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Ducks and Disaster - Years One and Two!  

 

At first the ducks were afraid of my potted vegetable garden and that was just fine with me. But there always is that one curious duck and once my garden was discovered, that marked the beginning of the end. The ducks loved the tender green leaves and the tiny baby vegetables and the fact that all they had to do was jump up and pig out. They ate everything in sight. That was the first year!

The second year my husband decided to build me a large high planter for my vegetables. He actually went out and measured the ducks at shoulder height and then calculated how high they could possibly jump. He spent days - and if you knew my husband, carpentry is not one of the loves of his life - building this huge planter. There was much cussin’ and fussin’ on his part especially when he realized how much potting soil would be needed to fill a planter this size. His project was eventually finished and together we stood there admiring his handiwork. So did the ducks!

And, when I planted my lovingly grown-from-seed, stocky little seedlings - tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini and basil, the ducks admired the planter even more! I should have realized that something was up - but at this point, I was too new to ducks in my garden to appreciate their ingenuity. My little seedlings grew into little plants and then into bigger plants. They began to flower and then to set the tiniest of fruits and vegetables. My mouth was already watering with the taste of that first ripe tomato ... red and yellow tomatoes with basil and virgin olive oil ... Italian sweet, multicolored peppers slowly sautéed in olive oil ... grilled white and pink striped eggplants ... and, of course, my wonderfully aromatic zucchini bread which never tastes as good when made from anything other than my home-grown zucchini. Unfortunately, the Pekins’ mouths were watering too! All those visions of baby gourmet vegetable “sugarplums” were dancing around in their heads, as well!

One early summer afternoon, my husband and I were relaxing on our terrace, sipping a wonderful glass of wine, enjoying the water and watching Mrs. Whiney, one of our pekins, as she sat in the nearby shade longingly studying our planter box. How idyllic! My garden growing, ducks lounging all around, boats gliding past in the creek. Heaven for me!

My husband and I watched as Mrs. Whiney got up, stretched her chubby white body, preened her feathers a little, and began to stroll around. At this point in our lives, we had no clue how clever ducks could be and we were unaware that we were about to witness the error of our ways! Regrettably, my husband and I, in our extensive calculations,  had neglected to account for the fact that Pekins can fly a little and, much to our dismay, we quickly found out that a little flight was all Mrs. Whiney needed. A little jump from higher ground, a lot of flaps of her wings and there she was in my vegetable box. We tried to chase her but she would have none of it. So, before she trampled my seedlings in her fright at being chased, I gave in and let her stay resigning myself to the fact that I probably wouldn‘t get to eat any vegetables this year either! (Father Nature, our wonderful local nursery, sells some big vegetable plants this time of year, doesn’t he?) But devouring my vegetables was not what she had in mind. Mrs. Whiney just sat there watching the butterflies flutter by. After an hour or so, she agilely - for a Pekin - jumped off my vegetable planter and left - without even so much as a glance back. I got up and started to survey the damage which, surprisingly was very minimal. That’s when I discovered two perfect large white eggs nestled in a little depression between two of my tomato plants. Now, how could I, “Grandma Duck” ( as my husband lovingly ??? calls me) keep this soon to be mother from her child? The answer, of course, is I could not. After all, what’s a couple of tomatoes anyway. I could always go to our local farm stand! And, we do have wonderful ones on Long Island!

Surprisingly, over the course of the next two weeks, she laid ten eggs in a beautiful nest lined with pine needles and some of the leaves from the more distant eggplant and pepper plants. None from the zucchini, however, I guess the leaves were too prickly for her delicate little chest. It was quite a sight, our mother-to-be sitting in the shade of two lush green tomato plants, quietly clucking duck lullabies to her babies who were still curled up in their eggs. This went on for a week or two and, as we both enjoyed this serene maternal scene, I almost had my husband convinced that the sight of ten little yellow Pekins running around our vegetable planter would more than make up for having to buy our vegetables at the farm stand that year.

 

And then, out of the blue, Mrs. Whiney had a change of heart. I don’t know what happened inside her head. Maybe she was afraid of the responsibilities of motherhood. And, I’m sure we could all sympathize with her a bit on that point. Or maybe she knew that her eggs were not fertile and that there were no babies inside after all. I guess we’ll never know what happened. But all of a sudden, she voraciously ate the tomato plants which were shading her nest. She ate the basil which was growing in front of the tomatoes and then she polished off what was left of the peppers, eggplants and zucchini. And then, without any explanation whatsoever, she just jumped off the vegetable box and abandoned her nest. That night my husband and I, sadly for us and for Mrs. Whiney, but, happily for Mr. and Mrs. Raccoon and their kids, watched as the raccoon family hungrily polished off all the eggs, licking their fingers with great gusto!

The score was now Pekins: "2" - Maria’s Vegetable Garden: "0". Definitely time for a new game plan!

Coming Soon - The Third Year!

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