She was sitting at the dining room table, playing with the little animals I had given her when she first arrived. Our chili dinner was cooking warmly on the stove. The corn bread was just starting to rise in the oven. Chili and cornbread, the perfect fall weather meal.

I looked up from the stove and asked if she would like to come with me to do the evening animal chores. She smiled.

“Let’s get our jackets on,” I told her. As I pulled one small arm through her pink hoodie, she asked why we were putting on our jackets. “Because the sun has set over the hill, and it’s getting cold outside,” I replied.

“Why?” she asked, and I assumed she was curious why the sun had now passed behind the hill.

“Because it will soon be nighttime,” I told her as I took her hand, and we stepped outside the downstairs door.

We walked hand in hand out past the little cabin toward the goat yard. I told her that our first stop was to close the goat yard gate. She stopped and looked up at me, and asked very simply “Why?”

Now that my gardens are finished for the season, I let the goats run freely during the day. As we pushed the gate shut, I explained that it is a good idea to keep the goats safe in their yard, where the creek valley critters would not bother them.

“Why?” she asked, and I told her that sometimes the creek valley critters can be mischievous.

Again, she asked “Why?”

“Well,” I said slowly, and then paused, thinking for a proper answer, “Because the creek valley critters are wild.”

She smiled and broke out into ferocious roar as she held her hands up to her face like claws. We laughed.

We closed the goats in their chicken yard, the chickens in their coop, the ducks in their duck run and then turned to walk back down to the chicken coop. We carried the egg basket between us. I held her up as she reached into the nest boxes and carefully picked up each egg to gently deposit at the bottom of the basket I had set on the ground. I reminded her to be careful as the eggs were fragile.

“Why?” she asked.

I paused again, and then explained they were fragile, because the chickens had made them that way. She looked up at me and simply asked “Why?”

Again, I paused, “Well, because,” and then I realized that I knew just how to respond.

“Let’s ask the chickens!”

As I held her, she peered intently into the coop, cocking her head to one side. It was my turn to ask a question.

“Do you know how chickens talk?”

She happily nodded her head. “Cluck, cluck, cluck” she told me, and then she leaned close to the open nest box and called inside, “Cluck, cluck, cluck … cluck, cluck, cluck.”

As if on cue, from deep inside the coop, we heard the familiar sound of the chickens’ chortle as they settled in to roost for the evening. She pulled her head back and looked proudly up at me. She had spoken to the chickens and they had spoken back to her, answering her question. No further words were necessary.

I sat her down, as we triumphantly carried the egg basket between us, heading back up to the house. I asked her how many eggs she thought we had gathered. In a very matter of fact voice, she replied “10.”

On our return to the kitchen, I placed a step-stool by the counter so she was at a better height to carefully take the eggs out of the basket and place them, one by one, into a waiting carton. She counted. She was quite right. There were exactly 10 eggs.

She beamed up at me. “Look Nana, there are 10 eggs! Let’s have eggs for breakfast!” she exclaimed, and of course I said yes.