Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fresh from God....

She has arrived!
Claire Jo
born on
January 27th
7 lb. 4 oz
She's our 7th granddaughter
and our 9th grandchild!
She's home now with her big brother, Chief, and Mommy & Daddy.
We are all excited about her arrival! 


The Three Little Girls are still with us and they were very entertaining for Chief since he stayed with us while his sister was born.  It's been a busy household these past few days!  Today grandgirls, Peach and Toodles came over to join Bee and Rootie Tootie while the rest of the cousins took naps.  We baked My Mom's Sugar Cookies and decorated them with icing and sprinkles.  My favorites have the red hots!  Yummy!  We will be sharing with the nappers soon!  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Three little girls are coming...

 Three little girls are coming to stay with their Papa and Grammy
while Mommy and Daddy go on a trip.
We will do lots of good things like baking cookies.
 The girls have their own babies, so they will come too!

 I'm sure there will be plenty of toys around the house.

 Since there is snow, we will dress like Eskimos and play outside!
The cousins live next door so there will be lots of outdoor fun!

 Grammy will ask the girls to help her sweep and dust and pick up.

 There will be extra clothes to wash and fold.

Outdoor play and work will make our hands and toes cold!

We will read lots of books.

 Before bedtime, we will say our prayers and sing our songs.

And hopefully each little girl will sleep all night!
(Pictures by illustrator, Eloise Wilkin)

Monday, January 23, 2017

National Pie Day! Yay!

It's National Pie Day so....
I made pie.
Did you have pie today?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wood & rawhide snowshoes...

Today!  Today!  Today!
I received my used modified bearpaw snowshoes in the mail, and I'm quite pleased with the condition of them.  I think they might need a fresh coat of polyurethane on them, but they seem to be tight with no loose webbing at all.  I took off the old leather bindings that they came with and put on a rope binding.  It worked amazingly well, but I think I'm going to get a rougher, more aggressive nylon rope and try that, or I might try nylon strap. The traditional binding is made of lamp wick.  I don't have any of that, but it is available online if I should want to try it.  I'm linking to a rubber binding that I am going to try next, especially for the wet snow.
How to use rubber bindings  &  How to make rubber bindings.

I took my first "spin" around the lower area back behind the houses where the snow is very deep and soft.  We've had a warm-up this past week, so I knew the snow would be softer and wetter than it has been which can cause more sinking so this was a good test of how well the snowshoes would float (or sink) in the snow.  I was quite pleased at how much more float these shoes have over the modern aluminum snowshoes.  I've read that this style is not the best for breaking trails which I will do in them, but I didn't have any trouble with them today.  You can see the picture above of my track next to a deep Ranger track.  I only sunk in a couple inches and the Ranger track is about a foot deep.  Along with walking in deep, wet snow, I tried walking up and down the hard, crusted snow in our shelter belt.  They were a little harder to walk in uphill, but I did manage it.

To me, the wooden snowshoes felt lighter in weight than the modern shoes.  I'm not sure if they are, but the snow sifted through the webbing as I walked and didn't stick at all.  Modern, aluminum shoes will collect snow and pack up underneath the boot and particularly on the cleats when walking in wet snow.  That didn't happen at all with these.  I'm excited to try them in different areas and on different kinds of snow.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Snow walking...

 This is our gravel road --six miles to the highway.  
If we get more snow and wind, it's blocked.
Right now, it's warming up, so the road is a little better!

 Snow walking in the Breaks Pasture.

 A lone antelope was paying more attention to Sue than to me.


 See, the fence is buried.  
There will be lots of fence to fix this spring & summer.
Hi Sue!

Long shadow.

I'm getting all excited about the fact that I have a pair of used snowshoes on the way.  I ordered this pair of traditional wooden snowshoes with the rawhide lacing from Ebay.  I've never walked in this style before, but have wanted to try since deep, powdery snow or even wet snow can be hard to walk in with the modern aluminum snowshoes.  You tend to sink in with the moderns, whereas the traditional style snowshoes have more float due to more surface area.  It'll be a fun experiment.  Since I got shoes used, I'm not out a lot of money compared to buying them new if I don't like wearing them. I'll be sharing my experience with you once they arrive!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A snowy walk...

As I was out doing my afternoon chores:
feeding chickens, bringing them some hay for the floor,
gathering eggs, digging out the snowy barn door,
and feeding the cats,
I decided to take a little walk.

It's snowing this afternoon, rather beautifully with no wind.

Along the way I noticed this Long-eared Owl.  I'm not sure I've seen one in real life before.  I didn't have my camera at the moment, so I just enjoyed watching him.  While walking home, I spied another bird that I was unsure of.  I tried to snap a picture of it in my mind so I could try to find it in my field guide.  The many chickadees were flitting here and there at the feeder, all "dee-dee-dee-ing" back and forth to each other as I walked in the garage to fetch them some more sunflower seeds.  Then I had an idea to grab my camera and walk back out.  Maybe I could snap a picture of the birds so I might identify them.

Lucky me, the Long-eared Owl was still on his perch and he allowed me a couple snaps.  Isn't he a beauty?  I'll say!  The unknown bird became more evident when I looked at my photos and saw the hooked beak.  It looks like a Northern Shrike, but kind of not.  Then I saw the juvenile photo in my guide, and that nailed it.  He's a young one!  I've seen the Northern and Loggerhead Shrikes in the summer here, but I don't know that I've ever seen one in winter.  They are listed as "scarce" in the Peterson's Field Guide to North American Birds.  I'm so glad I took a little time to go walking despite the cold 6 degrees and snow.  It was well worth it.  Now I'll have a good cup of black coffee and a treat.  

Have you been seeing any unusual birds or animals around your place?  Do tell!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chickens in winter...

