Celebrating some small things….

It’s time for the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. The blog hop is hosted by Lexa Cain, who has been ill and not able to participate lately, so prayers are called for.

This week I’m celebrating the newest small things in my life: kittens! It started like this: my cat Consubstantial 2 had kittens. A couple of days later my cat Charybdis had kittens. A couple of days ago Connie 2 went absolutely crazy and started stealing Charybdis’s kittens. Charybdis started stealing kittens back. When they started playing tug-of-war with a kitten, I decided this must stop. I cleared out an extra-large kitten box and put everyone’s kittens inside.

Connie 2 and Charybdis settled down at first. Then Connie 2 went nuts again and started moving the kittens behind the television. She also chewed some toes off of one of her kittens. I threw her out so she can be a barn cat again and Charybdis was left with eight kittens to raise.

Then another pregnant cat, Umberto, jumped in the kitten box and had a kitten. Just one. She was an only-child kitten herself and tends to have small litters. But she also adopted all the other kittens and currently is helping Charybdis raise the whole tribe. She does try to let her own kitten eat first but since it is 9 days younger than the rest, she needs the extra help.

Umberto is accustomed to raising kittens with other cats. In spring Umberto had kittens, as did Umberto’s daughter Angelica, as well as Consubtantial 1, Consubstantial 2 and perhaps Charybdis. They raised the kittens together— there were a few kitten deaths so we were left with 3 of Connie 2’s babies. Umberto was willing to let the babies nurse when Connie 2 wanted to wean them so Umberto became the most important mother.

I might mention that all mothers are normally barn cats but I take them in the house when pregnant so the babies are socialized. Barn-raised kittens are so wild, I had one jump out of the barn loft when I approached it. (The kitten was OK.)

Other things I am celebrating is that I found a new weekly blog hop, Rebekah Loper’s Worldbuilding bloghop. It’s not only fun it actually does help in the worldbuilding process.

I’m also celebrating that I have found some popular topics to blog about. I wrote a post about conservative church congregations trapped in liberal denominational bodies and that post did better than even my famous Lutheran Rosary post which is a perennial favorite here.

Celebrate; “Eat that Frog!”

OK, yesterday I said I’d explain about the frog thing today, only first I have to mention Mark Twain. Which Mark Twain? There is the one I saw in an old Bonanza episode on the INSP channel. There’s another one from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. There may even have been a real Mark Twain once, or maybe it was Samuel Clemens.

But the Mark Twain I mean is the one that is quoted in some writing and productivity books as having said “If the worst thing you have to do today is eat a frog, do it first thing in the morning.” That’s a good, motivating saying. Unless you are French, of course.

The frog is supposed to be a symbol of the task on your daily to-do list that you most dread. It’s the one you most want to put off until tomorrow. Or next year. Various books insist that the best thing to do is to do that task first thing.

Sometimes I do that. Sometimes it works out better doing the least-dreaded thing first, just to get me into action. I did that yesterday and got my ‘frog’ task done as well.

Sometimes we get up and find out that a bigger, more intimidating frog task is the most important one of the day. That happened to me this morning. Every morning, when I have baby chicks or ducklings in the house, I check on them and give out a little water and feed so the beasts will SHUT UP for a while. Sometimes that enables me to get some more sleep. But today I noticed that my pen of Chantecler chicks was not only getting overcrowded as the chicks grow, one of the chicks was picking at another hard enough to draw blood.

The only way to give those chicks more room is to move them out to the brooder room in the barn. Which is filled with my ISA Brown chicks (hybrid laying hens) and two heritage breed turkeys.  Or it WAS, until I did my new ‘frog’ task of the day and moved the lot to an outdoor pen.

Now all I have to do is clean up the brooder room, replacing the light bulb and the heat lamp bulb, and then I can put wing bands on the chicks and put them out in the barn. My mini-flock of 5 ducklings will have to stay on the porch for a bit until they are a week or two older.

My point I guess is that even though being rigid about a to-do list can help you be more productive in your writing and your life, some days you have to be more flexible. What I do about that is that I always leave space at the end of my to-do list to add tasks like that. They don’t really count as full replacements for the items on the list, but they are tasks accomplished all the same.

