Friday, June 27, 2008

I could kill for chocolate; willing to maim for naked barley

And thank goodness there are laws against such things, for I am a law-abiding citizen. Or at least I've managed to fake it pretty well over the years.

It's amazing that I've gotten very little done today and still manage to be utterly exhausted at the end of it. I've got the temporary duck enclosure up for the Big Ducks (ungrateful wretches) and the little ducks and the TubDucks are now out in the greenhouse. I came to the unwilling conclusion that the temporary enclosure can't be an overnighter because I really have no way of making it secure. I've been assured that there are owls in the area and I know that there are coyotes...not that the greenhouse could keep out a coyote when it couldn't keep out the ex-dog, but I'd like to discourage where I can. So until Duck Row (why do I keep wanting to type Duck Row Records?) is done, I'm going to be transporting 13 very unhappy and uncooperative Quackers from greenhouse to enclosure and back again. And I will report right now that an unhappy Quacker is a very loud quacker, unless it's a drake. In an unscientific poll, it appears that our Cayuga drake is still very much in residence (there was some doubt after the earlier fatality).

Sir Edmund Hilary is getting very fat and also very opinionated; it appears that SEH is almost certainly a white runner and most def'nitly female. Ghiradelli (the chocolate runner, of course) is a shy duck but also a quacker so there we are, two female runners and three undeclared. TBA is coloring up nicely but I don't know enough about the various duck colors to declare for one side or the other and the duck's voice hasn't broken either. Every other day I change my mind about whether I'm going to be the proud owner of a drake or a duck -- and let's face it, folks, TBA is hands-down my all-time favorite. Spoiled rotten wretch AND the duck knows it. Still, of all of the feathered critters in the back yard, the runners have been nominated Most Likely to Die of Old Age.

To my dismay, I'm learning the hard way that close quarters can lead to complications. Some of the ducks appear to be almost bow-legged, some severely so. I'm hoping that larger quarters will undo some of that damage but it's a very faint, slight hope. None of the runners are affected, thank goodness, but damn, I hate learning from the school of hard knocks. It's not fair on the critters involved. It could also be that large-breed ducks are prone to this sort of thing; the smaller the duck in the affected population, the less likely they are to be affected, and of course the runners are the lightest breed I've got.

The Saxony and Silver Appleyards are tanks. Huge, and the oldest aren't even a month old. I can just imagine what they're going to look like in November, full-feathered and market-weight (cue Jurassic Park theme). The Cayugas are developing their famous green-over-black sheen and the ungrateful, feral beasts are gorgeous. The Khaki Campbells and Golden Hybrids are virtually indistinguishable except for size and a slight difference in bill coloration (okay, I've officially gone round the bend...I can tell them apart by the tips of their bills??)

Of course, all of the Banshees want their very own ducks. I have told each and every one of them that they would have to earn the duck with extra chores around the house, that they'd have to earn the feed as well, and that they would be expected to help keep the duck areas clean and build the cages for their individual ducks. LB is too young to wrap her brain around the subject and EB hasn't shown that much interest in the work aspect, but MB was very much on-board. He got up first thing in the morning to help clear the back yard and just couldn't do enough. Now, if the boy wants a duck that bad, I'm willing to let him earn it -- but I did feel honor-bound to inform him that a duck can live up to twelve years and that once it was his, he was responsible for it for as long as it lived. Once he added up how old he would be if the duck actually lived that long, his enthusiasm dimmed just a bit. Actually I'm impressed with the outcome, since so many people can't wrap their brains around that bit of logic. I know I wasn't prepared for a cat to live for nearly two decades, but here she is, deaf and wobbly and still very affectionate. I figured it was worth the effort to drum it into somebody's skull that sometimes pets can live for a very long time. It's why I'll never get a tortoise or a parrot, thanks very much.

Right now I'm content to have the ducks as my hobby with the Banshees along for the observational opportunities. As with every other thing I've ever done with the Banshees in tow, I don't know how much they're going to learn; I'm not even sure exactly what they're going to learn. Sometimes you can be 100% sure that you're showing them one thing and then find out much later that they saw something completely different. It just works that way. I know when my mother raised poultry way back when, she would probably have bet that I would never, ever follow in her footsteps. Ever. And yet here I am with children and household and poultry and incipient vegetable garden, among other things.

