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!

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Index of Blog Topics

e.g. Fiction, History, Magazine Articles, etc. goes here
Very brief description goes here

Quick Links

Find Authors

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



Gleanings IV: Don't Waste the Pumpkin!

October 29, 2012

Tags: Gleaning, Pumpkins, Halloween, Recycle and Reuse

Pumpkins from Linda's garden, 2012
Soon to be pie or bread or . . .

Once Halloween is over, I’m pained to see the gargoyle faces of pumpkins carved for Halloween slumping and turning truly grisly on front porches throughout November. What a waste!

Don’t let that jack-o’-lantern rot! A very small pumpkin, say 8-10 inch diameter, will produce 8-10 cups flesh: fresh pumpkin that can become pie, bread, cookies or a dozen other delicacies for the season.

When you carve the pumpkin, save the seeds for tasty eating. Wash and remove as much of the fiber as possible, but it’s easy to crumble off after the seeds are cooked. Spread seeds to dry on a towel. Bring to boil several quarts of water with 2 tablespoons salt added. Add pumpkin seeds; boil 10 minutes. Cool. Spread on a baking sheet. Pour over a mixture of butter, flavored oil (we like chile oil), soy sauce. Taste and see what flavorings you prefer. Bake in 300-degree oven for a half hour or so, stirring often to be sure they don’t burn.

When you’re ready to turn that carved pumpkin into food, first cut away any parts singed by the candle and scoop out any wax.

Put a steamer rack or pan lid in the bottom of a large pot– something to hold the pumpkin out of the water. Add only ½ inch or so of water– the pumpkin should not be touching liquid or it will absorb it like a sponge.

Cut the pumpkin into several pieces and place them in the pot. Steam on low heat until you can prick the flesh with a fork and it’s soft enough to mash.

When the flesh is tender, let cool. Then peel inside and out; the stringy lining scrapes right off. Compost the peels if you don’t have grateful chickens.

Mash the flesh with a potato masher and measure. Store in two-cup batches in plastic containers and it’s ready to use for pumpkin pie, bread, or to freeze until Thanksgiving.

Look for varied recipes: I have a delicious pie recipe from New Mexico that includes cayenne powder and another for a cooked filling (www.cookscountry.com) smoother than most pies and lasts longer in the refrigerator– though that may not be an issue.

I’ve also successfully dried sliced pumpkin in my food dryer; (see www.dryit.com for plans or to buy a completed dryer). Slice the raw pumpkin in thin slices, steam and then dry; the pumpkin keeps for months, years. To reconstitute it, place the slices in a bowl of milk in the refrigerator; they make delicious pie.

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Gleanings III: Dumpster Diving

September 26, 2012

Tags: Gleaning, Chickens, Dumpster Diving, Recycle and Reuse, Mother's Day

Chickens at Tam's place eating Linda's unusable tomatoes, fall 2011. Yum yum.
These are the hens that supply eggs to each writer who comes to Windbreak House Writing Retreat.

. . .
Here’s an instance of gleaning from the ranch past.

When I moved back to the ranch with my second husband, I kept hens for meat and eggs, feeding them vegetable peelings and the neighbors’ grain. They roamed a large fenced yard in front of their tiny, insulated house near my garden, and ate trimmings from the vegetables I harvested, and table scraps from my kitchen.

One day, leaving the supermarket parking lot, I realized one dumpster was overflowing: wrapped heads of lettuce had lifted the lid, tumbled across the asphalt. I slammed on the brakes, and filled my pickup bed, then piled the excess outside the chicken yard, and fed the ladies a head of lettuce a day for weeks.

Every time I went to town after that, I passed the trash bins after shopping, and collected discarded lettuce, radishes, turnips, potatoes. My chickens gathered clucking at the gate when they saw my pickup, and their egg yolks turned a rich yellow.

Once, a store clerk dumping bottles of salad dressing questioned me, but when I explained that I feeding my chickens on waste he shrugged and went back inside.

After Mother’s Day, I filled the entire bed of my pickup with carnations, and collected a friend who rode in back of the truck flinging flowers as I drove down the street, tossing them into open car windows at stop lights. We detoured to the poorest part of town and handed a fistful of carnations to every woman we saw.

Then one day I pulled up to my dumpster and saw a clerk standing on a ladder beside it, stabbing the packaged heads of lettuce with a long knife and pouring bleach over them.

