New Tumble Dryer, Stories Submitted and Veggies Growing

Yes, yes, I’m still alive. I’m still on furlough and still writing away. I’ve been busy wrapping up a few manuscripts and doing the odd bit for the day job. I’ve had just enough to do to keep me away from blogging for a bit. Anyway, I’ve found a few minutes now.

My last post was about buying a new washing machine so it makes sense to start this post with a whinge about having to fork out on a new tumble dryer. The old one not only wore it’s belt out but also the thermostat, so things were coming out roasting hot. I couldn’t change the belt as the machine was one of those designed to keep out all but madmen with chainsaws and explosives. So I bought a new one.

On those manuscripts, I’ve got four stories out for submission at the moment, with a few on hold awaiting a good editing. Since I read Ken Rand’s 10% solution I’ve been finding more and more wrong with some of my older work, so it’s being put back through the mill, so to speak.

In the garden, the chickens are laying well, so well I’m sick of eating eggs. The brassicas are ready to go out on to the plot and the tomatoes are just waiting for the weather to warm up before being stuck in the polytunnel.

The spuds have all come up, and then been nipped by late frosts, but they’ll recover. On the positive side, I’m already eating home grown lettuce.

Of Chickens and Ladybirds

Ok. We’ve had a couple of posts about writing and reading. It’s time to give the garden and allotment some attention.

In the garden, I’ve finally managed to put some summer bulbs in. I’ve also cleared and fed the polytunnel borders, ready for spring.

I’ve replaced the netting on the chicken run. The old stuff was starting to rip around the edges and the man from Defra still insists that they can’t come into contact with wild birds. It doesn’t seem to be bothering the chooks much to be honest. They’re still laying eggs faster that we can eat them. It makes for a lot of omelettes and cakes.

On the allotment, I’ve got most of the digging done. The shallots, onions and most of the spuds are in. I’ve got a little more digging to be done, but thanks to being on furlough still, there’s no particular rush.

Things are starting to wake up though. Buds are appearing on fruit trees and bushes. Even the ladybirds seem to have got out of bed.

I counted twelve, maybe one more, in that photo. That was one ivy covered fence post out of about six. That’s an awful lot of ladybirds all in one place.

Rejections, Eggs and Bloody Rain

A few weeks ago I got a rejection from a magazine called Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores. They are though, a magazine who will give feedback on submissions if asked, and I did.

It is nice to know why you got rejected. So many publications these days fall back on either form rejections that encourage you to try again with something else, or just don’t reply at all. I have had many like that, though I’ve also had a few personal ones.

Well, the feedback from Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores went beyond that. I went through the usual reaction to such critiques (horror, disbelief, fury) then, after filing the story under “edit this” for a few weeks I looked at it again and found that the readers’ notes I was supplied with (pretty much a full crit from one), were right, or mostly and now the story is in much better shape and has been submitted elsewhere. So thanks to Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores for providing such a brilliant service to those of us yet to make it past those first readers.

On another writing note I have entered something in quarter 2 of this year’s Writers of the Future competition. I’ll let you know how it does, as well as the quarter 1 entry which hasn’t been judged as yet.

In other news, the chickens, after a long hiatus due to bad weather, dark nights and being cooped up eternally by order of the man from DEFRA (bird flu apparently, even chooks are in lockdown in the UK), are finally in lay. They started, just as Mr Sod’s famous law predicted they would, right after I bought a box of eggs from the supermarket. They are now firing on all cylinders and producing three a day for two of us to eat. It looks like there’ll be plenty of omellettes in the meal plan.

All I need now is for it to stop raining so I can get the winter digging finished and I can get ready for spring planting. I shouldn’t complain too much though, some people are up to their armpits in water in their own living rooms. I’m still getting mooli, kale, beetroot and leeks off the plot and have spuds, squashes, apples and onions in store.

And almost finally, I lost half a stone doing dry January. Now I’m going to have to have a drunk February until I find it all again.

And finally…

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A picture of a collared dove sat in my cherry tree. There is a pair of them who come down into the garden whenever they see me feed the chickens because they know I also put out birdseed at the same time.

Here we go again.

Well, here we go again. Back to work (after a fashion) and back in lock down. At least, I suppose, we are all used to it now and know how to get on with things. We should, for instance, know not to bulk buy toilet roll, though I notice that Tesco, my local one at least, are only letting people buy one pack at a time.

We can only go out for exercise once a day again, so instead of a walk in the morning and another in the afternoon, I’m taking a bit of a longer stroll in the morning.

Work is a bit slow at the moment so I’m keeping my self busy reading, both my own manuscript (which is not as bad as I thought it might be) and the few dozen books on my ‘to be read’ shelf. It’s helping me keep my mind off the fact that I’m trying to stick to a calorie count (I’ve lost 5lbs since New Year’s day), and helping to preserve my sanity (though many would say that is a lost cause).

