As April rolls into May and the leaves turn golden, the first frosts appear and the landscape is blanketed in autumn colours around Clunes, things are also busy as we prepare for winter at White Stone Farm.
Our winter crops have been planted, out in the newly established growing beds enriched with mulch, multiple animal manure (the llama girls certainly contributed!) and worm laden soil. The garlic is sprouting, reaching out to the sun as the days begin to cool, while other seedlings are gathering strength and size in the greenhouse.
And in our desire at White Stone Farm for more manure makers, natural insect eaters and a possible food source later on – we’ve officially gone quackers! White Stone Farm welcomes our first domestic birds to the farm – our new Pekin Ducks!
Originally bred from Mallards in China, the Pekin duck is now a popular meat bird across the world, but is also a good egg layer too, laying about 200 each year. They are highly sociable and can bond closely to humans if imprinted when a duckling and can also be good guards (enough to rival geese apparently – which is great because geese freak me out slightly with their aggressiveness!). Our first three duck members to the farm are a little more wild, having lived the first 5 months of their lives on a dam at a nearby farm, but they are slowly getting used to us and living in their new home.
Retrofitting one of the existing stables as a duck and (soon to be) chook house, we’ve fenced off an adjoining area to include the greenhouse so that they can snack on any rogue slugs and snails, and provided a pond for them to play in. The three of them make regular rounds of their new enclosure, the two females quacking loudly to each other and the slightly larger male dutifully following and noticeably quieter. The male can be spotted sporting the characteristic curled ‘drake feather’ on his tail.
To improve their chances against any sneaky foxes, we’ve also made sure that their new area is next to the main llama paddock. But, the llamas don’t quite know what to make of the ducks and the ducks aren’t too sure what these hairy, curious animals are either!
We have big plans for our new charges, with stints amongst the garlic crops to spread some manure and gobble up any bugs. Similar to Masanobu Fukuoka’s revolutionary Natural Farming techniques (for more info check out www.permaculture.com/node/140 or www.onestrawrevolution.net), we will also use our ducks to prepare grow beds for future plantings with their copious manure and snuffling soil preparation activities!
Our biggest challenge may be keeping them off our dam, a veritable duck Shangri-La that we don’t want to share as it’s our only source of water for the crops at the moment and would quickly go green if the ducks invaded!
Our newest farm arrivals are yet to have names – we’re working on that and for the moment just enjoying the joyful quacking and dulcet ducky tones here at White Stone Farm!