An Index to the Website
may be found by clicking here.



New WordPress Blog!

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.

Notes from a Western Life at WindbreakHouse.WordPress.com

You can continue to read the blogs here, however a few of the very long blogs under the category of "Writing: Where I've Been" will only appear on the WordPress blog.



An Index of Blog Topics
may be found lower down in this left-hand column so, for example, you can search for all blogs with "Writing Suggestions."

A dated archive of blogs is also available below the index.

Click here to jump to the index, or scroll down to see a selection of photos related to the blog posts.






Blacksmith or Wordsmith

Iron legs from yesteryear.

Smaller iron items inside.

The scrap-iron table.



Dust, Grass, and Writing

Like the native grasses, the roots of writing go deep and reach out in many directions.

Tough prairie grass roots splitting open a rock.

Green life may be found under dry debris.


Fringed Jacket Foofaraw

Turtle carved from bone.

Turtle made of silver.

Warrior Woman pin.

George's grizzly bear claw earring.

Powwow jingle cones made of tin.

Brass bell.

A tiny dream catcher.

Harley Owners' Group pin in honor of Jerry.

Wally McRae's cufflink and tooth.





South Dakota Poet Laureate? Not Right Now, Thanks.


"An older writer, conscious of his or her limited life span, may have specific projects in mind to complete. Thus, requiring that the Poet Laureate travel and teach extensively may exclude older writers regardless of their worthiness to hold the position."



Don't just click "like" about some political story you read.


Pick up the phone or write a letter and make a difference.



Ah! The Bathtub.

A brass hook on a nearby wall to hold my robe or a towel.

A removable wire basket stretches across the tub to hold my soap and sponges.



Windbreak House
Now on Facebook.


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.

www.Facebook.com/​WindbreakHouse

No kitten videos, but I post Tuesday Writing Tips, Wednesday Word Posts, and various other writing-related stories, announcements, book reviews, photos and the occasional joke.



Ah, Spring!


Want to know more about this critter?

See the Gallimaufry Page for more about the bird, including more photos, and some odds and ends that don't fit anywhere else on this website.



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

* 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 www.YouTube.com 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!

# # #





Index of Blog Topics

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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog



October Blizzard

October 11, 2013

Tags: Blizzard, Cattle, Family: Jerry, Living in the Country, Ranch: Wildlife, Winter Storms

Linda reading with her headlamp
With the electricity off, Linda made do with candles and a battery-powered headlamp. Note the ice-covered windows from the blizzard. Thanks for the hand-warmers, Maura!

. . .
All night Thursday, October 3, rain fell, with thunder and lightning crashing around overhead. The lights flickered. Mari Sandoz wrote about the blizzard of 1949 in her book, Winter Thunder, so, forewarned, we made preparations: hauled jugs of drinking water from the retreat house, filled jugs here for flushing. Got out our long underwear, leg warmers, gloves, hats, boots, more comforters for the beds-- even dog coats.

Friday the wind was ripping at 75 miles an hour and more freezing rain fell; our total for the storm was about 3 inches. Every step outside was hazardous, with every surface slick from freezing rain. Our windows completely iced over so the light inside was dim and blue. Our vehicles, parked outside, were encased in ice. The deck, our walkways, everything was covered.

We knew that cattle out in the storm would be walking southeast, trying to escape the cold, walking to keep warm. But we had no idea what a horror for ranchers the weather was creating.

Our power went off Friday morning for a few minutes at a time and then went off finally at 2 p.m., meaning that our furnace would not work, nor our lights. More seriously our pump in the well would not work and therefore we had no water. Our refrigerator and freezer were off. I put a thermometer in both so we could keep track of temperatures. We could light our propane cookstove with matches and ate dinner by candlelight.

Jerry had come back up to the house at 9:30, unable to work in his shop because of the intermittent electricity. All day we worked together figuring out what actions to take.

When I lived in Cheyenne, I’d installed a small auxiliary propane heater in Windbreak House to keep the pipes from freezing while it was unoccupied, so we turned that up and heat rose naturally through the stairwell to help warm the upstairs. This meant, though, that the basement, with the freezer, would be warmer than we’d have preferred.

In late afternoon we got out our battery-powered headlamps and began reading with those, shuffling through the dark house in our slippers, scaring the dickens out of the dogs. I wore gloves and hand-warmers a friend had made. We seemed to have only two or three inches of snow, but the wind was still blowing ferociously so it was hard to tell how much. We hoped the state was advising no travel and closing roads so emergency personnel weren't out trying to rescue idiots.

Neither of us slept well because of the howling wind, but Jerry suffered most because his oxygen machine was also off. The screens, ice-covered, rattled all night as if someone was galloping around on the roof.

The dogs wanted out at 4 a.m. Saturday, but the door was frozen nearly shut, temperature 31 degrees. I had to kick and shovel to get it open. The house temperature was 58 degrees. No sign of letup in the storm and we couldn't tell if it was still snowing or just blowing. I sat up and wrote in my journal using my headlamp, and both the dogs dived under my covers.

Usually the bedroom and dining room have little golden lights from all the electronic gadgets-- computers, clocks, cell phone chargers-- but the rooms were muffled in black. I used the solar flashlight I keep by the bed to get around. Usually, even at 4 a.m., I hear truck traffic on the highway; this morning it was quiet except for the wind: clacking the window screens, thrumming around the metal roof, making the deck vibrate.

