Catholic Inklings

Musings and sharings on my devotion to an ancient religion.

Tag archive: Cartoon

Chapter Three: The Tale Of Cartoon

The chickens of Blackwater Farm were not born on the farm. In fact, they were not even born in the same state—they were hatched in Iowa and shipped through the United States Postal Service. One spring Wednesday afternoon, Ben, Nathaniel and Mommy were sitting home when the phone rang. “Um, hi. This is the Postal Service. We have a delivery that you need to come pick up. It says it’s ‘live birds.’ What’s that about?” “It’s my chickens!” Mommy squealed joyfully. “We’ll be right there!”

 

So, Ben, Nathaniel and Mommy clamored into the car and drove down the street to the Post Office. “You got chickens in the mail? That’s a first for me.” said the seasoned, elderly man behind the counter.

 

“We’ve been waiting for these young ladies for a few weeks, now. I’m very excited!” Mommy said as she signed for them.

 

Two long, cardboard boxes with small holes in the sides were handed over the counter and little uncertain clucking noises could be heard from within. Not knowing what to expect, or how they would react to having the boxes opened, the family decided to wait till they got home to look inside. The boxes were carefully placed in the back of the van, and Mommy drove back down the road toward home. Ben, Nathaniel and Mommy could barely contain their curiosity, excitement and joy at receiving these new members of their household.

 

When they pulled into the driveway, they took the boxes straight back to the coop which was all prepared and waiting for its tenants to arrive. Mommy filled the feeder up with pellets, their drinking fountain up with water and opened the first box. It contained two lovely young Rhode Island Reds. They opened the second box. It contained three very different young ladies: a Buff Orpington, a Black Ostrolorpe and a Barred Rock. Mommy named the Reds right away—Donna Noble and Amelia Pond—after red-headed companions of The Doctor from the TV show Doctor Who. She named the Ostrolorpe Martha Jones after another companion of The Doctor. Ben and Nathaniel were each allowed to name one of the other two. Ben gave Butterscotch her name because her color is just like the candy.

 

And that left the Barred Rock. When we pulled her out of the box, she was breathing a snot bubble from her beak. “Gross! That’s like a cartoon snot bubble! Her name will be Cartoon.” said Nathaniel.

 

But, this would be the last time Cartoon would be the butt of a joke. She is a serious chicken with big plans. Her name may suggest frivolity, but she is all business.

 

The personality of each chicken was soon understood, and a pecking order established rather quickly. Cartoon saw herself as a sort of General. While Donna made sure that no one got out of line, Cartoon would eventually direct the movement of the flock and what activities they would do as a group.

 

Because there were lots of dangerous animals in the woods that surrounded the yard, Mommy was not immediately keen on letting the chickens out of the coop. They needed to get acclimated to their new surroundings, and a safe way of letting them out of the coop needed to be devised. So, for the first weeks, Mommy would go and visit with the chickens inside the coop. She bought a small, green stool to sit on and would spend a bit of time each day with them so they could all get used to her and learn to trust her.

 

Each day, when Mommy sat on the stool, Cartoon would hop up on her lap and peck at anything shiny on her clothing. She would try to eat Mommy’s hair, jumping up on her shoulder and sometimes wanting to sit on her back. She always wound back down on her lap, where she made her throne to survey her subjects (the other chickens), and muse about what sort of a leader she would be. She would stand up and talk to Mommy’s face, barking orders and commands at her—complaining about their lack of freedom and wanting to see what was beyond the coop, telling of animals whose curiosity brought them close to the coop at night to see if there was anything in there to eat and wanting to know what Mommy planned to do about it. Of course, Mommy just thought she was clucking and snuggling, so she didn’t respond.

 

When the girls were finally allowed out of the coop, the big wide door on the front of was propped open and Mommy moved to the side. Cartoon was the first to emerge. She hopped up on the step to the outside, looked around and jumped out. She yelled to the others, “Come on, girls! Move out!” Donna came next, then Amy, Butterscotch and lastly and timidly, Martha. “I don’t know about this…” whispered Martha to herself. She quietly sang a little song to keep her spirits up.

 

Cartoon led the girls into the garden and found the compost pile almost right away. “We’ve struck gold!!!” she shouted. “Come and see what I have found!” The others came waddling over while Cartoon proudly stood on top of the pile. “Behold! Snacks…” she said solemnly.

 

The sisters began to scratch and dig through the pile finding all kinds of fruit and veggie scraps. “Nice job, Cartoon!” said Amy. “This is awesome!”

 

Mommy watched on by the gate, leaning on the metal can that the chicken food was kept in. Cartoon came over to give her more directions and commands and recommendations about what should be kept stocked in the compost pile.

 

“Hey, cutie.” Mommy said. “Want some oats?” And Mommy took a canister of oats from the food can and sprinkled some on the ground.

