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Certified organic poultry farmer in SE Mass
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Another Vortex visit
Feb. 27. Again, it is frigid outside. Night time temps are low teens, tonight it will be in the single digits. The wind is back, making it very cold day times. The pullets are laying well, but the Dominiques in the main house are not. Best count over the past three days is 8 out of 29 layers.

Time to clean out shavings in that coop, ammonia odor is strong. I did shovel shavings into a pile and dust DE on the shavings and floor, but the odor is just too strong. I bought two bales of shavings yesterday and will do the job today, even with the extreme cold. I will haul the shavings to the raspberry patch for mulching. I figure there will be about six full wheelbarrow loads to drive the 450 feet to the raspberries, canes were
never cut last fall. 

The ducks have been laying some eggs recently. I have a buyer for the eggs, a wonderful thing since I had a glut of duck eggs last spring and summer. Soon, I will have to cut flight feathers to prevent them from laying eggs all over the property or flying out to the pond behind my farm to stash eggs for hatching. This would be when the ducks are eaten by predators...when they decide to incubate the eggs on the ground, unprotected. Since I fed them all winter, I would hate to loose them now!

Two pullets I brought in due to rooster injuries are calming down in their respective kennels. It will take them a few weeks to recover from these injuries, so I am hoping it will warm up by then. Seems the cold will remain for several weeks! I am tired of this winter!

Time to get outside and let the birds out.
Winter's back is broken
Feb. 24. I got little done yesterday in the poultry yards or in the house. I had a call from some gals who were looking for duck eggs to feed their Great Pyr (dog) who has a tumor on his tongue. A sad story. Getting together with the buyer took many phone calls. Once she arrived (several hours late), we went out to see the birds. At first, she was interested in the ducks, but once she saw the chickens, she was excited. She had a smart phone and took some photos of the chickens & ducks. Sir Walter Drake posed nicely for her and was, as always, a complete gentleman. She bought duck and chicken eggs. It was after 4 PM by then. I hooked up the hoses, flushed out the feeding areas under the two truck caps and the glass panels. It is just mud in some places in the yards! I am so happy I put down the trampoline tops and the heavy-duty landscaping fabric under these areas because I can sweep and hose them clean. The areas were concentrated with traffic when the snow was deep and space was limited.

I got another call from a guy who bought some ducks from me about three years ago. He was pretty caviler about keeping the ducks safe when he first had them and he lost his two females within a few months. I had warned him about locking them up, but some folks just don't listen! He had told me the drake was pretty aggressive during mating and had really punished one of the replacement ducks (he bought another two females after the first two were killed). He released the drake on a nearby pond where someone feeds and cares for wild waterfowl daily. He is looking for another drake...but I talked him out of that. He wanted to buy Sir Walter Drake from me or rent him, but I won't expose Walter to different environments because he is such an exceptional drake and I would hate to loose him for any reason.
He will wait till his ducks get broody and buy some hatching eggs from my flock for his ducks to hatch. Then he can have the fun of ducklings without having a drake! If he decides to keep one drake from that hatch, he can.

Saturday, I went for grain in Taunton. Then stopped at Bill & Mary's to pick up a bag of small grains for sprouting. I paid towards the next grain bill, hopefully Bill will order soon! When I got home on Saturday afternoon, I fed, watered and then moved the grain from the car to the grain room in the wheelbarrow, one 50# bag at a time. The ground is too soft to drive the car over to the grain room now. I had bought a 50# bag of oyster shell since the birds are really eating it (a sign that they might start laying eggs, yahoo!), so I moved 300# of feed for the birds into the grain room. And I wonder why I am tired at night!

Earlier that same day, I released the two pullets (both were in confinement due to injuries from rooster) out in the yard with their flock. Today, they are acting as if they hadn't been away for two weeks in recovery. I am happy to see this! Sometimes, it takes awhile for birds to re-integrate with the flock. This morning, I saw one of them chase another hen away...seems she is asserting her "pecking order". Both of these pullets now wear duct-tape saddles to protect their backs from the rooster.

