Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene

It could have been worse.  That's what Hubs and I keep telling each other to try and comfort one another.  When we saw the storm track for Hurricane Irene, we were more concerned about the amount of rain we were going to get, than we were about any possible wind damage.  It had been raining in MD off and on for several days this week.  The ground was already very saturated with water and the creek behind our house had over-flowed its banks during one of the rainstorms.  We were worried that our sump pump in the basement might not be able to keep up and we thought the creek might flood our shed where we keep our motorcycles.  Boy, were we wrong!

It started raining again on Saturday afternoon and continued to rain until Sunday morning.  The winds started kicking up really bad in the middle of the night.  We were worried about trees falling down, so we all slept downstairs in the living room, just in case.  Around 3:45 a.m. on Sunday, Hubs heard a large crash (the rest of us slept right through it!) and ran outside to find that an oak tree had fallen onto the corner of our wooden deck and sheared the railing right off.  He was also getting ready to go and check on the creek again with a flashlight when a rather large tree branch in the back of the yard came sailing down.  He wisely decided the creek could wait.

In the morning, we  were listening to Hubs tell us about the deck and we were getting ready to call the insurance company.  Suddenly, we heard loud cracking noises and then felt a large "whump" on the roof of the house!  Hubs said, "That's not good!" and we all ran upstairs to see what had happened.  Our guest bedroom (where my sister normally sleeps) was caved in and we could see daylight!  We all trooped out back to find a very large poplar tree lodged on our roof.  It actually broke three roof trusses and damaged the window.  It's good thing my sister wasn't home at the time!

We called our insurance agency and they arranged for us to have some upfront cash to pay for someone to remove the tree from the roof and temporarily tarp it until the roof can be repaired.  Luckily, we have some truly awesome friends and neighbors who came at once to help us get the tree off the deck.  At first, Hubs thought they'd be able to get the tree off the roof themselves, but it soon became obvious that we'd need some professional help.  Our friends and neighbors helped us to get the tree off the deck and cut it up so we can have some nice oak firewood this winter.  I cannot say enough about how wonderful our friends are and how much they helped us out.  Thanks especially to Doug, Sean, Keith, Jason, and Fred.  You guys rock!  If I forgot anyone, I'm sorry--I was in a complete state of shock that day and it's all still a blur!

The tree guys came yesterday and used a giant claw thing that was mounted on a big truck to pluck the remaining tree off the roof.  It honestly reminded me of those games where you use a claw to pick up a prize.  This tree was definitely NOT a prize.  The contractor is working up an estimate and plan of action to repair the damaged roof and deck.  The tree on the deck landed squarely on our Weber gas grill that we'd given to Hubs one Father's Day.  I guess he was due for a new one, but I sure wish it could have been under better circumstances!

The contractor told us the tree that fell on the deck, fell due to wind and the tree not having a strong enough root system.  The tree that fell on the house had originally started as a single tree but had split into two trunks.  Apparently, it had started to rot between the two trunks and when the wind blew, it split the tree in half, with one half landing on our house and the other half was still standing.  That other half will have to be taken down as well because it's hanging there like a loose tooth about ready to fall out.  It could fall at any time and take out some other trees or our neighbor's fence so it has to go.

The tree guys tarped up the hole in the roof for us, so we are waterproof right now.  Good thing, as it's supposed to rain this weekend.  I saw on the news this morning that there's another tropical storm brewing out in the Atlantic.  Great!  According to Hubs, perhaps he shouldn't have been so jubilant about his prepping skills when he announced, "Bring it on, Irene!" on his Facebook page. :)

But, it hasn't been all bad this weekend.  We experienced again how lucky we are to live in the neighborhood that we do and how helpful our friends can be.  We also got a great piece of news this morning when Hubs received a phone call from the Post Office telling him our ducks are in and that we can pick them up later today!  Very exciting news; we've been waiting for our new little friends to arrive.  I will definitely post some pictures when I get them.  We are still thinking of names, but I think it will be like last time when we saw their personalities and then named them.  It'll be fun watching these new guys grow up and I'm hoping to make Lily happy.  Speaking of Lily, she is still doing well and is still recovering in our bathtub.  She is almost completely healed up and her head is starting to grow feathers again.  Her bill still looks pretty crunchy, but she is eating and drinking well and is loving swimming in the bathtub every night. 

Finally, please keep the people of Vermont in your prayers.  Hubs was born and raised there and his whole family still lives there.  They haven't experienced much damage themselves, but the damage to the area is devastating if you've seen any pictures.  Particularly heartbreaking for Hubs was the loss of the Bartonsville covered bridge in Rockingham, VT.  Hubs and his Grandpa Harvey were avid train buffs and they used to race across this bridge trying to follow steam trains.  It's almost as if one more tie to his beloved grandfather is gone, too.  Very sad.  I hope the recovery for the Green Mountain State begins fairly quickly and life can return to normal soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Post I've Been Putting Off Writing

Well, this is the post that I've been putting off writing as it was hard to bring myself to do it.  Normally, I love blogging and posting my thoughts, but this subject is so painful, I've been dreading it.  We lost three out of four of our ducks this weekend.  Just like that, five months of work and happiness GONE in one day.

