5 Places to Make a Halloween to Remember

Halloween is a time for scary things but not a time many take vacations. Halloween festivals, haunted towns and Halloween trips make it an ideal time to go somewhere for a getaway to remember. Here are five places to go to.

1.Midwest’s flyover country. Many places in the Midwest have historical and haunted value plus there’s more. For all of those who have seen movies like “Children of the Corn” welcome to not only corn mazes but corn mazes Halloween style! They stretch across Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. An example is Boondocks Farm which has a 12 acre maze and a haunted trail maze for $8 per person. Other activities include disc golf and hay rides. There’s also pumpkin patches for another side of Halloween fun. The Jonamac Orchard has haunted corn maze beginning at dark – no flashlights just glow sticks or pen lights allowed. Check out the rural traditions and more scared than you thought you’d ever get without technology…visit the Midwest on the ground for Halloween! There’s much to see and do all across the area.

2.Winchester Mystery House in the bay area of California is a popular destination. Located in San Jose the home is of a magnitude you have to see to believe. Sarah L. Winchester was a widow who believed that the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester rifle were coming to her home and in 1884 she employed carpenters and craftsmen to keep construction going. Incredibly modern for it’s time frame, there are stairways that go nowhere, 2 basements, 52 skylights, 40 staircases and prior to the 1906 earthquake it had seven stories. The haunted aspect and history of 38 years constant construction is only part of the story. On Friday the 13th and at Halloween there are flashlight tours of the House. Highly recommended.

3. Jerome Arizona is a spectacular sight to see. From the rugged hillside it seems it is sprouted from the earth itself and looks over miles of flat open desert. Once a mining camp far from anywhere today Jerome exists as a destination for artists, musicians, writers, gift shops and – yes – ghosts. Sitting between Flagstaff and Prescott it is “in the middle of nowhere. Restaurants and lodging are available.

A compact town it’s not recommended to take large vehicles through, but definitely a place to visit, for history, old stories and ghostly tales.

4. Vicksburg Mississippi has been said to have ghosts make believers of unbelievers. The Anchuca mansion is now a bed and breakfast, available as a historical place of note to stay. Joseph E. Davis, brother to President Jefferson Davis, owned the plantation and made his home here. The home survived the Civil War but in 1863 served as shelter for those who served and were inured. Vicksburg is also home to the Cedar Grove Mansion Inn & Restaurant, which did come under fire and a cannon ball remains in a wall. It’s said it survived due to serving as a Union hospital. Having two historical places of such significance available to stay at is a treat.

Vicksburg itself is a small town survivor of both Union and Confederate dwelling from 1862 to 1863. Grant’s army attacked, but many died not only during the campaign but from disease and starvation. Like many in the south some had no choice. The Vicksburg National Military Park has a museum part way through. There’s also the Soldiers Rest Confederate Cemetery Old Courthouse Museum, Southern Cultural Complex (where “Mississippi Burning” was filmed, Windsor Ruins and McRaven home. The latter is said to be particularly haunted and was home to a confederate campsite.

5. Adams Tennessee is the place to go for the Bell Witch which was made into a movie “An American Haunting“. This is possibly the most documented of haunting in the US. Located a couple easy hours from Nashville it is the legend that far outgrew the area, and in the wooded hills of Tennessee it’s wise to get reservations in early for Halloween tours of sites like the Bell Witch Cave.

These are places to embrace the spirit of Halloween on many fronts. Make it a Halloween to remember!

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Bedding Options for Dairy Animals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe amount of materials used for bedding in dairy stalls or dairy barns varies with location and availability. It also can make a difference the storage and ability to handle the materials. While these basics are true for all animals, dairies must also be especially concerned with bacteria, mastitis and related issues.

Some dairies look to sand as it’s dry and long lasting. Others criticize the expense, difficulty in handling and in disposing of soiled bedding. When it’s used in freestalls – where cows must walk in and back out – waste is kept to a minimum, especially when most of the bedding is towards the front where the cow gets the benefit of laying on it. Occasionally it must be raked and “straightened” so cows get the maximum comfort from it. It can be stored outside until needed as if it’s rained on it will dry eventually, but is heavy to handle if it gets wet as it gets very heavy. Even if you have tractors this is a consideration when bedding as all equipment has limits!

