Posts tagged with: Suzanne Ferrell

Snippets from Christmas Day at the Ferrell’s

Amid the chaos that happens in a house with five kids under the age of seven, twin babies and a puppy just over a year old on Christmas Day, I found time to enjoy and observe the family (sometimes known as the thundering horde that invades my peaceful domain–said with great love and affection). So I thought I’d share some of that evening with you.

The meal was lovely and we noted more eating was taking place at the adult table and lots of giggling was happening over at the kids’ table. This could be that the kids were having more fun or perhaps the adults were realizing this is the “Only happens on Christmas” meal and were devouring it with great intent? (Menu: Grilled flank steak, grilled Atlantic Salmon, Shrimp cocktail platter–made by me and not prefrozen, Augratin potatoes, crab stuffed mushrooms and bacon and broccoli salad.)

Then we dug into the Christmas stockings.

all-natural-beef-shank-bone-for-dogs-1Oh, wait. FIRST we neutralized the investigative nose of one very curious and energetic boxer/redhealer mix puppy. Yes, Rusty Puppy got a BIG beef ribeye bone to keep him out of the chaos. Of course that didn’t stop him from lying right in the middle of the family room while he gnawed happily on his gift!

Tradition continued. So, stockings…Lots of candy, do-dads, guitar/bass/mandolin strings (we have three guitarists in the family), ornaments, and toys for the kiddos. But the biggest hit, heard said by at least four adults, “We got toothbrushes. Yea! Mom forgot those last year.” Seriously people, traditions are strong with this bunch. Forget the toothbrushes once and you hear about it for years!

Almost all the presents were given out and opened, when the Jazzman got one from me to him and all the grandkids. It’s a book titled, The Book Without Any Pictures. They all gathered round and he read it to them, complete with crazy expressions and funny voices. It was a hit. Lots of giggling going on. (I couldn’t video tape it as I had my hands full of one baby and a bottle, but here is a Youtube of a teacher reading it so you can imagine the story at our house! http://youtu.be/0JXc2K0sVE8)Whole Foods Bag

Funniest thing. At one point I notice my oldest grandson walking around with a paperbag, with handles, carrying everything he got inside. No matter where he went in the house, that bag went with him. :) Cracked me up, but I had to know why? His answer: Because Grandma Suzie, when I was at Nanny’s house (his other grandmother) I forgot a present and it made me cry. I don’t want to forget anything this time.” I’m still laughing over it!

Odd moment. I was listening to my oldest granddaughter read to me from her new read alone books, when I noticed the grownup kids in a circle on the far side of the room. Focusing my attention a moment, I realized they were discussing the flaws in the newest Superman movie to the actual comic story. Uhm, who knows the cannons of comic books so well that they can have a heated discussion on the merits of the new movie vs the actual original story? My kids/in-laws!

51SG6-Q8c4L._SY300_Quiet moment. My second grandson, who sort of does his own thing, brought me his new Planes book and asked me to read it to him. He crawled up beside me with a sugar cookie in his hand. He told me the name of each plane as we went and listened to the story of Dusty Crophopper. When I finished, he said, “I’ll be right back.” He returned with another cookie, cuddled up close and said, “Read it again, Grandma.” Which, of course, I did.

Peaceful scene. My son’s girlfriend got the girls big poster size coloring pages from the Frozen movie. Well, the crayons in the stockings were all spanking new, so the youngest granddaughter and the girlfriend’s little boy hunkered down in a spot and colored quietly and with great purpose.

Finally, the Jazzman was starting to doze off and the last family was packing up to leave. As soon as they went out the door…silence. No seriously, the entire house seemed to settle down into peace, quiet and ready for a long nap.

What your favorite moment from your holiday celebration? Any traditions started? Any you forgot and will now here about for an entire year?

Close To Christmas Weddings

Wh2c32c4b2bf91d7a296545f98fd37ee1aen I was a teenager, my older cousin Cindy got married.

It was in Ohio.

In December.

In the cold and snow.

I was all of 13, but fit in well with two of her sisters who were a year older and younger than me, so I was quickly enlisted in the bridesmaid corp. It was my first winter wedding. It was my first wedding as part of the wedding party.

