Here, Chicky-Chicky!

Cabin ChickenI had an obsession years back ( who, me?) about chickens. The cabin was about ready to move into and I needed to segue from working on the cabin to working for pay. I got work at the brand new, opening soon chicken plant five miles away! New factory, new career (food safety) and great folks to work with. As a fabulous bonus, any packaged chicken with too few days left to ship was sold at deep discount to employees. I lived on chicken.

Back home, I had a cabin to decorate. Why not chickens?

These are some treasures I’ve collected over the years. The silver one is from Iran – Persia the guy said. The bug-eyed one is battery operated and squawks while waddling. The one with glasses is the Scottish brainy fella from Chicken Run. The one with her neck stretched out I got while in Scotland, from the shop that

Cabin Checken Arraymade it. The rooster in the lower corner was done by April White, a co-worker at the chicken plant. When you roll the wooden one, the egg inside tumbles.

The best of all was the little chicken house I built on the front porch with a ladder going down into the fenced front yard. I got three cochins and a Rhode Island Red. Blackavar was solid black. Guess which breed Rhoda was. Sylvia was, that’s right, silver. The sweetest doll was a Partridge Bread cookbooksCochin, thus Partricia. She would come up to me for a neck rub and would eat from her own little bowl of cereal as I ate mine. I wish I had pictures of them all, especially Partricia. I got so may huge brown eggs I got “The Good Egg” cookbook by Simmons and got really good at making soufflés.

Years of happy. Then fox, fox, fox and finally Particia, fox. I wish I had pictures of those ladies to post. I do have these pictures, Bark and Bark:

Bark 2 Bark 1

A Little Color

Painting BrushesCabin June 2015 056I’d stared at the blank canvas for far too long, not wanting to ‘mess it up’ and attempting to make final decisions. Heck with it! That canvas is slathered with great gobs of paint now. I took a couple pictures of the initial volley and of the background with sketches taped to it. I guess I still have the ‘don’t mess it up’ phobia because the next step has me dithering.

Painting BackgroundReading up on acrylic glazes, my most Painting with Sketchesprobable next step in making a thing glaze of bronze and put it over everything except the dark blue at the top. That’ll tone the bright colors down and blend the composition better.  I watched a couple North Light videos too, and they have lifted my confidence level in that it’s okay to PAINT OVER something you don’t like! Less inhibition, now, and perhaps better skills.

Always before, I put the colors down and when the canvas had no white left, it was done. I’ve tried realism, painterly and bold cartoon-like pictures. I always used by nice easel. This one, I’m going to experiment with glazes, texture and pay more attention to the physical composition. I have the painting flat for easier access. We shall see!

Cabin June 2015 066

Of my past ones, Stick Chick Crosses the Road is my favorite. That was inspired by a change in management at the place I’d been with from start-up. My new $&*%# boss wanted her own person in my spot but I did a good job, so firing me was problematic. Wahhh. I let her harass me until I found another job, then I hung the 30 inch x 40 inch about a square meter) picture at my desk and let her stew a week before I put in my notice. Ha! Did I mention it was a chicken plant? I use a chained biker-type wallet and so does Stick Chick. I had often posted cartoons of dung beetles in amusing situations, so Big Black Buggety got a cameo as well. Maybe one day I’ll post a few of those here…

 

 

 

 

Trying To Get Ready

I have a full almost 400 page sci-fi adventure that I thought was ready to go to the editor. Since the editor won’t be able to get to it until book note 001Spring, I figured I had time to give it one more read-through, look for story flow, detect any silly things I missed all the previous times I went through it. It’s well known that a writer has a miserable time finding fault with something she’s written.

Stemmery QC 027
Leaf it alone?

First and foremost is the fact the author knows the story and automatically fills in the holes anyone else might see in the plot, the motivations, the backstory. ‘I know what I meant to say.’ Another issue is that I’ve seen it all so many times now, it’s tough to read each word carefully. The good thing is that it’s been eight months since I finished the last draft of this one and it’s not nearly so familiar now.

