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?
I've been enjoying working with a handful of writers with Writing Conversations by eMail this spring. I'm also trying to find time for my own writing projects when I'm not busy getting some early gardening done or helping out at the Hermosa Arts and History Association (HAHA) museum. And the South Dakota Humanities Council is getting promotional information from me (and all the many other authors and presenters who will attend) in preparation for the South Dakota Festival of Books that will be held in Deadwood, South Dakota this fall.
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.
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 late April
"Creating a Cowboy Poem: How Buzzards Turned into Priests" -- posted April 17th
For National Cowboy Poetry Week (April 19-25, 2015) I walk you through the creation of one of my few rhyming poems, "Priests of the Prairie," which I sometimes perform at cowboy poetry events.
Read it on my WordPress blog
"Birds of Spring" -- posted April 26th
Red-winged blackbirds are one of my favorite birds and I tell you why here.
Read it on my WordPress blog
New blogs posted in May
"Another Warrior in the Battle Against Voles" -- posted May 6th
I write to learn and here's some of my research on eastern yellow-bellied snakes. I discovered why a snake fell out of the sky, and a friend confirmed some startling snake behavior the very day she read the first draft of this blog.
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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A star lily in the brown buffalo grass.
We had one of our warmest and driest Aprils on record but have enjoyed some good, soaking rains in early May, with threats of snow and hard freezes. This is why we need to practice patience in gardening and remember May 15th is only the average
last frost, not a guarantee.
Spring is still fresh enough that the redwinged blackbirds and meadowlarks are singing on top of every tree, chimney, fence post and bush. As we walk the dogs, check the fences, turn on the water in the garden, and talk over our day, hundreds of the birds are singing, trilling, warbling in all directions. As soon as the male meadowlarks arrived around the spring equinox, they began choosing nesting territory, defending it with their songs so that it’s ready when the females arrive in several weeks.
If our ears turned toward sound like those of a dog or deer, we’d be swiveling madly in all directions. I try to stop every day and just inhale the sound, storing it up for later in spring when all those birds are too busy supporting families to sing as much.
Experts say that meadowlarks face the sun when they sing, and that their songs are combat, as they mark their personal territory, which may be as much as six or seven acres of prairie. If a male meadowlark enters the territory of another, they may lock their talons and roll around on the ground, pecking at each other with their beaks until one flies off.
By the time the females arrive, the males have established territories so that the females can immediately begin building a nest. She may choose a hoof print from the cattle pastured here, or a natural depression. She shapes the nest site with her bill, and lines it with grasses. Then she pulls nearby vegetation over it, and weaves more grasses in to create a sheltering and waterproof roof. Walking in prairie with deep grass, as we have here, it’s good to be alert so as not to step on a nest. If you watch carefully, you may see one of the parent birds zip out from nearly under your feet.
Once the eggs are laid, the birds go silent, busy feeding their brood. When they start singing again, in mid-summer, I know the first batch of birds has hatched and flown, and the pair are about to nest again.
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The game camera photos
Top: original photo
Middle: circled coyote
Bottom: closeup of coyote
Besides gardening and bird watching, other common sports out here on the ranch are dog walking and wildlife viewing.
To the north of our house about 30 yards are four low-growing juniper bushes which create considerable entertainment for our Westies. Each juniper has several oval entrances where rabbits regularly scratch, and a tangle of branches where the rabbits hide.
During the day, we walk the dogs there once or twice, and almost always they scare up a rabbit. Usually the canny bunnies wait until both dogs have their heads down on one side of the bush and dash out the other side. Or until the dogs are squeezing through the narrow spaces among the juniper branches. If the dogs spot the prey, they go yipping after it through the cedar windbreak. Unless they get sidetracked digging for the numerous voles, they may follow the rabbit out onto the prairie.
We have suspected that other predators frequented the bushes, and set up our game camera at the end of April. During the first few nights we got photos of a lot of hopping rabbits, one cat, and a raccoon. Finally one night we had another visitor. The coyote explored the bushes thoroughly, but may have been unable to get far enough inside to capture dinner.
We’ll keep the camera in that spot for awhile and see what other dramas unfold.
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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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