Friday, August 31, 2007


Well, where has the week gone!?!

Nice things that happened include spending lots of time with my little sister and little Stampy. At 3 1/3, Stampy is completely adorable, gorgeous, and lots of fun. I don't know how my little sister ended up with such a well behaved daughter, as we were very naughty precocious little things!!!

Stampy loved the baby chickens, feeding the ducks and patting Maurice. We spent the WHOLE DAY at the zoo, which was most wonderful.

Pa Kettle aka the Cougarnaut came over after work with an excellent bottle of wine to watch spicks and specks AND the chaser. The Duck Herder has completed her marking and now has two days to relax before starting her new job.

Even more exciting, Sherdie the Rocket is planing a lightning visit to ONC* during September which meas that I may have the Rocket AND the Cougarnaut all here at the princess castle in the same time/space which is definitely something to look forward to, or at least make a batch of muffins for!

Oh, today I tried to enter Maurice in the Backyard Poultry's online Poultry Show. While taking some pickies, I got this one of his little head. Shows off his kind eyes, don't you think?

Mr Duck Herder is sad and depressed because he has damaged his calf again (lower leg folks, not the baby cow) which means his training is behind, he is in pain and facing the existential crisis of an aging athlete. I made muffins and let him lick the bowl, but even that didn't seem to help and he as gone to bed for a nap.

Thats Me. Cherio!

*Our Nation's Capital

Saturday, August 25, 2007

duck proof fence

So what's been happening this week? Well, those little baby chickens are getting bigger and cuter by the second. Maurice is doing an excellent job chaperoning his lady friends and co on little excursions beyond the safe confines of the fluffy house. He is gentle and considerate, keeping an eye out for crows and calling out warnings whenever anything large flies over.

Yesterday I watched him call Jenni over to the rosemary bush, showing her how to pick off the little flowers and gobble them up. The little babies are just as happy to run under him as they are Nefley whenever someone calls out a warning. Maurice is, by all accounts, the quintessential gentleman, and a model for all menfolk everywhere, and of any species.

While neither Jenni or Nefley will tolerate being picked up or held, Maurice is quite happy to sit on anyone's lap, and to soak up the pats and oohing and aaahing about how soft and white and silly he is. Little 3 1/2 year old Stampy was most impressed with his friendliness and softness!

And what else? Well, drastic actions are being taken to de-duck and de-chook the veggies plots. Those wicked ducks have been constantly stomping on the rhubarb, and combined with a strong desire to get harvestable quantities of asparagus this year, here is the new duck proof fence around the asparagus patch. They were most unimpressed, and staged an immediate sit down outside the new fence. Here is a cranky Tabitha Jemima telling me just how she feels.

Also, work has started up at my new farm, with a bout of serious weeding and blood and boning. I need to move a heap of worm castings, but somehow, all the wheelbarrows in my life have flat tires at the moment, so obviously there is a little bit of maintenance to do first. I have transplanted some Jerusalem artichokes up there, and am keen to get some broad beans, peas and comfrey in as soon as I can, but can't do this until the worm castings have happened. sigh. I hate going to the hardware store. But I am very excited about those windrows of lovely worm castings!

And finally, today was the last classroom day of our bush tucker course which culminated in a delicious feast of wallaby sausages, kangaroo, emu salami, and lots of salads, bush tucker flavoured salad dressings and so on. Next Saturday we are going to converge on the Yaralumla Nursery Native Plant sale armed with our lists of botanical and common names, and the Saturday after, we are going to go up to Tidbinbilla to see the moth cooking stones and have a picnic.

There are a few species I would love to introduce into our garden, but more about that next week, subject to a successful bounty of little tubestock of selected varieties!

And finally, I have been thinking a lot about kiwi fruit this week. My beautiful vines are starting to swell, and hopefully this year will be the year that we get our first significant harvest. For folks who are interested, Kiwi vines are either male or female, and you need about 1 male vine for every 9 or so females, and if you grow them from seed or don't know what you have, here is how you tell:

The flower on the left is from a male vine, and the flower one the right is from a female. The main difference is that the female flowers have the white thingies in the middle, and the males don't. I have included this picture as a bit of a spell, because in a couple of months I want to be able to reproduce it with photos of my OWN flowering kiwi vines! fingers crossed OK?

