Archive | April 2018

Chick Hatch 4/29/18

The first hatch of 2018 completed yesterday, 25 out of 28 Silver and Silver x Black Ameraucana chicks hatched from my Brinsea Ovation Eco 28 incubator.  These little guys are one day old and seem very healthy.  This is a rare moment where everyone is resting in a big, fluffy chick mass.  They are very busy and bright-eyed, already eating and drinking.

The incubator is cleaned and warming up for the second set. I hope to have 28 more eggs started this evening. All the eggs from the first set were fertile and grew to term. Not sure why three didn’t hatch. The babies may have had some trouble getting to the air sac. The eggs didn’t even pip so the babies died during the transition time when they put their beak into the air sac and start breathing. Sad, but part of nature. Still, an 89% hatch and 100% fertility rate are excellent for me.

The hatch rate is such an improvement over the styrofoam Hovabator incubators of the past. I would consider myself lucky to get a 50% hatch rate then.  The Brinsea was certainly worth the price!

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This is being written for the consideration of anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation and is contemplating carpal tunnel surgery.  I wish I had been provided this information when I was deciding to get the work done.  Please do not think I’m complaining or looking for sympathy.  I’m not.  Merely trying to inform people about my experiences.

I first noticed the problem about seven years ago when my hands fell asleep every time I sat and tried to use them for things like crafts or writing.  It got so bad that they felt numb and tingly nearly all the time.  The doctor diagnosed me with carpal tunnel syndrome and recommended surgery.  She said if I didn’t get the issue corrected my hands would become damaged over time since the nerves were being impinged.  To relieve the pressure, the tendon that supports the wrist bones must be cut.  That is the surgical procedure.  It is done under general anesthesia.

What the doctor explained about the narrowing of the carpal tunnel in the wrist and the squeezing of the nerve that must pass through the tunnel to reach the hand made sense.  I believed her and didn’t put any effort into second opinions.  The surgery was scheduled with a specialist.  I had both wrists done at the same time, bi-lateral surgery.  The procedure was conducted as a day surgery and I went home that evening with both wrists bandaged.

The pain was fairly intense for a few days.  For anyone getting bi-lateral surgery for the sake of convenience, consider that you will find it nearly impossible to use your hands with any force for several days following surgery.  The problem becomes apparent when you enter the restroom.  I struggled until I adopted through trial and error a technique for hygiene that placed little strain on the hands.  The healing was rapid and I only needed to use a couple Tylenol 3 during recovery.  The tiny incision scars quickly disappeared.

When it no longer hurt to use the hands, I began physical therapy to return the strength of my grip.  The therapist tested my grip and prescribed various exercises which I followed religiously.  I was motivated to regain the use of my hands.  By the end of the sessions the therapist was impressed that I had a grip strength that surpassed most women.  She was pleased with my progress and ended the sessions.  What I didn’t tell her was my grip was actually reduced from the power I had before surgery.  I continued the exercises and hoped for the best.

Things went along fairly smoothly.  My sense of how hard I gripped things had changed.  I thought my hands were holding tightly enough, but actually, at times, they were not.  I dropped stuff…a lot.  It was frustrating.  Hoping for the best, I figured over time I’d improve.  Then one day I was just lifting an empty five gallon bucket by the handle and something popped in my wrist.  It was quite painful.  A swelling developed in the area below the base of my thumb.  The place of the swelling can be seen in my two photos, although the swelling from an active injury is much more pronounced.  These photos are of the usual condition of my wrists now.  The little lump below the thumb should not be there.

The doctor said I had sprained my wrist.  I wore a splint to protect the area and tried not to overuse the other hand while the sprain healed.  Unfortunately, sprains in both wrists have become a part of my life.  When I do heavy manual labor I must wear restrictive splints with metal supports or I risk sprains.  Just everyday living can result in injury.  A movement as simple as wiping a dish, opening a drawer or lifting a cup can result in a strain or a sprain.  The reduced sense of grip has remained and I continue to drop items if I don’t remember to pay attention to how tightly I am holding them.  I described these difficulties to my doctor and she had nothing to say, she just glossed over my concerns.  I changed doctors.

The problem is the cutting of the tendon that supports the wrist.  Without that band of tissue to keep the bones in place under strain, ligaments are stressed until micro tears occur, pulling the ligament away from the bone (a sprain.)  This is the dirty little secret the doctors and surgeons don’t mention when they push for carpal tunnel surgery.  You are left to discover on your own that your hands will never be the same.  Sure, the pins and needles and numbness are gone, but the pain of wrist sprains is there to stay.  Because I live on a farm and use my hands for everything I do, the chronic pain has settled into the area of the base of my thumbs on both hands.

