Farm Life from the Farmer’s Wife: Chicken Catching with Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Today’s Farm Life story comes from author Shannon Vannatter. Not only is she sharing her comedic escapade catching chickens, she’s doing a giveaway. The details are at the end of this post!

Though I was born in rural Arkansas, we moved to Indiana when I was a baby since my dad worked on the pipeline. From Indiana to Michigan then Illinois before pipeline worked dried up when I was seven. But there was a housing boom in Atlanta, so we moved there where daddy worked as a carpenter and hung sheet rock.

Every summer, we visited my grandparents in Arkansas. I loved those visits. But I was horrified when I was twelve when my parents decided to move home. My favorite cousins were staying in Georgia and all my friends were there.

Once we moved, I tried to console myself with being near the rest of our extended family, but I had a hard time fitting in and suffered from major culture shock. I was used to living in a neighborhood with lots of kids and a McDonald’s just around the corner. At our new home, the nearest neighbors with a girl my age were a quarter of a mile away. And the closest Big Mac was thirty minutes away. I was certain my life was over.

Basketball ruled and I had no desire to play, though I constantly heard what a great ball player my mom was. Since I didn’t play, the coach asked me to be the bookkeeper. It was a way to fit in, go to all the games, and eyeball boys from other schools.

During my eighth grade year, the basketball team needed new uniforms. Since the coach raised chickens, he came up with the perfect plan for the players to earn the needed funds–catching the doomed creatures. Thank goodness I didn’t play basketball.

My knowledge of the raising part is sketchy, but I’ll try to explain. Mile long metal buildings with enormous fans in each end house the chickens. Poultry companies, like Tyson, bring young chickens and drop them off. Then they must be fed and taken care of.

When it’s hot, raisers must walk the chickens. The first time I heard this, I imagined collars and leashes. But in reality, chickens are so stupid, they hump up in piles when it’s hot and smother. So, people have to walk amongst them to keep them stirring and moving.

After the chickens are grown, the Tyson truck comes back to pick them up and take them to the chicken plant where they end up in those nice cellophane-wrapped packages of boneless, skinless breasts where they belong.

To my horror, my parents decided my job as the scorekeeper for the basketball team, required my participation in the fundraiser. My insistence that I didn’t wear a uniform, therefore I shouldn’t have to raise money, fell on deaf ears.

Both raised on a farm, my parents grew up picking whatever needed picking, hauling whatever needed hauling, milking whatever needed milking, and catching whatever needed catching. They told those stories about walking barefoot to school, in the snow, and uphill both ways.

Catching chickens seemed the perfect opportunity, to them, for me to experience some of the old ways. I begged and pleaded to no avail. The bus loaded to take the basketball team to the chicken house with me on it. Several dedicated parents and teachers went also. Clearly, they had no life.

All too soon, I became intimately acquainted with poultry. We all charged inside the chicken house, through the rancid waste of thousands of hens. We grabbed whatever chickens happened to come our way by whatever chicken part we could seize. We jerked them upside down and hung onto their legs.

Our objective, to get at least two fowl in each hand and deliver the hapless hens to the loaders, who put them into cages. Some of the more experienced adults actually got four birds in each hand.

I learned when you jerk a chicken up by its feet, it emits a disgusting substance, which goes straight up in the air, then lands somewhere on the catcher. While this phenomenon takes place, the bird pecks mercilessly at the hand of the catcher and tries to loosen its feet to claw with ruthless talons.

This escapade began with my makeup perfectly applied and every hair in place. At thirteen, my goal was to look good for the boys on the basketball team. Afterward, chicken emissions had soiled off my makeup, coated my hair, and left me reeking.

As soon as the bus dropped me off, I began my tale of woe, whining and moaning for my parents’ benefit, while heading for the bathtub. Once clean, though I didn’t feel really clean for at least a week, I told my parents of my many lessons learned.

