Appalachian Thursday–Snow Days on the Farm

Snow DayWe’re having a proper snow day today–several inches of the white stuff, hardly anyone venturing out, soup in the crock pot, and a good book to read (not to mention one to write!). Ahhhhh.

When I was a kid, of course, snow days were a bit more exciting. And in West Virginia in the 1970s, they seemed more dramatic, too. I remember missing almost the entire month of February one winter. It was so cold that a skim of ice would form on the top of the pail of milk in the time it took Dad to walk from the barn to the house.

Poor Mom. Stuck inside with three kids day after day. And it was too cold to play outside. At least Dad had livestock to tend.

I remember the power going out during a snowstorm once. Dad stoked the fireplace and we got to sleep in the living room floor in sleeping bags. Mom made us wear knit hats since those were the days when we still believed you lost most of your heat through the top of your head.

There was tomato soup with grilled cheese. Card games and board games. Sledding and the building of snowmen. We played in the hayloft, which was a smidge warmer than outside. Mittens were soaked through. Chapstick was applied. And woe to the child who realized she had to pee while wearing a snowsuit too far from the house.

We also fed the cattle. The winter my older brother had appendicitis, I got to ride on the trailer, cutting the twine on bales of hay, and pushing it off for the cows. Bart, our Black Angus bull, would steal bites of hay from the trailer. He was a sweetheart, though, and I’d scratch him behind the ears anyway.

It got dark early those days and in my memory the house was the coziest place in the world. A nation unto itself. A place where the snow and cold could never reach.

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Returning a 130-Year-old Gift

Longfellow's PoemsPlease come see me over on SouthernBelleView today. I’m sharing an amazing story about discovering who originally owned a 130-year-old copy of Longfellow’s Poems I bought at a used book sale. So much fun!

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Appalachian Thursday–Chicken Eggs and Earlobes

chickenI LOVE the cover of my second novel with its bowl of multi-hued eggs. There’s a hen-house in the story and the characters often gather the eggs. That was usually my job growing up and while it’s certainly easy enough I nonetheless whined about it more than once.

Now I’m blessed to be able to get fresh eggs at work. We have a farmyard that offers a sort of therapy for the kids and along with goats, alpacas, a miniature donkey, sheep, and a pig there are chickens. Happy, wandering chickens eating bugs and grass and whatever else appeals to them.

The eggs are a lovely mix of brown and white with an occasional blue one in the nesting boxes. I’d always wondered about the color of eggshells, but not enough to look it up until I read last week that the color of a chicken’s earlobe determines the color of the shell.

Um, ear lobes?!?

I’ve been around chickens all my life. I did NOT know they had ear lobes. This was worth looking up. Turns out the earlobe is just the fleshy spot beneath the ear opening on the side of a chicken’s head (see chicken above with white ear lobes).

And the color of the lobe does NOT determine the color of the shell. I’ll confess I’m a little disappointed by this, but the color matching is mostly coincidental. There are chickens with dark lobes that lay white eggs and vice versa.

Color is actually determined by genetics. Brown egg-layers produce a pigment called protoporphyrin from hemoglobin or blood. Those pretty blue eggs contain oocyanin which is a byproduct from the production of bile. Blue egg laying chickens are typically from South America where the blue pigment is thought to help protect eggs from the sun.

If you want to learn more, check out Community Chickens–there’s a great post all about it.


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Preparing for Lent by Giving Up

PrideIt’s almost Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. Which means it’s time to think about fasting. I’ve been fasting from something during Lent for quite a few years now. Sometimes it’s food, sometimes it’s a habit. Two years ago, I focused on adding the fruit of the spirit. Last year I gave up fear.

The purpose, for me, is to do penance while drawing closer to God. So what will it be for 2015?


You have no idea–probably I have no idea–how hard this is going to be. I plan to read the chapter on pride in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis weekly if not daily. I will stop compulsively checking book review sites and Amazon’s author rank/sales pages in order to feel good about how my book is doing. I will aim to please God rather than myself or others. I will not put myself forward in an unseemly way.

Sigh. I SO enjoy being petted and praised. I will stop seeking that out.

The part of my brain that loves fairy tales thinks that if I stop trying to feed my pride, God will . . . be proud of me and I’ll get even more of what I crave rather than less. The part of my brain that remember the Books of Job and Jonah on the other hand, is nervous about this.

So here we go. Tomorrow I can wallow in self-aggrandizement all I want. But starting Wednesday, if you see me bragging, call me out. That’s not part of my diet any more.

James 4:7-10 – Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

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Appalachian Thursday–Elijah Phillips

The PioneerToday I thought I’d share another installment from the 1976 edition of The Pioneer–a booklet put out periodically by the Descendants of the French Creek Pioneers. This one is about Elijah Phillips who was brother to my great, great, great, great-grandfather David Phillips.

Elijah Phillips married Cynthia Goodwin of Ashfield, Mass. They had seventeen (!!) children. Four died in infancy, four stayed in Massachusetts, and the remaining nine came with their parents to French Creek in 1814. They came by ox team and traveled for six weeks. In French Creek, they established a home on Mulberry Ridge. Cynthia died in January 1829 of consumption at the age of 69.

Elijah was described as being “low in stature with dark eyes and hair, inclined to corpulency, full of life, a great talker, a man of good sense.” His wife was “slender, of medium height, fair complexion and blue eyes, modest and quiet.”

Elijah left home because of a dispute over the Revolutionary War. He was a Patriot and his father–Phillip Phillips–was a Loyalist. The disagreement and move effectively severed relations with most of Elijah’s family except for his brother David who also left home due to his Patriot leanings.

One of these days I may have to go all the way back to the early 1800s for the setting of a novel. I surely have plenty of material . . . If nothing else, I think I can take a lesson in describing my characters. Elijah sounds like a good fella to know.

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SouthernBelleView–Why I Love Editors

It’s SouthernBelleView Monday, so please pop on over and join them there. I’m discussing a particularly funny error in a movie releasing this year and how grateful I am that editors save me from making similar mistakes in my writing.

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Appalachian (Throwback) Thursday–Happy Birthday David!

Big brotherToday is my older brother’s 45th birthday. Which means I’m precariously close to the same age! Dave’s off in SC raising a family of his own now (and doing a mighty fine job!). But when we were kids I was his little shadow, ready to go anywhere he went and do anything he did.

Have I mentioned I broke my arm three times and nearly drowned once? Ah well, those were still the good ole days rambling around on the family farm!

Happy birthday, David. I love you forty years better!

Reading together

Reading has always been among my favorite things and it was even better when David would read with me.

Nose blowing

Broken arm #1–getting a helping hand from my big brother.

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