Our backyard in June

I love June in Georgia. The wild blackberries are beginning to ripen. We went out to pick our first batch yesterday. Before the picking began in earnest, I wandered around our wild backyard–which needs mowing–and admired the lush bounty.

Blackberries on the vine!

I discovered that one of the trees we have is a cherry tree. This is the first year that we’ve lived in this house that it’s borne fruit! (And we’ve been here for over four years.) The fruit is far from ripe, and I’m not sure if it’s the edible type, but I love how pretty it is, and how, well, fruitful our backyard is, all without us having to do a thing to cultivate it. I suspect the nasty outbreak of tent caterpillars we had a couple years ago stunted this tree from producing, and it’s only now recovered.

There’s also a very pretty ornamental flowering shrubbery that the previous owner planted. I wish I knew what it was. It’s looking a little forlorn after the rains, but last week it had the loveliest white and blue flowers. Anyone have any idea?

Hobkin is less pleased with June, as he’s still shedding, and it looks to be an itchy process.

And when I try to help him out by brushing him, he scampers away quite defensively.

Writing Stuff

Had an absolutely wonderful mail day!

First and foremost, I sold my story “The Princess and the Golden Fish” to Cricket! Woot! They’re going to serialize it. When I first subbed it to them, I sent it to Cicada, primarily because of its length (>6K), but they want it for Cricket. I’m pleased as punch about that because it will get full-color illustrations in Cricket, and I’ve never had anything serialized before. Another writerly milestone! The acceptance letter was positively glowing. The editor-in-chief called it “breathtaking” and a “gem of excellent writing.” That sentence, ye verily, triggered a great deal of squeeing.

But, eep, I don’t have anything in the queue to send them next! After I finish my current WIP, I need to pick up the threads of the folktale research I started and see if I can’t retrieve my train of thought there. Or, hmm, I speculated that the story I’m currently doing a final rewrite on might appeal to a YA audience. Maybe I should send it to Cicada? Erg, then again it might not. Decisions, decisions.

Also received my copy of Apex with the interview of me in it. It’s a delightful publication, with a very swank two-page ad taken out by Scrybe Press for one of my chapbooks. Sweet.

Yes, June is turning out to be a much better month than May.

New Words: 800
The short story progresseth. I got stuck, well, more like bogged down in narrative, so skipped some of the middle and jumped to the end. I don’t usually do that with shorts, but it kept me writing, which is the important thing. I’m thinking another 1K should complete it. A short one, definitely.

Club 100 For Writers


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62 Responses to Our backyard in June

  1. jimhines says:

    Congrats on the sale!!! And on the cherry tree 🙂 I got brave and tried one of the cherries from the tree in our backyard yesterday…very sour, but still good.

    I think I have blackberry-envy, though 🙂

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Thanks for the congrats!

      I’m a little uncertain about the edible factor with the cherries, but I’m willing to give them a try when they look more like fruit instead of tree nubbins. I’ve begun looking for jam and preserves recipes.

      Don’t suffer blackberry envy! Toss a few seeds into the soil and up they’ll come. They’re hardier and more prevalent than dandelions! They’re taking over our yard, which makes me happy, although the thorns can get a bit stabby . . .

      • jimhines says:

        At our last house, a quarter of the backyard had been completely taken over by the raspberries. The plants were tall enough they doubled over, and the tips had taken root and sprouted again. Some of those suckers were well over an inch thick near the base. But man, they were tasty 🙂

        I’m still trying to decide where to plant ’em at the new house. The ideal spot is currently dominated by poison ivy, so that’s out…

        • Eugie Foster says:

          Poison ivy, urk. Any chance the raspberries would overgrow and kill off the ivy? Hmm, you’d probably end up with lush berry bushes surrounded by toxic, itchy leaves.

          I can’t tell poison ivy from generic greenery. That’s probably not good.

          • jimhines says:

            Poison ivy is very hard to kill. Had some at the last place, and after trying and failing to kill it by conventional means, I finally got frustrated and masochistic enough to pull it all out by hand. Washed and scrubbed immediately afterward to try to get the oils off, but I still got the nastiest rash I’ve ever seen (right before a con, naturally.)