From the top pantry shelf, I took the old coffee pot I’ve kept for years and we made good boiled coffee to start our day. Jerry lit two candles and sat in the rocking chair by the bed, reading by headlamp.

Jerry tried to start his gasoline generator; no luck. It had sat idle for 5 years.

We spent Saturday melting snow to flush the toilets. We packed food into coolers full of snow to preserve it. We tried to eat leftovers. We put a few items in a big snowbank on the deck for quick access: a few leftovers, gin and beer, and the dogs' food. We played Rummykub, Boggle, Quiddler. We read books and threw balls for the dogs inside. We peered outside, watching the trees at the retreat house bend, wondering how long the storm would last. I got a ham bone and scraps out of the freezer and made cassoulet, which simmered all day.

We began to hear news by cell phone; there were near record accumulations of snowfall in the Black Hills; the blizzard warning would end that morning; roads were closed. Jerry walked to the highway mailbox but no paper was delivered. We learned later that none was printed because the electricity was off in parts of Rapid City; in fact, the Rapid City Journal did not print for three days.

When we got up, I wore: long underwear, compression socks, wool socks, tall boots, a cotton turtleneck, a wool sweater, hand-warmers, gloves and a hat inside.

About 8 a.m., Jerry started shoveling, walked the dogs a little. We had six foot drifts in our yard and around Homestead House. We started using paper plates to save doing dishes. Jerry brought up a bigger pot so we could melt more snow at a time. I got out big metal bowls I usually use for collecting vegetables from the garden.

The temperature outside rose to 45 degrees and we raised some shades to get some heat from the sun. We saw 13 grouse flying around our windbreak trees and a couple of dozen antelope on top of the high ridge south of our house.

Jerry used his tractor to dig a trail from the house to the lower ranch buildings, then broke trail to the highway. Again, no paper.

On Sunday the temperature around 4 a.m. was 38 degrees, so it hadn't frozen, which helped keep the house warm. The sun came out. As Jerry drove to the highway to help break the trail, he discovered that an electric line was broken along our private road. We continued to try to notify the electric cooperative since the line was now a hazard to any people or cattle in the area.

On Monday, October 7, we finally got to speak to a cooperative worker and a crew spliced the line temporarily; it's hanging below the barbed wire fence, still dangerous and vulnerable to wind. We walked the dogs, looked around: a total of maybe a foot of snow but huge drifts everywhere, trees and bushes entirely covered. The wind’s angle was from the northwest so the drifts were in slightly different spots than we’re used to. Snow began to melt; by Thursday, the dam below our house was more full than it’s been for three years.

We took showers and drove to Hermosa for the mail and to eat hamburgers at the local gas station. A lot of other people were doing the same and we began to hear stories about how severe the storm had been in this area: thousands of cattle missing, possibly dead; fences broken by snowdrifts, power out all over the Black Hills. Deadwood and places to the north got as much as four feet of snow.

We were amazed to learn how MUCH snow is required to be melted to make two gallons needed to flush the toilet. We had a snowcave on the north side of the house where we scooped bucket and bowl after bowl to bring inside to thaw. I think all teenagers should have to melt snow to flush for at least a day in their lives.

I realized that my family has been paying utility bills to this company for 60 years or so, but they bring power back to the subdivisions first. Naturally the cooperative must serve the greatest number first, but ironically it means that people who have been here the shortest time have the least understanding of how difficult life can be without electricity.

Friends who live in subdivisions couldn't understand why we talked of melting snow-- but they have communal water supplies and probably generators, so they never ran out of water.

Another discovery: a hardpacked snowball makes excellent ice for a gin and tonic.

We had a disoriented squirrel in our yard for a day but he seems to have disappeared; if he’s not used to the local coyotes he may have been a meal, though we had some nice cottonwoods with holes in them where he could hide. But where did he come from? We've never seen one here. And how did he get here? On the wind? A mystery.

Hawks have been very aggressive the past three days: one swooped within a foot of my study window-- outside, Toby lay under that window in the sun. Another was chasing a grouse and the grouse’s wings knocked my hat off my head.

As the week went on, we began to learn that thousands of cattle have been killed in northern South Dakota. One report says 10,000 cattle lie dead between Sturgis and Union Center, roughly 232 per mile or a dead cow every 20 feet. Many ranchers have lost 50%, 90% or all of their cattle. They are finding entire ravines full of dead cattle. State law requires they be burned or buried but the ground is so wet that normal ranch equipment is quickly bogged down. The governor has refused to call out the National Guard to help. Disposal sites have been established but we have no idea how some ranchers will reach them.

This is the kind of thing for which the word “disaster” exists-- but it has become overused. How can we describe what has happened?

One rancher went hunting for his cattle on horseback and had turn back after three hours because the horses were too worn out from slogging through the snow and mud. Another, using horses and 4-wheelers, found one of the 4-wheelers stuck. He hitched his horse to it and pulled it out.

Friday, October 11, and the storms go on: 60 mph winds today, a couple of inches of rain. Creeks are flooding in the Black Hills already, and much of the snow has not melted. Snowmelt is carrying the corpses of dead cattle into tributaries that will lead to the rivers.

