The Ugly Duckling

The story of the Ugly Duckling has taken on a more personal meaning as of late.  I’m not exactly sure when the exact transaction was made, but last Monday, Mowgli (my brother and 4-H agent) showed up at our house with a less than functioning incubator and a dozen eggs with chicks in them.  We were in the midst of my husband’s project of the week, our shed, but stopped to go watch and learn as everything was set up.

 

On the particular incubator we were using, the knob to adjust the thermostat had broken off.  After multiple minutes of fiddling with it that I wasn’t involved in, my husband and brother had rigged it up so that a distance of 3 inches above the base it kept the eggs the proper temperature.  However, as it didn’t seal in the humidity, there was a concern that the eggs would not hatch.

 

The eggs were due to hatch on Wednesday. By the time I got home at noon we had two chicks and ten duds.  I was very disappointed but removed the new chicks from the incubator and put them in a box under a heat light.  Without going into a lot of details I can’t recall clearly anyway, by Thursday evening all but two of the chicks had hatched.  Of the remaining two, one had started and the other had a hole pecked into the shell, but it didn’t go all the way through.

 

There is almost nothing more frustrating than watching a chick hatch.  At first all you see is the emergence of a noisy beak.  Then that little beak and the legs, wings, and neck work and struggle to make a hairline fracture.  After a time the hairline fracture evolves into a break.  Then the gooey little blood covered skin and bones creature still has to push the shell away in order to get out.  As I said there is almost nothing more frustrating than watching a chick go through the process of hatching.  The exception, of course, is watching a chick who doesn’t hatch, or watching a chick who takes so long to hatch that the inner lining of the shell dries out and solidifies making it virtually impossible for the baby fowl to break free.

 

Thus was the case with chick 11 and 12.  In a desperate attempt to help without weakening them and crippling them for life, I dipped my finger into water and drip by drip gave them little drinks as hour after hour they worked on getting out.  For chick number 12 it was enough.  11 wasn’t so lucky.

 

He was born with little legs that wouldn’t support him, curled toes, and wings he couldn’t seem to extend beyond the confines of his body.  After he finally made his way out of the shell, I put him in the box with the other chicks.  They immediately began to peck at him and chase him and his only method of dodging them was to flap his non-existent wings and attempt to use his splayed legs to scoot himself out of the way.  A couple of times they flipped him over and he made a terrible racket as he tried to fend off their sharp beaks and right himself.  It was terrible to watch and so in an attempt to shelter him I separated him into his own box where he would be safe.

 

Cast off size from the others, he continued to peep trying to find others of his kind so he wouldn’t be so lonely.  I thought after a time to gain his strength, he might come out of it.

Unlike the other chicks, all the yolk and egg sac and whatever else they are covered with when they are born didn’t fluff up and turn downy, but instead hardened giving him a firm plastic-like layer all over his body.  For a day and a half I put food near him and dropped beads of water into his little chirping mouth, but to no avail.  I use the term he, but in actuality there is no way for a novice to distinguish gender at such a young age.

 

On Friday morning I sent my four-year-old down to check on the chicks.  He came back up and we had a conversation that went something like this.

 

“Mom!  Guess what the sad news is?”

“What?” I asked.

“The little chick with the red thing on his bum is dead.”

I had figured that was coming and wanted him to decide how we should handle it.  “Do you want to bury it or should we just throw it away?” I asked.

“Well we can’t” he said.

“Why?”

“Because he’s gone,” he said pointing upward.

As we’ve had a lot of deaths in our family recently, we’ve had a great many talks about how when we die our spirit ascends to the spirit world and our bodies remain in the ground, so I reinforced that by saying, “Well, yes, his spirit is gone, but we can bury his body if you want.”

“No,” he said, “he took his body with him!”

Disbelievingly, I followed him downstairs where, sure enough, his box was empty.  It was a strange, unnerving moment until I remembered we had left my brother in the house with the chicks and gone out.  I realized he must have taken the chick with him since he knows me well enough to understand I couldn’t handle what was going to happen eventually to the poor little bird.

