Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Birding at Berryridge

 It's been a fun month of bird-watching at our little farm in the Foothills! 

Early in March, the hens were in what we call their "back 40" yard--a fenced-in area we carved out of the woods for more scratching places. Suddenly, one hen stopped scratching, stretched up her neck, and started buck-buck-bucking like crazy. 

The other 4 hens quickly joined in, heads up, all of them cackling raucously, and John, standing just outside this fenced area, silently beckoned me over. He pointed to an alder tree near the fence line. There sat a barred owl, quietly watching the hens, then us from about 10 feet up--it's coal-black eyes intense.

Interestingly, while the hens were on high alert, our presence didn't seem spook the owl. John and I stepped a little closer, and the owl lazily took off, settling again in a nearby tree. We did it a second time, and once again, the owl flew away, but only a few trees over.

We left the owl to its own devices, and ushered the bucking hens into their pen, where they quieted down. The owl  hasn't returned, at least as far as we know. But a week later...

A hawk in our woods
It was mid-morning, but John and I hadn't yet let the girls out of their caged pen. Impatient to be in their fenced-in yard, the hens were all clustered on the big-leaf maple stump they liked to hang out on. Just then, a red-tailed hawk glided right over their pen--and in a flash, all 5 girls were instantly across the pen and into the coop. 

Yet how all 5 hens got through their little door simultaneously remains a mystery!

A week ago, a bald eagle settled onto the very top of a massive Douglas fir tree at the edge of our property. It's a favorite spot for the raptors in our neighborhood, but this time, the bird sat up their for over an hour! I could swear he was looking toward the hens, busily scratching in one of our orchards, but never made a move. At about 150 yards away, he was apparently too far from the hens for them to take notice. Still, whew! Felt like a close call.   

Getting a bird's-eye view

The last few years, game birds have been showing up around our little woodland lane. This past week, a grouse (ruffed grouse, I think) has visited our place, just outside our garden fence, several times! I'm hoping the spot becomes a regular feeding area.

Grouse are visiting!

And a few days ago, I saw our first hummingbird of the season! We've transplanted April-blooming wild currant all around our house--it's a favorite food source for hummingbirds--and this one was checking out the buds, which were not yet open. (He flew away before we could get a pic--but here's one from summer, a couple of years ago.)
Hummingbird in the bee balm

Happily, the currant bushes will soon be in bloom, and if past Aprils are any indication, it will be a veritable hummingbird party in our yard! 

What interesting birds have you seen lately?

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Two Irish Novels now 40% Off!

Set in Ballydara
 My latest novels, The Galway Girls and Becoming Emma, are currently 40% off at Kobo! Selected for one of Kobo's special promotions, these two feel-good Irish novels will be on sale until March 29--here's more about The Galway Girls:

In this warmhearted tale of women’s friendship and discovering love where you least expect it, The Galway Girls follows Irish thirtysomethings Kerry and Fiona as they search for their heart’s desire among the misty green hills of the Irish countryside.

And Becoming Emma:  What happens when an unlikely friendship turns to something more?

An office attraction
Dublin girl Emma Carey has just embarked on another fresh start—the job of her dreams at Ireland Place, an Irish arts center in a picturesque Victorian mansion near Seattle. At thirty-one, sweet, plucky Emma is finally poised for career success…if she can only avoid her fatal flaw—the one that’s ruined every other job: falling for her boss. 

With humor and tenderness, Becoming Emma continues Emma’s journey toward her own happily-ever-after. This heartfelt, charming page-turner is connected to the Village of Ballydara series, set in a cozy Irish village in the West of Ireland!

At Kobo, both books are in the Fiction category, and all you need is the promotion code, MAR40...Find all about my Irish novels and country memoirs at www.susancolleenbrowne.com

Monday, March 15, 2021

St. Paddy's Day is Coming!

 Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day? If you do, I have a couple of fun ways to help!

Here I am in Cong, Ireland
For Irish film lovers, I have an eclectic list of my favorite Irish movies to share! 

Well, maybe it's not that eclectic--mostly feel-good movies like "The Secret of Roan Inish" and "The Quiet Man"--but I mention a few mystery-thrillers and thoughtful family dramas too. You find the list on my website!

