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Opportunities

When it rains it pours
The storm clouds rear
The lightning fierce and fast

The droplets plop
The thunder rolls
The skies turn dark and masked

The sun bursts through
Shiny, strong
Its rays pierce through the gray

All things are sparkling
Fresh and new
A bright and glorious day

Pecky Greenleg: Chapter 4

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Jake set out for the post office, a backpack slung over his shoulder.

Did you tell your mom where we, er, you were going?

“Of course I didn’t,” he whispered to the bag. “I just told her I was going for a bike ride to town.”

Pecky moved around in the bag, making Jake jiggle on the bike.

“Stay still! You are going to make me fall off.”

Sorry, I don’t have a lot of room in here you know.

Pecky had doubled in size in just a few days. Jake had to take everything out of the backpack just so he would fit.

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“We’re almost there. Just try not to move until I get off the bike.”

Jake parked his bike outside the door and walked into the building.

“Hello young man. What can I do for you today?”

Jake studied the jolly postmaster behind the counter. He looked friendly enough.

“Hello sir,” he said nervously. “I wanted to ask about a package we received a few weeks ago. I have the label right here.”

Jake pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket.

The postmaster took the label and looked at Jake expectantly.

“What would you like to know? Was there a problem with the package?”

Clearing his throat, Jake recited the speech he and Pecky had agreed on.

“No…I mean yes. There was an extra chick in the package and I was just wondering where it came from.”

He glanced at the label and then back at Jake.

“It says here it came from McDougal Hatchery. Isn’t that where you ordered the chicks from?”

A flush crept up Jake’s neck. He didn’t want the man to know too much about Pecky, but he needed information.

“Yes, but I think we may have gotten the wrong package. We ordered 25 Leghorns and they sent an extra that doesn’t look like the rest.”

“Hmmm,” he said looking down at the label.

“Do you remember who delivered the package? Maybe I could ask if the boxes got mixed up or something.”

The man scratched his head and tapped his chin.

“Yes, there were several boxes of chicks. I remember because they chirped and peeped all day long,” he chuckled.

Jake’s heart plummeted. With so many packages arriving that day, it would be next to impossible to find out if any boxes were switched up.

“Oh!” exclaimed the postmaster. “Yes, I remember now. After the driver delivered all of the chicks, he ran back in with another box and said that he needed to switch it out. Said he made a mistake.”

“And it was this package?”

“It very well could have been, but I can’t be completely sure. The driver seemed very concerned about the swap.”

“And do you remember his name?”

The postmaster scratched his head.

“Sorry, I can’t remember. Wish I could—Oh yes! It was Gilbert! Gilbert from McDougal Hatchery.”

“Thank you sir!” Jake smiled.

“No problem young man. I hope you find what you are looking for.”

After Jake left the post office and was safely out of sight, he unzipped the backpack and looked down at Pecky.

Well? Does that name mean anything to you?

“Yes. Yes it does.”

And?

“Gilbert is who I talked to at the hatchery.”

Pecky Greenleg: Chapter 3

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Listen here.

Pecky and the rest of the chicks were growing at an alarming rate. They were outgrowing their first home so they’d been moved to new, larger pen.

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“You’ll be more comfortable out here,” Jake said as he watched the flock race around in their new pen.

I guess. Did you have any luck at the hatchery?

“Not really.”

What does that mean?

Jake sighed, remembering the rude man he tried to talk to about Pecky when he and his mom went to pick up more chick food at the hatchery.

“Well…I asked if they had any other gray chicks with green legs. Told them that we were thinking of getting a few more.”

And? What did they say?

That’s the strange part. The guy seemed…uncomfortable.”

Hmmm. That’s interesting.

That’s what I thought. He told me he didn’t know what I was talking about. That I must be mistaken.”

Mistaken? Didn’t you tell him you ordered from that hatchery?

“That’s just it. He insisted that I was wrong. Said I must have ordered it from another hatchery. Before I could ask any more questions, he turned and said he had to get some work done and I should just forget about ‘those chicks’.”

Pecky let out a frustrated squawk, startling the other chicks. They all ran to a corner of the pen and seemed to glare indignantly at him.

“So I guess that’s it.”

