In August my sister, Devin, and I drove two hours to collect a family of Muscovy ducks from a former colleague of mine. Her neighbor had raised them as a small home business and couldn’t take them with him when he moved. The ducks wandered over onto her property and hatched a clutch of ducklings; she didn’t want to keep them but she did grow rather found of the two adult males of the group. We took two adult females and 11 six-week old ducklings.
Originally we housed them in a pen constructed of T-posts and welded wire with a dog igloo habitat. This worked well until they were fully grown when there space was limited. Devin helped me convert our outbuilding (“barn”) into a shelter for them with a large run. During the three months we raised them we lost two. The first to our dog, Dashel, who pushed his way out the side door and did what dogs of his kind were bred to do. The second to a great horned owl one night before we had a cover on the pen. The owl removed the adult duck’s head and neck, leaving his body in the pen until morning. We burned the duck’s body.
With ten ducks left, 3 males and seven females including the original adult pair (named “Mama Duck” and “Masi Duck”) we decided we needed to reduce the herd. Neither Sammit nor I are comfortable slaughtering an animal ourselves at this point, though I hope to build up to that one day. I found a place about an hour drive north of our house that would process our ducks for $8.00 each. We made the decision to keep Mama & Masi ducks in part because we had given them names and in part because they are the matriarchs of the group and again in part because they would be tough meat. We decided to keep one male to either line breed with or trade for another male to improve genetics. We also decided to keep two younger females because we aren’t sure how old the matriarchs are and want to make sure we have eggs and can hatch more clutches in the future.
Last night around dark I penned the five most generic looking of our 10 ducks. We’re keeping a male that is in recovery from a leg injury (“Limpy”) and two additional females who are easily identifiable (“Wingding” a duck with a wing that doesn’t lie flat, and “Rascoon” the only one who still sports an all black face). It was easier than I thought to pen them. I did it alone and there wasn’t an hour of chasing like I had imagined in my mind. I just had to be smarter than the ducks. They spent the night in dog crates in our garage and Devin and I loaded them into the back of the Lexus at 6:30 this morning.
I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this process. I had a dream last night that I snuck into the garage and set them free from myself. I’ve felt like I’m betraying them and their trust which I think is a lot of projection; I actually don’t think they’ve ever liked or trusted me but rather see me as a food dispensing device but I can’t help up interpret their wagging tails at dinner time as affection. I’m not ready to become a vegetarian so I could not very well let myself “save” these ducks (that were never meant to be pets) while eating my chicken shwarma for dinner. We thanked them for their lives and for dying to nourish our bodies. For the short time they were alive they were allowed to be very “ducky” – given free roam of not only our property but that of our neighbors as well. They were supplemented with a little grain at night when they were penned in a[n eventually predator proof] shelter. They ate all the bugs and weeds they wanted and always had a pool to splash in. They could fly where ever they wanted and waddle in puddles – in short, we gave them the best lives we could.
I cried this morning when I got back to the car, just for a second, but long enough to have my relationship with our food system changed forever.
Mama Duck and some ducklings on their way home
Exploring their new home.
A water dish big enough to swim in!
Everyone hanging out together.
Masi Duck watching the littles.
Spending some time at the pool.
Eating bugs this summer.
Helping me in the garden.
Their old pen.
Devin helping build their new pen.
Duck mansion finished.
My last post was a little over 10 months ago. I know this without even looking. How? Because I have a 10 month old kid bouncing in her activity center right now. All things agricultural have been put on the back burner as she and some problems with our first home are taking up all of our attention. While I am excited to expand on the garden, plant fruit trees, get chickens, and get back to trying some new recipes right now I’m washing diapers, picking up choke-able sized objects from the floor, and figuring out how to pay for basement waterproofing.
Funny and accurate advice from Forrest Pritchard. [Picture links to article]
We’re expanding in lots of ways! While our website is staying right where it is our actual physical location will be moving soon. Sammit and I bought our first home. It is SW of Ann Arbor (one of our favorite places) in a city called Saline. We have some work to do on the house before we move, but next growing season we’ll have plenty of space to expand beyond our current 700 square feet to fill as much as the 2.3 acres as we want (which will probably be a little at a time). It’s zoned as agriculture which means we’ll have no problems adding chickens or goats to the mix – though no word on when that’s going to happen. We are very excited and will post more pictures and updates as they happen.
Also, we’re adding to our family very soon (hopefully next week)! Please be patient and stick around through the next two months though we may not have much material posted while we adjust to all the changes.
- We have cherry tomatoes!
- The cucumbers are coming in nicely, but have started to show signs of wilt/disease.
- The squash is growing nicely.
- The corn is growing nicely.
- We’ve been able to harvest a few more beans (they’re fighters)
- No peppers yet, but some blossoms have arrived.
- I don’t predict a large harvest in September.
Note: I added a harvest tally to the sidebar –>
- 4 Sausages, cut into 1 inch pieces (we used Costco’s Apple/Gouda Chicken Sausages)
- 2 Large potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 Medium onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 can of chicken broth/stock
- 1 large can of diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1/4 cup red lentils (optional, we had some…I threw them in to see what happened)
- 1-2 Tbs. butter
- 2 pressed cloves of garlic
- A few sprinkles of red pepper flakes
- A few sprinkles of salt & white pepper
- 1 bay leaf (pulled out before serving)
- 2 sprigs of fresh oregano (on the stem, pulled out before serving – use a tsp of dry otherwise)
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme (on the stem, pulled out before serving – use 1/2 tsp of dry otherwise)
Also, I would’ve loved to put some carrots or turnips in here, but alas, we had none. I think the carrots in particular would enhance the flavor.
- Throw it all in the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
While I enjoyed this out of the pot, I couldn’t get enough of it on the second day when I took it for lunch. By the time I thought about taking a picture I was slurping down the last few drops of golden buttery broth. I will try to remember next time.
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tbs. wildflower honey
- 1 Tbs. real maple syrup
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed – reserving both the seeds and the pod
- 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped or grated (less if you find ginger to be strong)
- Handful of blueberries
- 2 firm pears, cored with skins peeled off (skins and core can be composted or used as an ingredient to flavor the liquid)
- Add all but the pears to a pot large enough to submerge the pears and bring to a boil. (I used a high walled but small pot that made it easier to evenly cook the pears – however the lack of surface area caused the syrup to take longer to reduce).
- Turn the heat down to a simmer and gently add the peeled pears (as they cook they will become easier to bruise). Place a lid on the pot and let simmer for 20-30 minutes (I let them cook while I made dinner). Alternately you could put them in an oven-safe pot and let them bake at 250 for several hours.
- When pears are soft (20-30 minutes on stove top), gently remove them from the sauce and let them cool.
- Strain out the solid contents and keep the liquid in the pot – placing over medium heat and allowing it to reduce (stirring regularly) to your desired syrup thickness – I like mine to coat a spoon. Now – you can keep the blueberries to serve, but we composted ours – they looked too much like Violet Beauregarde for my taste.
- Spoon syrup over pears and serve.
This would be great serving with some whipped cream or ice cream!