Cast and Crew: Masked Marvels

Douchebaggery Ranch is proud to have its very own superheroes. (And no, I’m not one of them- I’m just the pitiful Human who is trying to keep up with everyone else day after day.) Ladies and gentlemen and everyone else in between, allow me to present Daisy and Daisy, the muscovy ducks.

Named according to the DR tradition (which declares that animals I can’t tell apart get the same collective name), Daisy and Daisy share the title of Chief Asshole of the Coop with the rooster. They are mean to the chickens, and outright nasty to the three not-so-small chocolate muscovy ducklings I acquired earlier this summer (one of which is Donald, their prospective husband). The ducklings are just in the process of growing their primary wing feathers, and after finding them covered in blood from their savaged pinfeathers two mornings in a row, the poor buggers had to move in with the quail who reside in the other, sectioned-off half of the coop. Speaking of husbands, Daisy and Daisy have buried two. (Well, one died from severe bumblefoot that he had when he came, and the other disappeared. No suspects have been apprehended.) I rather hope that the third time is the charm, for Donald’s sake. (And my own. Self-propagation is considered a virtue on Douchebaggery Ranch, as my freezer stock mainly consists of the excess second generation males of various species.)

Daisy & Daisy at work


Then why, you might ask, are these douchebags dubbed the Masked Marvels? Let me tell you a story. My garden is in its 3rd season this year, and peas, beans and brassicas are just making their debut. The previous two crops were utterly decimated by slugs. My options were to put down slug bait (strychnine, a particularly awful toxin, various “safe” products that still come with toxicity warnings, or actually safe products that happen to be completely ineffective), set up beer traps (which require a lot of maintenance, and waste perfectly good beer) or find something that eats them. Enter the Daisies. I soon found out that along with the slugs, they cheerfully gobble up all sorts of insect vermin, including catching flies straight out of the air. Right now, the relevant equation is as follows: slugs + flies + food scraps = eggs + meat. How is this not a superpower?!
For the records, duck eggs taste “earthy” (ie. gross) when fried or scrambled, but they are AMAZING when used in baking. There’s some information out there about the fat content of the yolks and what have you, along with all sorts of stories about French chefs using duck eggs for baking, but all that aside, seriously, they make damn good waffles and absolutely divine coffee cakes in comparison to chicken or quail eggs. As for meat, that is a discovery I made last year, when I actually had a previous  flock of muscovies- one got mauled by a dog, one got ran over (conveniently on a sub-zero day) and two took off one day and never came back. The first two mentioned thus made their way into Freezerland, and were much appreciated on cold winter days in the form of soup and stew. Muscovy meat is nothing like the utility ducks (usually Pekins) I used to roast for Christmas. No fat-filled breast for the muscovy, much to my dismay. However, the meat is dark, and makes a much better substitute for beef than chicken. Duck and barley soup? Duck stroganoff? You name it.

These days Daisy is busy molting and the other Daisy seems to have stopped laying in moral support, so there are no duck eggs in the kitchen. However, two Donaldas are growing up along with Donald, and since they are directly related to the flock-husband-to-be, their fate is yet to be decided. As much as I hate to eat females, selling them is not the favorable option at this point, as most people prefer not to buy livestock just before the winter. It looks like, once again, douchebaggery will prevail. Such is life, and such is the world…

Donald, the prospective patriarch
Advertisements

Fauxlosophy Department presents: the Strawberry Conundrum

In most of the temperate world, strawberries are a sign of the summer’s coming, the heralds announcing the end of spring. Here in coastal Nova Scotia, our strawberries ripen in friggin’ July. Figures. I first discovered how ubiquitous the wild strawberries are two and a half years ago, within 24 hours of moving into my house. My front yard, now I know, is more strawberries than grass, as are the so-called lawns of all my neighbors.

Wild strawberries are bright red, tart and the size of my little fingernail. It takes a few thousand of these buggers to make anything worthwhile. This, you might argue, is a perfectly good reason to not bother with picking them. I disagree. Food, free food that grows without planting or watering or tending to (or pruning, or frost-wrapping, or trying to save from goats, or de-contaminating of aphids) is a gift from (enter deity of choice here). So it takes hours to pick it- hours of lounging in the grass on a summer’s day, while gleefully hunting for treasure under the leaves. Hmm. That does not qualify as Work in my books, whatever you say. That’s more like the best damn way to spend a summer day, and the berries are just the fringe benefit.

wild-strawberry(image courtesy of smartphotostock.com)

Now, here’s my question: why the hell does NOBODY ELSE pick wild strawberries around here? This year the berries were so abundant that I gathered an entire potful in one afternoon, which made 4 good-sized jars of delicious jam. I bet, if we did the math, we’d find there are hundreds of pounds of wild strawberries in the dinky town of Cow Bay alone, quietly decaying under the leaves where most of them are concealed. This is not just a waste, it’s outright disrespectful to the earth under your feet- especially if you consider that most folks are at the supermarket as we speak, buying methyl-bromide-sprayed California strawberries that have been shipped here in refrigerated trucks using oodles of oil.

