One baby duckling died. Sad, but not as bad as I expected. On Saturday Pip became more and more moribund as the day wore on. We could tell she was trying to coax the ducklings out of the kennel, so we built a little ramp so they’d be able to get in and out, and I noticed she was very quiet when we were working around her. Too quiet. When I picked her up and examined her, she’d lost a huge patch of feathers from her breast. Then I examined my hands – mites all over me! Mites look like moving pinpricks on your hands and once you spot them, you start scratching all over. Luckily I still had some mite powder from Smitty’s ‘ride from hell’ down in the horse truck from Auckland, so Colin gave her a good dusting and we put her back with the ducklings. But a few hours later she was still not good. I noticed her drinking copious amounts of water and breathing really heavily, then not long before it was dark she’d gathered the ducklings under her and gone to sleep with her face slumped down in her food. I didn’t think she’d live through the night, and worried how I’d raise three baby ducklings.
But, next morning she was perky as ever, but with only two live ducklings. One was pushed out into the cold, and dead. Maybe she did this on purpose. Maybe she calculated that one duckling had to be sacrificed to save herself and the two other ducklings, otherwise they would all perish. Animals do this. We were so delighted to see our beautiful Pip alive and well we got her out of that kennel into the sunshine and on to the grass. She loved that, and relished being free again after patiently sitting on those eggs for four long weeks. Now she’s in a new run, with a wooden wine box for a house, covered and protected by Smitty’s winter cover, and really mothering her two ducklings.
Meanwhile, I trekked up to see the two equine members who are shedding their winter coats, and Smitty as usual looks like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. His old coat gets a bit tangled but I don’t comb it off because it offers some warmth as we creep into spring, and yet the weather is too hot for him to wear his heavy winter cover (and, being the gentleman he is, he’s loaned it to Pip).
The horses are as fat as butter, up there in Farmer John’s hill paddock, all 110 acres of it, because the clover’s growing faster than Smitty, Lily or the ewes and lambs can eat it. Most of Farmer John’s lambs are Dorset Down cross, hence the smudgy-black markings. Note how big this lamb is, and it hasn’t even been weaned yet. You hear so-called gourmet “experts’ moaning about how New Zealand lamb is not really lamb because it’s too big to be lamb. Well, what would they have us do? Rip lambs from their mothers’ breasts and send them to slaughter?
I love the way the ewes and lambs watch Taja and me so suspiciously as we walk up over the brow of the hill:
Then scarper when we get too close for comfort.
As if dear old Taja would hurt them anyway. I can trust her with anything – I bet she’d pick up one of the ducklings in her gentle mouth without harming it.