Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Homestead DIY: Removing an Over-the-Range Microwave Oven

Time Management on the Homestead, 2nd in a series...

I’m coming late to the party, but after our over-the-range microwave gave up the ghost, I’m starting to realize just what a time-sucking black hole home improvements can be. 

In the 14 years since my husband John and I moved to our acreage, we’ve mostly focused on far more urgent, outdoor projects. Instead of keeping up the house, we’ve spent our time and energy growing food, processing firewood, caring for the hens, plus keeping the woods and critters from taking over. All these projects always take far more time than I figure they will. 

But as the old saying goes, the chickens have come home to roost. That is, the house itself is starting show its age (like us), so maintenance is getting more demanding. 

Not long ago, I put some cooked apples in our microwave oven to warm them up. Even on a low setting, the appliance emitted a labored sound—sort of like groaning. I tried not to let the strange noise worry me, but when a faint plastic odor wafted from the oven, I said “uh oh,” and immediately pressed “Stop.”

I have a friend who believes the electromagnetic waves that escape microwave ovens can cook your brains. I’m not on board with that, but I didn’t want to find out I was wrong the hard way.
“Honey,” I said to John, “I’m afraid our microwave is dying.”

John is the last one to be an alarmist, or even worry about a few plastic fumes, but the sound and smell coming from the oven was enough to convince him: the microwave really was kicking the bucket. “Well,” he said, “it is 14 years old. Obviously it’s time to replace it.”

“Should I call someone?” I asked.

“Heck no,” John said confidently. In the last couple of years, he’s gotten very big on DIY YouTube videos. In past years, he’d been reluctant to take on home fix-its, and preferred to just pay someone far more expert to do them. But lately, he has become not only more willing, but more adventuresome about taking on home repairs. “We can do it.”

“Okay," I said doubtfully. "If you're up for it.” I’d heard from my family that over the range microwaves were insanely complicated to replace.

“Totally,” said John. “I’d rather spend the money on something else.”

It wasn’t like we had a pile of money budgeted for home repairs anyway. Since my husband was willing to be the project manager, I was all in.

So first things first. We would have to remove the microwave, so I did a Google search for “Over-the-range microwave removal.” John and I viewed a few YouTube instructional videos, then I chose one to review if we ran into any hangups. “See?” said John, “it’s easy. The job will take like, 5 minutes. Fifteen, tops.”

“Really,” I said. That seemed pretty optimistic, but I’m a glass half full sort of person so I was game. And though it was a lovely spring day, and I was eager to get out into the garden, I figured I could spare 15 minutes. 

After John fetched some hand tools from the shop, we stood in front of the microwave and gazed at it for a moment. I’d never really thought about how large it actually was. “Wait,” I said. “How about if we get the stove out of the way?”

Otherwise, to lean over the stove and lift the microwave, we were cruisin‘ for a bruisin‘—at the very least, we’d be a couple of Boomers whose backs would never be the same. “Good idea,” said John, so we moved our fairly light electric range out from under the microwave. Then looked at the floor.

It had been a couple of years since we’d cleaned under the stove, and its footprint was covered with a film of grime, adorned with dust bunnies. If we stood on that greasy dust to take care of the microwave, we’d track it all over our carpet. “Take a break,” I told John, “while I clean this up.”

After many, many scrubs with vinegar and Dawn detergent, I deemed the floor passable. That had taken at least a half an hour. So onward to the oven removal!

According to the DIY guys we watched, this process is really straightforward. The oven is attached to the cupboard above it by some big bolts, and rests on a narrow metal ledge on the wall behind it. So after unplugging your microwave, you just undo the big bolts, and the detached oven, now supported only by the ledge, leans forward. All you have to do is lift the oven off the ledge.

Up to now, John said he didn’t need any help, so I’d been happy to act as the surgical nurse, handing Dr. John his instruments. But once he removed the bolts, and the oven rather alarmingly listed forward like a tiny sinking ship, I said, “You are going to let me help lift this puppy, aren’t you?”

“The microwave isn’t that heavy,” said John. “But it might be easier if we both do it.”

The now semi-detached microwave had revealed a metal frame attached to the wall behind it, and the 4 small ledges that had been supporting its weight. So John and I got under the microwave and I said, “Okay, on the count of 3—1-2-3 Lift!”

It wouldn’t budge.

Were we not putting enough muscle into it? We tried again. Then, since 3 times is often the charm, one more time. Still, the oven refused to shift off its little ledges.

