How to Clean Chicken Water Tubs

clean chicken water tubsClean chicken water tubs must be a priority as the heat rises. As the heat of summer continues, nothing is as important to our chickens and livestock as clean drinking water. I mention chickens, but this task is extremely important for all animals. Think about your own thirst. You go to take a drink but your glass of water was left in the sun since yesterday. You take a swig. Ewww! That isn’t what I expected at all. So I only drink a small amount and put the glass down. This is what your animals do when the water is less palatable. They drink, but not nearly enough to combat the dehydration from the summer temperatures. With a small amount of time, you can keep clean chicken water tubs, and livestock water buckets filled with fresh water for your animals.

clean chicken water tubs

What Chicken and Livestock Water Containers Do We Use?

Due to the high level of iron in our well water, I have found that the black rubber feed tubs are the best for our farm for both feed and water. Larger livestock have black rubber feed bowls in the appropriate size and rubber buckets for water. The durability of this product seems to surpass other plastics and metal style water founts we have used before. Plus they come in multiple sizes from one gallon to many gallons. Our chicks are currently using one as a dust bath in the brooder coop. 

As you will see in the video portion of this post, the plastic founts turned an orange color from the iron in our water. This is a stain and makes the water container appear gross and dirty. It’s very hard to clean it and I prefer not to use these after the chicks get old enough to use a tub  of water. 

The galvanized metal founts are nice. They keep the water clean, and keep light from helping algae grow in the container. But iron water and metal don’t do well together. The iron and mineral content in our water causes these water founts to fall apart usually in the first year of use.  The galvanized waterers cost a good bit of money and I hate to see them tossed away so quickly. 

The flexible rubber feed bowls last for years on our farm. This is what works for us with our conditions. Whichever watering system works for you is fine, as long as it can be refreshed regularly, and cleaned easily. 

Clean Chicken Water Tubs Weekly

At least once a week, I give the water containers, buckets, bowls, founts, a good scrub.  It doesn’t take long and helps maintain a healthy environment. Gathering the supplies takes only seconds. White vinegar, water, and a scrub brush are all I use. You can use Apple Cider Vinegar if you prefer the smell but since it’s being rinsed out anyway, I just use white vinegar. If you are concerned about additional germs from illness or for any reason, you can do a final rinse using this essential oil based poultry cleaner.

The apple cider vinegar shown is not raw apple cider vinegar that is recommended for adding live probiotic culture to your animal’s water. This is the cheaper version which can still clean equally as well as the distilled white. It’s a preference on which one to use.  

clean chicken water tubs

Dump out any remaining drinking water, Add vinegar to the bowl. I let it sit a few minutes.  Scrub with a brush to loosen all the gunk, algae and rust sediment. Rinse well. The bowl or water container should look and smell much better, cleaner and ready for a refill.

clean chicken water tubs

In between scrubbing, make sure you refill with clean water every day. The algae and rust form a film, called a biofilm, in the water which affects the taste.  Not many of us would choose to drink a big glass of stale smelly water and our chickens and livestock agree. They may drink some, but not enough to combat the potential dehydration. If you see that the water containers you use have not been depleted much during the day, chances are the water is foul. Dump it out, clean the container and refill. Hopefully that will make a big difference in the amount of water your animals consume. 

Water is The Most Important Nutrient

Water is essential to life. When caring for our livestock and poultry, water is the top priority. Hens won’t lay as well, cows and dairy goats won’t produce milk, and dehydration leads to many other problems. 

Gail Damerow wrote an interesting article for Countryside Magazine on the biofilm that forms from rust and algae. Algae, being a plant, isn’t necessarily bad. The bad part comes when the water becomes stale and the pH of the water is affected. This can lead to an environment that promotes bacterial growth leading to illness. Read the article to learn much more about the science behind the growth of biofilms from both algae and rust. 

Clean Chicken Water Tubs and Livestock Buckets Frequently 

Keep all poultry and livestock water fresh

Discard any water containers that have a bad odor after cleaning.

Place the clean chicken water tubs and livestock buckets in the shade to slow algae growth.

Dump outside water containers over night and allow them to air dry. Refill in the morning. 

clean chicken water tubs

Watch this video where I demonstrate how I clean chicken water tubs.

 




Meat Lovers Zucchini Lasagna

Meat Lovers Zucchini Lasagna DSC_5595We are not vegetarians. Never even entered our minds. Meat Lovers Zucchini Lasagna is a perfect blend of hearty meat dish and garden fresh goodness. We like hearty meals and when I have tried to serve my family a meatless dinner, well, lets just say it was not met with rave reviews.

