Month of May

Where did the month of May go? The time has flown by. We finally finished the pigs after nearly two weeks of breaking down meat and getting items ready for the freezer in the evenings after work. That was some real work! We thought this would be the easy part but it was one of those things that had to get done and we could only do it after work. Needless to say, those were very long days. But we ended up with 285 pounds of pork in our inventory and over 200 packages of meat. Since it is just the two of us, we tried to keep things in relatively small portions, enough for just two to four people.

IMG_20150606_085424369We have steadily bartered for some nice items and have enjoyed having all this fresh pork around. There certainly is something very gratifying in a full freezer of meat you butchered and prepared yourself. Our first batches of bacon have been delicious! The pigs even left us of lots of nice looking veggie plants in the dirt where they lived. 

We’ve been a little disappointed in the garden so far this year. In our excitement of having the raised beds and fresh compost wIMG_20150606_085522107e eagerly planted things, but did not test the soil and it now appears we have some nutrient deficiencies and our veggies just are not getting there. We are upping our watering routine and trying to keep a close eye on things, but have not been able to eat anything out of the garden yet this year except for a couple of peas. We did get a fence around it which looks great and is doing a good job of keeping away the chickens, ducks and deer.

IMG_20150606_085440011Sadly, we lost three bunnies. We thought it was an early heat spell where we got to just over 90 degrees, but after three died in a row in two days we think it was some sort of disease or virus. We got the last two moved away from where the others were and each other and they seem to be happy and healthy.

The ducks are super sweet and appear to have begun trying to mate. They are just over four months old so it will be awhile until we get eggs and possiblyIMG_20150606_085631355 little ducks, but we are hoping they will all come. We ended up with three sets of male and females, but we butchered two of the males yesterday. They were beginning to be aggressive so after a tough decision it was decided to butcher two of them. We chose the rouens so we have one pekin male now. I am happy to have been at work while this occurred because I was sad to see them go.

As usual it is never a dull moment on the homestead, and our days have been full of hard work and lots of fun. I am looking forward to my Summer break from work and devoting myself full-time to backyard fun and lots of time outdoors. Michael reminded me today it has been way too long since our last update, so we hope to post more about the farm and work more on our site very soon.

Happy homesteading!

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Brooding Ducklings

We did not plan on coming home with eight baby ducklings on a recent Sunday afternoon, but a trip to our local farm supply store changed that quickly.  ducks at tractor supply

We went for a routine supply trip and the store had just gotten a shipment of chicks and ducklings the week before, and they were too cute to pass up.  We had discussed getting ducks in the past, but without a pond or water source were discouraged.  After hearing from multiple people at various occasions that ducks were easy enough to care for, we went for it, and got four Peking and four Mallard ducklings.

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We have quickly learned ducklings are pretty messy and like a LOT of fresh water.  Compared to brooding little chicks, they are definitely higher maintenance.  After futile attempts at keeping cardboard boxes fresh and dry for them, as well as using a big tub, we were able to borrow a dog crate from a friend and we have all been much happier with this arrangement for the time being.  Two more weeks of brooding to go, however, and they will need more room. We are thinking a kiddie pool will do the trick.

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We are excited to see these little guys and gals grow up on the homestead.  They turned two weeks old yesterday, and are too young to sex but we will see what we are working with as soon as we are able.  We are hoping in time a couple of them will breed and maybe, if the ducks aren’t interested, a broody chicken will incubate some of the eggs so we can keep a supply of fresh ducks going.

It was $40 for eight ducks, and while well worth it, we have paid that for one locally raised duck at the farmer’s market.  We like to make duck confit, have crispy duck breasts, and especially render duck fat, which has endless uses in the kitchen. Once a few of them grow, and we get over their cuteness, it will be time to harvest a couple for the freezer.

If you have any tips on raising ducks please do let us know.  Like with many projects on the farm, we need all the help and insight we can get!

Happy homesteading!