As I crept around the garden yesterday, I realised I have been waging war. Indeed, I am amidst it still, with no sign yet of a peace declaration. It has come to pass slowly and insidiously, the evidence now clear and bewildering. I am fighting and losing a battle against the Khaki Campbell Clan. I have been over-run.
It is the dagger I see before me, in Shakespearean terms. My very own, now turned against me and mine. I raised this clan, from day old ducklings. I watched them take their first swim, hand fed them delicate morsels. Guarded and watched over them, taught them the danger of a seemingly disinterested Jack Russell. The looming peril of a wide circling kelpie: whatever happens, do not look into her eyes.
Yet now they are grown, full of their own plans for this little realm. Imagine my despair as I see them bullying the dear little wild ducks on the waterhole. I call them over with a slice of bread, explain there is room for all on our creek. They bob their sleek brown heads up and down in agreeance, chatting away to me. We understand, all will be well. In my heart I know it is not so.
Did they think I would not notice the alliance they made when the water hens arrived? How quickly their ranks swelled? Yet they too were at the Campbell Clan’s bidding, as they hustled the wood ducks off a little patch of green. Seven Campbells with hundreds of water hen bouncers. Now they had an army.
Like Generals through the ages, I believed I could maintain my lines of defence with wire. Peace talks are all very well and good but there must be containment. Adapt and Overcome (Nick Beattie). Seven ducks, each weighing in at three to four kilograms, have quite an impact on a garden bed. What is not destroyed by their fumbling feet is compacted to a hard pan as they puddle around, vain glorious, wherever a sprinkler or any form of watering takes place. Mulch is overturned and trodden in with their snuffling. Indeed, I have concluded that a Campbell duck is closely related to a wild pig, with much the same result in a garden setting.
At first, I fashioned old wire into intertwined arches, twisted at the bottom so I could plunge them into the ground and create a decorative duck fence for the front garden beds. Two days of twisting and fiddling resulted in maybe twenty metres of what the Impatient Gardener cuttingly described as the cemetery look. Not quite what I had in mind and imagine my surprise, when browsing the aisles in Bunnings sometime later, I found you could buy the very same by the roll. Too late. The ducks either pushed through or bumbled over this bespoke fencing. More defences were employed: weldmesh sections, sections fortified with stakes and sections built like old stub yards.
As the sky splashed pink and yellow above the horizon, you would find me at my desk, plotting and planning new strategies. Drawing new lines of defence on the garden map; sketching new and improved versions of duck fencing. I now scurry out by torch light to turn hoses on, hoping the wobblers won’t alert the sleeping Clan, but we know the Clan never really sleep.
The losses are mounting. Ten newly planted Agapanthus this week were lost to the duck mire. My little fences only spread their lines of attack; I am surrounded. A very wise woman wrote on the Moble kitchen Wall of Knowledge: when you have more than you need, don’t build a higher fence, build a longer table (Di Murphy). Wise words indeed though an Arthur cousin of my mother’s wrote: it is better to be pissed off than pissed on (he shall remain Anon) and that is more how I am feeling at present, alas.
As I sit here and write, the Campbells have just marched past the kitchen door on their way to the pantry landing. I had better rush off, they will be waiting for their morning bread and one thing I have learnt in life is you don’t mess with the Campbell Clan.
The Moble Gardener.