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The GraciePress Newsletter - Seemingly Endless Vintage “My Life With Gracie”!

The GraciePress Newsletter - Seemingly Endless Vintage “My Life With Gracie”!
Hi, friends and fans! There was no newsletter last week due to the Labor Day Holiday weekend here in the U.S.
We did get all of our 4-Year Anniversary Month notecards and stickers into the mail by the end of August! It was a little “iffy” there for a while. In case, you requested one and didn’t receive it, please let us know. It’s possible that your request was lost in our “junk” or “spam” folder which would make us very sad.
We have had such an enjoyable time looking back over our vintage “My Life With Gracie” stories and illustrations, we want to keep going with them—if you don’t mind!

My Life With Gracie…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.
My Life With Gracie…About Anticipation
Who would have ever imagined building a chicken coop in my backyard would become an allegory for understanding the world and life and everything? Well, perhaps I’m exaggerating. Nevertheless, chicken coops as an allegory or a parable would be about protection but also separation.
In many ways, the feeling of separation shapes life. It gives us a sense there is something more just out of reach, something to give meaning and purpose to life. Separation and anticipation go “hand in hand”…or “hand in wing.”
The first coop I built was based on 6 foot lumber, meaning it was no more than 6 feet in height and no more that 6 feet in length. I’m well over 6 feet tall, so I couldn’t go inside without stooping over. It was a great size for a chicken, but not so great for a Chicken Daddy.
So what I made to protect my chickens from predators had the consequence of keeping us separated. They couldn’t come outside where I was without plenty of extra fencing protection from predators and my very watchful eyes. I couldn’t go inside where they were without hunching over, and even then I couldn’t pick them up and hold them. 
It was wonderful at first knowing I had built a sturdy, safe home for my chickens with a nice run area on the side. Yet as the chickens grew, I began feeling like I was losing the “me and my little chicken family feeling.”
We would sit together and enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes we would talk back and forth through the fencing. They would copy my intonation and phrasing, and I would copy theirs. Other times it was just good to sit together.
For weeks I planned and built and went to sleep dreaming about our new bigger more wonderful home. It would be one with extra headroom for me and lots of wing flapping room for my little family. Every chance I got, I would tell them, “You have no idea how wonderful your new home will be!”
My Life With Gracie gave me a chance to anticipate the joy of hugging my chickens.
My Life With Gracie…Unseen Boundaries
My Life With Gracie…Unseen Boundaries
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, 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.
Until Next Time…
There are quite a few lessons I’ve learned over the past four years of writing and illustrating stories about Gracie and my other chickens. In next week’s newsletter, we will take a dive into those things and share our future direction, but for now, it’s time to get outside and cut the grass!
Thanks so much for reading!
John, Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia
Did you enjoy this issue?
J.R. Spiers (with help from Gracie)

The GraciePress Newsletter brings you the latest news, stories, illustrations, special offers, and free gifts from Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia. They are the inspiration behind all of the books published under The GraciePress imprint.

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From A Small Backyard Garden and A Most Wondrous Place in Portsmouth, Virginia