Pretty chicks.

Hooray, the chicks are here!

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My family raised laying hens when I was in high school, but I haven’t had any since then.  We’ve been wanting to get some to raise for the fresh eggs, so when I was in the farm store Sunday and saw that they had gotten their spring chicks, ducklings, and poults in, I asked my husband if we could get a few, and he agreed.  We might go back on Wednesday and get a couple of ducks as well, since we have a pond and their eggs are also edible, not to mention their droppings can be composted and used in the garden.

Chickens are easy to raise, help control bugs on your property, don’t require much room, and supply you with fresh (and organic if you raise them on organic feed and kitchen scraps) eggs.  Many cities allow you to have up to four hens, so even if you don’t live out in the country, you can still raise them if you have even a little backyard.

We got four different breeds, and the children immediately set to naming them:

  • Elphaba – a Black Jersey, named after the witch in Wicked
  • Toast – an Isa Brown, so named because she’s the color of buttered toast
  • Henrietta – a Light Brahma, named after their great-great Aunt Henrietta
  • Elsa – a Buff Orpington, named after J.T. Cluck’s wife in the Hank the Cowdog series

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When you get baby chicks, they’ll often be about a week old or so.  You need to make some kind of brooder for them; we’re just using a big plastic tote here, but you can put them in most anything:

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They also need warmth; we’re using a 125 watt incandescent bulb with a brooder reflector, which my husband attached to the base of an old metal bar stool:

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Every week or so, you raise the lamp a bit more in order to lower the temperature by 5 degrees; here is what the sheet from the farm store recommended:

  • Age of chick – temperature in °F
  • 1 week – 90°
  • 2 weeks – 85°
  • 3 weeks – 80°
  • 4 weeks – 75°
  • 5 weeks – 70°

I put a thermometer in the brooder, but the chicks will huddle under the lamp together if they’re too cold and if they’re too hot, they’ll move as far away from the lamp as possible and even pant.

In the bottom of your brooder, put in a layer about 4-6 inches thick of pine shavings:

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Change the bedding every few days so that you don’t have damp bedding which harbors bacteria that can make chicks sick.

Give them clean water and food; the feeder I bought was about $8 and keeps them from getting in their food pan and soiling it:

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When we got them home, I noticed one of the chicks had pasty butt:

Chicks are prone to a condition called “pasty butt” where dropings stick to their vents and clog it up, making it impossible for them to relieve themselves. If left untreated this can kill them. Check your chicks’ bottoms every few hours, especially during the first 2 weeks. If you find a pasty bottom carefully soak and remove the plug, pat the area and dry and apply a little vaseline or vegetable oil to the area. Organic ACV (apple cider vinegar) in their drink water is found to really help prevent this condition. A ratio of 3-4 tablespoons to a gallon water is recommended.

I found a helpful video that shows how to clean pasty butt:

I also found some good reading material on taking care of pasty butt here:

Treating pasty butt in baby chicks

While we wait for their feathers to grow in, my husband will be working on building them a coop and fencing in a chicken yard for them.  They should be able to be moved outside by early to mid May.  By mid to late July (16-20 weeks), we should start seeing our first eggs from these gals!

For some reason, I feel like ending this post by listening to Pick a Little, Talk a Little (Goodnight Ladies) from the Music Man. 🙂

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more

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Skills are best learned before you need them, and patience is a skill.

I tapped a maple tree this year because I wanted to practice a skill I had been reading about: how to produce homemade maple syrup.  I tapped when the book said to – late February/early March – and I got…nothing.  A week later I got a few drips.  A week after that I had a little more than a half gallon, which I cooked down but ended up with maple sugar taffy by over-cooking it.  I figured it was all a good learning experience, pulled the spile out of the tree, washed all the equipment and stored it away.

Yesterday afternoon I was walking down past that maple tree and couldn’t believe what I saw:

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The entire front of the tree is covered in sap, which is running freely out of the tap hole!  B-b-but…it’s almost April!  Sap isn’t supposed to start running now!  The books said so, and I already washed and stored all my equipment!

