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.
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.
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!
The travel posts are over, and now I can return to updating you on the garden and the animals.
It’s been pretty warm weather-wise – we only had our first light frost this week – so I’ve put off winter-proofing the quail coops until 2 days ago.
To keep out the worst of the winds and rain, I wrap the smaller coops in clear plastic. I want them to still get light, and to be able to see out. I also fill the coops with loose straw. The quail LOVE to be able to burrow around in there.
I don’t put plastic on the big coop. It’s big enough the rain can’t get in except at the edges, and there’s lots of areas where the quail can get out of the wind. I do put a lot of straw in it, through.
Look how pretty the nasturtiums look – they are blooming up a storm, even though it’s the middle of November.
Partly because of my travels, I didn’t get much of a fall vegetable garden in. I did plant garlic, and I planted the greenhouse in some beets and kale.
I also moved a few of my more delicate potted outdoor plants inside. It’s nice to be able to have a place to put these, finally.
The “Hardy Nasturtium” I planted this year is growing tremendously. I hope it will survive the winter okay, because I really love it.
It’s finally blooming, too. The hummingbirds love the flowers.
The ducks are full grown, and are doing their job as slug patrol.
An unexpected benefit of having them loose in the garden all day is that they keep the chickens in line. I have a couple of young, flighty chickens, and I used to have some trouble with them flying over their fence into the garden. Not while the ducks are on duty! The ducks LOVE the chickens (they are sex-crazed little maniacs, and I think they hope the chickens are drakes!) and given the chance, they will follow the chickens around the yard and try to seduce them. The chickens are not amused. If the ducks are in the yard, the chickens won’t go there.
Another benefit of the ducks is their eggs. Surprising the heck out of me, they are actually using their nest box!
And I completely adore duck eggs. They taste better than chicken eggs, for sure! I’ve never been able to eat eggs on an empty stomach – if I have scrambled eggs for breakfast, it always makes my stomach feel a bit icky. Duck eggs don’t have that effect on me. I’ve heard that people who are allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs without a problem, so how cool is that?
The chickens are not laying right now because of molting, and winter light, and a variety of other excuses. But they do still have work to do. Year-round, they are my master composters.
They have a large yard, that they have turned to dirt. To keep the ground soft enough so they can dig for worms and bugs, I keep a layer of straw on top of it.
If I throw it out in sections, they will take care of spreading it out.
They also eat all the grass seed in it, and break the pieces up, and poop in it, and basically turn it into this lovely pre-compost. One or twice a year, I go and scoop it up and put it on the garden.
It finishes composting directly on the garden, and I put more straw out for the girls to get to work on. The chickens are definitely earning their keep even when they are taking a vacation from egg-laying.
I’ve been making lists of what I plan to accomplish next year.
I want to build a second rotating quail bed for the extra females to live in, so I can get them out of the big coop. I also want to hatch some more quail to add to the female population. Right now, I just have two mated pairs, and three solitary females.
Once the quail are moved, I can remodel the big coop a little bit, and hatch some miniature serama chickens.
I also want to build the colony rabbit house, and start raising meat rabbits.
Also a must-do is finishing the various fencing around the property, and put in some new raised beds along the side front yard.
And then….wow. I think all the building might be done! If all this gets done in 2016, starting in 2017 I’ll be able to start working on the purely decorative stuff that been sliding by because of lack of time/money.
Friday was an eventful day. Not only did we pick up our three sexed Fawn and White Indian Runner ducklings, but we got the call that our package of honeybees was also ready!
First there was some bad news though – one of the first things I always do in the morning is check email and facebook. One of the very first things to pop up on facebook was a story about a horrible accident on the nearby freeway involving a semi tipping over while delivering Belleville Bees. I ordered my bees through Belleville, and I was so sure that this accident was involving the delivery of the package bees! Would I be getting bees at all this year? It was a moment of great disappointment, as I’d been looking forward to having bees again for nearly a year.
