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May 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

Maple pollinators coat the ATV trail. The ground is such a livid neon yellow that it messes with depth perception and I wobble my first steps across the tree litter. The transition from spring into the life of summer comes amidst a hail of pollen, blossoms and organic fluff. I’m walking the dog for the gazillionth time because she’s too picky to poop in the detritus of spring. A winter puppy, she misses her snow banks.

Mause rears on her lanky back legs to snap at dandelion seeds floating across the lawn. On impulse, I’ve plucked two full dandelion heads to make a wish, or two. It’s the eve of my birthday and earlier celebrations for graduation wind down. Tomorrow two of my grown kids and their partners will be in town to spend a weekend of yard work with mom (for mom?). Already, the three kids pitched in to buy me a dump-truck load of pea gravel to build up my bonfire area. I wish for the weekend to extend as long as possible to enjoy time with them.

The puppy, now six months old and a master chewer, has exhausted me this week. I’m on my own with her as the Hub has flown out to Nevada to be with his family. She notices everything around her, like dandelion seeds spreading wishes and piles of tiny rocks. She decides to dig, helping us spread the gravel. Back home, past the woodland shadows and ground mists of blue forget-me-nots, she flops on her belly, panting, seeking the coolness of the grass. Her white coat glistens like the patches of fleabane scattered across my shaggy lawn.

It’s hot and muggy today, and I’m thinking about the naked farmers I once interviewed for a article. I can’t recall the name of their pizza, a secondary product they made from their naked veggies. It’s not the pup’s bare belly on grass that brought me to muse digging in soft soil sans clothing. It was one of the Rancher socials last Saturday and a conversation about World Naked Gardening Day that emerged. I knew this would have to be a prompt for May! Why not? How could skinny dipping beneath a garden hose go wrong?

Sometimes, writing can feel naked. (You knew I’d try to stretch a connection, right?) We write raw and vulnerable, even when we craft fiction. We hope to present our work fully clothed to readers but often we find that they strip away our outer veneer and see us beneath our carefully arranged words. We are like naked gardeners, exposing ourselves as we explore humanity.

Let’s be carefree as the trees and cast our clothes to the breeze for this one! And if you have a garden, send D. Avery some photos (of the garden, not the gardener) for her Saddle Up Saloon Garden Tour at

May 20, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the gardener who is naked? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 25, 2021. 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.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Slip Up by Charli Mills

An early summer scorcher in the Great Basin robbed the buckaroos of their appetite. Bev wasn’t about to see her gang shrivel in the sun unfed. She sliced cold cuts and tomatoes and packed almonds and dried apricots for the trail. Wilfred, the ranch foreman raised a wooly eyebrow but kept silent. He advised everyone to tank up on water and required they carried canteens. After Bev cleaned the cookshack she headed for the garden, feeling sluggish. Later she’d claim she slipped in a pile of fresh horse apples when the crew returned early to find her gardening naked.   



  1. Oh this one is a challenge! Definitely feeling vulnerable. But when doing the things we love, vulnerability breeds strength. Looking forward to the array of pieces this one will breed. I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of laughter either!

    And no shortage of love for you with your kiddos over for the weekend too. Enjoy to your heart’s fullest content, Charli. Can’t wait to hear the tales that the weekend conjures.

  2. Thanks for the garden tour plug.
    And happy birth day!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Which reminds me that I have another photo to get to you — finally got the Poet Tree Sign in place with new garden ribbons.

  3. How lovely that your kids are coming for a visit, Charli. This is an unusual concept. I like to be covered up all the time. I can’t even sleep in a nightdress but must have knee length pants of some sort.

  4. Norah says:

    Have an absolutely super-dooper birthday with your kidlets. How exciting to have your son and one daughter and their chosen ones with you to celebrate in person. I know your other daughter and her chosen one will be with you in spirit. A dump load of pea gravel doesn’t sound like the most desirable birthday present to me, but I understand why you would wish it, and I know that the most desired birthday gift is to have your young ones with you – and you have that. I don’t need to tell you to enjoy, as I know you will! I would advise you don’t spread the pea gravel naked. It could get nasty if you have a fall. Naked gardening made me think of the first garden and its naked inhabitants, and look where that led them – and us! Happy birthday! I know it’s already your birthday – enjoy every minute!
    Oh, and I love your flash too. Poor Bev – maybe she matches the radishes for colour.

