Happy Hatch Day, #lotsaflocka!

Happy Hatch Day to #lotsaflocka!  I cannot believe they are one year old already.  It has been quite a journey and I love them more now than I could have ever even imagined loving a duck when we first considered getting them.  

One little duckie, Dayz, has given us quite a few worried days, and she likely will continue to do so, but I will not give up on her until she tells me it is time.  Even with their nutritious diet, she has trouble forming normal eggs.  This causes her a lot of discomfort and could be fatal, so we asked our local vet to do an implant that will prevent her from forming eggs for a while.  So far, it seems to be working well.  She has not had to lay in over a week now, and seems to be feeling pretty good. 

I would have never guessed that that would be something we would be dealing with when we got ducks.  Needless to say, we have learned a lot about them in the last year, so we want to pass on our knowledge to you.  Most of what we know has come from both internet research as well as from an amazing group of Instagram duck lovers who share their stories to help educate as well as entertain.   

Here is a quick list of things I have learned since we got them:

Appreciate every egg you eat.  The amount of energy that goes into creating a good egg is underreported.  It is physically taxing and not all fowl are physically able to produce a good egg all of the time, even if their bodies insist on trying. After seeing all of the trouble Dayz goes through to make eggs, it hurts my heart to think of all of the hens out there in industrial farming settings who suffer alone.  As consumers, we don’t get to see all of the ugly eggs and the hens who struggle to lay them.

“His” and “Hers” quarters are a must! The next time we build an enclosure for these turkeys we will at least make it possible to separate them easily, even if they seem to be getting along.  There are those times (aka spring) when the guys just can’t control themselves, and “toxic masculinity ruins the party again”. In the meantime we will supplement with dried chamomile flower in their morning water to help keep everyone as calm as possible.  I slacked off for a bit, and it may have been coincidence, but things got pretty crazy for a bit and just might be leveling out a bit since I re-started.

Plan for the water.  We go through so much water so this year we are planning on growing a lot of stuff that needs water!  I think we need a watering can too. We have made three raised beds in the back yard and are going to plant all zinnias in the front yard.  We also have talked about a way to recycle the water, similar to aquaponics.  

Ducks are so smart.  As ornery as they can be, they are so quick to pick up new tricks and will do almost anything for a pea.  I feel it is important to make them work for their treats sometimes to keep their mind busy. The boys, especially, get really bossy when they are bored.  

People dump domestic ducks all of the time and think it is ok.  It is not ok. It is so sad and heartbreaking. I am afraid to go to a park right now because I am fairly certain that now that I know what I am looking at,  I will find ducks who should not be there.  Domestic ducks (Pekins, Khaki Campbell’s, Magpies, Runners, Muscovy, etc.) cannot fly to get away from predators, they do not migrate, and they depend on us to provide shelter and nutritious food to keep them safe and healthy.  Yes, they can fly up and then fly back down, but they are not going any significant distances. With proper care and good health, a duck can live to be at least ten years old. They are not a short-term commitment.

People love ducks!  I can tell you we were nervous to welcome them to our urban backyard.  I was worried that the neighbors would be upset about them and complain.  The actuality is that our neighbors love them. So many of them sneak peeks when we don’t even know about it.  They come to watch them when they are feeling stressed and just need to unwind a bit. Ducks are so fun to watch and very therapeutic when they are just going about their business.  

Ducks are tough.  I have already thought we were going to say goodbye to Dayz several times in the last few months.  She has looked so tired and has bounced back beyond belief. Someone said the other day, “there is a reason that this descendent of the dinosaur is still here today”.  Boy were they right about that!

Happy hatch day duckies!  Thank you for all of the joy you bring into our lives and thank you for allowing us novices to do our very best to make your lives as perfect as possible.  

Winter in the City with Ducks

Winter has finally arrived and it is wonderful.  I made it back from week out-of-town for work  just in time to enjoy a snowy weekend in the city. It started snowing Friday night and it kept falling into Sunday.  Our totals were probably only about 6 inches after it was all said and done.

Here again a week later, we are waking up to a fresh blanket of snow.  Since we have been close to the city home for the past couple of weekends I thought it would be a nice opportunity to share what we have learned about keeping domestic ducks in the winter.

Most of what I have learned is courtesy of Lisa Steele from Fresh Eggs Daily (@fresheggsdaily). Thanks, Lisa! If you are interested, I encourage you to read up on the topic to make sure you are getting the facts.  It is fascinating to learn about their special physiology that allows them to jump into a cold pond in the middle of winter: Why don’t duck feet freeze?.  

