What makes me a farmer

(Warning: This article describes the death of a duck)

 

Usually when I do my morning chores the first thing I hear is the goats. They get very excited when they see me and their breakfast coming and they make a racket that I’m sure all the fine folks of Lahave just love hearing at 6:30 am. The runner ups for that noisy “good morning” is the ducks. They quack and flutter around their little coop until I open their door and then they burst out to swim, run, and stretch their legs.

This morning it was quiet. The goats were nervous. The ducks were very, very quiet.

I opened the duck coop to find what was left from a raccoon visit. One duck half eaten, pulled through a crack in the wall where a board had been pried off. Our male duck, Mr. Curly Tail, alive but suffering. And Roscoe (who has survived two previous raccoon attacks and a car) was alive, but not looking good. His eyes were swollen almost shut, his neck red, his feathers disheveled. I lifted Roscoe and held him. He was shaking and a little floppy. I put him in the kitty pool to rinse off. While he sat, I took care of the dead duck. I buried her in the forest. And then I lifted Mr. Curly Tail to check him out. It was awful. He looked mostly fine. His body untouched, no blood, and the eye facing me looked bright. But he was standing hunched up, with his neck curled downward, his bill touching the floor. The other side was not good. He had been bitten on his neck, most of it gone. He was bubbling and oozing from his bill and when he tried to quack it made a wet squeak. I couldn’t leave him like that. I called the farmers in my life who might help, who maybe could come over to “take care of it”. But noone was around and that left me.

I have never killed anything in my life. I mean that. I rescue bees and bugs from water buckets, I pick up turtles (and any living thing) off the road. And on this farm I never, ever have killed a single animal. It’s something I have not been ready for, not wanted to participate in. But today I had to. This poor duck was suffering in the kind of way that makes you look away, that makes feel deep pity. Thanks to google I was able to watch a video on “how to humanly kill a duck”. It wasn’t hard or complicated. It was easier then watching that poor duck suffer. I held him down with my knee, used one hand to hold his head and neck, and the other for the knife. It took 2 seconds, he flapped and wiggled a little. And then it was Peace.

I buried Mr. Curly Tail next to his mate in the forest. And Roscoe has gone off to die or to hide. We have been searching for him all day. We cant find him anywhere, and that leaves me feeling worse because I don’t know what’s become of him.

A few moments after all this had happened the geese came down to the brook with Bea and I. They followed us around and we watched them swim, and preen their beautiful curly feathers. They were so beautiful and peaceful swimming in the sunny brook. The goats were happily munching their breakfast, the pigs joined us in the marshy part of the brook and happily rolled around in the mud. And surprisingly, it all felt as it should be. Calm, sunny, peaceful. Happy animals eating and sleeping, and rolling in the mud.

Today I understood what having a farm is about a little bit more. It’s been another lesson about the living and dying of my sweet animals. And how quickly after the storm the sun can shine.

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