Tag Archives: indian runner ducks

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!

 

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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

Garden Update

This will be a quick one, folks, because I’m exhausted.  I spent a good share of today shoveling pea gravel, mostly for underneath the ducks’ kiddie pool.  After it’s done, I’ll show you pics.

The ducks are almost entirely gown up now.  They still have a bit of baby fluff on their necks, and their voices are still in the process of changing to quacks.  Maisie has her quack down pat, and she can really sound demanding!  Millie is either a little more laid-back, or just hasn’t figured out her Human-Do-My-Bidding-Now voice.

They are having free-range time in the backyard garden now, and are so enjoying themselves!

So far they haven’t caused any real damage, just slightly squashed one lettuce.

Oh, and they are making an inventory of all the ornamental pools of water in my garden.  Including dog bowls.

The new chicks are doing great.

Freddie.

Charlotte.

And Edith.

Who I am 85% sure is a rooster.  Sigh.  Her comb is bigger, her feet are HUGE, and she’s much more aggressive.  Remember I said I can never get an Ameraucana in my flock because I always choose the one rooster among the bunch of supposedly sexed female chicks?  I said I wasn’t going to pick one out because of this unfortunate penchant, but when I got to the feed store, I saw this one and just fell in love.  Such puffy cheeks!  Such an owl-like face!  I told the clerk I wanted this chick…oh, and one of the others, a lighter colored one.

So at least the lighter-colored one (Freddie) that the clerk picked out is looking like a girl.  I should hire myself out as a rooster-finder, for folks that actually want one!

I finally got the sign I designed and free-hand painted up.

I  have one more sign for the chicken coop mostly done, and then I need to make two more: one for the ducks (Duckingham Palace) and another Out of Eden sign for the backyard.

My veggies are coming along well.  This is my cabbage/runner bean bed.  The picture is about a week old; the beans are almost as tall as I am now.

And the snap peas are even taller than me.  They must be close to 6′, and producing peas like crazy.

I don’t seem to have a picture, but the tomatoes in the greenhouse are a couple feet tall, and setting teeny tiny little fruit.  Outside, I have a few tomatoes that actually ripening cherry tomatoes!  I think I’ll be eating my first tomato this weekend.  So exciting.

The roses are blooming like mad right now.  This is one of my current favorites.  Belle Isis.

And the bees are out foraging.

The Big Spring Projects are (thankfully) winding down now.  Which is good, because I’ll be leaving for Iceland, England, and Egypt in about three months.  I’ve been too busy to even really think about it, and of course, once I get back, it’ll be time to start seriously planning the Big Spring Projects of 2016.  Right now, it looks like we’ll be adding meat rabbits, and possibly a stock tank of Tilapia!  I keep getting drawn to books on aquaponics, and finally I realized I don’t really want to raise plants with fish, but I do want the fish!  Fresh fish, right from the backyard!  How awesome would that be?

And even cooler, it turns out that species of Tilapia that is best suited for my area is also the same fish from the Sea of Galilea – which means I’d be raising the same fish that Jesus and the disciples fished and ate.  I love connections to history like this.

New Greenhouse, Ducks, and Garden Stuff

It has been so busy here.  One day, we think, we will be done with all the major builds/improvements, and then we will be able to relax.

Or, you know, at least be able to keep up with the work that we want to do.

The greenhouse (Early Bloomer, by Solexx) is almost finished.  It’s up, and usable – there is just a few remaining details, like the door handle, the solar-powered automatic window opener, and some trim.

There is also quite a bit of landscaping to be done around it.  I’ve already planted some peas and sunflowers around the back.

Inside, I built raised beds, and spent several hours shoveling compost out of the chicken coop’s deep litter, and carting it by the wagon load into the greenhouse…only to shovel it back out into the beds.  Lots of work, but somehow enjoyable, all the same.  I’m finding that there is true pleasure in hard, physical work.  I used to be a total night owl, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, then sleeping in.  Now I’m so excited to work outside, that I wake up early, work all day in the garden, then collapse in bed around 10pm.

As you can see, the inside floor still needs to be installed.  We’ve bought some lovely brick.

At the far end, will be a potting bench, once I have time to build it.  To the left of the door, is shelving for starting trays of seedlings.

I’ve planted a bunch of tomatoes, melons, and peppers in the beds.

