Begin, Again

November 9, 2022

I’ve been absent. I like to think that I have just been doing a lot of behind the scenes work. I’ve been called upon for some other thing–hard things and feeling like I have made a difference in places other than here, on the website.

When I started blogging 12 years ago, I used this space as an online diary. A place to collect my thoughts, share what I was experiencing at the time and connect with so many of you. I miss that, but somehow life changes. Blogging seems to be a thing of the past. But here I am, with an update of highs and lows and sharing from the heart.

We said goodbye to Olive and the Chick Chick-my last Guinea Hen.

I know that some of you know, but others may not, but even while doing “Tilly’s Nest” things, I still work as a nurse practitioner. I am proud to share that during the pandemic, I felt a calling to be there for those that were sick. I jumped into providing care for others the best I could. When folks were afraid to leave the house, I was putting on my scrubs, donning my hair cover, mask, gloves and gown and doing all that I could to help those that were suffering on one of our floors, including Covid patients.

I saw many things. Some things I  cannot unsee or remove from my brain. Its like a bad movie replaying over and over again visiting me when I least expect it. I guess like me, we are all processing our experiences on the frontlines. Thankfully the virus is no longer what it was in the first place. As expected, it has mutated into a completely “different animal” but it has left behind people in its wake.  I’ve been trying to do a lot of self-healing and self-care, but it seems nurses aren’t very good at that. Most of the time, we have been taught to push through and just keep going. To counter that, my brain usually finds its way to art and creating.

So, over the past year, I have enjoyed working on the 2023 How to Speak Chicken calendar. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that opportunity. It has been a blast figuring out just what we all wanted to share and highlight each month. I also, had the opportunity to write and design My Chicken Family which will release in January 2023.

I wanted to create a scrapbook for all of you who have been along on the journey since 2012 with me. I know how so many of you love your chickens and enjoy sharing memories and stories with me on a regular basis and I love to hear them.  The best part, is that you are the actual author of this book. I simply give you prompts and inspiration and you do the rest! You get to write your story. I dedicated the book to my step-father who passed away now. 4 years ago. He was my biggest cheerleader.

I’ve also had to say goodbye to many of my chickens. Old age it seemed as though they passed one right after the other- months apart. I am left now with just 5 hens.

Sadly, my health suffered. I ended up having to have two wrist surgeries. The first was to repair a tendon that tore in my hand. The next was to recreate the groove along my ulna and repair and suture in place a tendon that slipped during that injury as well. The first surgery was in 2020, the following surgery was in Fall of 2021 when my wrist was strong enough to endure reconstruction. Shingles, followed by almost a full year in hand therapy,  my wrist is finally functioning normally. That was a lot. I lost the ability to type for a long time, but I still worked with my cast and brace at the hospital seeing patients. What was I thinking?  Okay, probably a little too dedicated. Haha!

And, when I was dealing with all of this, our dog Sara became deathly ill in 2021. We watched as she was slipping away, vomiting and not being able to eat. It took months to get her into seeing a veterinary specialist in Boston after working with our local vets who could not figure out what was going on.  We joke that Sara is our $10,000 dog. Finally, we had answers. She is still not out of the woods yet. She suffers from quite a few autoimmune issues. She has had to have a large tumor removed and then this past spring was on 8 weeks of bedrest for a doggie ACL repair when she slipped on ice during a winter walk. She is still not complelely well but she is happy and pain-free. We savor our moments with her. She turns 10 next week .

So where do we go from here? Where do we go to recover from the mental toll that life has presented? I know many of you have had struggles too.  I guess, the answer is forward and through. We can’t replace things, people and times that we have lost, but we need to continue to create bright spots, happy times and we are indeed responsible for our own joy. We need to be gentler with ourselves and we need to rebuild our flock. There are plenty of people who need love, companionship, friendship and who are hurting from the aftermath of the past few years.

We’ve got to fill out baskets or nesting boxes with new eggs.

