Friday, November 9, 2012

On goat health

You can check out my goat post here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Back to Blogging

You missed me didn't you?  Both of you did, I just KNOW it. 

There is much news, I suppose.  And as with farms and life, there is good and bad.

We'll start with the bad and just get that out of the way....

It has been a rough year for ducks here at the urban farm.  We lost 2 over Labor Day weekend to a fox, with an additional one mauled pretty good.  Josephine "the survivor" Duck, managed to make it.  Much to the surprise of both the SB and I.  I cleaned her wounds with water and hydrogen peroxide and then sprayed them with "wound spray" which is pretty much an anti-everything spray.  I don't know what is in it but it is anti fungal, anti bacterial and probably tastes really bad to foxes.  We tucked her into her own little sub pen and tried to get her to eat.  After a couple of days, she started on some spinach, moved on to water fowl food and finally to regular duck food.  I don't know if I missed a cut on her leg, or if there was some kind of fracture.  But over the next week or so her knee swelled significantly and got hot.  I called my gung ho vet and he allowed me to pick up some antibiotics from the compounding pharmacy in town.  It was nice that my Mama could pick them up and she paid for them.  Which I appreciated even more when I had to pick up the second round and pay $38 for them.  Sheesh.  So we gave Miss J oral antibiotics 2x per day for most of a month and topical antibiotic cream as well.  And the SB gave some physical therapy along the way as well.  She got better, finally.  Then she slipped a tendon.  Which is not good.  This can come from prolonged swelling.  Maybe we let her get too much exercise too soon?  I don't know.  The SB has redoubled his efforts in the physical therapy, stretching the tendon and hoping to convince it to stay where it belongs.  So far there is not much of a change, but he is persistent.  I hate to see her hobbling, but she otherwise seems in pretty good spirits.  Certainly alert and engaged in her flock so I don't want to put her down.

In the meantime, we lost another duck to the fox in broad daylight right behind the SB's back.  Damn fox.  So now, the ducks can only go in the fenced in garden unless we are right on top of them.  Pain in the butt and hard on the garden.  There is much planning to do to make the garden work next spring.  Now we have some half assed fencing keeping the ducks (mostly) out of the fall garden. 

Because all the ducks we lost were females, I bought three older ducks to add to the flock to keep the boys from harrassing the girls too much.  We are still a little boy heavy, but I don't want more ducks.  I could get rid of one of the boys, but I would hate to send him off to a new home without a friend and I don't want to get rid of any more of mine.  We'll see how spring goes.

The good news is that the goats were out in the country this week getting knocked up.  Yup.  My girls are gonna have them some babies this spring.  I took them out to Dragon Hill Farm to meet their baby dady.  Apparently deeds have been done and I am going to pick them up tomorrow.  They have been gone less than a week, but it feels like forever.  I am excited about the babies, but terrified.  Clearly things don't always go as planned in these little events.... and the real issue is how on earth and I going to bring myself to take the babies away from their mamas?  Oi.  I am either going to be very unpopular or cave and leave them on their mothers and never have milk.  Oi.  My head hurts just thinking about it. 

In other good news, in the process of buying the ducks I met this really amazing lady who has had ducks for a long time.  She is a fantastic resource and I look forward to talking more with her in future.
As the light wanes for the year, I have been being more social.  It has been great to catch up with friends and neighbors now that the air has cooled and the mosquitoes aren't hounding me at every instant. 

Fall is such a relieve.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Season of Yellow

This is the time of the year that we are surrounded by yellow.  Literally.  The farm is electric with brown eyed susan's that have naturalized on the front hill, along the driveway, and pretty much anywhere else we don't mow them down.  In addition the sunflowers are blooming in a last gasp of summer.  The gold finches are here in droves to eat the sunflower seeds and flit through the yard and garden.  They will start in on the BES seeds when the sunflowers are gone.  The walnuts have started to drop little yellow leaves in the grass as they get ready for fall.  I don't know how they make it as they are the last to fully leaf out and the first to start dropping their leaves.

