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Saddle Up Saloon; Linkin’ Inklings

“Kid, is thet…”

“Yep. We got ranch hand and columnist Sue Spitulnik ta take the stage. Howdy Sue!”

“Hello Kid, hello Pal. It’s good to be here again.”

“I fer one am real glad ta see ya Sue. What d’ya got fer us t’day?”

“I’d like to share another stage, Pal. I’m here to invite Carrot Ranchers and any writers to take part in Inklings.”

“I ain’t got an inklin’ what thet is.”

“Inklings is a weekly online writing “critique” Zoom meeting, open to the public through the Lilac City Rochester Writers (NY state).”

“Think I mighta heard Shorty goin’ on ‘bout thet group.”

“Well, Charli Mills recently gave a great presentation to this writing group. She talked about the need for three bios and how to tweak them for specific purposes. Of course, my group was impressed with her. She was impressed with our organization and the questions people asked. It was a win-win and I got to introduce my mentor/friend.”

“So how does this work, Sue? You say anyone can take part?”

“Yes. Inklings is hosted every Tuesday from 8 PM to 10 PM EST by David Woodruff. As president of LCRW, I attend regularly. Authors take turns sharing the screen and reading small bits of their WIP work aloud. Then other attendees express what is working and what isn’t. We do our best to not do line edits as we are usually working with first drafts.”

“Soun’s friendly enough.”

“It is! I usually read my weekly 99 word flash. Even those can be improved when others see/hear them. As we say at the LCRW Inklings website:

What if there was a place you could meet your fellow writers virtually? What if there was a place where you could read your draft work to others, without having to edit it or spend hours using a spell checker? What if there was a place you could help other writers with their work… no prep necessary? Now there is. Every Tuesday 8 PM

The group is different from other groups because we focus on what the writer has left out that makes the story clear to the reader. As writers, we know what our characters are thinking and doing, but sometimes we don’t share enough details for the reader to get what we are trying to convey. This group shares thoughts of whether the writer has accomplished their goals.”

“Sounds good, Sue.” 

“It is. Barbara Helene Smith says ‘The weekly Inklings sessions provide excellent feedback on my submissions, but I also learn even more from the comments on the other contributors’ works. Join us on Tuesday evening at 8:00 and become a better writer.’ And Rick Taubold has found the group to be very helpful; ‘It has offered diverse perspectives on my writing that are hard to come by otherwise. The various comments have given me good insights on how to improve my storytelling.’

I know for me, listening to all the comments with an open mind has helped me improve my own writing because I have become more aware of what to do to engage a reader and keep them wanting more. And participants do not have to be members of LCRW.”

“Really?”

“Really. Some of us are regulars and members, but we get other participants. Inklings and can be found on Meet-up. That’s where the Zoom link for the 2-hour sessions is. You must join the LCRW meetup group to be able to click on the events tab, and then the Zoom image to get the meeting link. But there is no other obligation.”

“So we kin jist go ta   https://www.meetup.com/lilaccity-rochesterwriters/   ta join in?”

“That’s all, Kid. And you get camaraderie and feedback on your WIP.”

“Wow! Thanks fer sharin’ Sue.”

“Thank you Kid and Pal!”


I
f asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Picture Prompt

“Kid? It’s awful quiet aroun’ here… do we got a guest? Who’s takin’ the stage this week?”

“Ain’t got nuthin’. Again. But don’t go blamin’ me, Pal, I cain’t do it all. Our dang writer— ah, shift, here she is now, this cain’t be good. D. Avery, where in heck ya been? We could use a little help runnin’ this here saloon.”

“Sorry Kid. And no, I don’t have anyone lined up for you to interview. My computer is on the fritz, I’ve been working and playing hard, and quite frankly it isn’t easy corralling people to be interviewed by you.”

“D., yer excuses is lamer ‘an a old broken down nag.”

“Whoa, back up. Shush, Kid. Yer workin’ D.? Thought ya was retired. What’re ya doin’ now thet ya ain’t teachin’?”

“Working at the local hemp farm.”

“Hmmf! Hemp? Ya makin’ rope or smokin’ dope?”

“None of the above. It’s CBD marijuana, cannabidiol type. You know, for medicinal oils and tinctures.”

“Sounds like snake oil ta me.”

“All I know is it’s a growing business. And I get paid to exercise outdoors on one of the most beautifully situated farms in the great state of Vermont.”

“Exercise? Thinkin’ ya mean manual labor.”

“Yes, but you know what the 4-H kids say.”

“No, I don’t. What d’they say?”

“Well the pledge is, as I recall, ‘I pledge … My Head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service and My Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world’.”

“Ya tryin’ ta tell us this’s some sorta 4-H project? Growin’ pot?”

“No, Kid, but it sure does my heart, health, and head good to be working with my hands again. And I’m among good people and the operation is all organic. Worse things could be going on on that acreage.”

‘S’pose thet’s a fact. So what’ve ya been doin’ there, D.?”

“Well, this past couple of weeks it’s been a lot of weed whacking.”

“Weed whacking the weed?”

“Yes, clearing the weeds and ground cover that are around the plants. Clearing the way for harvest. And, from that work, maybe there is something we could run for the saloon this week Kid. See, when you have row upon row of repetitive work to do, your mind gets to travel a bit.”

“Uh-oh…”

“The crew and I are out there, dressed for our work, you know, long pants, boots, and a harness that helps support the straight shaft weed whacker. We march in and transform shaggy fields into regimented, groomed rows of sturdy plants.”

“Uh-huh…”

“Anyway, my mind went back to a scene from a family visit to Arlington National Cemetery a couple years ago.”

“‘Cause a them straight rows?”

“No. Because of the weed whacking brigade. On our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Marine in full dress uniform makes his precise drills, I noticed men in drab green work clothes marching through the rows of headstones. They moved with precision and as a unit, their weed whackers held expertly as they maintained those hallowed grounds, keeping them in pristine condition.”

“I kin see how ya made thet connection whilst weed whacking with yer crew, D., but what’s thet got ta do with runnin’ somethin’ fer the saloon?”

“I’ve had these pictures handy for over two years. The picture in my head is stronger. I’ve thought there is a story there, but I have yet to write it. So maybe—”

“A photo prompt! Mebbe folks’ll connect ta these picture an’ they kin provide some stories!”

“Yes, exactly. Any length they wish. They can post and pingback through their own sites and/or leave their story below in the comments. And it doesn’t have to be exactly this scene. Their story could be about going to an acclaimed event, but then they see something that leaves an unexpected impression… my visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is more memorable for me because of the parallel scene.”

“When I’m at a rodeo sometimes I miss the action in the arena cuz I’m takin’ in the re-actions in the stands. An’ thet’s what I end up ‘memberin’ the most a thet event.”

“Yeah, Pal. So what’s the prompt?”

“Folks, if these here photos inspire ya ta a story, or lead ya ta a memory or story ‘bout a time thet weren’t the main event, please share in the comments or with a pingback ta yer post. Ev’ry pi’ture tells a story. What d’ya have ta say ‘bout what ya see?”

The Unknown by D. Avery

The boss calls me Manuel, calls me Mexican. Manuel is not my name, Mexico is not the country I come from. I am Guatemalan. “What’s the difference?” he asks, but does not really want an answer. 

Hundreds of people come every day to this cemetery where I do this work. These people honor their soldiers. They are awed by the endless rows of headstones, each engraved with a name. 

