Friday, November 30, 2007

The Best Museum Food I Ever Had

photo by bcmom

The year the American Indian Museum opened on the Mall in Washington, D.C., I missed the inaugural pow wow because I was teaching. Then I took students to Washington in December for a leadership conference. Again I missed the museum trip because of scheduling issues and because I was the only one really interested in going. A few weeks later, we traveled to the DC area to visit my parents. Then I finally got to go to the museum.

As we wandered through four floors of culturally appropriate architecture, artworks that we had only seen in books and small traveling cart displays that allowed you to hold replicas of our ancestors' material culture, the hunger struck. It was cold outside and we had been travelling, so I was terribly hungry. Typically I pass on museum food, because it is overpriced and not necessarily that good. But my mother was buying. She had heard that they had some interesting dishes there. The theme in this restaurant is foods native to the American continents. The menu featured things as diverse as buffalo and elk burgers to tortillas to local freshwater fish. Then I saw it - turkey with cranberries and squash, I think. I believe there was also corn involved but I don't exactly remember. The cranberries stand out.

I have long been a fan of cranberries. I'm not big on sweet drinks and I find the tartness of the cranberry quite refreshing. When I worked at a bar, I used to mix my own non-alcoholic beverage featuring a glass filled with ice, cranberry juice and a splash of lemix. Better than water on a busy night, though much more expensive.

Related Reading

I checked out Wikipedia for nutritional information and here is a summary of what I found out. Cranberries contain plenty of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthum. The most common native food storage method before refrigeration, was drying. Cranberries can be stored easily in the winter because of the cold temperatures and they can be dried in the sun. Once cranberries are dried, they could be mixed with dry meat and suet or bear fat and nuts to create pemmican - high energy road food. Talk about nutrition. Something like that would ward off rickets in the winter and many other vitamin deficiencies that were common prior to the 20th century.

Potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balances in the body. Diets high in potassium can ward off hypertension. Vitamin C can ward off colds and help maintain energy and overall good health. A lack of vitamin A can lead to a variety of defects in vision, including night blindness and corneal drying. Lutein and zeaxanthum are important for warding off diseases like macular degeneration. Lack of these two nutrients also leads to pale dry skin.

Oh yeah, back to the museum restaurant. Let me say that the turkey dinner was fabulous. The best I've ever had. I talked about how good it was for at least a year. If you ever get to Washington, D.C. visit the Museum of the American Indian and try out the delicious food in their restaurant.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How to Save a Horse

Don't ride the cowboy. Talk to a barefoot farrier.

The following set of tips was developed by Jim Apple, a barefoot hoof care farrier in the Middle Tennessee area. He is today's guest writer. You can post questions to Jim in the comments section below this article.

First and foremost be devoted to helping your horse. Founder is a painful situation for the horse. Conscientious and humane care must be given at all levels. Here are some guidelines to make this easier for the horse, for you and for me..

The horse

  1. Dry lot the horse. Use a run in shed or open stall, if you don’t have a area fenced in-DO IT!

  2. Determine the founder trigger. I can guarantee that your horse did not “just founder”.

  3. No green grass, no grain-PERIOD

  4. Feed grass hay 24/7, stay away from hay that is high in sugars, like alfalfa.

  5. Keep the horse moving, once it is comfortable. You might have to walk the horse in the beginning.

  6. Make sure that water is available at all times, Free choice salt and minerals should be in the dry lot.

  7. Place the hay, water, salt and minerals at different spots once the horse can move of its own free will. Set it up with water in one corner, hay in another corner, salt in the third corner and minerals in the fourth corner.

