Amy Arnett

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since Oct 21, 2016
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Recent posts by Amy Arnett

I skimmed the article and didn't really care for its dramatic, fear-inducing tone. Looking at the referenced papers down at the end, though, I actually just researched this topic recently and came across a lot of the same papers. Pretty much all the trees being milled around us are cedar, so we can get unlimited shavings and sawdust for free. Apparently, cedar is even more toxic than pine, so I looked through many papers to decide whether to use it as chicken bedding.

My personal conclusion is that, as with anything toxic, it depends on how much. With pine and cedar, they seem to become toxic when too much is breathed in or in direct contact with the skin. So my solution is to use less and to add straw on top in the nest basket so that none is touching the skin. We've had the chickens for a few weeks and they all seem fine. If any individual chickens had a particular sensitivity or allergy, I think it would be obvious by now.

Other ways to reduce toxicity are to let it dry well and air out. Our coop is made of cedar and the bedding is maybe one quarter cedar shavings mixed with rice hulls, and the coop doesn't smell like cedar. It doesn't smell bad either. Our winters are mild and the coop windows will stay open all year.

Of course, without comprehensive studies on chickens, we can't be sure. As the article pointed out, most studies are of sawmill workers breathing in freshly cut dust probably without the best ventilation or PPE, and lab rats and their pups, which are tiny and all skin. In contrast with the article, I don't think it's enough evidence to err on the side of caution and completely stop using pine or even cedar. I think it's something to be aware of. I think each breed and also each individual chicken will probably have a different threshold of tolerance to pine/cedar. So if one starts acting weird for no reason, it might be worth considering a pine sensitivity.

I poured a bag of cedar sawdust in the run to mix in with some soggy compost and, to my horror, the chickens started eating it! That was a couple weeks ago and they are all fine. I wouldn't worry about pine shavings.

Also, Caleb, Welcome to Permies!

2 hours ago
Good question! It's hard to say.

We have one aircon for cooling and for mild heating, but once it gets colder we switch to kerosene heaters. Our current house isn't insulated and is a strange design that lacks roof ventilation making it an oven in the summer and a cave in the winter. Once we fix up the old house we bought, we can try out more efficient heating and cooling measures.

Anyway, I don't have a bill handy, but it varies dramatically by month. August is probably the highest usage when the aircon is on pretty much the whole month. The bill has a section at the bottom comparing usage to the previous month and also to the same month the previous year. I like to think we are doing good if we use less than we did the year before.

When the next bill comes, I'll try to remember to post it.
2 hours ago

Pearl Sutton wrote:A possible variant on the calendar idea, or other things: For low vision folks I make notebook paper and check registers with heavy dark lines. Making the calendar with heavy lines might be helpful for some folks

My problem with calendars is you have to know what day today is for it to be useful, and I never know. I can usually get within a month of the date, but have to ask my computer or another person if I want it closer than that. Just not a functioning part of my brain. Never has been. Possibly part of my brain damage.

This doesn't help with day of the month, but I've always wanted a day of the week clock.

2 days ago
Congratulations! Glad things are going well for you all!

One thing that comes to mind for teething: We had a mesh teether that you could put an ice cube, or frozen puree, or frozen breastmilk in and the baby couldn't swallow it. Something like this:
You could probably engineer a more permaculture-y version. Or even just a cloth with a knot dipped in water, or breast milk (and tied to a stick to prevent swallowing) and frozen.

Our daughter had a hard time teething and an ice cube really gave her a nice break from the discomfort enough to fall asleep. We also used acetaminophen suppositories as needed.

Another thing that helped us a lot. Our baby seemed to be very active and easily bored. She wanted to move around all the time and we couldn't keep up. Especially in the cold of winter, the house was boring, the car was boring (at the time, doctor visits and grocery shopping were an hour car ride each way) and she wasn't mobile enough to entertain herself yet. It worked well in our situation to get her a kindle tablet and make a playlist of interesting (to a baby) videos. This was her favorite:

When all else failed, we would bust out this video. The music is pretty mellow, but it can always be muted. The striking, high contrast visuals would snap her out of night terror crying, entertained her in the car, and made diaper changes easy. With the "blue shade" feature turned on at night, the screen color is shifted to red so the light doesn't wake you up.

I guess a more permaculture-y alternative to create striking visuals would be a kaleidoscope type thing over a light or maybe colored water and oil in a bottle that you shake up.

Last would be a swing. Our daughter loved to swing, still does.

3 days ago
If she's not exhibiting other symptoms, I would guess it's just an injury. Maybe from getting her beak caught in a small opening or on a wire or something.

If she starts shaking her head and/or rubbing her beak excessively, it could be mites.

There is a discussion on backyard chickens about a similar looking beak.

They talk about the possibility of mites, fungus, frostbite in high humidity, and dryness as other possible causes.
3 days ago
Thank you, Bruce and Julie!

There are a lot of freshwater eels in the rivers here, so it makes sense to find a good number of trap parts washed down the river and back onto the beach.

I posted the trap entrance over on the "what is it game" thread also, and it was found to be an eel trap over there too.

Thankyou for your help!

M. Phelps, hydroponic pots is a good idea for reusing them, thanks!
6 days ago
Interesting, I haven't dealt much with turkeys, but my guess would be something stuck in the crop making it painful to extent its neck. Are you able to feel around and see if there's any out of place lumps?

Or maybe an unseen injury. Or something stuck to the back of its neck to make it reflexively lower its head?

If you're culling the bird anyway and have a few extra minutes to do an autopsy, please post if you find anything!
6 days ago
Stuck together a quick video of the dust bath. Chickens are so entertaining!
2 weeks ago
I didn't see an obvious chicken story/picture sharing thread for general chicken-ness.

We got chickens a couple days ago! Yay! After years of researching chickens and sitting other people's chickens, we got 17, 3 year old hens from a friend who wanted a change of pace. I imagined they would need some time to get used to their new home, their new people, and their new way of life. Nope. They had no problem scratching around, eating bugs, eating greens, hopping the fence, hopping onto my lap.

The previous owner raised them well. They are very chill and very friendly. They aren't bothered by my three year old throwing greens at them or hanging out with them under their coop.

The first night I had to toss them one by one into their coop, but the second night they all filed in on their own.

Anyway share your pictures and stories of chickens being chickens.

3 weeks ago
I often wonder how things were done "before" or how could I possibly continue to enjoy some modern convenience in a permaculture way. Kind of along the same lines of Paul's luxuriant permaculture. I think that is one barrier to homesteading, that people think they have to give up a bunch of things.

I think a book compiling old ways and alternative ways to do/have the everyday things most people are accustomed to would be cool. Like "what was it made of before it was plastic" and "how did we do it before it was single use".

There are probably a good number of books on traditional ways of doing things. But I think a focus on how to make our modern, everyday, convenient, plasticy, single use or meant to be thrown away things part of the homestead and good for the earth.

I'm having trouble explaining clearly....

Something like "A practical guide to maintaining a modern standard of living on your homestead"

Could be a mix of history, tradition, and technology.

Some examples might be:
feminine products
balloons (I seem to remember little house on the prairie using pig stomachs?)
plastic sponges and brushes
clothes dryer
plastic wrap
paper towels
microwave popcorn

Maybe a survey of what convenience people most don't want to give up?

Maybe there are books like this already, I don't know. I'm finding lots of pre-plastic stuff that was left in our house, and it's very interesting how stuff was done.
4 weeks ago