My Life With Gracie…Sunday Surprises!

This morning, I was putting on my chicken shoes as I do each morning. (If you have chickens, you know about chicken shoes, shoes specifically for mucking about with the chickens.) While tying one of my shoes, I looked up and saw this beautiful welcome to a new day. The Rose Of Sharon behind the chicken coop had begun to bloom, and the petals were just catching the morning sunlight coming over the roof.

This one is a Double White Althea, just in case you wanted to find one for yourself. I bought two of these several years before I had any chickens, and I used them to anchor the far end of my garden raised beds. Now they anchor our big chicken coop and run and provide afternoon shade for their afternoon free-range area. We will be enjoying these blossoms throughout the summer months, and the beautiful bronze-toned seed pods in the autumn months.

We are all hoping that your day will be filled with a few equally beautiful surprises!

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

 

My Life With Gracie…Sunday Surprises!

That’s right! Yesterday was another great day to work out in the yard and garden, and we have yet another “Sunday Surprises!” 

This plant is called rose campion. It has soft fuzzy leaves like a similar plant called lamb’s ear. These are the most intensely colored flowers of any in my whole yard. The leaves are no more than four or five inches tall, but when it’s time to produce flowers, this plant soars high!

A gardening friend gave me a few of these many years ago, and they grew into a much larger bed than what you see here. (I think they need more sun than what this particular spot provides.)

This is my last clump of these self-sowing perennials. But I have saved the seeds and will be helping them to reclaim their section of the garden.

While I was surprised and very glad to discover this dotted splash of color yesterday, I miss having a huge blast of this over-the-top color that I get with a large bed or border of this amazing flower.

I might not have spotted them if I hadn’t noticed Pearl sitting and staring off into a distant part of the yard. She was studying this favorite flower. Its brilliant color is just as intense as the white of her feathers in the noonday sunlight.

Be brilliant! Be intense! You can do it! (And save your seeds!)

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

My Life With Gracie…Sunday Surprises!

Sunday Surprises

This would normally be a “Saturday Surprises!” post, but yesterday was another great day to work out in the yard and garden, so nothing got posted. Instead, we have yet another “Sunday Surprises!” 

Yes, this is a picture of worms and dirt and soggy old hay. Not particularly the kind of photo that would get thousands of “likes” here or anywhere else. But to a chicken, it’s one beautiful mouthwatering photo!

The inspiration for this particular post came when I overheard Emily telling the others, “Our Daddy is the best worm hunter ever!” Who doesn’t want to be admired like that?

Over the years of taking care of my chickens, I have learned the best places and conditions for finding worms. Underneath bricks, pavers, and old logs are all prime spots. Wet days after a period of rain like we had this past week are always good. But even I had not anticipated the number of worms I would find under the straw bales I had put around their coop and run areas to act as a windbreak.

That was late fall. Now it was late spring, practically summer. The hay bales had gotten repeatedly wet over the months and had begun to break down. The worms from the yard had found a nice home.

There’s more than one kind of worm in my yard. Some worms are sluggish and fat. The chickens enjoy those for their gourmet appeal. Other worms are a bit leaner, longer, and livelier. The chickens enjoy those for the thrill of the hunt! They start thrashing around as soon as they are uncovered, and seeing them sends all of my girls into a frenzy.

After their breakfast feast, we sat and I told everyone about my Uncle Eddie who owned a worm farm. They were fascinated, completely entranced. I told them about how there were rows and rows of raised beds almost like tables. They were filled with soil and different kinds of worms. I told them about how he could just walk right in and fill up a bucket of worms in no time.

They were all ready to head for Uncle Eddie’s Worm Farm until I told them about the alligator he kept in his backyard. It had made its way up from Florida to the North Carolina coast after a hurricane, and Uncle Eddie had found it and given it a home. Having an alligator for people to look at helped his worm business. Who wouldn’t want to look at a live alligator while getting some worms for fishing?

My chickens were glad to hear that the alligator had his own little pond and drainage tile that made a cavelike shelter. They were not glad to hear that Uncle Eddie fed his alligator chicken legs.

No one wanted to visit Uncle Eddie’s Worm Farm after they heard that, no matter how many worms there were or how easy they were to find.

I suppose this just proves the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. But I think it also shows that sometimes what we are looking for just may have already been provided for us, right in our own back yard, right where we live. We just may need to do a little exploring.

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

My Life With Gracie…Sunday Surprises!

This would normally be a “Saturday Surprises!” post, but yesterday was a great day to work out in the yard and garden, so nothing got posted. Instead, we have “Sunday Surprises!” From looking at this photograph, you may think I needed to do some serious weeding!

My house was built in 1920 and will be celebrating its one hundred year anniversary in December. Over the years, many different vegetables and flowers have been grown in my yard. Every now and then, my own turning over of the soil brings old seeds closer to the surface, close enough to sprout and grow. This spring, these delightful little flowers sprang up and bloomed.

