Modern Homesteading Movement
1) About Chickens
2) Confessions of a Radical Gardener
3) A History of the Editions of Carla's Book
4) News Bits
a) NIH Corruption? b) Second medical opinion? c) Accurate free weather forecasts?
1) About Chickens
People keep telling me their chickens are pecking each other. When I'm traveling, over half the homestead flocks I see are doing that. I don't know why they do it. All I can tell you is that my flock of 30 chickens is not missing one single feather and I'll tell you how I care for them. Maybe the difference between how I do it and how you do it will provide some ideas to help those of you who are struggling with this problem.
My way of caring for chickens is similar to what my mother did 60 years ago. Over the decades, I have seen poultry crammed into ever smaller and smaller housing space. I have seen their feed intact restricted more and more totally to feed-store formulated mixtures. My way of raising chickens is radically different from both those trends.
Our chicken house is 20 feet x 15 feet in floor space. The roof is 12 feet high. There are a half dozen roosts to allow the birds to sleep above the floor at night, satisfying a strong instinct they have. There are nesting boxes with hay in them on the floor and three long feed troughs sitting on the floor of the chicken house. I keep grass or alfalfa hay scattered on the floor. When they eat it up, I supply more. That way, when the weather is cold or rainy, the birds can still have an interesting day scratching and pecking on their chicken house floor in old feed and bedding.
Their chicken yard is 20 feet x 50 feet. It has wire sides about 6 feet high, no top. I have two birds that fly in and out all day, as they please: a guinea and a Fayumi rooster. They are my yard and garden birds. The rest stay in the pen. The narrowness of the run discourages birds of prey from coming in there.
Every morning, I clean and refill their one-gallon water container. I bring fresh grain to pour in the troughs in the chicken house. Then they kick it out of the trough and eat it off the floor. That's fine with me. The grain I offer is a mix of half scratch (a mix of whole grains and other seeds) and half wheat. I don't serve them laying mash. My birds prefer a diet of grain, greens, and kitchen scraps. I let them show me what they want to eat by their eagerness in feeding; I trust their judgement.
Their favorite foods are weeds, veggies, fruit, and any sort of kitchen scraps, including fat and meat. A couple times a day, I bring them a bowl of kitchen scraps. I toss it on the ground in their chicken yard. I bring them from 1/2 to 1 bushel basket full of weeds and weed roots or garden greens or veggies, every day. (This rule disciplines me to keep up with the garden weeding and to keep expanding the garden!) I scatter those on their chicken yard. I also scatter extra grain across their chicken yard.
I bring them gizzard grit also. I know just the size of pebble they prefer; I've cleaned so many gizzards over my long life. They like it way bigger than sand-size, but way smaller than gravel-size, and they prefer round, smooth pebbles. It just so happens that there is a particular species of ant that has a big hill in my garden that gathers just the right size of pebble (about 1/16 inch / 2 or 3 mm diameter) to lay on top of their ant hill. So I've been sneaking up and scooping up trowel-fulls of that for my chickens. The other place that I find just the right size of grit is along the edge of the house roof. Apparently those pebbles are small enough for the wind to carry. They land on the roof, then fall off, accumulating around the roof edges on the ground. I have garden all along one side of the house, so the ground is exposed and I can collect the pebbles for the chickens. If I didn't have ants or roof to help me, I'd have to figure out something else.
So they have lots of space and lots of interesting things to do in it. My theory is that's why they don't peck on each other.
I won't use a rototiller. My garden--and it is sizable enough that I can take produce to the farmer's market to sell--is entirely grown with a spade and a trowel. Actually, a pruning shears, baskets and buckets, a wheelbarrow and a rake are my other essential garden tools. I don't make rows. My garden is a giant wide row with a very few paths. The paths are pretty much where they happen. That works well for a desert garden. The watering is concentrated, the plants shade each other in the worst of the heat, and protect each other from the desert windstorms.
I garden year-round with never ending succession planting. I spend a minimum of two hours a day working out there. I plant something (outside or in the house) EVERY day of the year. Every day, I dig up some weeds, plant some seeds, transplant some baby plants that I grew from seed that now need more room. It helps to live in southeastern Arizona, but I don't know any other Arizona gardeners that put as much into their ground as I do, or get as much out. I'm out there on rainy days in my raincoat. I'm out there on cold days after the ice has melted off the plants so I can work on them. In blistering hot weather I work right after dawn and before dusk.
Plants root in soil and the quality of your soil can mean the life or loss of a garden. You need to protect the soil's life, feed it, and add to it. Then the soil life will protect, feed, and enlarge your garden plants! The most desirable soil for a gardener is literally alive. Microbiologists have identified tens of thousands of microscopic species that thrive in living soil. The presence of these critters is what makes "topsoil" fertile. It's fertile because it's teeming with living creatures that are releasing nutrients from the soil and also increasing its fertility with their pooping and their dead bodies.
