Friday, December 23, 2011

Three Ducks A-Layin

Monday we had two eggs, and have had two each day since then, and today there were three, so certainly we have three layers, with one more to go.  So now it will be...
Eggs for breakfast,
Egg salad sandwiches or hard-boiled eggs on salads for lunch,
Quiches, omelets & souffles for dinner.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Egg in the Nest Box

I found another egg this morning, and it was in the next box.  I didn't see it at first, but the next boxes had a lot of the wood shavings pushed out of them.  When I shoved the shavings back in, something went bump, and sure enough, there was another egg.  Two days in a row; I guess we're in business.  Thanks, girls!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Egg!!!

First Egg - 12/15/11 - Ducks at 27.5 weeks old.
Way to go, girls!  They've done it.  One egg was found this morning, right in the middle of the duck house.  Wahooo!  I don't know who laid it, of course, but my guess is "Orange", the duck with the orange band on her leg.  She has seemed to me the most mature and has the most distinct blue on her wing, indicating she's the most completed with her molt process.  This morning she's being pretty vocal, as well, more so than the others.  Now we'll need to train them to lay them in the nest boxes.  I put it into the box and will leave it there a bit to give her the idea that's where it belongs.  Keep up the good work, gals!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Slacker Quackers

These slacker quackers still have not laid any eggs.  They are now 6 months old (27 weeks).  We have read different ideas as to when they should commence, and had hoped that we would have eggs by now.  In Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks, David Holderread mentions in one place that they should commence between 16-20 weeks of age.  In another place he suggests 20-24 weeks.  This assumes adding artificial lighting in the fall to imitate spring.  Another resource I found on the web said 22-26 weeks.  When we hit 25 weeks we were still hopeful.  In Ducks and Geese in Your Backyard, Rick Luttman says they won't lay until the first spring after hatching.  He may be right.  Dang.  We really wanted to have eggs by now.

We've tried to "imitate spring" by adding light and increasing that light 15 minutes per week, as suggested by Holderread.  Since it's been so cold (below freezing nightly, and sometimes all day long), we've added heat in their house at night.  The ducks may appreciate the cozy warmth, but still no eggs.

On another note, we butchered Whitey and Drakey a couple of days ago.  It's just the four girls remaining.  Whitey (the White Appleyard) wasn't so cute anymore, which was the reason we kept him around for a while.  He was bossy and protective of his girls, which wasn't unexpected.  He would frequently put his head down and run at us like he was going to come get us.  Funny, really.  We'd been calling him "Christmas" for a bit, and he just may be our Christmas dinner, depending on how many we'll be feeding that day.  He's a LOT bigger than the others were.  He dressed out at a little over 3 1/4 lbs.  Drakey was about 1 3/4 lbs.

Now that winter is here, we found that on the coldest days, which have not been above freezing, the water freezes even during the day.  Usually it isn't so cold that the ducks can't break through the surface of ice to get water, but on some days it got awfully thick between times they went to drink, and it was a mess.  We ended up putting out an electric dog bowl, which is working well.  On the coldest days even it freezes a bit, but it's much better.  At night, they don't get water, which is what we've done for quite some time.  They are locked in their house with no food or water.


We've also provided for them a nice shelter, to keep out the wind and snow and keep it off their food.  It's working out quite nicely, with the down slope on the windward side.

Boy, these ducks have the swankiest duck house and yard.  You'd think they would return the favor and give us some eggs in return.  They just don't know how good they've got it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Greenhouse!

Greenhouse, It faces south.
The greenhouse is done!  We finally have it all completed and planted, and are excited to see how well things will grow.

First, Tim put the hoops up, and side supports.  We got some "woven poly" from Northern Greenhouse Supply, along with their poly-fastener, which worked quite well to stretch the poly across the hoops.  These are great products, and Bob was very helpful answering questions.  We received our order quickly, too.

Nice sliding door
After stretching the poly over the south side, we put some poly on the curved part of the side wall, still not sure what we would do for a door and the side by the wall of the house.  We managed to get a free, double-paned sliding door, which worked out perfectly.  It also has a screen door which we will add to it when we need the ventilation.  We still need to put in some vents on the far wall, but will do that in time.  Right now we don't really think we need it.  Soon we'll also be setting up a fan, just to get the air moving a bit.  We'll probably run it each day for awhile.

6 bins for planting
We had a few challenges, such as the bins we are using as beds.  We got some 350 gallon food-grade containers, cut them in half and put them on dollies so we can move them around a bit.  The weight of the soil in them made them each sag toward one side, so we had to support them better on the bottom with plywood.  This took extra time re-doing them before planting.  These had been used for barbeque sauce.  Even after cleaning, we still get an occasional whiff of the barbeque sauce.  Our veggies just may be pre-sauced!

We also had some challenges determining what kind of soil to use.  Some references suggested only using purchased potting soil, which we didn't want to do.  It would be a LOT of potting soil to buy.  We winged it with a mixture of plain Colorado soil at the bottom, gradually mixing in some soil we dug out from one of our raised beds (well amended) complete with lots of earthworms, some peat and perlite and homemade compost.  There's a higher percentage of perlite and compost near the top of each bin.  Hopefully this'll do the trick.

Bin with salad greens
I started most things in the house previously, under grow lights.  I wish I'd started more things sooner, but now I'll know better what I should start and when I should start them. I've planted salad greens (lettuce, spinach, endive, mizuna), cilantro, beets, kohlrabi, leeks, scallions, garlic, swiss chard, kale, peas, napa cabbage, rutabagas and a few carrots.  All of these things should do well in cooler weather.