It was quickly obvious, though, that these were hives being delivered to pollinate a field. What a horrible, horrible accident. I heard there were 3.7 million honeybees on that semi, and while beekeepers were able to rescue some, many more were either crushed in the accident, or killed on purpose by the firefighters spraying foam.
Our package was fine, though, and was SO MUCH MORE HEALTHY than the package we bought last year, which arrived with a dead queen and more than an inch of dead bees on the bottom of the box. This one had only a few dead bees.
Last time, we got Italians. This time, we were swayed into getting New World Carniolans by a local beekeeper, who thinks they are the best for my area.
Hiving a new package of bees is an exhilarating experience! Even though you are literally touching bees, having them crawl on you, and buzzing all around you, it never feels frightening. It’s just one of the most awesome, incredible feelings! Neither one of us were stung, and even though we were just wearing jackets with veils and rubber dish-washing gloves rather than a full suit, we never felt like we were in danger of being stung. It’s just so, so cool.
Our hive is a Warre hive, and one of the nice things about this particular one (made by Sweet Valley Hives) is the queen release ring system they have. Instead of hanging the queen cage down inside the hive, you just slot it into the side of the hive. In this picture, you can see the bees crawling around this slot, checking things out. The white tab you see is part of the queen cage – it’s the hanging strip.
When it’s time to see if the worker bees have accepted her and freed her from the cage, it’s as simple as pulling the cage out of the side and looking! Today, I did just this – not wearing any protection at all, not even gloves – and the queen has been freed!
The bees have already also made a large section of comb, and today I saw about five bees coming into the hive with pollen. Unlike last year, I think this lot of bees are off to a great start.
I made a quick little video right after we hived the package of bees. The audio isn’t very good, but you can see all the bees flying around us.
After we picked up the bees, we went to Valley Farm Center for the ducklings. They are one of the few places that offer special orders of breeds, and also sexed ducklings.
Sadly, the ducklings must have been exposed to something nasty, because just a couple hours after we brought them home, one of them started having trouble walking and was staggering around. Within another hour, she died in my hand as I was holding her. Mom did some googling, and found out that the symptoms and rapid onset and death matched exactly Duck Viral Hepatitis, which is highly contageous among waterfowl, and has a 90% mortality rate. I called Valley Farm Center, and learned some of the other ducklings that came in with ours were sick/dying. Terrifed we were going to lose all three, I sterilized the brooder box, and everything in it. I don’t know if that did the trick, but it’s now past the 48 hour incubation time for DVH, and the other two ducklings are in perfect health. I think they are going to be ok. Whew.
We named them Millie and Maisie. Maisie (surprise, surprise!) turned out to be a crested Indian Runner. I’m happy about that, because I love crested ducks! You can just see her little topknot in this pic:
They are both so cute. I really think there is nothing on earth more adorable than a duckling!
Look! Here is Millie asleep in my hand!
In garden news, we finally demolished the falling-down, rotting shed in the chicken yard. I should have gotten pictures of its decrepid state, but I forgot. Here’s a picture of the new space I have to work with. I’m still planning what to do, but I think it will involve another grape trellis.
There beyond the make-shift fence, is the bee yard.
I planted some pasture mix beyond the hive, which is starting to green out now. When it’s more mature, I’ll let the chickens in for a short time every few days to get some green forage in them. The trash cans are my container potatoes, the bed at the bottom is seeded with millet for the quail, and there’s comfry, kale, and blackberries as well.
All of the fruiting trees and vines are doing REALLY well. The hardy kiwis are covered in buds, which is so exciting.
The fuzzy kiwi is growing well, but because we only planted it last year, I don’t think we’re going to get fruit. The fuzzy green-and-red leaves are beautiful, though. It still kind of blows my mind that growing kiwi is even possible here in the Pacific NW. It just seems like such a tropical fruit.
Also fun is the “Tiny Tim” tomatoes I have growing in the kitchen window. This is a mini variety that does well in lower light, and only gets about a foot high. We have little green tomatoes already!
Oh, and do you remember when I said we weren’t getting a greenhouse this year? Yeah, I need to stop saying things like that. A while back, I said I’d built my last quail coop…since then, I’ve built another. A little one just for the extra girls. I need to get pictures up for you.
