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.