Category Archives: ducks

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.

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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.

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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…

 

 

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.

Year in Review – Including Best Books of 2015

2015 was incredible. In the garden, we took down two old rotten sheds, paved a long section of pathway through the garden, and built a duck coop for our new animal additions, and built a greenhouse.

Outside of the garden, I took the trip I’ve been dreaming of for half my life to Iceland, Great Britain, and Venice.

I would have also published my first book, but I decided to delay it until I finished all three in the trilogy, and release them at the same time. So basically, I wrote three books in 2015. A little more tweaking, and they’ll be ready to go out in Spring, I think.

Additionally, this was the year of me being the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Seriously, I loved being 42.

And of course, I read a ton of books in 2015. I made my yearly goal of 150, just barely – hey, I didn’t read at all during my month abroad! I ended up with a total of 152.

Out of those, here are my favorites, beginning with nonfiction.

1: Real Food for Rabbits, by Laura Wheeler

rabbitsI talked about this one in my last post. But basically, it’s a fabulous book for people with either pet or meat rabbits, who want to feed their animals with natural food, not commercial pellets.

2: Book Cover Design Secrets, by Derek Murphy

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Sometimes a particular book comes to you at the exact moment you need it. This is one of those books. It’s absolutely brilliant – Derek tells it like it is, often going against the commonly believed and published “truth” about cover design. If you’re an Indie writer, this book MUST be on your bookshelf. I borrowed it through Kindle Unlimited, and then immediately went and purchased a copy – it’s that good!

3: The Compassionate Carnivore, by Catherine Friend

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Really good explanation of what I’m trying to do on my little farm, and why I’m doing it.

4: The Nourishing Homestead, by Ben Hewitt

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Yes. Just read this. He has a few things wrong (I disagree completely with his views on wheat, for instance) but the majority is so, so right.

5: My Garden, the City, and Me, by Helen Babbs

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Wonderfully written, interesting little book about gardening on a rooftop in London.

6: Grow a Little Fruit Tree, by Ann Ralph

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This book should be required reading for any backyard gardener with an interest in fruit trees. Wow – so much helpful info! Everything you think you know about planting, pruning, and growing fruit trees is wrong…read this book and find out why. It will completely change your gardening game plan.

7: Adventures in Yarn Farming, by Barbara Perry

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I admit it; I’m fascinated by sheep and shepherds. I would love to own sheep, but I can’t quite figure out how to fit them in my backyard farm…plus they are just ever so slightly illegal where I live. So I read these books and dream of the day I can move to the country and have my own flock. Icelandic sheep, definitely, after experiencing the wonder of those sheep in their home country!

I’ve been reading far more non-fiction than I used to, and it’s heavily weighted in favor of practical books relating to homesteading, gardening, or animals. But I also still read tons of fiction.

8: Fool’s Quest, by Robin Hobb

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So good. I can’t even…it’s just so good. I love how Hobb ties everything together in this one, all of her various series just fitting together seamlessly. Book one of this particular series made my Best Books list last year, and I expect she’ll make the list next year, too.  My favorite series of hers, although to really get the most pleasure out of it, you really should read her others, first.

9: Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis

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So charming and fun. It was a delight to read, and after I finished, I immediately downloaded the rest of the series. There were equally good.

10: The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne Valente

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Valente’s writing is SO yummy. It’s old-fashioned and modern and hip and nostalgic and you can’t skip even a single word. No one writes like Valente; she’s just incredible.

11: The Hollow Boy, by Jonathan Stroud

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This book deserves way more than five stars. Take all the stars! Honestly I am just blown away by how good this series is, and this book in particular. Every one I know needs to read this book right now!

12: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

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I’ve been a fan of Novik’s dragon series for a long time now, so when I first heard this was coming out, I was a tad disappointed. What, no dragons? No Napoleonic War? No men who (a tad disconcertingly) call their dragon ‘dear’?  But yowza. I was blown away by this. It’s head and shoulders above her dragon series. It’s truly the best fantasy I’ve read for ages.

 

Okay, it was super hard this year to pick an over-all favorite, because numbers 11 and 12 were SO incredible.  But I’m going to give the title to:

13: Miss Buncle’s Book, by D.E. Stevenson

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This isn’t the most amazing, life-changing book in my list. It’s not even the best written. But it is a book that I hugged to my chest when I was done reading, because I grew so intensely fond of it. It made me happy, and once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. I stayed up way too late, and skipped watching two of my favorite tv shows for this book. And the sequels are great, too – I think I may even like the second book a triffle more.

And there you have it: 2015 was a year of glory. But I have a feeling 2016 is going to be pretty spectacular too….

Christmas, and Looking Forward to 2016

This Christmas was one of the best in nearly a decade. The extended family and their drama went elsewhere, and it was a quiet, peaceful Christmas with great food, excellent gifts, and an opportunity to attend our Christmas Eve church service. I actually made it through feeling relaxed instead of stressed out, and rather than being SO GLAD it’s over, I’m looking forward to next year.

This was Dexter’s second Christmas, and the first that he really understood what unwrapping was all about.

We also discovered the perfect way to apply flea medicine to a wiggly corgi…you use the sleeve of a sweatshirt to ardvark them!

It’s been rainy almost non-stop this fall and winter – we’ve set records for rainfall. Finally, though, we’re seeing the return of some sunshine, and it’s bringing on the desire to garden. I’ve been marking up my seed catalogs, and almost have my order ready to send. This year, I’m going to try to stick to tried-and-true varieties, because I’m making it a goal to grow as much greens/seeds for the animals as I can.

rabbitsI found this fabulous book on Amazon:Real Food for Rabbits: Raising Meat Rabbits Without Buying Commercial Feed.  Don’t be put off by the title if you only have pet rabbits – it’s all about feeding, and it applies just as well to pets. I’ve actually suggested to the author that she change the title.

I would LOVE to get all my critters off packaged, commercial food. The chickens are, but the quail and rabbits are (hopefully) being converted over to natural grains and veggies this coming year. I’ve seen so many benefits from the chickens being off commercial food. They are healthy and happy, and – biggest of all – their poop doesn’t stink. At all. I’m looking forward to having that be the case with the quail!

I don’t know if my meat rabbits will happen in 2016. I have a muscovy duck in the fridge ready to cook tomorrow, and assuming we like it as much as everyone says we will, I think I’ll be starting with a few meat ducks.  I’ll order the minimum order of 10 ducklings, save out the nicest trio for breeding, and eat (or sell) the rest. The nice thing about muscovies is how quiet they are, plus the females are terrific mothers.

muscovyI really like having the Indian Runner ducks in my garden. Other than a certain devilish attitude at bedtime sometimes, they are no trouble at all.  And every time I see them out the window, they make me laugh. I’ll be getting two more in the Spring. Either as chicks, or I’ll try hatching some eggs.

I’ll also be hatching more quail. I don’t remember if I told you guys, but I lost a female this Fall, bringing my numbers down to just four females and two males. I want to plump up the female numbers. And my friend lost all but one of her quails due to a predator attack. She didn’t wire in the bottom of her pen, and something dug through the rocks and gravel and killed all of them but one little male in one night. Put wire underneath your cages, folks. It might be a little more trouble and expense, but you never know when a predator will find your cage!

I’m keeping her lonely male with my females, until I get more quail hatched. Then she’s taking him back – I have enough males already!

So right now, that’s the big plan. Re-vamp the chicken yard area to make room for the muscovies, hatch more quail, and garden ALL THE FOOD.

Because seeds.

SAD

http://www.greensparrowgardens.com/2014/12/sad-seed-acquisition-disorder.html