It is just now the coldest it has been since we have had them, and as a result of what I have learned about how cold tolerant they are, I am taking the recommended measures to protect them against the “below 20 degree Fahrenheit” threshold. The heated water dog bowl is getting its inaugural use today (which they seem to love) and I beefed up their house last night with a couple of full flakes of straw to take up some empty space and add to insulation.  Although the outside temp is about 10 in the sun, it is at least several degrees warmer in their house. We will toss in a couple of more flakes of straw in their house, as it is only going to get colder tonight.  While their coop door is open, I draped a towel to cover the opening and keep some cold air out.  

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I should clarify that the water bowl is in their run.  One thing I can say with confidence, is that you should never put water inside their house when it is super cold out (or ever, in general)  since it can cause a situation where things will get wet and they will possibly get frostbite.

I fed them some warm oatmeal with peanuts and raisins (which honestly, they haven’t eaten yet) to help raise their body temperature.  I think i will offer some warm pea soup later. That, I can be certain they will love.

Finally, in their outdoor run, I spread out some straw on top of the snow to give them something to step on that is not directly on the cold ground.  I even tossed in a nice piece of wood for them to sit on if they wish. I want them to have options. Above it all, I am so happy to be home so I can keep a close eye on them.  These are the first super cold days that I have had them for, so I feel like this is a great time to establish a baseline with them. It is time to learn what this group in particular needs to get them through this special time of year.

Homework

Do your homework.  I have been using Google, consulting my print resources (Duck Eggs Daily)  and asking questions to the Instagram duck community to get this right.  You don’t know what you don’t know, so reach out to get the information you need.

Birthday Weekend 2018

Cabin Corner:

Four tons of gravel is scheduled to be delivered to the homestead this week.  The man I spoke with about the delivery really made me realize how much I need to learn the lingo in the area about where we live.  “You are over there on top of the hill, right?”, he said. “Uhhh…I think so?” “Are you close to the fire department?” , he asked.  “Ummm, I am not really sure”, I replied. “My mother lives over that way, I’ll find you.” There were a couple of more exchanges about where he thought we lived at, then we started talking about payment.  All cash or check. No problem, except for the fact that I did not know if Elaine and Matt would be able to give him money at the time of delivery.   He was not at all concerned and was completely comfortable just having us pay him over the weekend.  People over there are just so very kind. It is so refreshing.

In addition to the gravel order, I have loaded up a cart on Lowes.com and am hoping for an easy truck delivery to the farm.  Since we are getting a truck full of bags of concrete, we went ahead and threw in about 40 bags of mulch in order to touch up the Tipi Trail when we’re done trashing it with our equipment.  We also added 200 feet of garden hose that should reach us at the bottom of the trail in order to avoid the need for hauling water down to our spot.  This will also serve as a life-saver once we move in.  We will use the access to water for both the ducks and some gardening, not to mention for basic teeth brushing and dish washing.  I can’t wait.

All of the holes are dug and currently sitting at a two foot depth.  We decided to go ahead and continue digging down to three feet this weekend, before adding the gravel.  Three is definitely the magic number in this case.  That is the frost line level in our area and we might as well go with it.  The post hole diggers made a 9 inch diameter hole and we will top them off with a 12 inch sonotube pour for a bit of extra stability above ground.  From there, we will add a 6×6 post to the top of the footer and build up. Not sure how exactly yet, but one step at a time, right? We have some ideas of how we want to do it based on a combo of advice and YouTube videos.

Cast Iron Cooking Corner:

I made the best oatmeal for breakfast on Sunday morning.  It was full of apple, walnuts, cinnamon, butter and brown sugar.  Delicious. It took forever because we let the fire go out overnight on Saturday since it was actually pretty warm in the tipi. I did not even think about firing up the propane stove until it was almost done.  Next time!

Gadget Corner:

We left the Biolite Campstove with Matt for the week to see what he thinks about it.  In the absence of excitement, we may return it and put the money we spent towards a different solar package with a little more power.  

Homework:

Don’t be afraid to make your own recipe.

My homemade spaghetti sauce is a hybrid of the influence of many different sauce makers in my life.  I add the carrots from one person, the Worcestershire from another, and the meat from someone else.  Why can’t the cabin design be similar?  I am pretty sure our cabin is going to be a big combo of our advisors input as well as the internet research we have done  on the internet and other places. Ask your questions, get your answers, then make your own decisions.  It is ok to try out your ideas.  Make it your recipe.  

Nikki 

Life is Heavy

Foot check time!Crushed rock, pea gravel, pavers, paver sand, tipi poles, mulch in wheelbarrows, mulch in bags, mulch in buckets, lumber, logs, trees, cinder blocks, duck feet, new jobs, marriage, physical health, mental health, politics, the environment.  Life is heavy.

