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.

 

Submissions, working-ish, heat and eggs.

Well, just when you think you’re done with world building and plotting, you think of something else to weave into the story. So I’m adjusting my plot to thread another storyline in there which will marry up with the MCs storyline and lead nicely into the second part.

Anyway, I’ve submitted to both last quarter and this quarter of Writer’s of the Future (this quarter’s was the one from the workshop), and I’ve got a couple of short stories out doing the rounds.

I’m close to done with a historical short I’ve been playing around with and within a couple of weeks that world building and plotting should be done and the story started. I’m even thinking of doing a historical novel, though I might see how the short goes first before I put too much effort in.

It does seem though that I’ll still have plenty of time on my hands. Most people are back at work now, but I’m on something called Flexible Furlough, which means I’m doing bits and bobs from home, but not actually going in to work (though I do have a meeting next week, on my birthday of all days).

On the non-writing/work side of things, the plot is looking nice and clean and tidy, things are growing well, though this heat has made a few things bolt. The polytunnel has been getting up to 42C during the day, which is close to the Australian outback (going by my favourite programme at the moment, Outback Opal Hunters), though things are looking pretty good there and all the forthcoming salads might well do my waistline some good.

And finally, the young chooks are starting to lay, well one of them, though she did try to savage me when I picked up her egg. Marens, I’ve discovered, can give you quite a nip, and this was the shy, timid one.

Finished novel and short, writer’s workshop, fences and brassicas

I’ve just heard from work that I’ll be furloughed for the whole of June so I should have plenty of time for writing. So much so that I’m having to plan things out a bit more than usual.

I finished off that novel I’ve being talking about. I’ll let it sit and stew for a bit while I work on the next big thing, though I’m still world building and doing character studies for that.

I’ve just finished another short that I think is just right for Writers of the Future, and that is now going to sit and stew too.

Once I think they’ve both stewed enough I’ll start editing them. In the case of the short that’ll be a few days, the novel will be a few months, maybe not until I have a first draft of the next one.

I have also signed up for a free writer’s workshop that WotF are doing online, so that should last me the month out. Hopefully by then I’ll have my world built and will have started writing the thing at last.

I’ve also been pretty busy in the garden and on the allotment. My neighbours put up a new fence so I took down my old panel thing. The panels, much to my surprise, were still in good condition, so I sliced and diced things and made a compost and pot store out of them as well as repairing the old fence at the bottom of the garden. It all looks quite tidy now.

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On the allotment, just about everything is in and growing reasonably well, though a bit of rain would help (anyone know any chants?).

I put up the brassica cage, which is huge this year (about 24ft by 12ft) and filled it with all sorts of brassicas. The beans and squashes are also in, the onions and garlic are all doing well and the carrots have mostly germinated.

An overnight frost managed to nip the potatoes and a few brassicas but the potatoes will recover and I have a tray of spare brassicas to fill in the gaps. I’m not fussy about everything in a row being the same thing, so I’ll end up with a hotchpotch of cabbages, kale, broccoli, cauliflowers and sprouts.

Wordcount, lockdown and clean fridges

Well, we’re in our ninth week of lockdown I think, though I keep losing track of time, so I might be wrong. I hardly know what day of the week it is sometimes, but it is doing wonders for my writing, my garden and allotment, and the state of my fridge.

I’ve been averaging a couple of thousand words a day, plus doing a bit of world building and plotting for the next masterpiece.

The allotment is clean as a whistle with hardly a weed in sight, as is the garden. My fridge has never been cleaner.

But it’s the writing that I’m most pleased with. After quite a long hiatus and a stressful few years, I seem to be finally getting back into the swing of it.

I just need to stop playing Elder Scrolls, then I might double my word count.

Digging, Writing and New Chooks

Well, as I said in the last post, I’ve been working on my next Writer’s of the Future entry. I’m about half way through I reckon, but I’ve also been making time to do the gardening.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time at the allotment, now that there’s no actual day job to do, and dug in the green manure ready to plant this years crop of brassicas. To just quickly catch you all up, I have the spuds in, the onions in, the broad beans are just starting to show, the garlic is marching along like no one’s business and I’ve sown the early carrots.

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In the photo you can see where I’ve started turning over the green manure. It was heavy work. All that heavy rain we had compacted the soil and then the recent dry weather set it hard. Since I took that photo I’ve dug the rest over though, so all I need to do now is get the framework up for the nets.

In the garden I’ve gone and done something I said I wouldn’t. I got some more chickens. I only had two brown hens left, and one of those is six years old nearly. I kept saying that I wouldn’t get any more but, after tidying out the shed and discovering that I have enough supplies, sans feed of course, to last me a few years, I thought it’d be cheaper to get some more chooks than to dispose of it all. By supplies I mean things like worming powder, feed supplements, mite spray and chicken tonic. They’re all quite expensive when it’s all added up.

Anyway, I got three marens, little grey and white speckled things. They’re not quite at point of lay yet and they’re only half the size of the brown hens but they’ll soon catch up. At the moment they’re busy sorting out their pecking order so some are a bit skittish. I’ll try and get some decent photos when they’ve settled down.

Anyway, the plan is to polish of that WotF entry in the next week or so, then to start polishing off that novel I mentioned.

Keep safe.

Back Again.

It’s been a while, I know, but I’m back again. I vanished for a while after the WW1 Project finished. I found myself wandering, inside my head anyway (anyone who knows me will know why this happens now and then), stuck on the genealogy and thoroughly blocked in the writing department. On the gardening side, well, I live in England and it’s rained almost solid for close to half a year now, so there’s not been much tell.

And, well, now this horrible Covid 19 thing has come along to muck things up, I find I have an awful lot of time on my hands. Though not for long, I hope.

Anyway, while I’m furloughed, I’ve caught up with the gardening, parked the genealogy (I really have hit so many walls that I think I’ve done as much as I can), and decided to try to get the writing back on track. I’m going to try to get two things going at once, perhaps three. I have two ongoing novels, both of which have stalled, and a plot and a lot of world building in progress. I’ll need to decide which one to put the effort into, and I’ll do that while I’m trying to put together an entry for Writers of The Future.

Along with that I intend to write up what I found in my genealogical exploits. I actually made a start on that a while ago but, like a lot of other things, it’s been sat bubbling away on the back burner.

So, in the coming days, expect some posts about gardening, writing and perhaps the odd, stir-crazy rant along with whatever practical notions I come up with whilst cooped up like one of my own chickens (at least they get to run around outside all day).

Nice to be back.