Another duck hiatus

May 23, 2021 • 1:10 pm

Duck farming has becoming almost insupportably difficult these days, making it hard for me to think about, much less write about, les affaires du monde. I am exhausted, distraught, and foodless, though the ducks are all alive and healthy. No lunch for two weeks: no time!

Bear with me as the situation develops. We may even have another new brooding entering the pond before too long, in which case I take a header into the mud.

Honey is terrified, her babies largely abandoned, and Dorothy has turned psychotic, expelling one of her own brood “the Pepper”, who forages and lives alone and whose welfare, along with that of Honey’s oft-abandoned four ducklings, is our utmost concern.

So, if you want to discuss anything EXCEPT DUCKS, you can do it in the comments below.



51 thoughts on “Another duck hiatus

  1. I like the use of the word “lagniappe” at WEIT, especially as an uncountable noun when so many modern online sources make up examples using it as a countable noun.

    1. let’s talk about psilocybin mushrooms and the new trend in using them to treat depression. Michael Pollan wrote about it. Johann Hari wrote about it. Sam Harris talks about it and interviewed people who study it, Joey Santore (Crime Pays but Botany Doesn’t) did a podcast about it, the internet is full of stuff about it, so what’s going on? Is it like the whole “marijuana is medicinal” fad where everyone claims pot is the new kale, the next yuppie shamanic superfood, or is there some actual benefit behind it? I’ve never tried them, not even recreationally. I’ve never even seen them, so far as I know anyway.

      I’ve suffered from serious depression since my early teens, serious anxiety since well, probably birth or shortly after, but talk therapy goes only so far, meditation is so-so, and the meds, well, do I want to get fatter, go limp, and have suicidal thoughts? Is that seriously supposed to help? I know they didn’t help my family members. So what’s the straight poop? Maybe I try it and find out it really is turtle all the way down…

      1. Not new though – I just read TC Boyle’s Outside Looking In which is set in 1963/4 & involves a group of psychologists ‘working’ with Timothy Leary testing the drug. Basically getting off on it. I know it can cause psychotic episodes – is there evidence it can cure or rather treat that sort of thing?

        1. I haven’t read that one, but I did TC Boyle’s novel about hippiedom, Drop City. I thought it was pretty damn good, though when the commune decamped from California to Alaska, the story seemed to wander away from Boyle a bit.

        2. It is certainly being bandied about as a treatment for depression. That Sam Harris was talking about it made me take it a bit more seriously. I know there are some studies taking place, overseen by professionals, not Wavy Gravy (is he still alive?) or the remaining members of the Dead. I think the psychotic episodes, which I assume you mean something more severe than a “bad trip” and possible at a certain massive dose or for people with schizophrenia. The bad trips are possible which is why the books and podcasts recommend a professional sitter or guide who helps work you through the rough stuff but it’s better than LSD since it doesn’t last as long. I dunno, it’s just something that keeps coming up and I’m curious but I’m also a scaredy-cat.

          And once again, I have no idea why my comment wasn’t a stand-alone, but instead landed under someone else’s unrelated comment. 🤷‍♂️

      2. The fella Sam Harris did a podcast with a couple months ago, Dr. James Fadiman, has expertise on the topic and published a book a while back The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide. You might want to check that out.

        I’ve got some experience with psychedelics — psilocybin, mescaline, acid, some others — but it was over four decades ago and didn’t involve any type of therapeutic treatment, so wouldn’t presume to offer advice. David Anderson, who comments here regularly, seems knowledgeable on this topic, so if he stops by this thread maybe he can point you in a beneficial direction.

        Good luck.

        1. Thanks. Not that I expect to find a place to explore it anyway, out here in bumpkinville. The middle of the Midwest isn’t exactly known for being on the cutting edge of, well, anything.

          The fact that I’m commenting so much this weekend shows I’m fighting the black clouds again and why this topic is on my mind. I dunno why but I tend to comment when I’m really miserable and I also tend to say something stupid and then feel like an ass and stop commenting. Perhaps I should stop BEFORE that this time?

          1. I think everyone who comments here regularly has had the experience of looking back at one of their own and thinking, “Jeez, that was dumb.” (I know I have.) FWIW, I don’t recall coming across a comment by you that struck me straightaway as deserving to have that label hung on it.

      3. Then there is micro-dosing with “ecstasy” (MDMA), which superficially would seem more targeted to easing the effects of depression. I know squat about it but there is a lot about it online I see.