 

Chick number 12 was about ¼ the way out by this time.  My husband and I had plans that evening and I was anxious to see it out before we left.  I gave it several drinks and rolled it over in different positions trying to have gravity help it out.  Finally, and not a moment too soon, it was out.

 

I put it in the box with the other chicks, but being nearly 48 hours older they were much sturdier on their legs and began to peck at it.  I made several attempts to isolate it while still in the box so it wouldn’t be lonely, but in the end, left it and hoped that the survival of the fittest thing applied to the little chick in that it would become more fit as it worked to survive.

 

We’ll return to that story in a moment.  My husband and I passed our 7th anniversary in February, but as we were busy with other things at the time we postponed our celebration until this weekend in March.  I arranged for my mother-in-law to watch the kids so that he and I could go to Park City overnight.

 

My brother was going to check on the chicks while we were away for the weekend and I was supposed to drop our house key off at his house on our way out of town, but I was running late, so I left it with my mother-in-law.  She told me she would check on the chicks.  I called later that evening and she said they’d stopped at Cal Ranch before coming to our house and that the chicks were just fine, even the new guy.  I was markedly relieved.

 

After returning from Park City, we picked up the kids and ended up staying at my husband’s mom’s until ten.  The kids fell asleep on the way home, so I carried them in and put them in bed before going down to check on the chicks.

 

When I first looked into their box, I saw a downy yellow chick that was also covered in black feathers.  It was a little odd, but whereas I hadn’t seen the last to hatch after he’d dried, I figured he must have been a different kind or something.

 

Seconds later I noticed a reddish brown chicken.  My brother had said they would all be white chickens, but perhaps as they developed they changed colors, which would explain why two of our chicks had changed to brown and black respectively and were no longer yellow.  Then I spotted something that confounded me for a second.  One of the chicks was much larger than the other.  He was black and yellow like the one, but taller and with a rounded bill rather than a beak.  My mind, trying to make sense of it, said somehow a duck egg had gotten mixed in with the chicken eggs and the last to hatch had actually been a duck and I hadn’t noticed.

 

Without warning, my thought pattern jumped from the right hemisphere to the left and I realized logically, the little beak I had dripped water into was indeed a beak and not a bill.  I counted the infant fowls and found 11 yellow chicks, 1 brown, 1 black, and one duck.  Only then did it dawn on me that my precious mother-in-law had decided that my husband and I were suddenly into the agricultural business and needed to expand by purchasing two other breeds and a duck.

 

They are pretty cute little animals.  I like the duck best.  He thinks he’s a chicken.  We put him in a pail of water and he paddled around, but kept trying to get out and join his land dwelling posse.  He eats the same food and sleeps with them grouped around him, and refuses to put himself in water because obviously chickens can’t swim.  He’s cute, but I’m still left with the question, what are we going to do with a duck.

 

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Cake-tastrophe

I finally had a breakthrough discovery in my cooking issues and I realized the two reasons I am not one of the world renowned chefs.  My first problem with cooking is I never give up.  Despite numerous failed attempts at a certain thing, I keep trying it with the same or nearly the same results.  For example, I have made over 25 lbs. of fudge in my lifetime.  I have eaten all 25 lbs. of this fudge.  0 of these 25 lbs. of fudge have actually had the consistency of true fudge, but that has not dissuaded me from buying the ingredients and attempting (just one more time) a perfect batch of fudge.

My second downfall is closely related to the first.  Rather than admitting I have screwed up or burned it or don’t have the proper ingredients for completion, I press forward and try to finish or fix the mistakes I’ve made.  Logically, I realize there are times when things are just too charred to have any remaining nutritional value, but something deep within me knows my husband and I worked hours to earn the money to buy the ingredients to make this particular food item and like a failed relationship, I just have a hard time letting it go.

This all came about with a church birthday party.  A woman at church sent around a sign-up sheet to bring cakes and to have a little cake decorating competition.  Without realizing it at the time I committed my first of my two big limitations and signed up to bring a cake without recalling that most of my cooking failures come at times when I am supposed to be cooking for an audience.  In my mind I envisioned this incredible black forest cake that would be devoured before the party actually started because it was so tempting.  If I had any common sense, I would have realized that no one expects everyone to sign up and if they knew me well, they would have “inadvertently” skipped over me.

