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Winter Storms: Prepare Now, Have Fun Later

Winter Storms: Prepare Now, Have Fun Later

Winter Storms

Preparing for winter storms is different out here in the woods. We don’t have the same resources as urban dwellers.

winter storms, heavy snow on trees

STORM WATCH! Quick! Get to the Store!

Wait until the last minute, preferably until the first snow flakes fall or freezing rain starts to build up, and then rush to the store. Buy the last loaf of bread, gallon of milk (don’t drink milk? buy it anyway, it’s a storm requirement), and if you’re in Maine, a bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy (I’ll dehydrate before I’ll drink that stuff but again, if you’re in Maine, it’s a requirement). Fight for that bread! It’s going to storm and you might not get out for days. Days I tell you, and what are you going to do without bread? You might want some toilet paper while you’re there too but if you have to choose between the two…

Water

Water was my biggest surprise when we left the city. You don’t have to have electricity to have water when you’re on a public water system. When the power went out the first time and water trickled to a stop, I was stunned. Without electricity the well pump doesn’t turn on. The only water we have when the power is out is what’s already in the pipes and can trickle out on its own. We need a generator to run the pump OR we can fill containers. I scrub the bathtub when the storm starts and fill it with water. We can wash up, water the poultry and dogs, and flush the toilet (pour a gallon of water into the bowl to flush). I also fill the perk coffee maker, that old fashioned one that works on the stove. If you’re coffee dependent and have a thermal carafe, make a pot of coffee and let it sit. Our carafe keeps coffee hot for 15 hours.

One gallon of water per day per person is the standard amount to store. If it’s a normal storm and the roads are going to be cleared tomorrow, be reasonable. If not, store that water. You’ll use it even if it’s to flush the toilet after the power is over.

Water for Poultry

Add 1/3 cup of salt to a 20 ounce drink bottle and fill the bottle with hot water. You don’t need to ever heat the water again. Place the bottle on its side in the bottom of a Fortex or other watering pan used for poultry. Add enough water to cover three-quarters of the bottle. The water in the pan still freezes but the ice is thin enough for the birds to peck through around the bottle. One was alright in a 20 inch pan but two is better. The birds eventually figure out where to peck through the ice to get to water. This is going to save me from going out to the hen house during tomorrow’s nor’easter.

This works outside on a normal day. The ducks’ pan might have ice on top of the water but at the end of the day the water in the bottom is still liquid. I can flip the flexible pan over to break the ice out. Leave the salt water bottle in the pan for morning.

Cooking

The stove is propane. Having an electric stove doesn’t make sense to me. When the power is out the burners will still light. Some stoves, propane or natural gas, have a pilot light. A match held to the burner before turning the knob works just as well. Lit match first, remember that. Turning on the knob to release the propane into the air and then lighting the match is dangerous. Match first, then turn the knob. The oven won’t light without a pilot light. Don’t try to light it with a match. ove is also suitable for cooking.

Heat

We heat with wood so staying warm isn’t an issue when it’s storming. A fan that spins with the power of heat is always sitting on the wood stove. It’s no where near as powerful as the blower on the stove but works well enough. The burners on a propane or natural gas stove put out a lot of heat. You can at least heat the kitchen in an emergency.

Freezers

As homesteaders and frugal shoppers, freezers are always full with either food or ice. If we don’t lift the doors they won’t start to melt for the first two days without power. Freezers don’t run constantly. I can hear them click on once during the day and again in the evening. Running a generator once a day will keep the food frozen. You can run the fridge on a generator too. Learn how to use your generator safely well before the storm.

Gas

Speaking of generators, get gas ahead of time. Fill the vehicles and make sure you have enough for the snowblower. Steve plows with our tractor so he needs to fill the tank with diesel and have a propane heater ready to warm the engine so it will start.

Lights

winter stormsCandles and flashlights provide plenty of light as long as you’re using good candles and fresh batteries. They’re not high maintenance but you do have to think about them. We use Luci lights. They charge under a lamp or in the window. One charge works for 12 or more hours, and it’s unlikely you’re going to need artificial light for that long. Most of us will turn the light off to sleep through at least part of the night. I store Luci on the window sill in front of plants so I don’t see it until it’s needed.

