Saturday, December 13, 2014

Goldenseal Eye Wash for Canine Eye Boogies

Does your dog ever get minor eye infections, otherwise known as Eye Boogies (or also know by the highly refined term Green Eye Goobies)?  Our dog gets them occasionally and this seems to clear them up.  This concoction is one of many in Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide To Natural Health for Dogs & Cats which I use for medical care for minor canine and feline health problems.

Goldenseal/Sea Salt Eye Wash
  • Warm purified water on the stove.  Measure out 1 cup and dump in 1/4 teaspoon goldenseal powder and stir well.  
  • Let steep 15 min, then strain out the goldenseal. (It has usually settled to the bottom, so at this point, I just pour off all the liquid and leave behind the goldenseal sludge).  
  • Mix in 1/4 teaspoon pure salt until dissolved (sea salt works).  
  • Use to flush the eye by squeezing from a cotton ball as you gently hold the dog's eye (s) open.  Use 2-3 times daily and store in a covered jar.  The mix is good for 2 days, then you need to make fresh.  

Goldenseal was used historically both internally and externally for skin and digestive problems, and eye infections, to name just a few.  Alkaloid compounds in the herb called hydrastine and berberine have been studied in recent times and are found to have astringent, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory healing properties.

In any case, this seemed to work.  It caused the eye boogies to get much better almost instantly, and then finally cleared them up completely after about a (half ass) 2 week treatment.  Being "on it" twice daily may have cleared it up even quicker!  

Goldenseal and salt water

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Flame Thrower" Habanero Hot Sauce (and chickens)

In the fall, I like to use up the last of my hot peppers and make a hot sauce to give as gifts.  This year our chocolate habanero plant was extremely prolific and since that fruity, hot, hot pepper is one of my favorites, habanero hot sauce was on the menu.  Hot peppers will stay fresh for awhile if you keep them bagged in the fridge.  I didn't exactly follow a recipe for this batch, but I did pH test it, and it is vinegar based with a pH of around 3.7 so it should keep well in the fridge for quite awhile. My previous vinegar sauces were fine for over a year.  I ordered the bottles from Fillmore can be found here.  

I used roughly:

big bag of carrots
1 quart of canned whole tomatoes
onions, a lot (I cant remember how many!  Maybe 10 or so?)
50 habaneros
3 c vinegar
1 c lime juice
1.5 c water
salt to taste

Chop onions and carrots and cook in oil until tender. Add tomatoes and simmer.  Make a paste with habaneros in food processor with some liquid.  Combine everything except lime juice.  Blend well with immersion blender.  Heat through and barely simmer for 20 minutes.  Add lime juice, put through a food mill, and bottle.  

Habanero Hot Sauce
Fancy "taped on" label

In other news the chickens are getting into the holiday spirit by kicking around some evergreen bough trimmings we picked up from a christmas tree seller.  These are woody and will not be breaking down anytime soon but they are a nice bulky, airy bottom to this giant compost pile I'm building for chicken winter entertainment and soil conservation.

Compost Beginnings
Getting into the Holiday Spirit with some evergreen boughs

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chickens Make Compost

Chickens love to scratch.  Therefore chickens are the perfect source of easy compost because they can take organic matter and veggie scraps and shred and turn them and poop on them until they are compost.  When I first read about this idea of putting egg-laying chickens to work for the garden in Harvey Ussery's The Small Scale Poultry Flock, a lightbulb went off.  Wow!  This is great!  Chickens can turn large amounts of coarse dead matter from the garden into compost.  But the benefits don't stop there!  The chickens are kept interested digging, their run space is covered with shredded organic matter so it doesn't get muddy or eroded, and the gardener gets out of compost-turning-duty.  PERFECT!

While figuring out exactly where to place the compost piles in the chickens' habitat is a work in process...I must say I am very impressed with their work over the past 2 years.  And it really does keep them entertained.  A chicken that cannot scratch is a bored and sad chicken.  And as compost starts to get going and worms and bugs start hanging out in it....they just have a field day shredding and turning that compost, in search of an elusive earthworm.  

Many folks have figured out a system that works for them, and many more seem in the experimental phase like me.  Here's a fun gravity based composting run .....  Milkwood Gravity Run.  The key of all of them seems pretty simple...add organic matter and let them go to town!

Scritch Scritch, Scratch Scratch
"C'mon it!  Move those legs!"
1 season's worth of organic matter turned to compost
Chickens can handle even tough stalk vegetable plants like brussle sprouts and tomato vines.  The compost pictured above once included over 200 tomato vines!  When the compost looks done, I let it age by building a new pile somewhere else.  The chickens ignore the old finished compost for the newer stuff, especially if there are some veggie scraps thrown in.  They seem partial to kale but I know they miss the summer tomatoes.  We would throw them all the cracked fruit and little mini chicken riots would break out, chasing whoever had the tomato in her mouth.  

Compost dug out and ready for bed application

Deep leaf chicken bedding composting's warm!
If you need to keep things tidier than just piling up dead plants in your yard, there are ways of keeping the compost process contained with a simple bin in the chicken yard...made out of pallets or straw bales perhaps.  Just as long as the chickens can access it, they are good to go to work for you.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Salty Honey Pie....Just make it.

I first had salty honey pie around this time last year.  Don't ask questions, just make it.  You won't regret it.  Find the recipe here:  Salty Honey Pie.  I did shed a few tears when I thought I ruined the crust, since baking is not my claim to fame, BUT, it turned out great somehow, despite a slightly slumped crust.

Salty Honey Pie, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie
We picked up this bird from a farm near Jason's hometown in Massachusetts..Stillman's At The Turkey Farm. This ain't no heritage turkey, folks, it's a broad-breasted white, but raised well and very tasty.  We brined the bird for about 12 hours before cooking.

