The Markstay Report

We have had some pretty sketchy internet service lately, so apologies for the delay in posting anything. Here is the post originally intended to be posted on Wednesday, 02 June.


Hunter and I lay on the bedsheet she had dragged outside. She brought it and half a dozen pillows out, along with a change of pyjamas (just in case it rained) so that we could watch – wait for it – the bats fly out of our house. As we lay there, I thought to myself that I hadn’t posted an update for a while. Here is what you’ve missed, if you haven’t been around our place lately.

We spent all last weekend putting in our garden. I had already tilled it a few weeks ago, which did an excellent job of driving the weeds deeper into the soil so that when it came time to weed the thing, most of the weeds were long, white stems connected to a horizontal root. The grass rhizomes were ridiculously long but they were the easiest to pull out so that was not too bad. The plantain on the other hand, that historically important rope-making plant, was another matter entirely. I had not only chopped them up when tilling, I had driven all the tiny pieces underground so that they could sprout vegetatively into an embedded mat of sinewy roots. Even the dandelions were easier to pull than the plantain. If the plantain had just grown in proper rows, I probably would have left it for salad greens.

Jenn emptied the chicken coop of its shavings and spread them between the rows, partly as a means to control some of the weeds and partly to give bulk and nutrients to next year’s garden. I spent a good deal of time shoveling and spreading aged goat manure on the rows themselves to give nutrients to this year’s crop. If you are at all familiar with that modeling clay DAS Pronto, then you will know what we have to plant in. We need all the help we can get. This year, we have planted corn (which did well last year), a row of sunflowers, lots of tomatoes, cauliflower, cucumbers, broccoli (for Jenn), sugar snap peas, two varieties of bush beans and one climber, two seed packs of carrots, onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers and some herbs. All of this came in under $80 which is more than we ought to have paid, but we had to buy our tomato plants, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and cukes already started because we didn’t start our own this year. Last year’s living room jungle was just a bit crazy and I haven’t built the greenhouse I’m supposed to build yet.

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The raised garden bed, full of peppers, basil and cilantro

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Part of the garden: romaine lettuce in the foreground, tomatoes in the middle ground and the chicken coop (left) and the goat barn (right) in the back ground.

Jenn also found time to make a bunch of flower pots, so our yard actually looks rather pleasant right now. I’ve even cut the grass. And that is another thing.

I have cut the grass more since we brought the goats here than ever before. It turns out that they are not really good grazers, preferring instead to eat the twigs off the apple trees, but they are incredible fertilizers. Never has our lawn been so green or lush. I’ve got the mower set as low as all the buried rocks will let me in the hopes that I cut it short and burn it, but it keeps coming back, no doubt maximizing the nutrients left behind by the goats. If you want your lawn kept cut short, don’t get a goat.

Jenn brought home five Indian Runner ducklings last week. I think she was hoping to find some at the auction, but we didn’t stay long enough to find out if there were any. So she went and bought some and brought them home under the guise of having ducklings for Hunter. We put them in the old turkey shed, which was a perfect location for them, as long as the door stayed shut. One night, the door was not shut and early in the morning I heard the frantic peeping of the ducks. When I went out to the shed, I found the partial bodies of four of them. The fifth one was missing. I went inside and told Jenn the bad news and, because Jenn had to go to work, I also got to tell Hunter. Hunter is a pretty stoic kid when it comes to animals dying. Afterall, she’s seen her share of animals either go off for slaughter or get buried in our field. But, when I told her about the ducklings she was extremely upset and it wasn’t until after she had stopped crying that I found out why. If you want your heart to break, watch your six year old tell you that the ducklings died because of her inaction. She told me, through new tears, that she had gone in to check the ducklings food and water and when she came out, she couldn’t find the pin we used to keep the door shut so she propped it shut with a stick instead of telling us. Anyway, it wasn’t long after this that we heard some feeble peeping in the bush behind our house. I went out to look for the lone duckling and couldn’t find it because as soon as I’d get near, it would clam up and if you’ve ever tried to find an animal that doesn’t want to be found in fairly thick undercover you know it’s no small task. I went in the house to get Hunter ready for school. We heard the peeping again and Hunter looked out the window to see the duckling in the grass beside the house. We went outside to catch it, which involved a fishing net and the wiles of a six year old. Safely back in a more secure environment, the little duckling ate, drank and fell asleep. That night I put out my traps to catch the predator. That was last night. This morning, I went out to see what, if anything, I had managed to catch and sure enough, there was a raccoon in the trap. The trap is now set again tonight in case there are any more thieving ‘coons out there.

Today I decided to take a sled dog and tie a rope to my waist so that we could go jogging together. It’s called canicross and is supposed to look like this: [photo credit here]

instead, I found that I have probably the only sled dog that will ‘heel’ when running.

And that’s what’s been going on around here.


11 Responses

  1. Oh poor Hunter! Want a few more ducklings for her and to keep your lone duckling company? I’ve so far hatched out 33, still have some eggs in the incubator plus my ducks in the coop have 3 and are still setting on eggs. If you’re coming down this way to pick up any chicks or to visit Jenn’s relatives in Lindsay you could stop by and get a few ducklings. They’re Rouens, look like Mallards but bigger and they can be pretty friendly. They can’t fly away so you don’t have to worry about loosing them (except to predators). They also flock up well for herding.

    Your garden is looking good. I just put mine in, all from seeds so nothing is up yet except the onions that went in a couple of weeks ago.

  2. I tried to read the whole story put I can’t get past the part where you say you cut the lawn.
    The garden looks great, hope to see you soon.

    Nice garden and you do keep busy but really……you cut whatttttt.
    take care and laugh

  4. Sounds like you cut the grass about as frequently as I do…my preferred method is to turn my horse out on the front lawn for a few days. If the goats aren’t doing it for you, you need sheep. Then your grass will get cut, and you will make Jenn and Gilligan both very happy. I’m sure Hunter wouldn’t mind either. (there I go enabling again…) 😀

    • We’ve talked about sheep and I am all for it. Mmmmm…lamb. The problem, however, is that they contribute substantially to the health of the lawn. My preferred method doesn’t involve any livestock at all: I just set the mower down as low as it will go and scalp the grass so that it will burn. Problem solved. Or, as Pa Kettle and Mary Lou have said, I simply don’t cut it at all. I broke down this time because we were losing our kid out there.

      • If you put enough sheep out on the lawn they will scalp it down too plus you’ll have lamb. Doesn’t matter if they fertilize at the same time, sheep are known for overgrazing pastures so they’ll keep it down…all you need to do is make sure you put enough of them out.

        Your preferred method involves pushing a mower (unless you have a riding mower?)…not my idea of fun in the heat so I just don’t cut grass, except with my riding mower…the one with 4 legs 😉

      • It is a push mower. But on the bright side, you should see the beer-holder I taped to the handle.

  5. Great looking gardens – I like the raised beds! If you want to borrow a dog that’s guaranteed NOT to heel, I can send Murphy over. He couldn’ve helped with the garden too – he digs great holes and pulls out all the roots.

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