On Birthdays, Projects, and Ducks

I had another birthday a couple of days ago, which allowed me to practice my second annual birthday tradition: learn a new skill.

Last year, I learned to knit.  Well, I learned the basic knit stitch, which is all I want at this point.  I don’t want to fuss about with reading patterns, or counting stitches (heavens knows I get enough of that with my other handiwork).  No, all I wanted was to have a mindless activity for my hands while I watch tv.   In a year, I’ve made (I think) eight scarves, and six pairs of mitts.  Most of these scarves are super long, too, as I do love a loooong scarf, and ones I find in the store are rarely long enough!  The scarf I just finished has a crocheted trim and pockets.  I’m loving the pockets.

This year, I learned two new things, actually.  The official thing was learning how to hand spin, using a drop spindle.  I bought a basic spindle and some prepared alpaca roving off Etsy.

And…I’m getting the hang of it.  My yarn is extremely uneven, but considering my favorite purchased yarn is almost as uneven, I kind of hope I never get so expert that I lose the ability to make uneven yarn!  Uneven yarn is super fun to knit.

I’ll spin out the entire 4oz of roving I purchased before I say whether spinning will become a lasting interest for me.  Right now I’m enjoying it, though.  After I’ve made the yarn, I plan to hand-dye it, using plants I’ve grown in my garden, then knit it into something.  A pair of mitts, probably, since I doubt there will be enough for a scarf.  It will be cool to say I made them myself from (almost) start to finish!

Also for my birthday, I cooked my first duck.  I’d never even tasted duck before, but I’d always been curious.  People say it’s difficult to cook well, but I have to say it was simple enough – as long as you find a good set of directions and follow it.  I decided to slow roast mine, as I’m a big believer in slow roasting meat until it’s so tender it falls off the bone.  Most meat, I find, is generally undercooked.  Meat should either be rare (as in a good steak) or cooked for a really long time on a really low temperature to be really good.  I used this recipe for my duck, and it turned out brilliantly.

Wow.  I am such a duck convert!  This was absolutely the best tasting meat I’ve ever had.  It was not greasy at all, just really tender and flavorful, and the skin?  So crispy!  Plus, I had about a cup of duck fat left in the pan, which we saved to render.  Soon, I’ll use it to fry some potatoes, as I hear that makes the best tasting potatoes ever!

Because of this duck experiment, I’m now delving into the idea of raising ducks for meat.  I never even considered that before, because I love ducks alive and quacking…I thought I’d never want to use them as meat animals.

But the taste of that duck!!!!!  Seriously, the best meat I’ve ever put in my mouth.

I did some research, and discovered a lot of people raise Muscovies for meat.  They are considered not only the best tasting duck, but also a contender for the best tasting meat overall.  Some describe it as more like veal, with several saying that the breast meat is almost indistinguishable from sirloin steak.  You can even grind it, and use it for hamburger.  It is the Cadillac of meats.

Muscovy-Ducks3068a

And then, I did even more research on the Muscovy ducks themselves, and discovered that the females are natural mothers, hatching and raising up to 80 ducklings per year.  Muscovies also catch and eat mosquitoes and flies out of the air; they are so brilliant at controlling flying pests that people purposely keep them around barns just for that purpose.  People say that once they get Muscovies, mosquitoes are a thing of the past.  While I don’t have a huge problem with flies or mosquitoes, I’d love to be rid of the ones I do have!

muscovy_ducklingsOddly, they are actually more of a goose than a true duck.  They can breed with a duck, but the offspring will be “mules”: infertile.  Another point in their favor is that they are extremely quiet.  The males “whisper” or hiss, and the females have a “trilling coo”.  They have very…interesting faces, as well.  A little reminiscent of a turkey?  I always though they were ugly, but after watching a bunch of youtube videos, they are starting to grow on me.  Perhaps it’s the way they wag their tales like puppies?

I’ve got more research to do, but I kind of think I’m going to end up with a few Muscovy ducks.  And the perfect option would be to find someone willing to do the slaughtering for a share of the meat.  Even though I’m totally a convert to duck meat, I still don’t think I could kill a duck.  😦

And here.  I can’t resist.  You’ve seen the first episode of Sherlock, season three?  If you haven’t, minor spoilers.

This kiss.

Just…this kiss.

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