Unique Creations by Shari Denise

From Writing to Chickens with lots in-between, Creativity Abounds!


Brave Little White Cloud

Little White CloudLittle White Cloud has proven her bravery before. You may have remembered her from last spring when her gentle but independent personality began to emerge (Read about that here). You will see her little white dot of a body stepping the beat of her own little drum in many of the photos I post around Cackleberry Lane.

Little White Cloud is so independent that she prefers not to roost with the rest of the flock. She hops up onto her perch in the eave of the rafters inside the Cackleberry Inn. Little White Cloud, to say the least, has a lone heart. She cares nothing about visiting with the rest of the flock. She avoids them as much as possible but when necessary, should one of the other hens decide to pick on her, she stands her ground. She is indeed not a bully, but she will not tolerate BEING bullied either. As I watch this tiny life go about her normal day I find myself admiring her self-governing attitude. As independent as she is, one might find it unbelievable that she eagerly allows me to pick her up and stroke her soft feathered body. She is indeed an amazing addition to the critters around here.

Last evening when it was time to feed the Coffee Cats, I opened their usual cans of gravy coated shreds. I couldn’t help but find myself clicking on my phone video camera when I saw who had decided to dine with them. Of course, Roxi and Ivy were nearby as well and Roxi even offered to narrate the video that I filmed.

Keep in mind that the five Coffee Cats are mousers. DAILY we find the trophies they leave at our back door. Mice, moles, rats, weasels, and BIRDS!! To be honest, I held my breath as I videoed because I knew how successful these cats are with their daily hunts. I have never seen any aggression towards the chickens from any of the Coffee Cats but, just knowing that the birds they hunt and kill are not much different in size than Little White Cloud, it indeed makes me pause with concern.


Autumn Harvest

Soybeans are ready for the cutting and our days are filled with doing the combine dance and then filling up the grain bins with the results of our labor. Here’s a little video of one of our typical evenings.


Fall, Football, Fiction & Goats

Fotor_140512329282858This weekend has been such a splendid autumn weekend here in the Smokey Mountains. Leaves are turning and falling. Temperatures are crisp during the day and chilly at night. All summer I’ve had the “wood pile” fenced around so my two pygmy goats could enjoy jumping on the hugh un-split logs while keeping the weeds and grass down chewed down. To make their pen even larger, I butted their PVC Corral up to the fenced in woodpile, giving them more room.

20141019_112250_Fotor_Collage_FotorWith the coming of chilly nights the need for the wood pile becomes vital and I’m proud to say, the goats kept the weeds and grass knocked down pretty good (Great Job Girls!) So, this weekend it was time to move their pen. I’ve learned that rotating pasture (and in our case, rotating pen area) helps keep the goats healthier and with winter coming on, keeping the goats closer to their Bedroom in the Cackleberry Inn is handier.

I enjoy books. I enjoy reading books, and I enjoy listening to books. I especially enjoy listening to a good book on a weekend filled with my hands busy with a task or project. It’s been a while since I’ve had a few hours to enjoy such. This weekend, as my hands took down and moved fence panels, then re-errected them in their new temporary location, my head was filled with an amazing story via my ear buds. I eagerly encourage each of you to read (or listen to) this incredible book.

alifeintercepted_hi__medium__medium-largeA Life Intercepted by Charles Martin was more than I anticipated it to be. If you like football, and you like a good fictional novel, then this is a MUST READ! As he acquaints football to a physical game of chess, Charles Martin brings more than the average to the storyline.

Football legend Matthew Rising had it all—married to his high school sweetheart and one of the winningest quarterbacks of all time, the number one pick of the NFL draft lost it all in an instant. In A Life Intercepted, New York Times bestselling novelist and former college football player Charles Martin beautifully tells the redemptive story of how one man had to lose it all to find it all.

Falsely accused of a heinous crime with irrefutable evidence, Matthew lost his reputation, his career, his freedom, and the love of his life to a 12-year prison sentence. Having served his time and never played a down of professional football in his life, Matthew returns to his hometown of Gardi, Georgia with one mission: to find his wife.

