Monday, December 31, 2012

Horse blanket commitments

Once you’ve decided that your horse might benefit from blanketing, you still have plenty of smaller decisions to make. Does he need a light blanket or sheet for daytime and a heavier blanket for night? Will he be turned out, necessitating a waterproof blanket, or does he just need a stable blanket for time indoors? Will he be turned out with other horses who will run and play? If so, he needs a blanket that will survive that.

Or will you turn him out blanketless, but then groom him before re-blanketing? If he rolls in the mud with his blanket, what will he wear while you’re washing the muddy one?

And aside from the cost of buying a blanket or two, there’s the time commitment that goes with blanketing and unblanketing, day after day. Who is going to do that work? If your horse is cold, blanketing may be your best option. But if you have choices, such as whether to body clip him or not, other time and nuisance factors come into play.

There’s the matter of keeping the blanket clean. Depending on the blanket materials, that may mean brushing the underside of it daily—or at least checking it—to remove any hay, hair, or stickers that could potentially rub against your horse’s coat. It may mean washing the blanket, which also means drying it thoroughly before putting it back on your horse. This likely means you’re going to need a second blanket. Don’t forget that it’s inevitable that you’ll have to do some repairs—even if it’s only to reattach a buckle.

Even with a blanket, which will help keep your horse clean, you should groom your horse every day. He’ll get itchy wearing a blanket, just as you would if you wore the same sweater day in and day out.

If your horse is turned out with his blanket, you have to make sure that the fabric doesn’t absorb and hold water when it gets soaked. A wet blanket will get a horse cold very quickly. Read the labels carefully. “Water-resistant” may be fine in a light mist, but you need “waterproof” if your horse is to stay out in the weather. And that means you’ll have to re-weatherproof it after cleaning.

Of course, you’ll have to be sure that the blanket fits well and doesn’t rub your horse’s coat. Even if it seems to fit, keep an eye out for the telltale hairs that seem as though they’ve been shortened, as if newly clipped or roughed up. This often happens over the hips, on the shoulders, or around the neck opening or withers after the horse has been wearing the blanket for a while.

When the hair gets rubbed, the skin will become tender also. For some horses, even a good-fitting blanket will eventually rub, so he may need an undergarment that will allow the blanket to slip along his shoulders more easily.

And even when everything works perfectly, you can still come home to find your horse naked and your blanket investment shredded by a naughty pasture mate.

As in most things, getting by as nature intended is generally your best option. But when blanketing is the right choice, you get to enjoy the warm feeling of knowing you’ve done your best for your buddy.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

When to blanket a horse

The farther you get from the ideal, the more appropriate it is to consider a blanket. Not every horse has a wooly coat. Some breeds of horses have thinner coats, and others have thin coats from blanketing, being under lights, living in a warm climate or barn, or having been clipped. Even within a barn, you may find one horse who doesn’t need a blanket, another who just needs a sheet at night, and another who seems to require a winter parka.

But a fuzzy coat isn’t the only determining factor. Consider whether the horse is underweight, isn’t eating enough roughage, isn’t able to get out of the wind or wet, or has some health concern that compromises his ability to stay warm. Remember, though, when you put a blanket on your horse, you squash that natural insulating layer of air in his coat. In borderline situations, he may actually be more comfortable wearing his natural blanket than your store-bought one.

It’s usually necessary to blanket a body-clipped horse. You can layer blankets, the way you might wear a light sweater under your coat. And for any horse out in wet weather, keeping him dry is key to keeping him warm.

If the horse isn’t body clipped, you have the dual challenge of cooling the horse down after a workout without allowing him to get chilled. You’ll need to put towels or a wool cooler under a light sheet and remove the towel or cooler as it gets damp.

With any horse, you should periodically reach under the blanket to be sure the horse isn’t hot or sweaty, especially a horse who has been worked, because he can appear cool but then get sweaty again once he is back in the stall.

Though horses adapt to changes in climate, they don’t adapt well to rapid changes. So the horse who was fine when left unblanketed last week might benefit from light blanketing tonight as the leading edge of a cold front comes through. Remember that the big worry during weather changes is that the horse may colic, often due to decreased drinking. So while blanketing is important, having not-too-cold water is critical.

Some owners think they’re doing their horses a favor by closing up a barn to keep their horses warm. But they’re also closing in ammonia fumes and allowing moisture to build up. So instead of heating the barn, it’s better to blanket the horses and allow for plenty of ventilation.

It takes calories to stay warm, and some horses need all the calories they can eat. That’s especially true of older horses who have difficulty chewing or holding weight, and of horses who have been through a health or shipping stress. In those cases, blanketing helps conserve energy and boosts their ability to stay warm.

