A Storm and Chicken Story

August 26, 2017

A Storm and Chicken Story

One day we were playing outside and a storm came up.  Not a cute little Pooh bear thundercloud with a few raindrops, but a giant, hurricane-wind, flash-lightning-fireworks-in-the-sky, shake-the-whole-house-thunder, all-people-hide-inside kind of thunderstorm.  (Okay, it was a simple, everyday, Florida thunderstorm.)  The winds were swirling chicken feathers and fluffing them out like towel-dried cats.  Smaller chickens were hop-flying to stabilize themselves as they fought for the safety of the henhouse.

After drying off from the first wave of rain, the girls peeked outside and giggled at the chickens until the raindrops were so large we couldn’t see the henhouse anymore.  The late summer winds blew the tree limbs around like strong autumn breezes scatter just-raked leaf piles.

“Mom, can you tell us a story with a storm?” Asked Rebeccah.

“A Long Tail story!” yipped Kimberly.  She was five, and she loved Long Tail.

So we snuggled on the couch with lightning flashes illuminating the room through the big windows and started what would become “Long Tail and the Big Storm.”

The chickens of the yard were ruled by Long Tail, the great yellow chief, and guarded by Long Tail and Alfredo, the white rooster imported some time ago.  Under this rooster team, the hens and pullets scratched and gossiped and laid eggs all day with no worries.

On one autumn day the bright sky darkened with angry clouds.  The sun hid.  The birds in the woods started crying warnings and flying away.  Two small humans who were playing in the henhouse with the baby biddies, heard a booming crack of thunder and jumped!  They put the baby biddies back in the safe brooder and left the henhouse.

“Look at those little humans!” cawed Alfredo, laughing, “running like rabbits!”

A giant bolt of lightning lit up the sky just behind the woods and a cannon-loud BOOM of thunder shattered the air.  Alfredo scrambled into the henhouse and hid under the brooder.

All the hens laughed at the silly rooster.

Even Red Feathers and Golden Eye, two of the youngest pullets, laughed at him.

Long Tail strutted by, “when the water falls from the sky, we come in.” Long Tail was not afraid.

A big wind shrieked through the henhouse.  It blew the people door open!

Can Long Tail save his flock?  Be sure to check out Long Tail and the Big Storm to see just how this courageous rooster accomplishes this brave feat!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Meet Granny Pecan

August 12, 2017

Meet Granny Pecan

Deep in the Wooded Lands but not too far from most of us, there lives a tribe of furry squirrels known as the Landmark Tribe.  They spend their whole lives racing through trees gathering nuts, berries, and other foods to eat and to store for winter.  The whole tribe works together to keep healthy, grow strong, and raise their squawlers.

Granny Pecan is the wise woman of the tribe.  Although she would laugh at such a title and say “I just speak through my lens of experience so you avoid my mistakes,” Granny Pecan is a sweet, thoughtful, grandmother squirrel loaded with tips, tricks, and wisdom.  The other squirrelesses in the tribe come to her often for all kinds of mothering advice, especially regarding Crunchies (teenage boys) since Granny Pecan and Grappy raised six of those!

She is a baker.  Oh, what a baker!  It is the opinion of every male squirrel in the Landmark Tribe (and maybe all of the Wooded Lands) that Granny Pecan’s hazelnut pie is a golden slice of heaven.  Rumor has it that her second son, Big Oak, loved her hazelnut pie so much that he named his daughter Hazel because of it.

Granny Pecan often snags one or more of the Crunchies to help her gather items.  This is what happens to Chip in Busting Berry Bath.  You can read more about Granny Pecan in any of the Landmark Tribe books!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

She’s On a Mission

July 21, 2017

She’s On a Mission

Sometimes God leads people into your life to bless you and everyone around you.  Sometimes you don’t get to see them all the time (Actually, you see them very rarely!), but you feel such a strong connection.  Sometimes those people are in your life to encourage you and to be positive influences in your children’s lives.

