Duck Tragedy

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So far this spring, the news here at Solace Farm has been pretty upbeat.  Sadly, today is a look at the darker side of farming.  We lost the little ducklings that we hatched in our hands on Thursday :( The baby ducks spent Thursday, Friday and Friday night in a box in the house, snuggled up to a hot water bottle.  Saturday morning they were quite lively - trotting and skittering around the living room and trying to swim in their  3" water dish - so I moved them out to the broody hutch with the mama game hen and her babies, and they seemed to be perfectly happy.  Liam checked on them after a while - he said they looked fine, snuggled under "mama", and I never got a chance to go back myself what with canning garlic scapickles, picking and drying strawberries, and processing our honey for the year.  Today (Sunday), when I got out there to take a peek, both babies were sitting in the corner, alive - but barely.  Their heads and necks had been completely stripped to a bloody mess and their eyes were gone or at least not functional.  If that beepity-beep-beep hen didn't have babies we'd be having her for dinner!  I am furious at her - and myself for not checking more frequently.  Caleb put the poor things down, it was really the only thing to do at that point.  It's just heartbreaking when we try so hard and think we've made it (little triplet runt goatling in April) and then something else just ruthlessly voids all the hard work.  

I've learned over the years to (at least try) not to take things for granted, there's just no way to know what's around the corner.  This really hit home for me when I was pregnant with Liam.  After losing my first baby just before she was born, the second time around I had almost a paranoia (although you know what they say about paranoia - in this case "they really were after me"!) about getting to the birth without anything going wrong.  Then I realized that a safe pregnancy and delivery were the least of my worries.  After that came SIDS, cars, rabid animals, anything that can hold more than an inch of water, bad food, Halloween razor-apples, diseases, meteors, you name it - I realized that I would never be "home-free" when it came to the safety of my child - that I would only stop worrying when he or I die.  That actually put my mind at rest somewhat - there's only so much I can do against forces of nature, so I'll do what I can and that's all I can do.  

Anyway, I hate to have to share the bad news about the ducklings, but I also don't want to make it look like life on the farm is all happiness and charm.  There can be quite an ugly, disappointing, frustrating side to it as well.  Not to sound too cliched and trite, but the only thing I can really do is learn from it, and be much more careful next time I graft babies onto a hen.  

On the topic of disappointing - but not nearly so bad - we harvested honey on Saturday.  Our beekeeping friend loaned us an extractor, so we didn't have to just pick up hunks of comb and squeeze like last year.  Out of the 4 hives though, we only got any honey out of one and a little bit.  One hive was split off earlier this year, so it's not too surprising that it wasn't just loaded down, but the others weren't exactly overflowing with bounty either.  They all looked healthy, which is good, and there is lots of brood comb - also good.  There was sign of at least 8 queens hatching out, though, and with only 4 hives, even if all of them replaced an old queen that's still 4 swarms that formed and left our hives.  I guess the positive spin is that we're populating the woods with honeybee pollinators :)  Our answer to Colony Collapse Disorder - feral bees!  The end result, though, is that we harvested something like 8 quarts from the 4 hives, while last spring we got 11 quarts from the single hive we had then.  We were hoping to be able to sell a little extra, and have lots for the next year, but this is probably not enough to get us through the year at regular honey use.  I was hoping to start using honey to replace store-bought sugar - but maybe next year.  

I hope my next update of life on Solace Farm is a little more upbeat - I'll check back in a few days.

Comments

truth-telling

YEs, the other side--a good , hard reminder for us all.

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