My Life With Gracie…“Feed The Chickens!” Card Game

Feed The Chickens

For the August 1st One Year Anniversary of these “My Life With Gracie” stories and illustrations, I have been wanting to do something special. Gracie thought a game would be a great gift for our readers, and the other chickens agreed.

Gracie explained, “It has to be the kind of game we chickens can play too. That way we can make sure it’s good enough to give to people.”

“I see.”

“Plus everyone will want to play it with their own chickens. I’m sure of that,” she added confidently.

“Not everyone has chickens in their backyard,” I said. “Some people don’t even have a backyard.”

Everyone looked at me with unblinking surprise and open beaks.

“You can’t be serious.”

“It’s sadly true,” I said.

“How are they able to make it from one day to the next?”

“Who guards their house for them?”

“Who digs their holes for them?”

“Most important of all, who eats their worms for them?”

I shrugged my shoulders and looked at them sadly. “It’s not easy. That’s all I can say.”

“Well then, we really do need to do something to bring some happiness into their lives,” said Gracie with her strongest determination.

“Yes. Oh, yes!” the others clucked emphatically. “Bless their people hearts!”

“How about a card game?” I suggested. “Those don’t need dice which would be difficult for a chicken to roll.”

Then I showed them a deck of cards, and they practiced moving and flipping them over.

They put their heads together and talked among themselves. Finally Gracie declared, “We want to give everyone a free card game.”

“So what do you want to call your card game?”

“Feed The Chickens!” they clucked together without giving it a second thought or any debate at all. “What could be more fun for people than feeding their chickens? Even if it’s only in a card game?”

“I see. Sort of like your favorite joke…Why did the farmer cross the road?”

“To feed the chickens!” They all rocked from side to side with laughter.

That old joke always makes them laugh. I guess I will never understand chicken humor.

After that though, the discussion became somewhat disorganized. Everyone was sure “Feed The Chickens!” was going to be the most phenomenal card game ever in all the history of the world. What could be more fun? But how should the game be played? We needed rules.

I started jotting down their ideas as quickly as I could, usually without being able to tell who was saying what. There was a lot of excitement!

“There should be six different kinds of fruit and vegetable cards.”

“How about seven? One for every day of the week. To remind people how they need to feed their chickens every day!”

“Color the fruits and vegetables so they look really tasty!”

“Don’t color the fruits and vegetables. That way the people can have extra fun coloring them in for themselves.” That was Emily’s suggestion because she likes to draw.

“Don’t put any words on the cards because some of us can’t read,” offered Gracie. “Or numbers either.”

“Yes, but if you do use counting, don’t make the numbers go too high,” said Pearl. “One of us can’t count past four, but I’m not naming any names.”

“Everyone knows you’re talking about yourself!” the others pointed at Pearl who laughed along with them.

“Big cards so people can handle them better.”

“Little cards so people can tuck them away in their pockets and take them with them wherever they go.”

“How about chicken-sized cards so both chickens and people can play with them? Or at least the few fortunate people who have chickens in their backyard.”

This went on for the longest time, and I was sure I would run out of notebook pages.

“The winner should be the one who feeds the chickens the most.”

“Okay but only if the most is the most corn because that is my favorite.”

“That’s fine for you, but I like chopped apples and grated carrots the best.”

“No, the winner should be the one who finishes feeding the chickens first.”

“Make some cards with worms on them!” someone suggested, and the others thought that was just about the best idea ever.

“And a smelly old shoe,” laughed Pearl. “Nobody wants that!”

“Then the winner should be the one who feeds the chickens the most worms!” declared Amelia.

“I think the loser should have to eat the old shoe,” chuckled Bessie. “I can come up with a nice recipe!”

With that, they had just about exhausted all of their ideas, at least for this brainstorming session.

It would be my job to turn their suggestions into a card game that would entertain my chickens and hopefully our readers, even those who don’t have chickens.

Please check back here on Thursday, August 1st when we will post the PDF documents for you to print your “Feed The Chickens!” Card Game. The basic rules will also be posted!

This may look like an easy card game, but just because chickens can play it, doesn’t mean you won’t need to use some strategy!

We are also testing a solitaire version for those who don’t have chickens (or children) who would enjoy this game!

Gracie’s Summer Reading List…“A Wrinkle In Time” by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

To tell the truth, recently was the first time that I’ve ever read this book on my own. I only read it again because I remembered the way it made me feel, and I wanted to feel that way again. I wanted my chickens to feel that way, or whatever way this wonderful book might make them feel.

