Friday, December 28, 2012

Lifehacks for 2013: Organizing My Life

My late writing partner, Max.
A former colleague of mine had the following bit of wisdom posted on her filing cabinet:

Your lack of preparation does not constitute an emergency on my part.
I absolutely loved it.

Have you ever known people for whom every task/event/whatever developed into an epic struggle in which everyone of their acquaintance was forced to abandoned his or her own well-considered plans to belay the impending disaster?

is more than
and sticky
Due to heroic team effort, the catastrophe is averted, the Frantic Friend is effusively grateful, and the Helpful Acquaintances are madly scrambling to realign their own well-considered plans which have gone awry while they were helping the frantic friend, who has, conveniently, ambled down to the building canteen for a self-congratulatory snack.

Well, I've been both Frantic Friend and Helpful Acquaintance.  Hopefully, I've been more of the latter than the former, but, lately, I've felt more like Frantic Friend.  I do not like that feeling.  I am not the adrenaline junkie who enjoys the rush of impending doom.  I like calm.  I like to reason things out before I jump into them.  Even when it appears I've made a snap decision, it's not snap because, in all likelihood, I have considered the various possibilities previously and knew what my choice would be in a particular situation.

One stop on the fall craft fair schedule.
Except for this past year, when I had failed to account for the cumulative effect of work, blogging, the fall craft show schedule, a musician's usual Christmas madness, an annual fundraiser for which I only had limited responsibilities (and still managed to need help), co-ordinating a 5-session workshop, and having two unexpected work weekends.  Upon retrospect, I think I would have managed had I not lost the two weekends.  But, during that time, I became the Frantic Friend and I'm still playing catch-up.

I am tired of working at DefCon Red or whatever you might call it.  I'm rewording my friend's motto to assign the blame where it truly lies:

My lack of preparation should not constitute an emergency on any else's part.

It will take more than a red crate
to organize my life!
That's more like it.  The important part of the axiom hits me in the face:  my lack of preparation.  There are a number of old saws which say the same thing but one stands out:

Failure to plan is planning to fail.
So, it's time to map out the year, consider the possibilities, and line up contingencies for a schedule that looks like the Tri-D Chess board from Star Trek.  That means I may be away from the keyboard for a week or so, but I'll soon be back, and with a plan.

This is an extension of my plan outlined over on my garden blog Savory Le Jardin.  It will be a busy time, but the fact that I know a) who Bethenny Frankel is, and b) that she is divorcing her husband Jason Hoppy tells me I have time which I've underutilized.

What I've not mentioned that will be integral to the plan is the quiet time that I so desperately need:  reading, listening to the clock tick, watching for the afternoon hawk to come hunting, and writing.

Sunrises are magical
here on the farm!
So much of my life if high-volume input, and high-energy output, that I must have substantial processing time.  And I must plan for that, too.  Domains of my life must be prioritized so that activities within the domains can be integrated according to priority determined by importance or deadline (yes, I went to business school).

How will I record this master plan?  Paper planner?  Evernote?  Google calendar?  All of the above?

It makes my head hurt just thinking about it.  I think some chocolate is required for relief!

So, off I go to organize my life for 2013.  At least, that's the plan.

How are you living your Savory life?


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thoughts on Happiness Under the Frosty Moon

Thanksgiving Moonrise
Thanksgiving weekend brought beautiful days, but even more beautiful nights.  The moon, always so prominent this time of year, first appeared in the sky at mid-afternoon, but, on this evening, gleamed bright in the blue sky long before dark.

This lovely view capped a long, lovely day outside:  perfect sunshine, perfect temperature.  It reminded my exactly why I moved to the country.

Sometimes, it's hard to remember why I moved.  Our house in town was nicely sized, in a good neighborhood, and in a nice town.  But, it was in town--with other houses within twenty feet of mine.  It just felt so close when I knew I had property with a lot of empty space.

Road to Somewhere?
So, we built, and moved.  And we drive.  Back and forth to our jobs in town, we drive.  Every day, we drive.  Leaving in the dark and returning in the dark, we drive.  For days on end, home is shrouded in darkness.

Except this week.  The moon is bright and full, and the ice crystals hanging in the dark night sky give the night's light its traditional name:  the Frost Moon.  A bright halo seems to illuminate the entire sky, and the hoarfrost sparkles on the landscape.

