Saturday, May 30, 2015

ducklings on the way

we've had a few days of warm weather and the gardens are already starting to show signs of accelerated growth.  i've spent the last couple mornings transplanting lettuces, kales, and assorted asian greens (three flats worth so far, which comes to 150 plants minus a few failures), filling in the gaps in the espalier beds and the perennial onion/leek bed. 

after a morning of transplanting i spent yesterday afternoon doing a bit of refresher reading about ducks and sourcing some information and supplies i need for brooding and feeding the indian runner ducklings that will be arriving in the early part of the week of june 15th.  it will be pretty much like brooding chicks (which i've done several times) with a few differences in feed (ducks require more dietary niacin than chickens) and management.

caleb and i had a couple of big white pekin ducks when we were kids.  i remember mama letting our ducklings swim in the bathtub and when they were grown we fed them tomato hornworms that we helped dad pick off the plants in his garden.  

i believe this is a duckling that one or the other of us was looking after for our class during spring break in 1987.  and of course after that we had to have our own.
our ducks in the backyard, summer 1988

there's a little nostalgia for me when it comes to ducks but there are also practicalities.  the gardens are feeding us quite well now and i'd like to start doing a bit more on the livestock side of things.  ducks are a good source of organic fertilizer, they're reliable egg layers, laying as well or better than chickens and they're a good source of homegrown meat.  i've ordered 2 drakes (males) and 14 ducks in the hope of establishing our own breeding flock so that i don't have to buy replacement ducklings when the ducks age and their egg production declines.  old ducks and excess drakes will be culled for the freezer.  
my first duck was a pet.  since then i've raised turkeys and chickens for egg and meat production.  it may seem strange but i've loved them all, even the ones destined for the freezer.  i raised them with great care.  i made sure they had good lives and when it was time for the knife i did it quickly and quietly, with respect and gratitude in my heart. 

showing off one of the dark cornish cockerels i raised for meat production, catheys valley, spring 2013

me after a long day with staal processing my flock (19) of meat chickens, catheys valley, spring 2013

raising livestock of any kind can be trying.  sometimes there are losses to predators.  sometimes an animal is sick or injured and you worry about them and nurse them the best you can.  

one of our hens was ill recently.  here she is in the "hospital" where i could keep a close watch on her and play doctor.
after about a week of special feeding and care she recovered nicely.  here she is enjoying some worms from the worm bin.

at some point in my childhood i thought i might like to become a veterinarian because i loved animals.  what i really wanted to be was a farmer.  i didn't think that little girls were allowed to grow up to be farmers but i pretended at it in my play and with my pony on our three acres in the country.  seems i grew up to be the farmer anyway and not the farmer's wife (or a veterinarian).  i love working in the gardens, the way it puts me in sync with the days and the seasons.  i love the way caring for the plants and animals, for this place and my husband, gives me a sense of belonging to the land and a life---sometimes i feel i am carrying on some tradition that never really was.  i love it even when it's hard and things don't go quite right.  i'm excited about the ducklings that will soon be here, our own little flock that will also become a part of this place, that will belong to this land and life.  and i'm happy to go on playing farmer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

a cold, wet spring

it's been a cold, wet spring at the staal homestead (staalstead?) and a bit of a struggle in the garden.  we're grateful for all the rain we've been getting and we've been able to harvest and store most of the roof runoff.  the fruit trees and other perennials in the gardens have benefited from the extra rainfall.  the annuals, on the other hand, have had a tough go of it.  pest pressure has been really high.  earwigs and pill bugs flourish in cool, damp conditions and without the heat to push strong, steady growth in the annuals they haven't had much chance of outgrowing the bugs.  so i've been busy with a lot of sowing and planting and resowing and replanting trying to stay a bit ahead of the bugs.  we're still eating very well despite the slow growth and losses and with the heat coming things should get a little easier in the gardens.

squash transplant waiting for some sunshine

lettuces and other greens ready for transplanting

there's been plenty blooming to brighten up the gray days...

we hit around 80 degrees today and the forecast shows clear skies and puts us in the low 90s by the end of the week.  here comes the sun...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

a hail of a downpour (i couldn't resist)

amazing storm this evening.  thunder, very heavy rain, and hail...

hail slushy at the front door

the gutters needed some assistance.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

midpines flea market and a bike race

yesterday staal and i went to a flea market a few miles up the road in midpines.  it was pretty small, maybe a dozen vendors selling mostly yard sale type junk.  nothing terribly impressive but we still had some fun.  staal gave the burritos at the taco truck a try and i adopted several plants from a woman selling succulents.

buy 10 at a dollar each and get the 11th for free

i was surprised at the wide variety of plants she had for sale.  nothing was labeled---some i recognized some i didn't.  

i think this little guy is my favorite of the bunch...

the toothy little shark jaws are adorable.

jaws meets little shop of horrors

each may, for the last few years, the golden chain cyclists and velo promo have sponsored a bicycle race for women riders.  it's a three day stage race.  day three puts the riders on a 12 mile looped course (of 4-5 laps), a portion of which is on triangle rd.
the information sheet that gets mailed out to residents along the race course said that it would be appropriate to cheer, clap, or ring a bell to encourage the riders, so this morning i filled my coffee cup and walked down to the front gate to watch and ring the gate bell for the riders.  they truly did seem appreciative for the encouragement.  many of them waved and smiled when they heard the bell. 
if they do the race again next year i want to have a race party.  it will be a byob occasion (bring your own bell). 

stationed below the bell, awaiting cyclists

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Saturday, May 9, 2015

happy birthday to me!

a great day to be sure.  family, good food, and beautiful weather.  i was busy having a good time so i only took a few pictures...

the only shot i got of everyone looking at the camera (sorry kathryn---i think it's kind of cute though)

staal grilled some burgers and mama brought some homemade cookies and a beautiful salad.

and here's a 36th-birthday-selfie for historical reference...

the blossoms popped open just after everyone left (sorry trish)

thanks for a wonderful day, everyone!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

now and always

i was wrong
about it being fear
i mean
it's love
and pragmatism
and yes
time is short
so much is uncertain
except this
i want to hold your hand
now and always
the way i hold you in my heart
and always
not because i am afraid
because it is all that i am

cactus show

yesterday evening...

this morning...

Saturday, May 2, 2015


when i said
you were my hero
i meant it
you saved
some precious part of me
from going cold
saved my heart
from languishing in the loneliness
built by
its own longing to love


comforted by pines and oaks
the peaceful
outstretched arms of
surrounding mountains
i do
miss the long and lonely journey
the eyes' pilgrimage 
to the horizon

Friday, May 1, 2015

pine needles

pine needles dance
black and gold
in the morning light

fuyu persimmon

our little fuyu persimmon tree is in blossom.  

the flowers are small and plain.  utilitarian.  lovely.  there's an unassuming beauty about them that i find captivating.