This book was first read to me fifty years ago when I was in the sixth grade. Mrs. Kitchen was our Language Arts teacher and also our “home room” teacher. The school was Wakefield Elementary School which had actually been a high school when I started attending there in first grade. Her room was in the basement which had thick concrete walls to help keep it extra cool in the warmer months. The other rooms on the first and second floors had huge windows to let in breezes.

Mrs. Kitchen’s daughter, Mary Ann, had been in my class up until third grade when she was killed in a car accident by a drunken driver. All I remember about her was that she was one of the sweetest and prettiest girls in our class and always had the right answers. I think Mrs. Kitchen may have had a hard time when our class made it to sixth grade because it may have brought back painful memories, but she never let it show.

There are only a few things I remember about sixth grade, and this book is one of them. Honestly, I did not remember anything about the plot other than it is about three children who took a trip in time and had some adventures. What I remember much more than that sketchy bit is how this book made me feel somehow understood even though no one appeared to understand me. Perhaps this is best summarized in the theme of the book as stated by Meg, the main character, “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!” This book is about the value of being an individual.

“This story took longer than any of the others so far, but I liked it and could sit still for each chapter. The cover was interesting, and I wanted to know more about the story just from the cover because it had three children flying through the air like chickens and a horse with chicken wings carrying the children somewhere.” – Gracie

“If we ever get into a situation like the one that the children were in, I think I will know what to do. (And chickens do get into some strange situations!) I was a little disappointed that none of the characters were chickens. I mean, they could have been, especially Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who and Mrs Which because they could take on just about any appearance they wanted, I think. Oh, well, it was still an interesting story.” – Bessie

“To be totally honest, I was a little unsure about what it said on the cover about ‘Now a Major Motion Picture’ because who knows what that means. I’ve never seen or heard a Motion Picture, Major or Minor…or Flat or Sharp for that matter. But I did like the gold medal on the cover because it was shiny and bright! It’s a John Newberry Medal for having a good story, and I can completely agree with that!” – Pearl

“I think Mrs Who was my favorite of the three mysterious ladies in the story. She had glasses that let her and Meg, the main character, see things that other people couldn’t see. That’s a lot like me and my drawings because they let me do things I wouldn’t be able to do any other way. There were also some helpful pictures with an ant to explain what a ‘wrinkle in time’ is like. Drawings help explain difficult things too.” – Emily

“I like that a girl got to be the main character and save the day in this book. The boys that went with her on their journey in time had their own special powers and gifts that helped, but Meg was the one who ultimately made everything right. She didn’t make the boys look stupid or bad or anything like that. She didn’t have to look pretty or be mean or sassy. She just had to be herself. She saved her father and her brother and probably everybody else too. I would like to be like Meg.” – Amelia

“A Wrinkle In Time” is suitable for ages 8 to 12 and is available through Barnes and Noble. The price on the back of the book is $6.99, however Barnes & Noble is offering it for less. Summertime discount codes offer additional savings. By the way, Barnes & Noble is offering “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” at a special price with the purchase of this or other books. This picture book by Ryan T. Higgins will be our next on Gracie’s Summer Reading List! (It is hilarious!)

Just so you know, “My Life With Gracie” isn’t getting anything from sharing this book with you. We don’t collect anything if you click the link here. Some websites work that way, but for us, it’s about reading. Children (and chickens) need to read and be read to, whether it’s what we write or not!

My Life With Gracie…The Kindness Of Giving Rest

Giving Rest

This recent summer hot spell has been rough, perhaps the longest and roughest my chickens have ever known. I have had to take extra steps to help make them comfortable.

I have run electric cords out into the backyard to power several low-noise fans. I’ve also used cooling block pans which have helped even more. (These are shallow pans with a concrete paver block that has been soaked in water. The pavers sit just above the water level so that when the chickens stand on them, they get an evaporative cooling effect.)

Even though I move their fan to give them a breeze through the big wire door to their coop at night, it is often just moving still-hot air. It’s not always easy for them to get a good night’s sleep. Instead they take a series of short naps at night and more naps during the day, often after taking a dustbath in the cool earth.

Gracie is different though. When I get home from work, she often has one or two of the others nearby in the dustbath they have dug in front of the fan. They will be peacefully taking a long deep sleep while she is keeping watch over them.

