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A New Trick

By Guest Blogger Chicken Wrangler Sara

Our neighbors have started keeping chickens again. The coop is up against the privacy fence between our yards. It drove the dogs crazy at first. Bella, the chicken hunter, tried to dig under the fence to get to them. This was while Brian and I were in Colorado so Rachel had to be extra vigilant to protect the neighbor’s chickens

There is a tree growing right along the fence line. In fact, it is between the privacy fence and our chain link fence. It has, over the years, bent the chain link fence and pushed the bottom out ever so slightly. It is just enough for Sadie to get between the two fences.

Sadie between fencesThis was a problem.

The chain link fence has points at the top and is just tall enough that I couldn’t reach over to get Sadie. Not to worry – Rachel came out with dog treats and Sadie found her way back into our yard.

The next day Sadie taught Bella her new trick. I guess we’ll be buying lots of dog treats until we can get the fence fixed.

Motivation – One Word Wednesday

This cartoon titled Some Artist Dos and Don’ts made me stop and think about why I write.



 What’s the driving force for what you do?

Enduring to THE END

I wrote writers’ two favorite words last week—THE END.

FINALLY! Book 2 of the Fitzpatrick Family sweet romance series is now with my copy editor.The book is a novella.It should have been a fast write.

Novellas generally run 20,000-50,000 words with 30,000 words average. With a writing schedule of approximately one thousand words a day, a writer could/should finish a novella in a month. Even if a writer produces fewer words per day, writing a novella is usually quicker than a writing a novel, which runs 50,000 to 100,000 words.

WHEN LOVE RETURNS took months! But, there were legitimate reasons Becca and Ethan’s story took so long to finish.

My normal writing schedule blew up when I fell playing Pickleball and broke my right wrist last November. The nasty break required surgery to put it back together. Operating with my left hand for months was hard. Trying to type one-handed was next to impossible, so I quit writing.

When I was finally able to use both hands on the keyboard, Ethan and Becca quit talking to me. No matter what I did, the pair refused to cooperate. (We writers call this writer’s block.)

To overcome the problem, I abandoned my usually seat-of-the-pants writing style where the story evolves and constructed an outline and forced out page after page. My strategy worked. I finished a first draft.

Unfortunately, Becca and Ethan came out of hiding and started yelling in my head, “that’s not the way it happened.”

I started over. Only this time, the words flowed and THE END came quickly.

WHEN LOVE RETURNS will be released soon and today I’m revealing the cover.WLR_cover_560x840You can be the first to know the exact release date when you sign up for my newsletter here. Don’t worry. I won’t spam your inbox or sell your email address. I promise…
• You’ll only receive a newsletter when there’s something worth hearing—like release dates or book cover reveals. There are even giveaways and contests for subscribers only.
• And, you always have the option to unsubscribe at the bottom of each newsletter.

It’s been a long haul to THE END for this novella. I’m off to start the next Fitzpatrick sibling’s story and, hopefully, there will no roadblocks, accidents, or uncooperative characters for their love story.

Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle

A blog by Guest Blogger Chicken Wrangler Sara

My husband and I visit my parents in Colorado every summer. He goes to fly fish and I go to work jigsaw puzzles. I realize they have jigsaw puzzles in Texas but my obsession with them prevents me from setting one up in my home. I would not be able to do anything until the puzzle was complete.

At my parent’s house, I can spend hours sitting at the jigsaw table and no one minds. People even stop by to help. So far this trip I have done 6 puzzles. Five of them were 550 piece puzzles and completed in a matter of hours. The last puzzle had many fewer pieces but was much harder.

water fallI gave the puzzle made from a picture of North Creek Falls that I took last year to my mom as a present, and she’d been unable to complete it. That challenge was all I needed.

As I worked on this puzzle, I learned many things.

  1. If I had thought about it, I would have realized there were not enough different colors in this picture to make it a practical puzzle. Every piece was gray, black, green or white. When separated, they all looked about the same color.

Lesson: Consider the results carefully before you make a decision.

  1. Since all the pieces looked alike, the only way to know if they fit together correctly was to try them. That meant methodically picking up every piece and putting it in a spot and sorting out the “no” pieces. It was very tedious work.

Lesson: Sometimes the only way to know if something works is to try it.

  1. There were times when the last piece we tried was the one that fit. Persistence was crucial. Giving up would have been easy but we wouldn’t have finished the puzzle.

Lesson: Keep trying until you find what works.

  1. Sometimes the pieces looked like they fit together. Later we discovered something was not right when every piece we tried was a “no” piece. The right piece was in the wrong place. We had to take the wrong piece out and find the right place.

Lesson: When things aren’t going right, it may mean backing up to see where things went wrong to begin with. Then make it right and move ahead.