When I was visiting my daughter, she said that we would be having her zucchini lasagna recipe for dinner. I was surprised because her husband is a fan of eating meat for dinner. It sounded good to me, though so I was looking forward to trying her recipe. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the recipe included meat! It was not vegetarian lasagna, but zucchini lasagna with meat. And, it was delicious. I really think this tastes like the original lasagna. The zucchini has the texture of lasagna noodles and the rest of the ingredients are the same as the original recipe.

Meat Lovers Zucchini Lasagna

Make sure that you start this recipe early in the day. The texture of the dish and of the zucchini is much better if the water is drawn out of the zucchini and that can take up to an hour. The entire process took me about an hour and a half to get it ready for the oven, including the wait time to draw water out of the zucchini. I baked it for the suggested 45 minutes covered and an additional 15 minutes uncovered. I hope you will enjoy this version of Zucchini Lasagna.

DSC_5584

Meat Lovers Zucchini Lasagna DSC_5587
 

Zucchini Lasagna

I’m sure there are also many ways to vary this recipe. If your garden is providing a generous amount of tomatoes and green peppers, increase the freshness level by making your own tomato based sauce. If you are looking for more dinner time recipe suggestions take a look at this post with quick and easy dinner recipes.

Meat Lovers Zucchini Lasagna
Serves 9
A Delicious, hearty take on the standard vegetable zucchini lasagna
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Cook Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 4 large zucchini sliced as thin as you can length wise. Try for 1/8th inch thickness or try using a mandolin
  2. 1 pound of ground beef, sausage, turkey
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 1 cup chopped onion
  5. 24 ounces of pasta sauce of choice
  6. 15 ounce Ricotta Cheese
  7. 16 ounces shredded Mozzarella
  8. 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  9. 1 large egg
  10. salt
Instructions
  1. Start well in advance of dinner time. Slice zucchini and lay slices out on parchment paper or paper towels. Salt the zucchini slices to pull out the excess water. This will help keep the lasagna from being soupy. Wait at least 40 minutes. I waited one hour. Wipe or dab off the water from each slice using a paper towel.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly cook the ground meat with the chopped onion and garlic. drain the meat mixture. Add the pasta sauce and simmer. In the meantime, in a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and 12 ounces of the mozzarella. Add the egg and mix well.
  3. Put a small amount of the pasta sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. You can make one large lasagna using a 9 x 13 inch baking dish or two smaller ones using two 8 x 8 inch pans. If you are feeding a smaller family, this would give you a dinner to freeze for another evening.
  4. Begin building your lasagna, starting with a zucchini layer, then spread the cheese mixture, then the meat and sauce layer. Continue for two to three layers and end with zucchini topped with sauce and the remaining four ounces of mozzarella cheese.
  5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until topping is browned to your desired amount.
  6. Let cool for at least 10 minutes to firm up before cooking.
Timber Creek Farm http://timbercreekfarmer.com/
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zucchini lasagna

 

 

 




5 Steps to Make Canning Day Easier

canning dayCanning day can be a daunting concept for people who haven’t canned food before. There is the question about what equipment to buy, where to buy it, and how much to spend. What can be reused from year to year is another question to understand before canning day. Preparing step by step, before the actual work begins, can make canning day much simpler and more enjoyable.

Step 1  (Before Canning Day Arrives)

Shop for equipment. Yard sales are a good place to start if you are on a budget. Another idea is to ask family. Sometimes, older relatives have stopped canning, and may be willing to share or sell canning equipment. Our older generation holds a wealth of knowledge too. Maybe it’s a good time to reconnect with mom, grandmom, or aunt and get a canning lesson, too! For tomatoes, peaches, apples, most other fruits and all pickles, you can use a hot water bath canner. For meat,vegetables and combination meals, you will need a pressure canner.   If you are just starting out, I recommend starting with hot water bath canning. It is a less expensive way to try canning.

canning day

Pressure canner on the left, hot water canner on the right.

The first thing to look for would be a large stock pot or an actual Hot Water Bath Canner. The canner should come with a rack for the jars to sit on, if you are buying one new. If you find a canner without a rack inside, you can purchase a replacement rack for a few dollars. Another solution is to use a dish towel on the bottom of the canner. This is important so that the jars are not bouncing on the bottom of the canner during boiling, which could lead to cracking. If you decide to can using a large stock pot, keep in mind that the pot must be deep enough so that the jars are completely covered with water when in the canner being processed.

Also, purchase a utensil or tool kit including the tongs, lid lifter, and funnel. These sets are usually available for well under $20.

Hot Water Bath Canners are available at most retailers, some hardware stores, farm supply stores, and on line retailers.