Back to YouTube. We tried another video or two, hoping to find a new technique, but no YouTuber seemed to be addressing our problem.

Our next move was to pull on the oven from every angle, hoping to loosen it—and seriously, John and I wouldn’t have cared if the darn thing crashed to the floor, as long as we could get out of the way in time. But…nothing.

So far, the job had taken at least an hour, and we were no closer to removing that blasted microwave.
I finally peered more closely at the vent unit above the oven. “It looks like the oven might be still attached to the vent.” That hadn’t been the case in any of the videos we’d watched.

After poking around the vent, John revealed the roadblock. The top of the microwave was indeed attached to the vent, and the bottom portion of the vent was lodged into the guts of the cupboard tighter than an impacted wisdom tooth.

In our manufactured home—a house that we’d discovered had more flaws, quirks and wackadoodle workarounds than anything Rube Goldberg could come up with—here was one more: It seemed very clear that they’d installed the microwave and the venting unit at the factory, then built the kitchen cupboard units around it!

To detach the oven really would take surgery. And the process wasn’t pretty: John had to pry the vent away from the top of the microwave, both on the sides and the back, then cut through several layers of duct tape. Then pull the vent out of the innards of the cupboard. That took at least another hour.

Gap with mystery hole in the wall on the upper right
Finally, now detached at the top, the oven looked ready to lift. With much pulling, yanking, and brute force, John and I were able to wrestle that oven away from the wall and to the floor. What was left really wasn’t pretty: a big, ugly, gaping space in the middle of our kitchen, including a hole in the wall that served no purpose. But John and I were too sick of dealing with the microwave to worry about how awful the gap looked.

After a break, John and I took another look at the space. “I don’t know about you,” I said, “but after what we’ve been through, I don’t want another over-the-range microwave.”

“Me neither,” said John. “How about I build a little cupboard, and we’ll fill the gap with that?”

“Sounds fine to me,” I told him, and he went straight out to the shop and found some suitable wood for the job. He’s putting the finishing touches on it this week. (For me, this project further proved there's no such thing as homestead time management.)

We ended up buying a little countertop microwave that doesn’t have the oomph of our former one, but it works ok. To this day, I don’t know how people DIY an entire kitchen remodel, though I admire them tremendously. Fortunately, I'm much better at gardening, and far happier digging in the dirt.

If you are too, you might like to take a look at my new and free gardening mini-guide! It’s available in ebook at Amazon, Kobo, and all other online retailers, or you can request the ebook at your local library!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Free Gardening Guide--New Release

New gardening booklet!
As my way to help during this health emergency, I've created a brand new gardening ebook, Little Farm in the Garden: A Practical Mini-Guide for Raising Selected Fruits and Vegetables Homestead-Style, Book 3 of the Little Farm in the Foothills series. It's a friendly (I hope!), down-to-earth little guide for starting and maintaining a thriving food garden, and I'm offering it for free.

You can find the ebook at AmazonKobo, or your favorite online retailer...
 

Here's more:
Caught in the middle of the global health crisis, maybe you’re feeling helpless and anxious about the future. But there is something you and I and everyone else can do about this tragic, unforeseen calamity: Grow some of your own food—in a pot, a small plot or a garden. In “normal” times, homegrown food is not only a pleasure, but food gardening can be a pastime that helps to take your mind off your worries. In these dark days, it may be that raising some food may become a necessity.

Whatever happens, in the coming months and years, producing your own food supply can become a bulwark against uncertainty. In Little Farm in the Garden, I share the evolution of my own homestead garden, and cover how to get started on your own food garden with basic nut-and-bolts, selecting crops, and challenges you might encounter raising food. I also provide strategies for working with nature, dealing with wildlife, and raising your crops chemical-free.

If you’ve read my Little Farm memoirs, this booklet can be a handy addition to the homesteading experiences I've shared in those 2 books. But this also works as a stand-alone manual for simple ways to approach creating your own food supply, focusing on easy-to-grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit, and creating a balanced garden for the long-term—and includes a handy timeline for your food gardening activities too.


Wherever you are in your gardening journey--a novice, a flower fancier, or an experienced food-raiser, Little Farm in the Garden offers a lively, heartfelt approach for not only gardeners, but nature-lovers, and dreamers of all ages!

Here are a couple of photos of our place: when we first moved to our Foothills place, and years later. You'll find more photos of our little homestead at susancolleenbrowne.com
...and more bonus books too!

