Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This week I got banned from an office supply store

Let's be honest. My brain's a lil fried today. This week I've practically lived at a Kinko's knockoff store. Which would be all right for any other person but nooo- I have to be the idiot that breaks the copy machine. And it all started with those ridiculously high platform shoes.

Oh, my brand new shoes are more sparkly than the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. And now, they are broken because I tripped over a cord and rammed into the copy machine. Let's be honest, momentum and my 6'2 tall body are not a good combo. My body just flew across tile, like I was sliding into home.

So, not only did I have to find a way to resolve the fact that I demolished a copy machine but I also had to gather up my dignity and stroll out the door.

Let's just say after a stupid start to the week I retreated to bed. Where my new foster cat Eponine decided now would be good time to vomit on my head. Seriously? My head!

I awoke not but 10 minutes ago and all I want to do is tuck back into bed and forget the world-but who doesn't want that, right?

We push ourselves so hard to achieve our dreams. We deal with tons of crap, I vote we take a moment for ourselves. You wanna see a movie? Go for it! Been dying for ice cream? Treat yourself and pronto. Because the only way we can continue fighting for our dream is to look out for ourselves.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Talking to Myself

It's weird when you realize you're old enough to reflect on your life with something resembling the maturity of an adult. Ten years ago this month, I started college. I also started my first job, ever. (I know - sheltered much?) I was really excited about this new job. It was in my chosen field, at the time. I couldn't wait to dive in and gain all this experience that would also apply to what I was studying in school.

Then reality set in. There was a learning curve, and boy, did I ever have a lot to learn. I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I dwelled on them. I got discouraged. I worried about what other people thought of me. I worried that I wasn't smart/skilled/tough/fast enough to do my job well. There were times I really wanted to quit, if they didn't fire me first.

But you know what? I stuck it out. I learned a lot. I got better. I made some great friends in my co-workers. And when I graduated college, I left that job on good terms.

Now, I wish I could travel back in time for a chat with that scared, excited, nervous, stressed, eager, naive, utterly FREAKED-OUT child just stepping into her big-girl shoes for the first time. I would say to my 18-year-old self, "You hang in there. This all works out. You're so much better than you think you are." And then I would give me a hug, even though I'm not a hugger, because that was what I really needed at the time, even though I wasn't a hugger back then either.

So tonight, as I was plunking away on my book with only tiramisu and Janiel's banana orange bars to sustain me, I wondered, will I feel this way again in ten more years? Will I look back on my frusterated, discouraged, oh-my-freak-I-will-never-ever-ever-get-this-stupid-thing-DONE-let-alone-PUBLISHED self and say, "You hang in there. This all works out. You're so much better than you think you are"?

I'm going to go out on a limb and say, yes. Yes I will.

Last week, I quoted my friend Rob: If the story is worth telling, it's worth telling crappy the first time. Excellent writing advice, but I've decided it applies to more than that. Embrace the learning curve, my friends. Life is a bunch of first go's, and anything worth doing is worth doing crappy the first time.

Unless, you know, you're a brain surgeon. Then it's probably best to do it right every time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can Banana Nut Muffins Fight Writer's Block?

Did you see Nicolas Cage's face in this clip? Particularly his brow? Go back and look. It's all furrowed and worried and little-boy looking.

And the inner dialogue? Furrowed and worried and little-boy sounding.

I think it's because he's stressed. Stressed about a deadline. Stressed about the blank paper staring up at him from the typewriter. Stressed that it's a typewriter he's using and not a computer. 

Stress and me, we don't mix. I get stressed, my brain flatlines. So does my creativity. I sit and stare, and literally nothing leaps to mind. And it happens with everything: writing, parenting, challenging conversations, interviews, performing, choosing between the bagel with a schmear and the bowl of wheaties. The brain is just gone. If I think somebody expects something brilliant of me, and right now, I cannot produce. 

So what thaws it out? What gets the synapsis snapping again? I mean besides a cleansing breath, and a bag of chocolate chips.

Well, first of all, getting up and walking away for a moment. Stepping away from the physical location (or people, or paper) where I'm feeling the stress reminds me that there's a world out there that is not completely consumed with my failure to be brilliant. It doesn't even know about it. This is called "Perspective," and it is very helpful. Listen to music, watch something that makes you laugh and relax (like Bill Cosby describing how he coached his wife through the birth of their first child: "Zzzaah! Whaaa! Zzzaah! Whaaa! PUSH! PUSH!" Hilarious), go outside and watch migratory birds--whatever.

