Saturday, November 18, 2017

Adoption Story #4

WHO WANTS TO ADOPT A LITTLE BOY -- A Widow, with six children, has a LITTLE BOY, 8 years old, that she would like some respectable person to ADOPT. Inquire of Mrs. Michell, No. 471 Houston-st, corner of the Bowery.
Mrs. Michell buried her face in her hands and sobbed. She had tried so hard---so very hard to make ends meet. She had failed. She knew she wouldn’t be able to support her five children with the meager income she made from cleaning houses. Her eight year old son was growing fast, and he needed to eat! She had been in emotional turmoil, torn between what her child needed and what she needed. She finally resigned herself to her fate. Her youngest son, James, would be going up for adoption.
“James, some very nice people will be taking you on a trip for a while. You’ll have fun and you won’t even have time to miss me before we are back together.” She forced a cheerful smile and laugh.
James’s eyes shone with trust. “Yes, ma’am.”
With those two little words, Mrs. Michell’s heart broke. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Photo Friday: Christmas Story-Writing Challenge

Prize: journal, bookmark, and pen
 Who wants to win a journal, a glossy horse bookmark, and a Circle C pen, with which to write in your journal? Below is a writing challenge . . . just in time for Christmas.

If you remember the other photo challenge (Go HERE and scroll down to see the Valentine POV contest and the June 2016 contest for samples), then you'll know I'll have some fun prizes for the best story. Also, the story will be used as a freebie for my email subscribers in a future mailing some year (I have a story for this Christmas. Stay tuned.)

Contest Ends December 20. Send your entries to I need at least ten entries to run the contest. If I receive a lot of entries, I'll award a prize to two winners: one for the Milestones picture and another journal, bookmark, and pen for the Stepping Stones story. Have fun!

Here's how it works: Choose one of the pictures below and write a 1,000 to 3,000 word Christmas-type story. (Or write one for each picture and improve your chances!) I will have one of my awesome contest judges read and decide. I'll read them all too, but I like to have outside judges because it's so hard to choose!

PICTURE ONE Circle C Milestones:Yep, that's Andi in front, but she's not riding Shasta. Why not? And who is that heavyset fellow following her? More importantly . . . who is that blond woman bringing up the rear? And where is Riley? Where are the rest of Andi's family? And what are they doing way up above the snowline in the Sierras? 

PICTURE TWO Circle C Stepping Stones: What in the world is Andi doing in the middle of a snowy woods all alone? Or is she alone? How did she get here? Where is she headed? Is it a fun tumble in the snow with her friends or something dangerous? You decide!


 Happy Writing!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Adoption Ad Stories #3

And the stories keep rolling in! This one is from Sadie.

WANTED -- [someone] to ADOPT a lovely and interesting female INFANT, five months old. The mother is left a widow, and not able to support it. Apply at the Employment Society, No. 13 Bible House, for a week. Ask for Catharine.    

Catharine stared at the newspaper ad in her hand and, after a moment, let it drop to the floor.

The baby was sleeping in the other room. Catharine still hadn’t named her, as most suggested it would be better if the new family chose the name for their adopted daughter. But she’s my daughter.

A single tear coursed down Catherine’s cheek and she hastily brushed it away. She couldn’t let Martha see her crying, she’d only scold. “The babe will have a better life, Catharine, you know that!”

Catharine did know.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Adoption Ad Stories #2

Grace C. wrote a story to go along with the little boy whom someone placed an ad for to be adopted.
WHO WANTS TO ADOPT A LITTLE BOY -- A Widower, with six children, has a LITTLE BOY, 8 years old, that he would like some respectable person to ADOPT. Inquire of Mrs. Michell, No. 471 Houston-st, corner of the Bowery. 
Home Sweet Home

            “Be a good boy, Henry,” my mother said, coughing hard into her handkerchief. My father looked at her worriedly.
            “There, Rachel,” he said, adjusting the pillows behind her.
            “Be a good boy,” my mother said in her weak, raspy voice, “and mind your sister.” She smiled at me, a tear trickling down her cheek. She began to cough once more.
            “That just what I was afraid of, Rachel. Don’t speak anymore,” my father pleaded.  She shook her head.
            “Mary, help your father.” 
             My mother leaned back onto her pillows and closed her eyes.
            “Go on, now, children.” Mrs. Michell, who had come to look after us while Mother was sick, herded us out of the room. My sister Mary was crying.
            “Mary,” I asked, the thought dawning on me for the first time, “is Mother going to die?” 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Adoption Ad Stories

A couple of you rose to the challenge and wrote stories about the pictures of children put up for adoption in the 1800s. They are very heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.
First up is a story by Emmalee regarding this picture and ad. (I will post the other story tomorrow.)
WANTED -- [someone] to ADOPT a lovely and interesting female INFANT, five months old. The mother is left a widow, and not able to support it. Apply at the Employment Society, No. 13 Bible House, for a week. Ask for Catharine.   