Headlamps keep your hands free to carry water, hay, feed or anything else you need to do outdoors. Something to keep in mind – they drive me crazy inside because when the person wearing one looks at you, the light shines directly into  your eyes. Be sure to have another source of light indoors.

Solar lights. You know those little lights used outdoors for decoration? Charge them in the sun, preferably in a warmer spot like a plastic black mat that absorbs heat, and bring them in before sunset. One .99 cent light should be bright enough to light up the bathroom and serve as a nightlight.

Shovel, Salt, Sand

It’s important to keep exits free of snow during a storm. While you’re preparing for a storm, bring your shovel, salt and sand inside. Don’t plunk it down in front of the television. The porch or mud room or just inside the kitchen door is handy. It’s hard to dig through a snowdrift to get your shovel if your shovel is in the drift. Use enough salt and sand to make walking safe but there’s no sense in spreading much of either if the snow is still falling.

winter storms, gamesGames and Books

Make some hot chocolate and get out the games and books. Winter storms can be a lot of fun. I’m reading a book on food photography but when the nor’easter starts tomorrow I’ll probably switch to something amusing. Board games, hot chocolate and cookies (baked the day before) are a great combination.

Charge!

Charge batteries and devices. These days it’s easy to recharge but go into the storm with everything charged. My truck has a regular outlet in it, no adapter needed. A phone will charge while a vehicle is being cleaned off, snow shoveled around it, and the mailbox cleaned out. Winter storms are good times to put down the gadgets but it’s also convenient to pick one up and check the forecast.

Always Have These Things on Hand

We’re talking about winter storms today but you never know when something else might happen. An automobile accident can wipe out the power. Always have on hand:

  • matches
  • lighting
  • water if you need electricity to get water
  • manual can opener (that’s all we have)
  • healthy food. Your body needs good energy for shoveling, building forts, and if you have it, tending livestock when the storm clears.
  • meds. You might be able to refill a day or two early when a big storm is coming. Call the pharmacy in advance. Do not wait until the last minute on this one (because you’ll be fighting for bread, right?)

Preparing for winter storms isn’t a big deal when you’ve been homesteading a while. I hope the tips are helpful not only in preparing for winter storms but for things you should have on hand just because.

Chicklets!

Chicklets!

Chicklets!

They weren’t expected until the weekend. Chicklets! Beauty hid a nest in the back corner of the hen house, an old cabin turned pig barn turned hen house, longer ago than I realized. When I returned from the writing retreat Steve informed me of the eggs in the nest. Alrighty then. We’ve paring down, remember? There are only two of us in this household now. We need egg control.Gave away nine ducks, allowed Sweetie to hatch only three eggs for replacement layers.  I’m reasonably sure by the way, that they are two hens and a roo. Paring down – and there are six or seven more eggs in the nest. I’m pretty sure I counted six when I got home. I think it’s Sweetie. She’s probably laying again.

chicklets, chicks hatching
second chicklett
bantam silkie chicks, two If you’re local and you’d like a few chicks in about a month you’re welcome to some of these chicklets. They’re bantam Silkies, Buff x White and full Buff. I can’t tell the difference. Sweetie’s chicks are White x Buff and look all buff so far.

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

I wrote this yesterday morning when I was disappointed and disheartened. The state of the world and the inability to visit with friends online without having a lot of hate and discontent thrown at me is upsetting. I needed to set some boundaries with people who are not used to me saying “sorry…no…” Self-preservation is important, and that involves not setting myself up as a target in some topics that get ugly fast. I headed outside earlier than normal because finding peace of mind outdoors is the best way to ground myself again.

Finding Peace in Beauty

Buff Silkie Hen with chick

I went outdoors early this morning. The much needed rain stopped during the night. I think we’re probably still two inches below normal but we got enough to give the pond and garden the boosts they needed. The Silkie hen and her three checks spent their first night loose in the hen house so they needed to be checked on first. I took food and water and spent a few minutes leaning against the wall, watching the interaction with the other birds. Sweetie’s a good mother. When the other birds get too close to her babes she lets them know it’s time to back off.

