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Farmstead Update February 2021

Hello everyone! It was around this time two years ago that we had seen our piece of paradise, put in our offer and started planning our build. I can’t say what we were doing this time last year, since 2020 was not the year of blogging for me. Let’s hope I’m more successful at putting down regular updates in 2021!! 

2020 ENDS – AND WE ADOPT A GOSLING

Our big happening in November was The Advent Of The Goose. That is to say, we adopted an abandoned, blind, 3 day old Egyptian Goose gosling who quickly became the star of the show here on the farmstead. We initially thought she was a he, and named him Gustav (Goose-tav, get it? haha). Once we realized, we renamed Gustav to Goosy Lucy, but somehow “Goose” has just stuck.

HOME GROWN POTATOES

We made some new garden beds, then planted and harvested our first crop of colourful heirloom potatoes (from seed potatoes purchased on Livingseeds).

We started the new beds by layering cardboard and paper waste right on top of the grass in the shape of the beds we wanted. We then layered on organic matter (rotting pieces of sticks and leaves), followed by a mix of compost and soil, before beginning to plant. This is an easy way for us to both create new beds with minimum fuss, and compost paper waste at the same time! We were very happy with the results a few months later.

INDIAN RUNNER DUCKS

We brought in some Indian Runner ducks, adding to our permaculture garden / food forest in the making. Although I had been wanting to get chickens for what feels like FOREVER, we decided that Indian Runner ducks were a better place to start. They are AMAZING. The best foragers and egg layers, they are low maintenance and basically turn garden pests like slugs and snails into compost and delicious eggs.

Ducks helping us in the garden
Ducks helping us in the garden

With chickens, you need to compost their droppings before putting them on plants, to avoid burning the plants. With ducks however, it can go straight on, which means we can clean out their bedding and immediately use it as enriched mulch in the garden.

Ducks on pest control

Indian Runner ducks are mostly terrestrial (they spend the majority of their time on land, foraging). They are much less destructive than chickens in the garden, not really being interested in the plants. They also don’t scratch the ground like chickens do, which can damage small plants’ roots, or dig up just sown seeds. Ducks can unfortunately trample seedlings, but covering delicate plants or blocking off small areas temporarily is an easy fix. I think the key is not having too many ducks for your space. We have 4 (3 females and one male drake) on half an acre, and I don’t battle with garden damage. Other than certain succulents, that is, which they mow to the ground in minutes.

They are the biggest foragers of all the various duck breeds. They love to eat garden pests, and spend their day waddling around the garden digging their bills into everything, looking for “treats”. Snails, slugs, grasshoppers, even mosquito larvea are all delicacies to the Indian Runner. And I do mean waddle. Entertainment factor is golden. Indian Runners stand up straight, unlike other duck breeds that are more “horizontally orientated”. Watching them tootle around is bound to bring a smile to your face no matter the day!

As the final selling point, they are excellent egg layers – better than a lot of chicken breeds! We get 2 eggs every day between our 3 females. Having read up on it, I discovered that duck eggs are in fact healthier than chicken eggs (but only slightly). They contain more folate, iron, and vitamin B12 than chicken eggs, and as much as 168% or more of the DV for vitamin B12. They are also higher in protein and have a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Duck eggs taste different to chicken eggs – some people don’t like the taste, but to me they just taste more “eggy”. Duck eggs are fantastic for baking.

Russ built a little fenced enclosure for them to go into in the evenings, and we converted a big dog house into a ventilated and wire-mesh secured house. We tuck them in at night to keep them safe from otters, wild cats and the like. Initially we have a little blow up pool for them to swim in, which they like to do in the evenings. We’ll make a nice duck pond for them soon.

MUSHROOM FORAGING & HOLIDAY FUN

We also got a gas oven (YAY!) and had some good friends round for the holidays with whom we had some amazing hikes & swims (and oven baked treats).

I realised we really keep ourselves busy on our plot, so much so that it took having friends around to properly stop and just appreciate our surroundings for a little while.

A good friend from Kwa-Zulu Natal shared her passion for mushroom foraging and identifying with us (I was instantly hooked), and we had a great few days finding different fungi in our surroundings. Lots of medicinal reishi, some chicken in the woods, but not too much on the edible front.

2021 BEGINS

Thanks to the awesome holiday in our paradise, we started January on the right foot, with yoga, nature and relaxation. We reopened The Mystic Cat shop rearing to go for the year ahead!

BUILDING ON THE SHOP OFFICE & STOREROOM

The shop has been growing bigger every month, and our floor space and walkways around our living area had become progressively smaller as boxes of stock began piling up to be catalogued. On this note, we began to expand the office.

Thanks to building our house using the wood frame method, it was easy to expand. Our builder took the Zincalume cladding on the outer wall down, layed the foundation to meet the existing foundation, and put up the new wood frame. We made the additional space 6m long (matching the existing house) and 4m wide. This block was then halved so that one half could be dedicated to storage and tools (which had been living between the kitchen and the back afdak), and the other half served to double the existing office space.

What a difference! We put up lots of shelves and additional desk/counter space for packing and sorting stock. Chantel, who has just joined the team, had to contend with a lot of noise and dust in her first few weeks with us!! But the result is definitely worth it. The office & store room expansion is 99% complete and we are thrilled with the additional space. I can’t understand how we managed before!

We also finally had some funds to fence the bottom of the property. We didn’t take the fence line right down to our property border due to the risk of flooding damaging or destroying the fence, rather choosing a line before the property begins to slope down in the terraced banks. Although now that it’s in, I’d rather it did go down all the way rather than cut off the property early, from a visual perspective. But at least it’s ‘done’ for now.

OUR FEATHERED CHILD

The Goose has grown bigger, and watching her change each week was such an incredible journey! There was a point where we could see a growth difference every single day – phenominal! We tried our best to save her eyes, but we could only save the one, despite an eye op at the vet and eye drops every hour for weeks. Only having one eye (and not a perfect one at that) means she will not be able to survive in the wild. She battles to judge distance, sometimes missing her food or getting stuck on the couch and not being able to jump down. When she was smaller, I’d sometimes find her walking in tight circles, unable to find her way. We are grateful that we can give her a home, a safe loving environment, even if it isn’t what her natural life would have looked like. We have really fallen in love with this brave little soul.

It’s the end of February now, the tail end of summer – still hot, and currently very dry (I’ve completely lost faith in the weather forecast that’s been promising rain for weeks). 

The Goose still reigns supreme, naturally. 

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