Here's our place the week we moved in
And years later
Bee balm and hummingbird


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

St. Patrick's Day Sneak Peek: Novel excerpt

It seems a bit frivolous, in these difficult times, to wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day--we're all far more worried about our loved ones' health and our own, and if we have groceries in the cupboard, than the way all the St. Paddy's celebrations have been cancelled.

This week, I'm working on a little gardening book, which, given the potential of food shortages, seems far more important these days, instead of plunking around with my Irish stories. But if you're game for a little distraction of the Irish kind, I offer you a taste of my upcoming novel: part of The Fairy Cottage mini-series, and Book 5 of my Irish Village of Ballydara series.

If the character of Hazel seems familiar, you've probably read my short story The Christmas Visitor. This novel centers on her sister Emma, but Hazel plays starring role--it's a warm and tender story about finding love and home and family in the most unlikely of places.
Part of my Fairy Cottage mini-series

Chapter 1

If you’re a creature of habit, rather than impulse, you carry on with your regular routines day in and day out, no problem. However, if you’re keen on routines but at the same time have a tendency to be a bit disorganized, like Emma Carey, recently arrived from Ireland, you might try out all sorts of systems and apps to keep yourself on track. So, although Emma has often struggled to say focused, every time she tried to use one of those organizing apps with their timers and buzzers and flashing updates only made her want to toss her mobile phone into the nearest bin.

Was it that her brain didn’t work like other people’s, Emma wondered, people who had no trouble relying on their mobiles (and adoring them) with a life-and-death ferocity? Or that she’d inherited her short attention span from her mam, who flitted (actually, more like lurched, Emma thought) from one idea or activity to the next without completing any of them? Or that she was, at heart, an old-fashioned girl like her younger sister Hazel? Whatever it was, when Emma started working at Ireland Place, a non-profit hub of Irish arts and culture based near Seattle, she’d been so desperate to create some structure for herself she went old school: she created a chart that she cellotaped to the half-size fridge in her studio apartment, upon which, at the end of each week, she could afix gold stars to the various categories if she stayed on the straight and narrow.

So Emma would give herself stars for doing the elliptical for one hour at the gym Monday through Friday, eating absolutely no desserts except for a gluten-free cookie on Sunday, and keeping her regular hair and nail appointments with Helen at Nugyen’s Salon at a strip mall on the other side of town. The gold star thing was something she’d started for her sister Hazel, when she was little. Given her sister’s tender age, the stars hadn’t anything to do with eating or exercise, but Emma had been desperate to do the right thing for her.

Emma’s most reliable tendency, though, wasn’t one you’d want to reward with shiny stars or even a modest pat on the back. It was the kind you didn’t want to admit even to your best friend, which in Emma’s case was Hazel: she had the unfortunate habit of falling for her bosses.

Emma was like a Swiss train schedule:  you could tell time based on how long it would take her to fall for her male supervisors. Two weeks, max. These blokes didn’t need to be handsome, or charming, but as soon they’d given Emma an approving smile on a project well-begun, a compliment on her progress, even held a door open for her, she was in love…

I plan to have my new gardening guide ready in another week...until then, be well, stay safe, and I'm wishing you all the Irish blessings you can hold.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Homestead Time Management: First in a Series

Whether homesteading is your job, your hobby, or your passion, I should put this out there right away: Folks, there’s no such thing as time management on your homestead.

As someone who writes for a living, I’ve always been fascinated by ways to carve out time/create time/manage time to get more writing done. Convinced you can “take control of the clock,” I figured there was a "special sauce" for the whole idea. So I devoured articles, attended workshops, and created schedules about how to fit writing into a busy life—and if they included special tips, charts or spreadsheets, all the better!

But really, all that effort was for nothing. Because despite a gazillion strategies, there was no getting around  the truth: writing fills the time you allot to it and then some, and you never get as much done as you think you will.

I’ve learned the same about homesteading chores. I’m an optimistic person, but no matter what you’re doing: weeding the beds, chopping wood, caring for chickens, processing your harvest, I have learned every task takes three times as long as you think it will. Sure, you can take that with a grain of salt, and maybe I’m just inefficient or using the wrong techniques. Still, I give you Exhibit A:

The Cider Press Experiment

With 17 apples trees on our acreage, John and I planned for years to get a cider press. Finally, after an insane harvest a couple of years ago, we had come up with the funds and really, we couldn’t hold out any longer! So…what kind of press to buy?