* * *

Last Wednesday we went to town to run errands. One of them was to visit a company that sells generators that come on automatically with a power outage. As we visit with friends and relatives, we've discovered that many of them already have such a critter. Jerry and I had discussed it, of course, especially after last April’s blizzards when we were isolated for 9 days-- though we were never without electric power then. Now may be the time.

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Prairie: A Natural History by Candace Savage

May 2, 2012

Tags: Book Review, Writer: Candace Savage, Prairie, Grass, Cattle

I’ve just written a cover comment for Candace Savage’s next book, Geography of Blood, which prompted me to return to the first book of hers I read, Prairie: A Natural History, published by Greystone Books, Canada, in 2004.

The photos in this book are so beautiful it’s easy to skim over the writing; that would be an error because Savage’s writing and research are excellent. If you think the Great Plains are flat and featureless, this is the book to introduce you to their excellent variety.

Grasses, notes Savage, “have migrated to every continent except Antarctica and have diversified into about 10,000 species.” Of these, some twelve dozen distinctly different native grasses naturally occur in the Great Plains!

Because the climate here is more variable than it is almost anywhere else on the continent, including periods that are much wetter or much drier than the long term, these grasses need to be adaptable. And they are, “able to dial their metabolism down when conditions are unfavorable for growth and speed them up when the weather improves.”

Grasses, she notes, are not passive, blowing idly in the wind but “lean, mean growing machines, designed to make the most of limited and unreliable resources.”

Therefore, the first rule of living in grasslands should be to preserve, not destroy, this rich resource. And yet to create cities and subdivisions we pave and plow it wildly, planting tender non-native grasses we call “lawn” and spreading poison to keep the useless little blades alive against huge odds constituted by the climate, predators and nature.

Savage also faced head-on the folks who insist that bison are the most perfectly adapted grazing species for the plains and should replace cattle. “.... bison and cattle are fundamentally alike. Removing wild American bison and replacing them with tame Eurasian cattle-- though a stunning act of hubris-- was ecologically relatively neutral.”

Management is, of course, the key. “Fortunately, even when confined by fences, cattle help to maintain patches of vegetation. ...and this effect can be enhanced by implementing an appropriate regime of management.” By manipulating the variables-- number of cattle, season and duration of grazing and rest-- “ranchers can manage the prairie to provide an array of habitats. The best and wisest land managers do exactly that because they understand that rangelands with a natural diversity of vegetation will outproduce and outlast those that are reduced to homogeneous spans of grass.”

Want to know about the prairie? Get the book. Go through it at least once just to enjoy the photographs of expanses of grassland, gorgeous and rare water elements and the native wildlife. And then sit down and read it for the information.

# # #

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O Holy Night on the Prairie: Remembering John Lennon and Others

December 8, 2010

Tags: John Lennon, My Book: Land Circle, Family: George, Family: Mike, Badlands, Black Hills, Cattle, Ranch: Chores, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Fireworks, Ranch: Description, Ranch: Wildlife, Silas Lester House

. . .
Driving to town today to have the stitches removed from another operation for squamous cell skin cancer, I was reflecting on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor day on December 7. And then the announcer noted that December 8 is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, and I remembered observing a moment of silence for him on the first anniversary of the shooting. Thirty years: George and I had been married a year and were happily settling into our lives on the ranch.

Here is an excerpt from my book Land Circle mentioning that first anniversary, 29 years ago.


O Holy Night on the Prairie

Folks who are used to bustling, fur-wrapped shoppers and greenery hung with lights would see the wide prairie that stretches in front of me as a bleak place to spend Christmas. The grass is a mountain lion pelt-- not one color, but gold, fawn, red, brown, and colors for which no name exists-- blended into each other over the rolling hills. A few limestone outcroppings studded with pale green lichen, and a scatter of white and granite-gray boulders decorate the scene; there are no trees, no green, cone-shaped evergreens that mean Christmas to many. In the deeper gullies, an occasional bare cottonwood shows a white, lightning-stripped trunk against the grass; buffalo berry and plum bushes stand naked in narrow crevices beside ground-hugging juniper bushes blending green and bronze.

In the eastern distance are the Badlands, pink, gray and blue spires a finger's width above the horizon, made higher this morning by mirage which is rapidly spreading, to disappear as the sun comes up dull gold. To the west rise the Black Hills, a handsbreadth of tree-covered hills, rising in five distinct ranges and glowing blue in the morning light.

Here, while Christmas songs play on the pickup radio, I see nothing at all to remind me of the season. The grass is short, because we graze these distant pastures in summer, and bring the cattle closer to home in winter. I am making a last survey, picking up salt blocks and fence panels, to be sure gates are closed against the neighbor's buffalo. When I turn homeward today, I will be shutting the door on this part of the ranch until spring, when we'll bring cows and young calves here to graze through the summer.

A coyote slips down a draw, glancing back over his shoulder. Except for his quick movement, a flash of white at his throat and a nearly-black ridge on his spine and tail, he would be invisible against the grass. My eye catches movement again, and I turn to see thirty antelope run over a hill, white rump-patches flashing. One pauses, silhouetted against the sun.

