For as many years as I can remember, (well at least since 2003 when I married my husband and moved to the farm), a pair of mallards have nested in the pond adjacent to our house in the pasture. Each spring they arrive from the South to make our little pond their home. They don't stay all summer, just long enough to rear their brood of ducklings to the age of self-sufficiency.
I love to watch them, and feel somewhat of a kinship with the mother duck. As a mother of five, when I have all of my children out in public with me, I often find myself counting; making sure all my children are accounted for, and they will often hear me call, "All my ducks in a row please!", which they know means to get in a single file line behind me. While this request may seem stern to some, I assure you, it is quite necessary, or my family could easily clog up a grocery isle or sidewalk. And lets not forget safety.
The number of ducklings the mama duck has varies year to year. One year it was eight, one year it was only three. Last year, it was five. Five little ducklings, just like me I thought.
On the farm, here in rural Vermont, we are blessed with rolling acres, fenced pastures, sprawling meadows, creeks and ponds surrounding our home. Perfect duck habitat. When our labs were younger, and more energetic, they adored having the ducks as neighbors. They would chase them full speed tails a waggin'.
But the ducks were much more stealth than my dogs, and as soon as the first paw would reach the edge of the pond, they would take flight in a familiar path: from the pond, across the road, directly over the house, and down to the creek in the back yard. Toby and Cody would give chase, (the long way of course), around the house, down the hill, into the valley, and finally to the creek bed, only to have those ducks, (with the wink of an eye I would wager), back over the house and safely to the pond. This game would repeat itself until the boys tired themselves out and they found a nice comfy spot spot in the shade to recover from their unsuccessful "hunt".
Last summer would be the second summer having five children, this year will be the third. I wonder how many ducklings will safely hatch. I never thought about it much before, but I wonder if there are some that don't make it, the pond is also home to some rather large and prehistoric looking snapping turtles. I know this because the turtles will also, at times, make the trip from pond to creek. Unfortunately for them, they are not so swift, and they have been known to make their way a little too close to home for my taste. These fellas will take your finger off, seriously, beware.
Sadly, we're down to only one Labrador retriever now, faithful old Toby. he was a wedding present from Bob's cousin. He was born the day before our wedding, 11 years ago. These days he spends most of his time lounging on a comfy dog bed, the porch, or in the grass. His spring has faded, and chasing the ducks I gather does not even cross his mind.
So five ducklings. Five children. This year, we will wait and see how many ducklings mam duck is blessed with, and my little brood will watch along as well, all in a row.