My father, my mother, my brothers and sisters— they had names. My village had a name. 

The boss says I am lucky to have this job. I know that’s true.

 If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Receipt Rustlin’

“Shouldn’t thet title say ‘Recipe Rustlin’’ Kid? Er did ya go an’ change the plan? Agin?”

“No, we’re good ta go. We put the word out fer summer recipes an’ some folks has sent us their receipts.”

“Receipts? Are we payin’ folks fer their recipes, or are they payin’ us? What’s the word Kid?”

“The word could be receipt or recipe. According ta Merriam-Webster 

‘Both recipe and receipt derive from recipere, the Latin verb meaning “to receive or take,” with receipt adding a detour through Old North French and Middle English.’

“The dickens, you say!”

“Yep. Receipt’s jist the older version a recipe. In fact, still accordin’ ta Miriam-Webster, 

‘The form recipe is the Latin imperative, and its original use, a couple hundred years after receipt, was not in cooking instructions but in prescriptions, where it was used to preface a list of medicines to be combined (as though to say, “take these”). Eventually that word got abbreviated to an R with a line though the leg, which we later would render in print as Rx. So on a doctor’s prescription pad, Rx originally indicated the command to take that which was listed after, and Rx (or the R with a line through the leg) eventually came to serve as the universal symbol for a pharmacy or pharmacist.’

“Well Some good summer recipes— receipts— might be good fer what ails us. Geoff LePard has an innerestin’ one here fer what he calls summer pudding that looks as easy as one, two, three. Says it’s a simple way to use up any surplus summer fruits—strawberries, raspberries, red and black currants, blue berries, etc.”

You cook up about 800gms with a tablespoon of sugar until the juices are released. 
Then you line a l litre pudding bowl with slices of white bread — the cheaper the better — that you have de-crusted and soaked in some of the juice. When the bottom and sides are complete you put the fruit gunk inside and cap with more soaked bread. 
Put a plate on the top, weigh it down and chill for a few hours.

When needed turn out and eat with cream/ice cream/yoghurt. You can freeze it too. 

“Oh, that’s seems yummy, Pal. But it looks like we put dessert first. Here’s a marinade fer some hearty barbecue an’ a substantial an’ tasty macaroni and shrimp concoction from ranch hand and columnist Sue Spitulnik. These two recipes are some a her family’s favorites.” 

Bar-b-q Chicken Marinade

2 eggs – beaten well

2 cups brown cider vinegar

2 rounded tablespoons poultry seasoning

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients together, pour over chicken (with skin) to cover

Marinate at least 24 hours

Cook chicken over charcoal fire turning and basting a few times.

Macaroni – Shrimp Salad

   1 box macaroni rings – cooked

   5 or 6 hard-boiled eggs – chopped

   2 cans baby shrimp with liquid

   4 green onions – cut in small rings

Dressing

   1 cup sour cream

   3/4 cup mayonnaise

   2 tablespoons brown cider vinegar

   1 teaspoon grated celery seed

   1 teaspoon salt

   3/4 teaspoon black pepper

“An’ all the way from South Africa is Robbie Cheadle’s mielie milk bread recipe, a staple a their braais.”

“Their what?”

“Braai means barbecue, Pal.”

“My word!”

“Yep.”

Mielie Milk Loaf

Ingredients

4 x 250 ml (4 x cups) self-raising flour (or use plain cake flour and add 2 teaspoons of baking powder)

10 ml white sugar

5 ml salt

1 x 400 gram tin creamy sweetcorn

300 ml low fat milk

15 ml oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Grease a loaf tin.

Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.

Add sweetcorn and incorporate. Add the milk and oil and mix well.

Spoon into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.

In South Africa, cooking meat, and other things like corn on the cob, over an open fire is popular and traditional. Here it is called a braai as opposed to a barbecue and the meat that is cooked is usually steak, boerewors (a traditional Afrikaans sausage), chicken pieces, and chops. 

The men braai and the women make the salads and other side dishes including mielie pap and tomato relish and this delicious mielie milk bread.

“Those recipes all sound real good Kid. Innerestin’ too. But what about our writer? Nuthin’ from her?”

“Shift, Pal, she don’t have too many tricks up her oven mitt. She was gonna share a couple a her father’s pickle recipes, but… 

Yep, she was all proud a hersef, was preservin’ her brother’s plethora a picklin’ cukes along with preservin’ her father’s legacy fer fine pickles. Thought that was a fine thing ta do, what with him gittin’ on in years an’ all. Was gonna organize this treasure chest too. Reckon if she don’t find them pieces a lined paper he writ on she’s gonna have ta go back an’ ask fer the secrets all over agin.”

“Hmmf. Makes ya wunner what her receipts file looks like.”

“No. It don’t. Speakin’ a recipes an’/or receipts, here’s more from Merriam-Webster:

The sense of receipt that we know today—that of a statement documenting the receiving of money or goods—began in the 16th century, and by the 17th century, both words were referring to cooking instructions. While recipe is the preferred word for that meaning today, the memory of being handed down “a receipt for cookies” does get handed down—like a beloved recipe—from older generations:

I was after a recipe (or “receipt,” as my mother called them) for corn bread that came from the heart of the Old South. 

— Theron Raines, Gourmet, May 1988

Her receipts, as she insists on calling them (rightly, too), are in the best tradition of New England cooking, often rich perhaps in eggs and cream, but not exotic… 

— The New York Herald Tribune Books, 13 Dec. 1942

“Reckon when our writer does git aroun’ ta rootin’ through thet recipe box a hers she’s gonna stir up some memories a people an’ places from her past. I know she’s been purty selective ‘bout what she collects fer thet box. There’s stories in there.”

“Yep, our fav’rite foods come with stories, Pal, ‘sociations. Mebbe some a our Saloon patrons’ll leave a recipe or a family food story in the comments.”

“What d’ya say folks? D’ya call it recipe er receipt where ya come from? D’ya have a old family recipe been handed down over generations? D’ya have a favorite cookbook or one a these file card boxes?”

Brined in 99

The cucumbers are cut lengthways and set in a crock of brine. Like him, the crock and its contents are a presence. His grandkids love or hate his infamous sour pickles. They goad one other, laugh through watering eyes as their faces twist and pucker. Some claim to like them and go back for seconds.

The Old Man’s bent walk is more labored, the slicing and onion dicing more challenging for his swollen hands, yet each summer he pickles. His progeny find the crock in its place, solid and reliable, pickles sour yet surrounded by sweet memories. Like him.

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Back in the Saddle?

“Well, Kid, yer puglet cleaned out the pantry an’ now we’ve finally cleaned up after her. Phew! So now the Saloon’s cleaned up what d’ya got planned fer this week?”

“Planned? Thought ya knew I was on vacation, Pal. Thought you was gonna take the reins.”

“Ah jeez, Kid, not agin! An’ thet writer a ours done dropped the ball week afore last too, also off gallivantin’ aroun’. Well, mebbe I’m on vacation too!”

“It’s a funny word, ain’t it Pal? Vacation. ‘Specially fer our writer, ‘cause near as I kin tell she don’t really do anythin’ anyways, so what’s she gittin’ away from?”

“Reckon folks jist need ta git away from their reg’lar places an’ people so’s they kin ‘preciate ‘em more mebbe when they git back.”

“Reckon. An’ it’s good ta git out an’ see dif’rent people an’ places. Kin be right thought provokin’. Where do you vacation Pal?”

