We've been through a lot.

Over the past seven years, you've come along for all the challenges. Hopefully, some inspiration was sparked. Perhaps I saved you the trouble with some cautionary tales, complete with embarrassing details.

You were with me during the Armageddon Pantry Challenge, in which I discovered that somehow I had accumulated 100 days worth of food stores to feed a household of two. I'll never forget eating the pudding that was older than my driver's license, which had moved addresses twice.

You were with me during the Zero Waste Challenge, in which I attempted to cut out anything non-recyclable, non-reusable and non-compostable from my household waste stream. My compost pile tripled in size and I learned to buy things in recyclable packages.

Remember the Sonic cup of shame? It's gone now, because of the Swedish Death Cleaning Challenge, the most recent attempt at simplifying and downsizing.

If you're wondering, no, I don't miss the wedding dress, and I didn't return to the thrift store to buy it back.

Let us not forget the recurring saga of backyard poultry-keeping. Despite Hubby's protests, he was weakened by the Armageddon Pantry Challenge and succumbed to the idea of backyard chickens. He eventually had his own favorite chicken, a little Rhode Island Red named Miss Cleo (after the 1990s TV psychic) who followed him around.

Little Geri and her remaining flockmates, the oldest of my hens, are now 5 years old. Even though they don't lay eggs anymore, they provided enough entertainment to compensate. They're ruling a new roost at my friend Val's house now. She was kind enough to take them after I discovered my new place had no fencing, a strict homeowner's association and too many hungry coyotes.

We relocated them the easy way, carefully snatching them off their roosts at night as they slept. Their reptilian brains make them chicken zombies after dark.

After a short ride in the back of my car in a pet carrier, we slipped them into the coop with their new flockmates, where they awoke the next morning and had no idea how they got there. Yes, it's a bit like an alien abduction, but it's for the best.

Don't worry, Little Geri has maintained her spot at the top of the pecking order. There's no way this queen is getting off her throne, even at someone else's house.

And so Little Geri and the chickens have moved on. That's probably your biggest hint that I'm on to something else as well. It's time for another adventure, but I cannot take you with me this time.

Just like the chickens, I must leave you in good hands and say goodbye and thank you.

Thank you for all your emails, kind notes and compliments over the years. There were times when I wasn't sure if anyone was listening, but you reminded me that indeed, you were.

Thank you for accepting that I'm a journalist who can write about the simple joys in life as well as the serious subjects. This column provided some balance for me personally, and helped me to take a small break from some of the heavier news and depressing situations I've witnessed.

After all, newspapers are about informing, educating and entertaining readers. I hope you found those qualities in my writing, whether it was on the front page or this one.

I appreciate everyone who let me tell their stories, who trusted me to get it right, and everyone I've connected with over the past 39 years living in the Grand Valley.

And finally, thank you for reading your local newspaper and for supporting journalists like me. My colleagues and I cannot do our work without subscribers and advertisers.

Thank you.

Contact Erin McIntyre at erinmcwriter@gmail.com

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