Life, as we write it…

William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portabl...

William Faulkner’s Underwood Universal Portable sits in his office at Rowan Oak, which is now maintained by the University of Mississippi in Oxford as a museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure why I am writing over here at Escaping the Inkwell since for some time I’ve thought of discontinuing using it. I post most of my thoughts over on Kate’s Bookshelf, including my life in writing these days. But I just wanted to take a moment and vent a little.

Right now I am busy busy with Writer’s Digest’s PAD Challenge (Poem a Day). I have kept up my flash fiction and general writing. I try to write a post a week, or in this case, every day. It’s exhausting at times and I wonder why I decide to do it halfway through a challenge. I’m not really there yet, but I feel the burned out.  I feel it creeping up on me as I struggle to know where to take my writing. I start a piece of fiction and I don’t know what to do with it. I have a selection of poetry and I don’t know where to go with it.

I have things to send to literary magazines and literary agents. But I’m feeling the burn….(does that make anyone else think of Bernie Sanders? I have to admit, I love the ‘Feel the Burn/Bern” of that slogan.)

I’m waist deep in Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I found a copy floating around and started reading it having seen the first two episodes of the show. It’s been on my to-read list for a year or so, but I didn’t know I would get sucked into her work. I am so sucked in that I now know what my summer will be spent reading. The rest of the series.

But it’s also bumming me out because I cheated and skipped ahead by looking on wikipedia on what the second book is about. I can’t believe Diana is going to do what I’m reading she does! How could Claire and Jamie not spend the rest of their lives together? How could she rip the two apart for twenty years?!!!!

But while being bummed, I’m excited to read the second book. And I’m inspired to keep writing because while I feel like I’m not going anywhere with my writing, Diana wrote Outlander at 35. Or had it published. Bla bla. I’m not to 35. I have a year and one month. You can write a novel in one year. And I have several things started.I can do this.

I hope.

So this is just me being a little morose. And tweaked. I’m also tweaked because I really wouldn’t mind meeting a guy like Jamie Fraser… and there ar eno men like Jamie Fraser around here. At least, that I know of.

Kate

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I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

Life has taken a crazy turn this summer, so writing has not been my luxury, nor have I been horribly motivated to work on the necessary things in writing that make you a published author.  In just over a week it will have been a year since I sent off my first query letter.

A YEAR!

And here I am twiddling my thumbs, so to speak, with a book that needs some editing before being sent off.  I’ve had a couple people asking me if I’ve been writing and honestly, not much.  When I do have moments of free time, writing is not the thing I’ve turned to.  Part of me feels guilty, and another part of me say, when I relax for those maybe two hours broken up through the day, I need to actually relax. Writing does not relax me.  Never has unless I’m playing at some bit of flash fiction for one of my ‘someday’ novels.

Writing is work, and when I’ve been working all day with farming and such, more work is not something I want.  But should I?  Should I just knuckle down and write?  I don’t know.  I’m not always feeling guilty, but I think that’s when I’m reading and actually relaxing.  This is not one of those mornings. I had deadlines in my head I wanted to make.  Those passed months ago.

I was reading Albert Berg’s Unsanity Files about a week and a half ago.  I can’t even be sure of the time because I have about 700+ blog emails I have not read this summer, filling my inbox. Anyways, back to Albert.  He wrote a post on slowing it down and not rushing. Here it is here. 

Anyways,  while I get slowing down, being a turtle is ridiculous as well.  So, conclusion?  I have no idea.  I’m not writing much of the things I need to write. I am fiddling with some poetry and writing letters, but that is about it.

What say you, all my readers?

Writing on

~K.L.B.

I’m Broadening My Horizons

I wasnt’ sure where to post this next post, so it is going here. I suppose it should be over on Kate’s Bookshelf, but I just dont’ want to.

Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) English: Portrait o...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve started reading things other than some of the mainstream authors.  Broadening my horizons, so to speak.  I was listening to Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan and Salinger’s Franny and Zooey was mentioned. I decided that even though I didn’t like Catcher in the Rye, (couldn’t get past the first page) I wanted to try this.

Along with that, I was watching Easy A last night and Sylvia Plath‘s The Bell Jar, was mentioned.  While I know who she is, more from a Joshua Radin song, I’ve never read any of her work. 

Sylvia PlathSylvia Plath also brought to my mind the fact that I have never read any Virginia Woolf.  So, one of hers, or maybe two of hers are on hold with my library, along with the other ones I’ve mentioned.

From BookMooch I have On Being Ill by Virginia Woolf, in my wishlist. I Frannyzoey.jpgactually wanted to read that after a blip in The Writer’s Guide to Writing.  I just wasn’t willing to spend the money on a copy, and there were no copies available through my library system. 

