Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Gardening

When you think of gardening, you might think of Spring planting, Summer weeding, and Fall harvesting. The word WINTER usually doesn't come to mind, but with Colorado's unusual weather patterns, you really have to learn to think creatively.

Cool season crops like radishes, bok choy and other greens are typically planted in very early Spring and harvested before it gets hot, the plants bolt and then go to seed. In Colorado, early Spring is when we are getting our worst snow storms, arctic air blasts and blizzard conditions. Once that passes we jump right in to 80º-90º temperatures with out batting an eye. Those tender cool air loving plants don't stand a chance.

Planting in Winter makes more sense with our wacky Spring weather, but you can't just throw seeds in your regular garden bed and expect things grow in the cold. Low light, high winds and cold night time temperatures mean your plants wont sprout. If by some chance some do, they will die quickly. By planting in November or December, most likely the local birds will dig up and eat your seeds and not even bother to say "thank you!". With a little planning and recycling you can fool Mother Nature and actually enjoy some fresh homegrown vegetables while everyone else has to go to the supermarket and pick through flavorless, expensive imported produce.

This doesn't look like much, but this simple piece of plastic covering a garden bed and held up by 2 bent PVC pipes holds a little secret...

These little Chinese cabbage plants were sown in October right before our first frost.

On the other side of the grow tunnel there is more Chinese cabbage, a few spinach plants leftover from Summer, and a cilantro plant that snuck in. No doubt it was a seed from a plant that bolted during the hot Fall weather.

The key to this growing tunnel is not just the plastic sheet cover, but those recycled 2 liter bottles you see bordering the growing bed. These bottles filled with water provide important thermal mass. Thermal mass absorbs heat during the day and then slowly releases the heat in to the tunnel at night. Without the thermal mass, you might be able to extend the growing season a bit during Spring and Fall, but your odds of keeping plants alive when it gets below 20º at night are not good. The combination of the 2 liter bottles and the plastic cover create a nice little microclimate that allows some plants to grow completely out of season.

The growth rate of Winter vegetables is going to be much slower than if you planted them in warmer weather. But by already being sprouted and growing they are poised to take off once the days start to lengthen.

Any plants that like cooler weather can be used in a tunnel garden, but Chinese greens are especially suited to this type of growing method. Thinking of trying your own Winter gardening experiment? Here are some good resources to get you started...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Predator Identified

At 5am I finally learned what is out there looking for a free duck dinner. I was an OWL!

Something moved through the back yard and tripped the motion sensor flood lights. Those lights coming on woke me up. Then I heard it calling. By the sound of the call, I have a GREAT HORNED OWL living in my corner of the burbs.

So this is one predator I can't dispatch. Like the hawk we had issues with a few years back, owls are protected. We can only use defense, no offense. Time to swap the netting for hardware cloth.

Apparently death comes from the skies around here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Even suberbia has predators

Living in the 'burbs, you wouldn't think random hungry critters eating your animals would be a big issue, but it is. While I don't have to deal with coyotes like they do out east, the Security/Widefield area has plenty of foxes, raccoons and skunks. 2 years ago I also learned that large hawks don't mind navigating a maze of trees, power lines, fences and clothes lines if it means a free duck dinner.

The hawk attack two years ago resulted in losing two hens, one I hatched in an incubator and raised myself and the other I had since she was three days old. Our latest attack by a predator two nights ago left me with one dead drake, a hen with an injured wing and another hen with a punctured throat.

The girls will most likely recover but we will miss our little man Cartman. We adopted him this June because he was from a different hatchery as our previous drake and would provide diversity in our breeding stock. I was delighted that he was a "perfect gentleman" as far as ducks go. He always let the girls eat first...even when favorite treats were provided. He was not rough or obnoxious during mating and he was very alert and protective of the entire flock. He even got along with our younger drake and set a good example for TJ as he went through his terrible teenager phase. Hopefully TJ learned his lessons well as he is now the flock leader by default.

Security in the pen has been beefed up and instead of letting them wander lose in the covered run all night the ducks are now getting locked in to the secure night pen. They weren't to happy about the confinement, but it is better than ending up as a midnight snack.

