Blueberry Lane Herb Farm:
Tilly's Got Talent
Three alarm clocks blared all at once. The orange sun floated above the pasture with morning greetings. Paws pitter pattered about on old oak floors. The bustle of dressing, collecting backpacks, and packing lunches made for an exciting morning. Pedro and Rasmus were the first ones at the breakfast table. They wore crisp plaid bow ties for the first day of school. Pedro looked at Rasmus and pondered, “Señor Rasmus, why I must I wear a tie? I like no tie. I like to be myself.” Ramus replied thoughtfully, “Pedro, when you put your best paw forward on the first day of school, it sets you up for success! Wearing a handsome bow tie always makes me feel like I’m on top of the world!” Rasmus winked at Pedro with assurance, and Pedro confidently winked back.
Coral Bell served fruit salads and said, “I wonder what is taking Guinevere so long. She should be at the breakfast table by now.” Rasmus rolled his eyes and volunteered to get Guinevere. As he hopped up to her second-floor bedroom, he thought he heard her walking back and forth across her room. Back and forth. Back and forth. He crouched outside her door to listen. He swiveled his tall rabbit ears this way and that way. It sounded like she was walking laps back and forth. He could hear her stop, spin around on her hind paws, and walk back across her room. He concluded she was admiring in her new dress in the mirror and fussing with her fur.
With a knock on her door, Rasmus announced “Guinevere, breakfast is ready. We are all at the table waiting for you.” Guinevere slowly opened the door on an itty-bitty crack and whispered, “I’m not hungry, I’m busy getting dressed. Meet you in the playground!” Rasmus thumped hard. He chided, “Guinevere, you’re up to something. You better not start trouble on the first day of school. It will upset Coral Bell and mess up our schedule.”
Tilly perched in her favorite parsley pot on the porch. She was sad that the carefree days of summer ended. She stared out into the pasture. She wondered what she would do while everyone was in school. She wasn’t needed to style Guinevere’s fur since she had a short fur cut. Coral Bell’s tutoring students wouldn’t be around until the evenings; a long time to wait for visitors. Pedro and Rasmus didn’t leave out any books to read. She couldn’t help feeling weepy and lonely.
Suddenly something appeared on the porch! Tilly wondered what was hiding under the wide brimmed sun hat and big round sunglasses. Peering cautiously from the parsley pot, she asked who was there. With a giggle, the little voice whispered “It’s Guin. Isn’t my hat fabulous? The movie stars wear hats like these!” Tilly voiced concern, “Guin, can you wear that huge sun hat to school? Are they allowed? Wait until Rasmus sees that, he will not approve. Besides, your dress is dragging. You might trip on it. You can’t hide your short fur forever Guin.”
Guin huffed and said, “Gee Tilly, why are you so cranky? You’re not the long-haired guinea pig with embarrassingly short fur! I’m walking to school before Rasmus, so he doesn’t see my outfit. Otherwise, he’ll make me change. Besides, he knows nothing about fashion.” Tilly sunk down and sulked in the parsley, still wondering about the day ahead of her.
Cluck Cluck Cluck…….Cluck Cluck Cluck
The hen house was busy these days. Matilda had lots of chicks scrabbling around. The baby chicks followed their mama everywhere while the older ones explored the farm. Some roosted in the shrubs while some searched for bugs. Some pecked at the ground, some just wandered around. Matilda liked organization. Matilda liked knowing where each chick was at all times. All the clatter and chicken chatter made Matilda edgy!
While Tilly sulked in the parsley, she heard some frantic clucking. She wondered what all the fuss was about. She wished the chicks would quietly play somewhere else. She wished Pedro, Rasmus, and Guinevere didn’t have to go to school. She wished she had something to do, something with a purpose. She wasn’t in the mood to practice her opera singing. She wasn’t in the mood to visit Boulder Hill in the pasture. She wasn’t in the mood to keep Coral Bell company while she worked in the garden.
