Category Archives: Guest Writers & Bloggers

Amazing feather art with Chris Maynard

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When I first saw Chris Maynard’s feather art, I was dumbfounded. I scrolled through his galleries…amazing!

I contacted Chris and asked for an interview and he agreed. So here we go…

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How long have you been creating your art with feathers?

Since I was 12. It’s evolved of course. Ten years ago I picked up the pace and began photographing them and creating photo-composites with an eye toward the biology of the birds. I still do that, but I also like to incorporate the feathers themselves.

Impeyan Monal Pheasant

Impeyan Monal Pheasant

Do you pick a feather and see the image, or do you design the image and then pick a feather?

Good question. A lot of both. Feathers are limited in size, shape, and color, so not many feathers lend themselves to a design I am developing. Usually, the larger feathers work best, and I like it best when the feather is from the same bird I am portraying. That doesn’t work too well for small birds, like hummingbirds or songbirds. There is also the concern of legality, so I have to rule out using many feathers from particular birds.

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Evening Rush Hour

Without giving away any secrets, how do you create your art and shadow boxes?

It starts with a feeling for either a particular bird or the meaning we or I give to feathers – like exuberant flight. I make lots of sketches and if one looks promising, refine the sketch. Often I have a particular feather in mind, but if not, I go on a search, looking for size, structure, pattern, color. This can take quite a while to obtain the right feather, but I also have a good stock of certain kinds, like Argus pheasant wing feathers. I then prepare the feathers using a process I have developed and refined over the years.

I use a small surgical knife to cut the feathers which can take quite a while and be detailed enough to require magnifying glasses or even sometimes, a stereo microscope. Then I prepare the background which is usually just pure white to enhance the shadow effect and not take away from the feathers themselves. The spacing of the feathers is as important as in any design exercise in order to create a feeling of movement, unity, and hopefully, intrigue and surprise. I use different kinds of glues to attach the feathers to the background, always leaving a little space between the feather and the background to create shadows and keep the feather’s 3-D form.

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Eat Robin

I first saw your art with bird images. Then I visited your website and found dragons. Are you working on other animals or subjects for your feather art?

Mostly birds because this is all about honoring them and respecting them through feathers. So I had to tie the thought of feathers to dragons which I did in a poem – it was actually elicited by a woman who was promoting my work through two children’s books – she asked me to do it. I like tying the symbolism and imagery of dragons to that of feathers. They work well together.

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Crow Caw

I was reading through your blogs and realized you write about different bird feathers and how you collect them. How do you find all these feathers?

Zoos and private aviaries. Many of the birds whose feathers I use are still alive. I ask my contacts to pick up feathers and sometimes they do but everyone is so busy that it is very rare that they have time to pick up the smaller ones. So if a pet bird or aviary bird dies, sometimes they save the feathers for me. I have my own pair of Impeyan pheasants, the national bird of Nepal. They are molting now, and I pick up every one of their feathers. I went hiking outside Mt. Rainier NP yesterday and found where something had killed a grouse. I gathered the tail feathers and stuck one in my hat. People sometimes write to me and ask if I would like or could use feathers they have for my art.

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Baby Grouse

Would you like to include few tidbits about the protected peacock, the color from the Turaco, other interesting observations?

I like the idea of a national bird being something other than an eagle because it expands my thoughts to different possibilities of how a country could respond and act in global politics. If politicians and negotiators could expand their thinking using different imagery, they would have a larger repertoire of responses to different situations – an eagle being more appropriate in one, a peacock in another.

(See Chris’s post about the peacock and did you know you could get color from the Turaco feather?)

You have a photo portfolio for sale in prints and cards. Tell us about those.

I sell open editions through my website. They are inexpensive, more affordable if the originals are too dear.

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Grey Peacock Pheasant Feather Hand

You have a book, Feathers, Form and Function, coming out soon. Tell us about that.

