By Mary Silwance
My neighbor gives me poop.
From her ducks, that is.
She gives me duck poop smeared straw, the perfect winter blanket for my garden beds. Duck waste breaks down in my garden, nourishing the soil in preparation for planting. My harvest, in turn, helps nourish her egg laying ducks. I give her greens from the garden or what’s headed to compost in exchange for duck eggs. My neighbor and I are eager for the summer when we will herd her ducks over to my vegetable beds for an all you can eat insect buffet.
Though I never gave them tin cans, at first I thought ducklings were like cartoon goats, able to eat anything-rotten vegetables, moldy bread. This is not at all the case. My patient neighbor created a duck menu for me so I wouldn’t kill her fuzzy dependents with my ignorance.
When we take collards and carrot tops to the ducks, my daughters help feed them. Having observed them from chick to duckling to practically grown now, we’ve watched their personalities unfold. Also in my ignorance, I had thought only people and pets had distinct personalities. Now I wonder what other species have personalities.
Have you ever experienced duck eggs? Harder to break than chicken eggs, the shell’s hues vary, delicate blues and pinks. They also differ in size, surprising if you’re accustomed to uniform store bought eggs. The yolk is bigger, summer sun orangey and the whites are more viscous. The flavor is strong but does not linger the way store eggs sometimes do.
There isn’t a rule saying you can’t bake with duck eggs but I do not want them absorbed into something else. They are for frying. And smelling. Tasting. Savoring.
I know the journey of these eggs.
My neighbor rearranged her life and backyard to accommodate a dozen ducks. She went through hoops with the city to get permits as well as addressed one neighbor’s fear of smell and noise. She had to train her Great Danes, used to the backyard as their domain, to share space with beings they could easily use as chew toys. She enlisted the help of a handy neighbor to design and build their enclosure. She had to figure out how to protect them from predators and below zero weather. I value her efforts and am motivated to grow enough veggies to share. I even consider which kitchen scraps the ducks would find delectable and divert them from the compost, delighting in their delight.
I am now connected to my neighbor. We each have something the other needs and wants. For years, she and I had only waved to each other in passing. Because of her ducks and my garden we have a friendship, slowly evolving beyond eggs and greens. And poop.
When I hold my neighbor’s sturdy, pastel pink and soft blue duck eggs in my hands, just gathered and still warm, I am grateful.
This is communion.