 

“Hmmm….what’s this?” Cartoon pondered. She nibbled a few and was amazed at her new discovery. “Ladies! Assemble!” she yelled to her sisters. Realizing that Cartoon had a knack for finding the best snacks, they all waddled over—this time faster than the last. “These are oats.” she said with authoritative knowing (really only having discovered them seconds before). “Oh! Oats!” they said, “These are the best!”

 

Cartoon was a very quick study. She realized that where Mommy was, snacks almost always were, too. Cartoon came to recognize the sound that the back door made—the door that Mommy brought snacks out of. Wherever she was, if she heard that door, Cartoon would check to see if it was, in fact, Mommy coming out of the house; and if it was, she would mobilize the flock and get to her as soon as they could. They would all follow Mommy because, the fact that she didn’t always come out of the house with snacks, didn’t mean there weren’t going to be some.

 

Not every smart chicken with excellent leadership skills and a well-developed sense of strategy is a chicken with good moral values. Cartoon saw her mission as providing her platoon with the best food and entertainment—regardless of how it had to be gotten.

 

In the early summer, Cartoon noticed that when Mommy went near the path by the grapevines, she often came back with some purple and red slightly tart, juicy berries. She stood right behind Mommy’s feet one day to investigate. Mommy gave her one of the berries and said, “Here, Cartoon. Try a raspberry.” Cartoon said to herself, “Yes, these are good. I will call my sisters.”

 

The next thing Mommy knew, she was surrounded by her little flock. They looked hopeful, and Cartoon looked slightly menacing and thoughtful. As she always did, Mommy shared the fruit with the girls. Everyone was happy. Except, apparently, Cartoon. She felt that a better cut of the produce was due to her company, and began to plot for tomorrow.

 

Cartoon in the raspberry patch.

Cartoon in the raspberry patch.

The next day, toward the middle of afternoon, after the sun had a chance to ripen more raspberries (sometimes they would go from almost ripe to perfectly ripe within a matter of hours), Mommy headed out toward the raspberry patch near the grapevines. Cartoon and the girls joined her almost immediately. Mommy didn’t have a bucket with her, thinking she’d only get a small amount of berries, and so she collected them in her hands. Prepared to share, like always, Mommy went to choose a few for her little darlings when Cartoon jumped up and knocked Mommy’s hand—the berries went tumbling and scattered among the vines and grass. The girls, on Cartoon’s command, came bolting in, pecking wildly to snatch up as many berries as they could before Mommy had a chance to react.

 

Mommy stood there in shock. She just got mugged by a chicken. She looked at the girls, wondering what had come over them to not wait for the sharing that would have ensued. From that point on, Mommy always made sure that she had a container with her to keep the berries safe from the marauding beak of Cartoon. And Cartoon always made sure that she joined Mommy on all of her raspberry picking missions. Since she couldn’t knock them out of her hand anymore, Cartoon tried standing close behind Mommy’s feet to try and trip her so that she would drop the bucket.

 

But, even the smartest chicken is no match for a smarter Mommy…

The Chickens of Blackwater Farm: Chapter One

This is the tale of five (and then a sixth) sweet young chickens who live on a nice little property called Blackwater Farm. They live together in a beautiful blue coop and have a lovely garden and yard to graze through. The girls are taken care of by their human family, Dad, Mommy, Ben and Nathaniel. An Australian Shepherd named Samwise also helps care for and protect them.

 

Young Donna Noble

Young Donna Noble

The first introduction belongs to Donna Noble, a very motherly, kind hen who always looks out for her sisters. Donna is always the one to keep the others in line and behaving nicely to one another. She makes sure that everyone has what they need, and no one is left out. She is a Rhode Island Red, so she has beautiful copper-red feathers and orange eyes.

 

Young Cartoon--always the camera hog

Young Cartoon–always the camera hog

This is Cartoon. She is a seriously curious, bold and intelligent chick. She is a natural leader, and usually directs the activities of the day. She’s always the first to look for new adventures and thinks that she is the General of her small flock. Since she first came to Blackwater Farm, she made a point of sitting on the lap of the human called Mommy to tell her all of her demands and orders. In the beginning, Mommy couldn’t understand chicken, so Cartoon was really wasting her time. Mommy just thought she was being cute and snuggly. Cartoon is a Barred Rock. She has black and white speckled feathers and orange eyes.

 

Amelia Pond

Amelia Pond

Here is Ameila Pond—most often called Amy. She would really like to be in charge, and looks for opportunities to boss her sisters around when Donna and Cartoon aren’t looking. She has a keen eye for danger and makes it her business to alert the others to every potential hazard that comes their way—especially hawks and buzzards. Amy likes the sound of her own voice, and is often heard grumbling about something or other. Like Donna, Amy is a Rhode Island Red.

