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Kelly Custer

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since Feb 03, 2011
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Recent posts by Kelly Custer

JA leaves are one of my dog's top three self-foraged greens. Grass and goldenrod he eats frequently, sometimes Jerusalem artichoke leaves, and more rarely echinacea. Ducks and chickens, of course, love Jerusalem artichoke leaves. I have long wondered if I should eat them, too. I hope for more reports.
1 year ago
I don't know this, but I would think my Golden 300s are as good foragers as any other duck. They are motivated and industrious with bugs and greens; hard to picture how other ducks do it better? They eat things the chickens stare at, like pill bugs (and aforementioned slugs). (On the other hand, they appeared at a loss for what to do with the dead mouse before the chickens began a heated dead-mouse baton-race.) I would be curious how their foraging skills compare.

On a side note, I read that ducks require more B vitamins than chickens. I free choice brewer's yeast, and the ducks do eat it. They look very cute with little yeastie-mustaches (of sorts).
7 years ago
Other than the with the drake, the chickens and ducks do fine together. If I were starting over, I would get the chicks first, let them get a few weeks on the ducklings, who grow SO quickly, then put them together in the same brooding box, so they would be more bonded into one flock. But they eat together and cohabit fine, without an evil man around.

I soak and ferment organic layer crumbles. It swells up twice as big, and I intentionally add extra water for them to slurp up. Especially the ducks. They all love any fermented food like whey or sour milk. All I do to ferment it is let it soak in a gallon jar (less than 1/2 feed to water) until it bubbles and smells pleasantly sour. Depends on temperature how quickly. I just start a few jars and start using them, the older ones are more fermented, and I try to remember to get more started. I read a great blog about it, that gave me the light bulb and the courage. Funny I needed it, since I cook my own grains and make flatbread after soaking and fermenting.

Sometimes I soak various grains, peas, seeds from the feed store, soak them, blend them, and ferment them. But of course it's more trouble than just buying the crumbles.

I also sprout and grow forage in the kitchen. Oats don't sprout, and might make a muckier ferment. I want to get a hydroponic forage system going in my basement, but haven't yet. In winter, I grew a lot of grain grass and sunflower sprouts in the window, on baking trays under saran wrap (better props wouldn't be hard to come up with). Everybody loves green sunflower sprouts. The ducks eat those from my hand, if they haven't gotten them in a while. Turning grain to forage is another great way to reduce feed costs. I want an automated system.

It would be great if the health food store would take them from you. I'm so glad I can sell them all to one source. Makes it simple. If you look up why duck eggs are so good and make a little brochure or flyer for the store, might boost business. Worked for me.
7 years ago
They lay white eggs. Larger than chicken eggs. They eat more, too. But they are good foragers. They slurp up snake-sized worms while the chickens watch, puzzled. And slugs, which horrify my chickens, and stick to their little duckie-mouths like a gluey wad of peanut butter! (A little animal sadism is okay, as long as they like it, too.) They eat weeds with the best of 'em, as well. I like Paul's simple ratio of grains, plants, bugs: 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. If I could forage/diversify enough in my back yard operation, that would reduce my feed costs nicely (huge worm bin, effort #2; zombie/superworms; effort #2, soldier flies, maybe I'll try again next year; massive production of weeds, easy).

I have a ready, instant market of $4 for chicken eggs, and $3 1/2 dozen for duck. I weighed them to compare, and convinced my buyer's market what a good deal they were getting per ounce, for an alkalizing, mineral rich egg, thereby creating a market for my buyer that she can't meet. My buyer found other sources but still wants more duck eggs, but I'm eating them myself when I'm in town.

I soak and ferment my feed, thereby increasing nutrition and digestability and reducing feed costs. Interesting data on soaking, as well as fermenting. The birds WAY prefer it.

My Easter Egger chickens are not as productive as my RI Reds, Austrolorps, Red Star/Golden Buffs.

Hoping someone will weigh in on what these girls would likely produce, though I won't be breeding for a long time. I tried a man-duck for a little, being as they don't duck-a-doodle-doo or anything, but he killed one of my chickens. Got my girl ducks riled up and going gangsta on the chickens, too. They are in a pen, now (large, comfortable one); might not happen in a free range scenario.
7 years ago
I love my Golden 300s. It is a rare day that an egg doesn't come out every one of their rear ends. I only have 3, but I'm going to get another 3 next spring. (Which I won't regret, if I can get a little pond filtering successfully.) They have fine temperaments, though they would be more cuddley if I'd smushed them up more when they were babies. They went through a period of acting like they were in some bizarre duck horror movie every time anyone showed up, but they got over that and waddle about me for food, and eat worms from my hand (awww, don't get cuter than that!). If I snatch one up and force some petting, they take it okay. But most importantly, boy are they productive! 365 days a year!

The white ones (aka White Layers/Golden 300's) were noisier. Especially Lucy Quacker, but her Caucasion girlfriends as well. Found a new home for them, cuz I'm in town, and kept the brown ones, which are pretty, woodsey looking creatures IMO.

