Friday Free Day

24 05, 2013

Missing Bees and Bee Whisperers

By |2013-05-24T05:23:06-05:00May 24th, 2013|Friday Free Day, Friday on the Miller Farm|5 Comments

A Guest by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Beekeeper Brian recently purchased four queen bees in hopes of starting four new hives. The queen bees were shipped by mail.

He tracked their exact arrival at the post office – late on a Saturday night. Since there is no Sunday delivery, we went to the post office to pick them up. After a thorough search of the facility, Beekeeper Brian was finally able to locate the buzzing box and bring it home.

He set up four nucs (starter hives) with the new queens. 

For some reason, one queen was not happy with her new palace and left, taking a group of workers with her.

This was a little frustrating. The queen could have gone anywhere with her workers.

A couple of days later, Rachel was standing in the kitchen window. “Dad, I found your missing bees.”

 Bee hive in tree

They had swarmed in the tree in our back yard. 

The problem now was to get them back into their hive. Neighbors came to watch this process. 

Brian and Matt, our son, got out a ladder.  It was not quite tall enough.

 ladder

Using a different method to capture the rogue hive, Beekeeper Brian set up a swarm trap. We waited.

Nothing happened. The swarm in the tree didn’t change.

Yesterday Rachel went out to check eggs and came around through the front door. “Dad I think your bees are moving into the nuc on the patio.” 

We all went out the back to see. Sure enough, a group of bees was on the front of the nuc.

There’s still a swarm in the tree so Beekeeper Brian isn’t sure if this is a different swarm or if the swarm is moving slowly. Beekeeper Brian told the bees to do whatever they wanted.

This morning the swarm in the tree appeared to be smaller, which made me wonder, is Beekeeper Brian a bee whisperer in disguise?

8 03, 2013

Greener Grass

By |2013-03-08T07:34:26-06:00March 8th, 2013|Friday Free Day, Friday on the Miller Farm, Guest blogger|6 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

This morning, as I was filling the chicken waterer, I looked up and saw one of our black chickens in the neighbor’s yard.

hen over fence

I must confess I can’t blame her. The grass was definitely greener on the other side of the fence.

Unfortunately, her desire to be with her flock won over her desire for greener grass. She paced back and forth trying to figure out how to get back over the fence.

Since catching chickens is a frequent event at Miller Farm, my husband devised a “chicken getter” stick. It is a wire hanger with a hook at one end with which you can grab the chickens feet and lift them off the ground.

Chickens become quite calm when hanging upside down so you are then able to hold the chicken and take it wherever you need it to go.

If “chicken getting” were an Olympic event, our Rachel would be a gold medalist. The day before, she had grabbed three bantams from the yard to sell to another chicken lover.

I figured I could just reach over the fence with the “chicken grabber” and get the chicken back where she belonged. I wouldn’t have to walk all the way around and into the neighbor’s back yard.

I soon discovered I am not as adept at grabbing chickens as Rachel. I blame my inability to catch the hen on having to reach over the fence. After several attempts, I gave up and headed next door.

I may not be able to use a “chicken getter,” but my own two hands work quite well. I soon had an armful of chicken, which I promptly dumped back over the fence.

Everyone was where he or she belonged, and we all went on with our day.

10 08, 2012

Friday on THE MILLER FARM: Episode #1: ROOSTER RESCUERS

By |2012-08-10T10:51:10-05:00August 10th, 2012|Friday Free Day, Uncategorized|9 Comments

The Millers are Sara, my daughter, and her husband, Brian, who have a mini-farm at their home in Aggieland. For my non-Texan readers, that’s Bryan/College Station, Texas. That’s right, in their backyard, a chicken coop with nine “Easter Eggers,” a few Barred Rocks, a couple of Black Copper Marens, a few black and few gold sex links, some Bantams and  twenty-five American Game Birds. The rest are Barnyard Mutts. All give eggs that are truly delicious!

Part of their backyard also houses beehives. More about dealing with bees and fresh honey in future posts.

You’ll also find four miniature daschunds – Tucker, Bella, Sadie and Coco, one mixed breed dog name Marvin, and three teenager children—two girls and a boy, who wish to remain anonymous, on the Miller farm.

Sara, the chicken wrangler, writes such entertaining emails about life on the Miller Farm she should start her own blog. She won’t. That’s why – with her permission, I’ll be sharing the humor and fun of being a city farmer from her emails on Fridays.Today: ROOSTER RESCUERS  (my comments and additions in blue)

Yesterday afternoon I (aka Sara, chicken wrangler extraordinaire) went out to check on the chickens and gather eggs (what few eggs are being laid in this heat). (Texas, like a good part of the country, is experiencing unending days of triple digit tempearatures.)