Convinced of his guilt, his wife Audrey sought refuge from the media in a convent where she grew close to an orphaned boy who possessed more talent and promise on the football field than Matthew had in his pinky finger, but lacked proper coaching. In an effort to regain her love and trust, Matthew agrees to coach the boy, violating the terms of his parole and risking his freedom for the chance to redeem himself to the woman he loves.

Having faced similar feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness once an injury terminated his own football career, Martin acknowledges: “I’d made an idol out of football and bought into the lie that I mattered to the extent that I was good at or somehow tied to the glory train that was football. When that crumbled, I found myself in a prison of my own building…

A Life Intercepted was born out of this messy emotional implosion: the exposure and failure of my own idol, the unexpected but much-needed healing of forgiveness offered, and then a soul-deep realization that Charles Martin was not born to simply live out his days as a football player.”

In a tribute to his best friend and an encouragement to root one’s identity in something deeper than football, Martin combines intriguing, emotive narrative with relatable characters worth rooting for, resulting in a classic story of love, loss, forgiveness and redemption in A Life Intercepted.      * From charlesmartinbooks.com 


And the Goats Still Graze

andthegoatsstilgrazeIt had been an exhausting day at the office. Workload was akin to an avalanche. Every few years new programs with new regulations hit with way too much to absorb, comprehend, and administer to those who walk through the door. It boggles the minds of those well seasoned to this system and blows the minds of the newly hired.

In amongst the chaos of phone calls, customers, emails, reports, notices, amendments, computer challenges and policy interpretations I look up and see my supervisor walking through the office. His face taunt. With cell phone to his ear he exits the building. I watch as he paces the sidewalk in front of the office, deep in his phone conversation. I immediately tense. It’s been about 18 months since the news broke of his wife’s cancer. Inoperable, rare, debilitating. On top of that, his dad passed away last year and he, being the oldest son now has more responsibilities concerning his mother and the family farm operation. I could go on with his concerns for his two grown sons as well as his college enrolled daughter.

I turn from the window to see one of my best friends (and coworker) sitting at her desk staring at her computer with a tear trickling down her cheek. My heart ached. A loved one had just received some bad news. I’ve been there; trying to work and push on to make deadlines with a mind swirling with emotional thoughts. I look away for we’ve already discussed this and I know the best thing I can do is give her some space so she can regain her composure and accomplish the tasks she has upon her keyboard.

As I return to my own responsibilities, I hear the voice of another coworker and true friend. I slowly close my eyes and take a deep breath and send up a prayer. Next week it will be 20 years since her daughter passed away. Rare incident took the life of the barely teen girl. I worry about my friend. I don’t think there is any deeper pain than that of a mother who has buried her child. It haunts her to this day. As I’m sitting there thinking of all this, she comes out and breaks the news that a family member “back home” of which she is extremely close to has been hospitalized.

I take a breath. Phone rings and I’m back in the business world of addressing policy and upcoming programs to someone who these programs were created for. As the day continues, all three of my coworkers forge on, pushing aside best they can the things that attempt to capsize their world. And in the midst of it all we find things to laugh about to ease the tension. We know we will get through this, we know we can rely on each other for support as we muddle through each work day.

Pulling out of the office parking lot at the end of the work day I pick up my cell phone and call my mom. She and dad are now in their elder years and each day is a challenge for them. Growing old is not for the weak. It’s hard each and every day as physical limitations increase. Thankfully, my son has taken up the challenge to assist them full time. Some 350 miles away, I listen as Mom shares how she enjoys him pampering her and daddy, cooking their meals, keeping up the homestead, inside and out, and tending to their physical needs like keeping dad’s blood sugar within his diabetic limits.

Mom tells me of her latest outing. She and my sister, (who takes our parents to most of their Doctor appointments) had just returned from a consultation about mom’s upcoming surgery. Details and considering all things for a successful recovery season must be considered.