The next thing that helps me is to ask questions. In writing, it's things like: What is my character worried about? Why is she/he worried about that? What in her world makes this difficult? What does he need?-- This takes the pressure off and gets my brain searching for clues. Ask questions, your psyche will find the answers. 

In relationships and other situations, I find that the same thing works: Why would a reasonable, rational (man, child, friend, etc.) behave like that? What does their behavior tell me about how they are feeling?--again, my brain pops in and helps find the possible answers. Which calms me down, gives me some perspective, and chills me out.

And finally, we need to give ourselves permission to be human. It's okay to feel stressed, flatlined, frustrated, even mad. As long as we don't burden other people with it (not saying we can't talk to someone about it; just don't burden.) Emotions are indicators that something isn't right: either in what we are doing, or in what someone else is doing. Sometimes if I'm frustrated with my writing it's because it is headed in the wrong direction. I just discovered this about my WIP [work in progress]; after two years I realized I'd started my story in the wrong place. Gah! But now, I feel  peace with it, and am able to produce something I'm happy with. If I'm frustrated with other things or people in my life, maybe there's something there I need to look at as well.

Got writer's block? Relationship block? Conversation/performing/decision block? Maybe it's the psyche trying to tell you to look at things differently. Or to ask questions. Or change your actions or approach.

In any case, Nicolas Cage is right about the banana nut muffin. That's a good muffin. Sometimes that really is all it takes.

On the off chance that it will solve the world's problems, here's my muffin recipe. Except it isn't a muffin. And there aren't any nuts. It's a Banana Orange Bar. Yum.

Banana Orange Bars
2 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I think you could cut this down. Even to 1/2 cup. You could also sub in applesauce)
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Orange Butter Frosting (I KNOW!)
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp grated orange peel

--In a mixing bowl, beat bananas, sugar, oil and eggs until blended. 
--Combine dry ingredients; fold into the banana mixture until well mixed.
--Pour into greased 15-inch by 10-inch by 1-inch baking pan (A jelly-roll pan).
--Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes; cool.
--For frosting, cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl. Add orange juice and peel. Beat until smooth. Add more orange juice if needed to achieve spreading consistency. Spread over bars.
--Lick frosting bowl, beaters, spatula, and banana orange bars.

Eat and be free!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How to achieve sobriety

Let's get intensley personal.

Today, I about had a mini heart attack.

I walked, okay, more like tripped with style, with my little neice to her summer school program. In between a bite of pop-tart coated with peanut butter, she says, "Mommy says you're made of angel dust."

Her one sentence causes me to stammer. I know she overheard my sister blabbling about my party monster days. The lil niece has no idea that angel dust is slang for a drug. She just thinks angel dust sounds magical.

I knew this day would come but not at freaking 7 years old. The only thing I can do is give her a super mild drug talk and hope that she makes better choices then I did.

In truth, we are bombarded with stories of addiction. So, how do you chase a dream when battling a deadly disease? The trick is to take sobriety one day, or even one hour at a time. Cliche but true. I would be lying if I said, its easy to face yourself and your fears.

Sobriety is an on-going process. You have to be constantly aware of your triggers and weak moments. And it doesn't just start with day one of coming clean. There are many resourses for you. There's therapy, support groups and yes, there's hope.

If you have a loved one who is in the thoes of addiction- of any kind- do not forget that one word-HOPE. Yes, there are the stories of tragic losses. I have already lost two close friends before the age of 30. But for every downfall of an individual, there is also a success story of beating the addiction.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In Which I Steal Insightful Comments from Facebook

The other day, my friend Paul posted this video on his Facebook page, which prompted an interesting discussion. So I thought I'd share it here (with permission).

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

FB Friend Paul: He definitely hits on an interesting point, though I absolutely hate his solution of setting deadlines, because, in my mind, setting deadlines turns creative work into purely work that has to get done rather than what it should be: art. A project should never be done till you say it's done, not your calendar.

Me: Amen to that. I am also not a fan of deadlines. The minute you turn something you WANT to do into something you HAVE to do, that's death.

