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Behind The Scenes At backwoods Home Magazine

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Archive for July, 2007

Dave Duffy

A “throw your computer out” day

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Simple computer stuff really sucks!

I use Eudora as my email program, both on my desktop machine and laptop, which I keep going side by side for various reasons, and today I had to add another email personality to both machines for magazine management reasons. Four hours later, after enormous frustration and a few breaks to vent steam with a walk down to the chicken coop, I succeeded. There were a few other long-lingering email problems that I also resolved, but basically it was my frustrating inability to deal with simple technology that exhausted me mentally by flat out pissing me off.

But why do I have to deal with technology that can’t be dealt with reasonably? Why doesn’t this stuff just work? Why do you have to be a computer geek on the side just to get your job done? I have other stuff I need to do, and now my day and composure have been wrecked by Eudora’s techno/geek quirkiness. How stupid can this computer technology be!

I’ll tell you what I think! I think we need a “throw your computer through the window” day. I’m so mad I could spit!

Dave Duffy

Death takes Pat Ward of Fall Creek Ranch

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Pat Ward in her kitchen at Fall Creek Ranch.My friend, Pat Ward, the grand lady of Fall Creek Ranch, which straddles the Oregon/California border, died Saturday. Her beloved horse of many years, Navarro Prim, was found dead in a field by a family member just a few days before Pat’s death. Earlier this year, John Silveira wrote an article about her ranch (Jan/Feb 2007, Issue No. 103) “The modern day small family ranch.” In the article is a photo of Pat Ward, at age 79, on her horse as she took part in a cattle roundup.

The family will have a pot luck at the ranch this Saturday to celebrate her life. John Silveira and I will attend. I’ve posted a photo of Pat in her kitchen from the 1980s. I was in that kitchen many times in the 1980s as I built a house about a half mile from hers that essentially launched BHM. Pat was a marvelous lady. Silveira has been in frequent contact with her in recent months as she battled cancer.

Death becomes a more frequent visitor as we get older. I’m 63 and I’ve seen a lot of friends die. Those of you who are my age know what I mean. It’s just the natural order of things. Still, it’s very sad and disconcerting when nature changes everything so drastically. I don’t mourn people anymore; I celebrate their life with the friends who are left. I’ll be especially glad to get together with my good friend, Gerry Barry, Pat’s brother, this Saturday.

Dave Duffy

Hard work underlies success

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

I like my property to reflect my view of myselfI think hard work is the key to success in all endeavors in life. Since we arrived home late Friday night, we’ve been doing house and yard chores: vacuuming, sweeping, and washing clothes inside, and mowing, weedwacking, gardening, and watering trees outside. My family likes a tidy place, inside and out, so we do this sort of family work project every time we come back from a trip. It took the five of us most of the day today. The boys each have a machine they like to operate: Jake the weed eater, Robby the power mower, and Sam the blower. Lenie likes to work in the garden, of course, and I like riding my big mower. As we were finishing up our many chores today, you could feel the family’s group satisfaction in a job well done. It occurred to me that these work projects, and the gratification my three boys, Jake, Rob, and Sam, get from them are probably the most valuable lessons Lenie and I could be giving them. They have seen us work very hard all their lives, and we have made comfortable lives and a good business with our hard work. Now we are showing them how to do the same. They recognize hard work as an essential ingredient of a successful life. I got my work ethic from my parents, as did Lenie. My parents were of Irish immigrant stock, but their hard work enabled them to meld into American society well. They never got rich, but their five kids never wanted for anything either. Their children–me and my siblings–applied the work ethic learned at home to their own lives, and now Lenie and I are passing on the same teaching to our children. I think it becomes a personal thing: I want my property and my business to reflect the view I have of myself as a hard working person, just like my father and mother did, and just as I hope my children will. What could be simpler. Hard work underlies success!