We wore burgundy velvet, floor length gowns. Our hair pieces were head bands with silk poinsettias glued to them and instead of bouquets of flowers, we carried white furry muffs with another poinsettia pinned to the front of them. It was an afternoon wedding, but the grey winter sky that threatened more snow made it feel like late evening, almost dusk.

I remember little about the ceremony itself. My cousin married the man who is still her husband nearly 40 years later. My cousins and I had fun getting ready, doing our hair, walking down the aisle and partying with everyone later.

That was a much different wedding than the other important December wedding in my life, the one that took place between my mother and father.

They decided to get married 3 days before Christmas. They had very little money, so they just went to the Justice of the Peace in their little hometown to elope. No months of pre-wedding planning. No bridesmaids, no bestmen/ushers, no flowers, no cake. Just two people deciding they wanted to spend their lives together.

And they did.

For the next 61 and 1/2 years they stayed together. Through thin times (and there were many of those in the beginning) and through thick. Through rich and poor. Through sickness and health. Through three kids, three in-laws, eight grandchildren, and a bunch of great-grandkids. Through ups and downs. They stuck it out. Close to Christmas final

The last fall I was home before my daddy passed away, I noticed something. They touched each other often. Daddy would walk by Mom as she sat at the table talking to me. He’d just pat her shoulder and she’d reach up and pat his hand. Then he’d head to the family room. This happened several times a day. It seemed the older they got, the more the need to touch each other became. When I asked Mom about it, she said, “We just like to remind each other we’re glad we’re here.”

When I moved away from home many, many years ago, I decided it would be fun to send my parents a flower arrangement for their anniversary. It was usually a centerpiece of holly and evergreen and red candles for their dining room table or poinsettias for their fireplace. Sending it on the twenty-second let me surprise them on their anniversary and know they could enjoy them through the holiday season.

The last two years, since Daddy died, I’ve made sure there were red roses in the arrangement. See, he grew roses, Mom’s favorite flower, and every day during rose season, (May-Sept in Ohio), he’d cut fresh roses for her vases in the kitchen and family rooms.

So, when I decided to write a Christmas novella for the Westen series, I naturally titled it CLOSE TO CHRISTMAS. And when I think of the phrase close to Christmas, it reminds me of my parents anniversary which was always…close to Christmas. :) And winter weddings can be such fun.

Here’s the blurb for the novella:

It’s been a long dangerous year for the town folks of Westen. A celebration is just what they need. It’s four days before Christmas and the town is not only decked out in their holiday best, but looking forward to the wedding of Sheriff Gage Justice and his love, Deputy Bobby Roberts.

First Bobby’s lawyer sister, Chloe comes to town looking over her shoulder, which has the quiet deputy, Wes Strong wondering what has her running scared. Then problems start to happen with the wedding plans.

Has Chloe brought trouble to Westen?

Or does someone in town want to ruin the wedding this close to Christmas?

And I even borrowed my parents wedding anniversary for the date Gage and Bobby are getting married. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

So, do you know anyone who was married close to Christmas? Have you ever been in a winter wedding? Do you think they’re romantic? Have you been a bridesmaid? How many times? (I was 6 and a matron of honor once.) 

Since this is a little launch party and I’m celbrating my parents anniversary in two days, how about I give out 2 print copies for CLOSE TO CHRISTMAS as part of the Bandita 12 Days of Christmas?

 

Allie Burton winner

1BanditBooty The winner of an e-copy of the LOST DAUGHTERS OF ATLANTIS COLLECTION featuring the first three books in the series: Atlantis Riptide, Atlantis Red Tide, and Atlantis Rising Tide is ELF!

CONGRATULATIONS, ELF!!

Please send your email addy to me at suzanne AT suzanneferrell DOT com and I’ll see Allie gets that prize to you ASAP!

Allie Burton returns with a story from the Antarctic!

SONY DSCIdeas, Ideas Everywhere

Writers frequently get asked where their ideas come from. The answer is simple. Everywhere.

At the store. At the park. At school. At parties and events.

Reading social media and newspaper articles. Watching TV and documentaries. Hearing music. Seeing artwork.