Well, last Sunday, two days before the event, I came home from church ready to make my delicious cake.  I had purchased a red velvet cake mix especially for the occasion and whereas it was Sunday and I had determined that would be the best time for attempting such a concoction, I proceeded.

The first obstacle I encountered was when I opened the fridge and found I had no eggs.  Some of you might argue that this was divine intervention interceding and telling me I should be writing in my journal or spending time with my children rather than looking for the praises of man with my ornate birthday cake.   However if you refer to the preceding paragraphs you will recall, once I’ve made up my mind, I am unstoppable.

I finally located three egg yolks in the back of the fridge.  I had used the whites to make reduced calorie crepes which clung to the fry pan like a mama’s boy on his first day of preschool.  Well, eggs are eggs, so I dumped them into the mix and turned on the mixer.

As I went to bake the cake, I realized I had only one round cake pan that I had inherited from my Grandma when she died.  She owned two and I’m sure wouldn’t have minded if I had taken both, but at the time there was a slow drip in one of the drains and rather than waste a good collection container by using it to bake in, I put it below the leak and barricaded it in the wall.  I found it a few weeks ago when we were back up there fixing something and considered taking it.  However, as it had a layer of mineral deposits crusted across the bottom I figured I had sealed its fate long ago when I cast it into the depths of the floorboards.

So, I baked each layer separately.  The first crumbled out of the pan, but whereas it was the bottom layer and would easily be concealed I pieced it back together and washed, greased, and floured the pan a second time for the second layer.

While it baked, I made the raspberry filling.  Not wanting it to ooze out the sides, I poured in perhaps a quarter cup of cornstarch.  It congealed nicely.  (Think of red, seeded roofing tar).  I frosted the top of the bottom layer with the raspberry filling, and set it aside as I made lunch for the kids.  By the time I had cleaned up lunch, the second cake had baked and cooled for at least three minutes, so I overturned it.  Most of it fell out straight away.  However, as my aim was off it was slightly to the left and as I went to center it, the gelatinous mass below it held like super glue and so the whole cake split and crumbled between my fingers.

I assessed the damage and decided if it were frozen solid, it was still salvageable.  I stuck it in the freezer and left it until Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, I took it out to frost first thing.  There was an inch gap on either side where the cake had not been centered, but I was certain that could be evened out with frosting.  Grabbing a butter knife, I attempted to spread the first layer of icing.  Though it was firmly frozen, crumbs clung to the frosting and pulled back much like I imagine it would look – due to the dark red cake on the dark brown chocolate icing – if one were to scalp a wombat.

Despite my creed, at this point, I almost gave up and considered buying something or starting over.  But I had a mirror I wanted to frame that day and couldn’t be bothered with a trip to the store or anything else not on my agenda.

I put the whole can of icing in the microwave for a minute.  This created a chocolate glaze that oozed over the cake and was much easier to work with.  In addition, as it contacted the frigid cake, it became solid once again.  This worked miracles in covering the cake.  The only problem now was that it was still quite lopsided and uneven.  I had a box of chocolate covered raspberry sticks that I used as structural support to give the cake a more rounded circumference.  To fix the top, I opened a second can of icing and applied piping curbing to hold in what would be a rather thick in some areas topcoat of frosting.  Pronouncing it finished, I covered it with my cake saver (an overturned large bowl) and set to work on the bathroom mirror frame.

Sometime later, I arrived early at the birthday party.  Sneaking in the back way, I set the cake on the dessert table and disappeared before anyone noticed me.  I returned exactly five minutes late and sat at the table furthest from my own creation.  Unfortunately, after the contest had ended, they pointed to each cake and asked the designer to stand.  I hesitated, willing myself to stay seated, but coy as I am, I couldn’t blatantly lie as the silent room looked around for anyone willing to claim the orphan cake.

