Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Husband is a Genius! (or, The Benefits of Dirty Duck Water)

Yes, you read that right, I'm officially classifying my husband as a "genius."  What else would you call someone who can come up with some of the craziest innovations you can think of? 

For instance, last summer, after we picked apples, he started craving apple cider.  Not the cider that you buy in a grocery store, mind you, but the cider that they sell at road side stands and produce markets in Vermont.  Being the handy guy that he is, Hubs decided to make his own cider press.  Using an old wooden box my dad had made, a car jack, and a pair of old mesh curtains, he managed to crank out about a gallon of cider.  After having a glass of it, he decided that while it was really good, he was going to make it "better" by letting it turn hard.  Unfortunately, he didn't realize that in order to get "hard cider," you have to add some form of yeast to it, which we didn't do.  The result was some good-quality apple cider vinegar instead.  We're going to get it right this year, I'm certain.

This time, he has really come up with something truly innovative!  As you all know, we moved the ducks outside to their new outdoor pen.  We also bought a kiddie pool from Walmart for them to swim in.  I didn't realize, however, what dirty little girls we have and was dismayed to find out how dirty their "pond" got after a few days.  I didn't like the idea of just dumping the pool out on the ground and wasting all that water.  So, then I started bailing it out, a little bit at a time, with my watering can and with that, I would water the garden.  I decided to do a little experiment in which I watered some of the plants with the "dirty duck water" and the others I watered with plain water.  Not surprisingly, the plants I watered with the DDW ended up growing faster and are healthier looking than the plants watered with just plain water. 

I showed Hubs the results of my experiment and I was not surprised to see the cogs & gears whirring around in his mind as he thought about how he could improve on my little discovery.  I was not disappointed!  A few days later, he showed me his newest invention and I was completely blown away. 

He procured an old above ground swimming pool pump from a friend who was demo-ing his pool and secured the pump to the bottom of the kiddie pool.  He put a bathtub plug in the top of the hole to keep the water inside the pool.  Then, he attached our garden hose to the end of the outtake hose of the pump. 

When I turned the pump on, voila!  I had the double benefits of a) getting the duck pool drained without swamping their duck yard and making a muddy mess, and b) the ability to water the entire garden with DDW, allowing me to recycle the water without wasting it and giving our plants natural fertilizer!  Such a simple thing I know, but for me, a person who hates wasting water and loves to recycle, this little contraption my Hubs invented is amazing.  It just goes to show what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.

In other homesteading news, we had the state beehive inspector pay us a visit on Monday.  Yes, there is such a person and boy, do I want her job!  All she does is visit everyone's beehives and inspects them for health, sanitation, and disease and writes reports about them.  Our hive passed inspection and she said that Toddy was doing an excellent job with them.  This was good news to hear, as we had found out only a few weeks ago that our queen bee did die, and so we had to get a replacement queen.  Our hive now has a shiny MD State Agriculture sticker on it, showing we passed.  It honestly looks like those stickers the state puts on the gas pumps to show that they are legit. 

The ducks are doing quite well and are the delight of the neighborhood kids who love to come down and help "feed the duckies."  They are fully feathered with no "down" and have finally mastered going up the ramp to get into their pool.  It took me three weeks and a lot of treats to coax them up the ramp so I'm pretty proud of them. 

We have had a lot of fun experimenting on "what the ducks like to eat."  Not only do they enjoy their duck corn, but they also enjoy:  peas, green beans, lima beans, black beans, lettuce, arugula, apples, grass, and onions.  I bought a bag of mixed vegetables (corn, limas, green beans & carrots) and thought they'd eat it all up.  Surprisingly, they ate everything but the carrots!  I was sure that they'd eat them as they love the carrot peels that I give them, but I guess not.  Maybe it was the size or texture of the carrots--who knows?

Like I said previously, the garden is doing very well.  Our cabbages have started to "head up" and we have tiny tomatoes the size of peas.  Speaking of peas, mine are ready to pop at any second.  I will probably have to pick them today or tomorrow.  Last night, while the neighborhood kids were over, I let them each have a pea pod so they could taste the peas inside.  Not surprisingly, none of them had ever seen a pea in a pod, never mind tasted a fresh pea.  They were completely won over and ran around tasting other things in the garden like my herbs. 

I still have a hard time believing that in one generation, for the most part, we've lost the art of providing for ourselves from our own yards and our own hard work.  All of my grandparents kept gardens and some livestock and that is where I've learned most of what I know.  Toddy's grandfather was a big gardener as well and was a wealth of information.  My parents grew flowers and herbs, and sometimes tomatoes, but nothing like what my grandparents did. 

Most of the people I talk to or show our garden to, can't believe that you can grow enough food to feed a family of five.  The trick is, and this is something we've learned from experience, is that you have to eat seasonally.  We didn't do so well on that last summer, but I chalk that up to not planting enough, early enough, and a lack of experience on our part.  If all the lettuce came up at once, then you eat salads every day.  When we got sick of salad, I started mixing the lettuce and arugula in with the ducks' food and they ate less "bought" food.  If you end up with a bumper crop of tomatoes, you make spaghetti sauce, salsa, diced tomates, tomato soup, and you can it all to use for later.  I'm determined not to repeat the same mistakes as last year!  With that being said, it looks like we're going to be eating peas all week...


  1. This is SOOOO interesting to me, Becky! I told Ron I wanted to have a vegetable garden at our house in Oklahoma and he warned me about the amount of work (his parents had big gardens and fed their family from it). I am okay with work! I eventually want chickens for my own eggs (my grandmother does that) but we'll see...

  2. Hi Erin, it is a lot of work but it is so rewarding. We wanted chickens, too but they are too noisy for an urban backyard. Some day when we really retire, we hope to live out in the country up in Vermont. When you get to OK and you need gardening advice, feel free to ask. Definitely have learned a lot from mistakes we've made and I'm sure we'll make more before we're through!