Hubby and I looked for clues as to what kind of varmint we are dealing with. So far we are thinking fox, but we are not sure. A few claw scratches in the fencing and a piece of white fluff stuck to the wood were all we found. Along with the secure night pen, we also set out a small have-a-heart trap we already had on hand. This should take care of anything small like a skunk, ferret or young coon.

Maybe I will have to ask Santa for a game cam set up...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Planning for Spring

There was a lot of good learning through our gardening and farming adventures this year. I figured it was a good idea to put them in writing so I wouldn't forget all those important lessons after one too many glasses of champagne New Year's Eve.

  • Buy row covers. Row covers will keep the white flies from turning the kale, brussel sprout and cabbage to goo. This will be disappointing to the ducks who think bug infested vegetables are a delicacy, but they will just have to get over it.
  • Don't worry about overfilling the raised beds. As the season goes on the dirt and compost cooks down and you will end up adding more dirt and/or compost anyway.
  • Tomato cages are useless if you properly feed the 'mater vines. Our tomatoes were so vigorous they outgrew the cages and ended up as a tangled mass which made harvest a total pain. Arched cattle panels would be a much better way to tame the vines and make harvesting easy.
  • Be prepared for late season diseases. Powdery mildew and wilt will eventually find your squash plants, so be prepared to treat with a homemade milk spray.
  • Tree roots are your garden's enemy. No matter how well established the tree and how deep the tap root, it will take the easy path to water. Trees will send out surface roots in a thick stringy mess that will suck all the water out of your veggies. Raised beds with a root barrier, whiskey barrels or even hay bale planting can combat that. I am going to try a few hay bales and beg for a few whiskey barrels for Mother's Day.
  • Squirrels are evil. And smart. They figured out the Have-A-Heart trap and I can no longer catch and relocate. Also a Daisy BB rifle will NOT kill a squirrel (particularly the fat, fluffy ones around here) unless you manage to catch one asleep and beat it to death with the rifle butt. Since they sleep 40' up in the air in the neighbor's trees, that isn't going to happen. If we ever expect to get pumpkins, we are going to have to use hardware cloth and build cages to keep the squirrels out.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment! I had great success with my sweet potato test. I found a plastic Little Tykes toy box for $5 at a garage sale, painted it black and filled it with dirt. I was able to grow sweet potatoes that are actually more suited for a much warmer climate. I also used a wooden box and filled it with feed bags filled with dirt for more sweet potatoes. Next year I will actually buy a variety designed for colder regions to hopefully get an even better yield.
  • Diatomaceous earth is not effective on all bugs, but it does work well on flea beetles. Sprinkle on the ground before planting things likes radishes to disrupt its reproductive cycle and save your plants. Reapply periodically to keep them at bay. DE is worthless for white flies. Just use row covers for those white fly favorites like kale and cabbage.
Gardening can be a pain, and it can also be very rewarding. The last year was a mixture of both, but it was a great experience and I really look forward to next year!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 Farm Wrap Up

It is hard to believe another year is almost gone. Work has been hectic so the farm and blogging got a little neglected. We also suffered an aphid and white fly attack which wiped out our kale and jersey cabbage crop. For some reason the red cabbage was fine so we still had some to harvest.

The tomato patch was a big success and we had plenty for eating fresh, drying and canning as spaghetti sauce. The varieties we grew were black plum, roma, heirloom rainbow, Cherokee purple, and pink climbing tomatoes. The best producer was the black plum. They are also an excellent size for drying. The heirloom rainbow variety was terrible. It vined all over the place and there were only a few, pathetic orange tomatoes that dried out before they could even get decently ripe. The romas did well but this turned out the be the favorite variety for the pill bugs. The ducks got quite a few pill bug infested romas for snacks. They appreciated the extra protein. The Cherokee purple were ok. Pretty good flavor but slow to ripen and they had a tendency to split despite a pretty consistent moisture level. The best flavor for eating fresh came from the pink climbers. While the yield was not high, the taste was awesome. We are more than willing to give these a place in the garden again.