Finding Peace on the Homestead

The turkeys have outgrown their small overnight box and moved into one that’s 30 inches tall. There are seven now, down one quickly when the failure-to-thrive poult died. These seven are growing like weeds. When their box tipped to let them loose they emptied out like popcorn, running around the pen, flapping and “flying.” Happy, healthy birds. They’re amusing.

Looking toward the pond as I left the turkeys, I spotted momma snowshoe hare eating clover beside the clump of trees where the kits were. I didn’t harm the when I held them last week and said a little thanks for that.

Finding Peace in the High Tunnel

gourds, vertical growing, high tunnel, peace of mind
finding peace, peace of mind, small warted gourd
finding peace, tomato, vertical growing, high tunnelIt was still chilly in the high tunnel. I opened the door to let the breeze in, nature’s way of pollinating tomato plants while the pollinators are still too cool to move early in the morning. The gourds, cucumbers and tomatoes needed to be pruned and attached to the twine. Snipping the vines, weaving some of them into the twine, and watching a baby garter snake help me put my life into perspective. I took the scenic route back to the house to make a mental note of what I wanted to pick for a fresh bouquet.

Finding peace of mind outdoors. You probably don't owe anyone an explanation when you walk away from the ugliness.Click To Tweet

Next week I’ll be at a silent writing retreat, out of reach of a signal and away from the ugliness of the world. I’ll spend the week with wonderful, creative women as we hone our craft together. I’m looking forward to finding peace of mind outdoors with them.

Homesteading Progress

Homesteading Progress

Homesteading Progress

Change. Even when I want to make changes and accomplish enough to see it as progress, it’s hard. There’s a lot of change going on over here. Homesteading progress used to be adding a new milk goat to the herd, starting a rafter of turkeys that would replace themselves by raising their poults, increasing the garden, or working with a new restaurant when I was a market farmer. These days, downsizing is progress.

Early yesterday morning Steve and I caught and loaded nine of the ducks; seven hens and two drakes. That leaves ten here, and one of those has been named Bacon. He’ll be my first try at duck bacon as soon as I’m ready. I wanted to pare down the flock as we don’t need a dozen duck eggs plus a chicken egg or two a day, every day. When they aren’t on grass during winter they’re expensive to feed. Ducks are messy.

I put real thought into what I want the flock to be when I finished. I didn’t want to break up mated pairs or separate bonded friends. Yes, I’m that kind of softie. “I’ll keep her…” but I didn’t because as sweet as she is, she doesn’t fit into the long term plan. She’s living in her new home and being sweet for an adorable little girl who loves ducks. Homesteading progress, happening right here.

Making Way for Perennials

high tunnel, hay field, Maine, homesteading

perennial garden, homesteading progress, Steve spent this (Saturday) morning with a chainsaw and the bush hog, releasing more wild apple trees and bush hogging the field. Progress – the trees will produce more apples because they have room to grow. The field will become a gorgeous perennial garden that I’ll build over time. Have advice on perennial gardens? Please share. Other than mowing the field and putting tarps down to start killing grass, and making a tentative plan for a dry stream, I’m lost. I have a few herb and flower seeds to start, overwinter in the high tunnel, and plant out in the spring, but I don’t have a design or even a theme in mind yet. There will be paths and a bench. <–thinking out loud (PS Help!)

The logs are trees Steve cut down to let sunlight into the tiny food plot. They’ll be firewood.

No Garden in 2017

There will be no vegetable garden outdoors next year. No garden. That’s still sinking into my heart. The weeds are so far ahead of me I hate to even walk by the garden. It’s hairy galinsoga, the same damned weed I’ve battled for at least 10 years. As vegetables are picked I’m tilling the spend plants under and turning up weed seeds so they’ll germinate. When the last of it is done I’ll till it one more time and start planting a cover crop to control weeds and improve soil. When I turn the garden over in 2018 it will be smaller. I can grow most everything we want in the high tunnel. Next year I’ll buy a few things like beans and winter squash from a local grower.

In 2018 I’ll turn turn over strips in a garden covered in Dutch white clover. The weed pressure will be minimal. It will be worth being without the space next year. When I’m done with those strips they’ll be seeded with more clover and I’ll turn over strips in different places. Feed the soil, control the weeds, and save a lot of time in the garden!