The gray limestone of Silas Lester's house has descended a little more toward the ground this year; the blank windows look like half-shut eyes. The house was never finished; dry years came, and Silas sold his land for two dollars an acre to my grandfather, who took the risk and stayed. The spring Silas found and enlarged still runs gently from the hillside, into a tank George and I dug into the hillside and covered with wood chips to keep the water from freezing. I open the gate to it, so the wild animals can safely drink, and leave a few chips of salt nearby; a really thrifty rancher would take them home to the calves, but I like to think of the antelope and smaller creatures-- porcupines, skunks, mice-- enjoying the rare treat of salt this winter.

Another year has passed. Some years George and I made this final trip in deep snow, laughing as the pickup plunged into a drift, apprehensive when it dropped too deep and the tires spun. We've shared picnics here under the talking leaves of the cottonwoods in summer, shoveled together when the pickup was stuck in winter. Feeling a little foolish, we shut off the motor and observed a worldwide moment of silence in honor of John Lennon a few years ago, then sang his songs on the way home, and didn't feel foolish at all.

The chores we did together I now do alone. The Christmas songs on the radio mean the solstice is near, when the days will almost imperceptibly begin to lengthen. Now the sun has risen far south; it will make a shallow arc in the southern sky all day, and the moon will shine in the south windows of the bedroom tonight.

We started a tradition a few years ago, when Michael came in a dry summer with a trunkload of fireworks; it was too dry to shoot them then, so we saved them for his winter visit, and fired them on New Year's Eve. Last year, I did it alone; this year, I may invite friends to share the ritual. On Christmas Eve I will join my cousin and his wife and their children, one my godson, in church. I attended the same church when I was five years old, and my mother sang in the choir. It's famous for its massive organ, and as the tones swell into the familiar "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful," I-- who have been anything but a faithful churchgoer-- will find myself in tears. The organ tones express to me the largeness of the land, rising over the small minds and bodies of the people who live upon it.

Slowly, as Christmas passes, snow falls, grouse mate with bell-like calls in the winter night stillness, the days will grow warmer, and spring will come. If we get spring rains-- which have not come for three years-- the tawny grass will show a hint of green at the roots in April and by June the hills will be rich with new life.

"I believe in the Israelite," sings a low voice on the radio, backed by the sound of bells, and I wonder. Surely no one who sees the seasons turn as I do, who observes the prairie's stillness in this season of rest, and the inevitable coming of spring life, summer's lushness, the harvests of fall, and the chill of winter again and again, can fail to believe that all is arranged as it should be. That no matter how great are our personal sorrows, the world is proceeding in an orderly fashion. That we are all part of a great cycle, and our job is to help the earth in its turning, to keep it pure and beautiful and clean for those who will surely come after us.

# # #

Land Circle: Writings Collected from the Land was published in 1991 by Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado.
This essay appears on pages 171-173 in the original edition, and on pages 191-194 in the Anniversary edition of 2008.

For more information:
Read all about my book Land Circle on this website page.

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The Amazing Benefits of Grassfed Meat

September 24, 2010

Tags: Beef, Cattle, Grassfed Animals, Writer: Richard Manning, Grit Magazine, Meat

. . .
I’ve just read a great article by Missoula, MT, author Richard Manning (eight books, including Rewilding the West, Against the Grain and Grasslands) in the November/December 2009 issue of Grit Magazine, pp. 36-39. The title says it all: “The Amazing Benefits of Grassfed Meat: A profitable model brings healthy beef to market.”

“For years now,” Manning begins, “I have been fascinated by the permanence and healing power of grassland. If we respect the great original wisdom of the prairies, I’m convinced we can heal the wounds inflicted on the American landscape by industrial agriculture.” Manning explains that he first considered this possibility when a friend decided to raise bison, but soon realized it worked just as well [or better? Adds Linda] with cattle. Now there is diverse collection of people across the nation raising grassfed beef and dairy.

And, says Manning, “Powerful solutions self-replicate. Like viruses, they creep from one farm to the next, eventually exploding in exponential growth. They scale up.” And grassfed beef production, he believes, is poised to scale up.

“It is not unrealistic to expect that we as a nation could convert millions of acres of grain fields (plus millions of acres of land in federal conservation programs) to permanent pastures and see no decline in beef and dairy production in the bargain."

Among the benefits of permanent grass pasture Manning notes are the following:
--- a more humane livestock system,
--- a healthier human diet
--- less deadly E. Coli
--- elimination of feedlots
--- more wildlife habitat nationwide
--- enormous savings in energy
--- virtual elimination of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on those lands
--- elimination of catastrophic flooding that periodically plagues the Mississippi Basin, and, “most intriguingly,” says Manning,
--- a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases.

Manning discusses The American Grassfed Association, a network of almost 400 graziers, with examples of how these families operate. He supports each of the points on the list above.

“We are slowly learning,” says Manning, “that human enterprises work best when they mimic nature’s diversity.” At first, he suggests, many organic farmers believed this meant vegetarianism. But organic farmers found out “the hard way” that they could not make their operations balance out-- either biologically or economically-- without animals, just as nature provided.

