21 12, 2018

Christmas with a Music Teacher

By |2018-12-13T21:09:18-06:00December 21st, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

My Christmas tree is out – out of the closet. Perhaps after my last Christmas performance on December 21st I can get it out of the box.  Such is the life of a music teacher.  I had forgotten how busy and stressful the Christmas Season could be.  After 10 years at my previous school I was running on autopilot.  I knew the kids. I knew the program and what was expected.

Not so true this year.

Having 6 times the number of students sounded great and presented endless possibilities. I may have been a little over ambitious given the fact that their knowledge and skill base was different than I had anticipated.

There was a complete set of marching drums in my new office and I decided a drum line would be fun. (I completely ignored the fact that I have never played drums much less directed a drum line.) That all sounded wonderful in August before I had met any of the students.  They were not all excited about the plans I had made.  Many moments of frustration and “what was I thinking” have gone by.

But the day before the Christmas parade there were 6 students on drums marching around the parking lot keeping a remarkably steady beat and not tripping over each other.  Even our son Matt, the percussionist, was impressed with them.

Next week I will be fine-tuning the bells and voices for our rendition of “Carol of the Bells.” I’m not sure getting twenty-seven 5th and 6th graders to participate cheerfully was ever a realistic goal. But again, there are enough that want to play and sing so we’re giving it our all.

The 3rd and 4th grade recorder players have been a pleasant respite. I’ve taught recorder forever and these kids were excited to learn.

The final performance on Dec 21st is at the preschool which is much less pressure.   The younger students are cute and their parents love them regardless of how they sound.

Then, on December 22nd, I can put up our tree.  In some cultures the tree traditionally goes up on Christmas Eve.  Perhaps music teachers should be part of that culture.

4 12, 2017

Home for a Texas Christmas

By |2017-12-03T14:42:46-06:00December 4th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

The snow and cold in Colorado we enjoyed so much during Christmas will be missing this year. We’re back in Texas for our most favorite holiday.

Our oldest granddaughter, Catherine, is ecstatic that we’ve returned home to our roots. Her fondest memories are Christmas Eve at Nana and Pepa’s house. And, at her special request, we’ll restart the family traditions this year.

One of those Texas Christmas traditions is reading The Night Before Christmas in Texas, That Is by Leon A. Harris, a children’s picture book that has entertained readers for more than forty years.

You’d recognize the familiar “Night Before Christmas” poem with a definite Texas spin. Santa’s all decked out in Levis, a ten-gallon Stetson, a cowboy vest, and a bandana around his neck. His faithful “hosses” pull his buckboard “sleigh” piled high with gifts and boot stocking stuffers.

As a child I spent hours listening to Gene Autry read the poem. That original 78 record is floating around in storage some place. We’ll have this YouTube version playing as we decorate.

Come Christmas Eve, we’ll munch on baked ham sandwiches on pumpernickel rye bread, homemade mustard potato salad, and cutout Christmas cookies. I’ll be the only one eating fruitcake, which is so sad but no one else in the family likes it.

There might be a plate of tamales too. It wouldn’t be Christmas without tamales, a true Texas tradition. Read all about it here.

In true homage to our German roots, some lucky child might find a pickle ornament hidden on the Christmas tree and gain good luck for the New Year. Learn about the Weihnachtsgurke legend here.

And before our holiday time together ends, you’re sure to hear.

Yes, Catherine, we are as excited as you are that we’re back home with all the wonderful, unique Christmas traditions of the Lone Star State.

See you on Christmas.

11 10, 2017

The Power of Words

By |2017-10-05T12:59:56-05:00October 11th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Reading Ludwig Wittgenstein’s quote, I was reminded of a school friend of mine named Phyllis. In junior high, I’d sometimes spend the night at Phyllis’ house. Every morning at breakfast, her father would share a word for the day. He always gave us the correct spelling, pronunciation, and definition then made us use the word in a sentence.

Every morning at breakfast, her father would share a word for the day. He always gave us the correct spelling, pronunciation, and definition then made us use the word in a sentence.

