I used to think that potatoes were a lot of work to grow and took up more space than my garden had to offer. About two years ago, I picked up a copy of the Farmers Almanac while waiting in an accountant’s office – the last place I expected a garden revelation. I ended up reading a brief how to article about growing potatoes in trash barrels, and have used that method to successfully grow potatoes for the past two seasons.
The process is fairly simply. First you need to drill or poke holes in the barrel so excess water can drain.
Next, put rocks in the bottom of the barrel. This will not only provide better drainage, but it will also help keep the barrel in place.
Once you have your rocks in place, you will need dirt for the potatoes to grow in. I’ve found that buying a bag of “garden soil” or “raised bed” soil.
Empty a bag of dirt into the barrel, filling about a third of it up, and then go get your potatoes. The ones that have been in the fridge for a long time and are growing eyes or sprouting roots are good candidates. Keep in mind that whatever kind of potatoes you plan are the kind you are going to get. It’s not necessary but it is a good idea to cut them in half.
Burry your potatoes under two or three inches of dirt. Then water them.
Keep the soil moist, and as the green tops grow, “hill them.” This means adding soil and burying some of the leaves, always careful to leave at least five inches of green exposed. When the plan flowers, the potatoes are ready to harvest. The most efficient way to do this is to just dump the soil and sift through it. I usually add it a raised bed that looks like it is getting low on soil when I am done.
My summer of words may be over, but the fruits of my hard work are ripening.
I may have picked my last summer squash and soy beans last month, but the peppers are finally changing color, the carrots are fat and the corn is tall.
Writing isn’t that different from gardening. The first drafts are planted seeds. Revision is watering. Submissions are fertilizer. Acceptances are buds and publications are the ripe fruit they grow into.
Between now and the end of October, my stories will be published in a variety of anthologies and literary magazines.
Less than a year ago, simply having my work published on someone else’s website was thrilling. Now, I will get to see my work appear in anthologies that I can hold in my hand and download to my kindle.
And you know what makes it even more exciting? I’m getting paid! Two of the publications pay in royalties while others give a flat fee or combination of the two.
It’s not a lot of money, but in my mind, it’s enough to bump my writing out of the “hobby” category.
Reading is a hobby. I have to pay for books with money or reviews unless I borrow them from a friend or library, but then I have to give them back. I don’t like giving books back. It took me two years to return the last library book I borrowed. I haven’t been brave enough to ask about the late fee.
As a hobby, writing was better than reading because it didn’t cost any money and gave my brain more exercise. But now, I’m getting paid for most of my stories. Below, you will find information and teasers regarding my upcoming publications.
The first one scheduled to be published is a flash fiction piece titled “Costume Connection.” The piece explores the difficulties of being in middle school student and the power that a single friend can have on a bullied child’s life. It will be in the company of 99 other stories, all 1500 words or less, in Centum Press’ 100 Voices Anthology. The authors and stories are a mixed group covering a range of topics from a range of places. If you are interested in reading this one, you can buy it at bit.ly/100VoicesV1 and don’t forget to enter the coupon code 100V86 to save 10%.
The second is a slightly more political story titled “Melanoma Americana:”
What happens when the health care system operates on the same kind of a marketing plan that cell phone companies and hotels use? Read Its All Trumped Up to find out! Its available for pre-order now, and will be released in a few weeks.
“Customer Service,” near future speculative fiction, will be published in Owl Hollow Press’ Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers and Robots anthology. It is definitely one of my darker pieces, but is very appropriate for anthology focused on how fear of the unknown can drive humans to extremes (like witch hunts). The anthology will be released on Oct. 15, and the cover will be revealed on Monday Sept. 19.
I’ve always been a fan of myths and fairy tales, but they don’t always have the most conclusive endings, especially if they are Disney retellings. “Happily Ever After” is a little too vague for my taste, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how other people imagined the characters lives went on in Horrified Press’ “After Lines.” My story, “Institutional Prophecy,” looks in on what some of my favorite Arthurian figures are up to these days.
After getting a lot of rejections, “One Way,” a revenge tale about an abused woman taking control of her life, was accepted by Fantasia Divinity, and is scheduled to be published in their October issue.
“You Can’t Bribe the Dead,” a fresh yet classic ghost story, will be published on Scrutiny next week.
“The Elevator,” on of my first hybrid prose/poetry pieces, will be published by Sick Lit Magazine in October.
Thank you for reading this post. Please help with the story harvest by buying an anthology or two! -Sara
As you may know from my previous posts, patience is something I struggle with. Sometimes, I’ve wondered if my lack of patience was going to prevent me from succeeding in the writing world. I wrote about this struggle, and how it can be both a gift and a curse, in recent post on The Muffin.
