Death Comes to the Farm

For those who have been following the flock, the four Muscovy ducks are just about seven months old. Just a month ago, I came home one evening to find one of the Muscovy duck sisters covered in blood and crying for help in the yard. The poor dear had been attacked by what I have since deduced to be a hawk. She let me pick her up and carry her into the house where she was treated to a warm shower, her wounds were dressed, and she slept on a tufted pillow for a full week while she healed.

Despite the inconvenience of having a duck in your bathtub (and the shock of forgetting she was in there when you got up in the middle of the night), it was a perfectly wonderful experience to nurse her back to health. It was evident that she agreed by her very engaged and warm change in behavior. At the end of the week, she went back to the duck house and everyone was happy to see her, especially the drake, who has since picked her out as his clear favorite. This was her pecking the camera at the end of the week:

Muscovy Duck

And yet, it wasn’t enough. Last night, three of the four ducks were killed by a predator. It’s hard to tell what did it, but I suspect a fox by the pattern. Despite thinking it will never actually happen to me, it’s the sort of thing you always suspect you’ll find at some point. You anticipate it almost every time you walk out to the yard. I just didn’t think it would be my drake and the two sisters. The drake was my favorite. He was affectionately named as a duckling by Karen as “Marguerite,” until we quickly realized that Marguerite was actually Marcus! Chris holds him:

Chris and Duck

As my friend T put it quite succinctly today, “it sucks!” And it does suck. But this is part of it. This is part of what we signed up for. It can’t be overlooked what a joy it is to raise and care for animals, whether as pets or for profit. In either case, there is a very definite connection to them and it’s hard to ignore the big picture of life’s ongoing cycle. We’ll just have to do a better job on the next time around. Minnie is the only one remaining. She seems pretty confused at this point, but hopefully with good weather coming and the promise of new ducklings, her spirits will lift along with ours.

Here’s to the daffodils that bloomed today. I think they knew that I needed it.


George Washington’s America, 240 Years Later

I am currently reading Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, a monster-novel that spans George Washington’s life from cradle to grave. Don’t ask how far I’ve made it through the 928 pages – I’ll probably lie anyhow. As I read, sitting on the couch with a Virginia bourbon, just down the road from Washington’s birthplace in the historic Northern Neck, I can’t help but turn to the election results of the day’s presidential primary.

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

It’s hard to read this book about the very messy, bloody birth of our nation while simultaneously watching and hearing our current presidential candidates verbally attack each other for the top of the electoral heap. In some ways, the story today mirrors the dirty and divided process of our early formation. And yet, it’s hard for my sensitive ears to hear, after we’ve come so far to honor and protect the rights and freedoms of all our neighbors. It makes me wonder if our memories are so poor that we can behave like the past two centuries of progress and difficult passage didn’t matter.

I’m not really sure why I’m even writing this post except to encourage everyone to stand in the shoes of our ancestors, listen to the stories that have been told, and truly hear the moments that reverberate through history as milestones of our collective experience. You don’t have to be a lover of history to do this and you don’t have to read 928 page biographies, but you can visit historic sites, research your family history, read the cliff notes, and begin to remember what others before you experienced as a grateful expression for the life that you live today.

Some national websites to start exploring:
National African-American Historic Landmarks
National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Museum of American History

If you are in Virginia:
Historic Sites of Virginia
Virginia Untold: The African-American Narrative at the Library of Virginia