Yes, something new for my chickens to look at and enjoy, but not taste. At least not this year. Perhaps next year after this spot has been protected and allowed to reseed itself.

Whenever I’m working in the yard, my mind wanders. As I studied these yesterday, I was reminded of Mrs. Brown, our elementary school lunch lady. Her husband’s name was “Chicken Brown.” At the time I wondered why anyone would name their child “Chicken,” and finally I just assumed giving people nicknames like this was one of the odd things grownups did which would never really make sense to me. He was a mechanic and wore overalls with his name on them. My grandfather was a mechanic too, and that made him okay by me even though he had a strange name.

Most people never give much thought to lunch ladies, not even ones married to someone named “Chicken Brown,” but I think perhaps lunch ladies have one of the most important jobs in any school. It’s not just in the preparation of the food (which back then was all prepared “from scratch” like the very best homemade meals). It’s something else entirely different. Lunch ladies have a rare opportunity to see children as they are outside of the classroom when they don’t need to impress any adults with how smart and good they are.

Several years ago after surveying the damage from a hurricane that had come close, but not too close, I spoke with Mrs. Brown briefly. I found that she was a very prayerful woman, and she prayed for the children that went through her lunch line. I think she saw things in our faces that no one else saw. She knew who was troubled. She knew who felt lost. Her prayers were like those old seeds in my garden soil. They didn’t sprout and blossom right away. But she planted them anyway with her kind words and smiles, trusting that one day all would be well.

Somewhere in your life, there has likely been someone like Mrs. Brown. They may not have been an elementary school lunch lady, but they wanted good things for you and for your life to turn out well.

Today may be your day to turn over some soil and see what happens. Or plant some seeds of your own into the life of someone who needs them. You may not see what happens, but love, kindness, prayers, little flowers, and an extra helping of real mashed potatoes are never wasted.

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

My Life With Gracie…Saturday Surprises!

Saturday Surprises

Here again is something a little different, and “Saturday Surprises!” seems to be the most appropriate name for this type of post. It’s just a glimpse into life here with my chickens.

These look very much like hydrangeas, but they are actually blossoms from our Chinese Showball Viburnum. The photo is taken from a “chicken’s eye view.” It was taken before the flowers have turned completely white because I like the pale green mixed with white. When this plant was smaller and in full bloom, there were hardly any stems or leaves showing, only huge white “snowballs.”

When we have a few warmer than normal days during the winter, I will be able to find small blossoms opening near the top where there is more sun. They are like a promise that spring really will come, and here is the fulfillment of that promise. Spring did come!

Definitely a “Saturday Surprise” wouldn’t you say?!?

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

My Life With Gracie…Saturday Surprises!

Saturday Surprises

Here again is something a little different, and “Saturday Surprises!” seems to be the most appropriate name for this type of post. It’s just a glimpse into life here with my chickens. I knew this book was somewhere in my garage and had been meaning to find it for months and months. I finally went looking on New Year’s Day.

This book is so special to me because it is one that I had checked out of my elementary school library when I was perhaps in the fourth or fifth grade. This was around the time when the original 1967 “Dr. Dolittle” movie with Rex Harrison was released. Unlike most of my classmates, I never saw the movie, but I read the books, all that our school library had. The Dr. Dolittle from Puddlby-on-the-Marsh who lived in my imagination was much more vividly real than any on the movie screen.

When they were closing the school several decades later, they gave everyone a chance to walk through one last time. I found this copy in a box of books to be discarded and picked it up as a remembrance.

I loved the illustrations in the books as well. Their simple hand-drawn lines were appealing and still have an “honest” feeling to me. They helped me to believe Dr. Dolittle was a real man and these adventures with animals were real. After all, the books were the genuine account written and illustrated by someone who knew all about Dr. Dolittle and his animals, Hugh Lofting.

Lately on sunny winter afternoons, I’ve been reading “Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary” to my chickens. We are taking our time with this book because it is a treasure, just as a real green canary would be a treasure.

It will likely not appear on any of Gracie’s reading lists, but that’s not because it’s an unworthy book. It’s because you can’t buy this book any more, at least not the copyrighted in 1924 and printed in 1950 version with the reinforced library tape and the loose falling out pages and chocolate milk stains on the cover. Pre-read and pre-loved books are becoming harder to come by these days.

All of my chickens were ambivalent at first when we started reading this book because there are no chicken characters. Of course, they liked hearing about Pippinella, the green canary, Too-Too, the owl, and Dab-Dab, the duck, but they all felt the story would have been better with a chicken or two.

“Mr. Lofting should not have left out chickens,” protested Bessie. She is the one who most often speaks up when things appear to be unfair.

“Maybe there is a chicken who will appear in the end of the story and solve all of the problems,” suggested Gracie.

So we skimmed through the pictures in the remaining portion of the book. There were no pictures of chickens. Everyone was hugely disappointed.

“There can be a duck in the story but no chicken,” someone softly grumbled to herself. I think it was likely Bessie.