20140727_163530_FotorWith my mind unwinding from the office day and my phone call with my mom, I pull my car into the garage. Shutting my car door and reaching for the garage door I already hear them. My two pygmy goats know I’m home. I smile. With all five of my “Coffee Cats” joining my walk to the house I laugh at my little welcoming committee. Loving Latte‘ rubs against my leg and then runs ahead a few steps and drops to the walk, sprawled out in front of me wanting belly rubs immediately. Java is just one of the crowd, joining all the rest as we make our way to the back door. Espresso (named appropriately) pounces upon the concrete picnic table as we pass for a better position to get my attention. Momma Kitty, Folgers is always leading the band and waiting for me at the back door. My sweet shy Maxwell takes every step with me, rubbing up against my leg but never allowing me to love on him. Much can be learned from Maxwell I think. Giving love, but not interested in getting love. Hmmm… now there’s a thought.


A quick change of clothes and shoes and I’m back out the door to my favorite time of the day. Critter Time!  My phone chirps with a text but I delay reading it for I’m scooping up chicken feed and pouring it into the feeders. I giggle at the crowd below. My chickens. Oh, they’re just a mixture of a few different breeds. Not to bore you with details, I’ll settle to describe them as a Heniz 57 flock. HitchCock is the large black rooster that is large and in charge. We have serious control battles from time to time but there’s just something about him that keeps him in my flock. One of which is he was one of the first little chicks that first spring I went to Tractor Supply and bought myself 8 little chicks because I wanted me some chickens.

A half dozen red hens (awesome brown egg layers they are!), some white hens with speckles of black (thanks HitchCock) here and there in their feathers deemed names like Oreo and Blizz. A couple of black hens, Chickory and Hanna. Then there’s my feather-legged puff of feathers, Emily. On to some of the wee ones. In my childhood we called them Banny chickens. No bigger than a dove. Tiny little chickens that bring such variety to my flock in the Cackleberry Inn. Biscuit, named for the color of her feathers, likes to lay eggs AND crow. Little White Cloud is so independent and a true adventurer. Although I can’t name each of my little flock here, I cannot leave out my banny roosters. Colorful Chick Sparrow, ChickaSaw, Daniel and the newest boy on the block, Shorty July.

20140727_165514_FotorShorty July has been having transition issues. Being the only baby chick since his birth (hatching) on July 1st. I’ve had to keep the tiny little chick in a bird cage for his safety. There’s a strong “pecking order” within each flock and to incorporate any new birds, one must upset that pecking order. So, to begin the process, I introduced Shorty July to two other banny hens so they could get to know each other. That went fairly well. Then I guess I moved too fast and opened up the suite and invited them to join the rest of the flock. This did not go well. As most of the flock filled their bellies from the freshly filled feeders, I cast my eyes across the flock taking note of this chicken and that… Looking for Shorty July, I couldn’t find him. Then I saw the poor little thing. He had flown up and out of the patio outdoor room and escaped through the small area just under the rafters. He was on the outside!!

I ran outside and attempted to go catch Shorty July but he was too scared to be “caught”. So, I just sat down on the grass and called to him like I’ve done so many times as I held him in my hands while walking the goats. Shorty July walked right into my outstretched hands. I cannot express the feeling of having such a tiny little being trust you so much. My Shorty July has stolen my heart. As I held him in the safety of my hands, stroking his soft feathery body, I thought how this is how God reaches out to us. We race away from Him in our fear, but when we trust Him totally, he scoops us up in His safe hands and comforts us and calms our troubled and frightened souls.

Taking Shorty July back into the Cackleberry Inn, I began the transition once again. Placing him in a wire coop with fresh water and feed. He scooped up beak full after beak full. Then I gathered up Little Miss Gray Dove and placed her in the coop with Shorty July. Transition is hard, but important.

With Shorty July settled in with Little Miss Gray Dove (feathers soft gray splattered with white dots) I was finally ready to let the impatient goats out. Having their own suite at the back of the Cackleberry Inn, they are safe during the day and are always ready to venture out for our evening stroll and graze. This is my down time. The time of the day that I unwind and let the days worries fall away. Wherever I walk, Roxi & Ivy walk with me. If they venture too far, just a slight rattle of their pellet feed in the coffee can I hold, brings them bouncing back. It’s been a while since I used their leashes. They don’t like to be far from me or each other.