# # #

For more information:
Website for Grit Magazine
For information about grassfed animals see the website for the American Grassfed Association
and the website for Eat Wild

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Fan Conditioning

August 10, 2010

Tags: Air Conditioning, Fan Conditioning, Writer: Stan Cox, Cattle, Grassfed Animals, Clothesline

. . .
I believe people should adapt to their environment, adjusting themselves to the climate in which they live, rather than trying to force nature to suit their whims. Air conditioning is one example of how we twist nature, using huge amounts of energy to create an artificial environment.

A friend recently sent me a news item about a Salina, Kansas, author, Stan Cox, who has made news by refusing to use air conditioning even when temperatures rise to 105 degrees and cattle are dying. (The cattle are dying because they are confined in feedlots; cattle left to roam on our ranch have no trouble with those temperatures, because they spend the day by alternately standing knee-deep in a stock dam or lying on top of a breezy hill chewing their cud. And see Pasture Perfect: The Far-Reaching Benefits of Choosing Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Products from Grass-Fed Animals by Jo Robinson for information on the unhealthy stuff those cattle in feedlots are eating before they appear in your local supermarket in plastic wrap.)

Stan Cox hasn’t turned his air conditioner on since 1977 He and his wife, Priti Gulati Cox, an artist, use fans to cool their rooms. They move around the house and yard in the opposite direction of the sun’s rays, staying in the basement or in shade.

Cox is the author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer). He says, "In a country that's among the world's highest greenhouse-gas emitters, air conditioning is one of the worst power-guzzlers. The energy required to air-condition American homes and retail spaces has doubled since the early 1990s. Turning buildings into refrigerators burns fossil fuels, which emits greenhouse gases, which raises global temperatures, which creates a need for -- you guessed it -- more air-conditioning."

He adds that air conditioning has helped turn suburban neighborhoods into dead zones; people’s interaction with their neighbors and with nature is almost nonexistent because no one goes outside. Meanwhile, in the American Sunbelt, for example, a husband and wife may get up in a 3,000 square foot air-conditioned house, get into two air-conditioned cars and commute to an office block that has cooled all night in preparation for the workday while their 24,000 cubic feet of living space is being cooled with nobody in the house.

One of the results, says Cox, is that between 1993 and 2005 our use of electricity [in the U.S.] for cooling residences and retail space doubled over that period and that, over that same period, more or less, we doubled our use of petroleum energy used in cooling automobiles.

Furthermore, he suggests that spending most of our time in a zone where the body doesn’t have to work hard to stay warm or cool could contribute to obesity. And there’s some evidence people eat more when they are cool. Instead of staying outside in summer, many people now stay inside, where activity is more sedentary.

After Cox was interviewed, many commentators wrote angry emails against his viewpoint, including predictions that the economy of the U.S. would collapse and thousands of people would die without air conditioning. When his ideas were mentioned in The Washington Post, he received 67-pages of angry emails, including death threats.

Cox notes that builders of new homes often ignore opportunities for passive cooling; a lot can be done with landscaping, with insulation, extending the eaves of houses, and other instances of planning ahead. Older homes sometimes are more easily cooled without air conditioning because it wasn’t available when they were built, so these homes often have more insulation. Some modern homes and office buildings have windows that don't even open whereas in older homes windows were properly placed for cross-ventilation. A modern home may not have a basement to supply cool air to the upstairs in the evening, and some older homes have attic fans or swamp coolers. Consider your own situation, research the possibilities, and see what you might do to eliminate or reduce your use of air conditioning.

Because of all this uproar, I’ve decided that by “fan conditioning” my homes, I’m not only reducing costs but being incredibly brave. Both my own home and Homestead House (where I conduct writing retreats) are fan conditioned.

Homestead House is well-shaded by trees, which helps keep inside temperatures down. My home, Windbreak House, is not. Because we are concerned about prairie fire, our nearest trees are too far away to cool the house. Yet this method works to keep both houses at comfortable temperatures during the hottest summer days. To be honest, I must admit that the thermometer has not registered triple digits since sometime in August, 2007, more than 1080 days without temperatures over 100 degrees. And while I have experienced many days of 100 degrees and above here, they are usually in July and August, and the humidity is usually low.

Fan conditioning a home begins with shutting windows and pulling shades early in the day, especially on the sunny side of the house. Trap cool air inside, and keep warm air out. Do this early! If you are an early riser, try shutting windows before the sun rises. By eight a.m. on warm summer days, the temperature in the house has already climbed 10 to 20 degrees from its overnight low. To test the truth of this statement, open a window in the sunshine and feel the hot air flowing in.

During the day, if the house gets warmer than is comfortable, use fans to move the air around inside the house. Fans cannot cool the air, only move it. Pointing a fan directly at you cools because it evaporates moisture from your skin. Drink plenty of water on hot days; dehydration also makes you feel warmer. You might drape a wet towel over a fan, or place a bowl of water in front of it, to put more cool moisture into the air.

Remember, though, that fans use electricity, and increase energy use and costs. Moreover, the heat given off by the fan motor increases the heat of the room. In a small room, with windows and doors closed, the heat is easily felt.

