Keeping Track of the Blog: Email or RSS?

Several people have asked me if they can get email notifications for new blog entries, so I’m trying a third-party notification service called “Bot-a-Blog”.

Just click the “BOT ABLOG” button near the lower right-hand edge of the page and sign up for an account. (Let me know how you like it.)

Another, probably better alternative, is get your feet wet with RSS, as follows:

1. Go to and follow their “Create a home page in 30 seconds” instructions.

2. Bookmark the page, or make it your homepage.

3. Click the “Add Stuff” link near the top of the page.

4. Find the “Add feed or gadget” link and click that.

5. Enter into the box and press “Add”.

6. Click the “Back to iGoogle home” link, and you should see “A View From the Farm” on your iGoogle home page.

That solves the immediate problem. The iGoogle walkthroughs and help pages are worth looking at. You can add any page with an RSS link (see below)to your iGoogle page.


Practically all major Web sites, blogs, and forums have RSS feeds. The titles of the most recent articles, events, or postings will appear on your iGoogle page. The iGoogle page becomes your window into the Web. Pretty nifty!

Interesting Article on Early Egg Farming

A Watt Poultry article gives a pretty good rundown of the early egg industry, marred mostly by a few patches of garbled numbers.

The authors correctly identify the pioneering breeders who changed the egg industry in the first third of the 20th century (including James Dryden, whose book I need to reprint some day) and have some interesting tables of productivity per hen.

The numbers giving the amount of labor required per hen are garbled, but the numbers that report how many hens represent a full-time job at different technology levels are correct. The numbers tend to explain why you shied away from doubling your flock size this year!

Hen Hints

I’m dumping my accumulated store of wood ashes onto the dust-bathing sites preferred by the hens. This is supposed to be helpful in controlling mites, which always give me trouble in the warm parts of the year.

One of the problems I have with the pan-style waterers I use with the hens (Little Giant Pet Waterers)is that the hens don’t hesitate to poop in the waterer. I’m trying those conical wire tomato-cage thingies as a guard. We’ll see what happens.

The earlier and oftener you collect the eggs, the cleaner they’ll be. There will be more of them, too. The hens can’t break an egg or smear dirt on it if you’ve already collected it.

I’ve been having trouble with aerial predators picking off hens that insist on roosting on the roofs of the hen houses. I’m thinking about putting barrier wires around the roof, sticking up a foot or two above the roof line, and at a slant to keep the hens from roosting on them. Sorta like Rommel’s “asparagus” in Normandy. If anyone tries this before I get around to it, let me know.

If you use electric fence to protect your chickens, keep mowing the grass! Lush spring grass shorts out electric fences, no matter how powerful your fence charger. It’s hard to keep the voltage up to standard this time of year.

And in spite of high feed prices, don’t let your birds run out of feed. This is especially true of baby chicks. Never let them run out of feed, never let them run out of water, and (for chicks) never let them get cold. I like automatic waterers and large-capacity feeders. But you have to check both all the time, or you won’t notice when things go wrong. I find that I have to do a chore every day or I stop doing it entirely.

Water Conservation With a Vengeance

Since I live in the country, my water comes from a well. Let me tell you about my well. It’s 140 feet deep and delivers a quart of water per minute. That’s right — one quart. The rule of thumb is that a well isn’t adequate for a home unless it can deliver five gallons a minute, or twenty times more than what we have.

Here in Oregon’s Coast Range, we have the irony that it rains like crazy half the year (60-90 inches in my neighborhood), but the aquifers are very poor. The dry summers and the lack of water mean that agriculture is difficult — we only get one cutting of hay a year, for example. It’s not uncommon to have no rain at all in July and August.

Not only that, the water quality is poor. Iron and sulfur, plus the inevitable iron and sulfur bacteria. These bacteria are harmless, but they clog filters and make it impossible to filter out the yucky taste.

Oddly, our sharply limited water supply encourages us to ignore normal water-conservation methods. We have an antique high-flow toilet and an immense antique bathtub. Low water pressure has induced me to disable the low-flow features on our sinks. True, we have a front-load washer, but the fact is that the real savings come from not watering the lawn, and none of that other stuff matters at all. The only things that ever ran us out of water were leaks, watering, and running the big ice machine we use as part of the broiler-butchering business. If you have limited water, you learn what’s important and what isn’t. Nickel-and-dime stuff like faucet restrictors don’t mean anything.

Today’s project is to get the Chemilizer chemical injector going . This is a chemical metering solution that puts a measured amount of the chemical of your choice into the water as it flows by. The chemical of choice is chlorine. It worked great for one bucketful of bleach solution and has mysteriously stopped doing anything.

Like everything else that actually works, chlorine comes in for a lot of flak, but I expect it to do the job. It not only kills off the slimy bacteria and will thus make it possible to use filters again, but it gets rid of the iron and sulfur, perhaps making the filters unnecessary.

If I can get the thing to work at all…

[Later] Well, that didn’t work. I guess the unit is busted. I’ll get it replaced and try again.

[Even Later] Okay, it works now. Someone at Chemilizer saw the post and we exchanged emails. My problem was self-inflicted — when the instructions say, “Lubricate lightly with Silicone lubricant,” using Vaseline instead because you’ve lost your can of silicone lube doesn’t work. D’oh!

Keeping Cool at the Farmer’s Market

I had a brainstorm a couple of years ago about the problem of keeping fresh eggs and frozen broilers cool at the farmers’ market: salt-water ice. A saturated solution of salt water freezes (or melts) at zero degrees Fahrenheit. Not only is this cold enough to keep frozen broilers frozen, but it’s cold enough that water condenses as frost, not water, on the sides of salt-water ice containers, and frost doesn’t drip onto the egg cartons.

(One the ice inside the container melts, the ice on the outside will melt, too, but it works like a charm until then.)

This works so well that I’m surprised everyone hasn’t always used it. Blue Ice, for example, claims to be “colder than ice,” but it doesn’t seem to be. (Condensation drips off Blue Ice, rather than forming a layer of frost or ice.)

Used plastic soda bottles make good salt-water ice containers. To make a saturate salt solution, add one four-pound box of pickling salt to 1.5 gallons of hot water and stir until as much of it has dissolved as is going to. Pour into used plastic soda bottles and freeze in a freezer that’s below zero F. When you need to keep something cool, toss these bottles into the cooler, then back into the freezer when you get home. Simple.