The caregiver

  1. Be prepared mentally to do this. It can and will put a strain on all aspects of your life.

  2. Realize that you can only do so much; the rest is up to your horse.

  3. Ask questions

The farrier

  1. Provide conscientious and humane trimming. Schedule the next visit.

  2. Measure the horse’s feet and encourage the use of protective hoof boots and soaker boots to help the horse be comfortable during the healing process

  3. Ask questions and provide answers and educational material.

*At some point during the recovery process, most horses have minor setbacks such as abscesses, thrush, white line disease etc. Regular trimming and soaking the horse’s feet once a week in equal parts apple cider vinegar/water for 20 minutes will keep those problems to minimum. In some cases daily soaks will be necessary. Be patient. Your horse can survive founder.*

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Get Some Air in There

I have found the composting Bible. The first and last word in composting. Mike McGrath's Book on Composting is it!

Why am I so excited? Because he has some great ways to speed up the compost pile and he explains it so I can understand. The greatest new thing I want to try out is putting a chimney in the compost pile. Yep, that's right - a CHIMNEY.

Here's what I plan to do based on Mr. McGrath's suggestions:

Take some of my friend's wire fence discards and roll them into 6-8" tubes. Set a tube into the ground where I will put a new pile. Then I will take the partially decomposed remains of my two big compost piles and carefully layer them around the tube. I will intersperse the layers with leaves that I've raked up into suitable piles for jumping in. (I have to keep the kids happy somehow and work ain't it). When the pile is approximately 4 foot high and 4 foot wide and 4 foot long, I'll build another pile with another tube. The tube is supposed to act like a chimney and circulate air through the pile speeding up decomposition.

I have to take care that the compost does not fall into the tube when piled up around it. I can't wait to see if the pile puts off steam. Then I know it's really cooking. If the piles start smoking I'll post some pictures here.

If the pile don't produce steam, I'll have to check the moisture and composition to make sure I got that right. The moisture should be like a well-wrung sponge and the composition should be 30 parts brown to 1 part green. This time of year I may need more green, but then again maybe not since I put kitchen garbage in there and I have plenty of that.

I want to have compost ready for the early spring plants which I will be seeding in February. According to the Mike McGrath book and many other oral sources, compost is the best thing for your plants. It's ready-made free natural fertilizer. Compost builds the soil health.

Healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy food = healthy eaters.

And less work for me. Yep - Livin' the Dream

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What's on Your Side of the Fence?

I want to hear from you. What weeds, weedy trees, annoying shrubs, and "bad penny" vines are you having trouble with? What do you want to know about or do you have eradication and annihilation tips? If your combat tips are organic, that's even better.

On Tuesdays I write about exotic invasives and other weeds. I've pretty much been writing about the weeds I encounter regularly that I wish I didn't have. And oh boy, do I have them, but that's another story entirely. I want to hear your stories.

Please post a comment with your ideas and/or questions below. I'll take the time to post your experiences or answer your questions here at the Mule Shoe Farm blog in the upcoming weeks.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Check it Out!

I am at the library in Ashland City which is where I produce most of the blog, most of the time. The public library is a great resource in our community and is housed in a new building on County Services Dr. which is right off of Frey Street, A.K.A. Hwy 49.

Did you know they have a fabulous meeting room, you can reserve for your organization's meetings? You can reserve three months at a time. The meeting room has plenty of tables and chairs, a coffee maker and even a ceiling mounted slide projector and screen for PowerPoint presentations.

Is your Internet connection at home slower than Christmas or your computer is down? Do you have a laptop and simply need to get out of the house to get some work down. The library has a great many computers for public use. You can print two pages per day and make 3-5 copies of important papers. Plus there is a 15 minute check you email computer.

There are weekly story time groups for pre-school aged children that feature hands-on activities. In addition to all this, the library will also reserve books for you, renew books and if they don't have the book but it's in the TN library system, they'll order it in for you.

The hardworking librarians are friendly and very helpful. Check them out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Juicy Fruit

photo by southernpixel

Apples are a fall season fruit that stores well into the early winter. We've all heard that they're nutritious - eat at least one a day and you'll not see the MD as the saying goes. And according to my daughter's unofficial survey of vegetable-hating fourth graders, apples are loved by pretty much everybody. Except maybe Snow White. Talk about lousy publicity. Of course, "they" also say any publicity is good publicity.

