Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Cooped Up: Falling for our Feathered Friends

Sometimes when you sit down to brainstorm a book, your mind goes on an odd journey... I found a photo and there was a perfect spot on the hat of the young woman where i could add something through photo editing. And being somewhat of a Victorian Era nut, I'd seen my share of add ons for a Victorian Hat and decided on a Bird... then I thought my hero could call my heroine 'Birdie' and what would make it even more fun? (At least for me) was to have a whole flock of chickens in the story!

I know a bunch of people that have chickens as part of their household and I feel a little sad and jealous when I talk to them because at the moment we are a chicken-less family. But that is neither here nor there.

When we first started to raise chickens it was because my son was a Boy Scout Camp Counselor. He was assigned to the Nature Hut and while he'd managed to capture one of the wild chickens at the camp, someone had let the chicken out and back into the wild.

What was a mom to do? I went to the local hatchery (which was conveniently about four blocks away in Kalihi, HI. The folks at the hatchery were so sweet... they gave us the whole rundown on chickens and their care and feeding and we left with some chicks that were extra from their last hatch. They went with me on the long drive up to Camp Pupukea on the North Shore of Oahu and spent about a week under a lamp for heat before they entered their big coop at the Nature Hut.

Once camp was over, my son brought them home. They were like his little babies and well, we were excited to have them at home since we were caring for my grandparents and my grandfather used to raise racing pigeons and liked the sound of birds.

Less than a month later, we started to have eggs. Eggs!  How awesome was that!

Well, part of the lesson from the hatchery was NOT to let the chickens get a taste for the eggs, because they will eat them if they get it in their head, so we learned the sound of the chickens as they laid the eggs and would rush out after we heard the fourth 'call' and use the long BBQ tongs to reach into the homemade coop and 'rescue' the eggs.

Now, all of my life, I've heard and read in books that chicks 'cheep' and chickens 'cluck' - well I'm here to challenge that notion. So much so because the four Pick-a-little ladies seemed to have three different languages. One they would use when it was just them outside. One when my mother or my son would go out to feed them. And one when I would go out to get the eggs and clean the coop.

I'm not kidding. I also will swear on any book that you want that they understood us... perhaps a little too well.

There was a week-long stretch where we only had three eggs from four chickens. Concerned for their health I went back to the hatchery. The lovely ladies there explained that if each wasn't laying an egg, there might be a blockage. So my job was to reach up INTO the egg vent and feel around for the blockage.

Okay, what?

Determined to help these babies and default members of the family, I went back to the house and sat down outside in front of the coop. I held up my hand and the four paced their way over to me. I strapped on a rubber glove that came from our endless supply of senior care items, and told the four feathered ladies that if the next day came and there were only three eggs... I would have to reach up into each of them until I found the blockage. I told them it was for their own good. It wasn't going to make me happy to do it. My son was at Band Camp and someone had to reach up in there and (yuck) take care of business.

The next morning, bright and early, I heard the chickens calling out after laying and when I went outside... we had four perfect eggs. Well goodness... wasn't that a funny twist and turn of events?

Eventually we had to leave the house in Kalihi when my grandfather passed away and our neighborhood wasn't zoned for four chickens... so we found a farm in Waimanalo that would allow the chickens to run free in the grass. So the farmer came to pick up our chickens and take them to his home.

To this day our family still misses our feathered friends. That's part of the reason why I added Chickens in "Home to Roost" It was a way to be close to them again, if only in my imagination.  It's a lot cleaner and less pecking. Still, nothing beats a cuddle from a big fluffy chicken.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

History of Tennis.

The Racquet version of the game was brought to the Americas by Mary Ewing Outerbridge 1852-1886 –born Pennsylvania. Went on vacation in Bermuda in 1874 saw two Englishmen playing tennis. The English had been playing tennis well before 1874. Fascinated with the sport. Mary purchased racquets and balls and brought them home with her to the United States.

It is suggested that the game of tennis as we know it today evolved from the ball game played by hitting the ball with the hand instead of a racquet, on monastery courtyards in France in the twelfth century. Mary created the first tennis court in America by recreated the hour-glass tennis court she’d seen in Bermuda at the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club in New York. The first game took place on February 1874. She was present at the first game and for her effort named the ‘Mother of Tennis.’

There has been some debate that Mary Ewing Outerbridge, wasn't the first to bring Tennis to the United States. That she hadn't traveled to Bermuda until 1875. And therefore couldn't have been the one to have introduced the game to America and it was in fact a man named Dr James Dwight. However official document have credited this sport in America to Mary which places her in Bermuda in 1874 and therefore was the originator.

Tennis is a sport which was received well by woman in this era and they used it as a pastime and for recreational entertainment. it was a social event enjoyed by men and woman alike and together. 

Playing the game as doubles worked well both for same gender and mixed doubles this sport in the 19th century held no gender bias. It is the same today, as a sport tennis is one of the sports which offers equal financial reward to both men and women alike. 