Also on my site: an Irish Glossary of Irish expressions and idioms, a free mini-ebook!


To help me celebrate, I'm enjoying some wonderful memories of our visit to Ireland a few years back. Cong, in County Mayo, is the picturesque village where "The Quiet Man" was filmed--behind me is a statue of  the stars John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. 

And here's John and me on St. Patrick's Mountain, also in County Mayo!  


Here on this blog, you'll find Irish recipes and stories...and lots more Irish stuff at www.susancolleenbrowne.com

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Down for the Count and "Frilufsliv"

 It was just another February day around our Foothills homestead. On my daily bikeride, I was cycling along, enjoying the sunshine, the beauty of snow on the hills, the crisp winter air, when Bam

The snowy vista from our garden

I slammed onto the pavement, my bike skidding sideways, pain shooting up my thigh into my back. It was the kind of pain I can’t remember feeling before, outside of childbirth.

My whole body shaking, I managed to get to my feet, pick my bike off the road. I could walk—well, limp, just barely. I had hit the ground on the side of my thigh, no head impact. And by leaning on my bike, I was able to move, so nothing appeared to be broken. No head or bone injury seemed to be the good news. 

The bad news was, I knew in one split second my life had changed…

Just the day before, I was doing my usual winter routine. Ever since we’d moved to our little homestead, I’d learned to embrace being outdoors all year long. This, I recently discovered, is what the Norwegians call frilufsliv, “open air living." The Norwegians are all about celebrating time outside, no matter what the weather. And given all the winter chores at our place, you either have to get on board with being outside, every day, or give up and move to town.

Every winter day, I would bundle up and ride my bike, unless it was pouring rain, or there was snow on the road. After that, it was exchanging my bike gear for more layers, to feed the chickens and haul their water, or clean the coop, then chop firewood. If the weather was somewhat dry, maybe haul some brush or stack firewood with my husband John, or find some winter garden tasks like mulching some beds, or pulling weeds if the ground wasn’t frozen. After coming inside, I'd do a half hour of yoga to work out the kinks.

I happily whizzed through my intensely physical life, confident I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. I’m a small woman, no weightlifter, but I prided myself on being able to carry a 40 lb. sack of chicken feed, lift a big box of firewood and take it into the house.

That day before everything changed, the forecast was looking…unusual for February. Apparently a Northeaster, and a very cold one, was on the way. There would be extra wood to chop and bring inside, getting the hens organized with a different watering routine. So we had even more outdoor work than usual…but heck, we were up for it. I loved getting fresh air, needing the physical and spiritual boost I got from the great outdoors. I was game for whatever Mother Nature had in store.

But I could never have predicted that bike spill, on a patch of black ice I hadn’t seen. After I'd painstakingly gotten to my feet, I retrieved the keys that had flown out of the pocket of my windbreaker, and the helmet visor that had skittering away, I turned and limped toward home. I was upright, sure, but my entire being throbbed with pain. And the way I was shuddering uncontrollably, I knew I was in shock. 

I also realized that the pain I felt now would only get worse once the shock subsided. I was one and a half miles from home. How would I ever make it?

As angels often do, just then, one showed up. A Good Samaritan stopped—a young lady whom I’d never met, but lived down the road less than I mile from our house—and offered me a ride. I’m an independent kind of person, not accustomed to accepting help. Especially from a stranger. But that day, I gratefully accepted her kindness. As she drove me home, I felt more helpless than I ever had before.

It’s been a slow recovery. Days of icing, resting, and using a cane. Despite my discomfort, and my limited mobility, I know I've been lucky. Even blessed. I'd escaped this spill with minimal damage: no head injury, broken bones, or even torn ligaments. I'd been wearing winter layers, so although I was bruised, I hadn't scraped up my hip and thigh. And I was extremely fortunate that no double-trailed gravel truck--a common vehicle on the main road--was barreling around the blind curve just ahead of where I fell.