Dave Duffy

Sunsets and relaxation

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Dave and Lenie relax over breakfast at poolside.Just relaxing at the 29 Palms Inn. We’ve gotten a break with the weather for most of this stay, with temperatures mainly in the 90s, occasional clouds that hide the scorching sun, and even some brief rain sprinkles. The combination of clouds and the extra humidity they bring to the desert gave us a spectacular sunset the other night. We all pitched in at Annie and Erik’s house to help them get ready for their cross-country move. There were bookshelves to unscrew, nail holes to spackle, boxes to pack, cleaning to do, and a dump run to make. They’ve had a good landlord during the past three years, and they want to leave the place in good shape. Otherwise, this has been a kickback vacation, with lots of swimming at the pool and a nightly reading of the new Harry Potter book by Lenie. (I’m not a Harry Potter guy so I listen to oldies on my laptop.) Plenty of coyotes and rabbits around this desert oasis. The rabbits are mainly cottontails, and judging by the slowness with which they hop away from us, the coyotes use this place as a fast food restaurant. For the bunnies, it’s reproduce fast or become extinct. Sunsets over the Mojave Desert can rival those over Oregon’s Pacific Coast. We’ll be home Friday night, just in time to review the new issue’s proofs and FedEx them back to our Wisconsin printer Monday. The issue will go on the presses a few days after that. This is that period after deadline when publishing a magazine becomes a real nice business.

Dave Duffy

The Oasis of Mara in the Mojave Desert

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

The little pond of the oasis.We’re at the 29 Palms Inn (historically called the Oasis of Mara) in a hundred something degree weather. Luckily our first couple of days here were overcast so it was only in the 90s. Still too hot for someone used to the 60s and 70s. The Hermitage cabin. You must leave the cabin to use the bathroom at left.The swamp cooler in our fairly primitive cabin works fine, but we have to battle a few flies and ticks. This is one of our favorite motels. It’s primitive by design. We even have to go outside to use an attached bathroom. It has regular plumbing but no swamp cooler, so it’s like being in a sauna. But we love the place. Sam and Rob sleep in the loft, Jake on a couch, and Lenie and I have a real bed.

The Inn has a big garden.The Inn is an oasis in the Mojave Desert. Very old with about a dozen little cabins scattered around it. It has a natural little pond with lots of palm trees, a huge garden that supplies its excellent restaurant, and a pool off the restaurant. We especially like to swim at night as we listen to a musician perform. (I mentioned the trumpeter Bill Church and keyboardist Beverly Derby in a previous blog.) You also often get serenaded at night by a pack of coyotes. We saw a big coyote earlier today–as big as our black lab–just behind our cabin. I’d hate to be stranded in the desert and be surrounded by animals that size.

Rice is one of many crops that fill the San Joaquin Valley.

We got here by traveling Interstate 5 though several hundred miles of California’s San Joaquin (pronounced SAN-WAH-KEEN) Valley, which is always a thrill for me. It is one of the great bread baskets of the world, producing vegetables, fruits, and even beef for most of its length. It is primarily food grown for human consumption, as opposed to the hundreds of miles of Midwest corn we drove through a few weeks ago which is grown mainly for animal consumption.

Wind farm in Tehachapi Pass

We left Interstate 5 near Bakersfield, passed through the extraordinary wind farms of the Tehachapi Pass, then began a temperature climb of 20 degrees as we headed towards the Mojave Desert, a hot, unforgiving wasteland that contains Twentynine Palms and other hapless towns. This motel oasis is one of the few livable spots around here as far as I can see, even though there are several nearby cities–Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley, etc.–with tens of thousands of people. Those residents probably came here for the jobs provided by the Marine Corps Base, which most acreage of any base in the country.

This may be our last trip to this part of the world, unless Erik reenlists again and gets stationed back here in the future. I’m looking forward to visiting Annie and Erik at their new home among the relatively lush landscapes of North Carolina near Camp Lejeune. Unfortunately, we’ll probably be seeing less of the grandkids, Olga and Gavin, due to the longer distance involved.

Dave Duffy

We made deadline

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Lenie and Rhoda work on this issue’s cover.Lenie had to to race in her car for five miles to catch the FedEx truck, but today we made the noon deadline for the September/October issue. Had we missed it, we could have missed the newsstand by a week, which could cost us money. It has to do with making trucking deadlines in the distribution chain. But we are not nearly as dependent on distribution on the newsstands as we were years ago. That’s because I took steps to wean us from that dependency by cutting back our newsstand presence. Sometimes readers who like to buy us from the newsstand complain that BHM issues are difficult to locate, but it’s for the best. The newsstand is a losing proposition for most small publishers; the middleman, namely the distributor, makes the money. I’m satisfied with the 12,000 or so issues we put in the larger bookstores, such as B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, Crowne, etc. through Ingram Distributors.

