Sunday, October 30, 2011

Seasonal Employment

Because we have been doing nothing other than working on the milking cottage since this time last year (if you include the design/siting and the harvesting and collecting of materials in addition to the more obvious fabrication) I decided to take a bit of a break this fall on the garden. I did make a feeble attempt to get things going this summer, but it was so hot and dry that things really didn't germinate. I do have a small patch of carrots, some arugula and a few beets, but that is it. Because there is currently nothing in the garden that I am too worked up a bit, I have decided to put the ducks to work at their intended tasks...

We got the ducks as garden helpers.... do you remember? They were supposed to take care of bugs and not scratch things up like chickens. Actually, I have not had a slug problem since I got the ducks, even though we don't have them in the garden that much. The reason we don't have them in the garden as expected is because of the leafy greens. Wow, those ducks can put a hurtin' on the spinach and the chard. But since I have neither spinach nor chard this fall, thanks to Mother Nature, who knew I needed a break, I have set the ducks to task. The past year I have been plagued by these very annoying bugs that have ruined the greens and some of the brassicas. I also have a squash bug problem. All this is probably due to intensive cultivation and being a wee bit lazy about cleaning up in the fall.

I am hoping that the ducks take to the task. My plan is to leave them in the garden in the mornings with only a light breakfast. In the afternoon we will let them out into the bigger yard and let them swim in the creek. It is a good deal for them, because it means more forage time, and they do live to forage. The bad thing is that they are going to get spoiled rotten and think that they deserve to be out of the pen ALL the time. I guess we deal with that when the time comes.

I have also started to consider a flock of chickens. We have a section of the garden where we have been growing corn/beans/squash together. Unfortunately, this makes it pretty much impossible to weed. I need some good working chickens in a movable pen who can take that section down to dirt and eat every seed and growing thing in the top two inches of soil. I think some chickens are the birds for the job. While we don't need more eggs, there do seem to be folks in the hood who would be interested. I bet I could get rid of as much as we could produce in that department as people aren't as squeamish about chicken eggs as they are duck... And I don't have any trouble getting rid of the duck eggs.

Now it is all about fencing and a movable pen. And some warm weather. The first frost came in solid last night. Everything was crunchy this morning and the duck and goat water had a skim of ice across the top. Welcome to the Season of Frost.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ten Ducks, Two Dogs and One Very Close Call

The SB and I were out working on the goat barn/milking cottage on Sunday, as we have been doing for, oh about eternity. The SB was on the ladder nailing up trim and I was holding/handing tools like a surgical nurse.

I heard a bunch of quacking and splashing, not really odd for the ducks, but it went on.... when I turned to check out the hoopla, I saw two very large dogs happily chasing the ducks around in circles. I took off toward the creek with the SB right on my heels. I was yelling and running straight at the dog that was closest to actually having a duck in its mouth. It was a near thing. He almost had his paw on one and I think that would have been the end of it due to sheer terror or physical trauma.

Luckily the dogs weren't hungry, they were just chasing the ducks because the ducks were running. Had they been intent on eating one of them, I have no doubt they could have snatched one and been off before we even knew it.

It was a lucky day all around. All the ducks survived, the dogs did not end up getting punched in the face (which was the only feeble plan I had for what I would do if I got a hold of one of them) and the SB and I were able to return to the work on the milking cottage without dog bites or ancillary damage.

Around here, we count that as a win.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A day in the life....

Yesterday I came home from work and was pleased to find that the rain, nay the deluge, had ceased. The SB was leaving as I was arriving.. one of those evenings. Too wet to work on the milking cottage or really anything else, so I opted to take the goats out in the yard for a stroll. Their current favorite food is sycamore leaves. They look pretty silly munching down some dinner plate sized leaves. The sky was still overcast and we got one of those weird situations where the sunlight is bouncing off the bottom of the clouds as the sun goes down and everything turns all goldy-green. As I was marveling at the odd light I realized the backyard was full of dragonflies. There was a huge swarm of the swirling around. I didn't get a close enough look to identify them. I wondered if they were supposed to be migrating at this time or if they are all running late.

Then it started to pour buckets. I hung out under the paw paw tree with the goats hoping the rain would slow. The goats hate getting wet more than me, but.... We ended up making a run for it. That is one of the things that I like about the goats. If you run, they will always follow. So they got tucked into their snug little house. Me, by the time I locked up the gate, dumped the wheelbarrow full of discarded goat hay and made it into the house, I was drenched. Happy but totally drenched.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


The SB has done it again... solved a problem that seriously needed solving. And I was too in the middle of trying to plow through to step back and see that there might be another way. He is a big picture guy. Mostly, that is probably a good thing.

Without further ado.... Do you live in a place where there are paw paws? We are, we even have a small grove in the backyard. This is helpful as it tells you when the wild paw paws are ripe so that you can go and collect them. The only problem with having a lot of paw paws is that you have to separate the seed from the flesh and skin. It is super duper tedious as there is a LOT of seed in a paw paw. A couple weeks ago, we were drowning in paw paws. Something seriously needed to be done with them or all the collecting work would be down the tubes. In the old style, the processing of the paw paws we had would have taken HOURS and resulted in cramped hands and grouching. But the SB did a little experimentation. Here is the process that saves your sanity.
1. Peel the fruit with a veggie peeler or older fruits by hand
2. Cut the fruit/seed into large ice cube sized chunks
3. Put them in the food processor with the plastic dough blade (not the sharp one)
4. Process briefly until the flesh is saucy and the seeds are seperate
5. Run it all through some mesh or just pick the seeds out by hand.

This is not entirely without some tedium, but it is MILLIONS of times better than the other options I have tried.

We froze about 10-12 cups of paw paw mash. We'll be using it in breads and ice cream. Yum.

You can thank the SB.