Friday’s Farm: Muscovy Ducks

A few years ago I was gifted with six adorable ducklings. They stayed in the house for weeks. I was sure a rat or snake would kill them in the barn or that a mink would drain them to death as one had done several of my geese. Finally, one summer day when they were up good sized I finally put them in the barn.

My little ducks turned out to be muscovys. I was thrilled. I first met muscovys in South America as a teenager. They were first domesticated by Native Americans during pre-Columbian times and I consider them an important part of true American history. Unlike many domesticated ducks these guys will actually roost on low tree branch or on roosts like chickens. They’re also bigger than European ducks, and much quieter.

In the wild muscovy ducks eat plants, little fish, frogs, and small reptiles. I’ve also found they enjoy eating ticks, mosquito larve, gnats, and will happily chase flies. While the farm does not allow the ducks access to a creek, it does have several low lying wet areas they love.

In addition to their foraged diet the resident ducks eat a whole grain ration. I’ve tried commercially milled crumbles and they simply don’t do well on it. The hatchlings tend to grow slower, pick up diseases easier and are generally not thrifty. Instead I feed a sweet grain mixture from the local Mennonite mill intended for cattle. They love it, thrive on it, and it’s only $6.50 for a fifty pound bag. I feed about a quart per five birds in the evening during the summer and fall. During the winter and early spring I provide an all you can eat buffet. Typically they double their consumption. I use an old goat trough to feed the adults and a shallow pan for ducklings. Overall, there is little waste.

All ducks need fresh water. They are called water fowl for a reason. These none quacking quackers are water hogs. Twenty birds can easily use 100 gallons a day between drinking, splashing, playing, and bathing. I’ve found that keeping a dry pen is impossible. Hay is my bedding choice and it needs to be changed often with the ducks. I use several waterers throughout the barn lot and one thirty gallon through for the adults to bathe in.

So far every single female has been broody and a successful broody momma. The clutches are usually between nine and fifteen live ducklings.

The three ducks I kept became forty within a year. They nest in places that are impossible to reach. So far every hen wants to be a new momma every three to four months. I sat down and did the math one day. I came up with seven thousand ducks in five years starting with one drake and one hen. They are prolific layers and breeders.

The drakes are territorial. Drake (yes, I’m super creative with names) killed every half grown male duckling housed with him one night. I was heart broken. He also killed a grown gander that attacked one of his females. Does that make him a bad drake? No. It makes him a muscovy drake. They fight and will kill rivals. Unless you plan to have multiple houses, plan on one drake. Drake has since been rehomed to goose and kill free home. His Sam has taken his place. Sam is slightly smaller and I need a break in the fertility department until next spring.

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Sam is the white one. I kept him and the little tiny black one. The rest were rehomed to a lovely home. This hatch was unplanned. Black ducky hides her nests…

I love my muscovy ducks. Why? Good question. They are quiet, friendly, and funny. In the two years I’ve had them my flea, mosquito, and tick problem has disappeared. And the eggs. I make part of my living baking. They are awesome layer and cost much less to keep than chickens. Duck eggs make better baked goods. I also find them to be more predator savvy. And there’s just something about watching them dance in excitement every morning that takes me back to my first adventure as a young woman. They remind me to keep those fresh eyes experiencing the wonders of a greater world for the first time.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah and the flock

Monday’s Musings : I Can’t Do EVERYTHING

I was raised in a time of shifting ideology in this country. Traditional gender roles and second wave Feminism clashed in the media and stereotypes clashed around me as the child of a single mother in a male dominated industry. A male teacher told my mother he was shocked at how “well adjusted” I am considering I was from a “broken home”. Mom’s reply “children are only broken if you tell them they are broken”. Feel free to use that line.