I have horror stories about large distributors and the amount of money they’ve screwed small publishers out of (including BHM) with their various bankruptcies and changes of ownership. Distributors battle amongst themselves for primacy in the newsstands; it’s always the small publisher who ends up taking any losses. Even now, with the small numbers we have on the newsstand, there is another shakeup in that industry that I am keeping my eye on, hoping we are not going to get hammered again.

Uninvolved with deadline, Ellen minds the database.Lenie, Annie, Rhoda, Lorraine, and Ramona have done the work these last two days. I just had to write my columns and give a little direction to some of the pages. Lenie worked at the office until near midnight both nights. She used to do all-nighters, but we both agreed that’s just not healthy.

Tomorrow morning we begin the thousand mile drive to Annie and Erik’s house in the Mojave Desert. They are preparing to move the first week of August from the 29 Palms Marine Corps Base to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, so we’ll help them clean up their rental. We had planned on this visit long before Erik got his orders for Camp Lejeune, and we’ll stay at the 29 Palms Inn, one of the most pleasant motels in the entire Mojave Desert. They offer fairly primitive cabins with swamp coolers. No telephone, TV, or Internet. It’s meant as a getaway for people who work too much. We qualify.

Dave Duffy

What the hell should I write about?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Thinking!At this late stage during deadline, it’s always the same problem: What the hell should I write about in my columns? The “Note from the Publisher” is easy; I just talk about what’s going on in the magazine, sort of like these blog posts. The “My View” column is harder; it’s got to be more substantive. Like most people, I take the easy way out and write the “Note” first. Some of the topics will be the energy show just completed in Wisconsin, the protective plastic wrappers in which the print issue is now mailed to subscribers, the new blogs on the website, some letters I got between issues, and the upcoming issue’s rather unique cover.

I’ve been thinking about the “My View” column for weeks, and I have a fair idea of what the kernel of the commentary will be, but it’s not well formed in my head. This column is always hard to do, even though I’ve been writing it for nearly 18 years. I’m not an off-the-top-of-my-head writer, speaker, or thinker when it comes to more “weighty” topics. I need time to sit back and think. Like most Libertarians, I tend to consider both sides of a political issue but almost always favor the side that supports more individual freedom. But this issue I have a nonpolitical topic in mind. We’ll see.

The wind has begun to blow so my opportunity to fish the ocean before I have to leave town again (this Friday, the day after deadline) may have been missed. Isn’t that a shame?

Dave Duffy

Editing and hitting golf balls

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Hitting golf balls into the woods.My golf game is improving thanks to deadline. I work on articles at the kitchen table, then go out and hit golf balls at selected targets. I work some more, then hit more balls. I’ve got four targets: a water spigot 35 yards away on the other side of our small pond, a tree 50 yards up the hill, a white pole I put in the ground on a flat spot 65 yards up the hill, and a small cedar tree 80 yards down the hill on the other side of the yard. I’m getting good at all of them. My goal is to play bogey golf.

Molly dries herself off in the grass.Molly rolled in something dead so the boys had to shampoo her and hose her off. At the same time, we’ve got a feral cat, a skunk, and a raccoon all sneaking in the barn and eating the cat food, then trying their best to get at our chickens. We also suspect a rat is stealing chicken eggs. Our chicken enclosure is like a high security prison, but other defensive measures we’re taking include putting the cat food container into the garage so the raccoon can’t unscrew its top with his prehensile hands, then feeding the cats twice a day with only what they can eat. We’re also gathering the chicken eggs several times a day, plus setting a trap for the rat inside the chicken house. With luck the rat will be caught, and the coon, feral cat, and skunk will leave when they can’t get any free food for a couple of days. If the skunk goes under the house to have a litter, I’ll throw in a few moth balls to drive her away.

Molly is not big on a cold rinse.If that doesn’t work, it’s war!

Deadline is going fairly well. Lenie’s computer crashed yesterday, but we worked around it as most of the files for this issue are on what we call the “deadline machine.” Lorraine, Lenie, and I selected placement for all ads, have page numbers for all the articles, and are dealing with Don for a few more pieces of art. Things go together rapidly these last few days because so much preparation work has been done, principally by Lisa, during the previous two months. It’s like a big puzzle now, with me primarily responsible for fitting the pieces together. I like this part a lot.

