Saturday, May 31, 2008

Screenwriting weekend...

I'm gone all weekend at a Screenwriter's workshop.
The Austin Screenwriter's group flew in screenwriter and author - David Trottier.
I happen to own a copy of his book, Screenwriter's Bible. I had purchased my own copy about a year ago when I was attending a Hollywood screenwriter's class at ACC.

Great book, and great guy! We'll be returning tomorrow to wrap up the workshop.
After today's events, I had time to dash home to share dinner with my family --- Tonight one of our local screenwriter's is hosting a wine and cheese party. A chance to network with fellow writers, producers, and actors. Always fun!
See ya'll Monday same time, same place!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Growing but thirsty...

Cleome I'm still amazed at how fast everything is growing. Every morning I check the pots and the vegetables have grown, or another plant has bloomed.

Amazingly, we've had very little pest problems in the garden.

Cucumbers are starting to appear.

The bell peppers are really taking off...

Every day we've been in the 90's - with some days reaching 100. It's been nice, the pool has been refreshing, but we really really need the rain. Pamela has been patiently watering the plants every single day without complaint. I'm giving her credit for keeping the garden green and healthy.
We've had little problems maintaining the pool. I've only had to treat the pool with algaecide in April. So far, so good. Even the trees are behaving themselves (not dropping those pesky seeds) -- as you can see, CRYSTAL CLEAR!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Time Travel - 1800's

Well, as most of you know, I work the farm on Friday's. We had more than 300 visitors. All I can say is that today was another beautiful sunny day, but HOT. Camp Mabry said we hit 100 degrees with a 104 heat index.
What does one do when there's no air conditioning in the 1800's?

Head for the porch!

I found an old book in the parlor, smoothed out my apron, and planted myself in the rocking chair. The breeze took care of the rest...
The book I read today is called, Portraits and Principles - written in the 1890's by several authors... What a gem!
Book preface: Life to each of us is an ever-changing panorama. The sights of yesterday are old, the scenes of today are swiftly passing, and the pictures of tomorrow will be new.
I have always been fascinated by very old books. The writer's who've passed on, remain alive within the pages. As I was reading this book today, the author mentioned the difference between good books, statuesque books (for appearances) and books that BREATHE. I would have to agree that there IS a difference!

When I was managing a writer's forum several years ago, I had to read hundreds of short story submissions for our contests. We had people from all backgrounds participating - housewives, policemen, military, lawyers, teachers, etc.

The stories that touched us the most were heartfelt. We weren't impressed with big words, fancy rhetoric or eloquent stories, but rather down-to-earth, sit at my table and here -- have a cup of coffee and would you like some sugar with that?

This is what the book, Portraits and Principles was getting at. Deep, heartfelt and honest writing from each author about life's experiences and how to live a decent and honest life.

Many of the topics touched were:

Working hard
Common sense
Mother's role
Keeping your word
What is success
Saving money
Idle hands

It is really miraculous if you think about it. Opening a book and discovering that it BREATHES.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pioneer Living

Wow, today was a busy day!!

And boy was it hot on the farm! Yesterday, our temps were higher than I had thought. We hit 101 degrees. Today, I think we hit 100 even. Big puffy white clouds lazily crawling across a deep blue sky.

So picture my day...

Spending the morning stuffing a woodstove with firewood so I could cook a pot of chicken stew. We had a school group arriving to spend the entire day with us. This was their field trip. A group of gifted & talented 8th graders that were going to get a taste of history. Fortunately they were split into two groups and sent to two homes to work the farm.

My group consisted of 13 boys and girls and 1 very young teacher. They arrived with smiles (and to my relief) lots of enthusiasm! Not wanting to deprive them the experience of farm living, we (Valerie and I) showed them how to garden, pull weeds, collect firewood, chop onions, peel potatoes, grate carrots, dice celery, bake biscuits, churn butter, pop popcorn, wash dishes, and feed the chickens and pigs!

The kids (and teacher) all agreed that today's experiences had really put into perspective the hard work involved in keeping a farm running.

Churning butter.

Everyone took their turn cooking, cleaning, churning the butter and lending a helping hand. They kids even had time to play some 1800 games and walk on the stilts. The chicken stew turned out being the best ever!

I would have to say that my faith in our generation of children was restored after today. This was an awesome group of kids and they were so helpful and earnest about everything. Although we worked our tails off today, it was very rewarding, and I know that these kids left the farm today with memories that will last them a lifetime. They also told us that this was the best field trip they ever had!

Time to fill the cast iron pots and boil the water. Dishes, and more dishes to do...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is it summer already?

Today is a sweltering 98 degrees! The curse of having a potted veggie garden--everything is thirsty all the time! If I skip a day, the leaves are wilted. Probably due to the Texas heat. It's very unforgiving. The pool has been evaporating too (current pool temp 82 degrees.)

Whether I like it or not, I'll have to drag the hose this afternoon and fill it back up. I didn't realize how low our water got until I turned on the pump and the pool started choking (for lack of water in the filter.)

The Malabar spinach is finally leafing up! I was beginning to wonder there for awhile.
Tomatoes are blooming like crazy...
So far, three large tomatoes in the other pot (don't ask me which variety, as I forgot.) Umm, I just realized I said a rhyme...
Lots and lots of chili and jalapeno peppers! (We like these chopped up on sardines and crackers -eaten outdoors of course!)

Bell Peppers! I hope I grow a bunch. They are expensive in the grocery stores! (practically cost as much as meat.) Have you seen the prices of carrots???!

Cucumbers are hanging in there. No sign of fruit yet. I still haven't planted the rest of my seeds. How is everyone else's garden doing?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wrapping up the week...

