June was the month we officially got all of the gardens planted! We have three main garden areas this year, which is one more than the previous year, and two more than the year before that… somebody stop me!
We (well, Karl actually) built two, 28-inch tall raised beds last month and we (well, Karl actually) finally got them filled with dirt and planted. The first raised bed now holds purple sweet potatoes, and the box in the background (which gets a little shade from the apple tree) has lots of parsley, kohlrabi, purple basil, and some special marigolds and zinnias.
We (oops, Karl again!) also tilled up a couple strips of land at the top of the hill overlooking our hay field for tomato beds. Last year was a completely disappointing and devastating year for tomatoes. Seriously, we planted 50 tomato plants and harvested approximately 1 quart of tomatoes… lost them all to blight. This year we hope things will be different- they are in lighter, sandier soil, on a windy hill, and are planted in landscape fabric topped with straw so there is no splashing of dirt when it rains. Fingers crossed for tomatoes this year!
The main garden is also in full force, and not planting tomatoes in it meant that there was even more room for kale! We’ve got a little bit of everything growing, and so far it is looking great. We’ve been harvesting a ton of basil and I’ve been making Tomato-Basil Frittata almost weekly. We’re also eating and freezing plenty of fresh garden lettuce!
The Incredible Fruit Harvest
With acres of woods full of wild elderberries, gooseberries and other colorful shiny fruits, I thought my one Pink Champagne Currant plant would be safe from complete bird predation. Wrong! They did leave me one, ONE special currant to try, and it was delicious… pretty sure this was taunting disguised as an act of generosity. Darn birds! We planted these currants last spring, and this was the first time they produced anything.
Needless to say, we’ll be investing in bird netting next year…
We did get some black currants and honey berries this spring, which was some of the first fruit we’ve harvested from the homestead (that we’ve planted). Fruit production sure requires a lot of patience. I can’t wait until the day we’re collecting bushels and bushels of apples, pears, plums, cherries, mulberries, and all the other oddities we’ve put in– I’m sure it will be well worth the wait!
Duck, Duck, Baby Ducks
We had a duck sitting on eggs and were expecting duck babies in the beginning of June. We’ve had a miserable time trying to hatch anything in the past, so we didn’t have our hopes up too high.
On hatch day we watched Lady Ducks’s nest all day long, waiting to hear any signs of new life. Nothing. We went to bed thinking that this would be another duck hatching fail and wondering what went wrong. First thing in the morning we ran out to the duck coop, and wouldn’t you know- four baby ducks had hatched! We were so delighted! Four baby ducks!
It was a giant relief to hear those little things peeping away and seeing Lady Duck take such good care of them. Throughout the day six more ducks hatched, bringing the total to ten baby ducks!
At a month old now, it’s been a joy watching them grow and watching how the rest of the flock interacts with them. They are now all accepted members of the flock, and they spend most of their days running around the grass chasing bugs with the other ducks and chickens. It completely amazes me how fast these guys grow- its really incredible.
We’ve got a second broody duck, Little Brother- and instead of letting her sit on ducks eggs, we put a dozen of our finest chicken eggs under her. Switching out the eggs was quite the production. Comical, really… these animals sure give us the run-around!
Little Brother had made her nest under the (fenced) chicken coop, in the very back corner, exposed to the elements. We started the process of switching her eggs by waiting until she left her nest to grab a bite to eat. Karl shimmied all the way under the chicken coop with a big bowl and gathered up all the eggs and straw.
We thought we had made it impossible for her to get back to where her nest was, but we severely underestimated the intelligence of this duck. The look on her face when she arrived back at her empty nest was awful- sheer panic. I felt pretty bad, as we were trying to avoid this.
We caught her (she wasn’t a fan of this) and put her and the nest of eggs in the duck coop with Lady Duck and the baby ducks (a safe, secluded place). She proceeded to freak right out. We watched her for a while and waited for her to calm down. Much to our surprise, she started to torment the baby ducks. Some mother…
This set-up wouldn’t do, so we moved to plan B. Again we caught Little Brother (Karl ended up falling in the mud! And by mud, I mean duck poop…) and this time we moved her to a separate, enclosed part of the chicken run. We put her eggs and straw in an old beehive box, and after she settled down for a few minutes, she spotted her eggs and went right back to sitting on them. Yes!!
We left her alone for the day and kept an eye on her from afar to make sure she was still broody and willing to sit on the eggs after everything we put her through. After she proved herself, the next morning when she got up to stretch and eat, we took all the duck eggs and replaced them with the chicken eggs. It was smooth-sailing after that! Her favorite thing to do is stand on the edge of her beehive nest, flare her feathers, and hiss.
I’m giddy at the thought of raising a second generation of laying hens from girls we’ve come to know and love. I can’t wait to see what colors they are and try to figure out who the parents are! I’m feeling fairly optimistic about this hatching… and I am also wondering if there will be any looks of surprise on the mother duck’s face when she sees her chick babies for the first time!
If everything goes well, these chicks that hatch will be our new star-layers next spring!
We hope you’re having a fun and productive summer!
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