During the first week of September, many people around the world celebrated “Semana del Tirano,” the week-long birthweek festival in honor of the beautiful, revered and very tiny benevolent tyrant, Susan von Frank (aka bitTyrant, the namesake of Tyrant Farms). Susan let me know during the months leading up to her festival that she “had very big plans” for me. She loves milking every drop of indulgence out of her birthweek that she can, and I admittedly derive a great deal of pleasure from pampering her. So, in gardening terms, this is more of a symbiotic rather than a parasitic courtship ritual.
Our birthday and holiday gifts to each other tend to be a shared experience (like a trip) or co-creating something that we need and will use for a long time (like a new fruit tree in the garden).
This year, we had a few big things we wanted to get done and Susan’s birthweek proved a worthy deadline to shoot for (as we all know, if it weren’t for deadlines and “last minutes” 99% of everything would never have been done):
- Tyrant Farms, the Blog - First on the list was this website er blog thing. It’s now live (woohoo!) a bit belatedly, and we’ll continue to develop it into what we hope will be an extremely valuable resource for anyone who is interested in learning more about growing and eating great food (or knowing where their food came from). It’s going to be a fun journey and we want you to grow along with us while learning from our many trials and errors.
- Duck House - Second on our to-do list was constructing a duck house. Not just any duck house mind you… but a duck house worthy of the Tyrant and her birthweek. The duck house feature of Semana del Tirano is the subject of this blog post.
The Quacker Box: The Tyrant Farms Duck House / Duck Tractor
The quaker box started off a few months back as a two story monstrosity that was supposed to house our new kittens on the top level and our yet-to-be-acquired egg laying ducks on the bottom level. *In case you don’t know, many breeds of ducks lay large, delicious eggs as prolifically as chickens and they don’t scratch up your yard… although they are quite messy and will turn their space into a giant mud puddle if you let them. We plan to keep our ducks on lots of mulch that is changed out often and put into our compost.
First, we had to get lumber. We had a bunch of scrap wood from palettes and our neighbor’s old swing set, but we needed a bunch more to construct the beast, which we had perfectly rendered in CAD. The picture of our car below pretty much sums up the absurdity of our Phase 1 operations.
We started construction early on a Saturday morning and after nearly two full days, a lot of bickering, re-CADing, and even more wine, we had constructed the shell of the beast. It was so heavy that we could barely lift it, but we eventually managed to get it in place between two lettuce beds next to our house in the back yard. It was just after this moment that we removed the sawdust on the chop saw that our dear friend Ken Flournoy at Ken’s Plumbing let us borrow, only to notice that it was set a few degrees off from 90. Yes, ladies and gents, this means that we’d created our very own Leaning Duck Tower of Pisa in our back yard. We finished off the night with a spattering of profanity and a few more glasses of wine.
The phase 1 duck house stayed there, untouched, for the next 6 weeks while we tried to ignore it. As Semana del Tirano approached, a new motivating wind blew into our sails, and Phase 2 duck house planning began. Our morale was further boosted when we looked out the window during a bad rainstorm and noticed that the white clematis flowers on our fence were blooming in the shape of a duck. Quackleus, God of Ducks, was clearly giving us a sign of approval.
No two story, leaning, monstrosity would be built this time. We’d keep things simple: a very basic 3-walled structure, a simple shed roof and a run. Yeah. Simple and easy.
We deconstructed the Phase 1 beast, and hauled its skeleton into our garage to make sure the wood would stay dry throughout construction. For a few nights in a row, we’d finish bitTyrant client work (our day jobs), eat dinner, then head to the garage until 2-3am to work on Phase 2 construction. After a lot of bickering, pad sketching, and (of course) wine drinking, the Quaker Box emerged just in time for the conclusion of Susan’s birthday festivities. Somehow, between concept and completion, the Quacker Box received a considerable design/build upgrade package.
The Tyrant joyfully approved of the final craftsman style Quacker Box (pictures below and detailed plans for download coming soonish), which also features wheels for moving around the yard, a green roof (we’ve planted strawberries, lettuce and herb seeds), an attached wired duck run, and a spunky flower box. Next step, we have to get some egg laying ducks. We’re now bickering about whether we should source our ducks from Carolina WaterFowl Rescue, the mysterious “duck lady of Inman,” or Holderread Waterfowl Farm & Preservation Center, but we’re open to other suggestions that you might have? Our only qualifications are: (1) that they have to be mature ducks; (2) they have to be breeds known for being excellent foragers; (3) they have to be breeds that aren’t skittish; (4) and they have to be on the larger size when mature (4.5-6lbs+) and excellent egg layers.
click the picture above to open a larger version of the image
updated on 4/9/15 to include a basic footprint and a sketch. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone else wanting to build their own Quacker Box.
click the image to view a printable pdf (opens in a new window)
Sketch of the house
Where we have it located at Tyrant Farms