Thursday, September 6, 2012

6-1=5

Sadly, Pinky is no longer with us.  She hadn't been acting normal in mid-July and we thought we might lose her then, but then she improved.  Some days she moved slowly, but mostly she acted the same as the other ducks.  Monday she was found dead.  This was one of the reasons we got the two new ducks--in case something happened to any of the others.

As it is now, after getting the two new whiteys, all ducks have gone into their molt and we have not gotten any eggs since a couple of days after we got the whiteys.  I guess the addition to the flock upset things so much, it threw them all into the molt.  We knew it would happen at some point, but are sad to have no egg supply.  The ducks are scraggly and there are feathers everywhere.  Upon close examination, there are new feathers growing.  Hopefully in another month or so we'll begin to see eggs again and freshly feathered fowl.

Friday, August 17, 2012

TWO NEW DUCKS

We saw an ad on Craigslist for two Pekin ducks, and thought, "Why not?"  We picked them up and now they're a part of our flock.

We were surprised that on the way home, in a carrier in the back of the car, they were completely quiet.  Not one quack.  They must have been very frightened--one of them expelled a half-formed egg on the trip.


When we let them out with the others, the first thing they did was find the pool.  One of them got in pretty quickly, but it took a while for the other to figure out how to get in.  We've tagged the new ducks with red and yellow leg bands, to fit in with our color scheme.



Our previous foursome are somewhat upset with the addition, some ducks more than others.  Orangey, our crankiest, bossiest duck, squawks at them constantly and frequently chases them around.  I'm sure they'll all get used to each other in time, but for now, it's pretty much the fearsome foursome against the timid twins.  Our "harleys" have the home field advantage, but I'm sure the twins will hold their own, and I think they'll like their new home.

We were afraid there might be quite a ruckus in the duck house overnight, so we kept the harleys in and the twins out in the pen for a peaceful night of rest.  We got one egg from the twins this morning, after the mishap one of them had on the way home.  It's a bit bigger than the ones we get from our welsh harlequins.  We're looking forward to a happy life for all ducks!


Friday, June 1, 2012

2012 GARDEN IS COMPLETE

The 2012 garden is planted--see maps below.  Whew!  Everything is in its place and I'm on to less urgent maintenance projects, like weeding and catching up on the blog.  We've been working hard, and it's nice to have a break.

NEW THINGS 2012:

  • We've completed framing all of the beds!  The raised beds without frames worked well enough, but the framed ones are so much better at keeping the weeds out, and with the sloping edges of non-framed beds there was less planting space.  With the frames I can plant much closer to the beds.  Also, we think that the frames should keep the ducks out of the plants should we let them into the garden to snatch bugs.
  • I'm trying some Minnesota Midget melons.  I've tried some melons before without success, but these are smaller, with a shorter growing season, so I'm giving them a go.
  • We created a new "Three Sisters" patch of corn, beans and squash.  We've done the 3 sisters before, but this year we put a new 15'x25' bed off to the side, near the ducks.  To keep ducks and bunnies out, we framed it and added a couple feet of snowfence around the perimeter.  See photo below.  I've planted 3 varieties of corn to mature early, mid and late season.  All are organic, non-gmo, non-hybrid corn.
  • I've sprayed with beneficial nematodes to hopefully limit the bugs which grow in the soil.  I hope this helps, particularly with the cucumber beetles I had so much difficulty with last year.
  • I've done a much better job of mulching everything right from the start.  I'm using some chopped up moldy hay we've had sitting around, mixing it with some dry manure.  It seems to be working well, except that the manure is full of weed seeds.  I figure I'll just deal with weeding that first batch of weeds that pop up to get the benefit of the manure in the garden.
  • The tomatoes are spread out a little more this year.  Instead of doing double rows of tomatoes in the beds, they're all in single rows, mingled throughout the garden and planted with tomato companions: basil, carrots, onions, marigolds, thyme.  I'm using a variety of trellising methods, as I haven't decided on a favorite.  There are pros and cons to all the methods I've tried so far.
  • The greenhouse worked well and was used for getting plants ready for transplant in addition to winter edibles.  We had fresh greens for salads just about all winter.  Some seedlings were planted in the greenhouse beds until ready for transplant, others were just put into the GH during their "hardening off" time.  I also planted just a few (4) tomatoes in the greenhouse to get off to an early start.  The tomatoes on those plants are green and growing at this point.  We're looking forward to fresh tomatoes soon!  The last couple of months it got pretty hot in there some days, so to add additional ventilation and cooling we installed an old swamp cooler Tim had previously used for the house.  We put it on a thermostat and were able to keep the greenhouse from reaching the mid-90's down to 80 or lower.  It was very helpful!  We've now removed the polytarp cover on the greenhouse, and it is open air for the summer.  
  • I fixed up a small area with a few perennial flowers.  It's a hot spot against the wall on the south side of the house, and not good for most veggies.  Hopefully the flowers will survive.
Many other things I've done in the garden pretty much the same as before: lots of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, beets, rutabagas, potatoes, beans, summer and winter squash, peas, carrots, greens, herbs, strawberries.  The asparagus has been good, and I've frozen what we haven't eaten, but now it's time to let it grow out.  I've also planted LOTS of marigolds all around the garden--they're supposed to keep a lot of the bad bugs away, and they're cute.

