Gardening with Jennifer: Part 1: Duck Tales

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Duck Tales, or The Dangers Faced by Urban Wildlife and How They Bring People Together
By Jennifer Rotermund

I'm a professional gardener and an NPR geek. If I happen to be working alone on a client's property, I typically use my ipod to keep me company, tuned to the local NPR station. It was on one of these days that I was passing my time pulling English Ivy by listening to a panel discussion on Animal Rights. I was fascinated by one panelist's definition of the term "sentient being" - an animal that has a Central Nervous System and can experience pain and suffering. Working through the garden, I mused over the obvious connections this term drew between us humans and most animals we commonly think of around the world. This connection has particular meaning and depth for me because my business focuses on creating gardens that bring people and wildlife into a closer relationship with one another - I create backyard wildlife habitats.

I was deep in thought about all things related to animal rights, wildlife gardening, and sentient beings when I was suddenly aware that a man had approached me from down the street, on the sidewalk. Noticing immediately that my deep thoughts coupled with the continued conversation being piped through my ipod's ear buds had completely drowned out something this man had just said to me, I turned his way, shut off my ipod and had the following interaction:

Me: What was that? (for some reason, this is the thing I automatically say when I've missed what some one has said to me. I can't explain and I can't change it.)

Man on the Sidewalk: (cautiously standing about 20 feet from me) Have you seen any baby ducks around?

( awkward silence passes between us...)

Me: Um, no (as I looked around me on the sidewalk just to make sure I hadn't suddenly gained an entourage of ducklings).

(...another awkward silence passes as this man and I continue to look at each other...)

Me: Did you lose some baby ducks? (given Seattle's eclectic urban farming culture, I knew this was real possibility and I needed to ask.)

This man went on to tell me that there was a very distressed female duck a little further down the road from him waddling around in circles, quacking loudly and repeatedly in front of his house. Whether it was the part-bird-part-person image featured on the logo on the side of my truck or if it was just simply the fact that I was the only other person around, it was clear that this man was hoping I could do something about this distressed duck situation. As I turned and began walking in the direction that this man's out-stretched arm and pointer finger indicated, I saw the female Mallard duck in question turn several quick circles and sit down on a storm drain grate as if it were her nest and I instantly knew the source of her distress - or at least I hoped I was wrong about what I suspected. 

I carefully approached the duck - who looked directly up at me and quacked repeatedly as if trying desperately to communicate something (personification, I know, but you weren't there) - then looked past her, through the grate, down about 5 feet into the remaining cesspool of collected street run-off and saw eight little, fuzzy yellow lumps swimming frantically in tiny circles and peeping wildly.

(to be continued)

Jennifer Rotermund is the owner of Gaiaceous Gardens (an urban farming & wildlife gardening business with a teaching garden/urban farm and certified wildlife habitat/ sanctuary located in Shoreline). She is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Habitat Steward and is a Docent with the Krukeberg Garden.


Anonymous,  September 26, 2011 at 1:17 AM  

Duck Soup! Or more accurately, ducklings in the soup.

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