I was fortunate enough to have my Papa. As a ninth generation Florida Cracker Native he believed a woman can do anything, but that doesn’t mean women should do everything. My grandmother and mom worked the fields alongside him. My grandmother was a better shot overall. We came from an older society where men and women had to be equals to survive. Women had to know how to shoe a horse and brand calves, and men had to know how to make dinner and clean house. There was never a doubt in my mind I could do or be in any occupation. My gender has nothing to do with my ability for accomplishments.

So, I went to South America. I rode horses, earned degrees, called out a few Vice Presidents at major companies, and was even a professional ballroom dancer for a while. I hike, train oxen, tramp through the woods on my own, work on my vehicles, shear, shoot, and I’ve even been known to wrangle a few orphaned calves. I can do anything.

And this, ladies, is the part some of you will dislike. Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I should. In addition to my accomplishments I have broken my ribs numerous times, broken four vertebrae and fractured a hip. I have bone spurs, arthritis, tendon damage. I have a permanent brain injury from one too many concussions. My left shoulder has dislocated three times and my right ankle twice. I’m missing bones in that foot, too. Everyday is pain. Sitting is painful. Walking is painful. Breathing is painful. Laying down is painful. Attitudes have consequences, especially for adventurous girls.

Am I equal in value to a man? OF COURSE! But as I’ve aged I’ve realized just because I can do anything doesn’t mean I should do everything. I simply lack the physicality to do things that men can do, and I’m a pretty robust gal. As Paul pointed out in the Christian Bible “all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial”.

At some point, overdoing physically becomes self harm. The “I can do anything” idea is dangerous without the tempering “but that doesn’t mean I should”. That holds true for everyone regardless of gender, because even in caring for ourselves physically we are all equal.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah and the flock

Winding Up Wednesday: Why Prep Your Own Fiber

So, let’s start with WHY you might want to prep your own fiber for spinning.

Welcome to the first installment of our series on spinning a raw fleece into scrumptious, yummy yarn. This week focusses on your WHY in the why prep your own fiber question. Next week will be on Why Fiber Prep Matters. The next three weeks will be the exploration of how to wash fiber. Yep. Three weeks of just washing before we get into the knitty gritty of how to prep the washed fiber for actual spinning. So hit the follow button, because this is going to be a long series with allot of info!

 

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The Andromeda Ascendant – I’ll be taking her fleece from raw to finished yarn for this series

 

So, let’s start with WHY you might want to prep your own fiber for spinning. I began my own journey into fiber preparation for animal welfare issues. I also thought it was rather silly to buy roving imported from Australia and New Zealand when my own country is teaming with perfectly good wool sheep. I’m a huge believer in supporting my own economy as well as reducing pollution through my purchases. When I started learning about HOW animals are sometimes treated in the wool industry I decided the best thing to do was to find a shepherd or two, ask some questions, and make sure my dollars were adding to my personal integrity. Once I found a few local ladies who produce ethical wool, I purchased not one, but five small fleeces.

I’ve also found that the quality of my finished yarn is typically better than when I use commercial roving. I have a great deal of control with a fleece because I can sort out spine, dominant, and britch wool. Each category of wool has different qualities and uses. Even the skirting can produce a nice yarn with the correct prep. For me, this is a big WHY in my preference to prep my own fiber.

Many people think cost is a big why. This can, or cannot be true. Much of my highest quality wool sells for $30 a pound. The typical eight ounce bag of roving sells for $20. That’s only a ten dollar difference between the raw wool and the ready to spin commercial roving, and you still have to do work. However, you also might be able to pick up an entire fleece for $10 from a farmer who just wants to cover the cost of shearing. Heck, I’d pay in wool for someone to muck out my barn. There are options out there.

Finally, a big WHY for some people is that the actual process of prepping wool can be relaxing and enjoyable. I’m not saying washing wool is enjoyable for me. But the picking, carding, and combing is an enjoyable aspect of the process. Plus, taking a raw fleece that smells of sheep and barnyard and turning it into a gorgeous sweater yarn is a big reward.

