Where shall I begin? Should the story start with Michael on the roof? Or the pies? Baby chicks? Maybe I should start with the birthday croissants, but if you know Ursula, the bad dog, at all, you already know the end of that story, which involved an exuberant but solitary celebration of fancy carbs.
Let's begin with Michael, who very cleverly chose the day after his own birthday for our wedding. Therefore, we have two days of celebrations.
This year, we discovered that despite what the internet says about traditional anniversary gifts, in our house, the sixth is the pie anniversary, where each party must visit the same bakery secretly and separately to buy their beloved a pie.
Michael bought me blueberry, which he gave me in the morning. I hid the cherry I bought for him in the pie safe until dinner time, when we had double dessert.
The next morning, I set up our traditional birthday breakfast: croissants and lox. I had also cut herbs from the garden — basil, chives and parsley — to stir into cream cheese.
I piled croissants on the cake plate and put Ursula, the bad dog, outside.
I took my coffee onto the front porch and waited for Michael to wake up and feign surprise. Ursula sat demurely at my feet. I listened to the birds and read.
Once in a while, I glanced through the front window to admire the lofty pile of croissants on the breakfast table, looking even more special under the glass dome of the cake plate.
At some point, Ursula disappeared casually around the corner. Then suddenly — the croissants weren't there. The plate was upended and licked clean. The fancy dish of cream cheese had vanished; the glass dome lay under the table.
I yelped and jumped up, sloshing my coffee, and ran into the house. Did Cullen, the good dog suddenly turn bad? I ran into the kitchen and saw the door hanging open. Away to the window I flew to see Ursula lying on her belly in the driveway, licking clean my fancy dish of any remnants of cream cheese. Luckily, there was pie for breakfast.
Later in the day, Michael was practicing his roofing skills on the garage, warming up to reroof the house next. He assured me he didn't need help, yet I kept interrupting my indoor tasks to look out the window to ensure he hadn't fallen off. It's a low roof with a shallow slope, so I wasn't really worried.
Midmorning found Ursula outside sunning in the yard and Cullen keeping me company inside.
Suddenly, Cullen sounded the alarm. Was it a bicyclist daring to ride past our house? A delivery? Or maybe Jim and Sean had determined it was dry enough to plant the beans?
I looked down the driveway and out into the fields but saw no cause for the brown dog's braying bark. I went to the kitchen window to check on Michael, but he was safe, sitting on the corner of the roof, looking around the yard philosophically.
I assumed he was simply taking a break to enjoy the view and went back to my work. But Cullen would not let up. Five minutes later, I stepped outside and discovered that Michael's ladder had fallen, leaving him trapped on the roof.
"It's about time," said the birthday boy, as I lifted the ladder from the ground and held it for him to come down.
But Michael must share his birthday with nine chicks. Did I tell you about Minnie May, the broody Serama hen? The only sure way to cure a broody hen is to let her hatch eggs. Otherwise, she might just sit on the empty nest forever. I put seven eggs in my incubator and put Minnie into the brooder on a nest of three more. The day before, tiny chips appeared in the eggs.
Overnight two hatched, calling the others out of the eggs. As each chick dried off in the incubator, I carried it downstairs to put up under the mama whose alarm only lasted a second with each new chick.
Now the little Serama hen gathers her chicks to her with her wings spread wide. They pop out between feathers to eat and drink and then run back to the shelter of her wings to warm up again.
Tonight, I will sneak them out into the big coop so they can begin to explore the wide world.
Hatch in beauty; celebrate peace; blessed be.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She has just uploaded photos of the new chicks and their momma on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via snail mail care of this newspaper.