Carrot Ranch in Crisis

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

June 9, 2016

Crisis. I don’t like word. I don’t like the circumstances. I don’t want to ask for help; I’m in need of help; I feel bitter if no one helps and embarrassed if anyone does. Let me back up because this began four years ago.

After fighting in court against a fraudulent mortgage, my husband and I lost our home to foreclosure in April 2012. Over the next few years I watched my husband unravel. Last year I began in earnest to get him in the US Veterans Affairs (VA). Even though his knees were destroyed by the time he was 25 years old (a hardship we’ve dealt with on our own since 1988), the VA finally recognized his disability in 2015. To this date we still don’t have an appointment to evaluate his PTSD.

After we lost our house and Todd took a job in Idaho (where he lived in a motel for 6 months), I helped a human rights movement in rural northern Wisconsin where I was living in the spare bedroom of family. I was finishing my first novel, Miracle of Ducks, about a military wife left behind when her husband re-enlists. Here’s me at a protest rally in Ashland, Wisconsin May 2012 (I’m in the purple Vikings t-shirt):

I’ve known how vulnerable we are. It’s expensive to rent. I typically have earned between $1,000 to $1,500 a month through writing for clients. However, it’s fiction that is my love.

That’s why I started Carrot Ranch. It’s an imaginary playground, a place to meet up and encourage other writers, a place to dream out loud, a place to share stories and ideas, a place to support intelligent literature or clever prose or silly creativity. Carrot Ranch has a diverse group of writers from different countries, genres, interests and backgrounds. I’ve made incredible friends here, many who have encouraged and inspired me. I hope I’ve encouraged and inspired others.

Last May, my best friend, Kate, died of ovarian cancer and I tail-spinned into grief. I pulled every last weed on this property (though the weeds mock me and have returned). As I began to adjust, I renewed my efforts on Rock Creek, my third novel in draft, thinking of the three it had the best chance at getting published. At that time, several opportunities came up, including some options for income.

One was a client project that I thought would give me the extra money if we self-published the anthology. I set up all the work, delivered part of the project and…it was cancelled with no payment. The other gig was writing for Go Idaho. The editor was recommended to me by my book editor. I was excited to work with a great editor and she agreed to let me write at least one history article a month, which tied into my novel genre. I received my first paycheck December 28. It was the only one I received.

Then, the end of March we received notice of the owners intent to sell this place. My home. What’s most vulnerable.

The owners want to sell, which is entirely their prerogative. We looked at buying it but because of our past, we don’t qualify. I had a meltdown and Todd deployed to a job in Reno, Nevada. “Deployed” is the phrase our VA advocate uses and it makes sense. When Todd thinks we are in dire straits, he feels the need to go on a mission to relieve the situation.

The day he left, I began researching my publisher. That’s when I discovered he was a serial con artist. He owes me $2,000 and he’s still publishing. Todd returned from Nevada because they decided not to hire a full-time aviation mechanic. The final kick in the pants came when the owners of our rental decided they could better sell the place empty. On May 17th we were served a Notice to Vacate in 30 days.

I wrote a plea in response. I’ve made certain to always pay my rent. We’ve not damaged the place nor have we committed bad behavior like running a meth lab in the horse barn. I’ve created a blog about this place and taken care of the resident cat!

Their response? Last week, May 31 they simply emailed: “the owners need you out.”

We scrambled. Asked the VA for assistance given we are now facing homelessness. We are definitely “at risk.” The VA sent us on a goose chase of phone numbers. Of two organizations that can help, they won’t because we don’t have a court-ordered eviction. The lawyer we contacted says there’s nothing in our lease that protects us and that our Notice to Vacate is legal. The VA says our Notice to Vacate is not legal until the sheriff escorts us out.

Other organizations have said, “Sorry, folks,” while they tout posters on their walls that proclaim “End Veteran Homelessness.” Guess it’s just a catchy phrase.