So I get through the first dozen chapters, happy, and hit an idiot passage. The crew on the alien planet splits up for no good reason, in fact it’s dumb for them to do it. Okay, I put them back together. I rewrote the entire chapter. Read it. Tweaked it. Read it. Vowed to look it over again later. Moved on.

Next was a glaring style difference. I do my first drafts quickly, just writing down the gist of the story, to establish the story structure. Then I go back and record what the characters had to say and do to get each part done. The result is that dialog and action carries most of the story and takes up most every page. So here goes little Aroun, in a dangerous situation, performing an important part of the story arc. And he didn’t have one thought. The entire chapter was ‘he did this’ and ‘he did that’. True, if you’re sneaking you might not talk to yourself. You would feel nervous, maybe afraid, you’d get hungry, you might worry about surveillance catching your breathing. Poor Aroun’s ordeal chapter came across very different than any other chapter and he was severely short-changed emotionally. Okay, fixed that. Read it. Tweaked it. You know the rest.Keyboard 001

This reminded me of this year’s ale batches. They all seemed fine when I capped each bottle and smiled. It’s much later when I discovered I didn’t do it quite right. Comparatively speaking, I do believe the book is much better written than the ales were carbonated.

 

The 4-Day Turkey Day Weekend!

Yippee for a double weekend! Stressed me raced to the cabin Wednesday evening as if chased by fanged devils! Oh, the solace and comfort of my log cabin, mid-ridge, the Stemmery QC 055Wild Branch running out front and the pileated woodpecker screaming my welcome back! I feel I’m a shell of a person until I reach the bounds of my woodland; then I find the part of my soul that lingers there.

I am thankful for my cabin and woodland. I’m thankful for Ma, 85 on the 27th, who is still able to get around and enjoy life. I’m frequently grateful to have paints and canvasses, musical instruments, a sewing machine and many projects, woodworking tools and the skill to use them, and for being able to write well enough to at least satisfy my own need to tell stories. I thank the Lord for all my blessings!

Let’s not forget baking and fermenting! My brother took Ma out for her birthday, so I got to fend for myself for the first time in a year or so. I played Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells 3 at high amplification (outrageously wonderful), made me a chocolate soufflé and savored a pretty good home-fermented Porter. All here in the cabin! Bliss!

Yesterday I dug in the closet and pulled out the snowman front mat, the large, plaid reindeer pair, the tabletop 2013 Vacation Ma SaluteSanta, a wad of little lights and the Salvation Army bell ringer and band figurines up here in town. At this time, they’re in a heap on the edge of the living room, except for the figurines that are prominently placed on the enormous fireplace’s brick mantle. You see Ma used to be a member of the Salvation Army in Charleston, South Carolina and it helps her recall halcyon years.

If you happen upon a Salvation Army ringer this season, toss ’em a quarter and say howdy, will you?

Ale-Repair Update, Cookies

After all that bluster last week about opening up bottles and attempting to carbonate that flat first batch of ale, I made no moves toward that task whatsoever last weekend. Why?

  •  Not enough time. The nerve of even writing that…I spend ample time staring into the ether, wondering about what I should Me puzzledreally be doing. It felt like I had a destination and purpose but had slid into a ditch on an icy day. (That happened last winter, had to shovel an hour to get enough traction to heave-ho.) As it got closer to supper time, I finally decided to make cookies. At least that would be welcomed by others and might even bring a few smiles.
  • The method was too iffy.  Lame excuse. If I under-carbonated it, I’m no worse than now. If it looks over carbonated, don’t bottle it yet, wait a day and see. If worst comes to worst, there’s nobody in the basement unless I go down there. An exploding dozen bottles would (probably) Cabin June 2015 095not send shrapnel as far as the litter boxes. Fermentation is not rocketry.
  • Live with your mistakes and learn.  Ah, the real reason. If I leave the house without my lunch, I deserve to go hungry or to subsist on microwave popcorn for the day. If I go out without a sweater on a cold day, I walk faster and warm up. If when loading groceries in the car I realize there’s no milk, too bad. No gravy, no cereal, no pudding in the coming week. The intent of this harsh discipline is to learn to do better. Generally, it works darned good as I do like to enjoy a real lunch, to be cozy warm and to stir up a good milk gravy for supper each week.