Since our journey began with one another, Perriee and I have had some heavy moments.  We have moved tons of those items (literally, at least two tons) listed above from the top of the trail to the tipi spot.  We have probably walked miles doing it too. Duck feet and new jobs don’t weigh a lot, but those are some things that can weigh heavy on the mind.  Those things, although not tangible, can be the most exhausting to carry around with us.

When I am moving a bag of mulch, I can stop and take a breath, contract my abs, and slowly bend at the knees to pick it up.  Then I take it to its destination, always focusing on my core, I bend at the knees again and gently lay it down. I know exactly what steps to take to accomplish my goal and I feel stronger for having done it when I am done.  

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Angels

On the other hand, when we have things weighing on our minds, it can be so difficult to trust ourselves with the steps we need to take to deliver those items to their destination.  Myself, at least, I can second guess myself. I panic when I don’t know the steps I need to take to fix the problem. I wear out my “mental back” by carelessly lugging these things around.  I must learn how to pick them up carefully to put them down when they become too heavy to bear.

When I am carrying something super heavy from one place to the next, like a bag of gravel, for example, and I need a break, I will stop, put it down, and take a breath.  When I am ready to resume, I pick it back up and keep going. I never feel guilty for needing to do that. I should allow myself to play by those rules in all aspects of my life.  

Homework:

Try to put down one heavy item that has been weighing on your mind.  Tell yourself, it is ok to take a break. You can revisit it in a week and see if you are ready to pick it back up.  Maybe you will find it isn’t even worth it.

About the duck feet, I am so uber paranoid about the ducks getting bumblefoot and noticed a tiny spot or two on the girls’ feet.  I really beat myself up about it and we did take a lot of action. We threw down some pine needle straw in the yard, took out most of the pavers that were out there, and brought in a walnut branch from the walnut tree.  In their pen, Perriee hung a rain barrier (shower curtain), and we added pea gravel to the spot where we will put their drinking water in their run. On top of it all, a friend did a little research and said they might need more pool time.  

Enter….the waterbed! We went to Meijer on our way home from Cleveland (hence the pic of Lake Erie) on Saturday night and dreamed up the design.  Complete with the pieces from the hardware store, we crafted a pretty neat pool that their feet don’t touch the bottom of, and they get to keep it all day long.  They really enjoy it too. Thanks for the inspiration E!

Slow and Steady

This was one of those weeks where we noticed that many of the projects that we have been working on for a while are starting to show some progress.   We were even able finish a pallet wall that we started about a week ago.   I cannot wait to hang some flower boxes off of it.  I am thinking, herbs and greens. All. Over. It.  Lord knows we have the water for it.  I better take another look at that wall and make sure it can hold it all.
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We spent Saturday afternoon in Indiana.  We moved two more pavers and a bag of gravel down to the tipi and found two pallets to bring back to the city, which we used to finish our wall. After our last weekend spent in the rain, we are motivated to re-finish the floor in order to give the water some place to go, other than our bed.  Our neighbor gave us these pavers a few months ago,  and the thought of leveling the stones has felt a bit overwhelming.  How do simple projects get so over complicated?  We were able to level about 6 stones on Saturday and would have done more except we ran out of sand.  It was so easy and it looks soooo good!
Since we got done so fast inside the tipi, Perriee was able to chop some wood and I got to weed around the tipi and around a few plants that made it through the summer (one lavender, a rosemary, and some irises).  I happened upon a second lavendar in the process that I think might not make it!  Maybe I will bring them some duck poo to tuck around it the next time we go to try to bring it back.  I will keep you posted.
I just looked back at some pictures to see where we were in the development of our spot a year ago and there was definitely no time for weeding.  We had just broken ground and figured out where he perimeter of the tipi would go.  As you can see in the third picture, we found a touch of water.  Foreshadowing?  Yeah- I think so.  Although there was a bit of a grade, we were sure we could shuffle the earth around to even it out.  Maybe this is where I developed my aversion to leveling.  We never quite got it.  Although you will still slip down the hill,  into the Hoosier cabinet if you sleep on that side of the tipi, you won’t mind.  It is cozy.  You sure can accomplish a lot in one year.

Homework:

Have patience.  Although we all know that life is so very short, we often feel as if we are living in slow motion.  Keep moving forward, even in little bits at a time.  Just don’t stop.  One. Hour. A. Day. Look back in a week and see how much you finished.
P.S.
Our pineapple kombucha is delicious and one of the ducks laid the cutest little egg I have ever seen.  Life is good.