Committed to the “slow life,” we are big on doing things by hand. In the kitchen, we forgo a blender or food processor to chop fruits and veggies or grind nuts with a chef’s knife. Despite my sister’s repeated urgings to get a bread machine, “they’re so easy!” I like to knead bread by hand. We’ve thought about buying a countertop flour mill, and had come across readers in Mother Earth News recommending electric models. The general consensus was that a manual model is far more work than you want.

Still, after pricing cider presses, electric ones seemed way out of our price range. So John bought us a small, manual model: made of a lovely light wood, it was very attractive and old-fashioned-looking, with a tub designed like a fruit barrel. We could hardly wait to put it to use.

So one day at harvest time, with many piles of apples to process, we finally gave our new press a whirl. After washing and chopping dozens of apples, washing the necessary press components,  and filling the tub, I figured we’d devote a couple of hours to our cider project. All that was left was turning the handle!

I tried it first and got exactly nowhere. “John,” I said, “maybe you could get things started.”

John’s a strong guy. He can hand-split massive logs, and harvests almost all our trees with a hand saw. But even he could hardly budge the handle. We took turns pushing and pulling on that dratted handle, but produced only the merest trickle of cider. “The apple chunks are too big,” John concluded.

So we squeezed what we could from the fruit in the tub, and started over with a fresh batch of apples. This time, we cut them up as finely as we could and started in again. Then we did it a third time. We got a tiny bit more traction trying to turn the press handle, and a few more ounces of cider, but even after a couple more hours of hard labor, not making much more progress. Finally, my arms throbbing from exertion, I suggested, “Let’s call it a day.” With both of us really putting our backs to it, just trying to turn the handle had taken all afternoon.

Now, all we had to do was disassemble the press, wash all the parts, soak the cheesecloth filter, pasteurize the cider and sterilize a jar for it. As dusk fell, when all was said and done, we had about 3 cups of cider to show for our day.

How about a Cost-Benefit Analysis? 

To sum up: $150 plus shipping to buy the press, about 7 hours of work, to make less than a quart of fresh, homemade apple cider.

Worst of all: we didn’t drink it. The jar of cider is still sitting in our freezer.

If you have some tips for success with a manual cider press, I hope you’ll share them here!

P.S. For the last three months, I've spent every spare moment working like mad on my latest novel--more news on that soon--but I will be posting here regularly again. Next time: another DIY project that got overwhelming really fast!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Christmas...a Month of Merrymaking

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Here on Berryridge Farm, John and I start making merry today, on St. Nicholas’ feast day, and continue until January 6th,  Epiphany. I unofficially begin the season the first Sunday of Advent, getting out my three precious Advent calendars (the same ones I’ve kept for several decades). Then, it's off to the closet to pull out my favorite holiday book: Mary Engelbreit’s illustrated collection of holiday songs, scripture and stories. When December 6 arrives, John and I begin the holidays in earnest, with the St. Nick from antiquity. If you’d like to add more holiday traditions to your season, there’s plenty of fun and meaningful celebrations all the way to Christmas Eve and Day… And beyond!

Yule Lads

To me, the absolutely most entertaining tradition (if not exactly religious or spiritual) hails from Iceland: the Yule Lads, beginning 13 days before Christmas. (See my 2016 holiday post.) These 13 mischievous trolls do pranks or out-and-out wreak havoc in your house every day until Christmas…so make sure you’re good, or you’ll find a piece of rotten potato in your shoe!

Counting down to December 25…

In Sweden, St. Lucia’s Day honors this saint on December 13. There's the Winter Solstice—I have friends who set aside a day to observe the event with a special gathering, which this year occurs December 21. While John and I don’t do anything all that special for the solstice, we still rejoice to think of the light on its way, each day bringing the blessing of few more minutes of daylight. We always mark Hanukkah too—on the 22nd this year—so we can say “Happy Hanukkah” to our favorite neighbors.

Tonight, we’ll start decorating the house—set up our favorite Christmas figurines on the dining room table, bring out the other knickknacks and candles, and hang up the two beautiful Christmas tapestries from John. It’s not a lot, nothing like the collectors’ ginormous displays you see in magazines. It seems to me, when every inch of someone’s house is covered with stuff, each figurine or candle or special ornament your child made for you gets lost in the shuffle. John will select the Best Holiday Playlist Ever—full of traditional carols, choir music, or elegant instrumentals.

