I've been doing all kinds of research on chickens, which lead me to ducks. Indian Runner Ducks appear to be fairly low maintenance. They don't fly, they mind fences, they eat flies and slugs and bugs, and they can walk right in the garden and won't hurt the plants (except they may trample seedlings, but a temporary fence should prevent that). Add in that duck manure, like rabbit manure, is usable immediately and does not need to be composted. From what I understand so far, they do not need open water like some other breeds of duck to clean out their noses, which would help in the winter months. They're also cold-hardy, which means fewer losses over the cold months. And they lay eggs, supposedly more than some chickens. They don't require a roost or a big coop, so if I can manage to get a hold of two or three, they'd keep our yard and garden fertilized and take care of bugs for us. Coupled with the bird and bat houses and bird feeders, I think ducks might be a better option than chickens. More research is needed.
Which brings me to our housing status. Tony talked to the loan officer again today and let him know we did want to put in an offer on the house. Tony called the realtor on his way to work to make the offer official. She said she needed to talk to the loan guy and then would get the paperwork written up. We have not heard anything since then (noon), so I'm not sure if our offer has been presented to the current property owners yet. Tony works a 12 hour day tomorrow, so if the realtor calls, (he's the main contact point), things could be delayed.
I did hear back from the DNR about the property. Actually I got several responses as my initial email was shared to the appropriate groups that may have more information. It turns out that the waterfowl refuge includes the whole lake, but really just means that you can't hunt waterfowl. That's not an issue for us anyway since we don't hunt. There would be no restrictions on livestock (we could keep ducks and geese), there are no regulations against putting in a dock, fishing, or even having a boat - though I think things like that would be waaaaaay down the road and not even on our radar right now. Fishing, sure, but a dock and a boat are added expenses that we just can't do right now. I'm more focused on gardens, growing our own food, preserving said food, and using natural means to help us be more self-sustaining (ducks to eat our pests). I guess the DNR does not actively monitor this particular lake, having only been there to survey it twice - once in 1965, and again in 2011. The only downside is that they classify it as "nutrient dense" and there was blue-green algae when they were there in 2011. Blue-green algae is the type of bloom that can actually kill dogs and people if they swim in it or drink the water. Yikes! Given the aerial image attached to the response, it looks like the algae bloom was on the other side of the lake, but it's still something that we need to be aware of. They also warned us that the lake is very shallow (just 7 feet deep at the deepest point), which means it likely freezes solid over winter, so no fish can be supported in it year round, but that some fish do come in through the creek that runs through it. During their 2011 survey they reported seeing minnows and bullheads. A quick Google search tells me that bullheads are edible, but they have no scales - instead their body is covered in tastebuds... Um... Eww. That's a little disgusting. Anyway, that same survey also reported a pair of trumpeter swans were present on the lake. That's awesome! It would be so neat to see all the ducks and geese and other birds that make the area their home. Things that you don't see often elsewhere. They seem to know it's a safe spot where they won't be bothered.
Anyway, it sounds like an absolute sanctuary, not just for birds, but for people who just want a quiet place away from the fast-paced world. It's absolutely perfect for my Educational Farm plan. I'm hoping and praying really hard that they accept our offer and that everything lines up. This property has been calling to me for months, it's been languishing on the market for over a year and a half, almost as if it's just been waiting for us. I'm really getting my hopes up here. I've finally found a place that feels like home, and I'm desperate not to let it slip through my fingers if I can avoid it.