 

Poults – Young Turkeys are Low Maintenance

Poults – Young Turkeys are Low Maintenance

Poults  – Raising Turkeys

After a somewhat annoying cat ‘n mouse game with the feed store on Thursday and Friday, we brought home eight broad breasted bronze poults. One died on Sunday. It was a failure to thrive situation; didn’t eat or drink much at all and peeped constantly from the start. TIP: Ask to see each bird you buy before its put into the carrying box. If it’s smaller than the rest, refuse the bird.

Ava’s Obsession

Poults, Ava’s current obsession. She was thrilled when she heard the peeping last night. I don’t know how many times I told her to get her head out of the box. She either wants them on the floor so she can take care of them or all together in the box. Having them scattered drivers her nuts. Together. All of them. Now. She nudges them around with her nose and picks up the slow learners to move them to their “right” place. “Ava, leave them alone.” “Ava, stop pushing the box,” (she’ll push it to me so I can let her little prisoners poults out). “Ava, put it down.” She loves baby anythings, especially if they peep.

Raising turkeys from late June until the Sunday before Thanksgiving is a job that can be simple.Click To Tweet

How I Raise Poults

I don’t like to raise poults, chicks, ducklings or anything else. I believe in letting mothers do their job but in some cases, like these poults, there isn’t a mother. I have the poults in a pen inside a chicken tractor. I moved Sweetie and the Sweetsketeers into the tractor this morning, and then parked the poults right beside the pen. I want Sweetie to hear the peeping and yearn to adopt them. Or at least accept them. I’m not that fussy and it doesn’t have to be love. Just please, Sweetie, raise them so I don’t have to.

Ava “helped.” She tipped the box over to let them out but she tipped it in the wrong direction. Then she pointed to the cage with her nose, then pointed at the poults, them the cage, then the poults. “You little baby turkeys, go into that cage.” If she could talk that’s exactly what she’d say. I’d like to tell you that I patiently waited for the poults to make their way onto the grass, one by one, letting them take their time and get comfortable in their first experience on the ground. I wasn’t. After snapping two photos I tipped them out and unceremoniously closed the door.

Sweetie couldn’t care less about the peeping. Her chicks are 12 days old and they’re bonded. The poults are outsiders. Outsiders…right…they were outside the tractor. I moved their cage into the tractor so they’re at least closer, and I hope she’ll warm up to them.

Keeping Poults Warm

The poults were three days old when we picked them up so the only feathers they have are on their wing tips. They can’t keep themselves warm. I don’t like heat lamps in a box of young birds, a barn or a hen house. They cause fires, animals suffer and barns are lost. I put a throw rug or towel on the floor, a heat mat used to start seedlings on top of that, then the cardboard box on the heat mat. When they go outside they’re out in the sun after the grass dries.

They have a dish of food and a waterer. That’s all they need. Food, water, warmth. Keep this simple. I have them for the next 21-22 weeks and don’t have time to make them complicated or time consuming.

What Do Poults Eat?

When the poults are in for the night they get a little bit of commercial food. It’s a high protein crumble that supports their fast growth. Outside, they eat grass and other plants, weed seeds and insects.

poults, English shepherd
Here little baby turkeys, I will let you out of the box!
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, chocolate lab, turkey poult, poults
Oh this can’t be good… Mom said, “Zoey, don’t touch” but I want to.

poults, grassfed, how to raise turkeys

Ava and I realized putting the cage in the tractor was a better idea. “Ava, get out.” She came out, turned a circle and went back in because this is her current obsession.

poults, chicken tractor, Silkie chicken, silkie chicks
I will love them and hug them and drool on them…

Tonight the poults will be in the house on a heating pad and Sweetie and the Sweetsketeers will be locked in the carrier with a bed of straw, and closed inside the tractor or hen house to keep them safe. I’m always relieved when the chicks can join the flock inside the hen house. So that’s how I raise poults on their first day on the homestead.

Birds! That Day Went to the Birds

Birds! That Day Went to the Birds

That Day Went to the Birds!