It would be better if I could get on with the plot, the winter digging is only half way done, but last week it was sopping wet and this week it’s frozen solid. Still, I’m still getting leeks, kale, mooli and beetroot off it.

On the writing front I’m almost done with a first pass through of a novel, it needs a good edit and a drastic trimming, it’s way too long. But I think it deserves to be sent around a few places. I’ve long since given up on ever getting published, but I’ve never given up trying (contradictary, I know). I’ve also got the beginnings, a few scrappy thoughts, of a short story stirring around in my head. I just need to grab hold of them all and pin them down in the right order.

Anyway, happy lock down three, (or is it four?) and a merry New Year.

I’m Still Alive

Well, It’s been a while again. I am still alive and kicking, but I’ve been busy lately.

For a start I’ve been decorating again. My daughter has left home and so my son has had a bedroom upgrade and his old room has become an office for me. I’m still working from home and have been quite busy with that too. It seems some of our clients deal with the EU on a regular basis and their software needed changing to meet whatever the new rules will end up being.

We have a new member of the household too, a rather agile and quite speedy bearded dragon called Viserion (yeah I know, but my son named him). He’s also rather prickly, in physique, not temper. I had to spend a little while repairing and upgrading a large and worn out vivarium for him, all the while keeping his impending arrival a secret. He was an early Christmas present for my son from his sister. I know the thing about not getting pets for Christmas, but we’ve had one before (in fact she left home with my daughter) and we’re not the kind of family to go abandoning him.

The new office, along with a new desk and filing cabinet, made from a double wardrobe that was no longer needed, is a wonderful thing of magnolia. It is now home to my laptop and wireless printer (which is connected to my brand new full fibre internet connection).

I do seem to spend an awful lot of time in there though and I’ve had to stop using my laptop for writing as my brain associates the office with, well the office. I now do my writing on my PC downstairs and take a break whenever my son needs to use it for school work. I may switch back to the laptop over the Christmas holidays when it may feel less like being in a workplace.

At the moment I’m editing more than writing anyway. I’m going through a novel that I finished the first draft of at the beginning of lockdown. It’s not bad, in fact I think it deserves to be published once it’s trimmed back a bit and cleaned up. So I’ll be submitting it as soon as I’m able, though it’s a pretty hefty size and will need an awful lot of cutting back first. I’ll probably do it in fits and starts, hopefully with a few short stories and a plot for another novel in between.

On the gardening front, I’m still eating lots of fresh veg, even at this time of year and with all this horrible weather, though I have been forced to buy eggs just lately. The chooks are just not pulling their weight at this time of year.

Short stories and big pumpkins

I’ve been on holiday this week. Not that I’ve been anywhere, just not doing any work, or any day job work anyway.

I have been up at the plot. Firstly to dig up the main crop potatoes, which turned out to be rubbish. Last year I had six full sacks of spuds, this year a single sack full. I’ll be having to buy spuds for Xmas dinner this year.

Thankfully the brassicas, especially the cabbage and kale, have done really well, as have the winter squash and pumpkins. The leeks are a little rusty, but growing well all the same and the beetroot, carrots and mooli just keep coming.

In the polytunnel the carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and salad crops are going crazy too. Unfortunately, with the change in the weather, suddenly cold and wet again, the chooks aren’t firing on all cylinders.

Anyway, back to the winter squash and pumpkins. This is what was harvested today. Ben (my son) and I hauled this lot back in a garden trolly, 1.7km according to Google Maps.

That big one weighs in at 41.6lbs and the little acorn squashes (Thelma Sander’s Sweet Potato Squash) average around 3lb each. The marrows, small ones I know, are about 8lbs each. Around 120lbs in all.

No wonder I needed a soak in the bath tonight.

In other news, I finished off a short story. It needs a good editing, but it’s almost there. I just need to grab an idea for the next one. There’s a few scraps of stuff floating around in my head, but nothing solid enough to put into words yet.

A word of warning. A company called Webnovel contacted me regarding a novel I have self published on Smashwords, trying to get me to sign some kind of contract with them. Anyway, if they contact you, check out Writers Beware. They seem legitimate enough and their website looks pretty impressive, but their contracts are far from standard, or even fair. To be honest, the broken English in the email rang alarm bells from the start.

That’s all. Stay safe.

ps: did I mention I hate this new WordPress block editor thingy?

New story and monster cabbages.

I’ve been a bit busy with the day job just recently but I’m on holiday now. I think the distraction has done me good though because a story idea popped into my head the other day and I’m already halfway through it.

I’m still putting several stories out there into the submission mill too. No luck as yet, but it’s a slow process at the best of times.

In other news, specifically news regarding vegetables and fruit, all seems to be well, or as well as can be expected given the strange weather we keep getting. Things seem to be growing huge this year. I’ve already had some really big onions and my leeks are far bigger than they usually are at this time of year. Raspberries have been coming thick and fast and there is a massive pumpkin (which I don’t remember planting at all) growing in the squash patch.

