Sunday, November 26, 2017

Is the Coast Clear?

Day After Thanksgiving: Photo P .Tonery

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Honey Harvest

Our first batch of Honey!
Photo by Peter Tonery

So much has happened since my last blog post.  The Fall 2017 semester  began  quickly, and here we are, suddenly November, with only five weeks left.  How is that possible?  Today, we enjoy the luxury of an extra hour . . to write, to daydream, to take a walk, to clear one's mind of all the things happening  in our day to day to day living.

Literary Developments (giving back):

In August 2017,  I  joined the Poetry Advisory Board for The Literary Nest

It is such a pleasure to join poets Annie Finch, Andrena Zawinski, and Erica Gross in collaboration with founding editor Pratibha Kelapure.

We hope to help  Pratibha Kelapure increase  the visibility of The Literary Nest, which has consistently published some of the best writing from established and emerging writers.

"Poetry matters. Poetry is the well-choreographed dance of words accompanied by rhythmic sounds, and lyrical movement of the human spirit. "— Pratibha Kelapure

And, in August 2017, I became the flash fiction editor for Schuylkill Valley Journal
Here are the submission guidelines:

Flash Fiction: Short fiction up to 2,500 words. Stories must be stories and contain: Problem. Conflict. Resolution. We like funny, sad, ugly, beautiful stories, with a dose of insight. We love irony. Above all, stories must be well-written. So please proofread your work before sending it to us. Send 1-3 stories in the body of an email (attachments will not be opened), with a cover letter and brief bio (no more than 75 words) to

 I really love both of these journals and their long standing and dedicated editors. I hope that those of you who read my blog will consider sending work  to either or both journals.

News: Dime Show Review 

"Look, Away" nominated fro Best of Net 2017.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Heart . . .Countdown to the beginning of a new semester

 Photo by P. Tonery 2017  New beginnings(soon-to-be Monarch butterfly) about to take wing  . . . The garden looks beautiful, full of fruits and veggies, ripening . . . Putting by will happen in the first weeks of school.  Oh my, I will be terribly busy.

So this is the last week of quiet preparation. Yesterday, I finished proof-editing  (first round) my fourth full length poetry collection This Thirst, that's soon-to-be released in late September, 2017 by Kelsay Books.  Re-reading the manuscript, line by line, made me quite thoughtful about this collection. Mostly lyric poems looking closely at this temporal life, trying to make sense of it. 

This summer has been so strange.  I feel like I haven't accomplished much, but then again, listing everything on paper, I have accomplished a lot, but I think reading and watching the  daily news has put me in a constant state of washing machine deep-cycle churning, which makes me feel mentally "beat up." Spending time in our gardens, I think about how I can change this current disregard for what it means to be American.  I believe in the power of "Yes," for  all Americans, who have come here to give their best to our country.

I get it.  I know that I am privileged  by upbringing, by education, by living a life of inconvenience, I am actually free from the trappings of convenience.  Growing older, I wonder if I can pass on any of this knowledge? Whether it is about sustainability, or writing, or caring about this wondrous Earth. 

 All around, despite the weather delays, the growing cycles are moving forward.

Yesterday,  at a gas station,  someone left a painted inspirational cobble stone on a stone curb.  Of course, I looked at it and it said: Patience.  I felt it was a sign.



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nature's Visitations: Bring Me Enlightenment

Beautiful Wood Nymph Wikipedia photo

This creature  disguises itself as bird poop!  Imagine my surprise when one slipped into our farmhouse and found its way into the downstairs bathroom and is fast asleep under the ever-glowing nightlight. When I first saw it, I thought what is that! Then I realized that it wasn't bird poop, but a moth, with the most remarkable furry boots. I want a pair just like them!  You can see them illustrated in this photo.

I have been spending many hours weeding the  North garden this week.  Nearly  done. We are truly three weeks behind in plant growth and production.  Starting to see the first tomatoes now.  Because of the constant rain, the row of carrots (literally, 500 strong) were pushed in a wave, like ridged sand at the bottom of the lake. Weeding this row was so time consuming.  I really  had to be careful to only take the weeds. In that row is a variety of lettuces, which are doing well, especially now, without the competition; and anise, and beets, and Swiss chard. Only found four Swiss chard plants (sadly), but maybe just enough for us. We're going to have a stretch of sunny days now.  This is just what we need to give everything that booster of sun, and hopefully a major growth spurt.

