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Windbreak House
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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.​WindbreakHouse

No kitten videos, but I will post some writing-related jokes and grammar tips.

Welcome to
Windbreak House
Writing Retreats

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 40 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.

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Listen to Linda:

Major Construction Project Underway

The BOOKS & MORE page is having a major overhaul which has broken many of the links within this entire website.

When you click on a link, there's a good chance you'll be taken on a detour to an unanticipated location-- try to enjoy the trip. :-)

We are poring over each page, sanding down the rough spots, and sticking the links back together one at a time. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Yes, that's Linda in the photo above, at a playground in Sheridan, Wyoming, 2008.

Stories and Essays by Linda
may be found on this website.

* Linda's Blog
Linda covers a wide range of topics.

* Home Page Message archives
Many of these essays have writing advice. All have photos, some have recipes, a few have poems.

* Poetry Page essays
Read suggestions for writing and performing poetry and the stories behind some of Linda's poems.

* Critter Stories
Brief stories and photos of birds and wildlife seen on Linda's ranch may be found on this page.

* Gallimaufry Page
Stories and photos that don't fit anywhere else.

Linda on YouTube

Nancy Curtis, publisher and owner of High Plains Press, recorded a couple of videos of Linda reading her poetry and posted them on YouTube.

To see Linda read "Where the Stories Come From"
click here.

To see Linda read her poem "Make a Hand"
click here

Or go to and search for Linda Hasselstrom.

You may also want to visit the High Plains Press facebook page where you will find these two poetry videos and much more about the many great western books-- poetry and non-fiction-- published by High Plains Press.

Thanks, Nancy!

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Linda M. Hasselstrom's
Windbreak House Retreats
books, writing retreats, more

Linda M. Hasselstrom at the ranch, June, 2014.

. . .
Summer Solstice: Fire and Ice and Prairie Flamingoes
A Home Page Message from Linda for June 21, 2014

At Summer Solstice the sun is at its zenith, so that more daylight falls upon us than at any other time during the year and life is filled with possibility. This year the solstice falls on June 21 at 6:51 a.m. EDT or 4:51 a.m. in Mountain Time: a moment balanced between summer and winter, between light and heat and cold darkness.

"Mammoth Solar Farm in Mojave Desert Incinerating Thousands of Birds." Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2014.

Two baby killdeer run down the driveway, bouncing on impossibly thin stick legs, learning how to survive just as their parents did in this driveway last year.

The word “solstice” is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still.) Counterpoise. Equilibrium.

"One in Four Americans Unaware that Earth Circles Sun." Associated Press, February 14, 2014.

The Say’s Phoebe feeds two fledglings in her nest under our deck, flying back and forth with insects from an hour before dawn to nearly full dark.

Those who honor the solstice often celebrate with fire, the strongest element on this day because it can cook, burn, consume, shed light or purify; we look to the hot South for inspiration.

"Extreme Cold Caused by 'Excess Heat.'" CBS News, February 14, 2014.

The prairie is vividly green in every direction and the fire danger is low because we have had several inches of rain in June. Grasses I haven’t seen in years arise from dormant seed.

Solstice symbols often include brightly colored flowers and ribbons, oak boughs, and fruit or vegetables, particularly those golden in color to imitate the flames of the south.

"Homeland Security Purchasing 700 Million Rounds of Ammo." CBS News, February 19, 2014.

Scarlet gaura, gaillardia, and scarlet globemallow bloom among the native grasses-- buffalograss, timothy, and western wheatgrass.

In Celtic tradition the Goddess cast her bouquet of summer flowers into a hilltop fire to add her power to the sun.

"The cattle that survived the October 2013 blizzard are getting fat and raising calves . . ."

"Why Longer Winters May be on the Way." WTOP-FM (Washington), February 18, 2014.

The cattle that survived the October 2013 blizzard are getting fat and raising calves to repopulate the decimated ranches. "The cost of doing business," say many ranchers who would accept no government payments.

Stonehenge is oriented to mark the sunrise and moonrise at the Summer and Winter solstices, so the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen from the center of the stone circle.

"Kanye West and Kim Kardashian spent their honeymoon Photoshopping wedding pic.", June 17, 2014.

With abundant feed, the antelope, deer, meadowlark and other wildlife populations are recovering after devastating deaths in the October blizzard as well.

Most cultures mark this Midsummer with some kind of ritual dedicated to the sun and to fertility; crops are at full growth, reaching their maturity and coming closer to harvest. Most wild herbs are fully mature so Midsummer is referred to in some cultures as Gathering Day, because herbs used for magical purposes are collected at this time.

"Nebraska May Sue Colorado for Heavy Additional Drug Enforcement Costs." Omaha World-Herald, April 20, 2014.

I've harvested the first batch of French breakfast radishes, the first garden produce of the summer, sharp and vivid on my tongue.

Summer Solstice: celebrate by enjoying every sunlit moment of this day. Resolve to take time every day left in the summer to appreciate the warmth and fertility of the land.

"Cops: Bus driver lied about Bible stopping bullets." USA Today, June 19, 2014.