Sunday, August 19, 2007


This is a picture of my Nana, little sister, little me and the farm I grew up on. Look at those tomatoes! The secret of the duck herder family veggies was of course, water from the septic tank.

I love this photo. It shows my little sister and I just as we were - wild, free little bush babies - tossing our manes in the wind and roaming for miles. I still remember that blue and while dress (one of the few I owned), and how it was so much easier to wear my big brother's gumboots rather than my own.

I still miss my Nana. We were very close and I loved her very much. But my little sister is coming to visit THIS Thursday. With MY niece. All the way from Brisbane. When my little niece was born, I flew up to Brisbane to be with my little sister for the birth. And that little "Stampy" as we called her, just refused to come out. I was up there for weeks and weeks - phoning work every couple of days saying - "There's still no baby......." but finally she arrived, and I was in love, and soon they will be here. yay!

Daphne, Miriam and Broccoli

One of the good things about living in a cold climate is daphne. Just when winter seems like it is going to last for ever, there it is, that wonderful, sweet, fruitloop fragrance that fills the backyard. Every year I think to myself - hmm, I must take some cuttings of the daphne this year, and every summer I forget. In the mean time, there are jars of daphne everywhere - filing up the house with that wonderful smell, and everyone who visits leaves with a bunch, and everyone I visit is gifted a bunch. For a month or so each winter, everything is daphne!

All this leaving for work early and getting back after dark has meant that I have missed many of the regular visitors to the garden. So it was lovely to go out this morning and find Mr and Mrs Kind Parrot up in the box alder. (Mr Parrot is out of sight, stuffing his face with the little handful of seed I put there for them) We used to feed lots of wild parrots, but then the cockies turned up, which was fine, until they started eating our house if there wasn't any seed. So those naughty little vandals spoiled it for everyone! But sometimes, when these two turn up, they wait just long enough to get my attention and for me to give them a little handful of sunflower seed. If you look carefully, you can see the box alder about to flower (yay! its is almost spring!)

And finally, Miriam wanted to let us know that he is pretty over the whole baby chicken thing, and really, my time would be better spent focusing on DUCKS. It must be coming into spring, because he is getting all gorgeous and aggressive, chasing me whenever I walk past, pulling the tags on my blundstones and generally being cute. Hello Miriam, we love you! and yes, there is no one more handsome than you mate.

Speaking of daphne, an old friend I visited today (with a bunch of gratefully received daphne of course) just phoned to say that the duck herder broccoli I gave her was just fabulous. (well, she knows how to make a Duck Herder happy - just gratuitously praise her produce - simple!)

Friday, August 17, 2007

beginings and ends

Hooray! Today was my last day at work. I don't even know what to say about that, so instead, here are some baby photos taken this morning. It was way after dark when I got home, but Mr Duck Herder reports that everyone got downstairs OK (bump bump bump) and (with some help) everyone got back upstairs to bed safely. Lets just hope these little chickens are smarter than Maurice and they get the hang of the ladder sooner rather than later!

Well, that's all. I need to process this whole changing jobs thing a bit I think. Seeya.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

but wait, there's more!

Well, despite all fears to the contrary, all four eggs have hatched. Nefley is the proud mother of 2 buff and 2 black (?) silkie chicks (hooray!!)

This cold weather has really messed with their timing - hatching over 4 days!

Poor Nefley hasn't left the nest since SUNDAY. Hopefully the littlest chicki will be strong enough to get down the ladder tomorrow so she can take everyone for a little walk and get a proper drink. The older chicks are already beetling around the nest, learning how to eat'n'stuff. Yay yay yay!
Here are some photos from a couple of days ago, when there were only 2!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

and then there were two

Friends of Nefley the silliest, whitest fluffy chicken will be pleased to hear that one more little chick has hatched. From the wild colouring it looks like we have one bearded buff, and one black one. The bearded buff has hairy middle toes (hooray!) and I haven't checked the little black one's toes yet. I think that both the remaining eggs still have live chicks inside, but I fear that they are too weak to pip the shells. They are not cheeping, but I could just hear them tapping very quietly when I held the eggs up to my ear. This is not a good sign, and makes me a little sad, but I have to be strong and not interfere - as it only leads to weaker chookies in the end. Poor little Nefley hasn't left the nest since Sunday while she waits for her little ones to hatch. I have given her some water and food in bed so to speak but it is so cold, and she is so into being a mum that I am not sure she has had any.