The skill I lacked was patience.

And real-world knowledge, as opposed to book knowledge.  Even though the sap was “supposed” to run earlier, it didn’t.  Who knows why – probably because of the extremely cold winter.  But I learned several more lessons, which I’ll share here in hopes of helping someone else avoid the same mistakes:

1. Knowing how to read conditions is vitally important when it comes to producing a yield. Nature doesn’t read books; it produces when the conditions are right, not when the time table in the book says it is supposed to.  I need to learn to read the conditions for maple sap production.

2. Patience is a skill even more than a virtue.  I wanted my sap right now, and when I didn’t get it, I wasn’t willing to wait and see what happened.  Also, I’m struck by the fact that one of my first reactions was that something might be wrong with that tree, that it might be pest-infested and that I’d better get someone out to spray it with pesticide.

Writing for Permaculture News, Leanne Ejack discusses the need for patience:

…permaculture is founded upon patience. Permaculture is about working with nature and allowing time for nature to work herself out. Permaculture can be frustrating for many people, because there are no ‘quick fix’ solutions to problems. Permaculture is about setting the seeds for a permanent system (think: permanent agriculture = permaculture) that will manage and sustain itself for years to come. Our severe impatience drives us to get in with the tractor and chemicals, blast everything out to bare soil, and plant a monoculture of the desired plant we want. We want these plants to grow fast so we can begin harvesting straight away and make more profit. The more the better! This is a ‘trophy hunter’ mentality. But this type of system requires constant management and constant artificial inputs from fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other manufactured chemicals.

Permaculture, in contrast, is about the maximum amount of output with the minimum amount of work and input. In order to create something that will last and be sustainable, the key is patience, patience, patience! But patience is such a hard quality to cultivate in us ‘instant-gratification’ humans. Therefore, incorporating the practices of permaculture requires a complete change in mindset and attitude. It is not just a method of farming, it is a belief system and lifestyle.

The permaculture method of farming is the wheat we can extract from the chaff of their “belief system”, which tends toward pagan spirituality.

3. Skills are best learned before you have a critical need of them.  My family isn’t counting on that maple syrup for our livelihood or our survival, which makes now the perfect time to learn by trial-and-error and repeated attempts.  Maybe the food supply will never be disrupted and I’ll never “need” this skill – though it’s still a nice one to have – but if I ever do need it, I’d rather already have the skill acquired.

Writing for Molly Green Magazine, Patrice Lewis from Rural Revolution has explained the importance of learning food production skills before you desperately need them:

…it’s important to learn stuff NOW. Remember, preparedness is a three-legged stool: supplies, community, and knowledge. You might have all the supplies in the world, but without the knowledge of how to use those supplies, they’re almost useless.

…This means testing your theories, supplies, and equipment; and it means learning how to do things by alternate means. And this must be done before things hit the fan.

In the face of natural or societal disasters, you are going to be stressed, scared, desperate, panicked, and unfocused. If you think you’ll suddenly have the leisure to learn the intricacies of cooking from scratch, growing a one-acre garden, canning green beans, or plinking at targets, think again. Because make no mistake: all these skills take practice.

…you need to go through trials and errors and the initial failures at a time when those failures won’t mean the difference between life and death. Then you need to learn what works for you. For some things, like a garden, you only have one chance a year. Get it wrong and you have twelve more months to sweat and plan before the next try.

My advice to readers is to make this the year that you grow something – anything – useful, even if it is just a little backyard garden or a window box of herbs.  But in seeking to obtain a yield of the fruit of the land, let us remember together that we need first to seek the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

 

And as we wait patiently for our earthly yield, we also wait patiently for the return of Our Lord:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

 

Country mouse is not a city mouse.

For the past two days I’ve had to attend a professional conference in our capital city, Lansing.

