LJR Enterprises

Our homestead, Our links

Month: August, 2006

I am touched

by Scott Smith

You’ll have to pardon if this post has nothing to do with pigs or chickens or ducks.

If you’ve visited storycasting recently, you’ll know that I have been following Hugh’s gapingvoid site and his close friend’s (David Mackenzie) desire to come up with the right way to market his film, Hallam Foe. Mackenzie made Young Adam, an amazing film you must put on your Netflix queue.

Apparently, like John McNally’s novel, America’s Report Card, Hallem Foe isn’t easy to digest into a two sentence, high concept Hollywood film quip. Doesn’t the best stuff have this problem?

I posted a comment on gapingvoid, letting Hugh know how much I appreciated the honesty of his conversation with Mackenzie. I also went on about how much blogs have changed the nature of the web. There is much discussion in the blogosphere about what a blog is and what it isn’t. For me, blogs round my life.

What do I mean by rounding out my life?

The best blogs remind me of college, the time I spent at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. I was an English major with a creative writing emphasis. You wanna know how lucky I was to attend SIU-C in the late 80’s and early 90’s? Richard Russo was my fiction teacher as an undergrad and grad student, Rodney Jones was my poetry teacher, John McNally let me audit his undergraduate fiction class , Donald ‘Skip’ Hays and Kent Haruf were my creative writing profs in grad school.

Just in case you’re not familiar with these gentleman:

  • Richard Russo – novelist and screenwriter; winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls.
  • Rodney Jones – poet; Pulitzer finalist and winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award.
  • John McNally – novelist and screenwriter; winner of the James Michener award, National Magazine Award Finalist, Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project Fellowship, and Jenny McKean Moore Fellowship (George Washington University). Geez, there’s like another dozen awards and fellowships John has earned.
  • Donald ‘Skip’ Hays – novelist; Director of Programs in Creative Writing (M.F.A. University of Arkansas) and has published three novels.
  • Kent Haruf – novelist; National Book Award finalist and winner of the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award.

College is generally the time when we learn a ton. Why? Because we’re around people who are as interested in the things we’re interested in. Man, it was time when I received three bills each month (not including my tab at the On The Island Pub) and I got excited about the new story from Ralph Lombreglia in the New Yorker.

My brain was on fire.

I feel the same way about blogs. Hugh responded to my post and I was touched. Scoble has responded to a comment of mine. What I didn’t mention about my aforementioned teachers were everyone of them could teach. Damn, I still feel bad about Russo having to read a 28 page story of mine.

Below is a list of bloggers that influence me and teach me:


Raspberry Jam

by Scott Smith

It’s definitely that time of year again. It might sound corny, but I get a real sense of satisfaction from “putting food by.” Last year my only batch of jam that turned out was the plum jam. This year there have already been two jam successes: hot pepper and the raspberry jam made with my very own raspberries. I was quite pleased with my yield (28 jars with the help of some strawberries added to the final batch). I had two 1-gallon sized Ziplock bags full and I’m sure that next year I can double that if I get out in the woods at peak season instead of before and after. I’m pretty sure it will be less work too.

So, here are the remnants of the first jar of jam thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Flickr badge

by Scott Smith

Hey, we have the story of the pigs and their shelter on Flickr. See our Flickr badge in the sidebar.


by Scott Smith


This is our little hen, Doris. I like all of our chickens (now that the meat birds are in the freezer) but I like Doris a lot. She’s one of the few chickens who’s been given anything other than a strictly descriptive name (Gorgeous, Blondie, Stupid White Chicken). I have no idea what kind she is because she’s one of the birds that we got from the man down the road. Any guesses at her breeding would be appreciated. She’s not very big, but I don’t think she’s small enough to be considered a Bantam sized bird. She’s cute, she’s a good layer and she’s proven herself to be pretty tough in the past couple of days having survived a dog attack with no harm other than her pretty tail feathers being fewer in number.

I’d like to know where that dog was when Scott was still plucking birds – it only seems interested in holding the bird down and pulling out it’s feathers. It could have been a great help to him.

Old Man

by Scott Smith

I turned 40 this year. And, for my sins, I have moved the pig fencing and cleaned the chicken coop.

The pigs made a desert out of their original pasture. Which is good, really. I will be tilling this area — once the wallow dries up.

You want some happy pigs, you got ’em. I moved the hog panels and the pig’s shelter is now the barn. Behind our barn a rain forest grows. We got smart and took a few before pics before the pigs made waste of this area, which also is just fine. We’d like to put a horse arena behind the barn, and we’ve learned that pigs do a fine job of chewing up the earth.

A few other things I’ve learned: mow the area around the fence. Cleaning a pig pen is bad, but having to fight high weeds and grasses makes it nearly impossible — yeah, flicking pig poop into your face will educate you.

My parents are visiting, and I want my father to help me build a better roost for the chickens. I didn’t want him to experience the full noxious chicken odors, so I cleaned the coop today. Move hog panels and clean the coop within three days is a lot for an old man.

Every muscle hurts.

Like most of the U.S., Michigan got really hot for almost two weeks. I stopped doing physical labor during this time. Hey, I don’t have insurance and stroking out seemed like a bad idea.

The sin of taking that time-off has been realized, and I have vowed to spend an hour (at a minimum) each day working around the farm on a project that makes me sweat. The urban and suburban types amongst us have Bally’s; I have 10 year-old goat manure to remove.