One of our roosters was laying under the coop looking not so good. I tried to entice him out with bread but alas, he didn’t move. I grabbed him by the legs, an action which usually results in much fussing and flapping. However, he came out with nary a sound. I laid him by the water, hoping that he would perk up. After I checked all the other birds, he was still lying there and the other birds were starting to pick on him.

Being the rooster lover that I am, I could not tolerate that and gently carried him to the garage where I summoned Dr. Brian (her husband, who, btw, is NOT a veterinarian but a school psychologist). Drawing from all his vast avian veterinary experience, he proclaimed that the bird had heat exhaustion.

I carried him (the bird, not Dr. Brian) to the living room where he laid in front of the fan which I have been told is the best remedy for heat exhaustion in humans so it has to work for birds – right?

Throughout the evening Mr. Rooster laid still raising his head just often enough to let us know he was not quite dead yet. When it was time for the humans to retire, we decided he needed to be contained in case he had a miraculous recovery overnight.

I put him in a cage and went to bed feeling quite comforted by the fact that we were just like all our neighbors who had roosters sleeping in their living rooms.

The next morning Mr. Rooster was much more alert and holding his head up. I put some water in his cage which he promptly spilled all over. At this point, he was making such a mess I moved his cage to the front yard.

After caring for all the other chickens, I moved him back with his flock where he stepped out of the cage on his own. He hung out by the water for a while and when I last checked, Mr. Rooster was walking around pecking the ground as chickens are prone to do.

I would say we have successfully snatched a rooster from the jaws of death earning the title Rooster Rescuers.

Sara might be okay with a rooster in her house. I’m not sure I’d be willing to set up a rooster infirmary in my living room. Would you?

30 03, 2012

Fifty point CHAPTER BREAKS

By |2012-03-30T08:22:26-05:00March 30th, 2012|Friday Free Day, Uncategorized|4 Comments

We LOVE to play Scrabble at our house. Play it all the time.  My husband and writing partner is the current fifty point word champion.  That’s him with the scorepad and board to prove it!

We’ve played on-line at the official Scrabble website. If I had an iPhone, I could download a Scrabble APP and play on my phone.  

To score fifty points, you have to have the right tiles, the perfect fit to play on the board and the RIGHT word.

Hooks in chaper breaks are the fifty point tool of the writer. 

Back in the dark ages (1914 to be exact), a silent movie series titled The Perils of Pauline starred Betty Hutton as Pauline, the damsel in distress menaced by assorted villains, pirates and Native Americans. In each episode the audience was convinced poor, pitiful Pauline’s situation  would surelyresult in her imminent death until at the last minute she was rescued or otherwise escaped the danger. The damsel in distress and cliff hanger endings kept movie goers returning.  

According to Wikipedia, in 2008, The Perils of Pauline was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Successful writers need compelling characters like Pauline and strong chapter breaks to keep their readers satisfied. How do we write our fifty point chapter endings to score hits like the screenwriters did with The Perils of Pauline?

I ran across two great blogs with answers to the question. Both bloggers agreed the key  to powerful chapter breaks is raising the reader’s curiosity.

 K.M. Weiland suggests these ten ways to raise questions in the readers’ minds.  

1. Promise of conflict to come.

2. A secret kept.

3. A major decision or vow.

4. An announcement of a shocking event.

5. A moment of high emotion.

6. A reversal or surprise that turns the story upside down.

7. A new idea.

8. An unanswered question.

9. A portentous metaphor.

10. A plot turning point.

Weiland warns “not every chapter needs to end with a cliffhanger, but they do need to encompass a question powerful enough to make the reader crazy to know the answer.” If you read her blog here, she elaborates on how to use all ten ideas she suggested. 

In the other blog, NY Times bestselling author Laura Griffin identifies characteristics of poor chapter hooks —

The sleepy time chapter end  – letting your heroine end her action-packed scene by going to bed

Disaster averted  – ending the chapter when the crisis is resolved

The threepeat – Using Pauline-in-peril gimmicks repeatedly. Unlike the silent movie success, overused in writing can turn your reader off

Lacking punch words – not ending the last sentence of your chapter with a punch word at the end.

Check out Laura’s blog at Romance University here for fixes to the problems she points out.

 Whether you’re a Scrabble player or not, as a writer you play with words. You have to “scrabble” ways that keep the reader hooked into turning the pages. 

