Resolved to The Year of the Squirrel


Artwork by Gary Medley (FIL)


It’s that time of year again where I think big thoughts, make new plans and the year ahead is filled with possibilities. I blame the eleven days of Christmas break for all that.  Being off work somehow makes me dream unrealistic dreams and think I can accomplish far more than is actually humanly possible.

I’ll realize that by January 4.

But until then, here’s my plan for 2017: The Year of the Squirrel.

More on that later.

Last year ended on a down note, with my mom passing away Nov. 10, and my book sales are all but nonexistent. Seriously, I’m making around $150 a month on seven books. It all seems like way too much work for very little reward. I made half the total income last year that I did the year before (which was the all-time high at a whopping $7K).

I’ve been trying to psych myself back up and get back into the groove. I ran some ads (spent $100) to try to respark interest and revenue, but all it really accomplished was brief stint at Amazon #1 FREE and then four new reviews. I even wrote a couple thousand words, but it’s just not happening. The motivation is gone.

I’m not saying I’m quitting writing completely. I am saying I’m going to let it slide and pick it up as I feel like it. I’m sure at least a dozen people in the world will be sad about that, but it is what it is. Ultimately, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to make it happen. I’ve given it a good go. I’ve pushed hard for the past five and a half years but gained very little financial traction. I’ve proven I’m not a one-book-wonder and now…I’m moving on.

The beginning of a new year seems like a good time to do that. A clean break.

It’s harder than you’d think to wind down, however. Trust me. I’ve tried quitting before. Ideas don’t stop coming and characters don’t stop talking. Once Pandora’s box is opened, it won’t be closed again. I’m going to keep collecting those ideas and conversations and one day–in the future–I’ll give them the attention they deserve. I also have a few events to attend. Fun events like VisionCon in February and Ozarks Indie Book Fest next October.

Until then, I’m going to participate in the Year of the Squirrel. No, the Year of the Squirrel is not one of the Chinese Zodiac signs (I checked). Nor is it an actual thing. It’s my thing. The Year of the Squirrel will be my chance to follow all the little interests and passions that speak to me this year along with the things I must/need to do. Believe me, there are plenty of need-to-do things. Cleaning out Mom’s house is one of the biggest ones right now.

The things I’m passionate about at the moment include: crocheting, FitBit walking, reading and watching the Gilmore Girls. I think that’s a pretty good start.

There is however, actually a Squirrel Appreciation Day if you’re so inclined to participate. For real, it’s Saturday, January 21 this year. Plan accordingly.

One big goal this year is to get back into shape. Last November, I was in a good place and ten pounds from my goal weight. Right now I’m two pounds above my highest weight ever. I have some work to do.

The biggest fun thing on the horizon for 2017 as far as personal entertainment that I’m looking forward to is the Supernatural Convention in Chicago in July. Bryon and Grace gave me that AMAZING gift for Christmas. I still can’t believe it! Front row, baby! And I get to ride the Amtrack there. Bryon and Grace are going to meet me there after the con is over, and then we’ll have a family vacation in the Windy City.

It’s going to be a looooong time until July.

The good news is I have plenty of time to catch up on my review of the eleven seasons of Supernatural before I go. I’ll have a Masters in Supernatural by that time.

As is my way, I’ve started my Year of the Squirrel List so I can store a few of theses nuggets away for later. It will definintely be a work in progress this year.

Year of the Squirrel List

  1. Crochet all the things
  2. Read all the books
  3. Walk 10k+ steps every day
  4. Finish all seasons of The Gilmore Girls (I’m on S3)
  5. Rewatch all 11 seasons of Supernatural
  6. Reacquaint myself with our garden, wait…which way is it?
  7. Read my magazines the day they arrive
  8. Reorganize my recipe boxes
  9. Clean out and reorganize the bath/medicine cabinets
  10. Donate more clothes out of my closet
  11. Empty Mom’s house of contents and sell them
  12. Read, file or delete all the SAVED articles on Facebook I’ve collected
  13. Surf way too much Pinerest
  14. Can and preserve the garden bounty
  15. Make good food
  16. Eat good food

That’s a good beginning, I think.

I’m sure there will be much more to add during the year because…SQUIRREL!

What does your 2017 look like from here? Do you make resolutions?





A patch of pumpkins

Bryon planted our pumpkins really late. September 1. They never should have made it but they EXPLODED in a sea of green across the garden and basically overtook…EVERYTHING.

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We ended up with an amazing harvest.

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And after all these years, Bryon and Grace finally got their giant pumpkins.

Think how big they would have been if they’d had another month!


Summer Bounty: The tomatoes turned on!


For the first time in a LONG time, we had good tomatoes this year.

IMG_7301 (1024x768)A few we ate fresh in several meals of Caprece Salad.

IMG_7437 (1024x768)More were consumed in Veggie-go-round.

