The Nest in the Night

Posted by & filed under livestock, raising chickens, reflections.

June is around the time when my life starts to become something that is no longer mine. Waking and sleeping are done with a sense of duty. Eating and drinking become less satisfying, since they’re done mostly to avoid withering away. Emails pile up, blogging becomes impossible, and seeing friends means tricking them into helping to do the hefty jobs around the farm that would otherwise take one or two all damned day. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times that I regretted not just keeping my ass fat in a desk job.

Last night was one of those nights. A duck decided to nest in the brush outside of our window. I was awakened at 2 am to the sound of a hysterical bird running for its life from some unseen menace. I could make out very little, but the upright carriage of an Indian Runner was easy to identify in the night. I leapt up, opened the window and screamed at the mystery predator. I yelled to Neil, “Something is killing a duck!”

Neil has heard this before. This farm is giving me anxiety so bad at times that I hear things in my dreams and jolt up from bed thinking an animal is being harmed. I’ve heard chickens being dragged from hidden nests (the downside to letting chickens free-range) into the woods by raccoons. Sometimes it’s real, and sometimes it’s an  imagined manifestation of a reasonable fear.

Half awake, I pushed myself feet first through the window and landed on the grass, falling over in the process. Once I was vertical again, I started running blindly toward the quacking sound. I’m in my underwear. I’m navigating the place from memory and from the crying of the duck. I can hear the doomed creature quacking near the vegetable plot.

Suddenly it all goes silent and I stop in my tracks. Neil calls to me from the house that he is coming out to help me. It’s dark and I wonder if I dreamt the whole thing.

He arrives a few moments later with a flashlight. We look in vain for the creature, who is no doubt in the woods being devoured as we clumsily try to figure out what in the hell just happened. I half acknowledge my nakedness, but care little. I’m disturbed that the duck could have been so close but that I was unable to stop what was happening.

At this point, Neil has Peach out and they are walking the path that we suspect the fox may have taken to get to the woods with the duck. I go to look for the area where the duck had been nesting and find two warm blue eggs in a nest of downy brown feathers hidden in the ivy. It was about 3 feet from the bedroom window next to the head of our bed. We slept as it attempted to incubate little lives. She was so close. We may have shared dreams.

I call to Neil, letting him know that I’m going back to bed. I walk barefoot through the wet grass with eggs in hand and I see the rabbits in their tractor looking at me, wondering if I’ll bring them food. I walk up the stairs and let the door slam behind me. My head feels like it weighs 50 lbs. I sit the warm duck eggs on the counter. They are clean and smooth. Perhaps I’ll fire up the incubator and try to replace the lost duck with her own genetics. Or maybe I’ll let the turkey hen sit on them since she does little else these days.

I am so tired. Nature doesn’t care how I feel. We are all just bits of dust floating on a breeze.

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