Beautiful outdoors and woodpecker street gangs.

Here are some lovely shots of the yard and great outdoors I wanted to share from back in the spring and a few from early summer:


a backyard sunset

cottonwood courtyard june

Adobe and Skull


Oh, and let’s not forget the pictures below…


I know this is supposed to be the year of the rooster, but I propose we change it to the year of the woodpecker. We have been overrun with them. This guy is eating vigas. Another gang was at our property next door and pecked 4 holes through the wooden barn siding.


The hammock. . .



Oh, and the rhubarb this year was amazing:


Too many beautiful sunsets!

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Sparky, Shmoo, & Eva at play

Here is a video of Sparky and Shmoo playing with Eva. Eva is sixteen this year and as sprightly as ever. The two Great Pyrs are seven. Although they are brothers, they are very different. Sparky, who has the biggest head of any dog I’ve ever seen, is truly a chihuahua (or I guess 92.5 chihuahuas) in a 185 lb body. He is having a few problems with his joints and moving slowly, although he is always ready for a bit of gentle play.

Shmoo is still as full of mischief (and barking) as ever. They are both bossed around by Eva, who has always run the show, no matter what otter dogs are around.

Look who I found in the coop gathering eggs. . .

Surprise, surprise when I went inside to do my usual egg collection. Here was this lady or gent. . . (I’m going to call her a she because it’s pretty clever to find such an easy, healthy source of food)

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Yes, that is an egg she has in her mouth. Brantly picked her up, egg and all, and we re-homed her under the storage shed, where something has been tunneling and setting up housekeeping.

She is a bull snake and harmless to anything other than rodents. And eggs.

Birds on my head

Why do I like birds on my head? I don’t know. But here is proof of my strange addiction. . .

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And less exotic fowl. . .

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No, really, that’s all this post is about. Birds. On my head.

Part II of This Old Adobe House…the Stairs…

Several months back I began a post about the floor we removed between our first and second floor. The floor was built over a circular staircase over twenty years ago when the house was converted into a bed and breakfast. When we decided to convert the Cottonwood Inn back into a house we removed the floor.

Removing the floor left a “hanging” door to a deck which was accessible only from the second floor. We needed a solution. I spoke to an architect and a master carpenter but neither could come up with a solution to the problem.

Enter: Mom.

Yes, my mother. She was a general contractor for several years and enjoys engaging in architectural projects for fun.

So, here is an image showing where we were at the point the floor was removed:


And here is a photo of the stairs from the bottom…

The hidden staircase beneath the floor

This was closed off and used as a storage closet. The stairs are quite lovely and massive. 52 inches wide by 10×22 pie shaped wedges.

Here is a picture of the stairs after I  opened the doorway from 32 inches to 52 inches and then rebuilt the frame using lath and plaster (my first experience in working with lath).

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And, here we are constructing our new set of steps to the “hanging door.” That is Eva standing beside the project, keeping an eye on my work…


Yes, those are magic markers laying on the step. We only use professional grade products on all our jobs.


Mom supervising me to make sure everything goes together okay.

Here are the steps once I’ve made a heavy plywood platform for the top. I used scrap lumber for the sides–tongue and groove pieces left over from my pine flooring project.


You can see that I have begun to attach metal lath to the sides in prep for the plastering. This is not fun stuff to work with and it really tears up even the heaviest gloves.

A closer picture picture:


I wish I had taken pictures of the plastering process, but there was just mud and water everywhere. That was unfortunate because I had already stained and polished the steps with Minwax and had to do it all again after!

Anyhow, here it is as of now.


And another from the bottom looking up:


So, there it is.

On order are custom-made wrought iron railings for the platform.

Oh wait…one more picture: Here are Dottie and Lola (and Gloria’s butt) They hung out with me and held lumber while I cut. My hens have skills!



The Birds…

I’ve recently had some requests from my new agent- Jessica Alvarez of Book Ends Literary Agency– for . . . YES!! Bird photos! (This is a woman who has not been trapped beside me on a plane, train, or grocery store line and forced to see pictures of “the children.”)

Here are a few photos of the crew.


This is Freddy, short for Frederica (a la Georgette Heyer). Yes, she is acting like a tom in this photo. I don’t know why she displays like this other than she is a “strange bird.” Once you have birds you understand terms like “silly goose” and “odd duck” and “pecking order.”

Freddy is the least popular bird in the coop and she has done a lot to earn that designation. She messes with every other animal on the property, from a 2 lb chicken to 180 lb dogs. She is a relentless nag, in other words. If this were an island, Freddy would be the first one voted off. She looks big here but is only about 6 lbs. She is a midget white turkey, as is my only tom turkey, Viccus. (see below)

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Here are a bunch of animal butts and Viccus and me. You can also see Freddy and Ms. Squawkers watching.

This is a small group shot of the birds kicking poor Sparky off the bed:


Not only have they kicked him off his dog bed, but they have poohed all over it and mess it up. That is Ms. Squawkers, Viccus, and Lola.

Here are Shmoo and Sparky practicing synchronized sleeping for the next Olympics:


I’d give them a 9.6, but I’m biased.

Here is Micheline, who has all the shredded cheese to herself and is smart enough not to let anyone else know about it:


And here are some naughty geese trying to get in the through the back door…

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From right to left this is Mr. Joshua, Squanto, Snarky, Sid, & Nancy.

Here is the king of the ducks, Jean-Claude Van Duuck:

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And, lastly, here are Gidget and Barbara. It’s kind of like a marathon dance, but in a box, with straw, and another broody hen….







A couple days ago it looked like this:


And now it looks like this:


Plants and animals are confused. Some humans are, too.

The apricot, peach, and cherry trees budded and flowered before the frost. At least we won’t have to can any of those fruits this year… Apples, pears, and plums seem fine and the rhubarb is thrilled. Here is a picture of it, menacing the daffodils:


It’s also “Birds Gone Wild” here at Cottonwood House. From goose love triangles . . .


Here are Squanto, the Space Queen, and Mr. Joshua eye-balling one another in between the violent skirmishes that make up most of their days from late February to early June. This year the triangle has become a rectangle, with the arrival of . . . Gwen. Stay tuned for details.



And then there are these guys….

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This isn’t an actual picture of our flickers (I think I’ve demonstrated already what a lousy wildlife photographer I am), but these look just like the half-dozen males who have been screaming from sun up to sun down and beating on everything in sight, from the side of the barn, to the tin flashing to the plate-metal sculpture out in the chicken yard (seriously!)

We’ve never had as many as there are this year. I’ve only noticed males, so maybe they’ve come to town early to grab the best spots for their lady-friends.

Even with our weather fluctuation it’s still hard to believe a few weeks ago I was bitching about 96 degree weather and suffering sunburn and heat stroke. (Okay, so it’s not hard to believe I was bitching . . . )

Since returning home I’ve spent most of my time inside, regardless of weather, as I’ve raced to complete my final edits on the first book in my historical romance trilogy, The Outcasts, which Kensington Press recently purchased.

Repeat after me: Editing is fun!

To aid both me and my critique partner Marla (who is enjoying some editing fun of her own) I constructed the Editing Shrine. . .


A few historical romances, chickens, a talisman from the Magical Pop Haydn, and a phenomenal painting by Marla, which I call “Duck in Repose”

There had been some chocolate offerings, but I’m afraid I had to eat those. I’m pretty sure the yellow bell pepper and corn nuts will serve the same purpose…