            On the other hand, the poison ivy didn’t come back after that.

            I still think I’m going to look for other options this time around.

          • Eugie Foster says:

            Oh my GOD. You pulled poison ivy out by hand? That makes you either the most macho or the most dedicated gardener I’ve ever heard of.

          • jimhines says:

            I think “stupid” is the adjective you’re looking for. On the other hand, nothing else had worked, and we had a 2-year-old who liked to run around the back yard. I really thought I’d be able to wash off the worst of the oil before it started messing with me…

            And there’s something satisfying about yanking those vines up and thinking, No matter how badly you mess me up, I’ll survive it. You won’t.

          • If you’re going to do something like that again, I recommend laying in a good supply of cheap, thick, gardening gloves. Wear them, pull the nasty things, then throw the gloves away (poison ivy oils will transfer from cloth).

          • jimhines says:

            Yeah, gloves would have been a more intelligent way to go. ::Rueful grin::

          • quasiskunk says:

            I can’t tell poison ivy from generic greenery. That’s probably not good.

            “Leaflets 3, leave them be…Berries White, poisonous sight”

            That’s how I know Poison Ivy…not that it does any good. I get it if it’s within 3 miles of me 😛

            And good job on the blackberries..I love wild ones, and I’m sure Hobkin would too ^.^

          • Eugie Foster says:

            I’ve heard the rhyme before, but there seem to be a lot of plants out there which grow in three leaf clusters, and the berries are seasonal, aren’t they? I suspect if I ever encountered it, it would burn its likeness indelibly in my soul . . .

          • quasiskunk says:

            The leaves are also a bit shiny, so that may help ID them a bit better. Poison oak looks the same too, but it isn’t a vine, as is poison ivy.

            Just what ever you do, DON’T burn it…the smoke carries the oils with it, and when it gets into your lungs…..x_x

  2. wolflady26 says:

    Your yard looks lovely! No wonder that little green lizard from the other day enjoyed it so much.

    We have a lot of cherry trees here, too, and they don’t produce fruit every year. It looks like we will get few if any this year, probably due to either the long winter or the hot, dry couple of weeks of summer we’ve had. It seems they are rather persnickity.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Our tree is covered in cherries. I didn’t see any blossoms, although I suppose I could’ve missed ’em. Whatever the cosmic convergence which resulted in it bearing fruit, I’m delighted. Although I’ll be more delighted if they turn out to be edible.

  3. harmonyfb says:

    Mmmm, blackberries. Sadly, our bush is already berried out (all in bags in the freezer, awaiting the cobbler I’m making this weekend. Yum!)

    I did notice that we got a ‘volunteer’ blackberry bush springing up a little ways away. Yay! I can’t wait till we’ve got a bramble bigger than the house.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Blackberry cobbler, mmm. We sprinkle ours over vanilla ice cream or eat them straight, sprinkled with a bit of sweetener. I’ve begun thinking words like “jam” and “preserves” but I’ve never done that before and I suspect it might be beyond my culinary ability.

      • harmonyfb says:

        I’ve begun thinking words like “jam” and “preserves” but I’ve never done that before and I suspect it might be beyond my culinary ability.

        Oh, it’s dead easy. If you buy a case of the jars, it’ll have some recipes. Follow them, and it’s really simple to do. Messy, but simple. 🙂

        • Eugie Foster says:

          Really? You make it sound so easy, but I’ve always found the prospect intimidating. Hmm. Homemade blackberry and cherry preserves . . .

          • harmonyfb says:

            Well, all you do is mush the fruit and boil it with sugar and water. You sterilize the jars and lids in the dishwasher, and then pack the fruit mixture into them. Then you set the jars in a pasta pot of water, and bring it to a boil for a certain length of time to seal the lids and sterilize the contents. Then you pull them out and screw down the bands – voila! Jam. 🙂

          • Eugie Foster says:

            That’s it??

            But . . . but I remember hearing disaster stories of exploding jars from anecdotal preserving forays, and isn’t there a thickening agent that needs to be added?

