Crowdsourcing?

You see it everywhere now, crowdsourcing. First it was cool new inventions that needed start-up cash, then struggling artists that needed a good push toward stardom, and always charities. Now you see people wanting you to fund what used to  be regular expenses. A guy has to fix his truck. This girl always wanted a horse.

The one that gets me is the independent author who is begging asking for an all-paid self publishDistant Trees of a book with unknown quality. I’m a big fan of self-publishing, all my books are that way. Right now, I have a great deal of anxiety over whether I can afford to enter a prestigious contest – one that will also judge my five books as a series. It would boost my credibility and maybe encourage a few book buyers. If I won. Hmm.

I have not been able to afford professional editing of any of my books; I would love to but that would run thousands of bucks for each one. A substantive edit is heavily pushed at Indies, I am bombarded with smiling Editors who assure me their service will make by book shimmer in Tenembrasperfection. My cover designs rely heavily on royalty-free photo sites, not the dazzling Graphic Designer outfits that lay on heavy persuasion that the cover is the BIG THING.GREEN.Dig.BadgeWIN

I, like a multitude of others, abhor spending my time and money of a book somebody slapped up on Amazon with little or no editing. I have been burned and am very wary now. Some covers look like grade-schoolers did their darnedest. You can’t even trust the reviews because unscrupulous authors buy them by the hundred – a practice Amazon is now cracking down World of Our Ownon. To avoid that pitfall, I studied hard and used local amateur editors. I edited several times over the span of months. I paid for cover design. To validate that approach, I have won or placed in several contests, though none for cash prizes.

Download 090915 078Should I get on IndieGoGo or some other site and explain that my books show what happens when the climate changes, how it affects the folks a hundred years from now, about how desperate people make bad decisions? My books will enlighten the public! Give me $10000 to get CadillacNeighbors editing and a professionally designed cover! Give me marketing funds! Give me the moohlah to enter big-time contests…

I can’t see doing that. Perhaps I’m too independent or too proud. I did order a complete set of my books to send to that contest. Maybe I’ll win!

Falco, Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat Hi there! I’m Falco and I live in a very tolerant and ecologically minded lady’s cabin. I’m a Little Brown Bat, and have lots of family around here. A less-than-well-known fact is that independent boys like me don’t congregate with the rest of the gang in a hollow tree; we like to each pick out a warm barn…or cabin.

There’s a high, peaked ceiling in this place, kind of barnlike. I fly all over at night when those tasty mosquitoes and wasps are around, and always say howdy to that lady that sleeps right next to my main roost. I have a grand roost! Right in the middle of the upstairs (a 2nd floor is above half the downstairs area) is a room with a flat top. Well between the flat top and the slanting panel and beam ceiling is a really cozy spot for me. Usually.

I do have a complaint! It started getting rather chilly at night and the nut still had windows in that slanting roof open! Not just one, but the whole darned row of them, from one end of the house to the other. Finally I had to fly down there while they were watching that wretched noise-and-flashy-light-box they have downstairs and get their attention.

My Sweetheart
It wasn’t my fault the goofy bat was so tempting!

They noticed me quick, okay, a handsome fellow catches attention. I asked politely, “How is a guy supposed to hibernate with a cold draft blowing down his back!” I latched onto a log over a nearby wall-type window and stayed right there until that silly yet kind lady got the message and shut those darned windows. Brrr! Now if I can only get back to sleep.

One word on leering, sneaking, lazy, leaping, useless, clawing, flightless, spoiled rotten, nerve-wracking and absolutely butt-ugly creatures called cats: SCAT!

Gatormania!

NOLA Vacation 023One reason I was so jazzed about going to New Orleans was the prospect of seeing ALLIGATORS! I’d already done a Swamp Tour there and an Everglades kayak tour a couple years ago, so my focus this time was the gators in town.

Here’s one at the Tourist Information place in the French Quarter. He’s the Master of Brochures.

One might think this is a terrible thing to do to a living creature, however I got over that by reasoning that there are a zillion gators and NOLA Vacation 022if the locals couldn’t make money off of them, they would exterminate them as dangerous reptilian menaces. Hence Swamp Tours, purses, boots, barbecues and storefront greeters. The fame of gators helps conserve them and their habitat, and the habitat is continually at risk.

This Praline Guardian is certainly an eye catcher.

