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The Farm Pecking Order

 

I confirmed my position on the farm pecking order one morning a couple years ago.

For my city readers, pecking order refers to birds, often chickens. They establish their rank in the flock by pecking on another bird, lower in the social order without fear of retaliation. The pecking order rank establishes who is boss and who gets what food and when.

On this particular morning I rose from bed a few minutes late and stumbled out to the dining room. My breakfast of cereal waited for me on the table, but I couldn’t find my wife Lorraine. Finally, I sat and started eating. Then, the back door opened and she entered.

“Where have you been?” I asked after another bite of cold cereal.

“It’s cold this morning, so I brought warm oatmeal to the chickens.”

That confirmed what I already suspected. When it comes to being pampered with food, my position in the pecking order is below every chicken.

Okay, I admit that isn’t really true, Lorraine has cooked some fantastic meals for me, but she does take very good care of the chickens. They have a large area to roam and forage for food but, as you can tell from the picture (which my wife didn’t like, but after some pleading allowed me to use) she still gives “her girls” watermelon rinds and leftover grapes. If any bread or cake gets dry it doesn’t go into the trash or even the compost, they go straight to the chickens.

They are a pampered bunch of birds.


Click on the following links to read my author bio or read more about life on the farm.

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Hot and Cold

 

I put on a new chain, filled the gas and oil tanks and went out with my chainsaw to tackle a large pile of logs and limbs in the backyard. My tendency to procrastinate had allowed the pile to grow all summer, but my son James had offered to help and this needed to be done. So, on one of the hottest days of the year, I cut wood to use on some of the coldest. We will probably burn these logs in the woodstove around January or February.

Our house has electric heat and in the Pacific Northwest electricity is affordable, but on those really cold days, the woodstove heats our home better than anything else does.

There is a natural rhythm to life in the country. In March as the days grow longer and warmer the chickens go into full summer egg production. In April we hive bees. In May the garden is tilled and planted. During the summer we cut trees (usually the dead or fallen), tend animals and care for the garden. Honey is spun from the honeycomb in September. Also during that month fruits and vegetables are canned and preserved.

Part of that natural rhythm is the cold of January and February. Some years our woodstove will burn for days on end during this time.

By late in the afternoon the chain on the saw had gone dull, but the pile had been reduced to logs and hauled into the woodshed. We were hot and tired, but ready for the cold days of winter.

As I drank a tall glass of cold water I made a pledge to myself. Next year I’m going to cut wood on a cooler day.


Click on the following links to read my author bio, life in Lewis County or more about my life on the farm.

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Friends and Fellow Writers

For many years now I’ve attended a writer’s critique group.

Bob Hansen, Kyle Pratt, Joyce Scott & Barbara Blakey

Well, for the last seven years I’ve taught in Alaska during the school year, but when I’m in Washington state I attend the critique group. I don’t believe I’ve ever missed a meeting when I’ve been in the state.

Including me, there are six members, but today three of them, all published authors, came to my home. Taken right after the meeting, the picture shows Bob Hansen, me, Joyce Scott and Barbara Blakey. It was great to see them again, get caught up on their lives and hear what they have recently written.

I also had the pleasure of presenting the first chapter of my next novel, A Time to Endure. Before it is released later this year, these valued friends and fellow writers will hear most of the novel.

Titan Paperback

Titan Encounter came out in paperback today.

The sun was shining and all seemed right with the world this morning when I received word that the paperback version of Titan Encounter was out on Amazon.  Thank you to everyone who bought the Kindle version and especially those of you who reviewed it.

Kyle Pratt with the first paperback copies of Titan Encounter

I had written several short stories and a novella earlier, but Titan Encounter was my first venture into full length novels.  To get the story out on Kindle involved a huge amount of work; editing, graphic design and formatting.  For the paperback edition we had to do that all over again.  

However, it was worth the effort.  By the end of the year Titan Encounter should be available in Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Now that Titan is done I still can’t rest, my next book, Through Many Fires is scheduled for release in just 23 days.

A Tribute to Nikki

My friend and companion of ten years died today. 

Nikki was my dog, or perhaps I was her human.  Actually, I’m certain that it doesn’t matter.  She grew from a tiny puppy on our farm in Washington State.  These last few years work has taken me away from the farm more than I would like, but if I was there she was nearby.  Whoever was doing the most interesting task, from her perspective, that was who she was with, but she was always close.     

Kyle Pratt and Nikki at a better time, Christmas 2009

When it was time for me to wake in the morning, she would wander into the room and lick my face.  Then someone, usually my wife, would take her on a morning walk around the farm and nearby woods.  I guess Nikki needed to be sure that nothing had ventured onto her farm.  There would always be several more patrols as the day went on.  As the sun was sitting she was usually on the grass near the front porch watching.

 

In her younger years she would chase the shadows of swallows as they flew to and from their nests in the nearby trees.  She also loved to snatch Frisbees or balls from the air.  These last few years those things seemed to have moved faster though.    

 

Intruders, such as raccoons, deer and postmen were never welcome on Nikki’s farm.  The chickens would walk right up to her in the barnyard while she merely watched, but predators never ventured there.  Deer never ate in the orchard because Nikki was on the watch.  I never worried about the house when we were gone.  Nikki was there.    

 

She was always there for us, but I’m sad to say that in the end I was not there for her.  Both my wife and I are up in Alaska right now at the village where I teach.  On Friday, my youngest son, Robert, told us that Nikki was in pain and after a thorough examination we were informed it was probably cancer. Robert said we would know more soon, but it looked grim.  That night I sent him this message;

Robert,

If it is necessary to put Nikki down tomorrow I want you to remember that she was loved every day of her life, that she had room to roam and explore, plenty to eat and a warm and comfortable place to sleep. As dogs go, that is just about a perfect life. She has no concept of personal death so she is not afraid of it. Remember the good times we had with her and do what needs to done to make the rest of her life (however long that will be) as good as it can be. If you do that, you have done everything you can for her. Thanks for being there for her.

Dad

I am thankful that Robert was with Nikki when she breathed her last.  I’m grateful that the last thing my faithful dog saw was a loving friend.  As painful as it would have been, I wish I could have been there to share the burden that they both had to endure today.

Goodbye Nikki, old friend, I miss you already.