“Ain’t so much where as what Kid. Cain’t ever’one git ta go too far, an’ anyways, why would I wanna vacate this here Ranch? But they’s ways ta git all relaxed without too much trouble. Fact thet’s an important thing fer folks ta be able ta do.”

“Take a break fer themselves?”

“Yep. Kin be somethin’ simple like makin’ a space an’ a time fer yersef, ya know like when Shorty does yoga an’ listens ta calmin’ music in her unicorn room. An’ thet kayakin’ sounds like a good way ta take a break, git all calm out on the water.”

“Sure, or takin’ a hike, mebbe fixin’ a picnic, anythin’ where yer takin’ time fer yersef. Jist doin’ somethin’ outta the ordinary kin be a break thet refuels ya fer the stuff thet was drainin’ ya.”

“Yep. But I bet ya used ta take big family trips when you were a kid, Kid.”

“Sure did Pal. Lotsa campin’ an’ fishin’. Always liked seein’ historical places too.”

“Well, since we ain’t got nuthin’ planned fer the Saloon stage this week, ain’t got no one featured er anythin’, mebbe folks’ll hep us out an’ share their vacation stories in the comments.”

“I jist hope if folks are gittin’ out an’ about that they’re bein’ real careful. But the Saloon is a safe space ta share yer campfire yarns or yer vacation memories. An’ if folks email our writer with their favorite summer recipes we kin have another Recipe Rustlin’ next time. I always injoy learnin’ what other folks like ta fix.”

“Thet’s a good plan.

Folks, use the comment section ta tell us ‘bout yer vacationin’ er ways thet ya manage ta git a break. An’ also, email our writer at shiftnshake@dslayton.com an’ git yer favorite summertime/barbecue recipes featured in our next Recipe Rustlin’ episode. Heck, git yerself featured. Jist contact our writer. Unless yer on vacation a course.”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Reena Saxena!

“Hey Kid. Where ya been?”

“Been aroun’ the world an’ back Pal!”

“Sure hope ya got someone ta take the stage this week.”

“Yep, sure did! Here she is now. Howdy Reena Saxena! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Hello Kid. Hello Pal. Thank you for having me.”

“Whoa, Kid, Reena Saxena? She’s been writin’ aroun’ here fer a long time!”

“That’s right, Pal. I entered Carrot Ranch sometime in 2016. Poetry comes naturally to me, but I always thought I couldn’t write fiction. The non-fiction heads that you see on the menu of my blog are the ones I started with, but did not make much headway in gaining views or followers.

Then, the creative bug struck and I started pouring out whatever came to mind, in response to writing prompts. It helped to refine my writing skills and learn new formats. I discovered that I could easily write 100-300 word stories, if not a novel. These are slices of life, rather than a journey from beginning to end.”

“Well we’re sure glad ya tried yer hand at flash fiction, Reena. We’ve always enjoyed yer stories here at the Ranch.”

“Thank you, Kid. The Carrot Ranch is interesting, because I have to stop one word short of 100. Of late, I find that I start writing, and then find that the word count is exactly 99 as needed. Universal energy flows my way. I don’t change anything after that, though there may be flaws in the storyline or flow.”

“Ha! I know of a few folks that’ve got honed inta the 99 word count. D’ya ever go back ta them stories an’ do somethin’ dif’rent with ‘em? Or d’ya use the 99 word restrictions in yer other writin’?”

“Stories change every time one hears or reads it, and change again when the reader changes. The stories I write here have come from somewhere in my neural pathways, which keep changing. Yes, I’ve used part of the stories in social media posts to make an impact.

My work of fiction “When Time Stopped” starts with a flash I wrote here on WordPress. The story is carried ahead into metaphysical realms.

 I usually go with a 100 word limit, not 99. Those pieces, if tagged correctly, are easily searchable on the internet.”

“Ya got a fav’rite genre?”

“As far as genres that I write in, I’m still on a journey. I am a former banker, coach, image consultant, writer, artist, feminist and all of that finds a way into my blogs and books. Each subject demands a different style.

I started blogging with quotes from the masters, and links to scholarly articles. I received feedback that I need to relax, and make the style more conversational and engaging. Quora happened on the way, and I was chosen Quora Top Writer in 2018. Writing fiction and poetry on WordPress helped me improvise writing on other platforms. This is a learning ground to practise skills. 

Of late, I’m doing the scripts for online learning videos, which need a lot of storytelling and storyboarding. I’ll be immodest enough to say that I’ve come a long way.

My books that you’ll find on Amazon are fiction, poetry and banking.”

“Wow, yer mighty versatile, Reena.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/HnrQ_BzpInM_vFmBWGkD4JDjoIBADFC9B17RYZcG1yEwEXxYThOoKRlCxk51tfmWw8XKcgVLefLDE8VtJcoKN_ARM6wsJ0nr9DgrX3w68-Khz7qDBaUb5yYC0xDdQrzUmPh7HGI

The ebooks on my site MoneyGoalz are all the psychological side of personal finance.

I discovered I’m a writer at the core, and I choose creative writing, videos or finance as a platform to express the inner demons.

I’m sure I’ll manage to write a novel some day 🙂 There are so many stories inside me, which need to be sewed up in a garment, rather than a patchwork quilt.”

“Wouldn’t be at all s’prised ta see ya publish novels. Yer a woman on fire!”

“Actually, that’s another project! I am one of five Fiery Females  who started the blog SacredCircleforWomen.

Feminism is at the core of my being. I’ve shunned stereotypes all my life, and fought battles to be treated as an individual with a right to make a choice.

I found myself in a group of women from different countries and diverse backgrounds. We meet online once in a week, and found that feminism binds us all in a common thread. 

We bring to the table a pool of talent on coaching, writing, hypnotherapy, finance, digital marketing and content writing. We are on a constant look out for women who are willing to speak, write to share their journeys and insights. It can be any aspect of a woman’s existence and mindset. Feminism is a very small part of the package.

Women reading this are invited to blog, share videos on our platform or be interviewed.”

“Well, thank ya very much fer thet invite an fer sharin’ more ‘bout yersef.”

“Yep, thanks fer comin’ by Reena!”

“Thank you. Follow me on 

https://sacredcircleforwomen.wordpress.com/

https://www.reenasaxena-author.com/

I keep lurking around here on https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/, and that is how most of you know me.

“Well thanks agin fer lettin’ us git ta know ya better.”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Elusive Exclusive

“Uh, Kid? What’s goin’ on here?”

“What d’ya mean Pal? Ain’t nuthin’ goin’ on here.”

“Thet’s what I mean. They ain’t nuthin’ goin’ on here! Don’tcha know it’s Monday? An’ not a first Monday where we git treated to Chel Owen’s poetry promptin’, an’ not a third Monday where we git challenged by Colleen Chesebro ta write double ennead. It’s yer Monday, Kid. So whut’s goin’ on?”

“They’s been a hold up, Pal.”

“A hold up? This ain’t the wild west, Kid.”

“Well my intended guest is held up by work an’ sech. So she’s on hold.”

“How could ya let this happen, Kid? Ain’tcha got all kindsa folks lined up well in advance?”

“Nope, not at all. Been busy with odd jobs m’sef an’ jist kinda dropped the rope. It ain’t so easy lassoin’ folks, ya know.”

“Tell ya what Kid. I got a ‘sclusive ever’one’ll be innerested in. I’ll tell ya ‘bout when I met a famous personal’ty, one thet goes by many names.”

