Welcome to Windbreak House.
In the center of the nation, deep in the grasslands of western South Dakota, essayist and poet Linda M. Hasselstrom grew up as an only child on a family cattle ranch homesteaded by a Swedish cobbler in 1899.
Today she invites you to benefit from a writing retreat on that same ranch. Come to the house where she discovered the Great Plains outside her windows, where she began to write the poetry and non-fiction books that have established her as one of the strongest voices on behalf of the prairie.
Linda holds a BA in English and Journalism, an MA in American Literature, and has been a teacher of writing for more than 45 years. She has hosted writing retreats at her ranch since 1996.
Not a writer but a reader? Enjoy Linda's vivid descriptions of her life and work on the ranch, as a writer, and as an advocate for the preservation of the prairies and the people and wildlife who inhabit them.
Meet Linda on Youtube
For a brief introduction to Linda, her ranching life, her books, and the writing retreats, watch this Two-Minute Summary on Youtube
. You've read her words-- now hear her voice and see some images of the ranch and the writing retreat.
What's Happening at Windbreak House?
It's here at last!
My newest book, The Wheel of the Year
, is finally in print and in my hand.
The Wheel of the Year: A Writer's Workbook
nonfiction, 2015, Red Dashboard Press
$22.95 -- paper
The Wheel of the Year
is structured with sixteen essays, one for each of the eight seasons through two years, with an intermission essay, “Respect Writing By Not Writing,” which discusses taking time off. Extensive writing suggestions are included, as well as additional resources. The workbook is intended as a guide and teacher as a writer sets up her own schedule of writing and develops a relationship with the natural and mundane worlds in which we live. If the reader came to a retreat at my Windbreak House Retreats, this might be a series of conversations we would have about writing.
If you would like to purchase an autographed copy from me, please send a check or money order for $28 to:
Linda M. Hasselstrom
PO Box 169
Hermosa SD 57744
Let me know if you would like me to personalize a message along with my signature, especially if the book will be a gift (only 3 months to Christmas!).
The $28 covers shipping & handling within the USA and any applicable sales tax.
** South Dakota Festival of Books **
I will attend the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood, SD, hosting a writing workshop based on my new book The Wheel of the Year
($20 fee required), sharing a (free!) poetry reading with Twyla M. Hansen for our joint book Dirt Songs
(our FIRST time reading together for this book even though it was published a few years ago), and participating on a panel discussion about Writing and the Environment on Sunday morning at the close of the Festival. (The panel is free but there is a charge for the brunch directly before it.)
See "Where in the World is Linda M. Hasselstrom?"
to find my Festival schedule: you still have time to sign up for my Friday morning writing workshop!
See the website for the SD Festival of Books
for the complete schedule of events.
Early fall is often a very busy time as summer vacation ends and book-related events pick up. Besides the book signing and Book Festival, I'm also keeping busy with online Writing Conversations by eMail and a retreat guest or two, participating with some local book clubs, and I am coordinating the annual fall Storytellers fundraiser in October for the local Arts and History group (Hermosa Arts and History Association, or HAHA). Though I haven't been able to do as much of my own writing as I'd like, I am clearing out boxes of old financial files and putting together other materials that will be donated to various archives. What a good feeling to clear out some of the basement storage space.
If you would like to spend some time writing at Windbreak House see the Retreats Page
for the list of available retreat dates in 2015 and all the details you need to know about applying for a writing retreat (working with me) or a solitary retreat.
If you can't take a retreat holiday because your time or your budget is tight, we can still have some productive writing fun together online. See the Online Writing Help Page
for complete details on how to sign up for a Writing Conversation by eMail.
My WordPress blog "Notes from a Western Life."
Come on over and sign up for a subscription.
Though I've discontinued my Home Page Messages, I've set up a new WordPress blog (with the help of my web-wrangler) because it gives me more options than the blog on this website, including the ability to post more photos, the ability to link with social media across the web, and a subscription service that sends a dandy version of the blog directly to your email inbox. Try it out.
New blogs posted in August and September
"Poetry Day-- After Day After Day After Day" -- posted August 21st
I explain what I do when the computer is in for repairs (day after day) and how I organize my poetry files-- published, uncollected, finished but unpublished, working drafts, and even the bad stuff. Bonus-- a couple different drafts of a new poem (titled "Edna") still in progress, with my notes on why I made the changes from one version to the next.
Read it on my WordPress blog
"Pruning Tomatoes and Unwise Growth" -- posted August 28th
This blog combines my suggestion to prune your tomato plants to encourage the fruits to ripen before frost, and my opinion on unwise growth sprawling over the west. It originally appeared on this website's blog page in 2010, but it seemed appropriate to re-post it this month.
Read it on my WordPress blog
"Writing: Where I've Been -- The Squirrel on the Fire Escape" -- posted September 4th
This unpublished essay from the 1990s is about a wild visitor I hosted in Sioux City, back when I was between college and graduate school in the 1960s.