It's breathtaking, spread out before me like a Currier & Ives print.

I would not see this in the city.  I would not see this if I were not moving at this hour.  There's a special quiet in the moments before dawn.  Night-time animals are returning to their beds; the deer are feeding before the light reveals them.

Frosty moon through the trees
To everything there is a season . . .

This is my season on the road, driving until the day I do not need to drive anymore.  It will be worth it; anything worth having, is worth working for.

What about you?


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Roadside Relic: A Forest No More

Mississippi Moonscape
This is all that's left of a beautiful stand of hardwood.  I don't know what is replacing it, but I cannot imagine it would worth the sacrifice.

Friday, November 23, 2012

When Plans "Gang Awry"

Nature's Autumn Calico

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley
To A Mouse

The plan
This morning I awoke to a cold drizzling rain.  Yesterday was a perfect day:  warm, abundant sunshine, gentle breeze, a few feathery clouds in a brilliant blue sky.  Of course, I spent yesterday inside:  cooking.  I was okay with it because I just knew I could play outside today.  I would finally till under the tabasco bed, then I would load leaves into a trailer and till them into next year's garden beds.  No Black Friday crowds for me; it would be a Tractor Friday.  Bliss.

I should have known.

From last year's "monsoons"
Instead of cheery gold, a soothing gray light is seeping past the curtains.  From the door, I can see water standing in the back yard, which means no tilling for at least a week.  The leaves are, no doubt, sodden and heavy--at least one sunny day before they're ready to move.  That's okay, too, because the ground will be too soft to drive on for several days.  I wonder if this is the beginning of the "monsoon season" when the sky is often as gray as the leafless trees, and the gluey buckshot earth sucks and gurgles.

I hope not; there's so much to do.  I have plans for the garden for next season, and I want to get started.  Then again, there's plenty to do inside, too.  The little library off the kitchen has become a junk room, and needs organizing.  My aunt's cookbook collection needs to be moved to the kitchen from upstairs.

Then there's that pesky business plan I've been meaning to finish.  The Etsy shop desperately needs updating now that the fall craft fair season is over.  I have a stack of books to be read and reviewed.  I need to plan just how many raised beds I plan to construct next year.  The seed-starting shelf needs to be organized so I can start earlier next year.

STOP!  Just for a few minutes, in these precious first rays of dawn, stop, and listen.  Listen to the sounds of the house:  the air vents popping as the heater pushes air through them, the refrigerator cycling, the occasional splat of rain on the window.

Stop and enjoy this glorious, luxurious moment of silence and solitude.

Stop, and feel those empty places inside, drained by the whirlwind of activity, the effort of dealing with people, and the cacophony of the digital deluge.

Stop, and feel them filling, slowly, gently, from the wellspring of blessed solitude.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

So, while I may have thought that my plans had gone "agley," in truth, they've gone aright.  And for that I am truly thankful.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Opening Salvo

Fall is my favorite season of the year.  The constellation Orion has traveled from my front door to the back.  The air seems cleaner; the sun's rays cool from summer's white heat to a cozy gold.  Days are pleasant, even cool, and nights are crisp, prompting me to climb under a mountain of covers.

It may not be elegant,
but it works.
I'm not the only one seeking warmth.  Predictably, the field mice have found their way inside and so begins the annual siege.  The Resident Dragon, also known as the Great Mouse Hunter, has unpacked his traps.  He is scouting each room, most especially the kitchen, to find the ideal locations for his weapons of destruction.

Lining them up on the counter, he pulls out his (formerly) top secret bait:  rancid peanut butter.  He smears a dab on each trigger and cocks the devices.  Carefully, carefully he slides each into its place.  All that remains is to stumble off to sleep so nature can take its course.

The Secret Bait
About three a.m. we are awakened by the snap of the trap, actually traps--two.  Two varmints have been dispatched to their eternal reward.  Bleary-eyed but chortling triumphantly, he reloads the traps and we return to our slumber.  So goes the opening salvo in what will be a protracted battle.

I find it vexing, but amusing.  I certainly am annoyed by the annual invasion, but must confess that we chose to build our home in a hayfield.  (The first spring I mowed the yard, field mice ran from the mower in droves.)  It serves a reminder of my place in the world:  I'm just a small component in a much bigger system.  And, somehow, that comforts me.

