The News From 2Dits Farm: Aced It!

hands + plantI admit I was concerned about this one. Normally tests aren’t a problem for little Miss Clever-Clogs here, but this one required years of study, some experimentation in the lab, and more than a pinch of intuition. And it was the kind of test that if you failed it, you’d have to do some serious remediation before you could take it again and expect to achieve better results. So I’m happy to report that all my cramming evidently has borne fruit: I aced my soil test.

You are seriously underwhelmed, aren’t you?

Yeah, OK, I didn’t get into Harvard (congratulations, Malia Obama!), nor did I qualify for a stint on the International Space Station or have one of my books nominated for an award. But, by jeezum, I grow a pretty darned good garden soil, and I have the test results from the Soil Testing Service at the University of Maine to wave under people’s noses to prove it.

Which I probably will not do. Modesty is becoming in such situations, I understand.

Oh, for years I talked a good game, seeming knowledgeable about pH levels, greensand, Epsom salts, seaweed, and the efficacy of various types of manure from cow flops to bat guano. People admired my tomatoes, zucchini, and rainbow chard, my raised beds, and the tower-of-power that is my compost pile, and I basked in the glow of their praise. But there was that little voice sometimes in the wee hours or the weeding hours, the insidious Worm in my Garden of Eden that wanted to know why, if I was doing everything right, the ends of the young zucchinis rotted before they could grow, or why the tomatoes just didn’t look as lush as they should. Had I dug in enough seaweed, or too much? Had the wood shavings mixed in with the manure made the soil less able to hold water long enough to do my plants any good? Had I done something horrid to the hard-working soil by dumping the ashes from the pellet stove on it in the winter? Was I a fraud for thinking I was a pretty good gardener, while all the time, under the soil, Something had gone seriously wrong?

It might easily have done so, after all. I have grown vegetables in the same seven raised beds for a quarter century or more. That’s a long time to draw nutrients out of the soil if you aren’t putting back the right stuff to replenish it.

The past three seasons, in particular, gave me the uneasy sense that something wasn’t quite right. It’s true that the weather’s been wonky, all over the place, really, and weather is always what I blame for poor crops or credit for good ones. What if it wasn’t the weather, though? Determined to get some answers, I picked up a soil sampling kit offered by the local Cooperative Extension. Continue reading

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The Value of Hurricanes

Hurricane Carla had a profound effect on me when I was a kid. It came barreling head-on into Galveston, the biggest one to hit that city since the 1900 storm that killed 6,000 people, and then went on down to the Corpus Christi area, where it did even more damage. At one point it was a Category 5 hurricane and it still has the record for the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the U.S.

Weather prediction had improved a lot since the 1900 storm, so most people in the path of the storm did evacuate and many fewer folks died. (The conventional wisdom in meteorology in 1900 said a hurricane couldn’t hit Galveston.)

We lived about 40 miles northwest of Galveston, so we didn’t leave. The power went off with the first high wind (as it always did), we got a lot of rain, and the eye passed over our house, but the storm had mellowed some by that point and we didn’t suffer any damage.

But a few miles to our east there was widespread destruction. My father was out in it during the story, a reporter traveling with National Guard troops, covering the damage. Our favorite restaurant in Kemah was reduced to a concrete slab. And the big cattle pastures we drove past to get to that restaurant were under ten feet of water. (That’s the location where the Johnson Space Center is today, by the way.)

It was a dramatic lesson in the power of nature. Continue reading

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BVC Member Mindy Klasky Receives Career Achievement Award

On Saturday, April 30, BVC member Mindy Klasky received the Career Achievement Award from the Washington Romance Writers chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The award acknowledges a chapter member’s ongoing professional career, making specific note of the quantity and quality of the entirety of a writer’s work.

Congratulations, Mindy!IMG_0244

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BVC Eats: Francine Genovaldi’s sour cream chocolate fudge cake

SecretarialPoolFrancine was a gal I worked with in the typing pool. We had a tradition in that pool where, anytime one of us had a birthday, everybody brought in goodies. There were twelve word processor operators, and often the birthdays came three or four to a month. I would sometimes come to work to find five full-size cakes, two batches of cookies, cheese, salami, crackers, corn chips, potato chips, a jar of olives, an oh yeah a lonely little plate of celery sticks. Our word processing center was very popular on those days.

This is Francine’s ultra-rich, moist, dark chocolate sour cream cake. Continue reading

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Richard III Wins In Extra Time!

Richard IIISport is full of amazing stories. But last night Leicester City achieved one of the most amazing turnarounds in sporting history. They won the English Premier League.