I’m exhausted. I’ve had to downsize an already downsized household. All the calls, driving to organizations, the cleaning, the trying to find a rental, 30 days is hardly enough time. We had a garage sale last weekend and I met three homeless vets. That’s not exactly hopeful. I met another vet who said he lives in an ex-pat community in the Philippines and invited us to join him. Ah, why couldn’t it be Montana? Or Scotland?

I want Carrot Ranch to be a safe environment for writers, an incubator for creativity. My Big Dream is to create a platform that benefits many authors. I want to make Carrot Ranch a non-profit to create travel scholarships for writers. I want to publish annual anthologies that both contribute to such scholarships and provide an income for contributors. I want to build more contests that support worthy causes world-wide. I want to teach flash fiction as a writing tool. I want to do small group retreats and host large workshops (nature writing and western writing). I want to travel, to research, to do readings and open mics. I want to publish my own books and create some way of attracting a wide audience of readers to Carrot Ranch and all its writers.

I’m not quitting. But I am asking for help and this is hard. I also want to be fair in expectations. A Go Fund Me campaign was suggested. I thought about this and decided against it. First, the organization takes a huge chunk of donations and it generates spam. Second, most people who will contribute will likely know me or know someone who does so why not just donate to Carrot Ranch, right here.

Housing is our crisis mostly because of our vulnerability. Rentals aren’t available this time of year in our area. I found a place September 1, after the summer vacationers and seasonal residents go home. We have a friend who is loaning us a tent. I really want a camping trailer for a better bed. Yet, a trailer is mobile and opens up the possibility of travel. I could even go to Rock Creek, Nebraska for the annual reenactment of Hickok shooting Cobb! Of course, I’ll have to tell them they have it all wrong.

I’d rather ask for contributions toward the cost of setting up Carrot Ranch as a non profit, publishing our first anthology and possibly self-publishing Miracle of Ducks. I have the notion to change my character’s crisis to that of homelessness. I can’t believe this is really happening. If you want to help us out in our current circumstance, know that any financial help will go toward securing a camp trailer, gas, food and a future rental. And keep in mind I do have a monthly income and no longer have a high rent payment.

As for work, I’m available for marketing consultations and editing. I’m a big-picture person and my strengths are in assessments and strategy. I’m good at connections and with ideas. I’m not good at line edits unless they are less than 20 pages. My fees are $50 an hour and anyone interested can contact me at I would invoice (rather than use the donation button). I’ve had some people in the past buy hours and gift them to someone else. I can provide a gift certificate. I’m also rethinking how to create a way to get more readers and if I do, I’ll open up some sort of support like Patron of the Literary Arts.

I hope to resume normal activities here after the craziness of moving out.

Thank you to all the lovely Ranchers who make this worthwhile. Thank you for your help. If you are so inclined, please use this button and indicate any preference on your contribution. If you are interested in hiring me for an editing or marketing project, email me at

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  1. Norah

    Charli, I don’t know what to say. You are in crisis and you’re thinking of others. Life sucks, and sucks some more. We had a politician here a while back whose words “Life wasn’t meant to be easy” became a catchphrase. Maybe it wasn’t, but why should it be so difficult too. We only get one shot at it, why is it possible for others to go and mess it up for us. Don’t they realise that most of us can do that well enough on our own!
    I can think of no words to comfort. They would seem hollow without the opportunity to make a difference and ease your pain.
    Your goals are admirable and I love to hear of your big positive dreams.
    I enjoyed hearing you speak in the video, but was saddened by what you and the others had to suffer. What meanness we humans can inflict upon each other without a thought. We definitely need more empathy and more compassion in the world, and to realise that we were connected long before the internet came to be, right from the very beginning. It’s in our DNA. We share our origin with all that exists. We are each but a small part of one big picture, and should be pulling together, not apart. When someone as warm as you gets kicked and kicked again, it’s just not fair. I hope that as you travel the rocky roads in the months ahead you find nuggets of gold (literally and figuratively) along the way to see you through.
    I apologise for my lack of eloquence. There will be others who express it much better than I. (Perhaps I should have employed you to write it for me!)
    Take care, Charli. Please keep us informed each step of the way.
    I think your donation button is wonderful. As is your request for work. Each of us who are far away can choose how to help in the way that suits us best. Always thinking of others is our Charli. What an inspiration!

