Tag Archives: muscovy ducks

Frosty Garden/Planning for Next Spring

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I went for a walk through my garden before Christmas. This time of year is when I dream. It’s easy to make grandiose schemes when the ground is too frosty to actually do any work.

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The meat rabbits have worked out extremely well (they are definitely the easiest critters I’ve ever kept and from the last batch of fifteen grow-outs, I harvested enough meat to make 36 meals, plus I had three gallon bags of bones to make stock). Last year was all about building their housing and getting them settled, and figuring out how to manage them. Now, though, I’m ready to add some new critters.

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I think this is the year for Muscovy ducks. I’ve considered them before, but wasn’t quite sure how to wrangle them with the chickens. Some people keep a mixed flock quite happily, but I’ve also heard horror stories of the Muscovy drake killing chickens. I value my hens; I don’t want to risk their lives. But my hens have a much larger area than they actually need, so I’ve worked out a way of dividing the chicken runs, so that they will rotate through different areas with the ducks. We’ll see how it works. The ducks, being non-diggers, will also get access a lot of the time to the garden. I miss having a devoted slug patrol!

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The things that are awesome about Muscovy ducks is their extreme quietness (always valued in an urban farm) their fly and rodent catching abilities, their devotion to motherhood, and the fact that their meat is more like red meat than regular poultry. It’s said by top chefs that their breast meat in particular tastes like sirloin steak! Since there is zero chance I will ever be able to raise sirloin steak in my backyard, I’m all about this. The downside is that I have to order a minimum of 15 chicks from my hatchery of choice.

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So I’ll keep the trio of ducks I want (1 male, 2 females) and either butcher the rest, or possibly sell a few ducklings. Ducklings! I’m so excited to be getting ducklings again. They are seriously my favorite kind of babies.

I’m also making plans for the new trees and plants I’ll be ordering. Not so many trees this year, but there are at least a couple I want. It’s weird, though, making plans this far ahead, because I know I won’t be remaining on this world much longer. Literally any moment now, Christ is going to return and take his children away. It’s 100% going to happen, and happen soon. But just in case I have to wait a couple more years (rather than the weeks or months I think it will be) I have to keep doing what God wants me to do. The Bible says to garden, and provide for my family, and live a quiet life while working with my hands, and that’s exactly the life I desire…while I’m here on earth.

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But I cannot wait for the moment when I finally get to fly away and meet my Savior in the air!

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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

On Birthdays, Projects, and Ducks

I had another birthday a couple of days ago, which allowed me to practice my second annual birthday tradition: learn a new skill.

Last year, I learned to knit.  Well, I learned the basic knit stitch, which is all I want at this point.  I don’t want to fuss about with reading patterns, or counting stitches (heavens knows I get enough of that with my other handiwork).  No, all I wanted was to have a mindless activity for my hands while I watch tv.   In a year, I’ve made (I think) eight scarves, and six pairs of mitts.  Most of these scarves are super long, too, as I do love a loooong scarf, and ones I find in the store are rarely long enough!  The scarf I just finished has a crocheted trim and pockets.  I’m loving the pockets.

This year, I learned two new things, actually.  The official thing was learning how to hand spin, using a drop spindle.  I bought a basic spindle and some prepared alpaca roving off Etsy.

And…I’m getting the hang of it.  My yarn is extremely uneven, but considering my favorite purchased yarn is almost as uneven, I kind of hope I never get so expert that I lose the ability to make uneven yarn!  Uneven yarn is super fun to knit.

I’ll spin out the entire 4oz of roving I purchased before I say whether spinning will become a lasting interest for me.  Right now I’m enjoying it, though.  After I’ve made the yarn, I plan to hand-dye it, using plants I’ve grown in my garden, then knit it into something.  A pair of mitts, probably, since I doubt there will be enough for a scarf.  It will be cool to say I made them myself from (almost) start to finish!

Also for my birthday, I cooked my first duck.  I’d never even tasted duck before, but I’d always been curious.  People say it’s difficult to cook well, but I have to say it was simple enough – as long as you find a good set of directions and follow it.  I decided to slow roast mine, as I’m a big believer in slow roasting meat until it’s so tender it falls off the bone.  Most meat, I find, is generally undercooked.  Meat should either be rare (as in a good steak) or cooked for a really long time on a really low temperature to be really good.  I used this recipe for my duck, and it turned out brilliantly.

Wow.  I am such a duck convert!  This was absolutely the best tasting meat I’ve ever had.  It was not greasy at all, just really tender and flavorful, and the skin?  So crispy!  Plus, I had about a cup of duck fat left in the pan, which we saved to render.  Soon, I’ll use it to fry some potatoes, as I hear that makes the best tasting potatoes ever!

Because of this duck experiment, I’m now delving into the idea of raising ducks for meat.  I never even considered that before, because I love ducks alive and quacking…I thought I’d never want to use them as meat animals.

But the taste of that duck!!!!!  Seriously, the best meat I’ve ever put in my mouth.

I did some research, and discovered a lot of people raise Muscovies for meat.  They are considered not only the best tasting duck, but also a contender for the best tasting meat overall.  Some describe it as more like veal, with several saying that the breast meat is almost indistinguishable from sirloin steak.  You can even grind it, and use it for hamburger.  It is the Cadillac of meats.

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And then, I did even more research on the Muscovy ducks themselves, and discovered that the females are natural mothers, hatching and raising up to 80 ducklings per year.  Muscovies also catch and eat mosquitoes and flies out of the air; they are so brilliant at controlling flying pests that people purposely keep them around barns just for that purpose.  People say that once they get Muscovies, mosquitoes are a thing of the past.  While I don’t have a huge problem with flies or mosquitoes, I’d love to be rid of the ones I do have!

muscovy_ducklingsOddly, they are actually more of a goose than a true duck.  They can breed with a duck, but the offspring will be “mules”: infertile.  Another point in their favor is that they are extremely quiet.  The males “whisper” or hiss, and the females have a “trilling coo”.  They have very…interesting faces, as well.  A little reminiscent of a turkey?  I always though they were ugly, but after watching a bunch of youtube videos, they are starting to grow on me.  Perhaps it’s the way they wag their tales like puppies?

I’ve got more research to do, but I kind of think I’m going to end up with a few Muscovy ducks.  And the perfect option would be to find someone willing to do the slaughtering for a share of the meat.  Even though I’m totally a convert to duck meat, I still don’t think I could kill a duck.  😦

And here.  I can’t resist.  You’ve seen the first episode of Sherlock, season three?  If you haven’t, minor spoilers.

This kiss.

Just…this kiss.