I guess we were pretty naive in thinking that our duckies were safe in their pen.  I hadn't seen any scratching or claw marks on or around their pen, so I assumed that we didn't have any predators around.  Plus, with cats running around the yard, I simply thought they and/or their urine, would deter any predators.  Boy, was I wrong.

I got up as usual on Friday morning and looked out the window to see if Hubs had let the ducks out before he went to work.  Surprisingly, the door to the pen looked as if it was still closed, so I threw on my backyard shoes (Crocs) and headed down to the duck pen.  Now usually in the morning, even before I reached their pen, my "wackies" (named due to their wacky antics as ducklings) would see/hear me and start honking and quacking loudly.  Almost as if they were saying, "Hurry up, lady!  It's about time you got down here!"  I didn't hear anything this morning and that was unusual.  At first, I thought they'd somehow gotten out of the pen and were loose in the yard.  But then, as I approached the pen, I looked down in horror to find Chico's body stretched out in the straw.  I could immediately tell he was dead.  I looked around the rest of the pen and found Daisy's and Delta's bodies lying stiffly in the back corner of the pen.

I only saw three ducks at first, then I noticed a small movement in the dog kennel that the ducks used to sleep in at night.  Lily was alive!  She was too scared to honk at me and too scared to come out of the kennel.  I finally got her out by using a small stick to push her out.  My heart literally was breaking as Lily had to step over Chico's body in order to get out of the pen.  I quickly grabbed her up and took her immediately to the bathtub upstairs so I could shower her off and check the extent of her injuries.

Once I washed all of the mud and blood off, I realized her injuries were very serious.  As someone who trained as a Veterinary Technician, I knew she would need immediate veterinary care.  The predator had ripped open the back of her head, leaving a gaping 3" long x 2" wide wound.  It had also bitten through her bill leaving her a bloody mess.  I was able to secure an immediate emergency appointment at our local vet (the one we take our cats/dog to) and so I put Lily in a cat carrier and we were off to the vet.

From what he saw and hearing my description of how the other ducks were mauled, the vet deduced the predator had to be a fox, rather than a raccoon.  Apparently, foxes will almost always go for the bill and the back of the head to immobilize the bird.  After a quick examination, the vet determined that he could stitch up the back of Lily's head and glue her bill back together.  We left her in his care and went home to await a call back on her progress.

Five hours later, one of the techs called and said we could pick up Lily.  They had to sedate her in order to shave, then clean, and stitch up the back of her head and she had fluids to help prevent dehydration.  The vet used super glue (!) to repair Lily's bill.  He was optimistic about her chances and prescribed Baytril (antibiotic) and Metacam (pain medication) for her treatment plan.

I had Jeremy clean out the bathtub so we could put Lily in it until she's allowed to go outside again--about 10-12 days.  She's in there as I'm writing this, curled up on a towel.  At first, I was concerned that she wasn't eating as it looked like it was painful for her to put her neck down to eat.  I coaxed her along with some pureed peas (baby food) and some canned peas.  After three days, she seemed to be doing a LOT better, so I was able to fill up the bathtub with water so she could take a swim.  That really seemed to help out in her recovery and she looks so much better.

The only downside to all this is that everyone now showers in our bathroom as it's not a good idea to take a shower with a duck in there with you (soap!).  Also, while we love Lily to death, she's not exactly the most helpful patient.  Getting her to take a pill takes two people and an inordinate amount of patience and persistence.  One person holds her so she can't beat us up with her wings, while the other person pries open Lily's bill, shoves the pill down her throat, and then closes her bill and rubs her throat to make her swallow the pill.  We are usually successful 50% of the time on the first try usually 100% on the second or even third try.  I didn't realize ducks' tongues were quite so long or that the serrated edges on the insides of their bills could be so painful.  I know that now!

We've heard from several other duck moms & dads that because ducks are such social animals, we really should get some more friends for Lily to keep her company.  And, we don't want to be defeated by one predator in our duck-raising exploits.  So, while it was bittersweet to do so, we went ahead and ordered more ducks.  Nobody here in MD was selling baby Khaki Campbells (the type of duck Lily is and Delta & Chico were) so we bit the bullet and ordered them online from a company called Purely Poultry.  The ducks only cost about $5 each, but the shipping was $40.  I guess it's because of the way they are shipped--they will get to the post office and then the post office will call me to come pick them when they get there.

We decided to get another Khaki Campbell to keep Lily company.  The best thing about ordering the ducks online was that we got to choose from several different breeds AND we got to choose male or females.  With our original ducks, we got lucky with two boys and two girls, but I've heard people say they've gotten all males in a "straight run" brood--this means you get your ducks un-sexed--basically getting potluck.  We didn't want to take any chances this time, so we ordered the sexes we wanted.  I got an email yesterday letting me know that our ducks will be shipped out to us on August 29th, can't wait!

We ended up ordering five ducks.  A Khaki Campbell male, a male and female Cayuga ducks, and a male and female Indian Runner ducks.  Here is a picture of what the ducks will look like as grown ups:

Cayuga Ducks, note the bright green color

Indian Runner duck