Yesterday afternoon it was 80 degrees in there, while about 50-60 outside.  The
6 bins for planting
humidity inside is running around 50-60%, much more humid than outside most of the time.  This morning it was about 20 degrees outside, and over 40 in the greenhouse.  The soil temperature has been running around 60 degrees.

My potting bench & work area is neatly against the wall, and this is also where we keep the duck feed and get it ready to take out.  For the winter, we're taking their water out each day in a bucket, since we can't keep the well water hose out there in freezing temps.

As you can see, it's a pretty dandy setup!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ducks at 22 Weeks

Whitey, Drakey, and the four girls
The ducks are now 22 weeks old, and we had expected to see eggs by now.  Every morning I check, and still no eggs.  On about October 12th, at 18 weeks old, we put some fake eggs in their next boxes.  Hopefully this will teach them to lay them there, in the next boxes.  We've also been increasing their day length with artificial light coming on each morning, on a timer.  Each week or so it's been changed to come on earlier and earlier, but still no eggs.

Fake eggs in next boxes.

                                                              Some sources have suggested that they should start laying between 16-20 weeks of age, other suggest 20-24 weeks (so we're right in there), others mention that it won't be until the first spring after they were hatched.  We hope it's not the latter.

You can bet I'll be taking photos and posting when we get that first precious egg!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Snow

It's actually November now, but the first snow was October 26, so I'm backdating this post to reflect the correct date the photo was taken.  This was our first snow of the season, and it was a doozey.  8-10" or so of the stuff fell on our place.

It was the ducks' first experience with the cold, white ground.  I attempted to video their first steps in it, but they were awfully resistant to coming out of the house.  I finally went inside and pushed each duck out the door.  After that it still took them quite a while to head over to their food or water.  Finally they ate, and several minutes later, they drank.  I took several videos, until the battery ran out.  Here's just one of them:


Their pool was filled with slush, and it took them a while to go there, too, but finally they did, after it had melted some.

The next day they were hesitant to step out, but quicker than the first day.  By the third day things were back to normal and they came right out.  Now (11/7) they have no problem walking all over the snow.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin-Apple Granola

I'm always on the lookout for things that are high in fiber, low in sugar and fats.  I like granola, but most of the ones I find in the store are too full of sugar and oil, and don't contain as much fiber as I want.  I've been trying to find or create a good recipe.  I know that pumpkin and apples are good sources of fiber, so I found a pretty good recipe for pumpkin granola* and modified it to my liking.

I like to serve it with fruit and my homemade nonfat yogurt.  My most recent favorite is this with one apple, sliced and cooked with a little honey and cinnamon, 1/3 cup of the Pumpkin-Apple Granola, and 1/2 cup of nonfat yogurt.  This is YUM-MEE!

PUMPKIN-APPLE GRANOLA
    **Printer-friendly version
5 cups rolled or flaked grains, such as oats, wheat, rye or combination
1 oz chopped dried apples
1/2 cup psyllium husk
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup (100% pure maple syrup)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2.  In a large bowl, combine rolled grains, next 5 ingredients and spices.
3.  In a medium bowl, combine the honey, maple syrup, applesauce and pumpkin.
4.  Combine wet with dry ingredients until evenly mixed.  A pastry blender works well.      Mixture will be moist.
5.  Spread the mixture on a 11x17" baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
6.  Bake for 20 minutes, stir and bake another 20 minutes or until granola is crisp and dried.  Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

1/3 cup serving
119 calories, 3 gm fat, 22 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fiber, 3 gm protein

*Adapted from "Pumpkin Granola", Two Peas and Their Pod

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Greenhouse Construction Has Begun

Tim has begun to work on our greenhouse, which we will use for growing a few things in late fall/early winter, and then in late winter/early spring.  We'll also use it for hardening off seedlings before planting them outside.  It faces the south, so gets plenty of light and warmth in the afternoons.

We're making lots of plans, reading books and finding websites with greenhouse information.  I've begun starting a few seedlings in the house, which will be planted in large planters in the greenhouse.  Lettuce, spinach, endive, kale, beets, kohlrabi, some leeks and scallions are already started, and I'll be getting some seeds for a few other cold-tolerant items.  I'm also planting some of these things in the cold frame.  I expect the cold frame things to be used first, then move on to the things that will be in the greenhouse.  Then I'll start another cold frame in the spring.  I'm still starting the seedlings in the house under lights, as I have good success with that method using the soil blocks.

Meanwhile, it's getting pretty cold overnight, so I'm harvesting what I need to before it's too late.  I picked off all near-ripe tomatoes and gave them to a friend on Friday, cut off all basil near the root, washed it up last night and will dry/freeze/make pesto today.  The peppers are under the cold frame, and hopefully some of what's there will still ripen.  I will probably pick  green tomatoes, too, and do something with those.  I need to dig up potatoes one of these days, and discover how well they did.  I'm particularly anxious to see if the sweet potatoes grew!  I'm not sure our season is long enough for them, and I got them started later than I'd hoped.  The slips I started in the house took longer to sprout than expected.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welsh Harlequin Ducks at 17 Weeks

Welsh Harlequin Drake, 17 weeks old
The ducks are now 17 weeks old.  They are now looking like adults, with the most obvious difference being the Welsh Harlequin drake, with his pretty green head and black butt and curly tail.  He's quite handsome!  Whitey also now has his curly tail, and must weigh twice as much as the others.  I haven't weighed him, but he's awfully heavy in comparison to everyone else.  The girls aren't very different from the last photo I posted, but I'll post a couple with them anyway.

