In 2002 we ran away from Illinois where we were born and raised, and started a new life in SW Florida. This blog is about me (an eccentric old artist), ROM (my Real Old Man), Isabella (our neurotic Standard Poodle) and Emmy (our crazy snake killing Jack Russell Terrier). Oh- and the neighborhood old people. Life is good in Florida!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nature Has An Ugly Side- Horror of Duck Rape- Part 2

Let's see, where were we when I ended Part 1? Oh yeah, more and more ducks were coming to our yard and they had become quite demanding. Like I said, when they started banging on the glass sliding door with their bills I should have known things were getting out of control.

We had so many ducks I was buying a couple of 50 pound bags of duck pellets weekly and in time even that wasn't enough. Morning and evening I would go out and holler "Are you hungry?" and they would come waddling as fast as their stubby legs would carry them. They caught on quickly that the phrase "Are you hungry?" meant food was coming. During the day if I walked down around the lake and loudly said the catch phrase they would would hurry out of the water and waddle after me, following me all the home. A neighbor said I looked like the Pied Piper of ducks when I walked down the road with a flock of ducks trailing behind me.  I was the freaking duck whisperer, dontcha' know? 
Soon the spring temperatures warmed up and that was when the first problem with the ducks started. I quickly learned that the ducks would beat their bills on the screen just like they had on the glass door, which resulted in holes in the screen. And though I loved the ducks, I didn't want them in my house. But no big deal, I just had to keep the glass door shut. Problem solved.

I did worry the ducks would get into my flower beds and cause damage, but oddly enough they never did. Even when I was out working in the gardens, the ducks stayed away from them. Everything was just delightful, I was one with nature. Soon the ducks would be nesting, new little ducklings would be waddling around and my gardens would be filled with blooming flowers. Can you hear Disney music playing in the background? Yeah, well that little fantasy was soon shot all to hell.

Spring was in the air, flowers were blooming, the trees leaved out  and the ducks started pairing up in preparation for breeding season. I noticed the males getting very territorial, chasing other males away if one got too close to their mate. It was sweet how protective some of the males were with their mate- ducky love was so cute! Some of the guys appeared to be super lovers because they had two or three girls, sister wives I guess. There were also males that must have been rotten lovers because they didn't have any females and they were constantly trying to move in on the guys that had several.

It was around this time I began to get a bit uneasy about the number of ducks I would find in my yard in the mornings. I tried to count them one morning but I only got as far as 97 before I gave up. You'd think my yard would have been saturated with duck shit but oddly enough it wasn't. My front yard where the ducks congregated was approximately an acre so there was plenty of room for them, but it was quite a sight to look out and see so many ducks.  I was all into sharing my land with the local wildlife, dontcha' know? Duck courtship time was over and serious breeding was going on. Soon I would have darling little ducklings in my yard and I couldn't wait.

The fun came to a screeching halt one morning as I walked down our long driveway to put some letters in the mailbox.  I noticed a group of male ducks gathered at the end of the driveway and they seemed quite agitated, making a racket and fighting with each other. I'd never seen a group of ducks actually fighting, just an occasional male chasing of another male that got too close to his gal. As I got closer I saw what they were fighting over- they had one lone female penned in the midst of them and they were literally gang raping her. They were fighting over which one one of them would get the next turn at her. They were viciously pecking at her head and neck as they raped her, it was a horrible sight! After I realized what was going on, I ran down the drive way to save her. I picked up some rocks, threw them and was screaming at the top of my lungs at the males to get them to scatter. As I drove them off I saw her laying there not moving, as I bent over her I realized she was dead.  I can't begin to to describe how awful I felt. I think all women have a deep seated fear of rape, and seeing that poor dead duck who had literally been raped to death touched me deeply. I had no idea things like this went on in nature. I thought only humans were capable of such depravity. I buried her and retreated into the house not wanting to see another duck.

Of course I was going to see more ducks because I had stupidly turned my yard into their feeding place. The next morning they were all there waiting for their breakfast. I tried to put the rape behind me as I went out to scatter their pellets as I convinced myself what had happened the day before had to have been an anomaly. But as they ate I noticed a group of males bothering a female as she tried to eat. Her mate would drive one off as another would move in on her. The protective male was clearly out numbered. And that is when my battle against duck rape began...

I grabbed the hose and started spraying the rogue males and they quickly retreated. I stood there with the hose spraying any bastard that started trouble until the ducks were done feeding and made their way back to the lake. When the evening feeding time came, I was ready with the hose. Aggressive males got blasted as the females ate in peace. The only problem was my hose wasn't long enough to chase them out as far as the road. So ROM bought more hose for me and I was soon able blast those dirty rotten bastards completely out of the yard. Day after day I did this, but still they returned to hassle the females as they ate. The females were catching on and would hurriedly go around me so that I was between them and the rogue males. By the end of the week, the females were settling in around the patio all afternoon instead of returning to the lake which meant I had to sit out there armed with my hose as the girls napped. Lord knows what kind of horrors went on at the lake. I didn't want to know because there was nothing I could do about it.

