Poppy George's Farm Advice: Opening Burlap Sacks, Organic Garden Pest Control and More

"Poppy George" Plitt answers homesteaders questions about drying milking cows before calving, opening a sewn burlap seed bag, preparing a chicken coop for winter and other homesteading insights.
By Poppy George Plitt
September/October 1974
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Lambs should be seperated from their mothers after a few months. This helps keep the lambs parasite-free and the grass from getting worn down in any specific spot.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/DZAIN


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"Poppy George" Plitt graduated from college with a degree in agriculture in 1932. During the years that followed he made a good many friends and a name for himself (as a gentleman, inventor and executive) in the field of bird and animal husbandry and care. At various points in his career, Plitt served as Director of Nutritional Research and Field Services for two of the East's larger grain mills. He is also the originator of Pride of the Valley Wild Bird Food and Kleen Kitty cat litter. Plitt now raises and trains standard-bred horses and keeps a wide variety of other birds and animals on a New York farm. 

"Poppy George" is now sharing his experience by giving MOTHER's readers down-to-earth advice on the care and feeding of homestead livestock.  

Question: I have one milking cow, and I'm told I should dry her off two months before she's due to calve again. That will leave me with no source of milk until she gives birth, since my two immature goats aren't producing yet. Any suggestions, Poppy?  

Years ago, I spent a while aboard freighters and the officers were always served fresh milk early in the voyage. On one trip, though, we were away several weeks before reaching our next port of call and . . . we still had fresh, sweet milk. A check with the cook revealed that he had taken aboard a large supply in the usual paper containers, and frozen it. Then he'd removed the stock from the freezer as needed, and, believe it or not, it always tasted good. Maybe you can use this method to put by some of your cow's present yield.

In the future, I'd recommend timing the breeding of one or both milk goats so they'll freshen when the cow is due to be dried off.

I buy a few bags of feed in 100-pound lots and I dread the ordeal of opening them stitch by stitch (or else cutting the material). Isn't there any other way to do it?  

Don't feel bad if you have problems opening sewed burlap, plastic or paper bags. I know several hundred farmers who still don't know the way to do this simply and properly.

Here's how: Look for a couple of seconds at both sides of the bag's top. You'll notice that the line of sewing consists of a single stitch on one side and a link stitch on the other. Take a knife (or, better still, a 10-penny nail), stand with the plain seam to your right — if you're right-handed — and slip the tool's point under the first stitch at the beginning of the row to break the thread. Then pull the two strings, one from each side, and they'll open all the way across with little effort. (You may have to break two or three stitches at the start, but once you get the process going you'll be amazed at its ease.)

Any suggestions on how to control plant pests without chemicals? My tomatoes and roses need help.  

Plant basil with your tomatoes and chives with your roses. They discourage insects, improve growth and give you herbs to use, too.

Before I became a Mother Earther and got my patch of land, I was a bookkeeper . . . so I keep trying to be efficient, or at least I keep thinking about it. This year I set two hens, one of which hatched out nine baby chicks and the other 10. I'm satisfied with the results but would like to know the "professional" way to go about the job.  

Math was my poorest subject and I'm no efficiency expert, but I always tried to set two hens at the same time with 15 eggs under each. (I checked the birds first to be sure they were free of lice.) Then the broods would hatch simultaneously, and I'd put all the chicks under one mother . . . since a single hen can easily take care of 25 or more babies. The other gal then would be confined in a coop with a wire floor to distract her from her motherly urges and get her back into an egg-laying mood.

I have a few sheep and their four-month-old lambs. Should the flock be separated now?  

Yes, the lambs should be docked and put in separate pasture. Divide their field into two units, leave them in the first for a couple of weeks and then move then into the adjoining lot and then back into the original half. This rotation gives you more mileage from the grass and cuts down on the possibility of the lambs becoming infested with parasitic worms.

How should I make my chicken coop ready for winter?  

[1] Get some motor oil drainings (free at most service stations), add some kerosene and paint all walls; floors, cracks and crevices with the mixture. Apply it liberally to preserve the wood and help keep lice and mites out of crannies.

[2] Get empty cardboard cartons — the kind that hold paper towels, if possible — and staple or nail them to the ceiling inside the structure for insulation.

[3] Accumulate plastic sheeting and nail it over the windows of the coop.

These precautions should put the shelter into good enough shape to keep your chickens comfortable and laying this winter.


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