I'm blaming Fred, Myrtle and my great, great grandparents. The weather has been so nice the last two weeks that I haven't been able to come inside. After six months of Minnesota winter, generations of farming blood will not allow me to pull my hands from the dirt in exchange for tapping a computer's keyboard or slinging paint. Even once flowers nest in their pots and vegetable seeds snuggle into the warm earth, I sit outside. I sit by my waterfall drinking in the lilting and bubbling sounds of birds and water. I am keeping an eye on the poultry.
Fred and Myrtle, a mallard pair, took up residence in my backyard waterfall shortly after the St Paul Art Crawl in April. I think timing played a big part in my attraction to my new friends. Art Crawl is an intense time of talking to hundreds of people about my art (a.k.a. baring my soul and opening it for public discussion by strangers and friends). I was open to the idea of hanging out with beings that offered no more judgement or criticism than a sideways glance. I've spent hours crouching next to Fred and Myrtle with my trowel and plant babies. Yes, of course I talked to them, they are very good listeners. Even with their heads tucked under their wings, they'd open one eye and listen when I spoke.
I tried to give them privacy when they were having sex, but it's impossible. Duck sex is loud and draws a crowd. The squawking, flapping, splashing and technique the male uses...biting the back of the hen's head and holding it under water....tends to get my attention and brings faces to the windows. When they are finished, the ducks calmly wash themselves and groom their feathers. That's usually when my husband would start laughing out loud and I'd hear a neighbor say, "Geeezzz"!
Fred and Myrtle began flying off for longer periods of time. I'm sure they found a more appropriate spot to build their nest. Ducks lay about one egg a day until the clutch is complete, usually 8-10 eggs. Then the female begins to incubate them all. After about a week of watching her sit, the male takes off. Myrtle will hatch and raise the ducklings alone.
This morning Myrtle arrived to eat under the bird feeder without Fred. She stopped eating for a moment when I walked up to her. Her look seemed to say, "I don't have time to play therapist today. I'm here to grab a quick bite then I have to get back to work." She stayed less than 5 minutes, then flapped back to her hidden nest. Heavy clouds started rolling in and the sky grew unusually dark for 9 am. It's going to storm. There will be no gardening today. As Myrtle said, "I have to get back to work".