I think ROM had started to worry about my sanity and asked how long I was going to keep up the hose patrol. Well, as long as it took of course! Sometimes he'd take pity on me and take over the hose patrol  for an hour of so.  But those males weren't giving up, all that was between them and the food and females was me, and those bastards ran me ragged. I'd chase them out of the yard, so they'd go down the road a bit and then try to get in from that direction. Sometimes they'd split up and come from different directions and I'd have to run my ass off to get all of them. The girls were enjoying getting most of the food and being free of harassment. Some the females were actually spending the night on the patio. We'd sit out there at night enjoying the evening with a dozen or so girly ducks hiding behind our chairs. This went on for about 8 weeks before the attack on the females stopped, which I assume was the end of breeding season. And was I glad! My battle with the rogue ducks had wore me out and monopolized all my time. We had three nests of ducklings hatched in our yard that year and they were so adorable! Peaceful feeding times returned and I was able to put the hose away. When autumn arrived and they all headed south I told ROM I had learned my lesson and wouldn't feed them again.

After the long cold winter came to an end and the warming temps had melted all the snow, guess who came tapping at my door? The ducks were back. For a few days I ignored them, I'd shoosh them away and close the drapes. I could still hear there bills tapping the glass but I couldn't see them. I think I held out for 3 days before the thoughts of the poor hungry ducks sent me to the feed store.  All was well the first few weeks, though even more ducks were now showing up for feedings. A lot more- like a freaking sea of ducks. It now took both ROM and I to scatter the pellets out over a large area so they wouldn't fight over the pellets. Even though he reminded me I said I wasn't going to feed them any more, he begrudgingly gave in and helped me. By then he'd resigned himself to the fact he married a crazy woman and tried to make the best of it.

As breeding season started the harassment of the females started again. Only now there were even more of the rogue males. I wish had taken pictures of the huge population of ducks we had- it had grown into a something like scene from a Hitchcock film, except they weren't pecking our eyes out, just attacking each other. I spent most of each day out there with the hose keeping the marauding rapists away. We even hooked up a second hose so ROM could help me at night (Lord, how that man must love me!).  One good thing that came out of it- I figured since I had to be out there I might as well wear my swim suit and work on my tan. I had an awesome tan that year.  And not one girl duck got raped or murdered on my property! It was right at the end of breeding season that we put our house on the market, and no, it wasn't to get away from the ducks. It was because we were ready to relocate to Florida.

The house sold that fall after the ducks had left for the season. When the guy who bought our place asked if there was very much wildlife, I assured him there was. I just didn't tell how much. The following spring we were sitting out on the lanai (that's what Floridians call patios) and I commented to ROM that this was about the time the ducks would be showing up back at our old house. I would have loved to have seen the face of the new owner the first morning he went outside and his yard was full of ducks and when they knocked on his door. Just thinking about it sent ROM and I into fits of laughter- the kind of laughter that makes your eyes water and just as you manage to stop you look at each other and start laughing all over again. And that my friends is the duck story. I'll soon start writing the story about the raccoons and the day ROM shot me...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Big Gecko

Tammi ( @tammibphd on Twitter) and I were talking art the other day and she asked to see photos of my Big Gecko. Tammi is a friend of Camille Grammer's and I met her on Twitter when she was chatting with Camille and @MalibuEve. It's easier to post photos here than on TwitPic one at a time. For some reason, the gecko is very hard to photograph and show all the texture and colors. If his tail was straightened out he'd be about 6 ft. long, with his tail curled I think he's about 4 ft. He was sculpted with air dry clay and Rigid Wrap over a wire armature, then skinned with multiple layers of mulberry tissue paper which also provided his color. His embellishments are vintage copper jewelry findings, copper and turquoise beads. Be sure to visit Tammi's art gallery to see her gorgeous mandalas. She does beautiful art work.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Easter Means To Me....

... it means that the tourists and snowbirds will soon be returning home- hallelujah!  It's horrible out on the Island on Easter weekend and we don't go anywhere near it. It's literally over run with tourists on the beach, in the restaurants and the shops while clogging the streets with traffic. They're like a plague of locusts only worse. And if that isn't bad enough, for some reason Easter weekend is when local Latino gangs gather on Anna Maria Island beaches which at times has resulted in gunfire and shootings. So we spend the holiday weekend at places tourists don't know about or frequent. One of the quiet places we enjoy is a little marina on Palma Sola Bay.

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Saturday was beautiful- sunny and almost 85 degrees. We put the top down on my little Tracker, loaded the dogs up and off to the marina we went. It was very quiet there and very few people, which Isabella appreciated. Bella loves to go in the car, if the car door is open you can't keep her out of it. And once she's in she refuses to get out until she's taken for a ride. She just doesn't like getting out of the car until she's back in her own driveway. I did make her get out and walk for a bit around the marina but when I got tired of her trying to yank me back to the car, I let her get back in while we took photos. Knowing Isabella as we do, we had parked the car in the shade where she could be comfortable and still see us. Of course Emmy was having a ball barking at the terns and pelicans as they dove for fish.

We always see manatees swimming around in the marina water and yesterday was no exception. We watched a mama manatee and baby until they swam out into Palma Sola Bay. Here is mama sticking her snout out of the water.

There are always lots of pelicans diving for fish and sunning themselves on the docks.

After leaving the marina we traveled on down Palma Sola Boulevard to visit my favorite tree, a beautiful old banyan tree. It's massive!

Banyan trees are fig trees which I think are native to India.  As they mature, they develop aerial roots that strengthen into prop roots to support the heavy limbs. The prop roots are as wide as a palm tree trunk.

Would this not be an amazing tree for a kid to climb around on?

All along the boulevard are patches of wild flowers, unusual palm trees, and views of the Bay. For some reason I completely forgot to take any photos of the Bay itself.

On our way home we stopped at one of our favorite restaurants to pick up supper and bring home with us- peel and eat shrimp, grouper sandwiches and key lime pie. Perfect end to a perfect day! I hope you all enjoyed your Easter weekend as much as we did.