Now, Lansing is hardly a booming metropolis, but it’s a lot bigger than the little town where I live and the little town where I work, both of which are rather rural.

I grew up from age 13 to 18 in Caledonia, which was farm country back then.  Moving to Ann Arbor to attend college was jarring; I felt like I was in a big, scary city for the first few months until I got used to it.

We moved out to the country in early September of this year, and I do not miss city life at ALL.  Driving around Lansing trying to find the parking structure and the conference center frazzled my nerves, and I realized it was because in just six months, I’ve gotten readjusted to country life with minimal traffic, noise, and chaos.

I can relate to Annie, the little country mouse.

When I got home this evening, my shoulders were knotted with tension from driving on I-96 at rush hour.  I walked to the back sliding glass doors and looked out toward the pond, only to see two huge birds, a male and female pair, feeding in our back yard.  Are they herons?  Cranes?  I don’t know birds, but they were probably nearly as tall as my waist.  They walked around the back yard near the woods, the female following close behind the male, while I crept out onto the balcony, enthralled and trying to get pictures of them.

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Being a country mouse, I could never set foot in a city again and be perfectly happy with that.

It helps that we have a decent performing arts community for such a small town.  Some of the credit for that goes to the actor Jeff Daniels, who lives here and who started the Purple Rose Theater in town.  There is also our community ballet, which was performing this evening and to which my mother-in-law graciously treated my family plus my husband’s aunt, brother, and sister-in-law.  It was very well-done, and the girl who danced the lead part was lithe and lovely, as a ballerina should be, and her male dance partner was the perfect combination of strength and grace.

I did, however, realize while watching the performance that there is one athletic area where the men are dressed more immodestly than the women.  Behold the male equivalent of female volleyball shorts:

ballet tights

But I’m breathing a sigh of relief to be home in my house in the woods…

 

What is needed is healthy families and communities, not looser women.

One blog that I always read is Vox Popoli, written by Vox Day. Sometimes I agree with Mr. Day and sometimes I don’t, but I always find his posts thought-provoking and worth reading and considering. Today he wrote a post in which he describes Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot who may have recently committed suicide/murder by intentionally crashing a German airliner:

…it won’t surprise me to learn that Lubritch was a deeply angry and embittered Omega male […] You can see Lubritch is a small and prematurely balding young man, possibly somewhat overweight, his occupation indicates that he was more intelligent than the norm, and the uncertain smile he has on his face tends to indicate low socio-sexual rank.

Mr. Day speculates that Mr. Lubitz may have been acting out of “omega rage,” which means that the young man may have been lacking in love, affection, and physical intimacy with women and it drove him mad, ultimately leading him to possibly commit this atrocity. So far, that’s fine because it is only speculation, and the possibility that someone could be driven mad by lack of human relationships is within the realm of possible explanations, though I think we could have a chicken-and-the-egg problem here. Who is to say this man might (allegedly) have had no satisfying romantic/emotional life because he was already mad? But this is all pure speculation.

But then Mr. Day writes,

…it is somewhat haunting to think about how many lives might be saved each year if the sluts of the world were just a little less picky and a little more equitable in their distribution of [redacted sexual act].

There are several serious errors in this way of thinking. First, either loose women are bad for society or they aren’t. If they are, then wishing them to be even less discriminate in the expression of sexual immorality can’t logically lead to positive, life-saving benefits. On the other hand, if they aren’t bad for society, then they can’t logically be the cause of negative, life-destroying costs.

Second, as a Christian, as Vox Day himself is, how can one conclude that women should behave with even greater sexual immorality? Under no circumstances is increased sexual promiscuity permissible in the Christian world view. Had Mr. Day instead called for adherence to biblical sexual morality, I would have been completely in agreement with him; indeed, he does mention that in a more traditional society, Mr. Lubitz would possibly already have had a wife of his own (which he may have anyway, as this is all conjecture).

