NaNoWriMo Week Three At The Ranch Pen

In week three of NaNoWriMo already and over 42,000 words of the rough draft of the sequel to Agnes Campbell’s Hat whacked out. I don’t like this method of writing at all–it is just a huge mess–but since I’ve started, I’ll try to finish.

“But why don’t you like writing like the wind, Danni?” somone might ask.

Well, read the paragraph below for the answer. That literary gem came out of a five minute word sprint where I wrote as fast as I could for five minutes, correcting nothing.

He probably would’ve grabbed a while mans shirt or something maybe britches if thawed been washing which they might note been because hi gather they didn’t do much of that maybe he gathered some leather pants and a leather jacket if that was the case he’d be blasting in it but not getting his skin clustered but being hot summertime the makes indians wouldn’t have been wearing much so however that works maybe young dropped an article of clothing for him knowing he’d be in bad shape for clothes maybe he comes on a white mans house or even and indians on the reservation and borrows some clothes hanging on the ,line the prairie fire might be racing along behind him blowing smoke and cinders o all over him because they’ve got a thirty mine per hour hot wind and the fire is going like a freight train faster than the pony can run does he like to kill the horse does the piny drop dead and leave hi on foot by the time they get to the prairie dog fork of the red there by the whichitas a maybe so because judd fords the suck holes half wishing to get sucked in again but all that happens is its hard for him to get out and he has to go on and he’s tired as all get out and the comanches aren’t too far behind him and if they catch hi m again they;; for sure lift his scalp.


On a good note, my fellow Oklahomans have whacked out over 1,754,000 words as of this morning, and on a worried note, I’m seriously hoping their novels are making more sense than mine. If not, it bodes ill for our future as a civilization.

Thanks so much for reading and God bless all y’all. For everybody in the U.S., have a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving holiday next week.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Week Two At The Ranch Pen

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 7.34.43 AM

The screenshot above shows where I’m at with NaNoWriMo as of this morning. The sequel to Agnes Campbell’s Hat is beginning to take clearer shape in my mind’s eye, but I’m still doing a lot of, “what if this happened ?” and “what if that happened?” questions instead of putting together actual scenes. In week two, I can’t say I like this method of whacking together a first draft. My usual modus operandi for first drafts is having a vague picture in my mind then taking a chapter at a time and s-l-o-w-l-y ironing it out until I feel like it’ll hold up.

So, I don’t know. The jury is still out on this NaNo thing. However, if my brain doesn’t blow up, I’m in it to win it and am over halfway to the 50,000 word mark. On a bright note, according to the stats page this morning, my fellow Oklahomans have logged in over 1,200,000 words. Pretty impressive! I trust the other Okies haven’t written as much gobbledygook as I have.

Thanks so much for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Week One At The Ranch Pen

This is an update of how NaNoWriMo is coming along down at the Ranch Pen. Above is the screen shot from my page this morning. Even though I’ve logged over thirteen-thousand words in the past five days, much of it is encrypted in Ancient Egyptian Pig Latin, so I’m not getting too excited, yet.

I started with my basic storyline figured–I thought–but after I wrote on it for awhile, I despaired for awhile. Then I wrote on it from another direction for a while, then despaired for awhile. Etc. Etc. Then I went back to the original plan. So far this morning, despair has not set in. Maybe this afternoon.

Until next time, God bless all y’all. Over and out.


Wimpy Barriers At The Ranch Pen

The nacelle of a wind turbine

Before NaNoWriMo kicks off in a few days and I’m too busy to blog tend, I’ll post a few pictures of some of the wind turbine components getting trucked out to the new wind farm location a few miles from our house.

As I mentioned earlier in the year sometime, Gramps and I entered into intense negotiations that lasted at least an hour with a wind power company. The outfit is building a new wind farm around some of our dirt farms and even though they are not setting towers on our places, they have built a power line across our farm and managed to accidentally kill one of our cows by digging a deep hole and fencing around it with some rope. Apparently, they were under the false impression that a visual barrier  would keep our cows from tumbling in. They obviously didn’t know what kind of cattle we raise–nosy, pestilential critters who gallop away with wimpy rope barriers around their horns like victory flags..unless, of course, the cow has toppled into the hole and perished, in which case, the rope barrier would be tangled sadly around the rump roast area. (The price of young, bred cows is high right now, so thankfully the wind farm outfit dug deep into their bank account and reimbursed us.)

At any rate, wind farm construction is coming on apace the past few weeks, and for those who can’t imagine how massive the wind towers are, I’ve snapped a few photos. The picture above is a nacelle that sits atop the tower and is connected to the rotor. The nacelle contains the majority of the approximately 8,000 components of the wind turbine, such as the gearbox, generator, main frame, etc. The nacelle housing is made of fiberglass and protects the internal components from the environment. The nacelle cover is fastened to the main frame, which also supports all the other components inside the nacelle. The main frames are large metal structures that must be able to withstand large fatigue loads.

