Chick Incentives

A Blog By Chicken Wrangler Sara

When I am not taking care of the animals on Miller Farm, I spend several hours a week teaching private piano lessons. When  I was 13  I wanted to be just like my piano teacher, Mrs. Black.  It is not always easy, but I enjoy the challenge.

For instance, I started a new student this summer who is enormously creative. I had him in my music class at the private school where I teach and he once told me his mother has a bow and arrow.  She hunts for food because they don’t have any at their house.  She was quite surprised to hear this and for weeks after that I asked what they were having for dinner.

So this new student, like many others, enjoys coming to piano lessons.  I mean who wouldn’t enjoy seeing a pack of dachshunds and a flock of chickens every week.

However, practicing at home was not nearly as exciting.  His mom, the huntress, expressed some concern. She didn’t want to make it miserable for him but knew without practice, he would make little progress.  So I told her I would pull out my bag of tricks.

In this “bag of tricks” I have little individual incentive charts where students can mark each day they practice.  For some, the promise of a piece of candy for five stickers is sufficient.

I was afraid this student would not be motivated by candy.  So I came up with a new incentive.

We happened to have baby chicks in the brooder in our garage.  (I wonder how many other people on our street can say that.)  When the chart had five stickers, I promised that my student could hold a baby chick.  He was quite excited.

Then he realized that his assigned piece on this week was two pages long.  He asked what would happen if he only practiced one page.  I told him he could only hold half a chick. Fortunately he didn’t ask for details but agreed to practice the whole song.

studentSo the following week, and the two weeks since then, he has practiced five times a week.

I’m pretty sure I am the only piano teacher in the world who uses chick incentives.


Kaboodle Update

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Kaboodle, our Polish rooster, seems to finally be settling in to his new home. There is always a certain amount of adjustment when new birds are added to the flock.  They start at the bottom of the pecking order and have to work their way up.

Kadoodle1For Kaboodle, this seems to have taken an unusually long time. He spent most days hiding between the bantam coop and the fence.

Perhaps his unique appearance caused the other birds to pick on him a little more. He is, as my mom stated, a most distinct rooster:

Then Rachel read that Polish chickens have a hard time seeing through the feathers on their heads. To help with this some owners trim their “bangs.”

So I held Kaboodle while Rachel gave him his first feather cut. It didn’t seem to bother him much at all.

Kaboodle2Now he runs around the chicken yard with all the other birds. I’ve even seen him chase some other chickens away from the food.  Instead of hiding behind the coop, he proudly roosts on top.

This is a much better place for such a handsome rooster.

Welcoming Committee

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

In the summer, I go to the pool a little later to swim. This means it is light when I come home. I don’t mind so much in the summer.  Walking from the car to the house in my swimsuit and cover up makes sense.  In the winter, however, when I am wearing my pink fuzzy robe over my suit, I am glad it is still dark when I get home.

Because it is light, the puppies are up.  They don’t know how to sleep late.

puppies1Brian and Rachel put them outside and they are watching for me to get home.  They are usually sitting at the gate while I hang up my towel. This morning, Penny was overcome with the temptation to jump on her brother.

They are quite the pair.  They chase each other all around the kitchen until we put them outside where they have much more room to run.  And they do run.  And run and run and run.

puppies2Until they collapse.

While I was unsure about having six dachshunds, I am glad we ended up with both puppies.  They would be lonely without each other.

puppies3Penny has discovered Aunt Bella is fine if all you want to do is take a nap.

puppies4But for playing, there is no one like a sibling.


Messy Progress

mess is part of the processThis meme by Holley Gerth really struck a note with me. My desk is always a MESS and clearing a space to work is necessary before I can progress. It’s a part of the process!

Do messes impede your progress or are messes part of your process too?

You Write What? or What is a romance novel? Part 1

As we’ve relaxed on the front porch with house guests this summer, those two questions come up a lot.

To the what do I write question, I respond romantic fiction similar to authors Danielle Steele, Nicolas Sparks, and Barbara Delinsky. Unfortunately, some of our guests have never heard of those authors, a sad, sad thing because those authors write incredible stories. So do I. 🙂

Others have no idea what romantic fiction means.

I completely understand the genre confusion because so many different types of books are lumped under the umbrella labeled romance. Many of which lack the very specific expectations for characters and plot structure romance readers seek.

So what is a romance novel?

Every true romance novel contains two elements – a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. (

Romance novels can be contemporary, historical, mystery, thrillers, fantasy, or any number of other themes with settings and distinctions of plot that create specific subgenres. Whatever the plot, a romance novel always centers on the developing relationship of two people and ends with what romance writers call HEA, a happy ending.

Romance novel formats include


  • 20,000 to 25,000 words
  • Themed collections also called anthologies


  • 40,000 to 65,000 words
  • Series (or “lines”) with a certain number published each month. Harlequin Romances available on a subscription basis are an example.

Single Title

  • 75,000+ words
  • Labeled as mass-market or trade by publishers based upon the format—small vs. large size and price point.

The industry standard for the romance genre is for the reader to experience the story through both the hero’s and heroine’s viewpoints, in third person, past tense.

The typical romance reader looks for only one viewpoint per scene in a story. However, there are romance authors like Nora Roberts who have challenge this standard successfully.

Lastly, the scope of the romance can be from sweet (no sex, no swearing) to extremely hot (no holds barred).

That fact always brings up another question: “You write like 50 Shades of Grey?” followed by a quick look and snicker at my husband. Whereupon, I quickly explain my stories are classified sweet romance.

More on romance classifications next week.

Considering the definitions above, do you read ROMANCE novels? If you have, tell us about one of your favorite novels.

Cool Chicks

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

After two glorious weeks in the mountains of Colorado, we have returned to the furnace of Texas. Every time I felt cold while in Colorado, I would soak it in hoping to recapture the feeling when I was back at home.  It isn’t working.

We actually haven’t reached 100 degrees yet but the heat index has been well over 100.  That means it feels really, really hot.

For us humans, we stay inside where the air is cool. The poor chickens are stuck outside.  I refuse to put an AC unit in the coop.  There are plenty of trees and the temperature is much cooler in the shade.   But it is still hot.

Rachel read in a chicken forum that running a sprinkler in the chicken yard will cool the ground which in turn cools the air.  Makes sense to me.  So we water the chicken yard – which has no grass.  We basically water the dirt.

wateringThe chickens love it.

They scratch around in the mud looking for bugs.  It is very entertaining for them and very entertaining for me.

Next to working jigsaw puzzles in Colorado, chicken watching is one of my favorite pastimes.

Doing Good Where You Are

Desmond quote landscape1