The biggest blessing, though, has been John. When I could hardly move, he helped me put on my socks (who knew donning socks involved so many muscles?), picked up my cane when I invariably dropped it several times a day, and helped with housework. And most importantly, cheerfully taken care of all the winter chores by himself. And that Northeaster that hit the week after my accident was a big one--howling winds for 4 long days with temps near the single-digits, then a snowstorm and more sub-freezing weather. So he was the one suiting up for solo chicken tending and wood hauling in the frigid gale.

February snowstorm

It's been 3 and a half weeks, and I can walk a little more easily--but I still need to ice my sore spots, and need a cane to get around. Although it's nice to think Spring is just around the corner, 3 weeks away, here in the Foothills, winters can be long. 

In fact, we've had snow and freezing temperatures at the end of April--so I'm pretty confident, as I get a little bit stronger every day, that I'm sure to have many more opportunities for Frilufsliv!

Monday, February 22, 2021

My Irish Novel in a Special Promotion!

My new novel, Becoming Emma, has been chosen for a new Books2Read promotion, "Every Kind of Love Story"! You'll find Becoming Emma in the "Family & Friendship" category--and what's especially fun, this February promo also includes The Duke & I, one of the Bridgerton books, now  a popular new Netflix series!

www.books2read.com/rl/lovestories

Becoming Emma is the sequel to my recent Goodreads Giveaway, The Little Irish Gift Shop. For more about my Irish novels and all my books, visit www.susancolleenbrowne.com !



Monday, February 1, 2021

Gardeners: Seed Ordering Time!

Seeds overlooking a wet winter garden!
It's February 1, do you know where your seeds are?

If your seed collection looks like this, you may want to get crackin' and order your spring supply! In 2020, lots of people got into food-growing for the first time, and the way I hear it, seed companies couldn't keep up with the new demand. Last spring, John and I actually couldn't find parsnip seeds anywhere, and for the first time in 10  years, we didn't have a parsnip harvest. 

Although spring seems very far away--at the moment, our beds are sodden with the winter's rain--we've already ordered our 2021 seeds. We generally go with a local organic seed company, Uprising Seeds, www.uprisingseeds.com . In a pinch, I'll buy High Mowing organics, also carried by our community food co-op--where I also source seed potatoes. In any event, I prefer to use local seeds, since I've found you get the most vigorous plants and highest yields with seeds raised in a similar climate as your own garden!

I discuss that in detail in my Little Farm gardening guide, still available for free at your favorite local retailer...and you can also get the freebie in PDF on my website! www.susancolleenbrowne.com 

Free ebook online or get the PDF!

 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Goodreads Giveaway Ends Soon!


Feel-good Irish story
Just 5 days left for my Goodreads Giveaway! Enter for the chance to win 1 of 100 copies of my recent release, The Little Irish Gift Shop, Book 1 of my new Fairy Cottage of Ballydara mini-series…In this sparkling novella, Dublin girl Emma Carey jumps at the opportunity to start fresh in America—her old friend Fitzwilliam has offered her a job running a picturesque Irish shop in Seattle.

At 30, arriving at her new home, Emma discovers the shop is full of surprises. And so is geeky Fitz... Brimming with heart and humor, The Little Irish Gift Shop is just the beginning of Emma’s unforgettable journey to her heart’s desire.

The Giveaway will be in Kindle ebook format, available to Goodreads’ members in the US, and runs through January 31—I hope you’ll take a look!

The new Fairy Cottage mini-series begins in Seattle, but the Emma Carey books are very much part of the world of my Village of Ballydara series, set in County Galway, Ireland. New Release: Book 2 of the mini-series, Becoming Emma, is now available!

For more about The Little Irish Gift Shop and Becoming Emma, you can visit me at www.susancolleenbrowne.com or see me on Facebook, at Facebook.com/Susan-Colleen-Browne !

Heartwarming sequel






Saturday, January 9, 2021

Chicken Lock-Out

One day last week, I was finishing up my afternoon wintertime chores. As always, I focused on my most important task: looking in on the hens before they turn in for the night. (By the way, you can pretty much tell time from your laying hens—they turn into their coop to sleep exactly at dusk, rain or shine, no matter what the season.)

