the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Respecting the Muse

I've written elsewhere about the contentious relationship I have with my muse.  Frankly, she's . . . come closer, because I have to whisper this:  She's a moody bitch with a poor work ethic.  She prefers to inspire me two or three times a week, rather than daily, as I require.  But don't tell her I said that. 

Since I have deadlines that have to be met, we thrash it out on a regular basis.  But I may have found a way to make her happy.

This is a Fairy Door.  My daughter gave it to me, most likely for the benefit of her daughter who is still too young to understand the concept of fairies.  But I am playing along.  Since fairies are tiny, I decided it belonged near the floor, just above the baseboard, and since they're immaginary, I put it close to my writing desk, where the immaginary world intersects with reality.  At least, when my fussy muse is working, it does.

Muses are fairy-like, in case you didn't know.  And  I think my little sprite must like having her own door to another world, because she's been hanging around more ever since I put it up.  She hasn't been grouchy, either.  (If you see her, just act like you didn't, because I don't want to mess with this delicate balance.)

I hope this bodes well for my next book.

Friday, December 30, 2011

In Defense Of Cats

Cats love comfort.  They also know a good thing when they see it.  From this, they've somehow gained a reputation for being finicky, for shunning the cold, or the wet, and for not leaving their silk-tasseled cushions by the fire for anything less than food. 

Don't you believe it.  This is a picture of my barn cats Sophie and Gray, coming out to meet me in the morning.  Yes, I have food.  But they know darn well they could wait in the relative warmth of the barn, and get their food just as quickly.  But they don't.  Rain, snow, or shine, they come out to say hello.  Just because.  There's nothing wimpy about cats.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Contest Winners

THE WINNNERS ARE:  Heather Meloche and Maryanne!  Please email me at starrambrose@gmail.com with your mailing address, and I will send you a $25 gift card to Amazon.com!  Thanks for entering, everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Naming Characters

The heroine of my latest book, SILVER SPARKS, is named Maggie.  It's a name that's probably been used a thousand times before, but it suited her character and didn't raise any pre-conceived, stereotyped images.  No Maggies who shot a president or swindled people out of millions of dollars.  I can only hope a childhood Maggie never pushed a potential reader in a mud puddle and stomped on their science project.

But my heroine didn't start out as Maggie.  When I wrote the book, her name was Frieda. 

I was just fooling around when I wrote the opening action-packed scene, with a feisty woman standing up for herself and igniting a tabloid scandal.  Feeling whimsical, I named the heroine after the cat curled on my lap - Frieda Fuzzypaws.  (Don't laugh - that's a literary name!  My daughter named her after a cat in a children's book.)  And when I gave character-Frieda two sisters, I named them after two other cats, Sophie and Zoe.  Like I said, just fooling around, writing a scene.  But it was a good scene, and it turned into a book, and Frieda was suddenly the engaging star of a lively tale filled with romance and danger.  And my editor feared she had the wrong name.  Since readers were not going to see it and be reminded of my feisty, fun-loving cat, she was probably right.  So I changed it, and Frieda Fuzzypaws lost her shot at immortality.

But just for the record, here's the original Frieda.  She could take on that jerk of a reality TV star in SILVER SPARKS with one paw tied behind her back, plus handle the subsequent pack of paparazzi and the hot, hunky cop who stepped into the mess.  And decapitate a mouse at the same time. 

So . . . would you have liked Maggie if she'd been Frieda?  Are there any names you just couldn't stand for a hero or heroine?  (And I really hope it's not Zoe or Sophie, because their books come next!)  Leave a comment.   This posting is part of a contest - two randomly drawn names from here or my facebook page will receive $25 gift cards for Amazon.com.  I will announce the winners Tue. night.  Good luck!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another Book Cover

I just ran across the French version of OUR LITTLE SECRET online, my second book.  This was my least favorite book cover.  I like the French version much better, even though the picture has almost nothing to do with the story.  (When do they ever?)   Except come on, France, couldn't you make my name a little bigger?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Who Should I Kill, and Does He Wear Medium or Large?

I came out of my writing-coma long enough today to do some Christmas shopping.  I was only partially successful - it's hard to dispel the voices in my head.  They keep having conversations as I'm browsing the clothing department, trying out new plot directions.  While I'm running down my gift list they nudge me and whisper, "What if you gave the hero a dog?" 

