Come hell or high water, I was going to get two new pages up by May 1. And here it is, May 1, 2023. Before I share the pages, let me reflect on the state of our local fragipan.

Fragipan sounds like a fancy sweet you might buy at a bakery. In fact, I’m headed to Roy’s today to buy a box of sweets for my students. It’s time for pizza, sweets, lemonade, and a film. My final exam is a celebration of the joy teaching at Finlandia University brought me; a celebration of my time with students.

But fragipan is nothing sweet. It’s an impermeable layer in soil that can cause havoc for farmers beneath the topsoil. Due to the nature of the geology on the Keweenaw Peninsula and Michiga’s upper “mitten,” the fragipan is near the surface. At Ghost House Farm, it’s about 18 inches and causes problems in the spring.

High water first arrived when July came in April. The snow melted too fast and overflowed the fragipan, breaking up pavement, carving paths through sloped yards, and pooling on flat surfaces.

Ghost House Farm went from bathing goats to sharing pooping space with them. The kids (Allison and Drew, not the baby goats), set up a sawdust toilet in the goat barn when the water rendered their septic system unflushable. Then the greenhouse flooded. That event was more serious because Drew had finished planting the first of their tomato seedlings and baby tomatoes don’t like swimming in ice water. With some help, they dug out both sides of the greenhouse to create drain ditches. As if high water wasn’t problematic enough, their new heater won’t work when the temperatures dip to freezing.

But come … or … they are facing the farm dragons.

Saturday night, we all went to a Beltane Party and reenacted the running of the cattle through the fires of fertility using candles. It was the playful kind of fun we all needed to blow off steam. Drew, understandably, wasn’t ready to go home to milk the goats. Eager to hang out with my herd, I volunteered to go with Allison. It meant changing my clothes. No way a goat was going to lick my red dress or tractor heels (the kind of heels a person could wear to drive a tractor).

While I waited downstairs for Allison to change out of her party clothes, I watched a curious bubbler in the backyard. I asked my daughter about it and she said that was the sump pump from the basement. She checked the basement and realized the pump was leaking. It wasn’t high, yet. We took care of the goats and I even got to wrestle Chip (this is how unintended goat-licking happens). He headed for the oat bin and when I reached to press down the lid, he popped it off, shoving his beautiful beastly head into the grain. He stomped and pulled, I pushed and shoved and grabbed his head. Chip’s stinky, stinky head.

No matter how high the water gets, it won’t wash clean goat stench. That must be the hell part of high water. At least for me! Still, I love Chip and all his little chips off the old block. All six of his kids are adorable variations of him.

Later, after Allison dropped me off and picked up Drew, they checked the basement. It was wet but not alarming. By morning, though the pump stopped working, and high water could be measured in feet. A second sump pump worked. We don’t seem to have a break in the weather coming — cold or wet. Part of farming is taking unknown risks and adapting to changes. Maybe, we had less stress when humans lived closer to the land, understanding that problems bring possibilities. So far, the kids and goats and tomatoes are adapting.

Today, I can adapt, too. Rather than dwell on the loss of a job I was really enjoying, I’m turning to the future of possibilities.

Thus the pages. Gitty Up Press (New Page 1) is up and running, a tiny but mighty effort to offer publishing opportunities. Colleen Chesebro has announced the evolution of her Word Weaving Poetry Journal to make room for our Gitty Up Press collaboration — Around the Campfire Literary Journal (New Page 2). Submissions are now open! JulesPaige joins the team, helping with the submissions process. I’m excited about this new publication!

More will unfold as I continue to go through another transition. The curves aren’t so bad. And high water eventually recedes.

May 1, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high water. Hell can be involved, or not. Is high water a new drink? A crisis in nature or the basement? Get in the flow. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 7, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.


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