Tag Archives: Gardens

Wild Rose Press Summer Treats and Reads Blog Hop (July 22-30)


Welcome to my stop on the hop. My summer treat? Gardens.  I especially love old ones, and summer is the height of their glory. Below is the garden scene from my award-winning Revolutionary War romance novel, Enemy of the King, book 1 in my Traitor’s Legacy Series. For readsI’m giving away the three book series (or your choice of titles) in Kindle or PDF to someone, maybe more than one person, who leaves me a comment saying they would like to read it and why.

lavender in the garden

Enjoy the garden tour and be sure to visit other blogs on the hop and enter the rafflecopter. Links below.

Into the Garden with Meriwether and Jeremiah:

Journey back in Time With Colonial American Romance ENEMY OF THE KING

Stone lions the size of wolfhounds sat on either side of the imposing front door as if to devour unwanted guests. Perhaps Jeremiah enjoyed their significance.

He seldom entertained and seemed happier seated astride a horse than in the company of most ladies and gentlemen. He turned the marble knob and led Meriwether out onto the crescent-shaped balcony.

Old oak alley

He leaned momentarily on the iron railing. “Feel that breeze.”

“Delightful.”

The cool wind fanned her hot cheeks. Lifting her skirts, she walked arm in arm with him down the brick steps of the gracious Georgian-style home.

Pleasant Grove had been built by his grandfather on a bluff above the Santee River and fashioned after the manor in Kent that Lord Jordan had been forced to flee in 1647 after fighting with Charles I, who lost his kingdom and his head. Fortunately Jeremiah’s Royalist ancestor had fared better than the ill-fated king and escaped to America with his young wife and her jewels. But his near capture by Cromwell and the loss of everything else had given him a wariness he’d passed to his descendants.

colonial williamsburg gardenWas Jeremiah secretly opposing a different king?

She cocked her head at him a little apprehensively. “Is there anywhere in particular you’re taking me?”

He smiled as if to reassure her. “Just farther in.”

“As you wish.” Being out here alone with him was like being in a glistening Eden. A thrush warbled from high above them in the live oak. Green-gray moss hung from its far-reaching branches and blew in the breeze, reminding her of the McChesney, her father’s largest ship, its sails billowing.

creeping thymeJeremiah held her back, the warmth of his hand radiating through her sleeve.  “You’ll spoil those fine shoes.”
He led her around the sprawling puddle she hadn’t noticed and onto the green mat creeping over the path.

The fragrant thyme scented the air as they trod on the tiny leaves and wound deeper into the garden. Newly washed hollyhocks, rosy balsam, and wine-red salvia gleamed. The glowing colors, heady fragrances, her arm tingling at his touch…stirred a pulsing awareness in Meriwether that she’d never felt in the house. There was so much she wanted to say, to ask, but couldn’t, and she darted glances at him.

Spanish Moss

He caught her eye. “What are you thinking?”

“Nothing of consequence,” she almost stuttered.

He quirked his left eyebrow at her; the narrow scar gave it a slightly crooked rise. “And earlier in the parlor?”

She glanced away from his searching gaze and focused on the toe of his boot. “Just chatter.”

“Are you truly worried?”

“Only as much as anyone these days.” Still evading his scrutiny, she bent and plucked a sweetly-scented nicotiana blossom.

Whote Nicotiana

He took the white flower from her hand as she straightened, setting her skin afire, and tucked it behind her ear. “I sense there’s much left unsaid. Why won’t you speak?”

Still battling the near irresistible draw of those blue eyes, she stared at his open neckline. “I prefer to listen.”

“Yet I would know what fills your fair head.”

“Perhaps you already do,” she said, hastily shifting her inspection from his bronzed chest back to the snowy blossoms.

His voice lowered even further. “No. You are not so easily read.”

boxwood hedge

Jeremiah grew silent and led her into the avenue, as he called it, strolling with her between rows of English boxwood that reached up over their heads. The clipped shrubs exuded the warm Old World scent Meriwether remembered from childhood.

frog and water lily

“Stay a moment,” he said, stopping beside the fish pool.

