Category Archives: ducks

June Garden Update

The strawberries are producing like crazy. And they have such lush leaves that birds really haven’t been bothering them.

Lots of other things are also coming into season: blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and currants! I need to pick enough gooseberries to make a small pie. I hear they make delectable pies! I need to can some currant jelly.  I also do local U-Pick, since my garden can’t produce everything I want to preserve. Last week a friend and I picked a few buckets of strawberries, and I canned some to make sauce with, and dried and vacuum-wrapped some more.

I really enjoy preserving food. Just the process of it is enjoyable. Partly I just love old-fashioned things, just the pure history of them. Like hand-spinning with a spindle. I’m getting better; this latest attempt at yarn looks actually legit!

And look! I made mitts! There is just something so satisfying about starting with wool, making your own yarn, then knitting a functional piece of clothing.

The bees (after two failed attempts at getting a hive started) are finally taking off. Their numbers have increased so much, and they have the first box full of comb, and are working on filling the second.  Maybe in the Spring I’ll actually get my first batch of honey!

The biggest news, however, is the ducks. Sadly, they are no longer part of our little farm. I gave them away to a lady with more property and a pond. While I loved seeing them patrolling the garden (and they definitely helped with the slugs and bugs) none of the coop methods I tried worked well enough for us. I really thought having gravel in the coop (and using the hose to spray the poop down through the gravel) would work, but it didn’t. The poop did not break up well enough, and the coop was still too stinky.  And honestly, chickens are SO much easier to keep.  So while I will deeply miss seeing the ducks wandering around, and I am sad to not have their eggs anymore, it’s been somewhat of a relief to have them gone.

Their coop is not going to waste, though! It’s had a move and an update – next time I’ll tell you what is moving in! (And what my plans are for the gravel-y place where it used to be!)

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Bees, Quail, Fruit Trees, and Ducks

The peach trees are still doing fantastic. No leaf curl here!

And the peaches themselves are still growing!

The rest of the garden is looking great, too. I love this time of year.

The wood chip mulch makes everything so woodsy. And so far, it’s really helping with the soil. Although we’ve had some record scorchers, I haven’t had to water anything – other than a few things that I just put into the ground. When I pull back the chips to plant, the ground is dark and rich and full of earthworms!

To the chickens’ great sorrow and lamentation, I blocked them out of the east section of the side yard.  The plan next year, is to turn this part of the yard into a colony setup for meat rabbits. Right now, I’m growing a few excess squash and other things that the chickens would rip apart.

The strawberries are loaded with green berries, and see the little apple espalier in the corner? I love espaliers! So much fun!

And this year? I think the bees are going to make it! The queen is laying up a storm, and they are so self-suffient that they completely ignored the sugar water feeder I set up for them. Once I realized I was only feeding ants and hornets, I took it down.

Also, don’t you love the little waterer I set up for them? It’s a giraffe footstool (formerly inside the house until I got tired of it) with a shallow bowl on top. I’m glad I thought to do this, rather than just donate the footstool!

The newest trees, two little plums, are so cute.  I did a count the other day, and I have TWENTY-FOUR fruit trees in my backyard. And this is not counting the bushes, like the gooseberries and blueberries.  Grow a Little Fruit Tree changed my gardening life!

One of these plums is actually a plum/cherry hybrid, so I’m really hoping it fruits before too terribly long. I’m quite anxious to taste them!

The three new ducks are all grown up now, and they are all three boys! Since I wanted a drake, and only intended to keep one anyway, it doesn’t mess up MY plans, but the friend I was planning to give the extras away too already has a male and needed females. So I have two cute little guys up on Freecycle as we speak. Anyone out there want some ducks?

The one I’m keeping, I’ve named Montgomery.

Maisie, Millie, and Montgomery!  See the new pea gravel bedding inside their coop? They like it, and so do I. Much easier to just wash the poop away with the hose set to ‘jet’.

Oh, and look! My teeny tiny little mulberry tree is producing mulberries this year! I’m so excited, because I’ve never even tasted a mulberry, but folks say they are wonderful.

The most exiting news, however, is what’s currently in my incubator. While I am still absolutely keeping my coturnix quail, I’m branching out to bobwhites! I found a seller with Snowflake and pure white bobwhite quail eggs, and of the 12 I put in the incubator, 11 are currently developing into chicks. When they had only been four days in the incubator, I candled them, and was able to see their tiny hearts beating! Such an incredible experience!

Snowflake bobwhites are gorgeous.

bobwhiteAnd the whites are so floofy!

bobwhite2

If you’re interested, I do recommend this seller. His eggs were wonderfully packaged, and although how they are treated by the post office is out of his hands, I’m impressed with getting 11 out of 12 to develop. Sounds like he raises his birds really well, too!