It reminds me I have a place, a home here in the field, with the mice . . . and the Great Mouse Hunter.

How are you living your savory life?


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Elbow Room

Harvest Moon over trees
" . . . Elbow Room!" cried Daniel Boone.
~Arthur Cuiterman

It's Saturday morning, and the dust motes are dancing in the early morning sun that streams through the windows.  The silence is a true rarity in this age when digital devices provide a soundtrack which kidnaps my attention and holds it hostage.

My goodness, I've needed this.  I feel so mush-brained thirteen days into a seventeen-day week (the downside of multiple income streams).  So, I'm savoring the silence, hoping my thoughts will take some intelligent form rather than bouncing around aimlessly.  They must do it quickly.  I have a hair appointment at nine and an appointment in town at noon that should last until seven or eight this evening.

Out of reach!
But the silence is not actually silent:  the clock is ticking, a bird whistles its tune in the yard.  Claws skitter across the hard floor and the family pets careen into the room, running and roughhousing.  The brown-tabby cat, Lexi, tires for a moment and leaps to the back of the recliner where Lizzy, the border collie, cannot follow.  After a victorious moment she pounces, genially gumming Lizzy's fluffy windshield-wiper tail.  I hear slippers scuffing up the hall and I know this silence, this solace, will soon cease.  While I crave silence, he abhors it, so the digital devices will power up, driving away the silence.  It's time for me to get dressed, anyway.

The errand in town finished early and I'm back at home while the family is at a movie.  The dust motes are dancing in the final rays of the day.  The house is silent, except for the pets playing.  The room is growing dark and I'm finally beginning to relax again.

The cat has decided I need help writing this and climbs onto my chest to watch me work.  She's ready for supper and wants me to take care of her.  Only after lightning strikes nearby do I notice that clouds have covered the twilit sky.  Both she and the dog scamper for shelter.

A front is coming through which means the weather will cool for a few days.  The air crackles with the looming change.  I am uneasy, but cannot attribute it completely to the weather.  I am uncomfortable with my life.  Change is coming; it must because I am too tired to continue expending energy without respite.

On occasion, I must begin to say, "No," to the things I don't really enjoy so I can say, "Yes," to the things I do.  My schedule for the next few weeks is full, but thins somewhat after that.  I plan to keep it that way.

The lightning has become less frequent and the animals are settling down.  So am I.  The family will be home soon and the noise will increase, but that's okay.  Family is something I've said, "No," to entirely too much.

So, I'll close this little entry.  I have a good book waiting on me.

How are you?


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Roadside Relic: Horse Barn

 Once home to lean and lovely horses, this derelict barn is rapidly returning to the earth.  Although the nearby pond is now covered in green algae, during the hottest days of summer  the algae bloom turns crimson.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Roadside Relic: the Dairy Bar

All that's left of this dairy bar is the sign and the circular drive.  Located on one of the county's original east-west corridors, this drive-up ice cream fountain provided relief for travelers in the non-air-conditioned past.  The advent of freeways took away the traffic, and the customers.  Now, the road is little more than a scenic two-lane to be taken when you're not in a hurry.  Gee, I wish I had some ice cream.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Avatar:  a movable image that represents a person in a virtual reality environment or in cyberspace *

Click "play" to meet my avatar.

The real me is messy, and temperamental, and overbooked, and undisciplined, and, and, and . . . real.

But it's nice to pretend for a little while, to escape, before returning to the world that cannot be contained in two dimensions but is a fully-relational matrix of responsibilities, commitments, and interests.  My 2-D self lies devoid of its own volition, waiting for you to click on the "play" icon, but my 3-D self can be self-actuating, when it chooses.

And I choose.

To be self-actuating, that is.  That is who I am, except when I'm amusing myself creating digital dolls for no better reason than it was fun.

Which it was, once I "redesigned" myself, because, in the break from reality, I had to focus some on how I wish others to see me.

I think I have some changes to make.

So, I think I'll play digital-dress-up once in a while, when the real me is feeling a bit 2-D.  Somehow, the 2-D me helps the 3-D me to see myself more clearly.

Won't you come along with me?


*avatar. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved September 21, 2012, from website:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Letting hope take wing . . .