“Ya mean Shorty? Thinkin’ we’ve featured Perfesser Mills enough already.”

“No Kid, not Shorty— Bigfoot!”

“Well, Shorty’s got petite feet, but she leaves a big imprint; an’ it’s certainly hard ta follow in her footsteps.”

“Tellin’ ya, it ain’t Shorty, Kid! Now shush. I know you call ‘em Bigfoot. In the Pacific northwest they’s Sasquatch; Skunk Ape in the southeast. In the Himalayas they goes by Yeti, or Abominable Snowman.”

“Yowie Pal!”

“Yep, it is excitin’.  Purty innerestin’, this giant hominid creature thet’s found all over the world.”

“’Zactly, Pal. Australia mebbe has one too, called the Yowie.”

“Could be Kid, or a cousin a sorts. Bigfoot has kin ever’where; the Yeren a China, an’ the smaller Almas in Mongolia; the Orang Pendek from Sumatra; in Scotland they goes by Big Gray Man of Ben Macdhui; shepherds in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan speak a the Barmanou; closer ta our north American home is the Mapinguari down in South America. No matter the name or location, they’s all big an’ hairy an’ shy. An’ Wendigo legends outta Canada say the creature is of a supernatural type.”

“Come on Pal, ya mean ta tell me ya had yersef a innerview with a BigFoot, or whatever name folks call ‘im by?”

“Yep, believe it or not. An’ the first thing BF would want ya ta know is their pronouns are they, their, them. They git aggravated always bein’ referred ta as ‘he’. They is more an’ one of ‘em ya know.”

“An ya want us ta believe ya spoke with one.”

“They didn’t speak like ya might think. Was more like tele-pathy.”

“Tele— ? There an app fer that? Soun’s like phoney-baloney.”

“I’m gonna give ya an app upside the head if’n ya don’t shush. Jist sayin’ BF spoke without speakin’.”

“Like a character in a writer’s head?”

“Mebbe. See, it was a long time ago, afore I was even a character in a writer’s head. Shorty’d jist started up Carrot Ranch. Back then she didn’t even know I was already ridin’ the range.”

“Did she know ‘bout Bigfoot?”

“Not then. But they knew about her. An’ they come here ta the space she made ‘cause it felt safe an comfterble fer ‘em. They git tired a always bein’ hounded an’ speculated on, but they felt calm an’ relaxed at the Ranch. An’ they’s veggie-tarian so all the carrots an’ recipes was a plus.”

“How come no one else’s ever seen ‘em?”

“Who says they ain’t? Anyways. Way back when Shorty was first goin’ fer it here there were still some go-fer holes, an’ sure ‘nough, ma hoss stepped in one. Hurt it’s leg real bad. Don’t need ta tell you what a predicament we was in. Thet hoss was in pain an’ it’s eyes was big an’ rollin’ in its head when all a sudden he got calm, so I looked aroun’ an’ here come Bigfoot, but if the hoss was calm, well, okay. An’ thet BF laid hands on thet hoss’ leg an’ then lifted thet hoss up an’ he was as good as new.”

“Amazing!”

“Yep. Well, after thet, me an BF hung out fer a while, ‘cause aint either one of us’d ever had much company. We shared what we knew ‘bout Shorty’s plans fer this new Carrot Ranch place an’ we both decided we’d hang out in the backgroun’ an’ keep an’ eye on things. We vowed we’d be aroun’ ta step up if ever we was needed.

Turns out I was needed when a certain greenhorn prone ta trouble popped onta the page. Shorty counts on me ta keep thet one from doin’ too much damage at the Ranch.”

“Hey…”

“Thet’s right Kid, I got saddled with keepin’ an eye on ya. But Bigfoot an’ I vowed ta hep keep the Ranch safe.”

“Hmmph. Well, what does Bigfoot do?”

“Seen any trolls, Kid?”

“No…”

“Salesmen or shysters?”

“Well…”

“Other then one’s ya dragged in yersef?”

“No.”

“Bigfoot feels safe here, an’ Bigfoot heps keep the rest of us safe here.”

“But I ain’t seen ‘im… ‘em.”

“Then ya ain’t got eyes ta see. They’s here. An’ they’s thankful ta all the ranchers an their stories, makes ‘em smile. An’ they’re thankful ta Shorty.”

“Shorty’s seen ‘em?”

“Oh, Shorty knows Bigfoot.”

“Pal, that is uncanny!”

Folks, this Saddle Up Saloon episode is so lame we might need Bigfoot ta lay hands an’ git it ta walk away. Or mebbe you kin salvage it by sharin’ yer own Bigfoot sightin’ or drop a Bigfoot flash in the comments. What d’ya call Bigfoot where yer from?

“I’ve seen ol’ ‘Squatch.”

“Frankie!”

“Lemme tell ya. ‘Member when I first showed up? In one a Shorty’s flashes? She had me an’ Burt deliverin’ mail in a snow storm. Burt was blinder’n I was in that blowin’ snow. Only path out there that night was tele-pathy. Burt was drawn ta that warm dry cave.”

“Bigfoot was in there?”

“Yep, Kid. Saved us that night.”

“Hmmph. S’prised they didn’t lay hands an’ restore yer eye.”

“Could’ve but saw I had a u-nique way a seein’ life. An’ guess what else ‘Squatch was tendin’ in that cave a theirs? Unicorns!”

Pal’s sources, other than direct experience:

https://exemplore.com/cryptids/Names-for-Bigfoot-Around-the-World

https://bigfootly.com/2019/10/29/exploring-the-many-names-of-bigfoot/

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Chattin’ With Norah Colvin

“Hey Kid. Kinda quiet ‘round the Saloon. Ain’tcha got anythin’ lined up?”

“Nope. But as ya kin see, Pal, there’s a few folks in jist relaxin’ an’ chattin’ over a bev’rage a choice.”

“Yeah, I see thet. Look there, is that Norah Colvin?”

“Yep. Says she’s waitin’ on a buddy a hers.”

“Reckon thet buddy is here. Why it’s—”

“D. Avery? Them two’s buddies? What a they have in common?”

“Well, they both know their way ‘roun’ the Ranch.”

“Reckon, but Norah Colvin’s respectable an’ all, an’ our writer’s so…”

“Jist serve ‘em both Kid an’ leave ‘em be.”

******************************************************************************

Hello Norah! I’m so glad we have a place where we can finally hang out together.  But it seems Kid is wondering that we’re buddies.

Hello D.

Buddies! I like that. Buddies is not a term commonly used in Australia, so I think this is the first time I’ve ever been called someone’s buddy. I like its informality. At schools, sometimes they now have a ‘buddy bench’ where children can wait for a buddy to rescue them if they have no one to play with. I’m generally introverted so am pleased that you’ve come and rescued me from my lonely bench (bar stool). Thank you.

More than a buddy, Norah, you’ve been my mentor at Carrot Ranch, looking out for me from the beginning. Kind of like Pal does for Kid, though you’re much nicer about it. But besides Carrot Ranch and flash fiction we also have in common our educational backgrounds. I have recently retired from teaching though I’ve done a poor job of it as I am currently working in a pre-k classroom, although as a para now and not a lead teacher. Is this your age group, 4 to 5 year olds?

I’ve often considered myself a six-year-old at heart. I’ve mostly worked with 5 – 7 year olds, though have worked with some of before school age and some a little further into their primary schooling. I’m interested to hear you admit that you’ve retired, as I have been reluctant to use the R word.