Lessons learned from this latest batch include making sure that there is better bedding in the nesting box to prevent eggs from falling through the walls of the nest out of sight, and making sure the bedding is dense enough to prevent the girls from making the nest so deep the eggs end up resting on the wooden floor of the nesting box. Silly fluffy chickens - they could learn a lot from their ducky neighbours about serious nest construction, that's for sure.

Anyhoo, little Nefley is trilling and cooing happily to her little ones while Jenni and Maurice look on. I went to take some photos this morning, but the batteries in the camera were flat. Hopefully they will be all charged up by tomorrow and I will be able to get a shot of Mum and both babies.

In other news, today I found some Brandywine Tomatoe seeds. There has been far too much raving and ranting about how yummi these are around the traps - so I couldnt be left out! I wonder if it is too early to start them off in the glasshouse.....perhaps a few more weeks just in case.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Update from Aunty Duck

Well, so far we have one little chick safely hatched, and one more peeping loudly from the shell. This second little one hasn't pipped the shell yet, and I am going to be strong and do nothing to interfere :o) So Rhonda, it may not be premature to have one tiny toke on that cigar, and Sherdie, well, as Nefley's foster mother, you would be forgiven for opening a whole long neck of home brew even at this early one chick stage, even on a school night.

Photos to follow as soon..........

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Well! Even though the last two days have been very busy teaching at big school, there was still time to make the most yummy and impressive loaf of sourdough bread. Yup, Shirley the second sourdough starter is a raging success. yay! Shirley rose so much that half the enormous loaf had to be cut off and gifted to ma and pa duck herder. They were most happy! Here is a picture of Shirely - the incredibly soft, light, organic spelt loaf. She is a bit flat, and next time I will use a loaf tin, but hmmmmmmm hmmmmmm!

Tonight we had leek and potato soup - duck herder leeks and organic taties of course- sprinkled with tiny duckherder broccoli flowers. I like using broccoli like this - finely sliced and raw over the tops of soups etc. And of course, toasted sourdough with heaps of butter!

The uni is only 15 minutes away, and I must say it was lovely getting home in time each day to go for a run while it was still light. Usually I don't get home until 6:30 or 7:00, BUT only 5 more days of that to go too!

In other news, it is not just me that approves of the new office arrangement taking form in the bike room. Poppet is just as happy sitting on my laptop as she is sitting on Mr Duck Herder's lap top - so I feel like the feng shui mustn't be too bad in there!

As you can see, there are still lots of blank walls, no shelving and a lack of floor coverings but it is a lovely place to work - looking out into the back yard.

And as for little Nefley - Last night after the trauma of loosing 4 eggs I candled two of the remaining ones, and both had live little chicks inside. As of 5:00pm tonight, no little babies, and no discernible peeping. Ten pm tonight is the official 21 day mark - and it has been cold so it is possible it might take a little is also possible that something has gone wrong and they may not hatch, but Rhonda, keep those cigars handy just in case!

Well, that's me. I had better pop outside and lock those rascally ducks up, check Nefley once more and get to bed - another early start tomorrow. sigh.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

and then there were four...

Oh no! Friends of Nefley - the fluffiest, whitest silkie chicken were saddened to hear that four of her little eggs have somehow become separated from the others and were found cold and alone, buried in the straw far from the nest. The Duck Herder is kicking herself for putting such coarse straw in the nesting box - resulting in a very loose nest. This in turn, has led to very flimsy nest walls. Chookies seem to organise their eggs by sight, and poor little Nefley probably didn't even see her little eggs were missing. A couple of days ago I realised she had dug the nest so deep the eggs were actually resting on the wooden floor and in pushing some straw in underneath her, I might have inadvertently pushed some of the eggs away. Silly Duck Herder!

