Thursday, February 14, 2013

Never a dull moment!

The alarm clock was set for 6 am last Monday morning. We should be getting up early anyway, but some days we are a little lazier. We tend to work later into the evening while it is still light. Anyway, we needed to get up early to catch 15 ducks. Sounds easy. But we knew it wouldn't be and we had no idea how long it would take us. So Frans let out the chickens and managed to keep the ducks in the chook house. Then the fun began. I would try and corner a couple of ducks and Frans would dive for them. Most of the time they darted between his legs and flew to the opposite end of the coop. This mad act of chasing kept us going around in circles. Feathers and dust flying. We were not making progress. So it was time to bring out the artillery. A big stick with a fork at the end. Now it was up to me to corner a duck, strategically thrust the stick over its neck and in the process try not to strangle it. We managed to catch the rest. Probably out of luck than good planning. Only one mishap... Frans tripped and twisted his ankle but there was not time for sympathy!
Experience has taught Frans that the best way to catch a chicken or duck is to grab it by the tops of the wings, and to stay well away from sharp claws and webbed feet!
The ducks were loaded onto the trailer and off to the market they went. Our neighbour Graham went with Frans to show him the ropes.
And here are the mother ducks. Sitting again. Mr Harold keeps them company most of the day. He's very protective over his girls. So much so that sometimes Frans has put him into solitary confinement (a big pen) on his own as he pesters the little ones so much. He can be a real bully. When the ducks started laying eggs again, we decided to leave the eggs in the nest so we could have another batch of ducklings. Soon both ducks were trying to squash onto the same eggs. One morning Frans went into the coop and the ducks had separated their eggs into two neat nests and were comfortably sitting side by side, probably comparing notes on toddlers and giving birth! Clever ducks. Frans is convinced that they knew which eggs were theirs and selected the correct ones for themselves. I'm not too sure...
At the market, the ducks were sorted (by size and gender) and placed into lots. We sold all our ducks that day. A good thing as the feed is expensive and they eat a lot! We won't get rich selling a few ducks here and there. There's the feed, transport to the market, agent fees and the 3 months of looking after them. But there are benefits. They do a good job of pooping around the orchard area and in doing so add nutrients back into the ground. They keep the slugs and snails at bay and they give us beautiful eggs for baking. Frans would like to get rid of them, but I have a soft spot for them. 
Two goats waiting to be bought. Do we need a goat I wonder????


Last week Thursday the local health inspector came to have a look at our kitchen modifications. He was happy with them and we completed the necessary paperwork. He said we'd be able to start cooking as soon as we had our certificate. When was the next market he wanted to know. "Sunday!" we said. "oh, you'll want it in a hurry then". And just like that, Frans went into town on Friday and all the formalities were completed. He came home with the certificate in his hot little hand. I got cooking immediately. We didn't want to pass up on the opportunity of trying out what we hope to be one of our farm lines. We stayed up till way after midnight, struggling with a stupid printer. At one point I suggested we just forget it and leave the preserves till the following month. However, Frans does not give up easily, and finally we got all the labels printed and pasted onto the jars. 

Our little stand looked a little different this time. Instead of garlic (which we have sold out of), we had our preserves on the little table at the front. I still had all the crafty stuff towards the back of the stand. We were pleasantly surprised by the response we got to our jams and chutneys. We came home with only two jars of nectarine jam. We are encouraged! There are 5 markets in March around the district. I have madly started cooking up a storm. There are fruits ready to be picked and I don't want to waste any of it. The produce we're using is grown organically on our farm or our neighbour's. We hope to use only what we grow wherever possible.
On the table we have Nectarine Conserve, Raspberry Conserve, Mixed Berry Conserve, Boysenberry Conserve, Nectarine & Rhubarb Chutney, and lastly a favourite South African chutney made with green beans. 


The heading for this post is 'Never a dull moment'. And this is so true! On Monday morning Frans discovered a problem with our dam pump. It required some maintenance which also required removing thorny blackberry bushes to get to the problem. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity of gathering some wild berries, Nala and I headed down to the dam to help.
The berries are growing on the road side and we need to get rid of them. But first we collected a couple of kilograms of berries. It took us hours! Gloves are needed, and a steely determination.
I started picking berries, leaning carefully across the electric fence. I decided that I'd wait for Frans to walk back home to turn off the electricity!
At lunch time the cattle wandered down to the dam for a drink. 
We haven't had any rain to speak of since the beginning of December. The level of the water has dropped significantly. We water our garden from the dam. While we were down there, Frans decided to test out our fire pump. It was a tricky operation to get the pump going. Before you even start it up the pump has to be primed. Essentially this means you have to fill the pipe with water before you start. Easier said than done. Before long Frans was knee deep in mud. Our neighbours from down the road drove by and stopped for an 'across the fence' chat. Chris hopped over and being the ex fire captain in the area, he knew a short cut to priming the pump. It's really easy when you know how!
There's going to be more dam action in the next few days. Frans is re configuring his set up and the next stage will involve a swim to the middle. I'll be ready with my trusty little Sony!

And as it's Thursday already, I'll say "Have a great weekend"!

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