Paul: Exactly! In my opinion, the way to improvement is careful analysis of what you have versus how you initially envisioned it in your head, and then thinking of how you can get what you initially envisioned out into your work. It's a slow process, but it must be slow. Otherwise you'd lose crucial detail and insight.

Me: Hmmm. Maybe that's why it's taking me a geological epoch to finish one book . . .

FB Friend Rob: Don't think of a deadline as a deadline. Think of it as a milestone. The deadline for the first draft doesn't mean the "art" is finished; it just means you're committed to finding some kind of a path to the end of your story in that timeframe. I agree with Orson Scott Card that there are ten million wrong ways to tell your story, and probably about a thousand right ones, and so you're a lot more likely to find one of the crap ways before you find a good one. A deadline isn't about artificially forcing the art; it's about motivating yourself to get past the crap.

Me: You're right Rob, but that's much easier said than done for a perfectionist like myself (yes, I know I have issues).

Rob: The trick for me was that I had to give myself permission to write crap. If the story's worth telling, then it's worth telling badly the first time.

I love it when I can get my friends to write my blog posts :-) Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to plow through one of the ten million wrong ways in order to find one of the thousand right ones.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's Time to Slap Time Upside the Face

I've been thinking a lot about the circle of life lately. Mostly I'd like to know what its point is and how it is happening so fast.

Today I was walking with my grown-up kid and my almost-grown-up kid on a college campus, right before we left to for the wedding reception of one of my daughter's friends. And we passed a woman making googly moogly eyes at her barely-out-of-the-womb baby boy. On the other side of the hall was a couple who were celebrating their 200th wedding anniversary.


That's a whole lot of generations and milestones all packed together in one place.

It was really deep and profound and stuff. And then I realized something: The Universe had a message for me. And that message was this: Dude. You are OLD. You did that whole marriage-thing that your daughter's friend is doing, like twenty-five years ago. And that two-week-old baby? Four of them popped out of you in succession like little cabbage patch dolls trying to make their way out of a McDonald's PlayLand--leaving you in varying states of pulled, stretched, floppy, lined, and sleep-deprived, I might add--about a thousand years ago. Yep. It's been that long.

Which means there's just a week or two until you and your husband will be celebrating your bicentennial together. Right after your last kid will have just graduated from medical school. (Someone's going to have to warn him about this, though. The boy hates the sight of even a piece of paper that is thinking about committing a paper cut and raising a drop of blood.)

All of which means I must ask this: Where the Stephen-Hawking did all that time go? And given how quickly my time seems to be passing, how much do I have left?

Well, I don't know. But I do know that the way my circle of life is going, if I don't get a few things done, and quickly, they ain't happening. I don't want my kids to be cleaning up my office after my funeral and opening a drawer to find an unfinished manuscript sitting there. Or a finished one that was never queried.

I don't want them finding manila folders full of recipes that have "Try This" scrawled across the top.

I don't want them finding stacks of travel brochures to places I've never been, like Kuala Lampur, or Scotland, stuffed between the pages of the adventure books I've never read.

Above all, I don't want my kidlets feeling a hole where all the things I haven't taught them yet should be sitting.

No regrets. That's what I want. And that means embracing life all the way. Not hanging back. It means grabbing the needle from the nurse who is fishing in my arm and jabbing it in myself--á la Russo. It means joining a made-up language choir and hopping a flight to Middle Earth if I need a bit of New Zealand in my life, á la Maegan. It means querying my humor book and finishing my either-middle-grade-or-YA-book-I-can't-tell-yet, and getting it out to agents, á la . . . well . . . me.

Because, this year, I am going to embrace. People. Life. Me.

You do it too. Then report back here and let me know what you learn. We'll chat. I'll pour the lemonade. We'll slap the Circle of Life so hard Father Time will slow down and fill our lives with success. Deal?


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Horrid situations while on an operating table

Its nice to know that I still have the ability to gross people out. I say that with a smile. I don't know about you but I don't deal with health trials very well. The other day, I had dental surgery.

I made a complete fool out of myself. I'm pretty open with my past- you all know I was a bit of a party monster. Sure, nowadays I am subdued but who knew my past would help.

Yesterday I gave everyone in the operating room a surprise. The nurse did a horrible job of finding my vein . No joke, she stuck the needle in my arm, couldn't find a vein, so she just twirled the needle in my flesh. It was the sickest thing I have ever had to endure. What would you have done in my situation? I'm dying to know because I turned into an absolute control freak.