But most distracting of all, they experiment with the climactic ending.  This is my own fault - I wrote my whole synopsis, except for the very end of the book.  Then I went shopping.  Stupid move!  I've set up several characters to be the ultimate bad guy, and now that it's time to reveal him, I'm not sure who it is, and how I will dispose of him.  I can pretend to take a break, but my mind won't let go of this problem.

So next time you're standing in Target selecting new pj's and the person next to you is staring at the racks, lost in thought, it might not be indecision over what size to choose.  She could be thinking about how to kill someone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

SILVER SPARKS in Venice

My latest book is traveling to Venice for the holidays - lucky book!  The trip is courtesy of my friend David, head of international distribution.  The division is looking mighty sinister this year with those leather gloves.

I wonder who will pick it up in Venice, and if some tourist will carry it with them to a new city?  I should put a tracking chip in these things!

Friday, December 9, 2011

It Must Be The Economy

Nikita is a saver.  If she were human, she'd have a nice passbook savings account and a 401K.  Since she's a dog, the most valuable things she owns are treats.  When we leave the house and lock her in her cage, she gets a dog bisquit.  It's always there when we get home. 

Then it vanishes.  But I soon found where she banks her treasures - in my furniture cushions.  This is the chair in my living room.  Notice the back right corner.

And the chair in my family room, same place:
This one I can't explain.  I saw the broken piece of bisquit on the floor, and tossed it onto the pillow with the other one.  Nikita came by a minute later, examined the arrangement, and moved it right back to the floor where it had been.  I'm obviously missing some instrinsic value here, but it might have something to do with diversifying her portfolio.  Everyone knows you shouldn't put all your money in one place.  Or all your bisquits.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hot Enough For You?

Ah, the expectations of reviewers when they open a romance book!  It's a mysterious thing.

The love story is a given.  The variable is sex.   More politely, the "level of sensuality."  Translation:  Will they kiss with flushed cheeks and yearning in their hearts?  Or will their naked, sweaty coupling knock the pictures off the walls and violate state ethics laws, possibly before exchanging names?  There are no guidelines.  No scale that says if he puts his tongue in her mouth it's a 4, and if they invite the neighbors to join them, it's a 9. 

So let's be daring and quantify it.  On that imaginary scale of 10, I'd say I come in at a 6.  But that's just my interpretation.  Here are a few reviewers' takes on my newly-released book, SILVER SPARKS:

"Hot."

"Would have liked the heat level to be turned up a couple of notches."  This reviewer laments that there is no sex until the middle of the book, and then "they never really did it again."  I disagree, but let's just say she obviously subscribes to the Bill Clinton definition of sex.

"Plenty of sizzle."

"It didn't get steamy towards the middle overall."

"The sparks fly...it will have you wanting an icy cold drink nearby."

"Ambrose is excellent at the love scenes without making it erotic."

So do you get an idea of what to expect?  Not sure?  Don't blame the reviewers, they can only judge based on their own expectations.  You'll just have to read it and decide for yourself.  (Golly, who would have guessed I'd come to that conclusion?)

Sincere thanks to the many reviewers for telling readers about SILVER SPARKS!  Whether they yawned through the sex scenes, or fanned themselves vigorously, they all loved the book, and I love them in return!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wham! Hello Winter!

When I went to bed, the lawn was green and the trees were brown.  When I woke up, the world had gone brilliant white:
But if you asked the chickens, they wouldn't agree.  Snow clings to chicken wire, turning their world dark.  This is what they saw when they looked into their yard:

I left the light on all day for the chickens.  For the horses, snow on top of dirt that hasn't had a chance to freeze, equals mud.  Every step will churn it up more. 


I might be the only one who thought the first snow was pretty.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Watching the Watch Dog

That's Nikita in her cage, with her cat buddy, Harley the Fearless The cage is a permanent fixture in my family room.  This is NOT my idea of chic home decor. 

Nikita's not there because I told her to go there.  She likes her cage.

When we adopted Nikita at one year old we were her fourth home.  She was insecure, ignorant of boundaries, and only half-housebroken, and had to be confined when left alone, like a puppy.  I thought it would be a temporary situation.  Hahahaha, I can be so naive!