Then there are the garden spiders.  Which I always see in the beginning of August (though this year it was the last week of July).  They are the beginning of the end of summer to me....  Can't say I'll be sorry to see it gone.  Only, as always, devastated by the end of the fresh tomatoes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Yesterday the temps didn't get out of the 70s and we had on and off rain all day.  These days in the summer are some that I look forward to with great anticipation.  They are a relief from oppressive heat and anxiety about my garden and my animals.  We don't use the AC much around here, but when we do, I feel completely disconnected from the outside world, and that makes me uncomfortable.  I love the comfort of the AC in the blasting sticky heat of summer and it means that I can actually sleep instead of tossing around trying to find a cool spot on the pillow.  But it has its price.  This weekend was a gift.  A sweet reminder of the other 9 -10 months of the year that are mostly just plain glorious.

Another gift came my way recently too.  You won't believe it.  I actually won something.  I did.  Me.  I won a giveaway from a blog of some seeds.  How cool is that?  Pretty cool.  I waited by the mail box like a love sick teenager (back when people corresponded by letter) until the packet came.  I am planting them this weekend.  Annie's is not a seed company that I have any experience with, so I will keep you posted.  They do have very charming seed packets with some good info on them.  I was looking at the packets of seeds and roughly calculated 1500 seeds for the collection.  That is a lot of vegetables.  It makes me feel like I shouldn't just scatter them willy nilly around in the garden and then ruthlessly thin.  It is amazingly wasteful.  But I have tried the individual planting cells for each seed and I find that often transplants don't do as well in side by side comparison.  The dilemmas....

And of course, the final gift, carefully disguised as ANOTHER vet bill is the news that all the cat's liver functioning is totally back to normal, which means that his liver failure was temporary and there is no reason to believe that he will not survive to aggravate us long into the future.

Happy day.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bad Ass

I have been working to integrate the new ducks into the flock.  It is similar to last time, but there are only two to integrate into a flock of 8, rather than the other way 'round.  I must stay, it made me a little nervous.   These two littles are ready to join the flock, it is just the big ducks that are resisting.  The little ducks will follow them around and snorffle at a respectful distance from the big ducks.  I don't leave them alone with them for extended periods of time as I am afraid that the big ducks will ditch them someplace in the yard and they will get lost or snatched by the very large hawk that seems to be hanging out in the church lot next door.  I still have them sectioned off when they are in the pen, so that they don't get tormented and so I can be assured that they have access to food and water.

This morning I was going to be in the garden for a bit and thought I would let the littles hang out in the pen in the same space as the big ducks to see how things were going to go.  As usual, the big ducks started making ugly faces at the little ones and giving little charges toward them.  Agatha, our little female shocked me by giving it right back to the other female ducks.  She was taking no shit from those old ladies.  Go Agatha!  Both of the little ones are still afraid of the male ducks, but I think they are off on some good footing.

Total integration is near, which will cut down a tiny bit on the morning feeding/watering chores, though I will make sure there are at least two food bowls in the pen for a while so that everyone has the chance to eat.  The males do seem to want to chase the babies off of the food, but they aren't super diligent about it.  Short attention span those ducks. 

Here is an old picture of the babies, when we still had three.  The little yellow one is the one that the snake tried to eat but only managed to kill.  Probably selected because it was the littlest.  Agatha is the brown duck on the back right with the bi colored bill.  Both she and the other one are Khaki Campbell/Runner crosses (at least that is what we think). 
This was taken on one of the first days that they were out in the yard and swimming in our little duck pool.  For whatever reason, everyone was being still enough for photos.  Something that rarely happens with the livestock.

Friday, July 13, 2012


There are a few things to celebrate around here, the first being the break in the heat.  We are back to our normal temps and even in the low 80s today, which is a real treat.  I have taken the day off to plant the fall garden.  Carrots, beets, spinach, leeks, etc etc.  I am also going to try fall potatoes, though I have few hopes of realizing significant harvests.  So worth a try though as home grown potatoes are one of my favorites.  It has been incredibly dry here, so I am not sure what kind of luck we will have on anything.

We are also celebrating that the cat has not died yet.  In fact, he is looking remarkably well for being on Death's door for several days.  It appears he will live to cost me another $700 at some point in the future.  Woo hoo.