The little egg cooked up fine, with an intact yolk.It will be Lenie’s, Lisa’s, and Rhoda’s jobs now to finish up the details as I write my Note from the Publisher and My View columns. Lenie will handle the technical jobs: flowing ads and articles, tweaking headline fonts, creating filler ads to sell BHM books, laying out the cover with bullets (BIG IMPORTANT TASK), and making sure the pages look attractive and clean. The real burden at this point falls on Lenie because she has the computer skills and artistic vision to make things look right. (Funny, she never touched a computer before I met her; now she knows more than me.)

Rhoda will finish up proofing articles for Lenie. She’s turning into an excellent proofer with good wordsmithing skills, and I plan on expanding her responsibilities. This is a critical area. Too many word snafus and the magazine appears amateurish. Lisa will take care of everything else, including typing up a “pagelist” of instruction for how the printer should handle the several hundred files we will FedEx him Thursday. She has her eye on the future and will be examining what articles I pulled and what ones will fit into next issue, or a future issue.

The Pacific has been like a pond. I have to fish.The issue is superb, and that’s what counts. It will keep us in business.

Dave Duffy

No water, no water, no water! Arrgh!

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Our 3,000 gallon tank was empty. That’s better than a broken line.There’s not a lot worse than waking up in the morning and finding out you have no water. My 15-year-old son, Jake, had forgotten to turn the hose off in his garden last night. He likes to build big long deep rows and flood them so the roots go deep. His garden is always a good producer, but that was no consolation to me and Sam, 12, as we walked the 300 yards up a hill in a drizzle through tall wet grass to make sure there were no other problems with our spring-fed system. We confirmed that the tank was merely empty and was slowly filling from the spring. Jake, who also stayed up half the night reading Harry Potter, slept til the afternoon so missed the trips to the horse trough to refill the toilet bowl tanks after flushing. We had considered taking a bucket of the horse trough water and dumping it on him as he slept. In a light drizzle, Lenie plants some crookneck squash.Lenie took the day off in spite of deadline to plant squash in the garden, which is her passion. We had one raised bed that had not been planted, so in a light drizzle she put in crookneck, acorn, and patty pan squash from starts her friend, Alison, of Coquille, Oregon, started for her while we were on our three-week Midwest trip. Very nice of Alison to do that, knowing Lenie needed a head start with the squash because of the lateness of the planting. Lenie, of course, got pretty dirty in the muddy soil but had no water with which to take a shower. Peas, beans, and corn all look good.Jake slept til 2:30. By that time the 3,000-gallon water tank had partly filled, so it was no particular inconvenience to him. We got even with him later by telling him a really nasty joke: “Hey Jake, it’s mid July. You know what that means?” “No, what?” he asked. “It means summer vacation is three quarters over!” Hamming it up for the camera in a staged shot, the boys react to the punch line of my little joke.Just as my other boys did when I told them, Jake, who really hates school, went into shock and disbelief. We let the horror of it sink in before we told him we were only kidding. Mean joke, but deserved.

Dave Duffy

A close call for Jackie Clay’s son

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

You never know what’s around the next corner. I knew Jackie Clay’s 16-year-old son, David, was sick but didn’t realize just how sick until I got off the phone with Jackie. David had a mild strep throat July 4th that entered his blood stream and lodged in his left arm. By July 5th he was undergoing surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, to try and save the arm. An Infectious Disease Specialist at the hospital told Jackie that had they waited one more day it could have cost David his life. I don’t know what type of strep it was, but Jackie said they described it as a "flesh eating bacteria." David is now home with 37 staples in his arm, 14 stitches in his hand, and an IV catheter in his chest under his collar bone with a computerized pouch attached to his belly that pumps medicine into him every four hours. Jackie said David had complained of a mild sore throat before driving himself to his brother Bill’s house near Carlton, Minnesota, for some 4th of July fun. However, he became sick quickly and his hand began to swell badly. Bill took him to a local hospital, and after consultation by phone with the Infectious Disease Specialist in Duluth, they rushed him by ambulance to St. Luke’s. He is out of the woods now, but will wear the catheter for three weeks. Jackie and her family have had a rough couple of years. It’s time for the pendulum to swing back and give them some luck. Jackie said she and David have a week’s worth of doctors visits ahead of them, but she’ll be ready to launch her weblog then, at which time she’ll fill in the details of David’s ordeal.


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