Tag Archives: Water

Don’t Entrust Your Ducks To Just Anyone—Beth Trissel


Years ago, I raised ducks for our farm pond–a story in itself–and then decided to take on several ducklings offered to me by a kindergarten teacher who hatched them in the classroom incubator and needed a home for the little quackers. I housed them safely in an unused dog kennel and decided to raise them for friends who have a smaller pond on their farm. One was a white Peking duck and the other two were white with markings, probably some mixed up kind of ducks.

Oh, the care and effort I put into those ducklings and the pride to see them thrive and grow into bright-eyed, trusting souls who greeted me eagerly. Ducks have lots to say and these were especially friendly. And handsome. But after generously gifting my feathered friends to human friends, I later learned they hadn’t received the care I assumed they would, nor were they checked on regularly.  No food was forthcoming, or water provided when the pond dwindled from drought. That hadn’t occurred to anyone. In fact, I was casually informed the ducks were nowhere to be found. Their disappearance wasn’t even noted at any particular time. Not that anyone was concerned, of course. Except me. Why had I let them go to such a negligent home?

Earlier this summer, my 2011 art major graduate daughter Elise was entrusted with a tiny aloe vera plant that was on its last leg, or leaf, by a college friend of hers. Between the two of us, this pathetic specimen has made an amazing comeback, and we both revel in its progress. Now, my conscientious daughter is making noises about giving it back. ‘What?’ I say. ‘To the negligent plant person?’ It’s gonna be the duck thing all over again.

To those of you without much fondness for ducks or plants, this lesson can be cross-applied to anything you’ve put time and effort into nurturing.  Don’t entrust what you care about to just anybody. This also includes your kids.

Gunn’s New Family Physician


My mother came across an interesting old book in among many other antiquated volumes in their home called Gunn’s New Family Physician written in 1864.   She said the book has some marvelous remedies and many suggestions and exercises for better health.  Some remedies, however, are better than others.

In the section on ” Shower Bath,” Gunn says, “When convenient, the shower bath is an admirable thing–to be followed, of course, with proper friction and exercise. The morning is probably the best time to take it. In order to take this bath properly, it is necessary to have a box or apparatus constructed expressly for the purpose. Most of my readers, probably, will know how such an apparatus should be made. It is sufficient to say here that it consists, essentially, of an arrangement by which the water is allowed to fall upon the body in a series of small streams at the same time, and the greater the surface upon which they fall, the better. Usually these baths are so constructed that the streams fall perpendicularly, and strike upon the head and shoulders only. ..Where there are no better means at hand, an assistant may stand upon a chair, or in some elevated position, and pour the water upon the bather from a common watering-pot, which will answer as a very good substitute for a more perfect machine. The benefit of the shower bath consists mainly in the general shock, and consequent reaction, which it produces upon the nervous system, and the organs of the skin…In order to derive the full benefits of the bath, the water must be cold…”

I shudder at the thought of a cold shower.  But Gunn goes on to “applaud the benefits of “The Full Bath,” which consists of immersing the whole body in water. For this purpose, a tub, vat, or bathing trough, is necessary, which should be large enough to take in the whole person, and be sufficiently roomy to admit of freedom of motion. Should the cold bath, after all proper efforts, be followed by paleness of the skin, dullness and inactivity of body and mind, with more or less chilliness, it is not likely to be useful, and should, for the time being, be abandoned.”

You think?

*Pic of the robustly healthy John Gunn and his book. Women in late 19th century bathing costumes

Kitten Rescue


My youngest daughter, Elise, and I found a bedraggled black kitten in a murky corner of the old red barn huddled beside an ancient water trough. Hay was stuck to its fur and its head slick in places from a calf’s sympathetic tongue. We carried the mewing puff ball down to the house and gave it a bath. Being mostly fur, it shrank considerably in the water and nearly disappeared.

After drying this soggy specimen of catdom, we bundled it up in an old towel and fed it the formula concocted by a local vet for orphan kittens: one cup whole milk, one teaspoon of vegetable oil, one egg yolk, whisk well and warm. Sometimes I use a tiny bottle, but this baby is old enough to lap and downed the lot I had poured into a shallow lid. We filled a canning jar with hot water, screwed the lid on tightly and tucked our swaddled charge beside the improvised water bottle back in the small closet in the laundry room.

Assorted farm coats, jeans and shirts hang on hooks up above and brush our heads as we kneel to peer into this den-like place. There’s nothing dogs like better for a bed than a worn coat with that barn smell still clinging to it, cozily tucked back into this closet. Cats prefer sunbeams but will make do. I’ve spent many hours on my knees helping to birth puppies, fuss over their care and tend kittens. Countless kittens and puppies, tiny terriers that could fit in a shoe box, medium size dogs and dogs that have grown too big but are still attached, have called this comforting space home. The narrow walls are gnawed and deeply grooved from the many inhabitants over the years. Every household should have such a place.

Fortunately our rescue dog, Mia, also likes her bed in the dining room because she cannot be trusted to kitten-sit. The formula rapidly dwindles. Not only that, she’s afraid of kittens. Silly, silly Mia. The kitten does not yet have a name because if you name a creature that implies that it’s staying, which this one very well may be. Sometimes you just need a kitten.

Oddly, it would seem that Mia always wanted a kitten of her own after all. She follows the minute puff ball around the kitchen and hovers over it with a worried look. Actually, Mia generally looks worried. I suppose from earlier traumas before we took her in. She has never had a small furry friend though and even tries to play with the kitten as it bounds around the kitchen in great excitement over everything and anything.

My mother made the observation that kittens and other babies can utterly give themselves to play in a way that the rest of us can’t because we’ve had the play smacked out of us by life. Now and then, I think we should all play as unreservedly as possible.

Photograph of a rescue kitten and baby barnyard goose by my mother, Pat Churchman