Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Talking with the Owls

We have several great horned owls that reside in the redwoods near our home. Sometimes when we're out in the back yard soaking our bones in hot water the owls start their nightly hoot fest and I've gotten pretty good at joining in the conversation. This local trio all chant the usual hoo~hoo~hoooooo.

Last night we were out in the rockers on the front porch relaxing when we heard a new voice. My husband at first thought it was our neighbor Mike messing with us. But we then we realized the sound was about 30 feet up in the redwood, not Mike.

I read up a little on Great Horned Owls when we came in. This is the beginning of the courting season for these magnificent creatures of the night. We think it is a female, because the hoot is deeper than that of the resident owls.

Heart Hill Forest

Each time she hooted I answered back. She started with a deep hoo~hoo, then a hoo~hoo~hooooo, then hoo~hoo~hoo~hoo. This went on for a bit and then we were totally caught off guard by a series of different cadences that I repeated back (according to the reseach it isn't unusual for them to have a repertoire, but we'd  never heard these before). This "conversation" lasted about 5 minutes. The owl either didn't realize I wasn't another owl or was indeed playing with me. Her last response sounded like a hooted wolf whistle.

Perhaps she is new to the neighborhood or it's a young one finding it's voice. But whatever the story we were delighted by the magic of the experience. We are so lucky to live out in the country.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Change in the Weather

It's mid November on the North Coast of California. In the last week we've experienced everything from 85 degree sunshine with evening cricket serenades, 

to partly cloudy with chance of showers and awesome sunsets,

Photo from our front porch

to rain and wind,

and the chance of snow in the foothills tonight.

Part of the charm of this time of year is seeing what surprises are on the horizon in the morning. Part of the challenge is learning how to dress for it. Now go outside and play!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Marketing Close to Home - Part Deux

I did a blog on August 21, 2010 called "Marketing Close to Home" as a tutorial for artisans interested in doing craft fairs. I wanted to make a few additions after finishing my first two fairs of the season. 

Pricing: Make sure you add sales tax into your posted prices. You do not want to be dealing with adding it on at the fair. Trust me you and your customers will appreciate the effort. 

Credit Cards: Wow! I've doubled sales by being able to accept VISA and MC. I did my reseach on what was available and chose to go with ProPay. Most of our fairs are in small towns that rarely have wifi or cell reception. Problem solved, I purchased a portable MicroSecure™ Card Reader through their site that allows me to swipe credit cards and store information. I process the cards by plugging the reader into my computer at home. If you do have cell or wifi reception at your fair you can process sale on the spot.  

Special Receipt Book: I set up a special receipt book for my credit card sales with information for the customer on the original receipt and information for my needs on the yellow copy. I used address labels printed on the computer and add stickers to the receipt book before I go to the fair. It's much easier to fill in blanks than to remember what you should write down.

(1) Original receipt (customer copy) - at the top of the receipt add a label with your name and whatever information your credit processing company tells you will show on customer statements.  Point that out to your customers when you give them their copy of the receipt. With ProPay either your phone number or email address is going to be what shows so that's what I added to mine. 

(2) Your copy - add a label at the bottom with the following information and a "_____" next to it to fill in: customer name, phone number, email address, credit card expiration date and credit card code. The phone number is so you can reach them if there's a problem. When your process their card there is an option to email a receipt and the other information is or may be required to process the card.

(3) Detail what they bought and have them sign your receipt book, so it shows on both copies. This is your proof that they made the purchase. 

Mailing List: Several customers asked about a mailing list. There are a couple of ways you can approach this. (1) find a spot on your table for a small notebook and pen. Bring it to your customers attention if they'd like to know about pending fairs or sales. (2) I always copy my checks before depositing them so if I want to send out a postcard about upcoming shows I have a mailing list. (3) If you decide to take credit cards you'll have the customers email address. Caveat: Use your resouces wisely or you may drive away possible repeat customers. No one wants to get inundated with solicitations.

Business Cards: Make sure your website, blog or online store addresses are on your card. Post your fair schedule on those sites and let your customers know that.  I made a sale at a craft fair this summer and included my business card. She just made a purchase through my Etsy shop and let me know she'd met me at the fair.

Engage your customers: I don't know about you but when I go to a fair or bead show I always check everything out first before spending my hard earned cash. It's primarily your wares that will draw customers back, but sometimes a fun conversation is also a magnet. Keep a smile on your face and no whining (there's a $5 fine for that!)

Bring a tall stool to sit on: That way you're at eye level with your customers and your feet will thank you!

Now go out there, share your creations with the world, and most of all have fun!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Fabulous Mr. Fox

We live out in the country on a dead end road. Our vegetable garden and a small patch of eating grapes are down in the pasture below the house. Just before I went to bed last night I heard an unusual barking and wondered if Mr. Fox was back. We hadn't seen him in a while. I stepped out on the porch at the same time my neighbor came out with a flashlight to see what was up. Sure enough we spotted him down by the grapes.

He's a handsome little guy with a taste for gophers, mice and moles (a friend indeed). During the summer we've watched him groom down in the grape patch, enjoying the afternoon sun and periodically picking a bunch to munch on.

I was perusing Etsy this morning looking for a photo to illustrate my post and found instead these delightful creations that range from social commentary to flights of fancy.

Support independent artisans and take a minute to check out shop links to see more of their work. You may find something amazing!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Halloween Tale

I simply had to share this Letter to the Editor published this morning in our Santa Rosa Press Democrat from Santa Rosa High School English Teacher Jessie Kroeck.

Beyond the smashed pumpkins, egging and over-turned garbage cans, I want to share a trick-or-treat story that shows our teenagers at their most creative and whimsical selves.

One of my students, Antone Cernokus, and his buddies Josh Bjorklund, Keane Kheva and Alonso Cisternas dressed up in family attire — one even as a baby. They then walked around the neighborhood carrying a door. After ringing a doorbell, they hid behind their door. People from the house would open the door, only to be confronted by another door with a sign that read, “Please knock.”

So they would knock. Surprise! The teenagers would open their own door and exclaim, “Look, we have trick-or-treaters!” And to the astonishment of the adults, these crazy teenagers would give them each a piece of candy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Fool Is In

We live out in the country on a dead end road and we never had trick or treaters until our neighbors had kids. Their ages range from 3+ to 5+ and they are a total delight. My husband is of course just an overgrown kid himself so preparing for Halloween is now a big deal: from carving pumpkins, to baking cookies, to putting together the perfect costume.

The Wizard Clown Fool in Boots

I wonder what he'll come up with for a new look next year?

He is a master with the pumpkin carving and his cookies are do die for so I'll give him a little slack for the costume. Are these guys cool or what?