Fighting Big Ag and Globo-Feed-Corp, Part I: plant Catalpa trees

One of my kids needed to grow something from seed for a science assignment, and she could earn extra credit if she planted a tree.  My husband’s second-favorite tree is the Catalpa; we had one growing behind our old house, but we don’t have any growing here on our 10 acres, so I suggested to her that we buy some Catalpa seeds. I was able to purchase a packet of 25 Catalpa seeds from TreeSeeds.com for just one dollar.

Catalpa speciosa (northern catalpa)

She planted them in peat pots that can go right in the ground when the weather is warm; germination has been over 80%!

Catalpa (or Catawba) trees are fast-growing and easy to grow from seed, but the Catalpa tree does not produce fruit or seeds that people or animals can eat, so how would it be fighting Big Ag to plant catalpa trees? Here is how:

First, honey bees will forage on the nectar from Catalpa tree leaves:

In his most recent post at Hawaiian Libertarian, Keoni writes about the smarmy marketing ploys of General Mills and other Big Ag/Big “Feed” companies, noting that:

“…genetically modifying crop plants to withstand inundation with pesticides and weed killing herbicides IS the primary purpose for GMO in the first place… and pesticide-herbicide laden GM corn is the primary source for most Feed ingredients in the processed food industry.

..,Much of the product portfolio of (General Mills) relies on the GM crops that require massive use of pesticides and herbicides that are undoubtedly playing a major role in killing off bee colonies nationwide.”

Planting Catalpas helps bees, but you can also fight Big Ag by eschewing their sugary breakfast cereals, replacing them with eggs, which leads me to the second important use for Catalpas.,,

Catalpa trees have historically become infested with Catalpa worms, which are really the Sphinx moth caterpillar, which ONLY eat Catalpa leaves but do not kill the trees:

Recent reports indicate a precipitous decline in Catalpa worm populations. Pesticides are one suspected cause of this decline.

Catalpa worms have always been prized as one of the best kinds of fishing bait. You can sell them to fisherman or use them yourself!

But not only that: chickens love Catalpa worms! And you can freeze them so that you’ll have Catalpa worms even after their season is done for the year. I am constantly trying to come up with alternative sources of feed for my chickens in order to reduce my need to purchase bags of feed. Though they can’t live on Catalpa worms alone, it’s still one more source of protein that I can harvest from my own land, which our free-ranging hens will turn into eggs with superior nutritional value.

I am fortunate to live near Dexter Mill, a small local feed mill that blends their own feed from locally-produced non-GMO ingredients. However, many people don’t and must rely upon Purina chicken feed.  And friends, Purina is now owned by Nestlé, and Nestlé has a global partnership with General Mills to use the Nestlé brand to market GM breakfast cereals in countries where people don’t tend to eat cereal for breakfast.  And so we are right back where we began, aren’t we.

There is literally no way to escape Big Ag/Big Food’s poisonous tentacles unless you produce every step of the chain right on your own land.  And who among us can do that?

But anyone can grow a Catalpa tree and feed the honey bees.  Anyone can use Catalpa worms to catch a fish or (if you keep poultry) supplement their chickens’ diet.

And everyone can do something to resist the Global Goliaths.

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A Tour of Our Chicken Coop

Have you ever looked at some of the chicken coops on Pinterest? I know people whose houses are not as nice as some of these coops:

By way of contrast, here is my own coop:

Taken in the late summer, before tarping the run for winter

OK, don’t let the fact that it’s not Pinterest-worthy fool you. It is actually a very good and sturdy coop!

For winter, we placed a tarp over the run roof to keep out snow and made windbreaks by placing straw bales around the edges of the run.

I thought I might take you on a little tour of it in case you’re interested.🐓

First of all, the basic structure of the coop was repurposed from the builder’s shed from when our house was built. We had no idea this shed was even here when we bought the house a few years ago. The house is now 12 years old and the builder shed had become completely overgrown with brush such that we didn’t even know it was here until the autumn after we bought the house.

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The view from standing next to the chicken run and looking up toward the path to the driveway

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The back of the shed had no vinyl siding, so we painted it with deck and dock paint.  Phil cut several windows into the board and installed latches that lock closed with carabiners.

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The coop has a second floor which the birds do not have access to. We store bales of clean pine bedding up there.

 

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We used hardware cloth to make an attached predator-proof run.

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A hardware cloth skirt extends out about two feet to keep out digging predators.

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An old tire full of sand and food-grade diatomaceous earth serves as the run dust bath, which chickens use to keep their feathers free of parasites like lice and mites.

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A store bought set of nesting boxes with roosts is attached to one wall. We have far more nesting boxes than nine hens need; three to four hens per nest is all that is necessary.

If you look carefully, you can see a nest full of nice fresh brown eggs

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Screen cloth was affixed over the inside of the windows to keep mosquitoes out; hardware cloth covers keep out predators.

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We keep a little rake in the coop for stirring droppings into the pine litter on the floor.

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Tree stumps and straw bales in the run give the hens something to climb on to alleviate boredom when they are confined.

Phil made the door and added a little kick plate to make it easier to close while carrying things.

Under their sleeping roost, Phil made a droppings table. It is filled with a mixture of sand and zeolite; we keep a kitty litter scoop in the coop and scoop out the droppings table daily. Droppings are disposed of in a black compost can outside the run. After the droppings compost, they will be added to our gardens.

Feed hangs from a carabiner clip. For the winter months, a heated waterer on a cinder block placed inside a plastic bin provides a constant source of water while keeping the floor and litter dry.  The coop is not wired for electricity, so Phil ran a very long outdoor extension cord from the garage all the way out to the coop.

