Wednesday, August 5, 2009

About Peas and Ducks

Our house sits on, technically, about a quarter acre of land - a standard sized lot back in the 70's when our house was built - but, in practice, we also have a strip of land about 20 feet wide that runs the whole length of our property on one side. Officially, it is county land, but the county does nothing to maintain it and were we to leave it alone the weeds would be waist high in no time, so - after years of weed wacking it several times each summer - we finally decided, earlier this spring, to till the ground, pull out the weeds, fence in two different sections, and plant as much stuff as we could. We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, watermelon, canteloupe, scarlet runner beans, corn, green beans, wax beans and peas.

We should probably have harvested the peas last week but with temperatures in the 100-106+ degree range we didn't even want to step outside, let alone do any work in the garden, so the pea harvest was put off until today. Having waited to pick the peas, I was working in much cooler temperatures, but the peas had now grown either too large or too dry to be very good for eating. The ducks, however, love peas in any condition. So, after filling my basket with all the peas, I pulled up a chair on the patio and started splitting open the pods and dropping the peas onto the ground, whereupon the ducks immediately realized what was going on and raced over to gobble them up faster than I could drop them.

Patience is not one of Maggie's virtues, however, and she soon realized that she was tall enough (being twice as large as Minna) to reach her head up onto my lap in order to eat the peas straight out of the pod without waiting for me to drop them. She was so excited over this sudden abundance of an otherwise rare treat that she stood next to me, her entire head and neck vibrating with excitement every time I opened a pod, sticking her bill in to grab as many peas as possible. This would have presented a problem for Minna had Maggie been a more fastidious eater but, fortunately, this was not the case - Maggie's eating style more closely resembled that of Cookie Monster as she spilled roughly half of whatever she ate on the ground, where Minna was able to snap them up.

As is often the case when you have food anywhere in the backyard, the chickens eventually came exploring to see what treat was being offered today. First Penny, and then, a few minutes later, Daisy. Sakari must have been off laying an egg or taking a dust bath. They were, at first, sure that the peas must be some form of blueberry, judging from the speed and pleasure with which the ducks ate them. (Blueberries being, of course, the best possible treat in all the known world, according to the chickens.) The arrival of the chickens on the scene threatened to make my job much more difficult as the chickens will readily pick on the ducks if they happen to come too near each other, but - fortunately - Penny soon decided that the peas I threw her way were nothing like blueberries and not worth the effort it took to chase them down and eat them, and she soon moved on, Daisy in tow.

I finished dropping the last of the peas and took the basket inside, leaving Maggie and Minna on the patio, searching for any peas they might have missed. I am just now realizing, though, that this treat for the ducks may make for unpleasant diapers for me to change in the morning...

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