the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Intruder Alert!

That didn't take long.  My guess is the clever, strong little hands of raccoons.  The roosters were locked inside for the night, so none were harmed.  But if the 'coons ever get out there in the evening before I do, it'll be curtains for the chickens.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Chicken Wrangler

I spotted them as soon as we turned out of the driveway, standing in the middle of the road.

"Look, are those turkeys?"

But even as I said it, I knew I was wrong.  They were too small, too upright, their proud tails matching alert heads, making a V-shape of their bodies.  Not turkeys.  Chickens.

They shouldn't have been there.  Where is this mythical land where free-range chickens roam happily through lush fields of green?  Not anywhere around my house.  Here, a free-range chicken is bait for foxes, raccoons, hawks, and dogs.  Chickens have yards with wire tops and coops with doors that close securely.

"Maybe they escaped," I said hopefully.  Wrong again.  We'd stopped to watch them and the truth was obvious - all 5 were young roosters.  My heart sank.  Hens lay eggs, with or without roosters.  In fact, better without them, since roosters have a one-track mind - procreation.  They practice it vigorously, many times a day.  No one needs a rooster, especially hens. These guys had been dumped.

I could leave them to their fate - it wouldn't take more than a day or two.  Or if you prefer happy, Disney endings, they'd wander off toward home. 

If they'd had anyplace to go, they would have gone, but they were there when we returned from town, and our neighbor said they'd been there 4 hours ago.  Defintely lost.  And guess who had an empty chicken coop going to waste?  Me.  Damn it.

Sigh.  There's only one way to catch a chicken - with food.  We set out a dog crate and sprinkled cracked corn inside.  The hungry birds went for it.  We got two, then another one, then came back once night had fallen to easily pluck the last two wary chickens from the bushes where they'd roosted.  I now own 5 useless birds that no one else wants.  Birds that will eventually grow long, sharp spurs and possibly use them against me.  Great.  You can imagine how I feel about the anonymous person who dumped their problem on me and my neighbors because they were too irresponsible to take care of the birds they'd raised.

Here are the handsome mug shots.  My daughter named all five: Lucky, Lucky, Lucky, Lucky, and Lucky.  Because they found me.  I wish I felt more gracious about it.  On the up side, my granddaughter will be thrilled.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Keeping Warm

For ten years my little barn cat Zoe has lived outside in the chicken coop and barn.  She has been quite happy and healthy there.  But there's a new dynamic since the white and black tom cat moved in last year.  Between he and Sophie, meek little Zoe has started taking shelter in the garage to escape the conficts. 

Don't judge me for not letting her in the house - if she can't stand up to the 2 cats in her barn, she'd never survive the larger pool of house cats and indoor-outdoor cats.  But with no insulating hay stack to curl up in, she needed protection from the frigid temperatures.  I hooked up a little 125-watt heat lamp, made a bed of loose hay, and put food and water nearby.  She's still shy and skittish with anyone but me, but it takes a lot to make her move out of her new bed.  I think this must be her coziest winter ever.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Puzzles With Cats

I'm an addict.  I need between 1,000 - 1,500 pieces every week.  I could do more, but I'm trying to keep it under control.

Cats help.  That is, they pretend to help, while being incredibly hindering.

Here, try this piece...
I'll just lay over here, out of the way.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Ella has the typical white whiskers of a tuxedo cat.  They shed out like all other hairs, but Ella's "eyebrows" have a pattern of falling out at the same time...but just on one side. 
It's hard to take her seriously until they grow back in!  The dogs might not care if I laugh at them for no apparent reason, but cats take offense.  GREAT offense.  Looks like I'll be biting my cheek for a few weeks.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Share The Author Love!

If you ever told me, "I loved your book!" you made my day.  That book (any of them) was my baby, and putting it out there for everyone to read was both exciting and terrifying.  Your compliment gave me the best warm-fuzzy ever!  Even if you thought it was just okay, I'm glad you liked something about it.  If you thought it was a disgusting piece of garbage and a waste of paper, I will kindly ignore your bad taste because I'm obviously nicer than you.

But do you know what's worse than a luke-warm review?  No feedback at all.  Disappearing into obscurity.  Horrors!  All those months of creative effort, and NO ONE NOTICED!  It's an author's nightmare.

So if you liked my book, you can do one more thing for me, and for other authors whose books you've loved: tell others.

Post it online.  If you buy on Amazon or another online retailer, you can leave a review.  It's easy.  "I liked this book" is sufficient.  Or you can ramble on for paragraphs, listing everything you loved or hated about the characters, the setting, the author's voice, or the name of the hero's dog.  Why bother to do it?  Some readers pour over the reviews as a guide when deciding to buy.  Others just look to see how many stars a book has been given by readers, which is prominently displayed beneath the title on Amazon.  It affects sales.  (Did you think this was just about adoration?  No, I'm a crass materialist and I like paychecks.)