Harumph. So that sums up the situation. And here are the parts I REALLY don’t understand:

  • How come nobody even NOTICES that under their toes lie strawberry fields? My neighbors have been around for years, and didn’t know their yard was covered in strawberries until I picked one beside our feet and held it up to them. (They responded with a non-committal “huh, how interesting” and continued to ignore their existence.)
  • People claim they have no time. Assuming this is true, and that they are not wasting 6 hours a day binge-watching the Game of Thrones, then why are they not setting their kids on the quest? The average three-year-old can recognize a strawberry, and a pair of sibling can scour a yard more efficiently than a pig that’s caught a scent of truffles. They’d have a ball at it, too- it’s a treasure hunt, remember? And if you want to add a little extra motivation, you can always mention strawberry shortcake.
  • In an age where the word “parenting” has become a gerund for reasons I can’t for the life of me understand, why has “berrying” fallen out of use??

The Oracle say: Do my cranky ass a favor today, and go pick something wild to eat. Then thank the earth for all the work you didn’t have to do, and be proud of yourself.

Department of Communications Presents: How to Love Like a Douchebag

Terms of endearment on Douchebaggery Ranch are somewhat different from what you might be used to. This is partially due to my Turkish upbringing, where calling a child “you little son of a donkey” is equivalent to “mama’s little angel”, and partially due to the sheer amount of assholery that is exchanged among the residents on a daily basis.

Common praises on DR include the following:
1) “Good morning buttheads!” (My standard greeting for the goats during Morning Rounds)
2) “Aren’t you my pretty little birdbrains?” (My show of admiration for the chickens, whom I am really quite proud of)
3) “Who’s my little shithead? Who’s my little piddlestick?” (Frequent exchange of affection with Oscar the cairn terrier, who responds with a furiously wagging tail)

You get the idea. The statements above are not meant to be insults, though a lot of outsiders get mortally offended, thinking I purposely belittle my fellow fur-and-feather companions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If it was possible to reword the same sentences into “normal world” language, they would roughly read:

1) “Good morning, playful creatures whom I like more than I’d like to admit!”
2) “Aren’t you good-looking, egg-laying, much-appreciated-despite-your-low-intelligence birds?”
3) “Who’s my little tailwaggy dog whom I can’t get mad at no matter how much trouble he gets into and how many times he pisses in the house, because I love him far too much?”

See? It doesn’t quite work the same way- far too much is lost in translation. Besides, mushy doesn’t fit into farm life, unless it’s the kind you step on.

It’s all about communication, after all, and I’m pretty sure the little asshats know exactly what I mean. Sometimes, words are what you make of them.

Cast and Crew: Purrmetic Order of the Golden Prawn

I was hoping to make this one an entry about the spring… You know, planting season, all the work that needs to be done, the hope, the anticipation, yada yada. Not gonna happen. In true Douchebaggery Ranch fashion, the first day of spring arrived with snow, freezing rain and general disgustingness. Not gonna talk about the effing spring, not until it actually decides to arrive.

Instead, allow me to introduce some of the DR residents. We are no democracy here, but everyone has a job to do and species-based unionization is allowed. The Purrmetic Order of the Golden Prawn thus consists of Lemon, Lasagna and Mouser, the DR pest control team.