      4. I’ve spent the better part of 30 years now studying psychedelics (mainly LSD but psylo’n is pretty much the same) in a serious academic sense (although I dropped out of medical school) and in a personal context. I’ve defended possessors of them in court where I was an defense attorney.

        I also write about them for publications: one of my recent articles: (reports on depression, addiction and PTSD)

        and one here

        I get published at TheModerateVoice and the articles are syndicated variously later at other publications.
        D.A., J.D.

      5. I’ve read M Polland’s book and used psilocybin recreationally in my teens. Hence my interest.
        Going on my personal interaction I could see how in a controlled environment it could work.
        My understanding from what I’ve read of those who have tried this therapy, the hallucinogenic properties alters their perception to life being vast and consuming. Aided by music, art, pleasant surroundings, foods and the facilitators overpowers your personal conflict. Getting to experience that losing of oneself I can see how that could reduce tension and leave the individual in a harmonious altered state albeit briefly. These people talk of oneness and dare I say it close to a religious experience without the god part hopefully.
        You do get to experience exceptional vivid colours and other heightened sensory sensations from what I remember.
        This is just my thoughts on what I’ve read and experienced and have made some assumptions from that.

    2. Agreed, lagniappe is a great word, and one I always associate with WEIT. There are other good words that turn up fairly regularly here, like pecksniff, ineffably, lugubrious, and postprandial. I don’t think I have ever used any of those in conversation. I am sure I could come up with a much longer list of WEIT-isms if I invested a little time. (I also like to notice each day’s euphemism for “died” in the Hili dialogues. Sometimes I see one I’ve never run across before.)

  2. The effects of population growth that exceeds resources (including social distancing space) are well known. Vertebrate animal examples are legion.

    1. Exactly so.

      We are having a delightful wet May in London, which suits me- what is the weather like over the po…. oops! …over in Chicago?

    2. The bigger problem is that the ducks don’t understand there is an unlimited food supply. I’m sure with Jerry’s efforts, he could feed two large broods without any resource problems as he has done in the past. This year is different for whatever reason. I blame Covid. 😉

  3. It sounds like Dorothy, unfortunately, is more than a little dotty. Those of us who grew up in chaotic households surely are empathetic with the ducklings.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear of your troubles, Jerry. Hope things get better.

    Anything but ducks…. This is only peripherally duck-related, but I’ve been meaning to ask about it for a long time. Has anyone else noticed that there seems to be some kind of intimate conversation happening in the chat field of the duck cam? The chats are half in English, half in (I think) Hindi, and have been going on for months. The romantic part of me is imagining two lovers who have found this method of communicating with each other discreetly. Or have I misinterpreted?

  5. Since politics is not big on this site I shouldn’t mention the good news – Trump is pretty much twisting in the wind since he lost his normal way to mouth off to everyone through the internet platforms. His own blog is not doing so well but take heart, he is getting his airplane panted up so he can go on some more rally tours. Hopefully the prosecutors in NY will not take much longer. I would mention a couple of books – one I want to get is Zero Fail, about the secret service but last I checked at the local book store it is sold out and it may not be in stock for a while. A really hot book right now. So I settled for another – The Premonition by Michael Lewis. This one is all about the pandemic

    1. Michael Lewis fan here. I’m listening to The Premonition on Audible. Unfortunately, the narrator is beyond awful.

  6. My approach to ducks and other wildlife here is hands-off. I don’t shoot them, harass them, or feed them. I just photograph them. I can’t help but suspect that your interventions, while well-meaning, are ultimately harmful.

    1. Not too sure I would agree with that. We have lots of ducks on limited space in Wichita and they do what ducks do. The little ones make it some and many do not. They are not feed, in fact the residents are told not to feed them. All that means is they are a little wilder but because it is urban, they let people get closer than they should. They just don’t have the fear. It is likely that small space is not so good for ducks as they cannot spread out and get away from others. But the success rate is probably much better their in Chicago than most anywhere in the wild.

    2. I think it’s hard to say. You have a wise point of view, but there has been no such thing as “hands-off” in this situation for a long time; even the pond itself is artificial. Interventions of all kinds occur all the time around the pond, whether intentional or not.

    3. My situation is very different from Jerry’s. The ducks here are wild, abundant, and of several species. They have predators. Botany Pond is tiny and urban. It’s kind of a miracle that ducks even breed there. The question is: How many broods of mallards can Botany Pond amicably support — with unlimited food? The data suggest one.

