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Worldwide Circulation!

Ted Kooser, US Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, writes a weekly poetry column sent to 3 million readers worldwide via newspapers and individual email subscriptions.

In August, 2014 he shared Linda's poem "Planting Peas" in his column #490.

Read it here.

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 had a major overhaul recently which broke most of the links within the website.

I have been poring over each page, sanding down the rough spots, and sticking the links back together one at a time and I think I've found most of them, but there's still a slight chance you'll be taken on a detour to an unanticipated location when you click on a link-- try to enjoy the trip and 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
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Linda M. Hasselstrom, 2014

. . .
Old Business, New Business, Harvest Business
A Home Page Message from Linda for the Autumnal Equinox --- September 22, 2014

Signs of Autumn begin to accumulate in late August and early September. By its colors-- red, orange, russet, maroon, gold-- we would know the Autumn Equinox approaches even without a calendar.

The three leaves of poison ivy glow red against the dark earth. At the tops of cottonwoods, leaves gleam like candles. Tomatoes turn from orange to red and marigolds and gaillardia echo the colors.

Nature tells us in dozens of ways the summer is ending: black and white dragonflies arrive to eat the mosquitoes; pollen turns the air yellow and makes the breeze an enemy.

Our senses warn us about the end of the hot season; we hear wasps zig, zag and zizzz around the screen door and they occasionally slip inside to bump against the ceiling. Ignore them and they will surely land on your shirt collar. Coyote pups try out their reedy voices in chorus just before dawn. Birds lift in dark flocks from one field to alight in another, gobbling seeds. At a nearby garden center, we smell roasting Hatch hot green chilies, and buy a bushel to peel and freeze.

Meadowlarks stomp through the drying grass, tilting their heads as they peck here and there. Two red-tailed hawks glide over the pond as the ducks tip their tail feathers in the air, gleaning something edible in the muck.

As a canny gardener, I nip the new shoots and blossoms that donít have time to become tomatoes, encouraging the plants to put their energy into ripening larger tomatoes. Time ďto pluck up that which is planted,Ē says Ecclesiastes.

The Autumn Equinox, arriving late on the evening of September 22 this year (9:29 p.m. CDT), has also been called Harvest Home, the Second Harvest Festival and Wine Harvest: all titles that indicate the importance of the date as the second of three great festivals as summer slides down into winter. Like the ancients, our thoughts turn in autumn to our stomachs.

Finishing the old business of summer is an essential part of preparing for winter, when we will hunker down into rest and relaxation from the hot seasonís demands.

In the garden, Jerry helps me pull the markers and water pipes from the rows where we grew radishes, turnips and squash; weíll store them in the shed for next summer. In my garden journal, I make notes about what went well and not so well during the past months. As a child, I was taught to grow everything we possibly could in the garden; this year Iím trying to wean myself away from that idea. To be honest, I have to admit that I've been growing more tomatoes than we need, so Iíll reduce the number of plants. Turnips: we donít especially like the type that grows best in the garden; weíll buy what we need. Iíll plant zucchini, so we can make calabacitas con queso, and because itís easy to give the excess to friends. Pumpkins: no. Jerryís diet rules out pie and even the pumpkin bread I love to make. Iíll definitely grow as many as possible of the herbs we use a lot: basil, oregano, parsley. And I may experiment with more herbs since, with fewer tomato plants, Iíll have more room in my raised beds.

Harvest Business: Linda inspects the pumpkin crop.
Autumn is the time to plan next year's garden.
As we close down the garden, we also stock up, harvesting its produce. In fact, this contradiction seems an essential part of Autumn: pare down, stock up. Hot days, cool nights; bask, shiver. I enjoy the feel of the sun on my back for the first time since spring, but relax in a cool breeze on the deck now that the mosquitoes have vanished.

Harvest Home: time to reduce, but also to accumulate. ďA time to keep, and a time to cast away.Ē

I've read that older cultures celebrated the season by offering the gods cider, wine, herbs and-- fertilizer. The last gift seems particularly symbolic, since it combined practicality with religious observance. Scoop the fertilizer out of the corrals and barns to make them ready for the accumulation of winter. Spread it over the fields where it will work its way down into the earth to be ready for spring planting.

We are nervous as we pitch hay off the potatoes; two years ago, we harvested enough to feed us until May. But two months of cold, wet spring weather after we tucked them under hay mulch gave them a slow start this year. Soon, golden globes of various sizes are THUNKing into the bucket. Then we discover that we've provided a Harvest Home for a pudgy and active group of prairie voles. Mouse-sized or larger, they wear thick silver fur and a flick short, thick tails. My favorite reference (The National Audubon Society Nature Guide Grasslands by Lauren Brown) says they like ďgreen shoots and tubers.Ē

Tubers. Like potatoes. They've gnawed gouges into much of our harvest and reduced others to mush. We discard the worst ones in the garden or compost, and collect the rest in baskets in the retreat house basement. Already spread in open-weave trays are enough of the red, yellow, and white onions we grew to last us through the winter.

Paring down. We unhook the hoses from the hydrants, drain them and lay them out straight to dry. I begin pulling tomato cages from the tomatoes that have finished production, piling the thick stems around my young bushes to catch snow as they slowly return to earth. Some of the tomato cages were bent or broken by huge tomato plants this year, so they will go to the metal recycle pile.

As summer slides down into winter, we stock up.
Cattle harvest grass, sun and water and convert it to meat that will fill the freezer this winter.

Following ancient tradition when folks celebrated with feasts of nuts, apples, potatoes, carrots and onions, we sample everything weíve grown.

Accumulate. I begin taking notes on the pantry and freezer. Weíll stock up on flour for winter baking, nuts and dried fruit for granola as well as basic canned goods like beans and the vegetables we donít grow. Vinegar for cleaning. Iíll make sure we donít run out of toilet paper in a blizzard! We have a good supply of honey for granola and biscuits, thanks to generous bee-keeping friends. Two weeks ago, our beef for this year, a four-year-old cow, was killed with one clean shot in her home corral and is now hanging to age before sheís cut and packaged. Once the beef is in the freezer, Iíll add more packages of frozen vegetables. In a second freezer are stacked containers of beef and chicken stock for winter soup (made from the leftovers of summer meals), along with butter, vitamins and treats for the dogs, more frozen vegetables and fruits. I like to keep on hand ingredients for a couple of weeks of meals, recalling several times in recent years when we couldn't even get to the highway for days.

My winter planning echoes what my ancestors have done for hundreds of generations, but I am grateful to have such abundance to harvest, instead of being dependent on what I might raise on a few rocky or dry acres. And I am fortunate to have such great storage possibilities: freezers, two sizable sets of pantry shelves, and a food dryer. I wonder how the future, predicted to be dire, will change our harvest habits.

Also, itís nearly time to take the summerís collection of books to the secondhand store where Iíll trade them for credit and a new batch of reading material. The thought almost makes me wish to be snuggled into my reading chair with a quilt and hot cocoa, looking at snow piled on the deck. Almost.

The 60-watt bulbs under the homemade dryer glow all night under screens full of herbs. I put two pots of oregano into the unheated greenhouse with the peppers, still turning red. Outside, basil, oregano and parsley will last until the first hard freeze.

An unusually early, but light frost on September 11 brings several inches of snow. I cover the herbs but not the tomatoes. The cool, wet summer has hampered their development anyway, so there are more green and yellow ones than the nearly-ripe orange. We already have several quarts of my rich homemade tomato sauce in the freezer. I've never cared for any of the things people gleefully make with green tomatoes. Several times I have laboriously wrapped green tomatoes in newspaper and put them in the basement to ripen, but the results were unsatisfactory: rotten tomatoes, or pink ones with a flavor just like those insipid cardboard replicas in the grocery store and on restaurant bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. We've eaten sliced tomatoes and BLTs until our mouths are tender from the acid, so we bid them farewell until next August.

Chickens enjoy the spoils of the harvest.
The huge tomato crop this year will be pared down next year, making room for more herbs.

Over several days, I collect tomatoes left on the vine and give them to my neighbor Tamara for her chickens, though Iím careful to drop a few carelessly into the raised beds outside my office window so I can watch the phoebes, sparrows and robins gobble them as they get ready to fly south.

