7 Swans A-swimming? Not Quite!

As I write this post I realize that tomorrow is the seventh day of Christmas. Some people say the carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” is one of the worst written, while

Swans and roses pictured on 1917 greeting card.

Swans and roses pictured on 1917 greeting card.

others take it quite seriously. It was written in England and is considered a catechism song to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. For instance, they consider 7 Swans A-swimming as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most of us just enjoy the song and as inflation increases, we try to figure out what the list of gifts would cost today. The latest figure I have seen is $107,300.

Getting back to the subject of swans, we all enjoy seeing them with their long graceful, arched necks swimming across glimmering lakes and ponds. Don’t they make you feel nostalgic? They are so quaint and idyllic, pastoral and peaceful. You are probably wondering what got me started on the subject of swans. Just last week, we had opened our garage door and saw two of them coming across our yard, headed for our house. They are residents of a pond at Sweet Valley Village, just a short distance away, but we had never seen them wander away from the water before. Keeping them on ponds here in Pennsylvania is not a situation where you leave them alone and they fend for themselves. This may be the case where water does not freeze over and aquatic food is always available.

Our son, Duane and his wife Annette, owners of Sweet Valley Village, purchased the Royal White Mutes, several years ago, and keeping them has created quite a story. Some swans do survive on their own, but not here in Northeastern PA on a pond that freezes over. The swans decided to wander recently because Duane was holding back on their feed, so they would be easier to catch and place in a pen for the winter. Why is this necessary? When the pond freezes over, the swans have no way of getting away from their predators. They are shy, but are also known for their fierce temperaments, They weigh approximately, forty pounds each and their wings are strong enough to sometimes kill predators like foxes and raccoons. Humans are likely to receive a nasty pecking, so moving them is a rather formidable task.

These two swans are named Fred and Mildred, after Duane’s grandparents, who had constructed the pond over 50 years ago. Last winter, while attempting to catch them,

Winter 'swim' on Sweet Valley Village pond.

Winter ‘swim’ on Sweet Valley Village pond.

Duane fell out of a row boat, through the ice and into the pond. The swans probably wondered why he was swimming in such cold water. They remained quite unwilling to be caught so an air pump was installed which kept a small area of the pond from freezing. When a pond ices over, swans are deprived of their only defense, to swim away in open water. The air pump is capable of keeping a fifty foot circle of water free from ice. This year Duane decided to try something different, he purchased a net gun. One of the swans was caught, but was so tangled up in the net,  that the net had to be cut away, and still the other swan remained free.

After the net incident, the air pump was brought out again this year. The swans are very hardy and prefer the water to a cage. However, they do have to be fed all winter and the concern for predators is greater also. Seven Swans A-swimming are five too many for this pond. I must tell you, though, last year someone dropped off two ducks to add to the menagerie.

I can’t help but see a resemblance between the swans’ determination to have it their way, and us who think we know better than God how to run our lives. The difference is the swans don’t know better, but we do!  I’d love to hear from you. You are the “you” in shirlandyou, so please write.

23 thoughts on “7 Swans A-swimming? Not Quite!

    • Loved reading the story and laughing at the mental picture of trying to catch a swan. As you mentioned them it made me think of Fred and Mildred, and somewhat nostalgic and homesick. I remember them growing up, especially at church. I miss so many of the folks at church that influenced my life growing up. Looking forward to seeing them again someday.


      • Hi Brad: I loved hearing from you. You are right about the people who have influenced our lives for good and many times it is those who have faithfully gone to church. How wonderful that your upbringing has created a desire in you to serve Him with your life. God bless and keep pressing one.


  1. That’s very interesting about the song. I want to research it. I love music, and the origen of songs and different languages fascinates me. I didn’t know swans were so feisty:)). Thanks for the article.


