Accolades for Tillie!

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book has put Tillie Lays an Egg on it’s list of A Baker’s Dozen: The Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy for 2009. I’m very honored to have my book in the same company as this year’s Caldecott Award winner, The Lion and the Mouse, and the clever and funny Duck! Rabbit! If you’re a teacher or librarian, let me know when you are using Tillie in the classroom and I’ll post a hello message on the HenCam home page. If you’re using the book for homeschooling, let me know how you are including it in you lesson plan. I’ve just about finished writing up a teacher’s guide for Tillie Lays an Egg. (It’ll be up on my web site soon.) I’d love to include your ideas!

UPDATE: for the teacher’s guide go here.

Spring Planting

My package of parsley seeds clearly states, “Plant seed as early in spring as ground can be worked.” Last year on this date there was snow on the ground, but this year the heavy rains washed away the last of the ice and defrosted my raised beds. The sun has been out strong. Yesterday the ground could be worked, and so I did! In went the cool-weather greens – parsley, spinach, kale, chard and scallions.

Gardening is an exercise in optimism. I’m thinking that in two weeks I’ll have micro-greens in my salad. Then again, we could have another April snowstorm that dumps half a foot of plant-killing slush. But, if that happens, I’m only out about $2 worth of seeds. Having the excuse to spend an hour in the garden, in the dirt, in the sun, yesterday, is worth more than that.

Goat Joy

Caper says, The grass in the pasture is brown.

But, the goatmaid did some raking, and look what’s growing! Goat candy!

I love, love, love prickly briar runners with the big leaves. The big leaves are better than the smaller ones. Totally different flavor. Trust me. These things matter to goats. We are gourmands, after all.

The next best thing to goat candy is having the goatmaid give me a good scratch. A little more to the left, please.

I love spring.

A Busy Morning

At 7:30 this morning a woman from the state agriculture department drove up, pulled on protective gear and booties, and tested my flock for two serious poultry diseases, Salmonella pullorum and avian influenza. It’s Massachusetts state law that birds that are transported anywhere off the premises must be tested. It’s a free program.

We were ready for her. The chickens were inside and easy to catch. Lily Dog said that she was a blue-suited alien, but after a couple of tossed cookies, decided that blue-suited aliens are fine with her.

The procedure is a simple prick of the skin under a wing, and then the blood is collected in a vial. It’s a bit messy, but not a big deal for the hen. You might notice some blood on the girls today. Don’t worry about them!

Each hen gets a silver band to prove that she’s been tested. It’s rather like a rabies tag for your dog.

Because it’s been so rainy and muddy and the girls have been stuck inside, they were a bit dirtier than normal. The state tech had on her blue suit. I had on my jeans. After she left, I decided that I might as well clean the barns. When I came inside, my pants and jacket went right into the wash. So, that’s one clothing change for the day. I’ve a feeling it won’t be the last…

A Good Weekend

I appreciated all of your cheerful send-offs for my road trip. It was a really, really long drive, but worth it. I haven’t had a visit with my friend, Melissa, for years. I arrived early afternoon, met her new dog, took a short walk, and chatted. Ate dinner. Talked some more. Mostly, we talked about animals. I think I finally got around to mentioning my children sometime after dinner. Did I mention that she’s my best friend? I’ve known her thirty years and we’re still not tired of our favorite topic.

On Saturday I drove through some gorgeous country to get to the Wild Center.

As I was leaving, near dusk that afternoon, at this very same spot, a bald eagle was flying across the frozen lake.

I brought my camera, I even had it charged up, but I was so busy that I didn’t use it! First, there was storytime for a crowd of children. Then, I got a backstage tour of the Center’s animals. Otters! Ravens, a porcupine, a muskrat, fish, turtles! Then, it was time to do my chicken keeping talk. There was a big crowd who listened attentively, laughed in all the places I’d hoped they would, and at the end had good questions.

Meanwhile, volunteers were busy making masks with the children. I’d hoped to join them, but was still deep in conversation. I did manage to snap this, though, with my iphone.

Each child got a feather from my flock, and then a handful of craft feathers. Look at how stunning Petunia’s wing feather looks here!

The drive home was 300 miles, almost all in pouring rain with gusting winds. Oh, and there was freezing rain in the mountains. But, it was all worth it. I hope they invite me back. I’d love to see The Wild Center in the summer. Besides, Melissa and I haven’t finished talking about animals.