In the end, it actually looked pretty good.  It crumbled as they tried to serve it, but even so, I came home with only a quarter of it leftover.  Not bad considering the poor sucker who made the triple layer beehive cake only had one slice from it.

 

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The Wedding Cake

This past weekend was my sister’s wedding.  For her cake she wanted a hatbox cake covered in fondant.  I’m not sure if my aunt that usually makes the cake was unavailable or if my mom wanted to or if it was a combination of the two, but my mom ended up making the cake.  Fondant has to be rolled out and then spread over the cake and gathered or something to make it fit the shape of the cake.  My mom had never worked with it and my aunt says she hates to, but I guess when your last daughter gets married, you do what you have to do to make it work.  So she made a 6” practice cake, learned a few things about it, and then started on the final cake.

 

The biggest difference is the final cake was like 14” in diameter instead of 6”.  That alone impacted the final results substantially.  Even so, on Friday, the day of reception – after four days of work baking and frosting the cakes – they were carefully loaded on the floor of my other sister’s van to take to Salt Lake.  We were packing the final things into the caravan of cars, preparing to leave.  As I turned from putting a box in my back seat, I saw my daughter standing at the side of the open van door.  Mini vans, like cars, ride low, so the floor of the van was waist high on her small frame – the perfect size for a nice table.

 

I yelled, “No!”  It startled her and she turned away where I could see frosting smeared all around her mouth and on the hand she was showing me.  My heart sank.  The story would be more dramatic if I said the cake had been flawless, and though it wasn’t, it now very obviously wasn’t.  I pulled her away and looked at the damage.  A hand sized section had been pulled away.  I stuffed it back in and tried to smooth over the hole.  Unfortunately, fondant isn’t forgiving and there’s no replacing that which has been lost.

 

I sat in front of it.  My mom came out and we had a conversation that went something like this.

 

Me: “If there were something that were going to stress you out, would you rather know about it now or later?”

 

Mom:  “Probably now.  What happened?”

 

Me: “How much do you love your granddaughter?”

 

Mom: “Oh, I’m pretty fond of her, what happened?”

 

Me:  “She took a bite out of your cake.”  I stepped aside so she could see the destruction first hand.  My mom, realizing there was nothing to be done, laughed and said, “She’s been saying all morning ‘want some’ so I guess she finally got some.”

 

I looked at the cake and said.  “Well, now we know which side is the back.  I think we should put a flower right about there.”

 

Before setting it up, we took a picture.  Someday, many years down the road as she is preparing for a reception and wedding and such, when she is getting stressed about everything not being perfect, I will take out that picture, show it to her and remind her that what goes around comes around.

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The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Weekend

It all began the afternoon of my cousin’s wedding.  My phone stopped working.  It turned on, but none of the other keys on it would work.  This left me unable to connect with the outside world, which wouldn’t have been so awful except my husband didn’t know how to get to the church where the reception was to be held.  He called my dad and got directions.  Maybe it was the stress of shopping.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep the night before.  I don’t know, I only know that when he showed up I cried.

 

He asked if I’d had a rough day.  I said I hadn’t, that I was merely having an emotional moment.  He laughed and said, “Hey everyone, Denise is pregnant.”  There were stunned looks from my family and he followed up saying “That’s the only thing I can figure,” she’s crying.

 

We drove home and arrived around midnight.  With no cell phone, I had no way to set an alarm to get up for church the following day.  My husband told me he would leave his phone, but at 4:30 a.m. that probably wasn’t the thought foremost on his mind.  I awoke at 7:45 needing to get two kids up and fed, gather items for teaching, prepare the lesson I hadn’t taken time during the week to prepare, and get to church by 8:45 so I could make copies.