Whenever I put my shoes on or jingle my keys, Nikita runs to the cage.  If I don't get there to close the door soon enough, she bounces back out, watching me and making false moves toward the cage, tail wagging.  Making sure I don't forget to lock her in.  Because my job is to protect her.

But if anyone ever breaks in, man, watch out for Harley.  She's tough, and she's not locked up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Writing, with Restrictions

Writing chapter two with TC.  If I just avoid using P,O, K, L, and M the story moves along fine.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MRI of an Author's Brain

I haven't been posting.  I haven't done much of anything, due to one all-consuming obsession - I've started a new book.  (Bet you thought it was another Rock!)

This is how the process works for me.  I figure out who the main characters will be and what their conflicts are, both with each other and their own internal conflicts.  Then I plot a story around that.  It's all pretty vague, and the whole mess churns around in my brain until I have a feel for what the first scene will be.  Then I start writing.  That's where I am now, fifteen pages into it.

If you could see inside my mind, it would look exactly like this:

That swirling fog is trying to coalesce into a story.  See the dark spot on the left?  That's chapter one.  It's solid and sure - stuff happening, characters interacting, tension set up.  It's reaching short tentacles into the confusing mess behind it, trying to find the right elements to pull together for chapter two.
 
See the small yellowish dot in the lower right portion, the itty bitty spot that's barely visible in my mind?  That's the rest of my life.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are in there, along with family obligations, house cleaning, cooking, and my perpetual list of errands.  Embarrassing, but true.  As that solid core of story gets larger, and the churning mass gets smaller, the tiny yellow spot will grow.  By next April the yellow spot might fill half of my brain and I will be able to pass as human for short periods of time.  Until then, please bear with me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Summer of Hawks

Early this summer I noticed a man I didn't recognize walking down our road, camera in hand.  A few days later I saw him again on the same stretch of road, just a few houses from mine.  Then again, and again, always with a camera.  He was too obvious to arouse suspicion, but still, it was odd.  He didn't live there, and there's not much to take pictures of except trees and the occasional turkey or deer.  I finally stopped and asked what he was doing.

His name was Dale Hoffman, he lived a mile away, and he was watching two Cooper's Hawks build a nest at the top of a pine tree just off the road.  He pointed it out to me, a huge mass of sticks crowning the tree, but shielded from view by the branches of a larger, dead tree.  He intended to photograph the hawks from egg laying through raising their babies to adulthood. 

He was also standing guard.  The road commission was trimming trees along the power lines, and the hawk's nest was close to where they would be cutting, just when the pair was laying eggs.  Fearing they would abandon the nest, Dale made sure the tree trimmers skirted the area until the young hawks were grown.  They'd have to come back in two months.  He got no argument - Cooper's Hawks are protected in Michigan.

I saw Dale all summer as he kept a daily log in photos of the hawks raising their brood of four chicks.  It turns out Dale is a pretty good photographer (in addition to having long hair, a rugged physique, and abs of steel - or so he says.  He knows I write romance!)  He allowed me to share his photos here.



The adult's wingspan is from two to three feet, the female being larger than the male.
        





All four babies made it to adulthood.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bodice Rippers

So. . .  I dove into that stack of books pictured in the previous post, and OMG, what a shock!  I rediscovered why I used to absolutely DETEST romance novels. 

USED TO, I said.  I love them now, and am proud to say I write them.  The heroines are strong and smart, and the heroes admire them for it. 

Not so twenty-five years ago.  Heroines were naive and weak, apparently even the ones who ran successful businesses.  Small businesses, of course - let's not get carried away here.  They might know their customer base and marketing strategies, but still can't see the glaringly suspicious behavior in bad guys that even my dog wouldn't miss.  No wonder the hero is so patronizing.  Little Fluffy-head needs someone to look out for her.

But here's the really bad part, the part that I would never want a daughter of mine to read for fear she might think it was an accurate portrayal of romance - sexually, the stories were just like this picture.  (With the exception that Fluffy would not put her face there without a full page of horrified blushing.)
Women were submissive.  They might even need to be physically dominated first, because they're going to like it, they just don't know it yet.  They'll  thank him later.  As I said, OMG!  If a man in one of my stories treated the heroine like that, he'd be reaching down his throat to retrieve his nuts after she kneed him in the groin.  Then shot him.  It's called rape, sweetheart.  Honestly, I had to keep setting the book down until I stopped seeing red.
These pictures were actual book covers from romances.  I won't name the titles or authors, because it doesn't matter.  Authors don't choose their cover art.  But they do write the content, and that's where you have to remember that WRITING IS A BUSINESS.  Authors write what sells.  The particular book I read is not pictured here because I happen to know the author is quite good, and her current books do not reflect those attitudes.  She wrote what I'm sure her publisher wanted at the time.  I'm just angry that it helped perpetuate an abusive myth. 