Since we like a l-o-n-g holiday season, we wait until the second week of December to get a Christmas tree—to make sure the needles will stay on the free well into January! Then begins the cookie baking, the holiday movie watching, music every night, contemplating the lights and the meaning of the season, the gatherings with friends and family… and the magic and wonder of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Christmas Letdown

If you feel a letdown at the end of Christmas day—The food! The gifts! The mess! And the worst, Facing the mall the next day to return gifts!!—here’s a new tradition to think about: the 12 Days of Christmas, as featured in the old carol. The 12 days aren’t the ones leading  up to Christmas, but the ones after. Okay, in our modern time, this stretch of days is no longer all about partridges or pear trees or golden rings or maids a’milking (how many again?), but why not carry on with more celebrating? Music, maybe a Kwanzaa get-together, more contemplation of the meaning of the holidays…until the 12th day, Epiphany, January 6.

Women’s Christmas in Ireland

In Ireland, there’s an old-time tradition on the 12th day of Christmas: “Women’s Christmas,” or Nollaig na mBan, related charmingly here by author Felicity Hayes-McCoy. The men stay home, while females of all ages—toddlers to girls, mothers to elders—get together for feasting and dancing. These days, you might find a Women’s Christmas gathering only in Ireland’s rural areas. Still, you can start your own!

New Year's Resolutions...don't start until January 7!

Even though John and I still miss our chickens, we're grateful for the time we  had them and their abundant gifts of eggs...and resolve to do much better next time. So in this season of gratitude and love and abundance, why not end your holiday season with a flourish…Forget your New Year’s resolutions, and instead, on the 12th day of Christmas, keep the tree up, bake another batch of holiday cookies, break out the bubbly/sparkling cider, and toast the wonderfulness of life!


I hope you'll check out  my website...you'll find lots of freebies and bonus material at www.susancolleenbrowne.com !

Monday, November 18, 2019

Homestead Setback

An Ominous Sign

When I saw the piece of paper attached to our gate the other night, I knew something was wrong. Grabbing  the paper, I started reading in the light of our car’s opened hatchback. It was a note from our nearest neighbors.

We have heartbreaking news about your hens…

I didn’t read any further. Fearing the worst, John and I rushed into the house to grab a headlamp and hurried to the coop. I lifted the vertical shutter and as John held the lamp high, we peered into the interior. It was the worst.

The coop was empty. Our little flock was…gone.
Our hens in happier times

We’d just arrived home late from out-of-town. During our absence, our hen-keeping neighbors were all set to look in on our five girls. What they’d discovered at our place… I had to wait all night to find out.

Our Neighbors' Story

Heartsick and wracked by guilt, I called Gretchen first thing the next morning. She told me her husband Alan had stopped by our chicken compound to say hi to the girls and top off their feed. Instead, he found that three of the hens had disappeared. The fourth one was on a nest, dead. Buffy was still alive, cowering in the coop.

Alan took the dead hen away to bury it, and by the time he returned, Buffy was gone too. “Sue,” Gretchen said, “we feel so bad. I mean, it was on our watch— ”

“Please don’t,” I interrupted her, feeling beyond awful. “What happened was totally our fault. I’m just so, so sorry you had to deal with it.”

I could tell she still felt terrible, no matter how much I reassured her. As she and I tried to piece together what animal or animals had done it—a way to process the loss of the girls—Gretchen said, “The strange thing was, the dead hen showed no sign of trauma.”

“I wonder...if she died from fright," I said slowly, picturing the terror the birds must have experienced.

“Maybe a heart attack or something,” said Gretchen. “We lost three of our birds like that, dying from no apparent reason.”

I thanked her again, for all she and Alan had done for us, and said goodbye. There was no escaping the next step—John and I would have to get a closer look to learn how this second flock had been killed.

The Evidence

We donned our outdoor gear and headed for the chicken compound. Checking the nests, we found two pristine eggs. Then steeling ourselves, we entered the pen. There were no bodies, no chicken parts strewn around, no carnage like the last time, when our first set of hens had been killed.  (Details here ...scroll down to the July post, with the full story in Little Farm Homegrown.)

The only evidence of foul play was a cluster of black feathers caught in the fencing next to the woods, and a pile of white-blond feathers—Buffy’s—at the bottom of the ramp into the coop.

Taking a deep breath, I opened the man door into the coop. More feathers on the floor, but no corpses, no blood. The animal(s) had carried away the hen’s intact bodies. “And look,” I said to John. “There’s hardly any manure on the roost.” I’d cleaned the coop the day before our departure. “This had to have happened the morning we left.”

