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14 02, 2014

Letter to My Chickens – Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-02-14T06:00:33-06:00February 14th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

hens2Dearest Ladies,

I have noticed some undesirable habits in the chicken yard lately and wanted to remind you of the rules and procedures of Miller Farm.

  1.  Do not peck at my hand when I am getting eggs.  I know my hand has been cold these last two weeks, and I am sure it is uncomfortable for your warm underside. However, this is the hand that feeds you.
  2. While we are on the topic of feeding, remember I feed you – you feed me.  That’s the way it goes.  I do my job every day when I give you food and you are to do your job by laying eggs.  And please leave the shells intact. I prefer to crack them myself so do not do it for me.
  3. Do not poop on my head when I am in the coop and you are perched up high.  The screaming and flailing that would ensue would be unpleasant for everyone concerned.
  4. A note to the roosters:  Be quiet or be dinner.  Do you remember the three noisy guys that disappeared last month?
  5. Do not fly over the fence in any direction.  The grass may appear greener, but the dangers are greater. Bella is just waiting for someone to come “play” with her.

We have done our best during the last few months to protect you from chicken-eating possums and deadly hawks.  We only ask that you follow these simple rules.

Thank you,

Chicken Wrangler Sara

12 02, 2014

Valentine Words – One Word Wednesday

By |2014-02-12T07:27:05-06:00February 12th, 2014|one word Wednesday|2 Comments

In two days, on February 14, many people will be exchanging cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine.”

It’s the day of romance named for a Christian martyr St. Valentine and dates back to the 5th century.

According to embellished version of the origins, Saint Valentine, on the evening before his execution, wrote the first “valentine”, addressed to the daughter of his jailer, and signed the greeting “Your Valentine.”

If you’re shy about expressing yourself with words or cards , try these “signs” from Signing Savvy, the on-line ASL Dictionary.

sign for I Love You

Moi, I’m not shy about romance or telling the ones I love how much I love them on this special day. After all, I do write love stories.

 HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

10 02, 2014

What do Successful Writers and Olympic Athletes have in common? 5 Character Traits

By |2014-02-10T06:00:25-06:00February 10th, 2014|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Have you been watching the Olympics?imagesMSQP6B5W

Couples figure skating is by far my most favorite event. The duo moves as though they are one.

As I watch, I recognize the hours and hours and hours of practice that have gone before the short performances. Not only for the skaters, but also for all the athletes in every event.

Most have spent their entire lives preparing for their event. Often sacrificing ordinary childhood and teenage years to become the best they can be.

In every one of the Olympic athletic contests, the players reach deep inside and pull out amazing performances. Some soar. Others crumble.

What makes the difference?

Character. Specifically five character traits.

Character traits I believe writers share, or should, if they wish to succeed in the publishing industry today.writer

What are these characteristics?

Adaptability

I’ve watched skaters make mistakes and keep going. Slope-style snowboarding have crashed and tumbled then executed their second run perfectly.

Competitors know it’s not what happens, but how you react to what happens that makes you a champion. Nancy Kerrigan –1994 Olympic silver medalist – managed to win an Olympic medal even after being kneecapped. Last night, Ty Walker did her skateboard run with an ankle injury!

Stuff happens and things don’t always go according to plan. Olympic champions adjust and move on.

Similarly, successful writers roll with whatever life dumps their way and carry on to deliver when it really counts.

Confidence

If you listen to interviews with Olympic athletes, you realize they judge their performance against their potential. They don’t spend time comparing their performance against others. They believe in their own potential.

Successful writers don’t judge their success on how other authors are doing. Why? Because no two writers travel the same path and each new manuscript is different and, hopefully, better than the last one.

Inner motivation

Competitors who aim for the Olympics face early morning practice and another session in the afternoons even on weekends. There is never time off. Something deep inside drives their ambition or they wouldn’t work so hard toward their goal.

Successful writers write, rewrite, and polish a draft when all their friends are at the movies or chatting on Facebook or Twitter and/or watching the Olympics.

