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Battling Nature–Flies

fly

We live outside of town, surrounded by open space, grasses, and animals. Our garden wall is shared with the neighbors, who happen to be bovine. We have horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, and dogs,  and an occasional pig, all of which poop. And the poop attracts the flies. In the months before the rainy season, there is a biblical plague number of flies. They are everywhere. We have screens on the windows, which for this area is eccentric, but necessary to keep out the swarms. But somehow they still get in. So I looked into methods of extermination.

First I tried Raid for Flies. Yep, it’s a real thing. Comes in a purple canister. I sprayed one day after I had left the garage door open and a gazillion flies peppered the ceiling. I sprayed the whole can and then stumbled outside, nearly unconscious. It did kill some of the flies, but I puked and puked and thought I was going to die as well. And when the air cleared, there were dead fly bodies and live fly bodies about. Not a victory there.

So then I asked what the locals do for the flies. The solution is to hang a clear plastic bag full of water at the entrance of the house. The theory being the approaching fly will see its own magnified reflection, think it is some sort of giant insect, scream and veer off. I see some flaws in this plan, the predominant one is that it doesn’t seem to keep the flies out of my house anyway.

When my mother-in-law moved her kitchen from in the house to an outside patio area, the fly problem was exponentially increased due to the lack of walls. So her solution was to buy pink pellet poison, put it on plates and set them around the kitchen, on tables and the floor. The way it works is the flies are attracted to the sweet poison, eat it and drop dead. As a testament to the effectiveness, little dead fly bodies littered the plate. Again, however, there was a flaw in the plan. No less than 3 of the household pets were also attracted to the pink sweet poison and died horrible deaths. I also thought it might be hard for my mother-in-law to win this battle with flies, as the kitchen was outside. For it to work effectively, she would have to exterminate all the flies in La Yacata. This seemed an impossible task and more than I was willing to take on. I only wanted flies to stay outside my house, not kill off the entire species.

So I asked around some more. Fly traps. That yellow sticky spiral tape stuff that you hang from the ceiling. Ok, this wasn’t venomous. I could try this safely. And each role is only 8 pesos. Within an hour, my house was fly free. I admit, it’s not pretty, dead and dying flies and their parts hanging in the kitchen. And if it is accidentally hung too low, a pain to get out of one’s hair. But it works. The simple way is usually the best.

Yet, there were still flies outside. Oodles of them. As I knew I wouldn’t win the battle against all the flies in La Yacata, being outnumbered, but I hoped to reduce the number in my immediate area. I thought about other enemies of flies. So what eats flies? Spiders. Ok. Giant spider webs constructed in the garden were left in peace. Lizards. Again, found easily throughout La Yacata, but not really subject to permanent residence in the backyard.

Birds. Now there’s something. Our chicken flock had been growing steadily, and I noticed that there were fewer flies where the chickens were. I looked around again. The piles of animal poop seem to be gathering places and breeding grounds of flies. So why don’t we let the spare roosters have an area to patrol? The white rooster gets the sheep pen. The black rooster gets the goat area. The two little red roosters get the horse stall and dog area. For good measure, the littlest rooster has free range in the garden. The roosters fatten up quite nicely, and just as importantly, fewer flies.

Then, when we got ducks, yippee. Ducks love to catch flies and are entertaining to watch to boot. They lie in wait, motionless for so long that you think there might be something wrong and then, all of a sudden–blam! A vertical leap and beak snap and one less fly in the yard. And they get their protein this way. You know what they say “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

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Mr. & Mrs. Muscovy

mr & mrs muscovy

Mr & Mrs. Muscovy

I had my heart set on getting some ducks for our mini-ranch. What I was hoping for were Muscovy ducks. Having done a little research, I found that these ducks were native to Mexico, therefore, did not require as much water as other types of ducks, roosted and behaved more like chickens and didn’t quack. But we couldn’t find any.

One day, we saw a sign that said ducks for sale (se venden patos) and went to investigate. An elderly, invalid couple, had some cages and ducks they were trying to sell. We came to an agreement on a pair of white ducks, and my husband went for the cage to bring them home. When he came back for them, the elderly wife asked my husband to help her bath her old wheel-chair bound husband. My husband assured her that as soon as he got the ducks home, he’d be back to help her. Needless to say, he didn’t return. Bathing the previous owner wasn’t part of the deal for the ducks.

I wasn’t too pleased with these ducks. They made a lot of noise and scandalized the chickens. But they were great toasted over an open flame with a beer, parsley, and butter sauce. Finger licken’ good!

3 little ducks

These little guys drove us quackers!

So then, we thought to try some baby ducks. We bought three small ones from a place in town. I was still hoping for those Muscovy ducks, but when we asked the attendant what types of ducks they were, he said, “duh, ducks.” which didn’t really answer the question. So sure enough, when they grew, they became duh, ducks. Of course, we had to make a small moat for them to swim in. My husband used an old tire as the mold, then cemented its sides for easy egress and exit. And when they ducks were big enough, we ate them, still unsure what sort of ducks they were.

Then, out of the blue, the cow-barn guy, our neighbor, had a pair of Muscovy ducks. I bullied my husband into getting the pair. Success at last! However, there were some problems. They are more aggressive than other types of ducks and take 35 days to hatch their eggs rather than 21, and they aren’t really cute. Both the male and female have red carbuncles that form a mask over their eyes. But a duck is a duck is a duck, right? The sound factor though was much improved. Mr. Muscovy hissed when disturbed, and Mrs. Muscovy sang, somewhat like a chicken after an egg is laid, soft and melodious.

The first year, Mrs. Muscovy, after several weeks of noisy 5 am copulation with Mr. Muscovy, presented us with 9 ducklings. They were as cute as can be, yellow and black downy ducklings. And they grew up fat and happy, chasing flies and eating other insects and grains. They wouldn’t leave the compound, even when we attempted to shoo them out for spring cleaning and made no other attempts at escape. One night, the rains converted our backyard into a pond, much to the ducklings’ delight. My son and I waded out in the middle of the night to rescue them as even the hardiest duckling will tire and drown after too much of a good time swimming about.

duckies

Mrs. Muscovy and her brood. Yes, the ducklings are kinda neon yellow fluff.

Soon enough we had 9 large ducks (11 with the Mr. & Mrs.), and my husband traded them all for 2 bridles for the horses. Overall a good deal, however, I was upset he didn’t save even one other breeder duck for Mr. Muscovy to start his harem.

Year two, presented 13 ducklings, however, the very first day out of the nest, Mrs. Muscovy accidentally stepped on the littlest one in all the hubbub and broke its neck. Two days later, one chick disappeared. And then another. We finally fingered the culprit, a large rat (about groundhog size) that had taken up residence under the wood pile. After a few days of moving the woodpile hither and yon, we finally convinced it to leave. We lost another duck to Snowy the dog and ate 2 or 3 ourselves. The rest we sold when Mrs. Muscovy hatched her new bevy of 14 ducklings, now 13.

Flavor-wise, the Muscovy ducks have a stronger flavor than other ducks we have eaten. My mom sent me a book about preparing wild game that has a few recipes I want to try and a few tricks to reduce the gamey taste. But as the ducklings are still pint-size, I expect that won’t be until after the rainy season at least.

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