Protect Soil Life--To protect that life there are three basic rules: 1) no artificial fertilizer because the chemicals feed one generation of plants but kill the soil life that could feed endless generations of plants. 2) no poisons (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides) because, among other good reasons, they are hard on some segment or other of soil life. 3) Water as needed to maintain a minimal moisture level. Without water soil life is first dormant, then dead.
Feed the Soil Life--What feeds soil life (as well as plants) is 1) Compost, 2) Manure, 3) Humanure. Before I had livestock, all the weeds and kitchen scraps went to the compost heap, then to the garden. Feeding soil life also feeds the plants. Compost, manure, and humanure make the difference between small plants with few fruits on them and big plants that produce many fruits. I am delighted when a friend drives up with a pickup load of manure for my garden. In the daytime I go out to the shed to do my own pottying. I use a bucket and, when finished, I pour off the urine into one container and dump the solid waste into another. I save the toilet paper too because it is 7th Generation unbleached paper napkins and fine to go into the garden. Every so often I bury the contents of the solid waste / napkin container in the garden. Every so often I mix the urine with water, 1 part urine to 5 or 10 parts water, and pour it on some part or other of the garden. Sometimes I pour a dash on straight. It gets intuitive.
At night, I don't like trekking out to the shed, so I have what the oldtimers called a "slop bucket" sitting in the bathtub. I use it there. I used to keep it on the bathroom floor until the night when Punkin, the cat, was chasing a mouse in the bathroom and knocked over the slop bucket on the bathroom rug. Every morning, I take the slop bucket out and just fling the contents out over a new area of the garden, at least, I do that when it's rainy or I'm planning to water. I've mastered the technique of tossing it in such a way that it fragments into a zillion little droplets. I learned later to take note of how strong the wind was and which way it was blowing before I did my expert fling of the slop bucket's contents. The particular morning that I learned that bit of sadder-but-wiser wisdom I was in a big hurry, was already in my Sunday clothes, and had made my toss. It was when I felt the first drop of moist urine hit my cheek that I belatedly realized that that there was a stiff breeze blowing and I had thrown the bucket's contents directly into the wind--which was sending it right back to me.
Green manure is another way to enrich your soil. You till the soil, broadcast seed, rake it in. After your green manure crop grows, you till it in. As usual, I have a simpler version of that. For example, somebody gave me a 50-lb sack of beans. Come fall I tossed out that seed by the handfuls across my garden. The growth of legumes always enrich your soil. Whether you till them in or not.
I installed rabbits on the edge of the garden. Now I can just fill a shovel under the hutch and then fling the contents out over the garden.
Add to the Soil Life--
When I arrived on this seven acres of SE Arizona desert, the soil was amazingly non-fertile. It's been a long hard struggle to make it like it now is. There were NO earthworms anywhere on the place. So I paid $25 and bought earthworm cocoons. About 25 of them were delivered by mail. I carefully and gently buried several under each of my three compost heaps, and then put the remainder here and there in the garden. Now the garden is teeming with earthworms!
At the beginning I also looked for other sources of soil life to add to my garden soil.
First edition — The Old Fashioned Recipe Book is mimeographed on Fibertint and first sold by subscription before being written. The 875 copies arrive in 4 shipments. The final shipment is mailed March 1, 1974, bound with three 2 in. metal rings. (Most owners move it into a 3-ring looseleaf notebook.) Every chapter is a different pastel color. All editions except the Bantam 7th, Sasquatch, and 10th were hand collated.
Second edition — In Kendrick, Idaho, Carla and friends, at the Livingroom Mimeographer, create this and all future mimeo editions on Carlton and Mustang paper with an ivory Plastisheen cover. In March, 1974, 185 all-at-once-complete copies are finished. It includes new text and edits, bound with 3 in. strips of pastel-colored, plastic-coated copper wire stuck through the 3-hole punches and bent over at the end.
Third edition — Contents expanded. May 24, 1974, 500 mimeographed copies are finished.
Fourth edition — Colored photos added. 1,000 mimeographed copies were finished May 24, 1974.
Fifth edition — Index is added. 13,000 mimeo copies are printed, starting May 26, 1974.
Sixth edition — Black-and-white photos are added. 34,000 mimeo copies are started January 16, 1975. About 20% of the books sold are velobound hardcovers. Some folks buy velobound softcovers, but most want the old 3-hole punch style with colored plastic-coated copper wires for binding.
Sixth-Seventh Edition — Half new paging and half old paging. Rewrites added. Index dropped due to confused paging. Cindy’s pictures are placed in chapters as fast as she finishes them. 4,000 mimeo copies started November 22, 1976.
