May 1: Story Challenge in 99-words

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.

May 1, 2023

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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  1. joanne the geek

    Those new pages look interesting. I’ve been trying to prepare a ebook of some of my writings so maybe Gitty Up Press can help me with that in some way. At the moment it’s languishing, to be truthful. I also noticed on the publishing schedule there were Carrot Ranch Anthologies 2 and 3. This suggests there was a Carrot Ranch Anthology 1. When did that come out? Is there any link to it?

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hi Joanne. The 1st Anthology can be found at this site in the “Books” page, or in the upper right hand corner (on my device anyway) with big Rough Writers print. You’ll see familiar names in it. (Not mine, it was in the works before I showed up) It’s a high quality book.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to hear you are working on an ebook of your writing, Joanne! If you’d like help figuring out a plan, we can set up a time between our time zones and do a Zoom consultation. There are many options and strategies but not all strategies fit all options (that’s usually where writers feel uncertain about how to meet their publishing goals). Some of my upcoming courses might be of interest to you but we can discuss those options, too. If you decide to move forward with self-publishing, I highly suggest hiring Colleen Chesebro through her Unicorn Cats Publishing Services. She has the software programs to create beautifully designed layout and pagination and she’s experienced with ebooks. Her rates are affordable, too. And yes, D. directed you to Vol. 1. Stuff interrupted my plans and life in Idaho, but I’ve been sitting on a huge vat of lemonade and I’m ready to get Gitty Up Press in place for all that comes next!

  2. Norah

    The farming life is definitely not for me, and definitely not in the cold. How strong and brave are the Ghost House farmers, and how resourceful is Chips. The theme of the party was interesting. I hope it works the wonders intended.
    Congratulations on your new endeavours as explained in the two new pages. How exciting. The door at Finlandia has closed, but new ones are opening. Hopefully one door will be profitable. Everyone has to eat. Good luck!

    • Charli Mills

      The farming life is to live with uncertainty, but it has its satisfaction, too. I like farming from the sidelines, Norah. I’m hoping the party leads to a fertile summer, lol. Well, time to shift gears again to find the right door. At least I know where I can eat some greens in the meantime. Thanks!

      • Norah

        You’ll find a door that the right size for you. Enjoy the greens in the meantime!

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Yikes. Hang in there, Farmers.
    New pages! Yahoo and yeehaw, Charli. As you turn to the ‘future of possibilities’ you provide possibilities for the rest of us. Thank you, and Colleen, for keeping the fire burning at Carrot Ranch. Good luck with these endeavors.

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      Thanks so much, D. I look forward to new interactions at the Saloon. It will be great fun.

    • Charli Mills

      Farmers are wading through the season and the fires are lit at the ranch. Thanks, D.!

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, C. — the unicorns prize their freedom. Oops!

  4. pedometergeek

    Should be an interesting proposition on all these things (Gitty Up Press, anthologies, and more). Good luck to all.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Nan!

  5. Jules


    All of us have our own situations with the weather. I can do without the extreem cold. We’ve got a household appliance that needs replacing… and well my flash will tell ya about our other issue.
    I hope to look at both of your new pages soon. And I’m glad I can help… with the new venture.

    (((Hugs))) and here’s; Downed Crown Water Bound

    • Charli Mills

      Sounds like a tangle of wood and water, Jules! I hear you regarding the extreme cold. Pleasant warmth sounds good right about now. Sunshine would benice. But it can’t be all sunny days, eh? Hope you science the situation! Hugs back!

      • Jules

        Just started clean up yesterday. Borrowed a kayak. Once everything is cleared… I’m gonna borrow that kayad for a little row up the creek!

        Hopefully before the end of the summer! 😀

  6. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Charli, I’m so excited about all the good things happening at Carrot Ranch! I don’t know how the Ghost House farmers do it! They are a brave lot, that’s for sure.

    • Charli Mills

      Every time we plant a seed, we never know what storms might come. But how exciting to plant! We both get to watch something grow. Thanks, Colleen, for planting at the ranch!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Thanks, Charli. It’s fun to see what grows! ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Eleanor! What a beautiful setting for your seascape!

      • E.A. Colquitt

        Thank you so much 🙂

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