Try dampening a scarf and tying it around your neck and head; evaporation will cool you even without a fan nearby. Or soak your shirt in lukewarm (not cold) water, wring it thoroughly, and put it back on. Spray your head and clothing with water from a spray bottle. (This cooling method is portable, too; see my “Heat Wave on the Highway” in Land Circle.)

Since the body radiates heat from hands, feet, and face, cooling any of these will help cool your body; soak your bare feet in a tub of cool water. Natural fabrics (cotton, silk) wick water away from your skin better than nylon, polyester or other synthetics. If you’re going outside, wear lighter colors since dark colors absorb heat. And covering up with loose clothing, long sleeves and long skirts or pants, as citizens do in Middle Eastern countries, may keep you cooler because your skin is shaded; covering your skin also helps prevent skin cancer. And the spicy foods popular in warmer countries is part of a natural “air conditioning” system: eating them increases perspiration which cools the body by evaporation.

In late afternoon, when windows are in shadow, compare the inside and outside temperatures. Only when the air outside is cooler than that inside should you open the shades and windows.

Place a fan in a west-facing window in late afternoon, blowing out; this will help draw cool air inside from the east side of the house and from the basement. Close the window firmly on the fan to keep it from rattling itself out of the window, or buy fans made to fit windows. Later, you may wish reverse the flow, blowing cool air in.

One source says you can speed the house’s cooling by opening cupboard doors at night, too; cupboards store the heat. Turn off unnecessary lights and other electrical equipment; TVs, computers-- they all give off heat.

Windbreak House doesn’t have a clothesline (yet), but I frequently air blankets and pillows and dry laundry by hanging it on the deck railings. We often use the Homestead House clothesline-- refurbished since my mother used it-- to air out blankets and throws between retreats. Some neighborhoods ban these devices as “unsightly,” thus making it actually illegal to save energy and get fresh air while doing laundry.

But that’s another rant.

# # #

For more information:
Search the term "clothesline ban" or see the following websites
Earth911 website
Care2 website

For information about grassfed animals see the website for the American Grassfed Association
and the website for Eat Wild

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Birthday Week (Complete with footnotes!)

July 18, 2010

Tags: Birthday, Family: Jerry, Family: George, Black Hills, Waterfalls, Cattle, Gardening, My Book: No Place Like Home, Friend: Suzan

. . .
I was not feeling well on my actual birthday. (1)

But Jerry and I went for a lovely drive: up to Roughlock Falls, where we enjoyed a picnic, and then walked the fenced sidewalks to look, with hordes of other tourists, down at the falls. As is my habit when visiting the Falls, I explained to Jerry (quietly, so no one else could hear) how George had showed me how to walk behind the falls the first and every time we visited there. (2)

We sat on the benches at the top of the falls, feeling the spray on our faces, while Jerry smoked a cigar. I watched people arrive, peer over the edge for 30 seconds, and leave. Some took pictures. The longest anyone spent looking at the falls was less than a minute.

Back in the car, we drove for several more hours on well-maintained gravel roads, looking at the cows grazing on the national forest, mostly alone with our thoughts and the scenery. Sometime during the drive, I began to explain to Jerry my concept of the Birthday Week.

I believe this to be a unique idea (3), based on the fact that age encourages us to a deliberation in our actions. We are not merely slow because we can’t move faster; no, we are often contemplating the feeling of every move, what it will mean to our bodies. Perhaps we are remembering past experiences. Hmm. That leap hurt. I wonder if it will hurt that much if I do it again. I used to be able to jump that far a hundred times a day.

In order to properly celebrate an important milestone such as a birthday, particularly after more than six decades of birthdays. one cannot be limited to a mere 24 hours, or the much shorter span of twelve hours during which most of us are awake. Even the twelve hours is frequently interrupted by a nap or two, so our time to celebrate our natal day becomes even more brief.

In addition, of course, few of us in our sixties are willing to celebrate quite as vigorously as we did at younger ages. I like to do something special, see friends, call more friends, dine well, open gifts-- far too much excitement and activity for a single day.

For that reason, then, I’ve begun to introduce the concept of a Birthday Week. You will notice that the week of my birthday was tentatively blocked on the list of "Available Retreat Dates," so we would schedule no retreats during that time. We’d planned a more extensive trip, but when that didn’t work out, I chose to celebrate in smaller increments.

The drive on my actual birthday was terrific, a restful day of enjoying the Black Hills at its most beautiful and serene, since it was a week day. I wasn’t feeling well enough for much dinner, but managed to scrape up the energy to open a lovely collection of presents. (Among other things, Tamara gave me potting soil, walls of water, and mystery books; Jerry gave me tomato cages and 8 pounds of salt water taffy. Jerry’s folks gave me a gift certificate to a gardening catalog: do you see a theme?) I spent the day after my birthday quietly but the sense of relaxation allowed me to search some storage and finally find the letters Badger Clark wrote to me in 1957; more on that in a later blog.

Then on the third day of birthday week, I called a friend my age and we chatted for an hour about our lives, including recalling our friend Winston. Her father raised Winston, a beautiful Hereford bull, on his ranch near Newcastle, WY, and his children rode the bull the whole time he was growing up. By the time my father bought Winston, he was a massive breeding machine, with the white curly face and immense circle of horns that mark a true Hereford. I loved taking my friends to the corral to see him, and then casually climbing on and riding him around. Naturally, like the self-centered little monster I was, I allowed my playmates to think I was responsible for the bull’s kindness, but his innate Hereford gentleness kept him calm.