We did ok on the summer squash. There was a fairly steady supply of Italian, yellow, and black zucchini. The plants did get powdery mildew late in the summer, but the plants were pretty much done by that point. As for the winter squash, the squirrels got most of those. We did end up with a rather tasty orange acorn squash. More squirrel protection will be needed next year if we ever expect to get pumpkins, butternut or spaghetti squash like we planned.

The melons were good (see previous post for Collective Farm Woman review) but we didn't get nearly enough. The Charentais melon we harvested was delicious. Imagine a cantaloupe with a spicy aftertaste and a heavenly melon scent. That is as close as I can get to describing this delicious melon. We have more seeds and will definitely giving both the Collective Farm Woman and the Charentais better spots and more space in the garden. These were also subject to squirrel attack so hardware cloth covers are in the works.

We had cucumbers, beans, and alpine strawberries pretty steadily throughout the growing season and even managed a couple clusters of corn. The corn was part of an experimental 3 Sisters garden which uses corn, beans, and pumpkins on the same hill to assist each other and promote weed suppression. Our tiny plot did do rather well so we will expand the 3 sisters concept next year. The corn variety we planted was Golden Bantam Sweet Corn. We save and dried all the kernels so we will have more to plant in spring.

We had a really good pear harvest as well as quite a few apples. Apparently we were faster than the squirrels this year so actually had enough to eat fresh, dry and canned. One grape vine produced very well while the other took the summer off. It had been trimmed back the previous year. There were not many grape producing shoots left. The growth of the vine this year was phenomenal and all those new vines will give us grapes next year.

On the critter front, we had a coturnix quail hatch out 3 chicks, one of which made it to adulthood. Since coturnix quail usually don't set a nest and this was her first time, it is still quite impressive. The survivor, which almost died when he escaped the hutch and couldn't get back to mom, is named Zombie. Zombie is a boy so we will be finding him some girlfriends ASAP. Hopefully his mom will try and hatch out another batch next season.

Our duck total for now is 7. We kept 3 ducklings from the Spring hatch, 2 hens (Prairie Dawn and Abby Cadabby) and a drake (TJ). We also gave the drake that fathered those 3 ducklings away and adopted a new drake (Cartman). A friend is going to do a test hatch for us to make sure he is doing his job.

Even though it is now December and we have had plenty of hard freezes and even a little snow, the gardening isn't done. We are building cold frames and hope to grow some winter greens. Stay tuned for updates!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crop Report: Collective Farm Woman Melon

This is my first year growing "Collective Farm Woman Melon". I am impressed. The vine doesn't seem to mind our weird Colorado temperature fluctuations. Doesn't sprawl out too much and even works well on a trellis. Fruit are the size of large softballs. They start off green, turn yellow, then gold.

The important question is how does one taste?

DELICIOUS! The flavor is a bit like a pear crossed with a honey dew with a little musky spice added to it.
Texture-wise, the one I picked still had a little green on it. I didn't plan on picking it, but when I lifted it to see what color the bottom was, it came right off the vine. It had a bit of a pear texture to it. It was a little crisp so it probably could have ripened a tad more, but it was still yummy. Like a cantaloupe, if you can actually smell a melon scent from the fruit before you cut it open, it is good to go. I could distinctly smell the melon so we went ahead and ate it with breakfast.

As for yield, well, I only have 1 vine. I just harvested that first fruit and there are 2 more full sized melons starting to turn yellow. There are some more little green ones developing, so if the frost holds off, I may get up to 6 or 7 fruit by the end of the growing season. Next year I will be putting in several more plants.

I also got a late start on these so I feel really lucky to get as much fruit as I am. I will start some ahead of time in-doors rather than waiting to plant them directly in the soil. That will really help productivity.

I got the seeds at Baker Creek. I highly recommend this tasty little personal-sized melon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Egg recall good reason to grow your own

I have a mild chicken egg allergy. Fortunately being allergic to chicken eggs doesn't necessarily mean you are allergic to other types of eggs. That is one of the reasons I got in to raising ducks, and then recently, quail. I wanted fresh eggs without the risk of allergic reaction.

