Was Jesus really born at Christmas? Tune in for some humorous and fun factual anecdotes that you might not have been aware of.
courtesy oflaughing historically
See also “Hot Chocolate In The 19th Century”
A few quick helps for those folks experiencing their first winter with chickens and a quick refresher for the veterans as temperatures drop. Caring for your chickens during winter isn’t intended as an exhaustive list and your location and situation may be unique, so consider this a general guide.
- Late fall is a common time for chickens to molt. Don’t freak if you are finding mounds of feathers in your coop. They aren’t having knock down drag out fights while you sleep. It is normal for a chicken to experience their first molting period around a year and a half. Their feathers will return in as little as three weeks or as much as a few months.
- Do not insulate your chicken coop. The natural tendency is we want to ensure our chickens are warm, but sealing a chicken coop is a recipe for a homemade gas chamber. Air circulation in their structure is vital to their winter health. Chickens expel moisture in their breath; a group of hens in an enclosed area will increase moisture levels in the air, which can freeze during sub zero temperatures and can lead to frostbite. Condensation on henhouse windows is a sign that there is too much humidity. Air movement is also vital when the droppings “pile up”. Cleaning their coop isn’t always practical or even possible during the dead of winter. Chicken feces produces ammonia, which is of course harmful to your birds and can irritate their lungs. Our coop happens to be an old garden shed, with a few cracks in the walls and gaps between the boards. It might not be inviting for you or me, but it allows a continual flow of fresh air inside.
- Have at least one heated water bowl available to your chickens. We keep one both outside and inside their coop. Chickens will need water regardless of temperature and activity, but the frozen stuff does them no good. The larger the bowl the better.
- Heat lamps are tempting when you are looking out your kitchen window during a January blizzard, imagining yourself frozen to a roosting pole, but they aren’t always the best thing for your birds. Yes, they may be needed during the bitterest of nights, but most of the time they will do more harm than good. Chickens, like most any other creature do a pretty good job of adapting to the climate, but a heat lamp will inhibit a chicken’s ability to tolerate the cold more than help and once they begin to depend on it, they will tend to remain indoors. The risk to their health will also increase if the power should ever fail and the lamp goes out.
- During severe and/or extended freezing temperatures, chickens can experience frostbite along their combs and waddles (the red growths on their head and below their chins). A dab of vaseline or even something like coconut oil rubbed along the exterior can go a long way to preventing frostbite in your flock. They typically will stand on one foot when outside during the winter as a means of staying warm. This is typical and doesn’t necessarily mean they are in distress, however you can also apply vaseline to the leg and talon. It isn’t fool proof and you will still need to monitor your birds for signs of frostbite ie discoloration, swelling, bleeding.
- It is true that Chickens do get cabin fever. Boredom will result from the limitations of snow, frozen ground, and a general lack of exercise. You may even see increased signs of aggressiveness and fighting. A few things in the yard or inside their coop, such as a chicken swing, or a walmart bag with some greens or vegetables hung from the ceiling by a string (like a pinata) will do a lot to break up the monotony. It gives them something to do besides peck each other on the head.
- Gather eggs as soon as you possible can. A frozen egg can crack and once it is indoors and thawed can allow bacteria to grow inside of the egg. If you have any doubts about an egg’s condition, throw it out.
- Keep their bedding fresh and deep and dry. While it is okay for a chicken coop to be a bit “drafty” it is key that it remain dry during winter. This means anything from roof leaks, to standing water on the floor to soiled bedding. Your hens and roosters should not have any exterior contact with moisture inside their shelters.
Homesteading is a lifestyle consisting of the trials and tribulations of self-sufficiency[/dropshadowbox]. From an outsider’s point of view, one might see the instant benefits of this choice as a sense of newfound freedom, privacy, independence, and simplicity. However, those considering this lifestyle also know the deeper layers to homesteading, beginning with arguably the most important factor- food preservation. Those of us living in regions affected by the harsh elements of our ever-changing seasons know just how important it is to stay prepared.
Nowadays, we can hardly run through a department store without our eye catching some sort of artwork or novelty home décor piece that displays the simplicity of a mason jar. I find myself becoming the object of someone’s judgement as I stand in line to pay for my 12-pack, feeling as though a different 12-pack of some sort of liquid redemption might catch less attention than my hollow glass jars. The first and only question I ever receive as soon as I grab them from the grocery store shelf, “What sort of craft are you making?” I already feel guilty and I haven’t even responded yet. Continue reading
Here are some handy little statistics provided by the National Gardening Association about the makeup of the average food gardener in the United States.
54% are female.
68% are 45 years old plus.
79% either attended or graduated from college.
They average about 5 hours each week tending their gardens.
The average food garden is approximately 600 square feet.
As of 2009, 37% of American households had some sort of food garden, with 21% of those being first timers.
23% were located out west, 26% were from the midwest, 29% were southern and 22% were from the northeast.
