't with me. 

I also learned that it's a myth that a mother will reject a bunny if it has human scent. I feel relatively secure that the bunny will be fine--as long as he stays out of Nana-radar.

The Homestead/Casa South: On top of everything else, my main water line leading to the animal pens blew out. There was water EVERYWHERE. So now I'm hauling water to everyone.

Casa South should've been put on the market by now, but we've had endless delays. I need to be at both places at once. I am way past stressed about the other house. It haunts me even in my sleep.

The Husband: And where was hubby when disaster after disaster kept crashing down on my head? Not here, that's where. I'm resourceful, but sometimes what you really need is another pair of hands. Try giving an injection to a goat who doesn't like needles.

Despite all my woes, lots of things went right. We had good weather when the girls went into labor. The bunny returned to his mates. Lucy has two healthy babies (1 girl and 1 boy). Tank still gives me kisses every time he sees me. And although I'm exhausted, I survived all by myself.

Believe it or not, this was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to crises. If I listed any more I'd have to break down and start crying. It's been a bad few weeks.

Hopefully Greg will be back next week. I could use a break.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Getty Images: Free with Catch

Oh, Copyright. You taunt us again.

Getty Images, one of the giants of the stock photo galleries is now offering free images to non-commercial blogs.

Let me repeat this part. Non-commercial blogs.

I read on Real Lawyers Have Blogs where they concluded that it wouldn't be farfetched for Getty to sue if the blog was used for networking to grow business.

No question that law blogs being used to grow relationships and reputations to grow business could be construed as commercial in nature.

Just like author blogs

Our blogs, regardless whether we discuss chickens, children, or our newest releases are basically networking tools to grow relationships with our readers and SELL our books.

Over the weekend I read tweets about what a boon this new change would be for authors. But I don't think people are looking beyond the rim.

Not only would you have to give credit back to Getty, (which is perfectly fair and reasonable) but you'd also be subjected to those images being changed or deleted at Getty's discretion. There's also talk of them embedding their advertising in the image at a future date. 

Getty controls the embedded art because the actual file stays on their server. You have to use a special code to upload it to your blog.

If this doesn't jade you, PCWorld has provided simple instructions on how to embed Getty's stock into your blog.

I am so paranoid about copyright and copyright infringement, I go to great lengths not to allow any art to appear before it's purchased. I don't want any trouble with the law or with the rightful owner of that copyright.

I don't plan to use Getty. Something tells me their honey pot deal isn't as sweet as they pretend. 

Buyer (and Borrower) Beware.

Will you be using them?