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Life on a farm, any farm, is one dictated by factors that are largely beyond your immediate control. Sure you have some say in it, but really, the things that really matter are the weather, animal behaviour and the balancing act that is soil health.
Our own farm might be small in scale, but it packs a punch in workload. Three Paddocks Farm, named aptly for the fact that it has three paddocks, is something of an experimental farm. We’re perpetually tweaking what we grow, what we graze and where we do both those things. We’ve run pigs, we’ve got cattle and we’re fast becoming the crazy goat family. We’ve now had three different locations for our vegetable garden and may have finally settled on a successful patch where things actually grow. I think!
We have more chickens then you can poke a stick at, and I’ve lost count of the number of chook runs and flocks we have dotted around. Apparently we need a location for each group of birds of varying ages you see. There’s the newly hatched chicks under a heat lamp on one deck, the teenagers in a crow- and goshawk-proof run on one side of the house plus the main flock in the permanent run.
Just for good measure, there’s the thirteen keets, baby guinea fowl, under another heat lamp on another deck.
And then there’s the rainbow family, as I’ve called them, down in a temporary run in the smallest of the three paddocks. They’re a funny bunch. There’s two hens, who happened to go broody at the same time, co-parenting six ducklings and one chick.
They’re a sight to behold!
The chick is logical enough (we have a rooster at the farm) but the ducklings are a happy and lucky surprise. You see a few weeks back we started preparing a new fence for a goat paddock. It required cutting a swath through the thigh high grass in the paddock, and as we were doing so, we startled a wild duck. As it turns out, she was nesting in said grass and I didn’t realise that I’d slashed right over the top of her nest until I came back on the second run. There sitting in front of me was a perfectly undisturbed clutch of duck eggs, still warm. We knew the duck was long gone, and would have had no chance of protecting them even if she returned so we did the best thing we could – put the eggs under one of the chooks. Low and behold a few weeks later, these beautiful little ducklings appeared! We’re not entirely sure what we’ll do with them, but it is funny to watch the innate differences between the chick and the ducklings – and yet for all the differences, the little feathered rainbow family seem to be doing just fine!
The work on the farm is never ending. Something always needs repair, replacement, shifting, hauling, tinkering or shovelling. There is a baseline of jobs required on any farm, regardless of size, and we are forever reassessing priorities. A new shed for the various bits and bobs, or shell out on a fencing contractor to goat-proof the perimeter fencing? Actually, there’s no choice there – finding an available and affordable fencing contractor is nigh on impossible, so looks like we’re doing that job ourselves!
But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Having grown up on a farm, and then spending much of my adulthood in the city, I’m glad to have come full circle. Even if it means my conversations are now dominated by the weather! It means I have an understanding of what each of the producers we work with manages on a day-to-day basis to do what they do. It makes me appreciate them even more.
They are real people, making and growing food at real farms.
I’ll report back on the ducklings! And on the goats, who we hope are now pregnant!