The Hay Baler

First an announcement: the novel “Requiem for a Redneck” by John P. Schulz is now available as an e book at the Amazon store.  Click here to go there.  For today’s article I have chosen a short story that I wrote a week or two ago. The painting, “The Hay Baler” is an original painting by my friend, Randy Eidson.

The Hay Baler, A painting by my friend, Randy Eidson

The Hay Baler, a painting by my friend, Randy Eidson

The Hay Baler

Jimbob grinned as he looked out over the field of tightly packed rolled bales. He was waiting for the semi to return for another load. What a feeling of satisfaction it was to have the crop in and sold and to just be working on the delivery. “If nothing goes wrong, I’ll be able to pick up the check tomorrow.” He said to himself.

It was too bad that Dad was no longer here to see the sight. Dad had been right. The best way to make a profit farming was to get a farm near a river, put in an irrigation system, and pray for a drought. And Jimbob had been right to convert his hay fields over to alfalfa which is the preferred feed for fine race horses. He sold the entire crop at a premium price to just two of the Kentucky stables.

He wished he could talk to his dad. He just wanted to grin and tell dad that he would make the final payment on the farm mortgage. He hadn’t really kept up with the numbers but he had struggled to make the five thousand dollar payments each month and now there was just one payment left. Maybe he should check the numbers.

He dialed the bank’s number on his cell phone and asked to speak to the bank president. Jimbob waited a few seconds,

“This is Mr. Vernon.”

“Hello, Mr. Vernon, this is Jimbob. I just wanted to tell you I would make the final payment on Dad’s farm mortgage tomorrow.”

There was a pause. Mr. Vernon said, “That’s amazing.”

This made Jimbob feel pretty good. “It’s been a good season.”

“It must have been a hell of a good season,” Mr. Vernon replied.

Jimbob paused and then asked, “What do you mean by that?”

Mr. Vernon said, “Jimbob, do you know what a balloon note is?”

“No, I don’t reckon I do.”

“Well, that’s when you make the payments manageable by putting a payoff of somewhere near half the loan at the end of the payoff period. Your final payment is eighty five thousand dollars.”

Jimbob was stunned. “Dad left me with a mortgage like that?”

Mr. Vernon replied sadly, “Yes, Jimbob, he re-financed only a few weeks before he went on to a better place.”

Realization hit Jimbob. “That sumbitch.” He said furiously.“I wondered how he got the money to take that young blonde to live in Hawaii.”

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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Press Release–Redemption for a Redneck

Press Release

A box of notes leads to a book series

 John P. Schulz announces the upcoming release of his new novel, Redemption for a Redneck, which is the second in a series that was started with his award winning Requiem for a Redneck (Independent Publisher’s Book Awards, “IPPY”, Gold Medal for “Regional Best fiction-South” 2009). The book will be available on or around November 5, 2011.

          John says, “I have enjoyed listening to redneck stories for many years. During my beer drinking days I spent a lot of time sitting by the warmth of a wood heater, drinking beer, and listening to stories that seemed to come from a foreign community. These were what I now refer to as ‘the redneck stories.’ One cold day, right after the snow storm of ’93, after a delightful story telling session, a friend said, ‘John, you need to write about these stories. You’re the only one around who can do it.’ He handed me a note pad.

          “I listened to my friend and started taking notes. I became obsessive about taking notes of redneck stories and I wrote them on anything that was at hand–an envelope, a bar napkin. When I got home I threw the notes in a cardboard box, thinking that I would get to them some day. In 2001, I quit drinking. My life changed, the stories slowed down, and the box of notes was relegated to a back closet.

          “One day, a few years ago, I was cleaning out a closet and found the box of notes. I sorted them out and enjoyed them all over again. As I arranged the notes they became the basis for a fictional story about a world that most people don’t know about.

          “I wrote Requiem for a Redneck which was published in 2009 and was well received by a good number of readers who wanted to know, ‘when is the next book coming out?’

          “The first book opened up a new life and a new set of adventures for me. The Requiem sold well, got lots of good reviews, and was highly profitable in more ways than one. You may read about my profits in a previous article, A Thank You and a Love Story

          Redemption for a Redneck takes the reader to a small community in the north Georgia mountains. Kickstand falls in love and the community finds its lost identity. John Schulz delivers on his promise to “make you laugh, make you cry, and make the ladies go ‘Awwwww.’”

