Archive | January 2014

Polar Vortex Update

It is so amazing how life can get so busy that we even put off the things that we enjoy.  Blogging is an outlet for me and I thank everyone who humors me by reading my stress relief.  We have been busy with home schooling, snow, rabbits, chickens and life that I have not had a chance to blog.  So I decided to start my Monday off right with a moment to myself, a computer and a cup of coffee.

The Chickens:

The chickens look like they are starting to adjust to the snow. However, if I gave them a type writer like the farm animals had in the children’s book “Click Clack Moo” I think that they would be asking for electric blankets and telling me to make the snow go away.   The snow right outside their coop is starting to get really packed down, so I think it does not make their feet as cold as the fresh snow.  I have been giving them treats of corn and sunflower seeds and they have been willing to leave the coop to come and get them.  I am even surprised that our egg numbers have not gone down too much.  We currently have 12 laying hens and we are getting about 10 eggs a day, I think that is pretty good for 10 degree days.  We have noticed that the chickens have been laying the eggs in different places.  I think it is their way of protesting the cold.  Our 8 younger hens are suppose to start laying any day now.  We did get a very small egg, about the size of a quarter this morning, so maybe they are starting. It will be interesting if the cold weather has any effect on them.

The chickens are also getting creative about finding ways to stay out of the snow.  They are roosting on the top of the door into the chicken coop.  They are roosting on top of the fence around the chicken coop, as well as on top of the chicken coop itself.  It makes me wonder if they know something I don’t know and if we all should be heading for higher ground.

The Rabbits:

We have had an interesting week with rabbits. Again we are not sure if it is the cold or if part of something we deal with as rabbit breeders, this is our first winter with rabbits so we will have to wait till next year to find out. Right now we are just trying to learn as much as possible.

Nala:

Poor Nala has had a stressful week.  On Monday my husband went out to do chores and noticed that she had blood on her front paw.  He brought her in so we could get a closer look and to clean her up.  She split her nail down the middle and damaged the quick.  I trimmed off the parts of the nail that I could and I put corn starch on it to help stop the bleeding.  We held her for a while to make sure the bleeding had stopped before we took her back out to her cage.  Nala was due to kindle on Thursday so we did not want to mess with her very much.  Her toe was much better by evening chores and we started waiting for her to have her babies.  Thursday came and went and she was not acting like she was going to be going into labor anytime soon.   Normally rabbits start carrying straw around in their mouths to make a nest and within 24-36 hours they start pulling their fur out for their nest.  She was not doing anything of these things.  We put the nesting box in her cage anyway, thinking that maybe since she was a first time mom, she might be late showing the normal signs of labor.  Well, by Saturday night when she still had not kindled, we thought that maybe the pregnancy just did not take.  Sunday afternoon I went out and noticed that she had delivered 3 kits and she had started to eat them.  So very sad.  I removed the babies and cleaned up her cage.  She never made her nest and she never pulled her fur.  I don’t know if it was because of the cold or because she was a first time mom.  We will give her another chance and see how she does.  No matter how many dead babies you have to deal with it still breaks your heart.   Below is a picture of her toe, not the babies.

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Prince Charming:

Our main Sr. buck, Charming, who is almost 2 years old, has always had discolored urine.  The urine, even in the summer, is an amber color often.  I know that is common with rabbits so I did not think anything of it.  This week on Thursday when I went into the Bunny Barn I noticed that there was blood under his cage.  I took him out expecting to see a hurt foot like we found in the other rabbit earlier in the week and I did not.  I flipped him over onto his back and noticed that his fur around his penis was stained red and there was some discoloration in the tip of his penis.  I came inside and called the vet.  The vet examined him the next day and said that she believed he had passed a bladder stone.  The cold weather is making their water freeze and she thinks that he has gotten slightly dehydrated and that has caused bladder stones.  We have given him a heated waterer, as well as, going out multiple times during the day to make sure he has fresh water and nothing is frozen.  Since then, we have not seen any more blood and we are going to continue to be monitoring him.

We  have decided that we are glad we did not get a farm this spring like we wanted.  Being here and starting small, we are able to learn so much.  In five years or so when we are in a better position to buy a larger homestead, we will have learned these lessons already a be ahead of the curve.

Stay Warm!

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Winter aquaponics

Like most of the country we woke up to very cold temps. We prepared the chickens, the rabbits, cut firewood, sealed up the house and checked on the garden but we were not prepared in the greenhouse. We had a grow light on thinking that would put off enough heat to keep everything above freezing, well we were wrong. Our main fish tank was fine, the sump and the grow bed was fine, it was the small pvc pipes in the system that froze. 
One of the pvc pipes that froze is the pvc under the bell siphon. This caused the water to back up in the upper grow bed. Luckily my husband caught it in enough time that we did not have any over flow.  He disconnected all the small pvc and brought them inside to defrost. He also used the grill as a temporary great source. We know this is not ideal but it works. In Baltimore we do not have many days with weather like this so I think a temporary solution will work for now. I think some recycled pool noodles will help insulate the small pvc pipes and more grow lights and a small heat source with a thermostat will help. We also have a part of the green house that faces south and does not get much sun. Adding ridged foam insulation for the winter would help as well. There is even insulation that has a foil backing that can reflect the light and heat from the North.
We are glad we have not lost any fish and that the broccoli that is in the system seems perfectly happy. These are lessons learned that will help us improve the system and more forward.

Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Winter in Baltimore is always interesting to say the least.  Five years ago we had something crazy like 50+ inches of snow.  Three years ago it was so warm I could have continued to garden all winter.  Most years we have a nice mix of warm days (50’s) and cold days (20 is the low).  This year we have temps that are all over the place.  Tomorrow the high is going to 4 degrees F.  I don’t mind the cold, but it does make taking care of the “farm” a little more difficult.  I am so glad that we do not have to deal with this for months at a time.  To all my family in the mid-west, I just can’t hang, I am an east coast girl.

Our poor chickens.  Year round we have problems with hawks, so our chicken yard has bird netting over it.  I have to say, I personally HATE bird netting.  It comes un-stapled and falls down and then on mornings when I go out there before my coffee I get clothes lined by the sagging bird netting.  The bird netting is horrible.  This last snow finally defeated the dreadful  bird netting. The problem is that the netting was put up in such a way that I can not clean it up by myself. There is way to many supporting ropes and boards that we used to try and hold this horrible stuff up.  It took the chickens all of 3 minutes to get tangled up in it.  Very frustrating…  So I let the chickens out the roam the yard.  Our whole backyard is fenced in with privacy fence, and if it was not for the hawks I would let them roam everyday.  Today the danger of the netting was worse than the danger of the hawks. Well, at least at the time I thought so.  Their feet were turning white from the wet ground and the cold temps.  I ended up locking them up in their covered area, which is not very big.  They are some mad hens. I hope that when my husband gets home we can remove the netting so that tomorrow they stay in the chicken yard, where there is not as much standing water.

I need to get one more cold weather chicken frustration off my chest, I HATE our heated waterer… this thing in horrible.  My advice is to buy a heated disk that you can set a metal waterer on top of, DO NOT buy the plastic white and red heated waterer. The base never stays on, the chickens trip over the cord and unplug it.  When you fill it water gets spilled everywhere and you end up cold, wet and pissed off.  I would love to save everyone that frustration. That is just my two cents, I would love to hear what you use in freezing temps.  OK rant over!

Chickens in the Snow

Chickens in the Snow you can even see the bird netting hanging down!  Horrible stuff!!

As unprepared as we were with the chickens and cold weather, the bunnies are doing fantastic.  The bunny barn is insulated and has heat lamps over the baby kits on nights when it is below freezing.  The waterers are not freezing and everyone seems happy and warm.

I enjoy having the four seasons in Baltimore. It is nice to look at the snow from the window, while sitting in front of the fire place crocheting.  But I really enjoy being in the garden in the spring, summer and early fall.  I enjoy my chores and harvesting the veggies.  I do not mind the heat and I love being in the garden in the still of the morning as the sun first comes up.  Now that we have taken control of the mosquito problem it is even more enjoyable. I do not like doing chores in the freezing rain and really cold temps.

As winter continues I will continue to dream of warmer days and plan out my garden.  Some days I just sit and look at my seeds, it makes me all warm inside.  The nice thing about living in Baltimore is I know winter is only for a season.  Some places have a much longer winter or constant winter, no thank you hon, I will keep my crazy Baltimore weather, it is not predictable, but I know it is always changing.

New Tomorrow, not only a New Year

It is a time when people are making projections, promises and offering prospective. A new year is a celebration of new beginnings and a fresh start.  The problem with all of these things is that people forget about them in February.  This year I challenge everyone to treat everyday as a new beginning.  Each day is special and each day we get a new start, so tonight I am going to go to bed thankful for today and the people I was able to spend it with.  Tomorrow I am going to wake up trying to be the best me I can be and cherishing the many blessings that I have. 

As I sit here writing this my daughter is being forced to eat because her blood sugar is too low for her to go to bed.  She is not a diabetic, they don’t know what is wrong with her.  Some doctors say it is a metabolic disorder, some say a form of hypoglycemia.  But no one really knows.  We never know what kind of condition she is going to be in when she wakes up in the morning or what her blood sugar is going to be.  A normal range is 80-120.  There are days she wakes up with a blood sugar of 23.  We have been very lucky that she has not slipped into a coma, but the doctors say it is possible.  It gives new meaning to being thankful for everyday. 

In the mornings, I get to go out and take care of the animals.  The magic of life and my many blessings greet me everyday.  We have a barn with rabbits that are growing and changing everyday.  I have a chicken coop that has fresh eggs in it each morning and a group of chickens that excitedly charge the new day.  I am also blessed to have a green house that has plants growing and sprouting.  Some days I do not enjoy these things as much as I should.  Tomorrow I am going to treat these things as the blessings they are.

Every morning I get up and have the amazing blessing of being able to stay home with my kids.  I homeschool my son and am starting to teach my daughter preschool.  It is easy to forget that there are millions of moms or dads that would love to be in my position. There are days when it is tiring and i just need a break.  But tomorrow I am going to try and remember how fast they grow up.  There is going to be a time when they don’t want anything to do with me.  Soon, way too soon, they are going to be grown and the house will be filled with the quite I long for now. 

I hope that your tomorrow is filled with blessings and that you are able to look back on today and smile.  Each morning is a new start and each day is a gift, “that is why it is called the present”, yep, I just quoted Kung Fu Panda!