This is a very short and narrow overview of the complexities of the sport and its transition. However it was an interesting discovery and one I will be diving deeper into. Thanks for reading Sandra E Sinclair. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Housekeeping Tips--circa 1877

For my recent release TENDING TROUBLES that is set in 1878, I needed to research both house and sickroom cleaning methods, solutions, tools, etc., (as well as what childhood diseases had been named) to make the items used believable. I started writing a scene with the hero mopping the accumulated dust off the floor. Oops, string mops weren’t invented until the 1890s. (Whisk-brooms are mentioned) After that basic mistake, I sought out housekeeping books of the times. I think reading these has become my new hobby. (A fascinating tidbit related to the plague came to light, but you’ll have to read my novella to learn that.)

Who wouldn’t keep reading after a dedication like this from Practical Housekeeping:

Not only could a young bride learn how to cook (recipes from breadmaking to catsups to game to jelly, in addition to complete menus or bills of fare for holiday meals) she received a list of what chores needed to be done in each season. (The list was daunting and included dismantling the wooden bed frame to soak the ends in brine to keep away bedbugsbook is 478 pages long), as well as recommendations on the type of cleaners helped her achieve the correct results. The book was compiled by women and often more than one recipe existed for the household aids. Contributions to the book obviously assisted in running a household economically but also gave the homemaker food for thought or subtle admonitions along the way. In the introduction to the Housekeeping section is this statement: “If girls were taught to take as much genuine pride in dusting a room well, hanging a curtain gracefully, or broiling a steak to a nicety, as they feel when they have mastered one of Mozart’s or Beethoven’s grand symphonies, there would be fewer complaining husbands or unhappy wives.” The author lost me at ‘dusting’ because I hate that chore. But I had flashbacks to passages in The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan where she claimed women used the chores of keeping house as a dodge against not truly discovering what they could accomplish.

Or in a section titled Accidents and Sudden Illness: “It is no longer considered a mark of the highest type of the feminine mind to faint away at the smallest fright, and to sink into helplessness at the first hint of danger.” Knowing a time existed when this behavior was lauded is tough in these independent times. Reminders like this are sprinkled into the practical and helpful advice, like a female from an older generation wagging a finger as she speaks the words. I found the juxtaposition entertaining.

By reading the recipes and methods, I learned what foods, seasonings, and supplies were available at that time (at least in Ohio). Cayenne pepper being blown (with a small bellows) into cracks and crevices of a swept floor to keep away vermin surprised me. I assumed as a foreign spice that that might be expensive. Furniture made from wood veneer was available--I thought everything was solid wood. Oil cloths were often used like a carpet, painted in a colorful, and then coated with several layers of varnish before being tacked to the middle of the room. Ready-mixed paint could be purchased. Kerosene was rubbed on the skin to keep away mosquitoes. What? Both castile and gall soap are mentioned, but I couldn’t find a reference in the dictionary or Wikipedia for gall soap. Anyone know what this product was like?

A final aspect I appreciated was the Buckeye Publishing Company of Minneapolis, MN, and Marysville, OH, included an offer at the front to contract with women to sell the books. They wanted “bright, wide-awake woman, who need work that will pay liberally, no matter in what part of the country they may live.” I like seeing a company who believes in the product in that way. Maybe I’ll write a future heroine who had this job.


TENDING TROUBLES released January 29th and is the sixth book in the Lockets & Lace series (it also serves as Book 7 in the Dorado, Texas series).

Will tending Dorado’s sick children drive Doctor Reggie and his helper, Imogene, apart or draw them closer together?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

How's the Weather?


It affects us all. Gives us something to talk about. And it's important to have an idea about what tomorrow will be like if you're going fishing, hunting, or planning an expedition across the country.

Daniel Fahrenheit invented the mercury thermometer in 1714.  It wasn't enough to just say it was cold. We want to know ~ How cold is it?

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson regularly recorded the temperature.

With the advent of the telegraph, temperature taking became a recorded event along the stations. In 1870,  Congress established a system of military stations to record the weather and to give notice if bad weather were advancing from the Great Lakes and seacoast.

In 1890, the weather service was transferred to civilian control and the US Weather Bureau was born thanks to President Benjamin Harrison.

Weather has always had bouts of the wild.
In February, 1895: one of the greatest snow falls in an unusual place occurred. the coast of Texas reported snowfall of 20 inches. Galsveton had over 15. And Brownsville - way down in the tip of Texas received 5 inches.

1816 was known as the year without a summer likely due to a volcano.

The drought in the 1850's was so severe it added to the problems of the Bison and their near extinction. This and a later drought aided the locust invasion of the west.

Today, we have forecasts that reach into the future. Are they right? Weeeelll, sometimes, it might be better if they just looked out the window.

Here in Texas, where rain can be scarce, we often have a forecast of rain tomorrow. But it fails to rain and the forecast remains ~ rain tomorrow.  LOL   And I right this as it is pouring rain today.

I love to put weather events in my stories. I've had blizzards, tornadoes, heat and cold. I admit, when enduring a Texas summer, it gives me pleasure to write about snow.

Whatever your weather is, I hope you all are having a good day.