If blanketing is the best option for your horse, try to avoid having him wear the blanket 24/7. Even a little unblanketed turnout time in the sunlight on a winter day will do most horses good—whether to have a good roll or just to give their skin a breather from the blanket.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

How do horses stay warm?

Horses stay warm much better than people do, and they are quite comfortable even when you and I might be reaching for a jacket. In short, you can’t determine a horse’s need for a blanket by how chilly you feel.

The primary way a horse gets or stays warm is by digesting hay. Digestion is really a fermentation process, and one of the by-products is heat. When your horse is facing a cold night, the first consideration is to provide him with plenty of hay to keep that furnace burning. And in order for that digestion process to work well, he needs water. Ideally it won’t be ice cold.

The horse’s bulk is a great help in keeping warmth in. Think of how thick a horse’s body is, relative to the slender frame of a human. Just as a large block of ice takes longer to thaw than a smaller chunk, a large, warm body stays warmer longer than a thin one.

On top of that, a horse’s winter coat has the ability to fluff up, the hair literally standing on end, thereby creating a warm layer of air around the horse. Long “guard” hairs create an additional layer and fend off light rain or snow.

Even though it’s cold out, an average horse in good condition, eating plenty of roughage, and wearing his own hair coat is probably going to stay warm—as long as he can stay dry and isn’t in direct wind.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why are some farmers busy and others aren't?

Depending on when you visit a farm, a farmer may look lazy or she may look like a chicken with her head cut off because she's so busy.  How busy a farmer is depends on a lot of factors.  First off, what is the farmer farming?  A farmer with a market garden is going to be as busy as a cross-eyed boy at a three-ring circus-at least between spring and fall.  Winter usually slows down and even market gardeners may take a break during the winter, although some crazy market gardeners continue to produce during this time in greenhouses and such.  But let's say you're a strawberry farmer.  You get to have the winter off for the most part.

Or what if you grow turkeys like us for thanksgiving?  We have to do a lot of work between March and November with our hectic time during the couple weeks before thanksgiving.  However, after November we have time off until february/march when gosling season starts.

Let's discuss what "time off" means.  This also depends on what you're farming.  For a turkey farmer, time off means having less turkeys to take care of.  Right now, we only have our breeding flock rather than the gazillions of babies.  Our geese may not be laying, but we still have to keep the future parents fed.  Even a farmer who has absolutely "nothing" to do during a specific time of the year (say a pumpkin farmer who plants in june and harvests in october) is still taking care of the land, has tons of fix-it projects (because farmers are typically poor and their farms are on the point of collapse lol) and let's be honest, what farmer only raises one crop?  A pumpkin farmer will get bored in the middle of winter and try their hand at greenhouse tomatoes or will get some dairy goats, etc.

Another key part of farming that may make some farmers look busier than others is that farming is not a 9-5 job.  A couple weeks back, everyone in the family slept in until about 9am.  A visitor was surprised that we were up so late, but what she didn't know was that the night before, while she was tight asleep in her bed, we were up until 3am caring for a sick pig.  Much of a farmer's work is done at odd hours, so don't begrudge her a nap!

Still, farmer's do have "times off" where their workload significantly decreases and they do show some genuine (well-deserved) laziness.  Another factor is how many workers a farmer has.  The more workers, the less work for the farmer (this is my goal in life).  Not that the farmer stops working, but they may be able to get up a bit later and stop a bit earlier and not kill themselves by age 35 (again my goal).  For example, my brother in law is feeding animals right now and I have time to write a blog post and drink a mug of coffee.  Nice.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What to do if your horse has problems under saddle

If your horse is misbehaving with the saddle on-GET OFF.  Why put your life at risk for something that can be taken care of safely?  A bucking, rearing, shying, bolting psycho is a horse that hasn't learned all of the lessons it should have learned on the ground.  My horse Tarik is bucking slightly under saddle.  Instead of riding-it-out-of-him, I am going back to the basics.  Obviously I missed something.  Now of course there's times when it's just a minor issue and you can continue riding.  But if the behavior doesn't stop, then go back to the ground.

Parelli has a great article here

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Deep Litter Method

I’ve found some good material from the first people to research and promote deep litter, Kennard and Chamberlin at the Ohio Experiment Station. The following is an article of theirs from the Golden Age of deep litter, published in 1949.
For the impatient, here's a deep-litter quickstart:
  • Deep litter is not about compost. It's about healthier chickens. Do your serious composting on a compost pile.
  • More is better. It's not deep litter unless it's at least six inches deep.
  • If the top of the litter gets caked over with manure, skim off the caked part and toss it into a corner. Within a few days, natural composting will cause it to turn back into litter again.
  • Deep litter has anti-coccidiosis properties, but only after it's been around for a few months, so never remove it all. When you start bumping your head on the rafter, remove part of it.
  • Stirring in hydrated lime at about ten pounds per hundred square feet will keep the litter more friable.
  • If you can smell ammonia in the chicken house, you don't have enough ventilation. Open the windows, even if it's twenty below outside. Ammonia is a poison gas; cold weather is just a nuisance to grown chickens.
  • If you're spending a significant amount of time messing with the litter, you're doing it wrong.