One such blessing in our lives is an awesome friend, Stacy.  (My girls all call her “Aunt Stacy.”)  She has been a friend of our family for over eight years.  She was at our house (and the only one with a camera) when Jillian was born, so she is the reason we have birth pictures of Jillian!  (She’s a photographer so not only did we have pictures, but they were awesome pictures.) Stacy is a missionary.  She has a blog where she writes a lot of interesting single-woman-missionary-related thoughts.  These are so insightful and spot on.  Christina started following her Aunt Stacy’s blog when she was about 10.  Every day Stacy was in Zambia in 2014, Christina would ask, “Has Aunt Stacy written some more?”  She updated everyone on her mission travels daily. (Or as she got internet connectivity) We’d read and Christina would journal about the verses Stacy referenced.

Stacy is a beautiful young woman.  I’ve watched her confidence and strength grow as now she’s inspiring and mentoring my teen and preteens.  Stacy has mentored other girls in person; she’s open, fun, and connects with them in a special way.  (Rebeccah says “it’s because she’s real, her love shines.”) Recently, Christina said “look!  Her quote is one of my favorites!”  In the last blog, “Jesus is not my Boyfriend,” Stacy quoted C.S. Lewis saying “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase Him to find her.”  (This is one I’ve repeated many times in raising my young women – it’s also a favorite of mine.)

Even though we don’t get to visit in person as often as we’d like to, this wonderful young woman, a strong warrior of God, a vibrant passionate lover of Jesus, my sister-in-Christ, is such a blessing to our family.  She is leading, encouraging, and sharing from her heart.

That is how we teach people.  They say the best sermons you ever preach are the ones that are seen.  We show people who we are, what we are passionate about, and who we love, by the actions they see.  Online, you can’t really “see” people, but you can see the actions of what they are doing through the pictures and stories they show.  (It helps if they are “real” to you; someone you’ve actually met, but that’s not necessary.)  My children watch what I do.  I can talk patience all day, but if I get irritated because the line at the grocery store is too long, all that talk just disappeared because obviously, I don’t “walk the talk.”  When they see someone who has a huge heart for helping others and spreading God’s word and get to “follow” what she’s actually doing and read what she’s saying, it shows them that this person does “walk her talk” too.

I pray constantly to be the kind of person who “walks” my “talk.”  I want to be someone others can look up to and be inspired by.  This is why I write: writing is my passion, my love, my art.  God gives us talents and gifts.  He wants us to use them to encourage, inspire, teach, and love others.  This is my goal.

I am so grateful for those in my family’s life who provide positive inspiration for us – some may not even know how deep of an impact they have on our lives – but if I can, I want to tell them!  Stacy is such a blessing for us – it’s an honor to say she’s my friend.

Stacy writes about singleness, being “on a mission,” loving God, and everyday-Christian-woman challenges in her blog: www.thelivingone.blog.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Our Historic City

July 14, 2017

Our Historic City

We live in the oldest continuing city in the United States.  Actually, our city is really a town – everyone here knows everyone else.  We are friendly and have fun.  On holidays, like the Fourth of July, our town comes together in a menagerie of period costumes, pirate ships, haunted buildings, and eager children.   Everyone turns into a child as they travel back in time in our town.  Our streets are narrow and the buildings old. (Of course, old only for New World buildings!) Trolleys, bicycles, and horse-drawn carriages maneuver the streets.  (Those riding in “New” automobiles must avoid these picturesque obstacles with care!)  Stately one-time hotels (one now a museum, the other a college) stand facing each other next to the Casa Monica (another old hotel) – the Lightner Museum and Flagler College have some amazing artifacts and display unique architecture.

One of my family’s favorite things to do in our town is to go downtown and to play tourist.  We park behind the Lightner Museum (free after 6pm, metered before then) and stroll around.  We explore the Museum and the children are entranced for at least fifteen minutes by the koi in the courtyard pond.  Sometimes a local anole (lizard that camouflages itself by changing between green and brown shades) shows up and that steals the show!  (As excited as they get, you’d think that was their first anole sighting!)

We waddle like Mom and Daddy Mallard with ducklings trailing behind through the colorful shops and cobblestones on St George Street.  Occasionally we comment on items in the windows, and we women like to stare dreamily at the artwork (especially the jewelry) displayed at the various galleries.  We might run into one of the local pirates!  Several pirates walk our streets at random times.