The only relief for this pain is massage, which I perform on my hands frequently.  Since the time of my surgery, I have been a patient of two different massage therapists who both informed me that prior to surgery I should have tried massage therapy.  They both explained that the pressure in my wrists leading to my hands falling asleep could very likely have been relived with trigger point therapy.  The tightening of muscles in the neck, shoulder and arms can lead to the symptoms of carpal tunnel impingement.  They told me many people have found a cure for the problem from massage therapy alone.  If only one of the medical doctors had informed me of this!  Or if only I had not been so trusting of their authority and opinions.

Now, whenever anyone mentions to me they are considering the surgery, I describe my experiences for them in the hope they can make a better informed decision than I.

Rodent Damage

All indications are that the field vole and mouse population here at the farm was very high last fall.  The past few years must have provided very good breeding conditions for the vermin.  I have never seen such extensive rodent damage.  The little critters were just trying to live through the harsh winter, but their survival attempts resulted in significant losses for us.

During the deep snows, voles and field mice survive by burrowing out small holes for dens and lining them with grass.  Then, when they are hungry the creatures come up to the surface of the ground under the snow and tunnel.  Some tunnels are still evident in the melting snow above.  The rodents eat grass and chew the bark off any edible tree or bush encountered.  This spring’s receding snow reveals an extensive network of tunnels and bark chewed off at least three dozen apple trees in the orchards.  The vermin also entirely devoured my baby pink magnolia and one tiny apricot.

Since I know rodents do this sort of damage, every fall I place plastic tree guards around the trunks of susceptible young trees.  All the trees I guarded are undamaged.  The damage is unexpectedly heavy.  Usually mature trees are barely touched, if at all.  I’ve had a magnolia for years and it was never chewed.  The little apricot was in its second winter.  The year before last no rodents bothered it.  During this winter, two of my young hazelnut trees were also chewed, a first for me.  And, a fifteen year old maple on the lawn was girdled!

Girdling is the big problem.  If the bark is removed completely around the trunk of the tree, the nutrients produced by the leaves can not go back into the roots.  The tree will die after a couple years.  Twelve apples and the maple were girdled.  I don’t want to lose the trees, if possible, so this year I’m learning a new skill called bridge grafting.  This method has the potential to save the trees by grafting a small limb over the wound to carry nutrients to the roots, bridging the gap.

The small branches, called scions, are gathered early in the spring before budding begins.  I have collected a good supply of scions about the thickness of a pencil.  The best scions are one-year shoots and should be the same species as the tree being grafted.  It’s great to collect scions from the actual tree.  The scions are wrapped in plastic to preserve moisture and stored in the refrigerator until the time is right for grafting.

Now I’m just waiting for the proper time to bridge graft.  To protect the trees from dehydrating while we wait, I’ve covered all the gnawed damage with tree wound sealer. Bridge grafting is best done in the spring when the trees are budding.  During budding the trunk is full of moisture and the bark becomes loose.  It can be slipped away from the trunk.  Scions are cut in a specific manner and inserted under the bark.  The wound is covered with pruning sealer.

If everything goes well, by fall the tree will have accepted the graft and grow together with it sufficiently to allow the flow of nutrients essential for survival.  After a few years, the tree will produce new bark to cover the wound and the grafts grow into the tree.  I will blog again with photos of the grafting process once I begin the work.


Hatching Time and Odd Egg

Here is the first set of Ameraucana eggs for 2018.  They went in the Brinsea Ovation Eco 28 on the 8th and are due to hatch on the 29th.  There are some very nice colored eggs this year.  We’re still waiting for a few of the pullets hatched in September 2017 to start laying, but most of our 15 hens produce regularly.  The main rooster is named RB (Short for Rooster Boy) and he is a very handsome silver Ameraucana.

We have two back-up silver x black roosters and the hens are mostly silver x black.  The hens all have strong silver features.  Fingers are crossed that this next generation will be more of the silver type I’m looking to breed.

Silver Ameraucana hens tend to mature a little slower than other pullets.  They often don’t begin laying until they are seven to nine months old.  Most of mine start around seven months.  The pullets of some breeds commence laying as early as four-and-a-half to six months of age.  What I’ve noticed with early ovulation is the eggs are in the extra small to small range, due to the size of the hens’ bodies.  It takes several weeks for them to have large size eggs.  The silvers may take a little longer to mature, but they start in with a bigger, more usable (salable) egg.  This is a first egg from a seven-month bird that was laid last week.  It is a size large egg.  The deep color is typical for first eggs, although the band of color is somewhat extreme.  It is an odd but beautiful egg.