Determination

I’m amazed at how Olympic athletes perform their routines while people in the stands cough, scream, and walk around. Their focus never wavers even with their top competitors staring at their every move.

Truly dedicated writers don’t allow anything to throw them off their game, either.

Perseverance

Olympic athletes are always looking toward the next competition. No matter what their performance in the current games.

Winning a medal in the Olympics is the goal, but not the be-all-to-end-all for champion athletes. Doing better next time is paramount.

Successful writers write because the voices in their heads won’t let them stop. Producing a NYT best seller is merely the cherry on top.

Indeed, success as a writer isn’t easy. The competition is tough…Olympic level.

Those who succeed possess these five character traits.

7 02, 2014

Winter on the Farm – Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-02-07T06:00:38-06:00February 7th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

In the past seven days, we have been under two different winter storm warnings.

While this may seem normal for those of you who actually have winter where you live, in Texas winter is anything below 60 degrees. Any chance of freezing precipitation causes great panic.

Last Thursday the weather began to get nasty and by Friday morning we awoke to what for us was a “Winter Wonderland.”

snowWP Now I have lived in the northeast and have actually been stranded in a blizzard in Deep Creek, Maryland, so I understand how silly this seems.

However, for the chickens, that have never seen a white ground, this was very disturbing.hen and snowWP

They were much slower to exit the coop and some decided to wait it out in the safety of their nest boxes.

By afternoon, the snow was gone and the chickens were out pecking the ground as usual.

By Sunday, we were in short sleeves again making it hard to believe the weather forecast for Tuesday which was predicting up to 2 inches of snow.

Sure enough on Monday, the wind shifted and the temperature dropped.

I bought more chicken and quail food and made sure all feeders were full. I even filled the waterers knowing they would freeze.  I planned to pour hot water over them in the morning to melt enough ice to prevent any bird from dying of thirst.

We have been watching a TV show called “Alaska: The Last Frontier.” I thought about how they prepared for their winter as I warned the chickens of the impending storm.

By the end of the day on Monday, the private school where I teach had cancelled classes for Tuesday. The public schools delayed opening for two hours.  The pool even closed so we all slept in.

Tuesday morning arrived with no snow and little ice.  iceWP

Children were disappointed, but I didn’t mind. I’ve seen enough snow.

The weatherman says it will be 70 degrees by Friday. Gotta love Texas 🙂

5 02, 2014

Ground Hog – One Word Wednesday

By |2014-02-05T06:00:58-06:00February 5th, 2014|one word Wednesday|0 Comments

Sunday was Super Bowl #48 and Ground Hog Day.

Denver Broncos didn’t do so well, which made for a tough day for fans and some very quiet Super Bowl parties as all hope for a comeback failed.

ground hogThe mythological Punxsutawney Phil, who has been predicting whether winter is over since 1887, gave a nod to the game with this year’s prediction poem:

“A Super Bowl winner I will not predict,
But my weather forecast, you cannot contradict,
That’s not a football lying beside me
It’s my shadow you see
So, six more weeks of winter it shall be!”

Not the report I wanted to hear. What about you?

Like the Denver fans’ hopes of a Super Bowl win, all thoughts of warm weather and sunshine arriving early have been dashed away.

The news will not be well received by most of the U.S. considering the extreme cold that has blanketed so much of the country this winter.

There is a bit of hope because Phil’s predictions have been correct only 39% of the time, according to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887.

I’d say the ground hog could be wrong again except the Farmer’s Almanac predicts “a wave of storminess stretching almost from coast to coast, bringing a wide variety of precipitation types as well as strong and gusty winds.”

It’s time to remember all the good things about winter –
• snowmen
• hot cocoa
• warm blankets
• and curling up by the fire with a great bookread 2

If you’re unsure what to read, check out The Pendant’s Promise or Love in the Morning Calm.

Both books are available in paperback and for eReaders. The stories will warm your heart and make you forget about the weather outside.

Happy Reading!