Back in the pen, we looked around a little more, John mostly silent. The waterer was still completely full, as was the feeder. Who knows—the animal had probably gotten to the birds shortly after we’d driven away. But whenever the killing began, it was due to our complacency. The suffering and death of our hens was our fault, plain and simple.

Bad Decision

After I removed the waterer and feeder—we didn't need any more reminders of our girls—I looked around the woods on the other side of the pen. I had to face how very negligent we’d been. This past spring, John and I had cleared a large area in the woods adjacent to the chicken compound, which he fenced it with 4-foot steer wire. We didn’t have a proper pasture for the hens, but inside this woodsy-brushy area, with some trees and lots of tall thimbleberry, they’d get more area for free-ranging. And besides more weeds and bugs to scratch, they’d have some shelter from hawks and eagles.

Into this fence, John built a little hatch close to the hen door into the coop, just big enough to allow a hen through. It was cleverly designed so you could open the hatch without entering the pen, and let the birds into this larger, wilder area. It was a problem-free solution.

But we got…lazy. It was a hassle, wasn’t it? To go outside every morning and open the hatch, when we both had writing and office work, and homecaring indoors? So we started leaving the little hatch open at night.

The hatch we left open...in the now empty pen
The other reason we’d started leaving it open was for Buffy. She was constantly, mercilessly tormented by the other four hens. They’d gang up on her and pull out her feathers; her comb was permanently damaged from their pecking. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’d chase her away from the feeder and waterer. So, John and I figured, the four hens would have more space, and Buffy more getaway room, if all five girls could freely roam in and out of the pen.

We’d gone out of town six separate times since we’d let the hatch stay open 24/7, leaving the hens to their own devices, and things had been fine. Until they hadn’t.

Trail of Feathers

“Look at that,” I said to John, wishing so badly for a do-over. I pointed to the woodsy side of the fence. “White feathers.”

John and I went through the gate. Buffy had clearly been carried off like the others. There was a trail of white feathers, leading diagonally all the way through the fenced area, then beyond into the denser woods of our acreage. Then the feather trail just petered out. We could find no den, or evidence of chickens. Wherever the hens were taken, we’ll never know.

On the phone, Gretchen had mentioned that cougars—the animal that had killed our first flock—generally carry away their prey to eat in privacy. But the cougar that got our flock four years ago (that we'd first thought was a bobcat) had torn the chickens apart right there in the pen.

“I wonder if it was coyotes that did this,” I said to John. “Remember that night last week, when a pack of them had howled right outside our bedroom?”

“It doesn’t matter,” said John soberly. I knew what he was thinking. Dead is dead.

The Empty Pen

John and I feel doubly guilty about our wonderful neighbors Gretchen and Alan. They weren’t only the ones who’d had to deal with this killing, but they’d had a personal stake in the birds' well-being. Two years ago—almost to the day—we’d bought the hens as pullets from them...at an almost-free price.

After we’d lost our first hens, these five girls from Gretchen and Alan had brought life back to our little homestead, and somehow, possibility.

This setback feels like a big one. We've lost our hens' company, some of our food supply self-reliance, and my pride in keeping a healthy flock. Most of all, I've lost the contentment I'd feel gazing out at our girls.

Our chicken compound is straight across the yard, in full view of the kitchen window. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I look out that window many times each day. Now, after death stalked Berryridge Farm for the second time, my gaze still goes automatically to the chicken pen, and I still search for movement as I’ve done for two years, seeking a glimpse of the hens that aren’t there.

All I see, and feel, is emptiness. With a heart heavy with regret.  

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Free Halloween eBook!

My Halloween and Day of the Dead fantasy-adventure for tweens, Morgan Carey and The Curse of the Corpse Bride, is now free! Here's more about the story:

Middle- grade Halloween story
Morgan has chosen the coolest costume ever—a dead bride. But when she finds a strange fortune-telling machine at the mall on Halloween, she has no way of knowing that she has encountered some powerful magic—and entered a world where her Halloween costume has become all too real. The next day, the Day of the Dead, or the Dia de los Muertos, she faces a terrible dilemma…Will Morgan and her best friend Claire be able to break the spell? Or is Morgan doomed to be cursed by the Corpse Bride forever?

This family-friendly Halloween story is suitable for all ages…other Morgan Carey books include Book 2, Morgan Carey and The Mystery of the Christmas Fairies, and a haunted-house novel, Book 3, The Secret Astoria Scavenger Hunt... You can find the "Corpse Bride" ebook at Amazon, Apple Books, or your favorite online book retailer!