I was reading email this morning, when Cara the labrador started barking.
This is an unusual occurrence. She didn’t even know how to bark until Jess’ dogs visited. Now she barks once if a strange car comes, which is great.
But mostly we rely on the peacocks to tell us if something unusual is going on.
Nellie the duck had found Cara’s breakfast, and was getting into it eagerly. Cara’s happy to eat anybody else’s breakfast, but she thinks it most unfair that anyone should have a go at hers.
So Cara told Nellie off, not that the duck was dissuaded. In the process, Cara’s bowl got bumped and a whole lot of dog biscuits fell out. So Nellie was thrilled.
Nellie the duck likes to sneak off and have a clutch of eggs in a hidden corner of the garden. She learnt last year that dog food is easy pickings, and she can load up quickly and get back to her eggs. She raised heaps of ducklings last year.
We have reduced our duck flocks to low numbers now. They were costing us a lot in food, and you don’t get a lot of meat from a duck. They are great roasted on the fire, but you have to pluck them first. And their feathers are waterproof, so they are significantly harder to pluck than a chicken.
At the Ilkla Moor feast, we tried just skinning them, to save time. They were stewed in a stock, with home-made medieval pasta added. I wasn’t all that impressed, though several people said they enjoyed the dish.
We did a clutch of eggs in the incubator. Our machine is a great little unit and turns the eggs regularly. It has a sponge in it to create the humidity, and unfortunately it had worn out, so we had some problems keeping the unit on track this time. We got six live mallard ducklings out at the end, two of them rather small.
We have also been given four Indian Runner ducklings. These are rather odd-looking ducks, and their legs seem to start too far back. My friend Jean (I guess she was technically my stepmother, but these terms don’t make sense when you’re an adult!) used to have heaps of them, and they are cheerful souls. So we’ll keep a couple of girls for interest’s sake.
Still no goslings. We have some goose eggs in the incubator at the moment. The loose eggs we found in the field didn’t do anything, but now we have some eggs from the nest the geese made down at the old cemetary. If they are going to do anything, it will be a couple of weeks yet.
Meantime the guinea fowl are at their annoying best, and dear sweet wwoofer Rachel has volunteerered to slaughter and pluck them, if it will stop them calling endlessly from outside her bedroom window. They were hopeless at breeding last year, so we’ll see if they do any better at making a nest this time.