“Ha! I only use the R word for convenience. “Retirement” doesn’t really seem like the right word choice, but I did not return to school this past fall and I’m not just playing hooky. I taught formally for 24 years, mostly fourth grade (9-10 year olds) and I finished as a sixth grade (11-12 year olds) math(s) teacher. But even before I was a certified teacher I spent time in pre-k and K classrooms. When a pre-school teaching friend needed help this winter I said Yes. It’s been a lot of fun working with this age group again. What do you like most about this age group?”

I have always loved supporting children as they embark upon their journey into literacy. I have always thought it a privilege to share the joy as they discover the magic of the black squiggles upon the page, whether they are reading or writing them. I love to share in their excitement as they explore and unlock the mysteries of mathematics and their delight as they realise what they can do. To see the children bubble with confidence, curiosity and creativity reawakens the six-year-old in me who was crushed by structure and conformity. There is nothing more rewarding than to see a child in love with learning.

I totally agree! My favorite sound in the classroom was always “Aha!” as a child’s perseverance paid off.

What do you love about working with pre-school children, D.?

In pre-school the work of the children is still play, and it’s in play that we learn and develop best. I love their curiosity and sense of wonder. And I love their kindness and the simple straightforward strategies they practice to solve problems. Pre-school teachers and children have it all figured out.

Norah, when I first came along the Ranch you had a recurring character named Marnie. Where did that character come from?

The Marnie stories, some of which I compiled on a Marnie page on my blog, were written in response to Charli’s flash fiction prompts. Over time, the character grew and I got to learn more about her. Although she was entirely fictional, parts of her were based upon my own shy child self and other parts upon many other children I knew, had taught or read about. It was quite a compulsion for a while to write the flash fiction responses about her, but then she faded out of view and I haven’t written anything about her for some time. The stories focused on bullying, neglect and dysfunctional families mainly.

D., you have some lovely young children who often feature in your stories — Marlie and Hope. Unlike Marnie’s dysfunctional family, both have supportive families who nurture their curiosity, creativity and carefree spirits. I see this as indicative of your warmth and nurturing heart. Would you agree?

Ha! That heart is a work in progress. I don’t know where those two came from or their families. But I like them. A lot. It’s an ideal, I suppose, but I have met kids that have blessed families like that and that get that kind of respect from their families.

Many of your flash fictions show children and teachers in school. You write amazing flashes but what I have always been impressed with is how the prompt also engenders an essay about education from you. Your passion is unflagging, Norah.

Time has killed off those posts which for many years accompanied my flash fictions, but education has been, and still is, the focus of my life, my life’s passion and work. I am frustrated by the limitations of formal schooling and would love to see us all educated in more positive ways. I guess we are often told to ‘write what you know’ and education is what I know best. My mixed feelings about school mean that sometimes I write rather negatively about school, and other times paint education in a positive light. I can do the same about parenting. It is my attempt to show what often/sometimes is against what could be. My poem Education is perhaps expresses this idea most succinctly.

For me, working in a traditional school was always like balancing on a thin line that connected what my employer expected of me in schooling children and how I believed children should be educated. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved working with the children. They gave me so much joy. I was just always aware of how much more joyous and beneficial it could be.

Yeah, so much depended on the school admin. It was discouraging the more they wanted to dictate the means to the end. It saddened me to see over the years the rigid structure and conformity coming back into schools and making it more difficult to nurture the innate creativity of children. The best days were when we were free to find our own way to the ends, to develop fun and engaging activities. It was a lot of work but the kind that left you energized rather than drained.

I did my best to change things. I didn’t always just accept the status quo. Which is really surprising as I always toed the line and never liked to be in trouble at school or at home when I was growing up. I wrote a little about my journey in a long-ago post To school or not to school which linked to an article with the same title I wrote for a teacher magazine which can be read here. It lists some of the early influencers upon my educational thinking. Considering it was written almost 30 years ago, and I continued to read about education constantly since then, I could now add many more influencers to the list, some of who I’ve listed here and here. John Holt was probably one of the first who confirmed my misgivings with the ‘system’ were well-founded and the amazing, and sadly late, Ken Robinson was one of the more recent. However, children were perhaps my best teachers, my own and the children of others. Children can teach us so much if we just watch and listen and learn.

The children are our best teachers! We’re just the guides on the side, ready with the right question and materials to keep them engaged in their explorations.

Some of my retired friends, who are happy to use the R word and were once teaching colleagues of mine, ask me why I stay involved with teaching and education. They want nothing more to do with it. But I can’t let it go. Education is me and I am it. It is where I belong and where I want to be. (To innovate on a quote from ‘The Big Orange Splot’.) I am life-long learning.

I love that idea of life-long learning but know there’s so much to do and learn in a non-school setting. Teaching took all my time and energy. I’m moved back closer to family now and am more available to them. I am lucky to still have children around to play with but without having to write reports on them. Maybe that’s what Marlie and Hope do, show that the real learning happens naturally and informally. I loved working with the kids but haven’t regretted my decision to leave school. I’m enjoying each day and they are full. R is for return and rediscovery and rejuvenation.

I still stay involved, but instead of being in the classroom, I use one of my other skills — writing. I write for my eponymous blog where I post my responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompts you mentioned before. I write freelance for educational publishers and have a couple of big jobs on the go at the moment. I create teaching resources to support teachers of children in their first three years of school which I make available on my website readilearn. And … I write stories for children, some of which are published in anthologies, some are published in the Library For All collection and some, I hope/keep my fingers crossed/if I’m really lucky, will be published as picture books one day.

You will get your picture books published!

Well, I know the Saloon is open 24/7 but I have to go. I hope Pal and Kid haven’t been eavesdropping, what a boring old pair they’ll think us.

Education can be the most exciting and rewarding career going. It can also be political and polarizing. I admire you for carrying on the good fight Norah and know that your writings are another contribution to the education and welfare of children.

We’d probably both be more comfortable out playing games and kicking up our heels with a group of children. It has been great catching up with you over a drink though.

Yep! See ya Buddy!

******************************************************************************

“Told ya Pal. Norah Colvin’s decent an’ respectable, she could do better than ta buddy up with that D. Avery.”

“Jist shush Kid. But yeah, Norah’s purty amazin’. Here’s her poem:

Education is 2

Thet says it all.”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; World Wide Garden Tour

“Hey Pal. I’m glad yer here, ‘cause we’re about ta head off.”

“Head off? We gotta man the Saloon.”

“Nope. This is where we’ll start but this week we’re spons’rin’ a garden tour.”

“Ah, shift. Thinkin’ gard’nin’ ‘roun Carrot Ranch is gittin’ outta hand.”

“It’s a Garden Tour Pal. We’re goin’ ‘roun’ the world! We’ll start here at the Saloon then head east till we end up at the Carrot Ranch World Wide Headquarters, or CRWWHQ for short.”

“Might be shorter ta say Hancock, MI.”

“S’pose. Or Shorty’s place. Anyway, we’ll start here ‘cause here we are. Then I’m hopin’ folks’ll look’t the pictures here an’ click on the links ta see more a these gard’ners’ gardens an’ related writin’s.”

 “Kid, the Saddle Up Saloon ain’t got a garden.”

“Sure it does. We got the Poet Tree offshoot a’growin’ in the back.”

“Seems a stretch. Got any pictures ta share?”