Once he thought we’d master the new word, he’d say, “And now you’ve had a worthwhile day. You’ve learned something new.”

I guess you could say Phyllis’ dad nurtured my love of words. I still remember the very first word he tossed into our conversation.


It’s an uncommon word, but I’ve managed to use it in a few discussions over the years. Sometimes it falls on doubting ears and, I’m sure, the hearer went home and checked a dictionary to see if it is a real word. Whatever the reaction, interjecting that new word grows a discussion just as the Austrian philosopher says.

Btw, ratiocinate means to reason; carry on a process of reasoning.

14 07, 2017

How to Train Your Chickens

By |2017-07-12T14:51:14-05:00July 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|3 Comments

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

With every new flock of chickens comes a certain amount of training. A friend of mine gave me a chicken training book one Christmas.

While the book is highly entertaining, this is not the kind of training the birds need.  Our birds must learn to go into their coop at night. This seems simple enough. After all it is much safer in the coop.  However they still resist.  At first they hide under the coop.  Enter the “multi-purpose net.”  We scoop them up and put them where they belong.

Once they get big enough to join the big girls in the big coop, they tend to find places to roost outside the coop.  The beehives provide perfect roosting places and we simply pluck them off and put them in the coop.

One of them likes to roost in the tree.

While this is a natural thing for wild chickens, ours are not meant to be wild.  Rachel clipped its wings which helped somewhat.  It still likes to get as high as possible on the beehives.

Every night I take the chickens from the hives and put them in the coop.  I keep hoping they will get the message but they are pretty stubborn.  I have raised three teenagers – so am I.

1 07, 2016

King Kaboodle

By |2016-06-23T10:31:53-05:00July 1st, 2016|Uncategorized|2 Comments

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

We recently acquired another rooster. The former owners felt like they had too many roosters. I can certainly relate. This one, however, is a crested Polish rooster – a breed which Rachel has wanted. So off we went to get our new rooster.

kingI must confess – he is wonderful:

His original owners have three children. The oldest is a girl about 9 years old who explained to us all the idiosyncrasies of our new rooster – what he liked to eat, how he liked to be held.

She also told us about the vacation Bible school she had attended that day complete with a demonstration of the craft. She was quite friendly. And talkative.

We named the new rooster King Kaboodle after the rooster in a children’s book I have.bookIn the story, the rooster crows at all hours of the night preventing the other farm animals, and the farmer, from sleeping. He is in danger of becoming soup until a wise goose tells him about the King’s Chorus, a special group of roosters all around the world who crow in succession as the sun rises. It is their job to keep the king of the world (the sun) awake so corn can grow. Kaboodle takes his place in the King’s Chorus and the farm and farmer get to sleep at night. Everyone is happy.

Perhaps we should get a goose to convince our roosters to join the King’s Chorus. Or maybe not.

23 10, 2015

Turtles and Squirrels and Cats! Oh My! (Part 3)

By |2015-10-22T20:32:23-05:00October 23rd, 2015|Miller Farm Friday, Uncategorized|0 Comments

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

You’ve read about the turtle that Sadie thought was a chew toy. You’ve also read the saga of Alex the squirrel who has been moved to a transition spot before being released into the wild.

catYou may have forgotten about the cat. Or you may have thought it was only there for dramatic affect. Well here’s the story of the cat.

To review, we had an uninvited guest living under the shed. The dogs were quick to discover the scent yet were unable to flush the critter out. So we began to set traps – live traps, that is. At first they remained empty.

Then one Sunday morning, Beekeeper Brian went outside to discover …. a cat in the trap. This was not what we expected.

We moved the cat out of the backyard so the dogs would not go crazy. It sat on the side of the house all day Sunday. I put some water in the trap and the neighbors gave it some food. The girls really wanted to keep it, but I wasn’t sure that the cat would stay next door. Our yard was so much more interesting.

I planned to take it to the animal shelter first thing on Monday. Only to discover our animal shelter is closed on Mondays.