  2. Hi Shirl, I’m reminded of Ps 46:10 “be still and know that I am God”. We often forget who He is and want to take control of the situation ourselves and leave Him out. It doesn’t work! He knows way better than we do what is best for us.
    Have a great new year.
    Bill Pollock


  3. Hi Shirl, I didn’t know that Duane had got some swans for the pond. They are such graceful and beautiful birds! It sounds like capturing them and keeping them safe for the winter has been a challenge. I know that birds use the water as a mean for staying safe from predators, so when the water freezes they are vulnerable. I’m glad that the swans are well cared for. It would be fun to see pictures of them. Happy New Year and God Bless!!


    • Yes, the swans have been there for many years and people enjoy watching them. They are pictured on this week’s blog. We took the photo of them especially for shirlandyou. So glad to hear from you, Colleen. Hope yours is the happiest of New Years.


  4. I didn’t know they were named Fred and Mildred! That is so cute! I can see why they would prefer being there rather than in a cage. It was so beautiful up there when I went up. And that is interesting about the song. So many of those old songs that don’t make sense to us now really did mean something to the people of the time, I guess. I hope the swans and the ducks have a safe winter.


    • Yes, they are freer in the water and don’t seem to mind the cold waters. We did see them floating on their bellies with their feet up in the air. Never thought to take a photo. Thanks for your comments, Janine. Love hearing from you.


  5. Ah, yes, “the best laid schemes of mice and men…” (Sidney Sheldon)

    Shirl, for some reason the vision of Duane firing a canon-net to capture the swans made me laugh. I’m sorry it tangled up on one of the swans, but couldn’t help but think of how many of those moments that “seemed like a good idea at the time” we have all experienced. I can almost see the story unfold: at the moment the idea was conceived, a smile of evil genious crosses his face. Later, there is a cackle of brilliance as the device is delivered and unpackaged. The moment comes as the juggernaut is rolled it into place–a crown gathers in breathless anticipation.

    Now, this is the point where men stop and stand with their hands on their hips, and stare into the sky as we pause to consider our place in the universe. “This is what seperates us in the animal kingdom; why we are at the top of the food chain. This is why God gave us thumbs, and superior brains!” (Don’t ask me how I know men do this–I just do.)

    In the perfect world of men, the crowd would “ohhhh” as the net sailed gracefully through the air; an “awwwww” as it settled gently onto the thumbless swans; clapping and cheering would permeate the air as the grateful birds were gently gathered gathered into waiting arms and wisked away to safety. Unfortunately, the world of men is not quite as perfect outside of our not-so-humble imaginations.

    In Maine, we don’t quote Sheldon at such times. We’re not sure who actually said this this first time, but it is oft repeated here…”Hold my beer and watch this.”


    • You’ve done it again, Chuck. I loved your comments about this week’s shirlandyou. I so glad you are one of the com-mentors and hope others will read what you have to say. It could be that being a man has something to do with you visualizing the situation. Pleas, write again.


  6. I love the song “The Twelve Pains of Christmas”…mostly the rigging of the lights…!! The swans really are beautiful…I love All of nature…it’s such a wonder. Just like Pamela Gianne commented…I’ll be researching “The Twelve Days of Christmas”…I had no idea young Catholic’s learn the tenets of thier faith through the song. The first word I’ll look up is tenets.


    • Hi Karen: I want to wish you a happy New Year, hope you’ll keep writing in 2013. Swans and good music seem to good together, don’t you think so? You’ll find the Catholics’ use of the Twelve Days of Christmas most interesting.


  7. Enjoy your blogs so much. Keep them coming. They are so good. Was just in Wilkes Barre and saw two swan figurines and thought of you. They are so beautiful. I am a bird watcher and have many feeders and enjoy seeing different birds come to them.


    • So good to hear from you, Loydene. Thanks for your kind words. I love the birds,too. Wondering where you saw swans in Wilkes Barre. I love doing the blog, but the best part is hearing from people like you. Keep up the good work you and Ken are doing.


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