All of our February ducks are laying eggs now.  Not every day, but we do have 5 egger days which is super.  It means we will now be able to start selling eggs again and the ducks can pay for their own damn feed.  We'll cross our fingers and hope that the recent string of losses is at an end and we can have a relatively quiet rest of the year despite what appears to be an explosion in the fox population.

And finally, I am celebrating my 300th post here on the blog.  Yay blog. 

And I leave you with a photo of the rather large snapper who drowned our duck. (Ooh, another reason to celebrate!  A photo!)  This is my hand.  Not a giant hand, but an adult hand.  And that is the turtle.  He is big, no?  He is in one of those galvanized washtubs.  The kind of tub I prefer to load full of ice and beer rather than killer turtles.  Maybe that will come later in the summer.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


The heat wave that has hit the central and eastern US is still with us for another day or so.  The temps are near or over 100 the past few days.  In the upper 90s and around 100 for the seven previous days.  We have turned the AC on.  This is not something we normally do.  But some of us get a wee bit cranky when we are trying to sleep and can't because we are drowning in our own sweat.  All hail modern technology.  I really feel for the folks who have been out of power for the last 8 days.  Most days I could have probably made it without AC by moving slow and drinking cold drinks and sitting in front of the fan.  Subtract the fan and the ice and I would be toast.  You folks who have toughed it out are impressive.  I, on the other hand, am a pansy.  The weather people say that this all starts to break up tonight and tomorrow and we will have a week that is back in the 80s.  The prediction is for the low 80s on Tuesday.  When I went to the farmer's market on Saturday, everyone was talking about Tuesday in awed tones as if it was a holiday.

I have high hopes that the Canadian cold front that is up to relieve us from the heat may also bring us rain.  We have been watering like crazy over the past few weeks.  All the wee thunderstorms have missed us and things are dry.  Really dry.  The ailanthus is starting to wilt.  We are lucky that the soil here is good and sucks up water quickly.  We can have a lot of impact with our watering as not much rolls off.  Still, our water bill will be staggering.  Along with the electric bill for the AC.

And of course on top of that, is the vet bill for the cat who is very likely dying.  Liver failure.  Probably permanent, but possibly temporary.  We are treating him as if it is temporary, though I don't hold out much hope.  He is lethargic, but doesn't seem to be in pain, so that is good.  I'll have my first experience giving subcutaneous fluids today.  I suspect it will be a lot messier than we think.  But it can't be much worse than trying to get cat food in his mouth with a syringe.  I already changed clothes once today.

The garden is doing remarkably well considering the drought. We are getting cukes, tomatillos, a few peppers and summer squashes.  Tomatoes have to be coming soon... Cucumber agua fresca is just around the corner. 

Ducks hold up to the heat remarkably well.  The little ducks are now convinced they are big enough to play with the big ducks.  The big ducks have no interest.  Sound familiar?  Oh, Teh Drama.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Check out my post at Cville League of Urban Goatherds.  I am double dipping.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

It has been so long....

So much has happened in the last month +.  There is no way to catch up other than a list! (because you know we love a list around here almost as much as Starr Hill Girl.)

1. A week after the snapping turtle got one of the brown ducks, a fox got Aretha.  Aretha was one of the original flock and was the only reliable layer left.  Our other old girl, Josaphine, lays eggs but they have very thin shells and are often broken.  And they go bad quickly since they don't seem to have much coating on them (a waxy stuff that is deposited on the eggs as they are laid so that they don't dehydrate).  It was a bummer.  We think she got snatched on evening at dusk.  We didn't even realize she was gone until the next day.  We never found any sign of her, no feathers, no carnage, no nothin'.  That is why we think it was a fox.

2. I paid $5 for a small container of homegrown tomatoes at the market.  It made me want to go home and fertilize my tomatoes.  But I am not sorry I did it.  I am just sorry everyone else likes tomatoes as much as I do.

3. I got a call from a friend at work that they were incubating some duck eggs and did we want some more ducks.  I consulted with the SB.  Why YES, thanks, we would like some more ducks!!

4.  We took receipt of three adorable baby ducks.  Two runner/khaki crosses and one pure runner.  They would adorably follow me around the garden and play in the water while I was hosing down the plants.

5. I dug my potatoes.  One of my favorite jobs.  I looked into planting fall potatoes.  I doubt it will work but giving it a shot.