          In a pre-publication review, Ray Atkins says,

“In Redemption for a Redneck—the sequel to the award-winning Requiem for a Redneck—John P. Schulz reunites us with John the Plant Man and Kickstand as the two men continue their philosophical examination of the unique culture of rural Georgia.  Schulz is a natural storyteller, and he treats his subject with kindness and respect.  His characters—Boss Jack, Pork Chop, Brickyard, and Roadkill, to name but a few—will entertain readers of all ages.  Mark Twain, make some room; you have company.  John P. Schulz has arrived, and he intends to stay awhile.”

–Raymond L. Atkins, author of The Front Porch Prophet and Sorrow Wood.

Permission granted to reproduce for publication

Stay in touch or subscribe. Availability will be announced first right here, on Johntheplantman.wordpress.com

A story about a story-My self publishing experience part two

My self publishing experience part two-gaining confidence and editing

I had a book in mind, a half a manuscript sitting on my desk at home, and a desire to see what other people were doing. I am usually not a timid person but one winter night in 2007 I walked timidly into a meeting room at the Rome Library. I was in some new and unfamiliar territory.

To read part one of this series, CLICK HERE

 I can still remember the first time I walked into the Rome Area Writers meeting. I was warmly welcomed and I sat in the back of the room to see what happened. Dick Ingram was president of the group at the time and I found later that the term president in that group was synonymous with the word moderator. Dick went through a business discussion and then opened the meeting up for readings. I was able to listen to others read their writings and to hear the comments and criticisms-both negative and positive. I joined the writer’s group that night and it proved to be a good move.

 A month later, I pumped myself up and took something to read to the meeting. I remember standing in front of the group and saying, “I’ve never done anything like this before and I hope I don’t embarrass myself.” My fears turned out to be unwarranted and, as my brother Billy would say, “They ‘plauded.”  The criticism wasn’t so bad and I found a lot of the comments helpful. I felt like maybe I was on to something. There was this good looking lady there, too, with a funny name that I didn’t quite get.

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 A conference with the editor takes a twist. Dekie, John, and the coon dog

A conference with the editor takes a twist. Dekie, John, and the coon dog

 I decided that I liked the readings and attended a few poetry readings here and there, most notably at a very nice shop named Cobblestones, and run by Mark Watters and his lovely wife. I will always appreciate the opportunity that I was given by this nice venue to listen to others and to present my own offerings. My poetry was probably all right, nothing special, but I found that the audience also enjoyed a bit of southern prose. That’s what I’m good at. I saw the good looking lady with the funny name again at one of the poetry readings. I still didn’t get her name, though.

 I kept working on the book. I knew it was getting good and I would read a chapter or two in front of people at the writer’s group or at a group reading, judging the worth of my work by watching facial reactions as I read and by listening for laughter in the right places. Sometimes I got reactions where I didn’t expect them and no reactions where I wanted them. Reading the work out loud was quite a help, too, in that I could get a feel for the sound of the stories. At one point I made an important discovery as I found myself censoring the work, taking out the “f-word” because I didn’t want to cross the line of other’s sensitivities.  I ended up going back to take out anything that I didn’t think would be appropriate to read before a mixed group.

 I read a lot and I have noticed since the social changes of the sixties that the use of profanity has lost its shock value and become common in popular literature. I was writing about rednecks and figured that profanity was necessary in the dialogue. My mother and I talked about it:

          She said, “you need to take that word out.”

          “But,” I replied, “I can’t write about rednecks without using “the word.”

          “If you want my friends to read it, you need to take the word out.” She said.

          I thought about it and realized that she was right. If writing with profanity had become commonplace then I would do the uncommon thing and take out all of the profanity. I didn’t just take out “the word,” either, I took out all of the profanity except for one place where it just had to be there to make the situation work. The one exception was that I studied on it, pondered on it, philosophized about it, and decided that the word Sumbitch was all right to use sparingly.

 I was hooked on the Rome Area Writers meetings like an alcoholic would be dependent on AA. At the third or fourth meeting I asked if anyone knew a competent professional editor who could help me. I was introduced to the lady with the funny name. Her name was Dekie which I later learned was a contraction of her middle name, Dekalb. The story goes on, but it’s another story, and anyway, I ended up hiring Dekie to edit my work.