The gift we can give as we enter this season of thanks, is one that comes from the heart. Kindness. Giving without expecting something in return–given freely and openly and abudantly. Because, like it or not, we are left with what is still floating on our ocean. It’s time we find those that have just been drifting through life. Its time to start healing and being present. It’s time to write down our stories, fears, and take a look in the mirror. Its time to begin to collect those eggs, still warm with potential. This season, its time to begin again.



Author/Blogger/Freelancer-Sharing adventures with backyard chickens, beekeeping, gardening, crafting, cooking and more.



62 thoughts on “Begin, Again”

  1. Thank you. Yours is a more extreme experience of the last several years. But you are not alone in feeling the toll. Yes, we keep going, and begin again. Every day.

  2. Oh, Melissa, your words and photos so touched my heart. And I cried, mostly in companionship because your journey is so like my own and so many others. It is time we acknowledged bravely the suffering and sacrifice of the past three years, and what that journey has cost and taught us. I hope that somehow it has made us better humans. It certainly has taken a toll among those of us who are caregivers by nature. Because the last people we care for is ourselves. I learned the hard way that I need to practice self care and compassion. I suffered from an inflammatory bowel issue that required seven hours of surgery last month and will require at least six months of recovery. I owe my survival to the excellent surgeon and nursing care I received from dedicated people like you who showed up even though the hospital was short staffed. My chickens, which I have had since 2012, have been a bright spot over the years. You have been a wonderful mentor, and continue to be through your books, blogs and living example of kindness. I will be ordering your two latest creative efforts. Love and peace to you!

    • Oh Susan, thank you for your comment and I am sending such good healing energy to you and your recovery. Self care is something that I admit, I am not good at. I tend to always put others ahead of me to a fault. I turn 50 next year and I am learning to say no and have better boundaries as to what I can do for others, when I have deep needs for care myself. Life is certainly a isnt’ it?

  3. I love this blog.! I wish you and yours health and happiness, and a joy filled heart. Our hearts can break, heal, and help other broken hearts. My grandmother raised chickens, and was wise indeed. Your blog reaches so many, and you help others heal every day. What you do is no small thing. Keep going!

  4. You definitely have had some hardships and I’m glad you’re doing a little better- i’m also aware that you took a trip overseas and you seem to have so much fun I’m glad you were able to do that I’m grateful that you were there to help people I always enjoy reading your blogs- We ended up settling in Alabama we pretty much started chickens about the same time and I found your blog and it told me everything I needed to know you had a little website I’m ever so grateful

    • Oh Nancy, I could never forget you. Yes, we too a trip to Europe because I felt I needed to complete escape and reset. It was just what I needed and it helped to start off this new chapter in life. I love that you have been on this journey with me since the beginning. Its so good to have known you all these years online.

  5. What a beautiful post. I’m so sorry for all you have been through, and wish you good health and much happiness ahead. I’ve learned a lot from you, and glad you are able to write again.

  6. What a blessing your blog was after a weary day of having too much to do in too few hours @ the age 0f 73 . But I should not complain , hubby age 80 was splitting firewood ( with the hydraulic splitter ) ALL DAY LONG ! He is soaking in a good hot bath with Epsom Salts @ the moment .
    We learn to appreciate even the little things in life like the leaves we spend hours & hours raking up , but then thankful for the earthworms they attract & beautiful compost they provide, & many hours of scratching through & tossing them up in the air & backwards by the chickens ! The clean fresh air of Fall & cooler sleeping nights .

    • Thank you so much and thank you for appreciating and noticing all those little things. The world is abundant with blessing and miracles. Everyday they are there, its just a matter if we are present to witness or notice them.

  7. Melissa, I love your heart, your soul and the giving of yourself that you do, without question. Because there is a need. Happy that you are back. Many here to support you! Hugs.
    Bring it on! Everyday is a gift!

  8. Thank you so much for your story. Thank you for caring for those then and now along with all your feathered and furbabies. I pray you become completely healed and pray God bless you mightily . Hugs and love to you.

  9. I’m not one for reading blogs. I’ve never heard of Tilly’s Nest. But for some reason, I clicked on the link I came across in a description of your book “How to Speak Chicken”. There are so many things I’d like to say. I’ll just ball it up into a couple of sentences, and hope it doesn’t sound weird. You are an amazing human being. The world is better with you in it. Persevere, and keep the faith.