The statue of his father’s favorite spaniel sat on the pebble path beside the water, a whimsical touch. The brown stone was flecked with moss, as was anything that sat out-of-doors too long, but the cocker seemed as if he really were intent on the water.

dog garden statueShe patted his granite ears and sighed. How could she confide her deepest longing and her fears?

“Such a weighty sigh. Has our walk overtaxed you?”

She lifted her gaze to his, bracing herself under the force of his study. “No. I’m much stronger now.”

“Good. You seem so. You were as weak as a newborn kitten when I first found you.”

“I only remember that you brought me here in your boat.”

He scooped up a pebble, tossing it into the pool. Goldfish scattered, and a little green frog plopped in among the lilies. “Charles Town is a graveyard. Thank God yours has not swelled the family plot.”

painted lady butterfly on catmintThe intensity in his voice took her by surprise.
“Are you content at Pleasant Grove, Miss Steele?”

“Yes,” she answered in growing confusion.

“Entirely?”

She shied away from his inquiry and watched goldfish rippling through the water like orange silk. “Why doubt me?”

“I must know.”

JEREMIAH from Enemy of the KingHis earnestness made her stomach churn. “For my part,
I am content. I trust you don’t find my presence burdensome?”

“Not yet,” he said gravely.

Her eyes startled back to his. “Do you think I will become so?”

“Quite possibly.”~

****

1780 South Carolina, spies and intrigue, a vindictive ghost,  the battle of King’s Mountain, Patriots and Tories, pounding adventure, pulsing romance…ENEMY OF THE KING.

Enemyoftheking_WebsiteEnemy of the King is an amazing and vibrant look into the American Revolutionary War and tells the story through the eyes of a remarkable woman. While Jeremiah Jordan himself is a strong soldier and heroic patriot, it is Meriwether Steele who makes such a great impression in this epic novel. Her dedication to the man she loves, the lengths she must go to defend herself and others, and the unstoppable force that she is makes Meriwether one heck of a heroine.

Ms. Trissel brings the countryside and its people alive with her fascinating and at times gory details. This sexy historical book is a must read!’
~ Danielle, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More~

Galloping white horses--Enemy of the King 3Colonial American Romance Novel ENEMY OF THE KINGa fast-paced Adventure Romance, is my version of THE PATRIOT.  The novel is available in print and eBook  at:  AmazonBarnes & Noble and other online booksellers~

“I love historical romances. They are one of my favorites and anymore when I think of a historical I think of Beth Trissel. She is an author who has proved herself over time. She is a beautiful storyteller. Ms. Trissel can take a story line and make it a work of art. And she did just that with Enemy of the King.” ~Bella Wolfe, You Gotta Read

The 2009 Publisher’s Weekly BHB Reader’s Choice Best Books 

***The other two novels in the series are: Traitor’s Legacy and Traitor’s Curse.

WRP Hop banner.jpg1

***For the other super participating blogs on the tour, please visit: http://judyanndavis.blogspot.com/p/summer-treats-2016.html

And be sure to enter the rafflecopter for a Kindle Fire!

***Some images of our garden by daughter Elise Trissel. Giant oak from North Carolina by my mom.  Images of colonial Williamsburg and other old gardens.

August in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


COVER FOR SHENANDOAH WATERCOLORS NONFICTION BOOKAn excerpt from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life,  Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 Epic eBook finalist. Available in Amazon Kindle and in print.

We’ve had many misty starts to the day this August. Haze hugs the pond, parting just enough to reveal the long-legged blue heron fishing for his breakfast. There’s a country saying about the number of foggy mornings in August being an indicator for the amount of snows we’ll have this winter––a heap, at this rate.

Dozens of swallows skim over the pond as the sun sinks below the Alleghenies. If I were standing on a distant ridge, would it sink behind me, or the ridge beyond that one?

TheTrisselPondThe water is calm now but was awash with waves during the storm that hit a short time ago. The grassy hill and maple tree are reflected on the surface, silvery and streaked with rose from the western sky. All is peaceful as a soft twilight settles over the valley. Utterly idyllic, until I pause to consider what all of those swallows are after. There must be clouds of mosquitoes.

Here’s another thought, where do all the birds spend the night? Are the woods up on the hill lined with birds perched wing to wing jostling for space on the branches? I’ll bet they make room for the big red-tailed hawk. He gets the whole tree––as many as he wants. It’s good to be king.