Wow. I sound really smart there, don’t I? Yeah, that’s not me. I copied that description off the AWEA’s (American Wind Energy Association) website.

I haven’t got a picture of the rotor which is attached to the nacelle with three holes in it for the blades, but they are so big only one at a time is hauled on the trailers.

The next pictures are of a wind turbine blade. The truckers can’t turn these things just any-old-where, so the wind power company has built special turning places on certain roads.


The picture below is just one of the tower sections.


The turbines are set with huge cranes and it’s quite a process. Ironically enough, the wind can’t blow much at all in order for the construction guys to accomplish that job. Apparently, they don’t want those giant pieces lying in a mangled heap on top of our cows. (Which would be most unfortunate for the cows, but–greedily rubbing my hands together–a pretty good payday for us.)

And in other news, two of the grandkids, Blondie and Roper, have been learning some horsemanship skills and yesterday, for the first time, Blondie on the pony Frisco, and I on my mare, Sis, went on a ride together. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Blondie on Frisco


Roper learning to be the boss of Frisco

As always, thanks so much for reading. Throughout November, I will try to post how the NaNo 50,000 word challenge is coming along.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Southern Gospel Revival doing When They Ring Those Golden Bells.

Rough Drafts At The Ranch Pen


by EK Johnson

by EK Johnson

Danni whacking out a rough draft

There is an event for writers each November called NaNoWriMo  in which participants on Nov. 1, begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. I had planned to try that last November, but a drunk driver crashed into my son’s pickup at 85 mph+, disrupting many plans. (If you know anyone who drives drunk, do whatever it takes to stop them–the lives they ruin may be more than just their own.)

At any rate, nearly a year has passed and I’m gearing up to try NaNo again. My plan is to whack out the rough draft of the sequel to Agnes Campbell’s Hat while continuing to work on the third book in the Love Is Not Enough Series and do a bunch of other stuff, too.

Agnes Campbell’s Hat is aimed at younger readers who read books in the 35,000 word range, so depending on how the drafting process goes, I may not need to write the entire 50,000 words.

Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful. My rough drafts usually go something like this:

Melba runs into the tootntotem store. Harold I think I just saw that guy with the gun (the small mustachioed man with the orange hat?)

Harold is at chip display (pork rinds?) sullen look.

Why are you just standing there, Harold? Chop, chop. (is she trying to figure out why Harold’s mad? Argument over cracked iPhone screen again? Losing the dog?) (Look up what kind of dog from last book) What’s your problem Harold? Did u not sleep again?

Not after you dug your toe into my shin at three o’clock.

Melba stares. What’s he talking about?

You  woke me up doin’ this–Harold makes grinding toe motion–on my leg. Figured I was breathin on you or something. only got two or three minutes sleep after that.

Melba: Dug into you with my toe? (Is he kidding? The guy with toenails like daggers?)  I know nothing of this so called toe incident, Harold. Do you seriously think I wouldn’t just–makes jabbing elbow motion–and tell you to quit breathing on me?

Harold scowls? You got up and went to the bathroom after that.

Well, the clues are really falling into place, now, Harold. sarcastic You know what this reminds me of? That time I was talking in my sleep*–Melba looks over his shoulder at small guy holding gun coming out bathroom? Harold duck, she yells

Then the poison dart hits her in the forehead? Harold thinks, serves her right now she knows how I feel after toe incident?

What if the gunman rips off his hat and he’s a woman with a mustache? Real? fake? Harold suddenly remembers a recurring nightmare about a man with a little mustache? His mother? Did they think she died a long time ago from the freak farm accident? begins to suspect he was adopted?

What does Harold actually need in scene? Resolution from pain of his past? New cell phone so he catches podcast about missing mob boss for next chapter? Just pork rinds? 

And, on and on.

*Parts of Harold and Melba’s conversation may, or may not, have actually occurred one morning before breakfast. Some names may have been changed to protect the guilty.

I might not have many brain cells left for blogging in November, but we’ll see how it goes. As always, thank you so much for reading what I write. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Phillips, Craig & Dean doing You Are God Alone.

Only One Squirrel Had To Die At The Ranch Pen

Lunar Eclipse September 27

Lunar Eclipse images of September 27,  via daughter-in-law #1

While some Republicans have been watching the crowded field of hopeful presidential contenders with bated breath, Gramps and I have been just trying to live life, get our wheat planted, calves weaned,  watch lunar eclipses with our dogs, and so forth. We haven’t really made up our minds which of the hopeful Republicans we want to win, but we’ve agreed it’s not the one who looks like a squirrel crawled onto his head and died.

As I was saying, Gramps and I sat outside on the balmy night of the lunar eclipse and shared some popcorn with the dogs while we watched. Our daughter-in-law #1 took the awesome photos above. I took the one below.

Nellie, who is not really into moon gazing but is certainly an avid popcorn eater

Wheat planting time has arrived in the southern plains. We don’t grow wheat for grain anymore, but have been sowing winter wheat and triticale seed for grazing cattle through the winter.