The proof is on its way from China. The printing should be finished mid-November. The book is a quality art book – hardcover, thick paper so you see only the picture on the page you are looking at; lots of images of my art, like you see on the web, with descriptions informing what the image is about or information about the art process or the bird that grew the feather; lots of information about feathers – what they are made of, how they grow, how they are shed, what is legal to have, how they help birds stay warm, camouflage, fly, stay dry, and stay protected. And a chapter about what feathers represent to us in myth and meaning.

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Eat Deckle

What is Artists for Conservation?

AFC supports animal conservation causes around the world through donating a percentage of art sales to specific conservation groups that the artist specifies. I mostly gift to Audubon. Artists from all over the world are accepted into this group. We have a yearly show scheduled in Vancouver, BC, later this month. I am a new member and will be giving a talk on feathers on the September 28th.

In the same vein, this fall, I will be partnering with the World Parrot Trust to auction two pieces to benefit Blue Fronted Macaw reintroduction to Bolivia.

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Ibis

What’s your background?

My mother was a professional artist – which is a lot of why and how I kept my original childhood creativity – that was encouraged as a child. Plus I got to know the art world of her time by tagging along to museums and her shows. I have always loved the exuberance of life and became a biologist and worked in that field for many years – and through schooling (bugs) and work (birds and fish) was never satisfied solely using the scientific method. I have always pursued creativity and art.

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Dragon

Dragon Feathers

Some dinosaurs had small plumes

to keep them warm, we assume

If dinosaurs had a few,

why then couldn’t dragons too?

But dragon fire would burn them off

unless the quills were really tough

Scales is what a dragon’s got

Cause with plumes they’d be too hot.

~ Poem by Chris Maynard

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Chris MaynardSee Chris’s blog Featherfolio blog about his inspiration, collaborations with other artists, and interesting tidbits about protected birds.

Connect with Chris on his website, Facebook at Featherfolio , Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

You can pre-order Chris’s book, Feathers, Form & Function, here.

Purchase cards and prints here.

See Chris’s incredible photo gallery.

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Writing about writing blog tour

shark2 - CopyAs part of the Writing About Writing blog tour, I’d like to introduce Esther Miller and Deb Hockenberry.

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Esther Miller blogs about her travels around the country and about moments that have changed her life in some way. See her blog On The Road Again.

Esther has worked professionally in special education and mental health and has had a variety of volunteer jobs. Gardening, cooking, and ham radio are among her many interests. She married and raised her family in California, then lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for nearly 14 years. She recently returned to California to be near family.

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Deb Hockenberry blogs about anything “kid.” Her blogs include personal experiences as a child wanting to write, book reviews of children’s books, and author interviews. See her website Kidztales here.

Deb has always wanted to write for children since she was a child herself. She loved making up and telling stories to her siblings and the neighborhood kids. She belongs to The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Deb has also taken two courses from The Institute of Children’s Literature and is taking an ongoing course in writing for children from The CBI Clubhouse. Each year, she looks forward to attending The Muse Online Writer’s Conference, or as she calls it, MuseCon.

Deb currently resides in the beautiful mountains of Central Pennsylvania. At any time of the year, these mountains are a sight to behold. In the autumn, the hillsides are dotted with red, gold, yellow, and orange. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, crocheting, music, movies, and gardening.

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Filed under Blogging, Guest Writers & Bloggers

How to play well (and blog well) with others

DSC01656I’ve recently had a few lame come-ons in my email – “I’d love to provide content for your wonderful blog. I love your blog. Would you like to have interesting content for your blog?”

Read on and you will see why I am not impressed by this generic query.

I’ve also received a few emails from other writers, editors, and proofreaders – “How do I query another blogger to be a guest?” “How do I find guests for my blog?”

Previously, I posted these blogs as a series – My guest blog guidelines, Hosting a guest blogger, How to query another blogger, and Being a guest on another blog. Today, I’m posting them all together.

My guidelines

If you are interested in creating your own blog guidelines, click here to see my guidelines.