    • Charli Mills

      When we think of others, it gets our minds out of the self-pity trench. I was singled out as a “communist” because of my activism for that family. Funny thing is, the main organizer was a communist. But why does that matter? Why do we force capitalism on social issues? Why can’t there be a balance, like you say, one that upholds the entire fabric of society? I’m trying to grow from this and process what it means not just to me but to others, too. I will keep you informed. Your love and friendship matter more than eloquence. I seriously hope no one hires me for eloquence just yet! Soon, hopefully. Thank you, Norah! <3

      • Norah

        That’s right. Thinking of others does help to take the focus off ourselves and our situation, but it’s not always easy to do. There are some aspects of socialism that are great but, like with many things, it is the way they are implemented that is the problem. Capitalism has plenty of negatives too; though I’d never want to swap democracy for anything else. As you say, Why can’t there be a balance? Why? A female president of the US might tip the scales. We can only hope. 🙂
        Your writing is always eloquent!
        Take care. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Although I’m not partial to her politics, I’m feeling it is monumental that a woman received the nomination. Thank you, Norah!

  2. Annecdotist

    As I think you know, I’m averse to the something good will come out of the bad mentality, as sometimes life just stinks. But, although extremely saddened by your current circumstances, and the attacks on the vulnerable that capitalism inevitably brings, I can’t help feeling excited about the writing that is going to come from this. America (with the UK not following too far behind with the dismantling of its welfare system) NEEDS your novel about how homelessness can happen to anyone. And I love the idea of you using your homelessness to do some travelling over the summer. So I’m going to pledge a donation towards the purchase of your trailer as well as buy some consultancy time. Also loved seeing you on the video – you’re very articulate.
    Sorry this is a bit rushed as on the way out, but I also endorse everything Norah has said.

    • Charli Mills

      I agree, Anne, I don’t think going through something bad means something good is waiting on the other side. However, I think going through something that sucks gives us perspective we didn’t have before and as a writer I can express and explore the experience. However, some of what I write might be discomforting to those who like neat, tidy lives. I’ve learned which friends are not good in crisis and which are. I’ve learned to better articulate what I need. For instance, I need a plan. A plan is like the 99-word constraint at work. Instead of thinking, I can’t tell that story in 99 words, I’m trying to resolve how I can. I’m so glad I listened to my intuition on Miracle of Ducks. I knew there was something more to it. Now I know. And it will be so much more powerful to tell a story about homelessness than a woman opening up to community through dogs after her husband deploys. I can already see where the revisions will fit in. Thank you so much for the donation, Anne as it bolsters my confidence that this story can be important and perhaps I’ll find a way to make wine from the sour grapes, after all. <3

      • Annecdotist

        If you tell an uncomfortable truth people will attack you – that’s how you know you’re getting it right! Having published a novel that I thought might upset people, I’ve been touched by its enthusiastic reception by a wide variety of readers. As long as it is well-written, and you’re able to move it past an obvious agenda, I think you’ll be able to make a connection with readers who’ve been hungry for your words, perhaps without even realising it. Looking forward to following this journey.

      • Charli Mills

        Your novel deals with an uncomfortable truth in a graceful, honest manner and I’m sure it has enlightened, informed and moved many readers. I will keep that in mind as I revise!

