Dreaming Of Ducks 

Dreaming Of Ducks 
My love of poultry started when I was about three years old when a family in Tlautlauquitepec, Puebla, gave me a pet chicken that I named Miss Bopper. Most of my family’s chickens were used for food at that point in time. My parents allowed me to keep Miss Bopper on as a pet, and so began my interest in keeping chickens.


It wasn’t until I was 12 years old though that I developed an interest in ducks. I remember it almost like it was yesterday. My family had gone out to a smoked chicken restaurant after church. Since we were living in Mexico, livestock often roamed around behind the restaurant and sometimes directly in the restaurant itself since the restaurant was an open air place.

We had moved, from Tlautlauquitepec to Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo when I was about six or seven years old. The people in the area where I now lived were people who were of a different group than what I had been with before. I think that the people who gave me the chicken were probably Nauhuatl.

When Mom sent us kids off to go wash our hands, I met a little old Otomi lady who was attending a flock of ducks, chickens, geese, and turkeys. I complimented her on her flock, and asked her about her ducks.

Her whole face practically lit up. After we were done talking, she told me to wait a minute, and she went and got an duck egg out of a nest.


She gave me the egg and told me that if I incubated it, I could hatch a duckling. I was so excited! I was ready to start my own flock of ducks!


My parents on the other hand, were not nearly as exuberant about the idea. Unfortunately, since we didn’t have a place to keep ducks at the time, and no longer had a flock of chickens at that point, I was told that I needed to eat the duck egg rather than try to hatch it because we didn’t have anywhere to keep a duck.
I was pretty bummed about the idea. However I didn’t entirely give up on the idea of eventually having ducks. In 2001, my family had to come back to United States.
We bought a 4 acre piece of land in the state of New Jersey. I was 14 at that time, and still had ducks on the brain. I talked to my parents, and by the time I was 15 we began researching what type of ducks we would get.
We chose to get Muscovies. they are good eating, excellent layers and excellent mothers.


Plus, since we chose to get the white Muscovies, the feathers would not show up nearly as much if you missed a feather while you were plucking.
When I say that Muskovy’s are excellent layers, and excellent mothers, I mean think as in reproduces like multiple rabbits!


We started out with just a handful of Muskovies and have had 88 Muskovies hatch out over the course of a summer. We can easily become overrun by my ducks!

However, the positive is that Muskovies especially ones that happened to be specifically bred for eating, sell very well! We don’t seem to have any trouble finding buyers for our ducks. They are also absolutely scrumptious eating! I can’t think of many meats that I like better than eating a good plump duck!

Until next time,

Emily 

Advertisements

Why Do I Homestead?

img_2680The other day, I was thinking about why I chose to come back to the homestead after college, and work alongside my parents. I moved away for a while after college because I wanted to become independent of my parents and be able to be seen by others as an adult, not as the teenager that most of my parents’ acquaintances were remembering me as. I could have chosen to live in a town or go live in a city. For a time, I did live in a town. So, why didn’t I stay in a town or a city? Why move back to the homestead after some time on my own? Living on a homestead is a lot of work. A lot of work!

IMG_1200

However, it can also be extremely relaxing.

Outside, during the summer, I often hear the sound of songbirds, the wind in the trees, a stream, and the sound of cicadas if it’s heading to evening. Sometimes, on our homestead I will also be listening to the sound of spring peepers, or bullfrogs.

I dearly love having so many animals around and nothing beats the taste of food that you raised yourself. Each year is different and special. I always look forward to seeing the new goat kids, lambs, calves, chicks and other animals that are born on our place. There’s just something special about being able to raise a goat kid on a bottle, or see a calf that comes running and playing when it sees you coming out to the pasture.img_0603

 

 

There is also a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in a job well done. When you look around after putting in a lot of sweat and tears into something you’ve worked on, and see for example a thriving orchard or garden that you’ve grown. Rows of cans of food that you raised and canned. Being able to pull meat out of the freezer and be able to know everything about the animal that it came from.

That’s why I chose to homestead. Because I love the lifestyle and the benefits it brings. Even if it can be hard work. You learn to take pride in the work. To love it!

otcp_wheelbarrow10_30_2014

Old Friends In The Garden

George wrote another article that brings back a lot of memories for me from Mexico. I  was the kid who appropriated some of his seed, mostly because I found some that had a map of Mexico on them and I thought that was so cool. My dad asked me to share his article with you all.