The ducks are doing well and have produced lots of eggs for us.  They went through a period of about a month when they weren't laying as consistently, but now they're back on track with 4 eggs almost daily.  Occasionally I sell a dozen or give a few away to friends who've never tried them.  They've been fun, and enjoy hanging around us when we're working in the garden--especially near the 3 Sisters, which is in their territory.  Pink is the mellowest duck and will let me pet her when I feed them.  Orange is the loudest, crankiest, and often seems to have her feathers ruffled.  Blue and green are both fairly mellow, too.  

Here are my final garden maps for the season:  If you wish to see these maps in more detail, click HERE and HERE.
Main Garden 2012

3 Sisters Patch

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2012 Garden Plan

I've mentioned previously this cool tool at growveg.com to create a garden plan.  My current plan is now published and can be seen here: 2012 Garden Plan  I've also placed a link in the sidebar at the right.  This only shows the main garden area.  It will look something like this:
We're also preparing a patch to the west for "three sisters": corn, beans and squash.

I've been busy studying garden catalogs and websites to find my seeds for the 2012 garden.  Seeds are ordered, and mostly in!  I've already started a few things indoors, under lights.  Some will go into the greenhouse for an early start: mostly greens, and a couple of tomatoes.  The greenhouse is a new adventure, so everything I do there now is an experiment.

The greenhouse is holding strong, even with all the gale-force winds.  And the plants are doing well, I guess.  (I don't really know what to expect.) We still have a little lettuce left from what was planted in the fall, although it's been attacked a bit by aphids.  Other than that, we've had some nice, fresh kale, spinach and swiss chard.  The beets, kohlrabi and rutabagas have yet to form bulbs, but they have some nice foliage.  The peas have blossoms and one of the napa cabbage has been eaten--the other is ready to pull.  Next fall I'll do things a bit differently, but this was a good start.  Some days it's 80 degrees in there, the mornings are very rarely below freezing, but since everything in there can handle it, the plants bounce back after it warms up.

The ducks are still producing 4 eggs almost every day.  If anyone would like to purchase some, they're $4/doz.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Almost 100%

These ducks are really cranking them out!  Almost every day we find four eggs from these four ducks.  One day there were only three, and the next day five, so I suspect I missed one the first day, although I have heard it is possible for a duck to lay two in a day.  When that happens, I'll post a photo!

Usually the eggs are all in one of the nest boxes, although they have occasionally chosen a spot in the middle of the floor to make a nest.  Funny.  When we have enough extras, perhaps we'll sell some to the highest bidder!  (Or feed them to the dog.)

The winter weather really varies, from warmer days to colder ones.  We've been keeping the pool full for them, although some days it never melts.  They sure enjoy it when they can, and it isn't much bother for us to keep it full, so we're keeping them spoiled.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

KK + Zadie

We're having lots of fun with Zadie, the new dog.  It's especially fun watching her get acquainted with the cat, KK.  I think KK is the boss.  She doesn't let Zadie have a chance to chase her.  She just sits still, while Zadie runs around her and pounces like she's trying to get KK to play.  KK glares at her, occasionally hisses or swats toward Zadie (no contact). Yesterday at one point, they were laying on the floor


about a foot apart, when KK s-l-o-w-l-y reached her paw out and touched Zadie's paw.  They will be friends soon, I think.

This morning I got a couple of shots of the two of them together.  Cute pair, eh?  As these photos were taken, KK chased after Zadie a bit...Zadie made a run for it.  Cats rule, I guess.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Four Ducks A- Laying

We've been getting three eggs almost every day, sometimes just two or one, but haven't been sure whether all four ducks are laying.  This morning there were 4 eggs, so now we know they're all laying.  So far, our egg eating has pretty much matched our egg production, so four layers is a good number for us.  We've read that each of these Welsh Harlequin ducks lay an average of five eggs per week, so it seems we're probably right on track.

Since the drakes are gone, the females are much calmer.  It's a nice little flock.  When it got really cold in early December, we emptied their pool, which they missed.  We had some warm days and nights last week, so filled it again for them, and they've had so much fun in it, we may just keep it up.  Most nights it freezes over, and most days it thaws enough by afternoon that they can get in.  As long as the well isn't too frozen to pump water, I guess we'll try to keep cleaning and filling it.  In summer we were doing it every three days or so, now it's ok to do every 4-5 days.  With fewer ducks and colder temps it doesn't seem to get as dirty.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Addition

 We have a new family member!

Zadie is about 10 months old, an Australian Shepherd-Husky mix.  She weighs in at 35 pounds and is about 19" tall at the withers.

We had to put down our Lucky dog a little over a month ago due to poor health.  At first we thought we would not get another dog, but as time went on, we just wanted to fill the gap.  We began looking around on Craigslist and the Humane Society websites and finally found our match.

Zadie's former owner is planning to move to apartment life and just couldn't keep her.  She brought Zadie here this morning, and Zadie had a great time experiencing lots of room to run!
She got acquainted with the horses, the cat, and even the ducks!  (We will need to
keep her away from the ducks until she
learns to give them a little more respect!)
We think she and KK (the cat) will become good buddies soon.

We look forward to many years of enjoyment together.  She's not only cute, but a pleasure to have around.