There are differences. I, for one, will never raise snails. Life is too short to pursue the wily gastropod. Head cheese is not on my menu of to-do items (although mozzarella is a possibility). She never had a loom or a spinning wheel. I make soap and brew beer (okay, I should brew beer. I have everything required to brew except for maybe time.) She may have been a rough carpenter but she was way ahead of my skill set with a skill saw -- on the other hand, I'm a better welder. She drew well, painted well, cast bronze -- I need considerable help just to draw a straight line. Still, the crux of the matter may well be how she chased her dreams. Nothing (except for Calculus) seemed impossible to her, given enough time and effort. We had our issues and our disagreements and far too many things were left unresolved between us, but this is one attribute she passed along that I am grateful for: We never quit learning because there is always something new to learn. Oh, how I hope I can pass that on to her grandchildren.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's Too Early In The Morning To Run Screaming Into The Night

We've gotten our annual love-letter from the county and now have about a month to get rid of the brush. The good news? DBS has finally figured out that maybe, just maybe, weeding early and often might stave such love notes off and that he is now miraculously available to do this once a week. I checked fingerprints. He's definitely not a pod person....

To be fair to the man, he's never been a yard-work person. He still thinks we ought to put a heavy kill-all-growing-things poison on the back-yard or, failing that, just put down asphalt. He reluctantly agreed that 1. we have growing things, i.e. Banshees, and poison probably isn't the best thing to start generously strewing around and 2. asphalt is prohibitively expensive with the back yard as large as it is. Besides, now we have ducks and they don't do any better on the blacktop than the Banshees do. It's just one of those things. (Besides which, there's reason number 3, otherwise known as these "solutions" wouldn't make Mom happy, and we all know that if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Also just one of those things.) Several things have conspired against him -- one of which is that busting his rump once a year is not his favorite pastime. We are finally reaching the point where we know know that we really can't afford outside distractions anymore and he's the type that likes to stay busy. The fact that whenever a parent blinks, a child grows six inches is also a factor. Did I also mention that we have done the Bohemian, ignore-it-all-and-let-time-figure-it-out method of housework/yardwork to the point of utter exhaustion and we're in the mood for matching towels...that we can find??

Oh yes, and let's not forget the $5 gas and the staple food prices that have tripled in the last six months. As if we could.

So the ducks that I asked for in order to have something to feed perfectly good tomato worms to are starting to sound like an interesting proposition. And the garden that I've been promising myself for the last twelve years might actually become a viable option. I might be able to swing that pressure canner for Christmas, if I'm realllllly lucky. DBS has stopped growling when I start shopping for real estate that we can't afford, because he knows I'm basically looking for a small homestead in an area where I don't have to worry about getting a permit for the livestock. (Did I mention that I've been looking at miniature cows? Everybody has a dream; mine involves miniature Jerseys.) All of this adds up to something that I have been wanting forever and just about three days: a family that is beginning to look inward for the ingenuity to keep themselves busy and entertained instead of outward to (rather expensive) distractions. My dream is to spend several hours in the garden poking at the green beans, or tending ducks, or painting the house....just about anything other than wasting that time staring at a screen. I've already threatened the ducks with Tolstoy. They appear to be unimpressed. Maybe they know something I don't!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Storm Before The Calm Before The Really BIG Storm

As I write I'm listening to the final rustlings of our latest hatch. Two weeks ago we had 15 viable Saxony eggs; yesterday 7 hatched out. Today there are two more to add, for a total of 9, and a couple more that have broken shell and will probably hatch today for a grand total of 11. Of the four that haven't pipped, two were actively trying to break the inside membrane (gotta love that candler!) and two were...well, they weren't viable anymore. It happens. I'm still deciding whether to help the unpipped eggs hatch out, but my rule thus far has been that they need to at least crack the shell before I do midwifery. I'll candle again today to see if they've at least broken through the membrane and we'll just have to see from there. By the end of today we are going to have all of the ducks that we're going to get this year, and more than we genuinely need.