 

I began by dressing myself and beginning to gather things for sharing time.  Around 8:15, my son woke, so I woke the baby. My son, who at any other time resists showering, was insistent that morning that he shower.  I flatly refused saying we needed to hurry to get ready for church.  I left him to dress and went back down to the basement to locate a couple more items I needed for church.  Then I returned to check on his progress toward getting dressed.  He had taken his shirt off and asked if it was okay to change his underwear.  Deciding it was one of those pick-your-battles type things, I agreed.  I sat down, opened my computer, and worked on my lesson.  I happened to glance over as my son was taking off is underwear and noticed poo on his leg.  I was extremely frustrated.  The kid had been potty trained for over a year, there was no reason for it.  Keeping my cool I told him he would need to shower.  I stuck him in and turned it on telling him to grab the soap and start scrubbing.  There was no time for washing his hair.

 

Then I went to get the baby.  As we had arrived home late the night before, she was still in a dress and tights and still had mostly in place pigtails in her hair.  I considered on the bad parenting scale, how terrible would it be to leave her in her dress and take her to church as though I had gotten her ready that morning rather than dragged her through a reception, an hour long car ride, and let her sleep through the night in it.  It was black, so anything she may have gotten on it didn’t show up.

 

Glancing at the clock I decided if there was some retribution I would have to face it later because today I needed to be on time.  I got her out of bed, changed her diaper, and went to get my son out of the shower.

 

I don’t know if it is the age or the child, but the boy dresses leisurely, not meaning that he wears comfortable clothing, but that he takes his time to dress.  He likes our heated floors and usually wraps himself in his towel and finds a warm spot where he curls into a ball in his own little sauna.

 

When he has rid himself of all toxins, he’ll put on his underwear and climb up on my bed where he goes through a cooling process.  If he’s been reprimanded enough, at this point he’ll put on pants and shirt, never those that you want on him, and pronounced himself dressed.  We’d be better off living in Tonga or something so he wouldn’t have to wear socks or shoes because he usually manages to forget that it is part of the clothing process.  Today was no exception.  I left him with clothes and went to pack the diaper bag with food and toys.  There would be no time for breakfast at home, so I made sure there was enough to serve both children their four course meal in the middle of the chapel.  Who knew I would ever arrive at this level of parenting.

 

At that point I heard grunting below the bar.  Sure enough, my daughter was squatted in what is unmistakably the pooping position.  I looked at the clock again.  I wasn’t going to make it and I needed the copies before church started.  I grabbed my keys and the papers I needed copied, went out, locked the door behind me and drove the two blocks to the church.  The librarian was in the parking lot, but I just missed being able to drive by, flag her down, and handing her the items I needed copied, so I parked the car and ran in.  Arriving at the library door, I saw a big sign saying the copier was broken.

 

I panicked.  I had no back-up plan.  40 children between the ages of three and seven would be mine for 15-20 minutes and I had nothing.  It couldn’t happen.  I walked back to the car and drove home.  Then I went down to the basement, opened the original file I had created, and set it to print 40 copies.

 

Our printer, though it meets or exceeds our general needs, twitches for lack of a better word.  As it prints, it spits the papers out stacking them into a nice neat pile; usually.  About every 7th or 10th print it shoots it out as though distance is somehow a redeeming quality in a printer.  This copy sometimes ends up on the floor, other times strewn carelessly through the middle of the pile.

 

Meanwhile, upstairs, I was changing the baby.  Her episode turned out to be one of those diaper disasters where very little waste actually ends up inside the diaper.  I picked her up and stripped her down, wadding her clothing up to keep the poo from spilling out.  I wiped her down thoroughly, diapered her, and put on a clean dress which didn’t look completely horrible with the hair ribbons she had tied in her pigtails.  She had no clean diaper cover, so I put her in a second pair of tights and pretended it wasn’t a bad thing to have her diaper show every time she bent over.

 

Then I went back downstairs to check on my copies.  The printer, no doubt excited by the big job it got to do, consumed too many papers at once and was jammed.  Ignoring the screen which said something about opening the back to clear the jam because pulling it forward might damage the printer, I pulled it forward, hit the reset button and stayed downstairs while it printed.  Then, I gathered the papers from their various locations, and stacked them together to feed through a second time to copy the back.