6. We lost the little runner to what appears to be a snake attack.  It was crushingly sad as these little critters are so personable.  And I had to tell the folks that gave them to us.  It is really hard when this happens as you really feel as if you have just failed miserably.  Failed the ducks, failed the family, failed at farming.  It always makes me wonder if this is just the way it goes or if we are particularly bad at this.  I think the SB is getting PTSD.

7.  We still have two very cute ducklings.  They are just catching on to the fact that we are not ducks and they are not people.  But they are still quite personable and too small to leave alone with the big ducks.  So when they are out, they hang out with me in the garden or swim in the creek.  They are excellent company.

8. The February flock is starting to lay.  Today I got 5 tiny "pullet" eggs.  Hal a freakin luja.

9. And finally, at the request of my friend Meghan, to whom I owe the privilege of owning goats (she made it legal in the city), I have started a new blog.  We'll be discussing goat ownership in the city.  I am sure there will be cross links as clearly, I am not finding a ton of time to write on THIS blog, much less another.


Friday, May 25, 2012

It's Wild Freakin' Kingdom Out There

I got the dreaded call at work from the SB.  "I have some bad news"  Uh oh.  We had lost one of the ducks.  Apparently to drowning.  I have heard that this can happen when the males are mating and push the head of the female into the water.  Though the water in the creek isn't really that deep.  Plus the SB said he had to pull the duck's bill out of the water, it had gotten stuck somehow.

He called again about half an hour later.  There was a unknown factor.  The duck had a hole in its bill where something had penetrated.  That would be some force to get through a bill.  Not simply a snag.   The SB also saw some movement in the creek.  Some bubbles.  We had seen a relatively large water snake in the creek several weeks ago, but it wasn't the nasty sort.  We also have turtles.

I was on my way home since the Governor gave us a couple extra hours off.  When I got home the SB informed me that we had a pretty big snapping turtle in the creek.  We went out and excavated it from the creek and moved it down to the river.  The thing was indeed big.  Not the largest I have ever seen, but given the size of the creek, it was impressive.  And it was big enough to have held a duck's bill underwater for too long.  I buried her in the duck graveyard.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh Yeah!

Today, the old and new ducks grazed in proximity to one another.  It felt like a GIANT win here at the Urban Farm.  The new ducks hung out on the banks while the old ducks swam.  It is all very high school around here right now.  It is going to get REALLY interesting when the new ducks get to breeding age.  There is precious little info out there on integrating duck flocks, so I really have no idea how this will turn out.  One flock would be ideal, but I still don't totally believe it is possible.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tiny Window

This is the tiny window in weather garden etc that is precious.  The greens are going great guns, the summer pests haven't set in.  The mosquitoes are barely buzzing.  The rain is coming regularly.  There is much potential and promise.  Seeds planted.  Trellises constructed.  Mowing more or less under control.  Flowers blooming, etc, etc.

Oh!  Didn't I mention that the SB made trellises for the garden?  No?  You. Should. See. Them.  I feel totally rich.  They are simple, rabbit fencing with a bamboo pole woven through the top, hung on some posts.  We have two of these panels per bed.  We have the trellises around the outside of our 6 main beds, in a U shape.  When they grow in there will be a wee garden room springing up around you.  In my mind it is green and fruitful.

We'll see what happens when reality sets in.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Today the little ducks found the water.  They spend a good amount of time snorggling in the muddy banks and splashing about.  It does my heart good to see ducks in the water. 

The first of our strawberries should be ripe tomorrow.  Cross your fingers for us that something doesn't get them overnight.

We had soup of chicken stock, lambs quarters, mizuna and noodles this evening.  Yum.

Friday, April 20, 2012


The ducks have made some progress this week.  Sampson seems to have lessened the frequency and vigor of his attacks.  The little ducks have left the duck pen on their own without the SB or I chasing them out.  They are snorggling around in the flower bed right outside their pen.  I suspect they are eating the seeds that I just planted but I am willing to overlook that given the circumstances.  I hope they start foraging further afield soon.  I hope that they find the water too.  They are constantly trying to bathe in the drinking water which means that they splash it out every where.  Annoying.

Yay for integration.

