Saturday, January 28, 2017

High Country Living is Live!


My new website, High Country Living.net is now live! There is still a lot to add to it, but I wanted to get it out there.

High Country Living will focus on high-altitude gardening, raising ducks and recipes adjusted for high altitude. It will primarily be instructional, rather than blog-ish, but will also contain a blog featuring what's new at the ranch.

If you're looking for information about living at high altitudes, particularly in a rural area like ours, head on over!

Golden Gaits Garden (this blog) will remain active for a time, but eventually may be removed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Garden Planning for 2017

We've begun planning for our new garden! Tim and I have been reading up on high-altitude gardening, to be aware of where to put the garden, how to lay it out, and what to be prepared for. We want to have a pretty good idea of the big picture soon, as I want to plant what I can before winter sets in, namely onions, garlic and asparagus.

Our first thought was to put the garden on the south side of the house in full sun. That's what all the books & websites will tell you, right? So, this is where it was going to be, beds terraced down on the left side, as well as some in front.
As you can see, plenty of sun on the south side of this house!

However, after observing what the summer conditions have been like the past two summers, and reading of some of the challenges faced by other Colorado Rocky Mountain gardeners, we have decided to place the garden to the east of the house, with some trees around to provide afternoon shade. The sun is so intense here that things will bake in the sun if allowed full exposure. Also, when the winds pick up it dries out the soil quickly, so at the east it will be a bit protected from the brunt of the wind.

Here's where the garden will go. These photos were taken this afternoon, so there won't be as much shade in the summer as there is now, when the sun is higher in the sky. The garden will get full morning sun and filtered light in the late afternoon.

This photo looks to the East.

This looks to the West.

This garden won't be nearly as large as the Wellington garden, but it will be ample, less than half the size. We'll grow a lot of cool season vegetables, and as many short-season varieties as we feel we can, including some tomatoes. We'll have to be especially careful to cover the tomatoes nightly, as they'll need all the warmth they can get. We will be making hoop covers to guard against frost as well as shade/hail covers to guard against the intense sun and occasional hail. Of course, we will have a 7-8 foot fence surrounding the entire garden, lest the deer get into an all-you-can-eat buffet.

I've been gathering weather statistics from our weather station the past two summers.
The lowest "low" in July-August was 34 F.
The highest "low" was 51 F.
The lowest "high" was 52 F.
The highest "high" was 92 F.
The average temperature for the summer months has been around 59-64. So, as you can see, many of the plants will require frequent covering!

It's fun to get into gardening mode again. We have lots of designing and planning to do, and the work will be rewarding.

Six-Pack Grows Up

The "baby" ducklings are now 9 weeks old, and all grown up!
Nine Weeks Old
We just have the six ducks now. We gave away the two remaining Golden Cascades. It just seemed easier to deal with feeding and caring for the six young'uns. When we took the six-pack out to the big pen with the big ducks, we had a partition up the middle of both the house and the pen, to keep them separate. Besides requiring different feed, we weren't sure how the bigger ducks would treat the smaller ones. When we did put them together in the same yard one afternoon, they basically avoided each other. It probably wouldn't have been a problem, but we really didn't want to keep 8 ducks--6 will be plenty.

They now happily enjoy going outside of the pen to forage, and have learned to make quite a racket when feeding time comes. Blackie is definitely the quackiest. According to information I had read, I thought that the Cayuga ducks (Blackie) were supposed to be quite calm, but not this one! Whitey is beautiful and the most photogenic. Harley and Quinn, the Welsh Harlequins, are quite calm and steady--if I look closely, I can tell them apart. The runners, Cocoa and Fawn, are cute--I expected them to be taller, but perhaps they haven't finished growing. It's nice having different colors, shapes and sizes, after previously getting ducks of the same breed.

In the past we have added lighting to the duck house in an attempt to get them to lay eggs as early as possible, but this time we don't plan to add the lighting: we will let nature take its course and take the eggs when we get them. I expect to see eggs sometime around February, when the ducks are fully mature, spring is coming and they're ready to lay.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Six-Pack

The "Six-Pack" - Hatched August 1, 2016

Our six-pack of ducklings arrived safely, and all are alive and well. It's fun to have a variety of sizes and colors. And heeeeere they are! Quite a photogenic bunch, I would say.

Whitey - White Layer

Blackie - Cayuga

Fawn - Fawn & White Runner

Cocoa - Chocolate Runner

Harley - Welsh Harlequin

Quinn - Welsh Harlequin

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Duck Update

It's been a long time... We now have just two of the Golden Cascades, Gertrude and Spot.

After dealing with the prolapsed oviduct issues with Bess, then with Gertrude and Ellie May, we decided to remove Wily, our drake, from the flock in April. We weren't sure we wanted to continue this breed, if the problems we'd had may be inherent with the breed. (Although, I wrote to Dave Holderread about these problems with 3 out of 4 of my ducks, and he had not heard of these problems with other Golden Cascades.) At any rate, whether Wily was causing these issues with overactivity or not, it just seemed unnecessary to keep him. So, after separating him from the girls for a couple of weeks, off to the Wolf Sanctuary he went.

In May, Ellie's prolapsed oviduct was so bad we had to let her go (another trip to the Wolf Sanctuary). Gertrude continued to have some prolapse issues (see previous posts), but continued to consistently lay eggs. Eventually the prolapse appeared all healed. She and Spot both continue to lay eggs faithfully, although Spot's eggshells are soft and often punctured or crushed by the time I pick them up. Since Ellie left, they've both gotten awfully crabby! They quack and complain any time we go near them, hunker down and ruffle their feathers. They just don't seem happy, and neither are we.

Chocolate Runner Baby
We decided to get some new ducklings, and at this time aren't sure whether we will keep the Golden Cascades or not. I will make that decision when they molt and take their yearly break--as long as they continue to lay I will keep them.

On Wednesday, August 3, our shipment should arrive with the following 6 ducklings: 2 Welsh Harlequins, 1 Cayuga, 1 White Layer, 1 Chocolate Runner, 1 Fawn & White Runner.  We're getting them from Metzer Farms this time, which adds a heat pack to allow for a smaller minimum order to be sent safely. These ducklings will all be sexed females, so we won't need to deal with butchering any drakes. We had Welsh Harlequins before and were happy with them, and wanted to try some runner ducks as well as a variety of shapes and colors. Hopefully these will be fun!

I already have names picked out: Harley & Quinn, Blackie, Whitey, Cocoa, and Fawn. Go figure.