Alan caught the big fish of the day - BASS! (Thanks Uncle Mike, for providing the photo!)

Saturday night, a group of us went fishing again and had a potluck. I fished myself and gave up after the 5th time losing my bait. The fish were hungry and stealing our worms left and right. I caught a small perch and handed my pole over to one of the kids.

The kids fished off the pier. Pamela stood too close to the edge and fell into the pond!

Today, Sunday, we decided to relax by the pool and fire up the grill. I cooked boneless chicken thighs and chicken breasts that had been marinating in Budweiser and mesquite barbecue sauce. YUM!

All in all, it's been a busy week.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Back in Time...

Lately, I've been spending most of my Friday's working the farm and doing tours. I switch around a lot on the farm, working where needed --- whether it's the main Bell House, Homestead, or German farm.

Sometimes I'll assist in the general store.

By the way, we are expecting teepees for the Tonkawa site... I've already volunteered to do some of their interpretation... Their history is very interesting.

If I'm not cooking, I'll be catching up on my sewing. My favorite and most relaxing thing to do is HANDSEWING. Currently I have been sewing miniature pantaloons for Barbies and selling these with pioneer dresses and aprons. I've completely sold out on my online stores, but the batch I've just finished are intended for the general store at the farm.

The rooms I spent most of my time in today were the kitchen and the adjacent "sewing" room, with the various looms and spinning wheels.

This is by far the most elegant home on the farm, although most will say they prefer hanging out at the homestead.
Every room has a fireplace. I can only imagine how much firewood it would take to keep this home warm. We go through plenty just to keep the woodstove running.

Pamela's working on pantaloons for her own doll. Girls her age (back in the 1800's) have been sewing for a long time. Girls started sewing with a needle and thread when they were old enough to hold a needle.

Overlooking the front porch...

Trying to get the garden going...
I had three watermelons planted at the farm... So far, they are looking healthy! Oh I hope we have a good crop this year!
The heart of the home... I probably should have packed up my baking goods and fired up the stove today. It was the coolest day this week - 79 degrees. PERFECT day for slaving over a hot woodstove!

We had several school kids arrive on tours and I always get a kick out of their questions. I always ask them if they would like living in the 1800's... I could probably write a book from all the answers I've gotten.

This week, a young boy of about 10-years-old, answered my question about whether he'd like living in the 1800's... He looked around the kitchen and said matter of factly, "NOPE! I like my video games!" Then his eyes swept around the kitchen again and replied, "and there's no Coca Cola!"...

I often wonder about the generation we are raising today...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

McKinney Falls State Park

On the spur, we decided to head for McKinney Falls state park. Might as well, as we wanted to get our money's worth on our state park pass. Also, McKinney Fall's happens to be practically in our backyard (less than 30 minutes away.)
I hope you enjoy these photo's as much as I have. I tried to capture the beauty of this amazing area. The rock formations you see are molten lava rock from the Pilot Knob volcano - long ago extinct, but active thousands of years ago. (At least, we hope it's extinct. It rests near the Balcones Fault zone.)
I'm no geologist by any stretch of the imagination, so bear with me. I'm also no photographer either, so just pretend you are seeing the park through my eyes, as imperfect as they are.
I found the thousands of puddles interesting in their own right. This one in particular showed me the simple beauty of nature and how life tends to grow and thrive under any circumstances.
I kept my eyes glued to the ground, as we found flint and lots of interesting rocks and pebbles. Without a doubt, fossils and many other treasures are to be found... Alan and I have decided it's time to invest in a good metal detector to take on our trips...

There are several falls in the park. This one was located at the Homestead trail.

Stopping to smell the "roses"...
The area consists of Bald Cypress trees, Sycamores and Pecan Trees... until you move further inland from the creek. Then there are various cedars, mesquite, etc. -- sort of like West Texas meets up with South Texas...

I found this tree stump fascinating. It was lying on its side and we marveled at how the pebbles filled its belly. (We had walked a long primitive trail past the falls along Onion Creek and found this stump.)
Pamela, digging for sea shells. This area used to be home to the prehistoric reptile - Mosasaur - an entire skeleton had been found, along with various fossils, showing the area to have been a part of the shallow sea.

The Indian overhead was breathtakingly beautiful. Reminded me of our prior visit in Cedar Park to the Indian overhead that we had visited on CAVE DAY.
It was a cool retreat from the warm sunshine and 80+ degrees...

I gave up on capturing the height and width of this tree... Reminded me of those California Redwoods... well, at least a baby one.... (click to enlarge)
We saw white-tailed deer, Armadillo's, baby snakes, and dark scurrying shadows within the woods...

Struck by lightening?

Time to cast those lines...

This hole leads down into Onion Creek and where the falls are spilling... SPOOKY - not a place to slip and fall into! These falls were located on the other side of the park, and where we decided to fish...

I couldn't help but notice that this was a favorite fishing spot. If you could see this tree with your own eyes, you'd realize that SEVERAL people had cast their lines WAY HIGH into the sky to snag these branches... Can you count how many bobbers and lures are in this tree? Now it looks like a Christmas tree...
Pamela, catches a perch...
Alan caught his perch...
And his catfish! What a fight it gave him!
Click photo to enlarge and you can see how the fish had tugged on his line...

Resting on vines...
Can't identify this bird... I tried zooming in...
ME - Kicking back...
TURTLES - Sunbathing (click to enlarge) I counted 12...

Cool RV! CHECK out the video by the falls....

Hope you enjoyed our visit to the park... This is my third time here. We plan to return SOON with more fish bait!