And third, saying that women should be less picky puts the blame for Mr. Lubitz’s actions on women, specifically feminists. How is that any different than shifting the blame back to men en masse by saying, “Well, if only men were less picky about only liking beautiful, chaste women, feminism would never have occurred, hence the sexual revolution would never have occurred, hence it’s all men’s fault!”?  After all, I’ve read that the cause of feminism was ugly women trying to compete for high quality men, so if women’s preference for non-omega men causes mass murder, then by the same logic men’s preference for hot babes over homely girls causes the feminism which causes the mass murder…

That would be an absurd thing to say, but no less absurd than blaming Mr. Lubitz’s actions on a society where the sluts are just too darn picky.  Feminism is one piece of bad fruit on the evil modernist tree that contributes to our declining mental and emotional well-being.  A society of weak families, nonexistent kin networks, and disconnection from community, land and God produces disaffected, vulnerable people.

Rather than complaining about loose women refusing to engage in sexual socialism, a better idea might be to encourage people to seek God our heavenly Father, form stable extended families, stop working long hours to fund overconsumption, and return to policies  and laws that would allow people to form a stable connection to their own communities and land.  Mr. Day knows what those highly politically-incorrect policies are and has the courage to talk about them, courage which many of us lack and for which I applaud him.  But the essay he wrote on Mr. Lubitz was disappointing because it was below his intellectual capabilities and presented a false and harmful solution; therefore I must respectfully disagree with his conclusion that a society of non-picky sluts would improve the mental health of disaffected men.

Conservative Christians and Permaculture: separating the wheat from the chaff.

per·ma·cul·ture
ˈpərməˌkəlCHər/
noun
 the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

 

Permaculture was originally a portmanteau of “permanent agriculture” and was related to forest gardening.  It has changed over the years though, and now has both very wise gardening techniques and quite absurd new-age-y progressivist elements as well.  This is a common graphic associated with permaculturists:
There is both wheat and chaff in permaculture, and I don’t have them all separated out yet.  Here are some of the things I agree with:
1. Rather than large swaths of sterile, barren lawns, humanity would be much better served if people learned to plant beautiful herb, vegetable, and fruit gardens.
2. Planting gardens the way God made forests is sensible.  Permaculture follows a “forest garden” model:

 

Without buying into the pagan new age spirituality associated with permaculture (to read a permaculture blog is to read the word “Gaia” ad nauseum), I’m still intrigued by their ideas about what it means to labor and obtain a yield, as well as their smart gardening practices.

 

We bought a little over ten acres of woods and disrupted farmland this past fall.  The land had been let go, which means it’s becoming overrun with autumn olive bushes, which are highly invasive thorny shrub that can grow ten feet tall and spread like wildfire.  Autumn olive was originally brought to this country from Asia as a means of controlling erosion; the fruit is supposedly edible, but it isn’t a smart plant to cultivate as it will take over and choke out native plants and trees; it even changes the soil chemistry, making the land good only for autumn olive.

 

I’ve slowly started clearing it out of our forest and meadow.  Here is an area I’ve cleared:

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Here is what an autumn olive thicket looks like up close:

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Here is another area I’ve cleared, transitioning from our yard into the forest; previously this was a thicket of autumn olive and thorns:

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Using some of the techniques I’m learning from permaculture, I aim to transform it into this:

Image source: Starter Permaculture http://starterpermaculture.com/


 
In the fall I planted apple and peach trees with raspberry and blackberry vines under them.  I’ll add sunflowers, strawberries, herbs and other plants, following the permaculture technique for creating a “forest garden”.  Instead of recycling our cardboard waste, I am using it to mulch under the trees and plants for weed control, which saves labor (saving labor and producing no waste are both permaculture attributes).
 
As I separate the pagan chaff from the beauty- and food-producing wheat of permaculture, I will share those lessons here.  Looking at ten acres of work feels overwhelming, but the permaculture approach of implementing small, slow solutions is comforting and compatible with both my conservativism and Christian faith.
 
