Spring Comes to the Farm

I'm staying at the family farm until April so I can be of assistance—hopefully not a nuisance—to my sister-in-law who recently had another major surgery.

(The nuisance part is constantly asking, "Can I get you anything? Are you okay? How's your pain level?" If it were only me who asked, it would be okay, but everyone who visits and calls asks!) 

As I washed dishes this morning, I looked out the kitchen window at the ancient elms that once marched along a fence line. These giant, vine-covered trees are probably far older than I.

They are a testament to endurance, withstanding dry seasons and rainy ones, scorching summer heat and bitter winter ice storms. Still they live, leafing out again when spring comes.

I guess they're a good example of hanging in there during the good seasons and the bad—something we mere humans should emulate.

Rainy Season Over

From October to the first of March, this region of Louisiana had more than the usual amount of rainfall.

Farmers anxiously scanned the skies and listened to weather forecasts because planting of just about everything should already have already been done.

The soil has been too wet to drop seed into the wet earth. The seed would just rot.

This week, all the farmers broke ground. Yesterday, the 500 acres across the road from my brother's home had one of the big John Deere tractors plowing and planting from morning until late last night.

These monster tractors have lights that could illuminate a runway so modern farmers often work until 10 or 11 at night if they're behind on getting the crops into the ground.

Small section of the planted field.
Aviation Agriculture

A few days ago, the ag planes started flying promptly at 7:30 every morning. They sprayed fields near here all day long.

If one wants to sleep past 7:30, there better be noise-cancelling headphones on hand.

The ag planes were flying even after dark which surprised me because I thought they were all VFR rated only. (visual flight)

When grasslands grow back, farmers stop buying hay
I could be wrong. Maybe they have instrument-rating for night flying.

Bulls and Heifers

For those who don't know much about livestock, a heifer is a female.

They come into "season" in the spring and send out oceans of female pheromones that wafts their way into the noses of bulls (males).

These cow pheromones send the bulls into a mating frenzy.

Old magnolia setting blooms

On the farm there are a couple of bulls. One that is already penned with 4 or 5 heifers has taken a fancy to a heifer in a different pasture.

That bull bellows through most of the day, sending a call to the heifer with whom he's infatuated. About every couple of hours, he starts the mournful bellowing and doesn't stop until about 8 in the evening. He starts again about 8 the next morning.

I guess in cattle language, he's saying, "I love you. I want you. I need you. Come to me."

Obviously, the heifer in question couldn't care less because she's contentedly munching on hay rather than stampeding to the cattle pen where he's already surrounded by admiring females. (I'll try to get some pictures of the lovesick bull when the barnyard dries out a little.)

Takeaway Truth

What does all this mean? Spring has come to the farm.

Review: FlexClip Video Maker

Candy, Partnership Manager from Pearl Mountain, asked me several weeks ago to take a look at FlexClip, their new video product.

I'm always interested in video apps because video is a great way to bring exposure to an author, book, or other product.

Since I've been out of the office a lot this year, it's taken me a while to follow through on her request.

Today, I finally tested FlexClip and decided it's definitely a website I want to review and share with SlingWords Readers.

Getting Started

For most websites I'm asked to review, I check to see if there are tutorials. FlexClip has a very clear presentation for their tutorial.

Subscribe to Joan's YouTube Channel
The next thing I do is try to use the product without going through the tutorial. I want to know if the way it works is intuitive to a user, or is it so complicated one must go through the lessons first.

I do this because I know most people go straight to the app rather than read instructions.

It's just human nature that everyone wants to dive in and get started rather than "waste" time reading instructions.

I'm happy to say FlexClip is fairly intuitive. I created a 21 second video just by clicking on the storyboard image, mousing over options, etc. When I completed this short promotion video for SlingWords, I exported it.

Rather than exporting it to YouTube, which would have been very convenient, export actually means "download it to the user's computer." Not really a problem, just an extra step. I did export in 480, 720, and 1080 formats.