Phil made a pop door out of a plastic cutting board so as to avoid the problem of a wooden board warping and not sliding up and down the frame runners properly. He made the pop door runners out of kitchen drawer runners.  We close the pop door at night during cold weather but leave it open during warm weather since the run is predator-proof.

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Happy pullets eating kitchen scraps in the summer.  We have created a deep litter floor over the dirt run by raking out soiled coop pine bedding into the run and tossing in shredded leaves, old straw, shredded paper junk mail, garden scraps, and any other kind of organic matter we have.  The chickens scratch around in it looking for tasty bugs to eat, which helps turn the bedding to cover their droppings, which prevents the run from getting smelly.

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All around the coop I planted herbs that have traditionally been used to repel poultry pests and parasites, including mint, lavender, oregano, pennyroyal, and wormwood.  In the summer months, I toss sprigs of herbs into the nesting boxes.  I also planted Borage flowers and Russian comfrey  to provide yummy forage for the hens.

A few pictures of our flock, with breed listed, out to free range on this cold, windy March day:

Black Australorp

Plymouth Barred Rock

Light Brahma

Starting from the bottom: Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Golden-Laced Wyandotte

Hope you enjoyed this little coop tour!🐥

Brooding turkey poults and managing pecking.

 


Along with assorted chicks, ducklings, and goslings, we are raising two broad-breasted white and two broad-breasted bronze turkey poults.  Despite my warning the children that the turkeys already have a fall date at Munsell’s Poultry Processing, they wanted to name them anyway. I insisted that the names be food related, so the bronzes are named Feast and Leftovers, but one of our daughters humorously named the whites Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

They started out at two days post-hatch in homemade brooder boxes on steel wire shelves in the garage. We use red lights because they are warmer,  but also because turkeys and chicks will peck at each other if they see a wound on one of the birds, to the point of cannibalizing each other. The red light makes it more difficult to detect a wound on each other.

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Nevertheless, Leftovers turned out to be a bit of a bully. He pulled some downy feathers off Guildenstern’s wing and made a little wound. That attracted the other birds’ attention, and they were all pecking and picking on poor Guildenstern.

My husband called a work colleague who raises turkeys who said to coat the wound with something called Blue Kote:

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Blue Kote is an antiseptic wound dressing for horses, but it not only cleans wounds on poultry, but it also dyes the wound and feathers blue, which disguises it from the other birds so that they will not peck at the injured bird.

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I also did some research online, and found the following helpful information about pecking behavior. First, if birds feel overcrowded or overheated they will peck more. So we separated the four turkey poults into two separate brooders. We also raised the heat lamps up in order to lower the temperature in the brooders.

Next, we increased the protein content of their diet by feeding them hard boiled egg that had been run through the food processor shell and all. We also finely chopped some raw beef liver and fed it to them with some finely ground granite chick grit.

I also added 1 teaspoon of seasalt to a gallon of water and used that as their drinking water for a few days in case they were missing any necessary minerals.  And to give them something appropriate to peck at, my husband hung a head of cabbage on a piece of rope into the brooder.

And finally, I moved them outside to a little coop in the backyard and made one of those heating pad “mama hen” brooders I wrote about before.

https://thesunshinethiryblog.com/2016/03/05/women-can-be-hard-working-and-innovative-in-their-proper-sphere/

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A wire mesh “cave” covered with a heating pad covered with a towel wrapped in press-n-seal and pine shreds over that makes a cozy outdoor brooder

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The poults were thrilled to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine with grass and bugs to peck at instead of each other:

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Rosencrantz’s wing is all healed up and Leftovers has been much less peckish.

Social Justice Warriors, small towns, and Trump rallies…let’s talk about my poultry instead.

Chelsea is a small town with a bit of a multiple personality disorder due to its rural location not far from the Evil Empire of Social Justice Warriors, also known as Ann Arbor.   Continue reading

Women can be hard-working and innovative in their proper sphere.

I read a comment from a man recently on a blog that asserted, possibly somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the goal of most women is to never work a day in their lives.  All joking aside, while it is no doubt possible to find real life examples of such women, I would assert this is not generally true.

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Preparing for Spring: sowing seeds, planning for poultry, and dissuading the dogs.

We’ve had some strange weather here the last few days – it warmed up from below-zero temperatures midweek to the 50s on Friday and Saturday, resulting in a fierce wind that sent dried leaves swirling and dancing through the forest, driving our Shiba Inu Ruby mad with delight as she chased them hither and yon.  Earlier in the week it had snowed and even the snowflakes were worth chasing and snapping out of midair:

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Spring is coming, and we’ll make a second attempt at raising poultry; we shall not be deterred by last year’s failure!   Continue reading

Home gardening for town children, 1919.

“A garden for every child, every child in a garden.”

—–The motto of the United States School Garden Army

Michigan State University has preserved a large number of primary sources from the United States School Garden Army:

At the advent of World War I, the Bureau of Education within the Department of the Interior, with funding from the War Department, created the United States School Garden Army (USSGA) to boost the concept as well as morale. […] To support this program a series of documents were written and distributed.  Among these were at least 15 USSGA Manuals and Guides, and 17 School Home-Garden Circulars. The target audience was urban and suburban boys and girls, ages 9 through 15, and their teachers. The subjects covered growing vegetables from seed, growing flowers, building hotbeds and coldframes, organic matter and soil health, regional guides and others. As well as primary sources of gardening information from 1919, these guides are still applicable to the teachers, parents and young gardeners of today.

From an archived pamphlet (I’ve transcribed the text of the pamphlet below and highlighted a few particularly interesting sentences):

United States School Garden Army
Department of the Interior
Bureau of Education, Washington

Home Gardening for Town Children

Leaflet 1, November 1, 1919

by P.P. Claxton
Commissioner of Education

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