After five minute of dealing with her incompetence, I told her, "Give me the needle now."

I then proceeded to open and close my hand really fast. She just stared at me. All the while, I held the needle, smacked my forearm, found the vein and shoved the sucker in.

Yep, a party girl past does have its benefits.

The lesson: there are some situations in life that you don't get to pick. Even so, sometimes your biggest mistakes can be a blessing in disguise. They teach you to be mentally strong and they also help you deal with trials. Embrace your mistakes, I say. And if not, make a fool of yourself. It makes life way more exciting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Scorpio Races

As Janiel and Russo can both attest (mostly because they've had to listen to me rave about the SHIVER series for the past two years), I have an author-crush on Maggie Stiefvater. Her newest book, THE SCORPIO RACES, comes out in October, just in time for my birthday. Also, just in time to keep me company on that loooooong flight to Middle Earth - um, New Zealand. Happy birthday to me!

You can read all about it on Maggie's website. (Horses! I could die of giddiness!). In addition to writing awesome books, the woman creates her own book trailers - she writes the music and does the animation.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Overwhelmed, In a Good Way

I may have mentioned - I don't know, maybe once or twice - that I'm kind of a fan of all things Welsh. You could call it obsessive. Weird, even. That's okay. I embrace the weirdness. A lot of good things have come my way since I started this journey of learning the Welsh language, things that wouldn't have come my way otherwise.Would you like to hear the latest? Because I'm dying to tell you.


Sorry, did you catch that? I'm going to New Zealand (hereafter referred to as "Middle Earth") this fall. I know, right? I will simply walk into Mordor for a ten day tour with the North American Welsh Choir. You may hate me if you wish.

Here's where the overwhelmed part comes in. We have to memorize about twenty songs, only two of which are in English. One's in Latin, one in Maori, a couple I'm pretty sure are just made-up nonsense words, and the rest are Welsh. As the choir's name suggests, we're spread all over North America. It's not like there are regular practices I can go to or anything. In fact, the first rehearsal with the whole choir will be in Auckland, two days before a concert! Until then, it's all independent study.

Oh yeah, I've got the worry bug. My little Fangxiety gnome has been doing a tap-dance ever since I got the song list. But I figure I'll just tackle this like any big project: little bits at a time. Two songs a week.

On that note (pun intended), it's been awhile since we had a Welsh song, so here's last week's assignment. It's beautiful and sweet and oh, how I hate this song right now. The lyrics are kicking my butt. But how cute is little Christian Bale? I have to say this movie traumatized me big-time as a kid. I still can't watch it.

Anybody else feeling overwhelmed this week? Work? Writing? School starting?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wanna Laugh?

One of our readers commented yesterday that they could use a little cheer-up. And you know? It got me thinking that maybe we ALL could. I mean, life gets tough sometimes. The country gets downgraded. People disappoint us. We disappoint ourselves. Things happen we can't control. Or even things we can, but didn't, and then we're all frustrated. It's life. It's hard. But . . . there ARE those great moments, yeah? It's good to be reminded of silly happy joy once in a while.

I picked a few great moments for you. If you've got any to share, feel free to post uplifting/funny/ridiculous stories and/or links in the comments box:

I love that the dad is getting such a kick out of his child. And excuse me? That baby's HAIR? Fabulous.

This was a sketch done for Comic Relief. Yeah. David Tennant. That is all. Catherine Tate. That is also all.

If you need a romantic, touching, sweet love song . . . well, this isn't it. But . . . 

I love these guys. They're so unexpected.  And absurd. 

And because we could all use a little motivation once in a while:

And now for some peace, how about the Milkyway over Japan:

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Digging out a bullet wound

Most people don't know this but I can stitch a wound like no other. Needle, string and all. One of my relatives was the woman they based Dr. Quinn medicine woman on- my mom repeatedly tells me the story of that ancestors life but I never listen. So, I can't tell you any more on that subject. Although, now I am curious who you, the readers, are related to.

Anyways, this weekend was full of gross and disgustingly-cool mini surgeries. And they were done all on my kitchen floor. So, at 2am, I am dancing around to Kanye West trying to get over my writers block when I hear this super loud screaming outside my condo. Would you have gone outside if you heard screams? Just curious because my sorry-butt went running out the door, all while in my Hello Kitty PJ's. I can't believe I just admitted I wear Hello Kitty attire.