What is your WHY? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

 

 

Monday’s Musings: Should

Everytime the word should slides out of our mouths we undermind our own personal authority in our lives and give that athourity to insecurity.

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Photo by Pixabay

I should have eaten more veggies today and stuck to my weight watcher’s points better.

I should be a mother and a wife.

I should wipe my shoes off every time I wear them.

I should…

I should…

Stop judging myself?

It’s so easy to should ourselves, judge ourselves out of the joy life holds. We are not called to judge ourselves. We are called to accept and allow ourselves to become who we will become. Everytime the word should slides out of our mouths we undermind our own personal authority in our lives and give that athourity to insecurity.

Friends, “should” is a damning word. The Christian scriptures say that by the measure you judge, or “should”, by that measure will you be judged. You are your own judge in so many areas of life. You are also your own jury and the executioner of your innate potential.

I challenge you to a small, yet life changing, challenge. Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary with yourself and with others, especially your family and lover. Just experiment with it, and see what happens in your heart and mind.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

 

Friday’s Farm: Barn Cats

 

 

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Cloe hiding a mouse from me… “Nothing to see. Move along.”

 

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love my cats. I’ve had a pet cat or two continually since I was a baby. However, I’ve learned that keeping pet cats and keeping barn cats are two different things.

Barn cats have one job – organic pest control. These felines work hard and nap harder. But what is it really like keeping a healthy working cat? Glad you asked!

My old house cat Sophianne is a good mouser. She’s also convinced her job in life is to be my cuddle bug. While she does enjoy catching mice and playing with them, she’s not a great barn cat. She does kill and eat some, but she also brings some to the house still alive before letting them go. That’s not exactly helpful even though it’s adorable.

 

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Sophianne proving that not all cats are born to be wild

 

Cloe and Clive on the other hand, both kill and eat several rodents a day each. They are a brother and sister duo and the offspring of a long line of Mennonite barn cats. They sleep in the barn in cages. I know some people let their cats roam at night. However, we have owls and coyotes. Cats are the perfect meal on the run for those predators.

I know many people who do not feed their barn cats. I know a few who wonder why their cats are skinny and die off every winter, too. Other folks will put down a pile of food every three or four days. They wonder why they have so many mice and possums and raccoons in their barns. Well, because there’s a buffet. We feed out cats on a table on the porch in the afternoons. They have fresh water there all day. The food is taken up at night. Feeding them enough calories daily to survive doesn’t hinder their hunting. Often, if they kill and eat enough rodents they don’t eat as much food. Last night Clive caught a squirrel. He skipped dinner and was waiting to go in his cage at sunset. Feeding them keeps them in top hunting condition. Taking up the food keeps the mice from having a free meal.

 

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Clive enjoys hanging with the sheep

 

Cloe and Clive were both from an unwanted litter of kittens. To keep from contributing to the over population of none native introduced animals we spay and neuter our animals. We use a local Spay and Neuter program that assists rural areas with pet sterilization. The vets are top notched and care about their charges.

I do my own vaccines with the cats. I pick the kits up at TSC in the summer. It takes about 5 minutes to do both Cloe and Clive. Sophianne doesn’t get vaccines. She’s a wild hybrid someone tossed out and she nearly died from her first and only vaccine. She’s under vet orders to NOT be vaccinated.

Ticks are a major issue in our area. I’ve had STAR twice and we occasionally have a young animal contract Tick Paralysis (scary, scary, scary times!). I choose to use breakaway flea and tick collars. In addition to the collars I do a physical tick check every evening. They think they’re just being loved on. Even with the collars Cloe will pick up ticks when she goes into the woods. Clive and Sophianne rarely have ticks or fleas. I don’t know why, they just don’t. Fortunately, fleas are only an issue in August and early September. The collars seem to work for fleas on the cats. Having ducks and chickens also helps.

All three are wormed in the fall. If I see any signs of worms earlier I’ll worm then, too. However, tape worms in the summer and early fall are the typical parasites we deal with here in the Cove.