When I locked up the flocks after dark, I checked another pullet who shows a lot of wear & tear on her back. She had a very large tear in her skin, just like the other two. I brought her into the house and cleaned her up. The tear is pretty large, about two inches by one inch, a three-cornered tear, just like to the other two pullets had. I cleaned the tear and flesh out with some clean water, hydrogen peroxide and then removed all the previous with gauze. I heated up some raw honey (so it would pour, but not so hot it would burn) and poured it into the tear. Poor girl! She was pretty good through the whole event. She is now in the house confined in a large dog kennel till the wound heals.

This rooster is a beautiful guy but a very clumsy breeder!

Weatherman said we would get snow lastnight. But I was happy to see he was wrong. No snow on the ground this morning and the temps are warmer than expected. The wind is coming from the west at a pretty good clip. But not as bad as it will be this week with temps dropping into the single #'s at night and in the 20's during the day. Maybe some snow coming Weds or Thurs. Bummer.

Well, I have to take my neighbor to the nearby store this afternoon. Then, I am going to attempt to replace a worn out tarp over the shelter in the main coop yard. It is leaking, so it doesn't really keep the rain off the birds now. Since it is windy, I expect it won't be as easy as it would be on a calm day, but I figure I can manage.

Pam R, sorry to hear about your oncoming cold. Too bad you don't have any Dr. Christopher's Plague Tonic in the house. Aside from that, you could try some of the remedies I have used with success. If you have or can get some organic ginger, about the size of a woman's fist and three bunches of organic scallions, wash and cut them up. Put them into a heavy, stainless steel pot and add four quarts of water. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer for about two hours or until reduced by 1/4. Drink as much as you can before going to bed. If it doesn't kill you, it will cure you!

Second remedy is spraying salt water into your nose until it runs out. Or netti pot with salt water every couple of hours. Keeps the nasal passages flushed and the virus might move out.

Third remedy is Bragg's ACV, two tablespoons, raw honey one to two teaspoons (adjust to your taste) in a coffee mug, add hot water and drink like a tea. This will change your ph and maybe help with the symptoms. An acid body is not where cold viruses like to live. Also, gargle with one tablespoon Bragg's ACV in 1/3 cup water several times a day. Also chases the virus out.

I bet you caught this from your chicken group last Saturday!  Feel better soon!

Gem...I spent a summer in north-east MD working on a dairy farm in the early 80's. It was the best summer of my life. But that is another chapter in my life! I bet you have never had a free-range chicken and eat Frank's tortured birds. You should watch the movie "Food, INC" available online or at your public library. It will change how you look at the food you buy.

Again, thanks to all who read and comment on my blog.

Gota go for today.
Melting snow, warm sun
Feb. 23

Just a quick update. Yesterday was beautiful, warm, sunny but pretty windy. I had to go to Taunton for layer pellets. On my way back, I stopped off at Bill and Mary's to pick up one bag of small grains for sprouting since I was out. Bill will order more grains. We order it by the pallet...42 bags. Costs to ship, but better price than other options. My birds would live solely on whole grains rather than layer pellets, but they lay better if fed only layer. Price difference is great, layer being the most expensive. I just have too many chickens right now!

Snow has mostly melted except on the north sides where the sun doesn't shine. I let the main coop flock out of their fenced area for the first time in a month to browse on grass and dig in the soft dirt. They were thrilled! Snow is off all the roofs and the dripping has ceased. Today it will be in the high 40's, sunny with some clouds. Possible snow showers mid-day and snow tonight.

Today, I will work on smelly coops. With all the bad weather, the birds have been spending a lot of time in the coops, droppings have created ammonia odor. Bad for the birds. After I open all the windows, I will shovel all the shavings into the middle of the coop and treat the floor with DE. This will dry out the floor. After awhile, I will shovel the shavings back to the floor and add DE to the top, then dress it with fresh shavings. That should help the odor. I didn't get any Stall Dry yesterday (forgot) but I think I can get it at the horse farm down the street should I feel it is necessary for odor.