The most popular items are in order:
Sweet Peppers 46%
Summer Squash 32%
Hot Peppers 31%
Sweet Corn 23%
We tend to grow about everything on the list in addition to some beets, rhubarb, broccoli, and a few other odds and ends. It has been estimated that a 1/4 acre of land can feed a family of 4 year round. We do some canning, however it is usually limited to jams. Everything else is either vacuum packed or prepared and frozen. We do dry our hot peppers. There are some studies that speak to the best methods for retaining the vitamins and/or longevity to your preservation methods I would dispute the NGA’s finding on the 5 hour week, although I’d say most folks don’t calculate the time they spend doing what they enjoy. I’d also add that we don’t necessarily save money growing our own food;the time and labor my wife exerts picking beans is surely worth more than the 3 cans for 99 cents at the local supermarket. We do however, know that they are pure 100% organic.
The statistics above don’t paint the picture of grandpa and grandma in the bibs and house dress working the soil, rather it is just as likely the suburban soccer mom who wants a healthy alternative to the processed and packed, chemically preserved and shipped foods that end up in our cupboards.http://american-outdoors.net/2015/03/03/demographics-american-food-gardener/
The short and simple truth about a transfer switch for your home is that it is a safe and reliable method for keeping the lights on when the utility company cannot. I’ve had one where we live for several years and have had only two occasions to use it. Depending on where you live and your skill level, a licensed electrician may be required to perform the installation. Most kits sold at the retail level contain basic instructions via print andor dvd to help ease the hookup. That doesn’t mean you are qualified to tie into your service panel with a transfer switch because you replaced an outlet in your mother in law’s bathroom once. Electricity is a funny thing; we invite it into our homes yet it isn’t very sociable. It has little patience for error, no sense of humor and will kill you rather quickly if you let it.
There are three levels of backup “systems” that I will refer to. The first is what I call the “suicide cord”. Uncle Earl has a 50′ orange extension cord that magically has a male plug on both ends. Well, the magic was actually Earl cutting a male plug from an old Kirby vacuum sweeper and grafting it onto his extension cord with some needle nose pliers and black tape. Hurricane Curley hits and doggone if he is going to sit in a hot house all day with no a/c and watch a freezer full of deer meat spoil. Guys like Earl don’t understand basic principals of electrical load distribution, nor do they realize that by plugging in that cord from their generator to the wall, they are sending current out of their house and to the power pole. That’s bad juju for the unsuspecting line worker who shows up a few hours later to restore the power to the neighborhood. In fact it can, and has been deadly. The common term used for this practice is “backfeeding”. I can recall several contractors who would enter vacant properties owned by banks to do repairs or maintenance and backfed systems. They had no idea if the wiring was substandard, overloaded, damaged, vandalized, stolen, or in one case, sabotaged by a previous homeowner. It isn’t uncommon to find homes with outdated wiring, subpanels and additions or outbuilding that completely bypass the original meter. Best thing to do is not listen to Earl. Worst case is you do and end up room temperature. Earl has about $10 invested in his cord, $1 for the garage sale Kirby, $125 for his old gennie and he’s proud of himself. For those who don’t believe in the dangers of the “suicide cord” contact your local municipality and check the regulations/laws. You might also dial up your utility provider and ask them for their opinion.
The second level of backup is the transfer switch. The unit is usually installed near or next to the existing electrical service panel and tied into circuits deemed vital in the event of a power outage. Most aren’t designed to run an entire household, but they will provide you, depending on your generator’s output, with lights, power to appliances, furnace, sump pump, etc. They usually include wiring and an external box for the generator to plug into. Transfer switches are designed to isolate the power so it never leaves your house. Usually with one flip of a switch you are off the grid. The are a variety of transfer switch models, the Reliance brand is common, and you can find them at most any hardware store or big box home improvement center. The cost can range from several hundred dollars for the basic models and up, not including installation. Generators to supply the juice come in different breeds and colors. For the most simple of needs, ie a couple of lights and the icebox, a 2000 watt generator may be plenty but these can also range in output. 4K-8500k are commonly used as backups, and they can also vary from the loud and obnoxious open frame contractor style units to inverter type generators that are much quieter and deliver a “cleaner” electrical current. This is useful when you need to run sensitive electronics like laptops.
The third level comprises whole house backup systems. This usually begins with a large generator of 10000 watts or more, located outside and enclosed, hardwired directly into the homes electrical panel and designed to carry the entire load demand. They can be as basic as a gas unit or something that runs on propane and programmed to start immediately following a power outage. I know of one older couple that have a whole house generator not far from us. Their entire neighborhood lost power during a recent windstorm. They were watching a movie on television, and didn’t realize they were on the backup system until a neighbor called. Setups like these don’t require that the homeowner be home, pull a rope or plug anything in. Generac and Briggs & Stratton are two companies that carry a line of permanent home backup systems. They can cost as little as several thousand dollars up into the five figure range.