Built-Up Floor Litter Sanitation and Nutrition

by Kennard and Chamberlin

Sanitation in brooder houses has been largely restricted to the everlasting use of the scoop shovel, fork, broom, and spray pump. What’s new is the discovery of how to let nature’s sanitary processes do a better job using built-up litter.
What happens to the compost heap is familiar to all. Regardless of how obnoxious its contents, nature’s sanitary processes soon convert it into harmless residual material which is comparatively sanitary. Likewise, many of the same chemical and biological activities take place in built-up litter to make it more sanitary than fresh litter contaminated with fresh droppings.
When built-up litter is erroneously referred to as filthy or dirty material, it is because of either prejudice or lack of understanding. Because fresh litter smeared with unabsorbed fresh droppings is obnoxious, it is natural to think of it becoming more and more so the older it becomes. But old bult-up litter is drier, more absorbent, and less obnoxious than fresh litter after a few days’ use. Often overlooked is the fact the nature’s chemical and biological processes have converted built-up litter into a more sanitary, less obnoxious, residual compost-like material which is preferable to fresh litter contaminated with a larger proportion of fresh droppings.

Call It "Built-Up Litter"

Built-up litter is sometimes called deep or dry litter These terms are misleading. Deep or dry litter may be far different and without the beneficial properties of built-up litter.
Built-up litter is what the term implies. At the beginning fresh litter material is added from time to time as needed, but none is removed until it becomes 8 to 12 inches deep. Once the litter is built-up, after the first year some of the material will need to be removed occasionally to keep it within bounds.

Control of Coccidiosis

The prevention or control of coccidiosis by starting day-old chicks on old built-up litter could have been prophesied years ago. It has long been recognized that chicks exposed to small dosages of coccidia at an early age developed a resistance which gave protection against heavier dosages to which they are often exposed from 4 to 12 weeks of age. Built-up litter has thus proved the most practical and effective means by which this resistance can be established.
As second reason why built-up litter could have been expected to limit coccidiosis is the fact that nearly all, if not all, living organisms including bacteria, protozoa, etc., have their parasites. Old built-up litter would seem to offer a favorable medium and conditions for the functioning of the parasites and enemies of coccidia and perhaps other diseases, too.
The third reason is that a 10 percent solution of ammonia spray is considered effective for killing coccidia. Being unable to withstand such spray, they may likewise be unable to withstand the constant ammoniacal atmosphere in built-up litter.
Either of the probably reasons cited offer a plausible explanation for the surprising results secured during the past three years by the Ohio Station and similar unrecorded results experienced by poultrymen everywhere.
The first experimental evidence with reference to the user of built-up litter as a sanitary procedure was secured by the Ohio Station in 1946 when it was first used in the brooder house. During the three years previous when the floor litter was removed and renewed at frequent intervals, the average mortality of 10 broods, or a total of 18,000 chicks, was 19 percent. During the succeeding three years with the use of built-up litter, the average mortality of 11 broods, or a total of 10,000 chicks, was 7 percent. Seldom did a brood escape an attack of coccidiosis before the use of built-up litter. Afterwardthere was no noticeable trouble from coccidiosis in 11 consecutive broods started and raised on the same old built-up floor litter. Old built-up litter is floor litter which has been used by two or more previous broods of chicks.