Duck House, with nest boxes at the left
Ducks behind house
We have completed the exterior of the duck house and painted it.  The ducks pretty much have their daily routine.  They are locked inside their house at night, let out to their paddock for breakfast and a morning swim.  The cat gets to go outside at this time, while the
ducks are locked in the paddock.        Later on, the cat comes in the house, and the ducks go out to the larger yard for foraging and lounging under the shade of trees or behind their house.  Sometime in the late afternoon, they begin to squawk and beg for dinner.  Sometimes they get to enter the garden, where they head immediately to the tomatoes, which they seem to enjoy eating.  Sometimes I'll take them a handful of cherry tomatoes and throw them out to them one at a time for a game.  The two drakes are the most eager to snap at them.  In the late evening, after dinner and around dusk, we'll lock them back in the paddock for safety, and sometime before we head to bed, we lock them back into their house for the night.  If we leave their access door open for them, they'll put themselves to bed, and we don't need to herd them in.

One of the "Silver" Welsh Harlequin females
We are anxiously awaiting the first eggs, which we expect to see sometime around 20-24 weeks of age, per various resources.  We will start increasing their daytime light artificially next week, to indicate that it's getting lighter, and therefore time to commence laying eggs.  We'll see how that goes!  We'll also be putting some fake eggs in the next boxes to show them where they should put them.  Again, we'll see how that goes.

"Golden" Welsh Harlequin female






Whitey, of course, is still the one standing out of the crowd, and is quite handsome with his curly tail.

Whitey, the White Appleyard Male

Monday, October 3, 2011

Busy Gardener

I've been way too busy to write about what I'm doing.  I've picked and preserved almost 300 lbs of tomatoes.  I've canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara, mexican sauce, salsa, bbq sauce, ketchup, tomato chutney, taco sauce, tomato butter, and I'm sure something else I've forgotten.  I've also dried several batches of the tomatoes.  There are still some tomatoes on the vine and I'd like to make more salsa.  Other than that, I'm about done.

I've picked, frozen, refrigerated or dried other things, too: corn, beans, peas, carrots, onions, garlic, basil, thyme.  I didn't get much summer squash this year.  One by one, all the plants died after a slow start to begin with.  They had trouble starting due to cold weather, then cucumber beetles.  They were finally growing ok, but the squash bugs got them one by one, then some powdery mildew on the last two survivors.  I pulled them up and trashed them, as they were also being eaten by the squash bugs that wouldn't die from the organic pesticides I tried.  I guess next year I'll be more proactive with bug control!  After working to get cucumbers to grow I had two plants, until one shriveled up and died.  The last plant produced two cucumbers before its end.

The raspberries and blackberries are giving us their first fall crop of nice berries.  I got ONE honeyberry off one of the two plants--hopefully next year they will bear more!  The older strawberry plants have been producing a fall crop after a midsummer rest, but the newer plants (planted this year from starts I bought from the nursery) haven't produced at all.

I did more beans to dry this year, and they are hanging up drying--ready to shell now, I'm sure, but I'm too busy to do that just yet.  After I see how many I get and cook them, I'll decide whether I want to do that again.  They are so cheap to buy, it may not be worth the bother, unless the quality is much better.

Soon I'll be digging up potatoes and sweet potatoes.  The butternut squash is still on the vines, although I suppose I could pick it any day.  For all the vines, I only got about five delicata squash, which are picked and curing.  The buttercup didn't make it at all, I fear they also suffered from cucumber beetles and squash bugs.  Dang!

I'm already beginning to sketch out next year's garden, deciding what to grow and where to put each thing.  I'll be planting onions and garlic soon, so needed to know where I will put them.  I've planted a few things in the area that will be a fall cold frame.

Tim is beginning to construct our greenhouse, and I've begun some seedlings in the house that will go out there for the fall.  Hopefully I can grow some salad items, kale, leeks, beets and kohlrabi for an extended period of time.  Then, I should be able to start a few things early in the greenhouse, and use it for growing seedlings and hardening things off before going outside.

Whew!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Duck Dinner

Friday night we had our first duck dinner.  We marinated it and grilled it.  It was pretty good. We each had a breast and felt it was plenty.  The next day we each finished off a thigh/leg piece.  I'm still not sure it's worth all the work to raise and butcher them for so little meat.  If we do, we'll raise a larger breed for meat, like Whitey, an Appleyard.  We'll have to keep thinking about it.

DUCK MARINADE FOR GRILLING
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
2 Tblsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Mix together and marinate duck pieces at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Now We Are Six

Here are the remainder of our flock, six happy ducks.  I'm not sure if they miss their friends, or wonder where they went.  This morning they were reluctant to come out of the house, then when I tried to walk them out to the big yard they didn't want to go.  A couple of them ran back into the paddock and I had a hard time herding them out the gate.  Maybe they thought they would never come back.  They'll get over it.  This afternoon they are sitting peacefully together under a tree.

I cleaned the duck house and pool this morning.  Hopefully we won't have to do that quite as often with fewer ducks.  They've begun their first molt and are already losing the feathers they just got.  Seems unfair in a way.  Today I noticed the feathers that are falling out are getting bigger.  Sad.  But when the new feathers grow, they should be more colorful, so that will be fun.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

D-Day (Drake Day)

Today was Drake Day.  Tim and a friend butchered four of the drakes.  I wasn't watching, so will spare the details unless Tim wants to add a post on that.  All went well for a first time.  Probably we will try one of them for dinner tomorrow after aging overnight.