For example, I got the idea for ATLANTIS GLACIAL TIDES after seeing a photograph of ice tunnels in Alaska. The image was so beautiful and powerful I wanted to place a story there. Of course, ATLANTIS GLACIAL TIDES isn’t in Alaska, it’s located underneath Antarctica, but I could imagine the underwater ice tunnel there. And, while doing research for the story I got ideas on different things to include like Emperor Penguins and Rainbow Fish.

I got the idea for ATLANTIS TWISTING TIDES, the prequel to ATLANTIS GLACIAL TIDES, when I was watching the news about a hurricane.

And the entire Lost Daughters of Atlantis series came from a day at the beach. What if there were people who lived under the ocean? What if a war was going on underneath the sea? How would that war affect humans? What if you discovered you were not only a part of this world but a lost princess? And my imagination was off…

Atlantis Glacial Tides

Lost Daughters of Atlantis Book 5Atlantis Glacial Tides final

Shocked by her family’s plans to wed her to a stranger, sixteen-year-old Princess Adria must decide whether to flee the underwater Kingdom of Merta or fight to keep her rightful place. When Kai, the criminal she’d rescued informs her of a plot to kidnap her future sister-in-law, Adria decides to take action to prove her loyalty.

Sparks flew between her and Kai when they met during a hurricane misadventure, but she can’t trust her judgment about him. Especially when Kai won’t help stop the kidnapping because he’s on his own secret mission. A mission that he refuses to divulge.

In a case of mistaken identity, Adria is kidnapped and whisked away to a mysterious glacial underwater world of ice and evil where she learns that everything isn’t rainbow fish and roses, that there are Atlanteans who suffer and slave, and that being cold isn’t a state of body, but a state of mind.

With Kai as her prison guard, the two teens grow closer, and Adria must choose between loyalty to her kingdom or to her dreams.

Twisting Tides_72 dpi 2400 ht

Atlantis Twisting Tides

Lost Daughter of Atlantis Novella

When unrest threatens her kingdom, a mermaid princess must choose between loyalty and love.

When fifteen-year-old Atlantean Princess Adria sneaks away to see a hurricane on the surface of the ocean, she finds an air-breather in trouble. Kai’s sailboat is sinking and Adria risks exposure of her Atlantean powers in order to save him.

Kai believes he’s rescuing Adria. He’s Atlantean too, with his own skills and secrets.

The two teens stumble onto an uninhabited island still thinking the other needs rescuing. When other Atlanteans show up—Atlanteans plotting against Adria’s kingdom—Adria must decide whether to trust Kai based on the guy she’s come to know or the company he keeps.

What sets your imagination down a zigzagging path of what ifs and ideas?

Comment below for a chance to win an e-copy of the LOST DAUGHTERS OF ATLANTIS COLLECTION featuring the first three books in the series: Atlantis Riptide, Atlantis Red Tide, and Atlantis Rising Tide.IMG_1057 Prize Pack

And, ATLANTIS TWISTING TIDES is free on Amazon, iBooks, GooglePlay, and Kobo.

Subscribe to my newsletter on my website for a chance to win the Prize Pack (pictured) including a $25 Amazon or iBooks gift card, Steve Madden infinity scarf and gloves, several young adult books, and treats!

To subscribe or get more information about other books in the Lost Daughters of Atlantis series, visit my website at www.allieburton.com.

The Year Jazzman Was In Charge Of Present Disbursal…

TreeWhen we lived in Florida, I was scheduled to work Christmas Eve night, something every nurse has faced during holidays. Now that meant I’d be gone when the kids were asleep and I’d have to leave the “scattering” of presents under the tree to the Jazzman. I’d made three piles in our bedroom of wrapped presents with the stockings stuffed for each child on top of them. I gave Jazzman strict instructions on waiting until the kids (all in elementary and middle school) had gone to bed, then he was to mix up the presents under the tree, and lay the stockings to one side. (We didn’t have a fireplace, so that’s as good as it got.)

Well, the next morning, I got an interesting story from the kids.

Apparently Jazzman went to sleep before putting out the presents. OH NO!