Just last night, I submitted a second draft of a story and felt sick after hitting the submit button. My instincts were telling me I should have let the story rest and revised it more before sending it out. Especially since on Monday, a story that had been revised and rejected more than ten times was accepted to an anthology called After Lines. I had to wait 59 days for a response, but in the end, it was worth it.
I know I need to be more patient, so during the summer while I have the time off from teaching, I try to do things slowly to teach myself to be patient. One way I do this is with my garden.
Unless it rains, I water the vegetables every morning. I don’t use a hose or sprinkler. I do it by hand with a single watering can that I fill from a rain barely.
The can takes a few minutes to fill, especially when the barrel is near empty. Next, I have to carry the watering can over to the garden. I have tomatoes, peppers, corn, summer squash, winter squash, cucumbers, salad greens, soy beans, carrots, onions, potatoes, scallions and strawberries. There are several of each plant. One can only does a fraction of the garden, so I have to make several trips and wait for the watering can to fill every time.
The task is time consuming, but since I am only working ten hours a week in the summer, I do have the time for it. It forces me to wait for something, to do nothing for a few minutes while the watering can fills. In those moments of doing nothing, I can think and reflect, I can listen to the birds and watch my surroundings. Thankfully, I have a very good view from the rain barrel.
Flowers blooming in the rain garden
Looking down at the lake from the rain barrel.
The corn plants take a whole can of water by themselves. However, watching them grow from seeds was also a test of patience. I wanted the instant gratification of seeing their little green leaves poking up within a day or two of planting the seeds. Every morning when I watered, I would stare at the soil and see nothing, much like I obsessively refresh a submission manager hoping to see the status of my story change. Both corn and submission responses take time. I had to wait, and my patience was rewarded when a week later, I finally saw those green shoots poking out of the soil. Now, I have to patiently water and weed around them while the spend the summer growing.
The tomatoes were also a test for my patience. They germinated quicker than I expected, but came up stringy and floppy, unable to stand up on their own. I thought they were doomed. I waited a few days, and when they didn’t stand up on their own, I started searching on google to see if there was anything I could do to help them.
One website said that if I buried most of the stem when I repotted them, they might get stronger and be able to stand up straight as the stems thickened. However, I was afraid the stems were to fragile and would just snap if I tried to transplant the tomatoes.
I did my least favorite task: I waited.
I let them grow like floppy vines. They didn’t die. The stems got thicker and they grew a second pair of leaves. I moved them to my mini green house on the patio and waited some more. When the stems grew even thicker and the roots came out the bottom of the seed tray, I moved them all to bigger pots, burying three quarters of them stem.
For a while, I thought they were going die. They wilted and they still flopped. I bought a few tomato plants from farm stands and flea markets, just in case. However, I never gave up on my floppy plants. I kept watering them and turning them to they had to straighten out to face the sun. Eventually, they got too big for the shelves of the green house and went in the ground.
Now, they look healthier than the bought plants.I forced myself to be patient, and it paid off.
The peppers were one instance where my patience failed me. They are stories sent out too soon.
They germinated and grew quickly, like a draft finished in one sitting. When I saw their roots getting tangled at the bottom of the seed tray, I should have just moved them all the bigger pots. However, we were past the last frost date, and the weather was hot, so I thought, “why not put them in the ground?”
I knew it was still early for peppers and that Massachusetts weather is fickle. Just because we get one 90 degree day in late May doesn’t mean much. I put more than half of my peppers in the ground and a week later, the days were barely reaching 70. Those peppers have not really grown in two weeks. The ones still in the green house are twice the size.
Peppers in the ground
While the peppers may have been a failure, the squashes were not. I started them indoors and planted them late may. I remember looking at all the empty space in that patch of my garden, fighting with myself, resisting impulse to plant more squash. I resisted my impulses, telling myself to be patient. And it’s a good thing I did.
While the yellow squash and cucumbers are taking their sweet time, the zucchini plant is sprawling across its designated space. It has several flower buds of both genders. It won’t be long before I’m picking my first zucchini of the summer!
I have yet to perfect the art of patience, but I am improving. This year, the garden is already doing better than it was last year, and my list of accepted and published stories is growing. My plan is to keep practicing patience, and to keep documenting it through writing so that both me and others struggling with the same issue can learn.
Over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for posts about my raised beds, growing potatoes in trash barrels, gardening lake safe, writing, tutoring, and traveling with a cat. I’ll also continue to post micro stories and the occasional poem or recipe.