Building the Duck House

I think our ducks are going through their awkward teenager times right now.

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They’re starting to lose their down and I even see a few pinfeathers coming in. (Sorry for the picture of duck poop, but you know, that’s part of this whole experience.) We took them out in the grass on Saturday, but it was a bit too cold here yesterday, so they stayed inside all day. Despite The Boy’s pleas, I’ve nixed playing with them inside; they’ve just gotten too stinky and ready to poop on the floor. When it’s warm out, though, they can head out for a very supervised run around the side yard.

I’m really ready for them to be out of the house, but it won’t be warm enough at night, even with a heat lamp, for at least another week. At that point, they’ll move into the shed for another couple of weeks while we (by we, I mean Peter) finish up the duck house.


The plan is for the duck house to mount on the side of the existing shed. It will include a nesting box, a ramp for them to get in/out of the box, a buried water trough with a spigot for cleaning and saving duck water for the garden, and a duck run that goes down under the nesting box and along the rock wall.

The Boy and his daddy dug the holes for the posts one evening this week. This child LOVES his shovel and digging holes. He’s obsessed with the duck house, or as he likes to say, “The Big, Giant, Little Duck House!”


Pete’s been finalizing the layout (with help from The Boy– all the help he can take, I imagine).

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The nesting box is framed and actually has a floor and maybe walls on two sides, and a couple of cattle panels are up. Those will get chicken wire on the inside, and the whole thing will get a lid for protecting the ducks from anything that can climb the fence or drop out of the sky. Eventually, I’ll paint all of it so it doesn’t look like an eyesore.

I’ve done a little research on landscaping around poultry houses, and I think I can make it both pretty and practical. The key is picking things that ducks can eat without getting sick, which also provide them some predator and sun protection. I plan to plant some black eyed Susan vines to climb up the trellis and give them some shade, some nasturtiums to do similarly, and maybe some sunflowers, as well. It’ll depend on my space and whether the north side of the pen gets enough sun.

I’m so ready to plant and dig it’s not even funny; I’ve been hoarding bulbs that go on sale at Aldi.


Generally, it’s not my style to buy the cheap bulbs at the grocery store, but they were there. I’m really excited about the peonies, which can be super expensive; they may not do well, but at about $1.69 per package, I figured I’d take the gamble and only be out a couple bucks if they fail.

I also put in my perennial order at Romence Gardens, and expect that to arrive on May 2. It’s become an annual tradition that I order a few hard-to-find things from them. This year I forced myself to only order things I’ve ordered before so I can get some repetition going in the garden and carry certain colors through the whole thing.  I can’t wait to document how all of this looks this summer!





We Have Ducks!

Everybody welcome the Huffaker House’s newest residents:



Peter was gone much of last week, and on about Thursday, he texted me saying he wanted chickens. I’ve always been on that train, but I have no idea how to take care of them. He has lots of experience with livestock, and has raised lots of chickens, so I told him that as long as he told me what to do, I was in.

Well, when he got back on Saturday, we went to the feed store to buy our chickens and had a bit of a change of heart– the minimum purchase was 6 (we were thinking more like 4, given our space) and it was an unsexed run. With our luck, we knew we’d end up with 4 roosters crowing at all hours and driving us mad. Plus, there’s a gang of roving neighborhood chickens, and the last thing I wanted was some kind of turf war between the Jets and the Sharks. So we went home empty-winged (well, The Boy got a new red shovel because it was the only way to get him out of the store after we decided not to get chickens at that moment).

…And then we started talking about ducks. Pete’s never raised them, but we did some research, and the process isn’t all that different from chickens. They’re a little more vulnerable to predators, so we’ll have to build a REALLY secure coop, but other than that, we should be able to do it. So we brought them home yesterday, and aside from my house smelling like cedar chips right now, so far so good. They’ll stay inside until April-ish, at which point they’ll move into the coop. Peter’s currently planning one for the side of the existing shed.


It’ll include a duck run along the stone retaining wall, a mounted nesting box with a ramp for getting down, and a little duck pool with a PVC valve in the bottom for draining and cleaning. And lots of chicken wire; Pete’s had chickens get decapitated by raccoons who pulled their heads through the wire in less secure situations (too graphic? I’m leaving it.).

So, that’s the big news. The Boy likes the ducks, but mostly he just likes passing them back and forth. I think he’ll be more invested as he and his daddy build the coop and then move them out there.