IMG_20140810_184829As I walk down Cackleberry Lane with my little girls sniffing and snipping this blade of grass or that weed, I find a calmness to the world’s chaos. God’s creations doing what they’ve been doing since the beginning of time. Most days it seems like life changes way faster than I can keep up. From technology inventions to changes that come as we, and our loved ones mature and grow from one season of life to another… some days it nearly overwhelms me. But as I stand there watching those little goats nibble and graze, I see it’s all part of God’s ultimate plan. God’s timing is so totally different than ours. We want everything NOW, yet God has no problem with waiting. We have trouble comprehending the constant chaos of so much activity, yet God takes it in stride. I see this as the goats graze and the chickens scratch and peck.

LemonBalm.08.02.2014Walking back up to the lane toward the grain bins, I can see my little flock of chickens that I let out earlier to free range for a little while. They stick near their Cackleberry Inn home, scratching and pecking in the fresh, green, lush grass. So busy, yet so content. I smile. I remember the text chirp from earlier. A loved one having to deal with a very turbulent issue right now. My heart aches. I’m frustrated as to why my loved one is having to deal with this. So many things are forced upon us that we have no control over. It might be health issues, or someone who makes selfish decisions that affect us. Either way, it’s a battle for the fittest. I reply to the text and receive another almost immediately. Is there a solution? No option available is acceptable. Frustration rises…

20140817_173936And the goats still graze…

Calmness overcomes me and I know God is here and He is with my loved one. In the scheme of things, this in merely a moment. In the scheme of things, God shows us how we must take the little things and the big things in stride. Just like those little goats standing there leisurely nibbling as we wander around on the farm. Just like those chickens scratching and pecking, just like this band of cats lovingly wrapping themselves around my legs.

Phone rings just as the grazing girls and I round the grain bins and start up the driveway towards the woodpile they love to jump up on. Another loved one needs to talk. Another survival of the fittest in the waves of life’s storms. As I become the sounding board for my dear one, pouring out a heart of despair and attempting to makes sense of it all so a solution can be found, I turn…

20140822_171955and the goats still graze….








Funny how things can start out looking lazy and precious and take a turn rather quickly.

Sunday was an afternoon filled with yard and critter chores around here. At one point I turned and found such a sweet sight. Java sprawled lazily across the patio table. Of course Espresso is always looking for something to be curious about.


As I drew near her, so did the goats, who accompanied me. She was cool with that, although Espresso quickly lost interest.


As Roxi & Ivy investigated the area, including nearby potted plants, Java remained her royal self and lazily looked on. Cats are not the only ones that have curious bones. 🙂


and in a moment….. the entire scene changed…


Ivy decided SHE wanted Java’s spot on the table!

      And you wonder why my poor little potted plants look rather “weathered”?



Lemon Balm, Oh MY!

LemonBalm.08.02.2014Loving the herb Lemon Balm today. Just learned it has so many benefits, not to mention its crisp, clean scent. Some call it the “Elixir of Life” due to its

  • incredible anti-viral,
  • anti-bacterial,
  • digestive, and
  • sedative properties.
  • high levels of antioxidants which substantially increases its ability to heal and work effectively.

Lemon Balm contains a compound called terpene which has the ability to help relieve

  •  anxiety,
  • stress,
  • hypertension,
  • depression,
  • high blood pressure,
  • muscle spasms,
  • heart palpitations,
  • tension headaches,
  • circulatory issues, and
  • cognitive disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Lemon Balm also benefits

  • chronic gastrointestinal disorders including
    • indigestion,
    • IBS,
    • colitis, and
    • acid reflux.

Lemon Balm has the ability to promote a healthy, balanced immune system and endocrine system, which is highly beneficial for autoimmune disorders such as

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,
  • Adrenal Fatigue,
  • Multiple Sclerosis, and
  • Vertigo.

It is also useful in treating

  • insomnia,
  • sleep disturbances, and
  • jittery nerves, allowing for a more relaxed body and better quality sleep.

The polyphenol tannins contained in Lemon Balm give it its anti-viral properties making it particularly helpful in healing

  • colds,
  • flu,
  • bronchitis and
  • any viral infections.

