The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

New life and hazards

Photo: Duck and some of her ducklings

Photo: Duck and some of her ducklings

Today I was creeping gingerly up a roof to paint a gable. I looked up and spotted a collared dove sitting on a slim nest of twigs. If she was comfortable at this height why not me? I sat on the ridge and surveyed the view. A duck hatched out eleven ducklings yesterday and the brood were having fun on the pond. The moorhen’s chicks are growing fast. Unlike the ducklings they are kept well away in the reeds so seeing them is rare. But she still has three.

After school three young lads (about ten years old) appeared by the pond with a fishing rod and a lot of equipment which they left on the road. This meant that cars had to slow right down as they passed the gang. Sometimes people would stop and alert the gang to how dangerous their activity was. Their response was angry and abusive. As I was painting a bargeboard barely fifteen feet away from them I finally crossed the road to ask them to stash their gear on the grass. They were stunned. I moved their gear three times onto the verge before they let it stay.

What was more unsettling was the fact that I suspected that they were trying to catch the day old ducklings. They would throw bread to attract the mother and ducklings and then dangle a tempting piece of bread on the end of a hooked line. The reflection on the windows of the house revealed all. I didn’t tackle them on the point as I reckoned that it would encourage them to try even harder. I watched their endeavours with a heavy heart.

If they had caught a duckling I would have leapt from the ladder in an instant. In the end I couldn’t bear to watch so went to work on the back of the house.

The ducklings proved to be more intelligent than their pursuers. When I eventually climbed into Jalopy’s front seat I counted 11 ducklings so today all was well.

My client returned from work and told me that he’d stopped them stoning the Moorhen chicks. Their response was bitter and nasty. But when he swung into the drive today they vanished.

Why do some kids feel impelled to torment and kill wildlife? Are they growing up in homes where they feel so small that they need to destroy and abuse anything smaller than them?

This afternoon’s experience sickened and depressed me deeply. This was not high jinks it was three angry and disturbed children letting rip on the world. Perhaps growing up in a pretty yet isolated village is not the rural idyll that we imagine that it is for children. Maybe they feel trapped and confined when the school bus dumps them back at the end of the day.

And do their parents have any idea what they are doing? I doubt that they even care.

Tomorrow the new laptop arrives. Meanwhile I’ve borrowed Danny’s so just have time to dash off this post. Emails and comments will be answered at the weekend if all goes well.

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  1. michelle sheets

    I think the difference in the lives of lots of kids these days -vs- “when we grew up”, is the fact that they have no one in their lives that is brave enough to tell them “NO”.
    Some folks think that to tell a kid no is to squash their spirit in some way, and I don’t agree. Kids need boundaries, and borders, and a sense of right and wrong.
    The neighborhood were I grew up was full of neighbors who cared and didn’t want to see someone get hurt or in trouble, so if you strayed, you knew your parents were going to get a phone call.
    I have followed kids home in the past and told their parents what they were up to. Once a group of kids were chucking some short pieces of lumber back and forth over a SUV that was obiviously not theirs, and I told them to stop. I got treated to a earfull of abuse, and then I followed them home and explained to the parents what they were you to. They actually were grateful, since one of those pieces of board would have caused several thousands of dollars of damage if they had hit the SUV.

  2. Maria

    I grew up in the country. When I was a little girl there was an older boy who lived further up the road called Richard O’Brian (I have never forgotten his name) and he sometimes would hang around with us younger ones.

    I had been watching a thrush’s nest and was very excited that we were getting close to the eggs hatching – he saw me one day and asked what I was doing I told him. I then watched in horror as he approached the nest and took all the eggs.

    To this day I feel sick at the memory and feel guilty for letting on even though I had no idea he would do that.

    Rotteness in people has been around for centuries nothing changes. The only difference as someone said above is that there is no respect. I believe thats our fault because we no longer make the effort to respect ourselves. I seem to be the only one who does not allow children to call me by my first name unless I invite them to. Ohers mock me but I really don’t care. I do know by having to address me by my surname they always seem a little wary of me. We have all become too familiar which is a shame.

    I really do hope that those ducklings continue to outwit those rotten boys.

  3. Martyn


  4. Clare

    I’ve just finished my training as a teacher and as such, am very much of the opinion that young people today have a really tough time. They have exams thrust upon them every 5 minutes, if they do badly they get into trouble, but if they do well parents often seem complacent, as if it was expected all along.

