My Life With Gracie…How To Explain Christmas To Chickens (Part 2)

My Life With Gracie...How To Explain Christmas To Chickens (Part 2)

This is not an ordinary Christmas story, and it will likely never be considered a “Christmas Classic.” Still it is our Christmas story for this year, presented in two parts. If you missed the first part, you may want to begin by reading it before continuing.

As I get older, each Christmas holds a slightly different meaning for me. It is an old story which seems to be able to recreate itself anew each year, and us with it…if we will only allow it.

When Pearl asked me why we hadn’t put out our reindeer, polar bear, and big blue hippopotamus for Christmas, I had no idea where she got such ideas. She was convinced I had piles of decorations and strings of lights stored away in the garage and was eager to volunteer to help get them all set out in the front yard.

Pearl isn’t like any of my other chickens. She absolutely loves being the center of attention, and somehow she manages to be both annoying and adorable at the same time. She was absolutely that way about Christmas decorations.

Eventually I realized she had heard this from the wild birds who visit. They had told her about how some of our neighbors had decorated their front yards for Christmas. With their news reports, they will often add their own elaborations which are not always accurate. Their description of the big blue hippopotamus next door was definitely correct.

Pearl had indeed picked up some unusual ideas about Christmas, but it was my own fault for not explaining it all to her and the others any sooner. So I planned to do just that.

Then I discovered Pearl had snuck out one day and tried to get answers about Christmas from The Bottle Cap Lady down the street. I was not pleased.

The Bottle Cap Lady is not someone you want advising your chickens (or children or anyone else) about Christmas. On Thanksgiving Day, she had been out on her front porch with a bottle of beer in one hand and a turkey drumstick in the other while telling her husband how to put up their Christmas decorations.

Now I don’t have anything against The Bottle Cap Lady. It’s just with something as important as Christmas, you want to make sure your chickens don’t get their information from strangers, particularly “strange” strangers.

But how do you explain Christmas to chickens?

Gracie, with a good deal of chicken wisdom, shared what she thought would be best. The Bottle Cap Lady herself is what Christmas is all about or certainly who Christmas is truly for.

So I asked Pearl what The Bottle Cap Lady had told her about Christmas.

At first The Bottle Cap Lady had not understood what Pearl was asking until she started pecking around the decorations. Finally when Pearl pecked at the plastic nativity scene, the only one on the block, The Bottle Cap Lady seemed to understood.

“You want to know about Christmas, don’t you, Little Sweetie?”

So she sat down on her front porch steps and told Pearl about Christmas.

The Bottle Cap Lady started by telling Pearl all about her life, and how it was filled with missed opportunities, broken promises, and failed dreams. (Maybe you can imagine?) She felt like a nobody going nowhere with nothing. Most of the time she felt hopeless and helpless, except at Christmas.

Pearl listened to it all, tilting her head knowingly to one side at the saddest parts.

“A lot of people might wonder why I drag out all of this junk every year. They see the ragged decorations with burned out bulbs and the old faded plastic stuff nobody else would ever want. They see all the different strings of lights that don’t match. But this…this is like my church out here on my front porch.

“You probably don’t know anything about church now, do you? Well there’s something you and I have in common! You know? They wouldn’t want either one of us in there. Me, I smell like cigarettes. You, well, you smell like a chicken!”

The Bottle Cap Lady laughed, and Pearl laughed with her.

“I don’t know what it is, but when all of these lights are glowing, it just makes me feel good. Sometimes I will stay out here all night just looking at everything.

“People don’t bother you at night. They don’t stare at you or talk about you when they think you can’t hear them at night.

“Even that crooked stable my Clarence built for our nativity set makes me feel good.”

She paused to look at all of her treasured decorations and smiled a faraway kind of smile.

“You know, Sweetie, you would make a real pretty angel perched up there on top of the stable. You and all those white feathers would be perfect. We could even make you a little halo out of some gold garland from the tree.”

There was a long silence. Pearl tilted her head to listen for what was next.

“My Baby, Judi Lynn, she was an angel in the Christmas pageant a long time ago. It was the last Christmas pageant I ever went to. Everyone said she was the prettiest angel they ever had in their Christmas pageant.

“You know, people say when children die it’s because God needs another little angel, but that’s not in the Bible. Did you know that? I looked. I looked really hard. It’s not in there.”

People will tell a chicken a great deal when they think a chicken can’t understand them.

“At Christmas, I can forget my troubles. Mostly. At least they don’t seem so bad. At Christmas when I’m out here with all the lights on, I don’t need anything, not even a beer and a cigarette.

“I don’t feel alone then either. You see, I’m not the only one who lost their pretty little baby. God lost his pretty little baby too.”

Pearl was as still as Pearl had ever been.

“Thinking about that little baby born all those years ago in a stable makes me believe one day it’s all going to be made right somehow. It’s way beyond me to make it turn out that way on my own. But I have to believe that little baby can do it.

“If I don’t believe, what do I have, Sweetie? What do I have?”

Her voiced trailed off, not expecting an answer.

“The rest of Christmas, like the Santa and the reindeer and the lights, those are all just fillers until it is all made right one day by that little baby.”

Pearl wanted to say something, but she didn’t know what.

The Bottle Cap Lady ended her story by saying, “So, Little Sweetie, Christmas is all about ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill’ because that little baby was born to be the king of kings and to make everything right.”

Then she smiled and shooed Pearl back home.

In the end, it was unclear who had explained Christmas to whom…The Bottle Cap Lady to Pearl or Pearl to me? Somehow I knew I wasn’t going to be able to add one bit to what Pearl had learned from The Bottle Cap Lady.