In the front vegetable garden, I came up with a good idea for trellising my beans.  I put in two t-posts, then built a frame of wood and wire that fits between them.  It is zip-tied securely into place.

At the end of summer, I can cut the zip-ties, and store the frame out of the weather.  Next year, I can put two more t-posts in a different bed, and put the frame up there.  Some years, I’ll have a frame between the posts, other years, I’ll use the posts as tomato tie-ups.

The Indian Runner ducklings are getting so big.  Their chests are completely feathered in, and feathers are coming in on their backs, faces, and wings.  They are still very, very cute.

They’ve changed so much from just a few days earlier…although they still like to snuggle with each other.

Josie and her chicks are doing great.  I need to get some more pics; this video is from a week ago.  They have lots more feathers on their wings now, and their tails are coming in.

What’s this I see?  What’s that in your hand?

You have a new camera????

Well, then!  Time for some beauty shots of what’s blooming in the garden!

Peonies.

And roses.

And after years of never seeing butterflies, I’m finally seeing visitors in my garden.  This one seems to come here a lot.  It’s very shy, though, and even though I hunted it as stealthily as I could, this was the best shot I could get.

Is that a Painted Lady butterfly?

And Peabody and Nefertiti say goodnight.

For those of you who are interested in keeping quail naturally, a friend and I are running a new facebook group: Natural Quail Keeping.  Feel free to join and start posting pics or asking questions!

 

Ducks, Bees, and Growing Things

The garden is growing really well.  This is probably my favorite time of year among the ornamentals.  Notice the new greenhouse – still a work in progress, but slowly getting built.  Everything in it should grow extremely well, after I made a blood sacrifice Monday while working on it.  Yes, my knife slipped, and I made a nasty cut on my knuckle.  I could probably have gotten a stitch or two, but since I don’t care about scarring, I didn’t bother going in.  It’s healing nicely, but it’s awkward working outside without the use of my left forefinger!  Not to mention typing.

I’m hoping we get the greenhouse finished soon, because I have three cold frames and some indoor growlights bursting at the seams with little tomatoes, squashes, and melons!  The melons and a few of the tomatoes will go into the greenhouse and stay there; the rest just need a bigger place to grow while they wait for warmer weather.

My potatoes-in-trash-cans are growing nicely.

And I have itty bitty apples on the columnar trees I planted.  First apples!  Squee!

The grapes have TONS of fruit on them.  It’s going to be a bumper year.  I just put the vines in last year, so this is the first year for fruit.

The strawberries are also going to town, setting fruit.  Especially the alpines.

Something new I just started is growing duckweed.  All you need is water and sun, and it reproduces like mad.  It’s terrifically good for ducks – and other poultry.  I want to add it regularly to the duck pond once it gets going, and also skim some off for the quail.

The bees are so cool.  I love sitting right next to the hive and watching them going about their business.  They fly around me and investigate me, but are not aggressive at all.  I try to spend a few minutes with them every day.  They say bees can recognize humans, and I’m trying to make them realize that I mean them no harm.

And the ducklings are beside themselves with excitement!

They have officially moved outside into their Big Duck pen!  I still have their Ecoglow Brooder out with them for a heat source, but they didn’t even get under it once all day.

They are such sweet little girls.

And tomorrow we are picking up Josie’s new babies at the feed store.  She’s been very patiently waiting for them, growling whenever I disturb her in the nestbox.

I’ll try to get a video of the moment of first introduction.  It’s such a magic moment.

 

Ducklings, Quail, and a Greenhouse, Oh My!

First off, the Indian Runner ducklings, Maisie and Millie, are now a week old.  Ducks grow so freaking fast!

We’ve been letting them out to run and play in the living room, and today, because the weather was so lovely and warm, they got to go outside and have a bath.

While I was outside with the camera, I also took a few pictures of the quail.

A gratuitous shot of Peabody because he is a camera hog:

And then I visitied Loki and Isis.  When I open the door to the coop, Isis always comes running right up, expecting treats.

If I don’t immediately comply with a handful of seed or greens, she sometimes attempts to walk (always very calmly) out of the coop to go get her own greens.

It’s at this point that I give in to her wishes…

I really, really like these Golden Italians.  They are so docile and sweet-tempered.  Though Loki is always slightly suspicious of my motives.  He’s a good male, and protective of his girl.