         Five-month-old Clara Davis looked up at her mother with curious eyes.  Catharine, Clara’s mother looked over at her and her other five children. The children’s father had passed away leaving Catharine with nothing to support all her children. She would have to do something that she had tried to never think about much less talk about with her children. However today was the day Catharine had to decide. She looked at each of her children with love and pride. When Catharine made her decision, she put each of the children to bed and sat thinking about the hard day to come. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Slice of Life - 17

This entry shows the truth of the Proverbs, “Pride goeth before destruction . . .” 

Destruction of peaches, that is.

Like I wrote in my previous entry, I was feeling mighty proud of myself. I’d skinned those beautiful golden orbs. I cut them in half. I dug out the unsightly peach pit. I packed the halves one on top of another until the jar was full of sticky, sweet fruit.  

Yes sirree, how hard could it be to watch seven jars boil? 

Mother showed me how to use the long-handled, pincher-like jar lifter to pick up the jars and lower them into the simmering water.

This looked easy as pie. 

“Make sure you keep that water boiling good and hard,” Mother instructed. “It can’t cool down. And keep a finger length of water over the top of the jars.“ Then she turned aside and left me to my task. 

The simmering water was smooth as glass. Little tendrils of steam rose. It wasn’t boiling so I took Mother’s words to heart. I stoked up the cook stove (I’m very good at that) and got the fire hotter. 

It wasn’t but a few minutes until the water began to turn over in a nice, rolling boil. Perfect! No peaches would go bad after boiling int his cauldron!

Pleased as punch with myself, I latched on to the first jar and lifted it high. I lowered it into the water as quick as I could in order to get them all boiling at the same time. 

I heard a quiet “pop” over the sound of the sizzling water. Hmmm, what was that? No matter. The jar looked fine. I went after another one. 

Soon, seven lovely jars of peaches were boiling away. I put the large lid on top and checked the time. While the peaches boiled, I went back to filling jars and eating peaches. 

Canning peaches was not that difficult. So far, I had not made one mistake. Wouldn’t Riley be proud? And Mother too. 

I kept the fire stoked, and barely noticed the sweat dripping down the back of my neck. Two dozen jars of processed peaches stood in rows on the counter like proud soldiers. Seven more would soon join them. 

When exactly thirty minutes had passed, I grabbed the jar lifter and lifted the canner’s lid. The water was boiling along. 

I picked up the first jar by its lid and—

Splash! Hot water jumped out at me. Ouch! The jar came up with the jar lifter, but the peaches did not. They tumbled around in the boiling water; some floated near the top. The jar was empty--and--missing its bottom?

I was so shocked I just stood there staring at my jar lifter and the empty jar. The bottom of the jar really was missing. Gone. Vanished.  

What in the world? I set the broken jar aside and went after the next full one in the canner. 

Splash! I was left holding another empty jar. More peaches joined the others. 
I caught my breath. This couldn't be happening! 

I glanced at the rows of cooling peaches. The bottoms had not fallen out of Mother’s jars. Or Ellie’s.  

I looked into the canner. The five remaining jars stood up straight. They looked perfect. 

I did not feel very confident now, but the jars must come out. I pinched the top of another jar, squeezed my eyes shut, and carefully lifted it from the water.

At last! The jar looked fine. I let out a sigh of relief and carried it over to the others. Then I fished around for the next jar. It too came up with the lifter. Then splash, splash, splash, the last three jars came up empty.  

I peeked behind my shoulder. So far, Mother and Ellie had not seen this little drama playing out. They were peeling and pitting peaches.“M-mother,” I stammered, holding the last empty jar.

She turned around. Ellie turned too and gasped. She clapped a hand over her mouth. 
“My heavens!” Mother exclaimed and hurried over. “How many jars—”

She broke off when she saw two full jars of peaches and five empty, bottomless jars. “Andrea!” Her breath came out in a whoosh.

“Oh, Mother, what did I do wrong?” I felt near to tears. This was so humiliating.

Ellie joined Mother and me at the cook stove. The water continued to bubble merrily. The peaches rolled and floated.

All those peaches! Five jars full! I slumped, defeated. What a waste!

Mother wrinkled her forehead. “Did you put the jars into the simmering water before you stoked the fire?”

I shook my head. “You told me to make sure the water was boiling good and hard. I got it boiling then put the jars in.”