Hawk

Dennis, Elise, and I once saw a magnificent rainbow arching across the sky over the meadow. The magical multihued light streamed down into the pond and gilded the back end of a cow as she stood in the water. It startled us to discover that this was where we must seek our pot of gold. Though it’s apt, I suppose, for dairy farmers.

This is the day, sprinkled with fairy dust and frosted with gold. Go forth and find treasure, or seek it deep inside your heart, at true rainbow’s end.~

Huge Rainbow Pic

**Image of our pond taken by my mom, Pat Churchman

**Image of Hawk by daughter Elise taken up in the meadow behind our house

**Rainbow by Elise

 

Foxglove and Fairies–Herbal Lore–Beth Trissel


*These foxgloves are growing in a garden in Colonial Williamsburg.

“…where the deer’s swift leap Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.” ~John Keats

Foxglove, also known as Digitalis: I’ve grown this beautiful flower/herb and used to have a spectacular stand of foxglove but they died out one winter and I’ve had the dickens of a time getting new plants established.  Because foxglove is a biennial, it has to grow one season and survive the winter, the tricky part, and then resurrects the following spring and blooms in late spring/early summer.  If you’re fortunate the plants reseed and perpetuate themselves.  If not, you must begin again.  But it’s well worth growing.  I suspect our soil may be too heavy and needs to be further lightened with compost, so I did just that and planted a new variety of foxglove a week ago. So far, so good.

From A Modern Herbal: Foxglove: POISON!

“Other names: Witches’ Gloves. Dead Men’s Bells. Fairy’s Glove. Gloves of Our Lady. Bloody Fingers. Virgin’s Glove. Fairy Caps. Folk’s Glove. Fairy Thimbles. (Norwegian) Revbielde. (GermanFingerhut.

Part Used: Leaves.

Habitat: The Common Foxglove of the woods (Digitalis purpurea), perhaps the handsomest of our indigenous plants, is widely distributed throughout Europe and is common as a wild-flower in Great Britain, growing freely in woods and lanes, particularly in South Devon, ranging from Cornwall and Kent to Orkney, but not occurring in Shetland, or in some of the eastern counties of England.

Needing little soil, it is found often in the crevices of granite walls, as well as in dry hilly pastures, rocky places and by roadsides. Seedling Foxgloves spring up rapidly from recently-turned earth. Turner (1548), says that it grows round rabbit holes freely. The plant will flourish best in well drained loose soil, preferably of siliceous origin, with some slight shade. The plants growing in sunny situations possess the active qualities of the herb in a much greater degree than those shaded by trees, and it has been proved that those grown on a hot, sunny bank, protected by a wood, give the best results.

DescriptionThe normal life of a Foxglove plant is two seasons, but sometimes the roots, which are formed of numerous, long, thick fibers, persist and throw up flowers for several seasons… (*Not here, always.)

They bloom in the early summer, though the time of flowering differs much, according to the locality.

The flowers are bell-shaped and tubular, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, flattened above, inflated beneath, crimson outside above and paler beneath, the lower lip furnished with long hairs inside and marked with numerous dark crimson spots, each surrounded with a white border. The shade of the flowers varies much, especially under cultivation, sometimes the corollas being found perfectly white.

The Foxglove is a favourite flower of the honey-bee, and is entirely developed by the visits of this insect. Going from flower to flower up the spike, he rubs pollen thus from one blossom on to the cleft stigma of another blossom, and thus the flower is fertilized and seeds are able to be produced. The life of each flower, from the time the bud opens till the time it slips off its corolla, is about six days. An almost incredible number of seeds are produced, a single Foxglove plant providing from one to two million seeds to ensure its propagation. (*But it has to survive long enough to bloom, I must add.)

It is noteworthy that although the flower is such a favourite with bees and is much visited by other smaller insects, who may be seen taking refuge from cold and wet in its drooping blossoms on chilly evenings, yet no animals will browse upon the plant, perhaps instinctively recognizing its poisonous character.