 

I dashed back upstairs and looked at the clock.  It was after nine.  For several seconds, I came unglued until the small but usually right voice of reason told me I had done what I could and I wasn’t essential until 10:20 at the earliest.  Relaxing, I realized I couldn’t undo what was done.  I sat the kids down at the bar and served them breakfast.

 

As they ate, I went to get my papers from the basement.  Confused by the double digit number, the printer had somehow run out of paper before it ran out of copies even though I had entered the same number as before.  I decided to deal with that issue later, took the stack of papers that had made it through, and loaded them into the car.

 

We walked into church with 15 minutes remaining in the first meeting.  I carried my daughter in her car seat, the diaper bag, a church bag with my lesson manual, and a box with visual aids.  It was not a discreet entrance by any means, especially when the box slipped and I nearly dropped it on the baby.

 

My son used the remainder of the meeting to finish his breakfast, a chocolate pop-tart, and I took my daughter from her car seat.  As I looked up I noticed chocolate pop-tarts and clean white shirts are not a good combination, especially crumbly, chocolate pop tarts.  Forcing him to shove the last bite into his mouth, I sent him to the restroom for some paper towels to clean up his mess.  Unfortunately the meeting ended before he returned.  As the prayer was being offered, I imagined him returning, unable to open the solid, heavy doors, and knocking on them yelling “Mom.”  Fortunately I found him wandering the halls, not even attempting to reenter the chapel.

 

Two hours later, it was all over with no major catastrophes other than one of the kids in the class pinching my daughter because she wouldn’t share her cereal with him.  I had told him he couldn’t have one, he’s six years old for heavens sake, so he attacked the little one.

 

I guess it is days/weeks like these that allow us to appreciate the small miracles; a beautiful sunset, a refreshing rainstorm, and the fact that the natural aging process has given me wisdom and my children a whole new set of issues to be dealt with.

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Grandparents

When I think of my grandparents, most the time it is just a lifetime of their presence in my life rather than specific memories.  I can attribute the close relationships I have with my family to them.  Early in life my Grandma taught us dance lessons.  I still remember shuffle step, shuffle step, shuffle step.  In the end, for me, the lessons ended up being as effective as the piano lessons my Aunt Norene gave, but for others the love of dance carried through high school, college, and even a career.  I remember helping with the cows.  Looking back, we probably were as much hindrance as help, but with our hair bound up beneath panty hose that kept the bugs off, we were taught to use the rubber hitting sticks to drive the cattle in to the corral where they were separated, branded, tagged, and given tattoos and ear clippings as well as other medical treatments.

One specific memory I have is of taking the cows up Settlement Canyon in the spring.  We were driving them up the road when I was stung on the cheek.  My grandpa picked up some manure and smeared it on the sting.  I don’t know if it actually remedied the pain or if I was so focused on the fact that I had cow dung on my face that I forgot to think about it, but it worked.  There were multiple winters when the boys were busy and I got to go with my grandpa to feed.  He put the truck into granny gear and then hopped out to throw off the bales of hay as I steered the truck around the field.  I remember specific cows, the beefalo, the horned bull we named “horny”, and the cow with one eye stitched up because she had cancer (I think – at the time I was sure it was pink eye).  I also remember the calves.  I remember three specifically, one named Betsy blue eyes.  She lived in a pen on the patio at my house and was bottle fed.  As siblings, we complained about whose turn it was to feed her, but also fought over who got to carry her around and keep the flies off her milk encrusted face.  She spent time beneath the apple tree and in the front yard, and also in classrooms where we took her for show-and-tell.  Unfortunately she didn’t make it and even though we were told not to look in the large flower-delivery box that held her remains, I snuck outside to open it and put some flowers in with her.  At the time it didn’t seem at all strange that while most people kept pet dogs or cats, we had a pet calf.

The second calf was perhaps the same one, though in my memory it was a different animal.  It lived in the bathtub.  Until the day he died, my father-in-law teased me about keeping a cow in the bathtub, but as we had no barn, when a calf got sick, it came inside and the obvious choice was the bathroom where everything was tiled and more easily cleaned. It was unnerving to go in to use the restroom and have soft, dark eyes, staring at you, so most the time I made the trek to the basement to use the secondary bathroom.