    • Norah says:

      I’m back with my story. I hope you like it.

      Without a Hat
      The farmer was out standing in the field when, one day, a wind whipped up and snatched his hat, tossing it into the air. It swooped over the garden beds as if playfully daring, ‘Come catch me.’ But the farmer couldn’t catch the hat which had been a fixture on his head for countless years. Everyone said he looked naked without it, but no other hat would do. Without it, he wilted in sun’s heat and sagged in rain. As the parading seasons took their toll, he disintegrated and decomposed, continuing to nourish the garden in a new way.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks, Norah! It was a wonderful time, even moving all that pea gravel. I got to treat my new DIL to genuine pasties and she enjoyed them. We all ate chocolate birthday cake and gardened with rocks. Everyone kept their clothes on. Oh, yeah — the first gardeners were naked. It was fine until they gained knowledge and overthought it…

      • Norah says:

        I’m so pleased you had such a wonderful time celebrating with your family, Charli. You definitely deserved to do so. Chocolate sounds good to me. I’m not so sure about the rocks. I’m pleased it worked for you. 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Chocolate makes it all worthwhile.

      • Norah says:

        Chocolate makes almost anything worthwhile. 💖😉😊

  5. denmaniacs4 says:

    Barely Cultivated

    “He really knows his stuff, Harry. Has a feel for soil, for showing newbies the ropes.”

    “But, Walt, he’s also been showing his STUFF. Some of the guys don’t mind, not that they’d say anything, but we’ve got some fairly prim and proper…ladies…can I say ladies?”

    “Of course, you can say ladies. I don’t mind.”

    “Fine! Ladies. Women. And even some of the guys. People bring their kids. Their Grandkids. It’s not right.”

    “Okay, it’s just, you know, Sunshine in The Buff Acres, the local Nudist Club…it got sold. After forty-five years. Our Community Garden was his only option.”

  6. floridaborne says:

    My neighbor had a dog for his son to play with when he visited his dad. The “people” (and I use that term loosely) in the house on the other side of the block threatened to kill him if he came into their yard again — the yard he was born in and lived as a young pup.

    We took this sweet but precocious chocolate lab into our yard for his protection. Then, his son brought home to his dad an injured dog he’d found on the road. She became pregnant (or was already pregnant — I’m not sure) and had 8 puppies. He was able to find homes for 5 of them. Again, the neighbor warned that if puppies (a boy and 2 girls) or the mama dog came onto their property, they would kill them.

    By the time I could get the mama dog spayed, she was pregnant with 13 embryos. I just got the 2 girl puppies spayed, and the boy puppy will be neutered next month. Trying to keep those 2 girls sequestered and out of mischief has warn me down to a nub.

    I say this so you’ll know how well I understand what it means when your puppy is a “master chewer.” All 4 of the arms on 2 chairs have been “redesigned” and no sock is safe around them. Flip-flops are a delicacy, and best of all are the soft-chewy comforters.

  7. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:  CARROT RANCH […]

  8. […] May 20, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the gardener who is naked? Go where the prompt leads! […]

  9. Kid and Pal Hangin’ Out

    “Aaahhhggg! Ain’t never wanted ta see this side a ya Kid.”
    “Hey Pal.”
    “Not thet side neither! Kid, why’re ya gardenin’ in yer birthday suit?”
    “Almanac says plant by a full moon. Mmm, feel that loam ‘twixt yer bare toes.”
    “I’ll jist take ma boots off.”
    “Sunbeams sure feel good on yer belly.”
    “Mebbe ma shirt.”
    “Ahh, breeze in my hair.”
    “Yer hair? Yer wearin’ yer hat. Oh. I see. Jeez Kid. Feels good though?”
    “Mebbe this is whut them writers mean ‘bout pantsin’. Ok, they’re off. Mmmm. I feel powerfully vulnerable.”
    “Own it, Pal. Cultivate yer power.”

