“Just Farm Animals” (Part 1)

Just Farm Amimals

Evenings spent with my chickens are the best part of almost any day. We share a treat of some fresh fruit and recount the day’s events or simply discuss whatever is on our minds.

“So Gracie, what is the best thing about being a chicken?”

“Well, I guess the best thing about being a chicken is being a chicken.”

She clucked at her cleverness.

“Chickens get to hunt for worms. I love the joy and anticipation of running with a worm I’ve just found. What is the best thing about being a person?”

“That is a tough question.”

“And you can’t just say ‘the best thing about being a person is being a person.’ You would just be copying me!”

“The best thing about being a person is watching chickens running with a worm they just found. That’s not really copying you, is it? Gracie, you are certainly in a fun mood today.”

“I guess so. Maybe not. But don’t change the subject. I do think it’s a good question even though the answer can’t change anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if it is the best, it is at the top. You can’t get any better. Ask about what is the worst. Then you have something to work on. You can get better then.”

“I see what you mean. So what is the worst thing about being a chicken?”

“Sometimes we care about people, but they don’t care about us,” she said without hesitating.

“I think that may be the worst thing about being a person too. When other people don’t care about you.”

We looked off together towards the part of the yard that had gotten overgrown over the years. It made a nice place for traveling birds like starlings and crows and thrushes to stop and rest as they came through our neighborhood, but we didn’t see any just then.

I enjoyed moments like this when Gracie and I shared things in common like how important is was to know we are cared for.

“After all, we are just farm animals,” she muttered. “Just farm animals.”

Our moment of connectedness was broken.

She looked down at the ground searching for nothing in particular, and then she moved as if to get up.

My Life With Gracie taught me words can make everything in our world change in an instant.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. This post felt too long, and so it is divided into two parts. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Life With Gracie…An Unseen Boundary

An Unseen Boundary

Sometimes maybe we forget how the boundaries and fences we see really can be for our own protection, for our own good. But there are unseen boundaries found in the heart of a different nature.

After Lefty and Rudy left for a farm in Southampton County and The Emperor and The Empress left for a farm in Smithfield, Gracie and Bessie were the only ones outside. But Blanche and Pearl soon outgrew their indoor brooder box and joined them.

Without Lefty or The Emperor to lead the flock, Bessie found her spot. But really there wasn’t much leading to do at first when the only other chicken there was her best friend Gracie. I think Bessie was glad when Blanche and Pearl joined them. She had younger chickens to keep in line, particularly during those awkward, rebellious teenage weeks!

After a little over five months of unemployment, I was hired into a temporary position, and Bessie had a chance to show her leadership skills while I was away. She was so proud when I would tell her, “Okay, Miss Bessie, you’re in charge until I get back.” She took her duties very seriously.

One day when I got home, I knew something was different by the way the chickens were behaving. When I looked closer at Bessie, I could see she had two gash marks on the top of her head, one on each side of her comb.

I asked her what had happened, and she told me the best she could. She even went up into their coop to show me more. She would talk and point with her beak and talk some more and point to a different spot. Then she pointed to the blood spatters on the inside walls of their coop, and I knew how deep her trauma must have been.

She went on and on for the longest time. All I could say was, “I know, Honey, I know.” But I didn’t know what had happened. Only she knew, and I think that unseen boundary hurt me the most…not that I wasn’t there to be the protector, but that she didn’t know how I shared her feelings even though I hadn’t shared her experience. Somehow knowing someone else shares your feelings makes difficult times less difficult.

Having Bessie recount the story of whatever happened the way she did convinced me never to think of any chickens as “just chickens.”

Finally she settled down, and we went on with our evening routine. My best guess is a stray cat found a gap in the fencing between their coop and run, not big enough for either animal to get their bodies through, just a paw or a beak.

Since then the cats started taking different routes, and now all of the chickens go into “high alert” whenever one is in sight. But whatever happened that day changed Bessie. She continued to be the leader for a while, but began holding back more and more until Gracie took over.

My timid little Gracie, with the lump on her side and who I thought would be at the bottom of the pecking order for her entire life, my timid little Gracie became the new leader.

While Gracie will always be “My Best Girl Ever,” Bessie will always be “My Bravest Girl Ever.” I tell her that often because I think she needs to hear it. She is now more retiring and reserved than the others. She fought a brave battle, lived to tell about it, and is glad to now rest and let her best friend be the flock champion.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Bessie) showed me what it means to be a leader.

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

An Unseen Boundary

My Life With Gracie…About That Greener Grass

About That Greener Grass

If a little chick ever quivers with excitement, it would have to be when they leave the controlled environment of their brooder and stand on grassy lawn for the first time. It’s as if they suddenly realize, “This is too good to be true. This is the life for me!”

There’s warming sunshine to enjoy and cool, still dewy grass to eat…and bugs everywhere! Suddenly the entire world is vividly alive with color and sound and sensations.

The first time playing outside, they didn’t see the hawks overhead or the snakes at the edge of the woods or the neighborhood stray cats passing through my backyard on the way to their next free meal. My little chicks only saw the grass on the other side of the plastic playpen fencing somehow looking better than what was right in front of them. Then a few spotted the gap in the fencing I had somehow overlooked. It was just big enough to squeeze through, and then they took off!

After chasing them around the yard, I realized those little chicks probably don’t think very far ahead. They see an opportunity. They take advantage of it!

Little chicks have no concept of fear or consequences. They see something they want, and they go after it. They only know they want to explore and taste and see everything for themselves. They have a singular focus and a huge annoyance over anything getting in the way of what they want.

I can be such a baby chick sometimes! And I can get myself into some real situations all because I’m thinking about that greener grass over there!

When we had a really close call with a feral cat, we all started looking at things differently, but that’s another story for another day.

My Life With Gracie gave me a chance to rethink boundaries and fences.

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

About That Greener Grass