11 Saxony, hatched onsite
9 Saxony from Holderreads
2 White Runners from Holderreads
4 Silver Appleyards hatched onsite
2 Indian Runners hatched onsite
3 Chocolate Runners from Metzer
9 Cayuga from Metzer
3 Golden Hybrid from Metzer
2 Khaki Campbells from Metzer
45 ducks
- 1 Cayuga (died of unknown causes)
- 1 Chocolate Runner (drowned)
- 1 Chocolate Runner (sold to friend)
42 ducks on premises. As in, right now.

For the love of little green apples, what was I thinking?? Thank goodness there are too many of them to name, otherwise I'd be in real trouble! So far only a relative handful have been handed monikers, and only the Indian Runner ducks have been labeled Untouchables. Of all of the ducks so far, the Indian Runners have the most personality. They chatter constantly and they're insatiably curious -- which sort of means they fit into the rest of the household just fine. I haven't gotten the courage to sex any of them yet; here's hoping for majority female.

The Banshees have decided that the 4H thing looks sort of interesting, so I'm going to have to get off of my own tail-feathers and get proactive about it all. DBS still thinks the ducklings are cute but is starting to get this glazed look in his eye. And everybody has decided that if a duck goes to the chopping block, only Mom is heartless enough to go through with it. Of course that means I get stuck with plucking duty too, but such is life. I know down makes great fill; I wonder if feathers can be composted....

DBS is going on vacation here in a couple of days and we're going to spend the first part of it getting permanent duck housing put together. He's probably going to spend the rest of it with his feet up, ice tea in hand, while I go about clearing brush and (finally) breaking ground for the garden.

Personally, I'm finding that the ducks are wonderful motivators. My master bath, which has been an impromptu nursery for newly arrived and just-hatched duckies, has been cleaned of more than the top layer of grime for the first time in ages. Gradual dust and mayhem I can handle; duck dust and mayhem on top of everything else is way too much. My back yard is getting shaped and played in because I have to be out there at least a couple of times a day to check on the web-toes. I may get that garden in this year after all.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Just A Reminder

Cute fuzzy ducklings don't stay small forever. In fact, they don't stay small for very long!

Sir Edmund Hilary, left, hatched May 25, 2008
Ferdinand, right, hatched June 3, 2008

That's just 9 days' difference, folks!

Friday, June 6, 2008


I have been told it's mean, evil, and not-nice to be so quiet on my blogs. People worry about me. (Heck, I worry about me, and I know what's going on!)

Ahem. I have spent the week wondering where in the merry name of all distracted universes the time keeps going to. I wake up. I go to bed. In between there's generally 12 to 18 hours of something going on, but I'll be double-jiggered if I can always remember what it was. Written down in black and white pixelations it just doesn't look that impressive. Wake up. Wander into the kitchen. Try to figure out what to feed Banshees that doesn't involve A. cooking or B. cleaning or C. cleaning, cooking, and then cleaning again. Give up and go for option C. Put TubDucks in the tub. Clean out the Saxony bin. Check on the outdoor ducks to make sure they have clean water, lots of food, and oh yeah, count heads to make sure everybody made it through the night. Interlaced between all of this moments of "Quit doing th-- I said quit doing that! A dozen times! WHY ARE YOU STILL DOING IT??

I don't know.


Turn the Saxony eggs in the incubator and wonder if obsessive observation will get the pitifully few remaining Appleyard eggs to hatch. (It won't, but that has never stopped me.)

Catch up on the internet news, including my multiple email addresses. Realize that I have an issue due very very shortly and No Authors. None. Well, one, but he submitted early and I would run off with him for that alone but his wife and my husband and our collected offspring probably wouldn't understand. And I'm probably not his type anyway.

Go play with the ducks.

Untangle Banshees who are using sophisticated logic techniques for situations that are highly illogical. Wonder if drinking is still an option. Decide that yes, it is, but only if I'm drinking unsweetened ice tea so concentrated it could fill my ink catridges without anybody noticing the difference.

Go play with ducks again. Let the Banshees play with the older ducklings. Wonder why lunchtime went by without me noticing it or fixing anything for it. Well, the offspring aren't complaining (that's what the full fruit bowl is for and the sliced home-made bread over there on the counter. And they know how to get into the vegetables in a pinch. They aren't going hungry, just waiting for me to notice that nothing hot has gone into their maws for a while now.) Fix food, wonder if I should call it lunch or dinner or just nourishment at this point.