  10. Happy Birthday!!! 🎂🎉🎈🥳

    A great prompt. Though what’s coming to mind is pretty dark, even for me.

    Enjoy your visit!

  11. A tad racy this time around but don’t leap to conclusions until the end. 😉

    A brush with passion

    She was so provocative that she put new meaning into garden hoe. Draped across the trellis, she flaunted her nascent fecundity, exposing her femininity to his blushing gaze. Her rampant, unfettered, unproductive growth bore witness to his failure to fulfil his most earnest desire, which was to sup on the nectar of the gods.
    He knew what he must do but his hand trembled at the very thought of such intimacy. Nonetheless. he steeled himself to the task and dipped his paintbrush into her stamen and coated her beckoning pistil and imagined the future ecstasy of his passion fruit.

  12. I’m glad the celebrations are extending into your birthday, Charli, and wish you a wonderful time. And your weather has flipped from winter to high summer – no wonder your dog’s confused. No naked gardening here, today feels like October, although we did have August in April.
    My 99-word story is on a mental health theme with reviews of two excellent novels about psychosis:
    Wide Sargasso Sea & The Octopus Man

    • Charli Mills says:

      The weather is indecisive here, too. We had a burst of hot weather blooms and now fear for frost the next three nights. Sweat or shiver, no in-between. Great reviews and flash, Anne.

  13. […] The May 20, 2021, Carrot Ranch prompt is to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the gardener who is naked? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by May 25, 2021. Use the comment section at Carrot Ranch 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. […]

  14. Exposed

    “I’m too fat!”

    Was she? Not at all, though it was hard to tell underneath Amanda’s bulky clothes.

    “Amanda, it’s your choice, but remember, part of World Naked Gardening Day for us has always been about being comfortable with our own bodies, of celebrating the naturalness of them.”

    Maybe Amanda also craved the normalcy that the unusual family tradition offered; still warning about how fat she was, she took off her clothes and joined in gardening.

    How had she not noticed?

    Keeping a brave face through the planting, she determined to call their physician regarding anorexia that very day.

  15. Pete says:

    You hear about Lewis?

    No. What now?



    He was trying to prune back the cherry tree. The one by his house?

    Doesn’t seem odd.

    Gladys said he’d been drinking. He was hot, so he stripped down.

    Like, naked?

    Naked as he came.


    He’s going on about the limbs, said they were messing with his satellite reception.

    I don’t think it was the tree.

    He’s got the shears, but then, no ladder. So he drags out the neighbor’s trampoline—

    Wait, what?

    –and he’s jumping, trying to, you know…

    Don’t tell me.

    Pruned his own cherries.


  16. […] Carrot Ranch is a dynamic online literary community for those practicing their craft, reading stories, and discussing the process. Charlie Mills hosts the weekly Flash Fiction challenge which limits stories to 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt of ” naked gardening“ […]

  17. […] May 20, 2021, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the […]

  18. What a hysterical prompt! I had so much fun writing this. Thank you, Charli! <3

  19. What a fun prompt! Here’s mine. I’ll be back later to read the rest! <3

    “Under the Full Moon”

    The moon’s glow washed over my garden, lighting up the angelica, feverfew, and mugwort shimmering with healing energy. I gathered my tools and prepared for my early summer gardening ritual. I stripped naked and danced under the full moon.

    My garden produced an amazing number of herbs from this tradition. I sold these herbs for sacred baths, teas, and tinctures, and even sewed them into spell bags.

    Naked gardening imbued my herbs with strong magick. For years, I’d kept this secret under wraps—literally! Until today when a camera flash exploded in front of me! My secret was out!