So my youngest daughter and son woke up at around 5 am and imagine this…NO PRESENTS UNDER THE TREE!!

Well, being the smart kids they were, they quickly figured out Jazzman hadn’t done his bit. So they knocked on the bedroom door to wake him, saying, “Dad, you forgot to put our presents under the tree.”

So, Jazzman hauls out the 3 piles and puts them under the tree. In 3 piles.

The kids: No Dad, you have to mess them up like this.

And they proceed to make a huge mess of the presents, mixing them all up. In the mean time, Jazzman has decided he was awake and started making coffee. The kids put a big kabosh on that.

The kids: No Dad, you have to go back to bed now.

Jazzman: Why?

The kids: Because we have to find our presents and try to figure out what they are.20131224_011416-1

Jazzman: What do you mean find your presents?

The kids: Every year while you and Mom sleep, we get up early and find all our presents. We make a pile, then try to figure out what each one is. Then we put them back in a mess under the tree.

Jazzman, looking sleepy and confused: But they were in neat piles. You two just made the mess.

The kids: Daddy, this is our tradition!

Jazzman gave up and crawled back in bed. He said he layed there with the door cracked, listening to the two of them giggle and rattle the wrapped packages. Finally, they went back to bed, too. When I came home, I had to wake everyone up to open their presents, unaware of their little tradition.

:)

Close to the Fire final for Barnes and NobleI love that story. It’s amazing the traditions our kids pick up that we don’t even start, while others are intentional. I must make Buckeye candy every year, as well as chocolate mint cookies, peanut blossoms, coconut jam thumbprints and m&m cookies. I have to decorate cookie cutter cookies with the kids and now grandkids. We have to go to church on Christmas Eve just to hear my daughter sing O Holy Night. Everyone must get a stocking full of fun things and everyone gets warm socks. Oh yes, I also have to have a homemade cheeseball on Christmas Day for them to munch on while dinner is cooking.

So, dear readers, what is your favorite family tradition? Is there a food item you must have? Do you presents in a certain order? Does your family have something you must do every year in order to make the holiday a success? Since it’s holiday time, I think I’ll give away a copy of my newest book, CLOSE TO THE FIRE to one reader who posts a tradition today.

 

Close to the Fire finalPROLOGUE

 

Flames shot up in front of him. Heat knocked him backward.

The noise deafening.

Smoke and cinders flew about in the firestorm like evil imps dancing to the tune of the monster raging around him.

Sweat ran down his face.

His mask fogged. Cleared.

His turnout gear plastered to his body. What little of his skin was exposed stung. Blistered.

Bill.

He had to find Bill.

“Bill! Where are you?” he said into the radio amplifier attached to his mask and gear.

Thick smoke and wild flames raged around him.

Which way had he gone? He tried to get his bearings. Where was the exit?

 They’d been unable to get across the lower part of the warehouse and instead went up the side stairs to the metal bridge-like structure along the side of the building. There they split up, trying to see the kid they’d been told had been dragged into the burning building.

“Over here, Deke. To your left.” Bill’s voice sounded over the radio.

He swung his gaze that direction. There he was. About ten feet away, near the edge of the scaffolding they were standing on. Safe.

“Any sign of the kid?”

Bill shook his head no.

A rumble sounded above them.

They both looked up.  A hole in the ceiling open up. Flames whooshed upward.

Another rumble shook the building. A timber gave way and half the roof on the far side of the warehouse came crashing down, throwing Deke against the outer wall of the building.  Bill flew backward onto the shaky scaffolding.

Deke held on to a window ledge as he tried to get his balance. He glanced out. Two figures ran away from the burning building. The larger one had the smaller one by scruff of the neck, hauling him away in the opposite direction of the fire engines out front.

Damn, the night watchman had been right. There had been a kid with the arsonist.

“Kid’s okay, Bill. We need to get out of here.” He signaled down just in case his partner hadn’t heard him.

Bill nodded. “Meet you down below.”

Deke was halfway down the stairs when the loud creaking started above. He looked up.

The remaining roof broke into two parts. It dangled by a few metal beams. Right over Bill.

Another rumble.

The metal gave way. Hit the scaffolding.

