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Thursday, February 04, 2010

A tale of two pastures

The Ancona ducks at Stony Run cannot live with the Khaki Campbells, though their thoughts are almost entirely occupied with doing so. The reason is that the K.C.s were raised with Sylvester and Susannah, the White China geese. Sylvester regards the K.C.s, known as the Gertrudes, as part of his harem and the Annies (particularly Andrew) as interlopers.

So the Annies, in the south pasture, crowd up to the fence every morning and gaze soulfully into the eyes of their Great God Sylvester in the north pasture, ducking their heads in the universal duck gesture of submission.

And Sylvester gazes balefully back upon them, snakes his neck, and tries to bite them through the fence. He shrieks, flaps, runs up and down cursing, all but smashes against the wire in futile rage.

"I will smersh you all down into the mire, pluck each of your feathers one by one, then have your tiny little brains for lunch," he assures them.

"Yes, glorious, invincible, handsome, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and all-seeing lord and master of creation, how may we best serve you," they bow, scrape, and murmur demurely, in reply.

No, Risa and Beloved really did try them all together. It lasted about twenty minutes and wasn't pretty. And Sylvester will, unless foxed or coyoted, live for a number of Annie generations. Beloved, to whom they all belong, plans to breed Annies. So it's apt to be the Tale of Two Pastures forever.

Each group is penned separately at night. At first Sylvester's imprecations were hurled right through the night, but a visibility barrier placed along the chicken wire between them brought welcome silence. See no Annies, hate no Annies, apparently. But in the daytime: war cries. How the neighbors cope, they haven't said ...

The Annies are so constant in their Sylvester worship that they have left most of their pasture untouched, choosing instead to wear a long trench in the ground by the fence, where they pad back and forth in Sylvester worship, while he trumpets, snakes, and hisses inches away.

There is a back door to the south pasture, leading into the yard and gardens, round which the north pasture and most of the orchard are wrapped. It would be lovely to have the Gertrudes and geese in the garden at this time of year, but they live with the chickens. Chickens plus garden beds would be anathema, as the beds have no side walls and can be obliterated by them in half a day.

Or less. They have been known to reduce Risa to tears in minutes.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Risa deliberately left the back gate open, as she's back and forth a lot, planting fruit trees in the south pasture and collecting firewood. The Annies might discover this option or not; she left it to them.

After about eight days of watching her go back and forth, someone apparently did the math and investigated. After lunch a couple of days ago, Risa stepped out on the front porch and there was an explosion of white feathers in the lavender patch close by. "Oh, no. She's caught us. We're doomed" seemed to be the gist of what the Annies were saying among themselves, as they beat a hasty retreat.

But gradually they became inured to her movements, and, emboldened by the sight of their Great God Sylvester and his duck and chicken minions working the orchard, they expanded their territory and, just as she'd hoped, began the work of clearing the garden beds of slugs, snails, pill bugs, and cucumber-beetle eggs.

Sylvester registered his vast displeasure, of course. But the Annies, for once, could not be bothered. "What's it to ya?" they cheekily responded, and one and all they plunked their bills back under the straw.

"I wish to communicate those parts of my life which I would gladly live again myself." -- Thoreau's Journals


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