 At our first meeting I gave Dekie a printed piece of my manuscript and a check.

At our second meeting a week later, Dekie laid my manuscript on the table before us and I saw a million red and yellow marks all over the pages. It may have been two million marks, but you get the message. I stood and looked and felt like I had been beaten with a sledge hammer. I mean, I thought I had given her some good stuff to look at. We sat down to go over it.

 “First,” she said, “You have to totally re format the writing. What you have given me is formatted for the internet with no indentation and double spaces between paragraphs. It needs to be done in a book format.”

 “But that’s the way I like it.” I said

 She gave me a look that I will never forget and firmly stated, “You ain’t Faulkner.”

 It took me a long while to understand what she had said. I now know what she meant and I always keep it firmly in mind. I started paying attention to my editor and making the changes she suggested. I found that there are two kinds of editing, substantive editing which deals with the story and with the words that make it up, and copy editing which takes care of all the other problems.

 I have realized that good and competent editing is the most important part of producing a book I cannot emphasize this enough. Dekie made a list that makes the editing tasks clear:

 Copyediting, such as:

  • Word choice
  • Punctuation
  • Basic grammar
  • Proofreading

Substantive editing, such as:

  • Add/delete sections, chapters, etc.
  • Tone/point of view
  • Flag words/phrases for unintended meanings
  • Organization & presentation of material
  • Collect, prepare, and arrange materials for publication (as in anthologies, etc.)

I will leave you with this for now while I prepare for next week’s continuation which deals with what happens after the manuscript has been completed and edited. I hope you are enjoying the story.

 Related reading

To read part one of this series, CLICK HERE

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

 

 

A thank you and a love story

A big event in my life is rapidly approaching. For this week’s article I have decided to share my “thank you” to the Rome Area Writers group.  I have been a member of this group for over four years and they have helped me in many ways. Their motto is, “Writers helping writers.” This piece was written for my reading at the April 14 meeting.  I hope you will like it.  It is also a love story.

John Schulz, Dekie Hicks, and Speck the coon hound

John Schulz, Dekie Hicks, and Speck the coon hound

 Thank You Rome Area Writers

 This month’s prompt, I believe, is “why do I write?”  I have thought about this and the only answer I can come up with is that I often get little movies going on in my head and they develop over a period of time to a point that becomes interesting and I feel a need to tell about them.  So I sit down at my computer which has evolved from a word processor which evolved from an IBM Selectric which evolved from an Underwood manual.  I love the computer because of the back space feature which lets me delete and start over.

 The movies develop while I am writing and the changes rapidly turn the story into something I never thought of.  I love the mutability.  I love the way the story develops as I write it. I love the way I can think about it later and think, “I should of put a coon dog in there” and then go add it to the story.  It gives me a feeling of power, also.  Fiction is wonderful.  If I don’t like the way someone is behaving, I can change them or kill them off.

 It kind of reminds me of a John Prine line

“We talked all night ‘til you said something neither of us knew”But all of that is not my message tonight.

My message is to say thank you to RAW.

And to tell you that I will probably miss the next meeting.

 A little over four years ago, I was living by myself, changing my lifestyle into I knew not what.  I had decided a year before to spend some time writing that book that I had always wanted to write.  I had made a lot of changes in my life and I was casting about, looking for direction.  I had exorcised a lot of unwanted people, places, and habits. I was looking for a start on something different.  All I really had going for me was my landscaping and my book.  I had even gone so far as to throw the tv out the window. 

 I maintain the flower beds in the library garden in Rome, Ga, and one day while I was there, I saw a sign that read “Rome Area Writers meets Thursday.”  So I thought that would be fun.  I showed up Thursday and found nothing—no meeting—nothing.  So I researched it and found that the meetings were on the second Thursday and I had gotten the third.  I was ready the next month.

 I went to the meeting and enjoyed it so I joined.  I remember being extremely nervous about my first reading and saying something like, “I’ve never done this before” but it went well and the nice people made me feel good about myself and about my writing.  So I kept up the writing and the readings.  It felt good.

 But I was looking for an editor and thought, “what better place to find an editor?”

And I found one, too.  I met with her and we made a financial arrangement.  I will never forget the first editorial discussion when I showed up to find my manuscript red lined all over the place with some big yellow magic marker lines thrown in for color, interest and contrast.  It was worse than any graded paper I ever got back while majoring in English at the University of Georgia.  I was a broken man.