 

New Ducks

I always intended to have a trio of ducks, but sadly, one duckling had something wrong with it, and died in the first hour after I brought it home. So this Spring, I bought three more ducklings. I’ll keep one of them, and re-home the other two.  Hopefully one will be a male (for me) and the other two females…because if they are, I already have two friends interested in them.

Because I was so busy outside, I started letting them come out with me, and “help” me garden. They were so perfectly sweet. Here they are, assisting me with potting seeds in the greenhouse.

They are fawn and white Indian Runners.

I looked down at one point, and one had planted herself!

But they always grow up so fast.

We brought in a load of gravel for them.

We had shavings in their duck pen, but it wasn’t working out well. Too stinky and messy. I heard of someone using gravel, and then you can just wash the poop down through it. Seemed like a great solution.

The ducks seems to like it better too.

March Update, Quails and Garden

The newest batch of hatched quail are about 3 1/2 weeks old, I believe. They are about half the size of their parents, but nearly fully feathered, and far too active to be indoors in the brooder box. So yesterday, I moved them outside.

They have the full run of the largest coop, but I’ve put their EcoGlow heater inside the nest box area in case they still want some warmth.

These golden italian coturnix are so pretty.

Of course I’m eagerly hoping they will all be females, but it’s still too soon to tell. With this coloring, you can’t tell by the speckling (or lack of) on the chest. You have to wait for the distinctive head markings to grow in, and of course that’s the last part of quail to get adult feathering.

If I had to guess at this point, I’d say I have three girls and a boy, but I’ve definitely been surprised before!

So I was busy taking close ups of the quail, and I happened to glance up and notice I had a peeping tom observing the photoshoot…

Everything is growing so fast right now. The violets and peonies are up and running, and I just can’t wait until everything is lush and green again. I suffer in the winter, due to lack of green.

Yesterday, I got the last of the potatoes planted in under straw.

I’ve also been busy fixing up part of the chicken run to welcome muscovy ducks next Spring. The chickens (happily oblivious this means more dreaded DUCKS) helped me prepare the area where the duck kiddie pool will be.

I’m going to make that square slightly larger, fill it with pea gravel, and put the pool on top, with a drainage hose in it so I can send the dirty water out to the garden when I refill it. The holes of the blocks, I’m thinking I’ll plant with peppermint. Ought to be pretty and practical.

Inside the house, I’ve been experimenting with making soft whey cheeses (like mozzarella) and mesophilic heirloom yogurt varieties.  I’m excited because some of these yogurts (if you add rennet) can be used to make the soft yogurt-like cheese I fell in love with in Iceland: Skyr. I can’t make true Skyr without an actual Skyr starter, but maybe I can come close. And if I go back to Iceland…I’m smuggling home a little starter!  😉

I really want to get into making more things from scratch, so I can stop buying the really-bad-for-you storebought versions. Plus, homemade just tastes so much better! Today I made mayonaise, soon I’ll try mushroom soup (it’s a base for SO many of my recipes), apple cider vinegar, butter, sour and cream cheeses, and laundry detergent.

Dexter the corgi has learned the smell of cheesemaking. He ignores me when I’m heating the milk, but as soon as I put in the rennet, and the curds start to separate out of the whey, he’s right there, sitting at my feet.  He’s my taste-tester.

 

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

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…

 

 

Big Spring Project

I always seem to make my plans for the year, and then something comes up, and we make a huge change of plans. This year, instead of building new animals housing, we’re making some structural changes to the circle garden. This is mainly roses, clematis, and other flowering plants.  Two years ago, I ripped out a middle section to put in a quail coop. Since then, I’ve been meaning to get around to revamping things, but I never have.

The wood sides are over ten years old, and are in pretty poor shape. After going over a number of different options, I decided to go with the most labor-intensive. Sigh. Instead of replacing the wood sides, we’re tearing the wood out, digging out the plants, carting away the extra dirt, and making the circle garden into a flat, rather than raised, bed.

Yesterday, it was raining pretty hard. We worked anyway. We got the largest clematis and one rose moved, and I hope the clematis will survive. I’ve never moved a clematis before, but the internet says it can be done. So we’ll see.

Today, it was sunny and actually warm! It was much more pleasant being outside, but it is still back breaking work – especially since our backs were already pretty much pre-broken from yesterday.

One half of the circle is done, however, and I have the largest rose moved from the other half.

The ducks were very interested in the whole process.

What ARE you doing down there?

Are you looking for slugs? Your method seems a bit…destructive…

Dexter the corgi wanted to help, but I felt he’d be more of a hindrance, so he had to satisfy himself with being on duck watch. From his patio position, he warned us whenever the ducks were sneaking up behind us. Beware! Feral garden ducks!

It was a good birthday.