As I explained earlier, my duck has been sitting on unfertilized eggs. They were starting to rot and turn green, yet still she guarded them like the queen’s diamonds. She is a wonderful, diligent mother, but obviously unwilling to admit defeat. I decided I should take the eggs away from her so she would return to the pond (and thus I could reclaim my barn) but this caused a moral dilemma. If I took them away while she was out for her ten minute food break, she’d return to find the nest marauded and might feel guilty for being irresponsible. If I destroyed her coveted eggs in front of her, she’d consider me a threat forevermore. (No comments please – Mark has already heckled me, reminding me it’s just a duck, not an elephant with a memory or conscience.)
Anyway, in effort to find a gentle solution, I went to the feed store and purchased three baby runner ducks. Runner ducks have long necks and graceful slim bodies. (I think they’re reincarnated dancers). I then put a cage over the mother duck and scooted her off the nest and removed her eggs. I cracked a few on a hillside just to be sure they were indeed dead eggs. They were – the insides were all green, foaming ooze. Yuck.
I reached into the cage with my baby ducks and rubbed them all over the mother duck, scooting them under her wings and belly. She didn’t like it a bit and the baby ducks weren’t exactly thrilled, but I was trying to get the mother’s smell to saturate them. Then, I put the babies in the cage with the mother duck and waited.
At first the mother rooted around the nest looking for her eggs, not falling for the idea that these ducklings were hers for one minute. The baby ducks happened to be a week old already, so they didn’t seem to take to Romer as their mother either. I guess when you are born in an incubator; the concept of “mommy” is alien. Everyone kept to opposites sides of the cage and I figured it was a stupid experiment. I watched for about an hour, just to assure the baby ducks would be safe and for the most part, they seemed to be. Then, Romer started pecking at them and I got uncomfortable.
O.K., I thought. The duck caper didn’t work.
So, I removed the baby ducks and put them in an empty chicken run, thinking they could live there until full size, then I would release them at the pond. But no sooner had got I them situated than Romer flew out and frantically tried to get into the cage.
Now, I started to think she had attached to them after all and perhaps considered them her ducklings. So, I open the door, but she didn’t know how to get inside. A bunch of curious chickens wandered in, however, scaring the ducklings. (Why is it everything turns out more complicated than it’s supposed to be?)
I try to catch Romer, but she evades me and flies back to the barn. A moment later, she returns and wants in the cage again. Back and forth she goes, checking her nest to validate that her eggs are missing, then flying back to stare at the cage as if unable to accept that these big babies were hers. It took me about an hour, but I finally chased her into the run and shut the door. I had to go inside, stooped and slipping in the mud, to catch the chickens and get them out. What a pain.
Romer hisses at me, hating that I’m in her space. She also doesn’t seem happy to be reunited with her adopted ducklings, because she goes to the opposite side of the cage and ignores them.
Now, I don’t know what to think, but I decide to leave them together just to see what happens. They coexist.
A week later, it’s hot and the cage is full of flies. The ducklings follow Romer around like she’s their mother, but she is very aloof. I decide it isn’t fair to force motherhood on her so I open the cage door to see what she will do. She just stares at me and doesn’t move. I go to the house, thinking I’ll come back and check on the situation later. Moments after I’m home, Romer lands in the lake, swimming and playing in the water as if in celebration. She looks giddy to be finally free.
Neva says, “Mom, what if the ducklings followed her and got lost half way to the pond? We better check.”
So, we take the mule to the pen and find the ducklings are playing in a tub of water I provided, happy and secure in their home, totally uninterested in the open door. But should I now close the door or leave it open? As we wrestled with this decision, Romer shows up, walks by us and returns to the cage so she can continue ignoring her adopted ducklings. Now, I figure she’s just a very reserved mother, devoted in her own way.
I don’t know if she considers these babies really hers, but she has clearly taken responsibility for them. I suppose when they’re old enough, she’ll lead the ducklings to the pond and they’ll all take up residence. The other ducks will wonder why Romer’s offspring is tall and graceful, considering she is short and plain, but everyone will accept things for what they are. I guess this is the ugly duckling story in reverse.
Why do I share this tale? I guess as proof that I put a god awful amount of energy and time and attention into farm experiments in the name of curiosity (and kindness) but all it does is reveals my middle aged insanity. Ha. I need to get back to work.
Meanwhile, I shall now share the sad tale of what happened to my llama on the lamb.
For two weeks, I’ve had a lost llama announcement in the paper. I’ve put up numerous posters and talked to everyone within a mile radius. Rabbit, the man who owns the feed store, is convinced someone stole Dali, and I starting thinking so too. Nothing explains a llama up and disappearing like that. Still, it would be a hard heist to pull off, because someone would have to chase the llama all over the pasture and have a trailer in the waiting, and I’d see that going down. Even if it occurred at night, my dogs would make a racket. I just couldn’t imagine it working.
Then yesterday, my dogs dragged a big hank of animal pelt home. Neva said, “Yuck, they found something dead.”
We got out of the car to check what it was. Was it a squirrel? A rabbit? A bird? No, it was a large black animal pelt that looked remarkably like the black wool of my llama.