The latest food recall is just a reminder that I am doing the best possible thing for my health and the health of my family by producing my own eggs right in my suburban backyard. Not only do I have a handle on the allergy front, my eggs are not contaminated.

"Hundreds of Americans have likely become ill from tainted eggs, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said Thursday.

The Food and Drug Administration, which investigates food contamination, said the CDC received reports of approximately 200 salmonella cases every week during late June and early July. Normally, the CDC has received an average of some 50 reports of salmonella illness each week for the past five years. Many states have also reported increases of this pattern since May 2010, the FDA said.

A total of 380 million eggs have been recalled since last week because of concerns they may be tainted with the potentially deadly salmonella bacteria, the Egg Safety Center said." (more)Italic

Poultry raised in uncrowded conditions with access to fresh air, greens and sunshine are far less susceptible to disease and infections. Commercially raised chickens are crowded, not allowed in the sun, get no fresh grass or other greens, and require medication to fight infections. Even the fancy, expensive "cage-free" and "vegetarian-fed" eggs come from chickens who aren't roaming in a pasture, but are in large climate controlled warehouses standing in their own feces. If there is an outdoor area, often the hens are packed in so tight they couldn't possibly get to the door even if they tried.

And here is a news flash... chickens ARE NOT vegetarians. If your eggs come from chickens that are vegetarian fed, they are coming from chickens raised in confinement. Given the chance a chicken will eat bugs, worms, lizards, or even mice. They thrive on animal protein.

Having your own egg layers is an obvious solution, but not everyone has the time, space or ability to raise their own poultry and produce their own eggs. If you can't raise a chicken or even a few quail, check your local craigslist. Often small farmers and backyard chicken owners sell their surplus. Don't be afraid to ask for pictures or even if they allow visitors. Due to biosecurity concerns, some might not allow you to roam through their hen house, but they should at least be able to send you a cell phone pic of the chicken's pen and run. Another option is the farmer's market. Talk to the farmers and make sure they are bringing their own eggs, not just reselling commercially raised eggs. Get to know them on an individual basis and learn as much as you can about their birds. Really know your food.

Humanely produced eggs do cost more than eggs you find at the supermarket, but the extra nutrition from naturally raised eggs makes them well worth it. According to a study by Mother Earth News, "Our latest tests show that pastured eggs have anywhere between 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs." (more) Other benefits include more vitamin A, vitamin e, beta carotene, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Just remember that cheap food isn't cheap. Those 99 cent/dozen eggs can come at a much higher price to your health than the dollar or two you save when buying them. It also comes at a price to the animal's health and welfare. Ask yourself how much your health and karma are worth to you these days?

Note: For more information on modern farming and food raising practices, rent the documentary FOOD, INC.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's a girl!

The duckling we thought was a boy at hatching is actually a girl. Initially named Oscar because mom decided to brood inside of a garbage can on its side, the duckling will now be called Abby Cadabby. (Abby is another Sesame Street character.)

Abby is in the middle of a voice change and sounds totally ridiculous. Instead of "peep peep peep" she now says "peep peep grunt squeak QUACK peep". She sounds like a dog toy with a broken squeaker. Since she is in her teenager phase, we try not to laugh too much about her voice in front of her.

Sustainable duck feed

We do feed our ducks commercial feed, but also try to provide them as much fresh food as we can. They load up on the greens we give them in the morning and only nibble their game bird feed as needed. We have increased our gardening beds and are giving them as much home grown food as possible, but between the family's use and the Saturday farmers market, there isn't as much for them as they would like.

Fortunately we have been using our pond to not only grow people food, but to grow things just for the ducks. It took several attempts, but we finally found a strain of duckweed that grows well in our pond. Usually people DO NOT want duckweed in their water, but duckweed is a very nutritious feed for ducks. It also keeps the algae down by shading the water's surface. Now that the duckweed has started to cover the whole pond, we have started scooping some out and putting it in the duck's water. It disappears in seconds.

