The UK weatherman announced that this week it had been ‘uncomfortable’ because nighttime temperatures had ‘not dipped lower than fifteen degrees.’ I chuckled.
Here at Cortijo Limonero, we have had daytime temperatures in the high thirties, dipping to 34° by around 9pm and maybe plummeting to 24° at night.
The only time it is almost comfortable to do any work in the garden is between dawn and about 8am, but as that only allows an hour or so, we have been slogging on until 9:30 or 10:00. By that time, clothing is soaking wet and it is hard to see through stinging, salty, copious streams of sweat. (I, being a lady, have copious streams of glow.)
Geoff has been making tortuous inroads into strimming the second level of orange trees for over a week, so I waved him off as he thrashed his way through the head-high weeds. He is a vision of loveliness in his strimming gear!
I have taken over watering the garden and veg patch while Geoff does battle with the weeds. Once this is done, I go and check all is well with the chickens and the ducks. The ducks make a terrible mess of their large water bowls, so they have to be emptied and refilled at least once each day. As soon as I empty the bowls, our web-footed friends waddle eagerly into the puddle of mucky water, slurping and filtering for food, making appreciative noises and generally increasing the sum total of happiness in the world.
This morning, new arrival Brian grinned at me from his perch on the patio table as I made my way out to water the garden. Brian is what could be called a thing of beauty and a joy forever. But only by someone as daft and/or short-sighted as we are. At some point, we shall find a suitable place for him to be displayed in the garden, but these things must not be rushed.
I noticed that Poppy was showing considerable interest in the duck enclosure. She is fascinated by the chick, who spuddles about endlessly cheeping and checking that his foster mother has not disappeared. I could hear the peep peep peep above the sound of the hosepipe as I watered the succulent bed. I idly speculated that the ducks might remind Poppy of Dick van Duck, whom she loved with a mother’s tender devotion. The ducks, however, are not to know that: they probably just see a huge, wolfy and far too interested face looming nearby.
‘Leave the ducks alone, Poppy!’
She understands every word I say. She arranged herself in the shade, lying against the fence about two feet from the nearest duck, in the most non-threatening way she could manage.
I finished watering and made my way to check the birds’ food and water. The chicken ladies love to have a patch of damp soil to scratch about in for grubs. I have taken to emptying their water in a shady spot to indulge them. If the day is too hot for them, they will often take turns to sit on the damp patch to cool off.
The ducks were next. Pablo and Louisa were watching through the partition as the chick – still unnamed – scrabbled about in Ducky and Priti’s area. I made reassuring noises as I fed the hosepipe through the gate, ready to fill their bowls.
Priti, who had been in the shelter with her nest, suddenly shot out into view, quacking and looking very worried. She is rather skittish at the best of times, but something about her manner attracted my attention. I made reassuring noises and moved cautiously to take a look at what was going on.
Sitting in the nest were four tiny bundles of fluff. Clever Priti has hatched our first Cortijo Limonero ducklings.
I finished my housekeeping duties as smoothly as I could and headed back to the house for the camera.
By the time I returned, the ducklings were dabbling about in the puddle of emptied water, showing none of the distaste that the chick shows for all things aquatic. They are already standing upright like their parents. Their fluff looks glossy and healthy and each has its own distinctive markings. If they would only stand still, it would be possible to tell them apart.
One of them seems less steady on its legs than its siblings. It tumbles about, tripping over any microscopic obstacle, completely unconcerned and oblivious to the affect such behaviour has on the observer. If there is anything more adorable in existence, I have yet to discover it.
Ducky and Priti look like colossi, their orange legs towering above their tiny offspring as they toddle about exploring their environment.
There are three eggs still in the nest, which may or may not hatch. I suspect they will not, but four ducklings for a first clutch seems very satisfactory in any case.
At the moment, the babies are provisionally dubbed Eeny Meeny Miney and Mo. We may have to consider Dopey, Grumpy, et al if all seven eggs eventually hatch.
Update 5:30pm We have a fifth, not yet quite dry duckling now. Only two more eggs and they may or may not hatch into number six and seven.
Update 9pm Number six managed to drag itself, with its shell, about a metre and a half and then got wedged under the threshold of the shelter. I went down to check how things were going and was glad I did. Here is a bedraggled little duckling just before he was gently put back in the shelter. (I have removed the threshold.)