Taking care of our elderly canine

We have an Australian Shepherd that turned 14 in September of 2013, he’s a really good dog. There have been a couple times that I really though we were going to loose him in the last year, but he’s really pulled through, surprising both of us. He suffers from some dementia, tending to get stuck in corners or in the bathroom between the toilet and the bathtub, why he even goes in the bathroom, I have no idea. I’m going to put out there what kind of supplements I give him, your mileage may vary on taking care of your elderly canine, but this works for my dog. I am including amazon links to the products I use, but I have found some cheaper localy, you just have to look for yourself.

I have had him on cholodin since just after the dementia started and it makes an amazing difference in his general confusion.
http://www.amazon.com/Cholodin-Canine-180-Chewable-Tablets/dp/B000MF99XM/ref=pd_sim_petsupplies_2 If I forget to give him the cholodin then he regresses, its amazing to me the difference its made. He gets 3 per day, he weighs in around 60lbs.

 For the weakness in the back and general joint/hip pain I’ve been giving him:

2 tabs/day http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001G7R30Q/ref=oh_details_o02_s00_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

4/day http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001EPQ7OS/ref=oh_details_o03_s00_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

4/day http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001EPQ4Y6/ref=oh_details_o03_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

1/day http://www.amazon.com/Zeel-Arthritis-Pain-Relief-Tablets/dp/B000Y38NJIref=sr_1_1?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1389389015&sr=1-1&keywords=zeel

2/day  http://www.amazon.com/PETCO-Joint-Support-III-Tablets/dp/B001VIWDMI/ref=pd_sim_sbs_petsupplies_2

The only reason I give him the petco brand of the glucosamine is I got it b1g1 locally.  I basically grind it all up in a food processor and mix it with ground food and he eats it all up.  The only thing he will eat straight out of my hand is the cholodin, and not reliably. 

When he first started having problems we took him to the vet, she recommended all of these things for him, for us to try.  It’s been trial and error, and lots of working with her, but we’ve narrowed it down to this regiment that works for him.  I’ve tried removing things, and adding things, and this mix works.   Occasionally I will give him an aspirin (from petsmart) when I can tell he’s really hurting but that’s less then once a week in the summer, it’s moved up to daily this winter. 

When we first started having problems with him it was taking 2-4 tramadol a day to control his pain and he still had the confusion.  I honestly believed that we were going to have to put him down last spring, however I was in California for two weeks when he went down really bad and my husband couldn’t face doing it while I wasn’t home to say goodbye (I’ve had his since he was 6 weeks old), he had improved so much on the cholodin that by the time I got home he was a completely different dog.  That cleared up the confusion (95% of the time anyway), but we were still dosing him with the tramadol.  It took us about 6 months to get him off the tramadol completely, I was very leary of letting him be in pain.  I still have the tramadol, and and I’ve been giving it to him occasionally this winter, but it’s been rare since we narrowed down his supplements.

He’s still slow getting up, and sleeps on his sleeping mat, but he’s not in the pain or wandering off and getting stuck in the corner or beside the toilet like he was.  This summer he even was interested in chasing his Frisbee again (a few times, thrown not super far.) This winter has definitely been tough on him, he goes up and down, but he’s still eating heartily and seeming to enjoy life, I believe the supplements that I’ve been giving him have had a lot to do with it.

-Fin

Fodder System Updates

I’ve run into a couple issues, as well as changed the way I do a few things.  This is an ever evolving system, as I learn and make adjustments on how I do things.  I will keep updating my fodder system posts as I make changes, so keep on the lookout for those. 

I have done a few experiments concerning oats, and they have all really been failures.  I tried adding an equal amount of oats to the chickens sprouts, the oats molded after just a day.  I rinsed them well every day and about half sprouted, but the seed itself continued to mold.  The chickens ate them, but I am not happy with feeding them moldy things so I won’t do that again.  I tried to just sprout oats by themselves, however, they molded and there was no growth.  I tried rinsing them in both cold and warm water, as I’d read that oats need the warmth, with no luck either way.  I will be calling the oats a failure for me, and won’t be messing with them again.  

It got really cold here and the laundry room was colder then normal so I went to a 12 day sprout for the rabbits.  That has seemed to give me a better growth on things but I’m keeping an eye out for mold.  I had one problem with mold on my pea/wheat/barley blend when I let it go for an extra day, however I am attributing that to my decision to not water the last day sprouts.  I have returned to watering them and haven’t had any problems since. 

I have nixed the peas in the mix completely.  I’m not at all happy with the growth on them, OR the growth of the barley and wheat when mixed with the peas.  I haven’t had any mold problems attributed to the peas, with the exception of that one time, just extremely pathetic growth.  I will crush and feed out the peas to my meat birds in the spring, as well as seed the yard with them to get rid of this bag.  I won’t be buying them again going forward.  I’m disappointed that the peas didn’t work out, they seemed like a really good idea.  The stuff I’ve read made them out to be a nice tender sprout with a crunchy treat at the end, which they were, but the growth I got out of them was really pathetic. The rabbits really liked them, they tended to eat those first, but with the mold issues and growth I just can’t justify them. I may try a few more experiments with them in the future, I do have over half a 50 lb bag left!

I am currently trying a mix of wheat and barley together for the rabbits.  It seems to be growing well for the chickens, so hopefully I will go back to seeing my original amazing growth on that mix.  If it dosn’t work, I will go back to switching between pure wheat and pure barley, I know that I get really good growth off those two grains separately.  I can do all barley one day and all wheat the next, then not have to worry about splitting pans or who got what yesterday.

I will be going up to three boxes a day for the rabbits soon, the little guys are starting to be not so little and are eating more every day.  I’d rather have too much of the fodder and compost it, then have too little and have them eating more hay.  I feel the live food is fresher and more nutrient dense then the hay is, plus it’s cheaper! I will have another litter on the ground soon as well and Mrs. Clause will be upping her intake to compensate. 

If you looked at my fodder system pictures you might be thinking there isn’t enough room to add a third box a day.  You’d be right.  Blazed Monkey is making me a fodder rack.  He will be doing a post on the building of it soon, and after I get it up and running I will be posting pictures on another update post.

I’ve changed the way I’m draining the fodder as well.  I’m not happy with the holes on one end system.  I find that the water only runs along the bottom, and not in enough volume to get the top seeds wet on the off side.  Like so:

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I am going to a drain straight down system, slowly.  I am taking the boxes I have and plugging the original holes I drilled with silicon caulk, then drilling new, slightly smaller holes along the middle.  I will post pictures in the future.  This should make it so the water runs sown and gets the whole seed bed wet. