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.
What's Happening at Windbreak House?
Midsummer is usually a slow retreat time and this year is no exception, so I've been able to concentrate on my own writing-- I'm working on the final proofing of The Wheel of the Year: A Writer's Workbook
, which I will speak about at the South Dakota Festival of Books in the fall (Deadwood, SD), as well as a few blogs and other projects. (See SDbookfestival.com
for more information.) But I can still host you at the Writing Retreat or work with you online.
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 writing fun together online. See the Online Writing Help Page
for complete details on how to sign up for a Writing Conversation by eMail.
Some of my writing appeared in South Dakota Magazine
this spring and summer.
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. See their website at BlackHillsRaptorCenter.org
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 June and July
"Enjoy a Petite Retreat at Home" -- posted June 5th
My suggestions for how and why to schedule mini writing retreats at home.
Read it on my WordPress blog
"From Book to Big Screen" -- posted June 27th
My suggestions to writers who get a movie-deal offer-- based on my admittedly limited experience, which I detail. This blog also answers that burning question: who would I have wanted to play me if my book Windbreak
had been turned into a movie?
Read it on my WordPress blog
"Dressing for Success in the Soggy West" -- posted July 1st
This humorous essay about excessive rain and mosquitoes originally ran in "Writers on the Range," the syndicated opinion column by High Country News
in 2010 but it is just as applicable this year.
Read it on my WordPress blog
You can also find most of these blogs on the Blog Page of this website by clicking here
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"Watch for Writers and Animals" says the sign on the driveway leading to the retreat house.
You can see by the puddles in the driveway that we're getting a lot of rain.
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 just a bit in July.
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."
* * *
In mid-June we participated in the sport of an unplanned cattle roundup: a gate was left open and about forty fat dry cows romped into the yard of the retreat house. If anyone thinks cows aren't smart, I'd like to show them that gate. These cows have several hundred acres of unusually lush pasture to munch, but they managed to find a three-foot gate tucked beside the barn. I'd hate to have to drive them through that; even with a good horse, I might have had trouble.
But once they got in, they had a great time all night, pruning the bushes I've planted (buffaloberry, chokecherry, plum-- mostly to encourage the resident birds). They cultivated the potatoes and rhubarb thoroughly and aerated the lawn my mother was so proud of. And of course all this fresh herbage created a great deal of output. We won't be able to take Cosmo, the Westie who loves to roll in fresh manure, into the yard for weeks!
Cattle are outside the ranch yard in this photo. Whew!
Since we don't have horses, and these cows are terrified of humans on foot, Jerry and I saddled up the 4-wheelers and started trying to ease them gently toward the gate back into their pasture. They didn't want to leave. And since this is a ranch yard, it has all kinds of little nooks and crannies where they can go where two 4-wheelers can't get at them or stop them from going. First they bunched up at a wide gate into the wrong pasture. Then instead of heading along the fence, they had to go back through the garden, through the swamp and into the cedar trees, along the fence and into a crevice behind the shop. When I encouraged them to leave there, they were only fifty feet or so from the gate we wanted them to go through-- but of course they had to go right back to the first gate and do it all over again. All this time, they were ambling slowly, but we were zipping here and there, discovering some of the hazardous rocks and holes that a person doesn't notice until they are hidden in the grass and you hit them at high speed on a four-wheeler.
Once the cattle were back in their pasture, we surveyed the damage in the ranch yard: knocked over flower pots, broken bushes and trees, probably a reduced potato crop. The rhubarb was nearly done anyway.
Then we uttered the classic plains refrain: it coulda been worse. The cattle didn't fall into the septic area, which is pretty soft from the rain. They didn't fall into the cellar. And neither of us tipped a four-wheeler over.
No, there were no pictures taken during the roundup because we were too busy.
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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.
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 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.
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