Big plans are a foot for the duck enclosure. But first we have to do lots and lots of digging. And then figure out what to do with the excess soil.
Our duck enclosure has and always will be a work in progress. We learned a lot from the previous enclosure we made, where we lived before our new home, where we were introduced to ducks (and where Maggie joined our lives).
The three biggest learnt factors ~ High walls of chicken wire give a sense of openness, since they appear almost invisible, while of course also keeping the ducks enclosed and safe (most of the time) from predators. Lots of trees and/or bushes for shade in the summer are needed, as well being good places to hide and nest when the mood strikes. And, lastly but not leastly, a pond or three, that are easily (re)movable and therefore cleanable. A very definite must as ducks need water, but are also incredibly messy creatures.
Our new duck enclosure is large. Really large. This is their home for much of the day, so we wanted it to be as much like living outdoors as possible, but yet still protected. And also, the idea is that if we wished to go away for a weekend, we can close them in there and go. It hasn’t happened yet, but it is possible. And one day we might do it.
For its location, we chose a corner of the garden that has two stone walls, at right angles, and lots of trees. As our restoration garden hadn’t been touched in over 30 years, maybe longer, when we moved in it was seriously overgrown. Most of the trees were entangled with ivy, some had died or were dying. It took weeks just to cut back the undergrowth and months to cut away the creepers. And now each winter we are pruning the trees to create shapes and spaces that suit the enclosure, as well as making the trees happy and healthy. Sort of a bonsai on a large scale thing.
Over the top of the enclosure is bird netting. It keeps the larger, predator birds out. Whilst the little wee birds can get through the large mesh of the chicken wire. It took only a few weeks for the local big birds to understand they were excluded, and the smaller birds to realise there was lots of free food. Smart creatures.
It has always been the intent to have the duck enclosure be a multi-functional space. Yes, a space for ducks (and eventually chickens), but also a sort of hidden garden. A place to sit, relax, read or enjoy a glass of wine.
With this in mind, there are plans, zones even. Fruit trees being planted around the outside, and eventually espaliered along and through the chicken wire. This will strengthen the wire, keep it in place, give additional shade to the interior of the enclosure, and also give us bounty. Win, win. A herb and lavender garden in between the fruit trees, on both sides of the fence, to awash the space in scent, as well as provide culinary flavourings. You’re getting the impression of long term plans now, hmmm?
So let us consider the interior. Start by imagining a large rectangle, with you at a short end. To the left, we have two rows of trees, creating a corridor along the side stone wall. These trees keep the worst of the weather away with their canopy, from the freezing cold to the high heat of summer. It’s a favourite area for duck napping.
The centre section is platform like, with curved branches over head. A perfect place for chairs and my favourite spot for reading, writing or simply duck watching. And then there is the section between the centre and the chicken wire wall. I have been sitting and staring at this section over the past few weeks, contemplating it. What to do, what to do?
This corner of the garden, where the duck enclosure sits, at some stage was used for making or doing… something. We have no idea what, but something. A little digging unearthed a cement bowl buried in the ground. It’s now the favourite duck pond as the sides slope perfectly for wading in and out. A little more digging and a small platform near the wall was unearthed. I can just picture a little set of French table and chairs here to enjoy an evening glass of wine whilst looking proudly over the veg garden below. And yet more digging and a low wall has been unearthed. It runs parallel to the chicken wire wall, a little over a meter (yard) away, giving a nice edge to the centre platform.
Then last week, with the onset of some gorgeously warm weather, I went digging mad in the duck enclosure. It started because with the warming of the soil the worms were starting to rise again. And as I love happy duck sounds, the shovel came out, soil was turned over and with many little feathered gardening helpers, worms were pulled out and eaten.
Did you know you can find worms more readily in soil near or under stones? This prompted me digging out the edge of platform wall. I was curious to see how far down it went (or how high it was, depending on your point of view). And in the digging, and sitting and contemplating, I have come up with a solution for the very sunny section between the platform and chicken wire wall. A trellised bean garden.
By building a walk through trellis along the chicken wire wall, it will strengthen the posts of the wall. And as this is now the weakest section of the enclosure (I think), it is something I am wholeheartedly in favour of. We add on to this by growing something up these trellises, we create shade in a too sunny spot come the height of summer. Which leads me to beans. (Are you still with me?)
Beans are one of our all time favourite veg. And when home grown there is nothing to beat their freshness and flavour. The difficulty in growing them in our veg garden is they then shade the other plants, which is both good and bad. But also, I don’t, I discovered this year, have a trellis support high enough for them to grow up there. So, there was a light bulb moment. Space going spare in duck enclosure, place needed for climbing beans, add in that the timing is perfect in that the beans growing season brings them into fruition when we most need the shade in the enclosure. And the pièce de résistance! I will have a more useful, not wasteful, place to throw the ‘dirty’ (read highly fertilised) duck pond water. Ta Da!
And this is what sitting, musing, in duck enclosures nets you. Multi faceted, solution driven ideas. And now, in consequence, I have much, much digging to do. The ducks have much worm hunting to do. And with more thought and consideration, we will figure out what to do with all the soil we are digging up and making into mounds all over the enclosure.
*** Having a hard time picturing the above? Duck enclosure photographs in order as they happened… (Hint: click on the first square, below the pictures, to begin at the beginning. Click on the photo to stop it in place for reading.)***