Others look to wood shavings or sawdust as an option, with some disliking sawdust as it can get wet and harbor bacteria which in turn can lead to mastitis infections and a loss of production. Shavings also have this property but are not as finely ground. Either is more cost effective and more readily breaks down, allowing the use of it in compost or spread on fields where it breaks down. It is absorbent so soaks up wet, which can be good in some applications if it’s removed often. Sawdust should not be used in birthing stalls as the fine particles get into the eyes, nose and membranes of the calf and cow, increasing (again) possibilities of infection. Some farms use shavings with straw on top – often the straw is put down when she is in active labor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStraw, a byproduct of the wheat industry (as well as some others, such as oat straw), is a cheap resource in some areas. It is more difficult to clean without waste and can be bulky to store, taking up valuable space that could be used for hay. Like hay it must be kept dry and mold free. While there is fiber in it, straw is edible but not normally considered a food source, other than it’s not generally harmful if an animal eats it.

There are other bedding sources sometimes mentioned but these are among the most common. Some farms use shredded rubber often used for horse arenas – comfortable for the animals to lay on but it doesn’t break down when spread or composted.

For just a few animals it pays to research, ask questions, consider your own facility and needs. Remember that bedding consideration also includes handling, storage, cost and disposal (usually with manure and urine). For small places it also includes if tractors and spreaders are available and if it’s a ‘freestall’ system or just a large open area which may need cleaned more frequently.

Choose the best option for your needs and your animals.

Shatter Resistant Bulbs Danger to Poultry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany who think their use of shatter resistant bulbs in raising chicks should rethink their decision. The bulbs can actually be the source of toxic fumes that can kill birds.

The use of shatter resistant, or safety coated, bulbs sounds like a good idea. Certainly a drop of water on a hot bulb can be dangerous and unpleasant too. However, these shatter resistant bulbs have, or may have, a coating made of polytetraflouroethylene (PTFE). As they heat up the bulbs release fumes that normally don’t bother us, but are deadly to birds.

Pet bird owners have received other warnings about PTFE dangers in non-stick pans, which when heated can pose a danger to pet birds. However, most chicken owners don’t have birds in the home, save for chicks in cold weather.

A Missouri research facility lost 2,400 broiler birds in 1999 , with no trace of disease or changes in management except for the installation of 48 treated heat lamp bulbs. Within 24 hours mortality was 52% of the flock, with some birds dying in just hours. Tests were run for carbon monoxide and other toxins, but no one thought of the new heat bulbs.

Too often the only affects seen are dead birds. Some may show signs of rapid eyelid blinking, possibly due to irritation, or incoordination and inability to stand. Once deceased a postmortem often shows lesions and congested lungs, but there is no test on live birds. Symptoms may show themselves very suddenly, especially in situations such as the closed area of brooders.

PTFE has been used around the home in a variety of products since the late 1930s. Some people may have sensitivities, but birds are much more susceptible. The toxic gasses take less to cause death in birds, as the capillaries in the lungs begin leaking, essentially suffocating the birds.

While many do not have known PTFE overheated cookware around chickens, the use of heat lamps and bulbs is a factor especially in the spring with young chicks in brooders. Hang lamps safely and choose brands that for sure do not have any PTFE coating in the bulbs.

If you use nonstick cookware in the home and have birds, consider yourself very lucky if you haven’t lost any! It’s the heating of the PTFE that causes issues, and of course young birds need heat for the first couple of weeks.

Research the brands and equipment you use. Your birds depend on it!

Sources:

Murray McMurray: http://blog.mcmurrayhatchery.com/2011/02/18/shatter-resistant-bulbs-a-potential-danger-to-your-chickens/

http://www.jstor.org/pss/1592561

Is Hunting a Legitimate Sport?

MuleDeerTupperAnselBlakeUSFWSpubicdomainThere are those who claim that we don’t need to hunt animals. Others claim hunting is not a sport because the humans benefit from taking a trophy animal or for meat. If hunting animals is not a sport due to the human benefit then many other activities are not sports also.

There is no reason that people cannot benefit from an activity and still have it considered a sport, much as running benefits health benefits and is considered a sport. There are many more deer hit and killed by cars, randomly without regard to if it is a doe with fawns to support, than a hunter.