Hens are all about routine. About 15 minutes before beddy-bye, our girls will generally dial down their perpetual foraging. Which is a nice word for the way they tear up the ground, creating huge divots all over the place and move piles of dirt from one spot to another, almost always near the man-door into the pen. Then they’ll wander into their pen to mill around their waterer and feeder. I’ll talk to the hens, ask them about their day, and shake their feeder to redistribute the grains. I’ll also agitate the waterer, and encourage them to get a sip or two.

The hens often pile up dirt behind the white man door into their pen!

Then, because the girls tend to get kind of cranky before bed (I think it’s some kind of hen anxiety about getting the best roosting spot in the coop), I’ll leave the door into the pen partway open, in case anyone wants to go out for some last minute dirt-scratching. And off I’ll go to toss the day’s kitchen scraps on the compost pile and chop some firewood, then take a quick walk down the road to work out the kinks from wood-chopping.

By the time I’m done, it’s nearly dark and the girls are on the roost, so I’ll secure the pen for the night. But on this day, that’s not how it went down.

I went to the pen to close it up, and found the man-door already shut, and a mound of blond feathered creatures huddled up right up against the door. They were hunkered down so tightly they appeared to be one animal.

They’d somehow managed to push the man door closed (again, all the dirt moving around the entryway) and had locked themselves out. And I didn’t hear them complain about it because I’d been walking. So the girls did the next best thing to roosting: piled in together into the dirt to keep warm and secure.

All five seemed fast asleep, although they couldn’t have been there for more than a few minutes. So I talked to them to rouse them. No result. I prodded them a bit. “Come on girls, wake up—you don’t want to sleep outside all night, do you?” (And be food for bigger critters?)

One girl sleepily shifted out of the mound, then finally a second one, but the other three ignored me. I was able to move the door, but not one hen got it: Here the door was open for them, every instinct should tell them to get inside and go roost as usual! But they were too discombobulated to even take a step around the door and enter the pen.

It was up to the human to set them straight. I opened the man door of the coop, then began ferrying the hens, one by one, from the hen yard onto their roost. One or two were compliant enough to let me grasp them, but the others flapped their wings, trying to get away, buck-buck-bucking all the while, and did not like being messed around with.

The last hen in the mound was nestled right down in the dirt—and had a proverbial cow when I extracted her from her little nest and carried her into the coop. There was much agitation and kvetching and to-do-ing as the flock got themselves positioned onto the roost—in the correct pecking order, I assume—and seemed to dislike me very much. (After all I’d done for them!)

The next morning, I wondered if the hens would still be mad at me. Or worse, be afraid of me. But they were back to their usual sunny dispositions. Apparently no harm done, except that I felt terribly guilty for upsetting our girls.

My big takeaway from this experience: make sure that pen door is wide open at bedtime, and the doorway is cleared of that day’s dirt piles! Do you have any hen-keeping advice? Please share it here, or visit me on Facebook!

Friday, January 1, 2021

Goodreads Giveaway and a New Irish Novel!

Feel-good Irish story
To start off the New Year, I’m hoping to help out book-lovers going through hard times…by giving the gift of reading. For the month of January 2021, you can enter to win 1 of 100 copies of my recent release, The Little Irish Gift Shop, Book 1 of my new Fairy Cottage of Ballydara mini-series!

In this sparkling novella, Dublin girl Emma Carey jumps at the opportunity to start fresh in America—her old friend Fitzwilliam has offered her a job running a picturesque Irish shop in Seattle. Arriving at her new home, Emma discovers the shop is full of surprises. And so is geeky Fitz... Brimming with heart and humor, The Little Irish Gift Shop is just the beginning of Emma’s unforgettable journey to her heart’s desire.

The Giveaway will be in Kindle ebook format, available to Goodreads’ members in the US, and runs through January 31—I hope you’ll take a look!

Book 2 of the series is a brand-new release--Becoming Emma is now available! See it on Amazon, Kobo, or Apple Books!

2nd book of an Irish Trilogy!
For more about The Little Irish Gift Shop and Becoming Emma, visit www.susancolleenbrowne.com--and starting this week, you can find me on  Facebook!