One minute Bill was there, the next…only flames and twisted metal.

“Deke!” Bill said, then silence over the radio.

“Bill!” He tried to climb back up.

Another beam came loose. It hit him. Slamming him down the stairs, it knocked his headgear and mask loose. Flames all around him, hot metal landing on the side of his neck, something liquid seeping down into his turnout gear and searing his chest.

Screaming sounded in his ears.

His screaming.

Deacon Reynolds tumbled out of the bed and landed on the floor in a tangle of sweaty sheets. Willing his breathing to slow, he wiped his hands over his face.

“Dammit.” His words were followed by hacking coughs.

Jeez. He must’ve been screaming again. He didn’t do it every time he had the dream, but when he did his voice box complained with a coughing fit. The docs said the damaged vocal cords couldn’t take the trauma of making harsh sounds. He thought he’d had it under control. At least the screaming part. The dreams hadn’t been this bad in months, maybe even a year. What had triggered this one?

He ran his hand through his wet hair. His whole body was covered in sweat.

It had to be the summer’s heat.

Untangling himself from the sheets, he strode naked across to the bathroom and poured himself a glass of cold water. Drinking it slowly, he worked on letting his throat relax as he stared at his naked chest in the mirror. The thick cords of scar tissue extended from his jawline down his neck, across the left side of his shoulder and chest. Docs said he was lucky the movement of his shoulder hadn’t been damaged and that the burns hadn’t gotten too deep near his heart.

He barked out a harsh laugh.

Lucky. Right.

Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn’t have been better if the fire had claimed him right along with Bill.

It’s a RED HOT Party!!

Close to the Fire card back DekeThat’s right folks we’re having a book launch party!!! You know what that means, don’t you? Food, fun, friends…and a firefighter!! No, seriously. This time we’re inviting Deke Reynolds into the Lair. He’s a bonafide firefighter who happens to be not only the fire chief for Westen, Ohio, the fictional town where I’ve set my book, CLOSE TO THE FIRE, but he’s also the book’s hero! Here’s the character card for him. 

The heroine in CLOSE TO THE FIRE is Libby Wilson, the county social worker. We met her in the first book in the series, CLOSE TO HOME. That’s her character card right there.

Close to the Fire card back Libby

So what’s their story about?

They once were lovers:
After ten years of keeping his distance to the one woman he’s always loved, Fire Chief Deke Reynolds is finally ready to set aside his grief and confess his guilt to Elizabeth “Libby” Wilson about his part in her brother’s death. Libby’s own guilty secret has kept her from sharing her life with the man who stole her heart as a teen and awakened her body as a young woman.

Danger has forced them together again:
A fire and their odd connection to a new teenager at the local half-way house have this couple finally sharing their secrets with each other. With an arsonist on the loose, threatening the town of Westen and its citizens, have Libby and Deke waited too long to find their love again?

Close to the Fire finalYes, people…this is a reunion romance book. But it’s been a hot, dry summer in Westen. Things have begun to smolder.  All it takes is a little kindling to get things burning.

One of the fun parts of doing a series in one small town is the town folks who come into the story and add more flavor to it. So some of the regulars who are back is Lorna Doone, the owner of the Peaches ‘N Cream Cafe, Doc Clint and Emma Preston, Sheriff Gage Justice and his fiancee Bobby Roberts and of course our beloved Deputy Cleetus Junkins.

In fact, one of the newer residents in Westen is Miss Sylvie Gillis, a hair stylist over at the Dye Right Salon and she’s sort of got her eye on the big deputy.

There’s a newcomer to town who sort of stirs things up. A teenager named Kyle Gordon, who is a resident at the halfway house for troubled youths. (Okay, confess how many of you hear Joe Pesci say Utes just now?)

So, it wouldn’t be a Bandit book launch party without some fun and games. Here goes.

We’re serving cold drinks and five-alarm chili! What and who are you bringing to the shindig?

Name these movies with firefighters in them:

1. A team of ace firefighters travel around the world putting out oil rig fires.

2. A firefighter is trapped inside a burning building and contemplates his life as his team works to save him.

3. Two estranged firefighter brothers work from different angles to stop an arsonist who is setting fires all over Chicago.