  3. Sherri

    Dear Charli, I don’t know what to add that Norah and Anne haven’t already said. I am so proud of you and the work you did back in 2012, you are indeed wonderfully articulate and you have a powerful message to share with the world through Carrot Ranch and your writing. Your Big Dream is still very much alive and kicking. Just the way you are now looking to change Miracle of Ducks…you need to tell it and we need to read it! And yes…I think you need to go to Rock Creek again…they also need to hear the true story 🙂 Hang tight Charli…and you know I’m not being trite when I say that <3

    • Charli Mills

      Never would I count your words trite, Sherri! You’ve been a rock of support! Dreams are still alive and I had an amazing conversation today with a lovely young woman I adore, Mercy. She used to be my babysitter when the Big Dream was in the phase of getting a degree in creative writing! She’s grown up to be a magnificent woman and we talked about her trip to the UK next week (I tagged you on a FB post). She also gave me revision encouragement, an analogy I’ll share when I can write it down, It made sense and made me feel good about where I am with both Rock Creek and MOD. She’s working on her master’s thesis in literature. Thank you! <3

      • Sherri

        I very much look forward to reading about Mercedes’ revision analogy…I need it too! I am always amazed by the way certain people cross our path just when we need it, with just the right words, advice and/or encouragement. Mercedes sounds like a mangificent woman indeed and was just the right person for you at just the right time. Love stories like this…and thank you for tagging me, I would love to meet her if at all possible… 🙂 <3

      • Charli Mills

        Before I forget! It’s bones, muscles, skin. We build the bones of our story/book. Then we revise to add muscle. For example, if I change Miracle of Ducks, it’s a muscular revision. The story bones remain, but the muscles change. Then, finally, the skin. This is the polish, what “looks good.” However, every time we worry over words or commas, we’re tinkering with skin. First we need to know the bones are strong and the muscles shape up. Lastly we buff the skin.

      • Charli Mills

        Just knowing she’s there where you are delights me!

      • Sherri

        🙂 <3

      • Sherri

        Love the analogy Charli, thank you for sharing it with me! It helps knowing that I’m building muscle on formed bones. And then comes the body polish…I am so looking forward to that part! And I wanted to share this with you: Your dear friend is in Manchester right now. Manchester is in Cheshire from where my maternal grandparents hailed and where my uncle and aunt live now. It is the one place left from my happy, early childhood that I can still visit (but haven’t done for a few years) and it is there that I played all those years ago while staying at my grandparents home in their beloved Summerhouse at the bottom of their beautiful garden. Montana, Idaho, Manchester, Carrot Ranch, Summerhouse. I wish I could meet Mercdes in Manchester during her trip, as I would feel as if I was also meeting a part of you <3

  4. elliotttlyngreen


    Having just crossed paths, i loathe being honest in that i’m so truly heartbroken to lose the challenge. I am no cold robot or anything so my heart and thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family as much as anyone else.. But here i am, honest as i am, regretting initially the interactions, the positive influences, and the sense of being a part of something i have not found anywhere else; as if this were already the writing class or workshop, a writing group…that is your Big Dreams. And i can only think, well Lord what the hell am i going to do now? Cuz no matter how far fetched it seems that my work and interests near clash with yours and those of thee ranch. Age, gender, topics and themes, you gotta admit i truly didnt fit in right here at the ranch. And no matter how hard or easy it is for you to offer some crucial feedback that accepts and finds the betterment in those who contribute. And no matter whether you too loathed taking time out to not only read, react and offer what could or could not have been an honest insight. And no matter if you cared any less or not about our writing beyond the flashes, or will ever read anything by us other than what we produced with consideration of theme at hand.. it did not matter and i believed; in you, the ranch, myself, and that age old propisition of hope.

    I think you would make a difference in your big dreams and i just know i know you could make such an impact on so many dreamers if you were to collaborate such a group and such a real place like that of this carrotranch. Because….. i have sought to be unique, stand out, new, odd, unlike anything ever written for a reason. I have little experience in sharing my work. But i have enough experience with life to cry out well what the shit am i going to do now!?

    And i can only hope that makes you laugh a little bit. I dont why or what word to call it; how to define why that should amuse you.. i guess i just figure folks will understand as i am trying to figure out exactly what it is i am trying to say. And you know what, i got it.

