Year after year, I’ve pretty much hand pulled weeds in the garden. This winter, Shane bought a book called The Market Gardener on organic gardening techniques, and it was all about the hoe. Granted, I gave him shit for buying yet another book (yes, you can have too many books) but then I was enthralled. So many new things to try!
This spring, I borrowed an old hoe from my parents and gave it a go. I can’t believe how much time I’ve wasted hand pulling weeds. In less than an hour (I timed myself), I cleaned out three garden beds and the pea area.
I need to work on my technique though. While hoeing, I knew my bad back was going to be mad at me the next day, and I was so right. Perhaps there are more ergonomic hoes on the market these days?
As for this weekend plans, finishing the hoeing then torching the soil to kill any sprouting weeds before planting (recommended by the book). Official planting outside day in the interior of Alaska is June 1st. We had snow and hail yesterday as a reminder that we have that rule for a reason. Though I think may live dangerously and plant Sunday or Monday.
My husband sent me this image earlier today. I told him I was making no decisions on this matter and it was all him. Can you guess how this ended up?
Well, I came home all eager for my irresponsible husband to have filled the garage with baby birds. He said that it would have been too much work, so he didn’t get any. Talk about some disappointment but some relief.
I bought it for all of five minutes.
We now have 13 Rhode Island Reds and 10 Buff Orpingtons! Our first go at meat birds. Now we only need to build an outside summer chicken house.
The baby ducks have grown – almost doubled – in the past five days.
The brooder is now full. It is made out of PVC pipe and can be divided which comes in handy with ducklings and chicks. It has handles and it light enough for us to carry outside once it warms up a bit. It has a foldable lid to keep the cat and aerial predators out.
The first thing I noticed between the ducklings and the chicks is the mess around the water. Those ducks do love their water.
So much for the big plan to hold off until next summer to do meat birds. Now we need to get working on their summer housing!
Every evening, I climb in the baby bird enclosure to hold and poke them, to get them use to us. As a reward, I provide them with a duckling sized pool filled with kale bits to bob for. They also clean out their nasal ducts and groom. While they’d love for me to leave the pool in full time, that has to wait till their adult feathers come in. For now, nightly baths and harassment will have to suffice.
The egg in the photos is to demonstrate their size a mere week ago. By fall, they hopefully will all be laying eggs – we are rooting for an all female cast.
This literally and figuratively sums up my week. It’s late (yes, 10 pm on a Friday is late) and I just want to be home. My husband took a few hours off work and we went to see David Sedaris. I needed that laugh. Now, I’m very capable of putting the limp-along on but I did mention it is late and I’m oh so deflated after this week? Instead, my husband is going to pick me up and this will be dealt with tomorrow.
Along with this:
And tomorrow I’ll have all day to cuddle with these:
The egg is in there for size comparison. As in – they exited an egg that size mere hours before. Granted, cuddling will have to wait till I pick my husband up from work, deal with the flat, and a filthy dog.
Spring has made everyone on the farm a bit frisky. We’ve never had two drakes going into spring and it turns out, it is a bad, bad, bad idea. One drake can “satisfy” up to fourteen ducks. They can actually mate females to death. This past fall, we were unclear if one bird was a male or female so we kept it. We called it Hermes and well, he finally matured. Turns out it, it was him. Going into this spring, we have one female goose, three females ducks, and two drakes.
The two times we have dispatched our extra drakes, I have had friends come over to do the dispatching in the fall. They kill them, I process them. We have known that we need to take care of the extra drake and I was going to ask a friend like usual. However, as I was headed to work on Thursday, ready to ask someone, I had an epiphany. We have 22 duck eggs in the incubator. While we raise them for eggs, we have to do something with the drakes. If we are going to continue to raise ducks, we need to be able to dispatch them ourselves.
I shared this with my husband. He was not thrilled but he agreed that we needed to do this. We agreed we would do it on Sunday since he would be on his 48hr. shift Friday and Saturday (his new work schedule as May 1st – 48 hours on, 96 hours off). This way we were not rushed.
Today was the first day in the 60Fs so I worked on moving my starts outside in shorts and flip-flops. Most of the plants are still in their containers but I did plant the greenhouse (cucumbers, basil, a few flowers, tomatoes, and peppers), a few watermelon and tomatoes in outside containers, plus a flower planter. The rest will have to wait till we get the new garden area ready. I worry that it may not be warm enough yet for them outside but hopefully, I insulated them well enough. They have simply outgrown the space I have inside. They’ll enjoy the natural sunlight and I’ll enjoy the reduced electrical bill. We shall see how they held up tomorrow morning. Maynard also finally discovered the catnip I planted. I didn’t shoo him away since I did plant it for him. Though if he eats it all now, he will not have any come this winter. Though I guess I can simply plant him more.
While gardening, I let the dogs, cat, and birds roam free. I noticed that Serenity (a group of our birds were named after the Firefly series) had a bald patch on the back of her head from constant mating. Then I noticed she was having issues with one of her eyes. I figure also from constant male harassment. So I did it. I found the hatchet, I picked up the younger drake, and I put up the other birds away. We had a moment of calm and then I dispatched him. It was quick. It took me less than one hour from start to having him in the crockpot. This is my favorite way to cook duck. It ends up shredded duck meat which makes excellent tacos.