Step 2

Shop for your supplies. This includes the jars and the lids. Most new jars will come with new lids. The jars can be reused but the small disc type lids need to be replaced each time the jar is used for canning. If your recipe calls for salt, lemon juice, alum, or any other ingredients, make sure you have them in your pantry.

canning day

Step 3

Have all equipment accessible. Don’t be looking all over the house for the tongs, jar lids, etc. when canning. I used to keep the canning and dehydrating equipment, empty jars, and other canning paraphernalia, was kept in a downstairs storage room. It was inconvenient, to have to run up and down stairs, when in the middle of canning a recipe. This year, I emptied out two upstairs cabinets and brought everything upstairs. Canning Day is now so much easier! Everything is nearby and ready for me to grab it when needed.

Step 4

Before the actual canning day, do some preliminary work. Break the job down into two days. This is particularly helpful if you lead a busy life and have lots of other tasks during the day, too. Breaking the canning tasks down into two days, makes it much less exhausting. Wash the vegetables or fruits, and chop if necessary. If the fruit needs to be peeled, this can be taken care of the day before, also. Store the peeled, chopped, prepared fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator overnight.  Place the cut up fruit in a container, cover with cold water and a tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent browning.  The night before canning day, wash the jars you will need, in the dishwasher and leave them in there.

on canning day, my kitchen quickly turns into a mess!

on canning day, my kitchen quickly turns into a mess!

 

 

         

I quickly run out of counter space and have to use the floor for draining washed dishes

I quickly run out of counter space and have to use the floor for draining washed dishes

Step 5

Ask for help. Canning can be exhausting. If you garden, there are times when the harvest is coming in faster than you can process it. Asking for help from a family member or friend can make the job easier and more fun. Make some memories while preparing food for the winter. When I get a good buy on produce, I will see if a friend wants to can with me. Then we share the results of the day’s work.

canning day

 

For more information on canning and preserving the harvest, please read this post.  Canning and Preserving the Harvest

And if you are feeling time crunched, you will love this by Homespun Seasonal Living titled
Canning Beans for the Time Crunched




3 Small Livestock Preparedness Tips

small livestock preparedness Raising small livestock is a good way to feed your family quality protein. Rabbits, chickens, ducks, and turkeys are some common additions to homestead operations. Meat goats might be another addition or possibly sheep. All of these animals require a small amount of routine maintenance and care daily but the labor and land required is still less than beef cattle, pigs or dairy cows. Although day to day life might not be a problem, there may be some occasions where you cannot care for your animals. These emergencies can occur out of the blue, or you may have some notice in order to get ready. Even though we can’t always foresee natural disasters coming, there are some steps that we can take to make the transition from daily routine, to emergency actions easier.

Illness is an emergency that we don’t see coming. When a primary caretaker for the farm animals is taken ill, does anyone else know how to care for the animals? What if a family member needs your help and you have to ask a friend or neighbor to care for your farm during your absence. Can the substitute farmer step in and do the job?

In recent summers, the wild fires out in the north west section of the United States and Canada have taken the worst toll ever, as far as loss of property, equipment, livestock, and hay to feed the livestock through the winter. Many people had to evacuate and leave their livestock behind, stopping to open pens to let the animals run for their own lives. Others were able to load up trailers, vans, and crates with their barnyard animals and take refuge on a farm in another area. I live on the East coast and have never experienced forest fires like this. In our area, flash flooding is a more likely natural disaster. What ever possible disaster might occur in your region, your livestock should be considered in the emergency preparedness plan that is in place for your family.

I have come up with three focal points for a plan concerning your small livestock.

3 Small Livestock Preparedness Tips

1. Update vaccines,routine health care and have transportation ready.

Keep the Rooster

Let’s say it is possible for you to pack up your barnyard animals and take them to safety with you. Don’t let your small livestock infect some other flock or herd if they open up barns or grazing land to you. Keep up with the health of your flocks and herds so that in an emergency, you can take them with you.

Have a crate ready for all small animals. Try some “fire drills” so you know how you would gather everyone up. Remember, the animals will pick up on your panic and react. Knowing where all the crates are stored ahead of time, making sure they are in good repair will save precious time.

Make sure your animals are used to being herded, handled or led by a lead rope. If the emergency event is the first time you try to get your sheep loaded into a trailer, it could be a disaster. All it takes is one animal to freak out and the whole flock is running for cover.

2. Have a set routine and write it down

You most likely have a fairly set routine that you go through everyday when caring for the animals. Your small livestock are used to this and changing it abruptly can lead to stress. If you are suddenly called away for a health emergency, make it easier on the caretaker and your animals. Write down the routine and leave it somewhere in the barn or feed room. Having the written instructions will make your friend or family member more confident, during feeding time. If you have a goat that busts through the gate, at feeding time,but will return for food, write this down. It will save a lot of headache and turmoil.