I’m giving away print copies of CLOSE TO THE FIRE to 2 readers who answer the questions! (Oh, and if you want to download the book to your kindle, just click on the cover.)

Visiting with Suz

Hey, y’all! Pull up a comfy chair. It’s been a while since we just visited. That’s what my grandma CindyJane used to call talking with friends and family. She’d say, “Sit down and let’s visit a while.” When I was little that meant for me to crawl up onto the couch beside her, snuggle in and tell her everything going on in my life. As a teen and young adult, it meant sitting at the table with her, my aunts and mom and talk about life, family, neighbors…everything and anything!

My parents came from a small town in the Blue Ridge range of the Appalachians in Eastern Tennessee. I loved going there for vacations and visiting with all my extended family. Grandma CindyJane, Grandpa Sherm, my aunts, uncles, cousins. I loved the charm of the small town, saying hello to people who knew my family intimately.  When I started writing the Westen series, a series of romances in a small Ohio town, I drew on the experiences of my Tennessee visits in building my fictional community.

Close to the Fire finalIn CLOSE TO THE FIRE, I return to Westen for another visit with those friends. Lorna Doone is still running the Peaches ‘N Cream Cafe. Doc Clint and Emma still run the local health clinic with the help of taciturn nurse, Harriett. Gage and Bobby are busy planning their wedding and keeping the town safe with all the deputies of the sheriff’s department. But it’s been a long, dry summer and things are heating up in Westen, especially for Fire Chief Deke Reynolds.

They once were lovers:
After ten years of keeping his distance to the one woman he’s always loved, Fire Chief Deke Reynolds is finally ready to set aside his grief and confess his guilt to Elizabeth “Libby” Wilson about his part in her brother’s death. Libby’s own guilty secret has kept her from sharing her life with the man who stole her heart as a teen and awakened her body as a young woman.

Danger has forced them together again:
A fire and their odd connection to a new teenager at the local half-way house have this couple finally sharing their secrets with each other. With an arsonist on the loose, threatening the town of Westen and its citizens, have Libby and Deke waited too long to find their love again?

That’s the cover and cover blurb for the book, (out this month and available at Amazon, B&N, iTunes and KOBO). It’s a reunion story. I love those, thinking how two people so in love could be driven apart and eventually get their second chance at happiness. Time and tragedy have kept these two apart, but as Lorna Doone would say, “Even in Westen there’s an expiration date on stubbornness.”

CLOSE TO THE FIRE is also a story about a young man finding a place to belong. Also, a much beloved character finds someone with whom to share his heart. And finally a community comes together once again to meet trouble head-on.

So, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of CLOSE TO THE FIRE and have a sit-down with the friends waiting to visit with you in Westen.

Julie Benson returns with a Cowboy In The Making.

Julie BensonHey everyone! Today in the Lair we’re welcoming back author Julie Benson. As you know Julie writes contemporary western romances for Harlequin American. Today she’s going to tell us about her newest book, COWBOY IN THE MAKING.

Suz: Glad to have you back in the Lair, Julie! COWBOY IN THE MAKING is your fifth book set in the Colorado town of Estes Park. What made you choose that area of the American West to set your stories in?

Julie: I went to a wedding in Estes Park, Colorado and few years ago and fell in love with the area. While visiting there an idea for a story—one completely different than anything else I’d ever written—hit me smack in the face in the form of one fine looking cowboy. One day when I got stuck on a current story I took Suz’s advice and started working on something completely different—my cowboy story. I found my voice and had a blast writing that book. Then when I sold that story I decided to stay with the Colorado setting and cowboys for a few more books.

Suz: Tell us about COWBOY IN THE MAKING.

Julie: Here’s the blurb:

A Little Bit Country… 

Emma Donovan ran off to Nashville when she was young and full of dreams. Now she’s back home in Colorado with a little more common sense. And that sense is telling her not to count on Jamie Westland. He won’t be around long—not with his big-time career in New York City. 

