Monday, May 21, 2012


Sometimes you go away for a while, say on a weekend business trip, and you come home to a different situation.

Maybe your plane lands late at night, and you groggily make your way through the front door at 2am. Everything looks the same. Laundry piled high on the couch. Shoes strewn about the entry way. A hurried load of dishes waiting to be unloaded in the kitchen.

It's quiet and everyone's asleep. Except you. And that's when you notice the small light coming through the window from the building out back. It's that red familiar glow that's less about light and more about heat. You'd recognize it anywhere, even if you've never seen the actual reason, or reasons as the case may be, for its existence.

"Welcome home," it says, "welcome home Mrs. Bee."

"And welcome home brand new baby duckies, you'll be safe and warm under me."

And so we have 5 more little ones. All girls (we think). Mr. Bee's egg laying pets. An endangered breed called Magpies

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Eulogy for Jerome

The real slaughter day came and went. It was nearly a week ago. Somehow silence seemed superior to an instant recap without reflection.

I still don't have many words. In truth, it's hard to know what conclusions to draw so I'll begin with our unanticipated slaughter day.

(read more after the jump)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Of Greater Consequence

We were only going to be gone for a little while. Just a quick trip. 2 hours . Max.
And that’s all the time we were gone for.
Dusk settled in around our car as we pulled into the driveway. It was quiet but it often is this time of day. 
“You bring the stuff in, and I’ll put the ducks to bed,” I directed to Mr. Bee as I slammed the car door and rushed toward the duck pen. No ducks were in sight. Some nights they go into their house without assistance when the sun begins to go down or they get chilly. I love nights like these. So, so easy. All I have to do is put Edgar [AKA Blind and/or Brave duck] inside.
I checked the Edgar’s usual spot and found emptiness. Maybe, just maybe, he found his way into the house?
Nearly impossible, but worth looking.
I leaned over to poke my head inside the Duckmahal and take stock. Only I didn’t get very far. The Duckmahal’s main door was already latched.

I looked closer.  It was latched improperly, but very intentionally latched nevertheless.
“Someone put the ducks away already. Do you think J&E would have done that for us since we were out later than normal?” 
“Maybe, I mean, last night J did ask whether they had to go in at night and I told him it was because of the opossums. I’ll have to tell him that it’s okay if they’re out for a little past dark and that he doesn’t need to worry about it.”
“Crazy. They’re really great neighbors,” I replied all the while impressed that they managed to get 12 ornery ducks and one Blind and/or Brave Duck inside their house without our Pavlovian tricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were true duck-whisperers!
I shrugged my shoulders, rang the bell anyway and gave the already-housed ducks their 5-minutes of supper.
Inside, Mr. Bee loomed over the sink in the awkward position I know all too well as the only way to get partial cell phone reception to listen to voice mails at our homestead. “Who’s that from?”
No response.
“…ducks..[static] …inside…[skip}…so I…[skip]…[skip]…dog…[crackle]…neighbor…”
My heart rate slowed then sped up faster than it was beating before. “What? Who is that? What happened?”
Still no answer.
I jumped up on the counter, getting closer to the source in hopes of making more sense out of the broken-up message I’d walked in on half-way through.
Finally, the message was over and Mr. Bee explained. “It’s Maya. She was in our yard. In the duck yard. She had one of the ducks. In their pen. E&J got her out. The ducks all ran in their house. Except for one. They put it inside too and locked everyone up. They wanted to let us know what happened. They said no one looked hurt.”
Maya is the one neighborhood dog that has taken an interest in our property and our livestock. Despite fencing, the 6 month old husky finds her way into our place by any means available. Tonight, it was the back gate we left open, thinking we’d only be gone a little while.
Most of the lessons we’ve learned in the country, we’ve learned the hard-way: experience. In the city, we would usually discover the error of our ways just before we made a decision. Other times, it would be right afterward, but they were usually trivial in nature. For example, if you find something you are obsessed with at Trader Joe’s, buy a lot of it before it disappears. Every time you go to the store. Because one day, it will be gone. (Do you remember those seaweed rice puffs?) It’s also important to keep a log of when you called and whom you spoke with when trying to resolve a bug infestation at your apartment complex. Or a leak in your wall, for that matter. Lastly, QFC brand bacon is not very tasty, even when it’s on sale.  Especially when it’s on sale. The only big exception to our trivial rule was the time we bought a used car that later showed up on consumer reports’ “worst used cars” list. That one had some lasting (read: expensive) consequences.
In any case, our learning curve now is one that is both steeper and of greater consequence. It has greater risks but also greater potential for reward. One lesson that we’ve taken to heart tonight is that we really do have some pretty amazing neighbors. Well, the ones without dogs that is.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Those who know me consider me an "over achiever." But those who really know me, know that I do well at what I attempt and only attempt that which I know I can do well.

Did you catch that? Most of my success rests in the fact that I don't take a lot of risks. Overall, I'd say it's a pretty decent plan. It leaves you feeling competent. You never have to put yourself out there. You get good results.

And that's all that matters, right?

Er, I guess you could say, well, that's all that used to matter. This whole homestead adventure has gifted me ample opportunities to attempt new things at a pace so rapid I forgot to be cautious. In fact, in the past 4 months, I have done more new things than I usually allow myself to try in 5 years. In case you are wondering, yes, I do treat "new things" like a controlled substance." Don't all risky things require regulation?

Since January I have:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Week 7

Midweek is my chance to disconnect from the ups and downs of loving living things and simply update on the facts of our flock. This week marks the beginning of their seventh week of life. I'm sad that we're down one baby, but feel fortunate to be left with 12 beautiful, healthy duckies as well as one very kind but very odd duck. (No pun intended). Now that they are solidly teenagers, they're pretty used to our daily routine. In the mornings, I feed them and let them out into their yard. In the afternoon, we give them greens and spend time with them. And in the evenings, we give them feed and lock them up for the night.

Ducks love routine. So do I, really. When evening comes, it's fun to watch them anticpate the next "step" in our routine. If I go to the back door they all jump up and run toward their house. If I walk past the yard, everyone comes quacking and eyes my every move. Sometimes, in their sheer excitement and anticipation, they even go into their house early and just wait. For hours! I find myself coaxing them out, "here, little ducky, eat some bugs outside." "There, there baby duckies, come out and feel the sunshine." It's usually to no avail and I try to hold off on my judgement, knowing that I do the very thing myself.

So now you know ducks love routine and you can imagine how trainable that makes them. We use a convenient method to get our ducks home each night. And now, without further ado, I present to you Pavlov's Ducks:

More after the jump....