The Shepherd's Staff
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The Tale of Three Little Ducklings
"Please help!" cries our neighbor, via text, upon discovering that someone has abandoned a domestic mother duck and two ducklings at Dos Picos pond. "This is urgent, because coyotes will get them. I will donate their enclosure if you can give them a home."
We deliberate for approximately eight seconds. "Yes," I reply.
Two hours later, our neighbor Gloria arrives--duckless--to meet me, and assess our potential as stewards for the feathered family. I offer up prime real estate: the deep shade under a huge Brazilian Pepper tree right smack in front of the Nature Lab. (It is fortunate that we have so many trees, including the magnificent Pomegranate Palace, to keep kids sheltered during summer months.) Gloria seems satisfied. I'm glad. Not everybody sees our 24-acre ranch as the land of opportunity. Some just see the needs for repair. This, however, is the perfect opportunity to talk about ecosystem restoration in the context of regenerative education (and I do, to anyone who will listen).
Gloria goes home to start hunting for a duck coop, while we scout out possible pond material. (Resource-consciousness is part of our educational approach; we buy nothing new, unless we absolutely have to.) There is a round metal water trough in the old horse pasture and we roll it over, thinking about the charming little ramp we'll build with reclaimed lumber.
But the next morning, terrible news. Mother Duck and one duckling have been eaten by a coyote. Our collective spirits sink.
Hope rises yet again when Gloria's search and rescue efforts pay off, and the remaining duckling is recovered. On top of this, Gloria finds a beautiful new chicken coop that Tractor Supply can deliver the same afternoon. Orphan duckling waits in Gloria's laundry room. Meanwhile, Gloria tasks me with getting another duckling to keep Orphan company.
I'm headed to the pet store to make the necessary purchase (our Rules of Green-Thumb are gentle guidelines, not rigid demands) when someone just so happens to send me a post from the Buy Nothing Facebook group in Ramona. Ducklings, approximately the same size and age as Orphan, are available for free! I take two.
Gloria then brings Orphan over for a grand introduction. Orphan waddles tentatively out of his crate, into the open enclosure where his new companions await. He moves toward them. Once he gets a few inches away, they all burst into conversation--a little chorus of chirping whistles--and then, to the profound delight of our watching eyes, they start cuddling. Rubbing their heads on each other's backs, pruning each other, and eventually settling into a contented pile of three.
So that is how Orphan, now named Pico, came to Little Shepherds Nature Lab. And in case you're wondering, we named the other ducklings Peep and Pumpkin (pronounced pun-kin).
You can help feed the ducks!
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