The cries sound like mix of a bat and owl in a standoff- I knew immediately the guy in trouble was my bestie, Jameses. The dude is shaking in pain. He has BB gun pellet gashes all over his tatted up body and one mean bullet wound. I don't even wanna know what mischief he got into while shooting soda cans in a remote country farm.

He's crying like a baby (I'm sorry, Jameses but you really were.) So I had to dig the bullet out and dress the wound.

Then his friend- who looks like a lot like Simon Baker, lifts his shirt sleeve up and says, "Maybe you could clean this wound too. I've had it for about a week."

Could you resist a guy that looks as hott as the Mentalist? Because I so couldn't.

Jameses informs me the wound's sickening. I shrug my shoulders and grab my tools. The problem- the wound was seriously infected. The puss was green and the gash was as big as my large toe. I was beyond nervous. I've never dealt with an infection that bad.

I grabbed a wooden spoon (I resisted the urge to smack Mr. Simon, the hottie and Jameses for being complete idjuts) and placed the spoon in his mouth.

Without saying a word, I dug the infection out of the wound. I won't go into detail but let's just say there was a lot of cussing involved. And sure, I almost barfed in the process but I have to say, it was pretty cool.

Lesson learned-Not only did I score a date with Mr. Handsome but I also learned that the scary stuff is where the real growth really lies. The more you have to dig deep,the better you will be. Whatever dream you choose to pursue requires you to have no fear. Just go for it.

Update- I may have snagged Mr. Handsome's digits but the poor bloke had to be turned down. The definition of hott is pretty vast where I am concerned but I have to say that gangrene is a HUGE turn off. Plus, someone else has me totally intrigued.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Contest Winner!

Is it already Monday again? I swear we just barely had a Monday . . . Maybe I'm suffering from weekend withdrawal. Anyway, if it really is Monday, that means it's also time to announce our contest winner! We got a plethora of chicken names: elegant (Linda), simplistic (Bob), artistic (Bach), cute (Figgy), abbreviated (bttr nt sqsh), and silly (Flutterbudget). Rest assured, we will be passing all of these along to Caleb to do with as he wills. Thank you to everyone who entered, and as always, thanks to y'all for reading.

And now, via highly scientific and totally random drawing, the winner of this little baby is . . .


Send us a note at 3gnomes@gmail.com with your mailing address and we'll send the book your way. Much luck and congratulations on your journey to self-sufficiency. Thanks again, everybody!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Last Chance to Win Caleb Warnock's Book! AND Our Sponsor (sort of)

Thanks to everyone who has and is still participating in our contest! "Forgotten Secrets of Self-Sufficiency" is a great little book, with lovely pictures and a plethora of tips and tricks to make your gardening experience easier, more organic, and more productive. So, if you are interested in something like this, please name one of Caleb's 33 chickens in our comment section, and you'll be entered. You can enter on each post from this week. And there's no pressure. Your suggested name doesn't have to be brilliant. If it were me, I'd go with "Nervana." Seems like a good chicken name.

And now for a little pitching of a local business: Our contest this week was brought to you by Joe's Cafe, in the teeming metropolis of north Orem. Mostly because that is where we were when we came up with our ideas for this thing. Joe is from Texas and his personality is just as big. So is his food. We should have taken pictures of our bacon sausage mushroom omelets and honey-butter belgium waffles and tuna sandwiches with potato salad, and buttery grits and sweet potato pie. (It was brunch. There were three of us. We were hungry.) The food is big, bold and beautiful, and Joe will make you feel welcome. How do I describe this man? He's a riot. Oh, here. I'll just post a clip:

So, go to Joe's (next time you're in town), and name Caleb's chickens (next time you hit our blog) (today). And either way, have a fanTASTic weekend!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Author Interview! With a REAL Author! And A Contest! Caleb Warnock: Part 3

Yo, yo. Whattup, Gnomies? Gnome-slayahs? Y'all still with us on this odyssey of Self-Sufficiency? Well hang tight, peeps. There are a few totally cool clips still to come today, and then it's time for the drawing. So comment, Gnomeboys and girls! Name some chickens! Get your friends to follow us and have them name some chickens, and then tell us you got them to follow us, and you'll be entered in the drawing again! More chances to win, Gnomies. That's what we're talking about.

