Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sidney Literary Festival - Writing Workshop for Kids

The Sidney Literary Festival is just around the corner. Do you know of any young writers who would like to join us on Saturday, October 5 for a writing workshop? Here are the basics - more details (and information about other events and workshops) on the festival website.

* Age 9 to 12 writer’s workshop with Nikki Tate 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm, Sidney Library, Nell Horth Room

Children’s writer and storyteller Nikki Tate will bring her fabulous workshop “Creating Characters who Giggle and Weep (and Keep Strange Things Under Their Bed)" to the festival. Young writers will explore techniques for creating interesting, believable characters through a series of hands-on writing exercises.

Let your young writing friends know - it's always so cool to see what the kids come up with! Youth workshops are all sponsored events, so no charge to participants. Can't beat that! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Easy answers...

Answers to some frequently asked questions:

Q: How old are you?
A: The answer, of course, is a moving target, but it's easy enough to figure out when you know I was born in 1962.

Q: Do you own a horse?
A: At the moment I have three - Bonny (the mare in the photo above), a Section D Welsh cob mare, Brio, her foal (now five years old and about the size Bonny in the picture), and Ringo, a Welsh cob/Hackney pony cross. Brio's sire was a Gypsy cob called Fiddler.

Q: Is that your natural hair colour?
A: Ok, this one isn't asked very often, but the answer is yes. I have brown hair. When I was a child my hair was blond and over the years it has become quite dark.

Thanks again to the students at Cloverdale who submitted so many good questions. I still have quite a stack to get through!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Student Questions - Answered

If you were not an author, what would you be?
When I was 10, my list of possible professions looked like this:
-horse breeder/trainer
-world traveller (I know that's not a job, but I wanted to do a lot of travelling)

In high school, my list of possible professions looked like this:
-actress or stand-up comic
-horse breeder/trainer

At univeristy, my list of possible professions looked like this:
-brain surgeon (specialty - surgical interventions for dementia and studying neurological disorders that affect personality)
-doctor of Eastern medicine
-organic farmer

After graduation, my list of possible professions looked like this:
-organic farmer

Today, I'm very happy to say that I have managed to integrate a lot of my earlier interests into my working life (except for accounting. That was a strange phase and not one I particularly enjoyed). I split my time between writing, performing, and farming. I am still very interested in healing/medicine, particularly in combining the best of western medicine with healing traditions from cultures around the world. Because I raise livestock on my farm (turkeys, chickens, ducks, horses, goats, sheep, and Large Black Hogs), I wind up doing vet stuff on a pretty regular basis, even though I never made it to vet school! A lot of my early interests also involved being self-sufficient, living off the grid, and having a homestead somewhere in a wild place in Canada.

I'm not farming on a quarter section of land that first had to cleared so I could build myself a cozy cabin, but I am doing quite a few home-steady things - milking a goat and making cheese, growing more and more of my own food, building lots of things to be used on the farm, and canning and drying the food I grow. With the help of some herbalist neighbours, I've also been experimenting with growing herbs that can be used in cooking and which also have medicinal properties. I also do a bit of yoga and meditate regularly, so in a small way I'm also continuing to explore my interest in natural healing alternatives.

When I think about it, even though I work a lot of hours every week doing all the different things I do, I love my life. In many ways I am living my dream life and that's pretty cool! 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Another student question: Do people walk up to you on the street and ask, "Oh my gosh you're Nikki Tate?" Do you like that stuff?
Technically, those are two questions. The first is easier to answer. Yes, occasionally people do recognize me, particularly when I've just done a series of school presentations in a very small town. It's inevitable that later the same day in the grocery store or local coffee shop someone will come up to me to say hello. I sometimes review books on the CBC and I've had people recognize my voice when I've been having a conversation in a public place. But big-time fame? Not so much. I can walk around most places (particularly if I keep my mouth shut) and people have no idea who I am.
As for liking or not liking it when people do recognize me, that is a bit harder question to answer. A big part of my personality is very private so it's very, very strange to me that people who have read my books or have seen me perform somewhere know a lot more about me than I know about them. I think it's pretty normal for people who have read a book or seen a performer feel like they know that person - so, it's pretty normal to walk over to say hi. Once I get over the shock of an encounter like that, of course it's very cool to know people are out there reading and enjoying my books. I've met some really interesting people I never would have met otherwise, which appeals to a different side of my personality, the part that is very gregarious and loves people! There is nothing quite so much fun as a great chat with stranger. Even better is when that stranger becomes a friend. Those surprising connections are some of the delights in my life!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