The Bird

And while we were in Mass hanging out with family, we got about 9" of wet, heavy, beautiful, tree-bending snow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cold Snap Chix

It got down to around 12 degrees last night...the coldest so far this season.  I took the chickens' water in last night to avoid freezing, and when I brought it out this morning, I set to work installing the cookie tin water heater I made.  The internet can tell you how to build this thing.  This is it's maiden voyage, and another 12 degree night is due tonight so we shall see how it works.  I used a bigger tin than suggested, so I might need to switch from a 40 w to 60 w bulb.  Guess I'll find out.

Covered area outside the coop with homemade water heater
cookie tin water heater with heavy duty outdoor extension cord
The heavy duty outdoor extension cord runs to a thermacube, a temperature control device that turns on when the temperature hits 35 degrees, just so the sucker is not running when not needed.  Does combining electricity and water make you nervous?  Me too.  I used electrical tape to cover connection where cord runs into tin just in case any water gets spilled or the hoop cover gets ripped off and the whole thing gets rained on.  Should be alright in a covered setting, though.  And chickens need lots of water in winter, so I am happy to have something that should keep it frost free.

40 w bulb heats the tin
hot mash!  getting warm with a carb-filled breakfast.
coop temp stayed 3 degrees above outside temp
winter chickens in fall

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pallet Compost Bin

We built this 3 bay pallet compost pallet bin a year ago.  We used the far right bin to compost in for a year.  The middle bin is for storing higher carbon organic matter til needed (straw, leaves, weeds).  The far right bin now has a year's worth of compost in it, and we will leave it to age while we add to the far left bin.  

Our 3 bay compost bin system

Lid only added when heavy rains are raining.  Compost needs a lot of water, so normally keep it uncovered.

Burlap keeps the contents of each bin in but allows airflow
A "sponge" of airy organic matter at the bottom of the compost prevents any leaching
Middle bin is "browns" storage:  leaves, leaf mulch, straw or weeds to add to the piles

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chicken Challenges: Keeping the Coop Fresh, The Ground Covered, and The Workload Light

What I love about keeping animals and gardening is experimentation.  I find it fun to read about what other people have done, mull it over, and decide what approach I might take, and then do it all over again depending on if things go well.

Keeping chickens has afforded plenty of room for experimentation in the past 2 years.  Areas that are easy to experiment with:

1) How to give chickens access to clean, plentiful, unfrozen, poop-free water with minimal work.

2) How to keep chickens eating lots of greens and bugs all year round.

3) How to keep the coop smelling fresh and lovely.

 4) How to keep the run and free range areas covered with vegetation, compost, or bedding (except the areas where they like to dust bathe, which should be bare soil, or a box with dusty materials in it) to keep their environment healthy and erosion free, with no leaching of manure.

  #1 and #2 deserve their own posts, but I'll talk about #3 and #4 here.  I have tried several things in terms of "bedding in the coop"...item #3 on the list.  Bedding serves several purposes:  absorb moisture and cover poops that the chickens let drop while roosting at night, padding for when they jump down from the roosts, insulating the floor in the winter, and providing heat via composting if you are using deep bedding.  This deep bedding idea is what really seemed interesting to me.

The Garden Dreams Coop.  Pop Door and roof vent stays open all winter for ventilation   Heated waterer turns on if temp hits 35 degrees and keeps water just above freezing.

The coop at Garden Dreams has a wooden floor, and the bedding method I use for that coop is a bit of shavings on the floor, throwing some fresh shavings over the poop on the floor every few days, then shoveling the whole thing out once a month and adding those poopy shavings to the compost pile.  This works pretty well.  The coop stays relatively good-smelling with minimum ammonia odor (which can damage birds sensitive respiratory systems and eyes) and a not-to-terrible maintenance schedule.  However, I think there is room for improvement.

Once a month clean out of Garden Dreams coop
I wear a dust mask when sweeping out the shavings and manure
At home, our coop has a soil floor and my intention was to try out deep bedding.  I used leaf mulch we had on hand over the summer, and about 2 weeks ago, I added 5 leaf bags full of fallen leaves to the mix.  This was a lot of organic matter.  I mixed it up with the old poop/leaf mulch mixture that was there previously, and within a week, the mixture was warm to the touch.  I need to put a thermometer in the coop to see if it is changing the ambient air temperature.  This coop has more ventilation that the coop at Garden Dreams...the whole roof is open hardware cloth with fiberglass panels suspended above.  Since May, it has had a sweet smell and not a whiff of ammonia, although I have not removed any droppings.  I plan a once a year cleanout for this coop, likely in spring.

Home Coop

Home coop leaf bedding added
In terms of  "keeping the ground covered",  I mean the run, paths, and free range areas intact and covered with vegetation or organic matter - this is a big issue in our home setup, since we are on a hill.  The chickens scratched their run bare of grass, leaving it open to erosion.  In past posts, I wrote about renovating our defaced chicken run.  That process is working well.  We are going with the phrase..."Leave No Naked Soil!"  The wood plank terraces we built are getting filled in with free wood chips and leaves over cardboard, grass clippings, pine needles...whatever is around.  The winter rye is starting to fill in and the soil raked all to hell by chicken claws is covered and protected by leaves and other organic matter.

Home Coop with bare soil covered
Before soil renovation
Starting renovation
Organic matter starting to fill in terraces.  Look at that automatic pop door...fancy!

Organic matter filling in the paths

All in all, I can't wait to see how this setup holds up when we move the chickens back over to the renovated area next year.  The idea is to leave them in there til they are just starting to beat up the land, and then move them to their second run area so the first can recover and regrow.  More experiments to come, I'm sure!