The Belted Galloway cow is the iconic logo for the Farm Institute, but it is Elvis the patrolling Muscovy duck who is the best-known individual animal on the farm. He was even on our holiday card. He strives to make his presence known, first setting up headquarters in the Katama Barn where he waited patiently for the grain room door to open, a sign that someone would toss him a handful of chicken feed. But this winter Elvis seems to be expanding his repertoire and we are all observing him and reporting on his activities. And talking to him. Yes, we ALL talk to him. We wonder what he is thinking and why he does what he does. Is it only about food, or is he testing his capacities for self-improvement?
While we call him Elvis, to those who have been at the farm for a while he is actually Elvis 2, Elvis 1 having met with an unfortunate accident with the tractor. He inherited Elvis 1’s partner Muscovy, Priscilla and they hung out together for a couple of years. Then Priscilla met a sad fate from a roaming dog (an example of why TFI staff is so adamant about keeping dogs off the farmstead area). Elvis then transferred his friendship to Samantha the pilgrim goose for one summer. Last year Samantha moved to Chilmark to be with another goose next to a pond. Maybe Elvis has decided we are ultimately the most steadfast companions he could have, an unlimited source of food in great variety, and we are always doing interesting things for him to watch and he always has an audience for the interesting things he does.
For example, we had never seen him fly but this winter farm hand Corey saw him fly 50 yards and over the chicken fence. He hung out there, eating the high protein diet with feathered friends and flattening the most aggressive rooster to show him who was boss. Jon witnessed his interactions with the sheep. Elvis got into their pen, and although sheep are cautious they are also curious. They circled around him lowering their heads to watch. He walked up to one and started pecking her face rapidly. Obviously it didn’t hurt, and only heightened their curiosity so it went on for a while. Who did he think he was? When I park my car, he frequently walks out from under it as I get out. He seems to know the days that I am bringing something to eat and of course I can’t help sharing.
He seems to like new visitors so perhaps, this winter he is a little bored with the 7 of us full-timers. He may find you when you come for a visit, but if not, ask one of us. Someone will be able to tell you where he is entertaining himself that day.