Outside my front steps, little brown pellets form a scattershot design in the freshly scooped snow. “Farfennugens” comes to mind. It’s a made-up word from the last century — the 1990s. I don’t remember who came up with it, but I recall the incident. My eldest went into kindergarten, where Mrs. C had a classroom bunny. Gus was his name. Every student had a turn, taking home Gus for the weekend. He made similar brown pellets throughout our house, and we called them farfennugens.
These wild farfs puzzle me. Why at the front steps? Our neighborhood bunnies shy away from the doors. When I take Bobo outside, I wander their trails with my gaze, noticing where they dash, where they hunker, and where they hide. I’ve never seen them venture so boldly up the driveway to the steps. And then I recall my poor pitch. Let’s hope I have a better pitch for my thesis than I do with my arm!
Two days ago, after a sloppy-wet blizzard buried us in heavy snow, I watched the pigeons flock in circles. Wanting to make sure our two resident fledglings survive winter, I had been leaving out seed for them, but they were not coming to the back deck once it snowed. I had an idea — I’d sprinkle seed across the driveway the Hub had blown and scooped into a flat white mat. My heart was big, my pitch was not. A cup of seed sailed vertically as if I were trying to feed pigeons in flight. I dropped back down to the steps where I stood.
What the pigeons did not get, the bunnies did. They left their calling cards.
The only hutches I ever remember the women in my family owning were for rabbits, doves, or chickens. Fancy hutches filled with glassware belonged to women elsewhere. Back in Idaho, I used to pick up old glass in the south horse pasture. As a kid, purple glass and square nails held my attention for hours as I combed the hillside behind my house, where likely an old dump had been in the silver mining days. The first time I met someone who collected glassware, I was fascinated to see the pieces in their whole shapes.
Hutches were more common back in the pioneer days. Sod houses and cabins had no built-in cupboards. What I knew as a “pie keep” was a common type of hutch for the practical pioneer wife or ranch cook. Like a rabbit hutch, it employed mesh wire on the doors. The idea was that the cook made the pies on the countertop and then stored the baked goods on the shelves behind the mesh, allowing air to circulate without flies. I could see owning a pie-keep. Yet, it is a fancy hutch I now own.
It did occur to me that I could start collecting whole pieces of glass instead of fragments. But I have this rule of household goods — it must be practical and beautiful. It can’t just be a pretty thing, hanging out to collect dust. I have purchased glassware from the local church thrift and yard sales and the consignment shop. Wine glasses, cider mugs, and teacups for large groups fill my built-ins. I was at a loss as to what to with this large hutch.
For Christmas, Todd got a toy Monster Truck — Gravedigger, a jacked-up hearse on super-inflated tires. Our daughter had seen a friend’s child playing with one and knew she’d have to get one for her dad. The Hub talks in his Monster Truck voice, taking on the persona of Gravedigger. He has vexed me for years in public places, talking to me in his Monster Truck voice. This includes following me through the grocery store, making commentary on every item I set in the cart. In Idaho, he was singing to me in his Monster Truck voice as we were winding through the backroads after cutting firewood, and we turned the bend and, there was the real-deal Gravedigger parked in someone’s yard. It’s a family joke.
So, of course, Gravedigger, the model toy truck, now sits in the center of the fancy hutch. I now know what I will do. Next came the scams (the affectionate name for book and 99-word story sales). The entire bottom shelf is lined with the promotional items I use at farmers markets and book fairs — a copper bowl filled with copper pennies next to a sign offering 99-word stories and a penny for a dollar; a stack of Vol. 1 Anthologies next to a sign and plate of bookmarks touting flash fiction.
Sure, I have some pretties, too, that hold special meaning from special friends. Those and rocks are dispersed. I have room for some local art I might pick up this summer, and room for a bowl of broken glass. The hutch that came with the dining room set now has a purpose. The table gets plenty of use, and moving forward into 2020, it will be the scene of weekly literary events on Thursdays.
Locally, I will host a variety of Thursday evenings from 5-7 p.m. EST. They will alternate, so each one is once a month and will attract different groups of people and a few who want to come to them all. Silent reading parties are for introverts with books. The house is unfinished. Eventually, it will include lots of reading nooks (the Unicorn Room will be a reading room with a plush carpet, lots of sitting pillows, and space for an air mattress for overnight guests who will sleep among the unicorns and cameo-pink walls). Game night is self-explanatory, and my collection includes Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride Europe, Sushi-Go Party, Bananagrams, Story Cubes, and Scrabble. Write-ins are a collective time to write from the various writing nooks throughout the house and are an effective way to be accountable to one’s writing goals. Critique is for those who take my workshops so we can continue to progress on our novels and learn the adaptive critique process I’m developing (so far, it has met with the approval of my professors).
Where do you fit in? Right next to my hutch! I have a lectern where I set up my laptop to record discussions for my MFA classes. On that lectern, I also want to invite you to come and read on a Thursday (Friday morning in Australia). We can do this via Skype, Messenger, FaceTime, or even an old-fashioned phone call. You would introduce yourself, say how long you’ve been wrangling words at Carrot Ranch, what you write and why, and then read some of your 99-word stories, or poetry, or book excerpts. Your choice. It will be a 10-minute spot. And you will help connect the Keweenaw to the World through literary art.
This year, with anticipated and continued stability, my goals include connecting up Carrot Ranch online to World Headquarters on the Keweenaw. I will return to Vermont in July with one writer’s retreat, local workshops, and literary outreach (to libraries and veterans). I’d like to host a couple of writers in residence — a free three day stay where we’ll treat you like literary royalty. My vision grows, but my North Star stays constant — to make literary art accessible (encouragement, inspiration, education, collaboration, and play). I’m still tweaking goals but plan to have plans in place by March, which is the annual anniversary of Carrot Ranch.
If you want to join me on Facebook, I’ve created a private group called Carrot Ranchers. It’s a way to combine multiple communities that intersect here, and also focus on weekly support, accountability to writing goals, and play for writers who want to publish. You can view the weekly schedule here. I realize it’s not for everyone, but anyone who wants to join can. It’s a private group so we can keep it to our known communities (it’s an extension of safe space to grow as a writer).
Now let’s turn our attention to what could be hiding in a hutch.
January 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something found in a hutch. It can be any kind of hutch — a box for critters or a chest for dishes. Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by January 7, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
That One Day (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Sun beat down on the oxidized hood of the Willies Jeep. It was Danni’s ninth birthday and her dad said they’d explore the old wagon road of the 40-Mile Desert. So far, all Danni had seen were oxen bones and rusty horseshoes. Her dad stopped to check out a dried-out pile of wood.
“An old hutch once,” he said.
Danni climbed out and saw a glint of something in what had been a cupboard door. A marble. Not just any marble but a large globe with an elephant inside. That was the day Danni decided to become an archeologist.