I’ve been blessed to not have injuries or major illnesses with my cats. I’m also blessed with an awesome team of vets who work with both large and small animals should my crew ever need professional care.

Cats are like most other working animals on the farm. If you give them a solid foundation they will happily work for an entire lifetime as your partner in pest control. And if they’re happy, you’ll even get some head bumps and purrs.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

 

 

Winding up Wednesday: Why I Shear My Sheep

I do love natural fibers. Nothing beats wool for warm winter clothing, garden mulch, or to sleep on. I enjoy spinning my flock’s fleeces in the grease, cleaned, carded, combed, or cloud. But that’s not why I shear our sheep.

Shearing season is finally behind us here in Serenity. I personally hand sheared all my sheep. It’s grungy, back breaking work. Some people think I shear just to have the wool, to make money, or because I’m greedy. I can tell you – sheep ranchers that don’t breed and sell lambs aren’t doing it for the big money.

I do love natural fibers. Nothing beats wool for warm winter clothing, garden mulch, or to sleep on. I enjoy spinning my flock’s fleeces in the grease, cleaned, carded, combed, or cloud. But that’s not why I shear our sheep.

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These amazing animal’s unaltered cousins grow far less wool than modern domesticated wool sheep. My hair sheep naturally shed their wool when the weather warms up (and yes I collect and spin that, too). But most domesticated sheep have lost that trait. There are still a few breeds that roo (shed) their fleeces yearly. However, most breeds simply need a helping hand.

I shear my sheep for their health. Sure, they wouldn’t need shearing if man never got involved. But then again, we’d have an entirely different civilization, culture, and history as a species if it wasn’t for sheep and their wool. Somehow, along the way we became interdependent on each other. We needed the sheep for wool, milk, and meat, they needed us for protection from wild predators and eventually to clip the wool. I think overall humans ended up with the better hand.

People have asked why I don’t just leave my rescued sheep unshorn. Imagine walking around with an eighty pound, matted, felted, foot thick wool coat pulling at your skin in the dead heat of summer. Imagine lice and bugs nesting in your coat near your skin. Imagine seeds sprouting. Imagine itching and having no way to scratch. Not fun. Now imagine being relieved of a yearly coat as soon as it begins to warm. You just might leap for joy like a lamb.

Why do I shear my sheep? Because I am their caretaker and I love them. The wool is just a by product of that love.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

 

Monday’s Musings: The Ethics of the Ripple Effect

A small action can cause chaos over time without the intention of anything malicious.

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One of my favorite summertime activities is to sit down at the creek in the evenings and skip stones across the water. Sometimes when I can’t find a good skipping stone I’ll just toss in pebbles. What can I say? I’m easily amused. Oh who am I kidding? I’m a philosopher by nature and I do some pretty good thinking about life and the nature of the universe down by the creek.

Every time I toss a stone in the water ripples. The creek is changed in a minute way. Over time those minute changes can have a dramatic impact on the creek bank and the flow of the water. I can make a hole on the bank, make the creek wider, make the creek more shallow in a spot, encourage erosion along the bank, and even bring down a mighty tall tree that will lead to flooding in my pasture. A small action can cause chaos over time without the intention of anything malicious.

That’s the way every action and inaction we take in life operates. Every sip of liquid, every bite of food, every needless trip into town in our petrol powered automobiles as entertainment, every unkind word, every polymer encapsulated item, every touch, every missed moment for appreciating your spouse, every tiny selfish act over time leads to chaos.

Intention is not enough. True, if you start with good intentions then the possibility of a good future increases. But thinking through the ramifications of those actions from a moral and ethical perspective is ultimately what improves or decimates a family, a county, a state, a country, a nation, or our planet.

You have two powerful allies in creating a good future for yourself and others: rational thought and good intention. Use them with a kind heart and the world just might become a better place.

Until next time,

Craft no Harm,

Moriah