And now, after I said no greenhouse…we’re building one. From a kit, though, not from scratch. Mom found this company called Solexx, and their product sounds perfect for us. The kit is arriving tomorrow, so this weekend, we’ll be putting it together. I have all kinds of little melons and tomatoes started just to put in it!
Today, I harvested the last of the squash. Mostly Sweet Dumplings, although there’s a little This and That in there, too.
I picked one of the watermelons for breakfast. I didn’t think it would be any good, since it was super tiny – I only picked it because something had eaten a little hole in the bottom.
Surprise, surprise! It was only about the size of a large apple, but the inside was extremely juicy and flavorful. I now have tremendously high hopes for the larger watermelons still on the vine. We’re going to eat the largest one tonight.
The new strawberry bed is doing great.
I wasn’t sure it would, because I used the runners from the adult strawberries growing on the quail green roof. You’re supposed to leave the runners attached to the adult plant until the runners have rooted, but I just cut them off and stuck them in the ground. I planted them really close together, because I wasn’t sure if all (or any) of them would root. But most have. At some point, I’ll dig them up and space them further apart.
We’ve been having some typical Fall weather here, lots of wind and rain, mingled with bouts of brilliant warm sunshine. Sometimes within the space of a few minutes! I do love stormy weather, but there’s still a ton of stuff I want to do outside, so I’m glad for the periods of sunshine.
The rain is nice to write by. I’m going to be publishing my first book soon, so right now I’m doing some editing – plus working on the second book in the series. Cat Sookie (who is the most anti-social cat I’ve ever owned) will only deign to sit beside me and purr if I let her use my Kindle Fire to watch bird videos on. Here’s us, me on my laptop, and her on my Fire.
Plus, our Corgi puppy will be arriving by air on Saturday – so we’ll be spending the day in Seattle, then coming home with a new dog! He already has a HUGE box of toys, plus a collar and tag.
I got my first paycheck from that Steampunk Monster book I was doing some writing/costuming work for, so yay. The duck coop, meat chicken coop, greenhouse, and whatever else I can stretch the money to, is now funded! I’m most excited about the duck coop, because DUCKS.
After a ton of going back and forth on breeds, and whether I’d be raising them for meat, or just eggs and slug patrol, I decided (for now) on just eggs and slugs. That means, for me, the only choice of breed was the Indian Runner. I just adore these guys. If there’s anything that looks cuter walking down a garden path, I don’t know what it is.
I’ll plan on getting three girls (Philomena, Penelope, and Phryne) but if one turns out to be an accidental drake, I won’t mind. Male ducks are super sweet!
While I was looking for a cute chicken video yesterday, I got side-tracked into watching cute duckling videos. It doesn’t take much to distract me with ducklings! Chicks are sweet, but ducklings make me hurt inside, they’re so adorable. Seriously, ducks are the things I love most in this world.
So on to the videos!
I miss being followed by ducklings….
I miss watching them play in a tub of water. When they get overexcited, they jump out of the tub and go racing around in circles, splattering water everywhere! So funny!
I miss watching them play with my dog. Her best friend was a tan & white Indian Runner duck….
Most of all, I miss just holding them and watching them trust me enough to fall asleep in my hand.
In case you can’t tell, once the chickens are grown up and settled in, we’re also getting ducks. Ducks are the greatest slug control a garden could ever have! I can’t find a video to illustrate it, but my duck Bastien used to take walks with me in my garden. He’d stroll beside me like the old friend he was, chatting away about the plants and the slugs. Occasionally, his wife would get jealous of his attention to me, and call him back to her. He’d wait until she was distracted, then sneak away to finish our garden inspection tour.
I had a conversation with a friend about my favorite birds.
#1 Ducks. The way you feel when you see a human baby? That’s the way I feel when I see a duck. That makes me weird, I know, but I grew up handraising ducklings and taking walks in my garden with my Indian Runner, Sebastien, him heeling perfectly beside me, while we discussed the flowers and the work that needed to be done. He had a lot of very insightful things to say. If I’d understood Quack, I’d have picked up a lot of helpful tips.