Bantam: 7th edition — Subtitle added: The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Cindy does new pictures for this professionally-printed edition, drawn with more detail. Content is expanded and improved. First printing is on alternating paper sections of yellow and green. Later printings are all on green paper. Bantam prints a total of 200,000 books in 6 runs: Nov. 1977, Dec. 1977, Sept. 1978, Sept. 1979, April 1980, March 1980, and March 1981. Softcover only. I wouldn’t let Bantam rewrite. They accepted that and printed some strange but authentic sentences.
Living Room Mimeographer: 7th edition — This one is the Bantam text plus more added after the cutoff date for the Bantam edition. Prilnting starts March 12, 1977, of this largest edition to date, almost 1,000 pages. All 12 chapters are fully illustrated by Cindy in cartoon-style pix with simple lines suited for mimeo. Sold in velobound (hard or softcover), or 3-hole punch. 25,000(?) copies are printed total.
Living Room Mimeographer: 8th edition — The chapters called "Poultry," "Meats," "Definitions and Measures," "Home Industries," "Vegetables," "Sweets," and "Oddments" were revised. Starting March 1990, about 3,000 copies were made by copy machine (mimeograph supplies were now unobtainable). Gradually upgraded through various printings and 3-hole punched.
Sasquatch Books: 9th edition — First published 1994. The amount of text almost doubles in a complete rewrite of all chapters. The editor insists that I cut 65,000 words (I drop the Definitions and Measures Chapter and various sections), dump all color and black/white photos except one,and use white paper instead of coloredt. I reluctantly comply. Publisher retitles the book The Encyclopedia of Country Living, subtitle An Old Fashioned Recipe Book. (I did media interviews for the new edition a couple months before I learned I was announcing the wrong title. That was embarrassing but, after I got used to it, I liked the new one. Total number of books printed by Sasquatch to date is 100,000+. Publisher prints two illustrations by Dan Emery in Poultry Chapter (boy juggling eggs and bantie sitting on ostrich egg) that were part of Dan's application to do supplementary art work that I had requested. They chose a different (crummy) artist. Sasquatch attributes Dan's pictures to their own artist on the copyright page.
Sasquatch Books, "Updated 9th Edition" — Published March 2003. This book contains my update of mailorder info for the now 1500+ mailorder sources named in the book. I asked them to give Dan some dollars and proper credit for his two pix. Instead, they dropped the pix.
4) News Bits
d) I have been wondering about how one goes about changing our dependence on fossil fuels? I haven't looked into it, but I remember reading about the cost of harvesting wind power for individual families to be quite a lot. If it could be done in a cost-effective manner, it would be worth looking into. Besides the "normal" conservation that we do (recycle, turn off lights, switch to low-usage appliances) what else is there?
My heart goes out to Tasha. The healing power of Christ on our mental state is phenomenal. She needs to find a support group in a local church to accept, help, and encourage her. People that you meet on-line are fine, but you lose your identity too easily in cyberspace, and she needs the direct human contact to help in her healing process.
Thanks for your advice and I look forward to your newsletter every week.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum) is a semi-hardy, attractive perennial that grows 2-4 ft high and has escaped from gardens and now is a weed in many southern states where it will grow in most any soil, but especially likes moist and muck ground. Propagate by root division or fall-planted seeds (viable for 2-3 years). Plant in poor, light soil, in partial shade. Give it a spot by itself. Wormwood is strong stuff with a strong, disagreeable smell and can inhibit the growth of nearby plants, even herbs such as caraway, fennel, and sage. If you have harsh winters, cut it back and mulch heavily in the fall. Harvest in the fall. Dry sprigs and use them to make moth-repellent sachets. A strong wormwood tea works as a flea-killing bath for pets. A wormwood spray repels clothes moths, cabbageworm butterflies, and flea beetles.
Don’t eat it. Absinthe (brandy plus wormwood, licorice, etc.) has been outlawed in most countries because long-term consumption causes hallucinations, sleeplessness, seizures, and paralysis. Or you may get sick right away. A man who made his own absinthe using "oil of wormwood" bought over the internet, got seizures, kidney, and heart failure. He was revived in a Washington D.C. hospital after being found incoherent in his home. Wormwood is available from Redwood City, Richter's, etc.
b) If a flock of chickens has a bad habit of either eating eggs or pecking at each other, I would seriously consider sending them all to the deep freeze and starting over. But don't start over unless you have an idea of something to do something different that could avoid the bad habit in your next flock. More on chickens in the lead article, above.
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Carla Emery P.O. Box 133 San Simon, AZ 85632
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Copyright 2004 by Carla Emery. All rights reserved.