    Yes! You will find your dreams and inspire, feed, influence, and instill a next Proust or Thomas Pynchon, maybe Steven King… i wish i could offer the mountains, but i can only offer my words. And with that i think, what the hell is Charli going to do now?! And it pours out right there. Your an amazing person. You deserve the dreams you have. Your actions remind me of my grandmother on my moms side, who passed on the idea of no matter what you think or feel about someone, find 1 thing, just 1 little thing that is ‘good’ about them and focus on that; could b there eyes, their fancy shoes, their vast spirit, their intelligence, their whatever ‘good’ thing….. and it changes your whole perspectives of peoples. She was a saint. She helped the unforunate in the community. This place reminded me of her and that philosophy. If she were here she would offer you a place i bet. But she is no longer with us.

    So, in the spirit of my grandmother, the ranch, and the positive perspective toward life, the whole idea of the flash and what you want to create here (and have smashed it, truly exploded beyond the reaches, captured it already)…the serendipity of the whole connection here….( well i look forward to when we intersect again) it aches that i but can only leave with one of the last things she said to me – “sometimes less is more.”

    • Charli Mills

      Elliot Lyngreen, here’s what the shit you are going to do now! Next week when I’m *wherever-but-will-be* I’ll have Carrot Ranch up and running for you and for every other writer and dreamer who is searching for expression, validation and community — all or parts — the show goes on! And I expect you to continue to blow my mind with your experimental writing and comos creativity. Thank you for likening me to your grandmother. I’ll accept that and continue to make that the heart of this place. New prompt June 22. New sky, new bed, new plans…same Big Dream!

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Hot damn! Gettin the band back together. hope you were able to laugh at my shit. Wish you nothing but the best and a chance to settle.. which sounds like you have. Or will. great news. Wonderful.! The Ranch (dream) is yours Charli. I will find mine. I aint scared. So Recharge. Prepare plenty of uplifting comments; cuz from the depths of literature,, we going to raise the bar.. push, make everyone work even harder to keep their starting positions.. Cant wait to shift them stars again!

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, it made me smile! Work those creative abs; you’ve got stars to riff!

  5. Susan Budig

    Charli, dear, you are a duck to me. All this furious paddling underneath the waters while on top, you seem to be sailing. <3

    • Charli Mills

      I’m working my Miracle of Ducks! You’ve been there from the beginning when you invited me to be in your writers group. Thank you! <3

  6. jeanne229

    I am so sorry to hear it has come to this crisis Charli but not surprised. So angry that the owners did not have the common decency to consider the situation of the people that have cared for their property and paid their mortgage for them for all these months. Stories like yours should make, if not communists, socialists out of us all. I feel like I’m reading a modern-day Grapes of Wrath! And then, your husband’s struggles with getting his rightful benefits! So many of us out here don’t really see or feel the dire reality of our vets. We see the news bytes and hear the politicians pandering and that’s it.
    Troubles like these would make half the population throw in the towel. That you have kept active with your literary endeavors; that you can even write this long post; is evidence of your commitment and powerful voice.
    As for the new direction for your book, Miracle of Ducks, well this is the stuff of legend, isn’t it. I agree with Anne, the world needs to hear this story!!! The time could not be better with people “feeling the bern” and experiencing their own injustices with the status quo.
    I just took a break in the middle of this to tell Tom what I have read here. I have talked about you many times to him. His thoughts are worth passing on. The tragedy of this whole situation, he said, is that here you are, a person that works very hard to bring something of value and high quality to our communal life, and our society doesn’t appreciate or reward it. THAT IS THE PROBLEM with our capitalistic system…and I don’t think it has anything to do with “democracy.” I don’t see us as having a real democracy. (But that is a different discussion.) For now, I am keeping you in my thoughts and heart. I loved seeing a more animated “you” in the video. I want very much for your dream of retreats and workshops to come to fruition. I am sure you are a powerful teacher. You walk the talk. And of course, your writing must gain a wider audience. For now, I will donate what I can. You deserve it. And I won’t stop praying, in my own way, for a serendipitous turn or events (or a cosmic justice) that finds you in a home of your own again soon…a new ranch where you can flourish again.