I cleaned the coop this fall before the winter hit hard.

 Looks like I need some more bedding on the floor.
You see I saved over two Rhode Island Reds as an experiment.
  I wanted to see how many more eggs they would lay in their Old Age.  
They've done pretty well.

 Good egg production happening this morning!
We don't use all these nest boxes.  I have the majority boarded up.

 Some of the eggs are double-yolkers!

A young friend of mine who I give eggs to emailed me today with questions about why her friend's chickens aren't laying.  I thought that it might be a good time to talk about keeping chickens in winter since this is a common problem for us up north who are facing extreme cold right now.  It's hard on everything -- including chickens.

Here are some excerpts from my email:

Egg Laying Breeds:
There are really so many variables for chickens laying or not laying eggs.  One of the first variables I think about is the breed of chicken.  Right now I've got Pearl White Leghorns which lay large, white eggs.  These are THE BREED for getting lots of eggs.  They are the breed commercial farms use because they are such good layers and they are one of the best converters. So you really are getting more bang for your buck -- when it comes to converting feed to eggs.  There are other breeds that are very good too like:  Red Star and Black Star (sexlinks),  Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, and Astralorp.  One thing I'm trying is to do from now on is to buy just one breed per year.  This way when it comes time to replace hens every fall, we know which are the old hens and which are the pullets (young hens).

Oh, that reminds me....does your friend have old hens?  If she does, they will not lay on a regular basis.  I replace my hens every year.  So the hens laying now were just chicks back in April.  That will make a huge difference in egg production.  The old hens will produce what we call JUMBO eggs, but they will not lay an egg a day like a young hen will.

Mixed Breed Flocks: 
One thing that happens amongst mixed chickens is that sometimes they will gang up on other breeds.  Some of the more docile breeds end up being picked on and some of the more aggressive breeds will beat up on others and/or eat their eggs.  I used to buy a variety of chickens, but the past couple years, I've been buying just one breed.  They all get along.  A quiet coop is a happy coop which produces more eggs!

One thing that really helps egg production is feed.  High protein feed.  If you can get the hens to eat the Layer Pellet, you will win.  Sometimes chickens like it (mine do) and sometimes they don't.  A trick my MIL used to do was to make a mash out of it.  She'd pour boiled water over the pellet in a Cool Whip dish and carry it out to the chickens.  You don't really have to have a Cool Whip dish, but you know -- a disposable dish is nice to leave at the coop. The hens loved to eat pellet that way and if that's the only way you can get them to eat layer pellet, do it.  Wheat is a high protein feed you can add.  I feed Hen Scratch which combines a little of everything and chickens like some variety.  If your friend can add scraps from the table, chickens always love that.  It keeps them "happy" and they look forward to you coming.  I sometimes grab a little clump of alfalfa hay and throw to them.  They like green stuff like lettuce, peas, and trimmings from your veggies.  They will also eat meat scraps.  Some people say you shouldn't feed meat scraps, but I do.  Chickens will fight over it, they love it so much.

Temperature & Water:
Make sure the floor of the coop has plenty of bedding -- stray, hay or wood shavings.  If hens' feet are cold, they aren't happy....just like us.  Try to make the coop as draft-free as possible so it can be as warm as possible.  I do have a red heat lamp over the water bucket to keep it from freezing.  It really doesn't warm the coop much, but it keeps water available.  During these cold, cold winters, I do NOT let my hens out of the coop.  When there is snow and ice on the ground, my girls stay indoors.  Remember about cold feet? 

Hens have to have lots of water.  If their water supply is freezing over, they aren't getting enough water to make eggs.  Eggs are something like 90% water.  A tip to keep hens drinking:  take out hot water every day.   This way they have more drinkable (warm) water during cold days.  The less energy a hen needs to stay warm, the better. 

I do think the light from that heat bulb over the water bucket also keeps hens laying through the winter.  They need the light to stimulate the pituitary gland to produce eggs.  Even if your friend could add one or two hours more light in the coop in the early morning or the evening,  it might help.  If you are worried about fire, just put a regular light bulb in the coop and leave it on or put it on a timer.  If your coop has windows, keep them as clean as you can so more light comes in.

Nesting Boxes & freezing eggs:
Mine are wooden.  I've seen the metal ones (the friend has metal).  I don't think they should be a problem, but I can imagine that those hens are kicking out the straw since it would be slippery and hens like to fluff up their nests.  I saw an idea where somebody took one of those small wash tubs and cut part of the front out so the hens could enter and then added hay, straw or wood shavings to it.  It kept the nesting material in and made it easy to dump out and clean too.  That might be helpful. 

With the cold we've been having, my eggs will freeze too.  That heat bulb doesn't really keep the coop warm, it just keeps the water from freezing most of the time.  Even then, the water gets ice around the edges.  When I know it's going to be below zero or around 0*, I go get the eggs early -- before noon.  Or they WILL freeze in the nests.  Then I might go check again in the evening before dark to see if there are any more.  My hens are usually all done laying before noon, so that just makes it easy to go fetch the eggs and feed & water them all at once -- particularly in winter months.  The hens like to climb up to the roost early in winter.

Chickens need a roost up off the floor.  Here again, we're talking about warm feet.  When they are off the cold floor or ground, their feet are warmer.  Their bodies are warmer up off the ground too so that keeps our chickens happy!  The less energy the chickens use to keep warm and happy, the more energy they can convert into eggs.

I hope this winter chickens post might help you and your hens if you are seeing a slow-down in egg production.  It is a normal thing to have slower egg production in the dark and cold of winter, but it doesn't have to be this way.  I am not a chicken expert or a chicken scientist.  I'm just a ranchwife who has been raising chickens for 30+ years, and this is what works for me where I live in the wintry northern plains.  Here's to More Eggs!


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