There are many views to what is and isn’t sport. Hunting does take activity, preparation, fitness, etc. – much more so than poker for example. NASCAR developed from running moonshine – since we don’t do that anymore should NASCAR be tossed also? Eh while it’s at that point fencing and 3Day and other Olympic sports are no longer viable. The fact is it takes skill to go on a successful hunt.

It takes skill to track an animal and be it a strictly for food kill or one for food and a trophy it is a decision of the hunter as to what to hunt for. Many criticize people don’t eat it and there’s just as many that DO eat it.

I know someone who does hunt for “trophy” animals – he goes out in the wilderness and hunts with a bow, and for every animal he gets he not only passes on MANY but those many are photographed and filmed so others can enjoy them. He bought a large plot of land not to live on but as a protected deer area…where he might take one or two of hundreds that feed on his land…hundreds that have a protected area to eat because of those two. This is a man who hiked three miles into the Alaskan wilderness, with a bow shot a 1600 pound moose, packed every bit of meat as well as the antlers and hide 3 miles back out on backpack. That kind of thing doesn’t happen sitting on a couch watching the outdoor channel and I challenge anyone to match fitness with him in that situation!

If there wasn’t food at the fast food window…would it be ok then to hunt? Everyone I’ve talked to that hunts trophy deer yes gets the taxidermy done – but also uses the meat from those deer! It doesn’t get left in the field. But *if* it did it then feeds other wildlife, perhaps the ones nursing an injury that cannot pull down a meal on their own. We sitting at home instead of in the field don’t see these things.

There is nothing wrong with hunting for meat or for trophy. Using the food makes more sense to me but I’d sure sit down to some venison before a veggie burger – and yes have had both. I’ve had antelope, bison, elk and deer and prepared properly it’s quite tasty. For those who live a mile from the grocery store it’s hard to see or comprehend why everyone doesn’t just buy at the store. For those living 20-30 miles from town or more – and especially those who willingly or not feed the wildlife – there’s no reason a few can’t become dinner, whether they’re “trophy” animals or not.

Over grazing and starving to death is not pleasant – hunting keeps the herds in check. Until you’ve seen 100 head of deer grazing in an alfalfa field (which I did – just west of Peoria IL actually) you cannot fathom the amount they eat even at 10# per head let alone 20-30# per day. That can be a ton or more of feed per day! And if they hit a corn field…well are you willing to go hungry to support 100 head of deer? Even eliminating half of them will not wipe out the population and wildlife management doesn’t eliminate half.

Breed Selection of Ducks & Geese

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost people picture a duck and it’s either as the wild duck or the all white “Pekin” duck. The various other breeds of ducks don’t occur to many people because they never see them. Similarly geese are usually pictured as white mean domestic geese or the Canadian geese.

With this in mind it’s difficult to picture then the reaction to find there not only are breeds of ducks and geese that are distinctive but that there are some of the breeds that are endangered. Along with this are misconceptions about ducks and geese themselves.

Ducks and geese are messy to start – babies that are artificially incubated shouldn’t be allowed to be near water until they are well feathered. The naturally hatched ducklings or goslings have an oily sheen – without this they can actually become water soaked and drown. Additionally they need special attention to have a non-medicated feed. Due to the rapid growth and “bottomless pit” consumption they eat more than chicks and can consume too much medicated feed.

Once they are feathered ducks and geese are very hardy. You don’t have to worry about fancy housing but that isn’t to say they’re totally without care needed. They appreciate a windbreak and a place to get out of nasty weather. While a rain shower doesn’t bother them extreme weather they do like a windbreak and many enjoy a break from it even if a simple three sided shed or A frame. Additionally heat is a killer for ducks and geese. They must have shade and plenty of water. Both need water deep enough to get their entire bill into.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the mention of breeds what are some considerations? For ducks there are two main types – the egg laying breeds and meat breeds. Some of the critically endangered ducks include the Ancona and Aylesbury meat breeds as well as the Welsh Harlequin. Anconas are stocky 6-6 ½ pound ducks related to the magpie duck, also endangered. The Ancona is pinto colored with spots that extend to the bill and feet where the Magpie is 4-5 pounds with a specific set of markings. The welsh harlequin is a breed that mutated from khaki Campbell ducks (normally khaki, white or dark in that breed) and were kept for eggs, meat and the beauty of them foraging in the grass. They look like a “spruced up mallard.”