After all the work, I hope it's good! They're awfully small, and the two of us probably won't get more than one meal out of them.  They were around 4-4.5 lbs alive, and 1.5 lbs cleaned and ready to cook.  A lot of that is bone and back parts that will probably go into soup stock.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Boy Blue

As I mentioned in the August 1 post, we’ve been planning to butcher the drakes and are making plans to do so this tomorrow.  Tim has a friend who is a hunter, who will come help Tim learn to skin and clean the ducks.  It’s time to decide which drake we will keep for breeding.

Gimpy Blue
A few days ago, I picked up one of the drakes out in the yard, and he was so calm in my arms, we decided he’d be the one to live.  We tagged him to keep track of him, and it happened to be a blue tag.  We’ve been calling him Blue Boy, Boy Blue, or just Blue.   A couple of days ago, Blue had a little mishap.  The ducks had been in the garden area, and at feeding time I was herding them up the path when Blue fell off the brick wall, to the left of the tall grape vine, and landed in the plants.  He got himself out, went to the patio, and managed to get himself up the brick wall to the right.  I was surprised he could get up there.  He flapped his wings and kind of crawled up at the same time.

Unfortunately, he was limping after that!  Now we call him Gimpy.  His limp has gotten better, but he still trips a lot, especially when the group is traveling fast.  We think it’s best not to keep a lame duck, so poor old Gimpy will have to meet his fate with the others.

Here’s one last shot of 10 ducks enjoying their pool.  Soon there will only be 6.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hornworms

Hornworms
I found a hornworm looking thing wandering across the concrete, and thought, "Oh, no!"  I looked around on the tomato plants and didn't see more worms or any obvious damage, so I was puzzled.  I expected to find some tomato plants defoliated near the top with just stems and leaf spines like I'd seen a couple of years ago when I found the nasty worms.

Defoliated grapevine



Later, Tim hollered "What happened to the grape?" and one of our grape plants was COMPLETELY defoliated.  Not one leaf left!  We looked at the others (we have three grape plants) and found a few more of the creepy worms.  We picked them off, sprayed some neem, and will keep watching for them.  I'll also be spraying the tomatoes with neem and hope that keeps them away.

Where do these things come from???

These grape vines are being grown tall to grow overhead on a trellis that is not yet built.  It will be a roof over a small patio area.  Hopefully this poor grape has not met its fate, and will survive this ordeal!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ducks Say "Good Morning"

The latest morning routine is to come out of the house with wings flapping.  I don't know if it's just to stretch and enjoy the fresh air, or to say "good morning" to the day, or to say "I want food."  It's cute.  See the video.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eight Weeks

Eight Weeks Old and "On The Move"
The ducks are eight weeks old today.  They are still a joy to watch, particularly in the pool or when they are out foraging.  They enjoy being out in the "big yard" with all the weeds and grass they can eat.  They no longer get "lunch" from me, they find it on their own, and are now fed only twice a day.

They're getting so big!  I enjoy just watching them and seeing how their feathers tuck up so neatly against their bodies and under the lower feathers that come up from their breast/abdomen.  The feathers are so soft, and the speculum feathers are beginning to turn dark blue.  In the morning when they get out of their house, they stand tall, stretch and flap their wings, which gives us a chance to see how much the wing feathers have grown.  Quite an improvement from the little stubs they had when they were little.

Soon we will be downsizing our flock, by learning to butcher and clean the drakes.  It does seem like messy business, but I think it's right to be more intimately connected to our food sources.  These ducks have been treated respectfully and will be to the end.  I'm still likely to keep Whitey, just because he's the mellowest and most fun to watch.  We're also considering keeping one of the WH drakes for breeding purposes, although we need to think more about that.  If we breed, we'd probably attempt to allow one of the hens to set and hatch the eggs rather than bring them indoors to an incubator.  Don't know.  More research and thinking will be necessary to decide.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Changes: Yard - New Video

Here is a better video showing our new fenced yard for the ducks.  Tim kindly mentioned that the last one was boring, and I agree.  I've deleted the previous one.  This one gives a better shot of the ducks at their current size and shows the new yard that they are learning to enjoy.  At 6 1/2 weeks old, they're getting pretty big.  They now freely walk from their paddock (where the pool is) to the yard as they please during the day while we are home.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Changes: Yard

Another change!  We've fenced in the larger area outside their completely enclosed paddock. This larger area is full of grass and weeds where they can enjoy foraging during the day when we're home and the cat is in the house.  The fence has an electric wire near the bottom, and another at the top to keep predators out, also to keep the horses from leaning over to eat grass and ruin the fence.


At first the ducks were afraid to be out there, but today is their second day out so herding them out was much easier.  I took their food out there first thing this morning when they were hungry.  (Follow the food...)  They are taking to the foraging idea quite well and seem to enjoy nibbling on the grass.  Everywhere they go, they still go as a pack.  Ten ducks all together with one large white one taller than the rest is pretty darn cute.




Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Changes: Pool

More changes.  We've switched from the small pool to a larger, deeper one.  Tim put a drain in this one so it will be easier to empty & clean.  Nice.  Unfortunately, it's downhill from the garden, so it will be difficult to get that nice, duck-poopy water into the garden, but perhaps we'll figure something out.


10 ducks in the small pool were getting pretty crowded!
At first the ducks were afraid of the new pool and wouldn't go near it.  I put the nice ramp up, but they haven't quite figured that out yet.  Sometimes I put some chopped greens on the ramp, and they'll walk up halfway eating the greens, but not yet into the pool.  Sometimes they'll get onto the ramp to get out of the pool (there's a brick step inside the pool leading to the ramp), but they jump off before reaching the bottom.  One of them finally walked down it yesterday, and I got a snapshot.  Perhaps they do it when I'm not looking!  Generally they manage to get from the first (lower) step into the pool, but little by little I've seen a couple of them step up to the second step, then into the pool (smart ducks).  We'll leave the ramp there and see if they get the hang of it.

