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Friday, October 5, 2012

Ask Annie - Volume I

Thanks for the great questions here on the blog, via facebook and email!

1.  Dear Annie - What do you recommend for winter watering of chickens and livestock?

Our laying hens spend the winter in a hoophouse.  Our HoopCoop has no supplemental heat or light and no electricity.  
But this picture doesn't show what we use for watering.  We use those black, rubber tubs you can find at any farm store.  Like Tractor Supply Company.  They are cheap, indestructible and because they are rubber you can pop an ice chunk out very easily.  We don't often do that, however.  Hubby takes a pail of water out each morning and pours it in onto the ice.  The hoophouse warms up quickly once the sun comes up and stays above freezing for most of the day.  The chickens drink their fill and come night time, when it freezes, they don't drink anyway...they're sleeping!

When it comes to larger livestock, we had frost-free Richie Fountains on our farm growing up.  They are pricey, but last forever.  If you're watering on the cheap, we have a rubber 40 gallon stock tank that the flerd is using now.  You can add an electric tank de-icer to keep the water open.  Like this one.

Of course, you can always take the advice of my favorite rancher, Gabe Brown of Brown's Ranch.  He doesn't water his cattle when there is snow on the ground.  He has selected and bred his herd to eat snow like cattle did years ago.  As he says, "I'm not running a bed and breakfast here!"

2.  Dear Annie - How do you keep your free range, organic children busy on rainy days?

First, I love that you called them "free range, organic children"!  We are firm believers that children need to have fresh air every day and use their big muscles every day.  EVERY. DAY.  Children will not melt and if they are moving they will keep warm.  We have coats of all shapes and sizes, footwear of all shapes and sizes.  

Rubber boots are the farm kids best friend!  Our kids spend about half the year in rubber boots.

There's also no shortage of things to do outside!

Unless it is a raging blizzard, our kids go outside every day.  My winter-time rule for babies is that if they can sit up (around 4 months) then they can go outside unless the temperature is below zero.  Sometimes it's only for 10 minutes, but they get fresh air and use their big muscles!

The kids' favorite family game is "Ready, Set, Go".  We all stand in a line and mom or dad says, "Ready?  Set?  GO!!!!"  And we all take off running to a pre-determined finish line (like the back of the van or a tree).  Sometimes a parent picks up a slower kid and helps them win the race.  We repeat it again and again until we giggle so hard we can't run anymore.  

We also do family walks down our driveway.  Kiddo1 will ride her bike and Kiddo3 usually gets a stroller ride for at least part of it.  Sometimes the kids ride their stick horses.  In the winter, we'll do it after supper and each kid has a flashlight.

But if we positively can't go outside that day, we do our best to keep them occupied in the house.  These books have been lifesavers for me:

In fact, I give them as second (or more) baby gifts as a way to help mamas keep the older kids busy with a new baby in the house.

What else do we do?  We bake and cook. 

And sometimes we destroy the house.  And cheap rolls of wrapping paper. 

We don't have TV, the little television we watch is a few selected movies.  We also don't believe in video games or computer games, especially for children.  

What do we believe in?  We read to the kids alot.

We color and paint and play with playdough. 

We do folder games and puzzles. 

And play with other hands-on active play toys.

Of course, we clean it all up right away!  {wink, wink}

3.  Dear Annie -  Where do your kids get their blond hair?

Well, Hubby has blond hair and I am, quite literally, the black sheep of my family.

See?  Blond sister, blond brother, blond husband = blond kiddos!!

On a side note, that is indeed my sister.  We have the same parents, just inherited exactly opposite genes.  Usually when someone has known one of us and then meets the other, there's always a comment like "Wow!  You guys look NOTHING alike!"  No, no we don't.  She is very blond, very tall, very thin and a very good singer.  I am not. But she doesn't butcher chickens...

Thanks again for the fun questions!  If you have more, feel free to leave them in the comments, or facebook, or email.

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