I was watching the Weather channel this morning—something that the man in my life enjoys doing first thing each day. It helps him to put all his ducks in a row. This he will actually be doing quite literally in just a few minutes from now, with the help of two bamboo poles. Its time again to moves our ducks’ portable fenced enclosure to greener pastures. While they remained cooped up for the night in their moveable shelter, their surrounding fenced yard was swung round into another circle adjoining the first. A new, lush, green, grassy half of a figure eight— as opposed to the stomped-down, bug-harvested, pooed-upon, but wonderfully fertilized half of the figure eight that they will be moving away from.
They will be guided by Rolly, holding his two poles —one in each hand, much like the water diviners who often seek out water for local farmers. Rolly, the ducks’ water diviner leads them forward— as if they are following an invisible straight path between his two rods; they are cooperative and orderly— until they catch sight of the newly refilled kiddie pool in the midst of their new playground! Then they move with the speed of hot kids emerging from the wave pool park change room doors, when they are finally opened for the morning’s first arrivals. It’s every duck for himself as they furiously flap their wings, and feathers fly as they fling themselves forward and flounder around in the foamy brine! Actually the foam will come later, when the ducks have contaminated the clean well-water in their newly refreshed pool with clods of clay.
With the water overflowing on all sides due to their rambunctious ness, the ground quickly becomes soggy, and with their strong bills they roto-tiller up the grass roots. These tender morsels they slosh around in the water to clean off some of the mud before consuming. Ducks are proof positive that you can never have a grass roots movement to try to get good healthy organic food to its end consumer without there being a little dirt flung from one direction or another! Their pool never starts out all foamy with chocolate milk coloured bubbles! Those rise gradually as the day goes on. Each duck has his turn at the salad bar— I’m sure the offerings must be as crunchy and delicious as bean sprouts or celeriac are to us. Then it’s off to top off the salad course with plenty of protein—big juicy bugs caught on the wing or on the crawl. The ducks seem to be having just as much fun all the day long, as our small flock of happy hens dusting themselves in the sandy craters they have created in their yard. I can’t help but wonder why a sulky attitude is often called “a fowl mood”— Bad PR I guess!
Rolly always drags their low portable house in behind them to their new and greener pastures when they are distracted by their water, and then the opening in the fence is closed again behind them. In another month they will reach the ultimate in greener pastures (If you are a vegetarian I am sorry if this kind of humour offends.) In the meantime they have the enjoyment of a paddling pool, and a hugely diverse protein diet menu— depending on their appetite at any particular moment and their desire for accompanying exercise. The ducks themselves aren’t vegetarians; that’s for sure! I think they would be shocked if they thought that we were!
Every single day of their lives has appeared to be carefree and joyful, as far as I can see. From the nice warm box of their nursery days under its warming light, with their clean bedding of wood shavings, they could smell something of the great outdoors despite their indoor confinement in a nice safe draft free shed. (My father worked a lot with wood while I was growing up and there is probably few smells that are more pleasant.) When a few weeks had passed they were moved into a much larger box under another comfy warming light. This was gradually moved up as they grew taller and stronger and the temperature needed to be lessened even more. They changed so rapidly! They were fed a nutritional feed in appropriate amounts and given clay bricks to jump and down from as they play King of the Castle non-stop. A short cardboard tunnel also provided them with much fun as they ran in and out of it.
As soon as they were old enough they were fed the odd hand-caught bug by their attentive care taker and when he felt that they were ready he introduced them to the grass and sunshine of the outside world. Then it was off to their new home with the door that was always left wide open during the safer daylight hours for anyone who felt like heading inside during a rain shower. Like typical unsupervised kids though, practically no one ever did! Their duck-brained enjoyment of the shade of leafy trees, the smell of roses, and the sound of other creatures, while being kept safe behind a fence and under overhanging nets to keep away predators was obvious even to our many visitors.
It has so far been the best kind of experience that we could possibly have had in our attempt to provide another organic option to our diets. Unlike home-grown chickens, which have already been part of the fare in our family’s freezers, this is our first attempt with ducks, and we are looking forward to our end results. Because we do not need to raise them to make a living, we never think of them as units in any production cost monitored type of operation. Rolly, their care taker, loves them each for what they are, a part of God’s amazing creation. Therefore they are treated kindly and will end their lives with no trauma involved. They will be enjoyed by us until then and called by the only name any of them will ever get, “One of the Ducks”. After that they will be called by the names of dishes out of Julia Child’s, Gordon Ramsey’s or Wolfgang Puck’s cook books. The only exception to that rule is “Sir Francis Drake” and “Maggie”. Rolly plans to keep them as a breeding pair for next spring’s ducklings. Through the winter they will be given a home that he says will be “Just ducky!” although I have no idea just where. Our daughter Carrie has already told him that she thinks that the back yard is getting to look a little too “sheddy” as it is! “Putting your ducks in a row” means many different things to different people, but to us it means gradually working towards achieving a measure of self-sufficiency in our diets that allows us to eat well, eat healthy and eat local. As far as protein goes, the back yard is as local as you are ever going to find it!