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.