The problem with this disciplinary approach is that my nature is warring against my nurture. I have learned things that can be fixed with what I have on hand ought to be done. I like being experimental, to find out if something can be done well. Hence I was stuck in mental loops until cookie time.Oaty close

The snickerdoodles and oatmeal cookies with walnuts came out fabulous. Ma loves sweet stuff, so she got the snickerdoodles. I have the oaty gems right here at my side. Not all was lost!

Plus, there’s a nice long holiday weekend nigh. What I really want to do is make a nifty long overcoat with a wide, skirt-like bottom half. I have looked at the fake fur material online until the drool threatens to short out my keyboard…we’ll see. I do have a 20% off coupon and the fur is 50% off and the pattern is $1.99 and the lining is also 50% off. Today only. Like I could go by there tonight after work. This doesn’t look as if I’ll fool with ale, does it?

 

 

 

C- Fermentation Grade

By now, all of the ales and wine I put up should be drinkable, particularly the ones put up in June and July. So far, I have not tried any of the new wine since I had a case left from last year. I have tapped the ale. Two different batches.

Phooey gooey, Looney Looey! Apparently I slacked on the bottling sugar because both of the first batches have come out under-carbonated. Headless Horsemen. Grrrrrr. The initial batch is close to flat and the second is a little better. Woe if they’re all like that! Bet you cash money they are. I was on a roll and made two and three batches at a time. Grrr. Grrr. Howl. Grrr.

Beer 007

At first I was sorely tempted to empty all (remaining) bottles of that flat batch back into a bucket, add a tad of yeast and a bit of corn sugar. Rebottle. Try in a month. Now after imbibing quite a few, the common refrain comes to mind: “The more I drink, the better it tastes!”  I did made a boatload this year, so maybe I’ll give rebottling a shot anyway. If it doesn’t turn out, I still have the wine. What kind of confidence is that? Rebottling will be fine unless I overdo the carbonation and uncap a geyser or the bottles explode. Yike!

This did not happen before. I know the problem. I relied on my more and more fallible memory. I my books I have the lead character befriend an alien AI that offers her and those she nominates a marvelous chip in the brain. All endowed are in the AI intranet. They have access Beer 008to masses of information and instantaneous help. They have memory augmentation that would prevent not putting enough bottling sugar in not one or two, but all this year’s ale batches.

I will let you know one way or the other. I have several more cases probably affected, so if anyone has constructive advice, speak up! Even if you’re from outer space!

Ma’s Old-Fashioned Dress

Our church had an old-fashioned day last Sunday, when all were supposed to dress as they would have generations ago. Saturday I looked through our stuff and saw nothing really appropriate for her to wear. I had a few yards of Delft blue cotton with perched white birds all over it that I got 85% off a while back. I got a picture in my noggin of a design with a tie at the neck. Using one shirt pattern to size the top half and a different one to gauge the skirt part. I made the dress in a few hours. I knew the others would pull out bonnets like they did last year, but Ma does love to be different. What better for an old Ma Old Fash Laughcountry granny than a leather hat and boots? As luck would have it, the braid on the hat just about matched a braided belt I have of the perfect color.Ma Old Fash Dress Only

Most folks there had some degree of old-fashioned clothing, some pilgrim-looking ones and most men in overalls. Nobody like Ma’s. The preacher’s wife took Ma by the hand, escorted her up front and said, “I think Miss Nell is the prettiest old fashioned one here, don’t you?” Applause! Yea, Ma! The dress turned out beautiful, but it was that dress and accessories on her that was fabulous!

By the way, she’s not sneezing, she’s laughing like wild at the thought I’d post her picture. Ha!

Ah, Sew…

I have come to the conclusion I am a person driven by one compulsion after another. Brew season, I am obsessed with sanitizing more bottles and deciding how many Cabin June 2015 076buckets I can manage fermenting at one time. In the Spring, I am consumed by trying such and such fruit trees yet again or having another go at more flowery bushes. When I am writing, I write non-stop many hours at a whack.