 

Sweet Martha Jones

Sweet Martha Jones

Martha Jones is the sweetest of the girls. She is a bit timid, a little shy and mostly keeps to herself, but doesn’t like to be alone. Sometimes, when she accidentally gets separated from her sisters because of her daydreaming, she stands and cries until someone comes to get her. Otherwise, she is pretty care-free and she always sings a cheerful song wherever she goes. Martha is a Black Australorp. All of her feathers are dark black and shine a beautiful green in the sun. She has very dark brown eyes and a bright red comb.

 

Little Miss Butterscotch

Little Miss Butterscotch

And then there’s Butterscotch. Ben named her that because she is the color of the candy. A creamy, butterscotchy, fluffy, full-figured gal; Butterscotch is a Buff Orpington. She is also, unfortunately, a little silly. As a result of her silliness (or perhaps  as the result of jealousy) the other girls sometimes pick on her. She is the biggest of the chickens, and could easily defend herself, but she doesn’t. She often gets lost—even just on the other side of the garden fence—and can’t figure out how to get where she needs to be.

 

The chickens have an almost perfectly serene existence. Their coop is a clean, dry and comfortable two-story house with a nesting box attached to a bedroom that they all share. It is nice and roomy with two roosts for sleeping and lots of cozy pine shavings to keep them warm on cold winter nights. A gently sloping plank leads down to the screened-in area beneath. In this area there is plenty of nice sand to scratch around in, an always-full feeder and a water dispenser. Each morning one of their humans opens the sliding door so that the girls can begin their day with a stretch, a little breakfast, and perhaps a dirt bath. Sometimes, the large door to the big, wide world is opened for them and they can head out to look for adventure.

 

Their Cozy Home

Their Cozy Home

 

About five feet from their front door is the gate to Mommy’s garden. There are always very interesting things to snack on in there: bugs, veggies and best of all—the compost pile. Mommy brings scraps from the house to the compost pile almost every day, so the contents of that buffet are always something new to look forward to. The garden also has lots of hiding places for the girls to hang out in—sometimes from the prowling hawks, sometimes for a fun game of hide and seek.

 

Throughout the day, the young hens make their way around the rest of the yard. They check out the forsythia bushes, make their way around the house to the pine and oak tree-lined border, up to the front of the house and on to the porch. Cartoon and Amy each make their way to a strategic point—one to the front door, the other to a window—to see if they can catch a glimpse of Mommy, who will probably offer them some oats if they will get off the porch. They mosey a few feet over to the corner of the house to what the humans call the “chicken bush” which provides plenty of shade and privacy for a nap. When they are refreshed, they make their way around the side of the house to the termite oak, through the fallen pine and back to the coop for more pellets and a little water. And maybe another dirt bath…

 

If you’ve never seen a chicken take a dirt bath, it’s something to behold. She scratches out a slight bowl in some nice, dusty dirt, carefully lowers herself down in it, like a person would into a hot bath, and starts scooping up dirt with her wings.   You can’t believe how much dirt a chicken wing can scoop. She catapults it on to her back and her head and ruffles her feathers so that the dirt can get in between them all and stay wedged in there. The dirt keeps the bugs off and keeps their skin dry in the hot weather. They love it. On the farm the dirt is very clay-like and red, so sometimes they look a little scruffy and stained—particularly Cartoon who has a lot of white in her feathers.

 

Butterscotch and Martha on the concrete table

Butterscotch and Martha on the concrete table

They wander over to the concrete table in the shade near the garden for a cool place to sit and rest again. There are always nice plump bugs there, and the chilly concrete refreshes them after their walk.

Eventually, they make their way again to the back of the house where they can find shade under the deck. There they take naps, hang out and chat…and take more dirt baths. In the early summer, they make sure to take a detour by the blueberry bush near the house, just beyond the deck to grab a few tasty berries. Before bedtime, they would head over to the grapevines to see if they were ripe yet, and then head back to the coop for a final nibble on pellets, a drink of water, and up to the perches for some sleep.

 

If the human called Mommy comes out of the house (and she often does), no matter where the ladies are in their routine, they will break from convention and follow her wherever she goes—except for the meadow—that’s the hawk’s domain and they are not interested in being on his menu. They figure that Mommy is where snacks and treats generally come from, so they have to check out whether she’s carrying anything noteworthy. If they are near to the back door, they jog over to her. If they are far—even on the other side of the yard—they run and flap their wings, almost flying, to get to her and the potential treats as quickly as they can. Mommy will usually sit with the girls for a while and listen to their stories and concerns, and Cartoon usually takes her place on Mommy’s lap to fill her in on all the news.

 

This is pretty much how any given day is spent by the chickens of Blackwater Farm. But, every now and then, something remarkable will happen; and that’s where our stories really begin.