          • harmonyfb says:

            Pectin needs to be added, yeah, but it’s readily available, and the recipe will specify it (some stuff, like apple butter, doesn’t need it added). 🙂

            And I’ve been doing this since I was 8 or 10, and I’ve never had a jar explode.

          • Eugie Foster says:

            Huh. Now I’m verily intrigued.

  4. horrordiva says:

    Congrats on the sale sweetie!! Lovely pics…wish I could pick off a berry from the screen and eat it, lol.

    Poor Hobkin.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Thanks! We gave Hobkin a blackberry, which he then killed before enthusiastically smearing on his mouth. I still think he’d rather it were winter again, though.

  5. aimeempayne says:

    Congratulations on the sale! I loved “The Princess and the Golden Fish.” Make sure you post when it is published so I can procure a copy.

    When I was a kid, we lived in a house with a cherry tree. I seem to remember that it didn’t fruit every year, but when it did there was quite a bit. My mom made cherry freezer jam that we still talk about. Mmmm.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Thanks, sweetie! My editor said “serialize” but didn’t say how many parts it’s going to be broken into. I assumed two, but actually I have no idea. Meep. But I’ll definitely post when I find out when it’s scheduled for publication!

      Cherry jam . . . mmmmm.

  6. Anonymous says:

    From Dreamwind the critter who should be getting a blog soon

    Yay on the sale! I loved that story!

    I THINK (only think) that your pretty flowering shrub is a variegated hydrangea. From what I can seen in the photo, the leaves and flowers look to be the right shape. Judging by the colour, you must have fairly acidic soil – blue hydrangeas = acid soil. If it is a hydrangea, you can make it go pink by adding lime to the soil.

    When the weather cools, prune off the branches that have borne flowers, and this will encourage all the other branches to flower. And don’t worry if it looks quite sick in the winter. Hydrangeas are remarkably hardy and are one of the few plants that don’t mind getting soggy (which is good because we’re getting a lot of rain in eastern Australia at the moment).

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Re: From Dreamwind the critter who should be getting a blog soon

      Thanks for the yay!

      And you’re absolutely right, it is a variegated hydrangea! I Googled it at your suggestion, and compared the online pictures. Definitely that’s what our mystery shrubbery is. Thank you so much!

  7. Oh, that is fabulous news about Cricket!!! And the editor’s comments…Wow! You must be on cloud 9!

    ~Maggie 😀

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Thanks, Maggie! And I’m definitely giddy on the glowing praise! I absolutely love working with these folks.

      • I have a story with ‘Cicada’ I’m waiting to hear about. They’ve had it for near three months now. What’s their usual turnaround time?

        ~Maggie 🙂

        • Eugie Foster says:

          It varies a lot, but in my experience, generally the longer they keep something, the more seriously they’re considering it. My average sales response time is 121 days, with a maximum of 157 and a minimum of 77. Although a lot of times, my editor has dropped me a note if it starts creeping past three months, letting me know they’re still thinking about a submission. Rejections, I’m averaging 108 days, with a minimum of 32 days, maximum of 155.

          Did they send you a “got it” postcard or email? I typically get an email from an editorial assistant letting me know my submission was received.

          • Thanks for the info, Eugie. Good to know 4 months is the average turnaround time. I didn’t receive a ‘got it’ email. This is only my first submission, though. Maybe they send those out to authors they’re more used to working with.

            ~Maggie 🙂

  8. Congratulations on the sale, Eugie!

    Speaking of the bug magazine group, what’s their lead time, usually? They accepted a story of mine almost exactly a year ago and it hasn’t come out yet and I grow impatient.

    Choke cherry, I’d say (so very sour and probably not edible even if you jam it with lots of sugar) and definitely hydrangea.

    • Eugie Foster says:


      Speaking of the bug magazine group, what’s their lead time, usually?