We also added rosy minnows to the pond. Their main function is to eat mosquito larvae. Between mosquito larvae, algae and other bugs, you don't even have to provide additional feed. Just put them in the pond and let them do their job. A secondary benefit of rosy minnows is they reproduce like mad. We have seen very small fry swimming at the top of the pond. Just like the duckweed, extra minnows get scooped out and fed to the ducks.

Both duckweed and minnows are food a wild ducks thrives on. By providing as much natural food as possible to our animals, we are helping to keep them happy and healthy.

Lexus and her ducklings took advantage of a temporary security breech in the pen and tried to gobble up all the duckweed

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Farm Stand Report

Mixed green salad with hard boiled quail eggs.

We will be at the Consolidated Market Place again next Saturday. Along with our fresh-cut herbs, we will have fresh quail eggs, duck eggs, and mixed salad greens.

The mixed greens contain green and red leaf lettuce, baby vivian romaine lettuce, and baby spinach. When available they also contain nasturtium flowers and leaves, bean blossoms, pea pods, violet flowers, fresh shelled peas and pea blossoms. Many people do not realize that several varieties of flowers are edible and add, not only color, but nutrition and flavor to your favorite salads. Whenever our edible flowers are in bloom they will go in to our salad blends.

Rhubarb: We had requested for rhubarb this week but will will not have any available until later in the year. The second harvest is not as large as the spring cutting, so quantities will be limited. We are, however, going to be dividing and moving some of our plants. A few root cuttings will be available for those who want to try and grow their own.

We are also researching adding dried herbs and spices to our both. An update will be posted on this topic soon.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Duck Poetry

From troubles of the world I turn to ducks,
Beautiful comical things
Sleeping or curled
Their heads beneath white wings
By water cool,
Or finding curious things
To eat in various mucks
Beneath the pool,
Tails uppermost, or waddling
Sailor-like on the shores
Of ponds, or paddling
- Left! Right! - with fanlike feet
Which are for steady oars
When they (white galleys) float
Each bird a boat
Rippling at will the sweet
Wide waterway…
When night is fallen you creep
Upstairs, but drakes and dillies
Nest with pale water-stars.
Moonbeams and shadow bars,
And water-lilies:
Fearful too much to sleep
Since they've no locks
To click against the teeth
Of weasel and fox.
And warm beneath
Are eggs of cloudy green
Whence hungry rats and lean
Would stealthily suck
New life, but for the mien
The hold ferocious mien
Of the mother-duck.
Yes, ducks are valiant things
On nests of twigs and straws,
And ducks are soothy things
And lovely on the lake
When that the sunlight draws
Thereon their pictures dim
In colours cool.
And when beneath the pool
They dabble, and when they swim
And make their rippling rings,
0 ducks are beautiful things!
But ducks are comical things:-
As comical as you.
They waddle round, they do.
They eat all sorts of things,
And then they quack.
By barn and stable and stack
They wander at their will,
But if you go too near
They look at you through black
Small topaz-tinted eyes
And wish you ill.
Triangular and clear
They leave their curious track
In mud at the water's edge,
And there amid the sedge
And slime they gobble and peer
Saying 'Quack! quack!'
When God had finished the stars and whirl of coloured suns
He turned His mind from big things to fashion little ones;
Beautiful tiny things (like daisies) He made, and then
He made the comical ones in case the minds of men
Should stiffen and become
Dull, humourless and glum,
And so forgetful of their Maker be
As to take even themselves - quite seriously.
Caterpillars and cats are lively and excellent puns:
All God's jokes are good - even the practical ones!
And as for the duck, I think God must have smiled a bit
Seeing those bright eyes blink on the day He fashioned it.
And he's probably laughing still at the sound that came out of its bill!

Fresh Herbs at the Farmer's Market

We will be selling some of our fresh herbs at the Consolidated Market Place indoor Farmer's Market. This is a new location for the market that used to sell at the Knights of Columbus in Security.

Lisa, the market director, will be handling the sales. My offerings will be limited, but Lisa has a lot of farm-direct produce including watermelon, beets, potatoes, and tomatoes so be sure to stop in.