“Naw. Reckon folks has their own pictures in mind fer the saloon, I don’t wanna ruin their images. But here’s a buckaroo-ku regardin’ the poet tree:

deep rooted dreams grow

sky stroked visions branching out

far reaching embrace

Now let’s head east ta southwestern Pennsylvania an’ see what our own Poet Lariat’s up ta in her outdoors.”

Jules Paige?”

“The one an’ only.”

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.


lettuce 

entertain you; leaf 

ya laughin’

pepper

your dreamin’

healthy

tomatoes

gonna be a

brighter day

mind your

peas and q’s

porridge?

  ©JP/dh  

I’ve always had flowers. Not always veggies. But one year I did try to grow strawberries and corn… and even asparagus! I’ve had veggies for a few years now. Not quite a potager garden. But just enough to keep me happy.

“Looks like Jules keeps the butterflies happy too.”

“That was nice Kid. I reckon lotsa folks keep a bit a garden ta keep ’em in fresh veggies and a bit a earthin’.”

“Yep. Hey, let’s drop in on our writer in Vermont as we head farther east on this here garden tour.”

“There’s somethin’ in bloom.”

“Thet ain’t a garden plant! Thet’s a wild Lady’s Slipper she found at the edge a where her lawn meets the woods.

“And thet’s jist driftwood!”

“She says she planted it there.”

“Hmmf. And what’s this? Closeups a her “lawn”? Some gardener.”

“Yep, bit of a let down. Let’s venture across the pond.”

“The stock pond? We goin’ ta Ernie’s?”

“Nope. We’re headed ta the UK. We’ll start at Sherri Matthews‘ place. Her garden grows in the West Country of England and in another life, in California.”

“Ya mean the reknown ranch hand and columnist, Sherri Matthews?”

“Yep. The memoirist. And gardener!”

I’ve always grown lavender, it’s good for the bees. And, so I learnt, good near roses to keep greenfly (aphids) away. I have a “Bee Hotel” in my garden. During our first national lockdown for three months in 2020 in the UK, we had glorious sunny weather. Confined to our homes unless for one hour of exercise and essential shopping/medical needs, our garden was a godsend, one I never take for granted. Watching the bees of an evening emerge from their winter hibernation was a true gift. Nature, unstoppable. See more on this HERE.

This rambling rose was my pride and joy in my previous garden. I created an archway with roses and jasmine, something I’d wanted for years. I planted the rose in a half-barrel I brought back from California when I left after twenty years there. I loved my archway, but when we moved to our present house three years ago, I thought of ways I might keep my barrel. To take it would mean cutting down the rose. I couldn’t do that. So I left it for the new owners. Let them have the joy of it. I found out from our previous neighbours that within weeks of moving in, the new people promptly tore it down, rose, archway, jasmine. The lot. I could have taken my barrel after all. Click HERE for more on this hope filled summer garden.

Said neighbours/friends brought us this rose as a housewarming gift when we moved to our present home, having left all my roses behind…for the new people. I planted it the following spring after our move. It’s called Tickled Pink. And I am tickled pink at its progress and beauty. It blooms three or four times a year, is disease resistant and brings stunning colour to the garden. Bloom where you’re planted, as I always say. As someone who learnt to grow roses in California and has left many behind, I know this to be true. I also discovered you can buy a pot of ladybirds (ladybugs) to sprinkle on your roses, a natural and safe way to keep aphids at bay.Click HERE for more on Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home. 

“Oh that was well worth the trip. Ain’t we got some other green-thumbed Ranchers over here in the UK?”

“Yep. Here we are at Anne Goodwin‘s place.”

“Whoa. Ms. Goodwin’s also gardens on the wild side.”

“Yep. Read all about it and see more stunning photos HERE.

When we moved to this house over twenty years ago, I was most excited about the garden. Although I’d previously worked an allotment, I’d never had custody of shrubberies and trees. That first winter, we cleared a patch of ground for ten raised vegetable beds and another for fruit bushes, fenced-in to keep out the birds. Along with that and creating a pond and patio, we didn’t pay much attention to the grass. See more HERE.

“Kid, thet was purty dang purty. Glad we clicked the links. This is a great tour! Who do we see next?”

“Yet another ranch hand, the prolific Geoff Le Pard. He’s got some before and after shots to share with us.”

Then…

Thirty years ago we moved into this house (above) with a new born in tow. The house sits on a wide road on the outskirts of one of London’s remaining villages, Dulwich. Did we love the garden? In 1970, it had been laid out with a single terrace and central steps down to an oval lawn. Several of the mature trees we inherited (magnolias, silver birches and ornamental firs) were new then as were the many roses and peonies. We itched to work on it – our immediate predecessors had done nothing beyond the occasional lawn mow for the best part of two years – but we knew enough (courtesy of my mother) to sit back and see what came up in that first year.

then….

Now

The forget-me-nots are the many great grand-offspring of those that we saw that first year. We’ve moved many things, lost a fair few – the rhododendrons and azaleas have pretty much all gone now – and introduced many more. We’ve made a few structural changes but not many. I’m in the process of introducing a rainwater capture system to stop using potable water given a cautious assessment of the rain that leeches off our roof every year is in excess of 50,000 litres.

See more of Geoff’s gardens HERE.

“Hang onta yer hat, Pal. Now we’re headed down under fer a peek at Norah Colvin‘s garden.”

“Kid, we come a long way ta be viewin’ ‘Merican plants.”

“Norah got us good! Says this “garden” come from spilled bird seed! But worth it. Look’t her garden visitors Pal!”

“Them’s sure some exotic birds!”

“Thinkin’ we’re the odd ducks down ‘roun here Kid. Uh-oh. Hope Shorty don’t see these next visitors ta Norah’s garden. Them critters tend ta spook ‘er.”

“Speakin’ a Shorty thet’s where we’re headed next. We’ll end the Saloon’s first world wide garden tour at World Headquarters. An’ here we are!”

Look, there’s the front potager garden with them rabbits someone surprised her with!”

“Yep. An’ jist look’t ‘er bloomin’ bulbs.”

“Whoa! Look’t the color!”

“Thet ain’t flowers! Thet’s Shory’s cake!”

“Well it’s a celebration a all she’s been sowin’ an’ growin’ so we’ll allow it.”

“This was a fascinatin’ tour, Kid. I injoyed gittin’ out an’ seein’ how other ranch hands garden an’ all. But ya know what?”

“Yep. We’re homesick. Let’s git back ta the ranch.”

Wither we roam, there’s no place like home.

Thank you Jules Paige, Sherri Mathews, Anne Goodwin, Geoff Le Pard, Norah Colvin and Charli Mills for takin’ part in this debut garden tour.

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Rebecca Glaessner!

“Howdy Rebecca Glaessner! Pal, look, it’s Rebecca Glaessner!”

Thanks for having me here, Kid and Pal.” 

“Well we sure ‘preciate yer comin’ all the way ta the Saddle Up from down under.”

“It weren’t sech a long haul fer her Kid. Rebecca’s been aroun’ the Ranch fer a long time.”

“It’s an absolute honour to be featured at the Saloon after all Charli and her Ranch-hands have done for my writing life, Kid. You’re both right, I’ve been around but I did fall off the radar for a while in recent years. It’s a bit of a windy story so get comfortable, a lot has happened over those six years. I’ll try to be concise.”

“We’re all ‘bout storyin’. The stage is yers, Rebecca.”

“I started up a website in 2015 where I now post all my flash fiction responses to the Ranch’s weekly prompts. Those prompts inspired me to begin writing online in the first place.

