• Finding Alaska: The Life and Art of Shannon Cartwright
    Finding Alaska: The Life and Art of Shannon Cartwright
    by Shannon Cartwright
  • Trapline Twins
    Trapline Twins
    by Julie Collins
  • Riding the Wild Side of Denali: Adventures with Horses and Huskies
    Riding the Wild Side of Denali: Adventures with Horses and Huskies
    by Miki Collins, Julie Collins
  • Dog Driver: A Guide for the Serious Musher
    Dog Driver: A Guide for the Serious Musher
    by Miki Collins, Julie Collins
  • Two in the Far North
    Two in the Far North
    by Margaret E. Murie
  • Alaska's Wolf Man: The 1915-55 Wilderness Adventures of Frank Glaser
    Alaska's Wolf Man: The 1915-55 Wilderness Adventures of Frank Glaser
    by Jim Rearden
  • Back Tuva Future
    Back Tuva Future
    by Kongar-ol Ondar
  • Cave of the Yellow Dog
    Cave of the Yellow Dog
    starring Batchuluun Urjindorj, Buyandulam Daramdadi, Nansal Batchuluun, Nansalmaa Batchuluun, Babbayar Batchuluun
  • Mongolian Ping Pong
    Mongolian Ping Pong
    starring Hurichabilike, Geliban, Badema, Yidexinnaribu, Dawa (II)
  • Making Great Cheese: 30 Simple Recipes from Cheddar to Chevre Plus 18 Special Cheese Dishes
    Making Great Cheese: 30 Simple Recipes from Cheddar to Chevre Plus 18 Special Cheese Dishes
    by Barbara J. Ciletti
  • Grain-free Gourmet Delicious Recipes for Healthy Living
    Grain-free Gourmet Delicious Recipes for Healthy Living
    by Jodi Bager, Jenny Lass
  • Cooking Alaskan
    Cooking Alaskan
    by Alaskans
  • Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide
    Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide
    by Carol Hupping
  • The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables
    The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables
    by Carol W. Costenbader
  • Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation
    Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation
    by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante
  • Dersu the Trapper (Recovered Classics)
    Dersu the Trapper (Recovered Classics)
    by V. K. Arseniev
  • In the Shadow of Eagles: From Barnstormer to Alaska Bush Pilot, a Pilots Story
    In the Shadow of Eagles: From Barnstormer to Alaska Bush Pilot, a Pilots Story
    by Rudy Billberg
  • Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun
    Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun
    by Velma Wallis
  • Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
    Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
    by Velma Wallis
  • Rock, Water, Wild: An Alaskan Life
    Rock, Water, Wild: An Alaskan Life
    by Nancy Lord
  • Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series)
    Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series)
    by Steve Solomon
  • Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables
    Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables
    by Mike Bubel, Nancy Bubel
  • Beluga Days: Tracking the Endangered White Whale
    Beluga Days: Tracking the Endangered White Whale
    by Nancy Lord
  • Fishcamp Life on an Alaskan Shore
    Fishcamp Life on an Alaskan Shore
    by Nancy Lord
  • The Snow Walker
    The Snow Walker
    starring Barry Pepper, Annabella Piugattuk, James Cromwell, Kiersten Warren, Jon Gries
  • The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)
    The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)
    starring Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ivalu, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Lucy Tulugarjuk, Madeline Ivalu
  • Heartland [VHS]
    Heartland [VHS]
    starring Rip Torn, Conchata Ferrell, Barry Primus, Megan Folsom, Lilia Skala
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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

    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...

    Sunday
    Nov172013

    Growing barley fodder

    Okay, I can't wait any longer to share my new experiment with you.

    Alfalfa hay and pellets have increased in cost 200% over the last three years.  In addition, the evil Monsanto has put GMO alfalfa on the market and we are no longer safe if we depend on it as the base of our feed program.

    Alaska is a wonderful place to grow barley.  Whatever we spill grows on its own without intervention or support.  It grows to full harvest, and it does so happily.  There are lots of barley farmers here, and the going rate is $315 a ton.

    Enter the concept of barley fodder:  soaking, sprouting and growing barley grass indoors to feed to your livestock.  Growing barley like this has the ability to turn 1 ton of grain into 6 tons of fresh food for your animals in the space of 7 days.

    So we decided to give it a whirl... I ordered a few tons of grain to be delivered and split among a couple local farmers.  Then we built a set of shelves to hold the sprouting trays.  And that was only 9 days ago.  My trays are 18x26 and 3 inches deep.  I drilled 22 holes across the short ends that are 3/32".  They are set up on a 1 inch slant and each tray drains into the one below it.

     

    Today marks the second day of feeding my homegrown barley grass to our menagerie of goats and chickens and quail.  The birds love it, devouring it preferentially over their usual grub.  The goats aren't quite sure yet, but they're picking at it and entertaining the idea.

    I'm sold... hook, line and sinker.  Totally in, super stoked and in love with the project.  It has taken over our family room and I couldn't be happier.  I'm calling it a success.  A really nice side effect is that we've heated the growing/family room with an oil stove which is providing excess heat for the comfort of our family, and all the trays of growing feed are adding humidity to our normal dry winter air.  The average temp in the fodder room is 65 degrees.

    Everyday I start another 7# of barley soaking, which is to be split between two trays.  The grain gets drained after a number of hours- a number which we're still fine tuning to optimize germination rates.  Then the soaked barley gets poured out into trays about 1/2" thick when smoothed out over the surface of the tray.

    We water as needed on an individual tray basis, keeping things moist but not soaked. By the next day you can see the barley beginning to sprout.  We call that day one.  On day two, germination is wildly apparent with roots making their journey out and about seeking water.

    By day three I can see the occasional monocot signature shoots popping up, and this is the day that I measure for germination.  What I've found so far is that an 8 hour soak gives a 60-70% germ rate on day 3.  A 12 hour soak gave 44%, 16 hour soak was 20%, 20 hour soak was 17%, and 9.5 hour soak gave 50%.  Soon we'll have stats for 6 hours and 3 hours and we'll know if we're headed in the right direction.

    Day 4 marks the beginning of the root mat and the trays start to turn green with growing grass.  On day five you can barely see the grain base as the green shoots take over and approach the top of the tray.  By day six our fodder is at least 4 inches tall with a rootmat 1-2 inches thick.  

    And then comes day 7 with its lovely 4-6 inch grass and it's time to feed the animals.  So simple, a ton of fun, and pretty trouble free.  I couldn't ask for more.