Tag: Writing

7 Cold-Weather Country Living Projects
The Lifestyle

7 Cold-Weather Country Living Projects

7 Cold-Weather Country Living ProjectsLooking for something to do indoors on those cold, cloudy days of winter? Put that time to good use with one of these projects:

  1. Set goals for the new year. And schedule time to work on them. When pursuing an objective that requires a long-term commitment, writing down your goal is the first step to making it happen. Planning time into your day for zeroing in on that goal is the second step.
  2. Research a new enterprise. Get a head start on that new project you were contemplating and do some research. Winter is a great time for reading, making notes, calculating budgets, and laying plans.
  3. Plan a garden. Don’t waste a minute of the growing season! By preparing for spring gardening now, you will give yourself plenty of time to create a planting schedule, purchase seeds, and start vegetables indoors.
  4. Learn a new craft or skill. Many crafts typically considered hobbies can be enjoyed for their own sake, but they can often be put to practical use, as well. Hand-knit scarves for the family will be greatly appreciated during winter chores. Original art can be sold for extra income. Woodworking can be useful in hundreds of ways around both the farm and the house.
  5. Overhaul your web content. Are your links (both internal and external) still functional? Is your more timeless content still up to date? Is your about page still relevant? Are there tweaks you could make to your design or taxonomy to make your content easier to find?
  6. Start a reading challenge. Is the weather outside frightful? Sit down with a good book. Taking up a reading challenge is a good way to stretch yourself by reading about topics you might otherwise have overlooked, thus expanding your knowledge base.
  7. Write a book. While you’re reading broadly and acquiring new knowledge, take some time to put your own knowledge into a form that others can benefit from. Research, writing, and editing all take time—what better time than when the outdoor chores have let up a bit?
5 Tips for Improving Your Writing
The Skills

5 Tips for Improving Your Writing

5 Tips for Improving Your WritingWriting is a valuable communication skill, no matter what we do in life. Just to name a few of the uses a small farmer might have for writing:

  • Writing posts and pages for an agripreneurial website.
  • Blogging about country living.
  • Writing a how-to book for future generations of farmers.
  • Writing a business letter.
  • Keeping a detailed farm journal.

Looking to improve your writing skills? Allow us to offer a few suggestions:

  1. Read. To have an output, one must first have an input. Reading the words of others can help us put our own thoughts down on paper cogently. However, it is essential to read quality works, because we will tend to imitate the writing of those we read. Inferior fiction and unedited eBooks need not apply.
  2. Look it up. We can actively expand both our vocabulary and our understanding of the words we already know by making frequent use of the dictionary. We can look up unfamiliar words to find their meaning. We can look up familiar words to find their origin. We can look up confusing words to find their proper usage.
  3. Learn how to diagram. Sometimes, sorting out confusing words hinges on a proper understanding of the parts of speech. Diagramming a sentence can help, because it allows us to visualize the the interactions between words.
  4. Find a helpful organization tool. There’s no reason to waste time searching for missing notes or battling research chaos. We can make our writing times much more productive by choosing a tool to keep notes and manuscripts organized. (We recommend Scrivener for both research and writing.)
  5. Schedule a writing time. Writing requires frequent practice, just like everything else in life. Setting aside a block of time in the day to write guards us from letting this skill slide in a futile attempt to meet the demands of the urgent.

Notice that there is no special secret here—these five suggestions are within easy reach of anyone determined to improve their skills.

Happy writing!

5 Handy Resources for Writers
The Skills

5 Handy Resources for Writers

5 Handy Resources for WritersEvery writer has a preferred modus operandi, including diverse details such as when we write, where we write, and what we use to write.

For those of you who write in a research-intensive style or genre, here are a few tools that can make your life easier:

  1. Microsoft OneNote. And its equivalent, Evernote. You will doubtless have your own preferences about the connectivity of the software you use that will determine which version of which program works best for you. In any case, there is nothing like this note-taking tool to organize everything from new book ideas to outlines to project to-dos.
  2. Scrivener. For really big projects, we cannot recommend this organization assistant heartily enough. Import research documents, take notes, write your manuscript—all in one place!
  3. Zotero. And if you need a bibliography, let this free database program do the hard work for you. Just enter the necessary information about your source. Zotero comes preloaded with several useful citation styles, and more can be added. Works seamlessly with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice.
  4. Newspapers.com. For those of you with a historical interest, there is a searchable goldmine of information just waiting for you here. You may be able to access the database through your local library. If not, try the free site Chronicling America from the Library of Congress.
  5. ALT Codes for Windows. Depending on what you write about, you may have occasion to use a lot of strange foreign characters. Penn State offers tables to help you find keyboard shortcuts for some of the most common. Accent codes for Mac are also provided.
The Skills


ZoteroIf you have ever tried to compile a bibliography by hand, you know that it is not an easy task, even with a small bibliography. Zotero (zoh-TAIR-oh) offers a free, simple, and effective solution to all of you writers out there.