The nephew, AH, loading seed treated with pesticide

Gramps supervising

Gramps supervising



Pasture already coming up. It’s a pretty sight to us

Gramps is a man of many talents and pretty handy to have around. He built a new corral, cow shed, and sorting pens on one of our farms this summer, which we got to try out this week as we sorted cows and weaned their calves. I took this short clip of Gramps freeing a heifer from where she had poked her head through the fence and couldn’t get it back out. He is not hitting her; he hit the bar beside her to give her some room to remove her head. The beautiful, new sorting pen is now bent.

Giant Brain–as I call her, now–is the one stirring up dust as she tries to shake off her bad experience.

We moved the weaned calves to another farm where Son #2 and Gramps ran them through the chute. The heifers got off with ear-tagging and treatment for parasites and flies, but the bull calves had the unhappy experience of getting separated from their…er…bull stuff.

My favorite shot of Git’R’Done, Ladybug, Son #2, and Roper waiting to run the calves through the chute

I’ve gotta git this time, but as always, thank you for checking out our slice of life from southwest Oklahoma. God bless all y’all and enjoy the guys of Alabama doing an awesome job on The Old Rugged Cross. 

Redneck Chicks At The Ranch Pen

In spite of my dark mutterings about hatchets and stew pots, my old hens have decided to mostly retire from the egg laying business and devote themselves to pursuing the stray grasshopper and luxuriating in dust baths. With all costs factored in, Gramps and I have been paying about twenty dollars a dozen for our eggs.

Seized by thrift and a hunger for eggs, I forgot how busy my schedule is at this time and shot off an order to Ideal Hatcheries in Texas–the surprise special, a grab bag of chicken breeds at a discounted price. The last surprise special I ordered grew up to be the worst laying hens ever and I had promised myself NEVER to be surprised like that again. Unfortunately for me as a middle-aged person, the memory ain’t what it used to be and I forgot what I had promised myself. The upside is, when the pullets start laying next spring, I can hide my own Easter eggs.

Hmmm…what was I talking about? Oh, yeah.

I had ordered a surprise and that is just what I got. For those who don’t know, you can actually get your chickens in the mail, but the mail carrier either isn’t allowed to haul them around in his car like the Beverly Hillbillies, or else he doesn’t want to listen to them cheeping, so at daybreak one day, the young lady at the post office called, wanting me to pick up my chicks. Surprise! Because I had forgotten the little gals were coming, they were essentially like the dove Noah sent out from the ark–they had no rest for the soles of their feet. Other than their small shipping box.

The pullets took up emergency shelter in the laundry basket in our house, but I needed to do laundry. The chicks had to change residences and the only place that was going to be protected enough was inside the hens’ run where raccoons couldn’t reach them. However, the hens posed as much threat as the ‘coons. Some people who aren’t around animals impart human emotions to them, which is usually a mistake. Lots of animals are just hard-down mean and old hens are some of the meanest. Most of the time, a helpless, human baby can be placed in a group of humans in safety, but baby chicks amongst the hens? No. The old hens will peck them to death. Chickens are where the term “pecking order” comes from, I believe, and newly hatched chicks from the Ideal Hatchery of Texas are WAY down in the pecking order–in fact, they look like chicken nuggets to the hens.

Aside from the danger mean, old biddies pose to them, newly hatched chicks have a need for heat. In nature, they are protected beneath their mother’s wings where it is just the right temperature. Ideal Hatchery chickens have to have a heat lamp or they will bunch up seeking warmth until they actually suffocate and trample each other. Their heat lamp can’t be in just any old place, either. If the hens can reach it, they will peck the bulb and break it, or–like the giant-brained hen I had one time–they might stand beneath it until it melts their feathers. In addition to heat, the young chicks need plenty of special feed, called chick starter, and fresh water–which they will not get if the old hens have access to it.

As a result, I sent out an emergency call to the nieces, JA, and TL, who in true good-hearted redneck girl fashion, rushed to help me whack together the shelter you see above, using old wire gates, pallets, paneling, truck tire rims, bungees, zip ties, wire, and feed sacks. We were proud of our building skills until we realized the little puffball chicks didn’t have enough guts (literally) for the wire barriers to prove an impediment to their freedom–they squeezed right through the holes. We spent a lot of time racing around, trying to capture the runaways, giggling while we darted this way and that with old hens squawking and scattering. We had a wonderful time and eventually got most of the holes plugged up by leaning old boards against them.

The chick on the right is making its gutless escape through the wire

Aw. Maybe that’s why I keep ordering the surprise specials.

All that trouble to eventually get this:

And finally just for fun, Danni’s nemesis, THE GREY HEN who flies like an airplane (almost) and eats eggs as fast as the other hens lay them while never bothering to lay one herself:

As always, thanks so much for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy one of my favorites of David Wesley’s, Whom Shall I Fear.