Rarely do I like to own books unless I’ve first read them, Harry Potter and the Twilight Saga being exceptions. (I purchased some of those before reading because I knew you couldn’t go wrong)  So, I don’t really want to go out buying Plath, Salinger, and Woolf unless I know what the book is actually about and whether or not I will read them.

For me, this is a big step in comfort zone.  I usually avoid ‘classic’ authors due to some really bad books I’ve tried. I don’t finish a book unless I enjoy the first 50 pages, or less, but I’m trying something new.

I think Louise Jacque’s post on How Austen Prejudiced Me, sort of spurred me to try some new things.  I want to try other works of literature. And not just the Dostoyevsky (which I really have no desire at all) or the Tolstoy. (no, I really have no desire for that either)  There are plenty of American writers I’ve never read, and there are plenty from other countries too.  People have been writing for ages. There are so many books out there.  So, I have to try to not be afraid to try something new.

And on one last note I have one other new author I’m trying. Maya Angelou.  I’ve seen little blips of her poetry from some of the blogs I follow and I’ve wondered about her writing.  Well, last week there was a copy of her poetry for sale at my library last week. I snatched it up and I couldn’t have been happier.  I am amazed at her depth of feeling you can read in her words.  There is pure magic in her poetry.  I think she may become one of my more favorite poets.  And I can’t claim to liking that many.  I like many poems by different people, but there are only a few I can say I love.  I look forward to reading more of her works.  In small sittings, but still.

So, stepping off the cliff to the unknown.  At least with this type I don’t need a parachute.

Writing on

~K.L.B.

The End Is Near

The end of Post A Week 2011 is drawing to a close.  Gads, I seriously cannot believe that I have written at least two posts a week since January.  I didn’t think I would make it at times, especially when I lost inspiration a few times.  However, forcing myself to write so much this year, brought on a host of new ideas.

My mind is constantly looking at pictures, life, things I’ve read, trying to come up with some new storyline.   I’ve fiddled with flash fiction, started numerous picture book stories, and blogged.  I’ve written query letters, sending off one.  I’ve been rejected, and turned down by the same letter.  I’ve started a new letter. 

This has definitely been the year of writing. 

But it’s good.  If I plan on being a writer, I kind of need to write, yes?   I was sad to see that Albert Berg has put his writing or being a writer, on the back burner.  I wish him all the best of luck, and I look forward to his blogging.  I’m sure that at some point in every writer’s life, they wonder if they should continue.  I’m not at that point, though I’ve had doubts.  Though, most of the doubts have been, should I have sent that particular letter to that agent, and should I try again, and should I consider other agents.  But, for now, I’m seriously committed to being a published writer.  Published is the key word.

 

The Children's section at the Barnes and Noble

I’ve mentioned a few times the funk I’ve been in with writing.  Last week I went to the Big City (it’s only just over 50K people) and got to go to a Barnes and Noble for the first time in, oh, three years.  HEAVEN!  Oh I love Barnes, you wonderful store you.  I made my way directly to the children’s section and spent a wonderful forty-five minutes perusing what’s popular.  My love of Tallulah’s Tutu has waned slightly due to my mother not really enjoying the plot.  I still want the illustrator, but I may not get the book now.  However, Karma Wilson has a new Christmas book that is charming beyond belief.  It showcases the true story of Christmas and I love it.  I want it too.

There were several other cute books, but for the most part, I’m seriously disappointed with most illustrators and most books. It’s so hard to find good, and I mean really good children’s picture books. 

Well, despite that, I was jazzed and pumped up to continue writing and working on my query letter.  I failed my goal of sending it off the first of December.  While everyone else in the writing world was hard at work at NaNoWriMo, I was supposed to be working on that.  Uh, yeah, I did for a day, then sort of lost my juice.

I’m going to get it back as I’ve already done a little work.  Hopefully this month or January.  We shall see.

So, a whole year of writing.  Bring on the next!

Writing on

~K.L.B.

In A Funk

I’m in a writing funk right now.  Funk isn’t my word, but George‘s.  I like it though.  It feels more deep than just writer’s block.  I actually can’t claim writer’s block at all because I have a host of ideas.  I have tons of ideas floating around in my head right now. I just don’t have the inclination to write. 

When you feel out of sorts or ill, like I have, getting into a groove of writing  fails.  Pain is an excellent deterrent as well.  That being said, I haven’t stopped writing per say.  It’s just different.  Replying to emails is sometimes just as important.  Living is crucial to writing.  YOu can’t give up your whole life to just write.  Because a writer has to live to even know what to write.  So life can be an inspiration to writing.  Now, off-hand, I can’t say as anything has inspired me this last couple of days.  But I’m trying to not let that bother me.