Nutritional Benefit Of Built-Up Litter

As soon as the sanitary effects of old built-up litter became evident, two experiments were set up to explore the nutritional possibilities in the growth of chickens on old built-up litter. The basal all-plant diet used in the first two experiment was simple and extremely deficient for the growth of chickens.
Experiment 1 was started July 27, 1947, with the growth of Leghorn-R. I. Red cross-mated pullets after the first 10 weeks to the end of 25 weeks. pervious to the beginning of the experiment, pullets received a complete ration (which included 10 percent meat scrap and 5 percent dried whey) on the old built-up litter. The pullets were equally allotted on the basis of their weight into two groups each of 150 pullets at the beginning of the experiment. On group was changed to the incomplete ration, while the other group was continued on the complete ration. At the end of the experiment after 15 weeks the average weight of the birds was 3.97 vs. 3.95 pounds, respectively. Mortality was 8 vs. 9 percent, respectively. Despite the severity of the incomplete ration, that group of pullets did as well as those that received the complete ration. Obviously, the old built-up litter adequately supplemented the incomplete ration.
Experiment 2 was started August 12, 1947, with eight groups each of 200 Leghorn-R. I. Red cross-mated day-old chicks, At the end of 16 weeks the average weight of the chickens that received the incomplete ration was 3.42 pounds vs. 3.81 pounds of the chickens that received the complete ration. The percentage mortality was 6 and 5 percent, respectively. It was remarkable that the day-old chicks could live and grow as they did on the severely incomplete ration they received. As in the first experiment, it was the old built-up litter that made this possible.
Experiments 3, 4, and 5 were conducted on Leghorn-R. I. Red cross-mated, day-old chicks which received the complete and incomplete rations on old built-up litter, new built-up litter (started fresh with each brood), and fresh litter removed and renewed each 2 weeks. The incomplete ration was practically the same as used in the first two experiments except for the inclusion of 5 percent dehydrated alfalfa meal (17 percent protein) in these experiments. The averaged results at the end of 12 weeks of the experiments, which included about 3,000 chicks, follow:
Floor Litter
Weight Per Bird
Percent Mortality
Old built-up
2.45 lbs.
2.30 lbs.
Old built-up
2.34 lbs.
New built-up
1.88 lbs.
1.64 lbs.

There was little difference in the rate of mortality of the chicks that received the complete ration regardless of the floor litter procedures used in the three experiments. There was, however, a better rate of growth of the chicks that received the complete ration on the old built-up litter.
It was the incomplete, all-plant diet where a critical dietary deficiency existed that the rule of old built-up litter for growth and livability was made unmistakable. The rate of growth and mortality (largely due to coccidiosis) corresponded directly with the age of the floor litter.
Thus, the sanitary and nutritional phases of old built-up floor litter, where nature’s chemical, biological, and sanitary processes can take place under favorable conditions, continue to yield surprising results as continued experimental evidence becomes available. Moreover, the practical results reported by poultry raisers from all parts of the country are in keeping with the experimental evidence.

How To Use Deep Litter

That’s all very interesting, you say, but how does one go about using deep litter? The Kennard and Chamberlin published this advice in 1948:

Built-Up Floor Litter to Date

Until recently, the common practice was to remove and renew the floor litter in brooder and layer houses every week or two. Now, by means of built-up litter practices and the use of hydrated lime, the floor litter may be used in the brooder house for 8 to 16 weeks or longer without removal [Note: later, the authors recommended never removing the old litter.] In the laying house it need be removed only once a year, or it may be used for longer periods. The usual procedure for built-up floor litter is to start with about 4 inches of fine litter material with additions of 1 to 2 inches later as needed without removal of the old. A depth of 6 to 12 inches is maintained by partial removals from time to time.
Frequent removal and renewal of the floor litter from brooder houses was to avoid dampness and thus supposed to aid in the prevention of coccidiosis. The primary purpose for frequent removal and renewal of the floor litter from laying houses was also to prevent dampness. Later, this object was accomplished better by insulation of the houses and by means of built-up litter which protected the floor against the cold and the dampness that followed from condensation.
After built-up floor litter in laying houses became an accepted practice, came the use of hydrated lime with its additional advantages. Consequently, the use of built-up floor litter and its treatment with hydrated lime has now become the standard practice of many poultrymen throughout the country.


First of all, there is the saving of labor and litter material and the better insulation of the floor during cold weather, which aids in keeping the litter drier and in better condition. The condition of the litter is further improved by the use of hydrated lime which makes the litter more friable, more absorbent, and less inclined to paste or cake over the surface.
Recently, it has been extensively observed by the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station at Wooster that the use of built-up floor litter in brooder houses may serve as a means for the prevention or control of coccidiosis, when other conditions are favorable. Seven successive broods, each of around 2,000 chicks, have escaped noticeable trouble from coccidiosis as evidenced by the low rate of mortality (2.9 percent) after the first 4 weeks. Before the use of built-up litter, a majority of the broods failed to escape an attack. In some instances the same floor litter was used for six successive broods of chicks.
Chicks or layers on built-up floor litter were found to be less subject to cannibalism.
Latest of all has been the Station’s discovery of the nutritional aspects of built-up floor litter by two experiments with the growth of chickens indoors and four experiments with the production of eggs of good hatchability when the breeders were confined indoors. The rations in each instance were composed chiefly of plant feedstuffs without animal byproducts.
[Note: this article was written just before the discovery of vitamin B12, which is produced in deep litter through bacterial fermentation.]