“Why are you doing that?” I asked, perhaps a little hysterically.

“Management says people have been taking this stuff out and eating it, and they’re afraid somebody will get sick and sue us,” he said.

I suggested that people hungry enough to eat out of dumpsters probably didn’t have the number of an attorney at their fingertips, but he wasn’t the manager, and he was, as he reminded me, “just doing his job.”

When I got home, I called my extension agent. Bleach wouldn’t hurt the chickens, he said; in fact, it ought to eliminate stomach parasites.

I kept collecting vegetables, but I also wrote letters to the chain store’s management, urging them to donate the food to the shelters and other good causes in town. Eventually, the trash containers were empty of vegetables when I made my rounds, so perhaps my gleaning chickens helped change wasteful policies. I tried to explain to them, but they couldn’t keep their minds on my speech. They kept eying the grass in the pen, snatching grasshoppers. Gleaning.

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Gleanings II: Learning from other writers -- Alyson Hagy's craft talk, “Fiction: Lean and Mean"

September 21, 2012

Tags: Gleaning, Writing Suggestions, Book Festival, Writer: Alyson Hagy

Alyson Hagy at the Equality State Book Fest, 2012.
Visit her website here.
Photo by Jane Young.

. . .
My policy, when I attend writing conferences as a speaker, is always to attend as many sessions by other writers as possible. I believe doing so compliments my hosts and the other writers and I always learn something unexpected.

Moreover, I’ve attended many such literary festivals where the featured writers appeared only for their own sessions and then disappeared, sometimes to drink with their buddies until it time to appear again. I understand the desire to keep up with friends but I believe when I’m paid to appear at a conference, my responsibility includes making myself available during the normal work day for questions from the other attendees. They are, after all, the folks who presumably buy and read our books.

So I dived right into Alyson Hagy’s craft talk, “Fiction: Lean and Mean,” at the Equality Book Festival, taking notes on that and her keynote luncheon presentation about her newest novel, exploring the intersections of art, Wyoming and the west.

Alyson Carol Hagy is author of the Wyoming-centered fiction Boleto, (2012) Ghosts of Wyoming (2010) and Snow, Ashes (2007), all from Graywolf Press as well as other works of fiction.

Some quotations and paraphrases from her talks:

“Don’t tell the reader what to think; tell the truth. Tell what happened.” The reader will figure out the meaning for himself or herself.

“If you think you can write something that will help you reconcile with your parents-- it ain’t gonna happen.”

“Failure isn’t really a hindrance. It’s part of the process.” Hagy likened revising to fly-fishing and tennis, both of which she loves: it’s necessary to just keep casting and hitting balls, over and over. “All three require a lot of repetition.”

“I cheat myself,” she says, by writing short scenes. Instead of thinking of the thousands of pages she has to write to create a novel, she thinks only of little nuggets, writes in short spurts, knowing that eventually they will add up to a novel.

“Writing (fiction or poetry) is about questions.”

I agree with Alyson’s assessment; I write to discover the answers.

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For More Information:

Wyoming Authors Wiki website for Alyson Hagy

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Gleanings I: Blogging, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and more with Rebecca K. O’Connor

September 19, 2012

Tags: Gleaning, Writing Suggestions, Book Festival, Writer: Rebecca K. O'Connor, Journals, Blogging vs Journaling, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr

Rebecca O'Connor talking about journaling at the Equality State Book Fest, 2012.
Visit her website here.
Photo by Jane Young.

. . .
Ripening tomatoes and the approach of the Autumn Equinox have turned my thoughts to gleaning, reminding me that during the weekend of September 14-15, 2012, I gleaned as much writing advice as I dispensed.

I was invited to Wyoming’s Equality State Book Festival, held at Casper College.

First, I presented a craft talk, “What We Do With Our Days,” centered on the use of a time monitor to analyze and change how we spend time, finding more for writing.

My second presentation was a reading primarily from Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet, my new book of poems with Twyla Hansen, published in 2011 by The Backwaters Press. I also read and talked about a couple of selections from No Place Like Home: Notes From a Western Life, published in 2009 by University of Nevada Press.

On the second day, I was moderator for a publishing panel starring Annette Chaudet, owner/publisher of Pronghorn Press, Greybull, WY, and Nancy Curtis, owner/publisher of High Plains Press, Glendo, WY.

