Do April showers bring May flowers?

It wouldn’t be right to blog in April without referencing the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.”

The phrase probably came from the General Prologue found in The Canterbury Tales:

“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote.”

These words – March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers – can be found in The Dictionary of Proverbs by George Latimer Apperson and Martin H. Manser

Another version can be traced to the 1557 collection of writings by Thomas Tusser, A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry. For April, he wrote:

Sweet April showers
Do spring May flowers

Tusser’s rhyme is a short poem, which fits nicely since in 1996 the month of April became National Poetry Month. For ways to celebrate poetry this month, check here.

The writer in me can’t resist sharing the poetic meaning behind “April showers bring May flowers” – even the most unpleasant of things (in this case the heavy rains of April) can bring about very enjoyable things, i.e.an abundance of flowers in May. A lesson in patience that remains valid to this day.

But, do April rains truly bring May Flowers?

Not according to botany and biology research that says, for most species, first flowering is more closely tied to temperature than to rain.

According to Libby Ellwood, “The plants may not be aware of this proverb, but they rarely have to worry about having enough water in the spring to start growing and producing flowers. … But the water itself isn’t dictating flowering times the way that temperature is.”

David W. Inouye, a biology professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, studied bloom times in the Rocky Mountains. He concluded the Alpine flower blooming season, which used to run from late May to early September, now lasts from late April to late September because temperatures in the Rockies are becoming warmer. That means a longer wildflower viewing season for mountain hikers.

Perhaps, if climate warming more closely controls flowering, the proverb should be re-written to read “Warm temperatures in March bring April flowers.”

Somehow, that doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

Flowering Words of Wisdom

Why April Fools’ Day?

Last Saturday was April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day when jokes, hoaxes, and silly things are allowed and welcomed.

The tradition, celebrated in many different cultures, has been around for several centuries, but its origins remain a mystery.

Some say it dates back to 1582 when the Council of Trent required the French to switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

Because news traveled so slowly in those days, many people continued to celebrate the New Year from the last week of March to April 1 and became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. Many found a paper fish placed on their backs to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person or “poisson d’avril” (April fish).

Another theory links April Fools’ Day to the ancient festival Hilaria. A feast celebrated in Rome at the end of March where people dressed up in disguises.

Historians speculate the holiday is tied to the vernal equinox or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere when Mother Nature’s unpredictable weather fooled people.

Check this site for other detailed theories.

Whatever the origin, by the 18th century, April Fools’ Day celebrations began to spread throughout Britain. A traditional Scottish festivities involve a two-day event, beginning with hunting the gowk (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) where people are sent on phony errands. The next day, Tailie Day, fake tails or “kick me” signs are pinned on people’s derrieres.

These days, newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites participate in the tomfoolery of April 1 with the reporting of outrageous fictional claims to fool their audiences.

One of the most famous is the 1957 BBC report of Swiss farmers’ record spaghetti crop. Footage of workers harvesting noodles was shown.

Sports Illustrated tricked its 1985 readers with a made-up article about Sidd Finch, a rookie pitcher, who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.

Fast-food restaurant chain Taco Bell claimed to have purchased Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell in 1996 and planned to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell.

Burger King advertised a new “Left-Handed Whopper,” in 1998. All the condiments rotated by 180 degrees “thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of them skew to the left” and reducing spills for lefties. Scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.

In 2013, Twitter announced a free “Twttr” version that would not support vowels and only allow tweets with consonants. “Twitter” would be a $5 per month service supporting any letter. The letter Y would always be free to everyone.

How’d your April Fools’ Day go? Were you the brunt of any jokes, pranks, or hoaxes this year?

Too Many Boys

A guest blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

We recently discovered that the number of males determines the maximum number of birds we can have at Miller Farm. We have experienced the crowing contests among the roosters but this situation was a little more serious.

Our two resident roosters, Buffy and Kaboodle, managed to work out their place in the chicken yard.  Buffy is the largest and Kaboodle respects that.

Then along came Tom, the turkey.  Tom and his mate, Tina, have provided much entertainment, and pain in our lives as humans – Chicken Wrangler Sara’s fractured ankle, nightly hide and seek for Tom, cleaning and bandaging Tina’s wound. However, we had to draw the line when Tom attacked Buffy. Apparently, Tom needed to prove that he is the strongest even though he is clearly the largest.  The injured Buffy became an easy target for Kaboodle causing much ruckus in the chicken yard.

Buffy was moved to “intensive care” where he could recover in peace.

We then began the search for a new home for Tom and Tina.  Clearly, Miller farm was not big enough for Buffy, Kaboodle, and Tom.

Fortunately, a fellow bird lover was willing to adopt Tom and Tina.

Now Buffy is back with the hens and Kaboodle is undergoing an attitude adjustment in isolation. 

Things are much quieter on Miller farm – for the moment.  There are 72 eggs in the incubator in Rachel’s closet…

Irish Toasts, Quotes, and Words of Wisdom

It’s the last Wednesday of March. Here’s one last meme with a very thought provoking Gaelic saying. Let me know if you agree.