In all of this garden work, I have been meditating on my writing life.  Wondering about the significance of character's actions (verbal and nonverbal) and how they create judgments. I am working on a full length collection of these micro stories ( 30 have been published individually, thus far).  Hoping that despite the quirky and "survival behavior," readers will find empathy for these characters. I live in a small town in Western New York, which has been so instructional in my understanding of character sketch.  In a small town, every member of the community has a significant role. Actually, they  are part of the function or dysfunction of the day to day life. I think my intention is to shine a light on the dark side of this survival-- the side few have the privilege to see or take the time to understand.  It been fun writing these stories-- all fiction, mind you, except the concept of the small town-- that's very real.

In  the kitchen, I'm still busy making jam. Peter and I will be heading west today to pick up some apricots from our Amish friends who have a fruit tree nursery business.  They have very graciously offered some of the fruit from their "test" apricot trees. I loved listening to the "science" discussion on these fruit trees, which can be challenging to grow. Where our apple and pear trees thrive, our apricots and peaches do not. We were advised to plant our next trees in raised beds.  Even getting them up 4-6 inches will help them endure a wet season.  I love  the Amish and Mennonite  community. They have been wonderful to us, in so many ways.

I just heard the jars pop-- let the day begin!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

So This is Summer . . .

 This is the strangest summer.  Every day— is it every day?  I think so.  It rains.  Today will be no different. We have been waiting on our gardens.  The delay in the growing season has taken some adjustments.  The weeding has been difficult.  The ground has been quite soggy and the quack grass is something to content with.  Since childhood, I have been gifted with the ability to concentrate on a repetitive task for a very long time.  In truth, I think I work both consciously and unconsciously, while doing such work.  It’s a good time to write (and edit) in my head before actually sitting down to write.
So this is what has been happening, day to day, a lot of farm work.  I have put by many jars of jam, which is what I have harvested thus far.  On the dining room table in straight lines sit the (4 oz-16 oz) jars of  It’s My Jam!  Strawberry, Red Raspberry, and Blackberry.  Shades of red!  I love looking at the jars. The rain-kissed fruit has been sweet and perfect. My recipes are organic, using raw sugar instead of refined, which is gives the jam a hint of molasses. 
I think the berry picking has become a metaphor for my life.   I usually average 2-3 quarts every two days.  Red raspberries produce until mid-august.  The thorns on the bramble in our berry patch are really out to get me every time I enter the berry domain.  The blackberry canes are worse.  All I can think of is wolf teeth.  The scratches on my arms and my ankles illustrate the degree of battle. It doesn’t help that  there are legions of flying insects (black flies, deer flies, mosquitoes) that  see  me as fair game. Everyone knows you can’t slap a biting bug while holding a quart of red raspberries because you will miss the bug and spill all of those gorgeous red juicy thimbles— everywhere.  I truly have learned to practice “Zen” (mind over matter) in our berry patch.   So far, so good.   However, the metaphor has been  an eye opener for me.  I think I am learning to go forward without yielding to what could potentially harm me. I am learning ‘to walk through’ the bramble nearly untouched, and what does touch me I can live with.
Yesterday, Peter and I traveled West to find apricots, which apparently aren’t ready yet.  However, peaches and cherries are presenting at the farm markets.  We didn’t buy any yet, but I think I will today.  I really want to make some apricot jam.  Last couple of years the Apricot trees have been challenged by  weather.  I am hoping  I will find some, somewhere.  Peter was lucky tho’ and purchased another new-to-him lawnmower in Elba, NY.  It was just what he wanted.  We ate lunch at the Elba Diner, which was wonderful. Really Good Diner Food.   On the chalkboard there were, at least, 15 kinds of pies, from Butterscotch to Coconut Cream (homemade). Too full to order a slice (so disappointed!). Next time we are in Elba, I’m going to start with dessert.  I recommend this spot, if anyone is out for a country drive and wants a bite to eat.  It’s a calm atmosphere.  Neighbors meet and greet there.  You get a sense of the Elba community.   Once we left Elba, we headed towards Medina NY, which has an interesting historic  canal town (perfect movie location) and on the outskirts (rolling hills! Who knew there were rolling hills here!) more great farm landscape.  It felt like we stepped back 100 years.
This morning, I made more half-pint jars of ‘Blazzberry’ Jam. This is a combo of red raspberries and blackberries and lemon.  Its name invented by my littlest grandson, George Emmett, last year. So, so good.
Soon, I will be venturing out to the gardens to do some weeding.  It’s hard to believe that next week will be the last week of July.  In five weeks, the Fall semester will begin. Summer is on wing . . .
I have been writing every day.  Some of it is good, and some not so good (needs revision).  Last week, I taught my first summer class, My Name in Print, in SummerWrite at Writers & Books.   It was such a joy working with these 8-11-year-olds.  I think I had a majority of 9-year-olds, or children who will be going into 4th grade. They were thoughtful and completely invested in their writing.  All of them immersed in the making of art (both writing and drawing).  Their anthology was one of the best I have had the pleasure to type up!