"Hope is the thing with feathers --"

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Emily Dickinson is a wonderful poet, no doubt, but I have to confess that I do not agree with her on the subject of hope--unless the feathers she had in mind were attached to an eagle.

Hope is a feeling that is at the root of feeling human.  It lifts the spirit; it is a beacon on the darkest night.  But hope must be more than feathers.  It must have hands and feet and a voice.  Without them, hope is little more than a wish waiting on a benevolent fairy godmother.  I like the idea of someone else working to make my wish come true, but I'm too impatient to wait.

Hope must be like a spur to a horse's flank.  It must make me get up and work, so here's a few thoughts on hope:

Hope is that thing with tiny leaves leaning toward the light.

Hope is three blackberries the first year.

Hope is building a nest on a ceiling fan.

Hope is a break in the clouds.

Hope is hay rolls for winter.

Hope is jars of home-pickled pickles.

Hope is freshly turned earth.
Dickinson said that hope asked nothing of her, but I don't have her kind.  My hope asks everything of me.  Hope and hard work go hand-in-hand, and that's just fine by me.

How do you hope?


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shouldn't It Be Obvious?

Welcoming Committee
The birds are lined up on the wire as I arrive home.
Have you ever wondered how everyone else seems to come up with these fabulous, entertaining, cutesy, profound ideas for blog entries?  Well, so have I.  So, I've gone in desperate search of some advice on blog writing.

Brent Riggs (yes, the Linky Tools guy) began a series on blog writing in 2009 with an article called "There’s Really Only One Main Secret to a Great Blog – the Other Secrets are Secondary."  It's practical, realistic, and you should read it.

More recently, Brian A. Klems over on Writer's Digest authored an article called "THE 12 DOS AND DON’TS OF WRITING A BLOG."  Klems offers 12 doable suggestions for the aspiring blogger.

There are several special interest sites which promote and educate bloggers:

Butterfly on a buddleia
This picture just makes me smile!
The SITS Girls feature blogs daily, offer educational courses online--both live and recorded.  They are the organizers of the Bloggy Boot Camp which is offered several times a year in different locations throughout the country.  Their advice ranges from the inspirational to the practical for their 40,000 members.

BlogHer is "the leading cross-platform media network created by, for and with women social media leaders."  It helps women bloggers learn to promote their blogs.  Revenue sharing is available for their 3000-ish selected "premium" bloggers.

Mary Jane's Farm has established GirlGab which is "blog roll central" for MaryJane Butters and the members of the Farmgirl Sisterhood.  New farmgirl entries are highlighted daily, as well as blogs by the "official" Suburban, Rural, Ranch, Beach, City, and Mountain farmgirls. is another categoried blog roll which offers top 10 lists.  Bloggers can apply to be listed on the site and can purchase advertising.

After reading a number of these I have gleaned two essential strategies to be a successful blogger (which I'm probably not):

  • find a niche, and 
  • be outrageous.

The second is easier than the first.  That's where many bloggers are so good:  they rant about extreme positions on hot-button issues which are sure to provoke flame wars.  It certainly adds to the page loads.  How much it adds to public discourse remains to be seen, but this strategy has allowed a number of writers to become digital sensations.

Sneakers on a limb
Life can be a real
whirlwind at times!
The former strategy--niche writing--can build a following, but often within a smaller group.  Usually less bombastic, the niche blog caters to its audience, but risks catering so slavishly that it blends into the fabric of the group.

I have a plan:

I'm going to write more about things I care about and worry less about appealing to an audience.  

If I'm bombastic, well, that probably won't happen; it's just not my nature.  If I cater to a niche, it's because I am or wish to be a part of that culture.  

I am excited about future blog posts; I hope you find them interesting.  Or nostalgic.  Or cute.  Or poignant.  Or infuriating.  Regardless of how you find them, I will continue to write them as long as I have something to say about living a life worth savoring.


How are you savoring your life?


