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"Woods to Waterfowl" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, September 2010

It's been a quick transition, really. A few weeks with the sights and sounds of heavy equipment gracing the D Acres grounds in early summer and voilá, what was once a wooded swamp has given way to some oversized puddles. On which shall I comment first – the sudden presence of bodies of water here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, or the unique experience of pulling weeds by hand while an excavator overhauled our landscape with the flick of a joystick?

It's fair to say that the excavator is already a footnote in the summer's stock of memories, while the ponds and aquatic niches we are creating are just beginning to take root. With our brand-new watering holes we are beginning to capture available water to a much greater extent. We are also cultivating a sweet cannonball spot.

It's been a process of seeding in rye, alfalfa, and clover, watching the water level gradually rise, welcoming the increased sunshine on that zone of the property, and growing accustomed to the changed path of sound. (Though we will pretend not to hear it, the ring of the telephone can now reach us in the lower garden.) The homestead's acoustics have also been revamped, with the bullfrogs, peepers, and crickets blasting their cacophonous symphony from their all-natural amphitheater. We have VIP seating whether we want it our not.

Nine ducks arrived in July: their house was built in an evening, their fence cobbled together from bedsprings and scraps of fencing the following afternoon. They took well to the water, their inaugural swim filled with full-on dives, head bobs, and wing flaps. (They have this back-scratching maneuver that is particularly entertaining.) Nine piglets – the numbers being mere coincidence – are the most recent addition, again with a fixed-up suite and re-used fencing. Next year's bacon is growing fast while rooting and fertilizing oh so effectively. They are the consummate garden bed preparers.

So these are the most visible signs of the area's transition. But there's more. We hold the next steps in our heads, ready to bring each to fruition as the seasons allow. Irrigation (and fire suppression), graywater filtration, cultivated aquaculture, terraced gardens & orchards, hydropower, wind power, swimming spots & backyard skating….

For now, though, these earthen swimming pools have seen their first summer come and go. We're watching the clover grow, wondering when we'll share our first duck-egg breakfast, and hoping the pigs don't best our fencing system. It's a cool autumn wind that ripples across the young vegetation, and there are already fall colors reflecting on the water's surface…proof, at least, that the ponds are not too murky. And aesthetics, I should mention, still count for something. All seems right, when, farm-fresh tea in hand, you can stand on the bank, witness the enthusiastic antics of the ducks, nod in agreement with the bull-frog, and watch the clouds blow over your own reflection.

Beth Weick lives and works at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, a non-profit service organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 as an intern, and now focuses her work on gardening, tending to the animals, and writing. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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