As the season progresses I will have more offerings, but for now there will be...
• Mint (regular, chocolate and pineapple as available)
• Greek Oregano
• Tarragon
• Sage
• Thyme
• Basil

Quail and duck eggs will also be for sale in limited quantities.

Later in the season we will have
• Tomatoes
• Dragon tongue beans
• Pumpkins
• Sweet potato squash
• Black heirloom squash
• Sunflowers
• Mixed salad greens
• Kale
• Spinach
• Stevia leaf

Just check this blog for harvest updates.

Consolidated Market Place
Fridays and Saturdays year round
4360 Bradley Road
Colorado Springs

Friday, June 18, 2010

Duckling update

We ended up losing 2 from Lexi's clutch. Countess Darling von Darling just never grew and Zoe died after a very cold and wet night. We think mom moved the nest while she was sleeping and she got left behind. The other 4 remain happy and healthy. Bert and Betty Lou went to their new home at Venetucci Farm. The last 2 ducklings will stay with us. Still not sure if one of them is a boy or girl. The bill was pink but had a big black stripe down the middle. The other, Prairie Dawn, is obviously a girl with a pink bill with a small black tip. We will be able to tell if we have and Oscar or an Abby Cadabby in a couple of weeks.

Our new drake (Cartman) is getting along quite well with Shelley and Wendy. He is too young for breeding, but the fact that those two bossy wenches aren't chasing him around the pen trying to rip his feathers out is a good sign.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The ducklings

Here are all of Lexi's ducklings...
From left to right: Countess Darling von Darling, Bert, Betty Lou (back), Abby Cadabby (front), Zoe and Prairie Dawn

Spring update

Here are some recent photos from the microfarm...

Roma tomatoesApples starting to plump up

The latest gardening bed. This one will have spinach and lettuce

Our ceramic chicken Gertrude watches over the newly planted seeds

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Meet Oscar

Oscar is not at all grouchy. In fact, while mom went for a drink, Oscar climbed out of the nest to see me and climbed right in to my hands. Mom was perfectly OK with it, unlike Chrissy was with her brood. I couldn't even LOOK at them without Chrissy losing her fluffy little mind. Lexus has a more laid-back parenting style apparently.

It looks like Oscar has a brother. You can't see him in this photo well, be he still looked a little wet and was busy trying to hide under mom. In keeping with the Sesame Street theme, my friend Abi has named the second one Bert. Still waiting for some girls though. We would much like to see an Alice, Zoe, or even a Countess Darling Von Darling.

The hatch begins

It look like Lexus has successfully brooded her first time setting a nest. I was seriously beginning to wonder if she was sitting on a pile of duds or what. I checked yesterday and there was cracked egg that was peeping at me so I carefully placed it back in the straw and covered it.

While I was checking the nest, Lexus ran out of the broody pen and hopped in the pool. No problem there. The problem came about later when, instead of getting back on HER nest, she tried to take the nest that Shelley had just started setting on. I chased Lexus off of that nest and back in to her pen and locked her in. I wasn't sure if she was going to return to her nest and finish the job, but within a few minutes she was back where she belonged.

This morning when I went to bring her water and her morning snack (a few pieces of dried cat food and some peas) she came out to greet me and a little peeping fuzz ball tried to follow. It's a boy :D and since her nest was built inside of a garbage can, his name is Oscar. 

After her breakfast she hoped right back on the nest and Oscar snuggled under her feathers. I went back in the house to get the cell phone so I could snap some pictures, but by then Lexus had turned around and Oscar had climbed underneath mom for a snooze.

I will try to get some photos later today or tomorrow. Hopefully Oscar will have plenty of sisters to keep him company at that point.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Flock Management

Animals coming and going is all part of farming, even on a tiny micro-farm like mine. Our maximum adult duck capacity is only 6, and with babies hatching you have to keep genetic diversity in mind.

