To everything (turn, turn, turn...)
It has been an unbelievably tough few months on our little pretend homestead. I've actually rewritten this post several times because I'm just not even sure how to express how overwhelmed we've been. But...sometimes you just have to get it out there so here goes.
On April 23, one day shy of their 1st birthday, Jemima Puddleduck was unceremoniously eaten by... something. I had been letting the girls out very early - most days just after sunrise - and unfortunately, one those nasty nocturnal creatures that love eating ducks was not in bed yet. When you only have three ducks, losing one changes the dynamic of the flock in a big way. We have certainly increased how closely we monitor the girls when they're in the yard now and don't leave them alone for very long. They are also noticeably more cautious and stick near us/our house more than before. We will look to add a few more ducks to the flock when the time is right. I got an overwhelmingly good response to my egg sales, so obviously that means we need more layers, right?
A few weeks later, on May 9, we had to put our most beloved dog Henry to sleep. That was, without a doubt, the most difficult thing I have experienced so far in my life. She was extremely special to me, and I don't think I will ever truly be over her loss. I am thankful that we got to spend 7 years together, more than half of her life, and that when the time came I was able to make the right decision for her. All of this is cold comfort.
So, to say the least, things have not been great for us. And therefore I do what I always do when things are tough - THROW MONEY AT MY PROBLEMS! The good news is that I have been taking long weekends to use up my PTO and during the last few weeks I have been able to really dig in and accomplish much of what I outlined in my February post about my backyard plans.
What began as a plan to expand the duck run quickly dissipated into a plan to fence the garden. For some reason, I got it in my head that expanding the run - basically building a second run beside the first - would be super easy since we already built it once, right? No. We got out to take measurements the morning of the project and I realized I was in way over my head. Again. But instead of just bullying through, we decided to switch gears and wait on the run expansion until we had a good plan. So we set out to build the fence pieces for the garden. Can I just say... they came out amazing. We bought 1x4's and built rectangular frames to which we stapled chicken wire and then screwed them into the existing 4x4s which make up the corners of the boxes. Then I built two gates which I hung on small hinges.
Full disclosure - I did the doors by myself while Marcel was at work and did not measure properly and then did not follow my own directions so they came out pretty wonky, but they work and I am happy enough with them. They keep Bridget & Benjamin Bunny and the ducks out of the produce, which was the main goal. The garden looks absolutely gorgeous with the new fencing up. It's a really nice focal point to the back yard - which is good because it's literally smack in the center of the yard!
The one big change/addition we made to the duck run was the creation of a wet area and a dry area. Using sand as a substrate for the run is great in the dry parts, but during, well... all months except the dead of winter, the girls spend 99% of their time either in their pool or right next to their pool. The outcome is that the sand around their pool turns into very stinky poop mud. To remedy this we laid down a line of bricks at just past the center point of their run - a wet/dry line of demarcation. Their house and food lives on the dry side. On the wet side, we laid down concrete pavers for the pool to sit on and several bags of pea gravel. The gravel helps with drainage from all the splashing in the pool and I am able to hose it down when it gets too poopy. It's not perfect, but I don't think anything with ducks ever is. The best option would be to move their pool out into the yard, but they love that thing so darn much.
I planted a much smaller number of vegetables and herbs than I had originally planned, but I feel good about the choices I made this year. In the boxes I planted lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes (one San Marzano and one Beefsteak) as was planned. On the patio in pots we have raspberries and blackberries, two hanging strawberry plants, green beans, orange bell peppers, poblano peppers and jalapeño peppers. I also planted zucchini in a box and have roped off a bit of the yard for that to spill over into. I will likely add pumpkins to that space in the end of the summer. After a visit to my Aunt's house in Vermont last weekend, I decided to add a hanging basket for "cigar flowers" which are apparently beloved by hummingbirds. I've never done well with flowers, so we'll see.
I ordered a new canopy top which I was able to put up yesterday and that really pulls the whole yard together. I also accidentally bought new patio furniture from Ikea last weekend. I say accidentally because I went to Ikea to buy a smaller table for the patio ($25) and walked out with a loveseat, a chair and a coffee table ($375.) It was 100% the right thing to do. I have spent a good amount of time already sitting on the loveseat with my feet on the coffee table looking at my little backyard homestead empire, and (obviously) talking to the ducks.
Also, Leroy likes to sit in the bathroom window, which is directly behind the loveseat, so it's almost like he gets to hang out with us too. Did someone say I should order/build him a catio? I know. Believe me... I know.
So now I wait. And enjoy my patio furniture. And figure out what the heck is chewing up my blackberry leaves! And watch Marcel play the guitar for the ducks. And try to befriend the bunnies and hope they don't eat my zucchini.
The lettuce is ready to eat and will have ONE blackberry before the end of the month. And for everything else... well, we had some stuff going on and got a late start. The good news is that I have become an obsessive waterer so hopefully I won't kill all my potted plants this year.
I've had some wonderful feedback about my pretend homestead from people who I really respect who are also following their own paths. It has been a good reminder to keep going even though things have been hard. I'd really like to share some of the homesteading adventures of the cool people in my life who inspire me to keep learning and trying new things.