Our girl Ethel is struggling. A few weeks ago we noticed she was slowing down and exhibiting signs that I can only relate to dementia, as she’d suddenly stop and seem to be lost, and while the other three will hustle to the coop at dinnertime, she’d just seem out of sorts and have to be corralled in. Then we noticed her limping, and extracted a thorn out of her foot and cleaned it all up, and from there things have gotten worse. We think she’s gotten an infection or something as her balance appears to be off, and yes, as per the picture on the right, she has taken to jamming herself between the two bales of straw we have in their run (which acts as a windbreak for them as well) and staying there for hours. When I pull her out to get some fresh air, she’ll eat a bit out of my hand (we lifted up the feeder onto a few blocks but she still is averse to leaning down), or she’ll go over to their pool and swim for a bit as we think it must help (ironically, this is our only duck that normally hated swimming until this happened), but while she can walk fairly normally, she flaps her wings a lot and shakes and, well, there ain’t no duck doctors out here. Our duck-owning neighbor suspects an infection but the thing is you just have to wait these things out – no Googling will tell us about the straw behavior (Dan is guessing it’s to help keep her upright and feeling safe?) and our Duck Egg Daily book doesn’t have anything about this, so we’ve just upped the vitamins in the food (i.e., more eggshells for calcium, brewers yeast, and turmeric) and are hoping she finds her way back to her normal, (loudly) quacking self.
Definitely a more food-focused week – and mega-local at that! Headed over to Northwest Wild Products to pick up a whole salmon (and successfully broke in my semi-new FoodSaver, woo hoo!) and noticed a bunch of fresh razor clams so that went right into the pasta for dinner – just a couple garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and delicious lemon-flavored Oregon-grown olive oil picked up in town from Pat’s Pantry, and it was perfection! Then our neighbor gave us a bunch of leaf lard from a recent pig butchering she’d done and I got that rendered then almost immediately so I could use it in the crust to make an apple pie (with 6 gorgeous local Calville Blanc apples my husband brought home from the co-op – then ended up ordering an entire case of! Looks like a wee bit of canning is happening this year after all…!). And finally, we made a run to the liquor store for a bottle of Oregon-made New Deal Vodka so that I could get a HUGE batch of vanilla going. It’s pretty tough to find vanilla beans in the stores these days so I found them in bulk at the SloFoodGroup shop on Etsy. This time I’m going to soak them for 6 months instead of the recipe’s normal 8 weeks as I’ve heard that makes a huge difference…so, um, see ya in spring, my darling quart of future vanilla extract!
And while I never imagined us to be “backyard burners”, since we don’t have a woodstove and probably won’t til sometime next year due to budget constraints, and don’t have a truck to haul construction debris, we decided to create one out of an organic coconut oil barrel we’d brought with us during the move (Just took our jigsaw to cut off the welded lid!) and used a big ol’ bit to drill air holes, and set it on a bunch of landscape stones that were sitting around. Ugly as sin when it got hot, but did the trick and now all those weird scraps of wood are ash that we’re going to put in the bottom of one of the raised beds – and (my priority) there aren’t going to be crazy wood piles for rodents to nap in. And hey – we don’t have a wood stove so we’ll just consider this our entire winter’s fire. Yee haw!
On a more sustainable note, we invested in a couple of indoor Bokashi bins to complement our larger outdoor (DIY) compost tumbler. You see, out in these parts, unlike in Portland and other awesome eco-minded larger cities, there’s no such thing as food waste composting pickup, and because of that we are suddenly baffled at WTF to do with fish and chicken bones! For quite a while I had committed to drying the bones and pulverizing them for bone meal, and had even froze four bags of them since we moved in so that I could do it. And then the reality set in. The meat wasn’t coming off the bones, I was terrified the bones would kill my brand new food processor no matter what various bloggers said, and to be honest, I’m effing exhausted. I do want to try this at some point but in the meantime, the bokashi will take the scraps and that makes me a happy camper!
And finally, while we’re also working on the inside of the house, I’ve also personally started the HUGE task of building raised beds. Probably will take all winter, but this week’s sunny weather gave me the impetus to remove a good portion of the second floor deck that I hate (it darkens the whole downstairs in an area of the state that needs sunshine whenever we can get it, plus it was wobbly and unsafe…plus, honestly, not something I ever had any interest in as it’s not like we’re going to drag a big-ass BBQ up our narrow staircase to where the bedrooms are…PLUS next year the siding and windows will be replaced, and the last of that faded blue will be GONE for good). So I used the railing to start on building some 4’x12′ beds. The picture you see is obviously unfinished, as I realized that I’d better move it to the garden before screwing in the rest of the 2×6 sides in! As it stands I have almost 2 complete beds built, and hey, only 26 more to go! Wheeeee….