Apples originated in Central Asia where their wild ancestor still can be found in places like Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Apples are not usually cultivated by seed. A special technique called grafting produces apple trees with a promising root stock and a branch from a mature tree with desirable apples. One reason apple are not often produced from seed, is that the seeds require quite of bit of work to germinate. First they must be scarified which means wearing the hard covering off. Then they have to be babied through the germination process carefully. Once you get a seedling, it will take many years to develop fruit. The fruit may or may not resemble the original apple in any way.

Apples are a late autumn fruit in cooler climes which stores well through the winter without losing too much of its nutritional value. Many foods are not so lucky. They must be eaten as close to harvest to avoid losing their nutritional appeal. My daughter says that apples are juicy, yummy and colorful which makes them interesting. Apple juice is often the juice of choice for babies through adults. And apple cider vinegar has been blamed for longevity for, well, a long time.

Let's look at what an apple has. Vitamin C definitely. That will help ward off colds and combat fatigue. Vitamin C is part of an apple's antioxident package which helps reduce the risk of cancer. Phenolics, a type of antioxident found in apples, can protect nerve cells from neurotoxicity induced by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is involved in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Apples also contain an assortment of B vitamins with their fiber and sugar content. Apples are a far more nutritious and sweet than, say, an apple flavored hard candy. They only have 80 calories on average. Apples also contain pectin which helps gell fruit and supports your digestive tract by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. This miracle fruit is known to promote healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Apples are in season, so they should cost less right now. Many small growers in Washington State and other places, self brand their apples. These may cost a bit more, but the local farmer receives a better price for a superior product. Some examples of small farms who are surviving can be found in films such as My Father's Garden shown on LinkTV, or websites like Bill Pace Fruit & Produce or in places like Whole Foods. There are even a few folks in the local area who grow apples. This year's weather pretty much cancelled out the apple harvest, but next year, I'll be looking for apples at the Ashland City Open Air Market.

And now, a quick kid friendly recipe suggested by my daughter as the best way to eat apples.

Slice an organic apple into long slices
spread with organic peanut butter or dip it in the peanut butter
sprinkle organic raisins on top
Eat, eat and eat.
Then eat some more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Money Matters

Starting in my 30's I began to seriously research what I would farm, how I would accomplish my dream, and what was necessary to make farming a possiblity for my family. As I worked my way to management in the computer industry, I learned how to calculate costs and return on investments over time. I applied these things to the dream.

A epiphany came when I was researching requirements for selling dairy products. I was helping out at my cousin's goat farm in Michigan and asking questions of her suppliers and friends. I learned that a combination homogenization/pasteurization machine often sold to small villages in Africa would cost around $10,000. The friend recommended that I consider purchasing that machine if I intended to make a go of it in the dairy goat business.

I only wanted 5 goats for milking. A handful for meat and the rest would be sold. Here's how the calculation goes. If I milked a gallon from each goat each day that would be five gallons a day or 35 gallons a week. Some milk would be reserved for family use making about 30 gallons available for sale each week. If I sold the milk for $3 a gallon - the retail price then for goats milk, I could potentially make $90 per week on milk.

$90 is gross income. I factored in my costs. My feed would cost approximately $32.50 per week. This is the only cost I considered. At the time, I didn't count mileage or water or anything else. The net weekly income would be $67.50.

The next question is how much would I net a year from selling milk and how much would I save my using my own milk products. 5 gallons a week would provide for cheese, butter, cream, yogurt and drinking milk for the family. At the time of the calculations, I estimated I would save about $7 per week by using my own stuff. Added to income, it makes $73.50 per week. Just multiply by 52 to the annual net income - right? Wrong. Female dairy goats need to be bred every year to keep up the milk supply. They dry up for about 2 months before giving birth. That's at least 2 months of no milk pre-birth and 1 month pst- birth. No milk for 3 months or approximately 12 weeks. Take twelve weeks off the year.