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. I don’t know if I’m celebrating my baby chicks being old enough to commit attempted homicide or the fact that I’ve got the big chicks, including the one named Dahmer, big enough to move outside with no new fatalities. Or just the fact that I’m getting things done and getting blog posts written.

The blog hop is run by Lexa Cain. Last week she posted that she’d been ill and wouldn’t be able to do the blog hop herself. Today there was no new post. But those who are on the Celebrate blog list are doing it anyway.

Lexa did a very clever thing on her blog when she started to host the blog hop. She set up a blog list for the Celebrate participants. Since she is on Blogger, the blog list is not static. Instead, it shows the title of each blog, and they are listed in order of the most recently updated. So I can see just at a glance who has posted already on this Friday’s blog hop.

The blog hop is at: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/  and though now is not a good day to join up, you can at least stop by and give Lexa your get-well wishes. It’s a very good blog hop and they also give out info on books that are available as freebies. I submitted a book by my friend Robert Mullin called ‘Blood Song’ which was free at the time. (It may still be free, I haven’t checked. If interested, do a search on Blood Song and Robert Mullin on Amazon.)


Blogs I’m reading today:

Sharon’s Shells, Tales and Sails: A Fun and Safe 4th of July  She’s got a new book out and is offering a free eBook for anyone who will review it.

lightravellerkate: Bourges by Night  Beautiful pictures.

A Pius Geek: A Pius Superversive Novel? #PulpRev This blog is written by my friend Declan Finn who writes thrillers and vampire books, both well worth reading. And educational: in one of the vampire ones I learned how to obtain enough holy water for MAJOR vampire destruction.

Celebrating “Forbidden Thoughts”

forbidden-thoughtsIn my vast and disorganized collection of science fiction & fantasy books, I have a lot of stuff from the ‘good old days’ when speculative fiction was exciting, including one volume of early Hugo award winners. Some of the more current SF & fantasy books just seem dull and predictable, and the politically correct propaganda it contains is so inferior to Nazi and Soviet propaganda that even it doesn’t arouse my interest.

And then comes Forbidden Thoughts, edited by Jason Rennie and Ben Zwycky, forward by Milo Yiannopolos (flamboyantly Gay conservative activist— or maybe he’s more libertarian. But all the right (Left) people are rioting to keep him from speaking in public). On the back cover it says ‘You are not allowed to read this book. Don’t even think about reading this book. In fact, just forget about thinking all together.’  And it delivers on its promise to skew the Sacred Cows of our day in the many short stories, one poem, and a few non-fiction essays in the book.

My favorite is the short story ‘World Ablaze’ by Jane Lebak, about a nun trying to live her vows in a world where that, and Christianity in general, seem to be illegal.  Other stories come from Sarah A. Hoyt, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Vox Day, John C. Wright, Chrome Oxide, Brad R. Torgersen, and Nick Cole. The poem at the beginning is by Ben Zwycky— I have a book of his poetry and like it.

Now, I found out about many of the authors in the book through a Facebook group, Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance. And since I myself am a conservative with libertarian tendencies, you might assume that all the ‘forbidden’ stories in the book line up with my own personal beliefs. But a wide variety of ‘forbidden thoughts’ are included in the book, some of which I strongly disagree with— though that seems to be the point. But I was able to enjoy the book as a whole since even the stories that bother me are daring and exciting, and make me wish I could write like these authors do.

So this book is the main thing I am celebrating today— along with the idea that there is still room in SF and fantasy for exciting, idea-driving fiction.


Worldbuilding series

storyworld-first1

Recently I read a book (Ebook) called ‘Storyworld First, by Jill Williamson. It’s about creating science fiction and fantasy worlds and I think it’s quite useful. Jill Williamson is a Christian author writing for the Evangelical fiction market and I really loved her dystopian series ‘The Safe Lands.’

Now, I have been considering for some time writing a series of articles on this blog about aspects of worldbuilding, and this book inspired me to take the idea more seriously. The first article I have in mind is about storybuilding as you go along, as happens in long-running open-ended series such as Darkover, Pern, Valdemar and others. Others will follow, especially if the series of article proves to be of interest to readers.