Speaking of quail, I said I’d show you pics of my new coop.  It’s smaller than the others – I originally meant it to hook onto the from-scratch greenhouse I was going to build.  I wanted to make sure they had an outside area they could escape to if the interior of the greenhouse got too hot.

The entire top lifts, for easy access to the quail.  I wouldn’t have a top *quite* like this, if I didn’t trust my quail to be so tame they wouldn’t fly out.  As it is, one of the girls does *pretend* she’s going to fly out if I’m not quick enough with the treats.  But once I drop seed or greens in the pen, they all let me pet them, clean around them, and do whatever else needs to be done without fear.

Notice the chickens looking on.  They have severe quail-food envy.  The highlight of their day is when I scatter a few quail crumbles on the ground for them!

We aren’t doing a from-scratch greenhouse any more, for a variety of reasons.  The biggest one being that we found a kit that is everything we want, for a reasonable price.  It’s the Early Bloomer, by Solexx.  We have the frame up, but we were accidentally sent the wrong size of anchoring/tie down pieces, so we can’t put the skin on it until we get those in the mail.

The company, Solexx is AMAZING to deal with.  They are willing to answer all our questions over the phone, and after we bought one, the guy who gives help on building it gave us his personal cell phone number in case we had trouble and needed help after hours or on the weekend!  Wow.  That’s customer service you don’t often see.

If you’re looking for a greenhouse, I highly recommend checking them out.

And what’s new in the garden?  My beans are coming up like wildfire!

I’m growing so many different kinds of snap beans this year.  I want to can millions of them!  Seriously, those beans I canned last year are so yummy.  I’m also growing a couple of varieties for dry beans.  Black Turtle and Saxons, neither of which I’ve done before, and Scarlet Runner Beans, which I do every year.  The hummingbirds LOVE the flowers, they are gorgeous on the trellis, and the dry beans are wonderful.  Similar to a pinto, I think, only creamier.  Since I tried them as dry beans, I don’t bother picking any of them as young snap beans.

And here’s a picture of one of my favorite flowers, Forget-Me-Not.

Oh, and I almost forgot – we’re getting three new chicks this year!  My broody hen, Josie, went broody at just the right time this year, so I reserved two Ameraucanas, and one Speckled Sussex.  Every time I get an Ameraucana, it ends up being a rooster.  Every. Freaking. Time.  So this time, I’m getting two.  My luck couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Don’t answer that.

The Ducklings Are Coming!

I just placed the order for my ducklings!  Fortunately, my local feed store (Valley Farm Center) allows you to order sexed ducks for a small added fee.  I’m going for three fawn and white Indian Runner females.

ducksBesides being incredibly cute and funny to watch, Indian Runners are my favorite ducks to free-range in the garden.  Because they are so skinny and upright, they don’t squash plants the way other breeds do, and they are top of the line foragers for slugs.  They also lay more than 200 eggs a year, each.  When I had ducks before, I never really ate the eggs, because they were almost entirely free-range, and they hid their nests.  By the time I figured out where they were laying, the nests were filled with dozens of incredibly dirty eggs.  Not exactly appetizing!  This time, they will be penned at night and in the morning, so according to the experts, they should lay before they are released out into the garden.  Duck eggs are supposedly better to bake with, and better tasting than chicken eggs.  I look forward to finding out for myself whether this is true.  My ducklings will be arriving on April 17th.  So now I have a deadline to finish the coop!

The white male quail, Peabody, was thisclose to being culled…but then I took pity on him – again – and decided to give him one final chance to get his act together.  I got to thinking that part of his problem with his females is that he might just be a one-girl boy.  When he had three females in with him, he picked on one of the girls.  When he was just with Mama quail, they were getting along great, until she died.

So I gave him just one female, and so far, so good.  He’s thrilled to have her, and is doing the adorable quail courting dance for her.  I won’t be breeding from him, though – nor will I be raising any more Texas A&M quail.  They seem to be much more aggressive and difficult in a colony.  The calmest and sweetest ones I have are the Golden Italians.  When I eventually get down to just one variety, that’s the one I’ll be sticking with.

Speaking of the quail, some friends and I will be doing a program on keeping quail, chickens, and ducks in your backyard.  If you’re in the area, it will be at the Mount Vernon City Library on February 9th.  I think at 6:30pm.  I’ll be bringing in some actual live quail…probably Loki and a couple of his girls.