    • Thank you. I cannot tell you how much this comment means to me. I am an eternal opitimist and I try with all my might to be there for others and share what is in my heart. I am so glad it made a difference to you.

  10. I am lucky in that my chickens are my therapy. Cleaning the coop, poop patrol in the yard, someone to talk to with no judgment, and just holding and petting until they fall asleep in my arms. It is all relaxing and just being able to be present. Good luck in finding your happy place to renew your soul. Healing warmth coming your way from Florida!

    • Thank you so much Grace and yes, you hit the nail on the head. I could not agree more. Even poop duties aren’t that bad when you have chickens to chat with. I love how therapeutic they can be too.

  11. Thank you for sharing your life, the good and the bad. While we were in the midst of the Covid pandemic, everything was so chaotic and but I knew I could count on you to be honest about what was going on. Thank you for that.

    The hardest part of loving our chickens or any pets is knowing we will most likely have to say goodbye to them. It kills me every time. So, my heart goes out to you for your flock and your pup.

    Thank you and I’m glad to see Tilly Nest back.

    • Thank you so much Kim. It has been a whirlwind and some of my lowest points imaginable, but that spark inside of me just wouldn’t go out. I do admit it would flicker sometimes. It’s nice to return to blogging and life settling down a bit. I am hoping you all are well and hope our paths cross again soon.

  12. Beautiful. Truth. This was just what I needed to read this morning! I can relate. The last two years have been unimaginable for my family due to various health issues and losses. My flock, garden, faith, and hope for a better tomorrow have sustained. It’s time to hit refresh and look forward. Thanks again for a beautiful posting…

  13. Dearest Melissa ❤️
    I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am your back!! The wake of unpleasantness that you have endured the last couple of years is sad and unexcusable for the universe to put you through something like that! But the “debris of life” is something that we all have to endure … the fact that you made it to this point is something miraculous, and joyful! I have missed you and your farm life … I can hardly wait for future stories and so look forward to hearing more of your journey.
    I too have spent my life as a nurse and a caregiver, so I understand and respect all that you have been subject to over the last couple of years. I have learned to live in the “present moment”, as there is no past … there is no future … there is only now. So I choose “joy” as my present moment … and look what it brought me!? Tilly’s Nest is back! It doesn’t get any better than this You are in my best thoughts.
    Kindest Regards,

    • Tauni, you are going to make me cry! Thank you for your comment and thank you too for all that you have done for others in your roles. I love that “debris of life” kinda like drifting in outer space. I think many of us have been bombarded by the debris. Here’s to knowing that we are not alone and when we cannot shield ourselves from it, friends will do it for us. XO

  14. My heart and family try needed this. and I am sending to my ER Nurse Wife to read
    We are all just trying to get through life and savor as many of the sweet moments as we can on the way.
    so much love to you.

  15. Thank you for sharing! We’ve missed you! Thank you for all of your dedication and keeping showing up when things were tough. You’ve had a heck of a year. Welcome back and cheers to continuing on and still finding joy!

  16. Glad you are feeling better. I missed reading about the chickens. Covid changed all our lives. Thankfully we have medicine to hopefully keep it under some control. Looking forward to your new book.

  17. I am sending you a virtual hug, Melissa!
    I found your blog about 10 years ago when I was dreaming of having chickens. Even though I did not have chickens (and still don’t), every one of your posts resonated with me, and filled me with joy. It still does.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your experiences and pictures.
    I’m putting your “How to speak chicken” calendar on my Christmas wishlist 🙂
    Best of health to you and yours!

  18. Well stated. May I share your words of encouragement with others?
    Continued positive thoughts as you heal and move forward. You’ve been through so much. Sharing your journey is helping so many of us working to come to peace with the struggles of the last many years. Thank you.