Key Features (Check Out All Features)
  • Completely free.
  • Easy to use and clean storyboard.
  • Support many photo and video formats.
  • Flexible editing features like trim, split, add text (animations), music, watermark, etc.
  • Export videos with high resolutions.
Drawbacks
  • Works only in Google Chrome.
  • Text can be placed only in predetermined grids.
  • Text can be resized proportionally only.
  • Text limited to the template of 1 or 2 lines.
  • No music library available. You must provide your own music.
Takeaway Truth

FlexClip is very user-friendly yet still a powerful video maker, and, best of all, it's free.

*********************************

VISIT JOAN—FOLLOW HER ONLINE

Joan ReevesKeeping Romance Alive...One Sexy Book at a Time—is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. All of her books have the same underlying theme that it’s never too late to live happily ever after.

Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her hero, her husband. They divide their time between a book-cluttered home in Houston and a small house at the foot of the Texas Hill Country where they sit on the porch at night, gaze at the star-studded sky, and listen to the coyotes howl.

Short & Sweet: Make a Plan

Here's a short post for today disguised as advice.

How to Make a Plan for Achievement

If you want to achieve something special—your goal—you need a plan.

Here's how to do that.

1. Start by writing down your goal.

2. Then write down everything that is needed from start to finish to reach the goal.

3. Design a strategy to carve out the time to take action every day to achieve your goal.

4. Break the action down into what must be done this year, then this month, then this week, then this day.

5. Review your plan and to make sure on track. If you're not, revise.

Takeaway Truth

Set goals, follow through, stay focused, and you'll find achieving a goal may be easier than you thought.

Another Way To Get Better Sleep: Pillows

Pexels: White-bed-comforter-212269 by JayMantri
I'm always looking for ways to get better sleep. I've been an insomniac for years so I try every tip I find.

Today's tip is about your sleep environment, specifically, about your pillows.

I’ve always used cotton slipcovers on my pillows. That goes on first, then the pillow case.(If you're not doing this, you should.)

The pillow slipcover can be laundered with bleach to make sure they're clean and germ-free. (Your guests will appreciate this.)

However, I had never washed pillows before. (I'm talking about fiber-filled pillows, not down.) I just replace the pillows after a certain period of time.

Recently, I read that many pillows are labeled washable. Who knew? I never read the label before. I checked, and most of the pillows in my linen closet are washable.

How To Wash Washable Pillows

To make enough to wash 2 pillows, you'll need these ingredients:
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • 1/2 cup Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer Washing Soda is only $4.12 on Amazon. Many organic and back to nature fans make their own laundry detergent using washing soda.)
  • 5 drops of mint or lavender essential oil (a 50 ml bottle of Lavender is only $7.39 on Amazon and will go a long way. Lavender is recommended for its calming effect.)
Directions
  1. Add enough detergent for a full load of clothes.
  2. Set your washing machine to warm or hot.
  3. Add the washing soda as the water fills then the lavender oil. (Most newer models of washer have lids that lock. If yours does, mix the washing soda and essential oil into 2 quarts of warm water and pour that into your washer first.
  4. Put 2 pillows in the machine.
  5. Select Gentle Cycle and start the machine.
  6. When the wash cycle finishes, place the pillows into the dryer on low heat for a full cycle. (I put 2 tennis balls in a pair of old white socks and tie each closed. The balls bouncing around fluff the pillows.
Takeaway Truth

I hope this gives you a fresh clean set of pillows that will help you get better sleep too.

Random Car Facts

Pexels.com Photo Red-coupe...1280553/ by Jose Mueses
I've been toying with an idea for a mystery series that revolves around cars.

Darling Hubby is a car guy so he's always happy to test drive cars, look at cars, read about cars, talk about cars, wish for a 30-car garage so he could buy all the ones he's ever wanted, etc. *LOL

Together we looked up some random facts about cars to give me an idea of what I might do with my premise.

I was surprised by some of the information I found from car experts of every persuasion. Here's some fun facts I discovered.

