Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pumpkins, ducks and preparation for fall...

Today dawned much cooler than it has been, and slightly gray and misty. This was fine by me, as the stretch of very hot weather we've been having was wearing me down. I was out the door at 6:00 AM and heard a funny noise from the hen yard. It was the missing duck, banging on the empty food pan and loudly calling for breakfast. You probably were not aware that we had a missing duck, but we did. There has actually been a few changes with the duck population of late. I wasn't sure if I should write about it, but I am going to.
Here is the story. About two years ago I had a lot of female (hen) ducks, and no males. Someone gave me a wonderful male Indian Runner duck, and I like him a lot. Meanwhile, someone else had some ducks that needed homes, and I took them in. It was two males and a female. The female died shortly after her arrival. Over time a few more hen ducks left the farm... some wandered out of the safety of the fence and vanished, a few succumbed to injuries or illness. This summer we were left with three hen ducks and three drakes. This was a bad ratio. The boys had love on their minds, and were... um, insistent. They spent the majority of every day chasing the hens and having their way with them. Roughly.To be honest, it looked and sounded a lot like gang rapes. The hens became worn down and frightened. They began to hide. One moved out to the driveway, and I began to keep food and water there for her. I worried for her safety, afraid she'd become fox supper. The other started to stay under the new little chicken coop, which only has about 5 inches of space under it. It could not have been a happy place for her. And the third, a pretty gray and white girl, just vanished. I've seen her once or twice over the past two weeks, coming from the area where the road in front of our house is, and I was worried she was hiding out off the property and would fall victim to a passing car or some predator.

So, when I found her demanding breakfast, I took a little time and just sat and watched her. She ate, and Ate and ATE. Then she waddled down to the little wading pool and drank her fill, dipping her head again and again. Finally she hopped right in and took a long, leisurely bath. When she headed back to the pasture, I waited until I thought she was about to vanish through the fence and zipped out to the front yard to see if I could find where she was going. She saw me and froze, turning her back to me and preening her feathers, acting nonchalant. Finally I had to go milk the goats, they were beginning to complain. When the duck saw me move from her field of view, she dashed into... the pumpkin plant.

This plant came up on its own, and I have happily watched it grow all summer. To my amazement the goats and horse have left it quite alone. The pumpkins are ready to pick, and I was planning to do that today. My plans changed.

It turns out the little hen was not avoiding the boy ducks, but rather, brooding a clutch of 10 or so eggs! She is inside the fence, so that offers a little bit of safety, and that makes me happy.

Meanwhile, we decided that the two rapist drakes had to go, and so they did. It took a good 48 hours but then the hiding hens came out, and began to happily be with the sweet Runner duck drake; eating, drinking, splashing in the pool and wandering around the pasture eating bugs and plants, a contented threesome. The farm is no longer filled with the frantic complaints of girl ducks, peace reigns.

It was a busy day on the peaceful farm. I started out by cleaning the goat room, getting up every last bit of bedding out and sweeping down the spider webs that appear every few days. Then Chris helped me put down heavy rubber stall mats to cover the dirt floor. These mats weigh a ton and are extremely challenging to move. But once in place, they offer good footing for the animals, insulate them from the cold ground, and make cleaning soiled bedding up much easier. Once the mats were in place, and cut to fit snugly, I layered in fresh shavings and filled the hay rack up. The goats, always nosy, explored the clean space and new flooring and then had a nice snack.

Once full they checked out the wonderful new tall wooden spool that Chris brought home from work this week. Goats love to climb up high...

There are raucous games of king of the spool. Goats play rough.

Those who are not actively playing watch with interest, and show off their new bandannas. They like new clothes as much as most woman... it makes them feel sporty.

I also cleaned out both chicken coops, and Chris broke out his wonderful power screwdriver and mounted THESE for me...

Little metal pans in both coops that hold grit in one and crushed oyster shells in the other. Grit is something chickens ingest to help them grind up food in their gizzard, and oyster shell provides the calcium needed for birds producing eggs. Those egg shells require a high calcium intake. I've wanted special dishes for these for ages, and I am SO happy to have them up and filled for the birds to partake as needed.

I carried my camera with me most of the day, recording the little ordinary things I do around here on a day "off." By supper time I was tired, but happy... a long list of "to do's" checked off my endless list. And then there is the comfy sofa and a stroll through the pictures and time to record the events of the day to share with you. From ducks to clean coops and heavy rubber mats. It was a very good day. Ziva stayed by my side throughout, and the goats enjoyed checking out my new truck when we were unloading the stall mat. I was glad I shut the doors to the cab and pocketed the keys. There is no telling what they'd do with such freedom.

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