Here is Wendy’s story:

One of the basic principles of permaculture is, ‘not to make unnecessary work for ourselves’. This means setting up simple systems that work together to achieve one or more objectives. The other aspect of this philosophy is ‘to start where you are, use what you’ve got and do what you can’. With this in mind, I set out to renovate our Chicken District to accommodate some new ducks. Already this area had several gates leading to fenced-off places that were part of my vegetable growing zones.

What I needed to do first was to set up a pond for the ducks. Ducks are notorious for fouling water, but the fouled water is precious for feeding the garden (especially hungry plants like bananas) therefore it was important to set up the pond so the dirty water could be easily drained into the garden for the plants.

The ducks also needed grain to eat. The grains they like best are easily grown throughout the year in our climate. The question with growing grain on a small scale for poultry food is where to source the seed. The answer is in the pet section, specifically, the bird seed shelf of your local supermarket. Check the label on packets of bird seed and you will see they contain a nice selection of wheat, barley, sorghum, millet and dried peas. These all grow happily together as long as they have regular water. The sorghum can grow to almost two metres in height, so once it is mature it provides shade as well as food for both chickens and ducks. The growing area must be fenced off until the plants reach maturity, approximately ten weeks, then both chickens and ducks can wander through, munching at their leisure and only small amounts of supplementary feed is required. One cost effective supplement is sprouted grains. These make the dry grain go much further and provide greater nutrition.

So, a plan was hatched and Julia Dremkow, together with her partner Marcus Hundt, came to stay with me in late August 2020 as part of the HelpX program. They wrote the following account of their mission to set up “The Duck District”.

Here is Marcus and Julia’s story.

We stayed at Wendy’s farm for two weeks with the exciting project to transform the old chicken and goat shelter into a new home for ducks, chickens and plants.

As a first step we needed to remove all fences, wire mesh and poles to prepare a clean area. We lopped some Moringa trees to allow for shady re-growth.

A section was separated from the main animal area to grow grain and we used the old fences to prevent any inquisitive chicken or duck jumping over and indulging in fresh greens. For the door we used old fish-farm panels and bamboo. We prepared the grain field (2 x 4 metres) with both solid and liquid manure and lots of water, placed seed of wheat, safflower, corn, sorghum and okra in eight rows and watered again. The two sprinklers would hopefully bring it all to life. A second area for planting was separated using old fences again. Wendy will grow bananas, chilli and dragon-fruit here. Some rotten fish were dug into the soil for extra nutrition.

But the two main features were yet to be built: The duck pond and nesting boxes. For the nesting boxes we used two old tanks and placed them under the goat shelter. Lots of bamboo created snuggly and shady protection. The pond we elevated on a plastic pallet to allow the outflow of used water to the banana plantation. We used lots of wood and dirt to stabilise the pond and to create an ecosystem of rotten material and insects for the ducks to feed on. Once we had finished everything, we layered the ground with mulched leaves to protect the soil.

After three days of watering, we could see the first green tips and within a week the eight rows were in full growth. We really hope the ducks and chicken enjoy their new paradise. We had fun creating it and being part of the change.

For further inspiration check out Wendy Albert’s Facebook page or her website www.winjanawellness.com.au