Check this out:

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I’ve had a gator-fixation for quite a while. It started with a really hectic day at work; I felt I had gators on my butt all day. One thing led to another. I painted this 6 ft wide floor cloth. In this one, the gators get revenge by luring tourists with beach umbrellas. There’s a row of cars parked to the left, but where did the people go? I assure you it looks better in person.

Gator Floorcloth

 

 

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copyright 2007 Niall Benvie/Nature Picture Library

And as a constant reminder of the perils I face here at work, this poster hangs directly in front of me, forever in mid-slurp.

 

 

Whirlwind New Orleans!

NOLA Vacation 011Ma and I got back from New Orleans Saturday, nigh onto midnight. It was a quick trip, but lots of fun. Wednesday night, we were treated to a fancy dinner in the French Quarter, at Muriel’s. The Grilled Puppy Drum (fish, not canine) with toasted pecan and cracked caper dressing in a gruyere sauce was delectable. And ooh-la-la, Crème Brulee afterwards.

The next day we worked the vision clinic all day. I helped folks fill out the complicated forms most if the NOLA Vacation 006time, then switched to helping them pick out their frames. In the end, we gave 353 people free eye exams and on-the-spot glasses courtesy of the VSP lab in the van out back. Tiring but wonderful!

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Ma, with the Prize-Worthy Glasses

Friday, the only full day we had on our own, started at Café du Monde for beignets followed by a Natchez steamboat trip down the Mississippi and back, with a jazz band serenade. Shop, shop, souvenir, French Market, walk, walk, look, look, pralines, t-shirts, gator hats.

I had intended to end the evening at a Cajun club for dinner and zydeco but on the way, we stumbled upon a stage sitting right smack in the middle of Decatur Street. Turns out we’d happened on the  Frank’s Italian Ristorante 50th anniversary celebration; soon the quirky Rock ‘n Roll oldies and funnies band captured Mama’s heart. I backed her roller against the curb and soon Frank himself brought us two plates of free food – muffeletas. Ma said yick to that, so I went in and bought a mess of fried oysters for her. You’d though I’d been starving her! I had to treat her right since the story I won the trip with was about her getting glasses…not that I wouldn’t have anyway.

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Alas, Saturday’s flight home came far too quickly. Still, we had a blast and loved every minute of it. Now if I could only find some more of that Abita Springs Turbodog ale, hmmm.

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500 Words = New Orleans!

Hey, I won a trip to New Orleans! Where I work, we have VSP vision insurance. I deal they do is go to different cities with a mobile clinic and provide free eye exams and glasses. They posted an essay contest on how access to vision care has affected me or someone I love. I wrote about Ma because Medicare doesn’t pay for glasses, just diseases. I wrote about the comical way she went about choosing her glasses and apparently the VSP judges thought was entertaining, too. Cash, a posh hotel, airfare, wow!

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One whole day I get to be part of the vision care outreach, right at the scene. That is going to be so cool and I will absolutely take pictures to share. Since I haven’t been there yet, here are some miscellaneous cabin shots…why not? Especially needed is the shot of Ma, with her glasses on!

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One more thing, my newest sci-fi book is officially out! Yippee! It’s only $2.99 for the eBook, and if you have an Amazon deal it could be free. Give it a try – and leave a review if you can. Thanks!

 

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September Butterflies

Woods  Blue ButterflyEvery year in the dog days of late summer, I get dozens of spicebush swallowtail Butterfly road 2butterflies congregating on the grave road where it bends at the base of my driveway. Ages ago a gravel truck put a but rut between the road and the drainage ditch. That rut retains water. The combination of the hot afternoon sun on the gravel, the fine limestone dust and the shallow water draws these guys like a magnet. I drive very slowly to let them fly away. Few folks do…

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There are also brilliant fritillaries, red admirals, sulphurs, tiger swallowtails and some fast little fellas that may be skippers.

As the weather cools, this beauty will end, sigh.

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Water the Filberts!

I get a newsletter from Chelsea Green, a homestead and resilient farmer kind of publisher. I like adding nuts into my whole wheat bread and gosh, they’re expensive. I tried planting English walnuts a decade ago and they would still be maturing if they’d lived. I am not that fond of the common black walnuts around here though I do use them. I’m not generally one of those instant gratification types, however three years for a filbert, AKA hazelnut, to mature is a persuasive argument for them.

