Monday, January 12, 2015

Some good homesteading books to check out.

Old Wives Tales

I have never believed in Old Wives Tales.... except maybe one or two. But I have a funny story (I guess it's funny) about an old woman who had a strange old wive's tale.

As you know I grew up in Brazil, in the heart of the Amazon jungle. And as you might also know if you've read this blog, I also am a horse crazy person! I've always loved horses from the day I can remember anything. This story takes place when I was around 18 or 19 years old.

My third (I think) horse was a gaited Appaloosa stallion. He was really pretty and spotted. I saw him at the yearly fair and had always liked the colorful horses and of course immediately fell in love. Now let me explain before you get all upset that an 18 year old was in love with a stallion. I was already fairly well known in our small town as being the "horse woman" and in Brazil at the time, if you didn't own a stallion you were a nobody in the horse industry. So, back to the story, I had no idea if he was for sale or not but I soon found out that he indeed was for sale and somehow I was able to afford him (I can't exactly remember how that happened) but I ended up with a beautiful 3 year old barely trained Appaloosa stallion.  I took him home to our ranch after the fair but after a short time decided that I should board him for a few months at the fairgrounds. That was really the only place in town that you could board a horse and they had a nice arena there for riding. I arranged the details and soon he was happy there in his new home.

I went every day to ride him. There were two ways to get to the fair grounds from my house: by public bus or by bicycle. Either way it took about a half hour.  Every day I would go ride. The horse only knew how to go forward and barely how to stop when I got him. To his credit though he never ever bucked with me. I started teaching him how to turn and yield his hindquarters and forehand, how to back, spin and roll back, how to pick up the correct lead and much more. Pretty soon all the old cowboy type men who thought they knew it all but sat at the bar drinking and gossiping, took notice of the young shy girl who had the horse much better trained than any of their horses. I was pretty proud of what I managed to train my guy to do.

Eventually I took him back to our ranch. He sired 2 foals with my Quarter horse mare. I continued to ride him frequently but not every day. Now however we would go on very long exploration rides down the roads and jungle trails. And here's actually where the story begins...

Our ranch was 300 acres. It was a half a kilometer wide and two and a half kilometers deep. There was a trail that went from the front to the very back of the property. You had to cross a small river twice (or four times in the rainy season) to get to the back of the property. You could then go through the neighbor's land, through some more jungle, open a barbed wire gate and get to the next neighbor's property. He had something like a logging road with puddles as big as a small pond (probably had an alligator or two in some of them) You could follow that logging road down for a long ways, probably a couple of miles and come to another smallish trail. It wound around, up and down and through the deep jungle and eventually it opened up into the most amazing beautiful meadow and a picturesque little palm leaf roof cabin. It took several hours of riding, not at the walk, to get there.

One fine and hot day, I decided to ride there. A little old lady who I had met in the past lived there and I really enjoyed the view. I forgot to mention that her house was right up on the bank of one of the most beautiful rivers in the area. The swan river. Even the name is beautiful. It had cool, clear green water and we always enjoyed swimming in it at other areas of that river.
I finally made it to her house that particular day and she was delighted to have a visitor. I'm sure she didn't get many living hours away from anyone else in a place that you couldn't even drive a car to. The only way to get there was by horse, foot or probably by boat up the river. She graciously invited me to get off my horse and take a swim in the river. It was so tempting and I was hot, but I remembered that I would have to ride several hours back home with wet jeans and decided to decline her offer. She seemed so offended that I almost changed my mind. She started to tell me how horses would lose their condition if we rode them in our condition. I thought to myself: "what in the world?" Then I finally realized that she thought I must have been on my monthly time and that would be the only logical reason to her that I would not want to enjoy the beautiful cool river and she was telling me her old wives tale that if I rode my horse like that then he would wither away and get skinny! I was horrified that anyone would think that that would be the reason for my not wanting to swim! But it didn't change my mind. I still didn't want to ride for 3 hours in wet jeans!

I never forgot the little old lady and her old wive's tale. My horse never got skinny and I still rode him every day or every time that I possibly could! We had many more adventures and when I finally sold him years later the person who bought him was very impressed with his abilities. He never acted studly and was always so obedient and such a good boy. He was my first of many stallions. The little old lady eventually moved back to town and the beautiful little house by the river eventually rotted away and was abandoned, as things do in the middle of the Amazon jungle

3 Ways to Help Chickens Keep Laying in Winter

I've been raising chickens for a while now, first in Brazil where I grew up, now here in Texas where the winters are much colder than where I grew up but certainly not as cold as the more northern states.
The first few years I had to adjust to keeping my hens happy in the winter time. I learned a few tricks that I'm going to share with you that have worked for me in my chicken flock.

1. Extra bedding. Chickens won't lay as many eggs in the winter due to cold and less light. First problem we can help solve is the cold. With extra bedding in their coop it will help them stay warm. The manure will heat up and as long as you have plenty of bedding, hay or shavings, it will absorb the moisture caused by the chickens and will heat up and help keep the temperature warmer. If you give them hay or straw, sometimes they like to scratch in that and find seeds or bugs that they can enjoy as a special treat.

2. Extra light. Hens lay more eggs when the days are longer. I've found that adding a light to the coop helps them lay more eggs. What has worked best for me is to turn the light on in the coop right before dark and leave it on until bedtime. This does involve an extra trip outside in the cold and dark but it causes the chickens to eat more, be awake longer and think they ought to be laying more.

3. Extra green feed. Part of the reason hens lay so well in the spring and summer is all the green treats they can pick at and the extra protein. One way that I've found that makes them happy and helps them lay more eggs is to feed them green scraps. We grow sprouts especially for the hens in the winter time and they love it. They always seem to lay better a few days after their sprout treats. We also continue to give them the scraps from what we cook in the kitchen and anything green from the garden. (Yes we do grow things in the winter!)

Summary: Keep them as warm as you can, give them extra light, feed them extra greens and protein and they should keep laying eggs even through the winter!