Making it count

As enamored as we were at the first thought of bringing some cute little ducklings into our home, we did not immediately commit ourselves to this endeavor.  There was much thought and discussion that went into the decision – did we really know what we were doing? Could be provide for their needs? Why did we want them – pets? eggs? meat? Could we possibly bring ourselves to eat them?
We wanted to make sure that we knew what we were getting ourselves into, and to really be honest with ourselves about how we would feel about eating them after spending so much time keeping them alive and well.

After much consideration, we felt comfortable bringing living things into our home(stead) and raising them to provide food for our family.  Our plan was that this would initially come in the form of eggs, and then once the egg production ceased, the birds could then give us meat (the original idea was that by the time they were done laying, we would’ve given them some alone time with a drake and would have new layers to take their place).

And as difficult as it would be to eventually kill our little quackers, we felt confident that raising them in healthy conditions, killing them humanely and using their flesh to sustain ourselves, we would in a sense be honoring their life. We could do it. Not easily (at least not at first), but if we were content eating meat, there’s no reason to feel badly about being a part of the process from the beginning.

So we did it. We brought home two sweet, fluffy, noisy (free!) little ducklings in March. And they have been so great! With the exception of the squirty poo (which redeems itself in it’s soil-building qualities), and the inefficiency of our make-shift kiddie pool ducky pond, the ducks have been just amazing. It was so much fun to watch them waddle around the yard, picking at the grass, charging at the dog and winning the heart of every child (and many of their adults) who walked by our yard. Apparently (according to our neighbor), there was even a bus that would stop and let the kids all watch the ducks playing in our yard every morning.

And the eggs.
Oh the eggs.
Glory be, those eggs are tasty! By themselves, with some greens and hot sauce, on a bacon or sausage sandwich – in cookies and cakes and brownies.
Like little ovoid-shaped bits of gold, those eggs. 2 eggs every morning.

Plans have changed a bit, though. With our impending move, we had decided that we’d likely being eating them sooner rather than later. But that was still months away.  And then the Blue Swede got sick. Poor thing could hardly draw a breath.  So we gave a prayer of thanks for her plucky spirit and nourishing eggs (okay, Shaun prayed and I cried), and then Shaun mercifully ended her suffering and buried her in the yard.  We toyed with the idea of just eating the other right away, but I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. Okay, so maybe it had something to do with the thought of being duck-egg-less.
But that poor duck has been very agitated without her friend. She waddles around quacking loudly, looking under the garden cart, around the back of the shed, behind the pool, around the corner, quacking and quacking and never quite settling.  It was difficult to decipher whether she was upset or if I was just projecting emotions.  Then she stopped laying, which is typically a sign of distress.
So to keep with our goal of being kind, mindful animal owners, we have decided that it would be better to eat her now than to keep her alive and unhappy.

Tomorrow morning we will butcher and dress our first home-grown duck. It will not be easy – at least not emotionally – but our hope is that we approach this fully prepared, with swift hands and a grateful heart. We are blessed to be provided for on this earth, and I honestly hope that this will be the first of many animals to traverse our land and end up on our dinner table.

And I’m hoping that the meal shared with a good friend tomorrow evening will be a tribute to the duck’s short but sweet life here on our land.

Roasted Duck with an orange fig glaze, roasted rosemary potatoes, and greens (method of cooking yet undecided)
Oregon Pinot
Decadent Chocolate brownies (made with duck eggs, of course!) and vanilla ice cream.


One response to this post.

  1. Jessica,
    Sorry the time came sooner than you expected. I have great respect for your “mercy” butcher. I too feel the same way. At one point I had to end the life of a sick hen while Jeff was out of town. Not easy in the least bit.
    Now butching is becoming second nature (for Jeff…I pluck). Then again, I dislike saying “second nature” because it seems so plain. So heartless. I know that you two don’t have human children (the animals are like kiddos) but it has been so important to me that they be aware of life and death. It is important to me that they learn to respect both equally. At this point, both of them have chosen to help take part of the butching and dressing of our birds.
    I’m not so certain with duck but I know with chicken it tastes much better after it sits in the fridge for a couple of days. It relaxes the muscles.


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