Filbert Dead 4Alas, the State of Kentucky apparently has some pernicious anti-filbert disease rampant such that nobody grows them here. Ha! Not until an outfit called Badgersett hybridized some resistant ones. They have a research station where they have many versions of filbert depending on what you want, geared toward the commercial growers.

I got six in the mail. Their customer service is slow and frustrating but the little seedlings eventually arrived with each in its own cozy tube (hence they call them ‘tublings’) and I planted them according to instructions, taking all the precautions against squirrels I could. You see, these seedlings still have their little nut attached and would seem to present a great temptation Filbert Liveto the fluff-tailed rodents.

One positively (negatively?) dried up in a blink, prompting me to dedicate myself as Aquarius the Water Bearer (actually I’m under Cancer the Crab). Two more succumbed during August. One seemed to be hanging in there last Friday, but this Monday it was a goner. ONE SURVIVOR! Isn’t this tiny fella a true beauty? This tender darling deserves an extra dollop of attention.

 

A Disappointment and a Funny

blog june 068I crowed about the bread conditioner and gluten and the healthy ingredients. I gave myself unwarranted confidence. Sunday I made a Sally Lunn with 2/3 whole wheat and a handful each of blueberries and walnuts, my standard. Instead of molasses, I used demara sugar. I’ve never had trouble with a Sally Lunn.

This loaf came out half the height I expected. A little better than that, but not lofty like the others Dogged if I know why. I did use half the conditioner as usual as I thought I was being to profligate with it. I may have cut back too much but thought it only affected texture.

Yes, yes, I know: Measure twice, bake once. The main thing might be not enough of the demara sugar; I usually put a calibrated slurp of sorghum molasses in but don’t have the feel for how much of the sugar. I’m ‘sticking’ with sorghum molasses for the foreseeable future.

Here’s the funny, the Dog Puzzle on the front porch!

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Cockleburs and Goldenrods!

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Maybe I’m perverse, but I think the cocklebur plant is a work of wonder and the thistle in bloom is a fresh beauty. Clever of these guys to develop those stickers. The cockleburs are most impressive hitchhikers…just a brush and the little thing has ride. Look at the gnarly plant with clusters of burr-bombs all over it!

The thistles can grow over six feet tall around here. I know because a couple years ago I had a solid wall of them in front of the garage door I never open. The deep green spine-covered leaves set the blazing flower off well. I dense grouping of then in bloom is a real sight to see. I would have a picture of that array except I needed to get an appraisal for a refinance. I thought the appraiser would not appreciate the natural encroachment and would ask about whether the garage door even worked (it doesn’t), so with heavy heart I chopped them. As a consolation, they were spent by then anyway. I guarantee they are in no way endangered around here!

Our state flower is the goldenrod, and I have a widespread distribution of them I know there are a hundred subspecies of them anDownload 090915 035d confess that I don’t remember which these are, or even if there are several different ones. All I do know is they are a sure sign the autumn is on the way. They seem a bit more scraggly that in years before. Maybe the effect of another record hot summer?

Volunteer tulip treeAnd just because I didn’t want to leave his poor little fella out, here’s a tiny tulip tree. A doomed tulip tree cannot be left here next to the strawberries, tis not a good place for it. Yes, I will attempt a transplant. How can I not?

The Last Batches

Nose flattened on the old grindstone, I got all my beverages bottled last weekend! Hooray! That’s three of the six-gallon merlot wine batches, a six-gallon Old Ale and a six-gallon Yorkshire Bitter. That came to 34 fruit juice bottles of the wine and 44 bottles of the ales. For the uninitiated, scrounging, cleaning and sanitizing all of those bottles is more work than making the stuff.Beer 001

That’s all for this year; in fact this is the latest in the year I’ve put any up. Cleaning and stowing all of the fermentation buckets, the bottling buckets, the airlocks and stacking the final finished good really drove the end of summer theme into my brain.

Fermentation does not need to end, though, as I am a fermentin’ fool. In the past, I bought plain yoghurt from the grocery as a starter. Those batches turned out okay even if a little soupy. I remember making a slobber-good coffeecake with some of that, but it wasn’t too toothsome for straight eating. This time I bought a dried starter from Adventures in Homebrewing and some unflavored gelatin for a more robust ferment and for help with thickening. It’s on the calendar for next weekend!