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A friend has had ducks for sale. Last week. In desperation she’s now willing to give them away—all two dozen. Or was it three?

Her yard—and her life—are completely overrun with ducks. And chickens, dogs, cats, a couple horses… and more critters, as I remember, last I visited. But I’ve since lost count.

I forced my lips shut, clamping my hands to stay put. In my lap. Oh… Ducks are so cute. I’d like a few… I wanted to announce. And it’s true. With visions of a Beatrix Potter-style cottage in England’s Lake District assaulting me as I dined with friends last week, listening to their tales of bucolic farm life, I felt myself wanting what they have.

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On some days I envy their solitary life. Self-sustaining, growing and raising their own meet and produce, drying herbs, crafting cheeses, cultivating rose gardens, spending endless hours baking, cooking, creating mouth-watering delicacies in kitchens exuding warmth and welcome.

But then came the confessions. It’s a lot of work, they said. Time-consuming, sweat-inducing work. Some friends have the time to keep up with it. And they wouldn’t trade places with anyone. Now retired, they attend weekly book club meeting and go to lunch with girlfriends for regular shots of social interaction. But some are still busy with careers and families and packed schedules, and don’t enjoy as much the responsibility when a yard full of animals starts to overwhelm.

Suddenly my empty arms relaxed, resisting the urge to bring those web-footed, feathered babies home with me.

In my dreams I am a master gardener, with nothing to do but revel in the peaceful existence of country life. I see chickens and geese and ducks pecking, clucking, waddling across my lawn. Hmm… they eat bugs, provide free fertilizer, free eggs, and free dinner after chopping, plucking and roasting. So what’s not to like?

In my dreams and on my favorite magazine pages, dogs and cats lounge on the front porch, keeping rodents away. Hummingbirds flit from one cheery blossom to another. Baby goats romp across the pasture. Bee hives dot the landscape. Luscious fruits hang from our trees in the back yard. A procession of prize-winning cabbages in neat rows, spilling over the edges of our garden plots. And fresh milk and cheese, artisan breads, home-canned fruit preserves, golden, raw honey and succulent veggies grace my dining table every mealtime.

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But never in my dreams do cats leave gopher innards on the door mat or on the cushions on my bench swing. The dogs are clean and polite and refuse to vomit on my freshly painted porch. Bees never sting. Birds, wild turkeys, raccoons, etc. leave my plump tomatoes and ripening peaches alone. And a hired hand does all the dirty work—and then cleans up afterward—and doesn’t charge a bundle for his efforts.

So much for dreaming…

City life offers convenience, entertainment, the stimulation of business and people and events and something happening 24/7. Yeah, the garbage gets hauled away twice weekly, and grocery stores stay open all night for satisfying those midnight cravings. But in cities we put up with traffic and noise and smog and crime and long lines and headaches and more.

Hours away from metropolitan congestion lay small towns, pastoral hamlets with a multitude of charms. Where the pace slows, and the only sound is an occasional squeak of rusted blades on the rancher’s tired windmill, or the cry of a hawk soaring overhead in search of food. But rural life has its challenges, even for those who limit the number of critters surrounding and beneath their roofs.

With each decision comes a trade-off. Trouble-free worlds exist only in my dreams. When gazing at glossy photos of gorgeous home interiors and petal-perfect garden spaces, someone behind the scenes did the work of cleaning and organizing and styling for the photo shoot. And when the photo gal and stylist leave, life in that home goes back to normal. Because the family members actually live there. And everyday life has a way of disrupting my unrealistic, picture perfect ideals.

To be continued…

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