This is yellow squash, zucchini, new potatoes and tomatoes.

Drizzle with olive oil and herbs and bake until the potatoes are tender and delicious.

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A few I canned into stew tomatoes.

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The rest I froze whole in Ziplock bags. No need to wash them or anything. Just throw them into a bag and toss them into the freezer. When you’re ready to make sauce or salsa or something, just fill your sink with hot tap water and toss the frozen tomatoes in for a couple of minutes. Then fish them out and you can slip the skin right off!

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I use a big butcher knife to chop them up while they are still mostly frozen and toss them into my pot. They”ll cook down into fantastic pasta sauce.

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Here’s the recipe I use:

Summer Love Pasta Sauce

12 cups chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped onions

2 cloves minced garlic

2 tbsps fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

2 bay leaves

2 tbsps red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp pickling salt

Throw it all into a big pot, Bring to a boil over high. Reduce to boil gently uncovered, stirring occasionally for 1 1/2 hours or until it reduces down and thickens.

I let it cool and ladle it into quart-sized freezer Ziplocks. Toss it into the freezer and you’ve got sauce 😀

I have a GINORMOUS stainless steel pot so I usually double everything.

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Sauce on!

How does the garden grow? Slooooowly.

Lettuce Grow

The garden is started. At least partially.

On March 17, I planted spinach and lettuce. A week or so later Bryon planted onions and potatoes.

Grace’s peace garden is finally taking shape. Sort of. If you squint just right, you can make out the peace sign.

Peace Lettuce

A month later and we are beginning to see progress from the sown seeds but have yet to be able to reap a harvest. Soon. Very soon.

Today I started herb seeds: rosemary thyme, dill, chives, parsley, oregano, lemon basil.


Of course I had to clean out the greenhouse before I could even find anything to plant in.


I think it turned out pretty good.

I’m a FANTASTIC garden STARTER…not such a great SUSTAINER.

Let it begin.


Farm Update

It’s been a while since I’ve done a farm update. Here’s what’s going on in the Big Cedars outdoors.
The chickens have been on strike the past couple of months. The Buckeyes molted and looked very pathetic around November. Now they have the nicest silky feathers again AND they are all laying. The new ones just started this week. Their eggs are tiny right now, but it’s nice to have fresh eggs again.

They even grew back feathers where the last two roosters wore them off with their amorous advances. The hens don’t miss those two guys at all. The latest rooster has been getting busy but the red Buckeye’s don’t want anything to do with him. They know the score. I’m sure they’ve been accosted but I’ve only seen him on the yellow Buffs so far. He may not last long enough around the farm to win the Buckeye babes over.

I do like how he keeps an eye out for the hens. If he can just keep his hormones from raging so much and realize we do NOT want to hump his girls or infringe on his territory … he might make it. I’m not holding my breath though.

The strawberry bed is just full of weeds and a few strawberry plants. At this point it’s going to be difficult to weed without pulling up plants too. It sort of got away from us last summer. Hopefully, we’ll be able to sort it out and get some berries this summer.

This is Gary’s garden spot below. The weeds took it over as as well. The tiller will solve most of that problem when it gets closer to spring.

We did manage to get our main garden beds cleaned out, and I keep spreading rabbit droppings on them from time to time. This year, I hope to really concentrate on TOMATOES, potatoes and lettuces.
I’ve all but given up on the heirloom varieties. I like the IDEA of heirlooms but they just don’t produce for us. We’ve tried three years now. I’ve had to buy tomatoes from my Grandma or the farmer’s market to get enough to can. Maybe this will be our Year of the Tomato.

Walking out to the greenhouse the other day I came across this mess. It looked like bloody entrails for a minute. As I got closer and studied it a little more I finally figured out what it was.

Swiss chard from the garden.  Whew!

The handicap bunnies got separate rooms again because the white/gray one was chewing the heck out of the little black one. The black one is the three legged one. He sort of just waddles around the hutch. The other one isn’t much better and would have likely been better off if it’s flipper foot had been removed as well. They are pretty pathetic really. They are cute though and friendly.

We still have our stray cat, and I may take her to the vet this week to have her spayed if I can get her into the cat crate. I figure she’ll bail as soon as I get her home, and we’ll never see her again. Hopefully not. She’s pretty sweet but her claws sure are sharp. Ask Grace about that. She keeps trying to pick her up.

Basically right now we are just waiting for spring to start gardening again. The greenhouse is full of animal feed right now. I haven’t decided if I’m going to try to start plants from seeds or just buy them. I’m feeling pretty lazy at this particular moment and thinking buying them sounds pretty darn good.

We had talked about raising pigs again but our freezer is packed to the rim. We have enough friends that would buy them to butcher if we want to do it, and we finally have a couple of leads on where we can get some piglets. More to come on that front.

Farm on.