Monthly Archives: July 2014

Written in May, posted in July :-( How did that Happen?


Finally, two consecutive days of sun. How wonderful is that? Despite the unseasonable cold and dismal weather the various minions of QuackaDoodle have been celebrating Spring for  a month or more.

Two Beltsville White turkeys fluffed up with thjeir tail feathers fanned

Beltsville whites strutting their stuff

The turkeys have decided they truly are the handsomest of birds, that just one look is all it takes to set the hearts of hens a flutter, so all they do is strut their stuff majestically.

The drakes, on the other hand seem to spend all their time chasing ducks, except for one exception, the little duck who thought he could … mate with a goose, that is. This little guy, a pseudo orphan, was brought up alone for his first few weeks and nobody thought to tell him he was a duck, and a gimpy one at that. He’s convinced he’s a goose, and further more a goose destined to be Lucy’s (one of our female Pilgrim geese) true love. After transitioning through various stages of astonishment, irritation and exasperation, Lucy has succumbed to his advances, so who knows perhaps in a few weeks we’ll have a flock of little gucks waddling around.

Our dog Juno checking out a day old Meat King chick

Nurse Juno checking out a day old Meat King chick

In the meantime we have acquired our first run of Meat King chicks. At a day old they seem like relatively normal baby birds but after a week or so their phenomenal growth rate hasalready started to become apparent. This year we plan to be much more diligent with our harvesting arrangements to avoid ending up with the Godzilla birds we grew last Fall.

Recently I read a truly comforting statement which I’d love to share: There are best practices and then there is real life. Remembering this made me feel so much better about planting my garlic crop a couple of weeks ago.




a box of sprouted garlic with some bulbs laying on soil

This garlic overwintered in the basement and is beginning to sprout

Sure, garlic should be planted in the Fall and allowed to winter over for harvesting the next Summer but last year, due to various complications it just didn’t happen. The garlic  kept well in the basement and was just beginning to sprout when I planted it a couple of weeks ago. It is coming up just fine and it will be interesting to see if this late planted will affect the yield.




several large parsnips in a bowl

These parsnips made delicious curried soup

One happy result of planting garlic in the Spring was that I discovered a whole crop of parsnips that had been overlooked and forgotten. They were a really good size and not in the least bit woody, just totally delicious. I don’t think parsnips are taken seriously enough. They are one cool, versatile, very yummy root. Support your local parsnip grower, that’s what I say 🙂




I’ve been teaching myself how to build living willow fences, which I believe are called ‘fedges’. I’m sure in time I’ll cringe at the sight of these, my first attempts but for now, I’m pretty pleased with the results. I’m just hoping that I will be able to post an image of them all filled in with fresh green shoots later in the year.

Close up of willow branches loosely interwoven to form twelve inch diamond shapes

Close up of ‘fedge’ that surrounds one of the lower garden beds

willow fence

Willow fence or ‘fedge’










Another project I’ve been working on is a hugel bête. This is a really neat way to create an insanely fertile raised bed using dead wood and detritus left by winter storms. To fully appreciate how this system works it helps to consider how any natural forest system, when left in its natural state regenerates and supports massive trees with no additional input. Logs, branches, twigs, leaves, straw and soil are densely packed in layers, graduating from largest to smallest. The accelerated microbial and fungal activity in the decomposing wood warms the soil and releases massive amounts of nutrients. We have created several hugel bêtes in previous years and they do really well. Back to the best practices versus life; yes, hugel bête construction is better done in the Fall, giving the ingredients some time to start ‘cooking’ but I expect to grow a passable crop of strawberries in this newly constructed bête. For no other reason than it just felt right, this particular huge is constructed in a heart shape. They are more usually circular , square or oblong.

rotten logs are arranged to form the base of the hugel

Rotten logs are placed at the base of the hugel, preferably slightly below ground level


branches an inch or two are layered close together on top of the rotten logs

Smaller branches are laid on top of the rotting logs as closely as possible


Twigs are layered on top of the branches

Twigs are layered on top of the smaller branches










finer organics such as leaf mold and manure are layer on top of the twigs

Leaf mold, manure, compost and other suitable organic materials come next, all to be topped off with a layer of soil


As usual the goats are demanding to have the last word. They would like all their fans to know that they spent the winter spinning all that fresh straw bedding into super organic fertilizer.


a winter's worth of goat bedding gets piled up as the goats watch on

We spun all that straw into manure