Besides the heat, a new venture has kept me indoors — BTC Technologies. I started this with the intention of getting small businesses, trades people and professionals to blog. Commercial warning: If you want a blog, a domain, email marketing, and someone to yell at it when it isn’t working right, call (269-671-5303) or write.

You may ask why start this kind of business. Well, when I search for certain services in the Richland, Michigan area, I get lists that resemble a phonebook. How can you tell who to trust from an ad? Word-of-mouth is key to small businesses, and I think blogs extend that word-of-mouth digitally. One Google search for restaurants in the Kalamazoo area netted me one site. Insane.

Commercial over.

So, the duck house, chicken coop and pig pen are ready for my parents’ inspection. I guess that just leaves the house — hope we have some extra vacuum bags because the Jack, Meg, Falco, George, C.C. and Martha fur tumble weeds are starting to meet me at eye-level.

While I Was Away

by Scott Smith

Before I left for my annual Arizona vacation my little ducks were still downy soft and following us around the yard while we did our chores. I took this picture of Scott from an oddly placed picture window in our kitchen.


Here is the other thing that happened while I was gone (or maybe just after I got back)…


I think that we are in the market for a new pig shelter.

Jack and Meg — a video post

by Scott Smith

I’m trying to workout a couple of technical things, so I thought I’d use the puppies as my models. The music is dorky and the voice-over dropout drives me nuts, but not too bad for a first try.

I used PhotoStory from Microsoft, which is free for XP users willing to let M$ examine your computer like a half-blind proctologist.


Three trips later

by Scott Smith

Yes, another construction project is in the books. This one is all for me — maybe a little for Robinson’s lovely couch that’s been taking a beating.

Let me explain: I work on a laptop, a $500 laptop (98% of what I do is on the web, so what do I care about a fancy notebook computer). I need a flat surface and internet. But being the old man I am, I also kinda sorta need a space. Hence, I have been working from the couch in the family room.

Diane, the middle child in the Smith family, just bought a house and has started work on an office in her walk-out basement. I want that, darn it all. Nick, who works from home most of the time, did all kinds of work for his home office. I deserve such a place… don’t I?

The only slot available to me is the concrete room, which is fine. I have off and on worked in this space. First the cold kicked me out and then baby chickens and ducks. Truthfully, I never got really comfortable. Because the concrete room’s floor slants by several degrees, every desk was awkward to work from. The new workspace has to be mounted to the wall.

For this project, I purchased heavy duty brackets, lag screws, and a 24″x8′ finished board with a rounded edge. Sounds easy, right? Well, I didn’t intend to buy the board. I wanted to use the butcher’s block counter top we had left over after Robinson ripped out the kitchen island. I didn’t realize how heavy and wide the counter top was, so I made a second trip, purchasing the finished board.

Having all my supplies, I gathered my tools from the barn: a socket for the 5/8 1-1/2″ lag screw, socket wrench, drill, a bit to pilot the hole, and my two-foot level. I cleared a space for my suspended desk and got down to work.

The lag screw wouldn’t fit through the bracket’s hole. The instructions on top of the bracket specify the lag screw size and that’s what I got. When I made trip number three, I brought the bracket with me. I went with the 5/16 1-1/2″ lag screw. Of course, I had to buy more stuff. I purchased a four-foot level and I wanted a bit to use to power the screws in. No dice. I bought a doohickey that lets me use a socket with a drill.
After I returned from True Value, I went back into the barn, looking for another socket. Of course, I found I already own a couple of those little converter doohickeys. No matter.

I mounted the first bracket. Using the longer level, I set the location for the other bracket and installed it. I am glad I bought that level — the distance between the brackets is longer than my 24″ level — because I wasn’t too sure how I was going to get the brackets level when I knew nothing in the concrete room is plumb or level.
I brought the board in and dropped it into place. Joy, joy, joy. I am very pleased. I used two more brackets to keep the wood from sagging at the ends. I placed a tower fan and lamp next to the desk. Beneath the desk is the wood box my grandfather had made years ago to ship something in (sturdy wood boxes are handy — it’s a footstool this time). On top I placed my computer, Jim Beam and an old pie tin I use for an ashtray.
Sure, I blew the budget again, but now I have a functional work surface and my own little world. What’s missing? I sure wouldn’t mind having a window to lookout. Maybe that’s one for my father to tackle.

P.S. For those who say this will collapse, you are wrong. The pigs couldn’t tear this down. And, for those who say I will probably get kicked out by Ball Jars — you are probably right (I choose to keep the fantasy alive in the meantime).

Touch up

by Scott Smith

Via Jeff Jarvis, I found this article on Australian parents paying for their kid’s yearbook photo to be ‘fixed.’ Grandma Smith fixed one of my primary school photos: I had a hair explosion and she trimmed the photo with scissors.


by Scott Smith

The ladies are cranking. We have had a dozen or more eggs three times this week. Judging from the weak or mangled shells, I’d say we have at least four more birds laying. These new birds like to drop their eggs wherever they may be at the moment. I found them on some rocks, between tires in the barn, on top of the playpen (a structure that’s up to my usual construction quality that is turned on its side and a ladder put upon when used as a roost, and when sitting properly — playpen style — isolates birds), and the duck house. Robinson thinks they’re walking around, doing their thing when suddenly an egg drops out of them.