Fear and the Mud Puddle

As many of you know I my family and I are now the proud farmers of 6 ducks.   We used to have 7 but I managed to kill one (well it died, but in order to protect the hearts of my children I will not divulge the rest of that story).  This has been an interesting addition to our lives as my kids learn about farming, about the difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs (great way to start a birds and bees discussion), as well as dealing with death.  I told my children before we went and bought the ducks that we would not be taking extraordinary measures to heal the ducks.  I found out that my youngest talks very matter-of-factly about Hazel’s (yes she had a name) death while one of my sons takes the death deeply to heart.

Lately though I have found that free-ranging our ducks has taught me a great deal about human behavior.  This is a lesson that I think that all of us know but I need to be reminded of lately.  We got ducks for several reasons:

First, because everyone else had chickens and I wanted to be unique.  Second, because they are better egg producers than chickens and are supposed to be more hearty.  Third, and the reason that we looked at it in the first place is because our yard has a big pond.  The pond is a seasonal pond, but in the winter it is the size of a basketball court (or a hockey rink) and is very deep.  We thought that the ducks would love to have this huge, well protected pond to themselves and the few wild ducks that use it.

Here is the problem; they won’t go in it.  They have had multiple opportunities as they wander around our yard they have come within feet of the shoreline but they are more comfortable on the ground than in the water.  One day I tried to set two of them in the pond and they shot out of there so fast that you would have thought the water was boiling (it wasn’t).

So one might think that they don’t like water, as though ducks could ever not like water.  They LOVE water, they splash in their pools everyday, they make a mess out of their water trough, and they will go sit in any puddle they find.  In fact, they will walk around our house and sit in the puddles in the middle of our road before they would walk 20 feet to get into our huge pond.  For the ducks the answer to why this is would have to come down to two things.  The first would be how they were raised.  They are almost a year old and we did not take them out into the pond when they were ducklings.  This is partly due to the fact that the pond itself was only a mud puddle up until about 2 months ago.  This also is partly due to fear, a mud puddle is small, controllable, and friendly.  The pond is huge, deep, and full of unknowns.

How often have I avoided the amazing things that I was built for because it was unknown or because I felt scared.  There is no doubt that those ducks would love that pond, and I hope that I can get them to turn the corner.  Ducks were made for ponds not puddles.

Bart Lesco: Duck Farmer

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Some people that have called me in the past few years will hear me answer the phone in one of three ways.  The first is the casual “hello”.  The second, if someone is more familiar with me is “go for Bart”.  The third I reserve for family which is a throw back to when I grew up in Wyoming and worked at a couple ranches as a youth and young adult.  “Lesco Ranch” is the greeting that will usually be given.  Why do I do that?  I am not sure.  I guess I always wanted to be a rancher that owned lots of land and livestock.  I have friends that live in Wyoming that are living the life that would probably say one of two things.  Either “Are you nuts?” or “Your not cut out for it, Greenhorn”.

Two years ago my wife asked me what I thought of raising chickens.  I told her no, everyone else has chickens and when I was young I did not enjoy cleaning the chicken coop or fighting with the hen over who was going to get the eggs.  Only to find that the egg that I was fighting for was covered in poop.  I am not opposed to raising livestock, and chickens are probably the easiest form of livestock to care for.  But based on prior experience, and because we knew people that were doing it, I was not interested.  Something about me does not like to do what other people are doing.  This is true of everything in my life.  I don’t plagiarize, not for ethical reasons, but because that is someone else’s ideas (okay I do have some scruples, ethics does play a part in it).  I don’t like using recipes, and if I do I hardly ever do it the way that it is written.

Then about a year ago my wife asked me what I thought of raising ducks.  Now this interested me, I had never raised ducks before, and no one else was raising ducks that I knew of.  So I looked into it.  The more I looked into it the more I thought it would be fun, and hopefully at the very least, not lose us any money through egg production.  So now I am a duck farmer, a term that my teenage self would have scoffed at and maybe thrown an empty Mountain Dew can at.

That made me think about the terms that I use to define myself.  As a teenager I honestly always new that the terms husband, father, Christian would be part of my life.  I was born with son, brother, grandson, male.  But today I find that there are terms that I use to define me that my teenage self would have never seen coming, and as I stated before, would have possibly laughed at.  Pastor, mountain biker, duck farmer, renter.  The term that my wife uses to define me on her cell phone is “lover”, I like that one.  But today I am less concerned about what my teenage self would think of me today, that guy was an idiot.  Not to say that the terms that I use today are the greatest in some cases.  There is a part of me that is not okay renting a home.  I was always told that you should own your own home.  But I have to tell you, I love where I live.

There is a real problem with listening to your younger self in order to define who you are.  Not only is it asking a teenager to define you, it is allowing someone other than yourself to define you.  That person, for me, no longer exists.  And like I stated before, he was an idiot.