Topically, Lemon Balm can be applied as a cream to help heal and provide relief for

  • cold sores
  • shingles as well as
  • cuts and wounds.

Essentially, Lemon Balm is a heal-all herb and has rightfully earned its reputation as the “Elixir of Life”. As a delicious and refreshing drink, Lemon Balm tea can be added to your weekly health regime for a wide range of healing benefits. Fresh or dried herb can be steeped in hot water for a minimum of ten minutes and sweetened with raw honey, if desired.”

To learn more about this wonderful herb and find more uses for it, check out my Lemon Balm Pinterest Board where I collect lots of fascinating data about Lemon Balm.



Sources: Medical Medium



Curious Espresso

espresso.coffee.catThere are 5 Coffee Cats. Like children, each has their very own personality. Espresso, the only male of Folger’s 3 little kittens has always shown he deserves his name. Hyper, energetic and totally, one hundred percent curious. No matter what is going on in the yard, Espresso is there in the midst of it. And if he can’t see what’s going on, then he finds a better view. Thus, it’s common for him to jump up on our back and peep over our shoulder. Love me some Espresso.


Rainy Days

Lazy, rainy day… Coffee Cats Espresso and Latte are taking it easy on the front porch.



Shorty July

Came Home from work on July 1st, heard the chirp of a tiny thing. Upon investigating, found a banny hen had a hidden nest up in the rafters. One tiny little puff of a chick was up there, then before I could get to it, it fell. Appearing unharmed from it’s tumble, I made it a new home in the nursery cage. Such a tiny little thing!


A few days later, my 7 year old grandson, Brycen came for a visit. Of course, he had to name the tiny puff. And so it is, Shorty July. Shorty, because it’s so tiny and July because it got this month started with a bang!


Today, Shorty July is 18 days old and growing! Real feathers are replacing the baby fuzz.



When The Shadows Get Long

Fotor_140512314985692My seven year old grandson returned to his home yesterday after spending an entire week here with me. As we puttered around the yard, and played with the Cackleberry Critters, he followed my every step. One day we took on the task of moving the Cackleberry Kid Corral. Made from PVC pipe, the large pen can be moved from one spot in the yard to another.  This was the day it needed to be moved closer to the wood pile area where we had erected fencing panels the day before. Earlier this year I had fenced in the wood pile area for the goats to enjoy however, the wire was not durable enough when the goats placed their feet on it. Project fail when Roxi escaped routinely. After surrounding the weedy wood pile with the fence panels (made for heavier duty than just rolled fencing) I decided to join the corral to it, thus, making a larger area for the two little pygmy goats to romp, play and eat.

Fotor_140512329282858Knowing it would be easier for me to maneuver the corral with the doors open I instructed Brycen to go get the blue coffee can and put a small scoop of the goats’ feed in it. This is how I keep the goats from roaming too far when I let them out of their corral to “free range graze” each evening. Just a little shake of the feed in the can and you have Roxi & Ivy’s full attention. They know that once their grazing time is over their “treat” awaits.

With the realization of what his task actually meant (that the goats were going to be let out of their pen) Brycen stopped, “But Nee Nee, the shadows are not long.” I smiled. I had used the shadows to help this seven year old be able to tell the time of day when we normally let the goats out of their pen. “When the shadows get long, we will feed the critters and let the goats out.” Yep, those were my words. Now in the middle of the day, when shadows were at their shortest, I was going to let the goats out. No wonder the little guy was confused! After explaining the abnormal reprieve from their daily routine, I began moving the pen. Brycen helped by keeping an eye on the goats, making sure they didn’t wander off too far.

shadows03It was a delightful afternoon even though the summer temps sure made us sweat and we craved our moments under the large shade trees nearby.

At the end of the day we were pretty well spent. Roxi & Ivy had enjoyed all the adventure of their corral being moved and their area enlarged to include the more grass and weeds that grew up through and around the woodpile. Brycen and I sat back and took in with full inspection the results of our hard labor. The cool breeze tickled our cheeks. Breaking the silence of the moment Brycen spoke up. 20140711_162941_Fotor“The shadows are long.” I smiled, and agreed.