More Student Questions

How long does it take you to come up with your books?
That depends. Some books seem to flow pretty easily - others are more painful (and slow, frustrating, and unpleasant) to finish. One of the books that took the longest to write was Grandparents' Day - and that's my shortest book! On average, though, it takes about three months for me to do the first draft of a novel. After that, depending on how many changes the editor suggests, it can take another year or so to do all the re-writing. Sometimes things go more smoothly and the rewriting is done much more quickly. After everyone is happy with the text, the production team goes to work on the book. Design, layout, proofreading, and cover design and artwork all take time - so it can easily be two or three years from the moment when I wake up with an idea for a new book until the day I actually get to hold a new book in my hands. Patience is definitely a virtue in this business! I might add that those timelines only apply to books that actually get accepted for publication. I have several that I've written, but which have not yet found homes with a publisher.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Student Questions - Answered!

This week I had the pleasure of spending some time with students at Cloverdale Traditional School in Victoria. And a pleasure it was, indeed, in no small part to the fantastic preparation done by classroom teachers and Sarah Mcleod, teacher-librarian extraordinaire!! It makes such a difference when students have had a chance to look over my books, talk about them in class, have something read aloud... Every child also had to think up a question for me, each of which was written on a slip of paper. I received the stack of questions ahead of time, which was handy as I was able to answer a couple that wouldn't normally have been covered in the presentations.

Each talk does cover a lot of ground, but there were a few questions we didn't get to, so I thought I'd post some student questions (and my best effort at answers) here on the blog over the next little while. Here goes with the first couple:

What is your favourite colour?

The tulips in my garden come in
some pretty spectacular colours!
This should be a simple question, but my favourite colour changes with the seasons. In the spring, I cannot get enough of the various shades of pink that grace the different varieties of cherry and plum trees here in Victoria. Driving into town the other day, I noticed the very first pale blossoms starting to appear! That means the glorious pink blossoms on the trees at our place won't be far behind. I also love the deep crimson red colour that I see all the time in the barnyard - the colour of rooster combs and the fleshy bits on the heads and throats of my tom turkeys. There is a very particular intense blue of a hot summer sky that I adore. Maybe because all those bright colours are so, well, bright, my favourite colour of clothing is black.

Do you like turtles?
Certainly. What's not to like about turtles? As an animal lover, I can't actually think of an animal I don't like. Except for mosquitoes, perhaps - though even those nasty little nibblers provide feasts for other, much lovelier creatures like bats and barn swallows. What I like most about turtles is the way they look (some of those shell patterns are works of art, don't you think?) and the way they deeply appreciate the warmth of the sun. I love how they crawl up out of the water and snooze on logs or rocks... I am also very impressed by the turtles that dig holes in the sand where they bury their eggs. That's pretty cool. One of my favourite stories is the one about the turtle and the hare. The idea that slow and steady wins the race certainly applies to anyone who ever hopes to finish a book!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wearing Another Hat

My primary profession might be 'author,' but it turns out I wind up doing various other things as well. Some of my other jobs, like making video trailers for other writers' books, are really cool/fun/challenging and creative in their own right. Earlier this fall I travelled to the Slocan Valley in the Kootenays to shoot footage to be used to promote Margo Talbot's soon-to-be-released memoir, All That Glitters. Margo was a great sport, putting on her climbing equipment, perching on boulders, and repeating her 'elevator speech' about a gazillion times. The footage (and additional audio) we collected over three days will eventually become a series of video interviews and podcasts. Here's the first one, a video trailer for All That Glitters.

Curious about the Slocan Valley? Check out this book by BC author, Katherine Gordon. 

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Venom Nominated for a Chocolate Lily Award!

