Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Keeping my ducks in a row down on the farm..er.. pond.

The Big Man always said that he wanted ducks. I hadn't really thought about it but this property had a pond so when we got here it seemed to be a good idea. I pictured a couple of lovely white fluffy ducks gracing our pond and eventually, maybe, our table. So when our pals, Bourbon Red and His Lovely Wife, offered some ducks I packed up the truck and headed to their farm.

When I arrived a couple of webfooted gargoyles waddled across their barnyard. I instantly recoiled at the horror of ...whatever they were. 

“That's them!” Bourbon Red happily shouted out as I got out of my truck.

The 'ducks' were black or black like, with ugly unfeathered heads with weird red bills. Well ok....I thought, but not what I was picturing.

But hey - what could go wrong, and free waterfowl is always a bargain, right? Right.

We packed up the water dragons and off I went. I specifically asked Bourbon Red if the ducks would fly off and got a resounding,  "Oh no - they will stay around." 

But per his instructions,  I kept the not-white-and-fluffy ducks penned up for about a week and then turned them loose in the hen yard. For the first couple of days it went well. Until one day I went out, turned them loose, and when I went back out about an hour later.. they were gone! I looked everywhere.  The dogs looked everywhere. Nothing.

My mind raced - a hawk! What if a hawk got them! Or a fox! It must have been a fox and I nervously counted my hens who were all present and a-clucked for.

If something got them the ducks I'd surely hear the struggle. But these 'ducks' were the non-quacking variety. So maybe not. I looked high and low and I didn't see any feathers or carnage of any kind. I checked our pond. They'd never been there but surely they could smell the water from the hen yard.... Nothing.

And what would I tell Bourbon Red and his Lovely Wife? That I had already killed the ducks? I'd get an “F-”  in duck keeping for sure. I had to find those ducks!

I hadn't met the neighbors yet so I boxed up some eggs as a peace treaty and went over to see if they had seen my ducks?

“Oh yeah,” the old timer replied “is that them what yer lookin' for?”  He pointed.

There they were. My ducks. Sitting beside the other neighbor's pond about a quarter mile away. Nice.  A million apologies and some aw shucks-ing later I made my way down to the pond get my dang ducks back.

I circled wide and tried to herd the ducks back to my property... but those ducks are pretty fast even if they don't fly. The chase went on for a while and was proving fruitless. So I went back for Titan, who knows how to circle wide and herd poultry in my general direction... seeing the enormous white German Shepherd closing in fast... the ducks went directly into the water.

So I sent Ti in for them as he had recently learned how to swim in our pond.

Furiously he dog paddled after them but the ducks glided easily ahead of him. Undeterred and like a great white shark after a California triathele dear Ti gave it his all. I eventually had to call him out of the water partly for fear that he'd drown from exhaustion and partly because the neighbor was hooting with laughter at our antics. I was afraid the old man would collapse from exhaustion.

“Little missy, you'd best wait for night time and them ducks will come right on out.”  The old timer offered.

Humiliated, Ti and I skulked back to our property.

Anxiously I called The Big Man at work and informed him that he Had To Do Something. We decided that we needed a big net and that when it got dark we'd just go over and scoop them up. Sounds reasonable, right? Right.

The Big Man arrived promptly after work with a huge net on an extra long pole - kind of what you'd see on those bass fishing shows. As dusk crawled across the sky The Big Man eased into the night with the net over his shoulder in a scene that was reminiscent of either Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits or a thousand episodes of Scooby Doo.

As we crossed the boundary of our property... here came the ducks. Pretty as you please and wondering what all the fuss was about. We stood slack jawed and buggy eyed as they waddled directly into the barn.

For the next few weeks I gave up about six dozen eggs and muttered even more apologies to the neighbors who owned the pond that my ducks preferred. Oh no they didn't mind at all and they loved seeing the ducks in THEIR pond. After a while the ducks got cocky and started staying over there at night too -- and the day they gave me the finger and were just wondering around on the neighbor's lawn I knew that I had to get my ducks in a row.

When I got ahold of them the next time I kept those ducks penned up for a couple days. My plan was to carry them down to OUR pond in the morning and set them up a little duck house with lots of feed.

Bourbon Red warned me that ducks had razor sharp claws (who knew!??!?) so at dawn I strapped on the best armor I could find on a farm - two layers of lined denim jackets, Carhart jeans, leather gloves, and a John Deere hat turned backwards. The dogs watched nervously from the deck. I stood at the door of their pen and girded my loins.  I went in.

Duck wrestling is not as easy as it sounds.

After a certain amount of thrashing about I finally got ahold of the female - who I instantly fell in love with. She has a sweet little disposition if you can get past the razor sharp claws at the end of her sweet little webbed feet. Gingerly I carried her down to the pond and put her in the water. She glided away beautifully. One down, one to go. Just as I started up the hill to get the male I saw him take to wing ... and fly directly to the neighbors pond. I was gutted.

A couple hours later he came back. More duck wrestling.

That drake was huge - I mean it was like carrying our 60 lbs Australian shepherd dog.. only with the razor sharp claws. But I managed to pick him up and carry him down to the pond to his mate and she was..... no where to be found.

Leaving him to paddle around, defeated, I climbed back up the hill sure that Old Snappy - the snapping turtle who had killed all the previous owner's ducks had gotten her. Honestly thats what they said, but I refuse to believe that a snapping turtle could kill a duck. But what do I know?

Anyway. Both ducks reappeared the next day.... in the neighbors pond.

I had about given up until a couple days later....they both appeared at the barn the day before we had a huge storm. When I let them out the next day - sure that they would be gracing the neighbor's pond... they went down to ours. Gladly I poured out a huge pile of grain for them at the water's edge... and stood there happily watching the water dragons swim on OUR pond.

We've had great luck with the ducks – we had 23 ducklings the first hatch, then five more later that summer, than 4 more! Miss Duck and Dash are pretty good about staying up in their luxurious duck garage.. so far so good! But one of our drakes, DJ, sometimes pushes his luck. Hopefully he won't find out that the Legend of Ol' Snappy was true.. or, that is, it was true until.. Well.. that's another story entirely.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...