Things are getting very anxious now - only one or two sleeps to go until those remaining little eggs hatch - baring any other mishaps.

Hang in there Nefley!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

How Hungry?

Still mulling over the link between backyard sustainability and silkies. Over time, I have definitely been getting better at eating our extra roosters and drakes.

I couldn't do it without Mario, my wonderful Italian neighbour and fellow community gardener. Mario is only too happy to come over and help me butcher and prepare the boys. We have an easy way of working - I get everything set up, and one by one, I bring him the boys, which he kills (I am not sure how because we both agree I don't have to watch) and then we set about dipping them in hot water, cutting of the ends, plucking and gutting.

Mario has taught me so much. I like working with him because he is gentle and respectful of the birds and does nothing to scare or stress them unnecessarily. He also loves his own chooks - and this makes a difference, to me at least. And at the end, we split the proceeds. But there are some rules:

1) can't eat anything with a name
2) no matter how delicious they are, it is getting increasingly harder to eat extra boy ducks, because they are so smart!
3) Only eat boys.
4) Don't eat anything you can sell

Generally, I wait until young roosters start waking us up, or after advertising 8 week old ducks in paper, we are left with some adolescent boy ducks who suddenly become fractious and start getting beaten up by Miriam. It is surprisingly easy to sell young drakes, so often I don't have to face that problem.

But, this obsession with Silkies, and the existence of Maurice means that there will eventually be extra Silkie roos. I am sure that it will be no problem selling extra silkie hens, but the roosters may be a problem. So could I eat a silkie- with their black skin, flesh and bones?

How black do you ask? Well, this black:


There is apparently, a whole world of folks who love eating these little fellas. Have a little look here for instance. And apparently they are quite tasty. hmmmm. Perhaps my project for the next little while will be to find some recipes. I will get back to you on this one........

Monday, August 6, 2007

sobbing on the way to work

Just very quickly, I was driving to Goulburn this morning, listening to the breakfast show on radio national (of course) and THIS came on. Now it is true that as a duckling, I was bought up on a steady diet of country music, new romantics and opera, so I am a bit partial to a soaring tennor and a heart wrenching story sung in Italian, but HFS what an amazing voice this guy has.

It certainly messed up my carefully applied eyeliner, I can tell you that for free.

Paul Potts is my new hero.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Lacuna Sabbath

Refusing to subscribe to a linear concept of time, here is quick Lacuna Sabbath update. On Friday (you know, the Lacuna Sabbath) I popped up the road to my potential new veggie garden and got shown the ropes about how to turn on the irrigation and all that. It is such a breathtaking spot - only 4.5km away, but feels like you are way out in the country. The views of the Brindabellas are just amazing - the photos do not do them justice at all. It was about 2.15 when we arrived, and the orange foxy loxy slinking quietly away put rest to any remaining fanciful ideas that the girls could survive up there, even in their fox proof chicken tractor fortress.

Oh, quick recap - looming stage 4 water restrictions kick started the duck herder into looking for alternatives to the community garden - which relies on potable water. The owner of a mountainous horse adjustment complex up the road offered free room and board for the duck herders veggie growing endeavours in exchange for fresh produce for his family. There are many many pluses to the new farm - unlimited stable waste, reticulated dam water, no frost hollow, gorgeous view, peace, serenity, and incredibly, open access to the rows and rows of worm castings produced by a fellow gardener on a commercial scale using the stable waste and trucked in food scraps. Recent rain has pushed back the urgency of stage 4, but it is still on the cards. I would be heartbroken if I planted all the spring and summer crops, only to see them wither and die if we had to stop watering.

Less good things about the new site is that it is 4.5km away compared to the 1 km jogging distance of the community garden. I would mostly have to drive there, although when the days are longer, riding my bike would be just fine. One of the good things about the community garden is that it is on the way to work - whether I am driving or riding. BUT, working from home would mean that this is no longer the case, and I would have to make a special trip regardless of where my garden is. And then again, if the girls came home, even though their chicken tractoring days would be over, they would still get to free range ( as much as the poor garden could cope with their delux earth moving legs).