Well this is quite exciting news! Venom has been nominated for a Chocolate Lily award! This blurb is from the website:

The Chocolate Lily Awards began with a desire to encourage B.C. grade school children to read books by authors and illustrators living in British Columbia. After seven years, Chocolate Lily has grown into a nationally recognized book awards program.

By exposing children to the best of B.C. fiction and introducing them to the creators of these quality books, we hope to ignite a passion for reading that will last a lifetime. 

The Chocolate Lily is a real indigenous flower that grows in woodland areas along the west coast of B.C. but no where else in Canada. 
Karen Ehrenholz
Teacher, Founder of Chocolate Lily 

Best of luck to all the nominees and happy reading to all the participants!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Orca Book Launch

Come One, Come All to Tall Tales Books

On Saturday, May 15, Orca will launch three of its spring 2010 titles at Tall Tales Books, a wonderful children’s bookstore in Victoria, BC. Robin Stevenson, Sylvia Olsen and Mike Deas will be on hand to sign copies of their latest books for readers ages 7–12.
In Ben’s Robot by Robin Stevenson, Ben discovers that having a bossy friend isn’t that much fun, even if it is a real walking, talking robot.
Sylvia Olsen’s A Different Game, is the sequel to Murphy and Mousetrap. Murphy and his three friends are nervous about trying out for the soccer team at their new school, but a diagnosis of leukemia proves more challenging than anything they encounter on the field.
Food Fight is the fifth installment in the popular Graphic Guide Adventures series, all written by Liam O’Donnell and illustrated by Mike Deas. In this exciting story, Devin and Nadia stumble upon a conspiracy involving genetically modified food and unscrupulous scientists. (Visit the Food Fight website for resources, games and other fun, free stuff.)
Come meet the authors, get your books signed and watch a drawing demo from artist Mike Deas. Or, just drop by for a snack!
Event details:
Venue: Tall Tales Books, 795 Fort Street, Victoria, BC
Date and time: Saturday, May 15, 3:00PM
Exciting folks you’ll get to meet: Robin Stevenson, Sylvia Olsen, Mike Deas

Friday, March 12, 2010

Paralympic Torch Hand-off

How cool is this? Sascha (my youngest brother) handed off the Paralympic flame to Dani (my daughter) on top of Whistler Mountain on the weekend during the torch relay. The day was glorious - brilliant blue skies, fluffy white clouds, and a fresh sprinkling of powdery snow...

Very cool! We're heading over to Vancouver for the Opening Ceremonies tonight and then back to Whistler on the weekend to cheer on our para athletes in some sure-to-be-thrilling downhill events.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Work on the Go

Work on the go – again. Well, you can take the writer out of her office, but you can’t take the office away from the writer. Thank goodness Dani also lives in a world ruled by deadlines. Here we are enjoying some of Seattle’s great coffee opportunities while diligently working on our latest projects.

Dani is busy putting together the new issue of BAB [link] and I’m hard at work on the latest rewrite of Fallout. When I get tired of that, I switch to another nifty project – working with Diane at Sono Nis Press to update the Sono Nis website.

Ferry terminal, waiting for our ride to Bainbridge Island: \

(snacking on amazing leftovers from our dinner last night at Wild Ginger - FABULOUS restaurant in Seattle...)

We’ve been having a great time in Seattle – more on our destinations in another post – and now find ourselves aboard a ferry bound for Bainbridge Island. Great, roomy tables, perfect for – working!
Upon arriving...

...we sought out a great local coffee shop

so we could... yes... do a bit more work...

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I’ve never made a pilgrimage to a place mentioned in a novel – at least, not before our trip to Seattle. Having recently read Jamie Ford's Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet I was curious to visit the area now known as Chinatown/International District. One of the locations featured prominently in the book is the Panama Hotel – in particular, the tea room and the basement where Japanese families about to be shipped off to internment camps stored their personal belongings.

Just like in the book, these possessions were discovered after the old hotel was purchased. The current owner installed a see-through panel in the floor of the tearoom. It’s haunting to look down into the basement to see the stacks of stuff left behind.