Jamie’s never felt at home, not with his adopted family, not with himself. Now, on his grandfather’s ranch, the pieces of his life are coming together in a way that feels right. And Emma has so much to do with it. But when an opportunity comes along back in New York, he has to decide between his old life and the promise of a new one…with Emma. CowboyInTheMakingFrontCover-2-2

 Suz: In COWBOY IN THE MAKING, you handle the subject of adoption. I like how you showed three different sides to the process. How did you decide on that conflict for the book?

Julie: When Jamie’s character popped into my head I knew he was adopted. That’s where the whole story started. I first met Emma when she showed up as Avery’s friend in my third book, The Rancher and the Vet, but I knew very little about her other than she worked as the volunteer coordinator at the animal shelter and she had dreams of a career in country music. Jamie was much clearer to me. I realized he’d never felt like he fit in with his family because he was so very different from them. He also carried a lot of pain from his birth mother not wanting anything to do with him when he reached out to her as a teenager.

Suz: Both your hero and heroine are musicians in COWBOY IN THE MAKING, but from different genres, country and classical. Which begs me to ask the question, which are you more a fan of? Why?

 Julie: I’m a rock and roll girl, but my son Alex has gotten me listening to country music over the last few years so I’d choose it over classical music. I love how country music often tells a story and has such genuine emotion running through it. Those things call to me. Country music so often taps into universal themes. It’s got an honesty to it.

So readers, are you a rock and roll kind of person or more country? Or are you into classical? Jazz? What’s on your iPod or the CD in your car stereo? Do you listen to music when you read? If you’re a writer, do you listen to music while you write or do you like it quiet?

The Square-Foot Garden Adventure

20140910_190847Pull up a chair…get comfy…this is gonna take a while! :)

Y’all know I love my husband. I do. Let’s make that 100% clear.

However life with the Jazzman is…at times…an adventure. It’s how we ended up in Texas, by way of a few years in Florida. When he gets a new project he tends to focus all that genius IQ on it, sometimes to the point of obsession. Then there’s the experimentation part of most projects. (Nothing has blown up…lately.)

For the past year he’s been reading about organic gardening.

Let me back up a few years. We’ve gone “mostly” organic and reduced the amount of processed foods in our home. My parents grew up on farms in Tennessee and my mom cooked using fresh ingredients when I was growing up, even planting a small garden for tomatoes, peppers and the occasional cucumber vine. We had friends who grew half-runner green beans and corn in bigger gardens, which they would let us pick. In the summer we’d go pick strawberries at a pick-your-own farm outside of Columbus, blackberries at a friend’s farm and apples from relatives in Tennessee. Cooking with fresh ingredients as much as possible isn’t foreign to me, so I indulged most of Jazzman’s wishes for organic foods.

Guess what peeps. Shopping at the Organic Food Stores is expensive!

Jazzman understood this, (after a sit-down with me over the budget), hence his reasoning that we should grow our own vegetables….organically…in our little backyard.

Now, one thing about the Jazzman is that he researches, studies and analyzes how to do things. So naturally, he bought books, read articles on the internet and talked with organic farmers. After many months of research, he decided we should do “raised beds in a square-foot garden, Suz.”

Which of course led to many hours of him planning all the different ways to build a raised bed and how to make it efficient. There are places where you can buy pre-made raised beds in any dimension. Nope. Jazzman decided he needed to build ours out of cedar boards. So supplies bought, you’d think we were ready to go, right? Nope.

We watched the sun rise and fall for about a week, trying to determine where the best use of sunlight would be. Jazzman’s determination? Smack dab in the middle of the back yard. OH, HELL NO! I determined the best spot would be to the side where it would get morning sun, but the late afternoon and early evening would be in the shade. We live in Texas after all. No use frying the poor plants for more than 8 hours a day. Guess where the garden is. :)

1617206_811228818889231_5534118429170367418_oNow we’ve got the supplies and the spot. Jazzman proceeds to build his garden. 4 square feet by 4 square feet. Remember that number, it’s important. He puts the sides together and puts plywood on the bottom. We carry it out to the spot. Then he decides to build a trough-like raised bed 4 square feet by 1 square foot. To the back of both he adds rebarb stakes with piping at the top, then ties twine up and across this frame to make a trellis. (People…I said he’s detailed to obsession, but hey, while he’s busy with this…I’m writing!!)