O life, you can be good and gentle, can't you?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

A beautiful sunny day, what more could we ask for? Happy Fourth of July!

Later today, family will be coming over.  We're BBQ-ing a homegrown Turkey, making potato salad, baked beans, cole slaw, fruit salad, pasta salad, preseco with cranberry and peach mocktails "Bellini"
and general good cheer!


We have been slogging our way in the gardens.  Hoeing has been a challenging exercise, but we're getting it done.

A large pumpkin plant has suddenly emerged in the yard, near a spot where we fed our turkeys last year, and they ate a lot of squash, zucchini, pumpkin.  In  the North garden, a lot of goddess given squash family plants have sprung up, and  instead of planting them in East garden, I have made an 'Isle of Green,' arranging these squash, cucumber, zucchini varieties in a heart shape around the large pumpkin plant. It looks quite pretty, and so far, everything has adjusted to the move.


 June went too quickly, and here it is the beginning of July. I have been diligent in keeping my morning hours. Writing for a couple of solid hours every day, mostly 100 word stories, in hopes of finishing the collection this summer.  I have been  fortune to have many of these micro stories picked up for publication in Otoliths, 100 word story, Jellyfish Review, Dime Show Review, Eunoia Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, Synaeresis Arts +Poetry, and others.

This past weekend, I finish a 3230 word story called "She Was a Good Listener." 

I have been enjoying myself, occupying these different landscapes and social interactions and characters' mindsets. Why they do what they do seems to be my motivation.  My fiction  is beady-eyed, I think.  It takes a hard look at characters behaving badly; yet, there is room to have empathy for them and their lives and how they think day to day to come up with a solution.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday, June 25,2017: Rainy Day Strawberry Jam

Photo from Wikipedia, Strawberries 

This year may be the longest lasting Spring on record.  The temperatures have been mostly cool and rainy, with an occasional warm, humid day.  Because of this, and the delay in our planting the gardens, I am behind on putting by jam.

Yesterday, Peter and I ventured West to visit our Mennonite friends who grow exceptional strawberries.  In luck,  they had a flat (8 quarts) ready to sell.  Today, I began the long process of making Rainy Day Strawberry Jam.

Our whole farmhouse smells incredibly fragrant and the jam is out of this world.  Strawberry jam is tricky.  The fruit, perfect as it may be, doesn't have a lot of natural pectin. It throws a a pink foam in the cooking down process.  Patience is needed. If you aren't patient, then don't undertake this.  You have to wait, and I mean wait, until there is a glossy sheen to the bubbling strawberry stew.  Slowly, it will thicken up. So far, 4 quarts gave us 92 oz.  The jars are lined up on the counter cooling.  I love hearing the pop, pop, pop of the lids.  I have another 4 quarts to process; then, back to the Johnson Creek Farm  on Monday to pick up our second flat. I love this work.
Photo from Wikipedia, Strawberries. This one is called 'perfect.'

Later this afternoon at 4 p.m., free and open to public, I will be giving a poetry reading at Books, ETC on Main Street in Macedon NY, L.John Cieslinski, my good friend, fellow poet, wise man in all aspects of life,  runs this cozy establishment where he hosts many readings and discussion groups. It's always a joy to see John and pick up a book or two.  Reading makes all the difference in the world.

If you free and in the area, please join us. I will be reading from my latest poetry collection, Small Worlds Floating (Cherry Grove Collections, 2016). I will have books available for sale and signing.