This past winter, once I started researching backyard poultry and making pro and con lists on whether to add ducks or the more common chickens to our suburban back yard (I chose ducks for some very specific reasons which I can go into in another post), my interests in developing a little interdependent back yard ecosystem expanded.
My husband and I did a very small test garden last year, after belonging to the local Audubon society’s CSA (community supported agriculture) for the past couple of years. Because I have to follow a very strict diet to aid in controlling some chronic medical conditions, certain vegetables are near daily staples for me. And as I prefer to go as chemical and pesticide free as possible, being CSA members has been an incredible help to keeping our monthly food budget during the summer and fall months at a reasonable level. But 2 seasons ago, the CSA stopped planting quite the huge amounts of certain veggies that my body really loves (like winter squashes, and summer squashes and zucchinis and cucumbers), so we did a test garden to see if we could grow those ourselves to supplement our CSA share. And our tests were a moderate success.
As the snow left earlier than normal this year, we were able to take down a line of evergreen shrubs on our property way earlier in the season than expected. Which gave a perfect area for setting up our new garden. But more on that in another post, this is more to over view my little yard ecosystem.
Ok so you know we have the ducks, and you know we have the dogs, and you now know we have a garden. So, so far we have the interconnections of:
- The ducks provide enrichment & entertainment for the dogs & the people.
- The ducks provide eggs (eventually) which the dogs & the people love
- The ducks make waste & fertilizer which the garden veggies love
- The garden provides veggies for the people, the dogs & the ducks
- The garden attracts bugs & slugs, which the ducks like to forage for & eat providing enrichment & food
- The ducks eat the bugs & slugs keeping the garden lower maintenance & happier (which equals happy people)
- The dogs provide exercise & enrichment for the ducks so no fat or bored ducks
Then because I really want happy & healthy critters in my life. And I don’t want bored or fat ducks, I have been doing research into the seemingly limited field of duck enrichment. Or if my ducks were wild what would their lives entail to show well adapted behaviors? Which led me to the ideas of cultivating duckweed and vermiculture (aka worm farming).
Duck weed supposedly thrives on semi-begin neglect. And ducks love it. It also apparently thrives on a medium that includes duck waste for fertilizer. Ok we now have yet another hopefully successful way to use duck manure for benefit. And apparently one can fairly easily grow it in buckets. So I am now cultivating some duckweed in a rubber maid bin. Using part of the daily duck waste water to feed the duckweed (the rest goes on the garden). Duckweed is apparently very high in protein, so in addition to being a good enrichment activity giving my ducks something fun to forage for, it can be added as part of keeping the duck food budget reasonable.
And then we have my worm bin. Or what I prefer to refer to my vermiculture as. It even has that written on the top of the bin in black marker, “Worm Bin. Please be nice to them!” So my worm bin is intended to meet a couple of our ecosystem needs. 1. the worms again can be eaten by our ducks providing protein and enrichment. 2. the worms provide lovely compost dirt & fertilizer for the garden & the duckweed (and for my african violets, which I now would refer to as a colony since oi they always seem to be increasing in number). 3. the worms can break down and eat any remaining veggies and duck waste that we can’t otherwise use more fully, including duckweed. 4. the worms will help keep my father happy as I told him he can have some once the colony is well established for his fishing hobby (which in turn, supplies some fresh fish to us which fish are a diet staple for me also).
So now our suburban ecosystem is for the time being complete. And looks like:
Hmm, funny how this diagram seems to show everything benefits the ducks. And people thought I was just The Dog Lady. So few know about my life long poultry adoration which now can come to fruition! (cue maniacal laughter, lol)