Robert Plamondon's Poultry & Rural Living Newsletter, November 6, 2008
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One More Back-to-the-Land Book
I saved the best for last. You'll remember that in October's newsletter, I told you that I had just republished two
classic back-to-the-land adventures:
Ten Acres Enough
by Edmund Morris, and
Gold in the Grass
by Margaret Leatherbarrow. Both are great books. I've completed the set with M. G. Kains'
We Wanted a Farm.
Kains is best known as the author of Five Acres and Independence, a best-selling handbook of small-farm management from 1936.
Well, he also wrote
We Wanted a Farm
about his back-to-the-land experience, which was first published in 1941. This book is a lot of fun, but it
has been out of print forever and is hard to find. Well, I know what to do when that happens!
Kains was very smart, and he moved to the country in easy stages, without quitting his day job as a magazine editor in Manhattan.
First he moved to a rented house in the suburbs, where he grew a big garden, then he bought a house in the suburbs and tried his hand
at fruits and berries, and finally he bought a farm and went into orcharding.
As I know to my cost, learning how to farm is time-consuming and expensive, and the "don't quit your day job" part is very important!
Also, it may turn out that your true interests and aptitudes are different from what you imagined, so you need to give yourself the chance
to discover your true calling. You need to arrange things so that, if your first attempt fails, you don't lose the farm!
We Wanted a Farm is full of yarns about Kains' experiences, interleaved with practical information. My favorite chapter is on all the uses
he and his son found for dynamite on the farm, including using small charges to dig holes for planting fruit trees! Those were the days.
If you look on the Norton Creek Press
Web page, I have a PDF file of three sample chapters, including the dynamite chapter. Check it out! I think you'll agree that it's a fun
You can order
We Wanted a Farm off the Web page, either directly from me or from Amazon. Or you can order it from any bookstore.
Wood Stove Tips
The heating season is upon us. Here are a few wood-heating tips.
Newspaper as Fuel. When I was a kid, my parents bought a device for rolling newspapers into logs. The device didn't work very well, and the paper
logs didn't burn very well, either. People still make these devices. Why? And why roll the paper into logs at all? People seem to think it's necessary.
Imagine my surprise when, on a whim, I laid about an inch of newspaper sections on the
ashes in my wood stove and built a normal fire on top of these -- and the paper burned slowly, completely, and with no problems!
I've been doing this for a couple of years now.
I don't crumple the newspaper sections, or roll them up, or even unfold them. I take them the way they come out of the pile and lay them flat
in the bottom of the stove. By building a normal wood fire on top of them, they burn slowly but completely. Nothing could be simpler.
I had the chimney swept after doing
this for a whole winter, and the chimney sweep reported that it looked good: nothing weird had happened.
Newspaper recycles for a low price per ton, often as low as $25. Dry firewood goes
for at least $160 per cord around here, which is around $100 per ton. So newspaper is more valuable as fuel than as pulp.
Cardboard as Kindling. Another thing I learned about wood heat is that the easy way to get a fire going successfully is to use a lot of cardboard
in addition to crumpled newspaper and kindling. Rip the cardboard up into convenient, smallish pieces.
Liberal use of cardboard is the difference between a fire that burns by itself and one that you have to blow
on for five minutes. I read this in an Extension Service bulletin somewhere: those Extension guys try everything.
Stovepipe Dampers. Finally, I'm a big fan of stovepipe dampers. If you don't have a modern, airtight stove, it doesn't matter: they're overrated anyway.
A stovepipe damper controls the rate of burn even on stoves that don't have much in the way of draft control, and by the time you have
a couple of lengths of exposed stovepipe in the room, all stoves have about the same efficiency, since the stovepipe radiates whatever
heat was missed by the stove. The usual operation of a stovepipe damper is simplicity itself: if it's too hot in the room, close it
partway (or all the way, provided no smoke comes into the room -- none ever does with my stove). If it's too cold, open it up some.
Seems to me that I paid $8.00 for a stovepipe damper.
You Can Help Me Out
If you love a Norton Creek Press book, you can help me out by posting a brief review on Amazon.com. The customers at Amazon.com
rely on reader reviews and tend to avoid titles that don't have any, and most of my titles don't have any.
Submitting a review is easy if you're already an Amazon.com customer, and even a couple of lines that mention one or two
things you liked in the book will be helpful to other readers. Thanks!
You can use these links to go directly to the relevant book review page:
Genetics of the Fowl,
Gold in the Grass,
We Wanted a Farm,
Ten Acres Enough,
The Dollar Hen,
Success With Baby Chicks,
Through Dungeons Deep,
The Dollar Hen.
November is traditionally the worst laying month, though
nasty winter weather may cause production to be even worse during cold snaps.
In the old days, this egg shortage meant that it was the month of maximum egg prices.
Most people aren't brooding any baby chicks
at this time of year, so it's a quiet month on the farm.
The reason the hens aren't laying is because many of them are molting. Even your best hens may molt in November, so you
don't want to cull your flock this month. The culling season is July through October, when your good layers are all still laying,
and any non-layers are a waste of feed.
As winter approaches and the weather deteriorates, keep an eye out for needed repairs or changes in management. Portable
houses can blow over in winter storms, leaks in roofs can cause misery in winter rains, etc. Make sure you have a fully functional set
of foul-weather protective clothing (coat, overalls, boots, hat, gloves) so you don't put off going out into the weather for chores, and
to keep you from doing mucky chores in gear you're trying to keep clean for trips into town.
November To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's
Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
- Provide warm water in cold weather.
- Attend a farm show.
- Clean and store outdoor equipment.
- Order any necessary brooder parts. You're likely to start brooding again in January, and that's right around the corner!
- Use artificial lights. See this discussion from a 2003 newsletter.
- Remove littler that gets wet or disgusting, or pile it in a heap in a corner until it composts into something drier and less nasty (this only takes a few
days). Add more litter as required. Don't be stingy with litter.
- Don't let the house get too dark. Chickens don't like eating or drinking in the dark.