My Life With Gracie helped me see how the one with the greatest need often receives the greatest answer.

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

My Life With Gracie...How To Explain Christmas To Chickens (Part 2)

My Life With Gracie…How To Explain Christmas To Chickens (Part 1)

How To Explain Christmas To A Chicken (Part 1)

This is not an ordinary Christmas story, and it will likely never be considered a “Christmas Classic.” Still it is our Christmas story for this year, presented in two parts.

You might say that my neighborhood is just like any other. We have our share of eccentric people. Everyone is quite tolerant of the unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary.

Lately I’ve been hearing the sounds of a baby goat coming from my next door neighbor’s backyard. For some time now, they’ve owned a pig which has strayed into my yard a time or two to check out my chickens. You simply come to expect the unexpected here.

In a strange way, we value our uniqueness and our farm animals, even while in the middle of a city surrounded by other cities. My neighborhood is a safe place still rooted in the past, anchored by our Feed and Seed Store and the last remaining family-owned businesses.

The only neighbor who has ever made me wonder about any of this was The Bottle Cap Lady.

For a while, she was a part time cashier at a fast food restaurant until she showed up drunk for work one day. It probably wasn’t the first time, just the first time she wasn’t able to cover it up. Then the same thing happened at her other part time job.

Her husband is occasionally home for a while but then more often away for even longer. She says he comes from a wealthy family, but no one really believes her. He does try to be there for the holidays. We would seldom see him, just his old red pickup truck parked out front.

The Bottle Cap Lady collects soda bottles caps from trash cans hoping to win prizes. It’s what she does to fill the empty places in her life.

She also collects beer bottle caps from her refrigerator. It’s what she does hoping to forget those empty places.

After she lost her part time jobs, she would show up at my backdoor. At first, she tried to sell me some of her things so she could buy groceries. Instead I gave her a few dollars for something to eat.

Sometimes she came to my backdoor to invite me to take her somewhere (with beer). Other times it was just to ask for money to go out with her friends to a special place or event (with beer). But we both knew it was just to collect a few more beer bottle caps to help her forget.

I really considered her to be harmless until I got my chickens. Maybe I worried unnecessarily, but when she came to my backdoor asking for money and didn’t say anything about my new chickens flapping and clucking at her, it made me wonder. It would be like visiting someone’s house and totally ignoring their huge new television set. At times like that, you worry about what you value the most.

Anything could be replaced except my chickens. She wasn’t afraid of chickens because she had grown up on a farm. She could catch and trade a chicken for a six-pack of beer if she was thirsty…or turn a chicken into a meal if she was hungry.

My Life With Gracie made me warn my chickens about The Bottle Cap Lady, but as things would turn out, not all of them would listen…

Please continue reading Part 2 for the remaining message of “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

How To Explain Christmas To Chickens (Part 2)

Bessie’s Best Ever Nesting Box Brownies

Nesting Box Brownies

This post is last in a sequence which began with a previous post about Bessie that you may want to read as well.

Bessie likes to call this a “Two Bowl and One Pan” recipe, and it is our holiday (or anyday) gift to you, our readers. As you may remember, she insisted on illustrating each recipe herself so anyone could follow them, and look at that! There really are two bowls and one pan. She is so clever!

Just so you know, these are not really brownies, but Bessie knows people like something called “brownies.” (We could not make real chocolate brownies because chickens, like many animals, should not have chocolate.)

When these have cooled and are cut them into squares, they do resemble nesting boxes with a firm cookie bottom layer and a softer, almost fluffy coconut “nesting straw” layer on top.

Go ahead and “be a chicken,” if that means being a chicken like Bessie, and bake these for yourself! If you have any chickens or children at home, they can help out using Bessie’s easy-to-follow recipe illustration, starting with getting out two bowls (one medium and one large) and one 9- x 13-inch pan! Arrange everything like you see it and get started!

Although her recipe illustration tells just about all you need to know, below is her recipe in a more traditional format if you don’t have chickens or children at home to help you!

Bessie’s Best Ever Nesting Box Brownies

Ingredients for First Bowl

1 cup chopped pecans
1 (18.25-oz.) package yellow cake mix
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)

Ingredients for Second Bowl

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
1 cup flaked coconut

Directions

Preheat your oven to 325° and meanwhile melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) on low heat, set aside. Lightly grease your 13- x 9-inch baking pan with a little extra butter.

Part A In your first bowl, combine pecans, box of yellow cake mix, 1 egg, box of yellow cake mix, and butter, stirring until well blended. Press in bottom of a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch pan. (Chicken feet must be washed clean for this step! If by some chance you do not have a chicken to help you with this step, you can use your fingers, but it will not be as much fun!)

Part B In your second bowl, beat softened cream cheese, 2 eggs, and box of powdered sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Fold in 1 cup flaked coconut. Pour over cake mix layer.

Part C Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until set. (While you are waiting, Bessie suggests drawing and coloring your own copy of this recipe…from memory…just like she did!)

Part D Cool in the pan on a wire rack, and then cut into squares. 1-inch squares seem best because these are sweet. (The firmer edge pieces are nice as an ice cream topping when coarsely chopped and heated slightly.)

Additional Information Bessie thought adding some speckled jelly beans and maybe toasted coconut on top might make a nice extra touch as well. Don’t forget, the better the eggs, the better the results!

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is true appreciated, especially with an out-of-the-ordinary post and recipe like this one!

Nesting Box Brownies