Robert Plamondon's Poultry & Rural Living Newsletter, January 2, 2009
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News From the Farm
Happy New Year!
I hope you're all managing to keep your New Year's resolutions so far. I know I am -- a couple of years ago, I resolved to never make another New Year's
resolution! So far, so good.
Snow, Cold, and Chicken Housing
We had an unusually severe cold snap a few weeks ago, with plenty of snow. It provided a severe (for Oregon) test case of the fresh-air poultry housing method I've been going
on about. Temperatures went down to about 15°F and stayed below freezing for most of two weeks. Read a detailed description of what happened and what
I did (and didn't do) in this
Many people would think that, without heat lamps, my flock would have turned into icicles, or at least suffered from plenty of frostbitten combs. Nothing of
the sort occurred. The only cold-related loss was a hen who slept outdoors in the wind and snow without shelter of any kind. Other than that, the biggest problem
was that chickens that have never seen snow before are reluctant to walk on it, and need to be driven outside so they will realize, "Hey, this isn't so bad!"
and then wander over to the feeders. (If you feed your chickens indoors, which I don't, you won't have this problem.)
All this was a good example of the methods given in
Fresh-Air Poultry Houses,
which I recently republished. Click the link, read the sample chapters, and if you want more info, buy the book. Though old, it's full of good stuff
you won't find anywhere else, and is packed with chicken-keeping lore and chicken-house plans.
Oddly, there was no predation through the whole period, even though the electric fence was under the snow in places. Yet another triumph of luck over
Last time I gave a link to a deep litter article that didn't work. Try
this one instead. Deep litter and fresh-air poultry houses go together. Deep litter was invented after
Fresh-Air Poultry Houses was written, so Dr. Woods
doesn't talk about it, but they go together just the same.
The Four Little Pigs
We started our pigs late this year, and still have them -- just four. Karen moved them off the lower pasture (which is subject to flooding) just a couple of
days before we got an actual flood, which is good timing by anyone's standards. Normally we like to get our pigs butchered by November, because Oregon
rains can come early, and pigs can turn even a well-drained pasture into a quagmire with the help of constant rain. Now the pigs are in the barn, with
free access to an as-yet undestroyed pasture, and will be fine for the remaining week until they are butchered.
We've had good luck keeping these guys confined with electric fence. Some batches learn to burst through the fence as a matter of course; others respect it.
These fell into the latter category. The cold and snow didn't seem to bother them at all. They always had a nice house with plenty of straw on the floor,
but they spent a lot of time outside in the weather, happy as clams.
We had one power outage and ran the generator for about eight hours. While computers are pretty happy about running directly off a generator, I like to
keep my UPS systems between the computers and the generator so everything doesn't crash when the gas tank goes dry. Most UPS systems aren't up to this,
beeping and whining every time the voltage flickers a little bit. I like APC Smart-UPS systems, which have a "sensitivity" adjustment you can set to "Low" to
keep them from switching to battery when it isn't absolutely necessary. The electronics seem to be good for at least ten years, but the batteries last only 3-5.
I usually buy refurbished units with new batteries.
I have a blog entry on power outage tips
that you might find interesting.
Two Weeks Till The Farmers' Market
You don't get much of a farmer's market hiatus in this neck of the woods. The normal season is mid-April to late November, but there's also
an indoor farmer's market plugging the gap between mid-January and late March. If you're in the neighborhood, drop by and see Karen (and possibly me). See the
Winter Market Web page for more info.
You will not believe the variety of locally-grown stuff and the out-of-season-ness of some of it. The local farmers are miracle workers. Seriously.
We've Published More Books!
We had a brainstorm a while back: there's no reason to limit ourselves to poultry books just because that's what we've always done.
So many of our favorite books are out of print and forgotten that we've decided that it's our mission to bring 'em back.
So we've given ourselves permission to publish any book we love, no matter what its topic.
Our newest offerings are in our brand-new "adventure book" line, which has three books so far: the first two volumes in the
Tom Slade Series,
and Amelia B. Edwards' 1873 travel book, A Thousand Miles up the Nile.
