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Show and tell

Yesterday, I made the family steak and eggs for dinner. I served them with hash browns, warm biscuits and homemade jam. I know this sounds like breakfast food, but I thought it would be nice for a change and I wanted to use some of the all natural ham steaks we had in the freezer (which are nothing like the smoked ham steaks you get in the supermarket).I also have to get rid of some of my jam, because it will soon be the season to make more.

It seems, when school is in session, we are never all together for breakfast anyway and I miss serving the big home-style breakfast (my favorite meal of the day) so I thought, “Why not?” Besides which, I had an alternate agenda.


As. everyone was digging in, I asked, “How do you like the eggs?”


“Great!” Mark said, shoveling in forkfuls.


“Glad you think so. You’re eating peacock eggs, by the way.”


Kent and Neva thought this was cool. Mark’s face screwed up into a pinched ball and he said, “I just lost my appetite.” He put his fork down, and don’t ya know he wouldn’t take another bite.


I was, as always, respectful of his sensitivity about what food he is served by his experimental wife, so I said, “You nincompoop! Don’t be such a big baby. It isn’t any different from chicken eggs. Only bigger. I mixed it with guinea eggs anyway (which are very small) so that evens out the proportions in a way. Take another bite or I’ll tell everyone you’re a big sissy.”


He pointed out that I gave him too much, and he was finished anyway.
The way I see it, this makes me duty bound to mention it on the blog. The world should know I married a man who’s a big peacock egg weenie.



I’ll admit, it was hard for me to eat the egg, but not because I feared it. I just had a lump in my throat because it felt like such a waste to eat something that, had circumstances been different, would have been rushed to my incubator with excitement.


I was serving this egg because my beautiful boy, Prism, ran off (damn peacock), so I know for a fact the egg isn’t fertilized. I was buying peacock eggs for about twelve dollars a pop only a year ago. I’m not about to just throw them away. I found another peacock egg today. For all I know, they’ll start coming fast and furious so I’m gonna have to work on my husband’s egg-sensitivity so he’ll be more receptive.
Not like I’m feeding him emu eggs . . . yet.


I thought I might do a bit of spring-time show and tell today.


My bunnies are five weeks old and ready to go. I gave two babies to my neighbor’s good friend who came by to have a look-see. She is an older woman living alone who happens to be a spinner. She was raising an old sheep, but it had died that afternoon and she was feeling low about it. She was thinking she might try angora now but she wasn’t making any decision. I got the impression she lives frugally, so I told her I’d make her a deal she couldn’t refuse. Her eyes perked up. “What would that be/’


I gave her two of the bunnies in the name of spinner sisterhood and neighborly good-will. She was thrilled.



I gave one another to Kathy, who had mentioned her son would adore a new bunny. I figure, since I see her every week, I’ll be around to answer questions. Angoras need more care than a regular bunny.  This rabbit came with a water bottle, a bag of feed and I even through in one of my fiber brushes so they can keep it groomed.  Our reading lesson was pitifully unproductive today, but we had fun playing with the bunny as it changed hands.


I’m keeping the white baby.
 
Sad to say, a dog or coyote happened to tear open my white male’s cage open on two ends last week. The cage was dragged several feet. I imagine my poor bunny was terrorized. There is no sign of his being killed, but I don’t hold up much hope for his having escaped. I’ve always known that cage was unsafe and I had intentions to build something new. Just goes to show you should never put off until tomorrow what you should have done today to be responsible. Anyway, I’ll keep the white baby as a replacement rabbit in respect to its father. I’ve also promised Neva she could keep one, and she picked a half tan/half gray that she named Nero. 



I’m going to put the three extras (all fawn colored) in the paper and hope someone comes forward wanting angora fiber. A part of me is ready to let them all go – I’m really feeling the need to downsize the animals I’m responsible for, but now that the weather is beautiful, I’m not feeling very disciplined. Remind me of this next winter when I’m cussing under my breath over all the time I must spend out in the sleet and stinging cold changing out frozen water bottles and such.     


My chickens have been out and about, roaming the barn area. My peacock likes to follow me around like a puppy. She is cute. Sometimes, I pause just to stare at my birds. They will perch on a fence or nestle in the flowers and you could swear they are posing just to make my like feel like a hallmark card. It is inspirational (in a simple way).


 


 Those of you who have been reading this blog for some time may remember I hatched seven ducks in an incubator last spring. During their adolescent phase, they started getting picked off by coyotes. I ended up with two surviving ducks, one solid white and the other an Appellate, which looks like a mallard. Love my ducks! 
Realizing that a duck’s survival skills increase dramatically when they are full fledged adults, I bought two grown Muscovy’s from the flea market. Within a week, one had been eaten. The other joined my duck duo and they became a threesome.


I bought two more Muscovy at the Flea Market. Don’t ya know, one member of this mating pair was eaten too. Then, for some unexplainable reason, my duck threesome just didn’t like the survivor and they kept running it off. I assumed it was a case of one male not wanting to share his babes. Clicks can be so mean.


My lonely duck kept to himself. We called him Romer because he often went exploring by himself. One day, Romer disappeared. I didn’t see any signs of duck carnage about the lake, so I figured he might have just decided to move on to someplace with friendlier duck residents. But two days later, I saw him at the barn.


This delighted me because one of my biggest disappointments about selling this house is the fact that the pond goes with it. I worry that the new owners won’t feed my ducks, or worse, they will want them removed because occasionally, they poop on the dock. Mark insists that whoever wants this house will love nature, so the ducks will be a selling point, not a detriment. They will be fine.


