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"Punxsutawney's Partner" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, March 2011

As I write this, it's the end of February and I'm preparing for a night nearing zero degrees. Admitting that, it may seem like an oblivious and outrageous statement to say that that springtime is coming.

There are, however, the usual suspects that accompany this annual statement: groundhogs and their shadows, sugar buckets (which also cast shadows), brief thaws and the icy aftermath, the days lengthening by perceptible increments. And here at D Acres, we have another gauge to add to the list.

Duck eggs. Mmm-hmmm.

With our Indian Runners having taken their first swim on our backyard pond this past July, we've been looking forward to this particular milestone in our breakfast diet for some months now. It's a welcome treat, and though our chickens continue as the backbone of our egg production, the duck eggs are a pleasant present for the palate. Large, creamy, and full of flavor, they have sufficiently quenched (at least temporarily) our interest in roast duck meat.

Granted, there has been a bit more sun, a bit more warmth, a bit more daylight, and whether it's that or just coincidence…well, in some quadratic formula of animal instinct and optimal timing all of the above translates to: eggs.

Excellent.

How many have we had at this point? A dozen or two? Gathering just two eggs a day, we've got to wonder if it's one over-achieving duck leading the pack, or are they each taking turns in a delicate sharing of the task? Perhaps it's just one wacky bird with cabin fever, jumping the gun on spring and insisting that this cold and blustery end-of –the-month is propitious timing?

Rhetorical questions, merely, that gladly can be set aside as we tend to the practicalities of the situation. Nesting boxes, breeding possibilities, an expanded enclosure; now's the time to make our plan, for once the snow has gone we must be ready to bound into action.

For the interim, though, it seems that Punxsutawney Phil may have a Dorchester duo when it comes to predicting, or at least denoting, the perpetual changing of the seasons. So despite the ponds still being frozen, and the ducks still paddling their webbed appendages through drifted snow; despite glaciers sliding off the duckhouse roof and bedding freezing to the edges of their suite; despite this evidence to the contrary it would seem that the first inklings of spring have begun.

At least in Duckland.

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