The clucking got louder. And louder. And louder. Before she knew it, there were tiny peeping sounds floating through the air. Something wasn’t right. The usual rhythm of the clucking was off, and the peeping was chaotic. Finally, out of curiosity, Tilly fluttered out of the parsley to investigate. She flew to the chicken coop, no one was home. She surveyed the gardens while dipping up and down in flight, not a chick in sight. She flew to the kitchen window box and rested in the flox. There it was again…..the peeping, clucking, and scrabbling around…..but where was it coming from?
From the corner of her eye, Tilly noticed feathers flying in the kitchen. With a quick start, she darted to the open window and slipped inside. “Matilda, are you in here? Oh my goodness, have you lost your chicks?” Matilda hollered back, “Tilly, is that you? Help, I’m stuck in a closet! Where are my babies? Help, I must find my babies!” Tilly reassured Matilda all her baby chicks were fine, even though she didn’t know where they all were. Chicks were hopping and popping all around the house in a state of confusion. Tilly promptly retrieved Coral Bell from the garden for help.
Coral Bell opened and slammed shut cabinet doors in a desperate search. Eventually, she found Matilda in the pantry, pacing back and forth with her wings flapping in a panic. Matilda cackled in turmoil, “That Guinevere, let me tell you, she left the screen door open! Then I saw her tip-toe down the lane in a silly disguise. My older chicks wandered in, all of them, and the young baby chicks must have followed while I was tidying up my hen house. Before I knew it, I was chasing ‘em all around the house, up and down the stairs, in and out of baskets, off the sofa, and out of the fireplace! I don’t know how the door shut behind me!”
Tilly and Coral Bell were in shock over the bedlam. Meanwhile, baby chicks peeped all around, while older chicks enthusiastically explored nooks and crannies. Coral Bell swooped up Matilda and sat with her on the porch swing. She stroked her feathers to calm her and give her a much-needed rest.
Meanwhile, Tilly scouted about the house and rounded up each chick. She organized them in a straight line, single file. Next, she counted each and every one. Then she gave them firm marching orders. “Matilda’s chicks - listen up! Your mama had quite a big scare, she thought she lost you. In case you didn’t know, moms don’t like to lose their kids. Now remember these rules:
- It’s important to stay where you’re supposed to be. That’s where mama knows you are!
- If you want to explore, you must ask mama for permission first.
- If mama says, no, then you stay put!
- If mama say yes, then you go with a buddy for safety. Never explore alone.
Now, everyone march to the hen house on the count of three. One. Two. Two and half. Three!”
Tilly escorted all 28 chicks that ranged in size from tiny little peepers to teenage chickens. Tilly reacquainted them with where they could safely explore and what shrubs and bushes they could roost in during the day.
Toot Toot Toot
“Listen up chicks. When you hear me whistle like that, it means everyone must go to the hen house. That’s the official whistle. Seems like your mama is awfully busy and I see we need some rules to keep order here. So, I’ll be here to help Mama Matilda every day!
That first week of school, Tilly missed Pedro, Rasmus, and Guinevere a lot, but she was very busy helping Matilda look after all her chicks. Matilda was anxious about keeping up with all 28 of them. Those young roosters were especially daring and adventurous! Tilly announced, “Matilda, you keep laying eggs, but you don’t have time to watch your chicks. You need time to play with them and help them be all chickeny. Since I’m a parrot, I can sit on your eggs!” Poor Matilda was so tired out, she agreed to let Tilly help with egg hatching.
Tilly quickly realized she wasn’t big enough to sit on a whole clutch of eggs at once, so she decided to sit on one egg at a time. And so she tried. She gently arranged herself on an egg. She wobbled to the left. She wobbled to the right. She wobbled to the left again. “Whoa, hey this would be a lot easier if eggs were flat. This must be what it feels like when cowboys ride broncos!” She toppled off the egg and almost fell out of the nest box. With determination, she tried again, this time with a new approach. She gently slid backward on top of an egg. She wiggled her bottom to center herself. She took a deep breath and settled down. She felt stable on the egg. Now she waited. And waited. She got bored. She wished she had a book to read. She got hungry. She wished she had some snacky bird seed. She decided to daydream. She fell asleep and rolled off the egg again!