Sometimes when life changes, one goes through a bit of a depressing stage.  Because the family business is a seasonal one, the changes this time of year, when certain things stop and expectations weren’t met, we all go through this funk.  While mine is manifesting itself in a decided lack of good writing, for others it comes in different forms. 

I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but at the same time, I can’t just let up on myself.  I can’t just say I’m in a funk and let myself wallow.  It would be easy to let myself do that.  However, if I let a bit of pain or change throw me off, i might as well throw up my hands and just give up this writing thing.   Yeah.  Not gonna happen.  As much as I may feel lost on some things, I can’t just throw my hands up.  I doubt I would be satisfied either.  Because I know I can’t stop writing. I love it too much.  Even if only a handful of people see my work, I can’t give it up.

So with all that being said, I hope my funk goes away.  I hope George’s does too.  I have to say it is helpful to know someone else is in a funk, and it isn’t just me.  Sympathy and empathy are wonderful things to have.  And I’ve gotten a slew of emails to cheer me when this funk seems to be getting deeper.

Writing on

~K.L.B.

My First Hand Experiences In Slaughtering Pigs

You know, we never knew how to slaughter pigs until we moved up to a rural area. We are from the city. I live on a very small farm in rural California, and my family and I have raised rabbits, chickens and pigs for meat.  In my more recent years I’ve been a part of, and helped in the process of slaughtering animals.  Animals that we have slaughtered ourselves.  Even though my father has hunted most of his life, he had never slaughtered pigs.  He volunteered to help his neighbor do it who had been doing it for years, I.E. he was 70 years old, a native American Indian, no less.   The point being, he knew what he was doing, and how we slaughtered pigs was how he had done it his whole life. Every time we or our neighbors shot a pig, the pig dropped instantaneously. 

While I can state the process of slaughtering all of these animals, I can say with confidence that I know how the process of slaughtering pigs goes.  I have been an actual part of slaughtering all 8 of our pigs, and I’ve helped and watched in the slaughtering of two others that our neighbors raised.

In this last week I wrote a post on researching things correctly for books.  I was chastised by Matt Bondurant, for criticizing him stating that what he wrote at the beginning of his book, The Wettest County in the World, was incorrect.  I’m here to tell you all about the process of slaughtering pigs.  Oh, and I have also been part of the butchering process too.  Cutting up the meat and packaging it.  I’ve done it all.

The start of raising and slaughtering pigs starts in October.  When you purchase feeder pigs that are weaned.  They are cute at this stage.  Though, they squeal a lot.  Many people get their pigs in the spring so that they can go to fair in the late summer.  We liked doing it in winter because when you go to slaughter, there are no flies to bother you. 

It takes about five months to get these piglets to about 300 or more pounds.  Let me tell you, when they get to be that big, they can really shove you around.  Having played around one year with our three sister pigs,  Heidi-Ho, Hanna-Banana, and Harriet-Sweet- Harriet (we did just shorten it to Heidi, Hanna, and Harriet.) I know full well that three gals that size are scary.  Fun, but scary.

The night before slaughtering it the hardest, or one of the hardest parts about the whole process.  You have to stop feeding them that night.  They can’t have food in their system so they are very, very unhappy when it comes to not getting dinner.  And it is extremely hard when you’ve kind of made pets of them.

Morning of slaughter day,  there is a lot to get ready.  This is usually at the end of February, early March, so it’s still cold.  My father would get up around seven in the morning to start a fire underneath this very large tub filled with water.  It’s one of those 100 gal. water trough’s that you see farmers use for watering cattle.  Well, it is propped up on cinder blocks, next to a very large table.  Attached to the table are old car chains that we will use to pull the pig back up out of the water.

The water has to be heated to 150-160F and I will explain this reason later.  It takes about three hours to get the water from freezing cold to this temperature.  When the water has reached the right temperature, that is when it’s time to start.

My father has used both a .22 pistol/ revolver and a .22 rifle.  He has found that the pistol works better because the rifle will put the bullet in too far.  The two times he has shot a pig with the rifle, we found the slug down in the jowels of the pig.  The velocity of a .22 fired out of a rifle is so much greater than that of a revolver. It will go right into the hardest part of a a pig’s skull.  So, as far as we are concerned, the revolver works best.  Our neighbors, who have slaughtered pigs for years, used a revolver as well.

The spot to shoot the pig is about an inch above the eyes, dead center.  This is where you will hit the brain the best to disable the pig, but not kill it directly.   The heart will still be beating at this point. This is also the hardest part of the skull, yet a .22 goes right in.

Personally, this and the next part I hate.  I’m not much of a blood and guts person, and little things like this can make me start to hyperventilate.  I’ll keep it mild, mostly so I don’t make myself get ill.