That afternoon, Jerry and I continued our policy of getting acquainted with the near neighborhood and I took him to see the Norbeck Information Center in Custer State Park, an incredible building created by the Civilian Conservation Corps out of native rock and ponderosa pine. We dropped into Coolidge Inn, and I signed copies of my books for sale there, though the clerk was not at all sure I should. Then we dined at the Game Lodge. Sadly, the kitchen couldn’t manage to cook my buffalo steak the way I wanted it, so Jerry ate most of it.

On my fourth day of birthday week, I went to 4 garage sales and an auction/estate sale, spent $1.36 and acquired enough pots and peat pots to fill my greenhouse needs, possibly forever. Then I had lunch with good friends and lots of laughter, and sat in on a private showing of the recent paintings of my good friend Tom Thorson.

As the sun was casting long shadows, a UPS truck roared up the driveway bringing the complimentary copies of the newly-issued paperback edition of No Place Like Home. The cover has been made darker and more dramatic, the spine is a prairie-sky blue that makes the title stand out, and the back cover features my photograph plus the usual collection of great things said about the book. In this case the quotations are from Judy Blunt (whose book Breaking Clean is great writing about ranching) and Booklist.

To top off the day, we got a cooling trace of rain. Now, on the fifth day of my birthday week, I’m going to till the garden; celebrating my birth also means proving I can still do some of the work I love. I plan to call another old friend today for a long chat, and have lunch with a high school classmate next week, just before my birthday week officially ends.

I might note that one’s endurance also builds as one ages, so a week of celebrating a birthday becomes possible. One does not, however, celebrate with the excessive consumption we might have achieved in our younger days.

Calm, quiet delight in living is the theme. May you all experience the same, aging happily.

++--++--++--++--++

Footnotes to Birthday Week:

(1) I have reluctantly concluded that the reason for the illness might be because I ate a large quantity of raw red onion in a tuna salad sandwich the day before. The discovery that eating something in particular causes heartburn and a sleepless night is one of those things about aging that nobody ever mentions when we are young. I now know why some of my relatives wore those twisted smiles when I chomped onto a hamburger with raw onions when I was about nine.

(2) I won’t detail the technique of going behind the falls here, lest I encourage some reading daredevil to do it and draw down some official wrath on their heads. A few people walking under the falls didn’t seem to hurt the falls much, but if one person were seen to do it, others would surely follow and someone might get hurt. George and I were doing this before Political Correctness started trying to make it illegal to do dangerous things. And it wasn’t really very dangerous. Standing under the falls, out of sight of all but the most alert observers above, was incredible. Leaning back against the damp walls, I could feel the thunder of the water pouring over the edge above us, feel the chill of centuries in the wet sand under my feet. I know I started a poem about it, but don’t believe I’ve ever finished it. I'm glad to have had the experience and perhaps enjoy the fact that few others will.

(3) I thought I’d invented the birthday week until I received my annual birthday call from my friend Suzan, who has been my friend for about 50 years. "Humph!" she said. "I’ve been doing that for years. Birthday Eve, Birthday Week. Lately I’m plugging for a Birthday Month!"

# # #

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My Brush with Fame: Badger Clark

April 5, 2010

Tags: Brush with Fame, Poet: Badger Clark, Family: Mother, Family: Grandmother, Family: Father, Cattle, Horse Riding, Public Appearance, Hermosa School, Custer County 1881 Courthouse Museum

. . .
My contact with Badger Clark was brief and by letter, but his influence on my life has been huge. I may have first encountered his poetry in the Custer County Chronicle newspaper where it regularly appeared during my childhood. My mother gave me my first copy of Sun and Saddle Leather in 1955, probably for my twelfth birthday. My first copy of Sky Lines and Wood Smoke is number 252 of 1000 from the numbered edition of 1958, and I believe my grandmother Cora Belle Hey gave it to me.

To memorize Clark’s poems, I practiced reciting them while moving cows to pasture. I’d read a particular poem two or three times before starting the ride. The rhythms-- iambic pentameter-- fit perfectly with the movement of the horse, and feeling that rhythm could sometimes help me find the line I was searching for in my brain. On days when the cows were slow, my father probably heard me bawling, “At a roundup on the Gily one sweet morning long ago” to make them move. A few years ago I was present when Paul Zarzysky momentarily froze while reciting that poem, Badger’s popular “The Legend of Boastful Bill” in front of a crowd in New York City; I was proud to be able to bellow the line to him.

I also recited several of Badger’s poems in declamation contests; my favorite, which I discovered still lurking in my brain and recited at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV, a few years ago, might be “The Westerner.”

It begins,
My fathers sleep on the sunrise plains
and each one sleeps alone.
Their trails may dim to the grass and rains,
For I choose to make my own.


Mumbling this poem under my breath at key points in my life has helped me make my own trail.

Another of my favorites is “The Plainsmen,” (Men of the older, gentler soil,/ Loving the things that their fathers wrought) or maybe “From Town” (We’re the children of the open/ and we hate the haunts of men.) Of course, his most popular and best-known poem, “The Cowboy’s Prayer,” is often reproduced on place mats, t-shirts, mugs, and funeral programs as having been written by “anonymous.” This happened even during Clark’s lifetime, and he was philosophical about it.