3. Have storage of food and water

small livestock preparedness

Loss of power is another consequence of natural disaster  that we have endured for days on end as a result of a hurricane or powerful storm. We only have well water in our area so when there is no electricity, we have no running water. We have learned to store water at all times. Simply filling the water troughs when they reach half full, or filling our bathtub with clean water will get us through. Some times we also store bottled water for the humans and store jugs of extra water for the livestock.

The same is true for grain. When the feed container gets half empty, buy more. We would be able to feed our flocks and herds for a while with the grass and weeds. The change in diet, to only forage, after feeding grain and hay would be an adjustment for their digestive tract. Optimally, any changes should be done gradually. If a friend or family member had to step in to care for our barnyard, I would hate to have no feed in the bins. In the event of a natural disaster you may not be able to travel to the feed store to buy more feed right away. If you always have a few days feed on hand, this will not be a worry for you.

Know What Type of Disaster is Common for Your Area

Each area of the world is different in what type of disasters might occur. None of us are immune to the possibility of a health crisis. I believe homesteading or farming is a healthy pursuit, full of many rewards and also many challenges. Keeping ahead of disasters by being as prepared as possible is a way to increase the odds of survival.

 

small livestock 

 

 

Are you new to my website?  Please take a minute and see if my book is something you would like to have in your homestead library.  

Chickens From Scratch

Chickens from Scratch




Growing Blueberries, Raspberries and Strawberries for a Healthy Homestead

growing blueberriesGrowing blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries is a great way to add nutritional food to your back yard. These berries will produce year after year adding value to your yard or homestead. They do tend to spread, creating even more return on your investment. If that doesn’t seem like a good idea for your yard, these versatile plants will be happy growing in containers on your deck or patio. Growing blueberries and any other berry plant gives you the opportunity to grab a healthy snack while working in the yard, tending your chickens or relaxing after a long day. 

We have blueberry, wineberry, and strawberry plants growing on our farm and backyard. The fruit is a welcome sight each summer. Recently, I picked up another blueberry to plant in a container on my deck. You really can’t have too many berry plants growing! Here’s how I grow the berries, and later preserve them for jams, jellies, syrups, and baking.

Growing Blueberries in a Container

Containers for growing blueberries should be large enough for the roots to spread out and to accommodate future growth. I planted a small blueberry bush in a 12 inch wide planter which should last a few years. Since blueberry plants require an acidic soil I prepared the soil ahead of planting. Some of our naturally composted chicken manure mixed into a bag of potting soil will lower the pH of the soil. It’s easier to create the acidic soil for growing blueberries, when using a container.

growing blueberries

The blueberry plant I purchased came in a tightly closed plastic bag, with the new growth sticking out of the top. Opening the bag revealed the folded up root mass in the peat moss soil. Peat moss has a high acidic content so I mixed that extra soil into the pot. I unfolded the root ball and saw that the roots were actually quite wide spread. Blueberries have a shallow root system. I dug out a space in the planter for the plant to sit in, with the roots remaining outstretched. 

growing blueberries

Back fill the dirt, filling in the hole. Water gently and thoroughly. Blueberry plants love sun so choose a place that has a good bit of sunshine. Blueberry plants can even handle full sun exposure. 

growing blueberries

Direct Sow Method for Growing Blueberries

Prepare the area for planting and add the appropriate soil amendments to create a low pH, high acid environment. When planting blueberry bushes directly into the ground, leave about five feet between each plant. Water the plants a few times each week. Mulching with a couple inches of wood chips, sawdust or pine needles will keep the soil moist for the blueberry bushes.

Planting Strawberries

Strawberries also love lots of sun. This plant spreads quickly and is a lovely perennial fruit for the backyard or farmyard. They height is low, so you can plant other plants behind them in the border gardens. When planting directly in the ground, leave at least 18 inches between plants.  If you want to control the expansion somewhat, plant in large containers. The strawberry will put out runners even from a container and those can take root in surrounding yard space. You can propagate more strawberry plants by clipping the runner strand, from the container plant, after the baby plant has roots. Then, replant the new plant where you want it to grow. 

growing blueberries

Strawberries don’t require as much water as blueberries. The fruit will be sweeter if the plants are not over watered. Like other berry plants, strawberry plants prefer acidic soil and mulching between the rows. 