We cross to the Fort (precisely named, “The Castillo de San Marcos” National Monument) and they race up the hill (yes, what someone from any other region calls a mound of dirt, we flatlanders call a hill) and proceed with a game of “tumbledowners” (this is really just children rolling down a hill emitting high-pitched noises) while the adults walk royally along the sidewalk at the apex.  (No, we are more often seen rolling down the hill like maniacs too! But on only dark, moonless nights to avoid recognition.)

From here, we walk the bayfront.  The girls talk to the empty carriage horses, we watch the water carefully and spot dolphins, fish, and the occasional manatee, they jump from the walkway and back up, racing in the grass between the street and the upper walkway.

The bridge is opening!  Now the race is on! The girls love to watch the boats go through our Bridge of Lions (it is a drawbridge) and enjoy it even more if they are on the bridge when the boats go under.  (They wave as if the passing boats are putting on a parade – and most boaters wave right back.)  Walking the bridge is a highlight for the baby – this is because the pedestrian lane on each side of the bridge is protected by bars keeping baby from the water and a short concrete wall keeping the cars from baby.  Except for having to rescue the baby from the occasional bicyclist this spot is one long baby-proof runway!

Once on the Anastasia Island side, we walk around a bit.  I like to time our return to match the sunset.  This makes for some awesome views of God’s nightly artwork on the canvas of the sky.

Every time I walk downtown in my town, I am reminded of the quaint, simple beauty that attracted and has kept me here.  Saint Augustine is a beautiful place to see.  The friendly people make it a wonderful place to call home.

Thanks for reading,

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Meet Joseph

July 13, 2017

Meet Joseph

Jaquline’s favorite series of stories right now is The Devonians.  She loves the short, easy to read, stories with “bright colors” (Christina illustrates the covers in bold crayon) and “big words” (the lettering is large print).

Each of the Devonians stories follows a different child within the village colony of Covenant.

Daydreamer follows Joseph Taylor.

Joseph is a colonist on a planet called Devonia.

This planet has a much longer year than Earth does, so when Joseph says “6 years old” he’s really the same age as someone over 8 years old on Earth!  Joseph’s year is equal to about one year, four months, and two weeks of Earth time.

Joseph’s family lives on a farm – like everyone on Devonia.  They have running water because they pipe water using a waterwheel from the Crystal River to their farms using bamboo pipe!  They also collect rainwater from their rooftops!

Joseph likes to daydream.  He sometimes lets his daydreaming get in the way of his chores!  This is what happens in Daydreamer.  Joseph has a best friend who lives on the next farm.  Her name is Alena.  Joseph has four brothers and one new baby sister named Rose.  Two of his brothers are twins.

Jaquline says she likes Joseph because he’s a lot like her.  He tries to do big kid stuff, but sometimes his wandering thoughts get in the way.

Jaquline says, “Maybe, children on Devonia are the same as children everywhere!”

*Of course, Devonia is fiction.  It’s a world I made up and all the characters are also fiction!*

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Yard Work Day

June 30, 2017

Yard Work Day

Today was a yard work day.

I love yard work day because I love to mow grass.  With our push mower, it’s a walking workout where you can sing your lungs out and no one can hear you.  Today I was interviewing Ethan while I mowed instead of singing.

The girls love yard work day because after we spend hours yanking stumps and sticks and dead wood out of the ground (this yard was Florida brushland 8 months ago, so it was loaded with hidden spikes where bush stumps stick out of the ground), we can burn them in our fire pit (8 concrete blocks set in the dirt off the backyard in the middle of the dirt pit – I like to pretend that’s the summer kitchen; it might be, someday).

The dogs love yard work day.  Primrose likes it because she gets to be outside with us.  Sheba gets the whole house to herself – and we’ll come in to find her stretched out on top of the couch with a nest made out of her blanket.

But the critters who make the absolute best of yard work day are the chickens.  They follow the mower like rats following the Pied Piper, each hoping to snatch more dislodged bugs and fresh, juicy greens than every other chicken.  They race to whoever is raking and scratch the hay all over finding bugs. (10 adult chickens can smooth a leaf pile flat in less than a minute!)  They spy a child toting the full hay bucket toward their henhouse – Crow Cackle Cackle! – they call all other foraging chickens as they race back to the henhouse to inspect and rearrange their new hay immediately.  Soft grass cuttings make hay.  Thicker, brush-type cuttings make the hen yard mulch.  We fill this “hen yard mulch” about 6 to 10 inches deep and the chickens continually scratch and add nitrogen to it for a few weeks.  We use this finished, fertilizer-infiltrated, shredded indigestible plant material to mulch our bulb beds and for our future garden.