 The editor pointed out lots of flaws and things that needed changing.

I said, “But I like it that way”

She looked me straight in the eye and said,

“You ain’t Faulkner”

And of course, she was right.

 So I listened to the editor and made the changes and went through many more editing sessions.  It got easier and easier.  My work was turning into a book and I was excited.  I looked forward to second Thursdays at which I shared my progress and at which I received lots of helpful reaction. 

 I had explored many self publishing options and checked out companies like Authorhouse, X libris, and Trafford.  I decided they were rip offs.  I have always had a good talent for spotting a scam. I did more research and then more research and figured out that I needed to do it myself.  So the editor and I set up Wheredepony Press and began a learning process.  The learning process turned into a two year endeavor. The book was published. The book, Requiem for a Redneck received excellent reviews and won a first place award from the Independent Publishers Book Awards for “Best Southern Fiction.”  We were validated.

 Somewhere during all of the editing and publishing I had fallen in love with the editor.  I had started out to write a book and had ended up with a book and a partner.  I had found the direction that I had been looking for.

 One of those movies that goes on in my head still has me pausing in front of the sign that reads “Rome Area Writers meets Thursday night”

 That sign made a lot of difference for me.  I met wonderful, helpful people and entered into a new dimension.  I am happy for that.  That’s what I wish to thank you for.

 And next month’s meeting?  I don’t think I will be here because the meeting is on Thursday night and I will be preparing for a wedding which will be on the following Saturday, May 14.

 The editor and I will tie the knot.

Thank you, Dekie Hicks for giving me direction

And Thank you, Rome Area Writers.

 Thank you, Dear Johntheplantman Readers for all of the support you have given.  This site has become popular way beyond my expectations.

 John P. Schulz

 

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If you would like a consultation with John Schulz, Landscape Artist, in your yard,

Please contact me by email

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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Choosing the right fertilizer

How do I choose the correct fertilizer?

 “What do I feed my plants?”  “What is the best fertilizer?”  — I think that in my experience as a plant man, these are the most frequently asked questions, and everyone seems to want a concise, three word answer.  Here’s the concise answer:  “It all depends.”  Read on to learn how to choose the best fertilizer for your particular needs.

Basic 10-10-10 fertilizer.  What do the numbers mean?

Basic 10-10-10 fertilizer. What do the numbers mean?

 I will approach the topic with a series of pictures of fertilizer labels and an explanation. The most widely used (and usually cheapest) product used is the basic 10-10-10 fertilizer pictured above.  All fertilizer bags will have a complete analysis of ingredients.  This one shows us that we are getting 10% nitrogen (N), 10 % phosphorous(P), and 10% potassium(K).  This means that 30% of what is in the bag is actual fertilizer; the rest is filler.  N, P, and K are the symbols for the chemicals from the periodic chart of the elements.

 WHAT THEY DO:

Basically, nitrogen promotes green, vegetative growth, phosphorous helps the plant to develop a good root structure, and potassium promotes blooms.

My friend Mrs. Shaw said she remembers it by the use of

“Shoots, Roots, and Fruits.”

 Vegetable growers know that if you put too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorous and potassium on the plants, you will get beautiful plants but the fruit production will be diminished.  Grass growers know that too much of the last two numbers and not enough nitrogen will not produce the desired results for them. Note:  If you are dealing with centipede or St. Augustine grasses, do some research, they are different.

 Plants also need something called “trace elements.”  These are: boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.  Better and usually more expensive fertilizer mixes will contain these trace elements.  Look at the label below for a grass starter fertilizer:

A good fertilizer formulated for a specific growing purpose

A good fertilizer formulated for a specific growing purpose

A well formulated fertilizer.  Note the inclusion of trace elements.

A well formulated fertilizer. Note the inclusion of trace elements.

 Note that this starter fertilizer for lawn seeds and sod includes high nitrogen (18%) for the green, vegetative growth, high phosphorous (24%) for developing root growth, and relatively little potassium (6%) because blooms aren’t really necessary for turf grass.

As a corollary, one of the best plant foods for tomatoes which is no longer available was Dr. Chatelier’s plant food which contained an analysis of 8-8-20 plus trace elements.  It also grew magnificent roses.  I have always tried to find a fertilizer like this for use on vegetables and flowering plants.  There are some products with this or a similar imbalance on the market—they’re just hard to find.  Remember, the numbers don’t have to be exactly the same, just the ratios.

