Names and places

I was born in an RAF hospital in Nocton Hall, Lincolnshire, England. I grew up in Lincolnshire, living in Lincoln City and Grimsby Town. We went on frequent road trips “there and back to see how far it was” – according to my mom. We enjoyed walks in the country and treks to the various beaches on that wild North East coast.

The odd thing is, the place I now call home, thousands of miles from my birthplace, is dotted with place names from my origin. We are next to the county of Lincoln, and there is a Grimsby. The next village from ours is called Wainfleet. There is a Louth, and a Caistorville (Caistor is in the original Lincolnshire). Not too far is Binbrook, and Ancaster. There is a Pelham (after whom several roads and buildings are named in Lincoln, UK). There is a Humberstone Landfill. There is a Gainsborough Conservation Area. I am sure there are other Lincolnshire names I am unfamiliar with, but this short list is still a lot.

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It seems I have come full circle to settle down.

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We have Eggs!

Last weekend the Ducks and Chickens began to lay.

20171102_203019Right now we are at 6 Duck and 3 chicken eggs over the last few days – the duck eggs are the pale (duck egg green) ones.

One duck egg was very soft/papery, so I bought a sack of oystershell and plonked a bowl of that down for their munching. Anyhow, eggs since that one are all nicely hard-shelled. They are tasty, and the yolk is a darker colour than the usual store bought ones.

A colleague of mine is a home-brew fanatic, and he has started to give me brewers mash, which they all really like. As soon as I open the bag they are hounding me, and they lap it up as I pour it out for them.

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Water, water.

We had a little oops around the last time we ordered water. We use a cistern, which is replenished by truck from municipal water with 4000 Gallons at $140 a time. The water came as ordered, but when my wife came home she noticed a large puddle in the yard, and a hose was pouring out water. The nozzle on the end had apparently popped off under pressure (probably the expulsion of the air in the pipes from running out of water).

The water we bought then ran out a mere three weeks after filling. So a day (ten hours or so) of hose running used up about 2000 gallons of water. Pretty shocking. Anyhow – that really makes the point that we need to take conservation seriously – not merely from the perspective of cost, but also the convenience.

To that end, I am building a water level monitoring device (using an Arduino and an ultrasound distance measuring sensor) to alert me as to water levels, and I am investing in more rain water storage for livestock and gardening. The previous owner had piped the main roof downspout into the cistern for top-ups – but I am a little concerned about bacteria and debris, so I may disconnect this – or take some steps to mitigate those concerns. I have ordered a downspout diverter that includes a debris filter, and maybe I can add some chlorination to the cistern after rainfall events to stop bacterial build up in the tank.

Either way, I can also store more water for the livestock side of things. I found a disused rainwater barrel in the tall grass out back, and I will add this barrel to the SE corner of the barn. I will buy a 1000 litre bulk liquid container and position that at the SW corner of the barn, and move that (new) barrel to the NE corner of the house and install the diverter there. Altogether that will give us 1400 litres of water storage suited for livestock and gardening.

Ideally I would like to use rainwater for dishwashing and laundry, but that would require some changes to the plumbing, and more capacity for rainwater. At $140 every 6 weeks, compared to $140 for 1000 litres of storage, it would take some time to pay off.

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Settling in

We just celebrated the move with a house-warming party. Friends new and old joined us – many of them new neighbours, as we partied on our deck and in our yard.

Unfortunately I was so busy barbecuing and making the rounds that I didn’t take any pictures. I will shout out to all attendees for pictures to post from that wonderful day. The weather could not have been better – mid 20s in the afternoon, down to a crips 10 or so in the evening, perfect for the late evening fireside chat and marshmallow roast.

Here are a couple of pictures of the ducks settling in.

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and out and about:

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On the Farm. Finally!

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OK, so that was an adventure. Not a vacation. One of those things that we will look back on and tell stories about. Not one of those things that one would like to repeat annually.

The closing happened 24 hours late, so we parked our stuff and stayed at my in-laws overnight (150 km in the other direction). The chickens and ducks had their own adventure camping out at a friends back yard in Hamilton. Then we camped for the next day at our lawyers waiting for the other lawyers to complete everything on the second mortgage. This happened at minutes to bank closing on the second day. So we had paid, but title could not be transfered (and this was Friday). We finally started moving in at 7 pm the day after our official closing day.

The cheques I ordered 5 days before closing day still haven’t arrived (now almost a month later), so we got a draft for the second mortgage holders, which the broker just lost! He asked us to cancel it (I don’t know if that can even be done) and get another one. I pushed back and he agreed we could email transfer the money, and I will hold off on canceling the draft in case it shows up before the 27th.

U-haul have had problems – at first they couldn’t get a double trailer at our location, then their fork lift broke down and they couldn’t load the trailer. Then they loaded the trailer but the tongue sank into the asphalt because someone forgot to put in a piece of wood. All in all, getting the balance of our stuff to the farm was delayed a couple of weeks, but we got there in the end and U-haul did refund excess rental caused by their issues. The problems were exacerbated by the fact that I could not call the people at the U-haul location directly – calls were always routed to somewhere in South Carolina, and their ability to get messages to the people in Ontario seemed to be ineffective. I would still highly recommend using U-boxes to anyone moving, because you only have to load and unload once, and you can spread your move out and move in over as long as you want.