Pecky ruffled his feathers and looked up at Jake with angry eyes. Of course, thought Jake, chickens always looked angry.

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What do you mean ‘that’s it’? One dead end and you are ready to give up?

I don’t see what else we can do,” Jake said defensively.

Pacing, Pecky let out a series of cheeps and chirps.

Wait! What about the shipping company? 

“Shipping company? What would they know?

They’d know if the chicks came from that hatchery. And, if they didn’t, they’d know where they came from.

Jake went into the garage and rummaged through the recycling, looking for the box the chicks came in. When he found it, he could hardly believe they were ever small enough to fit in the little box. He took it back to the pen to show Pecky.

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“Here it is. They were shipped through the post office. I remember Mom going to pick them up.”

That’s it then. We have to go to the post office.

Pecky Greenleg: Chapter 2

(For Chapter 1 click here.)

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Chapter 2

The next morning, Jake sat on the edge of his bed staring at a pair of socks.

Chickens can’t talk. Can they?

Of course not!

And yet…

Shaking his head, Jake finished dressing and headed down for breakfast.

“Good morning Mom!”

“Morning sweetie,” she said as she poured him a glass of juice. “What did you dream about?”

Since he could remember, Jake and his mom started the day sharing their dreams. Sometimes they were silly, sometimes scary and sometimes just plain weird.

Of course! It must have all been a dream!

With a sigh of relief, Jake launched into his dream, attacking his plate of eggs.

“Thanks for breakfast, Mom! Can I go out and play with the chicks?”

“Just be careful and don’t squeeze them too hard,” she said smiling.

Jake bounced out the garage door and peeked into the large tub that was the chicks’ temporary home.

“Morning girls!” he murmured cheerfully.

I told you, I’m NOT a girl!”

So much for it being a dream.

Jake reached in and picked Pecky Greenleg up. All the other yellow chicks scurried from his hand. Not Pecky, she–er–he stood his ground.

Hey! Stop tickling me!

“Sorry! I just don’t understand what’s going on here? Why can I hear you in my head?”

Pecky shifted uncomfortably in Jake’s hand.

“Pecky?”

I’m not sure. Where I come from we can all understand each other. These birds just cheep, eat and sleep.

“What do you mean where you come from? Aren’t you all from the same farm?”

Pecky glared at Jake and ruffled his feathers.

No! We do not ALL come from the same farm. I’m from…from…well, I’m not sure. But I know it’s not from the same farm as these other chicks!

“You don’t know where you came from?”

Well I’m only a few days old, you can’t expect that I know everything.

Jake slowly shook his head.

“I guess we’ll have to start with the hatchery we ordered you all from to figure this out.”

I doubt very much I came from a hatchery. 

“We’ll see.”

Yes. We will.

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Pecky Greenleg: Chapter One

Reviving an old story. Take a listen!

“What should we name this one, Jake?”

Jake studied the small chick with a thoughtful expression.

It’s gray feathers stood out in the sea of fuzzy yellow.

“Hmmm,” he murmured. “How about Pecky?”

“That’s a great name for a chicken,” his mom said with a smile.

“Wait,” said Jake. “Look at its legs.”

Jake’s mom peered at the tiny legs and noticed green feathers. “How odd,” she said.

“Her name is Pecky Greenleg!” crowed Jake.

His mom grinned and headed for the kitchen door.

“Are you coming in? It’s about time to eat lunch.”

Jake held the tiny chick in his hands, careful not to squeeze.

“In a little bit, I need to talk to Pecky Greenleg.”

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The chick stared up at the little boy, not sure he liked the name he had been given.

I don’t have green legs! And…I am not a hen!

“Not a hen?” said Jake with surprise written on his face.

The chick stared at the boy. The boy stared at the chick.

“Ha,” Jake said with a shake of his head. “I must be imag–“

You can hear me?

Jake gaped, wide-eyed at the chick.

“Y-you can talk?”

Well of course not!

B-but, I can hear you!”

Jake’s mom peeked out the door. “What was that sweetie?”

Startled, Jake nearly dropped Pecky Greenleg.

“N-nothing Mom.”

His voice was hoarse and shaking. His mom looked at him with concern.

“Are you sure? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

He looked at Pecky and could have sworn the bird shook his head.