Those old romance novels are the reason I used to snub my nose at the genre.  Thankfully, some authors refused to let their heroines take crap from men, and refused to let their heroes confuse force with affection.  Readers agreed, and publishers got smart about selling to those readers, and we now have heroines smart enough to track down terrorists or kick vampire butt - whatever's needed.  And to be their partner's equal in the bedroom.  Or the crypt; one never knows when the mood will strike.  But wherever, she'll be his equal in every way. 

Unless of course, she likes force, but I don't write those kinds of books.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Like Having Dessert

I spent the past week finishing up my e-novella, proofing, and sending it off to my editor.  Who, it turns out, is on vacation.  Hurry up and wait!

And now I'm on vacation.  With no deadline looming, I get to indulge myself with a pile of books.  And it just happens that the past two days was the big book sale at my library.  I opted for the $5 bag of books and picked these up today - mostly romance with a little mystery thrown in.  YUM! Can't wait to dig in!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Story Ideas

There's one question writers get asked above all others:  How do you get your ideas?  I got that one again just a couple days ago.  I usually shrug and say I dont know.  But honestly, I have to ask: How do you not get ideas?

This tree is up the road from my house.  Doesn't it make you think of one of those Disney cartoon trees, where limbs suddenly become arms and knot holes become faces?  Because I'm certain that late at night this old guy pulls his roots out of the ground and stalks the neighborhood, blood dripping from his shattered stump of a neck as he looks for his head.  What, too gory?  Okay, maybe in your story he's planting acorns and returning baby birds to their nests.  (And just so you know, that makes you a wimp.)  But he's more than a tree, right?  That makes him a story.



Or this:  This car is in our barn.  A guy my husband worked with years ago needed a place to store it.  He said it was his dad's car, and he wanted to restore it, and he would pay us for temporary storage.  Okay.  He brought it over and put the cover on it.  The car has now been here for 13 or 14 years.  He's never done a thing with it.  Never comes out to check on it.  Never asks about it.  Sends a check once a year. 

I call it the murder car.  You can't tell me there's not blood in the back seat and a body in the trunk.  Whatever happened involves corrupt politicians and mob money and bribery, and all it costs them to hush it up is a paltry storage fee.  Forget you ever heard about it, and no one gets hurt.

If your mind didn't go there, well, why not?  Because I don't understand how you can not see the untold stories that are all around you, every day.  And if you do, maybe you should be writing them down.  I do!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

That Chicken Attitude

You lookin' at me?



                 Huh?








YOU LOOKIN' AT ME?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Your Federal Tax Dollars At Work

Say hello to the Emerald Ash Borer.  Pretty color, huh?  Some time during the 1990's this little guy hitched a ride from Asia to the U.S., saw all the lovely ash trees, and said, "Yum!"  Then he and his larvae went to work - one more illegal immigrant making good in America.  And boy, did they ever.

Twenty years later, the result is hundreds of millions of dead and dying ash trees.  On our five and half acres alone, that amounts to a dozen or so mature trees, and several dozen half-grown trees.  They're our problem to deal with.  But along our tree-lined road where dead trees stand close to power lines, it's the county's problem: take down the trees before they take down the power lines.  That's a pretty damn expensive problem.

Here's where the Federal government comes in, with a grant to cut down the dead ash trees that are near power lines.  Only ash trees - don't mess with that government money and try to get your dead oak taken down, because these guys know the difference.  Two of these trucks were working in front of my house today, chain saws and wood chippers roaring.  They left me a pile of ash logs that, I have to admit, will make nice firewood once we cut them into shorter sections and split them.

As a result, there is now a much smaller chance that my cable, phone, and electricity will be taken out by the next big wind storm.  Plus, I get some free firewood.  So thanks for that, American taxpayers. 