Planting Raspberries and Blackberries

While you might think the planting of these two berries would be similar, the care of raspberry plants suggests soaking the roots for a few hours before planting. Blackberries have the deeper root system of the two and the roots need to be planted in an L formation. Raspberries, on the other hand have a wider root system and should have the roots spread out. 

Plant the seedlings 2 to 3 feet apart in holes big enough for the roots. The crown of the plants should not be buried. 

Future Care of  Berry Plants

Pruning the Blueberry Bushes

You don’t need to prune blueberry bushes until the start of year three for the plant. In addition, not allowing the plant to produce berries for the first three years will help the plant to thrive and produce later. Pruning stimulates future growth and production. Do the pruning in late winter before the new growth begins to form.

Strawberry plants do well with little maintenance and produce for a few years. Allowing the plants to produce more runners will continue the patch without a major break in production. Clean up the strawberry patch for winter, mulch thickly, and allow the plants a winter rest.

growing blueberries

Blackberries and Raspberries should have their canes pruned back after the fruiting or in the fall. 

Mulch the plant at the base for winter. Cover the bush with a light covering if the cold weather is extreme. Mulching in late fall will help your berries survive even the coldest winter weather.  

Reasons for Growing Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries and Strawberries for Your Health

The blueberry is a versatile fruit choice that you can add to baked goods, salads, fruit spreads, and eaten plain. In addition to being tasty and easy to find, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. Blueberries are often referred to as a “super food ” along with sweet potatoes, kefir, salmon and kale, and many herbs, to name a few. Super foods are packed with higher levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than other foods. This is a good reason to have them growing right in your back yard or on your farm.

Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries offer plenty of nutritional benefits, too. Did you know that strawberries have a strong benefit for your heart? The high phenol content means that strawberries are providing plenty of good soluble fiber, and protection against diseases. Strawberries also contain a high amount of vitamin C which helps the body absorb iron.

growing blueberries

Eat More Berries To Lower Cancer Risks

Eating raspberries gives you more antioxidants than any other fruit! Another reason that I am grateful a close cousin of the raspberry grows on our farm. We are surrounded by wineberries, a smaller version that has a softer seed and a slightly less powerful flavor. We use them just as we would raspberries, in baking, cooking, infused vinegar, and syrups. Raspberries can aid reproductive health, and eye conditions. In addition, the low glycemic index and high fiber makes them a good sweet tasting dessert for diabetics.

 

growing blueberries

Blackberries are often a bane to gardeners since they multiply rapidly and have sturdy thorns. But blackberries are worth the effort from a nutritional standpoint. The polyphenol content in blackberries is very high which means this berry packs a serious cancer fighting punch. Anthocyanins, in particular are the compounds thought to bring the cancer fighting benefit.  In addition, the blackberry has a high content of vitamin K and Manganese which is important to brain health.

The blueberry is a versatile favorite. In addition to being tasty and easy to find, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. Blueberries are often referred to as a “super food ” along with sweet potatoes, kefir, salmon and kale, and many herbs, to name a few. Super foods are packed with higher levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than other foods. This is a good reason to have them growing right in your back yard or on your farm.

In short, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are important to good health. Growing any of these berries on the homestead ensures a ready supply of antioxidant rich food. This is important nutritionally for disease prevention, and keeping the body functioning well. 

 

Storing and Preserving Small Berries

All berries can be canned, frozen, dehydrated and freeze dried. Freezing whole berries is easy using this method. The berries stay whole and look great when thawed.

  1. Rinse the berries in cold water and drain completely
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. Lay the berries in a single layer on the parchment paper
  4. Slide the baking tray into the freezer
  5. When completely frozen, transfer the berries into zip lock freezer bags or freezer containers
  6. Immediately return to the freezer before thawing begins.

When you want some whole berries for a recipe or to thaw and eat, remove the desired quantity. 

For more information on the freeze drying method you can use at home, check this article in Countryside.

growing blueberries

Growing blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in your yard is a good way to add fresh food to your diet and have a healthy snack ready only a short distance from your back door. Which berry plants are you growing at your home?

 

Use your fresh berries to bake some Low Sugar Muffins !

low sugar muffins

 

Make Raspberry Infused Vinegar to give as gifts. (save some for yourself too!)

  1. buy a bottle of red wine vinegar
  2. rinse the raspberries or wine berries 
  3. drain completely 
  4. place the berries in a canning jar
  5. add the vinegar to completely cover the berries
  6. allow the berries to infuse for 2 weeks in a dark cupboard
  7. strain the berries – use cheese cloth for a clean clear vinegar
  8.  store the vinegar in the refrigerator – it has a long shelf life

You can use the raspberry red wine infused vinegar in cooking and salad dressings.

growing blueberries