“Ha,” he laughed nervously. “No really, I’m ok.”

“Ok, if you’re sure.”

“Yep, I’m fine.”

“Well, why don’t you come in and wash your hands. It’s time to eat. “

“Ok, be right there.”

When his mom shut the door, he looked back at the chick.

They stared at each other for so long that Jake thought he’d imagined the whole thing.

You’d better go in for lunch.

Mischief Makers Day 23: Shocking Secrets

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“Figgy, Pixie!” Lil panted. “Don’t do it!”

Nim and Lil came streaming through the kitchen with Glitter hot on their heels. 

Pixie and Figgy frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Nim and Glitter looked around the room while Lil caught her breath. They saw the snack laden kitchen table and stack of games set up, ready to be played. 

“Oh,” sighed Glitter. “Good.”

Nim laughed nervously. “Whew! We thought for sure you were set to go out with a bang.”

“Well,” said Figgy. “We were just discussing livening this game day up a bit with some sparklers and fireworks.”

“NO!” Glitter, Nim and Lil all yelled at once.

“Jeez you three,” laughed Pixie. “Figgy is just kidding. We were only arguing about which game we should add to the pile. Quirkle or Mancala. Any votes?”

The new arrivals sighed in relief. 

“What’s going on?” asked Figgy. For the first time, he noticed the worried expressions on Nim and Lil’s faces and the serious set to Glitter’s head. 

Nim and Lil looked at eachother, communicating with eyebrows and head nods. 

“Wow you guys,” said Glitter. “Not too subtle, are you?”

Nim sighed. “We overheard Santa and The Director talking about you both.”

Figgy gasped. “The Director?” 

Lil nodded.

“What am I missing?” asked Pixie. “Who is ‘The Director’?”

“Sorry, Pixie,” said Lil. “I forget you were originally under the Birthday Beagle Brigade. The Director is the Head of Operations at the North Pole.”

“I thought Santa was the COO?”

“He is…sort of,” said Glitter. 

When Pixie still looked blank, Figgy filled her in. 

“The Director is in charge of the entire North Pole. All programs and events…even Santa.”

“And,” added Nim. “When there are problems that can’t be solved by traditional means, The Director sends a crew in to help.” 

“What problems have we caused?” asked Figgy. “We had a really rough start this season, but we managed to straighten out the Malloys ok.”

“Yeah,” added Pixie. “They’re absolute angels compared to the beginning of the year.”

“Righhhht,” said Glitter. “But it’s not just them. The Director had to re-enstate B.R.A.T.T. this season due to other…overzealous charges.”

“But that’s not our fault!” said Figgy. 

“I know,” said Lil. “We’re not exactly sure what is going on. We just overheard Santa and The Director talking and we heard your names and words like ‘too many messes’ and ‘re-assignment’.”

“Just who is The Director and why does he have so much power!?” spluttered Pixie.

She,” said Lil. “And she has so much power because she keeps the North Pole running smoothly. Santa would be lost without her help.”

Pixie’s eyes widened as realization dawned. “Mrs. Claus? She’s The Director?” 

Nim nodded while Figgy spluttered. “B-but does that mean…we won’t be coming back here next season?”

Lil gulped. “I’m afraid it may be worse than that.”

“That’s right,” said Nim. “We think Santa is pulling you two from the program.”

Mischief Makers Day 22: Manic Minutes

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Figgy and Pixie waited patiently for Nim and Lil. They were supposed to have met them at Candy Cane Cafe so they could all fly to the house together. Glitter had showed up and told them that Nim and Lil would just meet them at the Malloy’s. 

“Where are they?” asked Pixie for the hundredth time. 

“Santa must have needed them for longer than I thought,” said Glitter with a frown. 

“We really need to start setting up the games,” said Figgy. “I don’t think we can wait any longer.”

“Too bad, they were so excited to help tonight,” said Pixie. 

Glitter gazed at the sky, hoping to see the pair zooming toward the house. “Well, let’s get moving.”

“How many solo cups do we need?” asked Figgy as he pulled sleeve after sleeve after sleeve out of the giant bag of supplies. 

“Twenty-one per kid,” said Pixie. 

“Ok, that’s 21 times 12…carry the one, add the 2…the square root of 56 is…”.