Anyway, the idea that Romer might occasionally visit me at the barn made me very happy. I would see him swimming in the creek at the base of the chicken coop and sleeping in the hay shelter by my young chick cage and I figured he was looking for some new bird friends. He made good friends with my peacock (also the odd woman out), and they often sleep in the sun a few feet away from each other.


Meanwhile, my duck click started wondering what Romer was up too and they started flying down occasionally to swim in the creek and watch me go about my chores too. Spring has my animals doing all kinds of unusual things. I’ll be coming home from the store and see the ducks walking out in the middle of the pasture as if they were a cow, or just walking down the road far from the pond where they formerly never left. I almost expect them to stick out a thumb as I drive by to bum a ride home.


Then,  about ten days ago I was leading my horse into her stall and I heard a hiss. I thought there might be a possum in the corner, but when I looked, it was Romer. He (excuse me – SHE) had made a nest in the shavings and she had no intention of letting me and a 1000 pound horse anywhere near it. I lead the horse back outside and explained to her that she had lost her stall for about 29 days. Then, I returned and made Romer move so I could see what was under her. She is sitting on about 15 eggs nestled in a pile of down. I guess all her hanging out at the barn was her way of checking out a good place for her brood. And she must have been laying eggs all along because it takes time for a bird to get ready to sit. The weather has been so nice, I just haven’t been using the barn stalls, so they must have seemed like a nice, vacant duck hotel to her.   

 


I know nature will take care of things without me, but once I discovered her, I couldn’t resist sticking my curious nose into her business. So, I began taking Romer food and filling a water bowl for her everyday. She hisses and gets all bent out of shape every time I come near– the ingrate. Doesn’t stop me. I lean over the stall wall and say good morning and talk to her everyday. She eyes me like I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


I can’t help but wonder if any of her eggs will hatch. After all, she has been ostracized by the other ducks, so how can these eggs be fertilized? Then again, I’m no duck babysitter, and who knows what goes on when I’m not looking. I’m going to hope for the best. I do know that if Romer has ducklings, they will be a mixed heritage, and any babies created between a Muscovy and domestic duck will be sterile (like a mule – you can only get one by mating a donkey and a horse, but they can never procreate themselves). I guess that will control the duck population in the long term. (Are you as impressed as I am that I know these kinds of barnyard animal facts? Amazing, all I’ve learned in the last few years.) 


My other Muscovy, a pretty cocoa brown duck, has now disappeared as well. I am pretty certain she is sitting out in the woods somewhere. I’m so curious I can’t stand it, so today I’m planning to hike around and see if I can find her.  Just yesterday, while walking the pasture to seek out a missing halter I saw seven guinea eggs. No one sitting on them yet – drat. My hands are itching to pick them up and thrust them in the incubator – haven’t done the guinea egg thing yet.

I sure hope that next month I’ll be seeing some cute baby ducklings out on our pond. Of course, then I’ll worry about them being picked off by hawks or being the main course at a coyote’s duck fest – but this is the first year our ducks have had an actual pond for safety (before they lived in the creek) so I’m counting on that helping matters.


Let’s see – does that complete my show and tell? Almost. I guess I should mention that my chickens are all doing nicely. I have about 60 baby chicks running in two pens. I finally couldn’t stand the mess and the work of changing the litter in the small cages, so I moved them to the big pen. But they were still so small, they could just squeeze out thought he wire sides. Little pint sized chickens were running everywhere. Neva and I propped boards and a tarp and anything we could find along the edges of the pen trying to contain them. I unrolled a bunch of smaller chicken wire along one side, but when it ran out, that was that. I didn’t want to put too much energy or investment into the problem, because I know the chickens will grow to be too big to escape within two weeks. I spent the entire afternoon devising brooders in the pen – I erected a dog house and our dog crate inside, ran a long extension chord from the barn and set up lights inside for warmth. I was cussing and complaining the entire time because it was awkward and I couldn’t get the temperature right. I just wasn’t in the mood for all that work for a bunch of chickens. 


I rue the day I went crazy and ordered so many on the internet, but what ya gonna do? I was in the shopping zone and mesmerized by the wealth of unusual choices. We have some pretty strange looking chicks.



I am going to start giving chickens away next week. I don’t have room for all of them in my chicken house, and I’ll be darned if I want to build a new one. I also can’t see my using 75 eggs a day – especially without the coffee shop. Ah well – you learn by your mistakes.  Kathy said she’d love a few spring chickens. Our friend Ronnie will take some – and he knows all sorts of country folk who would appreciate some freebie chickens. I will let Neva pick out the chickens she feels we don’t need to get our poultry situation manageable – but it won’t be easy. I want to keep the thirteen leghorns, because they are the best layers but all the others are rare breeds and it’s fascinating to see them change as they turn into striking adults. Sometimes our curosity overrides our good judgement when it comes to animal adventures.   


My bee hive is getting taller as my bees multiply and become established. I’m going to attempt to extract honey this season. Yikes. That will be novel. I am expecting a shipment of two three pound bee packages (with queens) this week. I am going to set up two additional hives. If I’m going to do the work, might as well have enough bees to make it worth the time and trouble.


The horse training is going well – but that deserves a blog of its own. I’n not nearly as bad at it as I expected.


There is a lot going on in our world. Real stuff. Mark has a new job – the kids are into all kinds of things – my writing is humming along – we are building a new house…. but honesly, I haven’t been in the mood to write about anything “real” lately, so I opted for the animal show and tell.  Consider it a placemark just to remind everyone I’m still here. It’s spring – a few months ago I was ready to get rid of every animal I owned. I was sick of the work and trouble of this farm existence. Now, it’s spring . . . Nature can be seductive when it has a mind to.


About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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