Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Final steps for Deerfield Diary

After almost three years and 355 posts, Deerfield Diary is closing up shop. I hope you'll agree I have a good reason, which I will share with you at the end of this final post.

The new set of steps pictured here is the final project of the renovation of our wrap-around deck that I began almost a year ago. Son Lem helped on the project during a recent visit. As physicians go, he's not a bad carpenter.

Looking back over my receipts, I see that the project used 12 pounds of deck screws and 120 pieces of "2-by" lumber ranging in length from 8 feet to 20 feet. I'm glad it's finished.

What have I learned over the last three years?

I'm now able to identify most trees now by their bark. I've become fairly adept with a chainsaw. My John Deere four-wheel drive tractor is as familiar to me now as an old pair of slippers. My biggest disappointment has been my vegetable gardens. I have decided I don't have the patience to be a good gardener. If I work all day tilling and planting, I want to see something happen. Pronto. It doesn't work like that.

Our house, a victim of the violent hailstorm in April, is finally in good shape for the winter with a new roof, power-washed and freshly stained cypress siding and newly painted trim. The woodshed is full.

To those of you who know me, I'll call your attention to a piece I wrote recently for International Stuttering Awareness Day. You can find it here. I've had some good reaction from it. The ISAD online conference lasts all month and is visited by thousands of people from 40 or 50 countries.

And now to my reason for ending Deerfield Diary.

After six years and thousands of hours at the keyboard, I'm proud to announce that Random House/Delacorte has purchased my first novel and plans to publish it in the spring of 2013. It's a young-adult offering entitled "Paper Boy." (There's a good chance the title may change.)

The story takes place in Memphis in 1959 and involves an 11-year-old boy who has to take on his friend's paper route for a month. The boy has a debilitating stutter and can only tell his story pecking away on an old typewriter in his upstairs room. I'm as proud of the manuscript as anything I've ever done. It's taken me 65 years, but I've finally managed to tell my story in the way it should be told.

My editor at Random House wants a final revision done by the end of the year. I plan to start on another writing project as soon as I finish the revision. I will create a new website and possibly a new blog in advance of the publication of my book.

For these reasons, Deerfield Diary is ending its run.

Deerfield Diary has averaged about 35 unique visitors a day for the last few months. My thanks to all who have taken the time to read my scribblings.

Now, it's time to take the next step. It's always about the next step.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More creatures featured

Neighbor Larry, chief correspondent for Deerfield Diary, keeps with the wildlife theme and reports that rabbits and hummingbirds are flourishing in his neck of the woods.

There are plenty of dogs in Deerfield, but most are too lazy to chase the rabbits. With coyotes on the decline and hawks preferring plentiful field mice, the bunnies are free to eat our flowers and vegetables. We had several that spent the summer under our back porch.

Larry is the second person we know to report an influx of hummingbirds these days. By the way, do you know what you call a group of hummingbirds? A group is called a "charm of hummingbirds."

Isn't that charming?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A new creature in Deerfield

Diary readers know that I like to feature all the creatures that I spot in Deerfield. Our latest creature feature -- the common bat.

I spotted this little guy or girl several weeks ago hanging under the eave of the overhang on our retreat. He seems to have adopted this spot as his permanent home. I don't know much about bats, except they are great consumers of mosquitos. I hope this one eats his fill because we have more than enough to go around.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

If you need me, I'll be here for the next six months

Our home in Deerfield is surrounded by gigantic poplar, elm, locust, hackberry, hickory, white oak and persimmon trees. Some of the trees are 36 inches in diameter.

The storms of the spring and summer had me in a tizzy. I would watch the tree tops bending, almost touching the house. We could hear trees crashing in the forest. A limb from a hickory tree came crashing down once, barely missing the renovated deck.

Instead of worrying, it was time to do something about it. I called in a tree service and the crew spent two days this week taking down trees near the house that were capable of causing problems. All the crews did was take the trees down. I will be doing all the cleanup.

I'll be cutting off all the limbs and will leave the trunks in 12-foot lengths. I'm hoping to find someone who will come and get the trunks for sawmill wood. I will burn the tops and limbs. If my tractor can't move the trunks, I'll call on my neighbor with the big tractor to help.

If I'm lucky, I should be done by next spring.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hidden beauty, hidden disaster

This cross-cut of a 20-inch American elm trunk has a beautiful pattern until you realize that the tree was actually rotting from the inside with Dutch elm disease. Some estimates say 90 per cent of all the elm trees in East Tennessee have been infected with the disease.

We have a few more elms at Deerfield, but this is the last one near the house. It had to go. Thanks to the April hail storm, we are getting a new roof next week. The last thing we needed was a tree crashing through it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An embarrassment of gourds

Here's my gourd story, and I'm sticking to it.

In my post from April 18, I was all a twitter about the prospect of growing my spring garden from seeds and not from starter plants.

I purchased three seed flats and carefully planted several types of squash, cucumber, pepper and other delectables. I decided to try one little batch of a gourd seed mix. I carefully marked each section of the flat with its seed type. I faithfully watered and soon found the seeds bursting forth with small shoots. Once or twice I watered a little too much, but I was fairly certain that the seeds didn't "float" out of their assigned cubicles. I planted the small shoots and waited.

All summer the vines grew in resplendent glory. Yep. You guessed it.

Where I thought I had several types of cucumbers, I had gourds. Where I thought I had butternut squash, I had gourds. Where I thought I had acorn squash, I had gourds. Gourds to the left. Gourds to the right. Out of my gourd.

For the record, I got zero cucumbers and a handful of zucchini. A few yellow squash did manage to survive the gourd attack.

The photo is a sampling of my gourd harvest. Anyone have any good gourd recipes out there?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

'What is It?' answered

Lynn Ray Lewis, good friend and editor extraordinaire, came to the rescue by finding a close cousin to my creature at www.butterfliesandmoths.org. It appears this larva is that of a spicebush swallowtail butterfly. Thanks, Lynn Ray. We can all rest easy now.