“You’ve both earned my respect and understanding for your long-suffering childhoods and how hard you worked.” My rehearsed speech seemed to impress them. Surely they wouldn’t make me go again. The next week found me on a bus, headed for the chicken house.

With two more chicken catching adventures looming, I considered running away. To my surprise, my parents decided to join us for the third escapade. I never decided if they felt nostalgic for the old days or if guilt assailed them for making me go.

After my parents re-experienced this chapter of their lives, they took pity on me and thankfully, I caught my last chicken that night.

Looking back, I hesitantly confess that catching chickens was worth the wisdom gained. My experience with repulsive physical labor, no pay and not even a basketball uniform to show for my effort, helped my parents instill character in me.

The encounter with poultry also increased my respect for my parents. I no longer make fun of the stories they tell. They really did have long-suffering childhoods. I admit that the adventure definitely helped me understand how easy my childhood truly was. I only admit this because as an adult, no one can make me go back to that chicken house.

Though I still don’t like chickens and I’m afraid of cows, country life has grown on me. I live across a hayfield from my parents. There’s a McDonald’s ten minutes away now. The nearest city with a population of seven thousand has all the conveniences, but it would be way too big for me to live in.

A Texas Holiday Reunion coverHis Christmas Homecoming 

With her foreman out of commission, Resa McCall needs horse trainer Colson Kincaid to run her family ranch through the holidays. But having the handsome single dad back in Bandera, Texas, is unsettling. Colson broke Resa’s heart years ago, and she can’t risk getting close again. Still, working with him and bonding with his sweet little girl is making the ranch feel merry and bright. Being at Resa’s side stirs up emotions Colson thought were long gone. But he has a powerful secret that could keep them apart forever. Can Colson give Resa the one Christmas present that might finally bring them back together—the truth?

Get your copy now:

A Texas Holiday Reunion on Christianbook                 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Amazon

Shannon is giving away copies of A Texas Holiday Reunion. Here are the giveaway details:

Leave a comment to enter the drawing for a copy of A Texas Holiday Reunion. Six copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from Oct 18 – Dec 8. One winner will get to pick the theme for a custom made memory board personally crafted by the author. Deadline Dec. 8th. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on Dec 10th. Go to her website and sign up for her newsletter to enter more giveaways and get a free book download.

Follow her blog tour for more chances to win A Texas Holiday Reunion:

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award winning author. Me tealShe once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Shannon writes inspirational contemporary romance and it took her nine years to get published in the traditional market.

Shannon hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her family, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Thank you so much, Shannon, for sharing your chicken story with us and the lessons you learned. I hope you all will leave a comment for her and enter her giveaway!










Farm Life from the Farmer’s Wife: Excerpt from Horse Haven 2

For the Farm Life blog today, I have special guest Grace Marshall. She has been kindUARWCOVER enough to share an excerpt from her young adult book, Unexpected Allies and Recurring Warts, Horse Haven Book 2.

~ Chapter 20: Lightweight ~

Ruth was unsuccessful tracking Devin down on foot, so she ended up getting his phone number from her father and calling him. He was out in the woods clearing the trails and said he’d meet her at the first barn where the tractor was parked. She waited for him at the tractor, perching on one of the steps. She texted Charlene and Jill. Neither of her Wisconsin friends responded before Devin found her.

“Hey Ruth, are you ready to learn how to drive this thing?”

Ruth glanced up at the large beast behind her. “Not at all.”

He chuckled and she scrambled down so he could have access to the tractor’s door. He opened it and motioned with a dark-skinned hand for her to climb up.

She did as beckoned and settled into the seat.

“First, I’ll just teach you how to use the tractor and then we can come back and get the brush hog,” he explained.

“Sounds good to me,” she replied.

He pointed all the levers out one by one and explained what they did, then he had her turn the tractor on. He quizzed her on what did what and had her practice with the levers. Then he explained the concept of shifting to her.