For me, working jigsaw puzzles is therapeutic. Part of my mind can wander while part is fixated on finding the right piece for the right spot. While my mind is wandering, sometimes it stumbles upon some important life lessons.

A Charmed Life, Are You Sure?

 A Guest Blog by Jody Payne

Do you watch Hollywood stars pose in gorgeous gowns covered in sparkling sequels and believe they live charmed lives?

They just stand there looking beautiful and actually get paid for it. Big bucks. Do you wonder where you went wrong? How can life be so unfair? Would you gladly trade places with them?

Are you sure?

Are you willing to travel to Africa to adopt a child just so you can stay in the headlines? Remember that your fans will lose interest, and you’ll need to go back to get another one or try something else. A child is forever. You can’t use him as a prop and then put him away until the next publicity crisis comes along.

Do you honestly believe a fifty year old model looks as good as a twenty year one? Not without help. A lot of help. A nip here. A tuck there. Pretty soon, you’re in the hospital for a complete overhaul. Are you up for it?

Are you sure?

If you have the cosmetic surgery and a lengthy convalescence, who will cook dinner for your family? Carpool the kids? Even if you can afford to pay someone to do these things, would you really want to forfeit the time with them just so strangers will admire you?

Are you sure?

I don’t know about you, but I’m no Angelina. My life isn’t glamourous. I don’t dine on champagne and caviar. I don’t even own a spandex dress trimmed in sequins. All that glitter would scare the horses. It doesn’t take a lot of shiny stuff to set a show horse off, and me stuffed into spandex is something you probably don’t want to think about.

There is this: We actually know nothing about the lives of these famous women. They may have been sitting up all night with a feverish child. They may be trying to balance a checkbook that refuses to cooperate.

For all their great looks and glamour, their relationships don’t seem to last very long. Maybe they dream about forgoing the rigorous life of strenuous exercise and makeup before peeking out their front doors costumed in the latest fashions from Paris.

When I walk about on my ranch in my old jeans and t-shirt to watch the sunrise, I’m not greeted with flashbulbs. Instead, the cattle saunter up to the fence and look for handouts of range cubes.

My bull, Billy Clinton, probably outweighs my John Deere. He’s that big. To a city person, he looks downright scary, but he’s pretty predictable, even if a little fickle. (Hence, the name.)

This time of year, the cows bring me their calves for inspection, and my heart is filled with the love of the animals, the land, and the God who gives me these blessings.

To me, this is the good life. However, I will admit this, I wouldn’t refuse a small tin of that caviar, but I wouldn’t trade places with any movie star in the world.

What about you? Would you trade? I mean, you know, other than the caviar.

 Jody Payne is a writer (fiction and non-fiction), a horse woman (dressage, no less),an animal lover (just ask Katrina rescue dog Jane Austin or my two four-legged boys, Toby and Buster),and most of all she’s southern through and through.

You can find her on FB: or her website:

Bee “keeping”?

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

One afternoon this spring, I got a call from Beekeeper Brian on his way home from work asking if I would make a phone call. I must confess this seemed too easy of a task. He asked me to call a local restaurant and ask if they had a swarm in a tree in their parking lot. Ok, sure.

I called and talked to the manager and sure enough there was a swarm in a tree in their parking lot. The manager did say he had already talked to one beekeeper that could not come get it immediately but would contact a fellow beekeeper. I told him the fellow beekeeper is my husband Beekeeper Brian. It is a tight knit community – this group of beekeepers.

bee boxesSo Brian came home, put on his bee suit, got his bee boxes and went to get some bees. He returned an hour later with a box of bees, including the queen, and a $30 gift card to the restaurant. He put the BOB (box of bees) on the back porch. It was a successful trip for everyone.

The next day Rachel noticed a lot of commotion in the back yard.

Apparently the new bees were not happy with their new home. They swarmed to a tree in our back yard.

Brian put out a bee trap to entice them back into a hive. In case you were wondering, bees are attracted to the scent of lemon grass. They went into the box for a while. Then they left again.

tree hiveThey were back in the tree in a different spot. We stood in the yard looking at them for a while. Then Brian decided to let them” be”. “Bees are going to do what bees are going to do” he said.

So the name “beekeeper” is really a misnomer. You can’t “keep” bees. You can only invite them to come make honey in your bee box. Sometimes they oblige.


Using Our July 4th Freedoms

Last weekend we celebrated the day Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence.


That document begins:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Because of that document, we can celebrate a lot of freedoms in America. Freedom of speech. Freedom to worship. Freedom to do what we believe leads to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We also enjoy certain rights. Rights guaranteed by our Constitution. Check here for the complete list.

Sometimes we tend to forget those freedoms and rights did not come by chance. Those freedoms came though the blood of soldiers.

Because we’re also human, we tend to be selfish with our freedoms and rights.

We speak words that tear others down.

We worship the false idols of fame and pleasure.

