My Life With Gracie…Thankfulness

Thankfulness

It was probably first-time Chicken Daddy ignorance, but in my rather shaky defense, there are no “Your First Chick” books the way there are “Your First Baby” books. So I had no idea you have to almost always cut things up for chickens to eat.

Sure, there are videos of chickens devouring whole vegetables bit by bit, peck by peck. Those are not my chickens. Mine have to have their vegetables cut up into pieces. Bite-sized pieces. I do this particularly for Emily who is the smallest and most perfect Little Lady ever. She needs dainty-sized pieces.

Although it may be tedious and tiresome, I do this each day because I love my chickens. This is also why I let them use my jeans and shoes to wipe off their beaks after they have finished eating. My chickens need me, even if it’s just to be their napkin.

I remember last Thanksgiving when they had their first pumpkin. I scooped out the seeds, held out a handful, and they all just looked at the seeds and looked at me as if to say, “Too big. So what are you going to do about it? We are hungry!”

And I’m sure they were. They had been eyeing their pumpkins for a few weeks with great curiosity and had watched all of the cutting apart with keen unblinking interest. They knew they were looking at seeds, just a lot larger than what they could handle.

And so I learned to roast pumpkin seeds which makes them smaller, intensifies their flavor, and gives them a pleasing crunch.

After learning this important lesson, I believed I was “home free.” All I needed to do was halve or quarter the pumpkin, and they would peck the flesh out and feast for days! But I was wrong. Again. It sat. For days. No one touched it. Not even an inquisitive peck.

And so I learned to blanch (and also freeze) pumpkin flesh which makes it softer while preserving the color and nutrition.

From these and other experiences, I’ve learned I am a lot more like my chickens than I want to admit. For most of my life, I’ve considered myself to be a very self-sufficient person. It’s not easy to ask for help, particularly when it’s something most people are expected to know how to do for themselves.

Over the years, I’ve learned to be thankful for help received along the way, but I never really considered being thankful for the need itself, the need for anyone’s help the way my chickens need my help.

Being thankful for need and lack seems strange at first. Yet I think perhaps there is a place to be thankful for all of the things I am unable to do on my own. They point my focus towards the Greatest and Only Helper for my chickens and for me.

My Life With Gracie gave me a truly thankful heart for everything I am unable to do on my own.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Thankfulness

My Life With Gracie…Gleaning Wisdom

Gleaning Wisdom

This illustration is based on my fourth “My Life With Gracie” drawing. It is still one of my favorites because it is the first one of Gracie dancing. You can see this illustration has a lot more happening!

Pomegranate seeds are a treat my chickens enjoy in autumn. These are never passed up, and that is what made me wonder if there was something wrong.

For a few weeks, I’ve noticed leftover corn kernels or fruit pieces in their run at the end of the day when I went to secure them in their coop for the night. I had just assumed they were given too much, more than they could eat. But the leftovers were gone in the morning.

This was a bit of a mystery, but I really didn’t give it much thought until the leftovers included some of their prized pomegranate seeds. What was going on?

So as I was making sure everyone was snugly in their coop for the night, I questioned Gracie about this. At first she seemed a bit embarrassed as they all looked at each other, unsure what to say.

Finally Gracie explained it had been her idea for them to leave food behind for the field mice who visit them at night. With all of the rain we have had, it was more difficult for them to gather food for themselves and their little ones.

So I quickly told them not to worry because they had been doing a wonderful kindness.

All looked quite relieved, and moved a bit closer to me when I said, “You know, that sounds like something The Rose Garden Princess would do.”

And just like that, we were all wrapped up in Gracie’s dream.

(For those of you who are new readers, Gracie wants to be a ballerina more than just about anything, and “The Rose Garden Princess” is a ballet project we are creating for her.)

Yes, kindness to strangers and wanderers is an ancient tradition of the Princesses who live in The Great Garden. (Feather’s rustled happily because they all could be princesses for the ballet.)

“Remember when you had no home of your own” is ancient chicken wisdom once heard long ago and passed down from momma hens to chicks. (Suddenly there were disappointed expressions on every face. But why? Then I realized they remembered never having a momma hen to teach them anything.)

I paused the story to let them know how proud I was of them for knowing this on their own without the guidance of a momma hen. They were all truly wise chickens indeed. (Everyone smiled and sat a bit taller. They were definitely feeling their parts in the ballet.)

And so one autumn evening the hungry field mice scampered into The Great Garden and began to jump and run about, grabbing scraps of food that the Princesses had not eaten. The Princesses were startled and became frantic because their peaceful garden home was being overrun by mice. (Together they pretended to be surprised in the most adorable way.)