Monday, April 16, 2012


We are thinking of returning the ducks as they are clearly defective. They have no idea how to be ducks. They haven't even found the water yet and it is 12 feet from their pen. What do you ship 7 nearly grown ducks in? Why are they so stupid?

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Seems like I have been moving through molasses lately. Not getting much done on any front. Spring fever? Laziness? Your call.

The new ducks are out in the duck yard. They are bums. They have to be rousted out of their house on a regular basis. I force them out into the yard (the big ducks are always dying to go out) and as soon as I turn my back they have snuck back in and settled in the house. It is a rough go for them, our big male Sampson will periodically chase them and then abuse them. It is pathetic. I don't know whether to just let them at it. I feel like he is going to get tired of it at some point. I think keeping them separate at some point just prolongs the integration. At the same time, locking them in a cage all day where they can't get away from him seems somewhat cruel. I guess it is gonna be rough whichever way it goes. And these little ones really do need to toughen up. They are total pansies. It is hard to find good info on duck flock integration.

The goats are enjoying all the greenery. They are eating up a storm and loving it. The goat vet came today for their yearly check up/vaccinations. She said that they are both "proper" goats, meaning they have good confirmation. Also that Zinnia has beautiful feet and Ella has witches toes. Just sayin'. She also allowed that they were at the perfect weight and I shouldn't feed them more than necessary. Which is good because they seemed on the thin side to me.

The garden is crappy so far this year. No rain and lots of heat has made the germination totally spotty. I am moving on. Looking forward to putting out the summer plants and planning for fall. I think we will have some mustard greens, arugula and lettuce, but nothing else seems to be coming up.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I know, it seems to have been ages since I have posted. There has been lots going on...

11 baby ducks arrived February 23rd. Three went to another family (we had arranged that in advance to get better shipping rates) Of the remaining 8, one didn't make it. Just never really caught on to the eating thing. That kinda thing makes you wonder if you were cut out for this farming thing (clearly I am not since my "farm" animals are all pets). Then one of the ducklings developed a limp. Probably from being stepped on by one of its flock mates. We moved them from the rubbermaid tub they were in to the larger dog crate in the basement. Which made our living quarters smell a lot better. The limp resolved. They are growing like weeds. The SB refers to them as the demon babies as they are growing at an otherworldly rate. They are going outside soon as we can't keep up with their water and food needs much longer in the crate that they are in. Well, I guess we could. We did it with 11 ducks for a lot longer 3 years ago, but.....

The integration of flocks will be the next major step. Our alpha duck Sampson is very interested. It is impossible to say if it is benevolent, aggressive or some combination. There is one male duck in our current 7, and I do fear for that little one most. Despite their crazy growth, the babies are tiny and fragile compared with the older ducks. I think we are going to divide the duck pen and house. Have a sort of separate but equal situation where they can get tired of looking at each other through the fence before we actually let them co mingle. I imagine we will wear Sampson out. He is very serious about his job.

In other news, I went to Dragon Hill Farm to see the new goatlings and pick the brain of my goat's farm mama about goat birthing. It will be our turn next year so I wanted some real info from a real human rather than just a book or YouTube video. One of Heidi's goats had given birth earlier in the day. Three tiny goatlings were snug in the stall with their mama. Did I mention that they were TINY? O.M.G. On our way back to the house, the other goat that was close had apparently gone on with having her babies right in the paddock with the other goats. We saw a tiny wet thing commando crawling in the pasture and Heidi grabbed the birthing kit and went to it. Two more were born within the hour. All healthy and strong. Wow. A LOT of slime in birthing. I got some good if brief experience. And I smelled very much of goat when I got home.

Today I am hosting a seed swap at the chapel next door. I have no idea how many people are going to show up. Over the years, I have learned that many gardeners, myself included, are absolutely INSANE. So it wouldn't surprise me to see a lot of people here at 10AM on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Millions of things to do in house, garden, farm and school work. Blogging probably the least important, but the most fun and I can do it while I drink my (much needed) coffee. Yay.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Season of Song

I have noticed the song birds are back. Or at least our paths are crossing more frequently now. My wake up and feeding time doesn't change much, but the light is creeping back into the mornings and I have caught a sunrise or two on the weekends when I round just a few minutes later. I love the peachy purple sky. Tonight it will be COLD. One of maybe two nights in the teens this winter. I look forward to the morning. There will be ice on the animals' water. They will be extra happy to see me. Hopefully I get done with the rounds before the cold seeps into my clothes and I can get back into the house before the teeth start chattering. I will have the luxury of going back to bed once everyone has what they need. I almost never do that, but it has been a long week and some extra sleep would be most welcome.