Matilda cackled, “Miss Tilly, that ain’t no way to hatch a clutch ‘o eggs. You got to get back up on the clutch and wait til those eggs crack! Then you’ll feel chicks pokin’ and wigglin’ about. Miss Tilly, you need some patience! It’s just a matter of time till my baby chicks hatch once you sit on ‘em.”
“On second thought, I don’t think you’re fit for nesting; your little parrot bottom is too small for my clutch. So tomorrow you can babysit the chicks outside while I sit on my clutch,” Matilda demanded. Tilly was confused. She was never “fired” from a job before! Tilly took great pride in her work and getting fired was most distressing.
Around the dinner table that night, Rasmus and Pedro talked all about the first day back at school. They chattered away until each detail of the day was revealed from news about the teachers to all the compliments they received on their bow ties.
Tilly shared her dilemma about getting fired from egg nesting. Rasmus peered across the table to offer sage advice. “Tilly, it’s not that you didn’t do a good job. You’re a little parrot, sitting on clutch of chicken eggs is a very big job for a little bird. Everyone has skills and abilities they are good at when the job is right. For example, I am a good listener because I have big ears and I am very wise. Coral Bell is a good Spanish tutor because she can read, write, and speak Spanish. You will be an excellent baby sitter for the chicks because you’re attentive and caring. That’s the right job for you Tilly!”
Coral Bell chimed in, “Tilly, with everyone going back to school, I know you’re lonely. Matilda is busy hatching chicks before the cold weather comes. Do you realize that teaming up with Matilda is a “win-win” because it will help her, and it will keep you from being bored? You just need some confidence in yourself about how valuable you can be to Matilda. That also means you are valuable to me and the needs of the farm.” Tilly quietly considered all the advice while she nibbled on her mango.
“Guinevere, you’re very quiet. Tell us about your day. You always have funny stories about your friends,” Coral Bell said with curiosity. Guinevere stared at her plate and pushed her food around. She fidgeted with her napkin and wiggled in her chair. “Well, what happened,” Coral Bell nudged. Guin casually replied that her friends and teachers were all okay. Rasmus nosed in, “Guin, you’re telling us everything. I heard rumors about you!”
Guinevere started to cry, “Everyone laughed at my outfit, which was out of dress code, so I got sent to the new principal, Mrs. Sprinkle. She’s mean. At recess, I tripped on my dress playing jump rope and fell. Then I had to go to Mrs. Sprinkle’s office AGAIN for bandages for my knees. There, that’s how my day was. Could it get any worse? Mrs. Sprinkle sent home the dress code and you have to sign it Coral Bell.”
Coral Bell reminded Guin that by skipping breakfast and sneaking out of the house, she set herself up for trouble. School rules must be followed, otherwise there is a penalty.
Tilly piped up. “Hey everyone. I learn lessons even without going to school. I learned one today.” Guinevere interrupted, “Did you learn how to do new fur styles?” Rasmus shook his head at Guinevere’s silly question. Pedro giggled. Tilly sharply responded, “No Guinevere. I don’t spend my days thinking about how to style your long guinea piggy fur! I have more worldly things to think about.”
Tilly continued, “Today, I learned the importance of knowing what we are good at. I learned we should be proud of our talents without bragging and boasting. Bragging and boasting are not good character traits anyway. You know, because it sounds self-centered. So tomorrow, I will use my talents to babysit Matilda’s chicks so she can nest on her eggs in peace. We should always help others, any way we can. It’s the right thing to do.”
Coral Bell complimented Tilly for being well thought out. She continued, “Tilly, soon, you’ll settle into a new routine. Hopefully, you’ll also have time to practice your opera singing and enjoy riding on Boulder in the pasture. Next month, I’ll need you to help me plant the flower bulbs, you know, the daffodils and tulips. Before long, Guinevere’s fur will grow out and you’ll have to help her take care if it.” Although Pedro and Rasmus groaned at the idea of Guin’s hair growing long again, Guinevere beamed with hope.
Tilly’s heart pounded with happiness from feeling appreciated for her compassion, her talents, and the new-found ways she can contribute to life at Blueberry Lane Herb Farm. The little green parrot blushed with delight when Rasmus called her “Aunt Tilly” to all of Matilda’s chicks!
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