Although much smaller, the field mice moved much faster and could hide in the tiniest and most unexpected places. More than either of those things, they were scary because they were different. They didn’t have beaks and wings. Instead they had sharp teeth and grabbing hands! (Serious shivers spread from one chicken to another, and Emily hid her head under her wing. Pearl hid her head under Blanche’s wing.)

But do you know what The Rose Garden Princess did? (Everyone leaned forward to hear better. Gracie moved closest of all, even though she started to feel a draft where her fluff feathers had molted.)

The Rose Garden Princess made promises with the field mice. They could come each evening to collect food left for them. In return the field mice would use their teeth to cut flowers from the garden and hold them as banners when The Rose Garden Princess and the other Princesses danced in the moonlight. (Joyful wings applauded along the perch at this delightful turn of events!)

Although it took a great deal of practice, what a grand and amazing dance it was! Some of the smallest field mice entered first, scampering and leaping in unison. They were joined by more field mice who carried flowers like banners. Then the Princesses began to dance onto the stage.

It all made for a great and dramatic spectacle, unfolding in The Great Garden as more and more mice and more and more Princesses joined in the procession. Mice carrying daisies, and then the Daisy Princesses. Mice carrying daffodils, and then the Daffodil Princesses. On and on it went, and each seemed more beautiful than the last.

Finally when everyone was certain there was no way for the dance to be any more breathtaking, The Rose Garden Princess appeared! (My chickens could not hold back their enthusiasm any longer. The sounds of their delight filled my little backyard garden.)

We all said “good night,” and they huddled closer together for warmth. It was going to be a chilly night, but not in our hearts.

There were a few still-excited whispers about who would dance as Daisy Princesses and who would dance as Daffodil Princesses and so on. Everyone was unanimous only Gracie could be The Rose Garden Princess as she had already led them in showing unselfish kindness towards others.

My Life With Gracie taught me always to have a generous and welcoming heart.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! Right now I am revisiting some of my earlier cartoon illustrations and giving them a different twist.

Gleaning Wisdom

My Life With Gracie…About Diving In!

About Diving In!

This illustration is based on my third “My Life With Gracie” drawing. It is still one of my favorites because it reminds me of the joy of having a baby chick standing on top of my foot for the first time, but here I’ve added the joy of watching them explore the world for the first time.

From his first day out of his shell, Lefty believed that the world was made just for him. He loved to explore, and he didn’t want to miss a thing. He always tried to be everywhere at once, and almost succeeded too!

As a chick, he was at his top exploring speed non-stop throughout the day! Eventually he would wear himself out and just do a “splat”! He would flop down wherever he was with his wings and legs spread out and just instantly fall asleep.

Once his nap was over, he was up and moving full-speed again. He didn’t want to miss anything!

He was first to try whatever was new or different. Where others might hop up on top of my shoe to warily check out something, Lefty would hop up and use my shoe as a jumping off spot to dive right into it!

I miss that little guy, but I’m glad he is on a nice farm where he can crow and cock-a-doodle-do as much as he wants. I’m sure he has explored every possible inch of his new home too!

Lefty would always run as fast as he could back and forth along the fencing of the run with one foot on the fencing support and one foot on the ground.

To me, it would make more sense to have both feet running on the ground to move more smoothly and quickly rather than the clunky, uneven hobbling up-and-down, up-and-down movement. Then again, I’m not thinking like a chicken.

Soon after he moved out, Bessie took over his leadership role. It was an amazing transformation. She remembered how he ran along the run, keeping watch, exploring constantly, and so Bessie started doing the same things, even imitating his clunky up-and-down way of running next to the fence. I had to tell Bessie, just like I had told Lefty, “Slow down before you hurt yourself!” Neither of them ever listened to me.

But when you are excited and curious and hyper-alert, does it really make much of a difference? Where I might be concerned about looking silly or awkward or failing, chickens truly don’t seem to care. They don’t want to miss a thing!

So what is holding any of us back? And why even waste time bothering to answer that question? (Or that question!) Right now we could be exploring what we might never have another opportunity to experience. What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe we wear ourselves out and have to take a “splat” nap!

Dive in! Find out what’s at the bottom of that pile of leaves! Hey! Maybe I really am thinking like a chicken after all! The whole fullness of the world is waiting to be explored!

My Life With Gracie encouraged me to dive right in more often!

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! Right now I am revisiting some of my earlier cartoon illustrations and giving them a different twist. This one is inspired by all of you who don’t ever want to miss out on anything! (You know who you are!)

About Diving In!