4.04.2013

How do you honor a duck?


How do I honor the duck who gave me, and the farm, two years of her life as a faithful chicken? How do I use the last eggs she laid in the days before she was taken by a fox for her breast?

Pascale was a favorite of ours. She had been through four farms with us. She would often travel in a wax harvest box in the cab of the truck. Keeping one eye trained on Nick while he drove. She was raised with Florence the chick. Saturday was the third and final attempt on her life.  A Carolina hawk and a suburban Boston fox had tried in vain in years past.

She is our first fatality of the season. A reminder that the fox kits are hungry and the mamas are in search of easy food.  Pascale was our mascot. The duck that thought she was a chicken. Everyone who visited knew her and most grew quite fond of the chicken who could swim.

When we followed what looked like fox tracks accompanied by a dragged body we found her, dead on a boulder and missing her left breast. Nick fetched her for me and reminded me of my options for burial. The ground was frozen. The dogs were hungry. The fox was, likely, still hungry.  Unable to break ground and unwilling to see the dogs destroy her on the front lawn, I walked her to the stone wall that boarders my favorite hill on the property. I lay her there, on a particularly noble looking stone and gave a eulogy similar in its emotional absurdity to so many I have given before. I hoped the fox would come back for the rest of her. Perhaps stalling a further attack on the chickens by a few days.

Now we are left with a duck-less chicken coop and seven of her big lovely white eggs. I'm thinking of making a soufflé. I once took Nick to a restaurant in San Francisco that only serves soufflés. Savory and sweet. I remember walking through the back kitchen on my way to the washroom and there was the largest bowl of eggs I have ever seen. I love the decadence of a soufflé. So it will be. Something loud and ostentatious to honor the biggest and most vocal chicken we had.

34 comments:

  1. Although I don't live anywhere near a farm right now, due to graduate school, I plan on having a small one one day, and your blog is such an inspiration!

    Your animals are one of my favorite parts of this blog, and every time one of their times on the farm comes to an end, I mourn their loss from afar. My condolences for sweet Pascale.

    Love,
    Steph

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  2. Poor Pascale :( sorry for your loss my dear.

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  3. So sorry for your loss. Your love for your animals is inspiring. I hope spring comes your way soon.

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  4. This makes me so sad. :( Poor Pascale. I'm glad you plan on honoring her beautiful life.

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  5. I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet chicken that could swim. A soufflé with duck eggs sounds like a wonderful way to honor her. I love that you could convey her personality so well. It shows how much you appreciated her and how lucky she was to live her life on your farm.

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  6. i'm so sorry about pascale. my very best chicken friend, goldie, the only chicken i ever raised from chick to hen, also got eaten by a fox, and although i am accustomed to chicken and duck casualties, it made me extremely sad. she followed me around everywhere and was such a good little friend. she was the only chicken that let me hold her. we were a true team!
    a souffle seems perfect to honor pascale. i think she would be proud.

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  7. Oh Kate, big welling tears in my eyes to read this.

    So often I come here to escape the overhead lights and closing walls of my corporate cube. To sigh over colorful laundry in the wind and those delicious skillet potatoes that Nick is so good at making.

    But these posts, they are the ones that remind me that the grass of farm life is not always greener.

    And to Pascale, I had the good fortune of holding you as a little duckling and of watching you waddle to the coop in the evenings, amongst your chicken friends, at sundown in Vermont. You gave us a good chuckle and a lot of joy. I am sorry to know that you are gone. You will be missed far and wide. Rest well.

    Love,
    M

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  8. This is yet another beautiful and poignant post that you have written for a much beloved animal. You may be starting to get used to it as you mentioned to me the other day , but I know it never gets any easier for either of you.

    You most certainly honored Pascale every day of her life with the same care and love you so abundantly show for all your animals.

    much love, Dad

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  9. I am so, so, sad to hear about Pascale... but I believe Pascal and Florence have been reunited, somewhere in this great universe.

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  10. Kate, I have a question. Recently I discovered the absolute JOY of a duck egg, and am finding it difficult to return to the oh-so-much-smaller chicken egg. I am going to be acquiring some backyard chickens soon, but was cautioned against a duck because they were so much "bigger, more destructive, bigger poop". What was your experience? Is it an experience you'd repeat?
    So sorry for the loss of Pascale. That must have been terribly difficult to find.

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    1. Ducks are wonderful but they are considerably messier than chickens. Their poop is somehow more offensive :) But the main thing with ducks is access to water. Ideally they are on a pond or a creek, so they can clean themselves. I've seen some farmers fill kiddie pools with water for the ducks to swim and clean in. That water generally has to be re-filled every day so that it isn't a pool of poopwater. But they are fun! I hope you get a couple to add to your flock!

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  11. A souffle seems perfectly appropriate to me. A celebration for your beloved friend.

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  12. Kate, so sorry to hear about Pascal. It brings tears to my eyes and it is a beautiful thing how you honor your beloved animals. I have recently started following your blog and find it so beautiful, real and inspiring. Take care!