“Quite honestly, I’m glad Mr. Lofting did not write about or draw any chicken characters,” I said.

Everyone looked stunned, almost hurt.

“It’s like Mr. Lofting left all of the writing about chickens for me to do, actually for us to do. And for that, I am very grateful.”

Every head tilted to the side at exactly the same time. This was not something they had considered.

“Anyone reading our stories would think we were just rehashing what had already been written. It would be like if we had a pushmi-pullyu living with us here in the backyard. Everyone would say I was just copying Mr. Lofting and they wouldn’t believe anything I wrote about having a pushmi-pullyu in our backyard or any of you.”

“It definitely would be awful if people didn’t believe we were real,” said Emily.

“Or didn’t believe we could dance ballet,” added Gracie.

“All of that is beside the point,” said Amelia. “Tell us about this pushmi-pullyu animal. I want to know more about that. Can you find a book with a picture of it?”

Everyone agreed with Amelia. Finding out more about the pushmi-pullyu was much more important.

And so we spent the rest of that evening discussing the remarkable pushmi-pullyu and some of the other characters not found in “Dr Dolittle and the Green Canary.” By bedtime, the pushmi-pullyu was just as real in their imaginations as it had been in my own elementary school imagination.

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

My Life With Gracie…Saturday Surprises!

Saturday Surprises

Here again is something a little different, and “Saturday Surprises!” seems to be the most appropriate name for this type of post. It’s just a glimpse into life here in our little backyard in the middle of a big city.

Last weekend we were energized by these tiny fragrant blossoms from our tea olive, or sweet osmanthus. It started out as just about a foot and a half tall when I bought it several years ago. It is now over five feet tall.

If it had not been blooming at the time when I saw it at the nursery, I would have walked right by it because the leaves are similar to many other plants. You may want to watch for this plant in your local nursery, but check the label if it’s not blooming season. Otherwise you may miss it. This would make a great addition to your yard and is very low maintenance. (Basically just plant it in a good spot. How nice is that?!?)

These blossoms are extremely small, but they put out a sweet fragrance that fills most of our yard. The smell is said to resemble peaches or apricots, but I think it is something else entirely unique. In some countries the blossoms are added to green or black tea leaves, which is likely why it is often called tea olive. (It does not have any fruit like the regular olive.)

The only wish I have for this plant is for the bloom time to be longer than its four to five days. But I am grateful for the joy it brought us all last weekend, and so this weekend, I’m reliving that joy by sharing this with you.

For most of the year, it is just another evergreen in the landscape, but when it blooms, it is amazing! Amazing! I have it planted in the side yard so that it can greet me before I even see it when I come home at the end of the day. It makes almost as joyful a “Welcome Home!” as my chickens make!

It definitely has an invigorating effect on my chickens as well. Their “Welcome Home!” greetings always seem a little more extreme when the tea olive is blooming! Or maybe they are just catching some of my enthusiasm?!

My wish for you is that you will find joy in the smallest of wonders wherever they may be. Often the small things in life provide a most amazing and overpowering experience.

I wish I could have described the fragrance of these blossoms much better. But then again, maybe there are some things which are so extraordinary in life that they defy description and can only be experienced? Perhaps this is one of them.

My Life With Gracie…Saturday Surprises!

Here is something a little different for you, our readers, and “Saturday Surprises!” seems to be the most appropriate name for this type of post. This morning when I went out to welcome my chickens into their new day after the passing of Hurricane Dorian, I found some bright and cheerful morning glory blossoms had beat me to it.

These had been slowly growing up the chicken wire, and today they have decided they like this spot and it is time to bloom. They are one of the most beautiful shades of blue there is. I thought it interesting that this is practically the same blue that I used in parts of Monday’s illustration about the hurricane that was coming our way. Sometimes life has coincidences like this, I believe, to remind us that neither the bad times nor the good times remain forever.

Everything around us may change, but pure and simple beauty, such as the beauty of the color blue, will remain the same.

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to leave work early, and when I finally got home, my chickens were glad to see me. They had huddled together in a protected corner under their coop. I quickly changed into my “chicken clothes” and sat on the ground inside their run area with them.

They gathered around me, and Amelia tugged at my jeans. This means she needs to be picked up and hugged, and of course, that is exactly what I did. We all sat there together in our little huddle and watched the wind as it swayed the tree limbs. Only occasionally would it blow some rain in where we were. (Their garden home is very sheltered, and I add additional barriers during bad weather.)

Then Emily and Gracie decided it would be a good time to scratch around for something to eat. Amelia decided she had enough hugging and decided to join them. (After all hugging is for silly little baby chicks, isn’t it? Definitely not for big independent grown-up hens like Amelia!)

Life had returned to normal, even while the hurricane was as close to our home as it was going to get before heading out towards the Atlantic Ocean. I’m sure that there are several life lessons in all of this, and I may write about them another day. For now, I’m just grateful for this new and surprising day!

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