The Foxglove derives its common name from the shape of the flowers resembling the finger of a glove. It was originally Folksglove – the glove of the ‘good folk’ or fairies, whose favourite haunts were supposed to be in the deep hollows and woody dells, where the Foxglove delights to grow. Folksglove is one of its oldest names, and is mentioned in a list of plants in the time of Edward III. Its Norwegian name, Revbielde (Foxbell), is the only foreign one that alludes to the Fox, though there is a northern legend that bad fairies gave these blossoms to the fox that he might put them on his toes to soften his tread when he prowled among the roosts.

The earliest known form of the word is the Anglo-Saxon foxes glofa (the glove of the fox).

The mottlings of the blossoms of the Foxglove and the Cowslip, like the spots on butterfly wings and on the tails of peacocks and pheasants, were said to mark where the elves had placed their fingers, and one legend ran that the marks on the Foxglove were a warning sign of the baneful juices secreted by the plant, which in Ireland gain it the popular name of ‘Dead Man’s Thimbles.’ In Scotland, it forms the badge of the Farquharsons, as the Thistle does of the Stuarts. The German name Fingerhut (thimble) suggested to Leonhard Fuchs (the well-known German herbalist of the sixteenth century, after whom the Fuchsia has been named) the employment of the Latin adjective Digitalis (from Digitabulum, a thimble) as a designation for the plant, which, as he remarked, up to the time when he thus named it, in 1542, had had no name in either Greek or Latin.

The Foxglove was employed by the old herbalists for various purposes in medicine, most of them wholly without reference to those valuable properties which render it useful as a remedy in the hands of modern physicians. Gerard recommends it to those ‘who have fallen from high places,’ and Parkinson speaks highly of the bruised herb or of its expressed juice for scrofulous swellings, when applied outwardly in the form of an ointment, and the bruised leaves for cleansing for old sores and ulcers. Dodoens (1554) prescribed it boiled in wine as an expectorant, and it seems to have been in frequent use in cases in which the practitioners of the present day would consider it highly dangerous…

Strangely enough, the Foxglove, so handsome and striking in our landscape, is not mentioned by Shakespeare, or by any of the old English poets.

(*I found this strange indeed, considering their lore and beauty.)

The earliest known descriptions of it are those given about the middle of the sixteenth century by Fuchs and Tragus in their Herbals. According to an old manuscript, the Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century appear to have frequently made use of it in the preparation of external medicines. Gerard and Parkinson advocate its use for a number of complaints, and later Salmon, in the New London Dispensatory, praised the plant. It was introduced into the London Pharmacopoeia in 1650, though it did not come into frequent use until a century later, and was first brought prominently under the notice of the medical profession by Dr. W. Withering, who in his Acount of the Foxglove, 1785, gave details of upwards of 200 cases, chiefly dropsical, in which it was used.”

Agatha ChristieOf course the highly esteemed Author Agatha Christie used foxglove in one of her mysteries.  From the AGATHA CHRISTIE SITE: “THE HERB OF DEATH: SIR AMBROSE’S DINNER PARTY IS NOT GOING TO PLAN.  FOXGLOVE LEAVES, PICKED EARLIER THAT DAY, HAVE MADE EVERYONE ILL AND LEFT THE UNFORTUNATE SYLVIA DEAD…”

Christie went back to one of her favourite murder methods in this story originally published in 1930 in Storyteller.  It is included in The Thirteen Problems.”

Pondering the Possibility of Ducklings–Beth Trissel


Who Doesn’t Love Ducklings?

