Not sure but my eyes may be starting to move to the sides of my head.

Like a slow-motion Wart from”The Once and Future King”, I’m now my own Merlin, transforming into waterfowl to better understand their joys and perils.

And why the ducks not?

In “Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks” Dave Holderread advises novice owners to “think like a duck” when caring for them, especially when it comes to predators and other dangers. When we first prepared for hatchlings three years ago, I meticulously heeded those words but revisited them again in the days since we lost Gladys.  Not that it really would have helped, though, because I’ve never read anything that mentions this particular hazard for a duck her size.

In fact, I’m just beginning to process her strange and unexpected death by a bird I’ve long admired. Ironically, not the hawk that harried us all winter but a new backyard visitor I didn’t recognize as dangerous: a Common Raven.* Not sure whether the ducks knew or not, or whether they knew too late. Like me, they certainly know now. Ravens are big, bold and smart. They don’t need surprise; they just need opportunity.

So, for the past week, all I’ve done is hang with the girls, not letting them far from sight whenever they’re not locked in the pen. On the few occasions when I have left them alone, I’ve kept windows open to hear the cries I hope may never happen–the cries I didn’t hear last Monday.

I stand in the yard and watch the trees and dissect the skyline. I kneel on soil and freeze whenever a shadow passes overhead. I dig under pine chips, ducks clustered about me, watching for worms and grubs and centipedes. I study the pen’s defenses. I sleep lightly; I dream fitfully.

This week we still mourn but next week we celebrate. Determined to cast off sadness, we await the arrival of a very special box and a phone call from the post office.** Our new little hens won’t replace Gladys but they’ll certainly bring us joy.

Just like she did.

Meanwhile, I’m hardening the perimeter and adding aerial measures. Our new hatchlings will live in the garage for a month, which should give plenty of time to sort out the safety issues. By then, too, the trees and shrubs will be fully leafed and cover won’t be so fleeting. If necessary, we’ll add aviary netting or a day pen or rent a goose. (Or a mastiff.)

Like the ducks, I want to live each day fully and attentively, close to the ground but eyes on the sky.  Unlike them, however, I can see a future as well as the present. I can imagine finding a raven where one shouldn’t be.

And then I ponder the lost Gladys and a visitor from Night’s Plutonian shore.

Quoth the backyard farmer:







*Not at all common around here, as it turns out.

**Make way for (more) ducklings!


Copyright 2015, Lori Fontanes