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23 08, 2013

Family Resemblance – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-08-23T05:47:16-05:00August 23rd, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|2 Comments

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

We have several friends who have new babies in their family.  One is a first born and she looks like her father.  The other is the fourth girl, and she looks just like her sisters.

In our family, the two girls look like my husband and the boy looks like me.

When my parents and I arrived at their new home in Colorado, their neighbor came up to me and started to give me a hug then stopped short.  He thought I was my mother.  I assured him it was ok to hug me anyway.

fish face-2Besides the fact we are all making fish faces, there are definite physical similarities.

It is usually pretty easy to find the family resemblance in humans. Recently, though, I’ve noticed it in our chickens.  (Perhaps I spend too much time in the coop.)

See what you think…here are pictures of Crooked neck and her child, Samson and his child and a nameless barred rock and her child.

Can you tell who is related to whom?

hen1hen2

hen3hen4

hen5hen6

21 08, 2013

Back-to-School – One Word Wednesday

By |2018-09-05T08:27:07-05:00August 21st, 2013|one word Wednesday|1 Comment

Another summer is about over. Labor Day is less than two weeks away. Fall will officially arrive on September 22nd. 

It’s the time of year when this one-time schoolteacher becomes nostalgic.

I’m not saying I’d want to be back in a classroom again. Not with the challenge of teaching today. 

Still, once the back-to-school chatter begins, a part of me misses the excitement of starting a new school year, setting up my classroom, and seeing the eager young faces. The freshness of a new beginning.

Last Monday, when the dogs and I were out on our daily sunrise walk, we spotted a school bus, I swallowed the lump in my throat brought on by my memories.

busThe three of us paused.

walking dogs in TaosI said a prayer that it would be a “really good year” for the bus driver, the kids, and the teacher waiting in the classroom.

May all the students, teachers, and staff who began a new school year this week or will be going back-to-school over the next few weeks have a safe and productive new school year.

welcome bk to school

YOUR TURN: Do you miss school days?

19 08, 2013

Dilly Green Tomatoes – Home Canning Fun

By |2013-08-19T06:22:14-05:00August 19th, 2013|Home Cooking|8 Comments

One of the many things I love about our new location here in Colorado is the ability to have a garden.

Gardening in Houston was always a challenge. Not because things didn’t grow in the tropical atmosphere. Quite the opposite. Things grew well, especially weeds.

The problem was it got too hot too quickly to be out tending the garden. Here, we can go out whenever we want and pleasant weather greets.

And not too many bugs here, either. Houston mosquitoes loved me. Colorado mosquitoes haven’t found me…yet.

This year between the fire and all the construction underway, our efforts were limited.

Our evacuation killed most of our hanging baskets and planted flowers. We couldn’t water any of them. The mountains of dirt from the excavation buried the new peonies we planted.

Not complaining, just stating facts.

We did put out two tomato plants early in the spring, which survived.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????What I failed to realize was that, since we live on the shady mountainside, I’d need a greenhouse to get the tomatoes to turn red!

Both plants are loaded with buds and tomatoes that are never going to turn red. This seemed such a waste.

???????????????????????????????We fried a few and then Jerry remembered we’d dilled green tomatoes at the end of the growing season when we lived in West Virginia.

I dug around in my cookbooks and found the recipe in my 1965 edition of Better Homes and Gardens new CookBook. That was easy.???????????????????????????????Finding the necessary ingredients wasn’t. Local farmers’ markets didn’t have fresh dill, and our local market didn’t either. We finally found fresh dill in the supermarket forty-seven miles away.

Once the ingredients were on hand, I was ready to start the canning process.

???????????????????????????????

I washed the tomatoes. The dishwasher washed the canning jars. ???????????????????????????????

Ironic that after years of collecting jars, I had to buy new ones. I’d given all my jars to Chicken Wrangler Sara when we downsized.

With the jars clean and heated, I prepared the liquid.

???????????????????????????????When it boiled, I stuffed the jars with green tomatoes, fresh dill, fresh garlic, and a stalk of celery.

I left out the hot pepper. I don’t like HOT peppered stuff.

Minutes later, I had three beautiful quart jars which will be ready to eat in a month to enjoy with our meals. ???????????????????????????????

Whole process took less than an hour and reminded me how much I love to can and make jams and preserves. I’m thinking I’ll start doing more.

That is, when I’m not writing!

YOUR TURN: What about you ever done in home canning?

16 08, 2013

Fully Dressed – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-08-16T06:05:00-05:00August 16th, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|2 Comments

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

My summer routine has been to get up at 5:00, put on my swimsuit, go to the pool, swim, shower, get dressed, then come home to feed the humans and animals. It has worked pretty well most of the time.