I was a young parent back then, only 22, with three toddlers and an infinitely supportive partner who worked long hours so I could be home with them.

I established a daily routine around the kids where I found myself with free time each day, and redeveloped that lifelong itch to write.”

“Reckon thet’s a itch jist has ta be scratched. Lifelong ya had it?”

“Yes, Pal. You see, I started reading very young. As soon as I knew those little symbols on paper could create whole worlds, I found a home inside books as often as I could. Then naturally, I started writing as a young teen – you know those carbon-copy stories of our favourite novels? Mine was Eragon by Christopher Paolini (who, to my delight, has also moved from writing Fantasy to Sci-Fi, much like my own journey). 

As a young mother the soul-deep writing itch returned in full force.

One story-world concept I daydreamed as a teen grew and evolved alongside me in parenting and life, finding depth, new themes and alternate paths to travel down over the years. Though I’m still working on it, it’s undergone several rewrites/restarts since, with some drafts reaching over 100k words long. Yet this final version looks almost nothing like its original form, as is the way with life and growth. 

It’s been a long road of self-discovery over those years since, ups and downs and 360’s, and I’ve learned so much. The Carrot Ranch has been one supportive constant in my writing life as I found myself returning to the Ranch often, despite having stopped writing temporarily.”

“See, I was aroun’ a course, I’ve always been aroun’, but the Kid here showed up later. When I weren’t seein’ ya aroun’ so much, Rebecca, I jist figgered it was ‘cause the Kid is so dang annoyin’.

“No Pal, with three kids of my own I was busy! And, during that time, all five of us – our three kids, myself, and my now husband – were diagnosed with either Autism, ADHD, or both. And though the diagnoses helped each of us find our own place in the world, it wasn’t a fix-all; it didn’t give me all of life’s magical answers.

My life revolved around supporting our kids so they wouldn’t have to fight their way through childhood like my husband and I did, and in doing so, I gradually sacrificed more and more of my own bandwidth, leaving myself with no space or energy for writing.

Being Autistic, meant I was constantly exhausted from all the expected social interaction with other parents, hoping to strengthen our children’s school experience through the support network of other families. But having ADHD also, meant I fought with myself daily to remember to keep the house organised, all their lunches sorted, school notes and homework and activities in order, while always feeling like I was forgetting things and not doing enough as a stay-at-home parent.”

“Well dang, Rebecca, that seems like a tough steer ta corral.”

“Kid, it was a recipe for disaster. Too much all at once, with no space for self care, and a constant guilt that I wasn’t living up to my own expectations for my writing life also. I believed my diagnosis meant I knew what was holding me back, and that I could just try harder to get past it. But I was wrong.

This inevitably led to burn-out, where I had my first – and, luckily, only – panic attack, ending up in hospital, feeling like my heart was struggling and about to give out, and I took time off everything. My husband picked up the bit for me, cleaning, school runs, bedtime routines, everything, while still working full time. He offered me time to recover, however long I needed.”

“He soun’s like a keeper all right.”

“I can’t thank him enough.”

“Even with his s’port, musta been a rough time.”

“Yes. And that time enabled me to build brand new foundations, starting from scratch. Through all of it, I never lost that itch to write.

That is where you found me in 2017, dabbling in the Ranch’s flash fiction prompts again, trying to get back on the same wild horse I started with. That was also the year I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time where I achieved my goal of 50k words in a month.

2017 was also the year my father passed away and when my partner and I got married.”

“Them’s two big events.”

I remembered dad in a flash piece called Boots, one of my first sci-fi pieces, first published in 2017 as a response to a Ranch prompt, and then republished in 2020.

I first— properly— discovered sci-fi after reading Dune and it’s prequels as a teen (my dad recommended them, one of his gifts I treasure the most now), and like writing, sci-fi became a core foundation in my creative life.

After NaNoWriMo in 2017 —a mess of a story, hiding away in a secret drawer— and another failed novel draft in the months following, I took yet another writing hiatus. I knew I still didn’t have all the tools needed to craft a strong story. Feeling doubtful about my abilities, I fell away from flash fiction and the Ranch again too.

Over all those years, I devoured countless articles, craft novels, podcasts, writing classes, blog posts, you name it! I’ve tried and failed over and over to get a rhythm going successfully enough to complete this novel.”

“You jist hang in there Rebecca, you’ll git it done.”

“I will, but having ADHD also means it’s a challenge to keep my mind focused on mentally demanding tasks for more than 10 minutes at a time, so I’m constantly fighting myself to do the one thing in the world that is utterly fulfilling for me. This challenge, before my diagnosis, offered no end of self-doubt through lack of consistency, and never knowing why I couldn’t just write.

I love our kids, of course, I love how they’ve grown, how strong they are in their sense of self now, but writing is… me.You know?”

“Reckon ya gotta make time ta scratch thet itch, no matter.”

“For sure. In 2020, the infamous lockdown year, I wrote another 75k words of another novel draft around home-schooling three primary school aged kids, and once again discovered the plot just didn’t have the legs to stand on.

Or was it my ADHD telling me the story wasn’t interesting enough anymore? Was I also telling myself it needed more work than I could give it?

I’m still working on self-trust. 

I discovered my ADHD very recently in 2021. This discovery now means I can knuckle down on the parts of my writing process where I need to harness discipline above interest, recognising what work is needed, and challenging myself to push past my perceived limitations. 

This writing thing is harder than usual for me, but I’m determined.That’s when the Carrot Ranch’s weekly prompts once again returned to the forefront of my writing career.”

“Yeehaw!”

“The kids returned to school late in 2020. With the extra time and space back at hand, I put aside another struggling draft of 75k words, revamped my website and vowed to write a piece for each weekly prompt from then on— whether submitted to the Ranch or not.

I’ve only missed one prompt so far since January 2021. That prompt was “a year later”. It was too deep a concept to tackle that weekend so I gave myself a brief break and forgave myself for not having the bandwidth for it.” 

“Reckon ever’one misses now an’ agin. I ‘member that was a tough prompt.”

“That forgiveness and space was key, and I was back on the horse the following week with renewed energy —though this time, a slower, steadier, wiser horse. 

Now I use my novel’s characters and concepts to inspire each week’s flash response, as opposed to plucking bits and pieces from life. This new strategy keeps me rooted in my novel’s worlds which I’m working on diligently. It helps maintain momentum toward my ultimate goal, and it’s growing ever closer.”

“Thinkin’ thet’ll make ol’ Shorty smile!”

“I hope so. I’m thankful for Charli’s own persistence and determination in life, she’s been a huge inspiration for me. I wouldn’t be where I am now without her and the Ranch!

After diving headfirst into writing, then falling away completely, I’ve arrived at a place where I can challenge myself in healthy ways; by taking small steps, and crafting manageable expectations, I’m gradually building the self-trust and consistency vital to success in all parts of life.”

“Well, it’s somethin’, how ya never let go a yer writin’.”

“An’ how Carrot Ranch’s been a part a yer writin’, an’ vice versa. Rebecca, where else’ve ya got hep or inspiration fer yer writin’ itch?”

“Well, Kid, alongside the Ranch, author Holly Lisle has been another cherished resource in learning the craft. I’ve purchased all of her clinics (World, Culture, Language, Plot and Character Building) and use them regularly with huge success. Her methods of commanding the muse when and where you need it, is empowering.

