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Thursday, November 15, 2018


Winterberry is on my mind because it's going to be the background for the cover of Dead Mule Swamp Mistletoe.


It's a true holly, Ilex verticillata. Usually, most of the leaves drop in the winter, but this clump of the shrubs had an odd cluster with all it's leaves.


I'm playing with cover ideas for the book. Here are two mock-ups. Which one do you like best? Both need some work, particularly on the mistletoe ball, but I think I'm getting close.

cover Dead Mule Swamp Mistletoe

cover Dead Mule Swamp Mistletoe

All the news is other news- I took these pictures several days ago. Spent some time trying to continue to clean up the house, and tried to write two chapters. Didn't quite make that goal.

See Michigan Holly
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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Boring but Necessary

I have done one thing all day. No, you don't get the before picture, but the living room looked pretty much like a hurricane had gone through after I got done packing the train away. (I'm pretty sure even Om was doubtful that I could get it straightened up in one day, but he really wanted to get the tree set up.)

What you probably don't understand (OK, a few of you do who are actually allowed in my house) is that life with Joan is defined as learning to live with piles of cardboard boxes. That's one of the down sides to the fact that I have so many interests and projects.

And, most of the boxes that were moved out of the living room are sorted and put in appropriate homes. Well, yeah, I'm kinda lying. There are 4 boxes that still need places to live. Maybe tomorrow.

bare Christmas tree in living room

And why are we putting the Christmas tree up so early? It's only partly because Om thinks there are two holidays in the year- 364 days of Christmas and 1 of the 4th of July.

Actually, it's because Steve, whom we have not seen for five years, is coming home for Thanksgiving. Therefore, we are more or less doing Christmas early.

In other news: No writing occurred. No anything occurred. I'm beat. Trying to play with a cover for DMS Mistletoe a little bit.

See Christmas Tree 2017
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Model Trail Layout 2001-2018

Some of you asked to see this layout. I had done several temporary ones prior to this, but this came the closest to being "finished." All that means is that some of the spaces got nicely detailed and some didn't. In my mind, this was only less temporary, because I have a list of the industries and buildings and "stuff" I want on my grand layout. But I need space and money. Ha!

Anyway, this is the best it got. The board is about 3.5 feet by 7 feet. Too small, but it's all the space I had. And yet, it's amazing how much stuff there was in this small area. You have to do that for it to look realistic unless you are going for the open plains look. For that you need N scale.

I was experimenting with various techniques and tools and textures, so that when I do the real thing, I'll have more experience. For sure, it will have some kind of plexiglass cover that can be lowered over it because the dust is just a game killer.

small HO train layout

small HO train layout

Got home late from writers' group, and worked at packing train stuff all day, so I'll just show you a few more pictures of the gas station module from when it was clean and new. I really was pleased with it. Kevin (my train buddy) said it might have been good enough to win an award, but that's not why I do it.

HO scale gas station transition era

HO scale gas station transition era

HO scale gas station transition era

In other news: I wrote a chapter, spent ALL afternoon packing stuff, and then had writers' group. Full day.

See Goodbye Small World
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Monday, November 12, 2018

Goodbye, Small World

Today I took down my model railroad layout. I haven't done a thing with it for years and the dust has built up to the point that it looks like snow. (Can be cleaned, but it will be a pain.) I wanted to show you some of the best sections, but I should have checked to be sure the pictures were in focus. Oh well, you'll have to squint because I'm going to show you anyway.

This is a scratch-built (as in not from a kit) gas station. Sections like this were not broken down. I just lifted the module from the layout and boxed it.

model railroad gas station

Here's the hobo's shack along the tracks. Mostly a couple of kits, but lots of details added.

model railroad hobo shack

My layout was smallish, done in HO scale. This is just a hillside detail. This I also saved intact. If I play sometime in the future, it can be cleaned up, touched up with paint, etc.

model railroad hillside with dead trees

This was one of the very first modules I ever did- a farm field with tractor.

model railroad field and tractor

Gotta have the station. This kit was exceedingly cheap. In fact, I think it came as part of a basic circle "toy" set. Not even good quality stuff. But you can always "kit bash" and add details and good painting.

model railroad station

Finally, this was scratch-built, but it's not meant to be anything special except an end-of-display bit of landscaping to give the perception that the layout is bigger and not just confined to a table top. I actually thought this turned out pretty well, The building is nothing but cardboard and a plastic cookie box (painted).

model railroad town barn

Actually, I'm not sad to be taking this apart. Model railroading is a hobby for people with a lot more expendable cash than I have right now. At the time I did all this, I was working for/with a man who sold HO scale parts for detailing at model rail shows. I would turn around and spend most of what I made to grow my hobby. That worked out really well. However, he died, which was beyond sad for his family. I miss him a lot, too. He was much more than a railroading friend.

I have boxes and boxes of parts and kits and "stuff," all focused on building my dream layout. Am I ready to give up this idea and sell it all? Nope. If I ever get to the point where I can't hike, this is going to be my hobby of choice.