Lasagna, also known as the Floofy One, is an orange bundle of fluff that has a cat in it somewhere. Acquired as a bottle baby from the local kitten rescue, she thinks her mother is a human. Perhaps as a result of this, I can count her brain cells on the fingers of one hand, and she has no survival instinct to speak of. She walks up to any and every creature (including my father the cat-hater and a quasi-rabid neighborhood dog that was barking insanely on the end of its leash while actively trying to eat her) and asks for affection. She is best buddies with my next door neighbor’s six-year-old daughter, who can be seen following Lasagna in the bushes, on all-fours and meowing loudly. And wonder of wonders, Lasagna can actually mouse. I even saw her eat a mole once, it made my eyes water with pride.

image
Lasagna and Lemon in their preferred lazing spot

Lemon, who may well be the most intelligent creature in the household, is my familiar. She owns me, every inch of my human ass, and heaven help anyone who thinks otherwise. I got suckered into adopting her two weeks before I was scheduled to move across the country, when she was an eight-week-old kitten slightly smaller than the guinea pigs. She was being fostered at the vet clinic I was working at, along with her mother. Thanks to a birth defect in her back leg (that has a squiggly little femur between no knee or hip joints to speak of), she walked with a lurch that would put a zombie to shame. If she had been a male, I would have named him Igor. And though she runs and jumps on that leg now (don’t ask me how), she continues to be a lemon to this day, throwing a new health problem at me every couple of months, and perpetuating the local douchebaggery.

Mouser is the barn cat and the latest member of the Order, a reject of the local kitten rescue as too-feral-to-be-adopted. Fair enough. I didn’t even see the bugger for the first 3 months I had him. Every day the food bowl got empty, the litterbox got full, and if I shone a flashlight into the den he had built himself in the haystack I got a pair of glowing eyes and a hearty hiss. Giving him his final vaccine took two people, half a dozen towels and more scratches than I’ve acquired cumulatively in 6 years of working in vet clinics. (I should also add that Mouser is well endowed in the weapons department: as a true Nova Scotia Mitten Paw, he has 7+ toes –and claws- on each paw.) Then, one morning when I went to feed the goats, Mouser emerged from his den, started purring like a diesel engine and proceeded to rub himself all over my legs. He has been like that ever since. I suspect alien abduction or head trauma.

I’ll be honest, apart from the odd time I have watched Lasagna torment some poor rodent in the backyard, I’ve never seen the Order At Work. That being said, I have also never seen a single mouse in the house or the barn (which has more holes in its structure than a sieve) since I moved in, so it appears they at least work as deterrents. Thus I pronounce the cats to be Earning Their Keep. Good enough for me.

Douchebbaggery Ranch: Politically Incorrect Adventures In Homesteading

“Farm” is a four-letter word.

What most back-to-the-lander hippies lead you to believe is that farming is “hard work but oh so fulfilling, away from the rat race, so close to nature and wonderful” blah blah blah, but that’s only the part of the story that passes censorship. Really, homesteading is a pain in the ass. Animals are douchebags, plants can frustrate you to the point of screaming without so much as moving and breathing, and Mother Nature is a prick. Still, some of us are masochistic enough to love and thrive on the chaos, the endless disasters and the immense amount of shit stuck to the bottom of our shoes. As circus folk put it when they are asked why they chose the crazy life they lead, it’s a disease.

The story of Douchebaggery Ranch begins 3 years ago, when I finally quit a decade of school-and-job-driven vagabonding and decided to settle in Nova Scotia. I bought an old trailer that came with ¾ acres of severely neglected land, and figured it was time to put this homesteading dream of mine into action. I proceeded to build a chicken coop out of an ancient swing set frame and scrap wood I found in my backyard (I should add that my carpentry skills at that point were limited to my teenage years of hammering nails into my bedroom walls in order to cover them with jigsaw puzzles, Star Wars posters and photos of my now-dead celebrity crush), bought 8 chicks and resurrected the small garden patch (so overrun with weeds and grass that the only reason I knew there was a garden patch there was the presence of actual soft soil instead of the usual Nova Scotian field of rocks).

3 years and half a midlife crisis later, I am able to officially call the place a small farm, and myself a nearly-full-time homesteader. And who am I? I’m a small person. I’m an immigrant. I’m a woman flying solo. I’m a recovering professional, working numerous part-time jobs that don’t add up to one full-time job, trying fervently to leave the profession that I invested half my life into (and that is now destroying my health and sanity), and wondering what I want to be when I grow up. I also have a habit of saying things as they are, so this is not going to be a G rated blog, as you’ve probably figured out by now.

This is the story of me shaking my fist at inanimate objects, inventing new cuss words and laughing at the crazy ass life I have somehow landed myself in. There’s quite a bit of bitching and moaning, just as much MacGyvering, and occasionally philosophizing. The truth is, I find myself too often standing and shaking my head, thinking, “Man, this is such an awesomely ridiculous moment, why is nobody else here to experience it?”. It’s my attempt at sharing those. Take it as you will.