Read about the squirrel on my WordPress blog
"The Day After" -- posted September 12th
After re-reading Judyth Hill’s poem “Wage Peace,” written on 9/11/2001, I follow her example, replacing thoughts of mayhem by finding grace in community events and nature. (Read Judyth Hill's poem "Wage Peace," and the story behind it, on her website: www.judythhill.com
Read my blog on my WordPress blogsite
"The Truth About the Bogus Jim Burl Failure" -- posted September 24th
My search for a pine burl was a failure-- but the experience was a success. Read about gloriously snarled pieces of wood, smelly wildflowers, a rock maze, and finding grace and inspiration along Bogus Jim Creek in the Black Hills of SD.
Read my blog on my WordPress blogsite
You can also find some of these blogs, and many older ones, on the Blog Page of this website by clicking here
This year some of my writing appeared in various periodicals,
In "Writers on the Range," syndicated by High Country News ---
February 4, 2015, "Let’s talk about the 'Z' word"
An opinion piece where I discuss the need to plan for a responsible future. Read it here
and then consider subscribing to High Country News
to support their important and well-done journalism about the West.
In South Dakota Magazine ---
In the May/June issue, "Letters to Graduates"
My letter was one of a number chosen for publication. I wrote about my expectations for my life as I was graduating college, how I have accomplished some of my goals, and how I have come to believe that, as my father used to quote, "a man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be."
In the July/August issue, "Saving South Dakota's Birds of Prey: The Black Hills Raptor Center"
One of my favorite local non-profits, the Black Hills Raptor Center is in the process of expanding their mission of education of the public and rehabilitation of raptors and owls by building a new facility. I hope my article will bring them more publicity and donations. Chip in a little to help the birds, if you are so inclined.
See their website at BlackHillsRaptorCenter.org
* * *
"Drive Slowly. Watch for Writers and Animals" says the sign on the driveway leading to the retreat house.
You can see by the green grass and puddles in the driveway that we were getting a lot of rain when this photo was taken in June.
After a dry winter and an excessively wet spring, which has the stock dam about as full as it has ever been, our weather is warming up and drying out after some downright hot spells in August and September. Grass fires are a real danger now on hot, windy days. We've mowed fire breaks around our buildings and turned cattle into the lane so they can graze and trample the tall grass and weeds along the road to the highway since it's impossible to mow the rocky ditches on either side of the half-mile gravel driveway.
The retreat house, hidden behind the windbreak in the photo, is comfortable in any weather: it has a relatively new propane furnace for cold times and has many electric fans for the dog days of summer. Out in the country the air always cools down at night, so the windows can be opened in the evening as "country air-conditioning." Despite the sunny warm days of fall, at night you'll be glad for the cozy quilts and blankets on each bed.
* * *
At noon, walking the hillside above the dam in the spring, we noticed that the duck families swim away from the shallow edges and head for the center of the pond when they see us. First one hen would swim out of the weeds, followed by six tiny ducklings so close together they must be touching. Then another hen with nine, then one with seven slightly larger babies. As spring changes to summer, though, when we make our counts from the hillside, we’ll notice that the flocks following each female duck are smaller.
“By the time the ducks are ‘teenagers’ (no more surface down, but still undersized and not flying),” says Greg Laden at scienceblogs.com, “only a fraction of their original number will still be alive. Which a good thing, because if every hatchling survived to reproductive age and reproduced, we’d be moon-deep in ducks.”
No doubt this is true from a scientific viewpoint, but we find it painful to see those females with their ever-dwindling broods after the time they have devoted to hatching those eggs. Where do the ducklings go?
According to Laden, a lot of diurnal predators (daylight hunters) that we regularly see here favor duckling: crows, herons, and owls, for example. Snapping turtles, which have always inhabited our pasture ponds, eat baby ducks.
Oddly, though, says Laden, many birds ultimately die of hypothermia (loss of body temperature). A study of mallard ducklings in South Dakota concluded that many of them die of hypothermia, affected by vegetation and rainfall; in other words, a hungry bird can shut down and die during a cool night. Since we have had night temperatures in the 50s and 60s, and torrential rain during many days, I’m sure many of the local birds have died from hypothermia. I’m surprised the killdeer whose nest we’ve been watching survived the day we got two inches of rain in an hour.
So far, though, the numbers of ducklings seems to be holding steady.
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Connect with Windbreak House on Facebook and with my WordPress Blog.
If you "Like" me on this Facebook page you'll get notifications of my newly-posted blogs as well as announcements about my books, writing retreats, and other events to do with Windbreak House.
No kitten videos, but I post Stories from the Writing Retreat and various other writing-related photos, announcements, book reviews, and the occasional joke. You can ask questions and exchange comments with me and other readers of the postings.
You can sign up to follow my WordPress Blog "Notes from a Western Life" here:
Once you've subscribed you will receive the blog in your email, complete with photos. The WordPress blog has the exact same content as the blog on this website, but WordPress allows me to post more photos throughout each entry.
And as a bonus, WordPress does not require you to decipher some squiggly words in order to post a comment. The first time you post a comment you must be approved by me (I know you won't deluge me with annoying spam about sunglasses and other products), but after that you are allowed to comment freely.
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