Coyote Run Farm
My Ducktoral Thesis

Don't try this at home

The following was taken from a conversation in the autumn of 2000. The original email was written in 1993, five years after purchasing the farm. The author was taking some grueling university courses at the time with the prospect of doing a thesis in the near future, so please excuse the jumpy, malformed prose. Although identities have been removed to protect the not-so-innocent, the text remains largely unaltered. It has a certain manic charm that way.

Subject: a little information about ducks you might need some day
Date: Once upon a midnight dreary

Ahhh, I see how you missed out on the duck story.
It was written before you were invented in 1993.
First, a little background.

In an e-mail thread in December, we were exchanging ideas as
to what we wanted for Xmas (our families had been bugging us),
when I asked the question:

"What do I get for my parents, though?"

Farmboy responded seven minutes later with....

> 1. How about just a few ducks to get started... :^)
>    (NEVER try this at home)

One hour 24 minutes later I responded with....

> The stepmother has ducks everywhere!
> On oven mitts, cannisters, spice racks, on wall hangings,
> salt and pepper shakers......   DUCKS!!!!  AAAAAUGH!!!!

Two hours 29 minutes later....

> No, I meant real ducks, ask me later.

Two weeks 5 days later I followed up with....

> This better be good.

Ten minutes later....

> you DIDN'T actually get any live ducks did you?
> That was a joke.  If you did, you will rue that day the rest of your
> life.  It's not the ducks that are so bad (they're ok) it's all of the
> other animals and fun chores that follow.  Did I tell you the farm-story
> about....

One hour, 32 minutes later my mailbox was bombed with this!

===================================================== >8 chopchop ====

As I explained, it's not the ducks that are the problem.
Let me clarify.

Everyone in the country (who didn't grow up there) buys a fixer-upper
-- either the house or the property.  They fully expect to work on
these things first.

But first they happen to get a few ducks - they sound like neat,
different and interesting pets - and they are.  We got Muscovies
since they eat *large* amounts of larvae and bugs, particularly flies.
They don't eat flowers, vegetables or just about anything you want to
keep.  They also lay pretty good (somewhat rich and large) eggs.
If you don't like them, guess who's coming to dinner.

Now, you have these ducks.

Well, they need shelter.  Have to build a varmint-proof coop for
them which includes a cement or wire mesh floor so weasels and
others can't tunnel their way in at night.  Hmmm, they also need
clear (non-frozen) water.  They also need food in the winter when
they can't forage.  They need to be kept out of drafts.  They aren't
really affected by cold itself but you should have a method for
heating their area if the outside temperature gets down around 0'F.
These and other considerations will probably run up a bit of a bill
which will postpone one or two other things.

Having said all of that, it didn't seem too bad.

Now maybe chickens might be interesting.  After all, you already
have a coop and free-range chicken (home-grown) is supposed to be
excellent (it is).  Before you can object to this, someone in your
family has bought several chickens.  (this is not necessarily the
pattern for each family but it is typical)  Now you discover that
ducks and chickens can't be placed in the same coop.  Better build
another and outfit it.  Again, no big deal.

Now certain individuals should be warming up to this farmer stuff;
these animals are fun and do very foolish and entertaining things
(unlike their owners :^).  You come home one day to find goats or
sheep (or both).  Unfortunately, the stalls seem to be inadequate
for these little suckers (they weren't supposed to be able to jump
that high).

Now comes the major restructuring.  The barn has to be cleaned.
This is much worse than it looked and takes a week of 10 hour days
shoveling crud and manure.  You then discover the floors and
beams need replacing --> several weeks and some expense (assuming
you have a used wood supply).  New stalls must be built.  Straw
must be purchased.  Oh, look here, it says in the book that they
need salt and trace minerals (particularly selenium in southern
Ontario) better buy some of those too.  Oh, and we need medication
for lice, fleas, worming.  When do we shear them?  Oh dear,
winter is setting in.  What will we do about hay?  (expensive the
past few years).  The days are getting shorter too - we need light
and eventually heat in the barn for those really cold days.  Have
to call an electrician in to install a box (major expense even if
you do all of the wiring yourself).  Gee, this hay loft is a
shambles --> more repair , more money and time.  Now lets try to
seal up this barn against the drafts, only none of the doors really
fit.  Might as well replace the latches on the stalls since the
animals seem to be able to open what's there.  (do you know how
much hinges cost?)  What about water in the barn or is it
acceptable to carry a dozen buckets from the house twice a day?
Barn should be whitewashed with a chemical sterilizer so the
critters don't catch anything.  Also have to store all their food
in a proper place.  Usually what's good for one will kill another
and they love eating the wrong food.  To get rid of the rats you
have to get barn cats which always end up becoming house cats
anyways.  When you lets the critters out to graze/browse you
discover that electrical fencing (which isn't cheap) either
doesn't hold them in and solid fences (for the top 1% income
bracket) are the only real solution.  In addition , someone in
your family who shall remain nameless gets suckered into the idea
that the only way to protect your critters at all times when they
are outside is to buy some donkeys.  They will kick and kill
anything that intrudes especially dogs (wild or otherwise).
So you put them in and discover your donkeys don't seem to relate
to the generations of peaceful and cooperative behaviour between
donkeys and herd animals.  If you are lucky, none of your critters
are trampled before you can get them out of there.  Of course
there is no market for donkeys so you are quite stuck with them.
For that matter, there is no market for critters.  At this point,
some money would be useful (food, phone bill, etc) so the flock
has to be expanded to become economical.

I think you should be seeing the pattern here - you did say you
were good at that.  Lets just say the situation deteriorates

I hope this is sufficiently clear.
I suggest in future you read the messages a little more
thoroughly and above all - don't get any ducks.

===================================================== >8 chopchop ====

So now you know.

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