Yesterday we got all figgy-widdit. Today we're goin' down. And I mean 8 feet down. But first we'll start with the chicks. This is where Russo and Maegan really get into the chicken-naming thing. And also where we witness the social strata of poultrydom:

Voilá! Inside the greenhouse. (Try not to notice the part where the camera-person falls down the stairs.) My memory card runs out during this and we have to stop and finish in the next clip. But I included this so you get a good feel for the underground-ness of the place.

Now, fair warning: I went all Michael Bay with the cinematography here, thinking I was artfully displaying everything in this tiny space, but no. You're going to need an air-sickness bag. Press the Alt-key and hold it for 10 seconds to dispense one for yourself.

And finally, the farewell to Caleb. In which we get all off track as Maegan exclaims about the general ickyness of grasshoppers and Caleb teaches me the natural way to keep aphids off of my tomatoes. And I keep talking and TALKING and interrupting. But we end on a flower shot, so, you know, it sort of works as a farewell piece. Yeah.

All right, people-y peeps! Get those brain cells cracking and come up with some brilliant hen-handles for Caleb's poultry-pets. And then YOU could be the winner of this:

Now, ain't that purty? Please support your local Caleb and run out and buy a copy. If you don't win, that is. Even if you do win. It's a great little gem. And mega thanks to Mr. Warnock for letting us run amock in his garden, and for not yelling at me when I kept filming his chin because I could never remember how tall he was.

And thank YOU for watching and reading and being here!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Author Interview! With a REAL author! Caleb Warnock: Part 2

*Big announcement

Caleb Warnock, our Literary God-Like Instructor, has released his first book, the Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency. And lemme tell you, this book is definitely a good read because of the incredible skills it teaches you.

When opening this book, you are immeditely taken aback by the stunning photos. This man lives in paradise. Yummy food, vibrant colors and all.

Secretly, I've always wanted to have a bit of Martha Stewart-like qualities. But alas, where she uses her kitchen to whip up a good meal, I use mine as an operating room to extract BB gun pellets (more on that another day.)

Caleb's book has helped me get even closer to my goal of self-sufficiency. And trust me, if I can attempt the skills in his book, anybody can. And the recipes are divine. His succulent slow roasted vegetables are delectable.

This man is a genius, in writing and in life. He's one of the few people that can look me in the eye and tell me that I am full of crap. He's also someone who can make me dig down deep and try harder. You are in great hands with this person.

Below is a clip Janiel made of our venture into Caleb's garden. You'll see his stunning garden full of things like stevia and Jerusalem artichokes. You will also meet his dog and darling chickens (which you can try to name and win a free copy of Mr. Warnock's book.) Read Maegan's post for more details. (Its right below mine)

This video is rare - you get a one millisecond shot of moi. Caleb offers us gnomeslayers a piece of fig and I (in typical fashion) cuss.

In this video, we see a few more plants and the neighbor horse and Janiel has to calm my sorry-butt down.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Author Interview! With a REAL Author! And a Contest! Caleb Warnock: Part 1

That was the intrepid Janiel, reporting from Caleb Warnock's chicken coop. The Gnome Slayers owe a lot to Caleb, not the least being that we first met each other in his writing class. To celebrate the publication of his first book, FORGOTTEN SKILLS OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY USED BY THE MORMON PIONEERS, the three of us invaded his back yard with a video camera. We discovered that not only does he know a whole heck of a lot about writing, he also knows a whole heck of a lot about gardening. And Eqyptian walking onions. And exploding eggs.

We're so excited for Caleb's book to come out, we're going to be celebrating all week! Oh yeah, and we're also giving away a free copy, signed by the author. We each got our own signed copies too, so we can honestly say that the book is awesome! And user-friendly. And full of pretty, pretty pictures that Caleb took himself.

We learned in that last video that Caleb has 33 chickens. That's a lot of chickens, folks. And they all need names. Russo and I named three of them, as you will see in a later episode, but there's still 30 left. So if you would like your very own, signed copy of THE FORGOTTEN SKILLS OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY USED BY THE MORMON PIONEERS, just leave a name for one of Caleb's chickens in the comments on any post this week. Leaving a comment on more than one post means you have more than one chance to win. But you must leave a chicken name in your comment in order for it to count as an entry. We will announce a winner via random drawing next Monday. Easy enough, right?