“Um, okay.”

“It will make more sense as you do it. Just take your time.”

She did. She started out by backing out of the barn. Then she stopped, fully and easily transitioning into first. She worked the clutch and gas at the same time until it was going.

“Pretty good.”

It was pretty good until she tried to transition into second. She didn’t fully depress the clutch, causing the gears to grind loudly as she panicked and braked.

Devin gripped more tightly on the bar on the side of the tractor. “Let’s not do that again, okay?”

“I would have preferred we didn’t do it the first time.”

“I agree.”

After Ruth got the hang of driving the tractor, Devin had her drive back to the barn. He instructed her to get out and let him drive so he could get the brush hog hooked up. She helped him back up to the device then he hopped off and showed her how to get the pins in place.

After that he let Ruth back into the driver seat and they headed to the first pasture. He told her to pull the lever that would turn the brush hog on. There was a loud grating noise then the tractor sputtered and died.

They exchanged confused looks. “Try it again.”

She did, going through the same process with the same result.

“Hm. Let me try.”

She climbed out of the tractor and stood a few feet away.

He turned the tractor on and started up the brush hog without a problem. He took it down the field a ways and then stopped and turned it off. Ruth ran down to where he was. She opened the door and peered up at him.

“Well, I’m not sure what the problem is. Try one more time.”

They exchanged places and again the tractor sputtered and died when Ruth tried to turn on the brush hog. She turned confused periwinkle eyes to Devin and shrugged helplessly.

He frowned and his brow creased in thought. “Well…” he said slowly, “I don’t know.” They didn’t do or say anything for a few long moments, then Devin said, “Actually, I think I do know. I think that maybe you weigh enough to make the tractor move, but the safety weight setting must be higher in order to operate the brush hog. Apparently you don’t meet the necessary weight requirement.”

Ruth made an annoyed face at him. “So what can we do?”

“Talk to your father I guess, see how he wants to handle it.”

After parking the tractor in the first barn, the two of them headed inside and found Peter in his office.

He laughed without reservation when they informed him of the problem. “I guess she’ll just have to put some weight on those bones.” Well, he thought it was funny at least.

“Nice, Dad. What do we do in the meantime?”

“Go broke?”

Ruth put a hand on her hip and sighed loudly. “Anything a little more helpful for the present time?”

Her dad put his hands up defensively. “Okay, okay. How about you put a little extra weight on the seat or see if there is a seat weight adjustment?”

“I already adjusted it as low as it would go this morning, when you told me I’d be training her,” Devin explained.

“Then find something extra to put on the seat to add weight.”

“Like what?” Devin asked.

“How about a sandbag?” Ruth asked. She wanted to get some ideas in quick before they made her sit on a concrete block, or something equally or more uncomfortable.

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” her father responded. “Why don’t you two go test it out? Come back and let me know if it doesn’t work for you.”

Ruth nodded and led the way back to the tractor. Luckily, the sandbag worked and she didn’t have to try sitting on anything ridiculous for extra weight.

Grace’s book sounds like a fun farm adventure. I hope you’ll check it out! More about Grace:

Christian Young Adult and New Adult Books That Provoke Thought! Grace Marshall was Grace Marshallborn in Wisconsin, lived for some time in Illinois and Tennessee, and currently resides in Missouri. She juggles her time between her cat, her oversized dog, her part-time job, her business, and her dashing husband. She believes in living life to the fullest and can’t wait to see where God will take her or have her write next.

She is the author of the “Horse Haven” series and “Person of Faith,” and has also contributed several articles to newspapers. Find out more about Grace at

Scavenger Hunt

Callum’s Compass has been on preorder for one week! I am so thankful to those of you who have purchased or who have let me know you are excitedly awaiting the print copy. I can’t wait either!