The pullets are laying now, got 12 eggs from them yesterday. The main coop flock is still holding back on eggs. I threaten them every day with the "AX", but they don't listen!

Gota run for now.
Warming & melting
Feb. 21. The last two days have been warming and much snow is melting. This has led to muddy conditions in the poultry yards. I have put out more hay to keep things less wet, but as snow melts, the puddles grow. The fog caused by all the snow pack and warm air temps is causing visibility problems along the south coastal areas in this region. Not that I am affected at all!

The ducks are now flying out of the fenced area in search of the now-exposed grass. They are searching for bugs and green things to eat. The only way to keep them in the fence would be to cut their flight feathers. I don't like to do that since it leaves them vulnerable to predators. At least now they can fly off should they be threatened.

Yesterday, I pulled snow off the farm stand roof so the dripping wouldn't be so much. The dripping is right in the main entrance to the yard. I had to make a vent in the ice so the water would drain away...if it freezes overnight, I am walking on an ice skating rink.

The two injured pullets (from the bad boy rapers, now in freezer land) went back with their flock yesterday afternoon. They have completely healed from their injuries. Some feathers have grown back, but to protect them from the overzealous rooster, I put duct-tape saddles over their backs for protection. The two were released inside the coop but immediately went outside. One ran right back into the coop, the other one jumped up on top of the dust bath (has a nice roof to keep the rain out) and sat there most of the afternoon. They were both inside the coop when I closed all up for the night. This morning, one stayed in to lay an egg, the other one went out with the rest of the hens. So far, so good with them.

I brought Smoke in last night. She is a 6 year old EE layer from the last day-old buy in from a hatchery in 2008. She has sour crop, a yeast infection in her crop. I will have to find help to work on her. I have to express the sour liquid in her crop (best done outside) then intubate her with a catheter and fill her crop with Lactating Ringers solution. Then express that from her crop. Once her crop has been rinsed out, I will dose her with Kyolic, concentrated, aged garlic. Hopefully, only two doses will be necessary for her recovery.  She doesn't lay much, but I do like her. Smoke is friendly, lets me pick her up with little squawking and readily eats out of my hand.

Today, I will work on some projects in the house. I could go out and shovel some slush, but I figure I will let the rain (coming later today and into tonight) do the work for me. Why do what Nature will do for you? Besides, I am really tired of snow shoveling!

Yesterday, I roasted one of the bad boy rapists (hatched in May & June, 2013). Slow roasted with garlic and sage rubbed in and out of the chicken. 3 hours at 200 degrees resulted in a very nicely cooked chicken. I had some for lunch and will have more for supper tonight.

I am mussing the fresh veggies I got from the local organic farm last year. I joined their fall/winter CSA. It was well worth the money! I had veggies coming out my ears for eight weeks. I froze a lot of greens for winter use. Some are still in the freezer, but I am emptying my freezer since I anticipate a move in the next month or two. Not looking forward to that at all!

I'm hoping for an uneventful weekend. Some snow is predicted for Sunday night and possibly mid-week. Temps will go below freezing on Monday night and we will be back in the frigid zone by Tuesday. Cold, but not as cold as when the Vortex came down from the Polar express.

Chores and projects await me, so I am wrapping this up for today. 
Sunny, cold after snow
The sky was clear, sun shining when I checked my door to see how much ice was on the outside. Frozen solid! I got the hair dryer and an extension cord, put the hair dryer between the two doors and wrapped the quilt over all. I have a quilt over the door b/c door is warped and a lot of cold air comes inside between the cracks. Quilt helps keep the heat between the doors. I left the hair dryer on for about an hour while I woke up. When I could open the door, the bottom swept away snow from the porch. There was about two inches of ice covering the north side of the trailer. At least this storm wasn't as bad as the blizzard of Feb '13, when there was so much snow drifted and frozen in front of my storm door, I couldn't open the door!

I headed out to shovel snow. I had called my neighbor and let him know I needed some plowing done. I was out in the far away poultry yard when he plowed the driveway to the guy who tried to burn down our house. He feels obligated to do that driveway, too. He said if he does my plowing and doesn't clear the other driveway, he might feel the wrath of the fire-starting guy.  I am now indebted and will pay my plowing debt with eggs from my chickens.