I’m excited about all the migrating ducks on our farm pond this spring. And, once again, am debating the possibility and advisability of mail ordering some garden friendly ducklings and raising them to be my garden pals. Some varieties eat grubs and other pesky insects while not destroying the plants. But ducks need a pool of some sort as they love water, so I must provide that while figuring out a way to keep them from heading down to the ‘big water’–our pond. I also envision the need for a pen for their protection, and am pondering where it might be located, who would build it, plus how to care for them in the winter….Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life, Shenandoah Watercolors, available at Amazon in kindle and print with lovely images of the valley and mountains. (*A 2012 EPIC eBook Finalist)
~When the world was new and I was young, I ordered a dozen Rouen ducklings (resemble large mallards) from a game farm and began my love affair with ducks, blessed by its moments of joy and cursed with inevitable tragedy.  The box of downy babies was delivered directly to my door much earlier in the day than our mail normally comes as the mailman had wearied of their incessant peeping.  I took the new arrivals from the grateful carrier and transferred them to a corner of the family room under a warm light bulb.  My two oldest children, in grade school then, were delighted with their new playmates, but soon joined me in the discovery that these tiny creatures were incredibly messy.
The ducklings reveled in their food, spewing a mixture of feed and water on themselves, the box, and the walls.  This led to their speedy removal to an unoccupied rabbit hutch in an outbuilding.  Here they grew in sheltered bliss until we deemed them ready for life on the pond, unaware that our charges needed parental guidance. The unchaperoned youngsters soon slipped under the fence and lost themselves in the neighbor’s grassy meadow.  We tracked their frantic quacks and carried them home, only to have them forget and stray again and again.
(*Our pond, calm on this day but often filled with ducks and geese)
Sadly, unwary ducklings do not know to be on guard against snapping turtles, something their mama would have taught them.  By summer’s end, just two grown ducks remained and were fondly named Daphne and Darlene. They were inseparable and divided their day between the cows and geese in the barnyard and forays to the pond.
The next spring Daphne and Darlene built a mutual nest inside a clump of gold-button tansy at the edge of the garden and patiently sat on the eggs that would never hatch.  It was time to find them a suitable spouse.  One fall evening “Don” arrived in my hubby’s pickup truck.
(*Little creek that meanders through our meadow and under the fence to the neighbors)
The girls took an instant liking to the handsome drake, and he to them, though he showed a slight preference for Darlene.  As spring neared again, we noticed a wild mallard drake observing our little band.  He would dash forward for a bite of grain at feeding time, only to be driven away by Don.  We pitied Dwayne, as he soon became known, and tossed a handful far to the side for him.  Besides the free lunch, it seemed that Dwayne was attracted to our Daphne, much to Don’s strong disapproval.
The small male was undeterred and eventually won acceptance, amusing us by his attempts to mate with Daphne, twice his size.  Persistence won out though.  That year the girls had separate nests, Darlene at the base of a bittersweet vine, while Daphne went back to the tansy.  Don and Dwayne bonded, swapping stories as they awaited imminent fatherhood.
The ducklings hatched in late spring and grew quickly.  All survived with excellent care from their mothers.  By fall we could see Dwayne’s influence on the flock.  His offspring were considerably smaller. It was a golden, happy time. Late afternoons we quacked loudly, calling our ducks for feeding.  Heads popped up from the seeding grass and they answered back then waddled single file behind Don, their noble leader.  If we were late with dinner, they gathered to complain about the lack of service and were not averse to heading up to the house to fetch us if necessary.
Autumn in all its splendor passed into a winter that was our most severe in years.  We tromped faithfully through the deep snow every day to scatter feed on the frozen pond.  Then one morning after fresh snowfall we could not find a single duck.  Our anxious calls came back to us empty on the wind…searching revealed spatters of blood and dog tracks in the snow, the silent witness to their grim fate.   Still, we hoped that some birds had escaped the attack and combed the neighborhood, finally locating a pair of Dwayne’s offspring.  Only the smaller ducks could fly well.  We had unwittingly fed the others up to be “sitting ducks,” an expression I understand too well now.  A week later Dwayne returned on his own, but it was a bleak time.  How empty the pond seemed without the gang.
That May, Betty, our lone remaining female, hatched a fuzzy brood.  Familiar quacks again filled the air and gladdened our spirits.  It just isn’t spring without ducklings.  ~
All of this took place eons ago, but we still have ducks on our pond and an ample flock fussy barnyard geese who make daily visits down to the water. The small town of Dayton, Virginia, not far from us, has a lovely body of water called Silver Lake (the size of a large pond) and a stream that attracts so many ducks the town has installed a duck crossing sign.
*Pics of our farm and ducks, also my mom and dad’s ducks…it’s a family thing this love of ducks. *Images by my mom, Pat Churchman.  *The one of the creek by daughter Elise. It’s awash with moisture now, but was only a trickle that day.
*This story about ducklings is the one that really got me started in writing. It was ‘almost’ published in Southern Living Magazine and that editor gave me much encouragement about my writing, then she referred me to an editor at Progressive Farmer who accepted it and several more nonfiction pieces about rural life, but their free-lance column got axed before publication.
(Tame duck swimming in ‘duck weed’ in my parent’s water garden)

“The spring has sprung, the grass is rizz. I wonder where them birdies is?” ~A.A. Milne


Tribute to Spring

Actually, the birds are singing away outside my door, but I like the quote and that’s how it goes.To declare the Shenandoah Valley in the full bloom of spring is a tad premature, but we are poised to burst forth. The early plants already are. And, like the happy kitty above, I say bring it on! This has seemed an exceedingly long and tiresome winter.