In Callum’s Compass, Kat Williams goes on a treasure hunt in and around Anderson County, TN, looking for clues at local businesses and on Norris Lake. So, I thought it might be fun to play a game of our own! As you know, the Callum’s Compass launch party event is coming on scavengerhuntNovember 4th, 2017, here in Oak Ridge, TN, or on Facebook for those of you who do not live locally. I have been placing flyers for my event all over Anderson County, and I am still getting out to local businesses and asking to display them in windows.

Which brings me to the scavenger hunt! For the next three weeks, until November 3rd, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will be leaving clues on my Facebook author page about a different location where I have left a flyer. If you leave a comment and guess where that flyer is, I will enter your name in the drawing for the preorder $10 Amazon gift card! Don’t live here in East Tennessee? That’s okay, you can guess too. Google is a very powerful tool! And, as long as you give it a try, you don’t have to get it right. Just give me a good guess!


-One guess equals one entry, limit one entry per location

-Names will be entered alongside the ones who preorder my book. If you guess and preorder, that gives you two entries. Guess on more than one clue and that’s three and so on.

-The winner will be drawn on November 3rd, 2017 at 10:00 AM EST and notified by email

Bonus opportunities:

-Snap a selfie of you and the flyer at that day’s location and get an extra entry (that’s two for one clue), tag me when you upload it to your Facebook page, and let me know where you found the flyer. That’s it!

-Share any of my posts relating to the preorder, the clue, or the scavenger hunt in general on your Facebook page and get one bonus entry per share

Fine print: I reserve the right to add or change rules as necessary if things aren’t working smoothly for some reason. If you visit one of these locations to snap a selfie, consider purchasing something and supporting these local businesses!


This place has the best mocha cappuccino milkshake. I’ll be baskin’g in the yummy goodness as soon as I take the first sip. Clinton, TN.

Have fun! (Did I mention I love scavenger and treasure hunts?!?)

Farm Life from the Farmer’s Wife: Shucky Beans

Down on the Farm—Grandma’s Shucky Beans

Catherine Castle

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting my grandparents down on their farm.

Mom and Dad would pack us up in the car after Dad got home from work and we’d drive down into the hills of Kentucky for the weekend.

The house would always be dark when we arrived. Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have a phone, so they were never expecting us on our weekend trips. It was probably only nine or ten p.m. when we arrived, but my grandparents were farmers who went to bed with the chickens the minute it got dark outside.

The moment Daddy pounded on the door, my grandparents awoke and the lights came on. After hugs and kisses, we were hustled into the kitchen for hand pies, cornbread, leftover shucky beans, and meat. It never failed to amaze me how much food Grandma had on hand, especially since it was only her and Grandpa there. The hand pies were half-moon pastries made from dried apples Grandma had preserved. The meat varied, depending on whether she’d killed a chicken or they had purchased beef from someone. The shucky beans were the item my mouth always watered for—and still does today. It’s been years since I’ve eaten them, but I remember the salty, silky texture of the once-dried bean.

You say you don’t know what shucky beans are?

Shucky beans are green beans that have been dried in the shell. Shucky beans were always on the table at Grandma’s house. In fact, I don’t remember ever eating any other kind of green bean when we visited her.


Shucky beans from my freezer

Mom and Grandma always used white half-runner beans, although I do remember Mom using other green beans when she couldn’t get half-runners. Every summer we would visit Grandma and help her preserve the veggies from her garden. Getting the shucky beans ready was something I could do as a child, because Grandma preserved her beans the old-fashioned way. She strung them on cotton thread and hung them on the back porches until they dried.

The process was time consuming, but I don’t remember minding it at all. While the black-eyed Susans nodded in the breeze at the front of the yard, I strung my pan of beans sitting on the white porch swing, listening to the chains creaking softly above me and Mom and Grandma talk. There was something satisfying about watching the green column of beans grow on the thread, knowing I was going to enjoy the taste of them in the fall and winter. Grandma always shared some of the crop with us.