Zotero allows users to compile collections of research material:

  • Blog posts.
  • Books.
  • Conference papers.
  • Dictionary entries.
  • Interviews.
  • Journal articles.
  • Letters.
  • Maps.
  • Patents.
  • Statutes.
  • Theses.
  • Much more!

By filling out the fields (title, author, publisher, date, etc.) in advance, you can save a considerable amount of time. One resource can be cited in multiple works without any need to reenter the same information all over again.

Zotero comes installed with a few common citation styles already, most notably the Chicago Manual of Style. However, an exhaustive style repository is maintained at the Zotero website, making it easy to cite works using any style.

This software works pretty seamlessly with Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice (plugins are available to add extra integration). A handy toolbar allows you to add a footnote, insert a bibliography, or change the document citation style with just the click of a button.

Invaluable resource—for free!

The Skills


If you enjoy research and writing, you are probably always on the lookout for a better way to keep track of information. Scrivener is an outstanding program that can help.

As for telling you what Scrivener can do, it’s hard for us to know where to start, since it can do so much.

ScrivenerFirst off, Scrivener is an excellent way to organize research materials. You can import a variety of files of use to you, including photos, audio clips, and PDF documents. You can also take your own research notes. Even though these important research materials are gathered into one document with your paper or manuscript, they can be compiled separately. More on that in a moment.

Because of the different viewing options available to you, it is very easy to read your notes as you type your manuscript. You can even add internal or external references as you go.


Organizing a manuscript is suddenly very easy, especially with the included templates for both fiction and nonfiction works. A folder titled “Manuscript” contains your work. You can add any number of subfolders for chapters and sections. Index cards can hold synopses for each chapter and section. Need to reorganize your work? Just move text and folders around in the binder, or go to the corkboard for a really user-friendly view of the project.


Tracking goals is easy, too. Set up word-count targets per manuscript, document, or session. Mark the status of each chapter or section as you go.

When it comes time to output your work, Scrivener’s compile settings are extraordinarily flexible. Select which parts of your manuscript you want to export. Format text, headings, and footnotes to achieve your desired look. Then save your work in a variety of formats, including:

  • PDF.
  • Word document.
  • Open document format.
  • HTML.
  • MOBI.
  • EPUB.


We are just scratching the surface here. We recommend starting out with the helpful tutorial that installs with the program. Then open up a template and start modifying it to fit your research and writing needs.

Introducing Cowboy Poetry
The Skills

Introducing Cowboy Poetry

Introduction to Cowboy PoetryThe early cowboys seem to have been artists at heart.  Every aspect of their daily lives seems to have made it into verse, from their love of nature to their battles with wild horses to their prosaic bacon-and-beans diet.

Many of the first cowboy poems were song lyrics.  Thus, this poetic style shares the same cultural origins as Western music.  The ballad form of the British Isles became a key feature early on.  The repetition and sense of rhythm popular among black cowboys did, as well.

That said, cowboys did not always set their verses to music.  Recitation was a popular pastime all over America in that day.  Often at night, the cowboys would simply enjoy reciting and listening to recited poetry, copying the example of their acquaintances back East.


A Range of Topics

Cowboy poetry primarily deals with the West.  Long-standing favorite subjects have been cattle chores, love-hate relationships with horses, observations on nature, religious musings, and thoughts of home and family.

As the West has evolved to fit the modern era, so has cowboy poetry.  Favorite topics today include everything from politics to the woes of adapting to new technology, but the traditional ranching flavor will remain as long as the cowboy way of life does.


Key Characteristics

In the days of the cattle drives, cowboys had to find ways to pass long nights on the prairie.  One favorite was swapping yarns.  Ever since, telling a story that can evoke a laugh, a thrill, or a tender sentiment has been a key goal of cowboy poetry.  The method of concocting the story varies by poet.  Some prefer to stick to the facts, especially if offering a historical narrative, but the tall tale still rides on today.