I’ve yet to dig up the maincrop potatoes, I’ll be doing that over the next week, but here is a picture of a stupidly big cabbage that I carried home the other day. It weighed in at 14.5lbs, just over a stone. We’re eating it 1/8th at a time.

Have I said I hate this new WordPress editor? I do, I really do.

A good old moan.

Another week goes by and it seems that I’ve not done much of anything at all. I’ve managed to do about one and a half hours of actual day job work (which is all there was), I’ve done the housework, harvested all sorts from the plot and garden and cooked a good, healthy meal every single day, mostly with home grown produce. I’ve even donned a surgical face mask (which combined with the recent heat seemed almost as dangerous as the thing it was supposed to be keeping at bay) and been shopping. I’ve plotted out a couple of short stories and got my head in gear to get started on writing one. I’ve done a bit more world building on the novel that is waiting for me to start it and I’ve read a couple of books. Yet it feels like I’ve done nothing.

I’d like to put it down to the heat, it’s been miserably hot for the past few days and I really don’t function all that well in the heat. I’ve not been sleeping well either, which is also down to the heat. So as soon as I’m about to write something my brain switches off.

I’ve also lost a chook, to old age this time. I think she went blind in the end and couldn’t see to eat. I found her bobbing about in the pond not looking so good. I assume she fell in as chooks are not noted for their swimming prowess. Anyway,  I made her comfortable and let her slip away. She was a good age for a chicken, just over six.

And I’m still waiting on that submission that is now well overdue.

Whinge over. Back to writing.

Too hot, baking and vegetables.

Not much writing progress this week I’m afraid. That story that was begging to be written hit a dead end. I do have another rattling about in my head though and I’ll get to it as soon as I can.

The problem at the moment is that it’s just too hot to be bothered. Only I’m having to be bothered because it’s weather like this that makes everything grow. Instead of writing (or doing all the non-existent day job work) I’m either in the garden or on the allotment. I can only go into the polytunnel at night it’s that hot (49 degrees C yesterday, fully ventilated). Still, I can’t complain, I’m not going to starve anytime soon.

In the past week I’ve lifted the onions and put them out to dry. I’ll bag them up tomorrow, or at least that’s the plan (I’ll do it before I check my work email, that way I’ll get it done).

I’ve being harvesting spuds, cabbages, beans, peas, carrots, courgettes, salad, rhubarb and soft fruit. I’ve also being baking bacon and egg cake (it’s a pie, but that’s what my nana used to call it) and making jam. The chickens are laying eggs faster than we can eat them.

Anyway, back to hopefully a little bit of writing and, in the meantime, here are some pictures of some fruit and veg.

Incidentally, I’m still waiting on that submission that is close to overdue. Fingers crossed.

Work, vegetables and submissions

Right, so at last I’m back at work, though only partially. I’m part-time apparently, though as I was already part-time I suppose I’m now part-part-time-if-and-when-needed-or-indeed-if-and-when-can-be-bothered.

Happily Mr Johnson is still making up a big chunk of my wages.

And, more happily, it leaves me plenty of time for writing and gardening, and blogging, which I don’t seem to be doing as much of as I intended too. It’s simple, I’m blogging mostly about writing and gardening, but they are the things I do most of, so mostly I am doing them, not blogging about them.

This week I have hand weeded two thirds of the plot. You’d think it would be well tended after all this time off but the constant cycle of heavy rain/heatwave has conspired to make a lot of things, such as lettuce and spinach, bolt for the sky, and has allowed the weeds to burst out like an invading army of alien greenery.

That army has mostly been put to rout, but my forearms and back are paying the price and there is still a third of the plot left to do. Hopefully, weather and work permitting, that will get done tomorrow.

Still, we’ve been enjoying plenty of fresh fruit and veg. It’s that time of year where all I buy from the shops is the stuff that’s bad for you. My Tesco Clubcard history must have me down as a chocolate bingeing alcoholic who never lets the taste of fruit or vegetables pass his lips in summer.

Most meals for the past few weeks have been made with home grown fruit, veg and eggs. The only thing I have to buy are things like flour and oil and meat, rice and pasta, anything overly exotic like peaches, pretty much anything I can’t grow myself.

Tonight we are having roast chicken with spuds, onion and cabbage from the plot and freshly pulled carrots from the polytunnel. The herbs are from the garden and the left over chicken will make a stir fry with green leaves and mooli, carrots, broad beans and herbs and the very last scraps will go in an omelette as the chooks are laying eggs faster than we can eat them (which means a lot of cakes too). Pudding will be caramelised rhubarb muffins, all week.

On the writing side, I’ve plotted a new short story and have submitted my first attempt at historical fiction, a short based upon my genealogical research. I have had trouble finding places to submit to as there aren’t the lists and websites to turn to as there are with Sci-Fi and fantasy. Ideally I’d like to find a British magazine to sent it too.

Anyway, the new short will be fantasy and, as said way up above somewhere, I’m going to get on writing it.