Okay, so one shot usually takes care of immobilizing the pig.  Now comes the tricky part.  Someone has to stick the pig in the neck at the proper angle and rotate the knife slightly to sever the arteries where they join so pig will bleed properly.  You don’t want to be standing on the side of the pig where the legs are when you stick the pig.  The best spot to be is on its backside.  The minute the knife sticks the arteries and the blood starts to pump out, the pig will begin to thrash and kick.  If you are caught on side of the legs, like our neighbor was one time, you can end up with a very nasty kick in your legs or other areas.  He ended up with nasty kick in the thigh near the crotch  because the pig fell the wrong way.   Our neighbor was in so much pain, someone else had to finish the job.

So, as the pig is thrashing, pumping out the blood, to keep it thrashing, some of the hot water from the tub is splashed on it.  The hot water keeps the pig thrashing.    Not too much.  You don’t want the pig to thrash so much it bruises the meat.  Once the pig has stopped thrashing it’s time to get it into the water. First the tendons in the back feet of the pigs has to be hooked up so that the pig can be hoisted up onto the table.  Once on the table, the pig is rolled into the water, the chains holding the pig to lower it into the water.

Now the reason for lowering the pig into the water is that the heat of the water makes the very first thin layer of skin and hair come off.    This process is called scalding the pig.  There are people who skin their pigs, and that’s fine if you don’t have a tub of water and the setup.  I’ve heard that skinning is messy and the way with water keeps the skin on so that the meat won’t be contaminated.  By scalding and scraping the pig, you end up with a very clean, snow-white rind

So, the pig is dunked in the water until you start to be able to peel off, or scrape off the skin and hair.   The pig is pulled out of the water with the help of the chains, and usually two very strong guys.  The year it was just Mom, Pop, and I, well let’s just say, 300 pound pigs are heavy.

A Bell Scraper

Once on the table, the pig is scraped.  There are these special scrapers called bell scrapers that allow the hair, oil, dirt, and thin layer of skin to be scraped off without damaging the rind.  You must work quickly so that the skin doesn’t set and let the hair stay in.  If the skin starts to cool too much, you can pour more hot water from the tub onto the area and continue scraping.

This is what it looks like to scrape the pigs with a bell scraper. We never wore gloves.

Usually this method gets most of the hair off.  Sometimes there are fine hairs left so a sharp knife will shave off the rest.  Kind of like shaving your skin in the shower. 

So, now we have a clean pig.

The pig is now hooked back up to hooks in the back leg tendons on a spreader bar then hoisted up.  Any left over hair is scraped off, and next comes  the gutting.  First the pig needs to be cut around the bung hole. Trust me, you do not want to contaminate the meat.  That is one of the most crucial parts about slaughtering ; you keep everything clean.  Clean knives, clean water available, and washing off blood and anything else. 

That's me, with the pig spread, hung, and being finished scraped.

A slice needs to be cut down the groin/stomach area without cutting through the urethra .  Where you have cut around the bung hole, someone, usually holds that out of the way while the person with the knife continues to cut down.  You don’t want to cut down to far so that the bowels come out right away because there is the pelvic bone between the legs that needs to be separated.  Usually a hacksaw or cleaver is used.  You have to be careful to not cut through so far that you nick the bowels.

So, now you go down and slice all the way to the breast bone where you have to cut through the breast bone to the clavicle so that the chest is completely split, with the hacksaw again or cleaver, without puncturing the bowels.  The reason you want to go all the way through to the neck is so that when you drop the bowels out it goes completely to the ground without contaminating the meat.  Usually there is a large bucket or tub that we have below to catch the bowels.   If done properly, without damaging anything, you will also be able to cut out the heart, liver, and kidneys from this.  

The organs are rinsed in cold water and left to sit in a bowl of cold water.  The organs in separate bowls so as to not contaminate each other.

Once the bowels are removed from the  pig, the cavity is rinsed completely with cold water.  Usually a hose works well for this.  In the process of doing this, the front legs are pumped and rinsed to get the remaining blood out of the shoulder area where it tends to pool.  When the leg is pumped, blood cleans out.

Finally, when the cavity is washed out it is time to split the pig in half.  Starting from where the tail is, the pig is sawed in half with a bone or hacksaw.  Though for us, we found that a limb saw with oriental shark teeth did a much faster job, although it did tend to leave more small bone fragments than the hacksaw.

Whew!  You all wanted to know that, right?  I figure that I don’t need to tell you all about cutting up the meat.  A process that usually took three days in freezing cold conditions.  Suffice to say, I feel very confident in relaying this information. 

Now, the only reason for my long bit of information is I wanted all my readers to know my knowledge on this subject.  I want to thank everyone that supported my post on researching.  You guys are great.

Writing on

~K.L.B.