Mostly, it is the chickens that require a daily visit (or twice daily at the moment). Really, they should be here at the house, from a permaculture perspective at least, but they LOVE the abundance of fresh pasture down at the garden. I am wary of overstocking in our little backyard and unlike the fluffies and ducks, those girls jump fences, dig up seedlings and destroy veggies gardens!

I would be able to set up an automatic watering system at the new farm (and make use of the miles of irrigation hose and sprinklers left over from when the owner had less babies and more time), which I can not do at the community garden. This could mean only having to visit a couple of times a week.

What to do, what to do........

I want to SIMPLIFY my life. This means CONSOLIDATING my gardens. BUT, after three years my community garden plot is rich and abundant and produces all year 'round. It will take time to create this in a new place, and it is a big thing to walk away from all that work.

So, perhaps I will just do things incrementally - scale back what I am growing at the community garden, and just start gently up the road - perhaps with some general soil improvement and lots of green manure and vines that can be put on a watering system. I can THINK about creating space at home for the girl's chicken tractor - there is a spot along the northern boundary that with the removal of a medium size wattle tree, would be an OK space. The chook tractor they are in is big enough to work as a deep litter system, but it would be a shame for its tractoring days to end, although if we ever move to a farm, it could be recommissioned. After a while I would be able to COMPARE the soil and conditions at both sites, and then be able to make decisions about consolidation based on actual experience rather than worry and speculation!

So there we are. A bit of a plan. I can go back to bed now!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Mangoman is back!

oh, one more thing. For those of you who are seeking guidance or wise council in these politically difficult times, Mangoman, our Phillip Adams of the north is back.

its all new!

New office, new view, new wireless connection, first post from trusty old laptop.

Hee hee hee!!!

I can see trees and plants and chooks and ducks from where I sit. I can hear cranky ducks. I can still see a lot of bikes, but well, my little workspace is squished into the bike room after all. What folks cannot see is a roadbike inside the front door, and a silly triathlon bike in the spareroom, which also has the iron and ironing board precariously placed beside the bookcase. Yup, life with an athlete. sigh...

Other exciting news, Joe came around today with some new shelving for the greenhouse. It is WONDERFUL! There are 4 levels, and heaps of height for lots of plants. I just have to gather enough warmth to go out once more and brave the cold to finish putting everything back in. While Joe was working, I was sitting around, chitter-chatting and keeping him company. Maurice, it turns out, is a LAP chicken. He loves just shnuggling down in my lap while I sit, and then while I was walking around, he just perched on my arm. He is a COOL silly chicken. Not smart mind you, just very cool.

My folks came over to visit, and they agreed Maurice was quite beautiful in a silly fluffy chicken kind of a way too. He did the same shnuggling thing with my Dad - just sat quietly on his arm, nestled up against his body. hee hee. I wonder if he would like to sit just here beside me on the end of my desk. Perhaps I will make him a little cushion to sit on. I'm gunna love this working from home thing!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

more of that life stuff

News snippets:

Maurice the silliest fluffy chicken has finally worked out how to get up the ladder to bed unaccompanied by an adult. (yay Maurice) He is up there now, pretending he knew how to do it all along.

Those gorgeous ducks are laying an egg each EVERY day, without fail, and are building the biggest nest in the world. The poor things try and fool me every morning by carefully covering their eggs with straw and futon wadding - so cute. (oh, Miriam the drake is NOT laying every day)

After a 12 hour day I returned home to find Mr Duck Herder had fed the ducks, arranged my new office and was putting the final screws into the new second hand desk. (yay Hubby!) Mr Duck Herder had also found time to defrost some organic mince and make home made hamburgers complete with fresh herbs, home grown garlic, chilli and lovely spices! (That man has way too much time on his hands)

The Duck Herder has also been overwhelmed by the response to her previous blog. Thank you folks, for all your kind words on this and Rhonda's blog. I was actually a little bit nervous about posting such a personal spiel, but now I am glad that I did.

So, here we are, it's 9.00pm, and I am exhausted but happy, I feel very very loved, and now I am off to bed. Seeya.