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  13. Sorry about the loss of your duck. We have lost 2 chickens in the last 3 days (old ladies) but our sweet chicken lover, Sarah (almost 9), grieves each loss even though she has been through this for years now.

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    1. ah! It certainly is a sign of spring with the hawks and the foxes out and hunting!

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  14. You have brought me to tears. I am so sorry for your loss. Hopefully her and Florence have been reunited somewhere out there.

    -Suzanne

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  15. Sooooo so sorry for the loss of your dear Pascal. These creatures. They find their way into our hearts, don't they. And we miss them so when they are gone. Hugs to all who are missing the chicken duck.

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  16. Oh Kate, I feel like this would hands down be the most emotionally difficult part of farm life--- appreciating the life of all the creatures that surround you, yet being privy to the cycle of life that leaves a division between the hunters and the hunted. Sweet Pascale, and what sweet and compassionate farmers you both are.

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  17. Dear Kate,Thank-you for sharing the story of your beloved Pascale. Can you tell me what type of duck she was? We are looking at having a few ducks and her markings are so beautiful. My condolences.

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  18. Hi Julie, Pascale was half wild wood duck (her father) half Saxony. Her father was a very ambitious little duck who lusted for the Saxony that lived on our pond. Saxony's a great and huge! Good luck with them!

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  19. I am so sorry you lost your friend.

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  20. I've read that the only way to deal with the inevitable loss on a farm is to become calloused to it, stop naming your animals, and deal with it as you would with any other part of 'business.' However, I think the opposite is true; I think maintaining the link with your fellow creatures, the respect, the love for them, is the only way to truly farm, and though it's bitter at times, it makes the sweet times even sweeter.

    I fee for ya. I hope your souffle is the best damned souffle there ever was.

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  21. So sorry to hear that you have lost the lovely Pascale.

    We have 3 geese hat think they are chickens, they were hatched and raised by one of our hens. They live in the henhouse refusing to go into the 'Goose Hoose' specially built for them. The one good thing is they have deterred many a fox attack, when you see three full sized Chinese Grey Geese running at you with their 5 foot wingspan at full stretch I think it's enough to scare any fox away.

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  22. Oh poor Pascale, what a wonderful life she must have had. I bet her eggs make wonderful souffles.

    Jen | sunny sweet pea xx

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  23. Hello Kate,
    I've read your blog for a while now but this is my frst comment.
    I thought you'd be happy to know that you must have honored Pascale very well for yesterday, a couple hours after reading your post I met with a duck!
    As I live in a city near Paris, France and the duck was standing in my way, on concrete, I couldn't help seeing it as a sign...I felt like Pascale was winking at you somehow!
    It made my day :))
    Sending you comfort and joy,
    SL

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    1. Hi Sophie, that story made my morning. Thank you!

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  24. Aww... I'm so sorry for your loss. Sending you lots of love. Also I read your other post and I have no doubt that you'll be a fabulous super hero mom.

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  25. I just watched a neighborhood dog jump the fence, and attack some chickens of my neighbors. It was awful so I can empathize, and I am sorry for your loss. What a percocious little guy!

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  26. future farmer looking for some simple adviceApril 8, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Hi Kate-

    I absolutely love your blog and am sorry for the loss of your beloved duck. I also have a question for you- I am graduating from college this Spring (with a similarly non-farming related degree as you) and jumping into what I hope is a long life of farming. I am working on a farm this summer in a very hot place and I would love your advice on good farming clothes for women, especially for hot weather. The item I am most in search of is a durable but light weight pair of pants. An advice? maybe it would make a good post for your 'farming advice' series you've been doing on and off!

    thanks!
    -L

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    1. Hi L, I will try to write more about this at a later date, but at the risk that I don't, I would recommend a pair of 2nd hand cargo pants. 2nd hand because you will destroy them, cargo, because while severly outdated in style it is awesome to have so many pockets for gloves, knives, rubber bands, walkie talkies, etc...

      Though, when we were farming in North Carolina it was so hot I couldn't ever wear pants. I wore jeans I cut off into shorts almost every single day.

      Good luck!

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  27. I am so sorry about your friend duck! I love that last picture of it going forth out of the coop for the day, you can almost sense the happy joy of being a duck amongst hens. What a precious image.

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  28. Sorry, Kate :( What a marvelous life she lived - free and loved. I recently picked up 4 little ducklings, and I adore them. We are working on thwarting our own fox here, too....
    -Jaime

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  29. Our family also had a duck that thought he was a chicken. He would follow the flock around and quack his little heart out every time we came out to the garden. He even saved the life of one of our chickens by attacking the eagle that tried to take her.. the chicken was badly injured but managed to survive. Unfortunately for us, an owl ended up getting the other chickens and the duck right on new year's. We will miss our duck chicken (and the other chicks too) very dearly, as I'm sure you will miss sweet pascale.

    p.s. our duck also used to watch us with one eye and a tilted head while we wandered around the garden. It's something I'll miss ):

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    1. Hi Faith! How exciting to hear you had a duck chicken too! They are the best! Maybe we should start breeding duck chickens :)

      Your description of your one eye/ head tilted duck in the garden made me immediately envision our Pascale.

      Thank you for sharing.

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