3 02, 2014

Fad Collectibles Part 2

By |2014-02-03T06:00:07-06:00February 3rd, 2014|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Last week’s blog on collectible fads was long and detailed. Too long, too many details. Sorry about that. I kinda slipped into teacher-mode and overloaded you with what I knew.

The week’s Part 2 will be short and sweet, but the news is no better for the items we’ll look at today.

Precious Moments, Cabbage Patch Kids, Thomas Kincaid and Longaberger baskets were all desirable and highly sought after fad items for collectors at one point in time.

The prices were reasonable. The anticipated return on the investment promised to be high. Let’s look at each and see what happened.

  • Precious Moments Pmilogo2007

Artist and illustrator, Samuel Butcher, began drawing pictures of endearing children in the 1970s. With a friend, he began a small company to make and sell greeting cards and posters that featured his “Precious Moments” artwork and uplifting messages. Then in 1978, Enesco Corp. produced a line of porcelain Precious Moments figurines.

Demand was high. Sales grew. Unfortunately, too many different figurines were made and the market crashed. According to Kovels’ recent newsletter over 50 different figurines were offered at $10 each at a recent charity auction.

Many buyers still love them, and you can still join a Precious Moments collector club and order special figurines available only to collectors. There’s even a Precious Moments collector cruise offered.precious moments

precious 2Buy because you love the precious figurines, but don’t expect a great return on your investment in the future.

 

  • Cabbage Patch Kidscabbage2

Cabbage Patch Kids, created by art student Xavier Roberts in 1978, were a popular fad in the 1980s. Each Cabbage Patch Kids had a cloth body, plastic or vinyl head and came with adoption papers. They had one-of-a-kind names and profiles.

cabbage3The dolls sold quickly in the U. S. I was so into the fad that I purchased three Cabbage Patch dolls on a trip to France in 1983. Yep, I struggled with those dolls and their boxes all the way back to the states.

Once again, the company was bought and many, many dolls were made which deflated the market.

The early Xavier Roberts’ Little People dolls (before the Cabbage Patch phase) still sell for high prices. Most Cabbage Patch dolls sell for $10 to $30 now although you can find higher prices on eBay.

I finally allowed the grandchildren to play with the Cabbage Patch kids that I’d bought. They loved playing with dolls that had reminded Nana of their mothers and daddy.

  • Thomas Kinkade Paintings tk_logo

Thomas Kinkade (1958–2012) began selling his oil paintings of idyllic scenes in supermarket parking lots. He added mass-market printed reproductions and many licensed products (mugs, stationary, vases, books, etc.), often using the limited edition plan. He became known as the “Painter of Light.” His prints were largely promoted with hard-hitting ads and direct mail.

As is the case with too many fad items, too many franchised stores opened, flooding the market with his merchandise. His work was no longer one-of-a-kind.

When Thomas Kinkade died, prices of all Kinkade items dropped, but Kinkade paintings are still reproduced and sold, retailing for $350 and up.

???????????????????????????????One of my favorite Christmas jigsaw puzzles is from one of his paintings. We bring it out to work every holiday.

  • Longaberger basketsLongaberger baskets

The handcrafted wood baskets made by the Longaberger Basket Company of Newark, Ohio became a hot collectible in the 1990s. The company issued expensive limited edition baskets. Collectors became swept up searching for them which made prices go up. After a while, the resale market collapsed.

Today even the most expensive original baskets sell for low prices. They can be found at flea markets and online for under $40, a fair price for a quality made basket unless you originally paid a hundred.long5

long4I still love my Longaberger baskets and use them all the time.

Your take away from this look at fad collecting should be to be cautious of high-pressure sales of “limited editions.” Buy a “limited edition,” but don’t buy it because you expected to have an investment. To truly hold its value an item must be very limited in production and very one-of-a-kind.

YOUR TURN: Have you been tempted or fallen prey to high pressure sales for “limited edition” fads?