Other rare ducks include the all black Cayuga, America’s duck, runners, Swedish, Rouen, Buff and call ducks – the latter are small ducks whose job was to call wild ducks close enough for hunters to get a clean shot.

Geese are commonly pictured as the large geese with the bump on the nose – Chinese which may be white or brown. The Toulouse, African, American Buff and Pilgrim are other breeds. The latter is auto-sexing – males are white and females are grey. There’s also the Sebastopol, with “frizzled” feathers, and the utility breed, Pomeranian, a beautiful spotted goose. Geese are grazers, once grown they’ll take grain but are most efficient foraging.

These are just a few breeds available and are worth giving a look. There are no roosters crowing, they’re hardy and with minimal provisions and protection they almost care for themselves. Almost!

Why Wildlife Should Not Be Kept as Pets

  • Enjoy wildlife but confining them is often illegal.
  • Wildlife taken out of the wild don’t make good pets.

Some people aren’t happy with the prospect of pet birds, reptiles, mammals or other animals commonly kept as pets. Some even advocate wild catching animals and making them pets. This is not only illegal but a bad idea. Why?

A look at pet sites gives a host of looks and sizes of pet birds, small mammals and many other pets for almost all situations. Fish can be an enjoyable project for many. Some revel in the exotic look of animals like Watusi cattle or Barbados sheep. Others seek to cross that line to capturing and confining wildlife as pets. From songbirds to otters to deer and elk it is tempting to cross the line from feeding animals to capturing them. This is usually a bad idea.

Wild animals haven’t been domesticated and even if they’re familiar with people enough to not be fearful they are not pets. Most people are not familiar enough with their habits and care to be able to keep them healthy let alone thriving. If the animal gets sick what vet will treat them? Are you seriously familiar enough with reading the habits of the species to be able to keep them thriving while removing the chance of predation, the only real ‘reason’ for confining them. Can you mimic an area large enough to eliminate stress?

Many animals are protected, some federally protected. Canadian geese for example – if they land at your pond you may enjoy them but confining them takes a federal permit as they are considered migratory birds. Raptors – hawks, owls, eagles – are equally protected and not for “pet” status as it takes someone knowing the species to care for them properly.

Wildlife that *does* adapt and lose fear of humans opens other doors – not everyone will welcome being approached. Few people take on the lifetime commitment of a dog or domestic poultry much less an animal that was wild. If you do then have to move will the new owners welcome the deer or will they exterminate it when it eats their garden? Or do you have the idea that when you’re done playing with it you’ll just turn it loose again? Songbirds will come to eat in the back yard and even nest in the back yard. Caging them puts them in a habitat they are not suited for. An animal expert that catches and removes wildlife indicated deer kill more people each year than any other captive wildlife animal…these are not Bambi. They can stab with antlers and stomp with feet.

The keeping of wildlife has been used to push regulation on exotic pets. Regulations are in place to move or have many big cat species. Wild caught animals can have a difficult time adjusting, even those such as ball pythons which are often also kept as pets. For people who know what they’re doing and are very familiar with the behavior of the animals exotic pets and wildlife may be a different game, but for the average person it’s not a good idea.

With many domestic animals needing homes the average person is better suited to one of those. Many don’t understand their domestic dog or cat but think a wolf, coyote or larger cat would be better – behavior is then fed by instinct and humans get themselves or someone else hurt or killed, and the animal is condemned to death for acting like what it is – a wild animal in a confined situation without understanding.

Did you know…

Some wildlife such as elk and bison are now farmed but they are not cattle nor can be expected to respond like domestic cattle. People who understand the species can handle this – the average person can’t.

Keeping Rabbits Cool in Hot Weather

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARabbits can handle cold weather easier than we can. As long as they’re dry and have a windbreak cold weather is tolerable. Hot weather, especially for fur breeds, is something they need help dealing with. Make sure you do this to prevent losing rabbits.