One comes down the ramp!
They like the bigger pool.  They've figured out that they can dive under, swim across, then come up again, and sometimes do summersaults in the water.  It's a joy to watch them in the pool.  It's funny, but sometimes some of them seem to prefer drinking up the muddy water beside the pool rather than get in, while the others are in for a swim.  Oh well, to each his own!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Changes: Drakes & Ducks

There have been lots of changes!  The ducks are six weeks old now, they're getting bigger and adding more feathers every day.  It's interesting to watch how the feathers are growing out, particularly on the wings.  When they stand up and stretch out their wings, I get a better idea of where each of the different types of feathers start, and how they fold up neatly when not in use.

Two of the ducks (female), 5 1/2 weeks old
The drakes and ducks are easy to tell apart now.  The drakes have much more color all over. The back area above the tail is darker on the drakes and shows a different pattern.  I don't know if you can tell in these pictures, but it's quite obvious.  The ducks are quacking quite loudly now, but the drakes still peep.  It's a louder peep, but still a peep.  Oh, the "mystery", Whitey, is quite clearly still peeping and therefore, a drake.


One of the drakes (male), 5 1/2 weeks old
Our plan all along was to butcher the drakes.  At first we thought we'd be brave and adventurous and do it
ourselves.  Then we found out about a poultry processing plant nearby that does them, packages them up and freezes them, and we thought that would save us the effort.  Then we found out that they no longer do ducks.  Now we aren't so sure we want to go to the effort of learning to do it ourselves, so we've put the drakes up for sale on craigslist.  So far, there have been no responses.  From the reading I've done, it sounds like the best time for butchering will be in another 2-3 weeks or so.  We've been so busy, I don't know that we need another project, but I guess it'll have to be done, and we may have to do it.

I was realizing that for centuries, probably the majority of families did this kind of thing themselves all the time.  It was probably only the few wealthiest folks who didn't.  We've gotten so disconnected with our food sources!  I think it's good to have a better recognition of where our food comes from...the garden, the fowl and animals...and appreciate what our Creator has given us.  Thanking Him for the provision of our food will take on new meaning as we butcher our own.

It's kind of nice that the drakes are just "the drakes" en masse, and I don't think losing them will be a problem.   ...Then there's Whitey.  I can't help it.  He is just too cute and too different from the others, I want to keep him.  He's fatter and slower and easier to catch than the rest.  He sits down a lot, and the others step on him frequently.  I've decided to keep him around, at least for a while, so I guess it'll be "Whitey and the girls".  I want to see what he's like as a bigger duck.  I want to keep in mind that he may very well become dinner, and may nickname him "Thanksgiving", but we'll see as time goes on.
Whitey ("Thanksgiving"?) - 5 1/2 weeks old

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Garden Groweth

With all this emphasis on our new ducks, I haven't mentioned the garden, but it's growing great, for the most part.  This week we've been enjoying PEAS.  We have Snow Peas, Sugar Snap Peas, and Shelling Peas.  I made a nice stirfry with the snow peas last week, and enjoy the Sugar Snaps raw.  I'm freezing some for later.  I'm wishing now that I had planted more of them.  Perhaps I can plant some for fall harvest.

We've also been eating kale and kohlrabi, and I made a pretty good quiche out of that combination, along with some extra large scallions I didn't harvest in their prime.  Right now I'm dreaming up some sort of kale-kohrabi lasagna.  Sound good?  It's really fun going to the garden and thinking, "Hmmm, this can be harvested today.  What can I make out of it tonight?"  Oh yes, some of the beets have been eaten, others were turned into pickled beets for winter salads.

After bad weather just after planting, I really had thought I'd have a disappointing garden.  Yes, there are some disappointments, but all is not lost.  My tomatoes have bounced back and I have many huge, lush plants with lots of flowers, particularly the bush, or determinate, type.  The tomato harvest will be late, so hopefully we won't have early frosts, but I should have plenty of tomatoes.  Some of the indeterminate ones are odd and short, but hopefully I'll get something out of them as well.

My squash and cucumbers suffered some setbacks as well due to the weather and the cucumber bugs.  Those dang bugs kept eating my young plants, and I kept planting new seeds to replace the damaged ones.  I finally have as many growing plants as I had planned for, but they are much smaller than they should be for mid-July.  I'll have a late harvest with these as well, but I still think I'll have enough to enjoy, especially considering I normally have more squash than we can eat.

The peppers are the most sad.  I love my peppers, but unfortunately fear I won't have much of a harvest.  The plants are small, but finally coming back with new growth.  Some have peppers growing on them even with few leaves.  Some peppers began to grow then dried and shriveled up.  I'm bummed that I didn't follow my own plan, which was to leave them under the cold frame for the first couple of weeks.  Had I done that, they would have flourished.  I took off the cold frame because it was difficult to water them (lifting the cold frame for each watering) and I wanted them to have the benefit of rain.  Instead of nice rain, they experienced hail, extreme wind, and temperatures that were too cold for them.

Potatoes, beans, herbs, carrots, basil, corn, strawberries...let's see, what else?... all seem to be growing along their merry way.

This year I tried several new varieties, mostly of peppers and tomatoes, and hoped to find out which were "keepers".  With the extreme weather, I may not be giving them a good test.  On the other hand, I'll certainly know which can survive the worst conditions!