Emily depends on her the most. Perhaps it is because she is the smallest and feels the most vulnerable. Perhaps it is because they share a kinship of the heart even though they are completely different kinds of chickens on the outside.

Gracie doesn’t close her eyes to nap until Emily gets up from resting beside her. You can tell she wants to sleep some herself, but she won’t leave Emily unprotected even though they are secure in their run.

When I get home, I will sit in my chair under the camellias as quietly as I can so I don’t wake anyone up from a nap. Often I want to give Gracie some comforting words and to thank her for being such a good leader, but I don’t want even my softest voice to wake up Emily who is by her side. Gracie understands this as I silently mouth, “Thank you, Gracie.”

She knows I will be there for a while when I start reading a book which I almost always bring outside with me. When she sees me starting to read, then she slowly closes her eyes too. She passes the role of protector of the flock to me, and then she can rest as well.

It may be wrong and foolish of me to believe that Gracie holds in her heart all of the goodness that a chicken’s heart can possibly hold, but those words overflow from my own heart. I must say them, right or wrong.

There are no predators that could get in and hurt them, but still Emily needs the comfort of knowing Gracie is watching over her. Gracie with all of the goodness in her heart can not let Emily down.

My Life With Gracie opened my heart to see the kindness of giving rest.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Family Photo Friday!

 

This is one of my favorite photos of Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, and Pearl when they were all still pullets (female chickens before they have laid their first egg). After their first egg they can officially be called hens. It’s a big event!

That’s modest Gracie with her back to the camera. Bessie is looking up inquisitively to see if the strange box called a camera may present any possible danger. Blanche and Pearl are doing what they do best —- hunting for food! They look a little like eagles, don’t they? Perhaps that’s what they imagine themselves to be when hunting!

This was before Amelia and Emily came to live with us as refugees. This was before their first winter with snow. This was before life started moving much too fast. We had time back then to examine things carefully and to savor our time together.

Time feels as if it is rushing by all too quickly. We have seen so much and done so much, but there hardly seems to be time to record and share it all.

In less than two weeks, on August 1st, we will be celebrating one year of stories and illustrations through “My Life With Gracie.” That is amazing! Amazing!

I would like to think of a really great gift to give all of you, our friends and readers around the world! Hmm…must consult with Gracie, she always has good ideas!

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Happy Hatchday, Blanche, Pearl, Amelia, and Emily!

Before you girls enjoy your celebrations, let’s take a moment remembering Blanche whose Hatchday is also today. She gave us all so much in the short time we had with her. These past two years have been wonderful, and I appreciate all of the goodness the four of you have brought into my life.

Blanche

May saffron rays
of morning’s sun
fringe the garden
edge where lilies
embrace the hue
of white feathers.

This poem was written by one of our dearest friends and readers to help us remember Blanche and to honor the joy she brought to so many.

Is there a better way to celebrate than with a corn cupcake topped with mashed avocado and an earthworm?!? Well maybe not for you, but for the rest of us, perhaps there is! How about a paperback full of your stories?!?

“Seasons Of Friendship” is now available as a paperback book through Barnes & Noble!

Visit the “Seasons Of Friendship” eBook page on the Barnes & Noble website.

We can read our favorite parts about the four of you at bedtime tonight!

For now, you can eat, eat, eat!!! It’s exactly what Blanche would want you to do! I’m going to grab my shovel and then go hunting for more worms!

My Life With Gracie taught me there is never a season when we don’t need friendship. May we always remember our friends (feathered or not) with joyful hearts.

Gracie’s Summer Reading List…“Molly’s Story” by W. Bruce Cameron

Molly’s Story by W. Bruce Cameron

This book was not a “quick sell” for my chickens because it isn’t about chickens or eggs. But amazingly, it does have a “chicken connection” which caught their attention. Let me explain.

Each of the books in this series is about a different dog with a special purpose. Molly has the ability to detect cancer in people before they even know they have it. She is a cancer-sniffing dog.

While writing this book, W. Bruce Cameron turned to a close friend, Dina Zaphiris, who trains dogs with this special ability. She had not been able to have a dog of her own when she was growing up because her family had chickens. She trained her family’s chickens to do tricks and to come when their names were called. When she grew up, she got her own dogs and became a certified animal trainer.

That part caught the attention of my chickens. If someone who knew about chickens was somehow connected to this book, then that was okay with them. After we finished this story, they have decided they wouldn’t mind it if we eventually get a dog as long as it likes chickens and will guard them.