And f-you, emerald ash borer.  I'd rather have my trees back.



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Autumn Nudity in the Hen House

This is what I saw when I opened the door to the chicken coop this morning.  Looks like a massacre!

Nope, just the stupid fall molting season.  Stupid, because they wait until the first cold weather hits, then go, Oh yeah, I need a new coat for winter.  Then they ditch the old one.  Most of that's from just one chicken, one of the leghorn girls.







This one:

She doesn't look too happy about it, either.  I heard her grumbling, "Damn it, do you have to take my picture when I look like this?"  Then she came over and pecked my camera.  And the buttons on my shirt.  And my knee.  Because you never know when something might be edible.  So I turned over some dirt and let her eat her fill of a chicken delicacy - worms.  Ugh. 

After they pass that cute fluffy chick stage, there is nothing nice about chickens.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Regular Food

My horse, Fritz, is Quaker's Oats' best customer.  Ever since the dental nightmare when he lost most of his teeth, I have mixed his Equine Senior with oatmeal to make a more easily chewed, palatable mash.  He loves the stuff.  He goes through a 42-ounce carton of oatmeal ever 6 or 7 days, and is thriving.  Each carton costs $4.99 at my grocery store.  He's well worth it to me, but that doesn't mean I won't jump at a chance to save money.  This week the large Quaker Oats cartons were on sale for $2.79, a savings of nearly half!  I bought four.  (I'd gladly get 40, but my cupboard space is limited.)  It happens that I also bought prunes that day because I like them and we were out.  So this is what went through the check-out lane:

See where this is . . . ahem . . . going?

I live in a small town.  Peole who don't know me by name likely know me as "that romance author."  So I can only imagine the whispers going around now about poor Starr's staggering problem with irregularity.  Or rather, former problem, because obviously this would have been enough to fix a horse.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dog Heroes

While my Rock flipping waits for drier weather and man-help, there's something else I've wanted to post for a long time.

We have owned and loved seven siberian huskies over the years.  Two of them had the privilege of saving lives, many times over.  They were blood donors.

Never heard of it?  Neither had I, until my vet held a testing clinic to find volunteer donors.  Not all dogs can do it - they have to have the right blood type, and they have to weigh at least 50 pounds.  That ruled out most of my dogs, but two qualified. 
Lasher was the only dog we've owned with a championship pedigree.  I mean the kind you'd brag about if it were yours.  Like, mommy was Queen I'm-So-Perfect, and daddy was King Big Shot.  But in dog terms.  Literally every last pooch on his family tree had earned a "Ch" in front of its name.  Except Lasher.  He was considered too big for the show ring.  Size discrimination!

But he made his life count for more than any fancy title.


Juneau was a rescue dog, about four or five years old when we got him.  How anyone ever lost him is a mystery to me, because he'd stick close to us, and get anxious if I left him.  A real sweetie.  The Siberian Husky Rescue League pulled him out of a pound and kept him in a foster home in hopes they would find someone who would take an adult dog.  Best move we ever made.  He had ten more years of love and devotion in him, and we got it all.

On average, Siberian huskies don't usually have the universal donor blood type, but Lasher and Juneau both did.  So we signed up, and every few months someone would call and ask if we could come in to donate blood.  I admit, the boys were reluctant heroes - Juneau lay stoically on his table while blood was siphoned from his jugular vein, with an expression that clearly said, "I'm only here because you made me do it."  Lasher resorted to pathetic whines, the big baby, but he got through it.

Lasher and Juneau donated until they were ten years old, when it was considered best that they stop.  But the program goes on - in my area it's called Buddies for Life, and is run out of Oakland Veterinary Referral Services - www.OVRS.com .  If you have a healthy dog that meets the qualifications, they would like to hear from you.  It's a small sacrifice on your part to take them in when called, but a warm feeling you will never forget when a thank you card comes in the mail from the family of the dog whose life was saved simply because your dog donated blood.  Heroes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

De-skunking

Nikita got skunked last night.  I knew it from the first vague whiff, without even opening the back door and being felled by the odor.  It had to be the dog.  We're pretty far off the road and there's not much traffic, so skunks never seem to get hit by cars.  Dogs are about the only other thing that pisses them off. 

