I blogged recently about cedars (Ashe junipers) and their importance in our Hill Country ecology. But it is definitely true that we have too much of a good thing, as you can see in the background of this photo. Because everyone in this area suppresses grass/brush fires, there's nothing to control the spread of cedars. So we do a fair amount of cedar chopping here on our 31 acres: trimming branches and removing young trees. (Lots of people around here use goats for this purpose. Some folks even rent flocks of goats as brush-clearers.)
But trimming/cutting trees results in huge piles of stuff, as you can see in the foreground of the photo above. We can let it lie (fire hazard), burn it (C02/particle pollution), or mulch it. We do burn, but once a year, the two of us plan a mulch party. Here's Bill, ready to go to work with the rented commercial shredder.
We (yes, I helped--physical work is good for the soul and the body) produced five truckloads of this stuff during the five hours we had the machine. The mulch is destined for the paths and spaces between the raised beds in my vegetable garden, for areas around some of our trees, for some of the flower beds, and for erosion control in some pasture areas that were previously overgrazed. When we first moved out here 25 years ago, we bought a small gas-powered chipper/shredder and used it heavily to clear brush along the creek and in Bill's pecan orchard. Okay for regular maintenance, but for big jobs like this one, the commercial shredder is definitely worth the money.
Book report. Other than chopping and mulching cedar, I've been working on Cat's Claw. The Pecan Springs books are always a challenge, but this one feels even harder, because Sheila Dawson is a main character and she's a police chief. So I'm creating a small-town police department (with all its inherent political/gender issues), describing the procedures she uses to investigate this particular crime, and so on. Luckily, I have a wonderful consultant on guns, Rhonda Esakov, who "arms" my characters with the latest in firepower. (Here's a blog post she wrote that not only demonstrates her wide/deep knowledge of guns but also demonstrates her strong reading skills.) Cat's Claw is about 65% finished (in terms of the number of words) and I have a pretty clear idea of where the book is going. But I need to go back to the beginning this week and work forward. This is where the writing really starts being fun.
Promoting books. It's that time of year when I have to start thinking seriously about book promotion. I'll be doing a blog tour again this year for Mourning Gloria. If you're a blogger and you'd like to host one of my posts, go here for details. I'll be traveling in Texas this year--the calendar will be available later this week. Hope to see you at one of the events!
Garden report. The soil temp in my raised beds is around 50 degrees and getting warmer by the day. This week, I planted spinach, carrots, radishes, lettuce (several varieties), kale, chard, and peas. The last freeze date is about eight weeks away, so I've started a couple of dozen tomatoes (Porter and Small Fry) in a flat on a heat mat. Next week, eggplant and peppers. When they've germinated, they'll go to the grow-light stand. The garlic is up, ditto the dill and fennel I planted last fall. Lovely to be digging in the dirt again!
What I've been reading the past couple of weeks. Police procedurals by Jeff Parker and Michael Connelly (some of the best fiction I've read recently--thanks to my brother John for his recommendations); Storms of My Grandchildren, by James Hansen; World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, by Lester R. Brown; and rereading Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, by Bill McKibben.
Reading note. You can’t be optimistic about the state of the world — what you can be is open-minded. You’re going to look for solutions, and you’re going to make your own life mean something. You can no longer think that accumulating money or the biggest house is the answer.--Joan Dye Gussow