    4. I have bird feeders out, and I’ve been doing that for nearly thirty years. I’m in a different ecosystem – desert, rural, on the edge of the wilderness, but I don’t notice any particular harm to the species I feed.

      And here they have a reliable source of water, too.

      I think it’s really hard to say whether feeding the ducks is harmful. It may make things difficult in a small space, but if they locate in a more wild setting, you really don’t have any way of evaluating the risks and benefits to the species vs. where they are at Botany Pond. What other difficulties might replace some overcrowding in a different setting?


      1. Bird feeders can be a problem. I’m not saying yours are, but here in Idaho and Oregon people were strongly encouraged this spring to remove their feeders for a few months, due to a salmonella contagion moving in from the west.

        1. Bird feeders need to be cleaned every couple weeks to stop salmonella and other contagions, especially if there are known cases (or remove them like you said). I have two identical feeders that I swap out so I can thoroughly clean/dry without any disruption. Bird feeders made from vinyl also make cleaning a lot easier as wood can be difficult to adequately clean. The vinyl ones are pricey though, but worth it as they last “forever”.

    5. PCC will not be happy to read it, but I tend to agree with you. Duck farming is driving him to distraction. He is sorta stuck this year. Next year I would take a long vacation starting in March if I were him.

  7. I will talk about ducks.

    One of Jerry’s fellow emeriti gave a talk to alumni back in June 2009 titled “The Biodiversity of Botany Pond.”

    He mentions that a brood of 12 (I think – need to rewatch) ducklings at Botany Pond fledged themselves after being abandoned by their mother. So there is hope.

    I think two things are going on. First, mallards (according to Wikipedia) live 5-10 years. Honey is older than five and may be almost geriatric. She may not have the strength to defend her turf. Second, Dorothy has learned well from Honey. Last year, Honey stole her brood. Dorothy learned that aggression works. She is probably stronger than Honey and uses aggression to her advantage.

    1. Yowser! The link is a video of a talk with slides. The camera tracks the speaker the entire time (from skimming through). Every once in a while there is a glimpse of a corner of the screen. I am not a big fan of educational videos anyhow (i would much rather read something) but i don’t get leaving out all the visual information.

      1. The video sucks but the talk is real good. LaBarbera is more excited about dragonflies than ducks. I rewatched most of it. Correction – a mother had five (not 12) ducklings, two died, the mother abandoned the remaining three when they were three weeks old. The ducklings fledged themselves.

        1. See? With the slides it would have been clear that there were 5 and not 12. I’ll take another listen to it later. I like dragonflies/mosquito hawks.

    2. We have a different situation. We have raised hybrid ducks for eggs for over 20 years. Their behavior is very different from chickens, and their “maternal instincts” are questionable, We can always fish eggs out of the pond or creek, and I have watched them squat and pop one out in the middle of the driveway.
      Their values are just different than ours,
      Bottom line is they are good company, and they provide breakfast.

  8. Ohhh! No talk about ducks? OK, then prof: let’s talk about decolonization and racism. We hear very little about them in the media these days! 🙂
    Good luck w/ your feathered friends.

  9. I am making a small crusader’s sword, and engraving it with the phrase “Hello, I would like to chat with you about Jesus Christ” on the blade, in old/middle English. The other side will have a crusader’s cross.
    It is supposed to be satirical.
    Years ago, when I wanted to start learning the banjo, I made myself one. I inlaid the headstock with “Holy Roller” in abalone, and covered the fretboard with inlays of snakes, bottles of poison, and the words “Mark 16-18”, the verse the snake handlers use as the basis for their beliefs.
    My Dad thought it would offend people, but those folks don’t see the satire. I bet the sword will be the same. Besides which, almost nobody will be able to read it. It looks vaguely like Tolkien Elvish script.

    I spent today finishing the layout and starting on the engraving. I guess religious satire might be of interest here, and it is certainly not about ducks.

      1. And will likely point out some obvious error on my part which completely changes the meaning of the text. Which, by the way is
        Ƿesað hale, ic ƿille ƿið eoƿ sprecan be Criste
        However, I worked on it for most of the day today, so it is too late to change or modify it. I used a combination of hand engraving and acid etching, and it looks reasonably period-accurate to me. I will send images once it is finished.

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