Wednesday, August 19, 2015


heard a commotion from the ducks while we were eating dinner tonight.  ran outside and interrupted a bobcat attack just a little too late.  the cat came right up into the yard near the front door and was able to grab one of the ducks before i got there.  guess i spooked her though.  saw her running off into the woods as i came out and found a badly injured duck at the edge of the front yard maybe 20ft from the front door.  the duckling's back was broken but she was still alive.  i had to finish what the bobcat started. 
got the ducks into the kitchen garden, rounded up the cats and got them into their room, moved the chickens from their run into in their tractor. 
lesson learned.  i am sorry, my ducks. 

1965 plymouth valiant station wagon

we've been wanting a station wagon for a while.  don't see many station wagons on the road around here except for subarus.  we did consider a subaru but really wanted something older with some style. staal put out the word to a local facebook swap group that we were searching and yesterday he got a message from a woman looking to sell a '65 valiant wagon.  staal has owned a few valiant wagons in the past---he says he attracts them.  turns out the woman and her husband live just a few miles away from us and are friends with one of our neighbors.  they're from chowchilla and they bought the car from an elderly man who lives in chowchilla.  it's all kind of funny.
the car is in pretty good shape and staal drove it from the seller's house to ours but it will need a little going over before it's officially road worthy.

i think zane approves of the new ride

i love that the back window rolls down with a crank on the outside of the tailgate.

i think it's a good looking car.  i also think it suits us and our lifestyle quite well---it's the perfect first car for us.  i can't wait to take it to the nursery and fill it with goodies.

Monday, August 17, 2015

duck housing

if you've been following the blog you've noticed from the pictures that the ducks have been growing like crazy.  a month ago they outgrew the brooder and i built them a sort of an outdoor nursery in the kitchen garden so they'd have a little more room and a secure place to sleep at night.  
like most of my building projects, i built the nursery out of scraps we had hanging around.  the plywood was what we took off the roof when we were working on the greenhouse and staal had plenty of screws and some hinges in his collection of hardware goodies so the only things i bought were the wire mesh and some latches.

the ducks were still just little fuzzballs when i moved them from the brooder to the nursery.

they've grown a lot since then.  they still have enough room to sleep in the nursery (they spend days in the back of the kitchen garden and in the front yard) but it's pretty cramped and they're overdue for some new digs.  i've started building them an 8'x10' shed to sleep in at night.  the duck shed is situated near the feed barn and will have an attached duck yard surrounding it.
i'm building it with what we've got around, which currently mostly consists of a lot of very twisted and bowed 4"x4"s.   it's really ugly cull wood that we got cheap from the local lumber yard a while back.  i'm also using a lot of material that my brother gave me years ago.  he'll probably recognize the twisty 6"x6"s at the base of the structure.  i'm also going to use the doors and screens i got from him.  maybe i'll call it the caleb c. wade duck enclosure.  sounds fancy.

in the picture below you can see i've employed a ratchet strap to try to persuade the bowed lumber into something near square.  near square is the best i can hope for with this stuff.  you can also see the doors (leaning against the trees to the right) and a screen (lower left corner) that i got from caleb.

this morning, after i got all the critters fed and the gardens watered and before it got too hot, i finished up a few things on the north wall and then got the south wall built.

shown below is how i left things at about noon today.

still much to do but it's coming along alright.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

the light and the life

i have come to believe
that life does not cease
but instead changes its expression
and so
your song now sung
not as that joyous, feathered body
splashing in cool water
but as fruit laden branches
swaying in the summer wind
and as i continue to care for
those once shining, inquisitive eyes
and satin feathers
they become
ruby fruits
and gloss-green leaves
and at harvest time your body feeds mine
becomes mine
and is forever
a part of the light and the life of this place

don't hold back

the sunflowers
don't hold back their bloom
for some assurance
that the bees will come
to do their part
as i listen to them speak
about the tender touch of morning light
i see
as it caresses each delicate petal
there is no place
to half-love
anything in this world
and how often it is
that the softest things
cause the heart to break

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

a loss

we lost one of the blue runners last evening around 7-7:30.  i don't know what happened.  i was making dinner around 6 or so and went out to the kitchen garden to get some herbs for the meal, the ducks were in their area at the back of the garden, they were all fine.  i gave them some fresh water before i took the herbs in and went back to cooking.  just after we finished eating i went back out to feed them and again everyone seemed just fine.  it was maybe half-an-hour later that i went out to get them some fresh bedding for the night that i saw her.  the ducks were all resting quietly but one was lying flat on her belly, legs out behind her and head and neck stretched out in front, not completely abnormal for a very young duckling but not at all right for one at 8 weeks old.  she was still warm when i picked her up.  there were no wounds.  there had been no panicked or unusual sounds indicating a predator or anything else that may have startled them.  i didn't autopsy her, i probably should have, but i didn't.  i took her to the orchard garden and sat for a while, stroking her feathers and beautiful, mottled bill and wondered what could have gone so wrong.  had i failed her somehow?  i take very good care of my animals.  i take the responsibility of their care very seriously.  i don't think there was anything i could have done to prevent what happened, whatever it was, but i still can't help but feel responsible for it.
i woke in the night, wondering and feeling bad.  i couldn't get back to sleep so i got up.  i needed to hear them.  ducks are not like chickens.  there are always a few of them awake at any given time of night, talking to each other.  i stood at the screen door listening to them for a while.  it was comforting.
this morning all is well.  the ducks have been watered and fed and are now busy preening and making happy conversation.  today is a new day and nothing to do but carry on doing the best we can for each other.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

sunday ramble

staal and zane and i had a nice little ramble along some dusty not too distant roads today.

the grizzlies den

heading out on a sunday ramble
we stop for gas
outside what was formerly known as
the triangle road cafe
the new sign reads:
the grizzlies den
no apostrophe
i cannot speak for the menu
but i find the new name distasteful
when was the last time
there was a grizzly in these parts?
i have dreamt of bears
and hold some hope
that somewhere
secreted away deep in the mountains
far from man's arrogant reach
they may still roam

Saturday, August 8, 2015


staal has put in a lot of hard work and done a beautiful job renovating a little outbuilding on the eastern edge of our property (you can see his work here: ) so that i can have a secure place to store feed and supplies for the chickens and ducks.  staal's quite competent and capable when it comes to building and although he doesn't need the help sometimes he appreciates having some.  stucco is one of those sometimes.  it's a small building (10'x12') but putting up stucco is still a big job so i offered to help and was happy he accepted.  it's hard work but we've been having fun working on it together.  we've got three walls done and it's looking pretty good.

we started yesterday and got the north and west facing walls done. 

staal used the cement mixer to mix the stucco.  not having to hand mix each 60lb sack saved us a lot of time and energy.

watching and learning

north wall

west wall

north and west walls completed. staal did a nice crisp job on the corners.

today we got the south wall covered.

team staal working on the south wall (photo credit nicolas j. staal-robles)

south wall completed

we're short the stucco needed for the back wall so it looks like we're laid-off until the local lumber yard can get some more ordered for us.  we'll make do though, no shortage of work to be done around here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

dinner out

even when the days are really hot here it still tends to cool off towards evening.  there's a window of time between the worst of the heat and the worst of the mosquitoes and no-see-ums when it's quite pleasant out.  we occasionally take advantage of that time to enjoy our dinner outside.  
a couple days ago staal grilled some steaks and we sat outside and watched the ducks while we ate.
they may have gotten more of my potatoes than i did. 

communing with ducks