Also an inspiration, podcaster Sarah Rhea Werner teaches self-care and managing expectations as a creative, challenging how we perceive the craft, and how we view ourselves as both writers and flawed humans. Sarah hosts free twice-weekly, live-stream ‘Create-Alongs’, where she offers two hours of her own time to bring the writing community together in a space of acceptance and inspiration.”

“Thanks fer sharin’ them inspirin’ folk, Rebecca. An’, before ya go back ta thet beautiful fam’ly a yers, ya got anythin’ else ta share or promote?” 

“I’m yet to publish outside the free flash pieces on my website, however the novel I’ve spoken of, and am working on now is a sci-fi mystery, involving missing people, hidden aliens, AI controlled wormholes and strange nightmares of other worlds. My flash fiction offers hints of these worlds, so come visit me over at my website; have a read and leave me your thoughts. I respond to each and every comment and love to hear from readers.”

“That sounds like a right fun place ta visit. Thank ya so much Rebecca Glaessner. Sure was good ta have ya by.” 

“Yep. We ‘preciate yer open an’ honest story tellin’.”

“Thanks again Pal and Kid for having me here! I cherish the opportunity to share my story, and I hope it helps other creatives on their own journey.”

Australian Author, Rebecca Glaessner, writes Science Fiction with a focus on future tech, the human condition and our connection to worlds beyond. 

Over on her site she publishes weekly flash fiction in response to the Carrot Ranch’s 99-word story prompts, and inspired by her up and coming debut novel, a sci-fi mystery.

Besides writing, Rebecca reads widely and often, enjoys strength-training and video gaming while running a household of three human kids, six fur kids and her better half. 

Stick around while she discovers her voice, you might be surprised.

Website: http://rebeccaglaessner.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/R_Glaessner

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/rebeccaglaessner

Facebook: http://facebook.com/rglaessnerauthor/

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Secon’ Art Showin’

“Whoa! What’s goin’ on Kid? I ‘spect ya ta be whiny an’ even cheesy, but didn’t ‘spect ya ta be servin’ wine an’ cheese so fancy like here at the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“It’s what ya do at art shows Pal. An’ this week we’re showin’ art; I roped a few visual artists inta sharin’ their work here at the saloon.”

“Thet’s great Kid.”

“Yep, we got some great work ta show, some artists ya mighta met here last June, an’ a couple a first timers. Done turned the Saloon inta a gallery. You an’ me Pal, we’ll jist git outta the way and keep cuttin’ cheese. Jist gonna let folks wander ‘roun, enjoy the sights an’ they kin chit chat an’ comment down below.”

“Hmmf.  So… no innerviews?”

“Not this time Pal, jist gonna let the art speak fer itself. Though some a the artists have a bit a literary art ta accompany their visual art.”

“Soun’s real nice Kid.”

“Yep. There’s jist one thing….”

“Uh-oh.”

“Shorty’s uncle is somewhere aroun’ the Saloon. She said we should keep an eye out fer ‘im. Uncle Bernie? But I’m sure he’ll be fine. Now let’s step back an’ let folks see this installation.”

Bridal Bouquet by Bonnie Sheila

Bonnie Sheila is a quiller from the faraway island of Nantucket. More of her work can be found at crescentsandcoils. You might remember her visit at the Saloon last June.

From the Garden by Bonnie Sheila

“I recall Bonnie Sheila the quiller. She’s branchin’ out with this art form. An’ I ‘member this next artist. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. She was in the first art showin’ too. I think we’ll be seein’ more a her aroun’ here.”

“Yep. Don’tcha love her watercolors?”


DOUBLE EXPOSURE
The sun’s reflection
Shines in a sidewalk puddle
The lens adds one more.

UNDER THE SHIBUMI
Ocean breezes blow
Blue canopy flips and snaps
Pure relaxation.

“Beautiful. Kid, was thet her haikuin’ too?”

“Yep. She’s all kindsa artist.”

“Now what’s this? Why’s there a dog at the art show?”

“Look agin, Pal. That’s a handcrafted needle-felted sculpture by Vermont artist Sharon Somers. You should see her stuff.”

“Oh, shift that reminds me. Uncle Bernie!”

“Is that a heartfelt piece?”

“No, Pal, that’s Shorty’s Uncle Bernie. Visitin’ her daughter, looks like.”

“Hmmf. Thought he was stuffed. I wanna see more a this felt sculpture.”

“Well here’s a couple more, an’ ya kin always go to Heartfelt Woolies.com ta see even more.”

“Thet’s really cool, what she does with felt.”

“Yep. She kin do them sculptures up from a photograph.”

“Amazin’. Hey Kid, look’t these pictures!”

“Pal, ya know Jules Paige, the Ranch’s own Poet Lariat?”

“Yep, sure do.”

“Well these here photographs are from her. An’ a course she added haiku.”


brief respite from blues
positive thoughts blossom free
relaxing  strong for strength

©JulesPaige

present reflections
living in precious moments
details bring delight
 
©JulesPaige

“Now what’s this, Kid? Which is the sculpture? An’ is thet one on the right anuther a them felt sculptures?”

“That’s Uncle Bernie again. He’s visitin’ Shorty’s other daughter, the dancer an’ choreographer. Hmm. Uncle Bernie ain’t got the pose down.”

“Mebbe she’s s’posed ta be stretchin’ like he is. Leftward leanin’ upward facin’ down dirty dawgs pose.”

“Mebbe. But let’s check out the next artist. Another rancher, an’ columnist, Susan Spitulnik.”

“The quilter!”

“Yep.”


This quilt is called a sampler because each block is a different well known pattern. I made this as a sample for a Beginner Quilting class I taught in which the students learn the techniques to piece squares, triangles, and other shapes using a quarter inch seam. I then donated it to a local charity for one of their annual auctions.

This is just one of many patriotic quilts I have made. I gave it to Joe Mele who is a friend and member of the Rochester Veterans Writing Group. He is writing his parents’ love story using the original letters his father wrote home during WWII.

I made this t-shirt quilt as a high school graduation gift for my neice using her sports t-shirts that’s why there are repeat numbers. The band-aid fabric represents the fact she went on to college to study nursing.

“Wow, Kid, thet Susan Spitulnik’s as generous as she’s talented. Them quilts a hers warm in more’n one way.”

“I know what’cha mean, Pal. Yep. Sue Spitulnik is a regular Ranch Hand. When she’s not participating in the weekly Carrot Ranch challenges or preparing her Veteran’s Stories guest column she can be found sewing in her home studio.”

“Well I sure am glad she found time ta share her art here at the Saloon agin.”

“Me too Pal.”

“Ya got any more art hangin’ aroun’?”

“That’s it fer this showin’. Oh. What now?

If Charli Mills thinks that scrapin’ some nutmeg inta a French Press whilst campin’ is an art form…

uh, Pal, is it art?”

“Sure Kid, why not? An’ least ways she’s got track a thet uncle a hers.”


“Phew. Well Kid, ya made it through anuther Monday.”

“Yep. I enjoyed the art show but Charli’s uncle’s a bit of a handful. Has he always been aroun’ here?”

“Yep. Look:

“Huh. Never noticed him before.”

“Sure. He goes ta all the rodeos.”

“Huh. Hey Pal, we didn’t do so good ’bout stayin’ outta the way a the art showin’.”

“‘Cuz you have trouble keepin’ yer yap shut. But if I ain’t mistaken, ya did cut the cheese.”

“Mebbe. Shift! The dang mic is still on. I always fergit th—

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.