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Chickens Come of Age

We don’t often buy eggs from the store.

Eggs from seven of our chickens

For the best chance of survival, we need our chicks to grow into laying hens before the shorter days of autumn turn blustery. This maturation process takes about six months. The top picture shows some of our older and younger chickens together. Six months ago many of these hens were tiny chicks. Now it’s getting hard to tell them apart.

However, the eggs tell a different story. In the lower picture, the color difference is caused by genetics, but the size difference has much more to do with age. Most of our hens are young, some still haven’t started laying.

Lorraine feeds some of our chickens

For the most part, my wife Lorraine takes care of the chickens. She rises before sunrise and lets them out of the hen house. For the rest of the day, the birds roam over a large area of the farm looking for worms, insects and other bugs. They could probably live on this, but Lorraine makes sure they are well fed from the house. Our chickens will go into this winter with plenty of fat on them.

If chickens are mature and have about twelve hours of daylight they’ll lay eggs. During the summer we have very long days here in the Pacific Northwest, but the leaves have already begun to turn color and, in less than a month, autumn will begin. I need to make a few more repairs to the hen house before then. Last week Lorraine bought bales of wood shavings and straw which are now stacked in the barn. These will provide insulation for the hen house during winter. Such chores seem to never end. 

When the short days of winter arrive our chicken will be plump, dry, and warm, but due to the short, dim days, they won’t lay as many eggs.

Maybe after Christmas, we’ll have to buy some eggs.


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

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Oh, Deer!

The days are getting longer now, but it seems to me that this is the coldest time of the year in the northwest. While it doesn’t always snow in western Washington State it has this year and that brings more wildlife to the house and barnyard area.

Click to Enlarge

My wife feeds the chickens daily, but they hate the snow and usually stay in their house. However, squirrels and an assortment of birds come to feast in both the chicken area and the barnyard. My wife makes sure they are well fed.

Meadows and pastures have little edible grass this time of year so deer are another common visitor to the barnyard. If they arrive early enough they eat bird food with the squirrels and birds. Whenever they arrive, the deer will often linger around the house. We grow some really nice apples, but I prefer my wife not feed those to the deer, so she started buying cooking apples to toss to them.

On this farm, she cares for all creatures, great and small.


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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On Christmas

I Guess I’m just old-fashioned.

In an age where saying “Merry Christmas” is considered a political act, and Christmas for many is just the holiday after Black Friday, I still enjoy this time with my family, a real Christmas tree and candlelight in church and home.

My son, Robert with his fiancee, Carol. In the middle is my son James and on the right is my wife Lorraine. I'm the old guy in the back.

Where we live, in the Pacific Northwest, we often don’t have snow on Christmas, but it is cold. This is a time to stay inside, read a good book or the good book, and put another log on the fire, but most of all this is the to remember and reflect upon the birth of Christ.

The day after Christmas I’ll be back at my desk writing, but between now and then I’m taking as much time as possible to be with family and friends.

For all of my readers, I wish a very Merry Christmas and blessings in the New Year.


Click on the following links to read my author bio, or to read more about my faith.

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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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That Made the Difference

 

I’m reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and came across a passage that I shared with my wife.

On Writing by Stephen King 

 “If she (King’s wife Tabitha) had suggested that the time I spent writing stories … was wasted time, I think a lot of the heart would have gone out of me. Tabby never voiced a single doubt, however. Her support was a constant, one of the few good things I could take as a given. And whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or husband). I smile and think, There’s someone who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

My first book, Titan Encounter, released in 2012, has this dedication; “Many authors say that their spouse is their biggest fan. My wife Lorraine most certainly is mine. This book would not exist without her constant encouragement and editing.”

Stephen King and I don’t have much in common, but it appears we share a love for writing and both have wives that believe, support and encourage.

Thank you, Lorraine, for all of your support. That made the difference.


 
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Winter is Coming

Living close to nature means that there are annual chores that must be performed.

On a sunny day last week I took some time off from writing and prepared the farm for winter. I opened the one beehive we have this year and made sure the colony was healthy. The workers had sealed every crevice and joint with propolis, a good sign. I added a special insulation box to the top and slid in a bottom board. Winter is a hard time for bees, but the colony is now as ready as they can be.

Preparing equipment was my big job of the day. I did some last minute chainsaw cutting, then cleaned the saw and put it on the shelf. I may need it during the winter if a tree falls, but the woodshed is already full.

Lorraine with the last of the 2016 crop

This place is really just an oversized hobby farm so I use mowers and tillers, not tractors or combines. I cleaned each and emptied the last of the fuel and oil.  

While I performed these chores Lorraine cleaned the hen house. This has to be done often, but it sure is nicer to do it on sunny days. After that, she harvested the last of the fruit from the trees and vegetables from the garden. In the days to come, she will be making pies, applesauce and dehydrating the rest.

Spring has its own special chores, but that is another story.

In the Local Bookstore

My Local bookstore now carries Through Many Fires!

Lorraine in Book N Brush

You can now find my latest novel, Through Many Fires, at Book N Brush, on Market Boulevard in Chehalis.  

One of the biggest problems for independent writers is getting their books stocked in bookstores. The reasons are space and profit. Amazon and other online outlets have unlimited space and can therefore carry countless books. A community bookstore has limited space and must be selective. Also, more and more people are shopping for books online. This cuts into profits for local bookstores. When profits are slim, the willingness to take a risk on an unknown independent author falters.

I’m thrilled Book N Brush was willing to stock my newest book, Through Many Fires and  as a writer, a member of the community and a bibliophile, I urge everyone in the community to support this locally owned independent bookstore.