Can't just join a club and play occasionally for several reasons. First of all, I'd never be able to do it in moderation. If I jump in, I'll be in over my head again. Second, the closest club is Grand Rapids- a 2 hour drive away. I don't know if the third issue is an issue any longer. But it used to be true that the clubs didn't really welcome GIRLS.

Anyway. Now the dust won't get any deeper, although the boxes will still be in a corner of the living room. Sigh.

In other news: I wrote a chapter in DMS Mistletoe and did laundry.

See Fake
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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Passing on a Birthday

I've blogged in the past about the fact that my mother, Catherine Burnham Rowe Leary, was born on November 11, before it was Armistice Day or Veteran's Day.

Today I'll tell you a story of a birthday being handed down to someone. One of the things my mother was most pleased with in her life was the job she held for about the last 15 years of her working career. She was a case worker with the county social services, and finally earned the position of being the worker in charge of adoptive placements.

Fast forward to 1975. We had just gotten our Steve from Viet Nam. She was doing the family studies required for another child who was coming from Viet Nam. A lot of those children had no papers and their actual birth dates were not known. (Steve's is, but not Joshua's). Anyway, the family that was adopting a little girl decided to give her my mother's name and birthday.

Here is Steve on the left, and little Catherine on the right. They were too young to remember this day, but the adults all thought it was pretty neat.

two Vietnamese babies sitting in grass

Here is Catherine with her new family.

family photo 1975

And one more with Steve, Catherine, and her two "new" brothers. I suspect they might remember this.

two Vietnamese babies sitting with two older boys

I recently "found" Catherine on Facebook. It's neat to connect with someone who carries on my mom's name. I'd actually forgotten they gave her mom's birthday, but when FB showed me who was celebrating today, I suddenly remembered.

And, of course, I thank all the VietNam vets who did whatever they could to help save kids like these. I know that an argument could be made that they wouldn't have needed to be adopted if there hadn't been a war. But there was a war, and there was a war even before we got involved, and all any one person can do is the best they can for the people they are immediately surrounded by.

In other news: Om and I ate out since Applebee's gives free meals to veterans, and I wrote a chapter.

See A Veteran's Day Story
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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Yellow Memories

Not enough snow left today to be pretty. How about some yellow beauties that never got on the blog for one reason or another?

Blue and yellow are my favorite colors. Some days it's blue, some days yellow. Yellow seems good today.

One yellow maple leaf (Norway maple) conquering the early snow.

yellow maple leaf on snow

A field of goldenrod with some Joe-pye weed mixed in from September.

goldenrod and Joe-pye weed

Coreopsis and a little worm!


Some member of the Oenothera family- evening primrose, but this is a garden one, probably under the common name of "sundrop" because it's not necessarily an evening bloomer. Taken in June at the Cherry Point labyrinth garden.


Day lilies, always a favorite of mine.

yellow and maroon day lilies

Birdfoot trefoil, a common and alien roadside bloomer. I love its clear yellow color even though it's alien.

birdfoot trefoil

And finally, I'll come back (from two years ago) to the green striped aspen leaves. I found out what causes this. I was seeing it way too often to be a fluke. There is a tiny moth caterpillar that burrows into the leaf tissue near the midvein, and excretes a chemical that keeps the leaf cells in that one section alive so the caterpillar can have something to eat. In the spring a little gray and happy moth will emerge.

green striped aspen leaves

Have a happy sunny yellow day!

In other news: I participated in a l-o-n-g meeting, and wrote part of a chapter. Needed to do more, but it didn't happen. Sigh.

See Yellow Rose of Michigan
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Friday, November 9, 2018

First Snow- Winter 2018-2019

I do love the first snow of the winter. It seems more decorative than serious. Oddly enough, first snow was on the same date last year.

snow on branch

It hasn't yet managed to beat everything into submission. Even the dying grass is strong enough to resist.

snow on grass

The trees can't decide whether to embrace brown or white.

snow on tree trunks

Autumn is trying hard to hold its own in a few places.

snow on branches

And the sun managed to break out for a few minutes at the end of day.

sunset with Tyndall effect

In other news: I did a little housework and wrote a chapter. I'm really struggling with this book. I'm not sure I can write more than a chapter a day because it is taking a lot of mental energy, but I need to try or it won't be ready for Christmas.

See First Snow- Winter 2017-2018
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Thursday, November 8, 2018


The yard was all mowed, so what I needed to finish was to get my trail out back in decent shape before snow. This makes it a lot easier to ski. (Safer too- I really hurt a knee one year catching a ski on a buried raspberry cane.) Got it all mowed today.

mowed trail

I probably have about a mile of trail if you count all the loops- these pictures don't show it all.

mowed trail

I like it because it's right out the back door.

mowed trail

The only problem is that I didn't realize some trees came down in the last big storm we had. I got some of that mess cleared today, but not all.

mowed trail

There's always another day. I doubt tomorrow's snow will stick around till April.

In other news: wrote a chapter and put the mower "to bed" for the winter.

See Weed Whacker
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