“Oh, dear,” Mother said in a quiet voice. “I’m sorry, Andrea. I thought you knew not to put a glass jar into boiling water. It needs to heat up slowly.”

No, actually I didn't know that. But I knew how to lasso and help in a troubled foaling. Did that count? Probably not in this case. I took a deep breath. Well, live and learn. I would never make that mistake again. The funny thing was that these jars hadn’t broken on impact. Those sneaky things had quietly popped out their bottoms but held together the whole time they were boiling. Just waiting to surprise me when I removed them.

Oooh! It would have been a thousand times better to see the first jar break when it first touched the water. I would have at least been on my guard.

But these five jars had taken me completely by surprise.

This disaster put us behind. Mother and I fished the rest of the peaches. “It’s not a total waste, sweetheart,” she tried to comfort me. “We will rinse the peaches well to make sure no glass particles stuck to them, and then we can make a lovely peach cobbler for supper.”

I nodded, but peach cobbler didn’t sound very good just then.

The huge enamel water bath canner had to be dumped out and refilled with water. Then began the long, long wait to bring the water up to simmering for the next bath. It took about an hour. Sigh.

Ellie rinsed the peaches, and I fished out the five jar bottoms. It was the most peculiar thing. Each bottom fit perfectly onto its matching jar. No cracks. No splinters. I shook my head. Those traitorous jars!

No, I corrected. This was my own fault. 

The next time I looked at the clock it was six o’clock. I was dead tired. And still not hungry.

Riley came home to a kitchen overflowing with sticky counters, a sticky table, peach peelings, crocks of peach pits, and four dozen jars of peaches.
Oh, and a peach cobbler Mother had whipped up.

“It smells wonderful in here,” Riley said smiling, and helped himself to a huge dish of cobbler. “Don’t worry about supper,” he told me. “I ate with the hands. I knew you’d be done in after all this peach business.”

I love that man!

Perhaps tomorrow things will go better. We put up a little over half of the bushels. Ellie and Mother have promised to return. I think I’ll know what I’m doing by then.

Practice makes perfect! 


Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's 1856. You are poor, your husband has just died; or perhaps your wife has died, leaving you with many children. What do you do? Well, you put one or two of the kids up for adoption in the local newspaper's Want Ads! Mrs. M is not making this up. Desperate times. Desperate people.

Here are two actual want ads for little children from 1856. So sad!

WANTED -- [someone] to ADOPT a lovely and interesting female INFANT, five months old. The mother is left a widow, and not able to support it. Apply at the Employment Society, No. 13 Bible House, for a week. Ask for Catharine.  

WHO WANTS TO ADOPT A LITTLE BOY -- A Widower, with six children, has a LITTLE BOY, 8 years old, that he would like some respectable person to ADOPT. Inquire of Mrs. Michell, No. 471 Houston-st, corner of the Bowery. 
Would you like to write a story to go with any of these want ads? If you do write a story about one (or both) of them, I'll post it. Give the child a name, and in your story make sure you tell what happens to the little boy or the little girl. How did he feel? Was the little boy scared? What's his name? Who adopted him? Was his new family kind? Or, what happened to the mother of the baby girl? Did she try to get her baby back when she found a job? Oh, there are so many possibilities! 

If you do write a story, e-mail it to me so I can post it.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Photo Fridays: Andi's (Modern) Ranch!

Exciting news. Mrs. M's daughter, husband, and eight kids are moving to California. And not just anyplace in California. The valley foothills between Merced and Mariposa.

This is Circle C ranch country. Kristel sent Mrs. M pictures of their new five-acre mini horse ranch when they were buying it, and Mrs. M wrote back, "It's the Circle C ranch!"

Best news (but not so good for you readers): This week Mrs. M is helping them move down from NW Washington to Merced. They left yesterday, Thursday. (This means Mrs. M might be "off the grid" for a week or two).

It's in the 80s down there (it snowed all day on Saturday in Washington). She cannot wait to dig out her shorts and explore the ranch! There is even a creek (seasonal, I'm sure) nearby, so Mrs. M gave Kevan her gold pan.

Go, young man! Find gold!

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Slice of Life - 16

Sometimes the days seem to stretch out forever into long, endless days of nothing new or exciting to do. Helping Riley turns those days into a little adventure. Or even romping in the hills with Shasta. I like those days better than some of the other, more challenging moments. 

Like today.

Today was one of those moments that made my head spin back into the past. A very hot and unpleasant past. A past where—whether I wanted to or not—I was stuck indoors with Melinda, Mother, Luisa, and Nila peeling about a thousand apples for applesauce and apple butter and dried apples and . . . 

