Is it spring?

We’ve had some warmer weather the last couple of days, the frogs are making a lot of noise and the grass is starting to grow.  This afternoon I checked on the beehives, and all three hives had bees coming in and out, enjoying some sunshine.  Then this evening when I went out after dark to pick some kale for dinner…. the garden is full of… slugs!  And cutworms and even a few earwigs.  So I did the first slug pick of the year, into a jar to dispose of by duck in the morning.  Not many huge brown slugs, it was mostly the striped ones that don’t get as big, but they were full size, many an inch and some two-inchers. The cutworms were fat and healthy looking.  In Portland the cutworms were a problem, but I saw more cutworms tonight than I’ve seen in the last decade.  But it really seems to early to have to deal with this, it’s January.

For dinner: meatballs made of lamb heart, cooked with onions and garlic and kale and served over spaghetti squash.  That’s the last of our “offal” from the sheep butchering, we ate liver and kidneys over the weekend, I think I’ve figured out how to cook these parts so they are pleasant in texture and flavor. The squashes are starting to go, at least the large ones have some spots, so we have to cut out bits before cooking.  The delicatas in the garage seem to keep better, maybe it’s too cold in the “root cellar”  The onions are keeping well, but the garlic is getting dry, and the kale is at an awkward stage (as well having to inspect for slugs).  The onion and lettuce starts are spending their first night in the greenhouse tonight.  It does seem to be rolling along for spring.

More on ducks and slugs

What a year it has been for slugs! Wow, they are big and everywhere. Not just us, either, almost everyone I’ve talked to says this is one of the worst years. I even lost a tomato plant to slugs – this was shocking; I didn’t even know that would be a problem, earwigs never bother tomato plants. And tiny slugs were eating off the onions and corn seedlings, too (as well as everything else).

But there is a solution. Our ducks are 6 weeks old now. From day 1 (well, day 3) they have been eating slugs – I have to pick them off the plants for them, but they do the hard part. Even tiny little ducklings a few days old will tackle any size slug, although I worried a lot about choking when they were smaller. They can eat an awful lot of slugs and are always ready for more. I can’t wait until they can start harvesting their own.

It would have been a very discouraging spring without the ducks… at least there is some up-side to the slug invasion. Picking slugs has some advantages over earwigs… low-tech, no vacuum needed; slugs don’t run very fast; and they often come out before dark.

Other than that, we are up to 4 sheep, who are not keeping up with the grass at all; chickens are laying, meat chickens ready to go to the butcher; the garden is in and growing, and the slugs are really not too much trouble any more. Things really are beautiful and bounteous here!


Ancona ducks, from Boondockers farm, south of Eugene. From the left; Duckie, Bill, Donald, Cenk, Ping, and Ryan, and the 7th, Quacky, is not apparently in the photo. (unless I have mixed up Quacky and Ryan)