Leaving Dani to do a bit of homework in the tea room, I headed off to the Wing Luke Asian Museum. I was particularly interested in seeing a display mentioned in my guidebook – a recreation of one of the horse stalls at the Puyallup Fairgrounds that was converted to living quarters for a displaced Japanese family (again, important in the book). Alas, “Camp Harmony D-4-44” was not rebuilt when the museum moved into new digs in 2008.

The current display case and video of stories told by Japanese Americans who had to endure this dark chapter in US history is moving, but I don’t think it has quite the same impact as seeing the teeny quarters assigned to the families while they waited for the construction of internment camps father inland.

That said, the Wing Luke Asian Museum is excellent and I’m glad I checked it out.

Another pilgrimage I’m glad we made was to the Elliott Bay Bookstore. We were lucky enough to visit this fabulous, meandering, wood-floored, homey and packed-to-the-rafters-with-great-books shop while it was still in its old location. According to the website, this Seattle landmark has to move in order to survive. We could easily have spent the whole day lost in the stacks, but forced ourselves to move on after a respectable amount of time.

Seattle’s love affair with books couldn’t be better highlighted than in the amazing public library.
Rem Koolhaas, the Dutch architect, did a remarkable job on this oh-so-very-cool structure. We had a good wander around inside, checking out things like the in-floor way-finding system (the Dewey Decimal numbers are huge and easy to see), the way the main collection spirals up the core of the building, the incredible kids’ section – the awesome auditorium area. No matter which direction one points a camera, there’s some interesting visual combination of light, sky, angles, and Seattle buildings. Definitely worth a visit!

Friday, February 05, 2010


Awwww... look who was in our hotel room when we arrived!
Meet Lucia!

The hotel room at the Monaco in Seattle comes complete with a pet! How very cool is that? Provision of a goldfish is part of the hotel's Guppy Love program and is intended to provide guests with "the perfect kind of companionship, relaxed and quiet." True enough - so far Lucia hasn't made a sound.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

At Sea - Somewhere Between Here and There

I’m writing this somewhere in the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Vancouver Island and Seattle.

It’s pitch dark outside and every now and then the captain of the Clipper swerves, tipping me sideways before we straighten out again. When we were puttering out of the Victoria's Inner Harbour, the captain announced that when we were moving around the cabin (the Clipper is a large, fast catamaran-style passenger ferry) we were to keep one hand for ourselves, and one for the ship. As in, hang on! He explained that the waters around here are full of debris – logs, mostly – and that they do their best to dodge around such obstacles.

We’re moving pretty fast – the trip from Victoria to Seattle takes less than three hours – so my question is, how the heck do they see logs in the pitch dark? Or whales? Or small boats? Or people who may have fallen overboard? Not that over-boarders would last long enough in these chilly waters to be considered obstacles, but still.

Why, you may ask, am I on the Clipper heading for Seattle? A weekend in Seattle with Dani was her Christmas present for me! Such a lovely child, hey? The fact I’m heading off to meet her to have a few days of fun in a cool city (at least, this is what I am told – I can’t quite believe it, but I’ve never actually been to Seattle - driven through many, many times, but have never stopped there before…) is appeasing me slightly. Dani will be meeting me there after having spent the last ten days or so in California. Highlight of her trip? Attending the Grammy Awards!!!!!!! I am, obviously, quite a bit older than she is and yet – I have not been to anything even remotely so glitzy and cool as the Grammys. Grammies. Whatever. If I had been, I would know how to spell it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Working in Paradise

One of the (many) great things about my line of work is that I'm completely portable. Here in Hawaii (where various family members have gathered for Christmas), Dani and I have been finding pleasant shady spots where we set up our virtual offices. When we need a break, the pool is just a few feet away...

Life doesn't get much better...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Lovely Review from the Globe and Mail!

Wow... this was a very nice way to start the day!

Laura Robinson

Reviewed here: Razor's Edge, by Nikki Tate
  Razor's Edge is fun to read because the teenage boys in it are forced to confront very difficult situations at Blackdown Park, where they own Three Muskateers, a team of Standardbred harness racing horses. The friends have scraped some money together and organized their time efficiently enough to have their own little racing business, and to go to school. Their days start before sunrise at the stables and end well after sunset: There is no end to the tasks associated with trying to realize their dream.

