Thursday, January 27, 2011

Make Way For Ducklings!

Your never know what's going on in your neighbors backyard. But, I have to say that I wasn't surprised when David, neighbor and fellow urban farmer decided to take on a new venture. Yes, down the street at Care-A-Lot Farm, there's lots of quacking going on. Take a look at these adorable little ducklings. 

It looks like they're deciding who's boss.

  Ramon, enjoying the ducklings.
I asked David to let us in on the why and the wherefore of duck raising. He was kind enough to be candid and honest about his experience thus far. I have to say that David has had years of experience working on organic farms and raising animals for meat, eggs and pleasure. All of the animals at his farm are treated with lots of care and respet,  just like the name implies. If you are interested in taking a closer look at his ducks, Care-A-Lot Farm will be one of the featured farms at the Spring Edible Garden Tour in April or early May

 Here's what David had to say, " So, why ducks? Why not? Back in November, we decided to venture into the art of duck rearing, mostly because I like variety but, also because they supposedly can lay the same number of eggs as a chicken. As an added benefit, ducks are much better at eating insects (primarily flies) and grasses. We placed our order for twelve ducks (3 males, 9 females), and one December day, they arrived (13 of them) via mail. After some research, we picked the best top three laying varieties. Peking, Indian Runner and Khaki Campbell ducklings. The ducks are growing very fast. You feed them the same food that you would a chick/chicken and within three weeks, they no longer need protection from the elements. Ducks LOVE water. I thought it was an overstatement when people told me, but given the choice between breathing and swimming, I am convinced they would swim. At six weeks, we integrated them with my chickens, there were no issues. I was worried that the ducks would be at the bottom of the totem pole and perhaps starve, but I was wrong. They can eat ten times faster than the chickens ... so now I must be careful that they don't eat all of the food. My ducks should start laying eggs at about six months, similar to chickens. They stick together and go EVERYWHERE together. I didn't think ducks were supposed to be loud, but if they don't get their food in the morning, they QUACK and QUACK! Luckily, food shuts them up. It's too early to say whether or not I am glad I got ducks. They are definitely adorable and add dimension to the farm. Will they lay the same number of eggs as a chicken? Can I convince the public that duck eggs are just as tasty as chicken eggs? Will my neighbors complain? Well, I guess I will have to wait and see ... "


A few weeks later. . . my how they've grown!

DUCK EGGS. Coming to a neighborhood near you!

 More on raising ducks

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Born in Arabia, Bred in Arcadia

One of the first groves ever planted in the Arcadia area was the Black Sphinx date palm in or around 1917. The pups were brought from Arabia and planted just South of Lafayette between 46th and 47th Place. The grove still stands today with 400+ trees. In 1954 the area was subdivided and houses were carefully built amongst the trees to minimize tree removal. Neighbors who live here liken the area to a rain-forest canopy.
Several years ago, with guidance from a long-time “datilero”, Harry Polk, I started harvesting the dates from the trees in my yard as well as those of my next-door neighbors. If you would like stop by my house at 4641 E. Calle Redonda (602-840-0622), I have dates available for $7 per 1-pound box.
The plump moist fruit, almost jet black in color, has a delicate flavor and creamy texture. They are delicious right out of the box, or stuffed with blue cheese, goat cheese, chocolates or nuts; they are also wonderful in salads or as a glaze for chicken.
One of my favorite recipes is for Moroccan Chicken and Date Tangine from

Pollination Time

Bagging Time

Delicious Black Sphinx Dates

Monday, January 3, 2011

January is here and it's not a time for slackers. It's time to prepare for Spring! January is the month to prune, plant, and dig holes. This is the time to think about expanding your garden. But, don't think too long. The dormant bare-root trees need to be planted before the roots dry out and the warm sun stimulates the buds to leaf out.

Here's the list for the month
  • Plant deciduous fruit trees. If you are planting bare-root trees, get them in the ground as soon as possible. Don't let the roots dry out. Take the tree out of the bag and set it in a barrel of water with a little vitamin B. Let it soak overnight. Have your holes pre-dug and soil mixture ready. Here is a list of fruit and nut trees for the low desert. Many nurseries have potted fruit trees available. You can plant these any time in the next few weeks.
  • Start taste testing citrus fruits for sweetness. Navel, sweet oranges, mandarins and tangelos are close to harvest time.
  • Continue to sow seeds or transplants of cool-season vegetables for a continuous supply of salad greens and root vegetables until warm weather arrives.
  • Time to plant bare-root roses. Find a location where roses have filtered afternoon shade. Valley nurseries have hundreds of roses available. Rose societies will be offering how-to clinics for pruning and planting. Take advantage of the expert knowledge of the valley rosarians. Check out the Maricopa County Extension's rose publication for more information.
  • Prune established roses to encourage optimum blooming in April. Cut all canes back to approximately one half. Cut canes back to an outward facing bud. Remove dead canes. Remove old or weak canes. Strip off all leaves and dispose of them. Seal all cuts with Elmer's glue to seal new cuts. Don't be afraid. Practice makes perfect.
  • Sow seeds of tomatoes, peppers eggplants and basil indoors in time to transplant in the garden in late February to early March.
  • Continue to watch for freezing temperatures and protect frost-tender plants. The last average frost date is around February 15th.
  • Watch for gray aphids on tender new growth and hose off regularly with a forceful spray of water. Also, looper-worms like to eat cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Check under leaves and near the base and pick off worms.
  • This is a great time to add color and texture to your garden. Plant cool weather annuals between your vegetables. Calendulas, johnny-jump-ups, pansy, petunias, snapdragons and stocks will continue to bloom until spring. Cool-season herbs include, dill, parsley, cilantro and thyme.
  • Prune deciduous fruit trees by the end of January or before flowering starts.
  • If you are an adventurous gardener, plant asparagus now.

Have a great new year, and enjoy spring gardening in the desert!