    I worked once in an inner city school in Berlin, and my colleagues were very much of the belief that young people (particularly boys) need some danger and threat in their lives to develop, and that in this dettol-protected, health-and-safety obsessed, pre-packaged meal modern world, there is not really much that they can do. Conkers have been banned, and even climbing trees and cycling seems to be outlawed now. Perhaps train-surfing and jumping in front of cars is the new thing for them to try.

    The truth is, I think they get bored, and are fed up of the complacency shown to them by increasingly self-obsessed parents (in some cases, please don’t be offended!!) so need to find something else to do.

    It’s certainly true in my (limited) experience that kids whose parents don’t care about discipline are also more resistant to being told off by other “grown-ups”. I’m just glad that they didn’t succeed in hurting the ducklings. I, like you would have had to go and do something about it, probably push them into the pond! oops!

  5. Amelia

    That is horrible, I agree with the other comments, there is no punishment for most offences. You would be amazed at how few of those boys have a pet of their own. The ones I knew growing up tended to live in a home where they were not allowed pets so they seemed to have no concept of how an animal live, dies, or gets injured, or how to handle them. I think pet ownership helps instill compassion toward animals.

  6. Steelkitten

    I think Katyviv has a point. Little boys have always been horrors and tested boundaries when they think they can get away with it, but unlike in yesteryears they don’t scarper when caught anymore. They turn on you and become abusive.

    Their reaction betrays they no longer fear consequences and that, unfortunately, is society’s fault. Teachers not allowed to discipline, neighbours threatened with legal action when trying to step in to stop them misbehaving, and of course the compensation culture.

    I hope there is a way back from this one day.

  7. Linda

    Violent TV programmes, violent video games, pressure and one-upmanship, parents who are not capable of setting an example themselves, children who are born only so their parents can claim more benefit (and that’s not just me being cynical, I used to work as a civil servant, and have been told that by young parents!), teachers not allowed to discipline kids any more; a lot of kids don’t stand much of a chance really. And that’s before you add drink and drugs into the mix. I was reading yesterday of young kids being taken into A&E having been found unconscious, drunk, in the street.
    Unfortunately, they will pick on something smaller than themselves.
    I don’t think city/village has anything to do with it. My big brother grew up as an typical Enid Blyton boy, fishing, bird watching, walking for miles on his own. My ‘towny’ nephews were indoor children, the TV and early computer game generation. All of them turned into fine, kind, responsible men. But we had rules!!

  8. katyvic

    How horrible, and how brave of you to approach the boys to ask them to move their stuff.

    But are the current generation really any more cruel than our own? I’m not sure. I remember boys throwing stones at nests in the trees in my (country) school playground some 40 years ago, and stamping on any eggs or baby birds they dislodged… pulling off the legs of Daddy-Long-Legs to watch them wiggle on their own… sitting in the middle of a quiet-ish but still fairly used lane outside the school, digging up the cat’s eyes (reflective metallic discs for those outside the UK!) in the middle of the road, to the annoyance of the drivers who swerved to miss them…

    Think of –

    “Ding dong bell, pussy’s in the well
    Who put her in? Little Johnny Flynn
    Who pulled her out? Little Tommy Stout
    What a naughty boy was that, try to drown poor Pussycat,
    Who ne’er did any harm
    But killed all the mice in the Farmer’s barn!”

    Children of primary school age always have done these sorts of things – particularly boys, I think – when they are developing independence and curiosity about the world, but haven’t developed sufficient empathy, or a strong enough moral code, to regulate their behaviour.

    But what I think *is* different is that they used to scarper pretty quickly if an adult told them to stop – and without the foul language and direct challenge/disrespect you get nowadays. And I remember them being hauled up in front of the school at assembly and being dressed down by the headmaster for doing these things, and the episode being really quite memorable for the school. People like you used to step in much more often and tell them off or report them to the school. Most people are too scared of hostile reactions to intervene nowadays.

    Hey ho.

    Our village has a magazine which goes to every home, and irritating or upsetting things like this are reported (without names, but it does seem to put pressure on parents to get the children to stop doing stuff – like pushing the wheelie bins into the duck pond, which was the craze in April…). Anything similar where you are? I wouldn’t mind betting that their parents don’t know, and would be horrified (that’s our experience here).


  9. jopan

    Unfortunatly there are a lot of kids like that out there. And i’ve seem them in citys as well as small towns. I think its the lack of control that any kid has. The importance stressed on good grades (even if the kid isn’t very skilled/interested in that area) and the fact that most of their parents (both mum and dad) are out all day at work leaving them with no role models and so creating in the kids a lord of the flys mentalilty.

  10. Bridget

    That’s sad. And yes quite disturbing behaviour, something obviously isn’t right with home life for those kids. What a shame.

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