Cats know enough to stay away; in fact, cats aren't eager to meet any wild animal unless they intend to kill it.  It's likely one or two of my cats saw this skunk last night and crouched in the weeds, muttering, "Crap, it's you again.  Get out of my territory.  And wash yourself, why don't you?  You stink."  Cats are smart.

Dogs, on the other hand, will dash up to any critter just to get a reaction, the more startled the better.  Sort of a tag-you're-it mentality.  Wonderful fun, if you're another dog.  Not so much if you're a deer or a rabbit.  But if you're a skunk, then you're the one thinking, "Crap, it's you again.  Get out of my territory."  And then you raise your tail and make it happen.

Some dogs learn their lesson.  Mine don't.  So here's what I've learned:  Tomato juice turns your dog pink.  A pink, stinky dog is offensive in two senses.  Vinegar makes your dog smell like . . .well, really bad.  Like pickled skunk.  Whoever came up with these solutions had a light case of skunk odor and a black dog.

I rely on chemicals that claim to neutralize the scent.  Claim, because I've never achieved total neutralization.  They contain hope-inducing ingredients like citric acid and pine oil extract, and "fragrance."  I'll have to trust them on that last one, but I wouldn't call the result fragrant.  After a good dose, Nikita smells like a combination of modeling clay and Old Spice, heavy on the clay.  Not great, but better than skunk.  And she's not pink.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rock # 2, The Big Brother

They look so cute when they're sleeping don't they?

This is Rock # 2.  He woke up grumpy when we tried to nudge him out of his hole.  We made a little slope to help him out and got a really big strap, and decided to see just how big he was.  Turns out he was hiding some weight under there.  Also, I think, some claws that he used to dig into the ground and hang on.

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but this guy is bigger than Rock # 1.  We tried to move him - a brief video is below.

video

The stubborn little bugger stuck his nose in the dirt and refused to move.  I don't think my truck would have been up to the task anyway, seeing how hard it was just to tip his rear end out of the dirt.  This calls for heavy equipment.  And of course, I've decided he would look best in the front yard, which is at least 400 feet away.  For now, he's going to have to look good right where he is.  I still have to figure out how to flip Rock # 1.

Also, I have a novella to write before Nov. 1st.

Rock, Part 6 - Moving Day!

Finally, my project to dig a simple hole is nearly over!  After the Rock shrugged off our tow straps, stubbornly refusing to move, I spent a week pondering my options.  True nerd that I am, I ended up going with something I learned from the History channel.  It was a show about how Stonehenge may have been built - a bit more ambitous than my goal, but if anyone knew how to move heavy stones, it was those guys.  Basically, they rolled them atop a series of logs.  I didn't have logs, but it made me think that I might be able to slide the Rock along planks.  Like this:
I wedged the planks under the bottom, gave a pull with my tow rope and super-tough nylon straps, and . . .
It tipped over.  But it stayed wrapped in its nylon web, which is more than we'd been able to achieve to this point, so I went with the inelegant solution - drag it.

And it worked.  Man, those ancient Brits would have loved a few 4x4 trucks.  The Rock scraped a trail through the lawn, but the grass will recover.  And the Rock is unscathed - a far easier ride than the trip it took by glacier. 

There's only one problem - It's upside down.  Not that there's a "top" side, but I've grown fond of that scared, cracked surface, and I want to see it.  If I was able to tip it once, I should be able to tip it again, right?

That's my last remaining goal for the year, as far as my Rock is concerned.  Next spring I will have to dig out sod and landscape around it, making it feel at home while it gets acquainted with my other cool rock.  I moved that one from the pasture several years ago - this craziness has been going on for some time.

And there is still one more rock out there.  We spent some time working on it today, and I'll tell you about it tomorrow.  For now, I have good news and bad news:  Its bigger than we thought.  That's good!  I love big rocks!  And it's heavier.  That's bad, for obvious reasons. 

 But my insanity knows no limits!  Plus, I know a guy with a bulldozer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rock, Part 5 - The Long and Winding and Scratchy Road

The Rock is ready to move, but it has to wait until this weekend.  So in the meantime, I have a special treat for the nerds amongst you.  Yes, it's geology!  (wild cheering!)