Kinds of Lime to Use

With the rapidly increasing use of lime in connection with built-up floor litter in brooder and laying houses, many poultrymen face the question of which kind of lime to use.
Hydrated lime in 50-pound bags is mostly used and the different grades may be purchased from building supply or feed, seed, and fertilizer dealers under trade names such as Agricultural hydrated lime, Mason’s hydrated lime, General Purpose hydrated lime, or Finishing hydrated lime. Any one of these products may be used, so the choice may be determined by the cost.

Judging Litter Condition

The condition of the floor is usually judged by its appearance. If it appears dry and in absorbent condition, not pasted or caked over the surface, it is considered in good condition. If the floor litter appears damp or wet and is pasted or caked over the surface, it is considered in poor or bad condition.
Floor litter treated with hydrated lime appears drier than floor litter under similar conditions without lime. Despite the appearance, however, there amy be little difference in the actual moisture content. The principal effect of the use of lime was upon the physical condition of the litter. Lime makes the litter more friable and more absorbent. This gives it the appearance of being drier and in better condition.

Stir Lime Into Litter

It has been observed that hydrated lime may have a slight caustic effect upon the feet of chicks under certain conditions Consequently, the hydrated lime needs to be carefully distributed over the floor litter and stirred well into the litter at once.
Hydrated lime can be used with any of the common litter materials such as chopped straw, ground corncobs, cut or shredded corn stover, wood shavings, peat moss, or cane litter. The principal requirement is that the litter be stirred at frequent intervals and additions of hydrated lime and fresh litter be made as indicated by the condition of the litter, all of which will depend on the age, number of the birds and weather conditions.

How to Use Lime

The procedure followed by the Ohio Station at Wooster was to scatter the hydrated lime over the floor at the rate of 10 to 15 pounds per 100 square feet of floor space. In the laying house, the amount may be at the rate of 1 pound per layer. This was done at intervals of 2 to 4 weeks or longer, depending on the compaction and surface condition of the litter. Sometimes a light covering of fresh litter was scattered over the lime and both were stirred into the old litter.
Care should be taken to thoroughly mix the fresh lime into the litter; othewise, the unmixed lime on the surface of the litter may have a mild caustic effect on the chicks’ feet. During the intervals between additions of lime and fresh litter, a redistribution of the floor litter to the other less used parts of the floor should be made when the litter becomes packed or caked on certain floor areas, pricipally around the watering and feeding equipment. Sometimes it is well to remove the litter which is in the worst condition.
Under certain conditions, it may be necessary to thoroughly stir and redistribut the litter over the brooder house floor every 2 or 3 days, depending on the number and size of the hcickens and the weather conditions. Afte rthe first 8 weeks, daily stirring is often advisable when weather or other conditions are unfavorable. Lime is seldom sued or needed until after the first 4 or 5 weeks.
Insulation of the laying house is also an important aid in the solution of the problem of dampness in the floor litter in addition to the use of built-up floor litter and its treatment with lime.

Long-Time Use

The same built-up floor litter has been successfully used in brooder houses at the Station’s poultry plant for six succeeding broods of chicks. Likewise, most of the layers are on built-up floor litter that started nearly 3 years ago. Thus far, no disadvantages have been experienced from the long-time use of the litter, either in brooder or laying houses. The older built-up litter is, of course, more effective for the prevention or control of dampness because of its greater depth. It appears the only need for removal is to keep it within convenient bounds.
[End of Article by Kennard and Chamberlin.]

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

How to make your neighborhood a better place?

Here's a list of ideas that I stole from sunset magazine.  Maybe we should all take an early new year's resolution to make our neighborhoods better and prevent these crazy tragedies like the connecticut shooting:

