• Cara Van Leuven

Good Shepherd

Tom has been pushing me to revisit this blog in 2018. As frigid temps led us to today, I thought heavily about what these temperatures mean not just for us and our own personal struggles, but for our poor animals, especially those who live outside.

I fancied a blog about heat lamps, beds of straw and a fashion show for the horse. I wanted to discuss the importance of protection from predators and frostbite. Realistically 90% of people who read this blog already have a solid appreciation for bitter cold as their fingers bite while they spend hours outside to clean a stall, fill water buckets, feed, etc.

There is no easy way to discuss blurred lines and hard decisions other than the letter I sent a very long-standing best friend today. She was my chosen flatmate in London after we met by a trash can at JFK on our way to study abroad with Syracuse University. I reached out to Tevis to have her name a duckling born on our farm on National Best Friends Day. She chose the name Topaz in honor of her grandmother. I picked the duckling that literally dried while I held it to my chest.


Topaz is worse than he was several months ago. I thought his aggression toward me was frightening, but Tom insisted a few good kicks would set him straight.

For the most part he's backed off - he did come at me Christmas day, but I kicked him and he waddled off.

Let me give you a layout of our fowl farm:

3 Geese

4 Ducks:

2 Drakes, 2 Hens

We have a 10x10 AKC kennel that contains an adorable red dog house, heat lamp, heated water trough and straw to act as a wind barrier. We added a roof to protect the fowl from any outside predators.

You would think that would suffice for a total of 7 water birds, right? No. It's not enough and it's because of a hen named Marmalade. She was an emergency Muscovy we got a year ago when John Dalton was murdered by a raccoon, we're guessing.

Marmalade is considered a lavender-colored duck, but let's be realistic, she simply looks like a washed-out brown. Every duck on the history of our farm has despised Marmey. All ducks and geese alike beat the shit out of her. EXCEPT Joey Boots, our older drake. He loves that damn hen. He caresses her when she's frightened, stands guard and sacrifices eating so she can have as much feed as she pleases.

Due to this pathetic hen and a love-sick drake we went out and bought a 2nd dog house, over-sized crate, 2nd heat lamp, 2nd heated water trough, etc. They are housed independently from all others. It's their own personal love shed.

Of course, we let everybody out during the day so they can explore and stretch their wings. Well, Topaz (who has taken to raping his sister AND a chosen goose) now wants Marmalade to call his own. A fight ensued between Joey Boots and Topaz yesterday that would have gone to the death had Tom not been around to break it up.

All this resulted in a very embarrassing call to our rural vet. I had to ask if they could euthanize Topaz. They're not equipped for birds and equally dumbfounded as to why we're not chopping the duck's head off. The second call came to a friend - her fiance is swinging by tomorrow to end Topaz's life.

Beheading vs. shooting is yet to be determined. I'll never have you name a duck again. I'm sorry for this great disappointment.