Monthly Archives: February 2016

New Babies, and DUCKS

It’s that time of year again! I have babies.

This is a Golden Italian Coturnix quail, just hatched. Notice she’s just slightly damp from the incubator, still. I wasn’t sure if it was too early for my quail to have fertile eggs, but I decided to take a chance, and put 11 eggs in the incubator awhile back, and surprise! Five were fertile, and hatched.

Four of them were strong and healthy, but the fifth needed some help getting out of the shell, and he was obviously weaker and smaller than the others. His legs were unable to support his weight, and he was crawling around by pushing himself on his stomach. I tried taping his legs like you do for spraddle-leg, but that didn’t help him at all; what he needed was something to help him stand upright. I came up with the idea for a therapy box.

Just a simple box, too narrow for his legs to spread out in.

It started working right away. With the help of the box, he was able to stand up and start strengthening his legs.

It definitely helped, and by the fourth day, he was walking around fairly well, and I thought he was going to make it. But you just can’t tell with animals, sometimes. On the fifth morning, he died. I figure there must have been something more wrong with him than just his weak legs. Well, at least I tried, and I know have a technique to try again if I ever get more weak-legged quail.

The other four are growing by leaps and bounds, and already have their wing feathers growing in. Here’s hoping most or all are girls. I can’t keep any more boys – I already have one too many!

I just love having ducks in the garden. They make me laugh, every day.

Besides being on constant slug patrol, I’m pretty sure they are actually keeping my small lawn clipped. It’s been very wet here, but warm, and I know the grass would have been too high by now if it weren’t for their grazing.

They are absolutely in love with the chickens, who they believe might be drakes. They are constantly following them around, necks a trembling, hoping the chickens will one day return their love.

It’s not going to happen. Ever. The chickens think the ducks are possessed lunatics.

I can see both sides. The chickens are insanely gorgeous, and the ducks…well…they are just a bit looney.

Every chance I get, I’m out in the garden. This time of year is so splendid for working outside. I finally finished the duck yard fence, and put in their cute little duck door.

I also put up a new trellis, and now I need to figure out what to grow on it. One half (the sunny side) is a white clematis. The other side gets more shade. I need something there…

And hog fencing panels are the best trellises ever. They last forever, and they are STRONG.

My peas are coming up.

And so are my kale and radishes.

The new fruit trees are in the ground, and pruned to knee height.

You know, I counted the fruit trees I have the other day, and I have twenty-two. TWENTY-TWO. In a small(ish) city garden. And that’s just trees, not counting all the bushes, like currants, gooseberries, blueberries, or other fruits. Some of them are potted, some are espaliers, and some are growing according to the methods in Grow a Little Fruit Tree.  It’s going to be fantastic when they all start producing. Last summer, I got a couple of apples, this year, I’m hoping some of the other trees will produce. I’m really excited about the peaches and pears!

The chickens are also hard at work. Here they are preparing one of their garden beds. After they finish prepping it, I’ll plant it in wheat grass for them.

In the front yard, I’ve taken over part of the too-large driveway, and put in raised beds of blueberries. Inside the area formed by the blueberry beds, I’m planting potatoes this year, under straw. Though it’s a bit early, I’ve got a few potatoes out already – they were sprouted ones that I grew last summer.

And if you’re local to me, I’ll be doing a program Monday evening at the Mount Vernon City Library with two of my friends on our trip to Europe last fall. We’ll be covering Iceland, England, Scotland, Venice, and Paris.

girls

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February Update

I want to get into growing mushrooms, but since I’m afraid of poisoning myself, until I do a whole lot more research, I’m confining my experiments to indoor growing only. As a starter, I bought an oyster mushroom growing kit.

And look! I have mushrooms!

Actually, since I took this picture, I harvested the first lot that grew, and now I have new batch beginning to grow. Mushrooms are amazing – they grow so fast. Literally, once they got going, they doubled in size every day.

Last time, I told you about the big Spring project – digging out the raised bed in the back yard, and replanting everything in the ground. That’s done, now. There is still finishing work, like edging and mulching, but that will happen gradually.

The garden looks pretty bad right now.  Luckily, there are signs of Spring everywhere.

The violets are blooming.

As is the “test pansy” I bought to see how many slugs are still left in my garden after the ducks have been working it.

Used to be, I’d plant one of these, and the flower buds would be eaten within minutes. Not anymore. This one’s been out there for a couple of weeks, and not a single nibble!

We built new compost bins, and placed them in the chicken yard. (The green roofing panel behind it is from me testing to see if I want to make a roof over it. I think I do…one on hinges so I can open or close it.)

The chickens also got a new feeder. Mom made this from a 5 galleon bucket, and so far it’s been working great. The chickens can’t get inside to throw their grain out everywhere, and yet it’s low enough to the ground that partly lame Antoinette can still reach it.

Because the ducks do like to eat cabbage and other vegetables – and also poop all over our patio, I fenced off the patio and the four beds that I mainly plant the back yard veggies in.  Simple fix: wire and small t-posts, but it works. And once the plants grow up, you’ll hardly see it.

I also made the ducks a “duck den” beside the rhubarb. In winter, I give them just a small pan (kitty litter box sized) to get in and have a splash. As you can clearly see by the mud and feathers, they’ve had their bath already. Sigh. It’s impossible to keep duck water clean. Five minutes after you change it, it’s already muddy.

Anyway, the ducks really like to hang out back here, and it keeps them away from the areas of the yard I’d prefer they not spend a lot of time trampling around in.

To the right of the duck den, is the worm composter box for all the food scraps that don’t go to the chickens.

Since we have the new chicken yard compost bins, I was finally able to clean out the corner of the yard where I used to throw all the compost stuff.

I’m going to plant a pear espalier against the fence, and probably plant veggies back here until I decide for sure what else I want to do. This is the ducks’ favorite place in the world. Lots of bugs and worms in the compost-y ground!

Dexter, who cannot quite be trusted to practice his herding skills on live animals yet, watches from the living room window…