Chicken #221 Update

0303171014My frostbitten-feet chicken #221 continues to survive, though he’s lost one foot to frostbite and the remaining foot looks dead and useless. I’m not so sure why I’m so set on keeping him alive, since he’s an older male Araucana and my only other Araucana chicken is a hen just as old as he is, who isn’t a very good egg layer. Though she’s very good at escaping the pen she lives in. I rather doubt that #221 is going to be able to breed the hen in his condition, and I’m not so sure I want to keep on with the breed at this point. But as long as #221 seems happy enough, I suppose I will keep tending him. He really enjoys it when I put mealworms on top of the chicken food in his dish. And he gets around his little cage pretty well. I may even give him a name before long.


This has been a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

Celebrate blog hop

Celebrating poverty

Celebrate blog hopFor this week’s installment on the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop, I’m celebrating my poverty. Celebrating poverty? Yes.

Poverty actually is a good thing for a writer or poet. It means you can’t afford a lot of the things that might distract you. If you could afford a brand-new sports car, you’d probably spend a lot of time on the road trying it out. Time that could be spent writing, or reading books that would count as research for your writing projects.

And poverty gives you a chance to do creative things other than writing. I sew, make bread, and do a lot of cooking-from-scratch in part because it saves money, but it also gives me a creative outlet that is different enough from my writing to be a good break from it.

Since the business of the writer is to make trouble for characters, experiencing a little poverty first-hand is a way to learn to be more realistic in your writing about characters in poverty. This might not help you with the upper-crust reader who knows all about poverty from reading what upper-crust poverty experts have to say about it. But to readers who grew up poor or are poor now, you can make a strong connection by having this knowledge and personal experience.

Another factor is that the writer-in-poverty can’t just buy any book they want. They are more likely to give library books a try, or temporarily-free ebooks. And I think you can learn a lot more by trying books out of your normal reading rut of the same authors in the same genre. Poverty made me try Amish romance— not my chosen genre by any means, but in good examples, such as those by Beverly Lewis, they are well worth reading, giving you a picture of an entirely different group of people living a different life.

Critters:

Chicken #221 is on the porch in a cage while he recovers from frost-bitten toes. My young tomcat Simon (named after the Chipmunk) is in the house by himself as he recovers from some infected tomcat-fight wounds. Since he’s not feeling all that well, he’s behaving far better than other tomcats do in the house.

Reading:

During my morning Bible reading I ran across the fact that Judas Iscariot was considered a bishop (Acts 1: 20, KJV). Worst bishop ever?

Read some more Elemental Masters books by Mercedes Lackey and realized I am missing book #2 in the series. Shall have to get that one. Then started re-reading the Dragon Jousters series by the same author, which is set in a magical version of ancient Egypt under another name (Tia and Alta). But I’m longing for something NEW to read and so may stop off at the local library.

What are you celebrating today?

Something great, or something nice, or something not-so-nice that has nice side effects? Share your celebration in a comment!

 

 

Celebrate the Small Things; new books

Celebrate blog hopThis is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. Join us at: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

Today I am celebrating two new books I read recently. The first is one in the Elemental Masters series by Mercedes Lackey, Unnatural Issue. These books are a series of fantasy-romance novels set in Edwardian England. The first in the series was rather ruined for me because the heroine, a female doctor, had a clinic to hand out quack birth control to prostitutes and other loose women, and there was a certain hint that the doc may have done illegal abortions as well.

The current book in the series doesn’t feature hints at prenatal child killing, but there are the usual Neopagan/Wiccan elements, so I wouldn’t recommend it to readers under 21. The heroine of the story is a girl, daughter of a Earth-element mage, whose mother died at her birth and whose dad handed the child over to the servants with orders that he never see the child again. The girl, Susanne, was raised by the servants and worked as one. Until she grew up and Dad, who had turned to the forbidden art of necromancy, saw she was the very image of her dead mother— and just what he needed for his planned spell to bring his dead wife back to life. Susanne has to flee and runs in to the elemental mages who are tracking down her dad because he’s working forbidden necromancy. The story ends, after much thrilling struggle, with the defeat of the evil mage and a romantic attachment for Susanne.