Hosting a guestKenton and boys

Hosting a guest blogger can be a rewarding experience. I learn, I find new friends, and I expand my reader base and exposure. Variety is the blogger’s spice of life. And it’s fun!

Guidelines – I explain these are not hard-n-fast rules, simply guidelines. I like to enable my guests to use their imagination, their own voice, and their sense of humor.

Reach out – I don’t wait around for people to invite themselves to guest blog. I go after people I find interesting. Reach out. Expand your horizons!

Background check – Before I invite someone to be a guest, I check out their blog, website, Twitter, Facebook… Do the same background check if a blogger approaches you. Is this someone you want on your blog?

Posting date clarity – In correspondence with a prospective blog guest, my deadline was vague. The guest blogger thought I wanted her article in February (because earlier I mentioned Valentine’s Day), and I was talking about November!

DSC01197Deadline – Give the guest a specific deadline. S.P.E.L.L. it out clearly. “I need your submission in my inbox on or before January 22.”

Wiggle room – I normally set deadlines at least a week before the scheduled day. Don’t rely on last minute submissions. What if you plan on posting a blog on Tuesday afternoon and you still don’t have it Tuesday morning?

Back-up plan – What if your guest doesn’t follow through? Have a couple of your own draft blog articles simmering on the back burner for these emergencies.

Guest bio – I like to provide a bio and links for my guest’s online pages. So, in addition to the article, I ask for a 1) bio 2) profile picture 3) URLs for their social networking.

Maintain control – Indicate (in your guidelines and in conversations) that if you feel their article is not appropriate for your blog you won’t publish it or you might require edits.

Read the submission – Be sure to read the submission as soon as you get it; don’t wait until posting day. Is it well written and free of typos? Do the links work? If you feel it needs to be edited, send it back to the writer or advise her that you will edit. Be clear about what you feel needs to be edited.

Just say no – I hate to do this, but I’ve had to say, “No, thank you.” If the guest has broken one of your critical guidelines, ask the guest to edit or tell them you feel it’s not appropriate for your blog.

Learn to say yes! – I have broken out of my blogging box on numerous occasions. A few times, I have read a submission and think, “Eh, not really my cup o tea.” But I sit on it, give it a half day or so, read it again, and consider it on its merits.

Blogging love – If I have a guest, I ask that they share the link on their blog and/or their Facebook, Twitter, Fan Page.

Think big picture – Nearly every time I’ve had a guest blogger, I see an increase in my comments, and I occasionally get a couple new subscribers.

DSC01384The query

Before the query – Say for instance you find a way-cool blog. You like a post or two and think, “I’d love to be a guest on this blog!” Before you query…

Guidelines? – If the blogger has guidelines, read them. Follow them.

Research – Read a bunch of the blogger’s posts, including posts made by guest bloggers. I suggest at least a dozen. What is that blogger’s focus? How are the posts presented? How are guests presented?

Where to send query – If the blogger wants you to send queries via an online contact form, use it. If the blogger wants you to send it to his email, use the email.

Form letters – Ick. Don’t do it. Most experienced bloggers can spot a form letter query from a mile away.

A blah query – “I’m a blogger, and I want to guest blog for you! I love your blog.” Blah and blech. Be sincere, not spammy.

A brilliant query – 1) Mentions a couple of the blogger’s posts and why you liked them. 2) Mentions one or two of the blogs in her blog roll. 3) Mentions the blogger’s book (if applicable). 4) Mentions what you’d like to blog about 5) Provides a brief preview.image (13)

Pace yourself – Don’t send out 50 queries on the same day – you might just get 50 “Yes, I’d like to have you on my blog” and then you’re scrambling to write 50 blogs at quantum-leap speed.

No, thank you – You send your query. You think it’s stellar! The blogger turns you down. It’s his blog, his decision. Remember, it might be timing. Make a note to query this blogger at a later date.

Temper, temper – If the blogger turns you down, don’t blast him on FB or Twitter. Send a basic thank you and let it go.