But that dream gets derailed when it is clear someone is stealing precious things from the stables, the horses don't perform as well as the boys hope, they're not making any money and narrator Travis finds that making out with Sassy feels better than hanging out with his best friends/business partners.

Razor's Edge, by Nikki Tate, Orca Books, 163 pages, $9.95
Add a serious bout of racism as Jasper, the one partner who is First Nations, gets accused of being a thief, plus fist fights between best friends, domestic violence and alcoholism, and you have the lives of way too many kids.

Author Nikki Tate writes a flawless teenage tale. There is no black, no white; just, as is the case in life, only shades of confusing and complicated grey wound around hearts and hormones.

“Sassy's breath is warm and soft on my neck. She presses a gentle kiss against my throat and then another a little higher up. Her fingertips brush the bruises on my cheeks so softly I barely feel her touch. Another kiss and then another and then her lips find mine. By the time I finally pull free my truck windows are completely fogged up.”

Remind you of anyone? What teenager won't have to confront a broken heart and a dream changed to nightmare because of poverty and domestic violence? How timely this novel is as the latest report from Campaign 2000 tells us one in 10 children in Canada lives below the poverty line.

Even though Tate gathers up the loose ends in the final chapter, we see that some characters will understand life in a deeper and more meaningful way while others will become the collateral damage. Tate offers hope and sadness, not as a solution but as reality.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Come One, Come All!

This Saturday (November 28), come join a whole slew of BC authors and illustrators who will be attending the CWILL-BC Kids' Book Bash! Prizes, trivia quizzes, craft activities, snacks, and, of course, a chance to meet and chat with lots of kids book creators!

The confirmed authors include: Robin Stevenson, Sylvia Olsen, Kit Pearson, Eric Wilson, Sarah Harvey, Diana Bonder, Dan Bar-el, Jeff Rud, Andrea Spalding, Beryl Young, Margriet Ruurs, Sheri Radford, Diane Silvey, Fiona Bayrock, Val Wyatt, Julie Lawson, Nikki Tate, Laura Langston, Pamela Porter, Penny Draper, Bev Cooke, Della Burford, Sheryl McFarlane, Constance Horne, and Laura Trunkey...

Where: Fairfield Community Place, 1330 Fairfield Road (beside Sir James Douglas School at the corner of Fairfield and Moss in Victoria)
When: Saturday, November 28 1:30-4:00pm
What: Kids' Book Bash

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Great Weekly Poetry Challenge

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Every week Jane and I set each other a poetry challenge. This week we chose one from the Poets and Writers website. Our instructions were to:
Go to a used clothing store and choose a piece of clothing that you are drawn to or repelled by. Wear the item and a channel a poem from it. 
Given the treasures we found (my bowling shirt reads, "Bowl to Keep in Shape"), it's pretty obvious that our poems were going to be very different! Feeling like a challenge yourself? Have a look at the P&W website and have a go - you never know what might you might come up with!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Meanwhile... back at the farm

Though things have been quiet over here on this blog, the Dark Creek Chronicles farm blog has been busy, busy, busy. I supposed part of that has to do with the fact that fall on the farm is crazy busy, so there's always stuff to write about. And, maybe it's easier to write about life on the farm than it is to come up with something new to say about the writing of books biz.

Razor's Edge is out (yay!) - and, despite the oddness of the cover colour when I upload the image, it matches Venom very nicely in real life. There should have been a third book to round out the set, but you know me and trilogies - I can't seem to count to three. And by the way, for readers who send nasty letters suggesting ways they'd like to see me suffer for my crime of not yet having finished the third of the Estorian Chronicles series, your names have been duly noted. Watch for yourselves in a torture chamber in a future book. As for Jo in that other series without a conclusion, rest assured she is doing well up in Barkerville, making way more money than I am here.

As for the most recent missing third volume, Broken, nothing about that book is proceeding as per the plan. And that includes the title, which is no longer Broken but is now either Awake Enough to Know or maybe Unintended Consequences or perhaps Some Kind of Normal or possibly Lifting the Weight. Not only does the book no longer have a title, it has morphed from a short, upbeat, straightforward member of the Orca Sports series for reluctant teen readers into a full length, stand-alone, terribly depressing novel that has been taken over by a character meant only to be peripheral to the plot... Sigh. How does this happen, I ask you? Is the author not supposed to have some kind of control over this process?