      It’s veeeeery long. This is the eleventh story of mine they’ve bought, and only two of which have been published (although a third is slated for January). I’ve got one story which is going on over a year since it was accepted that hasn’t been slated for an issue yet. I’d be twitching, but honestly, they’re very upfront about the lead time and they’re such a fantastic market. I do wish they paid on acceptance instead of publication, though, as I could use the money now, but yeah, long lead time.

  9. That is the Cutest. Skunk. Ever.

    Our fluffy cat has a tail like Hobkin’s, and she won’t let us brush her either. She always gives me a dirty look like I’m trying to play a trick on her.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Hobkin hisses at me and runs when I try to groom him. And when I can manage to get a few brush strokes in (usually by chasing after him and hanging onto his tail by one hand), he huffs and growls at me. You’d think he’d like it, the silly beastie.

  10. raecarson says:

    Yay!!!!! Congrats, Eugie!!!!

    (and cuddles to Hobkin)

  11. Anonymous says:

    Ah, [sighs with relief]. Got my Hobkin fix. Very nice, lush garden, btw. Must be nice to live where water falls from the sky.

    I wonder if Clicker Training* works with skunks? Lots of animal trainers use it for critters like ferrets and cats. Works wonders with Nikolaij. Thanks to the click, I can do all sorts of unpleasant things to him. V. helpful since at 1100 pounds, he can protest mightily.

    (*It’s a very humane method. Wouldn’t think of using anything hurty on my horse.)

    Anyway, Hobkin looks handsome, shedding or not.

    Pat Kirby

    • Eugie Foster says:

      I’m familiar with clicker training (and yes, I’m a huge fan of the method). I actually tried it with our ferrets, but it was too awkward constantly having the clicker in hand. I trained them to come running to a squeaky toy, though. ‘Course Hobkin comes to his name, already, but he ignores squeaks.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Oops. Oh and congrats on the sale!

    Pat K.

  13. jim0052 says:

    Congratulations on the sale! I had a story in Cicada last year (Was Once a Beauty) and loved the illustrations. But, good heavens, woman, you’ve made eleven sales to their magazine group? You are the One.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Thanks! Yep, my first sale was to Cicada in 2001, and since then I’ve made nine sales to Cricket and one to Spider. I’m just totally overjoyed that they’re so receptive to my stuff. They put out a gorgeous bunch of magazines and are fabulous to work with–not to mention their pay rate is awesome!

  14. kittymel says:

    Beautiful fruit and flowers – I haven’t seen a hosta bloom before – my mother’s never did anyway. Cute skunk too.

    Way to go on the good writing news too!

  15. Congratulations! That’s awesome! 😀

    I love the skunk and backyard photos too. 🙂

  16. wistling says:

    Congrats on the sale!

    June definitely is a good month for me, too. Let’s hope July’s even better for everyone.

    How do you manage to keep your stories short? I seem to have a problem writing things under 5000 words.

    • Eugie Foster says:


      How do you manage to keep your stories short? I seem to have a problem writing things under 5000 words.

      I felt like that for a while too. Then I wrote a couple 2K-word folktales, and it was like flexing a new muscle. Wrote some flash stories after that. I’m pretty comfy with the length spectrum from short stories to novelettes now. I just can’t seem to finish anything novel-length. (And I’d just as soon not get comfy writing novellas ’cause the nightmare of selling those–thank you no.)

  17. skeletal504 says:

    oh em gee

    i love blackberries!

  18. whirl_twirl says:

    My grandmother was immune to poison ivy and used to pull it up with her bare hands. She never understood what all the fuss was about. There’s a story in the family about the time she told her gardener to set fire to a pile of it, and the smoke sent him to the hospital…he survived, luckily.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      There are people immune to poison ivy? Whoa. I didn’t know that. That’s a good gene to have in your family.

      • whirl_twirl says:

        Yep. She never reacted to it. I’ve been hiking in or near the stuff many times and haven’t gotten a reaction, yet. Not sure if I’ve just been careful, lucky, or have that gene, but I still don’t take any chances if I see it.

        Congrats on the sale and your backyard’s fruitfulness!

  19. I love those luscious blueberries!!!!!

    Hobkin is so ADORABLE. He looks CUTE scratching…

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