Resubmit – Try again in a few months. Consider subscribing to the target blog and leaving a comment on occasion.

Your guest post Kenton washing car

Your blog host accepts your blog idea and gives you a deadline. You are scheduled to be a guest on another blog. Fabulous! Don’t simply drive in, drop the article, and drive away.

Now the work begins. Make it shine!

Deadline – Your host tells you, “Please have your submission to me by January 15.” Make sure it’s in her inbox by that date. Better if you have it to her before the deadline.

Dress up – Don’t send a slopped-together article. Clean it from top to bottom. Wipe the glass. Scrub the tires.

Check the mirror – Proofread, edit for clarity, adhere to word count, include all the information your host asked for. In addition to the article, your host asks for your bio, a profile picture, and your URLs. Don’t make her come back and beg you for them. Submit these as attachments to the submission email.

The extras

BIO – Your host asks for a 50-word bio. Don’t send a two-page resume and expect her to edit.

PIC – A profile picture – Have one. Have a recognizable profile photo, not you amongst 37 cousins at your last family reunion.

URLs – I keep all my URLs in a list, so I don’t have to retype them every time.

Kenton and ShawnPost Day

Share and promote – Make a post on your own blog that directs subscribers to your host’s blog. Go to the host’s blog page and click all the buttons to share it, tweet it, Facebook it, etc.

Socialize – Visit the host’s blog over the next few days and look for comments. Respond to comments. Be nice. Don’t embarrass your host.

A dud – It your guest post is successful, great! If not, don’t go off pouting or FBing “Why isn’t anyone commenting on my guest post?!” You posted it to your blog, FB, Twitter, and so on. Let it sit for a day. Then consider posting it to your Facebook again.

Send a thank you – Even when I thought Laura’s 10th birthday party was a dud, my mom made me send a thank you note. It’s the right thing to do. Send a thank you to your host.

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Filed under Blogging, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Social Networking

Editor Spotlight with Sarah (Lingley) Williams

editor spotlight alvimannThe Art and Craft of Editing: Preparation, Selection, Satisfaction

Article by Sarah (Lingley) Williams, of Lingley editing services, LLC

I am ecstatic for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you about what I call “The Art and Craft of Editing.” I have been freelance editing for several years now; when people ask what I do for a living, I usually get one of two responses. “Oh, that’s awesome!” or “You do what?”

Often, those who respond with “You do what?” know what editing is, but have never viewed it as fundamental to life as it is. Editing combines the craft of understanding the rules of language, punctuation and grammar with the art of knowing how and when to apply or manipulate these rules for the overall benefit of the document.

I refer to editing as an art and craft because, unlike some things that are perceived as a science, it is based on rules and standards that can be learned and practiced by most everyone. To some, fluency with language and words comes more naturally than it does to others, but the guidelines are there for all to utilize and master.

As a published author, I know the feelings that accompany writing a document and wanting perfection. Our work is our heart and soul; we worry over whether or not every sentence is excellent, whether or not we missed a comma, and whether or not the content flows for the reader with the same fervency it flows for us. Our fear that we overlooked an error is real and tangible. I understand the value of someone else reviewing my work, but am afraid to let this part of me out of my grip.

Maybe you are living this daily struggle as you complete your document, or perhaps you have experienced these feelings in the past. For those of you just starting out, this scenario may be unfamiliar. Wherever each of you are, my hope is that this article calms your fears and gives you the necessary confidence to prepare, select and receive a satisfactorily edited document.

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Your work is complete. Perhaps you have a three-page article, a fifty-page thesis, or a 60,000 word manuscript. You’ve read it over and reworked it. But preparing for an editor requires a few more steps:

1)      Let someone else read it; a friend, a colleague, a fellow writer

2)      Reread your work with a fresh perspective; step away for a day, a week

3)      Run a spell check and grammar check; double check formatting

These steps may seem mundane, but they are invaluable. It is embarrassing to receive your edited document and find that you missed simple things; it is time consuming for an editor to correct multiple findings of “adn,” “teh,” and double indents. Remember, time equals money and no one has limitless amounts of either.