The Tom Slade Series
Tom Slade is a series by Percy Keese Fitzhugh, about a young hoodlum who
becomes fascinated by the activities of the local Boy Scout troop and decides to abandon the downward spiral that is claiming his drunken father. It sounds like
a Victorian melodrama, but it isn't. It's very well-written, as is the entire nineteen-volume series. They fall firmly into the category of, "Too good
to be thought of merely as kids' books."
Karen became hooked on this (and other boys' adventure
series) when our son Dan was in cub scouts. First published in 1915, the series seems to have gone out of print around WWII. Check out the
on our Web site.
A Thousand Miles up the Nile
Karen and I are long-time fans of Elizabeth Peters' Egyptian mysteries featuring the fictional Amelia P. Emerson. I was astonished to discover that
Mrs. Emerson is based on a real person: Amelia B. Edwards, who sailed up the Nile in 1873, wrote a best-selling book about her experience, helped found
the Egyptian Exploration Fund, and financed the excavations of Flinders Petrie, the first truly modern Egyptologist.
Miss Edwards' travel book, A Thousand Miles up the Nile,
is delightful in its own right -- but doubly so if you're a fan of Elizabeth Peters, since you will find Edwards' subject matter, narrative style, and
opinions familiar. The book goes into much greater detail than can be fitted into a mystery novel, so it provides wonderful background for any Elizabeth
Peters fan. It's hard to praise it too highly.
The book is a reproduction of the lavish 1890 edition. I'm not happy with the way the engravings came out (the original edition used
a high-quality printing process and the engravings were on wonderful glossy paper, which are beyond the capabilities of the process used
by my print shop), so the illustrations aren't as fine as the originals. But I'm sure you'll enjoy the book anyway.
I have a science fiction novel that I wrote years ago and have been unable to interest a publisher in, though I've had a couple of near misses.
Since I'm now a publisher myself, I'll eliminate the middleman. It's called One Survivor. I've put a couple of
of the current draft on my Web site. I'll probably be in print within the next month or so.
Like a Book? Review it on Amazon.com!
This applies to everyone's books, not just mine. You would not believe how few copies of a book can be sold without favorable reviews
on Amazon.com. Even people who never buy from Amazon read the reviews there before buying from their preferred bookstore.
So if you really like a book, zip on over to Amazon and see if it has as many rave reviews as it deserves. If not, add one. (You have to
be an Amazon customer to post a review, though.) Just a few lines are enough. If you can give one example of something in the book that delighted you, you've
done your job.
Personally, I've stopped doing negative reviews except in unusual circumstances, such as a heated floor mat I thought was unsafe. Authors are sensitive,
and I'm not willing to slap 'em around in a public forum. There are always plenty of people
who are willing to be negative. I want to concentrate on good stuff that's under-appreciated.
If you're ever disappointed by one of my books, though, I'd appreciate an email telling me about it. And
I'll buy it back from you if it's inconvenient to return it the usual way.
Getting back to poultry...
January is, of course, about the worst month of the year. But it has its good points. The
hatchery catalogs arrive. The hens lay a little better every day. And if we're not too far north, our cabin-fever-addled eyes can see
some light at the end of the tunnel: spring, if not actually on the horizon, is at least imaginable.
If you sell eggs at the farmer's market, chicks hatched in January will start laying sometime around Memorial Day, the traditional start of the season.
If the thought of brooding January chicks appalls you, you should read my book,
Success With Baby Chicks.
January brooding is perfectly practical, though you wouldn't want to do it as your very first project. I spend quite a bit of time in the book showing you how.
January To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
- Make inventory. What do you have? What do you need for the coming season?
- Disinfect brooder houses (I never do this, but cleaning them up is a good idea).
- Purchase brooding equipment if necessary.
- Clean, repair, and install brooders.
- Keep better records.
- Use artificial lights on hens. (Traditional usage is to use 14 hours of light between September 1 and April 1.)
- Remove damp or dirty litter.
- Provide warm drinking water in cold weather.
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