“Geez Figgy, it’s 252,” said Pixie with a shake of her head. 

“Right. I knew that.”

“What about the ping pong balls?” asked Glitter.

“10 per kid,” said Pixie. 

“120 ping pong balls comi–.” 

Bddddddmmmmm! 

“Oh no!”

Ping pong balls spilled out over the floor rolling here, there and everywhere. 

Pixie and Figgy couldn’t help laughing as they watched Glitter canter around trying to gather them all back together.

“You could help me, you know!”

“Oh but it is so much more fun to watch,” said Pixie. At the glare from Glitter, Pixie relented and flew over to help collect them. 

“I’ll get the dice ready while Glitter plays ping-pong,” said Figgy. “How many do we need again?”

“Six per—72 Figgy. We need 72.”

“And 12 pairs of chopsticks!” Glitter shouted from the basement.

All three minute-to-win-it games were set up and still Nim and Lil were not at the house. 

“What did you say Santa needed to talk to them about, Glitter?” asked Figgy. 

When Glitter didn’t answer, Pixie prodded. “Glitter, tell us what you know.”

Glitter, who always seemed to be on top of all the North Pole news, didn’t answer at first. 

“Glitter?” Figgy folded his arms.

Turning to face Figgy and Pixie she admitted. “This time…I honestly have no idea. 

Mischief Makers Day 20: Cat Ca-Choo!

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“Ouch! Get off my toe, Figgy!”

“I wouldn’t be on your toe if I could get through the window!”

Figgy and Pixie stood on the ledge outside the kitchen window, struggling to get inside. They’d flown back early to make amends for missing a night of mischief only to find their usual entry locked. 

“I guess we’ll have to use the cat door in the garage,” said Pixie.

Figgy froze. He was not a big fan of cats. Not only was he allergic, he had also had a terrible experience last season with Joe and Jake’s cats

Pixie noticed Figgy’s terrified expression. “It’ll be fine, Figgy. We haven’t seen any signs they still have a cat. I’m sure the door is old.”

Reluctantly, Figgy followed Pixie to the side door where a small flap allowed for cats, or elves, to come and go as they pleased. 

It started as soon as they were inside the garage.

AACHOOO!

“Hm. I guess I was wrong. They still have a cat.”

“MEOW! PRRRRR!”

“Er, three…four, five. Wow, there must be at least–.”

AAAAACHOOOOO!

“Ab dozen. Ab dozen cabts.”

“Oh. That makes sense. One for each kid. C’mon Figgy, let’s get you out of here.”

They pushed and prodded the door into the house until it finally gave way. Figgy tumbled into the hall covered in cat fur and sneezing.

“Poor Figgy,” sighed Pixie. “Did you bring your elfie pen?”

“Nohl. I porgot ibt.”

“Iced chocolate covered cherries dipped in sprinkles and drizzled with syrup then.”

“Bwhat? Dats not ab cure.”

“I know,” smiled Pixie. “But it will be a great pre-game snack!”

While Pixie busily made them a midnight snack, Figgy, miserable and sneezing, looked around trying to find the best place to set up the glow balloon forest. Something seemed…off. 

“What are you looking at, Figgy?” Pixie floated down to the floor next to Figgy, a small tray of chocolate covered cherries in her hands.

“Do you see anything…different?”

Pixie looked around and had the same feeling that something was not quite right in the living room. “I hear a rattling sound. Do you hear that?”

Figgy nodded. “Yes. What could it be?”

RRRUMMMBLLLE!

The elves turned in the direction of the sound and saw an avalanche pom poms bursting out of the tree. 

“RUUUN!” shouted Pixie. 

Too late. In a matter of seconds, the elves were covered in pom poms of every color and size. A small chorus of voices echoed from a recordable ornament under the tree. 

Welcome back!

The movie was really funny! 

But please…NEVER LEAVE US AGAIN!

Mischief Makers Day 17: Cozy Campers

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“Congratulations team,” Santa boomed. “You have saved Christmas at the Malloy home.”

The four elves cheered and danced and high-fived one another. 

The letter worked. Santa had received a note from the Malloy parents, retracting their last letter and thanking him for sending his Mischief Makers to remind them of what Christmas is about.