Now I sew. I have spent way too much at Hancock’s (great bargains!) for 13A Plus 029material and patterns. My weekends are gobbled up with sewing up one garment after another. It doesn’t seem to matter we don’t need more clothes, I simply love making them!

Most patterns get used in an inspirational way, maybe make this shirt pattern into a dress 13A Plus 028with poofy long sleeves. Make this unlined simple jacket pattern into a lined and insulated long coat with cool toggles. You’d think I’d need fewer patterns if that’s what I used them for. Ha!

The only possible conclusion is that making something well is the way I judge my self-worth. When the books I labored over so arduously do not sell, I get anxious and crave another creational outlet Download 090915 016that might do better. I made three fruitcakes last weekend with supreme optimism that at least one will make a wonderful birthday cake and present for Ma who will be 85 the day after Thanksgiving – she adores fruitcake. I hope she likes the fact I’m slathering them with homemade apple wine periodically.

I also made Ma an electrical blue with silver sparkles tunic with matching skirt and me a poetically patterned dress and a black and white plaid pencil skirt with a matching cool, complicated jacket. I love the feeling (perhaps mistaken) that I’m gaining some degree of mastery in this endeavor. Did I mention the saddle-brown boot skirt just made that has the back zipper pull on the inside? I decided it wasn’t that big of a deal and left it that way…Cabin June 2015 054

Once I get my backlog sewing projects done, next is the acrylic art studio upstairs. Or perhaps I’ll be in that studio all this weekend…I have a marvelous idea and have made ten sketches already. That room is over the garage and not directly heated, so if I am going to paint, I’d better get a move on!

Last Look at Spectacular Fall Foliage

On the long drive home to the cabin Friday evening, the trees looked more oak leavesand more bare the nearer I got to the cabin. My area must have endured sudden gusts or could have been on the edge of a windy storm while I worked in exile here in the city; something made all the leaves at home drop while the trees in town still carry their colors.

This unfairness on the part of Mother Nature made me want to post a few more pictures of the foliage around the cabin when it displayed the best. This year was a great one for brilliance! Of course there were a dozen times I wished I’d have gone out earlier or later or farther…that didn’t happen so this is what I ended up with, all on my own land.

Stemmery QC 055On that drive to the cabin, Ma also noted the declining tree coverage. She asked, “Isn’t there a poem about God making a tree?”Stemmery QC 041

Yep, Ma, there is a famous Stemmery QC 018one that I know this much of:

I think that I shall never see

a poem lovely as a tree

Poems are made by fools like me

But only God Can make a tree – Joyce Kilmer

Stemmery QC 044Stemmery QC 006

What Does an ET Look Like?

As a Sci-Fi writer, I have given excessive though over the shape, temperament and environment needs of an alien being we might meet someday. There’s no reason to not have a billion different forms of life and limb, but some attributes seem likely to be more common than others. We are more likely to cozy up to aliens with the ability so communicate and that are not microscopic or gargantuan. They would be friendlier looking if not blobby or reptilian either.

If a planet has a sun similar to ours and the rocky planet is at a similar distance, many of the natives should have senses adapted to the available light and have body temperatures much the same as well. The basic  Line of Planetsquadrapedal plan might be a common solution, but not necessarilyTriple planet. For a sci-fi book, nobody wants to meet the same old alien that looks like a guy in a costume. My favorites are the Falana here.

Copyright Mary Ellen Wall, June 2013
Mama Kreeek, Papa TaaTaa and the precocious little girl LeeLaa (with apples to throw)

I varied a few parameters. The planet orbits a binary with greatly changing temperatures and gravity. These aliens will be rather resilient, I’d think. A soft body like ours would have a tough time enduring the rigors of annual variations in such an environment. I submit that a carbon rod shell to protect the tender body inside might be appropriate. And just because the vision should respond to a similar sun in a similar war does not mean the alien must have an eyeball. I gave the Falana eye stalks with different wavelength ranges for each sensor. They are two to three meters tall and can manipulate gravitational fields. Really handy, that.

Plus they are professional and respectful as well, as contractors out looking for work should be. Why not? I think civility in an advanced species is more likely than wanton blood-thirst. Besides, they would have alien DNA and our blood would be incompatible to their digestion.