Ping & Gaston
Reader's Digest Canada|June 2021
Fostering a pair of ducklings brought new joy to our home—until I discovered what awaited them back at the farm
Olivia Stren

Over the past year, I’ve found myself justifying all manner of what you might call nonessential purchases in the name of lockdown. I ordered a hand-knit cotton sweater from Spain and throw cushions from Sweden, but the most delightful and, um, let’s say, unusual thing I “added to cart” was a pair of Pekin ducklings.

This happened last June, when my husband, Joaquin, my five-year-old son, Leo, and I were in month three of lockdown. By then, I had long shuttered the charade that was our home school, and there were no summer camps and no play dates. If there was a playdate, I was the playmate—and I was exhausted. Even our two cats seemed increasingly oppressed by our constant presence, pining for Precedented Times, when the house was their private hotel and humans would only occasionally pop in, like housekeeping.

So there I was scrolling Instagram, retreating into the seeming perfection of other people’s lives, when I spotted a friend’s photo of two tiny golden ducklings in her living room. I messaged her immediately. She explained that she was fostering the babies for a farm in rural southern Ontario. You can adopt the newborns and parent them as long as you like—typically, the farm explains on its website, the usual foster lasts a few weeks, until the ducklings waddle from their downy infancy into their more obstreperous, feathered teenaged fowl-hood. This program helps fund the farm and, I told myself, generously provides us with what we’d been lacking: joy, spontaneity and fellowship.

“WE’RE GETTING ducklings!” I proudly announced. Joaquin replied with something along the lines of “What?”

I explained that, for $165, the farm would bring us everything we needed—“chick Gatorade,” a heat lamp, food and bedding (a bale of pine shavings) and also an activity for Leo.

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