Below are the quick instructions for making Shucky Beans as given to me by my mother. My additional clarification comments are in parenthesis. Notice there are no amounts given for beans: Grandma and Mom just strung them until they were all picked from the garden. From my research I’ve discovered a bushel of fresh beans makes about 1 gallon of Shucky Beans.

Grandma and Mom’s Shucky Bean Recipe

Pick white, half-runner beans when they have a bean in them. Do not wash beans. Break ends and remove the string from the beans. Using a sturdy needle and white cotton string, knotted on one end, string the beans. (Pierce the bean pod and not the bean with the needle.) When the string is almost full, tie the ends and place in a warm place to dry: an attic, porch, or in the direct sun.

(Depending on how you plan to dry them, either tie the ends together to make a circle, or make a loop in one end, so they can be hung on a nail. You could also just knot the other end and drape over a clothes line.  I know Grandma hung hers on the back porches, but I’ve read about other cooks drying their beans on sheets laid on patio tables, car hoods, and even spread in the back window of a vehicle. If you don’t want to do this the old fashioned way, you can use a food dehydrator.)

Once the beans have dried, they can be stored in the freezer in plastic freezer bags. Just be sure they are really dry before you store them. (When you can run your fingers through a batch and hear a rattling sound, reminiscent of the sound dried corn shucks make, beans should be dry enough to store.)

To Cook: Place the beans, strings and all, in a pot and boil for 30 minutes. Drain the water and rinse the beans. Take them off the strings and place in a clean pot with more water and seasonings. (A cottage ham or slab of bacon works well as seasoning). Cook until tender. (About 2-2 ½ more hours.)

Some recipes call for the beans to be washed before stringing.  Grandma didn’t use pesticides, so she didn’t have to worry about chemicals. If you wash the beans before stringing, make sure they are hung where the air can reach all sides to prevent spoilage. Other recipes also suggest removing the beans from the string before boiling. I’m not sure which method works best, since I can’t recall what I did the one time I cooked the beans.

Have you ever eaten Shucky Beans? How did you like them?

Thank you so much for sharing your story and recipe with us, Catherine. I have never had shucky beans (my family is originally from Ohio and California and I doubt they know what shucky beans are ha!), but my curiosity is piqued and I can’t wait to try this!

Although Catherine Castle is a city girl, her roots are in the country, thanks to Grandma, Grandpa and her summers spent on the farm.

She’s also the author of the multi-award-winning inspirational suspense romance, The CT Bio 8x11Nun and the Narc, and the sweet romantic comedy, with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama. Catherine loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, watching movies, and the theatre. In the winter she quilts and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place is in her garden, another thing she picked up from Grandma. She’s a passionate gardener who won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Her debut inspiration romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing was an ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2014 EPIC finalist, and the winner of the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award and the 2014 RONE Award. Both of her books are available on Amazon.

AGroomforMama2_200Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

You can connect with Catherine at:

Catherine’s website:

Catherine’s blog:

Catherine’s Amazon author page:

Catherine’s Goodreads page:

Twitter:    @AuthorCCastle


Google+ :

Stitches Thru Time:

SMP authors blog site:


Preorder Day!!

I am so excited to announce that Callum’s Compass is available for eBook preorder today. If you planned on purchasing an eBook copy, now’s the time. It’s at a discounted Inspirational Romantic Suspense (2)price of $2.99 until November 7th, when it will go up to regular market price. I am so thankful for all the support and encouragement I’ve seen from friends, family, fellow writers, and even strangers. You guys are amazing! Visit Amazon now for more information! And don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments!

Today’s extra special announcement: If you preorder Callum’s Compass and send me a picture, either on social media or by email, of your confirmation (I do NOT want any payment information included in this!) I will enter you in the drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card!

Cover Reveal Giveaway!!