“There were many parts of the story that made me nervous and worried about Molly and her little girl named CJ. I didn’t like the mother, Gloria, or her boyfriend, Gus. I was really mad at Gloria for turning Molly in as a stray dog and pretending she didn’t know Molly. That was not true, and she should not have done it. Gus grabbed CJ’s arm and wouldn’t let go. Molly defended her. The scariest part of all was when CJ and Molly ran away from home for days and days. Well, I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, but I will say there were a lot of very intense parts.” – Gracie

“I thought it was interesting how Molly liked being with her little girl even inside the house. I’m not sure what that is like because chickens are more independent, and we like being outside whether our people are inside or not. We don’t really perform tricks to get treats, though we certainly don’t look down on those who do. We think, and rightly so, laying an egg every day is all of the performing we should ever need to do. Molly saved someone’s life in this story, and that was my favorite part. Molly was very smart and very brave.” – Bessie

“I could really relate to Molly because she had a difficult time figuring things out. There is a lot to figure out in life, and I need all of the help I can get. This book didn’t really help me understand people any better, but it did help me to understand dogs better. If we ever get a dog to watch over us, I will know better what to expect. They seem a lot easier to understand than people.” – Pearl

“I liked that Molly is the one who was telling her story herself. Maybe one day I will tell my own story, or maybe a story about my best friend Amelia. I do wish the book had explained how Molly learned to write. Did she use a pencil and paper? Did she use something like a typewriter? I think I will need to know how to do that. There is typing called ‘hunt and peck,’ and I think chickens would be very good at it.” – Emily

“One of the best parts is when Molly writes ‘People really do very strange things.’ That is so very true! I’m glad Molly said that. I know people aren’t lucky enough to be chickens (or dogs), but maybe people will take the hint.” – Amelia

“Molly’s Story” is suitable for ages 8 to 12 and grades 3 to 7 and is available through Barnes and Noble along with other books in this series such as “Ellie’s Story” and “Bailey’s Story.” Each book is about a different special dog. The overall theme of the entire series is “Every dog has work to do. Every dog has a purpose.” The price on the back of each book is $7.99, however Barnes & Noble is offering them for less. Summertime discount codes offer additional savings.

Just so you know, “My Life With Gracie” isn’t getting anything from sharing this book with you. We don’t collect anything if you click the link here. Some websites work that way, but for us, it’s about reading. Children (and chickens) need to read and be read to, whether it’s what we write or not!

The Best Kind Of Love

The Best Kind Of Love

This is the last post in a short series about how Pearl has coped with the loss of her best friend, Blanche. The series began with this post if you want to start at the beginning.

Pearl called again more insistently. I went back to her.

“What is it, Sweetie? Are you okay?”

“Do you think those little fireflies are like that too?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I have nothing to share with them. When I tell them jokes, they don’t laugh. I have told them my very-best-ever-never-fail jokes, the ones that had everyone else rolling on the ground with laughter. Once Blanche was laughing so hard she laid an egg right in the middle of my joke. But the fireflies don’t think any of my jokes are funny at all.

“But when I cluck, ‘Bawk. Bawk. Bwawk-a-Bock,’ they make a ‘Blink. Blink. Blink-a-Blonk’ with their lights.”

“Yes?”

“And when I cluck, ‘Bock. Bwawk-a-Bwawk. Bock. Bock,’ they make a ‘Blonk. Blink-a-Blink. Blonk. Blonk’ with their lights.”

“What do you think that means, Pearl?”

“I think it means, I hope it means, they love me even if they don’t understand my jokes.”

“Do you feel the emptiness in your life being filled, even if just a little?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Then that is certainly love. And the best kind of love. They love you with the same kind of love Blanche had for you.

“They don’t love you because you told them a funny joke. They can’t understand your jokes. They love you because you have nothing to share with them except your heart. They can understand the goodness of your heart. It’s all they need to know. That’s just like Blanche.”

“Why do you think the fireflies didn’t show up until this summer?”

“Maybe they have been here all along, but you never noticed them before. Sometimes things are that way. They are beautiful. They are like tiny little miracles, don’t you think?”

“Yes, and they are my friends.”

“They absolutely are.”

“And they love me no matter what.”

“They absolutely do.”

“And you are sure?”

“I absolutely am.”

Her old smile began to return. She was fine to be by herself now without me because she didn’t feel alone any more. I stood and looked at her innocently hopeful face.

“You are such a pearl, my little Pearl.”

