Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I've been derelict in keeping up with this blog. My wife and I have been struggling with the increasing physical limitations inherent in our respective ages, along with the need to deal with various issues that demand so much of our energies that we must set aside some of our other interests and activities.

Recently, we have had a problem with skunks killing our chickens. We raise Buff Orpingtons, primarily for eggs, although they will become food if things ever get to the point where a trip to the supermarket is no longer an option. We've lost three hens (out of seven) to two skunks, which I ended up killing when I was unable to trap them. We had spent several days working on making it more difficult for skunks to burrow into our hen house, burying chicken wire along the entire perimeter, then covering it with rock and pieces of firewood we had available. That proved successful in stopping the immediate loss of more hens, but there was at least one more skunk trying to get into the hen house.

When that third skunk demonstrated the ability to escape the snare I set for him, I purchased some live traps, baiting them with scraps of cooked chicken and chicken bones (from store-bought chicken). The very first night, the trap was sprung. The next morning I released our Maine Coon cat, who - in spite of being very well fed and plied with daily treats - was meowing piteously from inside the larger of the two traps.

It took three more nights, but finally the third skunk was caught. He was dispatched at close range while still in the trap, the thinking being that a quick demise would prevent the release of his musk. Au contraire - he emitted the worse spraying of any skunk I have ever killed. Opening the front door ever so briefly was enough to contaminate the entire house with the acrid odor of skunk musk.

Hosing down the deck and the area around the trap (which was under the deck near our front door) didn't help. I mixed up a batch of musk de-activator - 32 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, 8 ounces of baking soda, and several drops of liquid dish detergent (a surfactant helping to spread the mixture) - and  spraying that from a bottle onto the deck and the dead skunk itself seemed to help. We've used that successfully when we have had dogs which have gotten sprayed by a skunk, and it was useful in this situation as well. We are now waiting to see if there is yet another skunk (or more) nearby, or if we have solved our problem for the time being.

Next adventure: discovering a burned-out element in our electric water heater, I attempted to drain the tank in order to replace the element. Unfortunately, our water is very hard, and the prior owner had never maintained the system. The tank wouldn't drain, because there was over six inches of scale (mineral deposits) in the bottom of the tank. After trying to blow the scale away from the inside of the drain valve with an air compressor, I was finally able to get the water to drain slowly. About six hours later, it was close enough to empty that I was able to remove the defective element. I then used a wet/dry shop vacuum to clean out the scale. About seven or eight pounds of it. I then flushed the tank several times more, finally installing the new 4500 watt element. After re-filling the tank, and bleeding the pipes to make sure the tank was completely full, I removed the screens and diffusers from the washing machine hoses and the faucets of all the sinks in the house, clearing out the flakes of scale from those locations. Hopefully, we will be good for a few months, when I will drain the tank again to flush the sediment out.

So, political commentary takes a back seat to the necessities of livestock protection and home maintenance.

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Sorry, folks. I was completely ignorant about comment rules. Anyone can post, but I'd prefer a name, even if it is made up. Anonymous posts just seem cheap, if you know what I mean. Also, if you want to argue a point, that's fine. Cheap shots and name calling towards me or another person commenting (ad hominem) is rude and will get you banned. Other than that, I'd love to get some comments.