It’s here! I LOVE my cover and I hope you do too. Diane Turpin with Mantle Rock Publishing did a FANTASTIC job! The eBook goes on preorder Tuesday, October 10th, on Amazon. I cannot wait! Callum's Compass Cover

Remember to leave me a comment here on this blog by clicking on the title of the blog and scrolling down to the bottom or by clicking on the add comment link to the left of the blog. Though I would love Facebook and Twitter comments too, only the ones here will count toward the drawing. The winner will be drawn Monday morning at 10 AM EST.

The book launch event will be November 4th, 2017 at 6:30 PM at the Historic Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, TN. We will have a free showing of Peter Pan, free refreshments, door prizes, a book excerpt reading, and book signing (a limited number of copies will be available for Callum's Copy Book Launch Event Flyerthe signing.) And, we will be having a silent auction with proceeds benefiting our team’s Philippines Mission Trip 2018 fundraiser. Please plan to come out and spend an evening with your family. I would love to see you!

A big thank you to my sponsors, Dr. Chris Hosenfeld at Apple Health and Wellness, Becky Eller of Becky Eileen Fine Art Pencil Drawing, Pat Stansberry of Southern Homes and Realty, Shannon Wilder with Modere Live Clean products; my hubby, Josh Foust, with our farm 5L Farm; my brother and his family, Caleb, Leia, and Coraline Campbell; my parents, Richard and Barbara Campbell, Kelly Lanz of Clinton Physical Therapy, and that anonymous best friend of mine (you know who you are)! And extra hugs to Tracey Thompson and Whitney Thompson for helping me with decorations and logistics. I really could not have put together this launch party event without you! For more information about the book launch and to see some photos of the door prizes, check out my events page!

Only 1 day Left Until the Cover Reveal!

Tomorrow is the day! Many of you have gotten sneak peeks of my cover already by signing up for my email newsletter or visiting the blogs I’ve been on the last couple weeks. If so, great! If not, tomorrow I will post the cover here. Whether it is your first time or tenth time seeing it, leave a comment and be entered to win a free eBook copy of 2018Callum’s Compass. The winner will be drawn Monday, October 9th, at 10 AM EST.

Today’s extra special, super announcement: I will be going on a mission trip to the Philippines in May 2018 with three fellow church members and friends from other local churches. All profits from book sales (online and in-person/book launch) will be donated to the mission trip fund until our team’s goal is met!! I am so excited and thankful about this opportunity. Thank you in advance for all your support!

2 days left until the Cover Reveal Blog and Giveaway!

Hi! Happy Wednesday! Only 2 days left until the cover reveal blog post and giveaway begins. Remember, to be entered to win a free eBook copy of Callum’s Compass, leave a Mockinbird 2 CR FBcomment over the weekend about my cover, or just saying hi, or anything! Today’s special announcement: This beautiful, original artwork by Becky Eileen will be the grand prize door prize at the book launch event on November 4th (details coming Friday). to learn more about Becky Eileen Artist, please click on the photo or her name. She is  amazingly talented!

3 Days Until the Cover Reveal!

1003171105Only 3 days until the official Callum’s Compass cover reveal. Today’s special announcement: These beautiful, hand-made, Callum’s Compass themed bookmarks will be given as door prizes at the book launch event on November 4th. Details about the party will go up on Friday, so stay tuned. And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter and receive a FREE digital scrapbook. See you tomorrow!

Cover Reveal Countdown!

On Friday, October 6th, I will reveal the cover in an extra special blog post. All commenters will be entered for a chance to win a free eBook copy of Callum’s Compass! All this week, special announcements will be going out on Facebook and Twitter, so stay tuned.

Today’s special announcement: Sign up for my newsletter and receive a FREE digital acrossnaturescrapbook detailing some of the real-life locations that inspired scenes in Callum’s Compass!! I hope it is loads of fun, and you may learn a thing or two about East Tennessee!

Keep checking back all week for fun news! And, as always, feel free to contact me! I’d love to hear from you or help you pray.