Ray the raven has been making a pest of himself. He lands in the duck pen to have a drink of water from their pool. The ducks don’t like big birds but they’ve gotten used to Ray. Being an opportunist, if a duck laid an egg in the pen Ray made it his morning snack, and I missed that until I found egg shells a couple of times. And then he began to let himself into the coop to steal eggs. Beauty, one of my pound and a half Silkie bantam hens, met him on the ramp to the bird door and nailed him. I had a good laugh over that incident, Ray learned a lesson, and I didn’t see him for over a week.

Birds. Most days I love the roosters. Other days I want to whack their heads off and have chicken for supper.Click To Tweet

Steve forgot a few eggs in the high tunnel when he tended to Sweetie and her three chicks, and he left them on the back porch so they wouldn’t be mixed in with the good eggs. Ray stole one of the eggs, and he got away with it.

Bright and Early

Yesterday morning, bright and early, deep in thought while writing, a noise caught my attention. A little big of banging and scrappling was blamed on a red squirrel. I half-listened for the snap of the live trap. It wasn’t until I got up for more coffee that I knew it was Ray the jerk. I scared him away but he got the egg and flew off into the trees across the road. Ray, one. Robin, zero.

I filled my coffee and scanned the backyard for bears. They’re being pests right now. Unlike Ray, I can’t let bears get away with anything. No bears, but the roosters were fighting. I went out to break them up.

birds, ducks, loose ducks, electro netNext cup of coffee, scanned the yard, and half of the ducks were loose. I went out to put them back and found Romeo, the lighter colored and older of the two roosters, tangled in the electro net fence (it isn’t plugged in) and soaking wet. He managed to get tangled at the pool, probably while fighting with Bud, the younger rooster, and was trapped standing up in the water. I freed Romeo and put him in the coop to dry off. That was a mistake. The thumping and bumping and screeching started instantly. It seems like a soaking wet two pound rooster that just got his ass kicked by a swimming pool would want to slink off, dry out and regain some dignity…but he didn’t. He’s the aggressor in this war. I hopped the electro net and charged in like a boss thinking they’d stop fighting…but they didn’t.

birds, buff silkie, roosterI nudged Romeo away from Bud, pushing him a few feet back. I thought I was separating them but really I was giving him a running start for his next attack. He nailed Bud each time. On the fifth separation I gave him a lift five feet backward. He did the stop, drop and roll thing, and went right back after Bud. He did it the sixth time, too. “Dammit, birds, knock it off.” I picked him up off Bud and took him outside, depositing him in the tall grass on the other side of the fence. “Cool it, would you?”

Juvenile Ravens

birds, juvenile ravenHave you ever heard the squawking of young ravens? It sounds like something’s being tortured. Two adult ravens and three fledglings landed in the tallest trees around the coop. I don’t know if it was Ray, he’s been alone most of the time. Probably it was, and he probably brought his brats offspring over to teach them how to steal eggs. And. I. Wasn’t. Having. It. I’ll not be outsmarted by birds without putting up a good fight.

I grabbed rocks from the garden and lobbed them at the crows. I throw like a three year old so it didn’t do me much good, but they did fly away. Ugh! Birds!

Roosters Can Be Jerks

silkie, rooster, bantam, birds, chicken Later, I heard an odd noise coming from the behind the house. “Seriously? You guys are assholes.” I went out to untangle Romeo and Bud as they fought with the fence between them. Bud freed himself as I got there but Romeo was hopelessly tangled. I threatened him when the thunder started. “If there’s a single bolt of lightening I’m going to the house and you are on. your. own.” I untangled him from the twisted mess as the rain started, and marched his feathered little ass to the high tunnel. “You’re here for the night.” He went to work catching grasshoppers.

This morning Romeo is roaming the garden with Beauty and Tizzy, scratching up weeds, and eating bugs. Bud is in the doorway, on his side of the fence where he belongs, and crowing up a storm. The ravens were here earlier but  they squawked and made their presence know so I was able to drive them off as they landed in the ash trees across from the back porch. “NO EGGS FOR YOU,” I wanted to yell. It’s a good thing we don’t have neighbors.

THIS day is not going to the birds. Or maybe it is. There are four ducks loose already. birds