I will say killing my birds is not one of my favorite parts of farming but it is part of raising poultry. It is also a part I want to continue. I have a hard time buying meat at the store because I worry about the treatment of the animals. I know my birds have had a great life. They are truly free-range. This fall, we will fill our freezers with more ducks. Next summer, meat chickens. Holy shit, new farmer level unlocked! Celebrating with wine and Dr. Who. I hope the ladies will enjoy some peace tonight.
Before I went outside to take care of the ducks, I made sure the cookies were put up, and the baby gates were in place. I forgot the damn cabbage. Did you know you can leave fresh eggs on the counter at room temperature? The answer is no, no we cannot leave our fresh duck eggs on the counter. My dogs will eat anything and everything. If it is on the counter, it must be yummy. Even a quick trip to the bathroom, the counters must be food free, those mongrels will take advantage of me when my pants are down. They have no mercy.
The baby gates. We have no children, yet our house is littered with baby gates and mud. Lots of mud. Baby gates allow me to keep my dirty dogs confined to one area of the house. My dogs are the dogs that after wallowing in a huge mud puddle would then go roll in my bed.
They are, for the most part, well-behaved but they are dogs. Alaskan dogs. It is spring, and so we are all bound to get a bit muddy and a hankering for fresh veggies.
Today was bee day! Since my husband is working all weekend, I skipped out of work early with a co-worker to come home to hive our bees. The first big shake of bees out of the box had Margaret taking a few steps back, but she was eager to try shaking out the 2nd hive.
I work at a museum and curate a collection of biologic material from mammals, plants, birds, fish, and insects for genetic and molecular research.
Currently, at home, I curate almost the equivalent minus the fish. We call it Birch Fire Farm though it is really out of control hobbies and a love of all things living instead of a true farm. I may be in denial. Maybe it is a farm?
Mammalogy: There is Juneau, my first dog ever. She turns 14 this summer. My mom didn’t want me to get a dog so young (early 20s) and warned me about the vet bills. She jinxed us because that dog has been diagnosed with everything. When I don’t think she can get anything else, we are back at the vet’s office.
Then there is Adenine that is turning 11 this fall though doesn’t act her age. She keeps the house safe from s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l-s. Can’t say that out loud or she looses her shit. I think she heard me type that because she is at the front door itching to go out. Don’t worry, she has never harmed a s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l, she simply likes to stare at them in trees. For hours.
Echo is our IVF puppy that is a little over a year. It has been a long time since we have had a puppy. Her sheer joy when we go for a run together is contagious. Between the three of them, our house is always disgusting. Currently, there is newspaper on the entryway floor in an attempt to contain the springtime mud.
Then we have Maynard, our first failed frozen embryo transfer cat that we got from a friend needing to rehome him. We pretty much do as he tells us to and in exchange, he keeps my garden vole free. There is a lot of sass in that 11lb. package.
Ornithology: In a deluxe coop, we have our flock of Ancona ducks (Beakers, Serenity, Underbite, Hermes, and China) and an American Buff goose named Hoss. Our other goose, Buffy passed away this winter. We keep the ladies for eggs, and unfortunately, the males are dispatched (aka eaten) though we currently have two (Beakers and Hermes – we were confused on Hermes sex for awhile). While they are cute, it isn’t cute what too many males will do to the females. We are still working on the “no means no” with them. We also have 26 Ancona duck eggs in the incubator that should hatch the 2nd week in May. My husband needs to be reigned in on this. What the hell are we going to do with that many ducks?!?!?! Guess everyone is going to be getting eggs and duck jerky for Christmas.
Who let my husband order this many eggs??
Botany: Then I have my plant stand. I’m not sure how much I save by doing this or if I save anything at all by starting my garden from seed instead of buying starts, but it simply makes the snowy spring in Alaska more springish. These won’t be heading outside till June 1st. That is if we get the new garden plot ready in time. The snow needs to melt faster! We also have several birch trees tapped around the lot and are waiting for the sap to run. My husband is working with the local coop to see how it is all done. He’ll give them our sap, help process it, and then split the birch syrup with them. The first year attempting this.
Mycology: We shall see how this goes. My husband inoculated fresh-cut trees last summer. Once the snow melts, we hope to have pearl, oyster, and turkey tail mushrooms. I’m still not sure how to keep the s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l-s from them. May have to leave Ade dog out there 24/7.
Inoculating birch logs in hope of mushrooms.
Tapped Birch Trees
Alaska spring gardening.
Entomology: We have two hives. This year, the green hive has the New World Carniolans bees and the purple an Alaska Hybrid. This is our 2nd summer curating bees. The first year, even with a round of IVF and a double hernia surgery resulting in a neglected hive and loosing a hive, we ended up with a gallon of honey. I’m optimistic this year will be even better. We are going to even attempt to overwinter them.
Margaret shaking out the bee box.
Kyndall holding the queen in her box and some of her loyal servants.
Bees in the hive.
Crap, the goose is stuck on the wrong side of the fence and can’t figure it out. Time to go be a farmer because according to the internet, we do indeed have a farm.