One week, shopping, meetings and errands require us to go to town every day. Another week company arrives, sometimes two batches in a day so we babble as we try to remember what conversations we've already had. I conduct a week-long intensive retreat with two dedicated and prolific writers. Soon weíre tired of talking. When Jerry and I are alone we play Rummykub without our usual threats and counter-threats. Yet we know that, hectic as this time is, we will wish during the coming winter for an excuse to speak to someone else; weíll go to town, have lunch, and visit friends. Now that we can-- or are required to-- pump our own gas and check ourselves out of the grocery store and library, conversations with real people become increasingly rare. We will find it difficult to get together with friends when the snow is deep, so we keep our social calendar full now.

This autumn, I am working hard to break free of another behavior I learned from my parents: to keep everything because ďit might come in handy someday.Ē For them, it was a legitimate philosophy: they lived through the dire years of the Thirties, recycling before the word was invented. I've spent years discarding, recycling, giving away, and in some instances burning or burying the things they kept that were too small, too worn, too broken, or otherwise impossible to reuse. Yes, some things did ďcome in handy,Ē but a huge number of them were just a burden.

Since I didn't have the foresight to produce children on whom to dump piles of possessions, Iím trying to cut down on the quantity before someone else has to do it. Autumn seems a particularly appropriate time for these tasks. As the days grow short, instincts as old as time prompt us to make the cave-- the home-- more comfortable, to prepare it for winter. We center ourselves, preparing to protect ourselves and our loved ones against the elements as the days grow short and the nights grow cold.

So as I put away summer clothes, I discard those that no longer fit and look over my winter clothes. Today I put in the pile for the second hand store four lovely wool jackets that have been too large for me since the day I bought them, so I rarely wore them. I keep my oldest wool jacket, because it actually fits, and will go with some of the clothes I also kept. I add two pairs of shoes and several pairs of pants that were too large since I've been losing weight.

Celebrate Autumn and its bright colors.
Enjoy the last of fallís heat, knowing the cold will come.

Of course itís difficult to know what might be useful in the years ahead, but I've been trying to work out a system for making such decisions. First, I consider whether I've worn or used the item lately, or how it might benefit me. If I see little or no benefit to myself, I consider who else my hoarded goods might benefit.

For example, I kept my motherís wheel chair for several years, telling myself that I, or someone in my family, would need it. The aunt to whom Iíd promised it died a couple of years ago. Eventually, I tried sitting down in the wheelchair. Sized for my mother, it was far too small for me.

So I took it to a nursing home in Custer, where the delighted director said she knew just the tiny woman who couldn't afford one. Driving away, I pictured a wrinkled face wreathed in smiles. And I admitted that my altruism wasn't entirely unselfish; if I need one, better ones may be available.

Most important, though, is that we do not let our STUFF become a burden to ourselves. If it weighs on my mind as a RESPONSIBILITY, perhaps I should consider passing it on. ďA time to get and a time to lose,Ē says the Bible.

The Autumn Equinox is my favorite time to be grateful for prosperity and security. Iím grateful to Nature for providing me with an excuse to slow down, to establish harmony and balance in my worlds-- before winter tests us. The Wheel of the Year is turning, rolling snow our way.

Celebrating Autumn, I will congratulate myself on all I have accomplished this summer, rather than considering the things still undone. I will look with anticipation at the book manuscript on the corner of my desk, ready now to revise it.

I will enjoy the last of fallís heat, knowing the cold comes. I will recall that our ancestors believed that sharing won us the favor of the Goddesses and Gods during the winter to come. Whatever my reasons, I resolve to be glad to share my harvest with friends, with neighbors, and with wildlife-- including voles and birds.

I know many friends will celebrate by taking advantage of hunting seasons, stalking animals to add to their food supplies. This ancient chant is both celebration of the season and prayer for the spirits of those who die to feed us, sending their spirits free to the otherworld as their meat was harvested to see the hunters and their families through winter.

Hoof and horn, hoof and horn:
All who die shall be reborn.
Corn and grain, corn and grain:
All that falls will rise again.

The Wheel turns, bringing Life and death, harvest and rebirth, fall and a rising.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
For the Autumnal Equinox, September 22, 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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