Organize community events
1. Host an annual Southwest-style luminaria display (one neighborhood has more than 50,000 candles in bags lining its streets).
2. Combine cause and community by presenting an annual home tour to raise money for charities.
3. Organize regular wine-tasting parties. You’ll be surprised at all the local sommeliers.
4. Hold small music concerts on a common green. Encourage karaoke (responsibly).
5. Sponsor a holiday celebration such as an Easter egg hunt, a summer solstice party, a Fourth of July bike parade and party, Oktoberfest with grilled bratwurst, or a Halloween block party.
6. Start a regular “Mom’s night out.” Wine and dine, go bowling, or catch a late-night mani/pedi.
Help each other
7. Create a new kind of Neighborhood Watch: Build a “care force” that helps out with dinners and errands when neighbors need a hand, and/or host an emergency preparedness night in which you get organized and learn about your neighbors’ special skills (CPR training, etc.).
8. Schedule an annual “barn raising,” at which a volunteer work crew helps neighbors with household projects, from fixing the pipes to mending a fence.
9. Share house keys with your next-door neighbors, and know whom to call in case of an emergency.
10. Encourage a word-of-mouth community network so kids know there’s always someone watching over them.
11. Start a progressive dinner tradition on your block. Ask each home to serve a dish, and go house hopping until you’re contentedly full.
12. Host movie nights, using a garage door as the movie screen. Alternate which home gets to pick the rental, and don’t forget the popcorn.
13. Consider building a gate in fences between backyards to foster camaraderie and use for emergencies.
Develop community spaces
14. Work with the city to convert old railroad tracks or easements into multi-use trails. Then start an urban forest. Let neighbors plant their own trees, and revisit the site to watch your work grow.
15. Establish a community garden, converting neglected public space, however small, into a pocket garden with a bench or two. Digging in the dirt together creates plenty of opportunity for bonding, not to mention some tasty fruits, veggies, and herbs.
16. Make your own playground. Take advantage of a cul-de-sac by devising a play area with a tree swing, basketball court, and plenty of room for riding bikes and skating. (Erect a yellow warning sign to let visiting vehicles know that kids are at play.)
17. Produce a community newsletter to keep everyone informed and to build community spirit. The venture can bring together writers, artists, and designers and keep the neighborhood up to date.
18. Put up a community website and a Yahoo group site for public notices, referrals, ads, and event notices.
19. Got a swimming pool? Use a flag system to let neighbors know when their kids can join your kids for an adult-supervised swim. Green flag, come on in. No flag, don’t ask.
Create a community-friendly front yard
20. Plant a colorful perennial border between your sidewalk and the street, put a chair or bench in your front yard, then prepare to say hi to your neighbors when it becomes part of everyone’s stroller route.
21. Instead of tall, narrow walls or fences that close neighbors out, build half-walls wide enough to function as a seat.
22. Plant in front of as well as behind perimeter walls. “It’s like a gift to the neighborhood,” one homeowner said. It also inspires adjoining houses.
23. Build a firepit in front of your house. On cooler nights, throw down some beach blankets, share a glass of wine with the neighbors, and watch the kids play. Or just settle down out front in some folding chairs on a Friday or weekend afternoon, and invite the neighbors to join you.
24. Hang a swing from your porch to get you out front and socializing.
25. Transform those big trash containers into works of art. Working with the local garbage company, one neighborhood painted its containers with scenes of tropical islands, flower gardens, a Southwest landscape ― even a strawberry ice cream cone.

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Amelia Ashton

Connecticut, Victor Valley College, Columbine: Should we take away guns?

Ironically, right after I posted a blog about guns being good and necessary for farmers, we have one of the worst school shootings in our history. And a student shooter at the college I teach at, Victor Valley College, just recently killed himself after looking for and not finding a particular victim.  So how do I feel now about guns?

You know, I really feel like this isn't a gun issue.  Follow my logic and you'll see what I mean.  It's sort of like a horse training problem.  Take a horse that bucks for instance.  Bucking horses have probably killed more people than guns have and certainly more people than have been killed in school shootings so this is a SERIOUS and very tragic problem.  I had a close friend who was bucked off and then dragged to death.  And if you include injuries in that then bucking becomes even more serious.  So what do you do about a bucking horse?

Most people try to stop the bucking.  Makes sense right?  Ride it out of them, lunge them and each time they buck you smack them with a whip, tie them up and lay them down on the ground until they give up, time chains to their legs so each time they buck the chain whacks them and they get punished...the list of bucking "treatments" goes on and on.  These usually don't work and the final solution is the slaughter house.

But here's the thing for horse owners to remember.  The symptom is not the problem.  The problem is the problem.  Bucking is the symptom of a disrespecful and fearful horse.  You have to teach the horse respect and trust through groundwork exercises and then magically the bucking goes away on its own without any focus on bucking at all.

School shootings and other bad behavior in general are just symptoms.  The problem is a social structure (both societally and familial) that is not supporting people.  A culture that is not training people right.  We are too busy in our country to take care of people.  Mom is working and nobody is home with the kids.  Dad is working or not even in the picture.  How many of you actually know your neighbors?  In southern california where I am, hardly anyone knows their neighbor and who has the time?  You have to work, you have debt, gotta pay your bills.  I fall victim to this societal dysfunction as well.  I was proud of myself that I took the time to stop the other day when I saw my neighbors outside and said hi.

We need to do more to show love to those around us, both inside our family and outside.  Bake cookies for your neighbors or invite them over for dinner!  What a crazy idea!  Tell your parents you love them and parents, tell your kids that.  Spouses, go see a therapist or read a self-help book and get your relationship straightened out-it's the best thing you could do for your kids.  Show them what true love and generosity and respect is.  Figure out what the problems are in your family and in your neighborhood and do something about it.

