Fish or cut bait...
Very few things can take the wind out of your homesteading sails like getting sick. Stinking, ugly, need to sleep 11 hours every single night just to get through the work day sick. A few short weeks ago I wrote a lengthy post about all my spring plans, and then I got sicker than I have been in a long time and it felt like everything fell apart. Not only was I couch-bound for nearly three weeks, but once I was feeling better, I seemed to have lost my drive. Fortunately the weather was great this weekend and both Marcel and I were home at the same time, so we decided it was time to fish or cut bait on the back yard projects.
Side note: As a perennial procrastinator, "shit or get off the pot" has long been a favorite saying of mine, but it's not exactly a saying fit for public consumption. I was recently reminded of the phrase "fish or cut bait" which has really expanded how I can openly tell people to be effective or get out of my way.
The biggest and most fulfilling job we tackled was opening up the duck run and clearing out the months and months of foul straw. It was an ugly job but someone had to do it. Marcel lamented it would take us hours. Fortunately, he overestimated just a little and we got the whole thing done in about an hour and a half, though it was still pretty unpleasant. We unscrewed all the boards and fence panels from around the sides and pulled off all the tarps. Then we commenced to dig, and rake, and haul, and heave months and months of foul straw over the fence. How much of that poop covered straw ended up in my hair and down my shirt? Oh I'll let you just imagine. Good thing I'm not particularly squeamish. During the cold of the winter, the smell in the run wasn't too noticeable but since the weather started to warm, it had gotten pretty pungent in there. I think even the ducks were pleased to have all the straw gone because as soon as we finished cleaning it out, they ran in to investigate and spent the next hour or so scratching around in the sand. We laid a few hundred more pounds of sand down and put their pool back in.
Because no project is complete without decoration, I added a few wrought iron hangers and hung two new solar lamps. Unevenly. Full disclosure, I thought the lamps were broken but it turns out they just have an on switch... problem solved. The best part about having the run open is that we no longer look like there is a hobo camp in our yard!
The chore I was the most excited about was planting my raspberry and blackberry tubs. I bought two 24" planters from Ocean State Job Lot (my favorite store) and drilled some holes in the bottom. Everything I have read said that berry bushes need ample drainage so I laid down mulch at the bottom, then added a layer of stank nasty duck poo saturated straw (fun fact - duck poo is immediately usable as manure. No composting necessary!) and then added the potting soil.
I was pleased that I included they layer of duck straw because it will compost down into really good nutrients plus it took up a good amount of room in the large planter, saving me from using more of the expensive potting soil. Once I planted the bushes, I added a layer of mulch over the top to insulate the plants. I realized that I may have jumped the gun on planting these bushes outside so I created some mini-greenhouse cloches out of oversized beverage dispensers. I'm pretty proud of thinking of that.
Finally we come to my bucket list item - a composter! Knowing who you are as a person is important when undertaking projects. All of my failures in the minutiae of gardening (pruning, weeding, etc.) have reminded me once again that I am a big concept person but I lack follow-through. While this is something I'm working on, I also know there are ways to set myself up for success. Doing my own compost has been at the top of my list for my pretend homestead, but the idea of turning over a pile of stinky rotting materials in the height of the summer is a pretty big non-starter for me. So, I spent the money and bought myself a dual chamber compost tumbler. Between the black plastic keeping everything nice and toasty, and the fact that it is both easy and kind of fun to rotate, I can turn base material into compost in about two weeks.
We saved some of the really nasty duck straw the get things started. Considering that straw is brown material and manure is green material, I didn't even have to add anything additional, although we have plenty of coffee grounds! I'll post an update in a few weeks to let you know if the contraption lives up the my expectations!
My next projects are getting my cool weather plants in the ground, building new fencing for the garden, and putting the roof on the duck run. One major amendment to my plans is that I am holding off on getting more ducklings. Often I go with a "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it" approach, and figure it out as I go along - that's what we did last year with the ducklings and it turned out ok - but I am trying to be a little more responsible with my time and money. I know that to add new ducks will mean adding to the run, and that costs! So we're going to work on getting the garden in and then see if we can swing expanding the run this year, and then it will be ready for a new supply of ducklings next spring. That doesn't mean I didn't see some in tractor supply, truly worry about their well-being, contemplate becoming a vegetarian, send a picture of them to Marcel, start to cry, and have to leave the store...
Speaking of ducklings... we've got eggs! Lots of eggs. It seems like Jemima, my freeloader, has finally gotten on the laying train so we're getting at least three per day. So, if you've toyed with the idea of buying eggs to eat, and you're in the New Haven Country/Hartford County area, you're in luck! I will not ship, but we can work something out for local friends! I'm going to try to add a page on here with a form but in the meantime you can just message me or send me an email if you're interested.