The bonus of yard work day is that everyone feels like we’ve accomplished much, we all clean up, eat dinner, and sleep.  The children all go to sleep as soon as they are out of the bath.  Even Mom is tired, but after the last outside chore (herding the reluctant chicken flock back into the hen yard for the night), I breathe in the sweet smell of cut grass, fresh earth, and wood smoke.  And we finish our yard work day with sticky, gooey roasted marshmallows over the dying fire’s embers.

Working outside always relaxes me.  I totally love how when God made us and put us in the perfect environment; perfection was a garden!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Eggs of Giants

June 13, 2017

Eggs of Giants

One cool thing about keeping a flock of chickens (aside from the 5am alarms) is that they pop eggs out!

Before we had chickens, I thought all eggs were white and exactly the same size and shape.  With the first time our Buff Orpington hen announced to the world that she plopped a smooth, clean, egg in the nest box, my preconceived notions about eggs were shattered.

It was BROWN!

It was TINY!

This giant, beautiful 6 pound hen had laid an egg that may have weighed 3 grams (okay, maybe a little bigger than that).  It didn’t have a yolk!  Maybe our chickens were broken.  Of course, they weren’t broken.  Most heavy breeds lay brown eggs.  Buff Orpingtons are heavy breeds.  Most first eggs are small and even the most proficient layers occasionally have an egg without a yolk.  They never did lay what I previously thought of as “normal” eggs, instead they were huge eggs (extra-large) with the occasional super-giant egg containing two yolks.

Currently, we have a rainbow of large chickens in our flock.  Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, and Plymouth Barred Rocks lay various shades of brown eggs (actually, pale apricot to medium walnut brown) and some have speckles!  Our Easter Eggers lay green, pale pink, and occasionally spotted eggs.  We also ended up with some White Leghorns, who are smaller than the others, but lay extra-large white eggs.  Our Golden Phoenix (who is a mottled English walnut color with a ring of golden feathers around her neck and scattered about her dark head) lays a torpedo-shaped almost pink egg 6 of the 7 days in a week.  Just like each of us are unique, each hen lays an egg with her own distinct size, shape, and color!

Young pullets (a female chicken is a pullet until she starts steadily laying eggs) will sometimes start out producing small eggs for the first week or so.  In the picture, we had a new layer’s tiny, a “regular” sized, and a double-yolker from our White Leghorn.

Another fun thing about having chickens is observing the variety of egg colors and shades when packing our eggs in their cartons.  We have at least one white and one green in each dozen but most of our hens lay an assortment of pink-brown shades called “brown” eggs.  They say you can tell what color a chicken will lay by the bottoms of their feet! (In our experience, not exactly, but pretty close)  In our last batch of biddies, we had three with blackish green “soles” of their feet. The girls are hoping to find a dark olive egg or maybe even a purple egg!

Yes, the girls name our chickens.  These names (usually for attributes or specific colors) usually find themselves playing hens or pullets in the Adventures of Long Tail.  Sometimes their creative names end up inspiring an actual story character (like Jasmine Rose in The Devonians).

The girls’ favorite part of chickens is the raising challenge.  They enjoy plotting color mixes as they separate them for breeding, watching the incubator for 21 days and squealing “babies are coming soon,” tending new hatchlings, encouraging them to explore, helping them grow, and seeing their breeding experiment results as they become pullets and cockerels.  Then they usually say goodbye to newly laying pullets about 18 – 26 weeks or promising-looking cockerels about 10 – 14 weeks as they prefer to sell them when they are “past the danger stage.” (aka too big for most hawks and no longer needing brooder care)

I love their learning adventure (as Rebeccah says, breeding in chickens is more colorful than Mendel’s peas) and we all enjoy the rainbow of eggs in various sizes the happy hens provide.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart