Kalin Brown

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since Jan 18, 2014
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Recent posts by Kalin Brown

So it has been a week or so and I no longer even need the funnel. The ducks put themselves to bed at night and all I have to do is go out and lock up. They have become one of the easiest animals to care for, and a lot quicker than I imagined!
4 years ago
So... the funnel worked great last night! I was able to put the ducks to bed by myself in less than 5 minutes and without stressing them out at all. By the time they had been funneled down far enough to realize there was a fence on the other side of them it was too late and they just continued on down into their house without fuss, I closed the door, gave them their food and that was that. Whew, what a difference!
4 years ago

Kalin Brown wrote:

Miranda Converse wrote:If their house is big enough, I would leave them in there for about a week so they know that is home then start letting them free range again.

How big is big enough to leave them in it for a whole week?

4 years ago

Miranda Converse wrote:If their house is big enough, I would leave them in there for about a week so they know that is home then start letting them free range again. One of the biggest realizations that has helped me out so much is that ducks do not like to go to bed before they are ready. I basically have to wait until the sun is already setting before putting them to bed. Once it's dawn, they tend to start meandering towards their pen and usually will gather around the entrance or just go in on their own. Then all I have to do is walk towards them with my arms out and they just walk right in.

I would absolutely stop chasing them and picking them up. It's not easy to gain a ducks trust and it's even easier to lose it. If you have to herd them, walking slow and steady towards them, with your arms out is the best way. If they start veering to one direction you just take a small step in that direction and they will turn back on course, if you go too fast they will overcorrect in the other direction. It takes some practice but after a while they will realize you are just trying to get them to bed and they will head that way when you walk towards them.

As far as eggs go; I spent months trying to get my ducks to lay in the coop and finally I figured out if I just left one of their eggs behind (I guess they could tell the difference between their eggs and the wooden eggs I tried), they would lay in that spot like clockwork. I just make sure I don't leave the same egg everyday. If I take all of the eggs for some reason, they will all lay in random spots until they collectively decide that one spot is better than another and they will get back to laying there like clockwork again. Might sound weird to leave an egg out all day but if you think about it, a bird will lay eggs for up to a week before sitting on them to hatch and they are still fine.

Believe me, I wouldn't have been picking them up and taking them to their house if I could avoid it. But I can spend literally an hour trying to herd them and get nowhere because they just do circles around shrubs and sheds and whatnot and I really don't want to leave them out to be eaten by a bear or raccoon, both of which we have plenty around. I have to make a funnel by the fence where they already like to hang out and move the house so I can herd them down the funnel and into the house. It's the only way I can see that won't be stressful to the ducks and will allow me to keep my sanity and not still be out in the yard well after dark with a flashlight trying to get them to bed. My husband is home again today, so we will be able to move the house (I can't do it on my own.)
4 years ago

kay Smith wrote:We are going to put mushrooms in our little forest area for the first time this year. Does your family like mushrooms? I could see them doing well in the shade of your trees.

I love the variety of trees you have! I'm really wanting to make some preserves this fall so it really just had me drooling!

We love mushrooms and they are definitely on our list to introduce to our food forest areas. Unfortunately finding suppliers in Canada has been a little more difficult, most of the places I come across are south of the border. But it looks like I may have found one near me, so hopefully we can get some shiitake, oyster, and maybe wine cap mushrooms going. I'd love to try more varieties, but we seem really limited up here as far as suppliers go. I may have to just try and figure out how to start my own from wild foraged mushrooms and see if I can't get some puffballs, cauliflower, shaggymane or inkcap, etc going. A lot of the trees are still getting established and are not producing yet, or are not producing much. Although one of the pears is mature, and both the other pears are bearing some fruit. Both quince are also mature, as is one of the hazelnuts. The blueberries also are producing decently now. In the next year or two we should really start seeing more production.

A suggestion for making preserves if you don't have a lot of fruit trees on your property, or are still waiting for many to mature (as I am currently.) Watch for fruit trees when you're driving around. At least up here, there are tonnes that don't get picked. I just knock on peoples doors and ask them if its ok if I pick. If they want I will split with them, or bring them some canned goods when I'm done processing. I get HUNDREDS of pounds of fruit this way every year. In 3 years I have been told no only once. Most people are happy to let me so the bears stay away and they don't have to clean it up. I have no idea why someone with a fruit tree wouldn't pick the fruit and eat it, but around here it seems common.
4 years ago

Nicole Alderman wrote:Teaching them to come for food/into the house at night is hard. We have a giant salmonberry patch in the middle of their yard, and for months it would take two of us to get them out of the brush and into their house. I think a large part of the problem was that we were scaring them (which worked for about a month to get them out of the brush, then they just hunkered down). You can also keep them in the house for a day so that they learn that it is home.

Other tricks to herding them is using one bowl for food helps, and singing a song while you feed them helps, and luring them with bits of food also helps in the beginning. Also, carry the bowl of food when you're trying to lure/herd them. Soon they'll follow you when ever they see it. For a while, to get them used to it, you can feed them only in their duck house, to train them that that is the place for food.

Now, whenever the ducks see me (especially if I'm carrying any sort of bowl), they come running. My ducks free range when I'm home, and then I herd them into their enclosure when we are going to be gone. Feeding them a little and singing their song really helped get them to come running into the enclosure. I used to herd them, now they all actually follow me and try to trip me!

One nice thing I noticed is that if you end up adding a duck to your flock (due to a death), the new duck will take maybe three days to a week to get trained to the same level as your other ducks. Which is really nice!

As for getting them to lay in their house, adding some nice nesting boxes helps, and so does keeping them in there until 9:00am. Also putting a fake egg in their nesting box (golf balls work, but not as much as the fake eggs). Having said that, my ducks may very well be laying in salmonberry bushes all over the property, and I would never know...

I sure I hope I can manage to train them as well as you have trained yours! So far it's not going very well. I can't lure them with food because they wont come near me even for food. If my husband is also home (which he isn't always as he works shift work) we can herd them. If its just me, my best chance is to catch them hunkered down in the jerusalem artichokes and carry them to their house. They're ok once I've caught them, but they don't like to let me get that close. I think I am going to move their house today so it is beside a fence they like to patrol back and forth by, and then put up another wire fence angling away from the house a bit to create a sort of funnel... then I can just herd them toward their fence and along it until they get funneled into their house. It'll be so much less stressful for the ducks than me chasing them all over the yard or garden trying to get them to go where I want or having to catch them. But maybe some day they will follow me for food, or come when I have a food bowl. It just doesn't seem likely at the moment. They had already reached laying age when I got them. I'm sure it would have been easier raising them from ducklings... I'm not as worried about the egg-laying situation now, as our dog has already proved he can find and retrieve them without breaking them for us. So even if they lay them out of the area we have provided its not too big a deal. So glad we taught him the "find game" when he had an injured knee and needed something to occupy his time while housebound...
4 years ago

kay Smith wrote:I must say it sounds impressive what you have done!
I wonder.. Have you attempted vertical gardening and \or using your roof to grow vegetables? A rooftop garden large enough would allow room for fruit and nut trees to grow in your yard

We do a lot of vertical gardening for tomatoes, squash, cucumber, pumpkin, beans, yam, etc to save on space. Unfortunately we have a steep metal roof that would not be conductive to rooftop gardening. We have still managed to plant a fair number of fruit and nut trees on the property, including:
-3 heartnut
-1 large hazelnut, and a row of hazelnuts as a hedge
-3 hardy orange
-2 strawberry arbutus
-3 apples
-3 pears
-3 plums
-1 peach
-3 pawpaw
-1 mulberry
-1 fig
-1 sweet cherry
-2 quince
-plus a variety of small fruit bushes/vines: kiwi, blueberry, haskap, goji, grapes, raspberry, strawberries, elderberry, gooseberry...

I do have spots set aside for a couple more, but we're pretty much saturated for fruit/nut trees at this point for the space we have (while still maintaining some open space for dogs/kids to play. Although we will be adding many more small fruits still. A lot of our gardening is done around the trees. We are transitioning much to perennial edibles, but also use the trees for shade for things like lettuce and such during the summer heat.
4 years ago

Galadriel Freden wrote:Wow Kalin, it sounds like you manage to do a lot! I would love to read more about your urban homesteading.

I think a lot of people here are on smaller properties. I live in a very small suburban space (more urban size and density, but without the urban amenities), smaller than yours. It's still big enough to keep our flock of chickens (average flock size is around 10-12), a small vegetable plot which keeps us from buying veg during the summer and autumn, with some to store for winter. I also make a few medicinals from wild harvested plants and herbs. I've got a lot of dwarf fruit trees and even an almond tree, mostly planted up against my fences and walls; I keep them pruned within my reach for ease of harvest.

