Chicken update – cute predator alert

This was going to be an update about my chickens.

I was going to tell you all about the Chicken Palace.

I was going to point out how the coop itself has two levels. The girls stay in the upper level (it comes complete with nesting boxes and roosts) at night because it is the most protected part of the compound. And how there is a trap door and gangplank that leads from the upper level to the fenced-in terrace level underneath it.

How the terrace leads to the courtyard, where the girls like to sun themselves.

And how the courtyard opens into the roofed playpen, complete with old dog kennel filled with shavings for dust baths, roost made from an old pipe, and feeding stations where we drop off beetles, grubs, worms, and greens in addition to their regular food.

I was going to tell you about all of these things, but then we found these paw prints in the Forest.

So BH baited a Havaheart trap. Lo and behold…

We found a critter, a young raccoon who had hoped to put chicken on the menu.

Want to see what happens next? Let’s go to the video….

You know what would be cool?

That’s a key question in The Forest. When my husband or I start out a conversation with "You know what would be cool?" it generally means that something fairly cool is about to happen.

Like…. a writing cottage will be built.

Or we take up chicken farming. You get the picture.

So when we were planning for our son’s graduation celebration and my husband said "You know what would be cool?" I knew the fun was about to begin.

He took a deep breath.

"It would be cool to have a real pig roast," he said. "In the backyard."

"With a pig," I said.

"That’s sort of the point," he said.

"How do we do that?" I asked.

"I have no idea," he said, "but we’ll figure it out."

("We’ll figure it out" is our family motto.)

***NOTE – Vegetarians and vegans probably want to stop reading now. ***

After clearing out some space with a skid-steer, he set up this, the basic foundation for the pig-roasting device.

  Then he built some more stuff. I’m sure there is a more technical term than "stuff" but I don’t know what it is.

OK, turn your head to the side to see this. It’s the motor and some other stuff.  The info BH found said we would need a quarter-horsepower motor. ::cues the Tim the Toolman Taylor theme music:: BH used a full one-horsepower motor. MORE POWER!!!!

He knew a guy who knew a guy who hooked us up with a six-foot long steel pole, sharpened at one end, and some sharp pointy things, in exchange for beer.

  Turn your head again. See that big gear wheel at the top that is attached to the coupling (like that technical term?)? It used to turn the clothing rack in a dry cleaning shop. BH knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who helped take apart the dry-cleaning shop. We got the gear wheel. In exchange for beer, I’m fairly certain.

  So here it is, a redneck rotisserie that we dubbed FRANKENSPIT. The motor was wired up to the electrical panel in the house. The juice turned up the motor, the motor turned the gear wheel which in turn spun the spit upon which was placed

**** Vegetarians – I TOLD you to stop reading!!***

  Sixty pounds of pork.

(I TOLD you!!)

  The cooking process required constant observation by a team of Frankenspit experts.

Who decided that the salt potatoes would taste best if boiled over the blast furnace better known as a turkey-fryer.

Frankenspit kept turning and cooking.

Until it was time to feast. Which we did. In abundance, because this is the fourth and final kid of ours to graduate high school and go off to college. (The Rochester Institute of Technology, if you are interested.)

And then, of course, came the moment that, with hindsight, might have been the reason BH cooked up this scheme in the first place.

  He got to act out a few pages from "Lord of the Flies."

Gardening with chickens & ingenious bookstore event

A bunch of you have written asking for chicken update pictures. Earlier this week, BH and I took a couple of the girls out to help us weed the flower beds.

They are bug-eating machines.

A man and his chicks.

Along with the garden (we’ve been eating the first peas this week) and the chickens, we’ve been busy in the Forest preparing for ALA and this fall’s book tour. I’ll post my ALA schedule early next week. I’m not sure when I’ll have the tour details… certainly by August. I’ll be on the road a LOT, so I will probably be showing up wherever you live. If you bring your chickens to my booksigning, I will pet them.

On Monday night, we enjoyed a special book event, courtesy of the river’s end bookstore. Author Michael Perry is on tour promoting his new book, COOP, as well as his other titles.

   (His books make EXCELLENT Father’s Day gifts, btw – funny and heartfelt.) Michael is a small-town guy, like us, and is interested in encouraging people to buy local and live sustainably. Instead of the standard booksigning, for his event the bookstore took over a new restaurant in Oswego – La Parrilla.

    The restaurant was chosen because of its commitment to buying from local farmers. Guests had to buy tickets ahead of time – cost of book was included in the price of the ticket, as well as dinner.  The event sold out, we all enjoyed a very yummy dinner, and left with sore ribs from laughing so much because Michael Perry is a very funny guy.

Michael is posting on Shelf Awareness every day on his tour. His blog entry about Oswego gives his take on the evening.

   I’ll be spending Father’s Day with these two guys – my husband and my dad. I am in charge of deviled eggs and potato salad. They are in charge of the beer.

See you on Monday!

Cue the National Geographic Music!

Sorry to have been so absent this week, friends. Beloved Husband had shoulder surgery and has needed some tending; mostly to make sure that he sort-of, kind-of follows doctor’s orders. I’m happy to report he is mending well.

I’ll be posting two videos very soon: one will show examples of how I took historical fact and turned them into a chapter of CHAINS. In the other I will rave about the maple syrup being boiled a stone’s throw from my house and I will attempt to read in Norwegian.

But the most exciting thing?? We have a pair of red-tailed hawks building a nest in the Forest near the writing cottage!

My plan to keep my sunflowers safe from the squirrels this year suddenly seems possible!!

The care and feeding of julenisse & Revision Tip #22

All work in the Forest today will grind to a halt as we enjoy the ceremonial viewing of Elf. And we might even make spaghetti with maple syrup.

I got to thinking about my family’s tradition of setting out rice pudding for the julenisse. Nisse have been around long before Christmas celebrations. English words that describe them as elves, or gnomes; I’ve seen "pixie," too. If properly cared for, nisse will watch out for your farm animals, your house, and your barn. If you don’t take care of them, they will cause all kinds of mischief on your property.

Nisse are low-maintenance creatures. All they require is a bowl of rice pudding (risengrød) set outside your door or in your barn on Christmas Eve. We’ve always done this faithfully and I think our nisse appreciate it.

But as the sun was setting yesterday and I was lighting candles in honor of the solstice I realized that the nisse have been around a lot longer than Christmas celebrations. Ack! Have I been disrespecting the nisse all these years? They are ancient creatures… do they wait, forlorn, on the night of the winter solstice, their tummies grumbling, while the Big People go about their ignorant business? And when the pudding FINALLY shows up on Christmas Eve, do they call up the other nisse and complain?

So last night I put out rice pudding for them. And I will again on Christmas Eve. You can’t be too careful with nisse.

Revision Tip #22

Are you sure that you’ve chosen the right point of view for your novel?

Take your favorite chapter and rewrite from a different POV; shift from third to first, or first to third, or if you are bold and way smarter than me, experiment with the second person POV.

Or…. (and…..) fool around with the tense structure. If your story is told in present tense, rewrite that favorite chapter in past tense. If you’ve written the whole thing in past tense, try out that chapter in present tense.

What’s the point of all this mucking around? It helps you see your characters and the Story from a slightly altered perspective.