Magnetic North: Failure-To-Launch Ducks And Chicken Neuroses

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450px-Duck_pond.jpg

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Welcome back to Magnetic North, where fireflies light up the nights and the meadow wears a rainbow of flowers. As always by mid-July, we are awash in yellows: birds’-foot trefoil and buttercups. Then there are the purples of clovers and joe pye weed. The daisies: big, small and nearly invisible. And, to the foragers among us, of course, the itty-bitty strawberries hiding beneath leaves so close to the ground only a clever bear could sniff them out. My summer’s harvest of these fruits wouldn’t fill a tart shell. But I’ve got my eye on two fabulous wild raspberry patches that will fill a corner of my freezer.
 
That is....if I remember to go pick. Mainly because even with so many more hours of daylight, there seem to never be enough to get everything done. My to-do list of chores looks like the outline for a farm-based reality show. Take this entry, for example: move the mallards to the pond. Today!!! 
 
Fact is, I first made that move last month. Still have the scratches on both arms to prove it. Trouble is, you might notice should you visit my farm that there are no mallards on the pond. But there are 20 such birds, larding around under our deck and eating their fill of grass and slugs. Note to gardeners out there: If you have slugs and don’t want them, get a duck. 
 
But I digress. Paul and I get mallards each year to enjoy watching them swim, not to listen to them noshing and gabbling to each other underfoot. Too bad. This year’s flock apparently took a vote after a night or two in the willows at the pond’s inlet and decided to move back in with mom and dad. I believe in human terms this is called, “failure to launch?”
 
And so, as each day dawns, I vow to move them down to the water  - once and for all. First, I tried bribes…like the pied piper, only without the pipes. Instead I shake two red coffee cans filled with duck feed, a delicious marimba sound that brings them quacking and fluttering around me. Sadly, before I’ve led them to the pond’s edge, the little flying rats have gorged themselves once more on creepy-crawling yum-yums along the way and fly back to their deckside pad. Next, I set the dog on them. Then I threatened them with starvation. They laughed at me. Well, not really laughed. But they definitely snickered!
 
Next on my list of Herculean tasks is moving yet another flock of birds. It’s high time for the new barn rooster and his girls to go to the barn. However, timing is everything with chickens. Up until now, the birds have known only a large, airy but snug garage and their straw-filled kiddy pool crib. Their digs in the barn are ready, but I waver as to the right time of day to enforce the move. If I do it in daylight, it means catching all 10 of them - scaring the wits out of them and adding more scratches to my poor arms. But they would have hours of daylight to get used to the barn before dark.  If I do it at night, though, I can pick the birds up without a struggle. They can’t see in the dark and are super easy to handle. But they would wake up in a strange place and who knows what kinds of neuroses that might bring on.
 
As I ponder these weighty issues, I do envy the critters, both domestic and wild. My bunnies and birds and goats doubtless don’t worry about where their next blade of grass or slug is coming from. Much less where they’ll go to sleep after dinner. And the wild things, the two does out on the meadow with their three fawns...well, all they seem to care about is keeping the little dickens safe. And loving them. A lesson for us all, I think. 
 
And so, on these gorgeous summer days, with meadow flowers to count, naps to take in a sunny spot, and those two wild raspberry patches to keep an eye on, maybe the best To-Do is just To Be. Methinks I’ll give that a shot. The ducks and chicks can wait a bit longer. Heck, maybe even ‘til August!
 
Airdate: July 24, 2010
Program: 

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