Ducks and the End of an Era-G. Totten, Sioux Falls

Early last Sunday morning I saw a pair of mallard ducks in my back yard. Although I had heard them around the neighboring houses, quacking and flying overhead, I’d not actually seen them until then. At that hour it was still a little wet from the previous day’s rain, and the pair seemed to be enjoying the lawn. Well, sure enough, yesterday as granddaughter Piper and I descended the rear deck stairs to plant a few tomatoes the female made quite the flapping display as she flew up and over our heads. Piper screamed in alarm and I yelled “duck!” Then I saw them, nine perfect eggs in the indentation left by one of my failed attempts at starting a clematis vine located between the deck stairs and the garage.

I called the Outdoor Campus and spoke with Lynn Purdy, as I was a concerned that my house is a good distance from the river (as the duck waddles, at least). Lynn told me they didn’t necessarily have to be close to water, and just advised me to try and stay away from the nest as best I could. She also informed me that my neighborhood used to be wetland and that the duck may have responded to some remembered instinct as a reason for nesting in the area–interesting. I also learned that mallards are a federally protected species, not that I would knowingly harm a duck of course, but still, it’s good to know. I alerted the neighbors, who offered to keep their cat, Elvis indoors until the ducklings are either gone or big enough to be safe from his wandering. He’s a fairly old feline, but cats are cats, and a duckling would easy game.

Now while I agree this is a great learning opportunity for me and my visiting grandchildren, it is also apparent that it may be a bit of trouble. It is immediately clear that we will have to be very cautious to avoid disturbing the female, and the nest is only about ten feet from my newly planted garden. She is right where I have stored my tomato cages, so no idea if I’ll be able to access them when they are needed. Additionally, I’ve no idea how aggressive a nesting pair might be. Other concerns are if I will be able to mow the lawn or water and weed the garden boxes? I guess only time will tell. I had also arranged to have a large hackberry removed that is really too near both my house and my neighbor’s new addition, but now feel I should put that off. Not such a terrible inconvenience, providing summer storms stay away!

Piper and I watched from a safe distance all afternoon to see if the mother duck would return. She wandered around the yard for awhile, but then disappeared. I contacted the Campus staff again, and they assured me that she would not abandon the nest, and that the eggs would be all right for some time without her. To my relief, she was back on the nest this morning. I’ll not use the back steps, but walk around the far side of the garage for the duration, and hope if I keep my quiet distance and ignore her she will become accustomed and accepting of my presence in the yard. With luck, I hope to post a photo of that eventual new family.

On a sadder note, we have lost that wonderful show Garden Line. After almost thirty years, the extension has opted to end its production. At first, I thought it was a decision made by PBS because it airs on that station, but learned that it is a decision made by the extension. I don’t know a lot of details, of course, but it would appear it is a funding issue and decided during their recent reorganization. For the record, both PBS and the county educator I emailed responded promptly and very courteously to my inquiries.

This is a sad day for those of us who were devoted to the show. I know I’ve not missed an airing in at least fifteen years. The first time I viewed it, I was hooked. Although there are other good gardening shows on PBS, entertaining and informative in their way, they do not offer the local information that Garden Line provided. That show’s format was based on mostly question and answers from local homeowners and gardeners, with county educators addressing issues with pests or insects, weather, anything that might affect the yard or garden and offering information on new plants and plant varieties. I learned more from watching Garden Line over the years than from any other source. It will be missed for the great service and education it provided. If you are as disappointed as I am in this development, contacting the county extension with your concern might help to bring it back; it’s hard to say. It certainly couldn’t hurt to let them know your thoughts.

For now, here are several web sites offered by the extension to help with yard and garden questions. These appear to be university based through SDSU. They are: and

And as a word of follow up to my moth posting several weeks back, last weekend I learned that these are called gypsy moths, and I actually had them lay eggs on my ceiling by my patio door! The areas will look about the size of a quarter, and gray/blue in appearance. My go-get-em and stalwart daughter accepted the task of ridding me of the larvae, and was I ever grateful! I have to admit the incident had me off my usual appetite for several days. So be cautioned, and rid your home of these moths at any every opportunity–either trap and release or smack them and return them to the soil from which they came. Smack and return works for me.

And finally, the market is off to a predictable great start. Opening day was a little wet and windy, but my visiting kids were impressed all the same with the quality of the vendors. I picked up several of my hard to find Anaheim pepper plants, and of course there are still lots of other plants for sale. The good thing about purchasing these from the market is you know they are local varieties that will do well in our growing conditions. Thank you, Falls Park Farmers Market!