This summer has been very rainy, more so than normal.  We have forecasts of thunder showers almost every day, and many days we do get the rain.  With our soaker hoses on timers, we frequently have a guessing game of whether to leave the timers on or off, thinking we may get rain.  With 60% chance of heavy rain today, I think I'll turn them off for now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Four Quackers and a Mystery

Which are drakes, and which are ducks?  Which are Golden?
I'm placing bets that we have four females, with one other still undetermined.  Four of the Welsh Harlequins have begun to quack, the feathers on their wings and sides are all a little lighter than the others, and their bills are a bit darker.  We'll have a better idea as time goes on, but that's my best guess right now.  Four layers will be good--we wanted at least three.  Of the two Goldens, I think one is a drake, the other a duck.



Whitey, the White Appleyard

The mystery is our White Appleyard, Whitey, who is clearly different than the others, not only in appearance, but in behavior as well.  Whitey sits down a lot--while he's eating, drinking, or just while all the others are walking about.  Often during eating time, he eats a little then goes off to the side and sits.  For as big as he is, much larger than all the others, it's surprising that he doesn't seem to eat as much.  He doesn't participate in all the same activities as the others, and often stays off to the side or is slower to join in.  He gets stepped on an awful lot by the others--they just step right over him while he sits.  He's still peeping, which could mean he's a drake, or could be that this breed is slower in developing the quack of a duck.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This One's For Calvin (Charlie, too!)

I hear that my niece’s three year old son, Calvin, enjoys seeing the photos and videos of the ducklings.  Here’s a video for Calvin and his big brother Charlie.  Actually, it’s the best video yet.  It shows all the typical things the ducklings do.  It’s a bit long, but hang in there, the best part is near the end when all the ducklings run.

First the ducklings are eat their lunch.
They eat some, then they walk to the pool to drink and swim. 
One of them goes to the shade shelter.
Whitey sits down and stays put.
One of them trips trying to get in the pool.
Whitey is a bit bothered when somebody steps on him.
See how much bigger Whitey is than all the others!
The ones in the pool dunk their heads, bathe and swim.
One of the ducks quacks—is it a female?  (The females quack the loudest.)
All get out but one.
They go under the shelter, then they all head back to the food.
Watch them run!!
Whitey waddles over to join them.
The last one in the pool feels left out and runs quickly to join the others.
Isn’t it funny to watch them run???

Duck Paddock

Duck House & Paddock from window
Tim has finished our deluxe duck paddock, where the ducks can forage and lounge predator-free.  The photo was taken from our living room window, so we get a nice view of them from the house.  A true engineer, he planned the whole thing out, and with a few changes of plan along the way, it's done.  Now we can let the cat out while the ducks are outside!  There's no way she can get in.

The ducks can go freely in and out of their house during the day, but we'll still lock them inside at night.  Eventually we'll put a perimeter fence around the larger yard, where we'll let them "free range" when we're home, but for now there is just enough electric wire to keep the horses out, which you can see in the rear view picture.
Rear View of Paddock

Also, in the rear photo you can see a shade area for the ducks.  There isn't much shade out there mid-morning, so we'll be constructing some sort of larger shade roof like this that will be permanent.  In the afternoon there's nice shade under the trees.

We have a larger pool for them, but before we put that up we need to put a drain plug into it to make it easier to clean out.  That'll be in the next few days.  Until then, all ten ducklings still fit in this pool, just barely.  As you can see, we're sure having fun with our ducklings!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Male, Female, Gold, Silver

All along I've been watching these ducklings grow and exhibit different coloring, wondering which are female and which are male.  Aside from Whitey, who is getting much larger, lighter and whither, two have been more pale than the others, and I've wondered if they may be two females.  Most have a lot of dark grey on their backs, but these two are more bronze.  I finally figured out that these bronze ones must be the "Golden" Welsh Harlequins, and the rest would be the "Silver" Welsh Harlequins.

Of the two Goldens, I'm quite sure at this point that one is a female, as she's developed quite a quack.  This one is also a bit lighter, particularly on the wings, than the other Golden, so I'm guessing that one may be a male.

Of the remaining seven Silvers, at least one was quacking.  Some have lighter yellow-greenish bills than the others, so I'm guessing the darker-billed ones are females, three or four of them.

Time will tell, of course, but it's fun for me to try to guess how many will be ducks or drakes, which will lay eggs for us and which will be dinner.  Of course, Whitey's a wild card and will be all white.  I suppose we'll know soon enough by the voice.  So far, Whitey is still peeping like the others.
Golden Welsh Harlequin Duck - Four Weeks (She Quacks)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Four Weeks: Feathers & Quacking

The ducklings are four weeks old now and have begun to display noticeable feathers on their wings.  Some of their tails are a little more pronounced.  I’m wondering if those are the males—they are also the darker ducklings, for the most part.

We’ve been hearing the first sound more like a “quack” coming out of one of the ducklings.  We aren’t sure who, but one’s voice has definitely changed.  We decided to get some colored leg markers so we can tell the difference between them and note their personalities.  


Four Weeks Old

Friday, July 1, 2011

Duck Routine

We’ve got the routine down for now.  The ducklings eat three times a day, all they can eat in 15 minutes each meal, which for the ten of them is a little over two cups of their feed.  After they eat, they often go over to the pool to drink more water and dip their heads in, and often jump in for a dip.  Perhaps they like to clean off.  It’s true—ducks are messy.  They go back and forth from the food to the waterer, drench the ground around the water so it gets muddy, and they often drink up the water from the mud.  They often plop down in the mud as they drink.  Food and mud all get into the waterer, which gets cleaned at least once, sometimes twice a day.  It would be more frequent if they didn’t also have the pool to drink from.  They stand around the edge of the pool and stretch their necks to drink, or jump up on the bricks I have around part of the pool, where they can reach in more easily.  Sometimes I give them some chopped up lettuce or spinach and throw it in the pool, and then they enjoy snatching it up out of the water.  They’re getting so that when they see or hear me coming, they all stand up and peep for food, flapping their little wings for emphasis.