We pursue whatever makes us feel better–and mow down anyone or anything that gets in our way.

Are there better ways to use our freedoms and rights?

I believe so.

So does Holly Gerth, who suggests we begin with the highest freedom—LOVE. 4th

Chickens – The Next Generation

 A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

There has been a tremendous decline in egg production on Miller Farm.  Perhaps the chickens are just commiserating with those who have Avian Flu.  Perhaps the grumpy game bird hens are intimidating the others by staying in the nest boxes.  Perhaps it is a result of a decline in the chicken population – several have died over the past few weeks.  Whatever the cause, Assistant CW Rachel decided to address the issue by hatching eggs.

It actually started when she was asked to incubate peacock eggs.  As long as she was setting up the incubator, she might as well fill it.  As long as she was filling one incubator, she might as well fill another one.  After all if one is good, two is better – right?

The peacock eggs were not fertile.  It turns out the birds were too young.  That left us with 48 chicken eggs.  These were not all from our chickens since our chickens seem to be on strike.  Rachel gathered eggs from three different flocks.  She carefully marked each egg in order to determine which flock had the best hatch rate.

One of the incubators did not hold its temperature very well.  The other one was in her closet away from drafts or heat from the windows.  Rachel was afraid the variation in temperature would kill the developing chicks.  She bought a special light for “candling” eggs to see which were fertile and still alive.  She carefully marked the air sack on each egg.  That way if one pipped – poked the first hole – outside the air sack, she could help it along.  They were set to hatch on Friday, June 26.

Thursday morning we got up to swim and Rachel discovered a chick had already hatched – an overachiever.  As it called out other chicks began to hatch.  We cleared off the brooder in the garage and began the process of moving chicks outside as they hatched. transfer

Rachel has been helping a family with 7, soon to be 8, children so she was gone Friday.  I sent her updates as chicks hatched. egg hatching

We ended up with 32 chicks.


Hopefully most of them will be hens and we will be able to replace our older birds.

new chicksAnd the cycle of life continues…..

Lazy, crazy days of summer


Crazy days – I agree. No schedule. Letting the time flow.

Lazy days – not so much. Well, not around our little neck of the woods, anyway.

Summer here in the Rio Grande National Forest can get busy…chaotic. That’s what’s happened so far this year and the reason the Voice from the Front Porch has been quiet. Lots to do, so little time to write!

It’s only the end of June and so far this summer…

summer flowersWe spent hours gardening. Installed a fire pit for cooking hot dogs and s’mores and summer evening sing-a-longs. Our new neighbor plays the harmonica. How cool is that! And, we added a basketball goal for more summer fun.basketballfirepit

We traveled to Texas for a graduation. Congratulations, Matthew on a job well done. Cum Laude over four years of high school is not an easy accomplishment. You did it!

girls2We entertained three very active visitors from Minnesota for a week. We dubbed them the Frolicking Princesses because every evening they climbed the mountain behind our house to watch the sunset. I kept up with them (barely), but once we dropped them at the airport, I came straight home for a long nap. Eagerly awaiting their next visit!

MikeWe spent a weekend with a very good friend and business associate of my husband’s. Spent hours on the front porch catching up and remembering good times. I think we have another South Fork fan. He’s ready to retire and leave hot, humid Houston for some cool mountain air. He took home our realtor’s card.

Busy times, crazy times and so much fun. How’s your summer been going?

In between all the fun and frolicking, I’ve actually found writing time. I’ll have a new release by end of summer titled When Love Returns, book two in the Fitzpatrick Family Series. Keep watching for the cover reveal!

I’m looking forward to July and August, how about you?

Annabel’s New Home

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Annabel, our foster dog, has found a forever home —-next door. The neighbors had planned to get a dog and their middle daughter fell in love with Annabel. I would frequently come home and find her at the gate talking to Annabel.

After several visits to see how Annabel would get along with the cat and the two younger children, the adoption was finalized. The children were all excited as was Annabel. Perhaps the children would be more cooperative than the chickens when they were “herded.” Bella was relieved. Annabel liked to lick and Bella was used to being the licker and not the lickee.

They renamed the dog Rosie to avoid confusion with their youngest daughter whose middle name is Arabella. The first few days were a little rough – for me. I kept wondering how she was doing. Our dachshunds were also confused. These are the neighbors with the privacy fence so the dogs could hear but not see each other.

bella fenceOur dogs spent time sniffing along the fence.

Rose/Annabel tried to get through.annabell

Anytime she got out, she came straight to our house. I took her straight back, explaining along the way that she had a new home.

It’s been about a month now and Rosie has adjusted nicely (and so have I). She goes to the kids’ soccer games and runs with the dad.

She came to see me yesterday for the first time in a couple of weeks. I walked her home glad to know she is loved. I’m pretty sure I could never foster children. I’ll stick to wrangling chickens and other random animals running down the street.