Foxtail Barley

Foxtail Barley

No, I’m not practicing my Elmer Fudd imitation. I’ve been too busy for such entertaining pastimes. I’m revising my manuscript that recently came back from the Line Editor from Hell (aka, my critique partner, Martin McCaw). As a bonus, I’m also helping my husband rid our pasture of foxtail (aka, Hare barley, scientific name Hordeum murinum).

Foxtail is as hard to get rid of as a drunk ex-boyfriend at a class reunion. If you kill it out with chemicals, the beneficial grasses will die right alongside it. You can mow it, you can even burn it, but if you miss cleaning up all the frisky flower spikes it will reseed itself in a jiffy. If it hangs around until maturity, the flower spikes get stiff and can be harmful to animals. We’ve both been on our hands and knees for hours every day, pulling the darn stuff. At this point we’re close to finishing the small pasture for the first time through. Today’s happy announcement about the large pasture (which we finished last weekend): on a follow-up inspection, there were only 142 returnee weeds to pull!

Revising a manuscript is also a daunting task that requires incredible focus. I honestly thought I’d sent my critique partner a clean draft, all 245 pages of it. As ever, this notion proved delusional. My sins were many- -a missing word here and there, a misused homonym (ack!), a new over-used construction that I’ve not been guilty of over-using in the past. He liked the story (plot, characters, world, and so forth), but advised me to review every page for unnecessary words that, for him, slowed it down. Magically, once he mentioned these things I could see his point!

Ah, a whole week absorbed by two challenges fitting for Hercules! Fortunately, weeding and revising have much in common:

The work seems endless

It’s highly likely that, just when you think you’ve finished, you’ll have to start over again

Hopefully, nothing worse than the things you’ve fixed will show up in the future

I’m thinking the foxtail will be pretty much vanquished in two more days, requiring only an hour or so of semi-weekly follow-up until the end of time. The manuscript should be fully revised by the end of June. So I’ll casting around for something to do.  Kidding! It’s a warm spring in our area and the vegetable garden already needs extra attention. Then there’s that Y/A western novel I’m trying to sell, and the new one I’ve started writing, and . . .



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