Collection of columns keeps author busy

Susan Manzke
The book cover for Susan’s new collection of columns between 1980 and 1981.

Friends often ask me, “How are you doing?” My answer is, “I’m fine. I’m keeping myself busy.”

There aren’t a lot of outside chores to keep me busy at this time of the year. Inside, I find myself at my computer.

While my recent columns consisted of the words our children wrote about their father, I continued with my blog, almost daily. It was my way of keeping my writing going. But that wasn’t all I was working on. I finished a book of columns I had started two years ago. I named it The Very Beginning 1980-1981 Words in my Pocket.

My first book of columns consisted of a selection from 1980-1983. Only a few of my writings from those four years were in that book. It was called Words in my pocket – early days on Sunnybook Farm.

I have done these self-published books to make a few dollars from their sale. But more than that, I’m putting the books together for our family, to keep forever. Having them in paperback book form is better than a loose-leaf binder of clippings.

Right now I’m waiting for the delivery of fifteen finished books. They should arrive any day.  I am not going overboard and ordering a lot. It can be bought from Amazon in paperback form at or on Kindle at If someone wants a signed copy you’ll have to contact me and I’ll send it to you: $10 for the book and $5 for postage.

A drawing of Susan by Colleen Sutherland used in the early years of her column in the Wisconsin State Farmer.

I am now working on my next collection. My title is A New Addition 1982-1983. In July 1982 Rachel was born. I have a ways to go on publishing this book, but while I worked, I found an interesting entry. It was my first column in the Wisconsin State Farmer. I’m going to share it here today:

First column: A Day for a Swim, published on Feb. 26, 1982.

For some reason, swimming pools have been on my mind lately. Maybe that’s because we’re in the process of growing one in our front yard at this very moment.

Our swimming pool isn’t an ordinary square, rectangle, or oval. It’s more the shape of the capital letter L; vaguely the same shape as our driveway. In fact, our new pool is our driveway.

Many of our friends are trying to copy our fashionable L-shaped pool, but unsuccessfully. Their shapes vary from poorly formed splotches in the middle of fields to unformed circles of water at backdoors – all very ordinary looking.

To economize, we aren’t using expensive concrete to build our new aqua world. We are walling up the structure with cheap, available snow. The cold, white material works wonderfully, holding its cousin – water – at an agreeable temperature: 34 degrees F. (Just think how that’s going to feel on a hot July haying day.)

Our children can’t wait for their proper swimming clothing; each outgrew their bathing suits last year. They’re already diligently practicing swan dives in the water, still wearing snowsuits.

Today our oldest, Robby, did such a perfect belly flop in our pool that it brought tears to my eyes just to see it. Too bad for him our pool cleaner and filter hadn’t arrived yet.

With snow walls up and water filling in daily, our driveway shaped pool is beginning to show signs of a problem with dirt. A big problem.

Take our son’s belly flop. Though it looked like Olympic material, the diver came to the surface chocolate-colored from ski hat to rubber boots. He was definitely not wearing the look of a gold medal winner.

Another drawback is the way sleds hydroplane. It’s very uneven. Sled and rider come speeding down the snow walls and skip rock-fashion across the water. Trouble begins when an odd-shaped stone, still above the water level, tips the sled, sending the driver into the drink.

Maybe the Manzke family isn’t the swimming pool type. It’s just that everyone has them this year and who are we to buck a trend.

I hope you enjoy this flashback to 1982.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;