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Roadside Relic: High and Dry

The drought of 2012 has left many people high and dry--just like this fishing boat.  Earlier in the summer, the boat bobbed at the edge of a large stock pond.  Despite recent rains, the pond has receded so that the boat is at least 10 feet from what's left of the water.  It will take a lot of rain to refill the depleted watering holes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Roadside Relic: Cattle and Hay Barn

From time when machines were not so prevalent, barns only needed to be built tall enough for the people and the animals.  This low-roofed barn hugs the contours of the land, remaining long after the pasture has been turned into a bean field.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Roadside Relic: The Post Office

Always in the center of town, the post office connected tiny communities and people.  Some were inside existing grocery stores, while others stood alone.  This post office served its community for many years before a larger, brick building was built right beside it.  Now, it stands a mute witness to the role of communication in a growing nation.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Going to the Spa--Farmgirl Style!

Enjoy your own spa!
I spent several hours in the sauna yesterday, and, although I wasn't swatted with cold birch twigs afterward, I feel better for it.  And, best of all it was free!  Do you want to know how you can receive your own free sauna?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Winnowing Out the Chaff

Clutter management?  How do you do it??????
It's odd how the strangest things can trigger action.  Over the weekend, I hit the limit on my Picasa account; I could not upload any more pictures without upgrading to a paid account.  Perplexed, I began examining my digital photo archive.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Leaving the Nest

More body than beak!
The swallow fledglings are preening this morning, and I wonder if they will still be in the nest when I return from church.  Before we moved to the farm, I had heard of barn swallows, but nobody warned me about fan swallows.  From our first summer here, swallows have built nests on the motors of the ceiling fans we installed on the front porch.  The back porch fan had gone unnoticed--until this year.

I'd not really paid much attention to the front porch nests--out of sight, out of mind, you know--but this year I've had a front-row, well living-room sofa, view of the story.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

By Any Other Name

I'm not really fond of my name, Nancy.  It's the name of a comic strip character.  It's the name of an extrovert.  It's a nickname rather than a real name.  It's . . . it's . . . it's not me.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rainy Day Plan

It was supposed to rain today, so I gave myself the day off.  Yes.  Really.  I did.  Unfortunately, the rain did not arrive until mid-afternoon, so I burned a lot of daylight.  I have a plan, however, and, for once, I plan to follow it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Roadside Relic: Pole Barn

A derelict pole barn testifies to the decline of acres under cultivation in the Mississippi delta.  Their owners cannot make a living farming anymore, so the rich land lies fallow.  What a waste!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Roadside Relic: Country Topiary

Invasive Virginia creeper forms an informal topiary on a t-post along a country road.  Mother Nature's accidents are usually more beautiful than the most artful human arrangements.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mighty Tiny

While a female feeds at the front,
another buzzes around the rear feeder
They're back!  The tiny, combative pigs with wings have returned.  The hummingbirds are here!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nesting on a ceiling fan

Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow
Barn swallows are more persistent than I am--and, apparently, smarter.  Since I don't have a barn, they have decided to nest on my porch on top of my ceiling fans.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Finish Line

Our shop on the road
Whew!  Two art fairs in two weeks!  It's been tiring.  One more to go before it's time to pack it in for the summer.

It's also been kind of fun.  We've chosen to do fairs that are fairly close to home--three hours or less--so we can make it home on Saturday night.  While that limits some of our choices, it allows us to limit our overhead and honor our church commitments.

We're beginning to work out our routine.  When we were doing craft fairs, the Resident Dragon (RD) would basically help me set up and pack up, but would go elsewhere during the show.  For the art shows, which are exclusively his jewelry, he mostly stays in the tent and works on new pieces.  Every couple of hours, he'll go on walkabout, talking to other vendors.

The fruits of the creative process
I'm "inside sales."  Yes, those of you who know me can snort very loudly (I'm a notorious introvert) but it's working for us.  We had our highest sales day ever on Saturday!

He takes his worktable with him and either works on new pieces, or modifies existing pieces.  He will lengthen or shorten designs and even custom-made a matching pair of earrings for a customer right before her eyes!  A piece he finished at the show sold within the hour.  His favorite piece, a dragon's blood jasper, sold before the show even opened (to another vendor--quite a coup)!

So, it's been a good two weeks.  This next show is a two-day, and close to home.  It will be a good way to finish off the spring show season.

My knitting machine is lonely
As for me, I'm enjoying writing again, and preparing my office for a good summer's work.  My seedlings will be ready to plant in a week or two, and I need to make one more pass through the garden with the tiller before I create rows and hills.  My list of craft projects grows daily.  I feel better already.  It will be a great summer.  Finally.

What are you planning for the summer?