When you were young, and your heart was an open book
You used to say ‘live and let live’ (you know you did, you know you did, you know you did)
But if this ever changing world in which we live in, makes you give in and cry
Say ‘live and let die’… (Hear it here)
There are two laws of nature on Two Mile Ranch:
- I share life here, I don’t own any of it. Dog, land, chickens, trees. All are shared, none belong to me.
- In a battle of graduate degree vs nature, nature always wins.
Last weekend I pushed the limits of both laws. This weekend, the laws pushed back. First, some background.
I am by my upbringing, a “live and let live” kind of person. When it comes to values, I generally oppose killing and murder, yet, I enjoy fishing and raising my own meat and food. I am, then, a walking contradiction.
But there in lies the ethical rub – the conundrum. When one force of nature threatens the life of another is it right or wise to intervene?
Death is no stranger to Two Mile. I’ve written of the death of two of my favorite ducks: Gilbert and later Mocha. In the big scheme of pet-dom, ducks may not seem like much, but they were my pets and they were in my care. I have not written much about this spring’s predation. Following a fairly safe spell, I began loosing ducks out of the pen one at a time. Ultimately, 5 of 9 ducks vanished. I discovered holes in my pens, repaired them, and began trapping predators again.
Because of the nature of the disappearance (no duck remains, few feathers, ducks taken at night from inside them pen) and the fact the holes I found were 18 – 24 inches above the ground, I suspect a fox. That said, I managed to trap a feral cat, and two large, 12 – 15 pound raccoons. And raccoons are known sometimes to carry off their prey. So it is possible I caught the predators. I still suspect a fox or maybe a coyote. Which brings me to our challenge of nature vs graduate degree.
Besides the birds I raise there are wild birds here as well. Each year, a pair of geese spend time on the large pond. In the past two years, their nest has been washed away by rising water and heavy rains. This year, they have selected a nesting spot on the dam above the drain pipe — a smarter location.
Last Saturday morning, Zinger and I were in the big cabin, I was just getting coffee ready and had left my glasses in the small cabin. The geese began honking — but a much more urgent and menacing “honk” than normal. I stepped out on the deck to see the male goose swimming so fast across the big pond he was making a significant wake. The female was honking near the dam and then I saw why a large: 4 legged predator. I locked Zinger in the cabin and grabbed the rifle. Through the rifle scope I could make out an animal — on the move – but without my glasses, I could not tell if it was a fox, a coyote, or a dog. (yes, I know they are very easy to tell apart — so now you know about what I can see — or can’t see — without my glasses.) My bet is this predator is also hunting the duck pen at night or early morning. If it was a dog — especially if it had a collar, I would not shoot it. A fox or coyote is a different story. But not being sure of what I was seeing, or potentially killing, I chose a different path, I fired into the water — the shot splashed water up on the dam and the predator ran off.
So that day, it was ‘live and let live’.
During this week, the female spent most of her days on the nest, but also took long swims around the big pond. The male spent his days between the big pond — to the west bank overlooking the water and the dam on the south edge — and the little pond.
In the little pond, he was tolerant of the invasion of the remaining Two Mile Ranch ducks. Every so often, he would assert his dominance over the territory like a lifeguard at a swimming pool: he would call a silent “pool check” and like obedient swimmers, the ducks would get out of the pond and stand on the edge as this alpha goose swam and patrolled. His watchful eyes encouraged my watchful eyes, too. I would check the nest with my binoculars to see if the female was still on the nest. And as the week went on, the number of eggs in the nest grew, 2, then 3, then 4.
Last night, when I looked over to the dam with my binoculars, the female goose was absent. Later as the sun set, the pair flew over the road and returned to the pond. This morning, with her absent again, I took a slow walk to the dam, already knowing what I would find. The nest was there, but the 4 eggs were gone, as were both geese.
On the walk back, I see signs of life everywhere around Two Mile. On surrounding ponds, I hear pairs of geese honking. On the big pond, the once solo Merganser has a new partner and both are swimming around.
And on this walk, I’m reminded of what I share, how nature trumps a graduate degree….and to live and let die.