“But!” Santa interrupted. “You both need to be on your very best behavior for the rest of the season. Mischief, not messes. Ok?”

Pixie nodded. Figgy saluted. 

“We’d better get going, Figgy. Tonight’s set-up is going to take awhile.”

Watching the pair fly off through the starry sky, Santa . “I hope ‘tonight’s set-up’ is a nice, simple, not-so-messy activity.”

“Oh I’m sure it’s fine, Santa.” Nim glanced at Lil with a worried frown. “Maybe we should head there too. Just in case.”

“Good idea,” said Santa. As they took off, Santa smiled and chuckled. “Because I do know what they have planned.” 

* * *

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost snipping at your nose
Your tired carols, being sung by a —

“Figgy?”

Figgy stopped singing and turned to Pixie. “Yes, Pixie?”

“Did you just say ‘your tired carols’?”

Figgy nodded. “Yes, ‘your tired carols being sung by a choir’.”

Pixie giggled. “And…what was that about Jack Frost?”

“‘Jack Frost snipping at your nose?” 

Pixie giggled harder.

“What? That’s how it goes…isn’t it?”

“Hi guys!” Nim and Lil landed next to the small campfire and tent. 

“Wow!” said Lil. “Are you guys camping?”

“Yep! The Malloys are big campers so we thought it would be fun to try it out!” said Pixie.

“We are glad you guys could make it!” said Figgy. “We told Santa what we were doing and asked if he could send you along to join our cozy campout!”

“That sneaky Santa,” laughed Lil. “He tricked us!”

“Well, we told him we wanted it to be a surprise,” said Figgy. 

“We love camping!” said Nim. “There’s only one small problem.”

“What?” asked Pixie, looking around to see what they’d forgotten.

“There’s no tent for the Malloys!”

Figgy and Pixie looked uncertainly at Nim.

“We are trying to obey Santa and not create a huge mess.”

“Yeah,” added Pixie. “We were afraid if we built the Malloys a blanket tent, things might get out of control?”

“Out of control,” said Lil. “How?”

“Well,” began Figgy. “It might turn into a—.”

“PILLOW FIGHT!” yelled Nim, throwing a big, fluffy pillow directly at Figgy.

“Exactly,” said Pixie. 

It didn’t take much before all four elves were engaged in a massive pillow fight. Pillows covered the floor when they finally ceased. 

“At least there were no feathers,” said Figgy when he caught his breath. “That would have been a big mess.”

Nim looked around at the destruction. “Yeeaah, and this is just a little mess?”

Figgy shrugged sheepishly.

Homestead Plant Directory

Several years ago, when we first moved into our small homestead, I started throwing wildflower seeds in our back 2ish acres where we’d let the grass grow and the thistles thrive.

I’d snap up the cheap boxes of wildflower mix whenever they’d hit the sale rack at Wal-Mart. Sometimes the boys and I would make “seed bombs” and sometimes I’d just close my eyes and sprinkle.

Time passed and soon wildflowers started popping up.

Birds spread more seeds. Then came the pollinators. Butterflies and bees did that thing they do and more flowers popped up. Soon, our grassy pasture turned into a gorgeous wildflower prairie.

But…there was one, tiny problem. I’d long thrown the boxes away and we had no idea what most of the plants and flowers were. We’d walk through our maze and marvel at the colors popping up throughout the Spring and Summer.

“Ooo, look at that pretty purple one!”

“Ahhh, that yellow one looks a little like that yellow one.”

Beauty is beauty and needs no label…but it sure would be nice to be able to describe all the wondrous plants in our pasture beyond “flowers and stuff”.

My husband had the idea to create a plant directory. I snapped up the notion and ran with it. It is now part of our science curriculum. Picking, pressing and identifying. Discussing scientific names, photosynthesis, growing zones, medicinal uses, and on and on.

We incorporated art into our lessons while we read about the flower or plant we’d chosen.

This is no small project. We have around 2 acres of prairie with flowers and plants appearing throughout the growing season. It may take us a few years to get them all. By that time, more will have come. Not from us throwing down seeds, but from nature taking over and doing it’s thing.

Nature, left alone
Creates boundless beauty, life
Thriving without end