You don’t have to be rural to find a product like this useful. Transfer switches, backup generators and whole house systems can be lifesavers to urban dwellers during severe weather, to those who are confined or require oxygen equipment, cpap machines, air conditioning, etc. The last several years, no differently than before, have brought hurricanes, severe storms of snow and rain, winds and earthquakes, from the east coast to the gulf coast to the western ends of the country. A small backup system can make the difference between a dry basement and a large insurance claim after the sump pump sat powerless watching that basement flood. Being self sufficient means not being in line at 9 o’clock at night at Home Depot watching the last generator being sold. It means being comfortable in your own home rather than sitting on the front porch watching the lights in your neighbor’s window and waiting for the Red Cross.
Early in our marriage, my wife and I started gardening. We lived in town on a small lot but it gave us an excuse to get outside. During each spring we made the pilgrimage to the local hardware store or greenhouse to pick up seeds, starter plants, fertilizer and soil. Now, eons later in our lives, we live on land with room to grow about whatever we want. My wife still makes out the list of items to pick up but as the years have passed, the list has shrunk. The more time I spent driving into town and loading dozens of 40 lbs bags of powdery dirt into my truck, the more I realized there are better ways to prep a garden. People, even 50 years ago, didn’t spend three times the cost of the produce in peripherals before they even put a seed in the ground. My wife believed if it came from the greenhouse then it must be good dirt. Yes, that is likely true. It is also true that the black mulchy dirt just inside our timber line is just as good, and without a doubt 100% organic. She had her epiphany and ran with it, but I digress. While you sit in your house staring out the the window into winter pergatory and marking the days with a knife on the table, there are things you can do to prep for the growing season without even putting on a coat.
Eggs shells and coffee grounds are in most every cupboard and icebox in America as well as every kitchen trash can. But it has become fairly common knowledge among those with the alleged green thumbs, that coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and a fantastic supplement to garden soil. They hold a ph somewhere around 6.5. Whether you add it to a compost pile or use it as a separate application to the topsoil, it is a very beneficial and organic, and didn’t I mention it was free? When adding to our compost collection, we simply try to mix it in with the dead grass, vegetation, leaves and whatever else you rake up. You can actually throw most paper coffee filters in there as well for good measure, but keep the pot in your hand. Flip that mess over a couple times each month to keep it cooking properly.
Eggs as well, can provide a cheap and healthy boost to your flowers and produce and has nature’s seal of approval. Eggs contain a great resource of calcium and can be used in a variety of ways. They do not break down quickly; a shell simply broken in your hand can remain in that condition for several years. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they will become one with the soil. The method we use is to just place them in a clear plastic bag and crush them using a rolling pin. Doesn’t take very long and justifies why you keep that thing in the drawer and never use it. I’ve read online articles where folks will grind eggshells up in a blender, food processor, etc. It works, but I would advise that if you go that way, buy a second hand blender at a flea market. My experience is that the really small bits of the shell can be difficult to clean out of a blender, and I prefer not to find them later in my smoothie. There is no perfect science to the application. Some gardeners will sprinkle the bits of shell over the topsoil; others may blend it into the dirt. It continues to fertilize your garden long after you apply it. You can think of the eggshell bits as a sort of time release bouillon cube.
Egg shells have also been used successfully as plant start containers. A half shell with a little soil, placed into the original egg carton is free, natural and disposable. Set them on a window sill or table next to the glass just as you would with store bought containers. When it is time to transplant, just move the shell holding the plant directly into the ground. Egg shells do not spoil or “go bad”. They won’t start to stink up the house, but you might want to wash them beforehand if you have any concern over bacteria from the contents.
“Egg juice” and “egg milk” are a few names we call the potion we created for spraying plants. We take crushed shells and put them inside a milk jug and fill it with water. After letting them sit for a couple of days we end up with a nice milky mixture of calcium and water that we will transfer into a watering can. We do a lot of container and raised bed type gardening and usually mixing about a cup of the solution to a gallon of water per treatment is about all we need to use for a small area of plants. The shells by the way, are reusable.
While there are plenty of tips and tricks on line regarding how to keep insects and pests off of your plants, and we use several, one method we have found to be very successful is simply laying out broken egg shell pieces around plants such as tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, broccoli. Snails, slugs and other assorted vile beasts bent on dining locally and after hours at your place find the sharp edges of the shell to be cutting and dangerous to their health. A snail may think it is rude, but it works and it is easy.
In my mind I am a master gardener bar none. In reality, I’m a hobbyist slash amateur who is cheap as hell and always on the lookout for ways to save money and repurpose my trash. Our gardens don’t tower over the land like a cluster of giant green redwoods and I don’t expect I’ll be posting 200 lb Beef Steak tomatoes anytime soon. I have noticed though, that we used to have small, average looking vegetables that were slightly inferior to what you could find at walmart, using the best chemical enhancing sprays, granules, powders and solutions I could buy. Using organic methods, and tips such as these, have really paid off and now I’m only washing bug poop and dust from my beets and lettuce instead of agent pink or some third eye producing chemical from the sci fi channel. Here’s hoping you have a bountiful harvest.