The third calf forever traumatized me against child birth.  One particular spring we went to Stansbury to check on the cows.  One had started giving birth, but the calf had gotten stuck on the way out and the heifer couldn’t finish the delivery.  The calf had died and was swollen and completely lodged in the pelvis of the cow.  Several methods were used to attempt delivery.  In the end, the cow was placed in the squeeze and chains hooked around the calf.  The other ends of the chains were hooked to the truck so the calf could be pulled out. It didn’t work until the four wheel drive was engaged. The bellowing of that cow will haunt me forever, which is why I’m grateful for cesarean delivered babies.

It is only now as I reflect on the many difficulties linked to farm life that I can truly appreciate the demeanor of my grandparents.  To witness half a herd die of thirst, calves freezing to death each spring, numerous legal battles over land, water, and grazing rights, and a host of other difficult situations and still retain a positive outlook on life as well as in humankind is nothing short of miraculous.

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The Duck with the Identity Crisis

Chickens, like many other animals apparently, struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). With the onset of shorter days and cooler temperatures, our chickens turned from entertaining little creatures into cannibalistic, carnivorous fiends. This is the conversation detailed in an online conversation I had with one of my coworkers.

 

Denise: 12/3/2009 5:13pm

What do you know about ducks?

Julie: 12/3/2009 5:15pm

Well not very much. They are in class Aves (that means they’re birds). They have webbed feet. Sometimes they’re named Daffy or Donald. Sometimes their liver is used for pate’. You say “canard” for duck in French. Does any of that help?

 

Denise: 12/3/2009 5:16pm

More no than yes. Why are you working so late?

 

Julie: 12/3/2009 5:18pm

Well, I mainly just like to dawdle. Why are you wondering about ducks? Is one of yours sick? My favorite duck is a wood duck; they’re real pretty. Does that help?

 

Denise: 12/3/2009 5:26pm

I don’t think it’s a wood duck. So for some time, since birth in the spring actually, the duck and the chickens have lived in harmony. Last night I went visiting teaching, and I leave the coop door open so the chickens and duck can go in at dusk and then I feed them and close the door. Well, my parents, who are out of town had a delayed flight and ended up not coming home, so they needed their cat fed. Their furnace has gone out and so I also had to make sure their pipes hadn’t frozen, etc. By the time I made it home, it was nearly 11:00, well after dusk. I saw the neighbors cat on its way home, but this isn’t an unfamiliar sight, so I thought little of it. I closed the coop and went inside to bed.
Our birds aren’t free range. We let them out from about three until nightfall where they can forage, etc. Today, the chickens came out and the duck. His entire tail is essentially missing and bloody. After mentally freaking out, I caught him and, naturally, brought him in the house and put him in the bathtub of water. I mean ducks in the wild like water, right? The water turned pretty red with him in it and he splashed a lot and drank some. He didn’t seem to like or hate it, so I started thinking about what to do. I was going to put him in a box in the basement, where it is warm, but I don’t have a box that big. So I did the next best thing and put him in our shower because it can easily be hosed down afterward and it is enclosed. I put a towel down for him to lay on and gave him food and water. I don’t know what else to do. If I were a person with common sense, I would likely haul him to the vet, but with Christmas coming and some unexpected swine flu medical bills, we’re not exactly loaded right now. I don’t know if it’s best to leave it and let it heal or try to bandage it? Right now he’s okay, but I imagine about 2 or 3 a.m. he’ll start quacking and that will be not a good thing and if he dies in the shower…my poor kids. This is why I’m not an animal person.

 

Julie: 12/3/2009 5:36pm

Wow, that’s intense. This is not professional advice, but if it were me I’d see if the wound seemed like it had scabbed-over, or if it looks infected. If it still looks just bloody then I would try to bandage it and maybe put some Neosporin on it. If it looks dry and scabby and the duck is energetic enough to keep quacking I’d just send it back to the range. If it looks infected and the duck is acting sluggish/strange I would consider the vet or a quick and painless guillotine. (Don’t hate me for the last suggestion).