Now at last I can get an answer. Will I be able to make a dent in the cost of the equipment in a year? $73.50 X 40 weeks = $2940. No - not at all.
I do not want to take out a loan for $10,000. I am extremely debt adverse and that was before I heard of Dave Ramsey. I wanted to earn the money up front. It would take about three years at full production to earn enough money to pay for the machine in cash. That was not appealing to me and I began to research other options.
I will write more on considering the money needed and its relationship to sustainable farming in the following weeks. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pretty in Pink - Pretty Annoying

What pink and green and grows all over?

A mimosa, of course.

Like that question only has one answer.

Actually mimosa can be quite lovely to view, but it is not your friend. Albizia julibrissin or mimosa has been here in North America for such a long time, we have come to think of it as belonging. Where I grew up in Virginia it was an extremely common site, particularly along highways. I was a little surprised to find it on Tennessee's Exotic Invasives Species list. But the sad truth is mimosa is a noxious weed tree.

Mimosas have all the common characteristics of many pest plants: easily suckers, the least little bit will sprout, exceptionally long dormancy ability, prolific seed dropper and it's from Asia. It has made it all the way to Tennessee's Watch List 1 with a rank of 1. That means, it is ranked as a severe threat which easily naturalizes and displaces native plants. One plant it takes the place of quite easily is the red bud tree.

If you're with me so far, you'll want to know how to get rid of it - organically. Get out the chainsaw or the ax or the tree pruners. Cut it down. When it suckers up, cut it down again. Pull the stump if you can and continue to cut the suckers. If you mow the area regularly, it won't have much chance to reproduce. Or you can grow a thick canopy forest. Mimosas prefer the sun. Although they will tolerate partial shade, they do not grow in the shade.

Learn to recognize mimosa seedlings and pull them as soon as you can grab them. If you weed them when the soil is slightly damp, you'll have a better chance of pulling the whole root. That's what you want to do, because the least little piece left will grow a new tree.

You can girdle large mimosa trees, if they haven't fallen down on their own. To girdle a tree, you use an ax to cut through the bark on the tree at about six inches above the ground. Cut a ring all the way around the tree, taking care to go through the outer and inner bark layers. The tree will slowly die. The best time to do this is in April before it begins to bloom. Really you can girdle whenever the fancy strikes. The late spring is best because the tree has expended much of its stored energy on spring growth and it will likely sucker a bit less once it begins to die. Keep up with those suckers, too. Cut them off when they appear. I guess you could put animals who like to eat bark near it, too. Like goats, sheep, horses, cows, etc.

Then plant something else. Make it native. For ideas about what to plant in our Middle Tennessee area, check out Landscaping with Native Plants. They have several brochures which can give you ideas based on location, soil moisture, sunlight and pH.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lighten Your Load

Mondays are for anything local that strikes my fancy. Some days are more local than others.

photo by theogeo

Fall is a traditional time of "nesting" for us at the farm. In preparation for winter, we like to get the house in order and take stock of what we have. This helps us plan during the winter. Right now, the clutter is overwhelming. Like most folks, we moved into the house with very little and the collection of stuff just grew.

We have now been in our house for eight years. Despite two yard sales and at least monthly drop offs to the charity trailer, we still have too much junk. How do I know this? Because it's all over the house. Everywhere. Did I mention, we have graduated to paths in certain areas?

I am tackling this cleanup job a little bit at a time. Each morning after everyone is fed and the kids are at school, I pick an area of the house that I can clean in about two hours. That's Tip one: Don't over commit your time. Spend 2-4 hours max per day decluttering.

Tip two: There are three categories: Keep it, ThrowAway, and GiveAway. As I go through each area, I put the GivaAways in a box and the ThrowAways in a trash bag. I am left with a pile of stuff I want to keep.

Tip three: If fills up more than half the space available, cull through it again. It's time for the hard questions. Do I really need the five half full band-aid boxes or can I consolidate the boxes? Do we need twenty plus scented soaps which we haven't ever used? That's a GiveAway definitely.

Tip four: Take care of the GiveAways and ThrowAways immediately. Several decluttering books I've read are not clear on this. I know how I procrastinate. And some of you out there do too. You know who you are. How do you think the house got so cluttered in the first place? As I fill up the GiveAway boxes, I can take them out to the car.