All that said and done, the previous owners were lovely – they left a note with details of suppliers and billing averages (electricity, water etc), and a couple of jars of their own honey (they ran a beekeeping operation). We were not so great with our old house – we ran out of time cleaning out, and I transfered the new owners a chunk of cash to help with their cleanup costs.

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9 Days Out

Things are getting very real. We are 9 days from move date, and we are going back and forth with the bank to nail down the financing. On the home front, we have packed away our 4th U-box (I tow it back to U-haul tonight). I will be bringing home some more boxes for Steph to pack. We plan to knock down whatever furniture we can before moving day, and pack all the loose ends in advance. I have hired a few people to come in various days to help, this weekend, and especially the 26th and 27th. We have reserved cleaners for the 27th as well – to make sure the place is move-in ready for the new owners.

On the last day, as well as getting all the furniture into a 26 ft truck, I will also have to knock down the coop, and pack it in my truck. The birds can go in two nice large cardboard boxes I secured from work. As those who have moved will know, everything happens in a very tight time window. We must be completely out before 6 pm, and we don’t have legitimate access to the farm until 6 pm. Basically we have to make the move in one trip to fulfill the terms. We have 3 furnished bedrooms, a partially furnished basement, and a garage full of odds and sods. I am going to fill our horse trailer with stuff from the garage, and hope that everything else will go into the 26 ft.

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Liner Notes

My wife and I were discussing marketing and presentation, and we came up with the phrase “liner notes” for a product pamphlet we want to include with our eggs (and similarly for other products).

Duck eggs are about 50% larger than chicken eggs. They have a larger, richer yolk, and this makes them higher in fat, protein and omega-3 fatty acid than chicken eggs. Flavour-wise they are just like chicken eggs, but more so. Bakers love duck eggs – they make yummy pastries and just about everything else.

Rainbow Valley Farm duck eggs are laid by contented free range Muscovy Ducks, with their very own pond at our family farm in Lowbanks, Ontario. They forage for much of their nutrition, supplemented by organic grain and mealworms.

Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata domestica) are a distinct breed, native to the Americas. They had been domesticated by various Native American cultures in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. The first few were brought onto the Columbus ship Santa Maria when they sailed back to Europe in the 16th century.

The Muscovy duck is widely traded as “Barbary duck”. Muscovy breeds are popular because they have stronger-tasting meat—sometimes compared to roasted beef—than the usual domestic ducks which are descendants of the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The meat is lean when compared to the fatty meat of mallard-derived ducks, its leanness and tenderness being often compared to veal. In addition, Interbreeding with Mallard type ducks produces a sterile hybrid, the mullard. Muscovy ducks are reportedly cross-bred in Israel with Mallards to produce kosher duck products. The kashrut status of the Muscovy duck has been a matter of rabbinic discussion for over 150 years.

Oddly enough, there is a colony of Muscovy ducks in my home town of Lincoln in the UK.

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All Cooped Up

A home of their own. Here are the ducks enjoying the wide ranging freedom of their new coop. Strangely I didn’t see the unpainted patches when I was in there painting.

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Here the ducks are drying off after a swimming lesson: 20170703_135301

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Building the coop

The chicks and ducklings are getting too big for boxes in the basement (and the chicks are flying out of the box). Changing boxes (due to the general poopy-ness of the ducks) is also getting old, and the weather is warming up – so it is approaching time for them to live in the great outdoors.

To that end I have acquired a bunch of wooden planks that were used in some outdoor stalls at the stables where we board our horse, the Percheron mare Marshmallow. The planks are 1×6 rough in lengths of between 7 and 4′ long. I have trimmmed them into lengths of 6′, 4′ and 3′ by trimming off damaged parts and ends filled with large holes (nails or screws ripped out). The planks were painted white on the outside at some time, so they have a trendy distressed barn plank look. I read a few online plans, and then tried my own sort of amalgam design. Here is where I am at right now.

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The overall size is 6′ by 3′, with the nesting box extension adding another foot. The internal height is 3′ – 4′ (sloping roof), and the floor is 1′ off the ground.

The design is “semi-modular” – I want to be able to reduce it to flat panels so I can get it out of the yard and into the truck to move to the farm. The front and back are seperate components that the floor attaches to with 4 screws each. The end planks tie the front and back together and lend sturdiness to the structure. You will notice the 1′ overlap/cantilever out the back. This forms the floor of what will be the nesting boxes. I need a little more lumber to complete that part.

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The roof (and the nesting box lid) is plywood covered with some bitumen based flat-roofing roll I have left over from a porch roof. I have used actual whitewash. A bag of hydrated lime is $15, and it has a truly authentic look, and should be more environmentally friendly. Everything is screwed together with exterior deck screws (dull grey coating), either 2″ for plank to plank, or 2 1/2″ for plank to end, and countersunk to about 3/16″.

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Completion will include liberal ventilation ports near roof level, and the provision of a “duck ladder” to the lift-up door flap. I will make one end a full sized door, for ease of cleaning and maintenance. I just saw a marvellous idea on line. I can put wheels on the duck house, and be more able to move it from place to place.

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Like Ducks to Water!

Here we introduce the ducks to water at 2 weeks old. Maddy’s inflatable paddling pool is pressed into action.

Aren’t they just ducky?

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Short video.

Ducks swimming.

And a song that Maddy loves (about a duck).

The Duck Song

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