The good news is that the manuscript has not been tossed by Orca and, instead, has found a new place in a completely different section of the catalogue. I have the latest draft back and am about to launch into another rewrite. This, though, will wait until after I have feasted (tomorrow, we're doing our turkey dinner early) and gone sailing (on my brother's new sailboat on Sunday, hence the early turkey). After that, I should feel like I've had a bit of a holiday and should be able to return to work fortified.

The most interesting thing about working on this book is how utterly miserable it has been spending time inside the head of a severely depressed teenager. I will be so very glad when the project is finished and I can turn my attention back to something a little more ... chirpy.

To all you Canucks out there, have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mini TC Review

A lovely mini-review written by Barbara Julian appeared in yesterday's Times Colonist... Though, I'm not exactly sure how to interpret the bit about the plot being irrelevant - or, less than captivating - or, something. I've decided not to dwell on that too much and, instead, appreciate the positive vibes and kind words. I do hope this book finds a place with reluctant readers and, perhaps, makes them a tiny bit less reluctant?

By Nikki Tate
Orca; 168 pages; $9.95
Tate is expert at packing a mass of description into simple but fluent language for the reluctant reader. The right reader for this book will have no reluctance about horses, however, and Tate's followers will find what they have come to expect in this latest of her equine adventures.

Part of Orca's "high interest sports action" series, this tale about teens more keen on horses than school is captivating less for the plot than for the rich description of the horse mind and body, of racing action and of the minutiae of life on the exercise field and in the barns.

New Book on its Way!

Razor's Edge is due out any minute. Come help celebrate the arrival of the new book at one of these events... And, if you aren't interested in Razor's Edge - no problem. Both events have plenty of other, much cooler authors and their way cool new books so you don't have to bore yourself just talking to l'il ol' me.

Monday, September 14, 2009


This wasn't where we were supposed to wind up yesterday! Poor Dani had an unfortunate landing when dismounting during a vaulting demonstration at Metchosin Days. After being tended to by several lovely firemen, including one on whom she unceremoniously threw up, we headed off to the Victoria General Hospital for an X-ray.

The good news is the bones are intact. The bad news is that the sprain is so bad she has to wear an air cast for SIX WEEKS!! This is rotten news, indeed, as the big provincial vaulting competition is coming up this weekend in Chilliwack.

Not only did this unfortunate incident mess up Dani's demo and competitive vaulting career, it also meant I had to abandon Dinny just before the Haflinger breed demonstration! Fortunately, Stella (of Manestream Vaulters) was kind enough to bring the horse and Cyd (who was also involved in the vaulting demo) home again as Dani and I were trapped in a crazy busy emergency room for a very long time...
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Sunday, August 02, 2009


Just ask me how much I love my waterproof camera! And, just ask me how much fun it is to be paddling about Coles Bay on a hot, summer's day...
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Stand on Guard for Thee

Dinny watching over his buddies while they enjoy a snooze... Ringo taking full advantage of being able to stretch out without fear of being eaten by a cougar...
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Sunday, June 07, 2009

On the way to dinner in town...

  we spotted one, two, three deer trotting along Quadra Street! The third one was just behind these two fellows. Just after we passed, the three adventurers headed across the street, halting traffic in both directions. All crossed safely and we proceeded directly to Cafe Brio on Fort Street. Oh my, what a glorious meal that was! Should you ever have a chance - GO!
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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Happy Trails!

After spending way too many days in a row labouring on the bathroom reno (which is nearly done - stay tuned for before and after photos!), we headed over to Beaver Lake for a trail ride. What a glorious day! From left to right: Ringo, learning to be a trail pony, me riding Dinny, and Jane on her Appy, Diego. Bonny and Brio hung out back at the ranch with Dad, the dogs, and the new ducks... The hefty Muscovy drakes were procured following a tragic incident with a raccoon and four of our five Indian Runner ducks. The only survivor of the duck massacre was Welly Wellduck who now hunkers down between his two beefy companions, happy for their companionship and protection. Photos to come...
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