The male red-winged blackbirds defend their territories from other blackbirds and even hawks; if you see a hawk flying erratically with small birds darting at its back-- avoiding the deadly talons-- the attackers are likely red-winged blackbirds. They pause to sing crescendos into the steamy air from every fence post and chimney top. If you chirp back at their staccato call, they’ll answer. See closeups of the bird and hear the vibrant song by searching on Then go outside the city and hear real ones-- they are found nearly everywhere in the U.S.!

Because he was alleged to have been born on June 24, the Christian Church has designated June 24, the nearest Christian holiday to Solstice, as the feast day of the martyr St. John the Baptist, another instance when a pagan festival has been adopted by Christians.

"The Wild Prairie Flamingoes have been grazing near the greenhouse lately . . ."

"1st US executions since botched lethal injection." Associated Press, June 17, 2014.

On hillsides along the highways, the grass looks golden because sweet clover is blooming everywhere. The Wild Prairie Flamingoes have been grazing near the greenhouse lately and we hope they will be raising some chicks to bring a little unusual color to the surrounding pastures.

In ancient times, the Summer solstice festival was marked by fires of every description in the belief that all flame strengthened the sun, drove out evil, and brought fertility to the land. Citizens lit balefires (bonfires) on the heights, rolled flaming barrels of fire or set light to wagon wheels bound with straw and rolled them down steep hillsides. It was said that because the Sun God and Goddess wanted the day to last forever, rolling the flaming wheels prolonged the light for their benefit.

"14 dead in bombing of World Cup view site in Nigeria." Associated Press, June 17, 2014.

"Drought impacted families get help with rent." KERO-TV 23, Bakersfield, CA, June 19, 2014.

The Norse, especially, loved to gather family, friends and even farm animals into torchlight processions from their homes to the festival site.

"Border out of control: national security runs roughshod over the Arizona Wild." High Country News, June 9, 2014.

Mullein leaves are spreading wide against the ground to catch the light. Soon the central candle will begin to reach for the sky. Though the plant was introduced to the prairies, it has adapted well. Indians lined moccasins with the leaves to keep out the cold and made herbal remedies of its leaves and flowers, taking advantage of its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, expectorant and analgesic properties. Roman soldiers are said to have dipped the stalks in grease for torches, a use that could be adapted for solstice celebrations.

Blazing gorse or heather was carried around cattle and fields to prevent disease and misfortune while people danced around fires or leapt through the flames in a purifying rite. The Celts lit fires at sunset on Midsummer Eve and kept them blazing until the next day, inviting everyone to a feast.

"Winter storm warning for Montana, one to two feet of snow predicted." Weather Underground, June 17, 2014.

"Insurers take up fight against rising chemotherapy costs." PBS NewsHour, June 17, 2014.

"Mullein leaves are spreading wide against the ground to catch the light."

Astronomically, the solstice represents the God at full power, at the time of summer's full growth. Even though the hottest days of summer still lie ahead, from this point onward the year wanes and the sun sets a little earlier every night.

"Tornadoes Touch Down in Midwest Again; South Dakota Town Mauled." ABC News, June 19, 2014.

As I drive through the pasture, two-month-old calves look at the car, eyes, wide, then bounce and kick and run, hair shiny with good health from good grazing.

If the day is cloudy or rainy, light a candle for the entire day to encourage and strengthen the sun and as a reminder of its importance. On a dark Solstice some light a white candle in front of a mirror, or surround the candle with gold jewelry or golden flowers to magnify the power.

"Texas officials announce border security surge to stem immigrant tide." Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2014.

"Hero Ex-Con Saves Baby From Crawling Onto Georgia Highway." Opinion -- Huffington Post, June 17, 2014.

Many celebrants formalize or renew their wedding vows at this time, when the power of the sun is strongest. Couples who have been together since Beltane may solemnize their relationships on this date.

"For young women, depression tied to risk of heart problems." Reuters, June 19, 2014.

On the small piece of prairie around my house, I walk among several members of the vetch family, blooming in lavender hues, with deep purple alfalfa standing taller. Bees buzz everywhere.

The focus of Midsummer magic is often on courage, fertility of all kinds, self-confidence, and career. Celebrants speak of harnessing the power to tackle seemingly insoluble problems, or bringing light into a difficult situation.

"Dad charged with murder after son dies in hot car." USA Today, June 19, 2014.

"14-year-old saves elderly man, dog from Fairfield fire." KCRA Sacramento, June 16, 2014.

Married women who wanted to get pregnant, especially if they were older than usual, would walk naked in the garden at midnight and pick the herb St. John’s Wort. Young girls who wanted to dream of their true love would fast during the day and put the herb under their pillow at night.

"Man Shoots Son 4 Times, Flees on Father’s Day." Orlando Sentinel, June 16, 2014.

"Dramatic Southwest Minnesota flood rescue saves mother stranded in car." Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 18, 2014.

Celebrants of the Summer Solstice often vow not to let the light and joy of the longest day fade from their lives as the days draw in and cold darkness moves closer. Whether you are a writer or not, consider how you can counteract the negative, accentuate the positive, and get the most from this magnificent summer.

Happy Solstice and may you be blessed by this summer.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
For the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2014
Windbreak House
Hermosa, South Dakota

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These Home Page Essays Are Archived --- Linda posts a new message on her Home Page a number of times each year. We've archived the essays (click here) so you can read the ones you missed and re-read the ones you enjoyed. Some of them include recipes or poems or writing suggestions. All of them have photos.

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