#2 Crows. How can anyone not like crows? They’re so gothic and clever and interesting and opinionated – more like people than a few people I know.
#3 Seagulls. And here’s where my friend stopped believing I was telling the truth. He simply couldn’t believe that anyone would choose seagulls over something like, say, a meadowlark.
So partly for George, here’s a list of why:
1) Seagulls are art on the wing. It fills me with pure wild happiness to watch them soaring and balancing on the wind, their long and delicate wings tipped to catch the blue of the sky. No other bird flies with such grace. I could watch them for hours – and I have.
2) Songbirds may have prettier songs, but the cry of a seagull is melancholy given voice. It tears into me and sends shivers through me. I count the seagull’s call as one of my favorite sounds – and not just measured against other birds’ songs, but against the world itself.
3) Seagulls have such personality. Sit and throw french fries to a group of them, and after twenty minutes you’ll be able to tell each bird apart just by its personality. Some are bullies, some shy, but even the shyest has a brashness, a bold belief that, yes, he is a marvelous bird, and deserving of respect. We humans could learn from that.
Seagulls are a glory in this world, and people who think of them merely as “garbage birds” miss out on seeing so much. People are conditioned, I think, to love songbirds, admire eagles, respect owls, and be charmed by chickadees and hummingbirds, but none of those birds are any more marvelous than a seagull. It’s just that seagulls are so common that we overlook them, the way we overlook the reflection of mud puddles, and the magic of every ‘commonly’ exquisite thing. That’s a great pity, and our great loss.
For myself, I never fail to look up in parking lots and parks, beside the water, and over the asphalt, seeking the glint of a soaring white wing, and listening for the shivering lonely cry.
If I could be any bird in the world for a single hour, I’d choose to be a seagull. They fly the way my soul flies.
I’m currently obsessed with genealogy, but even before I became obsessed with Ancestry.com, I wanted to know more about my Great-Grandmother Merritt. I’ve always felt a sort of affinity with her, even though she died before I was born. I’ve collected several family heirlooms that were hers. But I was never able to find out more about the Merritt family’s origins – the only thing I had was the name of her father, and I could find out nothing about him. It was deeply frustrating.
But then I was cruising ebay, and I found this guy:
He offers 2 hours of professional genealogy research for a starting bid of $3. You can’t beat that! So I won my auction, and put him to work. So far, he’s worked one hour, and traced the Merritts back five generations! Very, very cool. I may have to purchase some time later at his normal wage of $12 an hour and have him solve another problem that’s been bugging me.
In my own genealogy research, I’ve found I’m direct-blood related to King John I of England (he of Robin Hood infamy), King Duncan I of Scotland (he who was murdered by MacBeth), and Charlemagne. I’ve also got a family line of Stuarts, and it turns out I’m some sort of cousin to Robert the Bruce (his daughter married my ancestor’s brother….)
What else is cool? Oh yes. I’m past the 100,000 word mark in Arassa! Now I can only hope I reach the The End soon. I don’t want to write another massive book after the last one I wrote (which was so huge I broke it up into two novels, and they were still on the longish side!) This is the stage where I’m using lots and lots of pure determination and stubbornness. Arassa is still fun to write, but it’s so tempting to put it aside and work on something new and different. The Othermind isn’t helping, either, because lately I’ve been positively bombarded with images and ideas for the next book. They sneak up on me, these ideas. It’s a good sign that I’m reaching the end of Arassa, though.
She’s one of the people I want to grow up to be. I’m so bloody envious of her hand-sewn eyelets on her new corset-in-the-making, that I am probably going to attempt some on my new corset. And look! I’ve got the boning for that corset!
It’s basically 5mm lengths of wooden sticks. Technically, they’re used for basket-making, but if you want to make a really, really authentic corset…well, they didn’t have plastic boning in the 1700s, did they?
I’ll leave you with this image of two indian runner ducks…
….because let’s face it.
Ducks are basically the coolest things on the planet.