  19. So sorry to hear that you have gone through so much. my prayers are with you.

    I love reading through your blogs. I’ve missed seeing them. We have had losses with our chickens and our rabbits. I had to put one of our rabbits down. it was so heartbreaking. she developed too much calcium in her body. Caused kidney stone and spinal damage. She lost the use of her back end. She got to s point that she was in so much pain. I cried so hard for her loss. I still cry for her.

    I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. I rarely leave my house. I prayer that everything gets better for you.

    God bless you

    • Oh Teresa, I am so very sorry for the loss of your chickens and your rabbit. I hope you can find peace in your heart knowing that she is no longer suffering and free from pain. You did the right thing even though it was very hard to to. Praying for you and know that you are not alone on your journey.

  20. We never know another’s struggles unless we take time to listen (read). Thanks for sharing. Hoping the quiet winter months are healing for you and your animal family. These extra warm days last week have been a bonus to us all here in MA.

    • Oh yes, the weather has been fabulous and I have been busy putting the garden to sleep and preparing the chicken coop for winter. They say it is going to be a colder and snowier winter than in the past. I look forward to working on the next book and writing from my office watching the snow fall after the holidays. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season to you and yours.

  21. Oh my. It was so great to get an update on you, but I see that the past few years have been a real challenge. The good news is that you’ve made it through those tough times. Bless you for all that you do. I pray healing for you and your critters.
    I’m asking for your book for Christmas!

    • Thank you Daisy. It feels good to be back. I like to think I have come out from the other side and am stronger because of what I have been through. Oooo, I hope you get the book and enjoy it.

  22. My friend just shared this story with me and I am so happy she did! I am an RN, (old nurse). Have been a nurse for almost 40 years. So as you l know I have seen healthcare change dramatically over the last 40 years. We made it thru the AIDS pandemics in my time.!
    Anyway, I am an Oncology Clinical Trials nurse. Therefore I enroll cancer patients in to clinical trials. When I say that at a dinner party I usually get a response like “oh my. How exciting. How rewarding” Something like that. Some days I feel like it is probably the most rewarding job I could have . Other days I want to cry on my lunch hour or when I get off leaving the parking garage, and never go back. I admire and respect everyone in the medical field with all of my heart, but I personally , want out. Not sure what exactly makes my heart know that. There are several things. I don’t think I can totally blame it on the pandemic. Anyway, what I really want to get at is my chickens. I adopted 2, 15 years ago. We have had several since then. Once adopting 4 3 day old chicks.. We are down to one. She is 11. Many of my friends say it is cruel to only have one. I cannot get any more. I fell head over heals in love with each and every one of them. Took them to the vet. Tube fed one of them when she was attacked by a raccoon and the vet said “she might make it”. Evacuated them when a hurricane came. In other words they were (and Marilyn has been and still is) a part of our family. Another creature for me to take care of when I come home from taking care of cancer patients. They are the most fun, smart, inquisitive creatures! I have loved every minute of being a chicken Mom and learned SO much from them! I want to travel, a LOT when I retire. That is one of the reasons no more chickens. I don’t trust other people to take as good of care of them as I do and in reality, I cannot fall in love again and be so extremely sad when they go. So Marilyn Monroe will be our last. She is a mess. She lives in the same pen in our back yard that she was raised in during the day. Every night she spends the night in our garage in a huge cat carrier with one of our cats Inky. She free ranges every day under my husbands careful watch for at least an hour and a half. I am hoping she lives forever! But we all know that will not happen. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful chickens! I also hope and pray your wrist recovers to its fullest potential. I love your blog and thankful for my friend forwarding to me. #chickensarethebest

    • Thank you so much Janice for your comment and thank you for all you do for cancer patients. I know your job is not an easy one filled with highs and lows. I agree, I think for many the pandemic was just the straw that broke the camels back. Healthcare should not be run by businessmen and women, but I digress…Sigh.
      I completely understand how you feel about Marilyn. I think our lives are better for keeping chickens that is for sure. The chapter ahead for you is full of wonderful things including traveling to all those places that have dwelled in your mind and heart for so long. Enjoy the trips and enjoy the little things and perhaps, you’ll even encounter some chicken friends along the way. All the very best to you! XO


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About me

Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.