There are many animal lovers in Bucks County, as everywhere, but few if any stand up to Michelle Sharer, President of the Friends of Lake Afton, who raised a Pekin duck since he was an egg left on her patio six years ago.
Michelle and her family live in a 100-year-old house along Lake Afton in Yardley, fittingly called “Bird Haven.”
Living right along Lake Afton, Michelle spends much of her time watching the ducks, geese, and many other migratory birds – photographing, observing, and learning their habits.
When she noticed the duck egg left on her patio, Michelle knew she had to take action.
“As my husband said later, that one decision changed our life. I never would have expected you could feel that kind of passion and love a duck so much; you wouldn’t think they are a lovable pet,” Michelle recalled in an interview.
“It was a truly wonderful experience – once we started raising him, we bought all kinds of books and learned how to care for him.”
Michelle purchased an egg turner so she wouldn’t have to turn the egg by hand; mother ducks turn the egg every six hours when sitting on it and remain sitting on the egg for 23 hours a day.
The egg turner along with a heat lamp kept the egg warm and took care of the need to turn it.
Once the duck was ready to hatch, Michelle ran into another problem.
“He started poking a hole and then stopped; I was worried he wouldn’t come out and when I researched, it’s because it wasn’t dark enough – it’s dark under the mother, so I placed a bunch of sticky notes over the top and he hatched,” said Michelle.
The baby duckling soon earned his name Alfalfa from the tufts of feathers sticking up on top of his head.
It was Michelle’s daughter who inspired her to write a book about the experience after Alfalfa became a vital part of the family.
“Everywhere I went, I would tell people about Alfalfa; it just seemed right to make a book out of the experience.”
Alfalfa also accompanied his family to Cape May for their annual beach trips, posing another problem when he got carsick.
Michelle cared for him every step of the way, as is evident in her new book “Alfalfa: The Story of a Duck from Lake Afton in Yardley, PA.”
The book is full of her knowledge and holds a large piece of her heart.
It’s a truly powerful story seeing Alfalfa grow as a family member and how he imprinted on Michelle the moment he hatched.
“As long as he could see me, he was happy,” Michelle says. “If I was sitting outside, he would stand next to me on the bench or sit right by my chair. If I was right inside the door, he would stand next to the glass or lie down so he could see me whenever he opened his eyes.”
Michelle’s book contains her own images of the duckling waddling after her in the yard as she teaches him how to walk, curled up with his stuffed monkey who became his dear friend and snuggle buddy, enjoying the discovery of Lake Afton and his own kiddie pool, and becoming a beloved pet to her family.
Not only is this book full of adorable pictures of the bond shared by Michelle and her duck, but there is lots of interesting information on ducks that Michelle shares with her readers, too.
“I figured, when you learn interesting things, why not share them?”
Watching Alfalfa grow through the book, learn the ways of being a duck, but also his loyalty to his family is heartwarming and touching.
“We would always bring Alfalfa in at nighttime due to the other animals that might snatch him – when I had guests over, they would laugh and enjoy seeing me call for Alfalfa when it started getting dark. He would come running with his wings flapping.”
When Alfalfa passed away, he was six-years-old and went peacefully with his family by his side.
“Even my book publisher brought me flowers when he heard of Alfalfa’s passing,” Michelle said. “It was a sad occurrence for everyone and I wish he was here to be able to see his book.”
Michelle says she still has to remind herself that Alfalfa isn’t here anymore, though she will find herself going to say goodnight to him as usual and then be hit by his absence.
“There will never be another experience like raising Alfalfa, I’m sure of that.”
Come out to meet Michelle and purchase a copy to have it signed on Small Business Saturday at Ye Olde Yardley Florist, 175 S. Main Street, Yardley, on November 24th, from noon until 3:00pm.
You can purchase this book on Amazon as well and enjoy this treasured story for yourself.
PHOTO CAP: Michelle snuggles with Alfalfa, something she says he loved to do. “He didn’t think he was a duck at all.”