The report on the seeds I’ve started in my little greenhouse is that many of them are coming up, though not all. It’s said that parsley has to go to the devil and back again seven times (and he keeps some for himself) before those seedlings emerge. And I have more seeds I need to start. But I will. I’m using the large yogurt containers to begin the seeds and will transplant them into the small yogurt containers and whatever else I can find. I’m recycling, and we’re eating a lot of yogurt these days, also begging the containers from friends and family. If the cost of shipping were cheaper I’d ask you to mail me yours. 🙂
For The Love of Fur Babies--Beth TrisselAs to my gardens, before the snow that hit on Sunday and into Monday, I was able to work outdoors and pull a whole wheelbarrow full of overwintering weeds. Yes, they always manage to survive the harshest weather. I’m taking stock of what else made it through and considering which plants didn’t and should be replaced or grow something different in that spot. I am expanding my herbs, so look for more fragrance this year.
For those of you who love gardening and country life, I recommend my nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, was 2.99, now only .99 at Amazon. The book is also available in print with beautiful pics of the valley and mountains taken by my talented family. And Happy spring!

 

Poisonous Plant Garden Inspired By Agatha Christie


The great Agatha Christie favored poison as her preferred means of dispatching unfortunate characters in many of her murder mysteries. One of the deadliest herbs, Monkshood, also called Aconite and Wolfsbane, certainly played a part.  Torre Abbey in Torquay has a garden devoted to the plants that rear their heads in her work. Torre Abbey, built in 1196, is the largest surviving medieval monastery in Devon and Cornwall.
Agatha Christie’s Potent Plants is the creation of Torre Abbey Head Gardener Ali Marshall, who in true crime writing style researched around 80 of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories in just six months to come up with the Abbey’s own unique commemoration. The new feature links the author’s interest in poisonous plants, her wartime work as a pharmacy dispenser and the medicinal plants that Torre Abbey’s medieval canons might have used.
With Poirotesque determination and attention to detail Ali Marshall, with the help of experts at Torquay’s Agatha Christie Shop, has designed a garden with a central display of potent plants surrounded by plants that serve as Agatha Christie clues, solved only with a knowledge of the plots of some of the author’s short stories. What better way could there be for Agatha Christie fans to exercise their ‘little grey cells’?”
“Do not touch is the warning for all visitors to the new garden and a skull-rating denotes the level of toxicity of each of the plants. Ali Marshall explains: “While this might sound extremely dangerous for staff and public alike we have been very careful in our choice of plants, substituting less potent garden cultivars where possible.
This is a garden designed to entertain – not provide murderous opportunities!
The fruit stones of the Prunus family, for example, once processed, produce cyanide, used to lethal effect in “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side” and “A Pocketful of Rye” amongst others.  Monkshood and Foxgloves also play a big part, as do Poppies and Yellow Jasmine. Other plants however have a more positive purpose. A Kilmarnock Willow (aspirin) takes centre stage while Valerian and Fennel owe their inclusion to their reputed therapeutic benefits.”
For more on Torre Abbey~
*Royalty free images

For Duck Lovers


An excerpt from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life, Shenandoah Watercolors, available at Amazon in kindle and print with lovely images of the valley and mountains. (*A 2012 EPIC eBook Finalist)

~When the world was new and I was young, I ordered a dozen Rouen ducklings (resemble large mallards) from a game farm and began my love affair with ducks, blessed by its moments of joy and cursed with inevitable tragedy.  The box of downy babies was delivered directly to my door much earlier in the day than our mail normally comes as the mailman had wearied of their incessant peeping.  I took the new arrivals from the grateful carrier and transferred them to a corner of the family room under a warm light bulb.  My two oldest children, in grade school then, were delighted with their new playmates, but soon joined me in the discovery that these tiny creatures were incredibly messy.