Spend more time on the internet researching washing machine options. A. repair, B. replace, C. replace and figure out how to dismantle the old machine in as destructive a manner as possible. A will cost nearly as much as B and DBS won't let me consider C. Something about zoning restrictions. Pah.

quit doing that I told you a thousand and one times that you are NOT supposed to bop your sister with a pillow because she doesn't want to watch the same movie you want to watch and have seen if I must remind you at least 8 times over the last two days. she's entitled to a turn and I'm entitled to a rest and I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT ANYMORE

Watch as LB comes into the room completely oblivious to my presence, stop, plop her book down, try to spell and sound out several words, and then pick the book up and wander off, blissfully satisfied that she's worked something out. Figure out fractions with EB with the aid of a cookbook. Figure out that the reason MB can't recount any incident with any accuracy (or indeed, at all) is because he needs to re-enact the scene in his head and sometimes with his body before he can remember it. Melissa is right; this is a kinesthetic child. He'll probably have to learn his fractions while bouncing on a pogo stick. Decide that a pogo stick is better than bungee cords. Decide that I'm thrilled to finally notice that he needs to be physical when he's remembering and I'm also the world's most incompetent mother not to have noticed it before. Here's hoping children are as resilient as everyone tells me they can be.

Decide that frontloading washing machine from the local dings'n'dents shop will be just perfect. We just won't be able to drive any further than the end of the driveway for a couple of months. Oh well, that gives us time to get used to the bicycles.

Tell the gentleman (term very loosely used) from the cable company that YES I know I'm cutting off the cable t.v. and WHY is because I can't afford it anymore and by anymore I mean under any circumstances you care to name unless you are offering it to me for free. Repeat this three times and then threaten to get very very irritated. Goodbye and have a good day to you too, buddy. I am keeping the internet connection because I need the internet connection, but we do not now and never have needed needed the television set. It's a pacifier, it's a brain sucker, I lose entire days to it, and yes I'm going to miss it enormously. Feeding the children and keeping the lights on is more important than whether we get to see another rerun of whatever it is we seem to be watching right now, though. Gas = $4.32 a gallon. 50# flour = $34 when it used to be $14. Cable =/= necessary, thanks very much.

Run all over the middle part of my very large county, because if I'm going to waste the gas to get to the middle part of my very large county, I'm going to do as many errands as is humanly possible so I don't have to come out again to the middle part of my very large county. But at least everything that needed to get done has gotten done and the Banshees have new pairs of shoes to show for it all.

Now I have to get all of the Banshees to bed because, after all, I only announced that they would have to go to bed at 9 p.m. half an hour ago and nobody could be expected to remember or heed that. And after that I've got to fix the toilet -- again -- but at least it's a very old, very familiar, and very cheap fix that generally stays in place for a few years.

And I'm going to ignore doing dishes tonight in favor of egg-watch, because two of the Appleyards have finally decided to pip their eggs and announce their intentions of joining the world. Sleep? Should. Probably won't.

Tomorrow we do all of this (or something incredibly like it) all over again.

I should be skinnier than I am.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Oh, Yeah. THAT'S Why I Hate Software Updates

And for the record, I'm not talking about my Ubuntu Linux setup. It has its own issues, but updating and erasing links like nobody's business is not one of them.

Oh yeah, and a special thanks to the new version of the virus protection that refuses to update, scan, or uninstall itself. It's been swell. Really.

I'm going to spend the next goodness knows how long trying to remember url's and proper blog titles and I'm going to have to do it sober because good parents don't let their Banshees see them fold under frustration...and even if I wait until they go to bed, hacking this computer to pieces and holding the screaming, squealing bits of shattered hard drive up to really powerful magnets is something I want to remember in the morning.

I don't know exactly how one becomes a computer geek -- I rather suspect that suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous software is part of it -- but when I figure it out, I'm coming down with a case of full-throated Wagnerian Valkyrie-Geek-on-Steroids.

Also known as: the more I deal with Microsoft, the more I love Linux.