Occasionally I get in the flight path of chickens exiting the coop and end up with chicken footprints on my shirt.

This is not a problem on Monday or Friday when I have no piano students or places to be. However, on Thursdays, I volunteer at a children’s Bible club where we wear a particular shirt.

I’ve learned that I should wait until just before I leave to put on the shirt to avoid evidence of chickens on it.

apronAnother option is to wear an apron over my shirt. I have done this, especially during the school year when I have to go to work in the mornings. I must be careful when choosing my apron, though. The one with red dots on it is particularly attractive to the chickens and the peck at it.

My shoes are another issue. I have a pair of duck shoes that I wear only in the chicken coop. That way whatever gets on them stays outside.  muck shoes

I had to rename them “muck” shoes because the chickens were offended at the use of the word duck. Besides, “muck” is a polite way to describe what gets on the shoes.

If I am just throwing something to the chickens without actually entering the coop, I wear my sneakers.

tennis shoesI looked down yesterday as I was teaching lessons and found a feather on my sneaker. I guess it had made its way into the back yard, and I had to smile. 

It reminded me of when my children were infants. I didn’t feel fully dressed unless I had a little bit of spit up on my shoulder.

Now I am a chicken wrangler, and I’m only dressed when I have feathers on my shoes.

14 08, 2013

READING FACTS – One Word Wednesday

By |2013-08-14T06:47:52-05:00August 14th, 2013|one word Wednesday|1 Comment

I found another fascinating chart through one of my favorite blogs, Writers Write.  interesting-facts-about-reading_50290ee6a6406_w594

Looking at the chart, I was fascinated to see the advantages of speed reading.

  • Increased comprehension
  • Less eye time on the page
  • Less eye fatigability

I learned to speed read while I was working on my Masters’ degree. Had to. Those professors thought all I had going on in my life was their class reading assignments!

Reality was I worked full time as a teacher, part time with my antiques business, and full time as a corporate wife and mother to three teenagers! Fitting in time to read hundreds of pages was a very real challenge.

I am a firm believer in the rapid reading, especially in today’s world where we spend so much time reading—emails, web articles, texts, etc.

Two techniques I taught reading/study skills classes are skimming and skipping smaller words, i.e. prepositions and articles. Both skills got me through grad school and continue to be a help with all my reading whether professional or for pleasure.

It does cause a problem in my writing, though.

Because I don’t read prepositions and articles, I tend to leave them out when I write. Thank goodness for great critique partners and editors who put all those three and four letter words back in for me!

Interested in learning more about speed/rapid reading?

Mindtools.com offers great suggestions. http://www.mindtools.com/speedrd.html

More techniques can be found here.  http://english.glendale.cc.ca.us/methods.html

There’s even an eight-minute free video on Youtube. Click here to watch.

YOUR TURN: Did the chart hold any surprising facts for you?

12 08, 2013

Black Bear Visits

By |2013-08-12T06:25:45-05:00August 12th, 2013|Living in a Forest|3 Comments

The exciting part of living in the Rio Grande Forest is observing the wildlife. During our four years here, we have seen:

Mountain Goats. Mule Deer. Elk. Moose. Beavers. Fox. Squirrels. Chipmunks. Hummingbirds. Woodpeckers. Thirty different species of birds.

We’re also heard a mountain lion. Haven’t seen one…yet. They seem to stay over the ridge away from our house.

Not the Black Bears.

Our first year here a Black Bear came to drink from the container the previous owners set out for the wildlife. Needless to say, we discarded the container immediately.

We didn’t see another bear that year, but we read up on living with bears and the next year we followed all the suggestions about securing our trash, taking in the birdfeeders at night, and bear proofing our home.

That year a bear came by in the middle day to help himself to our birdfeeders, which were out during the day. OO

When Mr. Bear 2012 refused to leave, we did what we were supposed to do and contacted the CPW office. A wildlife ranger came out. During his visit, Mr. Bear returned and demonstrated how he had not read the pamphlet that loud noises would chase him away.

The ranger left firecrackers behind for us to use and advised us to contact the office if that particular bear returned.firecrackers2

Mr. Black Bear 2012 didn’t come back.

This year we’ve had three encounters and it’s only August.

The first time we accidentally left the hummingbird feeders out overnight. Mr. Bear 2013 tore the feeder from the tree and dropped it – empty–when he left.

We never saw him only the evidence he’d visited.

Remember, bears have excellent memories and he’d found a food source at our house. Mr. Bear 2013 returned.