“I’ve gardened for over 54 years. Some varieties I’ve grown, I’ve grown for more than half that time. For instance, I’ve been growing one tomato for 44 years (though not every year). Why grow something for years and years, instead of changing varieties every little bit? Well, if it’s really good, you might not want to change! That tomato, for instance, has the strongest “tomatoey” flavor of any tomato I’ve ever tried. That’s one good reason to save seed and grow something over and over.

 

Some people say that if you save seed and grow the same variety over and over, that it will adapt to your soil and climate; thus producing better. There may be something to that idea, though, I have often thought, that for such a mechanism to work, one would need to grow a good many plants and intelligently select which ones from which to save seed. Yet, when I have saved grown just a handful of plants a year, from my own homegrown seed, I’ve often seen better and “prettier” yields in three years! In fact, thinking about it, I have to conclude that oftentimes everything is better even in the second year!

 

As I pondered this recently I asked myself, “Is this really adaptation, and if so, just who is adapting? Suddenly it hit me, maybe I’m the one who adapts! By this I mean, I plant the same variety, and I learn its quirks and requirements. I learn how to help it prosper in my given environment. Individual vegetable varieties are often quite unique, even if not too many people write about it.

 

Take beans, for instance. Most gardeners know that there are two main distinctions in the “bean world.” There are bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans don’t require support. Pole beans do. But did you know that there are numerous variations in the growth habits of both bush pole beans? Some bush beans reach for the sky, so to speak. They’re fairly tall. A few produce their pods above the foliage. Some carefully hide their pods and make you hunt for them. Some flower and produce for only a couple of weeks. I know of two bush beans which produce indefinitely until conditions force them to stop.

 

Some pole beans only get 3-4’ tall. Some would probably hit 20’ if planted on a wire going up a telephone pole! Some branch and some barely branch at all. Bean plants can vary in the color or tone of their foliage and stems.

 

There are differing affinities for high or low humidity, hot or cooler temperatures and insect resistance. This is not to mention the varying pod and seed colors, or how they behave at different latitudes due to day length sensitivity.

 

One interesting bean I’ve grown is called Tarahumara Pink Green Bean. It originated with the Tarahumara Indians in North Central Mexico, which is an arid region. A friend sent me seed when we were living in Hidalgo (South Central Mexico) and I grew it there, at the 20th parallel. It climbed its pole to about 6’ high and produced a respectable crop of green pods, ripening to yield striking pink seeds with black spots. My daughter, Emily, who was a little girl at the time, appropriated that variety as her bean, probably because of the color of the seed and its bright pink flowers,

 

In 2003 we grew it again, in NJ (at the 40th parallel). It got really tall and it didn’t flower until very late in the year. We grew it in Oklahoma in 2006 and 2009, noting its rampant growth and late, prodigious production of seed. We misplaced our seed and in 2009 I only managed to scrape up two or three to plant. That was on one pole, which, by mid summer, the vines broke with their excessive growth. I put up another pole, which they climbed. I looked the other way… and the vines jumped over to a neighboring tomato planting, smothering four tomato plants in their 5’ cages! That fall we harvested 2 ½ quarts of seed! I planted it in 2013 (the year of the grasshopper plague) and the vines were killed by grasshoppers. Then, something happened. All of my bottled seed stopped germinating. I don’t know just what I did to it. But it died. We were unable to get any seed to germinate after this.

 

So, early this spring I contacted Native Seeds/Search the organization which first brought this variety into reach of most gardeners. I inquired about Tarahumara Pink Green Bean and was told that they had some seed in frozen storage, but they were not offering any for sale. After chatting for a bit, the young woman in their store decided to take down my information and pass it on to their seed curator, who later contacted me. In the end we agreed that they would send 50 seeds and I would grow it out for seed, returning a healthy portion to them.

 

I planted this seed on May 22 and have been diligently caring for the plants. It’s been a delight to see my old friend again! I had forgotten that its tendrils are reddish in color, not simply green. The vines are fast growing. By June 26th some of the vines had grown off the top of 8’ poles. I’ve tried to visit this planting, even if only for a few moments, every day, just to watch over it and to make observations.

 

On July 1 I was pulling a few weeds by Tarahumara Pink Green Bean. As I delighted in its vigor and the beauty of its foliage I noticed… the vines had started to throw horizontal tendrils… searching for additional support! One tendril almost spanned a 3 1/2’ space between the beans and… a planting of tomatoes! I thought “You rascal! You’re after my tomatoes again!” Reflecting on this, I realized that I I can’t think of any other pole bean with such a strong tendency to seek support laterally. This is a unique feature of Tarahumara Pink Green Bean. How many years have I grown this bean? Yet it took until this year to notice this trait!”