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!

My Life With Gracie…More Than What We Are Right Now

More Than What We Are Right Now

Recently someone asked me, “Is Gracie your chicken or your wife?”

I replied, “Gracie is one of my absolutely amazing chickens. She is a beautiful Buff Orpington with a very gracious heart which is why she is named Gracie.”

My own heart enjoyed this question, though I am not completely sure why. I hoped this had been asked because the questioner found a special love in my words and illustrations.

I remember once, a little more than twenty-four years ago, when someone had told me, “We can never be anything more than what we are right now.”

Those words come back to me today, almost as clearly as when they were spoken on that front porch swing. It was a summer night, warm with only a light breeze. A golden retriever lay nearby, listening and trying to figure out what those words meant.

The most fragile realities seem to be the ones which depend the most on other people.

And so I wonder if that has anything to do with why I love Gracie so much. She gives me the dream of having someone to come home to, and I give her the dream of being someone to come home to…and of dancing ballet.

As long as there are stories and drawings, Gracie and I will surely be more than what we are right now…L’artiste et son beau poulet dansant…The artist and his beautiful dancing chicken.

I could tell there was still something troubling her. “What else do you want to know, Gracie?”

“In the ballet book, can you draw a picture of me dancing with you in the streets of Paris? I don’t think we will ever really get to dance there together.”

“Of course, Gracie. Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”

From “Seasons Of Friendship”

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! Today is my 62nd birthday, and today just seemed to be the best day to share this story and illustration.

“Feed The Chickens!” Card Game…Our Anniversary Gift To You!

Feed The Chickens Card Game

Today we are celebrating our One-Year Anniversary of “My Life With Gracie” stories and illustrations. Here is our “Thank You!” gift to you, our readers!

We have truly appreciated your encouragement and support over the past twelve months! PDF documents to “Print and Play” are at the bottom! Hopefully this game isn’t too “corny,” but my chickens love it!

“Feed The Chickens!” Un-Official Official Rules

(That means it’s okay to change them and even add your own rules! Gracie says so, and what Gracie says goes!)

Object Of The Game Two Chicken Farmers try to make seven different Food Piles for their chickens, one for each different fruit or vegetable. The Winner is the Chicken Farmer with the highest total value for their top cards in their own “Feed The Chickens!” Area. (The illustration above should help explain these rules. You can see how the cards are arranged when playing. White and gray labels are used for Pearl, and pale orange and tan are used for Gracie.)

How To Set Up Shuffle cards. Deal face down on the table to make a Draw Pile for each Chicken Farmer.

How To Play Both Chicken Farmers turn over their top cards and place them face up to see who has the highest value. The Chicken Farmer with the highest value gets to “Feed The Chickens!”

Sometimes both cards will have the same value! (This is what you see in the Illustration. Pearl has Two Kale and Gracie has Two Corn.) When that happens, both Chicken Farmers turn over their top cards again. Repeat until someone has a higher value on their top card. This means there could be a lot of cards to choose from when someone gets to “Feed The Chickens!”

How To “Feed The Chickens!” The Chicken Farmer with the highest value top card takes all the cards turned over and selects one Fruit Card or Vegetable Card for their “Feed The Chickens!” Area. This card may be used to make a new kind of Food Pile or be put on top of a matching Food Pile if they have that kind already. Remember every time there is a card with a higher value turned over, it’s time to “Feed The Chickens!”

Other card or cards taken but not used to “Feed The Chickens!” should be placed in the Chicken Farmer’s Discard Pile. Then it’s time to turn over cards again!

How To Continue Playing When one Chicken Farmer’s Draw Pile is empty, reshuffle Discard Piles (along with card from the other Chicken Farmer’s Draw Pile if there is one). Deal again and continue.

If there are no cards or only one card in the Discard Piles to reshuffle, collect all of the cards in the center and reshuffle all of them. (Sorry, chickens! You will have to wait just a little longer!)

When To Stop Playing Stop when one Chicken Farmer has made all seven different Food Piles in their “Feed The Chickens!” area.