I called animal control. They do not pick up animals unless they had set the trap. So I took the cat to a nearby Humane Society. They only took in animals from out in the county and the neighboring town.

I was not happy. Neither was the cat. It had been in the cage for more than 24 hours. I took it back home and put cage in the shade beside the house again.

The neighbor girls gave it more food and tried to convince their mom to let them keep it. The mom was convinced they had taken in enough animals from Miller Farm. Remember, they were the ones who adopted Annabel/Rosie – the stray dog we rescued.

Tuesdays I work from 7:30-3:30 then teach piano lessons until almost 7:00. I do have a 42 minute break after lunch and planned to take the cat to the animal shelter then.

This meant the cat went to work with me. I tried to place it in an inconspicuous spot so the kids would not be distracted. It didn’t work. In every class there was at least one child who wanted to adopt the cat.

To each one I gave the same response – the cat would be at the animal shelter. They were welcome to adopt it from there.
During my break I took the cat to the animal shelter. They did the paperwork, and I returned to work.

The next day one of my students announced they had a new cat. Fortunately, that student lives far enough away that the cat won’t find its way back to our shed.

1 06, 2015

Wrangling A Persistent Robin

By |2015-05-31T16:39:25-05:00June 1st, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Springtime – fresh sprouts popping out of the ground. Birds singing and gathering at the feeders. It’s such a happy time.


Living in a national forest, we have lots of different birds. Most fun to watch.

Some not so much.

waitingThe robin that came to occupy our backyard has not been fun.

Thump, thump, thump. He flies over and over into the large picture window in my kitchen.

I turned on the kitchen light hoping to diffuse the reflection from the trees on the mountain behind the house and a technique supposed to discourage him.

I figured by the time the dogs and I returned from our morning walk he’d be long gone. Wrong!

All through our breakfast, the determined little redbreast thumped against the window. Not hard like he’d miscalculated the needed thrust to flyover the house. Soft like he was trying to land on a branch he saw in the glass.

He never hit hard enough to fall only to flutter away and try again. Still I worried he’d knock himself senseless.

We had researched ways to deter birds from the plate glass after we first moved to the national forest and two birds died when they crashed into it. Short of shuttering the window, which would totally block the view (the reason we installed the large picture windows in the first place) nothing seem to stop this crazy robin.

Whenever robin perched on the crab apple tree, I’d fling open the kitchen door and frighten him away. This seemed to work so I spent the next four hours working in the backyard flowerbeds.

The robin stayed away…

Until I went inside to write and the thump, thump, thump began again. In desperation, I nailed a sheet over the kitchen picture window.kitchen

All was quiet again…

Until he started flying into the dining room window, which I note has a blind that is supposed to discourage window bashing.

Not for this robin.

Thump, thump, thump. I stomp out and Mr. Robin watches me hang a sheet over that window.

Undeterred, as soon as I’m inside, he starts bashing the small bathroom window. Thump, thump, thump.

Out I go again and Robin watches me covered the bathroom window.

By now it’s getting dark… very dark inside the house with the picture windows draped… and robin goes to wherever his nest is for the night.

No thumping the next morning. Thrilled that I’d won, the dogs and I left for our walk. Unleashing them when I returned, I heard the dreaded thump, thump, thump.

cornerThe dining room sheet had slipped to expose a tiny triangle of reflection. Mr. Robin was once again determined to come inside.

I trouped outside, adjusted the sheet, all the while shouting to the infuriating robin that I did not want to have to take drastic measures so he’d best move on.

I was not happy because with my lovely picture windows blocked I can’t see the other birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and deer in my backyard.

post watchingMr. Robin perched on the stair rail waiting for me to take down the sheets, I guess.

I saw him every time I passed the kitchen door, which also has a small window. (A window that said robin ignores.)

I opened the kitchen door and gave the ultimate threat: “I’m not living forever with my windows covered. Don’t make me get the pellet gun!”

Not sure who’s won — the robin or me.

For five days now, the picture windows have remained covered. So far, Mr. Robin is nowhere to be seen.

I’ll let you know what happens when we take the window coverings down.

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