Bliss is an Old Homestead with a New Kitchen

The feeling of divine satisfaction settles into my bones as I sit here with my computer, writing from my new kitchen island. Cup of coffee in hand, homemade muffins in the oven, and a little music to keep me company. I can’t imagine a better morning. Oh, how I missed this. After a full year of a makeshift kitchen in an upstairs hallway with a single hot plate and microwave, I didn’t realize how much I needed something so simple to feel human again. It’s amazing what new cabinets and a little paint can do!


The new copper countertop on the kitchen island

Over the past year, I was pushed to the outer boundary of my capacity. I have never felt so destabilized and unsettled. It is in reflection on this past year that I realize the social and interactive importance of our personal and communal spaces. For me, a kitchen is not only an important outlet for my creative expression, but it’s a space where friends and family gather to share stories and provide the collective cheer that we all so desperately need.


The dark and dreaded hallway kitchen – it can finally be a hallway again

My nineteen year old cousin came to visit from Florida a couple of weeks ago. She was the first weekend house guest since we bought the farm and began restorations 2.5 years ago. It was a push to get everything done before she arrived, but the joy her visit brought to the house was exactly what we needed at just the right time. We spent time sharing recipes, cooking meals, telling stories about our kin folk, and just getting to know each other.

And isn’t that the beauty of these old homesteads? This has been a family home for at least 230 years. I intend to continue that tradition and provide a space that celebrates the joy of sharing good food, drink, and meaningful time with friends and loved ones. What an amazing gift that we live in a time and country where that’s even possible.

It’s going to take some recovery time after a long year of stressful renovations, but I’m loving this place more and more each day. And I’m starting to feel like my self again. It may not be all butterflies and sunshine around here, but it’s a hell of a lot better than another year cooking on a hot plate!


The driveway is on fire with blooming tiger lilies 


In other news, the baby ducks have hatched! Although we lost a couple to a six-foot black snake that crept its way into the brooder pen (that’s another story), we have two cute little ducklings running around. Their favorite thing to do, besides playing in the water bowl, is to perch on mom’s back while she squeaks at the guineas running by.

Although I wish that we’d had a higher hatch rate, I learned so much going through this first cycle and look forward to another round next year. But for now, I’m looking forward to a renovation break and time to enjoy everything that has been hatching over the past year – feathered and otherwise!

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The Birds and the Bees

I can’t believe that two months has flown by without a new entry. I guess that’s what happens when you’re having fun… or at least terribly distracted by a million other things. Spring has definitely arrived complete with rain storms, weeds, flowers, bee swarms, baby birds, and lots of chores.


The last time I shared news, we had just lost three of our four muscovy ducks. One day since, I trekked through the woods and found the fox den marked by an abundance of white duck feathers. I think the evidence speaks for itself.

Minnie, the only survivor, was definitely not herself after. She moped around, barely ate, and wasn’t very interactive… until I brought home Renard, another drake her age. Let’s just say, to keep this a family post, the fireworks started in the first thirty seconds! They have been fast friends ever since and she is now setting full-time on a clutch of 19 eggs.


Renard (above left) and Minnie (right) following along. 

Duck Eggs

It has been a fascinating process to watch as she carefully turns the eggs each day, feathers her nest, and has dutifully protected her prizes from those noisy guineas.

Duck Nest

And speaking of guineas, they too have been laying eggs, but seem to do so more haphazardly. I find the oddly shaped, small eggs in the strangest places including under the feeder, in the yard, and even on the ramp going into the house. It’s as if one of them was just walking along, felt the need to lay an egg, did so, and then just kept walking. Guineas are indeed a strange bird, but they lay a very delicious egg. In addition to their foraging, the proportion of less white and more yolk makes a very rich and creamy egg. The only challenge is cracking them as the shell is thick and hard, but the reward is worth it. PopSugar posted a convert’s experience with guinea eggs here. I did save about fifteen eggs to start incubating and currently have seven that are viable. If all goes well, they should be hatching this week.

All in all, this has been a good start to the season, and I’m thankful that we’ve had enough rain to keep things blooming and healthy. But after a week of rain, it’s time for some sunshine. Irises


Death Comes to the Farm

For those who have been following the flock, the four Muscovy ducks are just about seven months old. Just a month ago, I came home one evening to find one of the Muscovy duck sisters covered in blood and crying for help in the yard. The poor dear had been attacked by what I have since deduced to be a hawk. She let me pick her up and carry her into the house where she was treated to a warm shower, her wounds were dressed, and she slept on a tufted pillow for a full week while she healed.

Despite the inconvenience of having a duck in your bathtub (and the shock of forgetting she was in there when you got up in the middle of the night), it was a perfectly wonderful experience to nurse her back to health. It was evident that she agreed by her very engaged and warm change in behavior. At the end of the week, she went back to the duck house and everyone was happy to see her, especially the drake, who has since picked her out as his clear favorite. This was her pecking the camera at the end of the week:

Muscovy Duck

And yet, it wasn’t enough. Last night, three of the four ducks were killed by a predator. It’s hard to tell what did it, but I suspect a fox by the pattern. Despite thinking it will never actually happen to me, it’s the sort of thing you always suspect you’ll find at some point. You anticipate it almost every time you walk out to the yard. I just didn’t think it would be my drake and the two sisters. The drake was my favorite. He was affectionately named as a duckling by Karen as “Marguerite,” until we quickly realized that Marguerite was actually Marcus! Chris holds him:

Chris and Duck

As my friend T put it quite succinctly today, “it sucks!” And it does suck. But this is part of it. This is part of what we signed up for. It can’t be overlooked what a joy it is to raise and care for animals, whether as pets or for profit. In either case, there is a very definite connection to them and it’s hard to ignore the big picture of life’s ongoing cycle. We’ll just have to do a better job on the next time around. Minnie is the only one remaining. She seems pretty confused at this point, but hopefully with good weather coming and the promise of new ducklings, her spirits will lift along with ours.

Here’s to the daffodils that bloomed today. I think they knew that I needed it.


Duck, Duck, Guinea

Four weeks ago today, I arrived home with a poorly taped cardboard lawnmower box carrying 15 guineas and 4 Muscovy ducks from Gardienne Wings near Sumerduck, Virginia. Val was fantastic walking me through the research and purchase, but it was one of those moments similar to grocery shopping while hungry – you’re susceptible to every visual opportunity. And holding just one of them, in all its cuteness, completely disintegrates any ability you may have had to make rational decisions.

Muscovy Ducks
Clarence the Duck at one week old.

The guineas were in the plan all along as a last-ditch effort to rid the place of so many ticks. Having gone through the nightmare of lyme disease last year, I knew that something had to be done. Spraying the property wasn’t a solution that we were comfortable with – partly due to the bees and partly due to our close proximity to the wetlands and feeder streams of the Rappahannock River. Old wives tales tell stories of guineas eating their weight in ticks, relentlessly foraging in packs across several acres. The trick is homing them to their new location and putting up with their constant squawking!

And since the guineas would be the work animals, the ducks would come home as pets. So far, they are keeping the guineas in line and being the cute companions that I had hoped for. It won’t be too much longer before the double in size and really rule the roost!

Guineas & Ducks
Guineas at 8 weeks and Ducks at 5 weeks on their first days outside in the new run.