The Bad News and the Good News

A.V. Walters

We were already pretty much resigned to it. Yesterday was the deadline. It was several days past the last possible date on which we could expect the emu eggs to hatch. With as many doubts as we had about Mr. Emu’s ability to incubate the eggs during the coldest days of the year, I can’t say that modern technology did any better. (And, it’s been cold, into the twenties at night, several times.) At the moment, the score is: emus—0, electricians—1. Sadly, it was not the much anticipated storm-driven power loss that did us in; as best we can tell, it was the inadvertence of renovation. So yesterday we walked down to the incubator and flipped off the switch.

When the storm clears we’ll remove the eggs and take them outside, to open and bury them. We feel compelled to do an ‘egg-topsy’ to determine whether they were ever viable, and if so, at what stage of development they failed. I’ve done this before, and believe me, you want to do it outside. If you’ve ever experience a rotten egg—think of that times six (for the size of the emu egg) and with an explosive force rivaling anything outside of a military application. One time, an egg exploded when I was burying it. I was enveloped in a cloud of shimmering, golden light—a halo about 12 feet across. It was beautiful—until I took a breath. OH-MY-GOD! The stink—I thought I would die. There I was, encased in a cloud of rotten egg, my clothing saturated in the stunning mist of it. It was breathtaking, literally, in every way. There was no escape. Quickly, I finished the burial and headed directly into the shower—clothing and all. So this time, we’ll be very careful.

I’m sad it didn’t work out. Before we went to do the deed, Rick chopped up a bunch of apples. We thought it would be nice to visit the emus, after pulling that plug—sort of an affirmation of the reason we made the effort, in the first place. We hadn’t been up to visit them in four days, which isn’t unusual. So, we crossed the highway and headed up the hill. That part of the farm is almost a mile from our side, and we chatted about whether we should intervene in the emus’ future efforts, at all. (It’s not like we get a lot of support with it, and we’re not sure anyone even wants more emus on the farm.) Still, those emus keep trying, so it’s hard to not want them to succeed.

Well, it’s lambing time. (I know, it seems odd to bring those baby lambs into the world at the coldest time of the year, but they are dressed for it—100% wool!) I have to admit, it’s fun to watch them cavorting about, in the sun. (I mean, They actually frolic!) Sheep are lumbering, dirty and dumb, but watching little lambs, though, is like watching children. They bounce and run. They form little bands of trouble, and then, at the slightest provocation, run lickety-split, back to their moms.

Anyway, when we got to the high fields, only Mrs. Emu was in sight. We exchanged nervous, knowing looks. Well, when we had removed the eggs, we’d predicted it. Emus will continue to breed until the days start to lengthen. A search of the field revealed what we already figured—Mr. Emu was bedded down with five new eggs. By week’s end, we’re sure there’ll be more. (Those darned emus—you turn your back for a minute…)  This time, we won’t take the eggs. If Mr. E can keep them alive over the next 55 days or so, they’ll hatch into a warmer, Sonoma County Spring, with a good chance of surviving. (It’ll just be a question of outsmarting the predators.) We decided their start date is December 15th, so we’re counting down. There’s some good in this, beyond winter timing—the earlier batch of eggs was conceived during the worst period for emu nutrition (the late fall is yucky, dry grass and a few treats from us), this later clutch comes after two months of green grass and plentiful water. So perhaps these new emu babes have a better start, out the gate. A door doesn’t close, but a window opens…