The other book is one I ordered as part of my current studies on the subject of Islam. ‘The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran’ by Robert Spencer. It’s not so much a religious studies book as a current affairs one, showing why, in the author’s opinion, the Koran and its contents are quite relevant to much that is going on in our world today. I would recommend reading it as part of a reading program that includes other books on Islam by other authors and from other points of view.

Other News

My young tomcat Simon is resting in the house today. He’s got an infected sore, probably from being the victim of tomcat-on-tomcat violence. He really likes the attention he gets being in the house by himself instead of being on the porch with the other cats— most of whom stay on the porch all winter rather than in the barn like good barncats. Because the porch leads to the basement, which has a furnace.

And today I’m finally making the lentil-sprout soup I’d planned for some days now.  I had to put the finished sprouts in the refrigerator for a few days, taking it out some days to rinse the sprouts and keep them alive. Today I finally decided to get the soup started.

The Curse of Chicken-on-Chicken Violence

AraucanaRoo221Recently I went out to the barn and found that #221, my sole Araucana rooster, was unwell. At first I thought he had frostbitten feet due to a thawing day followed by a below-zero night. But I put him in to a cage in my kitchen to warm him up and it seems the feet were not the problem. It seems that Rooster 221 was the victim of chicken-on-chicken violence.

The other 2 roosters in the barn are the probable culprits. Both are Brahma roosters, which means they are not big on fighting compared to chickens of most breeds. In fact, it’s wise to raise Brahma chicks in a different brooder than chicks of other breeds. Especially cheap Leghorn male chicks. But my Brahma boys ARE twice the size of #221 and they do think they own all the hens on the farm.

I moved #221’s cage into my front porch a day ago. That was to expose him to colder temperatures. I’m putting him into an enclosed pen outdoors. I’ll put #221’s wife, #224, with him. I’m also giving him two more hens as mistresses— and a home heating system since 2 chickens don’t generate quite enough heat for an upper Michigan winter.

Yesterday I shoveled some snow out of the chosen pen. I also carried a bucket of barnyard manure to put in the pen’s chicken house (a repurposed calf hutch) as bedding. Winter bedding for my penned chickens consists of 2-3 inches of manure to provide warmth, and an inch or two of waste hay on top of that.

One advantage of my current housing plan is that I will have a jump on the spring hatching season. Araucana hens lay blue-green eggs. All of my other hens lay brown eggs. So if there is a blue-green egg in the pen it’s a pure Araucana egg and can be put in the incubator. The eggs from the ‘mistresses’ will be brown and will be used as eating eggs.

Feisty chickens are part of the chicken raising life. That’s an additional reason why I have pens for groups of chickens. The main reason is that I like raising up my own purebred chicks. In order to have purebred eggs, you have to confine your purebred hens with one or more purebred males. If the hens have been running with assorted breeds of roosters, you have to wait 3 weeks after penning with the purebred roo before you get for-certain purebred eggs you can put in the incubator.

Buying extinct chickens

buff-chantecler-chickenPerhaps you do not know that many old-fashioned breeds of livestock are threatened with extinction. One breed, the Chantecler chicken, developed in Canada (by monks), has already been declared extinct. I feel bad about that. So I just ordered a batch of baby Chantecler chicks.

How can that happen if the breed is extinct? Well, turns out they were not as extinct as people thought. A few survived in small flocks and the breed was able to continue. Chicks of the breed have been available from Ideal hatchery in 4 color variations, and White Chanteclers are now available from Cackle Hatchery.

Chanteclers are dual purpose chickens— meat and eggs— and are a very cold-hardy breed. They are also the only chicken breed developed by monks. To learn more, visit the Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chantecler_chicken

Why do I want Chantecler chickens? Well, most of my laying hens are getting old, and of the chicks I tried to raise last year I have ONE pullet left.  I had Buff Brahmas and Araucanas, but my Araucana rooster has frostbitten feet  this morning and probably won’t survive, and the one Araucana hen doesn’t lay eggs very often. The Buff Brahmas are pretty, but don’t lay that well either. So I decided to go for something different this year.