Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Do You Think I Got The Chickens?

We hear a lot about time management, but the real thing we should be talking about is energy management. I wrote a blog post a few years ago about doing the things that give us energy and I return to those general guidelines often.  If I do the things that give me energy, I have more energy for everything and everyone else in my life. When I’m happy, I’m more productive.

Sometimes this means I act in ways that might seem counter-intuitive to others. My schedule is packed with a million things that have to be done right-now-this-second-if-not-sooner, and I start to despair. I’m slogging through it all and each step forward takes longer than the last.

So what do I do? I see an opportunity to take the kids to a local hatchery, to look at chicks. Chicks make me happy. I haven’t been around chickens for over ten years. We’ll just go to the hatchery and look at some chicks, right? That will be enough to give me energy.

Mind you, there are still a million things that have to be done right-now-this-second-if-not-sooner.

So we go to the hatchery and the chicks are awesome—and I think I need just a bit more energy. So we go to the library, to check out a few books about chicken breeds. If (you see how I’m still imagining myself neutral on the topic of chickens) . . . If I am to get chickens, it would be nice if they were a docile, friendly breed and not the kind my mom knew growing up—the kind that would attack her as she made a run for the outhouse.

Back home, I place the library books next to my computer, stopping to browse every time I need a break, glancing over at them even when I don’t. And those slogging steps through those million things? They aren’t so slogging anymore. 

I think about our goals and our resources. We’d have fresh eggs again.  We already have the nest boxes and the coop.

My million-things list gets shorter. The steps seem easier.

I narrow the chick selection to eight possible breeds.

I mark a few more items from my list. These things aren’t so difficult. I don’t know why I was putting them off.

I call in the kids, still saying IF we get chickens. IF. Which ones would they want? What are their goals?

Brown eggs.


Pretty—good for showing in 4-H.

They each choose a breed. Buff Orpington. Barred Plymouth Rock.  Araucana.

I go back to work. Three more things scratched from the list.  Scratch. I’m starting to think chicken. I’ll just peck one more off the list. Maybe two. 

A few days later, my daughter calls the hatchery, to ask when the breeds we want will be available (you know. . . IF we decide to get chickens). The line is constantly busy. Yes. Busy. My daughter turns her iPhone to speaker mode and asks, “what is that sound?”

“That’s a busy signal.”

“What does it mean? Why doesn’t it go to voice mail?”

I shrug. “They’ve been in business since 1918. They’ve been in the same location since 1940. They probably still have a rotary phone.”

The kid tips her head at me.

“They’re taking orders in real time,” I tell her. “First come, first serve. No voice mail.”

“We should go,” she says. I’m not sure if she wants to see the chicks or the rotary phone, but I’m in.

I scratch & peck a couple more things from the list and we go.

I’m planning to ask about the hatching schedule and then—maybe—I’ll decide to place an order, so they’ll hold them for us.

A hatchery employee ducks out from the back, letting us know it will be just a minute more. (She’s on the phone.)

We move into a room where all the day-old chicks bob and peck and chirp. Their lives are full of anything-goes and I’m pretty sure not one of them has a list.

When I have a chance to ask about hatching dates, the woman helping us pushes a long strand of blond hair back into what’s left of her ponytail. “We have all those today.”

So right.

We’re driving home and youngest is holding a box filled with chirping birds and I’m thinking about this local art mecca where they’re holding a fiber festival over Memorial Day. Carol Ekarius is going to be there. I know, right!? Carol Ekarius!

Come on, author peeps, back me up. She wrote the book on chickens. And sheep. Well, books—plural. I have them lined up on my desk, next to my computer.

If I move through my million-item list a little faster, I could take those workshops.

As I drive, a short story about a girl with chickens keeps strutting its way into the corner of my mind. The girl is eight years old and she has this long strand of hair she pushes back into what’s left of her ponytail. I glance at my daughter in the rearview mirror. She keeps lifting the lid and peeking inside. Kids need more stories about chickens. I’m sure of it.

It takes a bit of time to set up the brooder box, but every minute of it delights me. We put little leg bands on the birds, weigh them, photograph them. We’re talking about history and conservation and changes in poultry-raising from the depression to now. We’re talking about diversity of genetics and how birds are related to dinosaurs.

When I return to my desk, my mind is humming. I make a serious dent in my list of things to do before I realize I have a message waiting.

“Where have you been?”

“Getting chickens!”

“Are you kidding me?”

“No. Why?”

“You seriously need to learn to say no, Johanna. You can’t do everything. You have a book coming out and a million things to do.”

“Exactly,” I answer. “Why do you think I got the chickens?”

© 2014 Johanna Harness

~ Johanna Harness lives in Idaho with her husband, kids, sheep, cats, guinea pigs, and now chickens. She homeschools, teaches workshops, and writes books. Her middle grade novel, Spillworthy, is set to release on May 1, 2014. Her work has also appeared in our Buddhapuss Ink Mystery Times series: Mystery Times Ten 2011, and Mystery Times Nine 2012.

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