Read the next blog post about how to make your neighborhood a better place.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Potatoes, not Prozac

As you all know if you've been following the blog, I've been trying to get back into shape after being very sick through horseback riding.  Really, starting this ranch was our family's way of becoming healthier.  We were just sick and tired of being sick and tired and we decided we didn't want to eat the so-called food that you buy in the store with all the GMOs and pesticides and poor farming practices (not to mention the cruelty often involved in commercial farming).

It's been quite the learning curve.  We weren't farmers when we started this experiment.  While I come from a line of farmers, my dad moved off the farm when he was a kid and we didn't move back until I was an adult.  So technically, I'm a gazillionth generation farmer with no farm experience whatsoever.  Well, I have a lot of farm experience now, but we're still figuring things out and we're still becoming healthier.

I recently re-picked up a book I have "Potatoes, not Prozac."  It's a step-wise plan to better nutrition.  Not a diet, but a way of changing your body chemistry to make proper nutrition easy.  It really looks into the physiology of the body for you to understand sugar cravings and hunger and hypoglycemia and all those problems that lead to poor nutrition.  The author states that before you can cut the junk food out of your diet, you have to make your body not want the junk food.  Hey, sounds good to me.

I actually have made some of my college students follow this diet when I teach Drug and Alcohol Studies as the author uses this diet to help addicts stop drinking (alcohol is basically sugar).  My students have reported huge successes with this-both with weight loss and just feeling plain better, and even addiction issues.  I've always felt a bit guilty because I have never really followed this plan, I mean I have, but never super religiously.  So I've decided if I make my students do it, and if they report it works so well, then why the heck aren't I doing it?

The very first step (there are seven) is to have breakfast every morning.  I have done this since the first time I read the book, so I guess I've been practicing this step for about seven years lol.  However, breakfast has to have both a complex carb and a protein.  I'm good with the carbs-too good-but I'm terrible at eating enough protein.  Protein is the precursor (in the form of Tryptophan) to serotonin which makes you feel happy.  So I am now practicing have protein with breakfast...and okay I'm skipping ahead to trying to put protein into all my meals and I had a potato before bedtime which is step 4 I think, but hey!  I'm on christmas break and not working so I figured what the heck.  But I'm not beating myself up if I don't do something that's past step 1-like I skipped lunch today.  Big no no!  But I had protein at breakfast and that's all that really matters for now.

Anyhow, I've had such success with the horse riding that I thought I should work on my nutrition as well.  I really feel so much stronger and riding horses is way more enjoyable now that I'm building up muscle (and technique).  I'm even thinking about competing next year.  I'm hoping that by spring when the garden is alive again that I will have my nutritional muscles and techniques built up and ready for all those farm-fresh veggies.

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Rain, Rain, don't go away

I woke up this morning, put the dogs out and thought a water pipe was broken.  That is until I noticed that everything was wet.  Wow, it's raining!  We don't get that very often here.  The high desert gets about 6 inches of rain a year, although there's a huge range of amounts to reach that average.  Most years it seems that we only get 3 inches.  It would be nice if things were greener, but at the same time it's wonderful to not have to worry about slogging through the mud all winter long.  We don't have to be as cautious about putting things away, although on the rare occasion when it does rain we are usually dashing around to put the things away that we left out.  This morning was pretty good, only a bag of dog food left in the rain and it was rescued before much damage was done.

Wet chicken

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Was Tecumseh a Christian?: Of Guns and Farming