I find that I can produce a lot of food even in my tiny vegetable plot. Last year I tracked my veg harvest and totaled it at 66 lbs of food. I didn't track egg totals or fruit harvest, and there were some things (like peas) that never made it into the kitchen to be weighed I'm hoping to double that harvest this year, though it may be too lofty a goal! Still, I'm sure I'll improve on it, and I'm tracking egg production this year.

I'd like to raise bees too, and rabbits and goats...and I'd really love to set up an aquaponics system. We have a small goldfish/frog pond, and it filters into a little gravel grow bed, planted with a few bog plants and vegetables; I'd love to expand it with another, bigger grow bed and more fish, maybe even edible fish.

I've realized that I can't do everything, though. I have to decide which things are the most important, like whether I should have a big bed of strawberries or vegetables. Vegetables win every time, I'm afraid--though luckily we can go to a local farm and pick strawberries there. And though I'd like to, we also can't breed our chickens at the moment, as our neighbors don't want a cockerel in the vicinity. I'm looking into breeding meat another way, maybe with another animal like rabbits. Or maybe our situation will change in the future and the neighbors won't be as adverse as they are now.

I'm impressed that you've managed to squeeze a pond onto such a small lot! That's something I've considered, but just not sure where we could put it. It would be great now for the ducks, although having them I'm sure means I wouldn't be able to grow the aquatic plants I was hoping for as they would just eat them...

I grow strawberries under my fruit trees and around my shrubs and berry bushes. It helps to keep the ground shaded and doesn't "take up" any more room in the way that a dedicated strawberry bed would. I'm sure I don't get as many strawberries, but along with everything else...we end up having plenty.

If you're looking for meat production on a small lot with neighbors to consider, I would HIGHLY recommend rabbits. They are so easy, cheap to feed, docile, quiet, reproduce quickly, are ready to butcher in 90 days (I've read 2 months lots of places, but we always wait 90 days.) The meat is fantastic, and in my opinion can be substituted in any chicken dish without having to modify the recipe at all. We don't package and freeze the backs, but throw them right in the stew pot and then can rabbit broth for soups and other dishes that require broth. They also produce a LOT of manure, and because it isn't a "hot" manure it doesn't need to be composted and can be put directly on the vegetable garden. The plum tree that is next to the rabbit houses, and such gets vastly more "waste" dirty bedding and such tossed on it is easily twice the diameter and has put on a ton more growth than the other fruit trees that were planted at the same time. It's win-win if you ask me. Heck, I would keep rabbits for the manure alone, even if we weren't breeding them for meat.

It is actually amazing how much food you can produce on a small space. I really should get into tracking it. That would be interesting, thanks for the idea!
4 years ago
I zoomed in on a google earth image of my lot, saved it and started plunking circles in for trees, shrubs etc. The smaller stuff I can just make a list of what is beneficial to said tree. Things get changed, like when I impulsively bought 3 hardy orange and 2 dwarf strawberry arbutus trees that weren't on my design sketch. They had to go somewhere and my sketch had to change to accomodate them. But for me that's all part of the process. I've also measured my yard with a tape, so I can plunk those numbers onto the google earth picture too. I can see that being infinitely more difficult on a larger scale for a larger property.
4 years ago
We are on a 1/4 acre urban lot, slowly taking steps to move towards greater self-sufficiency. I know with our limited space we will never fully achieve our goals, but every step closer is a step in the right direction. Just wondering how many others are in the same boat, or are most of you on large acreages? So far...

We just got ducks for eggs and pest management. We also breed rabbits for meat (and they are an excellent source of manure for the gardens!)
We are attempting forest garden principles on much of the property which should hopefully provide an abundance of food and medicine as they mature
We have a 1400sqft annual vegetable garden
We hunt, butcher our own meat, make our own sausages, bacon, ham etc.
We can, dehydrate, and ferment food to preserve it
We attempt various projects, such as making waterproofing for our boots from rendered bear fat and beeswax, tanning hides, etc.

I would love to raise honeybees, but my husband is very allergic so that is a no go. As are even dwarf goats due to city bylaws. There are also many fruit and nut trees I would love to experiment growing, but have had to make some tough choices with our limited space to what we really want and what will do well here. Although that didn't stop me from putting in some hardy orange and strawberry arbutus... but mostly its the standard stuff, walnuts, hazelnuts, apples, pears, cherries, plums, etc.

For those of you also in small spaces, what sort of steps have you taken to move closer to self-sufficiency? What challenges have you faced? What projects would you like to attempt but have found that you just can not due to the limitations your space puts on you?
4 years ago