The Top 5 Greatest Cars Ever Made

1. 1932 Ford V8 was the first performance car a working man could afford. this classic supposedly defined American automotive culture for almost 80 years.

2. 1959 Austin Mini built by Sir Alec Issigonis with a transverse engine and front-wheel drive. (Hubby explained what transverse engine meant. His runabout is said to have been created by a  design that nearly all mainstream modern cars follow.

3. 1955 Chevrolet is the one my Darling Hubby would love to have although he'd take a 57 Chevy in a heartbeat. This pivotal auto had a brand new 265-cubic-inch small-block V8. According to Edmunds, the automotive experts, it looked "like an upright Ferrari...a stunner in every way. The greatest Chevy ever."

4. 1938 Volkswagen Beetle which was manufactured around the world for 65 years. The air-cooled original Beetle was the first car for generations of drivers. (I never cared for it except for playing the Slug Bug game.)

5. 1964 Porsche 911, oh, yeah! An everyday sports car with a classic silhouette. (My younger brother had one.)

In case you're curious, here's a worst car list.

Public Domain, All Rights Released
The Top 5 Worst Cars Ever Made

1. 2001 Pontiac Aztek, oh, no! The description was extremely uncomplimentary so I won't even tell you what it said.

I will tell you my daughter bought a black on black Aztek new and loved it. Totally loaded with everything, great gas mileage, drove great, rode great, and it looked great too. She named it Coco Chanel because it looked so classically elegant—like a little black dress.

2. 1974 Ford Mustang II which was built on the car bomb known as the Pinto.

3. 1955 BMW Isetta, described as "The whole car was a crumple zone."

4. 1987 Yugo, *giggle* I still remember some of the many Yugo jokes about this Serbian-made version of the Fiat 127.

5. 1971 Chevrolet Vega. Yep. This was my younger brother's first car. A gorgeous lemon yellow that should have been an omen for the disaster this car was.

Takeaway Truth

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down Automotive History.

Review: When Reality Bites

This rather plain cover conceals some helpful information for those dealing with uncomfortable—if not downright tragic—situations in life.

Holly Parker, PhD, asserts that sometimes, denial is a good thing. In fact, it can actually help you get through difficult times.

When Reality Bites is designed to help you when you're facing tragedy and also help you get past denial if it's keeping you from moving on.

The Truth

Sure, denial can hurt you if you get stuck in a cycle of destructive behavior, but denial is also a way you can keep going when faced with loss and emotional pain.

I've always thought of myself as someone who could face life head-on and keep moving ahead. However, I've been struggling lately. The emotional blows that have come these last few years made me pull this book from the shelf.

I've found myself in the unique position of refusing to think about the possible losses that may lie ahead. I refuse to admit it's possible. I deny the reality of the situation because that's the only way I can get through some days and maintain an encouraging, optimistic attitude that is so desperately needed for me and for those I love.

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. I found it was a way to get through the days until one is emotionally strong enough to think about what the future may hold when a loved one is gone.

I bought the book because I thought I was wrong to think, act, and feel this way. It was comforting to read that denial can be a much-needed buffer against tragedy. Reality will come all too soon, but in the meantime, I'll use whatever buffer I can find to keep going.

Takeaway Truth

If you're struggling with pain and loss, I do recommend When Reality Bites. If nothing else, it'll make you feel better about denying painful reality and maybe help you get through it.

Uber: Start to Finish

Try something NEW!
For many, Uber, a company that allows you to reserve a personal driver in any of the cities where Uber operates, has become an indispensable part of their transportation plan.

Senior citizens love it as do those who find it too expensive to keep a car in the city, and, for those who like to party, Uber is a way to get home without endangering yourself or others.

If you've never used Uber, here's how to do it from setting up an account to taking your first Uber ride.

From Start to Finish—Using Uber

1. You can sign up 2 ways. Download the Uber app on your mobile device or visit the Uber website. Either way you choose, you must create an account, and you'll need a valid credit card or PayPal account.

On the app, click the Sign Up link underneath "Ride with Uber" and create an account. On the website, follow the directions.