Our local charity drop off takes stuff until 2pm, so I have to leave the house by 1:30pm. This gives me a time limit, so cleaning up is not a never-ending task for that day.

This is really a 10,000 foot view, but these simple guidelines can get it done. If I know I don't have the time to declutter today, I plan for it the next available day. My challenge is sticking with it consistently. I also seem to have unusually generous friends, because no sooner do I clean up one area, then someone drops off a box of stuff they think I can't live without. My challenge is to find a good home for this stuff - which is not my house.

What are some of your challenges keeping your house cleaned up and tidy? Time? Toddlers? Generous Friends? Pack rat spouse? I'm curious to see what challenges you have encountered and how you overcome these challenges.

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's the Great Pumpkin!

Fridays are all about nutrition
picture by Meowcat93

It's that big orange fall treat some of us long for all year - pumpkin. Of course, like many pumpkin lovers, I am a big fan of pumpkin pie. There is also soup, cookies, cheesecake, casserole and many other pumpkin treats. Best of all, I can indulge my artistic tendencies at Halloween and then compost the shell. I can eat the seeds or plant them for next year. But wait there's more! It's slices; it dices; and IT'S NUTRITIOUS!

Pumpkin is native to the Americas and quickly took over the spooky job of being a Jack O'Latern from beets and turnips. Colonists would cut off the top and scoop out the seeds. Then they would put in milk, spices and honey and cook the pumpkin in hot ashes. Check out more about pumpkins and their history.

Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbita family which includes butternut squash, summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers. Check out the Pumpkin Nook for fun activities and other facts about pumpkins, including how to grow prize winning giant pumpkins.

Now back to nutrition. The orange skin of the pumpkin is a clue to its nutrition secrets. Fruits and vegetables with bright orange color are high in beta-carotene which your body uses in creating vitamin A. Beta-carotene has also been linked to cancer prevention and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Pumpkin seeds are reputed to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Pumpkin is also high in potassium - another essential nutrient. And guess what else - no salt or cholesterol. Yep. That's right no salt AND no cholesterol.

Now if I eat it my favorite way in pie, I am sure to have salt and cholesterol. I can reduce those items and the fat from the pie plus make it overall more healthy in the following ways. Substitute low fat condensed milk or low fat vanilla soy milk. Use whole wheat pie crust or low fat pie crust. Cut down on the number of eggs, use egg whites instead of whole eggs or use an appropriate egg substitute. Use Splenda instead of sugar.

Yeah riiiight.

You could do all that substitution or you could use all the real stuff and eat less.

Yeah riiight.

Who am I kidding? I'll eat less pumpkin pie when there's less in the refrigerator. Seriously, though. A healthy recipe is out there. I believe if you make pumpkin pie with fresh, organic, local ingredients (except for the spices), you will eat less because the food will be so satisfying, you'll won't be craving more...

Until the morning.

Oh, I do love cold pumpkin pie, too.

No ice cream please.

This is breakfast.

Let's have a moment of silence.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Now Where Was I?

It's early morning. The day is forecasted to be cold, breezy and wet. Jewel is laughing at the breezy graphic on the morning news. It's all hurry, hurry. Stick to the plan. Stick to the Routine. No extra time for anything if we're to leave on time. Brush Hair. Brush kids hair. Put on your shoes! Now what?

Oh yeah. Feed the animals.

"Hunter, don't forget to feed the dogs. Jewel, feed the kitties." Now, where's my coat?

And I'm out the door still looking back. A flash of white out of my peripheral vision. Did I see that right? I look full on. Yes it's a goat. Which one? Oh, it's Duchess and she's standing in the front yard. No, she's walking toward me.

"Hey Duchess, I call softly and grab the white plastic bucket piled on the desk on top of the iron work. On the porch. The coat is forgotten momentarily. I peer around for Buddy. Oh, he's in the other pen. He can't figure out how to get out. Good. He's set for now.