With the dirt scrubbed off by rain, it turns out the Rock is showing its age, crisscrossed with wrinkles:

Those white lines are gouges, up to a quarter inch deep, left from the torturous journey inside the Wisconsonian glacier that dumped it in my yard.  Glaciers might be slow, but they don't fool around.  This one dug out the great lakes, then filled them with meltwater - that's some serious gouging.  Probably some hard jolts and extreme pressure, too, as evidenced by a huge crack down the middle.  It runs right through that "wound" in the center.  What a story my Rock could tell!  It was a long trip, too - the rocks that were left here when the glacier retreated were most likely carried down from the Upper Peninsula or Canada.

Hey, Canada - thanks for the great rocks!

You might have noticed Rock # 2 in the background.  I've done enough digging (come on, you knew I wouldn't leave it alone!) to get an idea of its size.  Rock # 1 measures 48 x 38, nose to tail (you figure it out.)  Rock # 2's exposed surface measures 47 x 42.  Uh-oh.  Another big guy!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Horses on Wheels

Our farm has lost two animals.  No, no one died.  My daughter went to college and took her cat, Sally.  Nice cat, but socially dysfunctional since a previous owner cut all her toes off.  (They call it declawing - a neutral word, like "enhanced interrogation."  It's still torture for the one on the receiving end.)  The other cats threw a party when she left.

Also, our boarder horse, Code Red, has left.  He'd been here two years, since his owner adopted him from a rescue group.  He's a good horse, but stubborn about the one thing he hates - getting in a horse trailer.  It's not an unusual problem, but one his owner needs to solve.  She's been trying for two years, but Code Red objected.  Strenuously.  Now he's at a stable where a trainer will work with him.

I have mixed feelings about trailering horses.  Even though I did it for years, my sympathy is with Code Red.  Horse trailers don't ride like your comfy car - they're noisy, with no real suspension, so every bump in the road is a jolting bang.  Four-legged animals aren't made to balance while the earth shakes beneath them, especially in the head-forward position we often ask of them.  They do much better if they stand sideways and can brace themselves without pitching head first into a wall.

But we need to be able to move our horses.  For us, it was purely for pleasure - my daughters did horse shows and the high school equestrian team.  At first we hitched a ride with others, then borrowed a very old trailer.  I shudder to think how we squeezed Laurel and our friend's horse Magic into that little red box.  We literally closed the door on Magic's thoroughbred butt.
The following season we had our own trailer - roomier, but still that head-forward position, not to mention a bit claustrophobic.  The only picture I have of it is when we were unloading after a horse show:

My horse Fritz has limited trailering experience, and is certain he shouldn't be in one.  Smart guy.  But when we moved here he needed a ride, so we used a 4-horse stock trailer.  Using the divider to separate it into two compartments, the horse has room to stand any direction he chooses.  They'll choose sideways or at an angle every time.  So that's what we bought for our next trailer.

I can't say the horses liked it, but they loaded without objection.  Better yet are the aluminum trailers that don't heat up like ovens in the summer.  You see them a lot now, mostly slant-loads.  Horses are riding more safely than they used to.  But trust me, they could still use a horse version of Ralph Nader to reform the trailer industry. 

Well-trained horses do what their owners ask of them, trusting they'll be safe, including stepping into loud, vibrating metal boxes that move.  That's a lot of trust.  Ultimately, Code Red is right - horses don't belong on wheels.  Until we find a better solution, please drive carefully around horse trailers!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rock, Part 4 - Out!

TA-DA!
The Rock is out of the hole! That's as far as we got for today, because it turns out that getting it out and dragging it into the back yard are two different things.  We must reassess and re-equip.

This is how it happened:

My rock-moving neighbors brought tow straps and a small truck that thinks it's a big badass truck and loves to jump into harness and show off.  The process is in pictures below.  It took more than one tug, but we always made forward progress.  None of that Sisyphus shit I swore to avoid.









And all because I wanted some dirt.

Next is phase 2 - dragging it about 200 feet into the back yard.  We have a tentative plan.  But before we leave the south west corner of my property, let me take you back to when The Rock was still nestled in its hole, resting happily where the last glacier left it about 14,000 years ago.  I took a picture looking across the top of it, to a spot about twenty feet away.  Do you see what's poking out of the grass?
Yes, it's the barely exposed top of another large rock.  Perhaps The Rock's little sister.  Or . . . (cue the Jaws music) its Big Brother.  Will we ever find out which?  Oh, something tells me we will.