They say to get a lot of comments on a blog, you should write about something controversial.  I think I got most of the main controversies just in the title so I guess we'll see lol.  Anyhow, someone asked me an interesting question the other day: Was Tecumseh a Christian?  Tecumseh was one of the War Chiefs of the Shawnee indian tribe and arguably the most famous.  He pulled together many of the tribes into a confederacy to try to stand up against the americans invading indian territory.  I'm certainly no expert on this subject, but I am half Shawnee myself and so I've read a few books and our family tradition says that we're directly descended from one of Tecumseh's siblings.
I researched this question for the asker and I decided it is certainly possible that Tecumseh was a christian-he was said to have read the Bible and he spent time around many whites who would have been and/or claimed to be Christian.  Most importantly, he lived by and endorsed many christian-like principles that contrasted strongly with the culture he grew up in-such as not killing and torturing innocents.
However, if he was actually a christian it was something he came to on his own instead of through the missionaries.  It is something strangely American that a "good" person is a peaceful person who never has anger and certainly does not carry weapons.  Americans during Tecumseh's time believed that indians were sincere in their peacefulness only when they gave up their weapons.  While you may say this is was a trick to beat the indians, look at today's attitude.  The ultimate goal of worldpeace is the disarming of the world.  Everyone gives up their weapons from the smallest gun to the biggest nuke.  
It's easy to see why a European might be intimidated by a Shawnee warrior
The Shawnees believed otherwise.  They believed peace was only possible if everyone was equally armed.  Tecumseh went to war for peace and he certainly never gave up his weapons.  He evidenced no guilt or shame about this either, which many of the "Jesus Indians" did.  Jesus indians were christian indians, particularly those who had gone to live in the missions.  They gave up their weapons, their indian clothes and ceremonies and became "tame."  
Tecumseh was as far from tame as possible.  He endorsed christian ideals and still carried his war club.  He was able to nurture his tribe and scalp his enemies.  Whether Tecumseh was a christian or not, I believe this is more accurate christianity than the tame mission indians.  Similar to a Jesus who endorsed peacemaking, but whipped the moneylenders in the temple for being disrespectful.
So what does this have to do with farming?  Tecumseh's attitude reminded me of what it was like to be a farmer (hence why I'm blogging about this subject).  Farming is a peaceful activity where the farmer is always at war.  You are constantly fighting against thieves-generally of the 4-legged variety.  Coyotes and dogs dig under the fences, racoons climb over, mountain lions leap over.  The livestock sometimes attack each other such as when we almost lost Petunia (our female pig) because Hamlet got into her pen and was very insistent about showing her his love.  It was not easy getting a 250 lb hog off his girlfriend and he could have easily turned around and attacked us, although luckily he's a good boy.
My point is that farmers should own guns and that this is a good thing.  Owning a weapon doesn't mean you're a bloodthirsty killer or that you're irresponsible.  Tecumseh was the ultimate weapon owner and he was able to be a man who was so loving and nurturing and responsible that thousands of indians gathered to him.  I have known many city slickers, who are totally anti-gun, go into farming and within a year or so most of them have bought a gun.  Not because they are going to rob a bank, but because you have to be able to protect the innocents under you.
What do you think?  

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fewer, better fed, farm animals: Good for the world’s climate and the world’s poor

‘Fewer but better fed animals can make livestock production more efficient.’ This was said by Mario Herrero at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi. Herrero was speaking on 13 November 2012 in the fourth of a series of science seminars organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food security (CCAFS). The presentation was live-streamed to an online audience of 220 people.
Herrero, an agricultural systems analyst at ILRI, gave an up-to-date overview of ways the livestock sector in developing countries can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing global warming. `We face the challenge of feeding an increasing human population, estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, and doing so in ways that are socially just, economically profitable and environmental friendly,’ he said.
This matters a lot. There are about 17 billion domestic animals in the world, with most of these in developing countries. The raising of these animals generates greenhouse gases such as methane (emitted through enteric fermentation and some manure management practices). And the number of livestock in the developing world will only increase in future decades.
Mitigating potentials of the livestock sector
Livestock benefit many of the world’s poorest people, with at least 1 billion of them depending either directly or indirectly on livestock for nourishment and income and livelihoods. But most of the inefficiencies in livestock production occur in developing countries, where people lack the resources to refine their production practices.
The good news is that livestock production in poor countries can be improved dramatically to close big yield gaps there. Herrero gave some examples:
  • Discourage and reduce over-consumption of animal-source foods in communities where this occurs,
  • Encourage and provide incentives to small-scale farmers to keep fewer but better fed and higher producing animals, and
  • Promote ways of managing manure from domestic animals that reduce methane emissions.
Mitigation potentials of the livestock sector
Herrero leads ILRI’s climate change research and a Sustainable Livestock Futures group, which reviews interactions between livestock systems, poverty and the environment. He says,  `In the coming decades, the livestock sector will require as much grain as people. That’s why there’s great need to keep fewer but more productive farm animals. We need to find ways to produce enough food for the world’s growing human population while reducing global warming and sustaining livelihoods of the poor.’
That, says Herrero, will involve some hard thinking about hard trade-offs.
For instance, while reducing the number of animals kept by poor food producers, and intensifying livestock production systems, could reduce global methane emissions by livestock, we’ll have to find efficient and sustainable ways for small-scale farmers and herders to better feed their animal stock. And while raising pigs and poultry generates lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than raising cattle and other ruminant animals, pigs and poultry cannot, like ruminants, convert grass to meat.
‘There’s no single option that’s best,’ cautions Herrero. ‘Any solution will need to meet a triple bottom line: building livelihoods while feeding more people and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.’
Click on this link to view Mario Herrero’s full presentation: Mitigation potentials of the livestock sector,