  20. […] Carrot Ranch FF May 20May 20, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the gardener who is naked? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by May 25, 2021. […]

  21. Jules says:


    I like your Bev. – But I’m not ready for my own public displays 😉
    I rooted around and played with a poetic form adding prose (looks better centered at my place) here:

    Defended the Defenseless

    Defended the Defenseless

    Lettuce seed
    Nestled in the
    Driveways’ edge, last year, caught a break and grew

    Naked little leaves unfolded in spring
    After a rain,
    Glistened, called
    “See me!”

    Of course
    Saving this
    Plant became a
    Priority – in the garden it went

    Just today with the grandchildren helping
    We added some
    New lettuce

    Looking at my raised garden, folks might actually think I knew what I was doing. I’m winging it. I’ve got some Bok Choy, rainbow and yellow peppers, some herbs, and of course the lettuce. Watching these plants grow makes my heart sing.


  22. Happy belated Birthday, Charli. I hope you had a great day and are enjoying the weekend with your kids. Sounds as if the weather flipped from winter straight to summer in your part of the world. I had no idea it was World Gardening Day at the end of April until it was mentioned. Springtime in the Northern hemisphere, so no chance of getting sunburnt (if you forget to apply the factor 50).

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Hugh! Well, it’s flipped back to winter again. At least it remains green and colorful. Just cold! Oh, yikes, yes 50 factor which I always seem to forget.

  23. Michael B. Fishman says:

    I hope you’re enjoying/you enjoyed your children’s weekend visit and you pup’s energy!

  24. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (05/20/2021):  In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the gardener who is naked? Go where the prompt leads! […]

  25. Liz H says:

    Because why not, on more than one level? And best to get it done before the bugs start biting…

    Naked Gardening
    It was Mabel’s favorite roadside stand, with unbeatable seasonal produce. Lettuce, firm and delicate, and tomatoes glowing with morning dew and midday sun were so flavorful, a scanty splash of vinegar and virgin olive oil defined perfection.
    [Continue ]

  26. […] silly little story was told for The Carrot Ranch Literary Society‘s Flash Fiction Challenge, with a World Naked Gardening Day theme, in only 99 words. It was a […]

  27. Kendra handed her neighbor, Irene, a pair of gardening shears, handles first, over the garden fence, then screamed.

    “What are you screaming about?”

    “You … you’re naked! I can not unsee that.” Kendra covered her eyes.

    “It’s World Naked Gardening Day, and I’m in my own private yard. It’s liberating. You should try it.”

    There’s a day on the calendar for everything! “Uh … no, no thanks. I’m good over here. Carry on.”

    Before long, Kendra hears a kerfuffle, then a scream.

    “Why are you screaming?”

    “Bees! Bees! The whole hive is after me!”

  28. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    The wonders of a puppy…my grandson thought her needing a snowbank to poop was funny, as do I. A load of pea gravel as a gift. Right up my alley, something useful. I hope the kids help you disperse it to its new location. I’ll look forward to your potager pictures.
    I’m happy you had so many wonderful celebrations. You deserve them.
    On to the prompt…

    Selective Forgetfulness

    When Tessa and her mother arrived at Lexi’s country home, they found her and Emma outside, sitting in the baby’s wading pool, sans clothing.
    Lexi said, “Hi. I got some garden planted but then Emma woke up. When I brought her out here she kept crawling toward the pool. I was sweaty, so we both got in.”
    Tessa smiled. “I can see that.”
    Jenny was shocked. “I heard them talking about Gardening Naked Day on the radio this morning, but I didn’t think anyone would do it.”
    Tessa responded. “Mom, should I bring up Woodstock stories.”
    “That was different!”

    • Another good one Sue. This is quite a band of women.

    • Charli Mills says:

      To be a winter puppy is to poop on a hill. 😉 Yes, Sue, I love the practical gifts, too, and especially the ones that come with free labor. They pushed the gravel to a nice level surface. It’s so lovely! I’ll make sure I update D. with a shot of the new “beach” patio in the gardens. Celebrations have officially concluded. This was a wild May.

      Ha! I love the generational tensions eased with humor.

  29. […] This week a the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the garden… […]

  30. […] This was written with the prompt naked gardening provided by the Carrot Ranch May 20 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

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