    • Charli Mills

      I have this sense that if we get to travel as I’m hoping to, I’m going to meet many others who live on the road, and I don’t mean the RV retirees. We will look like the Grapes of Wrath in comparison to those behemoth luxury RVs and trailers; us in our white farm truck and 1985 camp trailer, with two adults and two large dogs in a bench seat with the windows rolled down! But I agree, our nation has slipped from its original democratic ideals. Those who fear communism or even socialism blindly cling to capitalism that’s doing us all in because they fail to see that capitalism is not democracy either. In the meantime, my story is but a shadow of many injustices swept under the red carpet our politicians walk upon. I’m feeling renewed though still battered and I will use my voice through Miracle of Ducks and personal essays. I will use my voice for others who don’t have one. I will continue to support literary arts as a vehicle to discover, explore and share voices! Who knows what next week brings? But the ranch will be up and running…along with my voice! Thank you for your support and sharing what Tom has to say. That means much to me.

  7. Sarah Brentyn

    Sending love and light, as always. <3

    • Charli Mills

      You always do, Sarah! Thank you for not running to the hills as I crashed and burned. I’ll saddle up and we’ll regain ground I lost on our anthology work. Carrot Ranch will publish a meaningful, educational and collaborative work that will make you proud to be its editor. <3

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Pfft! What hills? Where? I see no hills. 😉

        Oh…the ones with the landslide? Yes, let me run there. I’m crashin’ and burnin’ with you, lovely lady. But we will get through it and we will remain strong. We’ll both saddle up and regain any lost ground. We will get that back on track when we are back on track. Just for the record, I’m already proud to be its editor. And thrilled to be working with the amazing writers (and, let’s face it, wonderful people) who are contributing to the anthology.

        Hope you do get to travel. That would be an amazing experience. We’re all here, sending love and cyber hugs and rallying around a woman who has given so much to others. <3 Hang in there. Your community will help get you through this.

      • Charli Mills

        You are amazing, Sarah! I need to give you spurs one day. 🙂

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Cool! I’ll take ’em! 😉 <3

  8. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    For more than two years now I have been participating in the weekly flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. As well as the challenge, I enjoy the camaraderie and support from other writers, especially Charli who ropes us in with her prompts and encouragement.
    For the last little while I have been posting my flash fiction responses on Tuesday evenings, just scraping in before Charli’s deadline. But not tonight. Tonight I am sharing Charli’s post, the post that would normally include a flash fiction prompt, but instead this time included a plea for help. Charli is in crisis mode, kicked out of home and in transit.
    Often when friends are in need we can lend a hand by cooking a meal, offering a bed for the night, assisting with chores, and listening. But when that friend is over 12,000 kilometres away, helping out is not such an easy thing. For that reason, this evening I am sharing Charli’s post. Maybe one of you is able to help her out in her time of need.
    Thank you for reading. As always, I appreciate your feedback.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah. Thank you!

  9. Sacha Black

    I’m not sure what to say. This is a horrible, horrible situation. I don’t have anything poignant, or inspirational to say. I don’t have a magic wand and I can’t make anything better. But I can promise you I am thinking of you, hoping, wishing, pushing all my positive energy your way. I wish I could do something more, I will donate too, as soon as I can. <3 Thinking of you <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Sacha! I felt buoyed, watching you soar with the Bloggers Bash and knowing what a great community this is for writers. The rest, well, it will soon pass.

  10. ellenbest24

    Your plight brings sadness to my heart. I would love to make it better and hope my Dad was right. ” shit happens to make way for the good stuff”. I hope your good stuff is around the next bend. Said with honesty and warmth from me to you.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ellen. I know good stuff is coming. Shit stinks, though. 🙂

      • ellenbest24

        It bloody well does! ????????????

  11. Charli Mills

    Thank you, Geoff!

  12. Charli Mills

    Thank you, Sherri!

  13. Sherri

    Always Charli <3


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