The poems that tended to last the longest were those that could be memorized the easiest.  Cowboy poetry was frequently published in newspapers, but recitation was at least half the fun.  Here is where the African-American influence proved to be extremely helpful.  A definite rhythm makes memorization easy.  So does a good rhyme scheme.  As previously mentioned, the ballad form has long predominated, but anything with a solid rhythm and a catchy rhyme scheme is commonly accepted.


Is That Cowboy Poetry?

One sticky question is whether only true cowboys and cowgirls can write cowboy poetry.

The stricter school of thought is that it takes a working cowboy to write about the life of a working cowboy.  A tenderfoot will never be able to properly appreciate the joys and hardships of the Western way of life and will sooner or later betray his inexperience in his poetry.

The looser school of thought is pleased to recognize an appreciation of the West wherever it can be found.  So the poet only rides in his imagination?  Well, at least he showed his love for all things Western.  After all, some of the earliest writers of cowboy poetry were Easterners who never worked cattle in their lives.

The result of this diversity of thought on and approach to cowboy poetry is an equally diverse genre.  Cowboy poetry, one might say, is the poetry of life, life in the West in particular.

The Business


ScribusYou don’t need a pricey suite of software to turn out professional-looking documents to represent your business.  If you are motivated and reasonably artistic, you can use Scribus, a powerful open source desktop publishing program freely available to everybody, to design flyers, brochures, and more for your farm or other enterprise.

Scribus was developed to produce print-ready PDFs.  It combines all of the tools you need to make sure that what you see is what you get, whether the finished product goes on your website or to a print-on-demand service.

This program is quite powerful.  Every aspect is fully customizable, but this means that there’s quite a bit you’ll have to learn to make the most of Scribus.  It comes with an excellent built-in manual, and online tutorials are also available to make the learning process smoother.

Combine this tool with a word processor and some good photo-editing software, and you’ll be designing like a pro in no time.

Despite its incredible capabilities, Scribus can fit into every budget—it’s free!

The Family Garden Journal
The Garden

New Compact Family Garden Journal Available

The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal published by Homestead on the Range is now better than ever!

We have released a new compact edition that is easier to carry, but still contains plenty of room for logging your family’s daily plans, observations, and harvests.

Develop your green thumb while creating a keepsake:

  • Start by planning for success with our Step-by-Step Gardening Guide.
  • Check items off of your shopping list as you collect seeds for the growing season.
  • Mark each plant’s space on your garden map.
  • Build a customized schedule to ensure that each seed makes it into the ground at the proper time.
  • Divide the work among several family members with one handy table.
  • Build your own gardening manual with attractive reference pages and a 366-day journal—now in a handy, compact size.
  • Find out with the turn of a page which plant varieties were your favorites, which pest control methods worked best, and how much produce you harvested.

Along the way, you will enjoy inspiring quotes, practical gardening tips, and beautiful black-and-white nature photography.  And there’s still room for your family’s sketches, photos, and pressed flowers!

By the end of the year, you will have created an invaluable reference book, tailored to your unique needs and growing conditions.  But that’s not all—your family will be able to look back on a year of shared gardening memories.  Your completed journal will become not just a book, but a cherished keepsake.

Learn more here.

A Kid's EcoJournal Series
The Sunflower State

A Kid’s EcoJournal Series

A Kid's Winter EcoJournalIf your children love the outdoors and also love to write, they may enjoy A Kid’s EcoJournal series by Toni Albert.

There are four of these books (spring, summer, fall, and winter), but they all follow a similar format. After some tips on exploring and writing about nature comes space for entries. Each entry has blank lines for writing, a selection from the author’s nature journal, and an activity.

A Kid's EcoJournalBesides learning how to observe and record observations, children will:

  • Make maps.
  • Feed worms.
  • Make plaster casts of animal tracks.
  • Grow sunflowers.
  • Capture insects.
  • Keep an aquarium.
  • Dry Osage oranges.
  • Make compost.
  • Press leaves.
  • Make winter decorations.
  • Build bird feeders.
  • Experiment with snow.

A great gift, and a hands-on way to teach children to observe and write about nature! Who knows? Maybe it will spark a lifelong journal-keeping habit.