YOUR TURN: What’s your 50-point strategy for chapter endings?

16 03, 2012

JIGSAW FUN for Cognitive Training

By |2012-03-16T08:37:32-05:00March 16th, 2012|Friday Free Day|1 Comment

Research shows our brain needs as much exercise as our body. So far I as know, there aren’t any brain gyms but there are brain games for cognitive training.

 My favorite game is Jigsaw puzzles.

At our house we keep a designated puzzle table in our living room. Amazing to see how guests gravitate to the puzzle table. All the while protesting that they don’t do jigsaw puzzles. Next thing you know, I’m begging them to leave and join the rest of us.

Here’s the current puzzle underway. Charles Wysocki’s Cape Cod Fishing Party

The table is downstairs on the direct route between the bedroom and the kitchen. I stop by the puzzle table and add a piece frequently.  I’m exercising my brain. In fact there is some strong research to suggest that working jigsaw puzzles renews your mind and helps stave off Alzheimer’s.

When I’m upstairs in my office and have a writing block moment or a piddling urge, I click on a website called  JigZone  to work a puzzle.

Cool site with fun stuff. You can even create your own jigsaw puzzle from a picture or a book cover.  NY Times best selling author Jo  Ann Ross has all her bookcovers as jigsaw puzzles on her website.

For daily exercise, Jigzone will send a puzzle to your email daily. Click and give one a try: Fruit and Veg Jigsaw Puzzle

Everyone have a great weekend. I won’t be on the porch. It’s raining pollen here.

YOUR TURN: What’s your favorite brain game? 

 

 

 

2 03, 2012

It’s FRIDAY FREE DAY – Being a PURPLE COW writer

By |2012-03-02T08:10:01-06:00March 2nd, 2012|Bohemia, Friday Free Day, Gelett Burgess, Kristin Lamb, poetry, Purple Cow, Uncategorized, writer|6 Comments

Friday blog days will be silly or stream of consciousness or who knows what will strike my fancy. The idea comes from the years I taught elementary school physical education classes. Great job compared to my years of teaching reading and language arts with all those papers to grade. LOL

I wore shorts to school and lesson plans were easy because every Friday’s plan read Free Day. The other P.E. teacher and I put out assorted equipment and allowed the kids to have supervised free time during class. Things may have changed as far as teaching P.E. goes, who knows? But Friday’s on the blog will be free, crazy, and definitely fun. 

Today’s topic is purple cows. I’m also testing a principal I learned from Kristin Lamb’s WANA class on social media–a snappy subject line. Did it grab your attention???

Why a purple cow blog? Because I’ve always been intrigued by the work of Gelett Burgess and especially his poem about the purple cow.

Burgess, a fascinating Bohemian, wrote other whimsical, nonsense poetry, but THE PURPLE COW is by far the most famous. I know I’ve quoted it a gazillion times. Though, like most people, I leave off the second line of the title: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least. Pity too because that’s where the essence lies.  Here’s the original the poem as published in 1895.

 

Purple cow is a metaphor for something that is out of the ordinary, something remarkable. Maybe Bugress didn’t personally want to be considered different.  In reality he was. Some say his works inspired Dr. Seuss. The Gelett Burgess Center for creative expression, organized to honor his creativity, gives The Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Awards yearly. It’s not the Caldecott, but still a prestigious honor for a children’s book.

Too many people do not want to take chances and be that Purple Cow, to stand out from the rest. To conform is to be comfortable, and many of us like to feel comfortable. But, is comfortable the place to be if you are a writer?

 I say no. Not with the publishing paradigm shift which allows anyone and everyone to become a published writer.

We have to be Purple cows. Different. Willing to stand out from the rest.Our stories need to be remarkable. Exceptional. After all, does the world need another ordinary writer, another ordinary story? I don’t think so.

Purple cow writers must be different at the same time consummate professionals. With the new reader-driven paradigm in publishing, we struggle to be noticed, to stand out in the pack. Often, we’re not traditionally published because our stories don’t fit the Big Six  genre boxes. Agents scratch their heads trying to pigeonhole our work. Which makes us half purple. To be a realio, trulio Purple Cow writer, we have to

  • create rich, absorbing stories  with emotional impact to grab the reader
  • know craft rules then break the ones that benefit our story
  • never stop learning
  • view every writing project as a stepping stone to something better
  • be devoted to KL’s social media theory for getting our name and our work noticed

What about you? Are you a PURPLE COW? Do you dare to step out of your comfort?