1-2-3-4 cups of sweet feed in the bucket. Sarah runs up to Duchess' heels. Doesn't nip but makes a perfect herding motion, then continues on. Duchess kicks up her feet and bucks her way toward the road as I come off the porch. The air is chilly and wet as the skin and hair on my arms becomes cold. No time to worry about that, now.

"C'mon, Duchess." I shake the bucket and she follows. I lead her down to the pasture where she'll be staked out today and put the bucket down. The white furry head goes down. The wide inquiring eyes disappear into the feed. She is head shy a bit as I come toward her with the buckle of the lead rope, but she doesn't pause for long in her eating frenzy.

Buddy's trying to climb the fence, but doesn't seem quite like he wants to try too hard. I have to get another container for him. Where's that coffee can from yesterday? The red plastic catches my eye. It's laying on the ground where it was kicked over last night. In the first pen. I grab it and walk to the house. Completely confusing Buddy who is still stuck in the second pen.

Now wearing a heavy jacket, I bring back the coffee can with the right ration. Shaking it gently as I walk, to get the billy's attention. Buddy tries to climb the fence dividing the two pens near the gate. His front legs hook over the wire, but he is reluctant to move quickly and jump over it. He's tangled with the fence before and it's too tall for him. He runs over to the temporary gate between pens and the roll of the wire confuses him. The fence is bent toward him, where Duchess made good her escape. She's the clever one, but she doesn't share her secrets because Buddy will eat her food. He looks at it and then turns around and heads to the opposite corner. I shake the bucket. He ignores me. I bang the bucket against the chicken house. He turns and comes back. My son stands there with the chicken feed. I set the bucket down. and try to help Buddy negotiate the temporary gate.

"Mom, the chicken's are eating the ---!" He shouts in alarms. I shoo the chickens and try to return to Buddy who is starting to wander off again. I move the sweet feed to a rock closer to me.

"Mom! the-"

"Okay, son. You're distracting me. I know the chickens are trying to eat it. I gotta get Buddy. Just be quiet. Alright?"

Buddy has wandered again. This time into the wire roll. He stops and turns around. He acts confused by the metal maze arrangement that is the temporary closure between the two pens. I put the can on top of the fence post away from the chickens and unhook the wire that creates the temporary closure. Buddy comes to the opening and looks at it, but doesn't attempt to step over the gap. He turns around. I have to show him it's okay and he can get in and out.

"Hey, Buddy. Hey, Buddy." I step over the low fence into the second pen. He looks at me. I step over the fence back into the first pen. He follows me. I take the can and he runs to the exit gate, blocking me way.

As we leave, Hunter places the chicken feed in the house and closes the gate to keep the chickens in.

"Get in the car," I call over my shoulder as Buddy and I do our start and stop dance to his stake in the pasture. I put the bucket down. His head goes into and he doesn't even look up when I snap the lead rope on.

So starts the day.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Southern Food: Collards

Fridays are all about nutrition. Picture by strawbaleman.

Collards are associated with the South, nearly always. But I found some interesting recipes from other places. Check out this soup from Portugal, or this tasty dish from Ethiopia. The truth is that collard greens can be quite nutritious no matter how they are cooked. But too much ham hock = too much fat. The simplest way to make them, by boiling them in water for awhile, is the best way to eat them.

Collards are an excellent autumn food. They can withstand frost. I saw it happen with my own eyes this week. We had heavy frost on the field two mornings in a row and picked well over a bushel of collards today. There's more where that came from, too. Some people say they taste even better after a frost. Even though you can grow them year round, they are best from January to April when other vegetables do not grow.

Some of the nutrients found in collards include vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E, folate, potassium, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B6. 1 cup of collards properly cooked contains less than 50 calories and a little over 20% of recommended daily fiber. It also good for a heart healthy diet because of the B vitamins, folate and riboflavin.

Believe it or not, collards also contain about 22% of the daily requirement for calcium in one cup. I was amazed. If you are lactose intolerant, this is one way for you to get calcium in your diet.