If you're really into reading, try Goodreads or similar sites.  You'll find people who like the same things you like and their reviews might lead you to other terrific authors to try.  Or you can warn them about a book that disappointed you.  Go ahead, vent.  It's anonymous and free.  Just for God's sake have an opinion!

Authors will adore you for it.  We really, really will.  We're often shy, introverted types who keep our crazy ideas to ourselves, but on the inside we're attention seekers saying, "Here's my idea of a good story!  What do you think?"  We want you to tell us.


(Personal plug of last book because hey, this is my blog, and it was great!)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fertilizer Matters!

See these weeds in my pasture?  That's their normal size - about as tall as my wheelbarrow.

Below are the exact same species of weeds, but these are growing about 50 feet away in my vacant chicken yard.  It's the first time in 17 years there haven't been chickens in there to peck every green thing to death.  The ground is a few inches higher in there, due to years of compacted chicken poop.  And man, does that stuff work well as fertilizer!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yum, Wasps!

A few weeks ago a large hole appeared near my garden one morning.  I checked it out, wondering if the groundhogs were expanding their territory, but found this instead:
That's what's left of a yellow jacket nest.  The combs were empty of larvae, and a couple confused wasps crawled and buzzed around the nest.  Whatever snacked on the larvae must have done it hours before, because the rest of the hive had evacuated.  For all the years I've seen yellow jackets crawling into the ground, I've never seen a nest dug up.  I had to check this out.

To the Google!  (This is where I get all tingly!  I love research!)

It turns out the larvae are a favorite snack of raccoons and skunks, both of which are plentiful around here.  So maybe someone had a nice meal.  Or maybe they got there too late, after the larvae had hatched.  Either way, the nest was doomed.  At the end of summer the old queen dies and the new queens fly off to mate and ride out the winter until they can begin a new nest in spring.  There were probably thousands of wasps in there.  Fascinating!  But I'm glad I didn't know that this summer when I was picking rhubarb a foot away from that hole.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lost Summer

This summer I lost a good friend to cancer.  Another close friend was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer and began chemo.  And I wrote a book.  Lots of conflicting emotions and pressures.  I thought I handled it all pretty well.

I didn't, not entirely.  Because I lost the interest in life's curiosities and humorous moments that compels me to post on this blog.  I know that now, because it has come back.  And so I will take a moment to catch up.

I mentioned back here when noting my horse's 31st birthday that he would look much better once his summer coat came in.  This is what I meant:
Much better, yes?  That was a month ago.  Now he's shedding those fine hairs, replacing it with a thicker winter coat.  But still looking good!  You go, Fritz!

We also added a member to our family.  My friend who passed left a lot of pets - a little too many for one person to care for.  One of them was a dog we fostered for 6 months during my friend's first round of chemo.  She loves us, loves Nikita, and loves cats, so she passed the entrance exam with flying colors.  She lives here now.  This is Lily:

It's kind of weird to have a dog that barks an alarm when she hears someone come up the driveway.  After thirty-five years of friendly-but-stealthy huskies, we finally have a tough little watch dog who greets visitors with, "Stand back or I'll cut you!"  Good girl, Lily.
I also enjoyed the annual trip my mother makes from Florida to spend the summer with us.  With my usual writing deadline that keeps me busy, she had a lot of time to fill.  She read a lot of books - I didn't keep track.  But I did keep track of the jigsaw puzzles she did:
I helped a little.  I can't walk past a jigsaw puzzle in progress and not stop to find a piece.  Or twenty.  But my book was done on time, the puzzles were all finished, and summer is over.  Moving on.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Readers, Writers, and A Book Club

A couple weeks ago, I spoke at a book club.  My first one!  I've spoken to aspiring writers before, discussing all aspects of the writing business, but never to readers who weren't interested in being published.  And man, was that different!

These ladies read everything, mostly fiction, but all genres and not usually romance.  Some authors they've read more than once.  Jane Austen and I are tied at four for having the most novels read by the club.  Since Jane's no longer with us and they're reading my fifth novel soon, I'm about to become the most read author.  Take that, Austen!  (This may be the only contest in which my books beat out Jane Austen's.)

Here's what I learned that was unexpected, and fun - readers get to know your books.  I mean, they KNOW them.  Better than I do!  These ladies would speculate about minor characters whose names I couldn't even remember and wonder if they'd have a bigger role in the next book.  Or whip off the name of a store like they shop there all the time.  It was all so real to them. 

At first I was dumbfounded, but on the drive home I figured out why I was so dense about my own creations.  I wrote and re-wrote and edited those books until I didn't want to see them again.  I changed characters' motivations and backgrounds half way through the story in order to work something else into the plot.  I even changed some of their names.  The book in my head is littered with sub plots that were cut or revised, and people who changed from happy-go-lucky to closed off and brooding.  But my readers know only one version.  It's unmuddled and smooth, and it works

And that was the BEST compliment anyone could give me - my fictional town and people became real to them, at least for a few hours.  That's any writer's ultimate goal, and that book club overwhelmed me with how well it worked for them.  What a thrill!  Thanks, ladies!