HAITI Earthquake Relief

AARP will match dollar for dollar all contributions, up to $500,000.  Please contribute what you can.  They need the money to allocate accordingly to their needs to supply medicine, food, clothing and shelter.

Please consider a donation of any amount,  that will be matched by AARP, doubling your gift. Follow this link:

http://aarpcares.aarp.org/site/R?i=ac-GXBwtcnb3pXmBsVhNbQ..

“AARP Foundation is proud to be working with HelpAge USA and its international parent organization HelpAge International to rush emergency relief to older and aged victims of the quake.”

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Can chickens survive the freeze?

We are in Texas and our chickens don’t seem to mind the cold.  This winter the cold has hit us early and especially hard.  Today through the weekend we will not get above freezing they say, and the nights are dipping to the teens with windchills close to zero.

Our coops are ventilated and warm with a deep litter flooring; the  chickens are let out during the day and the alpaca’s barn is a backup area for their warmth.  They have done just fine.  The  only issue is having a supply of unfrozen water for them.  I am getting some rubber type of livestock containers I saw at Tractor Supply.  I have read they are easy to get frozen water out of.   The  chickens need to exercise, run around, and eat their grains, so let them out and enjoy.  Don’t expect much egg production; we were only getting a couple a day before these freezing temps so may get zero until it warms up some.

Here are some good tips from Robert Plamondon’s blog that I follow.

http://www.plamondon.com/faq_winter.html

What sun? What solar?

So, I read back through some of my chicken stuff I previously posted and I must look into that solar waterer I mentioned.  This is the second winter with the chickens and this winter it is mighty cold out there for Texas.  I really like that solar waterer, but what if the sun just isn’t shining?  That is one drawback for solar but there are really no alternatives short of hooking up electrical cords which I just will not do for safety reasons, mine and the animals.

The  chickens do have a backup plan and that is the alpaca’s five gallon buckets I have their water in.  Standing on the ground, the chickens can reach the uppermost bit of water if the bucket is 3/4 full.  Any less than that and they just hop on the bucket edge and dip down.  Works all year round for them.  So really my dilemma is keeping the alpaca’s water unfrozen for everyone to use, which I keep in the barn and are not in the sun, intentionally anyway.  The buckets are positioned near doorways and so if the sun happens to be shining in, then they are in the sun for a short time.

One thought I had  was superheating some rocks and placing them in the buckets. The danger I am reading is that they can dangerously explode when any moisture in them explodes them as it heats.  I don’t know how long they would hold their heat (based on size and mass this science flunky knows) but surely it would be of some use. I am looking into that idea (it’s free anyway). I might try the idea of using the lava rocks that are used in some outdoor grills.  Those kind of rocks can be heated safely, but can they be reheated safely after being in water?  Many questions; looking for answers.

Our record breaking cold weather will be even more so in the next few days as we get more rain (snow, ice?) and dip down into the 20’s in the DAY, and low teens at night. 

However, I must say, even in the cold, I do enjoy going out to the barn around 9 pm and tucking everyone in, filling chicken feeders, closing them in the coops, throwing hay to the alpacas and taking out chunks of ice in the water so they can have a sip as they settle in.  When the air is calm, the air cold and crisp, the sky clear and star- filled, there is nothing better than to be in the barn tending the animals.

Some links to heating water ideas:

 http://www.bird-house-bath.com/heated-bird-baths.html

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/horses/facts/info_water.htm

http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/pubnwsltr/TRIM/10003.pdf

http://cancrete.com/cdn/products-C350.asp

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex5421

http://www.solarpowerfamily.com/solar-power-livestock-water-heater.html

http://www.nelsonmfg.com/a700H_006.htm

Journey North/Journey South

After Christmas, and in the cold and unfriendly months of winter,it’s always hard to keep children out of each other’s hair (at least it was for me and my two brothers).  I subscribe to this website that offers helpful ideas for keeping kids in tune with the natural world around them.  Sign up for it (they are not aggressive with the emails, only once a month) and see the handouts and ideas they have for having kids observe their natural world.

Resources to Explore 
You’ll find help for getting started, activities, handouts, and other teaching tools. 
http://www.learner.org/jnorth/pde/spring2010/Update010110.html#resources

Fibers and Textiles: shows and links

I was looking for information on shows where textiles and fibers like alpaca are shown and sold, within driving distance for us.   I would really like to start attending and learning more about the textile industry. I am not a knitter, weaver or spinner, but my dad handcrafted for me a pretty and traditional, and functional, spinning wheel years ago where it has graced a corner of the living room of the houses we have lived in over the years.  I really want to learn how to spin.  I have the fiber from our alpacas, I just need to get to work.

A local spinner bought some alpaca fiber from me and commented that she taught herself by spinning every day.  She said she started out by spinning whenever she decided to sit down and give it a try.  But because she was not seeing a lot of improvement, she decided she had to spin every day.  Kind of like learning to play an instrument.  You must practice, practice, practice every day.  So, she learned and now participates in some area club get togethers.

I think this will be my goal for this new year, to concentrate on and learn how to spin.  I have been researching fiber events and here are some links that can be helpful for you.

http://www.textilelinks.com/cal/calendarloc.html

http://www.charisma-art.com/sheep,_wool_and_fiber_festivals/

We love Pagosa Springs, Colorado,anytime,  and Wolf Creek in winter:

http://www.pagosafiberfestival.com/

http://visitpagosasprings.com/colorado/activities/colorado-events

http://www.wolfcreekski.com/links.asp

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