31 01, 2014

Fence Update – Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-01-31T06:00:51-06:00January 31st, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

For those who may have missed the “Under Construction” blog, our neighbors have put up a privacy fence.

I don’t believe it was their idea as they are moving. I imagine the real estate agent suggested it to make the house easier to sell.

After all, no one wants to live next door to chickens.

Anyway, the morning after the fence was complete I walked out back to let the chickens out and found Gus, the neighbor’s dog looking through a hole in the fence.

fence hole-cropped

I guess he didn’t like not being able to see his friend Tucker any more than Tucker liked not being able to see him.

It turns out that the contractor used the wrong sized nails and had to return and fix the mistake.

We found out this weekend that the house has sold. The new owners are friends of ours – who have chickens. We’re so excited! 

29 01, 2014

Shiver – One Word Wednesday

By |2014-01-29T07:57:51-06:00January 29th, 2014|one word Wednesday|2 Comments

We spent last week in Houston, Texas where an uncharacteristic winter ice storm came though.

The whole city shutdown. Southerners know how to sweat. Not slip, skate, and slide.

My experience is that’s true of ice and rain! Rain leads to flooding in Houston. Ice and snow cause frozen freeway ramps. Houston drivers handle neither very well.

Winter storm weather is our norm in Colorado, but Texans just aren’t trained for it. Actually they are disastrous at it, if the broadcasts from traffic cams testified.

It was COLD. I have to give them that. I’d forgotten how the humidity makes thirty degrees feel like -30. I spent the entire time shivering.

Friends and family questioned how I managed the cold in our Colorado mountains.

Simple: Dry cold. Road equipment to clear the ice and snow. And a roaring fire!

Lots of people in the southern states and east coast have been shivering for weeks now while we watch  our November snowstorm that dropped 20″ of snow  evaporate. Go figure!

So if you’re shivering today, stay warm.

If you’re a writer, don’t let the shivers keep you from the keyboard. Bundle up, grab a mug of hot chocolate and let the words blaze.

icy typewriter

27 01, 2014

A Lesson in Fad Collectibles for Investment – Part 1

By |2014-01-27T06:00:08-06:00January 27th, 2014|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

I’m an avid antiques collector/buyer/seller. Though I’m not so active in the business part of antiques anymore, I am still out there buying for my personal collections, evaluating estates, and doing appraisals.

Too often, when I do an estate evaluation or appraisal, I have to explain to heirs how little a loved one’s collection is truly worth. That’s why I wanted to talk about fad collectibles.

A fad collectible is an item or group of items that rise in popularity, flourish, then fade until the value of the item often drops below the original purchase price.

If you’re an antiques dealer in the business of buying and selling, that’s not so bad. Sometimes you have to take a loss and sell for what you can get.

If you’re the consumer who bought a certain collectible(s) as an investment, fading fads can sting.

Here are three examples of fad collectibles that rose and faded so that the value is currently quite low.

Hummel figurines (also known as M.I. Hummel figurines or simply Hummels) are a series of porcelain figurines based on the drawings of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, O.S.F. hummel one

W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik in Germany first made the porcelain figurines of children with sweet faces in 1935. They became popular in the U.S. after soldiers returning from World War II brought them home as gifts for wives, mothers and grandmothers. Original quantities sold quickly and soon old figurines, identified by the mark, rose in price.

Collectors snatched up available figurines, forcing an increase in producing more figurines. Plates with Hummel figures were also made. Soon the market was flooded with Hummels. Interest dropped.

The secondary market for the figurines and plates virtually disappeared.

A vibrant speculator market in the figurines emerged again in the 1970s. Prices skyrocketed then floundered. Today most Hummels sell for less than $50.

beaniesBeanie Babies are the line of popular stuffed animals, made by Ty Inc. in late 1993. The inner “posable lining” and plastic pellets (or “beans”) rather than conventional stuffing give Beanie Babies a flexible feel.

Hundreds of different animals were made, some in limited or special editions, some were “retired” and became hard to find.