[This is my second post in an ongoing series, “Separating the wheat from the chaff,” in which I consider the health of our natural world and environment in the context of conservatism and Christianity.  The first post was Conservative Christians and the International Day of Forests: separating the wheat from the chaff.]

 

 

Gammas and shrews really aren’t that humorous.

I’ve been trying to understand for a while why some men will play at being the weak and foolish sidekick to the strong and competent female.  Even worse is when a man fakes fear of his woman to get a laugh.  You’ve all seen this, right?  It’s not just on TV; I’ve seen guys do this in real life.  Is it supposed to be self-effacing?  Humorous?  It really isn’t all that funny.  It is embarrassing for others to witness.

A while back I snapped this picture of a sign for sale at Hobby Lobby:

Beware of Wife

I suppose it’s supposed to be funny, but there is a passive aggressiveness to it, too.  Would the woman whose husband bought this sign and hung it up feel pleased or embarrassed, I wonder?  I don’t think having a sign like this even in jest says anything very positive about either the wife or the husband.  It implies that she’s a shrew and that he’s a snarky, passive-aggressive Gamma.

And then today while waiting for a prescription to be filled at the pharmacy, I was browsing idly in the gift section and snapped a picture of this placard:

He Rules the Roost

Again, I’m sure it’s supposed to be funny, but what kind of person would really buy this?  If the husband bought it as a joke for his wife, it reeks of passive-aggressive resentment and if the wife bought it herself, it says shrewish rhymes-with-witch.  Neither is particularly funny.

You know what these supposedly funny signs imply?

They imply that:

a. the husband doesn’t love his wife and

b.the wife doesn’t respect her husband and

c. humor is their weapon of choice to communicate their hatred and disrespect for one another while maintaining plausible deniability about what they’re doing.

Capitalism should serve humanity, not rule us.

Mainstream Conservatives have embraced the idea that we must all serve capitalism rather than insisting that capitalism must serve us.  When there is a conflict between capitalism and humans, liberals conclude capitalism is evil and thus socialism must be better, whereas conservatives conclude that humans are the problem and must submit to capitalism.

Both are wrong.

Socialism will always fail because it is unnatural, inefficient, and requires great oppression of humanity to work even in the short term.  Capitalism is the most natural way to organize human commerce, but it cannot be unfettered.  It must be made to serve humanity, not rule us.

A prime example of this is the commercialization of childhood.  Unfettered capitalism sacrifices the well-being of children for profit.  That doesn’t mean we should utterly throw out capitalism; it means we should regulate some aspects of it.  That is actually a more traditional approach; prior to the 1980s, television regulation was in place to limit some aspects of capitalism by limiting broadcasters’ ability to pander to our basest desires in competition for our dollars:

The years of the administration of President Ronald Reagan were a time of intense deregulation of the broadcast industry. Mark Fowler and Dennis Patrick, both FCC chairmen appointed by Reagan, advocated free-market philosophies in the television industry. Fowler frankly described modern television as a business rather than a service. In 1981 he stated that “television is just another appliance. It’s a toaster with pictures.” Fowler’s position was a far cry from the approach of Newton Minow, who argued that government needed to play an intimate role in serving the public interest as charged in the Communications Act of 1934. Deregulation supporters advocated a “healthy, unfettered competition” between TV broadcasters.

Here we see conservatives insisting that all of humanity serve profit.  If television programming, including that marketed toward children, is violent or laced with sexual perversion (Glee!), conservatives love to blame liberal Hollywood but conveniently ignore how their own blinding faith in and obedience to capitalist profit above the community good makes it possible for liberals to indoctrinate our children with their filth.

On an individual level, we can all simply turn off our TVs or get rid of them altogether.  However, humans are not solely a collection of individuals; we are also families, kin networks, and societies, and conservatives would be wise to consider how capitalism can best be made to serve humanity rather than how humanity can be made to serve capitalism.