Who’s Telling Your Story?

A Guest Blog

Today I’d like to introduce a writer friend, who also happens to be a fabulous teacher and excellent editor—Alicia Rasley. She’s going to offer advice on how writers can decide which character’s POV to use.

All fiction books are written from a particular character’s perspective (POV). As readers, you probably aren’t aware of POV specifics, but we writers can struggle with it. That’s why I invited Alicia to help.

Thanks, Judythe, for inviting me to guest blog!

I know I’m not the only writer kind of obsessed with point of view, so I thought I’d talk about one aspect of POV — which character should narrate a particular scene.

Often this is an easy decision, but if you’re having trouble making the scene as dramatic or deep as you want, consider changing the point-of-view character.

Now there is no RIGHT answer to which character point-of-view to choose for any scene. It will vary depending on many factors, including the author’s own natural POV approach and of course the events of the scene.

But here are a few questions to help guide you in the choice. Each of these questions emphasizes a different approach to the scene. One might lead to a more action-oriented scene. Another might lead to an emotionally dramatic scene.

Let’s use as an example a hanging in some foreign land, a public execution of a man (call him Tom), with his wife there near the gallows (call her Sue). Very dramatic scene!

Whose head should we be in?

POV Choice Questions

Which character is there right now at the scene?

It’s often better to go with the eyewitness rather than the one who just hears about it later– the TV cameraman at the execution, not the anchorman back at the studio.

Which character has the most at stake externally?

The one in physical danger maybe? That would probably be Tom, the condemned man, about to be hanged, of course.

Which character has the most at stake internally?

Sue, who is watching the hanging despairingly from the crowd, knowing that her baby (due in three weeks) will never know its daddy?

Who has the most intriguing perspective, or will narrate the event in the most entertaining way?

Maybe the hangman? Or maybe Sue isn’t so despairing… maybe she’s furious at Tom and will be glad when he’s dead? <G>

Who will change the most because of this event?

Maybe the judge who condemned the man, as the hanging draws closer, comes to regret his vengeful decision, and decides that he’s got to save Tom. The judge might be a good POV character because we can participate in this great change.

Who is going to have to make a big decision or take a great action during this scene?

If Sue is going to storm the gallows, seize a sword, and cut Tom down, she might be the best POV character (then again, I’d love to be in Tom’s head as she comes charging up the steps and aiming that sword towards his neck… <G>).

Whose goal drives the scene?

Maybe Tom has decided to make a great emotional speech and rally the onlookers to riot and save him. He’s the one with the goal– good POV choice.

Whose got a secret and do you want the reader to know?

If Tom is actually an undercover superhero who can burn the noose rope with his x-ray eyes and fly away, but wants first to implicate the judge who condemned him, so he stands there patiently waiting for the hangman… it depends on whether I want the reader to know what he’s planning or his secret powers.

Yes, I want the reader to know, so I put the scene in his POV, and concentrate on how hard he has to work to keep the secret secret.

Or no, I don’t want the reader to know: I want the reader to gradually suspect, along with – or before– Sue and/or the judge, that there’s something a bit off about this guy and the way he keeps aiming his intense gaze up at the rope…. that might mean staying OUT of his POV.

Who is telling all already through dialogue and action?

If Sue is being completely open and upfront about what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling, why bother to go into her head? The judge or Tom might be a better candidate for our “mind-reading” then.

You can see that this is not a checklist– any one of these is sufficient to make a choice, and some are obviously mutually exclusive.

But you can also see how many different ways there are to analyze the choice, and it all boils down to:

What effect do you want to have on the reader in this scene?

And whose POV will best create that effect?

<><><><><><><><><>

Bio: Alicia Rasley would rather write about writing than… well, write. Nonetheless, she has written many novels, including a best-selling family saga and a contemporary mystery novel.

She also wrote a handbook on the fictional element of point of view: The Power of Point of View. She teaches writing at a state university and in workshops around the country and online.

Her website has articles and posts about the craft of writing. Sign up for a writing newsletter and get 13 Prime Principles of Plot and other free plotting articles!

Chicken Connection

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

I spent the week of Spring Break in Nicaragua. I went to work with Word of Life, Nicaragua.  We went into the mountains near Honduras and walked house to house telling people about Jesus.  It was quite an experience.

I was nervous about leaving my family (and my chickens.) As is true of all worrying, this was wasted energy.  Everywhere we went in Nicaragua there were chickens.  In fact, I started taking more pictures of chickens than of people.   I had to remind myself why I was there.

The chickens were a part of what I did, though.  I was able to talk to the people about their chickens and show them pictures of mine.  It gave me a connection the other team members didn’t have.  I imagine long after I’m gone, they will remember the Chicken Wrangler who came to tell them about Jesus.

This handsome couple was in a pottery shop in Managua.

Here’s a mother and her chicks in La Camaira.More chickens in La Camaira including a Frizzle rooster.