Monday, October 20, 2008

Fucking Ducks!

The ducks have been interesting lately, so I thought I'd take a break from politics and post a Duck Update:

They've been mating like crazy for the past few weeks -- and there's a reason they call sex "canoodling." [Click here and you'll see what I mean.] For a couple of weeks the drakes were fighting over the hens, but they seem to have settled down and paired up now. I can't remember if I posted that two of the ducks were killed by a predator awhile back, but we only have one black cayuga now. She's the most prolific egg layer, and the boys all seem quite enamored of her.

We've been collecting lots of eggs ... 2 to 4 a day. The cayuga lays huge tan eggs, often double-yolked. One of the rouens lays very pretty green eggs, one of the rouens lays small brown eggs and one rouen lays strange little round eggs that the cayuga sneers at. One of the rouen hens was really struggling with the egg thing. She was laying "skin eggs" every day ... no shell, just a thick membrane around them. Mostly we'd find them torn open, but we did find one intact one plopped on the ground by the wading pool. It was like a weird water balloon. She seems to be over it now. I think that tiny green egg might be hers (see photo).

They've been working on making a community nest and laying all their eggs in it for a couple of weeks now. We collect the eggs every morning and they refill it. This week they started balking about leaving it in the morning, so we made the executive decision to not collect the eggs for a few days and see what happens. We left three the first day, and the next day there were two more and the nest was covered over with straw and feathers.

Last night the ducks scared the hell out of me. They always make one last victory lap around the house about a half hour before sunset and then go in the duck dome whether I'm here to put them to bed or not. If I happen to miss sunsent and go out there after dark to give them food and water they're already asleep in the dome. Last night they never came home. It got to be sunset and I went looking for them, quacking and calling them, and I couldn't find them anywhere. I looked down by the pond and didn't see them there, either.

When Ev came home she came in and woke me up and said, "The ducks are in the pond and there's something huge in the water with them, swimming and splashing. It sounds like a whale." I thought to myself, "Oh, please. A whale??" and got out of bed. We went down there with a puny little penlight. I couldn't see a thing, but we could hear the ducks muttering and swimming. Then the splashing started. Loud, huge splashing that threw water up far enough to see it in the dark. "Jesus!" I said, "It IS a fucking whale!"

We went around the back side of the pond in the dark and finally got a slight glimpse of them. There were only four, swimming and quacking. Ev saw some eyes in the woods and decided it was either a dog or a coyote prowling around in the dark and shooed it off. It was very dark and very scary. Ev thought maybe the dog or whatever it was had been in the water catching them, so we returned to the house and she went back out with a lantern. When she came back the next time she said, "Damnit, I think it's huge snapping turtles. I can only find five ducks."

Snapping turtles kill ducks. I have a very slight fatalistic streak of abject pessimism, so I immediately decided the whole flock would be dead by morning and made a solemn vow to swear off keeping barnyard animals forever, then sat on the couch and chainsmoked.

At that point Ev got in her truck, drove it through our yard and into the neighbor's yard, around his barn and down to the edge of the pond with her brights on. (The neighbor must think we're insane tromping around quacking at his pond in the dark and driving through his field at midnight.) When she came back she said, "They're all there. Three of them were asleep in the weeds and I woke them up with my lights. The splashing was the ducks. They're diving and flapping and going bottom-up for stuff in the pond. They won't come out for nothin'."

This morning they were back in our yard, wet and bedraggled and eating bugs like nothing had happened, but there were only seven of them instead of eight. I checked the duck dome just in case and, sure enough, there was a hen on the nest and she wasn't budging. She took off about an hour later for the pond and now there are seven eggs.

According to the duck experts, they won't start sitting on the eggs until there's a clutch (usually about 8-10) and when they do start sitting they only sit for an hour a couple of times a day at first. Toward the end of the 28 day hatching cycle they'll stay on the eggs all the time except for an hour or so to eat and swim. I'm not sure what happens when the nest is "full." I don't know if the other hens keep on slipping eggs into the nest until they have a mountain of eggs, or if they'll take turns sitting on them, or if they'll drop the extra eggs somewhere else.

This will be a "wait and see" proposition. I think I'll mark the eggs that are in there now and start counting days. No telling if any of them will actually hatch, but there's been ample canoodling going on to fertilize them and Ev has already declared her intention to "eat the children." Some of them, if they hatch, will be cayuga and rouen cross-breeds. Should be interesting looking. I won't let her eat those.

