Managing the Wet
In an attempt to answer a couple of questions in the comments from Wednesday’s post, we need to shift to melting snow, and rain. Managing animals in the many months of rain that falls in Oregon is a challenge sometimes. The thing I have found that is really important is to keep up on the muck control, because if you let it go, it can and will get out of control, and spread quickly. Eddy Winko, another blogger friend, had mentioned that they use straw to control the mud…that is what we do, as well. Straw in the winter is a homesteader’s saving grace against the mucky mud, and walking over a layer of straw is so much better than walking with boots covered in sticky mud. It is worth the investment, both time and dollar.
I also use large, plastic tree pots for collecting the muck when the weather hinders us from driving it down the hill to our manure pile…..which we are totally NOT managing properly. I have a lot to learn about turning poop, straw, and hay into a product that will feed our soil. Anyway, since we have only a few outdoor animals, and an abundance of tree pots, this collection system works for us during the wetter seasons of Oregon. It contains the ick, unless a chicken decides to scratch around in it….which they do. And really….goat poop is pretty easily managed….pellets vs. patties….pellets win. Chicken poop…that’s a totally different animal altogether…LOL.
I feel that having barns or housing structures large enough for the animals to get in out of the rain, dry off their feet or hooves, and be able to manage themselves comfortably is really important. They have to be able to get out of the water, and a structure large enough to house the number of animals, plus a food and water source is really imperative on our homestead. We have not had any foot rot (knock on wood) in our herd partly due to them having the ability to go in and out of their barn at will to warm up and dry off.
The chickens spend time in their house and the goat barn….whichever fits their fancy. Except at night when they are secured indoors, they free range and manage themselves in the wet weather. In the snow, they tend to stay indoors…but it seems that the rain doesn’t bother them, and they manage themselves quite nicely.
Mold and mildew are definitely issues that you have to stay on top of. It’s one of those things that you can try to prevent, but when you see it you have to jump on it or it will grow quickly. You see a lot of houses around here that have moss growing on top of the roof…not a good thing as moss holds a lot of moisture. Insulation, and ventilation is really the key here. We at least partially insulate anything we build, and we have added insulation to the existing out buildings, except the big barn which is a partially open structure.
Allowing air to flow is huge in the prevention of mold. If there are areas that we notice trap moisture, we fix it, and if we see any signs of mold or mildew, we clean it up. The product that all this humidity abundantly grow around the property are mushrooms….lots of different types of mushrooms…some very dangerous, especially for the dogs. So far, the dogs don’t seem too interested in them, nor do the chickens and goats.
So here is the nice thing about Oregon’s environment which brings the wet falls, winters, and springs…..because our temperatures don’t normally get below the teens, and we are normally not covered in snow….we usually have a lot of green on the ground.
The grasses don’t die off in the winter which helps to control the mud (except when old Mr. Gopher decides to build mound after mound after mound turning the ground inside out – ugghh.) That being said, the places where the goats like to spend most of their time does get muddy and mucky. We use straw to firm those areas up when they get too bad. Our neighbor has horses, which is totally much harder on a pasture during the wet months….there is not a lot you can do except to rotate pastures, and provide a large enough covered space wherein the animals can dry off their feet from time to time throughout the day.
Living primarily on hilly property is helpful because the water runs away from us, and since our soil is quite rocky beneath us, as soon as it stops raining for a few hours, it starts to dry out. We dry out very quickly up here, except in the “valley” areas of the property….those areas hold a lot of water throughout most of the year, because all the water runs that way. But there is enough moisture throughout the year that the only time the landscape turns brown is from late July into the first week or two of September. And using a dehumidifier in our home is totally unnecessary because the wood stove dries everything out really efficiently…maybe too efficiently…LOL. Sometimes we have to add a boiling pot on the wood stove, or open a window somewhere to add moisture back into the house.
As far as mold in the hay….basically, we have to store it in a covered environment, enclosed by four walls, a roof, and vents for ventilation. We tried housing it once in a three sided structure, but lost a bit of it due to mold issues. Our goats eat the straw we put down as bedding, so that has to stay dry as well, but it seems that we can keep that in a three sided lean-to and it is fine.
The hardest issue, I find, is keeping humidity out of the hen house. Surprisingly to me, chickens put off a lot of moisture….especially through their poop. I battle the tendency for ammonia build up during the winter in the hen house. Through trial and error what has worked for me is to keep just a very small amount of pine shavings on the floor…enough for them to kick around in and dry off their feet. I have their roosting boards over a dropping tray, and I go in there every day and scrape their boards and the dropping tray. By daily removing their poop, I take away most of the potential for wet air. It is the most efficient way I have found to keep the mold and ammonia build up from happening with them. I don’t use straw with my birds….the one time I did, I had a mite infestation. Never again!!
So really, the wet environment of Oregon is not a big problem….just a little inconvenient sometimes. The resulting green that surrounds us, with the exception of late July and August, is really worth the amount of rain and fog that we live with. What does concern me is the fact that this current snow will be sticking around for a few more days….
…..then the temps rise with a series of big rain storms on the horizon….if a big melt happens at the same time, we may see some flooding going on in town and beyond. It has happened before….according to our neighbors, in 1992, a portion of the long driveway that boarders our pond was taken out because the pond flooded over it’s banks. There was three feet of snow on the ground in that event….we have about half that.
It could happen again.
Thank you for visiting today. I hope I shed some light on how we manage the wet, Oregon environment. It has been, and continues to be a hit-and-miss….learn-by-doing lesson plan. Thank you for helping me with your comments along the way. It’s truly appreciated!! And by the way….it is Day 14….we’ve had snow on the ground for two full weeks now….I’ve died and gone to Colorado!!!
Your friend from Oregon,