Preparing your work for an editor is a crucial step, and one that should never be overlooked. While an editor exists to polish and hone, never should you deliver a sloppy document. As a writer, you should value the plethora of words at your disposal; there is no need to overuse uncreative tag lines like “said” and “thought,” or such lifeless dialogs as:

“Hi,” said Jane.

“Hello,” said John.

“How are you?” said Jane.

“I’m doing well,” said John.

As a writer, your work thrives on imagination, and the life of your work comes from your ability to create engaging worlds in which your readers can get lost. A piece of well written work captures the reader and leaves him or her hungry for more. What better way to hold your readers’ interests than delving into your soul and pulling out a spell-binding collection of words?

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Everything is as perfect as you can get it. You ask around for a reputable editor, or maybe even run a google search. Of course, you seek services that are timely, cost-effective and thorough, but knowing what you need will help you find what you want. It is important to understand what types of editors exist:

—Developmental Editors assist writers from conception to completion; he or she is there every step of the way, guiding you through the entire process

—Substantive Editors contribute to the whole picture, aiding with the structure and development of the document as a whole

—Copy Editors focus on the finishing touches; he or she finds grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, with attention to the overall flow and development as the author requests

After selecting the type of editor that best suits your needs, there are a few additional things to keep in mind:

1)      Is he or she willing to show you samples of his or her work? Are positive references available to you?

2)      Does he or she allow his or her own voice to over-ride the voice of the author?

3)      Does he or she have credibility? What is his or her education and professional background?

4)      Is his or her blog, website or professional profile typo-free?

Finding an editor is easy. Finding one that meets your needs, however, and delivers a service that reaches above and beyond, will be well worth your research.

Satisfaction

As a published author, I can relate to every step of the journey you are on, including the satisfaction that comes from receiving your perfectly edited document. As an editor, I cannot express the elation that comes from offering constructive feedback so that your document is a winning piece of literature. I take great pride in supplying writers of all skill levels with the guidance needed to reach his or her goals.

You hold a unique position as a writer; my hope for you is that as you pursue the journey of opening new worlds to your readers, you can shine, fly and reach the highest levels of achievement.

 

Sarah LingleySarah Williams is the owner and editor in chief of Lingley Editing Services, LLC. She holds a BA in Communication from Salem College, in Winston-Salem, NC. During college, Sarah volunteered as a tutor at the Student Writing Center, and interned as Assistant Marketing Director and Editor at Press 53. Sarah has been writing and getting published since high school, and has been a freelance editor since 2006. She currently lives with her husband in Arizona, where her home-based business allows her the freedom to enjoy the blue skies and warm sunshine.

Connect with Sarah on her website, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.

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Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Editor Spotlight, Guest Writers & Bloggers

North Dakota’s magical sunflowers, by Jenny Dewey Rohrich

Article by Jenny Dewey Rohrich

Until I stepped foot into North Dakota, I would have never imagined North Dakota to be a national leader when it comes to production of many different crops.  It’s safe to say I had never before witnessed fields of crops that are seemingly endless. But let me tell you, there is something magical about coming across a field of blooming yellow sunflowers as far as the eye can see. It literally makes you stop in your tracks and takes your breath away.Sunflower Photo 1

So how did sunflowers end up here?

Sunflowers actually originated here, in North America. They were a common crop among American Indian tribes throughout North America. There is evidence that the cultivation of sunflowers began before corn in about 3000 B.C. in some areas of Arizona and New Mexico.