Anyone with poultry experience is more than welcome to start giving out advice at this point!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Secret

Ev's youngest daughter and I went to the Obama Rally in St. Louis yesterday with 100,000 or so of our closest friends. It was a phenomenal, uplifting, hopeful, joy-filled day and it brought me, temporarily, out of the funk I've been in for the past week.

I wanted to post about all the great things that happened yesterday and the three generations of women we met and had dinner with afterward, but today I got some bad news that plunged me right back into the funk, and now I'm thinking about the difference in how people play the hand life deals them, and how much we are all in control of the quality of our lives, even if we have no control over some of their circumstances.

This is Leon Brown. Someone should write a book about him.

I met him at the rally yesterday and spent a few hours standing next to him exchanging pleasantries and listening to his stories. He's one of sixteen children born and raised in Mississippi in the 1930's. He's spent his life working in various service industries ... hotels, airports, driving limosines, etc. He says he doesn't really know why people seem to be drawn to him, but he's had his picture taken with a veritable Who's Who of famous people, from MLK and Medgar Evers to Bob Hope and Stan "The Man" Musial (who gave him an autographed baseball) and he keeps them all in a scrapbook (except the ball, of course).

I can tell him why. In fact, I did. It's his attitude juxtaposed with the harsh reality of the times in which he's lived and the history he's seen. He's friendly, he's happy, he's upbeat and outgoing and he looks for the positive in things. Standing for five hours was hard on a lot of people, but he said, "I'm 71 years old, and I could have gotten a chair over there in the senior citizen area, but I'm in good shape. I can stand and wait to see Mr. Obama."

Leon Brown was in Memphis when MLK was shot, but he doesn't dwell on that. He talks about the thrill of meeting him and being in his hotel room. He doesn't talk about the tragedy of Medger Evers' assassination; he talks about having his picture taken with him. He never mentioned the hardships of living in the south under Jim Crow; he talked about how good he looked in those fancy hotel uniforms and how much he loved giving the ladies a snappy British salute. I asked him if he ever thought that he'd be standing with 100,000 people of all races at a rally for the first black president and he smiled and said, "Well, I wasn't sure, but I always hoped it would happen."

Before we left the rally, he wrote down his address and phone number and asked me if I'd please send him a copy of his picture at the rally so he could put it in his scrapbook. Then he gave me a big hug and a whiskery kiss on the cheek, thus cementing my crush on Mr. Leon Brown of St. Louis, MO.

Today, fresh from the exhiliration of being surrounded by hopeful people of all ages, races and socio-economic strata, I got the phone call I've been dreading from my son.

He had called me a week ago to tell me that his dad -- my ex-husband -- was in ICU at a neurologic hospital. A wasted life of alcoholism and drug addiction had finally culminated in a cerebral hemorrhage and a cascade of strokes over the weekend, and because he has a long history of passing out in drunken stupors, no one thought to check on him for a couple of days. By the time they did, he'd been in a coma for a day and a half. He underwent surgery on Tuesday morning to stop the bleeding and he's been on life support since then. The call today was to tell me that the doctors say there's too much brain damage for him to have any quality of life even if he wakes up, which he won't. Now they just have to wait for his sister to get there before they remove life support.

I'm left wondering how it is that some people can throw their perfectly good lives away and never find joy or peace or anything in life worth living for, and others can find the silver lining in a life of hardship that could easily have made them bitter and discouraged.

Mr. Brown told me yesterday that the secret to his long life, his health and his happiness is that he loves life and he loves people. He hugs strangers and smiles at everyone and always tells the people he loves that he loves them. He never takes a day for granted.

I wish my son could have had a dad like Leon Brown.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Can't We Just Vote, Already??

I have one thing to tell John McCain, and one thing to ask him:

1. You are not "my friend" so stop addressing me that way in that weird voice.

2. You constantly say, "My friends, I know how." If you know how to shore up the economy, provide healthcare to all Americans, catch Osama bin Laden, turn the country around, clean up Washington and develop althernative energy, then why the fuck haven't you done any of it? You've had 26 years in Washington already!

I'm officially burned out. Let's just vote, damnit.