Unfortunately, the next time he came, we’d left the shed door open while we worked in the yard. Our neighbor called to tell us to be careful because a bear was in our shed.

When we came through the house to see for ourselves, Mr. Bear 2013 was sitting on the deck helping himself to the forty-pound tub of sunflower seeds we had stored for the birdfeeders.

We made loud noises per the instructions for bear encounters and Mr. Bear 2013 carried the tub up the mountain behind our house, stopping to eat from the tub.???????????????????????????????

We fired a firecracker from our stash that we store on the kitchen table.

Mr. Bear disappeared over the ridge only to return forty minutes later to finish out the tub he thought he’d left behind.

We fired another firecracker. He scampered over the ridge in a different direction this time.

Relieved that Mr. Bear 2013 had read the pamphlet and was duly frightened off by loud noises, we elected not to notify the CPW regional office.

If you look in the picture you’ll see Mr. Bear 2013 has a blue tag on his ear. The tag means he’d already been tagged once, and Colorado has a “two strike” rule for dealing with problem bears.

The first time a bear gets into trouble, it receives an ear tag marking it as a problem bear. Another serious encounter, or “second strike,” means the bear will be killed.

We didn’t want that.

HOWEVER, we knew we needed to be extra careful because bears will return to the same locations where they have been successful finding food in the past.

For two weeks, we didn’t see Mr. Bear 2013. Then last Friday we woke up to find this:??????????????????????Mr. Bear 2013 had pawed and scratched the shed door until the latch on top came undone. We’re pretty sure our visitor was Mr. Bear 2013 because he’d already been in the shed once. He remembered the sunflower seeds and returned.

Then he carried the grey tub out of the shed and up the hill.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This time Mr. Bear 2013 was too smart for his own good. He’d figured out how to get into a locked and secure shed.

Jerry climbed up the hill and retrieved what was left of the new forty-pound bag of sunflower seeds. ???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????Even though the only thing Mr. Bear 2013 took from the shed was the tub he remembered when he could have had the tub of deer corn tub underneath or mixed birdseed in the white container, we’re contacting CWP when their offices open on Monday.

I believe in preserving Colorado’s wildlife, but smarty Mr. Bear 2013 might decide to come back for the tubs he left in the shed or into the kitchen for human food next time.

Can’t have that!

9 08, 2013

UCR Mystery – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-08-09T06:10:01-05:00August 9th, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

For the past week and a half, each morning, I have experienced a UCR – unidentified crowing rooster.

rooster crowingNow you may wonder how I could tell this was an “unidentified” crowing rooster and not one of the many in our back yard.

Crows are distinctive. The direction of the crowing is also distinguishable.

Each morning, at about 5:00 I would hear an unfamiliar rooster crow and it sounded like it was next door.

I was most concerned. While our neighbors enjoy our farm, I’m not sure they want it in their own back yard.

Each morning I would take stock of our roosters to see who was wandering next door.  Alas, all the roosters were accounted for.

Now I was truly befuddled.

Then yesterday morning I walked by my son’s room at 5:00 and heard the URC once again.

It was then that I remembered Matthew had set his new phone alarm to sound like a rooster. It sounded very life-like, but not very effective.Matt sleeping

I had to wake Matthew myself.

I chose to speak to him and not crow like a rooster, which obviously did no good!

Mystery solved.

5 08, 2013

Beyond and Behind the Story – Love in the Morning Calm

By |2013-08-05T05:48:12-05:00August 5th, 2013|Beyond and Behind the Story|2 Comments

Research and details in a book can make a major difference in a reader’s pleasure.

That’s why in Love in the Morning Calm and The Pendant’s Promise I include details selected from my time in South Korea.

Lily’s apartment is where we lived in U.N. Village.

UN Village4 I walked the same roads that she walked to catch the bus to Eighth Army Headquarters. UN Village6

We got so used to the train whistle we didn’t even hear it.

train on track2These pictures stir memories for me and I hope give you a good idea of where Lily lived. If you’ve read Love in the Morning Calm, is it like your mental picture?

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????A gold dress also plays an important role in both books. I got the idea for those scenes from my own experience having a gold dress made to wear to the reception President Park Chung Hee and his wife gave for President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson. Here’s what my dress looked like. Is it what you pictured Lily wearing?

There’s a carved Papasan in both stories. I brought back several carvings from South Korea to remind us of our time in Han Nam Dong.???????????????????????????????That’s the Papasan third from the left. When we lived in Seoul, Papasan meant a title used to address elderly men. The term has come to be used for pimps or a  person who manages a bar or a brothel or a similar establishment. The kindly men in the white suits we met didn’t do any of that!