Around 1500, sunflowers made their way to Europe by way of Spanish explorers. The plant was cultivated and began expanding its way through Western Europe for uses from ornamental to medicinal and culinary. By the early 19th century, Russian farmers were growing over 2 million acres of sunflowers. It is also during that time that many Russians (Germans from Russia) settled in places like Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

It is likely that the seed movement is attributed to them and by 1880 seed companies were advertising “Mammoth Russian” sunflower seeds in catalogues. In 1946, Canadian farmers built a small crushing plant. With an ability to get the oil from the flowers, sunflower acreage boomed in Minnesota and North Dakota. And since the 1930’s programs have been in place to hybridize sunflowers to provide additional yield, oil enhancement, and disease resistance. To date, however, there are no GMO sunflowers grown or sold.

 

Sunflower Photo 2Where are sunflowers grown?

Since 1977 North Dakota has ranked in the top states when it comes to sunflower production, producing nearly 51% of the nation’s total sunflowers. In the past several years, North Dakota has battled with South Dakota for the title of top producer. You would think with North Dakota being the leader in sunflower production that sunflowers are grown across the state. But this isn’t quite the case; in fact, I would venture to guess that some people living in North Dakota have never even seen a blooming sunflower field.

Reasons vary as to why sunflowers aren’t grown across the state. Disease is a limiting factor in growing sunflowers; some areas of North Dakota simply get too much rainfall, which makes sunflowers more prone to disease. In some areas of North Dakota it simply isn’t feasible to add sunflowers into crop rotation. Birds and large wetland areas (pot holes) go hand in hand as two more reasons which limit sunflower growing in some parts of the state. Large communities of birds can devastate a sunflower crop and usually birds flock to large areas of water and cattails. Also large wetland areas simply aren’t conducive to growing sunflowers because sunflowers are more of an arid plant and like less water. For more specific information about where to find sunflowers in North Dakota, visit this post, Where to find sunflowers.

 

Sunflower Photo 3How are sunflowers grown?

On our farm, sunflowers are planted on a four-year rotation cycle meaning a particular field will be planted in sunflowers once every four years. To see more about our crop rotation, you can check out this post on Community Agriculture.com, Crop Rotation on our Farm. Sunflowers are usually planted from early May until mid June and require soil temperatures to reach at least 45 degrees or above. Sunflowers are planted typically in rows about 20-30 inches apart.

Sunflower seeds require pollination to mature. Bees are responsible for the pollination of these fields. Farmers contract bee hives to be set near fields and the bees go to work. Because of the symbiosis between bees and sunflowers, North Dakota ranks number one in the nation’s productions for both sunflowers AND honey!Sunflower Photo 4

 

Sunflower harvest usually begins in late September or early October with a typical growing season of about 120 days. Sunflowers are harvested using a specialized header for our combine with trays that catch the sunflowers to minimize loss of any heads.

 

Sunflower Photo 5What are sunflowers used for?

There are three primary markets for sunflowers: oil production (oils), de-hulls, and confection varieties.

Sunflower seeds produced for oil are usually smaller and all black in color. Sunflower oil is the primary use for the seeds and has a variety of different uses from a healthier alternative for frying potato chips to even fuel! De-hulls (or basically de-shelled) are what you would find in your local grocery store to put on salads, chocolate covered, or to simply enjoy them without having to fight a shell. The confection varieties are roasted in the shell and sometimes flavored for you to enjoy at your favorite baseball game or an afternoon on the patio. Sunflower seeds are graded according to size and then separated. The largest size goes to be roasted and enjoyed in the shell, medium sizes are usually de-hulled, and the smallest size goes into the bird and pet food market.

 

Sunflower Photo 6As one of the few sunflower growers in our county, we hold them near and dear to our hearts. Sunflowers are a challenge and unique which are qualities that set them apart from other crops. They are also, as you can tell, beautiful. I hope you make a visit to a sunflower producing region of North Dakota in August and you will fall in love with the fields of yellow blooms too. Sunflowers are a challenging, but rewarding crop on our farm. And at the end of the day, we take pride in the fact that we are one of many helping to produce an important commodity to our state.