Why was I writing to Badger Clark? From a reference in his letter, after much brain-cudgeling, I concluded I wasn’t merely writing as a fan. I believe that the seventh and eighth grade students of Hermosa Grade School, under the direction of Mrs. Anna Tubbs, put together a historical project in 1957. We interviewed older residents of the communities around Hermosa, recorded their stories, and made a scrapbook. We dedicated that scrapbook to Badger Clark, and made plans for the class to visit him. (In an effort to locate the original, I’ve now volunteered to catalog some collected documents at the Custer County 1881 Courthouse Museum.)

Here’s Badger Clark’s letter, postmarked Custer, SD, Feb. 7, 1957 2 p.m., and typed on a manual typewriter on paper with a simple letterhead:

* * *

Badger Clark
Custer South Dakota

9 February, 1957 [yes, for whatever reason, it's dated after the postmark]

Dear Linda,
Thank you very much for the honors you confer upon me by dedicating your scrapbook to me. It is hard for me to realize that I am becoming an old-timer, though not a pioneer. For so many years I have looked to older men as old-timers but now, all of a sudden, those men are gone and there seems to be nobody left but men younger than I. It is a strange feeling and someday, a long way ahead, I hope, you will experience it.

As I have written Mrs. Tubbs, I have no speaking engagements this spring and you are free to set your own date, but, as I told her, with a big crowd and a small cabin, it might be well to put it in April or May when, with good luck the weather will be warm enough for the party to spread out on the porch. I’ve entertained as many as twenty-five young people here in the house, but that’s about the limit. If you want to have a lunch and roast wieners, I have both a range and a fireplace.

Last, I want to congratulate you on being able to express yourself on paper. Writing and reading are both neglected arts in these days. The other day I heard of an eighth-grade boy, writing some sort of an exercise for school, who had to ask his mother how to spell “catch.” And every now and then I get a letter from a college graduate which contains misspelled words or bad grammar, or both. It is a pleasure to get a letter like yours.

Good Luck.

Badger Clark

* * *

Apparently my class was not able to visit him that spring, because his second communication to me is a 2-cent postcard postmarked 2 p.m. April 26, 1957.

* * *

Badger Hole, 25 April.

Dear Linda: I shall be away for nine or ten days during the first half of May and in fact it is hard for me to know just what days I shall be at home during the month. This is my busy season, you know-- commencements and the like, and I expect the last month of school will bring various special occasions for you. As it is so late, I believe we had better postpone our party until after school begins in the fall. The weather will be more dependable then, for one thing. That may look like a long time to you, but when you’re my age, you’ll know it ain’t, it ain’t, it ain’t!

B.C.

* * *

Badger Clark died that fall, September 26, 1957, at age 74.

. . .

Last summer, I was asked to record some of my thoughts about Hermosa history for the Hermosa Arts and History Association; I am, I realized, one of the older residents able to do so. And just as Badger predicted, while the date of these events may seem to be a long time ago, “it ain’t, it ain’t, it ain’t!”

# # #

For more information:

The Badger Clark Memorial Society's website
Find information on Badger Clark and his work, purchase copies of his books, and learn about visiting The Badger Hole, his cabin in Custer State Park.

Cowboy Poetry Website page dedicated to Badger Clark
This page includes a huge treasure trove of information about Badger Clark, including some of his poetry, an introduction to the 1922 edition of Sun and Saddle Leather, information about recordings of cowboy poets reciting Badger’s work and musicians who have set it to music, and much, much more. The site even includes my report on the first annual workshop in his honor I taught in 2006, with photos of The Badger Hole, and information on the movie about him, Mountain Thunder.


Resources include:

Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark
Edited by Greg Scott, published (2005) by Cowboy Miner Productions. This book (432 pages) includes all of Badger Clark's short stories; poetry, including more than two dozen previously unpublished or long out-of-print poems; essays; letters; and photos.

As of 2010, the Cowboy Miner Productions website is no longer active. For more information on this book:
Cowboy Poetry website's page for Greg Scott's book

For my review of this book:
Cowboy Poetry website's book review by Linda M. Hasselstrom

I am fortunate to have a copy of the first, 1935 edition of the Sky Lines and Wood Smoke, printed at “The Chronicle Shop” in Custer and copyrighted by Francis Case. I also have The Badger Clark Story, published in 1960 and now out of print, by Helen F. Morganti, a formidable newspaper woman and writer whom I knew slightly when I lived in Deadwood. I’m told this is available for $8 postpaid (quantity discounts available) from Black Hills Books & Treasures, 112 S. Chicago Street, Hot Springs, SD 57747 605-745-5545.

Also in my collection, and still available, is Jessie Y. Sundstrom’s Badger Clark, Cowboy Poet With Universal Appeal. $12.45, postpaid. Make checks payable to Jessie Y. Sundstrom and send to send to: The Badger Clark Memorial Society, Box 351, Custer, SD 57730-0351. This book (about 65 pages) includes much personal history for Badger Clark, three poems, photos, and a bibliography.

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