 

Denise: 12/3/2009

I don’t. As I said, money is tight right now. He’s sort of listless and mopes. I don’t want to put him back outside because chickens are ruthless. As I was putting them back in this evening, I noticed especially on the feathers of the white ones, blood stains on their necks. It’s disgusting. I don’t know if I can kill it. I might have to have my husband do it or something. I feel awful. What if it was something as simple as the cat attacked it, scratched it a little perhaps, and then the chickens, in their dominating nature, pecked at it until it looks like it does. It will take a lot of Neosporin. The wound is probably like 4×6 inches.

 

So I brought the duck in the house and, not finding a box of a suitable size to house him in the basement, put him in the shower for a few days. The smell was intense and being in the early stage of pregnancy, I at last borrowed a cage from my parents in which to house the sick duck. He lived there for about a month, healing slowly. One day Matt let him out at the same time as the chickens and he was again pecked until he bled. During that same time, they pecked and killed one of their own kind, the black and white speckled one. She had just laid her first egg. The duck was a sucker for the chickens. Every time we let him out, he immediately went to sit in front of the chicken coop.

One night, a week or so before Christmas, I wasn’t feeling well. I took some Tylenol PM, which apparently has a sedative in it. I put the kids in bed and then went to close the chickens in. The duck, who had been out with the chickens again, this time without such disastrous results, had settled himself in the coop. Not feeling well, I closed the door and shut him in for the night. The next morning I found him bloodied and maimed on the floor of the coop. We threw him away.

Since then, they’ve injured and eventually killed another. We are down to three chickens. I don’t feel that they will be replaced when they have disposed of themselves, but it seems as though I am not always in charge of those decisions. Clearly ducks are meant to be ducks and chickens meant to be chickens.

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A Most Expensive Jack-O-Lantern

If you were to look at our family Halloween picture, you would likely note that none of our pumpkins are carved. There is a highly rational explanation for it. About a month ago we got a visit from some family members, who confirmed what my husband was already convinced of – our kitchen knives were less than desirable. So a couple weeks after their visit – when we were supposed to be preparing for a camping trip by buying groceries – I found my spouse in the grocery store listening to a salesman give a pitch about knives. The climax of the story is he bought the knives and brought them home. Fast forward a couple weeks to Halloween Eve. We took the pumpkins in the house and began carving with the new ever sharp knife set. The first pumpkin had the top cut off and my husband helped our oldest child remove the seeds before beginning to work on carving his own. As you may well imagine, pumpkin guts on a slippery knife handle are a recipe for disaster and as his slimy hand slid down the handle and onto the blade of the knife, my husband cut through three of his fingers. This caused him to throw the knife, which grazed our daughter and landed in the baby chair. Fortunately the baby was napping.

After determining that he needed stitches, I told my husband I would drive him to the clinic. He went to shower. (You know how doctors won’t work on a patient if he’s stinky). Half an hour later we had arranged to drop the kids off at my sisters because she doesn’t really have much else to do on a Saturday besides attend to my children, and we were ready to walk out the door. At that point, my husband announced that he would just drive himself to the hospital because as the blood was no longer spewing from his finger, he must be cured. I advised him otherwise. He insisted on driving … so did I … I won.

As we were driving to my sister’s house to drop off the kids, my husband passed out. I calmly attempted to drive a stick shift while holding his head up so he could breathe. The oldest child, from the backseat, said, “Mom, Daddy’s being kinda funny huh?” Attempting to keep the hysteria from my voice I answered, “Yes.” We dropped the kids off and by that time my husband had come back around, insisting he hadn’t passed out. We drove to the urgent care clinic. On the elevator ride up, my husband started swaying and his eyes rolled back in his head. Being the concerned wife that I am, I rushed over to grab him to which he replied “Ha Ha,” in very nasally tones. Sometimes he thinks it’s funny to toy with my emotions, but I assured him if he really did pass out, I was going to let him fall on his face and break his nose.

Long story short, seven stitches and several hours later, carving Jack-o-lanterns had just lost its appeal.

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