Each morning we let them out for the day, open up the air vents along the top of the house, and switch the door from its glass window to its screen inset.  The heat lamps are on a timer; on at night, off during the day.  It’s still quite cool some nights.  I have to remember to put the cat in the house whenever the ducks are outside.  We wouldn’t want to have an altercation until the ducks are big enough to intimidate the cat.

Every other day I’m cleaning out their house, which means lifting the wire mesh frames we have for them to stand on, hosing them off, and hosing off the cement floor and scraping it to get the poop out.  Every other day I’m also dumping the pool water, rinsing the pool and refilling it.

Soon we’ll finish the duck house and paint it cute.  For now it’s functional.  Tim’s current task is to construct the enclosed paddock area we have planned, with fencing to keep predators out (including the cat) and ducks in.  When that’s done, we’ll feel comfortable leaving them outside when we aren’t home.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Way Behind

I have a lot of updating to do!  The ducklings are getting bigger and we're having lots of fun watching them grow and eat and swim.  We've been taking photos and videos, so I'll be posting some of those and post-dating some blog posts to fill in the progress on the ducks, their house and some thoughts chronologically.  So, stay tuned--by going backwards!  Meanwhile, here are some up-to-date photos.

Pool Time 1

Pool Time 2

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Duck Yard & Pool

The duck house & small temporary yard are working out nicely.  The ducks have been fine outside, and know they can go back in the house when they want to, so we’ve decided to leave them outside pretty much all day now, as long as we are home.  I am in the garden much of the time keeping an eye on them.  We’ve also taken the barrier off the pool, and allow them to go in when they want.  They usually go in after eating, to drink and bathe.  We also put up a chunk of plywood on blocks that they can sit under for shade, and they do seem to like it.

At first, only one or two would go in the pool.  They look so much alike it’s hard to tell if it’s the same one or two, of if they’re all taking turns, but I never see Whitey go in.  He does look much better now (see previous post), but he still seems less active than the others.

The ducklings are so cute in the pool.  They float, they dip their heads down and sometimes dive and swim under water, even though the pool is barely deep enough for them to do it.  They can actually stand on the bottom, or lift their legs and float.  They look so natural when they’re in the water—it’s quite evident that their bodies were made for it.  We have a step inside for them to use to get out more easily, but often they don’t bother with the step, they just jump out somehow and do a belly flop on the ground.  Often when they get out of the water, they stand up tall and flap their little wings.  Very cute.

The video is a little out of focus when zoomed in, but you’ll get the idea.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Three Weeks Old

The ducklings are three weeks old now.  They’re getting so big!  We’re so glad we didn’t get them until June.  I cannot imagine having ten ducklings this size in our basement.  We had planned to get a larger box of some kind, or build something to keep them in down there, but with the smell and poop and trying to keep the thing clean it would have been quite difficult.

The ducklings’ down is beginning to change to small feathers, and most of them are getting darker on their backs.  (Whitey is getting lighter and creamier in color.)  Their tails are more pronounced, and the oil duct at the back of the tail is evident.  They rub their faces on it, then rub different parts of their body to groom and add the oil water-repellency to their feathers.  We wonder which are the drakes or ducks, and are hoping to have at least three ducks to lay eggs.  Their voices haven’t changed yet, they still peep and squeak.  

We get such a kick out of watching the ducks.  We keep a couple of chairs out there and sometimes just sit and watch.  We’ve doubled the size of their outside pen, to include the whole tree.  This way they can get shade under the tree at all times of the day, and they have more space to run around.  It is so funny to watch them waddle when they run!  Sometimes they run over each other or tumble.  One of them did a forward summersault when he got tripped by another!   One time as they were being herded in for the night, Whitey got pushed over by another duck and laid there on his back, feet waving in the air, peeping like crazy until he managed to roll over.  It was pretty comical.
Naptime

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Whitey

Whitey is doing much better, and I’m not so concerned.  He/she is about as active as the others, gets in the pool and enjoys it, and seems just fine.  His/her color is getting lighter, more of a creamy yellow.  I kind of hope Whitey turns out to be a female, so we can keep her for laying.  If not, we’ll have a nice, plump roast duck to compare with the others for eating. 
Whitey

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ducklings Meet the Day

The little ones are enjoying their new routine, coming out in the morning to meet the day.  Here’s a video of them coming out of their house.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Whitey and Growing Ducks

I’m a little concerned about Whitey, the White Appleyard.  He (she?) seems a little more lethargic than the others, and sits a lot, even while eating and drinking.  He’s got an odd reddish spot alongside his neck that particularly shows up when he’s wet, he just seems a bit odd. 

I wonder if he’s growing too fast, and if we’ve given the ducks too much protein.  According to the book, we should be dropping the protein content about now anyway, so I’ll mix some lower protein ingredients into their food to drop down the protein percentage.  We got some organic “hen scratch” at 8% protein, so hopefully that will help, along with a little more oatmeal.  I’ve also been adding some water or whey to their food, as suggested, with my kitchen pastry blender.  It makes a nice, moist, crumbly consistency, and I’ve noticed they don’t run to their waterer quite as quickly or frequently now while eating.  I should have done this from the start—that food seemed awfully dry!

Whitey

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Moving Day

Duck House - Not yet finished, but functional.