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Jenny Dewey Rohrich smallJenny Dewey Rohrich is a born and raised Californian. She grew up in her parent’s local butcher shop and deli. She loved where she lived and vowed to never leave, but life had other plans for her. She met a farmer from North Dakota via social media and fell head over heels in love. Jenny followed her heart and her dreams to Ashley, North Dakota. Jenny and her farmer are now married and cultivating a legacy of family, food, and farming on the rural prairies of North Dakota. You can find Jenny at Prairie Californian where she writes about the things she loves: farming, family, food, photography, and fitness.

 

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

Scoria Road, by Danielle Hanna

Article by Danielle Hanna

DSC00559 (640x478)Instead of getting me into trouble–like you’d think it would–my bent for aimless wandering keeps turning up new treasures I never would have found any other way.

My dog Molly and I were driving home on Highway 83 one day. The sky was blue and full of big summer clouds and the pastures were the vivid green you only see in North Dakota in spring, before the Indian summers scorch everything brown. South of the tiny town of Wilton, we passed the wind farm just off the highway.

Since the first time I saw them, I wanted to photograph the windmills for my blog and Facebook page. The setting that particular day was ideal. And I had my camera.

I slowed the car a little bit and waited for the perfect composition to fill my windshield. When it did, I pulled off the highway onto the first turn-off to make itself available. Unfortunately, the few hundred yards it had taken me to find the turn-off placed the windmills squarely behind a hill.

I was about to pull back onto the highway when I took a second look at my surroundings. The turn-off I’d randomly chosen at 60 miles per hour was a narrow scoria road wending between waves of lush grass and disappearing over a spur of the hill.

Dorothy could keep her yellow brick road. This looked awesome.

Since the scoria road could get me closer to the windmills just as well as the highway, I decided to follow it.

Molly was all anticipation in the back seat. A new road! We’ve never been here before! Where does it go?

In that regard–and so many more–my dog and I are identical.

Just as we crested the hill, a little splotch of black in the pasture to my left caught my eye.

A foal, curled up in the deep grass at the base of a telephone pole. I gasped and slowed down. Serious Facebook factor! Where was my camera?

Just as I was ready to get out of the car, a much larger object cloaked in black entered the stage.

It was just like you see in movies: The noble horse prancing high; buff muscles rippling beneath its shimmering sable coat; mane, tail, and feathers billowing in its own wind. This vision of awesomeness came straight at me–and convinced me to stay in the car. In the presence of such majesty, the barbed wire fence between us appeared puny.

The horse veered off from her charge of the barbed wire to stand protectively over her foal.

I smiled. What an amazing mom. I think that mare was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life.

I looked over the rest of the pasture and found it full of black mares and their foals. Behind them, the windmills rose toward the sky.

I got out of the first mare’s comfort zone and photographed the other mares and their young.

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By now, completely entranced by this magic scoria road, I drove on, and every crested hill seemed to reveal more wonders.

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I spent an hour on the scoria road without encountering another soul except the horses. Now, as I stood fifty feet from my idling car, I turned from my camera at the sound of approaching tires. A pickup was coming my way. I eyed my car. I’d pulled it half-way off the scoria road, but the space left over still wasn’t big enough for a pickup.

I ran back, dove into the driver’s seat, and pulled into the grass just as the pickup closed in.

But instead of passing by, the driver slowed and waved out the window. This was infinitely more demonstrative than the rural North Dakota one- or two-finger wave from the steering wheel. I figured the guy wanted to talk. We stopped beside each other.

The man leaned a meaty arm on his window. “Runnin’ yor dog out here?”

I assured him my dog had been in the car the entire time and explained that I was just getting photographs for my blog.

“Hold on. Ya got my bad ear.” He cut the engine. “Now. What were ya sayin’?”

I turned off my own engine and repeated myself. He still didn’t hear me.

“Well, you can run yor dog here any time. So long as you don’t bother the mares and foals, is all. But it’s nice n’ quiet back here.” He went on to rattle off the names of everybody who lived on the scoria road. “All nice folk. All of us old. We won’t bother ya.”