The ducklings reveled in their food, spewing a mixture of feed and water on themselves, the box, and the walls.  This led to their speedy removal to an unoccupied rabbit hutch in an outbuilding.  Here they grew in sheltered bliss until we deemed them ready for life on the pond, unaware that our charges needed parental guidance.  The unchaperoned youngsters soon slipped under the fence and lost themselves in the neighbor’s grassy meadow.  We tracked their frantic quacks and carried them home, only to have them forget and stray again and again.

Sadly, unwary ducklings do not know to be on guard against snapping turtles, something their mama would have taught them.  By summer’s end, just two grown ducks remained and were fondly named Daphne and Darlene.  They were inseparable and divided their day between the cows and geese in the barnyard and forays to the pond.

(*Our pond, calm on this day but often filled with ducks and geese)

The next spring Daphne and Darlene built a mutual nest inside a clump of gold-button tansy at the edge of the garden and patiently sat on the eggs that would never hatch.  It was time to find them a suitable spouse.  One fall evening “Don” arrived in my hubby’s pickup truck.

(*Little creek that meanders through our meadow and under the fence to the neighbors)

The girls took an instant liking to the handsome drake, and he to them, though he showed a slight preference for Darlene.  As spring neared again, we noticed a wild mallard drake observing our little band.  He would dash forward for a bite of grain at feeding time, only to be driven away by Don.  We pitied Dwayne, as he soon became known, and tossed a handful far to the side for him.  Besides the free lunch, it seemed that Dwayne was attracted to our Daphne, much to Don’s strong disapproval.

The small male was undeterred and eventually won acceptance, amusing us by his attempts to mate with Daphne, twice his size.  Persistence won out though.  That year the girls had separate nests, Darlene at the base of a bittersweet vine, while Daphne went back to the tansy.  Don and Dwayne bonded, swapping stories as they awaited imminent fatherhood.

The ducklings hatched in late spring and grew quickly.  All survived with excellent care from their mothers.  By fall we could see Dwayne’s influence on the flock.  His offspring were considerably smaller. It was a golden, happy time. Late afternoons we quacked loudly, calling our ducks for feeding.  Heads popped up from the seeding grass and they answered back then waddled single file behind Don, their noble leader.  If we were late with dinner, they gathered to complain about the lack of service and were not averse to heading up to the house to fetch us if necessary.

Autumn in all its splendor passed into a winter that was our most severe in years.  We tromped faithfully through the deep snow every day to scatter feed on the frozen pond.  Then one morning after fresh snowfall we could not find a single duck.  Our anxious calls came back to us empty on the wind…searching revealed spatters of blood and dog tracks in the snow, the silent witness to their grim fate.   Still, we hoped that some birds had escaped the attack and combed the neighborhood, finally locating a pair of Dwayne’s offspring.  Only the smaller ducks could fly well.  We had unwittingly fed the others up to be “sitting ducks,” an expression I understand too well now.  A week later Dwayne returned on his own, but it was a bleak time.  How empty the pond seemed without the gang.

That May, Betty, our lone remaining female, hatched a fuzzy brood.  Familiar quacks again filled the air and gladdened our spirits.  It just isn’t spring without ducklings.  ~

All of this took place eons ago, but we still have ducks on our pond and an ample flock fussy barnyard geese who make daily visits down to the water.  The small town of Dayton, Virginia, not far from us, has a lovely body of water called Silver Lake (the size of a large pond) and a stream that attracts so many ducks the town has installed a duck crossing sign.

*Pics of our farm and ducks, also my mom and dad’s ducks…it’s a family thing this love of ducks. *Images by my mom, Pat Churchman.  *The one of the creek by daughter Elise.

*This story about ducklings is the one that really got me started in writing. It was ‘almost’ published in Southern Living Magazine and that editor gave me much encouragement about my writing, then she referred me to an editor at Progressive Farmer who accepted it and several more nonfiction pieces about rural life, but their free-lance column got axed before publication.

(Tame duck swimming in ‘duck weed’ in my parent’s water garden)