So what are the permutations of possibilities of offspring from them? Wouldn't they be likely to produce good layers, even if less so?
7 years ago
I like the idea of mulching the chicken coop with hay and letting them eat the sprouting weed seeds, and fertilizing it, before using it in the garden. As for adding kitchen scraps and compost to the mulched garden a bit at a time, I've done it around my wood chip mulched front yard, by pulling back the chips and putting down pulled weeds and whatever, and covering up again. It decomposes well, and you can see improvement in tilth where it was done.

PS, Henevere, I'm really wondering why Permies gave me your last name? Is "McCoy" a St Patrick's Day Permies virus?
9 years ago
Hey, why did Permies add a last name to my handle? I thought my first name was Irish enough, even with St Patrick's Day coming up.
9 years ago
My cats are mostly pooping outside in secret places (like the veggie gardens, I imagine), except for winters and whimsy, but it's enough it suddenly dawns on me that I are being a dope by not thinking about this.

So, three thoughts in my dopey little head: gypsum, calcined clay (brand Turface is an amendment I like to use), and wood ash.

Calcined clay/Turface is used to keep ballfield surfaces from getting soggy; in the garden, it absorbs water, making it available to roots when soil dries out b/n rains. Thought it might be a good litter substitute. Gypsum also seems an obvious choice;some people think you can't use enough of it in the garden (though others say it's benefit is too temporary to be worth the investment). Both products are purchased in garden-sized bags and significantly cheaper than commercial cat litter. If I replaced my kitty litter with gypsum and/or calcined clay, and designated a felinure compost pile and aged it a couple years...why not? Calcined clay doesn't degrade (Turface is tested at lasting 100 years ie permanent), so perhaps it would be too much Turface-to-compost ratio. Plus, I would probably need more of, er, the other kind of browns. I would have to play with it--I mean, experiment.

Can I double-duty my deep thoughts about doodie into a use for my wood ash? I read on a site I can't find now about using wood ash to anaerobically compost human waste--alkalinity of ash combining with acidity of kaka in the anaerobic environment is supposed to disable pathogens, as I recall. Whether or not that's true, if it were a viable base for the felinure compost pile, that would be great. (I would really like to find an easy way to use my ashes.) I wonder if I could just dump them in a feline compost spot, and just keep adding kitty box contents to it until some balance of materials is achieved, and then let it set for a year or two.

Here is a site that suggests making an anaerobic compost, by burying a garbage can or bigger container 6-12" deep, with bottom cut out and replaced with mesh to protect from varmints but allow worms. (Though varmints probably don't go for kitty crap, and more power to them if they do?) It talks about only using small amounts of wood ash. But with enough carnivorous kackie in it, perhaps it would be a good marriage?

Any thoughts welcome on composting kitty kaka, and also super-easy uses of a large yearly quantity of wood ash (already know dinky or high maintenance options like lye and baking soda, and sprinkling it here and there).

9 years ago


Lots of cool stuff would like the leaves in there. maybe frogs i dunno.  scuds and related animals, lots of phyto planktonish things... they would help feed the fish and break those leaves up into a perfect soil. in fact in many countries they raise fish in ponds like that, with part of the goal being to drain it and collect that soil. those folks often put down manure to start the year as well (dont do this if your not going to drain the pond) and that inspires algae and phyto plankton to bloom all year helping feed the fish, many of those same set ups, use ducks on the pond to, to further fertilize the water, for plant growth for the fish....

Good to hear that the leaves could be an asset, if they don't block the filter, or become too thick and smother the fishies...It occurs to me that Fred and George (RIP) had a little Findhorn-style waterfall, but no biofilter. Maybe I can but the pump in a cage that the leaves would not cover too solidly, blocking flow? hm

You bring up another big question for me, re the ducks. Being familiar with The Power of Duck, I still wonder if access to the pond by my future ducks would be helpful or difficult in a smaller system. I thought that the fish poo would be enough challenge for the filter system. Won't the fishies make more than enough poo/nitrogen by themselves?

When the next door neighbor's come down to earth and agree to sell their house for a fair price (to me!), then I could make my pond bigger, extending into their yard (my future chicken/duck yard). Or, should I have a separate duck pond? I can't reason through it.
10 years ago
I love my self seeding cherry tomatoes. Red, and yellow. Okay, the yellows are a little tough skinned, but they are tomatoes, dang it. No matter how much I suck that year, picking the wrong kind of tomato for the Iowa drought or floods we happen to be hit with, and otherwise sabotaging my "crop" plants, I always have my wild cherries. I do not water them, and they are abundant. I salt-fermented a bunch last fall, and I'm eating my last jar now.

I am attempting to upgrade by exploring varieties of tomatoes (mostly cherries) that will come back true to seed to naturalize in a few spots in my yard. I agree with something I heard Paul say, that once they are seeding themselves, they do better than the transplants. Seems clear!
10 years ago