I remember my dad mixing up a nice hot mash for sick cows, horses, pigs and chickens. He didn’t like paying vet bills unless he really had to. And the mash must have worked, as we hardly ever saw a vet on the farm. He made this mash for our chickens almost every other day regardless.
I was always interested in what he was doing, so I do know there was a lot of grains, some molasses, seeds (like sunflower or pumpkin), garlic, greens, and mom’s homemade yogurt. He mixed all this with some warm water (we had a well, so the water was fairly pure), placed some sort of cloth over the container, and let it sit in a warm place for a few days.
Hmmm, really sounds like the fermenting process I’m learning to do. That age old way of preserving foods without refrigeration or special canning jars. And the best way to provide our bodies with all the good bacteria we are supposed to have in our systems at all times.
So why shouldn’t fermented foods be good for our animals? They, like us, are exposed to all sorts of antibiotics that are placed in their food supply which means most of the good bacteria is killed off leaving them (and us) vulnerable for an attack by disease.
The winter time is a bad time for most animals. Mother Nature and all her fresh goodies are not available to them, so we need to supplement their foods somehow. Unfortunately, man has remedied this problem by adding artificial vitamins and other ingredients. But in the old days, this winter feed was not available. One of my ancestors (a great great something) raised really expensive thoroughbreds that he had brought in from Kentucky. He left notes that were passed on to my fathers father and then on to me. From these notes I found that he fed his horses a fermented mash several times a week during the winter months. More if the weather was really bad. Those horses were his babies and he treated them as such.
I’m planning to have my uber special chicken house finished this summer (I will take a lot of pictures), and since we have really cold winters with snow, I do plan on spoiling them. I want the healthiest, and happiest chickens around!
WHAT? DE-BUG THEM HOW?
Summer is approaching and we all know what that means...BUGS. Fleas, and flies, gnats, and mosquito’s – all looking for fresh blood. ICK.
What can we do to protect our pets and our livestock from a potentially fatal bite? Buy lots of poison? Spray it everywhere? Feed them those tablets that have small dosages of poison in them? I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to bet you don’t like to do that any more than I do.
So, how did our ancestors deal with this problem? And they did have solutions for this summertime problem. It may seem a bit odd or time consuming to us, but it works and it’s inexpensive.
PENNYROYAL… herb extraordinaire
Haven’t heard of it? I’m not surprised, it used to be as common as a buggy whip – and we know what happened to buggy whips! The pennyroyal flavor is very strong and can be offensive to some. But, on the other hand, there are many who enjoy the smell and taste. It can make a very effective tea, drank hot, that breaks up colds by starting the person taking it to perspire heavily.
But, back to our beloved four-leggeds - this is an herb that grows well outside during the summer, and also grows well indoors in a pot. It is a hardy biennial, but it’s usually grown like an annual and re-sown every spring. For more information on growing Pennyroyal go to The Green Chronicle.
So, how do you use this wonderful and safe herb to chase away nasty flying and jumping things? There are two ways to take advantage of this herbs’ properties. One is to buy the oil (which is expensive) saturate strings in the oil and then tie them around the necks of your cats and dogs. You can tie this saturated string around your horses neck and the base of its tail. You will be surprised at how well this works. This string will need to be re-saturated about every 10 days on a cat or dog and daily if used on a horse.
If you have a lot of money you can buy this oil, mix it with any type cooking oil and then brush it onto your horse or goat or cow or pig or dog or whatever. A few drops of Pennyroyal oil will mix with a cup of cooking oil and still be effective if you want to brush it on their coats.
I first tried this on my sister -in-laws horses and it worked! Unfortunately, you did need to re-apply it within 30 hours, but since she loves grooming her horses, this was okay. And you will love how beautiful your horse’s coat will get. Please remember that this is an herb, not a man-made poison – so it does have to be reapplied regularly.
Another way I’ve seen it done was to grow it, cut it as you would any herb, and make a decoction of it for a once a week bath for your dogs and cats. You can also bath your horses with this. Again, this will have to be re-applied more often than a poison, but the only way to determine how often you will need to redo it is to watch your animals. When they show signs of discomfort, it’s time to re-apply.
If you have a lot of pennyroyal growing, you can mow down the tops and toss them in the pen with your pigs or goats or whatever… it will keep the fly population down to almost nothing.
You have several cows? You can use either the decoction or the oil mixture and spray it on them, or use the saturated string around their necks and their tails. My grandfather used the decoction spray on his. He used to really concentrate on their ears.
Just use whatever seems to work best for you and your animals. Believe me, you will be astounded by the results.
I bet you’ve never really thought about the care and maintenance of one of our most valuable resources – CHICKENS. Since a lot of us are trying to create an independent lifestyle – or what I call Modern Homesteading – this information is important. Now a days, we have those huge chicken and egg factories that we usually only hear about when some animal rights organization slaps a complaint down about them. We won’t talk about those places, as they truly are a horror. What we will talk about is how chickens were raised in the ‘old days’. How did they keep them healthy? What was their idea of proper maintenance for a chicken house and its’ residents?
Luckily, I have some old notes about Keeping Chickens – and it’s actually sound advice and a good example of common sense. So, if you have chickens or are thinking about getting some – read on! I put most of this in italics as it’s an almost direct quote from the notes I inherited.
Here is some sage advice and some good tips for keeping your flock healthy. And just for your information, you can tell fresh eggs from older ones by looking at their shells. Fresh eggs have a lime-like surface (slightly rough) and older eggs have a glossy and smooth surface.
- Give all your hens constant access to lime – this will allow them to make strong shells on their eggs.
- Give them constant access to gravel – this is to make sure their digestive system works well.
- Provide them with charcoal the size of peas or some charred corn once a week.
- During the winters place a teaspoon of powdered cayenne in their food for every dozen fowl once a week. (My grandmother always had a cayenne plant growing in her bay window – she used to dry the fruit and grind it up).
- Give them 2 teaspoons of black pepper in their food once a week also. This will increase production and will help ward off disease.
- Give them a warm feeding 3 times a week of mashed vegetables mixed with crushed corn, oats or any type of wheat. One ‘recipe’ that’s good uses a combination of barley and buckwheat and oats. The chickens love it all. The important thing is the vegetables as they don’t get any fresh greens during the winters and this helps them lay.
- Make sure each hen has adequate space in her nesting box with lots of fresh straw.
- Always keep their water supply fresh (and unfrozen during the winters).
- Chickens do much better if their living space is kept clean, so daily ‘mucking out’ is necessary. If you can, line their living area with bales of straw during the winters to help keep it warm for them.
- They require some sunlight just as humans do, so try to let them out into a snow cleared, wind free area as much as possible during the cold winter months.
I personally loved the part about the ‘warm feedings’. Do you know of anyone that cooks for their chickens instead of cooking their chickens? I’ve heard of warm mashes for horses, but never for chickens. I am sure “the chickens love it all” – who wouldn’t? The vegetables came from the canned vegetables from the summer garden crop. So all that work preserving food wasn’t just for the humans apparently – their livestock benefited from it also.
The only thing I remember about grandma’s chicken house was going in there with her and holding the basket that she would place the eggs in. I was quite small and thought I was a huge help. She used to talk to me about preserving the fresh eggs for use during the winter months the way they did when she was a child, but that’s another story.
If you have any tips about raising chickens, share them with us! I’m planning on putting a couple of hens in my greenhouse (in a ‘chicken condo’) so I will not only get fresh eggs, but their presence will provide my greenhouse garden with some very necessary carbon dioxide. So anyone with more tips/advice etc. let us know.