I called Mark to ask if he had bought an animal pelt to cover a chair or something. Perhaps he dropped it and the dogs picked it up. He said, “Of course not. Ginny, are you sure that’s not your llama?”
I put it in the garage to study. I went out there a hundred times to look. The more I looked the more certain I was that this was what was left of my beloved Dali.
When Mark got home, I had him inspect the fur. He sighed and said, “That isn’t a dog or a bear. The fur would be different – silky and straight. This is from a big wooly animal. Poor Dali.”
I made Denver look. She said, “Of course it’s Dali. You can tell. Throw that away Mom! What are you going to do, send it to a lab to be tested just to be sure it’s him?”
I’d like that – and while we’re at it, I want a DNA test to find out who the murderer is so I can press charges at Mother Nature’s court.
So, now I have to deal with the fact that something killed and ate my 300 pound llama. I called the man who sheers my llama to ask his opinion. He’s a llama expert.
“Could it be a bear?” I asked.
He said it might be a pack of coyotes.
I pointed out that llamas are often purchased as guard animals because they attack coyotes. They are natural enemies, but the llama is the bigger, so how can a coyote kill a llama.
He argued that if a llama is outnumbered, he can surly be killed by a pack of wild coyotes. Still, I’m betting it’s the bear.
Now, I know why my female won’t come out of hiding. I thought she was just pregnant and hot. Now I’m convinced she knows something I don’t. I’m thinking I should buy one of those motion censor cameras and set it up down at the barn for hard core proof of what is endangering my beloved pets. Then, I’ll be better prepared to find solutions.
This was the first time I had my llamas separated from my horses. Yesterday, I put them back together, thinking there’s safety in numbers. Donkeys are powerful coyote fighters and they can kick any canine’s butt so I feel better having him near. Just in case.
Late last night, a friend of Denver’s came to deliver some hay I bought to my barn. I told the boys I’d go down and turn on the lights and wait for them with a check. Denver had a fit. “You can’t run around your property at night. If the bear will attack a huge llama, it will think nothing of attacking you too.”
“Are you kidding, I’ll kick that bears ass if he dares show his face,” I said in my best tough gal voice. As I drove down the lane in the dark, my eyes scanning the forest, shadowed shapes jumped out at me from the dim light of my mule headlights, I imagined if I saw a bear, I’d run it down. I truly did love my llama. Now, I have his baby llama due on July 13 (yes I’ve been counting down the 340 days of pregnancy like a kid in anticipation of Christmas) I worry that both the mother and baby are at risk so my mind is racing with concern.
I’ve decided it’s time to catch Pulani and put her in the barn where I can keep close watch. Then, I will start preparing, like Rodeo Rambo, to strike out with a vengeance at anything that dares threaten my herd. Who’d have ever believed these would be the kind of problems I’d be focused on during this semi-retirement period of my life? Not me, that’s for sure.
Mark is now working full time at Century 21 In the Mountains. He’s putting in 12 hour days to set up a new career (more on that and an introduction to his new website soon). This leaves me racked with guilt, so I’ve dived into my current writing project with tunnel vision (thus less blog time). Getting productive is easy for me under these conditions, because I don’t feel comfortable pushing the responsibility for family support on one person. I’ve talked about getting a job – perhaps getting my Georgia teacher’s certificate so I could teach English and creative writing at the high school – or even opening another dance school (don’t say it . . . Mark already pointed out how misguided that idea is.)
My talk about potential work opportunities really annoys him. He says, “You’re supposed to be home writing. That was the deal when we sold FLEX. You said you were a born dance teacher and didn’t want to ever have to do anything else for a living, and I promised you wouldn’t have to if we left dance behind – except to write and/or teach in your chosen new field. Don’t you have faith that I can support us?”
Of course I know he can. I just don’t believe he should have to. We made “the deal” expecting certain outcomes from selling FLEX , but they never materialized. That is not his fault. Life is what it is. You make compromises and do what must be done and adjust along the way. Marriage isn’t every man out for himself, but two people working together as a team to accomplish shared goals. At least, that is what it should be.
I’ve always been a primary contributor to our household. To step out of that role plummets me out of my comfort zone and now I’m wrestling with all kinds of feelings ranging from embarrassment over my selfish, indulgent existence to feelings of total inadequacy as a non-contributor to our finances. I simply can’t sit around playing with animals, making wine and writing while my husband has his nose to the grindstone, worrying about real life issues. For now, I’m pouring all my discomfort into serious writing. Perhaps that’s my instinctual way of moving in a new direction–challenging my inner potential to see what comes of it. It was far easier for me to write when I was squeezing pages into busy days filled with a wealth of stimulus and surging experiences than now that I have endless quiet hours stretched before me and my muse has long since abandoned ship. Funny, that. Every writer’s dream is a life filled with time and opportunity to record the endless stories in their head, and here I am living that dream, but suddenly paralyzed and feeling empty of words. Luckily, I have a way of forcing myself to move when stuck.
So, here I stand, crowbar in hand, thinking it’s time to unwedge myself from the rut I hadn’t noticed I was creating. And as long as I have a crowbar at the ready, I think I’ll take a swing at a bear. Rodeo Rambo has been unleashed. Not a moment too soon.