I gave up on trying to explain the blog and just smiled and said thanks. It was nice to have an open invitation to come back.

When I got back to the highway, I found more turn-offs that would have gotten me better photos of the windmills. But I don’t regret for a moment the unplanned selection that landed me on the scoria road. It was like the magician’s hat that kept producing wonders. I was overwhelmed to think I had zipped past it so many times at seventy miles per hour and never known what I was missing.

The more I follow my wanderlust, the more I’m amazed at all the secret spots I find here in North Dakota–places that will never be advertised as tourist destinations, but are beautiful in part because they are only known to the locals and those brave enough to turn off the highway.

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Danielle HannaDanielle Hanna learned how to read and write at age four and knew she wanted to be an author by the time she was seven. She now writes Christian mysteries. When she’s not riveted to her computer, you can find her camping, hiking, and biking with her dog Molly in her home state of North Dakota.

Follow Danielle on her blog Embark on Adventure: Adventures of a Girl and Her Dog, Facebook, and on Twitter.

 

 

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Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks – They’ve got the bases covered for fun

Article by John Steiner

Redhawks-11Fargo, ND

When someone mentions Fargo, it’s been my experience that they reference either the extremely cold winter climate or the Coen Brothers movie of the same name. Some people might find it hard to believe, but the residents of Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, her “twin” city just across the Red River in Minnesota, have a real life outside of these two stereotypical references. Though many of us North Dakotans enjoy winter and winter activities, very few of us use a wood chipper to grind up our neighbor.

In the region centered on Fargo, much of the emphasis on sports revolves around three schools; North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University at Moorhead and Concordia College. However, in 1996, a new professional baseball team based in Fargo-Moorhead joined the Northern League. Teams in this league are not affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB) and serve markets that are not served by the MLB or their minor league affiliates.

Redhawks-5Newman Outdoor Field is the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawk’s home turf. The team’s winning ways have drawn the crowds and the family friendly entertainment keeps the youngsters entertained. I will admit to not paying attention to the team in their early years. At some point, a chance invitation to attend a game taught me that there’s a lot more going on than just waiting for the 20-minutes of action that’s crammed into three-plus hours of a typical baseball game.Redhawks-6

 

Between innings during pitcher warm-ups, games are played on the field that ultimately wins a prize for someone, and occasionally prizes (mostly discount coupons) for entire sections.

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks finished that first season with a league-best 53-31 won-lost record. Though they didn’t win the championship that year, losing to the St. Paul Saints, that season set the bar high for these boys of summer. Over the years, the team showed themselves to be winners with 2011 being the only season in their history with a losing record of 44-56. The loss resulted in their missing the playoffs for only the second time in their history.

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Their mascot, Hawkeye, a 15-year veteran of the team and the players themselves make personal appearances in the off-season. Hawkeye energizes the fans, during breaks in the game play. There is even a well-equipped playground at Newman Field for those younger fans who simply get tired of watching the game.Redhawks-3

 

Ole, the “ball boy” entertains the crowd during home games. Ole’s original responsibility was to occupy a red rocking chair and make sure the plate umpire was supplied with baseballs. Since his introduction, though, Ole’s role has expanded. Ole wanders the stands while greeting and talking to the fans. Ole always draws a big round of applause when they play “Cotton Eyed Joe” and Ole does his signature dance.

I submit for your visual diversion, a gallery of images taken at Newman Field during a game between the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks and the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

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John SteinerJohn Steiner is a retired educator with a multitude of hobbies. John started in the classroom, however he transitioned to Information Technology in mid-career.

Since retiring, John and his wife, Lynn, alternate between winters in Arizona and summers in North Dakota. John’s interests include aviation, photography, technology, hiking and travelling. John has always enjoyed writing and has written four books, now long outdated and out-of-print, published by Prentice-Hall. In the 1980s, John was a columnist and also wrote “over-the-transom” articles for computer magazines.

Since John retired, he shares his interests in photography and travelling via his blog at Journeys with Johnbo.

 

 

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