One thing to bear in mind is that collards is part of a group of vegetables that contain oxalates and should not be eaten by people with kidney or gall bladder problems. You can read more on the nutritional details of collards at the World's Healthiest Foods. Even more information about collards can be found at: World Community Cookbook

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Where's The Egg?

Thursdays are all about animals.

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, my thoughts turn to providing warmth and shelter to the animals. Will their nutrition needs change, now that it's colder. Will the length of the day affect them in any way? Do/can animals get SAD (seasonal affective disorder)? It's sounds kind of silly, but since I want to keep my animals in the best possible health, I must ask.

If you've been checking the egg count periodically, you will notice that it has been dropping steadily since early October. This is because once daylight hours drop below 14, chickens do not lay as many eggs. Why are there still eggs in the grocery store all year round? Are they $2 a dozen because they're flying them in from the tropics? Well, they're not exactly flying them in from the tropics. But, in large scale chicken farming the barns are kept a steady "optimal" temperature and the light is kept on for 14 hours per day. This uses energy that I can't afford. It is not cost-effective to do this for a small flock. Plus, t'ain't nachril.

I view the winter as a time to rest up and prepare for the energy of spring. Chickens that are kept up all hours of the night wear out faster. Winter also means that the chickens need to eat differently. They need to be able to have extra energy for the cold nights, so instead of feeding them only in the morning, I have to make sure they have food in the afternoon. When they eat, their body temperature rises for awhile which will help them on those frosty nights. A chicken house doesn't hurt, either. We converted an old Sears storage shed to a chicken house and they are lovin' it.

I really can't tell whether animals get SAD. I guess that one's for the scientists. My chickens are happy. And warm. And well-fed. And resting up for spring.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another Ivy on the Ground

Tuesdays are devoted to weeds and other invasives

Ground Ivy is one of my favorite weeds to pull. It has a distinctive odor and is related to the mint family which you can tell from its square stem. In the early spring and late fall, this lovely little weed will get a jump start on just about everything else. It likes grass. It likes gardens. It likes driveway and sidewalk cracks. Its roots are plenty and its spreads like wildfire. It forms thick carpet-like masses literally anywhere and can easily overrun your lawn.
If it occurs in your garden, which it probably already does, you will have a heck of a time getting rid of it. Since I do not like to fool with chemicals, I tend to pull it up repeatedly. That's just about the only way to get rid of it. Pull it, pull it and then pull it again. Also grow other things that will shade it out. Luckily it does not care for summer much. That doesn't mean it won't pop back up when the weather cools down. This pest is a perennial. Yep. It'll come back. That's why it's so hard to get rid of.
Ground Ivy blooms in the spring and can be a source of allergies. It is for me. It's the odor I think. Once you pull it from your garden, don't compost it. Just pull it out, heap it up and let it wilt and rot on the path. Lay a thick layer of compost mulch on your garden - 3 or 4 inches, according to Mike McGrath. This should keep the ground ivy out until your seeds sprout.
Good Luck with it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Out of the Loop

by Chaparrel [Kendra]

Yeah, I know. I've been out of the loop. I admit I haven't posted anything this week except for Monday. The truth is I haven't been near a computer since Monday. I haven't been feeling well and have had multiple doctor's appointments this week. Hopefully everything is squared away and I will be back to my usual self next week.

The hardest thing about being sick, for me, is the laying around doing nothing. Yeah, I know you're rolling your eyes at me. Who wouldn't want to lay around? It's not that I'm opposed to laying around, it's just that as a wife, mother and farmer I keep thinking of all the things I could be doing. I know I have built and re-built the new chicken house at least five times this week in my sleep. Believe me the coop gets better every time I build it, but the pieces are still sitting in the field waiting on someone to actually put them together. And that someone is me.

But then, am I all about sustainability? Doing what you can with the resources you have? Not overextending the land, the animals, the soil, or...


Ummm. Yeah, that's me.

That thought has kept me getting better this week without overextending myself too much. A little at a time. Easy does it. And so on.

See ya' next week!

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