In order to prevent inbreeding, several of us Welsh Harlequin owners are in the process of swapping drakes. Tweak just went to his new home in Northern Colorado yesterday. As thanks for raising him over the past year, giving him 4 adoring girl friends, feeding him treats and plenty of fresh vegetables, he got car sick all over the back of the jeep and pooped on my foot. Naturally I was wearing sandals. Next week a new little drake will be moving in. He is originally from McMurray hatchery and none of our birds of from McMurray now, so there will be plenty of genetic diversity in my line.

Chrissy also found a new home last week. She went to live here. Dorit, the owner, was looking for a good broody and Chrissy has already shown she is great at hatching and raising ducklings. After the clutch she recently raised, she was starting to sneak on to the nest of our other broody when she went for food and water. The broody-force is strong with that one!

Chrissy was never people friendly and at our micro-farm, we need animals that can be handled when necessary (checking them for health, moving them to other pens, etc..). That was NOT Chrissy. It took me well over 20 minutes to catch her and get her in to the travel carrier. In contrast, it took me about 10 seconds to get Tweak. She will now be living with a larger flock, and she will be free ranging when she isn't doing her favorite thing....sitting on a pile of eggs and hatching out more babies.

We have one more young drake from Chrissy's first brood for sale. We will be posting a craigslist ad today. He is in a teenager pen for now. Tweak, Wendy & Shelley were chasing him and we wanted him to be able to eat and drink in peace. He can still see and hear the other ducks, but they can't beat him up and take his lunch money anymore.

Lexus is sitting on a nest and we should have some hatching going on in the next few days. It is hard to tell exactly when this clutch is due because she seemed a little confused at first and didn't get really serious about setting for a week or so after we gave her a batch of fertile eggs. We thought she was ready because she was stealing eggs and piling them up, but this is her first time.

We have some more fertile eggs we are going place in another nest someone made in the little dog house we have in the run. Hopefully Wendy or Shelley will get that maternal feeling and set. Then we will be done with hatching for the year and my husband can finally make a descent omelette without having to break open so many tiny quail eggs.

Friday, May 7, 2010

10 little ducklings all in a row

The final count is 10. Not a bad hatch rate considering we thought she only had 8 eggs! It looks like 4 girls, 4 boys and two unknown. The mixed ducks have too many marking on their bills to tell either way. 2 girls have already gone to their new home in Colorado Springs. 1 boy and the other 2 girls will go to their new home in Manitou on Sunday. The rest of the crew are for sale as well. $5 for mixed breed and for little Welsh Harlequin drakes. The girls sell for $7 each and we should have more next month. Lexus has been showing signs of going broody.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A successful hatch

Well she did it. When I checked on Chrissy in the "maternity ward" this morning I saw she had company. I counted at LEAST 4. She has not left the nest yet so there may be more trying to hatch. You can see 2 in this photo clearly and one more behind her. It is hard to get an accurate count because she keeps calling them to go under her belly whenever she sees me. She never was the most cooperative duck, but she is just doing her job. Hard to fault her for that.

If these ducklings are from some of the pure-bred Welsh Harlequin eggs, it looks like I have at least 2 boys. I will try to get a better count later today.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Moody Broody

Chrissy has been busy tending her nest, but occasionally she hops out of the igloo for a quick bite and to mess up the water bowl. I caught her during her broody break earlier today. I asked Chrissy if the eggs were ready to hatch yet.

I think this means "NO! Now GO AWAY!" in duck.

"Aren't you gone yet?"

Monday, April 5, 2010

We have a broody!

Chrissy has decided she wants to be a mom. She has about 8 eggs and has made a nest in the duck's sleeping igloo. Indian Runners generally are not known for their brooding skills so we aren't sure how this is going to work out. It does, however, look like she is serious about hatching out some ducklings. We gave her the entire night pen and the other ducks are now in their run. With this arrangement, the other girls can't sneak in newly laid eggs resulting in a staggered hatch. We will post updates.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Quail Test Hatch

Just heard from Amber B. Here are the results of the quail test hatch...

"Hey Linda,
I just wanted to let you know that we got 7 of 10 eggs to hatch! So, your little man is doing his job."

Thanks Amber!