To put this in perspective, only four teams have won the Premier League since 1995. It was a simple formula. Four teams had the best players and the most money. More money meant they could buy even better players, better players meant more success, more success meant more money. Other teams – and none of the twenty teams in the league were pushovers – could string a few good results together, but only the big four had the squads to consistently amass the points required to win the league over a gruelling 38 game season.

Until this year when a 5,000 to one long shot – Leicester City – destroyed them all. Continue reading

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The Return of the Walkabout Cat

Shakir gazes at garden

Shakir gazes at garden

When last we left our story, our indoor-only cat Shakir had escaped and was so freaked out, he no longer recognized us. After spotting him several times in our yard, we decided to try to trap him. To this end, we borrowed a raccoon-sized humane trap and set it out with a dish of extra-palatable food nearby. Each night, the food was eaten. We braced the trap open and placed the food halfway inside. Finally we set the trap with the food all the way inside, so that the cat would trigger the trap.

And the next morning the food was untouched. The most likely reason was that earlier in the day, I had been sitting on the porch, enjoying the beautiful weather and view of our garden as I wrote. In the process, I also moved several cardboard boxes at the far end of the porch. Apparently, Shakir found these changes intolerably threatening.

The next night, we set the food outside the trap, thinking that by backtracking and making the setup less threatening we could tempt him. For the second night in a row, the meal was not eaten. At this point, we began to wonder if Shakir had somehow gotten out of the yard. Our chain-link fence is 6 feet high and there aren’t many gaps underneath. It would be possible for a determined mountain lion to scale the fence, and also for a determined dog (or cat) to dig underneath it, although we saw no evidence either had happened.

I watched myself begin to grieve again., only this time with more acceptance. It had been two weeks since we lost our cat, and that is a long time, especially in these mountains.

My husband, however, did not give up. The next night, he set the food down by the place we thought the cat was hiding. And presto! the next morning, the plate was licked clean. We had no way of knowing who had eaten it, whether it was our cat, a raccoon or skunk, or a neighbor’s cat that had somehow gotten into the yard. We continued to leave out food and to move it closer to the porch and the trap. Again we reached the point leaving food halfway inside the trap and having it gone the next morning. Our patience seemed to be in a contest with our sense of urgency, because the longer a cat is missing, the lesser the chances of ever finding it.

Now came the test: we set the trap and left the food at the back. I went to bed thinking, This is it — either there will be a miracle and our cat will be in the trap tomorrow morning, or we will be back to square one, perhaps without any hope of seeing him again. If we did catch him, would he be completely feral, not to mention covered with fleas and ticks? Continue reading

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M is for Money

M is for Money.

Do you write for money?  If you’re a professional writer, the answer is almost definitely, “Yes.” (Of course, if you’re writing to preserve a story for yourself, your family or your friends, you might not have any intention of earning any money. You’re also probably not reading this post as a writer.)

“Money” is a dirty word in many circles. Most people are socialized not to talk about financial matters in public; we don’t share how much we earn (never enough!), or what we paid for our latest extravagance (often too much!), or what percentage of our income we’re reinvesting in our business. As an author, though, you need to focus on money, because money is a proxy for many important career decisions. Continue reading

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Annals of Pard: My Life So Far, by Pard, Part I

My Life So Far, by Pard

Part I

Pard Surveys His Domain

Pard Surveys His Domain

In the first place there were Mother and Sister and me with a mother and an aunty human who had a lot of kittens. Some tom humans came around now and then and either paid no attention to anybody but the queens, or were dangerous to kittens, pretty much like real toms. Mother and Sister and I kept out of their way and had no worries except sometimes the younger kitten humans, who will pull your tail as soon as their eyes are open. And some of the bigger ones played too rough, or tried to hug. Hugging, even when well meant, is horrible.

Life was often quite exciting in the first place, and we were happy together. I am hardly ever sad, but sometimes when I am going to sleep I hear purring around me that is not mine, and it seems that Mother and Sister and I are all curled up like one warm cat. And then I am happier than usual. Continue reading

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Dice Tales: Different Challenges

Roman twenty-sided die(This is the seventeenth installment of Dice Tales, an ongoing series of posts about RPGs as storytelling.)


There was an issue hidden in last week’s post, which some of you may have noticed, because it’s a common topic of debate among gamers. Let’s pull it out and look at it more directly.

Characters in games can face multiple kinds of challenges. If you remember back when I posted some examples of character sheets, the attributes on the White Wolf example were broken into three categories: physical, social, and mental. This corresponds well to different types of challenge; we might also add “magical” to that list.

These things are not created equal.

Continue reading

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