Even the smell of apples makes me remember those autumn days. I thought I was done with all that. But nope. 

Mother is determined to make sure I am not lacking in all of those housewife skills Melinda just comes by naturally. Today was one of those days when life seemed determined to give me a new challenge. Even if it’s not one I particularly want. 

And when the temperature is about ten degrees less than the blacksmith’s forge, the challenge is even more severe. 

That’s how today went. It wasn’t applesauce (I reckon Mother figured I knew all about applesauce), but peaches. 

Now, I love peaches. I love that the Circle C ranch grows peaches. I casually mentioned to Mother a few days ago that I wouldn’t mind having a peck or two of fresh peaches to eat. Maybe I would dry a few in the hot, summer sun. 

Let me say something right now. If I never have to taste, see, or smell another peach, it will be too soon, and I’ll be the happiest lady this side of the Sierras.  

Why? Well, gather round. Thursday morning, before Riley and I had barely finished breakfast, a buckboard wagon rolled up. I was happy to see Mother and Ellie. They’re welcome anytime. 

I was not happy to see what they were hauling. Peaches. One dozen bushel baskets of ripe peaches, picked the day before. Do you know how big a bushel basket is? Must weigh forty pounds. Each. 

My eyes nearly fell out of my head when I saw the wagon bed. What did Mother and Ellie have in mind for those peaches? And how did I fit in?

“It’s high time you learned to preserve peaches using a water bath and jars,” Mother said. “Ellie and I brought all of the equipment—jars, lids, rubber rings to seal the contents. Even the large water bath canner.”

Gee. Thanks a lot.

I knew there was no possibility of getting so many bushels of peaches canned up in one day.

“Not to worry,” Ellie assured me. “We’ll come back tomorrow and the next day . . . until you get the hang of it.”

That would be . . . never?

Mother left no room for an argument. She wasted no time securing Riley’s help hauling the round, fuzzy balls onto the back porch. I snagged a peach as he went by and took a bite. Delicious!

Riley winked at me. “You have fun now. I’m off to check a few fences. Then Chad needed my help on a new corral project over at your place.”

“Wanna trade?” I whispered. Stretching barbed wire sounded likes heaps of fun compared to boiling water in a hot kitchen on what promised to be a scorching day.

“Not for all the gold in California.” He laughed.

Mother donned a spare apron, rolled up her sleeves, and said, “Let’s get started.”

I was to shadow her for the day, and I was fine with that. The last thing I wanted was to mess this up. The faster I learned, the faster this day (and the next) would end.

Ellie grabbed another apron and heaved one of the bushel baskets closer to the work area. For all the stories of how she’d been a rough and tumble girl in a broken down gold camp, she was miles ahead of me in the housekeeping area.

“My Aunt Rose was a good sort, but she didn’t let that part of my education go lacking,” Ellie had told me one time. “And Pa backed her up. I was outnumbered.”
Mother started washing jars.

I stood around looking silly until Ellie yanked me down beside her. She chose some peaches and said, “We’ll dip the fruit in boiling water. That makes their skins slip off slick as can be.”

Mother told me her special recipe for the sugar-syrup and go to work mixing it up. Ellie dipped peaches. I skinned, sliced in half, and pitted them. It didn’t take any kind of science. And I popped peach halves into my mouth ever so often.  

To my surprise, the morning passed quickly! Once I got the hang of it and watched the orderly process—skin peach, slice in half, pit peach, put in jar, pour syrup, place the rubber ring, seal the jar, and lower into the huge water bath canner, I got a little excited. This wasn’t so hard!
When Mother removed the first seven jars of golden-yellow peaches I grinned. 

“They’re so pretty!”

By early afternoon I was actually enjoying myself. Mother and Ellie took time to slice some bread and pour a cup of coffee for lunch, but I was not hungry at all. Too many peaches.

It was fun to work with Mother and Ellie, laughing and telling stories. It had been a long time since we’d spent an entire morning together. The only fun missing from this party was Melinda and Lucy, Justin’s wife.

Maybe stretching fence was not as much fun as this after all.


We took turns with the different steps of canning peaches. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. I figured it was time for me to move along and learn every step, including the handling of the filled jars and their boiling.

Boiling the jars was the most important step. Peaches have to boil for thirty minutes in order to kill any bacteria. (Bacteria—germs—was a relatively new idea in 1886. I was a little skeptical about disease-causing organisms nobody could see). But I followed Mother’s directions. If I didn’t, she assured me every jar of peaches would spoil.

Spoil? After all this hard work? I planned to set my eye on the clock to give the peaches I was boiling their full bath.

I should have stuck to peeling peaches . . .