 In my rambling through the fertilizer section at Lowe’s with my trusty HP digital camera, I found some very interesting products.  If you wish to remain organic and chemical free on a small scale, there is an organic fertilizer:

Organic, Anyone?  Check the numbers and the source on the back of the bag.

Organic, Anyone? Check the numbers and the source on the back of the bag.

An organically formulated fertilizer.  I like the use of bone meal for phosphorous

An organically formulated fertilizer. I like the use of bone meal for phosphorous

 There is a wonderful product called Ironite.  The need for iron shows up as a yellowing in the foliage.  This happens commonly with gardenias.  One time, a little old lady gardener (she was little, and definitely old, and she wore white gloves in the garden, but names will not be mentioned because she would slap me) told me to sprinkle Epsom salts around the roots of the yellowed gardenias.  It worked.  Ironite does it even better.

Ironite is a good supplement for trace elements

Ironite is a good supplement for trace elements

Look at all the good stuff in this formulation.

Look at all the good stuff in this formulation.

 The acid balance of the soil (Ph) is important.  Azaleas and Rhododendrons among other plants like an acid soil.  Others like a balanced Ph.  One of the most overlooked chemicals for success in plant growing is lime.  If you notice a failure to thrive or burnt leaf edges, you may wish to have the Ph of the soil checked.  This is easily done through your extension service.  The presence of moss is usually an indicator of an acid soil.  Pelletized lime works quickly and rather well.  Stay away from “hydrated” lime. Look at all the good stuff in a bag of lime

Last year when Sweetie asked me to fertilize the grass, all I did was put lime on it.  The grass was greener than ever!!

Last year when Sweetie asked me to fertilize the grass, all I did was put lime on it. The grass was greener than ever!!

 One of my favorite and most often used fertilizers for ornamentals is Osmocote.  This is a time release fertilizer that breaks down over a period of 6 months or so and offers continuous feeding of the plant.  I use a time release fertilizer whenever I plant flowers or shrubs.  It gives good results.  There are many time release fertilizers on the market, so you can compare the ingredients on the label.  Always be sure to work the time release fertilizer well into the soil. These products usually come with a formulation for either flowers and vegetables or for foliage plants.  Read the label.

Time release plant food makes for outstanding flower beds

Time release plant food makes for outstanding flower beds

 Tree spikes are a very effective product for feeding your prized trees.  These are made to be driven into the ground around the “drip line” of the tree and they feed it throughout the growing season.  There will be different formulations for regular trees or for fruit and flowering trees. 

I like to poke a hole in the ground with a digging bar before driving in the tree spikes.  It keeps them from breaking.

I like to poke a hole in the ground with a digging bar before driving in the tree spikes. It keeps them from breaking.

 Professional greenhouse growers usually use a liquid feed for their plants.  A lot of these growers use the liquid feed at every watering.  I personally like to use it every week or two during the growing season.  There are many brand names, Peter’s, Schultz’s (no relation, note the t.), Miracle grow, and many others.  The liquid feed fertilizers come in a number of formulations.  Here again, read the label. If you are a serious plant grower, you may need several different kinds.  Remember—“SHOOTS, ROOTS,FRUITS”—(first number, middle number, third number).  I always liked Peter’s 20-20-20, but I can’t seem to find it any more.

There are many brand names and many more formulas.  Read the label.

There are many brand names and many more formulas. Read the label.

 As I was finishing up my exploration of the fertilizer section at Lowe’s garden center, I noticed a fragrance that is common to the hills of north Georgia.  I looked around and found two different brands of Organic Fertilizer.

Not to be used for making chicken soup.

Not to be used for making chicken soup.

 I read the label and found that it was composted chicken feathers and manure—and it was only $8.98 for a 5 pound bag.  A little rich for my blood in more ways than one.

 Takeaway:  1. Read the label.  2 Shoots, Roots, Fruits. 3. The three numbers stand for percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium (NPK) in that order.

 Johntheplantman appears in the book Requiem for a Redneck, by John P. Schulz.  Now you can go to Amazon and see inside!

Available as an ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Any questions about fertilizer?  Leave a comment.

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