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    The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables
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  • Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation
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    Hunting * Fishing * Trapping * Gardening * Gathering Wild Edibles * Raising Livestock * Building by Hand * Homeschooling * Flying * Backpacking * Dog Mushing * Cheesemaking * Rock Hounding * Backcountry Living * And Other Old Timey Stuff

    Sunday
    Jan052014

    Chicken fodder, etc.

    Adding straight barley fodder to our feeding regime didn't give my birds what they needed to lay well.  Then I added pea sprouts to the mix and the chickens tried to avoid eating them.  They like soaked peas, cooked peas and fermented peas... but not pea sprouts.  Go figure.

    The next experiment was to add camellina and flax sprouts to the barley fodder.  The camellina did not sprout well, and the flax sprouted very well but created drainage problems for the barley.  So I scrapped that plan for the time being and moved on to clover.

    My alyce clover seed finally arrived after about a 3 week wait.  I put it to use right away, and built a new tray system to grow bird food.  Here is what it looks like... simple and it works.  What I didn't figure into the equation is that I'm feeding the sprouts earlier, so my yield isn't going to be 5 or 6x.

    For the first phase of this rendition of the experiment, I've been mixing 1 part clover with 2 parts barley.  I'm not presoaking the seeds at all.  Here is what the seed looks like at the end of day 1.

    Day 2

    Day 3Day 4

    Day 5

    And then we feed it!  The birds love it, both chickens and quail.  They've only been eating it for 4 days now but thus far there is zero waste and laying is more than holding steady... its even perking up a little.  Of course the experiment is yet young, so we'll watch how things unfold.  But for now, I'm really happy with how its playing out.

    The next move is to increase production as I'm only getting a 4x yield by feeding time and I'd like to have about 30% more to feed them each day.  

    One last pic:  here is what our goat fodder system looks like in full production.  My heaviest tray thus far has been 20 pounds but most weigh about 17.5.  So our yield is still hanging between 5 and 6x.  

     

    Saturday
    Dec282013

    Reflections

    Another year is coming to a close.  2013 sure packed a punch, and I can't say I'm sad to see it go.  That's alright, live and learn and be here now... right?

    I have more fodder updates for those who are following our experiment in a new way of life.   I increased the drainage slant on our trays to 2 inches and increased the number of holes in the edge of the tray.  This successfully improved our rootmats and germination at the low end of the trays.  

    We've also quit growing straight barley trays and are seeding all trays with 1 part peas and 8 parts barley.  My new tray weight record is 19 pounds!  So, we are getting there... another step closer to that magic 6x yield.

    Other changes include switching up how we feed the fodder to our livestock.  Previously, I had been feeding 3 trays full free choice to all the goats in the yard.  It turns out that the young goats were hogging the fodder and started getting fat on it.  Now I've switched to feeding fodder on the milkstand first, and then the leftovers go out to the yard feeder for the young ones to munch on.  

    I'm still waiting for the clover seed to arrive.  It should be here any day.  The plan is to seed 1 part clover and 3 parts barley for the chickens, 1 part clover and 1 part barley for the quail and see how that does for everyone.  Life is one big experiment.

    If I can't get my quail to lay well on fodder, I've decided to give them up.  I refuse to feed soy and they're not doing great on added fishmeal... what they do best on is hamburger but I just can't afford to feed that to my birds everyday.  So we'll see what happens with the clover aspect.

    Other news is that Ben is gone trapping for awhile and my longterm interns will be moving on to greener pastures this spring.  If you know of some free spirit who wants to learn alot and work super hard in rough living conditions, send em my way.

    Cheers, and may 2014 be the best year yet!

    Thursday
    Dec122013

    Birds in the wild

    Cool.  Ben brought us home a fresh ruffed grouse.  We carefully prepped it for our dinner, and I want to share with you what we found.  Here's the food that was in it's crop.  Can you see what it was eating to keep it strong and healthy in our deep winter?

    Spruce nuts, high bush cranberries and what I think may be blueberry bush tips.  Yum.  Now I know how to configure feed for our quail...  And while we're at it, here's an eyeball pic.  Cheers!

    Wednesday
    Dec112013

    Barley fodder gains

    It's been so exciting to watch our system grow... but the real enjoyment is in seeing our milk production improve.  My herd is currently producing 13.4% more milk than they were giving before we started feeding fodder.  

    In the springtime or summer, it might be easier to shrug at that number since milk numbers are generally on the rise during that time of year.  But increases like this are never seen this time of year, when our sun has gone behind the mountains and will not rise again until early January.

    In fact, it seems that milk production will continue to improve for at least awhile before the herd settles into their new normal.  Mango, an older doe who has always had a difficult time holding her weight because she puts all her energy into the milk bucket, looks fatter than I have ever seen her.  And the newest doe, Moonbeam, is perking up nicely with a new fluffy coat and an overflowing udder.

    Pretty incredible stuff.  I'm still having a blast, working things out, watching it grow, and feeding up my animals.  We've continued to make improvements to the way things work... I suppose it will be a work in progress for sometime- as all new projects are.

    I installed a recoil hose to water the shelves, no more hauling water by the jar to each and every seed tray.  And I hooked up gutters at the back and front of the shelves to feed waste water into buckets for easier removal.  Then I bumped up production from 2 to 3 trays per day.

    The best part is that our new record for finished tray weight is 17.5 pounds, giving us a solid 5 times return on the barley investment.  And I'm still aiming for that 6x yield, so I'm sure more improvements will be coming...

    I'm mixing things up for our bird families, since they like the fodder more than they like their usual feed.  This is a problem because the barley fodder has a lower protein percentage, and their egg production started to suffer the consequences.  So today I started the first tray with camellina and flax substituted as a portion of the barley.  And I ordered some alyce clover which has 35% protein to add to future trays.  

    Now I'm starting to dream of pigs... and how much barley fodder I would have to grow to support a breeding pair and their subsequent offspring.  Maybe by springtime we'll be ready!

    Wednesday
    Nov272013

    Fodder, part 2

    I've had good luck with our new barley fodder system.  I'm still kind of shocked at just how easy it is to grow this volume of fresh food for our livestock.  It took the goats a few days to decide if they liked it, but now they devour about 30 pounds per day.  I'm working to increase production to try to push that up to 45#, so I've been tweaking our system a bit.

    First, I found that the 3/32# holes which drain our trays are too small.  I've redrilled them to 1/8# and we'll see how that works for awhile.  By keeping good track of soak times, day 3 germination rates and day 7 tray weights, I've been able to optimize our production.

    It turns out that so far, a 2 hour soak time followed by two days in the bucket before spreading the grain onto the trays works best for us.  In addition, it seems that adding peas to the barley quickens both germination and maturation.  

    So that's where things are at, for the moment.  I'm interested to see how things look at the end of the next week.  Right now our trays are weighing around 15# at maturity.  I'd like to see them weigh around 21# and plan to keep working on it.  Still loving this project...