Is your air quality killing your dream? An easy way to clean it up.
My sad loss
Last week we lost a lamb. She was one of a triplet about 3 days old. She seemed healthy enough. She had a full tummy every time we checked her. She was active. Last Thursday night, Mr. Joybilee went out to the barn to do his nightly check before bed, and she was dead, still warm, but dead.
The next morning everything seemed good at 6am. All the babies were alive and active. Mr. Joybilee checked the tummies of the young babies to ensure that their moms had sufficient milk. About a half hour later, he went out with the milk pail, and did another barn check. The young male lamb from the same triplet group was dead — still warm but dead.
What’s going on?
How can a young ram lamb just up and die with no symptoms? It was eerie. One minute they are alive and seemingly healthy, and next minute – gone. We moved the ewe and her remaining lamb out of the stall checking it for any telltale clues. Nothing. The stall had been cleaned before the ewe went in. The floor was a bit damp around the straw. There was no trauma.
What the H***?
That night in the other barn, Sarah took a bottle to one of the kids that she is supplementing. A Saanen buckling came over and nibbled playfully at the edge of her coat, while she fed the bottle to her little charge. 30 minutes later Mr. Joybilee did his nightly check and that buckling was gone. He couldn’t be revived. What the H***? Healthy babies don’t just up and die for no reason. What’s going on? That was our heartbroken question.
After farming full time for 10 years we had never encountered anything like this before. In a period of 24 hours we lost 3 perfectly healthy babies, in different barns and from different families. It made no sense. What was different in the barns this year from other years? There was one thing that we changed.
What did we change?
We hired two strong, young men to clean out the barns before lambing season started. Usually we don’t get the job completed and so the warm, winter, manure pack is still in the barn when the babies come. We usually cover it with clean straw, and dolomite lime to bind the ammonia smell and methane gas, but it remains undisturbed until lambing is finished and the weather warms up. This year was different. For the first time in our 10 years of farming here, the manure pack was completely cleaned out, leaving behind a rank ammonia smell and a damp subfloor.
We limed and put down a layer of straw, but once the triplets and their mom were in their stall we didn’t lime that stall again – we just laid down fresh straw, as needed, to keep the floor dry. The babies died because of the poor air quality in that particular stall. While the barns had lots of air circulation, being open and drafty, the babies were near the floor where the air circulation was stopped by stall walls. The nitrous oxide (the technical name) and methane gas, sunk to the floor pushing out the oxygen and suffocating our little lambs in minutes.
The rank ammonia smell clung to Mr. Joybilee’s hair and clothing when he came in from the barn, on Friday night, and we took immediate steps to rectify the problem. Mr. Joybilee sprinkled fresh dolomite lime over the floors of every stall and every barn. He spread out a couple of bales of fresh carboneous straw to bind the nitrogen in the urine and trap it in the bedding so that it wouldn’t be released into the air.
The silent killer
So what’s crazy about this story, is that we couldn’t see the problem until the lambs and the kid died. Even though we were checking the babies several times a day, there was no symptoms to alert us to the problem. The babies weren’t gasping for air. They weren’t coughing. They simply stopped breathing as their lungs filled with invisible, poisonous gases. Since we are walking around the barn breathing the air at the 5 to 6 foot level, we aren’t breathing the same air that they are, either. Those toxic fumes are heavier than oxygen and sink to the floor, at the level of a sleeping baby lamb.
The quick and easy solution
Once we realized what the problem was, we rectified it quickly and easily with things we already had on hand. We didn’t need to run to the vet to buy medicine or a vaccine. It was a simple process of changing the pH of the bedding with lime (calcium and magnesium) and adding carboneous matter (straw, in this case) to bind the nitrous oxide and other toxic gases and keep them from escaping into the air – it makes the barn smell better, too.
When 50 adult animals are peeing in the same latrine all night, it can make for a lot of nitrogen/urea. But this urea is a valuable fertilizer that needs to be captured in the carboneous bedding. If it escapes into the air, it doesn’t just harm the animals, we lose its benefit to the garden, as well.
Back to the question I asked at the beginning, how is the air quality where you live? Is there a undercurrent of toxic fumes that threaten to overwhelm you and snuff out your dream? What voices are you listening to? Are those voices people that encourage you in your God-given gifts and the dream that God put in your heart, or are they the voice of discouragement and condemnation?
Bad air = negative voices
For a long time, before we grabbed the courage to establish Joybilee Farm, we had a dream of homesteading full time. But the voices around us told us that it was “irresponsible.” One pastor that we shared our dream with, told us, (this is the truth!) that the duty of every Christian was to make as much money as possible to support the professional pastors and ministries to spread the gospel. (I’m not making this stuff up.) In other words, that dream that you just vulnerably shared with me, is outside of God’s will. Period. Have you noticed as you read my newsletters and blog posts that I’m not religious? This kind of religiosity infuriates me! It’s a poisonous gas that will not only kill a dream, but it will kill the soul and spirit, too.
When Mr. Joybilee resigned from his tenured teaching position at the university, the administration told him he was “hurting his family” and that he “would fail” and leave his family “destitute”. Those voices were like the poisonous gas that crept, unseen, along the floor of our barn last week. Those voices echo in your mind, every time something goes wrong on the homestead. It’s a subtle, undetected poison that kills your dreams and murders your spirit.
Quick and easy solution to negative voices/bad air in your life
And just like the poisonous gases in my barn were easy to deal with, once we recognized the problem, so those negative voices that come into your mind, to discourage you from your dream, are easy to deal with. And the same way we deal with bad air quality we can deal with bad thought quality. Change the pH – if the thoughts are acid/negative change them to sweet/positive. Spread out the carboneous straw to trap the bad thinking and purposely think rightly about your dream. Right thoughts are like the sweet straw. Whatever your dream is – to be a homesteader, or to be a writer or an artist, to be a teacher –- that dream was programmed into your DNA when God knit you together in your Mom’s womb. You are gifted with special gifts for this generation, and God put you here for a reason. Don’t allow the voices, even of religious people, to discourage the dream that God planted in your heart. Keep the air sweet in your life, and in your home.
A trick that can help you change the “air” quality around you:
Stinkin’ thoughts = poisonous gases that will snuff out your soul. Good thoughts and encouragement = sweet air that brings life. Don’t be trapped with stinkin’ thinkin’. Here’s a trick that I learned. You can’t change a negative thought by trying not thinking about it. But you can consciously replace a negative thought with a positive truth statement.
Here’s a quick check list to get rid of stinkin’ thinkin’
When you identify a negative thought ask yourself:
- Is it true?
- Is it beneficial?
- Is it helpful?
- Is it beautiful?
- Is it wise?
- Does it make YOU a better YOU?
- Does it bring YOU closer to fulfilling YOUR purpose?
Test every negative thought by this standard and if the answer is “NO” then that stinkin’ thought needs to be replaced with sweet truth. If there are “friends” in your life that are always polluting the air quality around you, you can also use this checklist to evaluate what your friends are telling you. Do you need a new friend?
Say, “NO” to the bad air quality that can silently kill. Fix it by sweetening the air with right thinking, positive truth statements, and encouragement. Your dream is worth it.
The world needs you. The world needs your gifts and your dream for the healing of the world. Here’s to more Homestead Abundance in your life this week.