On Frozen Pond
Just Because It Is Cold Out Doesn't Mean The Fish Below The Ice Are
Years ago, when I had more strength than common sense, I'd come out to our pond during the deep winter months carrying a chainsaw and a sledgehammer. Several times each week, you could see me pounding away during the low light of dawn, attempting to create holes in the ice in order to save the fish from their desperate plight below. Then one morning I threw my back out and the fish didn't seem so important to me. I wasn't able to come outside for several weeks, and you know what? I didn't seem to be so important to the fish either.
Dead Beat Chicken
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It Isn’t hard To Be Thankful At Thanksgiving When You Don’t Have To Do The Dishes
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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.
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"It Isn't Hard To Be Thankful At Thanksgiving When You Don't Have To Do The Dishes"
Pies are being baked, casseroles prepared, store shelves looted and emptied, checkout lanes bulging with the weight of humanity and metal rolling carts. Traffic growing thicker. Kids skipping those half days of school with substitute teachers filling class time with old movies. Folks begin loading up the SUV. Mom is coordinating with her parents over who is bringing what and when they'll arrive. Dad is checking the NFL schedule for the early game. The kids are packing ear buds and battery chargers. "Who double checked the cat's food and water?" "Did anyone remember to put the dog in the garage?" Grandma is setting out the dinnerware and fine glasses while reminding Grandpa to do a good job running the vacuum. The table is covered in assorted candy dishes, veggie platters, nut trays over an elegant table cloth.
Streets and highways across the country laden with families trading questions of what did they forget, when will they get there and when will they leave, what is the name of Aunt Lil's new husband again, the apprehension, the anxiety...the joy? Thanksgiving can quickly spiral into a vortex of stress.
We are quickly approaching that time of year again where it seems as though everywhere we go, there are people around us struggling with the seasonal cold and flu germs. We can’t stop the germs themselves, but we can stop the attack it enforces on our wallets. Have you ever stopped to think about how much money we spend during this time of year? Sure, the holiday spending is expected. What about our wellness protection? The tissues, hand sanitizers, over-the-counter prescriptions, etc. I get sick just thinking about all of that!
Something I have learned in recent years is the importance and appreciation for homemade items. Homemade gifts are always cherished, but it’s also the homemade remedies that we really benefit from as a family as well. The everyday items we take for granted are all things that I have found myself making more and more of as time goes on. During this time of year, every penny counts. If I can save my family money and put more into our holiday budget, that’s a win in my book. That’s why I have perfected my own recipe of hand soap in order to keep one step ahead of whatever I might contract from the grocery cart handle or my 100 different methods of over-protection simply failing me yet again. Biohazard suits worn by the general public are still frowned upon, so I’m told.
What I like most about this recipe is the coconut oil (aside from the fact that I just enjoy concocting whatever smell I can whip up from the arrangement of various essential oils). Coconut oil is a great natural alternative for using as a substitute, whether it be for cooking, cleaning, you name it. Coconut oil does great things for our skin, especially during times when we’re exposed to the harsher elements of the season. I find that my hands feel hydrated and smooth for longer than they would with any store-bought brand I’ve tried in years past.
This Kroger store-brand coconut oil is the best one that I’ve tried so far. For those that do not care for coconut or would prefer that the smell be a bit more muted, this is the perfect choice (in my opinion, of course). I have tried countless other brands and this has been the least expensive and least offensive smelling above all the rest. This large 30 ounce jar costs around $4 at my local Kroger store.
Aura Cacia Oils
I also prefer the Aura Cacia pure essential oils for my DIY projects as well. They have always been extremely fragrant and have lasted for quite some time, even after multiple uses. The Sweet Orange is our family-favorite. We do just about everything from adding a few drops to our garbage disposal and occasionally to our mopping solution to give our hardwoods a pleasant smell throughout the house. These two scents are rather common and also some of the cheaper ones, costing between $5 or $6 a bottle (I know that sounds like a bit for a bottle containing .5 ounces. Remember, you only need a couple drops per project so your essential oil should last for quite some time before you need to restock).
To make my natural hand soap, you will need only the few following ingredients:
- ½ tsp. fractionated coconut oil AKA “liquid coconut oil”
- 2 Tbsp. liquid castile soap of your choice
- 12 oz. purified water
- 10-15 drops of any essential oils of your choice
- Recycled soap dispenser (the ones found here are ideal for this project)
Start by pouring the necessary amount of oil and liquid castile soap into your preferred soap dispenser. Next, add your desired essential oils and then fill the remaining space of the dispenser with your water. You will want to make sure that you leave just enough open space at the top so that you leave room for the foaming pump. Once the pump is screwed on tightly, shake gently to ensure that each element of the recipe is mixed well.
This recipe is great because you can make as little or as much as you want and ultimately save quite a bit of money, especially during this holiday season. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or share your favorite recipe with us as well!
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