The Duckman: Oh lord of the sky, hear our prayer


HOPEFULLY by the time you read this we’ll all be soaked, or at least soon will be, by the autumn break.

Jodi thinks I am cursing us by writing about impending rain. She thinks these words on the page will somehow develop powers to steer the clouds around our farm.

The good wife is a little jittery, but with good reason. We have two small dams at our place. One of them dried up in November last year. It has not been close to baring its bottom in past years until sometime in April.

We think the summer was the hottest and driest we have experienced at Port Campbell. Being subject to the prolonged exposure of a bottom has quite rightly had an effect on the good wife.

Yet, a drenching rain – the much-anticipated break – will wash away her nerves. Once it comes, surely it’s just a matter of time before water starts filling the dams again.

For the past five months or so, whenever the tanks that provide water for our Aylesbury and Pekin ducks have been close to empty we pump water up from the dam to the tanks.

For the first time in some six years of ducking we have had to move the pump to the second dam. Our local water god, plumber Alistair, helped me roll out a few hundred metres of poly pipe and, despite the always-expected glitches, we soon had water flowing to the tanks again.

In part, due to Alistair’s teachings, I’ve become fascinated by water. Ready access to it is something you never fully appreciate until tanks and dams start to run low (as I write the levels in the second dam are still dropping).

Our ducks are frustratingly inefficient users of water. To drink, they take quick scoops of water, but at least half of it seems to run down their beaks and fall to the ground.

During the hot days of summer I often watch the ducks splashing about in the tubs of water we provide for them out in the paddocks. As many of you will know, it is genuine entertainment standing around pretending to be busy while watching animals be happy.

And though I enjoy watching the ducks, so grateful for the water baths, but really, do they have to spill all that precious water everywhere?

Under the water troughs in the duck sheds there are small pads of concrete. The ducks spend a lot of time in this area, drinking, spilling water and demonstrating their prolific pooping abilities.

In the earliest days of our clueless duck-farming exploits, I hoped the amount of water they spilt might at least partly wash down the concrete. But as ever, there were no short cuts.

I hosed the concrete down for a while, but the shortage of water forced us to consider alternatives. We now cover the concrete with hay, cut grass and leaves and remove it every second day.

It’s not a pleasant job. Wet and fouled hay is as rank as a Collingwood victory (giving it to Collingwood supporters is the cheapest and easiest use of a metaphor – but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable).

Yet the notion of “cheap” has some relevance – to Collingwood and also water. Rain, or rain water, is just about the cheapest resource all of us have – unless someone works out a way to make us pay for it, too.

If the season unfolds as I’ve dreamed, I’ll be cheering Collingwood losses while cursing being drenched in no time.

Wish me luck for when the good wife gets around to reading this – she barracks for sodding Collingwood.