We said our final goodnights. She was happy now. As I headed back inside for the second time, I wondered what would happen when summer turned to autumn and the fireflies disappeared until their next season.

For now, the bawking and blinking would be enough.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

When There Are No More Jokes To Tell

When There Are No More Jokes To Tell

This is the third in a series of posts about how Pearl has coped with the loss of her best friend, Blanche. The conclusion will come in the next post. (Watch for the fireflies!)

“I still don’t understand. Aren’t you supposed to love someone because they are really good, or at least really good at something? When you are good and practically perfect, life is supposed to go right for you.”

“Blanche was good to you, wasn’t she? She did all of the right things when it came to being your best friend ever, didn’t she? But she has gone away from us even though she was as good as a good friend could be, even though she didn’t want to, and even though she tried her best to stay with us as long as she could.”

Pearl closed her eyes as if all this was too much for her, but she was desperate to make sense of what has caused many to stumble and doubt.

“Love wouldn’t have anything to do in a perfectly right world. Love is action. Love has to do something. That is why it’s never enough to say you love someone. Love has to do something, even if it’s just telling someone a joke like you do so well. Love fills emptiness. Love covers imperfection.”

She looked into my eyes, hoping what I said was the truth, hoping to find her most needed answer there.

“I am out of jokes and silly hats and silly anything. How can you still love me?”

“I love you all the more, Pearl, when you have nothing to share except your heart.”

Pearl was silent. She didn’t know whether to stand or sit or run away to find a distraction.

“Think about these things for a while. You won’t get them right away like the punchline of a joke. Most punchlines come easily when you are ready for laughing. But most life truths only come easily when you are ready for crying.”

Pearl nodded. She would think through these things in the privacy of her nesting box.

As I headed back to the house, I heard Pearl calling, almost desperately, but she wasn’t calling for Blanche. She was calling for me.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Kinds Of Wounds

Kinds Of Wounds

This post is part of a series about how Pearl has coped with the death of her best friend, Blanche. Grieving a death or any other painful event is never easy, but maybe Pearl’s experiences will help.

“Why do you love Gracie so much?” Pearl asked me early one evening.

“I love all you girls with all my heart. You are all my chickens.”

“I know, but there is something special about Gracie. Your voice is different with her. So is the way you move.”

These are things I had not noticed about myself. Pearl could be silly, but she is a serious observer, just as all comedians are.

“Maybe it’s not a matter of more or less. Maybe it’s in different ways. I am growing to love you the same way I love Gracie.”

“Why is that? What is her trick? What did she do to make you love her so much in a different way? I want to know. Does she tell better jokes than me? I’ve never heard her tell any jokes. Not a single joke ever. Or wear any silly hats? She doesn’t even do that.”

It was difficult for me to tell if she was jealous or angry or simply curious. Maybe her heart was desperate for answers, any answers, since there seemed to be no answer to her most important question. Why has Blanche died and gone away?

“I will tell you what you and Gracie share in common, and that may help you understand. I hope so. It’s not easy to explain any other way.”

Pearl moved closer to hear better.

“I love Gracie the way that I do because she has always had that lump on her side, almost from the time she hatched. It is something she has had to live with. It keeps her from doing some of the things she wants to do. You might call it a wound to her body.

“Gracie loves every minute of her life even though her wound reminds her of unpleasant things.”

Pearl stayed quiet, thinking this through. She needed something to fill the ache in her heart, and maybe more love could do it.

“It is like what happened to Bessie. Remember the day when I was away, and she defended all of you against the stray cat? Her comb grew crooked and floppy afterwards.

“Some people would say it makes her undesirable, flawed, and even ugly. When I look at her, I only see what a brave girl she is and how much she loves all of you.”

Pearl grew restless.

“I don’t understand how any of that makes me like them,” Pearl protested.

“I don’t have a lump on my side. My comb stands tall and straight. It is as red as my feathers are white. I’m a practically perfect little hen. You have just as much said so yourself before.”

“Yes, I know. But when Blanche died, that was like a wound to your heart. No one can see your wound, but it’s there, and it hurts nonetheless. You are learning to keep going even though the scar on your heart reminds you of unpleasant things.”

Pearl stopped her nervous head-bobbing and pacing. She looked down at her breast. She saw the pure white feathers on the outside. She felt her broken heart on the inside, but it didn’t scare her any more.

This is the second of four posts which tell about Pearl and her grieving process. You may wish to read the next post in this series.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!