Once we figure out where the quail are hiding their eggs in the new outdoor pen, we will be able to offer Quail hatching eggs. Those eggs really blend in with the straw. It's like an Easter egg hunt every day around here!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring weather means play time

When we are working in the back yard, we let the ducks out of their pen for play time. We used to let the roam the back yard at will, but due to a hawk attack last fall, they need supervised outings. This makes sure they don't become dinner for the local suburban wildlife.

Here are our fluffy-butts enjoying their day out.




Wendy preening

Chrissy, Tweak & Shelley in the pond


Thanks to their playing in the yard, not only did I get free fertilization and aeration service, the bug population has been seriously reduced and all the dandelions have been eaten before they could get established. Ducks sure are handy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thank you!

Just a quick note of thanks to all that have purchased hatching eggs and seeds. A special thanks to Amber B. for doing a test hatch on our quail eggs. We will know shortly if "Romeo" is doing his job!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Organic Seeds Available

We purchased a few types of organic seeds in bulk and have some gardener-sized packets for sale.

Organic Daikon Radish seeds
$2 for over 150 seeds
Daikon radish are large, long, white Japanese radish that have a creamy texture. They take longer to mature than round red radishes (about 60 days instead of 30). Great for pickling, stir fry, or eating raw when small. We are growing ours in containers this year because the roots grow very deep and our soil can be VERY hard once you get down past the first couple of inches. This is mainly due to our large maple trees putting out surface roots. We sprout tested these seeds and the germination rate was excellent.

Organic Cress Seeds
$2 for over 300 seeds

Cress is a member of the mustard family and produces peppery-flavored edible leaves great for salads, sandwiches and soups. An early spring green, cress can be harvested in only a few weeks. Also sprout tested with an impressive germination rate.


We have other seeds available in 3x2 clear packs. Limited quantities. Some are saved seeds, some are excess purchased. All seeds $1 per pack.

Butternut Squash
Pie Pumpkin
Turban Squash
Spaghetti Squash
Rocky Ford Cantaloupe

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pure Welsh Harlequin Waiting List

Orders are being filled for pure Welsh Harlequin hatching eggs this week and next week. If you would like to placed on the waiting list, please drop us a line.

The Welsh Harlequins hanging out at the pond last summer.

Welsh Harlequin/Indian Runner hatching eggs will be available at the end of the week. Both Welsh Harlequins and Indian Runners are excellent egg laying breeds. If you just want a good egg laying duck that isn't going to fly, this is and excellent "designer duck" to hatch.

Chrissy, our Indian Runner hen, in the night pen with Lana, a Buff Orpington we sold last year.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Now available - Hatching eggs

Welsh Harlequin ducklings (Wendy - left, Shelley - right)

Fertile hatching eggs from our Welsh Harlequin ducks as well as from our Indian Runner are now available. Since our drake is a Welsh Harlequin, the Runner eggs are a cross. We are filling orders for the next 2 weeks right now, but please drop us a line if you would like to be added to the waiting list.

$7/dozen or $4/half dozen for pure bred Welsh Harlequin eggs.
$1 off for pure Welsh Harlequin and Welsh Harlequin/Runner mix assortment.


Tweak the drake (excuse his molting)

Chrissy the Indian Runner



Friday, February 12, 2010

The duck run in winter

The snow makes it easy to see the netting over their run. We put up the netting after losing 2 ducks to a hawk attack this fall.

You can barely see their swimming pool in the very back. They often stand around it and look longingly inside. No doubt dreaming of being able to swim again. We are looking at hooking up a pump once we buy them a new pool. The circulation will keep it ice-free and then we can also hook up a filter system.

Each morning they get a "salad bar" in a bucket of fresh water. Shredded veggies like cabbage, lettuce, celery tops, cucumbers, zucchini, and anything else green and tender is added to the bucket. Favorites include bok choy, napa cabbage and peas. These greens make up for the lack of available forage and it is easy to see that they appreciate their morning treat. They really appreciate it when we add the peas to the mix. They always dunk their heads totally under the water to see if there are any on the bottom of the bucket.