Here's more about the book from Caleb's blog:

7/25/11– Provo, Utah -- Journalist Caleb Warnock announces the Aug. 8 2011 release of his book, “Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers,” on pre-sale now at Amazon.com.

Many people dream of becoming self-reliant during these times of fluctuating prices and uncertain job security. Using truly simple techniques, you can cultivate the pioneer's independence to provide safety against lost wages, harsh weather, economic recession, and commercial contamination and shortages. Strengthen your family's self-reliance as you discover anew the joy of homegrown food, thrift, and self-sufficient living.

Using truly simple techniques, homestead families harvested sweet, crisp carrots out of the snow-blanketed garden soil in December. They raised robust summer vegetables without expensive seed catalogs or nurseries. They created spectacular flower gardens at no cost. They ate fresh out of the garden twelve months a year, a skill that has now all but vanished. Their self-sufficiency provided security against lost wages, harsh weather, economic depression and recession, and commercial contamination and shortages.

Today, that kind of family security and self-reliance has never been more appealing. Many of the pioneer techniques are now lost to the general population. I was lucky enough to grow up in the kitchens and gardens of the last generation to provide family meals without relying on the grocery store. They managed their family budgets by putting to work centuries of received wisdom about food and self-sufficient living. My book teaches the reader just how simple and fulfilling the path to increased self-reliance can be, along with the pleasure of eating fresh garden produce with robust, homegrown flavor twelve months of the year.

This is not a book about bottling peaches or digging a root cellar. This book begins to overcome the myth that self-reliant living is practical only for up-before-dawn farmers or green-thumb gardeners with huge yards and no social life. The reality is that self-sufficiency need not be elaborate, time-consuming, or back-breaking. Any modern family can be strengthened by discovering these forgotten skills:

Growing Hardy and Perennial Vegetables: From Egyptian walking onions to self-seeding lettuce and spinach which thrives in below-freezing temperatures, our ancestors knew how to benefit their families with vigorous strains of garden goods. The early homesteaders ate fresh corn on the cob long after snow covered the ground and homegrown tomatoes at Thanksgiving -- with flavor beyond anything offered in today’s grocery stores.

Home-Grown Garden Seed: How did the pioneers garden without relying on seed catalogs and nurseries? Open-pollinated seed in the garden is the vegetable equivalent of wheat in food storage. My book explains the pioneer seed bank, the pros and cons of open-pollinated and hybrid garden seed, and a new effort now underway to revive it.

Eat Fresh in Winter: Following in the footsteps of the settlers, savvy modern gardeners can store their carrots, onions, parsnips, turnips, and beets over winter by leaving them exactly where they grew in the garden, or by using their garage!

Fresh Eggs: Taking a Second Look: Eggs were among the most valued homegrown pioneer foods. My book discusses how the backyard chicken coop disappeared, and why many cities, petitioned by residents, are allowing them once again. What every family should know when considering whether a few backyard hens might be right for them.

Baking with Pioneer Yeast: Learn about the health and nutrition benefits of baking with pioneer yeast instead of commercial quick-rise yeasts. Learn how bread was made for thousands of years before yeast was every sold in a grocery store.

Forgotten Recipes : Delicious hunger-gap omelets, roast vegetables, winter pioneer treats, family-pleasing meals entirely from the garden and storeroom, heritage recipes, and more.

Caleb Warnock is a full-time journalist and have been working for a central Utah daily newspaper for the past ten years. He has won more than 20 awards for journalism and creative writing, including the Utah Arts Council Original Writing Contest, the David O. McKay Essay Contest, and voted top reporter in Utah. His freelance publications range from articles on wolf-watching in Yellowstone to backyard poultry-keeping to perennial gardening. He has published several true stories about his ancestors in the Friend magazine. Caleb is a full-time journalist for Provo's Daily Herald.

"Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers" is available at bookstores everywhere, in addition to Walmart and Costco stores, and Amazon.com. Caleb Warnock can be reached at cwarnock@heraldextra.com.

"Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers" by Caleb Warnock
Cedar Fort Publishers
$16.99, available Aug. 8 2011