We burn wood for heat in our house, mostly wood that we collect from our property. High winds bring down a lot of limbs from the trees so we cut them up and use them for heat, as well as bring down any “standing dead” trees in the forest. A weekly by-product of our wood heat is wood ash and when we don’t place it around the base of our fir trees for soil amendment, we occasionally place some in our hen yard for the girls to use for dust baths. In the winter and spring months, here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s mud season, so chickens are in need of some dry dirt for dust bathing, as a pest repellant to rid of mites and bothersome bugs that harbor in their feathers and on their skin, which must be itchy as heck. It also gives them a little added magnesium and calcium.
Our hens love their wood ash baths. They fight over them, in fact!
Here’s how we help our hens use wood ash to rid of their unwanted pests: We find a small “hen bowl” that they’ve dug in the yard, for bathing, and pour in the wood ash. Within minutes, they’ll scratch it around, mixing in the surrounding dirt, and then lay down in it to dust themselves up! A pop-up hen spa!
Apparently dried lavender and dried lemon balm are also great pest deterrents so sprinkling some into your wood ash bath could be an excellent potpourri addition for your chooks. We do love pampering our girls! After Valentines Day, our leftover dried roses were turned into rose petal chicken bedding for their coop, along with some blue paper hamster bedding a neighbor give us from our Buy Nothing group to line the chicken coop floor. Pretty!!
Rose petal and blue paper hamster bedding make for a fun late-winter coop bedding.
What spa treatments do you give your hens?
© Liesl Clark
It occurred to me, last winter, when high winds blew down so many trees, that I could help clear the trails, rather than just hike them. The added benefit was wood.
Blown-down wood on a Pacific Northwest Trail © Liesl Clark
Rather than carrying a backpack filled with random items to give me added weight for a pre-expedition workout, I realized the resource I could gather on my hikes was right at my feet. My friend, Yangin Sherpa, walks 5 miles a day to collect wood where she lives. Why couldn’t I?
We heat our home with wood and our property provides most of what we need. But I realized that every day, during the storm season, I was picking up and throwing aside big chunks of wood that had come down the day before onto the trails we hike on our hill.
Huge Trees Come Down, Blocking Our Trails, All Winter Long © Liesl Clark
I bring an empty pack after a windstorm and load it with large chunks blocking the trail that I would otherwise throw aside. There’s so much wood out there, areas where blow-downs outnumber the trees standing. I figure a small payment for my clearing of the trails are the few pieces I can gather to add weight to my gait, to give greater resistance to my uphill climb so I can prepare for the high passes and cliffside traverses we do each summer in the Himalaya.
Payment for My Pains © Liesl Clark
I find joy in knowing what it feels like to walk 5 miles for a bundle of wood that will keep my family warm for one more day.
What are your simple pleasures?