Finally, I participated in a nature panel with Pat Frolander of Sundance, Wyoming’s poet laureate; writer and photographer Cat Urbigkit of Pinedale, WY (paradisesheep.com); her newest book is Shepherd of Coyote Rocks. California writer Rebecca O’Connor (rebeccakoconnor.com), whose newest book is Lift (Red Hen Press), about her experiences during a year of training a peregrine falcon, was the fourth member of our panel. Moderator Holly Wendt and questions from the audience kept the discussion moving along-- and that’s all I can say about it. Being inside a discussion leaves no room for note-taking. But our audience was so attentive one of the festival’s organizers had to remind us time was up and herd us out the door.

Still, I gleaned plenty from the festival and here are some examples.

I attended Rebecca’s session, “Narrative Through Modern Journaling.” Rebecca keeps journals online, making use of her website and of blogging. I blog, but the idea of keeping an online journal terrifies me with its lack of privacy so I wanted to see how she used the Internet in her journal-keeping.

“Why blog?” She asks-- and her answers are several: to keep a record; to gauge interest in a writing project; to work on your discipline; and “to discover the story in your story.” She adds, “The little details are the things you forget,” -- and those are precisely the elements that make a story come to life. And I agree that a writer may begin thinking the story will take a particular direction but discover as it expands that it has other ideas.

Writing observed details immediately places the material where you can return to it a year or more later and see it as fresh as the day you wrote. To add zing, she includes photographs with her posts. Many of her blogs later turn into essays, but she says, “If you’re going to blog instead of writing, don’t do it.”

Rebecca likes Twitter as a great place to make your writing stronger by honing it to the required 140 characters. Great writing exercise, I think, and resolve to try some twitter-like journal entries without the benefit (or peril) of the Internet.

Flickr, Rebecca says, is a “great tool for building a photo journal” and feeds her writing. “If you’re looking for a photo, you are honing your writer’s eye, focusing on beautiful things.” She adds, “You can unstick yourself, discovering the unexpected in the camera’s lens.”

Tumblr, she says, is not a full blog but more like a scrapbook with bits and snippets, easy to use. And if you’re not comfortable with the conversations that Twitter inspires, she adds, Tumblr may be for you; it allows short comments.

I’m not likely to begin doing my journaling online-- that just seems way too public to me-- but I can see the advantages to accompanying online journal entries with photographs. I take pictures too, but it’s a fairly laborious process to process the finished pictures and put them together with my journal entries from the same day. I can see Rebecca’s method being considerably more efficient.

Rebecca also recommends therumpus.net, a “warm and safe” online environment in which to be published. One benefit is that the site “culls out the nastiness;” only positive comments are allowed. “Be the comment you want to leave,” says a website heading.

Rebecca also recommends Spotify, a free music service, for building a playlist of music to write to; “you have to listen to commercials,” she adds. She’s working on a book set partly in 1958, so has compiled a playlist of songs from that era.

She also warns about addiction; it’s easy to waste a day online. To prevent time-wasting forays, you can pay for Freedom, a site that cuts you off the Internet for a specified length of time. (Or you can set a kitchen timer or the alarm on your phone.)

“Remember,” said Rebecca, “the story you think you are writing is not the story you are writing.” I was also pleased to hear her say that when writing comments on other websites, “Encourage each other. Be kind, bighearted, give virtual hugs.” There’s no reason to be unpleasant; what you sow comes back to you.

She furnishes links to her work on each of these sites plus her Facebook page on her web page; click on “community.”

Other sites she recommended are Morning Pages Julie Cameron, which recommends writing three pages a day by hand. Written Kitten provides you with a new picture of a kitten when you write a certain amount. Write or Die: if you don’t keep writing, your work is erased.

And the final and perhaps most important part of Rebecca’s advice: “Remember it’s out there forever.” Be careful what you write. She doesn’t write about relationships, personal or private things people said or did. I find this final advice to be excellent, of course: but also inhibiting.

In my private journal I can write anything. Of course, what I write is “out there” in that journal-- but I keep my journals tucked into pockets, purses and private shelves in my office where they are unlikely to be read by anyone but me as long as I live.

So consider the advantages of the online journal: all that spontaneity, the vivid color of photographs. Perhaps you’ll choose to use versions of both the paper and online journals.

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For More Information:
Rebecca K. O'Connor's website

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