You’ll find I used others places we went during our time in South Korea and developed scenes around them. Places like Chungpyung Reservoir. I can still remember our picnic on the hood of the motor pool jeep with the sound of the roaring dam behind us. Ace and Lily picnicked there too.409284034_Chungpyung Dam

I hope these glimpses of South Korea when I was there enhance your reading of Lily and Ace’s love story. Or make you want to read.

It should also demonstrate how writers use their personal experiences in creating their fictional stories.

MorningCalm_6 for webpgs

In 1966, while on temporary assignment to South Korea, Green Beret Major Ace Cabot meets Lily Reed, a Department of Army civilian at Eighth Army Headquarters. Ace is a high-potential career officer, who should resist the temptation of any woman, but he can’t ignore his interest in her.

Lily is a firm supporter of the budding women’s lib movement. She enjoys her freedom and new life away from her stifling hometown. Her plans leave no room for any man. No matter how captivating his smile.

In an uncertain time, in a temporary safe zone, yielding to temptation changes both their lives forever.

Available for Kindle     Nook    Apple iBook/iPad  and   Smashwords for PDF, Diesel, or Kobo

books_pendant

For twenty years, Lily Johnson’s life, albeit a life of lies, has been good. Then her daughter falls in love and trouble abounds.

The young man her daughter plans to marry is the godson of her daughter’s biological father. A Green Beret Lily thought died in Vietnam.

When they meet him face-to-face, the years melt away and old passion returns, but Lily’s convinced revealing the truth could mean losing her daughter and the only man she’s ever loved. He believes Lily betrayed her promise to wait.

Is the flame of love strong enough to be re-ignited, or, is it too late?

Available for Kindle  Apple iBook/iPad   Nook     Smashwords for PDF, Diesel, or Kobo and in Paperback

2 08, 2013

Chicken Hunt – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-08-02T06:02:15-05:00August 2nd, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|2 Comments

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Retrieving chickens from the neighbor’s yard is a common event on the Miller Farm. However, yesterday brought a new twist.

One of the white hens was in the yard behind ours. We don’t know these neighbors – yet.

I called for Rachel – master chicken getter, and we headed to the back of our yard. The plan was for Rachel to reach over the fence and “get” the chicken.

Plan A failed–too much brush and the chicken would not cooperate and stay near the fence.

We moved on to Plan B. Someone had to go into the neighbor’s yard. There was a fence and we couldn’t go over it, couldn’t go around it but there was a gate – we could go through.

But it was directly behind our largest beehive. Since it was night, the bees were sleeping and as long as we didn’t wake them up, we were fine. (See previous post on Don’t Wake the Bees.)

Rachel went through the fence, through all the brush and tried to convince the chicken to come home. The renegade hen actually went the opposite direction – it does have a birdbrain, remember.

After countless attempts that resulted in mosquito bites and scratches, we decided to resume the hunt in the morning. Next morning, the renegade hen was nowhere to be seen.

Rachel was afraid a possum had gotten it. The hen couldn’t fly away. We clipped wings to prevent any other wandering chickens. Then we spotted her two yards away. Since she is white, she is easier to spot.

Rachel went off to resume the chicken hunt. I joined her after getting water and food for the good little chickens that stayed in the coop.

We approached from the front yard this time. Once again, we met a fence. Once again, we couldn’t go over it, couldn’t go under it and this time there was no gate.  Only a small opening through which we were able to squeeze.

Renegade hen was in the far back of this yard among much undergrowth. We split up to try to corner her.

At one point, I came to a dead fallen tree. I couldn’t go over it, couldn’t go around it, and refused to go through it.

Once again, we gave up the hunt and returned home.

This afternoon we took all four dachshunds for a walk. We were joined by a former classmate of Rachel’s who graciously agreed to take one of the leashes. We told him about our wandering chicken just in case he spotted her somewhere in the neighborhood.

bradley with chicksA few houses down from ours, Rachel spotted Renegade Hen once again.

She handed me her two leashes leaving me with three dogs while she resumed the chicken hunt.

Bradley and I watched from a safe distance knowing that Bella would have too much fun hunting this chicken. After a few unsuccessful minutes, I handed my three leashes to Bradley, who by this time probably wished he had stayed at home.

Rachel was tromping through the brush calling, “Here chick chick.” One thing we learned is that chickens do not come when called.  rachel and renegade hen

I stood guard should the chicken try to make a run for it.

Finally, we had success.

I took two leashes back from Bradley, Rachel carried the chicken, and we headed back to the house, hoping this will be our last chicken hunt.

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