And also, this:


That’s right. You’ve heard of reading dogs? Well, we have reading ducks. The Boy “read” 2-3 books to those lucky ducks yesterday. For backstory, The Boy couldn’t say “mama” until a year and a half ago, and he couldn’t say his own name until he was more than 3 years old. If you have kids and any of them have been speech delayed, you know how big of a deal it is for your speech delayed child to pick up a book and start making up a story for his ducks. I think I’m going to encourage him to read to them every day while they’re in the house, and maybe once they’re out of it, too.

Also, no, they don’t have names yet, because we can’t tell them apart yet and Pete wasn’t into painting their toenails so I could figure out which was which. (Wouldn’t have done it, but they’d have looked fab.)

Spring is ALMOST here!



hello… (crickets)

Hey, tiny group of people who read the stuff I post to the internet…um, sorry. Man, this family gets in a rut in the wintertime (and we don’t even have a real winter– it’s Tennessee for crap’s sake). I think I’ve been waiting for a big moment to write a new post, but instead, I’m just going to sit down and update everyone. I have serious intentions of updating at least bi-weekly now that the weather is warming up.

We haven’t done a whole lot lately, but here I am, about to update on some house stuff. So without too many excuses, here I go.

It’s starting to look like spring in East Tennessee. I have a love-hate relationship with the sudden warming and greening and general “new car” smell happening around here. Like, I LOVE it, but I’m also a little worried it’s a sign of impending doom and eventually we’ll all just live in a summery hellscape. BUT, it does allow me to start doing garden and yard stuff in MARCH, so I guess, in the short term, I’ll bask in the glory and forget the terrifying possibilities.



Sis, enjoying her post as supervisor.

So, two things.

First, the garden is starting to spring to life, and seriously, it’s going to be AMAZING this year. We moved in in 2011 and it was a mess:


But, year by year, I’ve clawed my way out of the bindweed, the lamb’s ear, the fungus-infested irises, the strangling daylillies, and this, THIS is the summer it will look like the garden was designed by a pro (and not a serious novice who’s been figuring it out as she goes). I spent Saturday moving plants to improve the balance of the garden, and this year, I really think it’ll all fill in so beautifully.

I’ve even thought about lines of sight; when you look out our back door, you’ll see a rose bush (blooming most of the summer) surrounded by yarrow and salvia, covered in hummingbird moths and butterflies. So just imagine this:


…like that.

The Boy helping to water in my transplanted rose bush.

Additionally, I’ve been working on a plan for the bedroom. “What?” you ask. “You mean the bedroom where you built the closets? The ones we read about last winter?”

Yeah, that one.



Hear me out. I loved the navy blue. I really did. I think when we built those closets, I wanted a dramatic way to set them off from the white walls. But honestly, I think maybe the drama gives me anxiety. So, I’m working on a plan for dialing down the drama in the bedroom (well, doesn’t that sound weird…leaving it) and lightening it all up. Here are the reasons:

  1. The navy is lovely but it sucks the light out of the room when we’re reading books at night with our son. The color (Volcanic Ash by Valspar) is still my go-to navy, but it’s just dark, and while I loved the concept, and even the execution, LIVING with it is a different story.
  2. I feel stuck in a blue rut in this room. The ceiling is SO beautiful, but SO blue. It’s got every color of blue you could imagine in it, and it makes me feel, in conjunction with the navy, that I can’t do anything else with it. Which is how I ended up with blue winter pillows in the room.


3. The blue really doesn’t mesh with the white/grey/charcoal/light blue thing I have going in the rest of the house, and I’m a big fan of repetition throughout a house. I feel a bit assaulted (boy, dramatic much?) every time I go into the room and it doesn’t match the rest of the house.

4. I would like to make the space a little more spring-ish, and I’m struggling with that.

5. I’m just ready for a change.

So, I have plans, and I’m seriously considering joining the One Room Challenge, which is a biannual event where a bunch of well-known bloggers tackle one space and redesign it over the course of six weeks. Additionally, thousands of people with small-time blogs (ME) participate as amateurs. They update weekly (a challenge for me) about their design, their progress, and finally, a reveal. So, that’s my plan: join the amateur ORC and force myself to really re-evaluate what I want from our bedroom space. Additionally, I’ll be working on a budget of like, not much. 🙂 So, fun challenge, given I have no real design skills.

So, that’s what’s up. The challenge doesn’t start til April, but March will be super busy. For one, I’m having surgery for a difficult-to-diagnose honest-to-god bizarre syndrome I appear to have in my ears (you guys, I can hear my eyeballs move) and my co-workers and I are putting together some seriously cool library stuff for our students. I plan to ruminate during March while planning my garden for the year and doing some old house maintenance (constant in a house that’s 117 years old), and then kick some proverbial ass when it comes to the interior come April.



Thanks for sticking with me and reading, guys. It’s fun to share all my hopes and plans and ideas with you.