Another snowstorm….and it’s officially Spring

Well, we were expecting a little snow, but this is just too much.  It started snowing yesterday, Saturday, evening and has been constant since then with wind speeds up to 35 mph.  We are really stunned to see this.  This is the 3rd major snow for us this winter, and it is highly unusual to get any snowfall during a winter.   We are northeast of Dallas.  The El Nino phenomenon has kicked in big time. 

I got everyone tucked in  Friday  night.  The alpacas got plenty of hay; the chickens got their feeders filled and water topped off.  I cleaned up the barn and everyone had clean places to lounge.  The wind has been straight out of the west and right into the barn and out the other east doors.  We left the roll up doors open in case they wanted to go out, but so far they have not.  They all have a coating of snow on them but are warm enough cushing in the barn.

The chickens filed out of the coops when their little door was opened and milled around.  They don’t mind the weather, and the barn is a space they like to hang out in and they are protected there.

We just stayed in the house and watched it snow.  Monday it is supposed to be in the 60’s so this will all melt soon enough, but we will be back into the wet and mucky ground once again.  More rain is expected this week.  We can’t seem to dry out more than two days before we have more wet weather.

We just were not expecting all this white; it’s about 3 inches on the ground and we are supposed to get another 3 or more today.  Unbelievable North Texas weather.

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

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

A New Year with alpacas and chickens in Texas

I just went out at 11:30 p.m. and closed up the chickens for the night. A little later than I should, but it’s been cold and rainy and hard to get motivated to go out.  But I saw a skunk scurry across my path and probably was looking for a chicken dinner so I may have scared him off. 

It was clear and  glowing outside.  The moon is full and almost like day.  I really didn’t need the flashlight except to scan around inside the coops to make sure all was well.  I threw some extra hay to the alpacas and wished them all a Happy New Year.  Fireworks are exploding in the distance and a bright new year is ready for us to enter.

Composting chicken litter

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