Next comes the compost and manure mixture. One must have the right kind of soil and fertilizer after all. Finally, it’s time for plants. Now. He’s divided the 4×4 into 1ft square spots. Total…16 (Told you the # would come in handy!) Then the 4×1 is marked off to make 4 spots. Jazzman goes to the store and comes back with…2 pepper plants, 8 tomato plants, marigolds for bug control…and herbs.

HERBS?

Seriously? Okay, fresh basil and chives are cool…but honestly, you can grow them in pots on the back porch. We’ve spent a few bucks and I was wanting…vegetables. He did save a space for green beans near the trellis. Sigh. He was so excited. I let it slide.

Plants are planted, watered. They look happy to be in the soil. Then it rains. And rains. And rains.10348730_811732682172178_6160723296823379236_o

Now, not being professional farmers, we were pretty sure rain was good for the plants. Well at first it was. Things grew, looked lush, beans were starting to send vines up the trellis. But then we noticed the bottoms of the tomatoes were getting dark spots. The marigolds kept dying. What the hell was going on?

After much research, Jazzman determined the cause was poor drainage. See he’d built the raise bed for being on a patio by adding the plywood bottom and not having enough drainage holes. SIGH.

But all is not lost! We live in Texas, which has a very, very long growing season and two times to harvest. Who knew!?!

SQUARE-FOOT GARDEN #2.

Jazzman has bought more cedar and this time chickenwire for the bottom. He’s also reevaluated the soil mixture for the ultimate growing environment. So in JULY in TEXAS he’s decided to rebuild the squarefoot garden, mix up new soil using some from the old gardens, and try again.

Now picture this. He’s got the boxes built, coated them in linseed oil and is ready to fill them. He’s determined the easiest way to mix the new soil is to use a GIANT TARP in the middle of the back yard.

Temp at noon on D-Day is 102….let me repeat that…ONE HUNDRED and TWO freaking degrees.

So, I get this call from the backdoor to stop what I’m doing…(writing)…to come “help”. Help with what? Mixing manure. Yes, I got to play in manure in 102 degree heat. Jazzman pours not 1, not 2, but 3 kinds of manure, (chicken, cow and worm) along with mushroom compost, some expanding shale, and peat moss onto the tarp and we mix it into the old soil he’d dug out of the previous garden by…moving the ends of the tarp.

I KID YOU NOT! (okay, farmer peeps…stop laughing!!! That means you, Cassondra!!)

Here we are in the hottest day in Texas so far this summer, lifting 200# of….crap….over and over and over and over and over. I was not happy. Nope. Not at all. Zip. Nada! And I grumbled…and grumbled. BUT we got it mixed. He fills up the 4×4 with it. Oh wait…it only fills 1/2! WE have to do the tarp dance AGAIN!!! And repeat for the 4×1 replacement!

20140826_192832Finally, at the end of that long, hot, miserable day, Jazzman has the gardens redone, including the saved trellis from the previous ones. He’s replanted the basil…because we had a great basil bush in the old one. Bought new plants, this time, heavy on the peppers and tomatoes.

About a week later, everything is growing fine, but the Jazzman is concerned about keeping them moist so  he investigates, reads and researches how to make…an irrigation system.

Yes, people, we have the most high-tech automatic drip irrigation system for our little gardens. On timers. BUT we also have drainage.

 

tomato_hornwormOh, then we were invaded by aliens. Okay, maybe not aliens, but it sure looked like something from a sci-fi movie. It was actually a Tomato Hornworm. (That’s its picture over there!—–> ) We found four of them, they were happily stripping all the leaves off the tomato plants. They don’t make pretty butterflies, so we had to put them out of our misery.

 

20140917_191343BUT we have!!! Vegetables!! And they taste delicious!!

Are you laughing? I am! :D :D :D :D

So, do you plant a vegetable garden? Have you gone organic? Do you obsess over new projects? Got any good recipes for peppers and tomatoes?

BTW…we’re looking at planting winter vegetables soon…broccoli, onions, lettuce, peas…wish us luck! :)

 

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