By 1995, Beanie Babies were a hot collectibles fad. I was selling them in my shop as fast as I could buy them, especially the McDonalds’ kids’ meal beanie sets.  The collectible craze ended in 1999, when Ty Inc. stopped production.

Production restarted in 2000 and in early 2008, Ty released a new version of Beanie Babies called Beanie Babies 2.0, which provide its owner with a code to access a Beanie Babies interactive website.imagesPIBWS14Y

Renewed interest in these new Beanies did nothing for those of us who have a stash of the early Beanies in a box in the attic or closet.

imagesA4X6CILULimited Edition Items This can include collector plates, Christmas plates and ornaments, anything Franklin Mint—dolls, coins, figurines and die-cast cars—Norman Rockwell merchandise, paperweights, figurines, bells, enamel boxes, spoons, mugs and steins have all been offered in limited editions. Any item promoted as limited editions, limited by quantity or period of production is considered a collectible fad.

Limited editions were a new idea during the 1970s and quickly became a fad. Clubs were formed and conventions were held so collectors could buy and sell older editions of items. Collectors saw prices rise, ads promoted “investment” possibilities, and many people bought large collections.

Those same collectors were shocked in the 1990s when prices plummeted and their “investment” turned out to be a loss. Today’s younger buyer often considers such items kitsch.

imagesICP4MTYXHaving the original box and paperwork increases value, but most items languish in closets, yard sales or resale shops.

That said every Christmas since the 1980s I order the collectible White House ornament and a Texas capitol ornament. Someday my heirs will hear the same thing I tell others.

I’m not saying don’t invest in collectibles.

Truth is there’s no way to predict what collectible or antique will remain a profitable purchase and what won’t.

Based on my years of experience, my best advice is to buy what you like and enjoy the piece(s).

Next week we’ll talk about Precious Moments, Cabbage Patch kids, and Longaberger baskets.

24 01, 2014

Tales from the Dark Side (of the chicken coop) -Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-01-24T06:00:07-06:00January 24th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A guest blog by Beekeeper Brian

Warning: The following story is a true account; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

It also contains tales of death. If death of vermin upsets you, STOP reading now!

On Monday nights, Chicken Wrangler Sara teaches ladies about God’s Word. Therefore, I pull double farm duty.

Since my bees are snug in their hives, they are not a duty problem.

As you might remember, the chickens go into the coop when the sun goes down every night. However, a chicken wrangler or beekeeper has to go close the door to the coop. We haven’t been able to teach the girls to take care of that.

I went out to keep them safe and close the coop.

You would not believe that living in the city, we would have all kinds of uninvited dinner guest. Word should be out that there are no more dinner parties on the Miller Farm.

Yet, as I drew close to the coop door, I spotted the glowing eyes of an uninvited dinner guest—the chicken eating opossum! possumSnarling Virginia OpossumThis was the fourth opossum this winter that planned to have chicken as his main course!

In case you have never tangled with an opossum, once they find fresh food, they keep coming back for seconds.

Since Chicken Wrangler Sara was not at home to bring me a lead slinger (air-powered since we are in the city), I had to grab what was at hand – my flashlight.

Unfortunately, I only had the small one.

Fortunately, there is a nice rock right outside the coop, which would do the trick. Several hits later, the chicken thief was unaffected!

I needed to find something else. (Don’t be fooled. Opossums play dead, but they do have a very strong tail, which can be used to carry them some place to secure a bigger club.)

I grabbed his tail and hauled him out of the coop, heading for the woodpile. I grabbed half of a wooden bee pallet to use as a club. That was a little more effective at subduing him, but the rascal was still sniffing for chicken dinner.

I spotted a shovel blade by the shed and carried him to the other side of the yard to finish the deed with the shovel blade. It was crude but effective.

The hens were safe for another night, none the wiser that there’d been an intruder intend on eating them.

I posted on FB: opossums 0, Beekeeper Brian 4.

When Chicken Wrangler Sara arrived home, I told her of the evening adventure. All in a day’s work on an urban farm.

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