I cleared a lot of snow from the far away poultry yard today. The snow was much lighter than predicted. I am happy for that! The birds were happy to be out, dismayed at more snow. The snow banks from shoveling are now about 3 feet high along the paths. There aren't too many drifts, seems the snow was too heavy to blow.

I took BB the dog for a walk in the plowed driveway across the street. He can't walk in the snow, his legs are too short. We go up and down the driveway several times so he can check out the new snow banks from the fresh plowing job. We drive back to have lunch. I rest a bit, then out to late-day feed. Egg take today is less than yesterday. I have an egg delivery tomorrow, so every egg counts.

After chores, I lock up the birds for the night. It is quiet as dark comes, the moon will be bright tonight. Lately, many of the storms have been either during the full or dark moon, or so it seems. I haul in the water jugs and the egg. As I take off my boots and gaiters, snow falls out from inside the gaiters. All these clothes have to be hung up. Water jugs have to be put out of the way, eggs counted, washed and boxed.

I get a glass of water and something to eat. I wait for the weather report and next thing I know, it is midnight! I slept for five hours straight! Guess no sleep lastnight caught up with me.

Tomorrow, I will so more shoveling to clear the rest of the parking area, the main coop run and the snow off the tops of the shelters. Just too much snow for one person and a shovel!

I do know all this snow will be good for the water table this spring & summer. CA mountains hasn't had nearly enough snow in the past few years, that is why they are in a drought. Ordinary folks don't understand how the snow in the mountains affects the water supply in the lower elevations. Most complain about the weather conditions. Too rainy, too cool, not enough heat, etc. But cool, rainy days are the best for the ground and absorption. All this snow will melt and replenish the underground water "tanks".

Does anyone remember the book, "Dune"? I read them in the early 70's, I think. Since then, I have been saying water will be our next oil. During the early - mid 70's, there was an energy crisis, basically an oil crisis. Gas was rationed, heating oil prices soared. I was working third shift in a factory then, I remember getting out of work at 7:15 AM, getting a coffee and driving to the gas station to wait by the pump for the station to open at  AM. I would fall asleep waiting, the gas station attendant would knock on the car window to wake me so he could pump gas. Those were the days before self service gas pumps...

We are soon facing a huge water crisis. The government has ignored the warning signs, has been damming rivers and allowing deserts to become prime farming land at the cost of our environment. The cost of damming up rivers is becoming apparent to many ordinary people. When I say ordinary, I mean people who are not environmental experts or scientists.

My father was in the Coast Guard. He was on ice breakers and was out to sea for months at a time. The ship carried all the supplies necessary for such a long trip, including water. My dad was a real stickler for not running the water when we brushed our teeth, rising dishes, taking long showers. I grew up with water conservation pounded into my head. When the new, energy & water efficient clothes washers came onto the market, I bought one. I put an empty jug under the faucet to collect the water till it runs hot, use the collected water on my plants. I had rain water collection barrels for use on my gardens. I recycled the water used for washing veggies back into the garden. People can live without many things, but not water.

The American dream of the perfect lawn has always escaped me. Slaving on a hot day to mow grass is not in my agenda. Livestock do a much better job and are self-fertilizing to boot. Mr. Chemical, my new neighbor is a slave to his lawn, mowing it to about an inch long three times a week. Then he waters it when the hot weather comes. If he were to mow to a 3" height, he would control weeds and the shade from the grass blades would shade the grass roots, making watering unnecessary. He wants a weed-free lawn for his family to play on. He puts chemicals down and his wife and son walk on the grass. He refuses to believe there could be any future health problems from the chemicals.

How did I get onto this subject? Guess it is time for me to go to bed so I can shovel more snow tomorrow!

Yes, we are getting more snow on Tuesday. Thursday, it might rain, but it will be warming and melting in the middle of the week.

Thanks for your comments and interest in my thoughts.
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