2. Enter your first and last name. Your first name will be provided to the drivers when they leave to pick you up and is used to confirm the driver has the right person. Your last name remains private.

3. Enter your phone number. Drivers will use the number to contact you when they're near your
pickup location. You may also use your phone number to log into your account.

4. Enter your email address. You'll need a valid email address to create your Uber account and to receive Uber receipts.

5. Create a strong password that you'll be able to remember. You'll be asked for your password when you sign into the Uber app.

6. If you have a promotion code, use it. Guess what? You can use a promotion code from a friend who is already an Uber user, and you'll both get a credit. If your friends don't use Uber, you can get one by visiting the Uber website.

7. Remember to read Terms of Service. Be certain you're comfortable with Uber’s TofS and their privacy policy before continuing.

8. If everything is a go, click "Sign Up" button. Your account will be created. You will receive an email confirming your account. Now you can start using Uber.

9. To set up a Ride, tap the Uber app on your phone and sign in if you aren't already signed in.

10. Tap "Where to?" on the app and enter your destination. (If you've synced your contacts with the Uber app, you can set a person as your destination. Your contact will be sent an approval request for them to confirm this.)

11. Choose your vehicle type. Different cities have different services available. You'll usually be able to pick between uberX, XL, uberPOOL, Select, and accessibility options. Swipe left and right to view your available options, wait time for pickup, and the upfront pricing. (To see descriptions of these vehicle types, visit the Use Uber Wiki.)

12. Confirm the number of seats you need. (If you chose uberPOOL as your ride type, you can reserve 1 or 2 seats. If there are more than 2 people in your party, select uberX.)

13. How much? There is a base rate minimum with the rest of the fare based on several factors. Fares are different in every city. Check the Uber website for a fare estimator. The price for each vehicle type is displayed underneath "Upfront Pricing," and the fare is based on current traffic and surge pricing. (For more information about pricing, visit the Use Uber Wiki or the Uber website.)

14. If you're ready to proceed, tap "Request Uber" to order the ride. You'll be asked to confirm your pickup location. If you're using your computer, take a screenshot of the vehicle ID and driver info and print it.

15. Confirm your pickup location by tapping "Confirm Pickup" to set your location and order the ride. Uber will use your device's location to set your pickup location. You might be given a suggested pickup spot that will make it easier for your driver to find you. (Btw, you can drag the map to move the pin and set a different pickup location if you'd like.)

16. You will be given an estimation on how long your car will take to show up. If there is no car available, try again in a few minutes, as a driver may have dropped off passengers off and now be available. The Uber app will give you a filtered phone number for your driver. You can use this to contact the driver if you have any special considerations.

17. Wait in front of the exact street address you gave. Don't walk away because your driver may miss you. You'll be charged for any time the driver waits after 2 minutes.

18. When the car arrives, always confirm your Uber ride and driver is the correct one. When the driver arrives, look at your app (or the computer screenshot you took if you booked that way. Confirm the Uber's make/model, color, and license plate number before getting into the vehicle.

You can also ask for your driver's first name OR ask them to tell you your first name. The real driver will know your first name through the app. Never get into the car if you cannot confirm the above information.

19. You pay through the medium you set up on your Uber app. You do not need to tip unless you used Uber Taxi, but, as always, tips are appreciated. You can also set up the tip in advance through the Uber website. The default tip for taxi service set at 20%.

20. The last thing is to rate your ride after you reach your destination. You may also add a tip then—$1 on up. Not required, but appreciated. (Uber recognizes only a 5-star rating as positive. Any number less than 5 may harm your driver's service. If you have a serious problem with your driver, you can file a complaint using your Uber app or website.)

21. The last thing you should know is that if you need to cancel your reservation, you will be charged a $5-$10 fee if you cancel after five minutes.

If you're still a little uncertain, watch this YouTube video.

Takeaway Truth

New ways of doing things can be intimidating, but you may find that the "new thing" is a good resource. The first time you use Uber, if you're nervous about it, use the buddy system and ride with a friend to try it out.