There are many things to consider but the biggest one is keeping them cool. If temperatures get much over 83F bucks can go temporarily sterile, taking a couple months after the onset of cooler weather to recover. When the temperatures hit 90F there is the very real probability of death to heat stroke. You MUST take measures to keep your rabbits cooler. They don’t need to be in an air conditioned room – but they do need help. With a good share of the country now getting hot temperatures it pays to keep the rabbits cool. There are several ways to do this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocation is important – never leave the cage or hutch in the sun. Sun bathing is a human thing – trapped in sun and heat a rabbit will die. Shade and air circulation helps them deal with it. Make sure there’s plenty of water…refill during the day or use multiple bottles. If there’s a steady breeze the rabbits will probably be fine in the shade with plenty of cool water.

If they begin stretching out and panting do not wait to take action. Get a spray bottle and wipe down the face and ears. The ears will help disperse heat – often leading to something called ‘summer ears’ in young rabbits. Often rabbits raised during these hot weather will have ears slightly larger and thinner than siblings raised in cooler weather. Don’t wet down the entire rabbit…just face and ears. If you have a fur breed like the Rex make special note of where the rabbit lies…if it’s laying by the water and dripping down into it check it daily – move the water and watch the rabbit’s fur very carefully. Fly strike – maggots – can strike a rabbit when there’s damp, moist fur – they’ll get into the folds of skin and begin eating the rabbit alive. It’s treatable if caught early but a nasty thing to deal with and HIGHLY advised to keep from having to deal with it. In hot weather this is a bigger issue. Also if you have litters being born – check them at least twice a day and remove any dead ones – they can draw maggots within hours. Get down into the nest box and check each bunny and make sure they’re ok – remove some of the fur if there’s quite a bit there.

Take plastic 2 liter bottles and fill about 3/4 full of water; put these in the freezer. Secure the lids tightly and remove the wrapper. When it begins to heat up take these out and put in with the rabbit – the frozen jug of water gives them something to lean against and help deal with the heat. Give frozen treats – take bananas or apples and cut into 1″ chunks and freeze – give the rabbit one when it’s hot. Be sure to watch and if he doesn’t eat it right away stick it back in the freezer. For many rabbits this equates to an ice cream in the heat! They LOVE it and it’s good for them. Bananas can be slice peel and all – as can the apples. Some use grapes and just freeze whole.

If you have an enclosed barn to use an air conditioning unit consider yourself lucky! Otherwise, use other means to keep air circulating around your rabbits. For most this means fans. A standard box fan can be put on the end of the cage row of wire cages – attach securely and it’ll get air to about 10 feet of cage space. Remember this needs maintenance!! And remember these fans weren’t designed to run 24/7 – for longer use turn them off in the evening when it cools off and on just during the heat. Someone with a little bit of knowledge could use a solar panel, battery and inverter to power the fans with solar and insure the rabbits still have fans even if the power goes out. If you have fur or wool breeds especially make SURE you do a weekly at minimum maintenance. Rabbits shed and rabbit hair and dust tends to gather up. An overheated fan can trip breakers and even heat up to the point of a fire – make sure you take steps to prevent this! The dirt and hair can pack on the fan housing – you can remove this by hand throughout the week if you see it, but there will still be material wrapped around the housing and removal by hand is difficult. Take a shop vacuum with a blower option or a garden leaf blower – unplug the fan and take it outside. The liberal use of air blowing this clean helps get it clean and prevents it from blowing the dirty “stuff” around the rabbits. Some carefully take a hose and hit the fan blades and frame to remove dust but DO NOT HIT THE MOTOR with water. Let the fan dry thoroughly before plugging it back in. The grids on the face, blades front and back and the housing around the fan should be removed of dust and hair. Using the blower turn the fan around and blow out the passages around the motor – good air circulation here helps keep motors cooler and running longer more efficiently.

Heat stress - head back. She was misted down, cooled, and fine after treatment.

Heat stress – head back. She was misted down, cooled, and find after treatment.

In some areas it takes a combination of frozen water bottles, misting the face/ears, fans and plenty of shade, water and air circulation to keep rabbits alive and comfortable in the hot months. A well ventilated basement, which is naturally cooler, is an option that isn’t uncommon. If a rabbit begins seriously stressing – stretching out, panting with head raised DO NOT WAIT. Put him in a carrier and get him in the house in cooler temperatures. If he’s throwing his head back it may be too late. Carriers are not meant to house rabbits – but a heat stressed rabbit HAS to get out of the heat. Sometimes they’ll be fine for a couple weeks then have a problem.

Make no mistake – heat is a killer for rabbits. Make sure yours are happy and healthy.