Thursday, January 22, 2015

Herbal Tea for Picky Eaters

My kids are great at trying new foods, and usually enjoy my homemade concoctions. I have one boy, however, who just can't learn to like tea. "It tastes like bathwater!" he tells me. So while the rest of us are sipping warm cups of echinacea tea to stave off the sniffles, he won't touch it.
Finally I figured out the trick - I steep the tea bags in apple juice, and now he'll drink it! I don't need to add any honey or other sweeteners, because the apple juice is naturally sweet enough. While I don't usually let my kids drink fruit juices (I prefer that they eat whole fruits), for the sake of getting that immune-boosting goodness into them, I'll give them that treat.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chickens in the Cold

I've been raising chickens in the harsh climate of Northwestern Wisconsin long enough that I've learned a few things about keeping them through our cold winters. While many would think the cold would be the biggest problem in my unheated coop, aside from a few frozen combs (which don't seem to have any permanent detrimental effect on the birds) and perhaps, in really extreme weather, frozen feet (which I've encountered once, when it was -40F for more than a few days), I've found that it's really the thaw after the freeze that causes the most harm. It's usually in the spring, or in an early thaw (like today), that I see problems.
While the bedding is frozen, biological action pretty much stops, but once it thaws, parasites and pathogenic bacteria quickly start becoming a problem. I've dabbled in the deep bedding method, with disastrous results (I lost an entire flock of 40 one-year-old hens one spring). Since then, I've either added bedding weekly (a contractor-sized bag of leaves for my 10x12 coop) or, if there's a thaw in the forecast, shoveled out the barn entirely (and of course spread it right on the snow-covered garden as a sheet mulch). I've started going by the adage, "If you can smell ammonia, it's time to clean it out." This seems to keep my flock much healthier.
Plus of course, it's good exercise!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Would Rabbit Bedding for Tomato Mulch Prevent Blossom End Rot?

I was cleaning out the barn this morning, and had the realization that if blossom end rot in tomatoes is caused by a calcium deficiency, and rabbit urine is high in calcium, perhaps my rabbit bedding would make the perfect mulch for my tomatoes?
Has anyone tried this? I'm using maple leaves for my rabbit bedding, so I don't see any problems with putting that on my gardens. Any other problems you can forsee? I'm excited to try it out this summer!

(September 2015 Update - it looks like it worked! Not a sign of blossom end rot in my garden this year!)