Across the street from the Wardensville Garden Market farm property, you have likely noticed a beautiful spring-fed pond and our local neighborhood ducks. That property is part of our overall organization and houses our support staff offices, facilities shop, and event barn on over 20 acres of land. The property was owned by the Frye family, one of the founding families of Wardensville. In 1825, H.W. Frye built the Capon House, the beautiful, historic brick building you see from the road next to the pond. The house served as an inn for many years for weary travels who just made it over the mountains, either from the East or West. Where the Wardensville Garden Market now sits, at one point in time, was the Frye family farm property, which was originally part of the same parcel of land as the Capon House. Years later, these two historic properties are now reconnected. In a future issue, we will give you more history, but for now, let’s introduce our ducks!
The pond at the Capon Property is home to a variety of ducks: American Pekin, Mallards, Pomeranian, and Muscovy. Each of our ducks has their own personalities, and we have named them accordingly. Our American Pekins names are Huey, Duey, Luie, and Scrooge. Our two Mallards are named Duck Norris and James Pond. Our Pomeranian duck is called Daffy, and our two Muscovy ducks are the Incredible Hulk and Thor. All of our ducks here are males; this helps to control our duck population and prevents over breeding that might occur if we had a low number of females.
Our ducks frolic frequently in our pond. The pond itself has historic significance for the town of Wardensville; it was filled each year with water from the spring and froze leading up to winter. The ice was used to fill the Frye family’s icehouse, and anyone else who needed ice could get it from this pond. This was also the perfect spot for the town’s residents to ice skate! Every year the pond still freezes, but there is no ice taken from it (or ice skaters, to our knowledge). Today, we have different types of fish, frogs, and possibly turtles that share this pond with our feathered friends. The ducks even have flying visitors every now and then, when geese land in the pond on their journeys. We’ve even encountered a heron and an adolescent swan! The icehouse is still part of the historic property, although it was moved from its original location by the previous owner. There was a ladder on the left side of the building, which is where they loaded the ice through the top and down. This ladder was also used by the Frye’s children and grandchildren; the icehouse made a great playhouse, too!
(Photo of icehouse with Capon House behind it.)
Even though all ducks are technically considered Mallards, there are many different breeds of ducks around the world. Let’s talk about the natural history of our duck breeds. The American Pekin is almost exclusively raised for meat, but here we let them live free to swim at the pond. They are creamy white-bodied ducks with yellow beaks and are almost straight and short in build. The males weigh approximately 10 pounds and the females weigh 9 pounds. These ducks were domesticated in China around 3,000 years ago, and possibly earlier. Under the Five Dynasties, these ducks were force-fed throughout the 10th-century. The Chinese were sophisticated duck breeders and are credited with several different breeds of ducks. The American Pekin was first introduced into the United States by James E. Palmer. After Palmer shipped them in 1873, the ducks took a 124-day journey from Shanghai to New York City, with our four eventually winding up in Wardensville in 2019.
Mallards have a long relationship with humans. They were first domesticated in Southeast Asia around 4,000 years ago and were farmed there by the Romans and Malays. The mallards, or green-headed ducks, are different than other breeds in that they are medium-sized waterfowls. They are 20-26 inches long, and their wingspan is even longer, at 32-39 inches. The males’ bill is a yellowish-orange color tipped with black, while the females’ bill is a dirty orange with gray coloration. Mallards are omnivorous and are flexible in what they choose to eat. They usually dabble in shallow pools for plants or graze on grasses; there have even been reports of mallards eating small frogs. Mallards will frequently interbreed with their closest relative, which can be the American Black duck or other distantly related breeds. When breeding, mallards generally form pairs. Once a female begins their nesting season, the males will leave the female to join the other males to await the mounting period.
The Pomeranian duck originated in the German part of the Baltic Sea. They are a fairly social and chatty breed of duck, and they make superior watch birds since they have been known to welcome visitors loudly. They are also excellent foragers. The Pomeranians have poor flying ability and are considered rare ducks.
The Muscovy duck is one of the oldest domesticated fowl species in the world. These ducks were kept by native people in Peru and Paraguay. When early Spanish explorers arrived, they began domesticating them in other parts of the world. The name “Muscovy” most likely refers to the Muscovy Company that moved these ducks to France and England. The length of the male domesticated Muscovy is approximately 34 inches and they can weigh between 10-15 pounds.
Seeing these ducks at the Wardensville Garden Market is a treat for everyone, not just for the staff but for the customers as well. Since I first started here, it has been a great privilege to look after them. They always come running when I go down to feed them. Even though they can be a bit stand-offish, they will wait close to me while I pour their food. My hope is that they will remain a longstanding part of our environment and one day we might allow visitors to come and feed them, or be able to come sit down by the pond to enjoy watching them in their world.
Facilities Crew Lead
My name is William, I am the Facilities Crew Lead here at the Wardensville Garden Market. I spend my free time with my wife and three kids, and fixing things. When I first started here I was more than happy to help take care of our Feathered Friends here at the Capon Property.
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