Ducklings arrive the week of the 20th. We have much to do to prepare for the onslaught of tiny peepers. A water management system is critical. The last time the basement practically flooded with the splashing. And the stink. Oi. I have been hearing horror stories of combining flocks, but we are just going to have to go slowly and carefully. We can divide the duck house and the pen in half so each flock has their own space until they get used to one another. I can only imagine the drama.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Follow up

The trauma of Tuesday was followed (WAY TOO) closely with the trauma of Thursday, which was less traumatic but still darned upsetting. My neighbor, a different one this time, called and said there was a dog near the goat pen. She called a few minutes later to say that the dog had gone over the (4 ft) fence and had attacked Ella. Luckily, the neighbor yelled and ran into the pen and the dog lept out the other side and was off. Ella wasn't harmed but again, everyone was freaked out. We are very thankful to our wee neighbors H and C for alerting their Mama to the fact that there was a dog in the yard. They were ON IT after the duck incident. Thanks guys and thanks to our fabulous neighbor S who make the rescue.

Another morning spent with the Animal Control Guy. We are not yet on a first name basis and I hope we don't get there. The description of the dog is markedly close to the dog who broke into the duck pen. The time of day was exactly the same. The guy whose dog killed the ducks swears his dog was at home. I don't believe him. He also tells me he is sending his dog to the country to live with his parents. I really hope I can believe that.

The goats have recovered well. The ducks are coming more slowly. Josephine was the last duck standing in the pen, the two other survivors managed to flee though I have no idea how. Josephine is the one who is only now coming back. Since Tuesday she has been sliding into the thousand yard stare for very long periods. None of them have been eating much. Today though, things seemed a little better. They ate some food. The squawked at me when I went outside and they made more in the way of general duck noises. The sounds are what we really miss. The SB most of all, as he is here more to listen. He is pushing for ducklings sooner rather than later so we can rebuild the flock. Three is just too few ducks. I can't say I am thrilled about stinky ducklings in my basement again, but it will be nice to be on the road to normal. Ducks are what pass for normal now.

It has been a very hard week. I was having significant anxiety at work this morning. I was waiting for the phone to ring with more bad news. I made the SB go check on the animals as soon as he got up. They were, and are fine. It is me that is the wreck.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

And then there were three

Yesterday an off leash dog broke into the duck pen and killed seven of our flock. We were lucky that a neighbor found the dog in the act and pulled him out of the pen. Otherwise we would be completely flockless.

It was a grim day. We were interviewing at work so I had to maintain the happy face all day with the candidates, despite having run home for 90 minutes to collect the bodies, find the the missing ducks and talk with the animal control guy. Everyone was traumatized. Our neighbor, the SB, the remainder ducks.

I am still uncertain if one of them will make it. She is moving slowly today, whether from injury or shock I don't know.

Thanks to our neighbor, we have identified the dog and hopefully will work something out with the owner.

I try to comfort myself with the good life they led up until Tuesday morning.

The neighbors, friends and family have been amazing. It has been nice to hear from folks how much they like having these critters here in the hood.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where does the time go?

Between the milking cottage project, the closet project, my recent OMG WILL IT NEVER END cold that I have had since effing Xmas eve, the regular recirculating list of cooking, cleaning, laundry, groceries and of course, the day job and the side work one begins to wonder if I will ever get back to the blog. Winter is usually a good time for this, but the addition of the closet project, (wherein we add two fabulously gorgeous cedar lined closets with vintage doors to a room and thereby double the number of closets in our house) has really taken up a lot of my free time. And I am starting a couple of on line graduate level courses through UVA. The busy just don't stop around here.

But, the animals are all well if tired of the damp. The goats are miserable and the ducks even seem tired of the mud and rain. A few days of warm and dry will turn things around for us all I think.