How To Decide Who Is The Winner Total the values for the top cards only. The Winner is the Chicken Farmer who has the highest total. If both have the same total, the Winner is the Chicken Farmer who was last to “Feed The Chickens!” (In the illustration above, Pearl has some catching up to do if she wants to win!)

Fruit Cards and Vegetable Cards are worth one, two, or three.

A Worms Card is higher than any Fruit Card or Vegetable Card. It is worth four.

The Old Shoe Card is worth zero. Sorry, but you never feed an old shoe to chickens!

Super Special “Old Shoe” vs. “Worms” Rule Whenever the first cards turned over are the Old Shoe Card and a Worms Card, the Worms Card can be put on any existing Food Pile for a value of four. (This is what you see for Gracie in the illustration above. Pearl turned over the “Old Shoe,” and Gracie turned over the “Worms.” So she put it on top of her Peas Food Pile to give it a value of four.)

This is the only time the chickens get any worms. (Sorry again, chickens! But we need them to keep the game going! We will run out of worms if you eat them all!)

If the Chicken Farmer who turned over the Worms Card doesn’t have any Food Piles yet, the Worms Card can be used to start a new Food Pile as long as the Chicken Farmer says what it will be (such as “Watermelon” or “Kale”). Any future cards of that kind would be placed on that Food Pile.

Super Special “Can’t Make Seven Food Piles” Rule It is possible that neither Chicken Farmer will be able to make all seven different Food Piles. This can happen when both Chicken Farmers have at least one Food Pile with all three matching Fruit Cards or Vegetable cards.

If this should happen, continue playing until the only cards left are the Worm Cards and Old Shoe Card. The Winner is still the Chicken Farmer with the highest total value. If both have the same value, the Winner is the Chicken Farmer who was last to “Feed The Chickens!”

(Strategy Tip: If you see that the other Chicken Farmer has two of the same Fruit or Vegetable cards and you get to “Feed The Chickens!” you may want to use the last of that kind of Fruit or Vegetable card to “Feed The Chickens!” even if it only has a value of one. Otherwise, you might not be able to make that Food Pile later!)  

Watch Out For This!  There will be times when you have to place a lower value card on top of a higher value card when you “Feed The Chickens!” You won’t have any other choice! This is because the Chicken Farmer who has turned over the higher value card must “Feed The Chickens!” (This is every chicken’s favorite rule! It also can make the game very interesting because you can lose points! Feed your chickens wisely!)

“Print and Play” PDF’s for “Feed The Chickens!”

“Card Backs” Print two of these. Use card stock weight paper if possible. You can then flip them over and print “Card Fronts – Sheet One” and “Sheet Two” on the other side. This will give you a picture on both sides of every card!

“Card Fronts – Sheet One” Print one of these. The top part has a “Wrap Around Case” for your card game. The bottom part has twelve cards. Cut along dotted lines. Trim with scissors as needed to even them up.

“Card Fronts – Sheet Two” Print one of these. The top part has “Pocket Rules” which you can use for quick reference and then fold up for storage. The bottom part has thirteen cards. Cut along dotted lines. Trim with scissors as needed.

When you have all twenty-five cards from both sheets cut to the right size, place them in a stack. Then place the “Wrap Around Case” snugly (but not too tightly) around the cards. This way you can still slide your cards in and out again. You will probably need to trim the ends some before gluing or taping.

Hey! Why not print a double big deck of fifty cards in all!?!

There are plenty of other rules you can add when you play this game! In fact, you can make up your own rules! Remember how I practically filled an entire notebook with brainstorming ideas from my chickens? There are plenty of ways to “Feed The Chickens!”

You might even want to just print the “Card Backs” on some sheets, cut them out and make your own kinds of cards! Maybe analog games that let you use your imagination and creativity really can still survive in a digital world!

Most important of all, even if you aren’t a kid anymore, you can still be a kid at heart! And kids love to “Feed The Chickens!”

Thanks again!

John, Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Amelia, and Emily