The ducks moved out to their own house today, at two weeks old!  This morning one of them managed to escape the brooder box in the basement, so we decided to hurry up and get their own house completed enough for them to move in.  Tim took a break from work, and I helped, too.  Tim made another frame with hardware cloth on it, so added to the first frame (which was in the brooder) we’ve more than doubled their living space inside.  It'll be a lot cuter when it's done and painted, but for now it's functional--it's even insulated!  We put the heat lamps out there, since it's still pretty cool at night.  We got this nifty door at a recycle place: it has interchangeable glass panes or screen door, so we can close 'em up and night or when it's cold, and let them have more ventilation during the day.

In addition to finishing the inside of the duck house, we put up some temporary fencing to make a pen for them outside the house.  It is so warm now in the daytime, we feel they can spend a fair amount of time outside.  The pool is there, but blocked off so that they can only enter when we are present.  It’s been much cooler since that first day we put them into the pool, so they haven’t been in it since.  When it warms up, we’ll let them go in again, with supervision.

Here’s a video showing them outside by their house.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Duck House - "Duck Inn"

We’re building “Duck Inn”, the duck house.  The plan is detailed here in Tim’s videos:




Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ducklings First Time Outside & In Water

The ducklings went outside today, at just about a week and a half old.  We wheeled them out in a wheelbarrow, and put them in a small pen we put up made with snow fence.  They did quite well in the water for their first time; after all, they’re ducks!  Even though we’ve read some warnings about putting them in the water so young, it was a warm day, we had the water warming up all day, and we didn’t leave them in very long.  They were just fine!   Here are some videos. 


Monday, June 13, 2011

Duckling Brooder - Part 4

This is the last segment of our duckling brooder.  This time the little guys get a treat!

Duckling Brooder - Part 3

This video shows the ducklings in their brooder with fresh food and water.

Duckling Brooder - Part 2

Here is Part 2 of our Duckling Brooder segments.  This one shows the brooder where it is in our basement, and how we have it set up.  The ducklings are in this video, too!

Duckling Brooder - Part 1

We made a series of videos showing our duckling brooder, how we made it, how we clean it. Here is Part 1.  Keep checking for more...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Duckling Feed

We are fortunate to live in an area that is plentiful with livestock and feed shops.  As we researched options for duck feed, and particularly organic feed, we discovered that the most affordable organic feed available to us is produced right here in Fort Collins at Ranch-Way Feeds.  We can buy it right at the mill, where we’ve already been buying horse feed for several years.  They don’t make waterfowl blends, but we’re combining their turkey starter with chick starter and some oatmeal and a little grit for our ducks’ starter feed.**  That combination was recommended in Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks, by Holderread, so hopefully that will do the trick.  I suppose we’ll mess around with different combinations as they grow, and do the best we can.  We want to keep them organically fed.

**One part turkey starter, one part chick starter, ½ part oatmeal, with some grit sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Ducks Are Here!

Our ducks arrived at the post office this morning, so Tim went to pick them up soon after.  Our order was for 10 Welsh Harlequin ducklings, and along with the 10 we received one White Appleyard as a "bonus".  One of the 10 arrived dead, but with the bonus, we still have 10 total.

They are very cute, of course!  We put them into the brooder that was all ready for them, and it's amazing how quickly they wander around exploring.  Right away we gave them water to drink with a little honey in it and some chopped up greens.  After a bit we gave them their food, and one by one they figured out what was there and began to eat.  Within no time at all they were jumping over each other and over the food trough to get to the other side.  The one White Appleyard is the largest and boldest of all.  He will be pure white, so I'm already calling him (or her) "Whitey".  Of the others, we think there are 4 females and 5 males, based on the bill color.  With this breed, you can tell the sex by their bill color within the first couple of days after hatching, with 75% accuracy.  Apparently, the ducks with a lighter bill color are females.  We have no idea what sex Whitey is, but hopefully we'll have at least 4-5 females out of the bunch for egg production.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Planting Season

Well, it's been a difficult planting season!  After all my planning, it seemed like everything went kaput the last few weeks.  The week I'd intended to plant (starting May 15, our "average last frost date") turned cold and rainy.  I knew that there was questionable weather coming, but due to our plans for a trip I needed to get things into the ground.  Also, the things that were "hardening off" in the cold frame were getting too big for the cold frame, and at one time a couple of things were damaged when the cold frame fell on them during watering.  I was tired of them being in the cold frame, so I went ahead and planted.

Planting the tomatoes and peppers went pretty well.  Within a couple of days after planting it was quite windy and rainy, and they sure got beat up.  A couple of the tomatoes snapped in half right where they had been tied up.

Squash and cucumbers went in the ground also, but got beat around in the wind a bit as well, not looking very happy.  I lost the cucumbers and some squash.  At least it is early enough to replant and they should be fine.  I also have seen a lot of cucumber beetles, so have begun to spray for those with spinosad.

Now we've returned from vacation, and with so many plans to work in the garden immediately, I came home very sick, and won't be able to get out to the garden.  It will just have to wait.

I think most plants will survive, but they sure aren't in the best condition.  The peppers were damaged by hail, and many leaves were left dangling or in bad shape.  The tomatoes are small and thin, but still alive.  The cucumber seeds I planted after the first ones died did not come up.  The squash that was still alive and in fairly good condition before I left have been chewed up, presumably by the cucumber beetles that are still everywhere.  There are weeds everywhere as well.  Hopefully soon I'll feel well enough to get back to work!

This week many gardeners in the Fort Collins area were plagued with a large amount of marble-sized hail and lost a lot of their crops.  Fortunately, the hail here wasn't as bad and my plants aren't much worse than they were already.  I guess all the locals are now pretty much in the same boat!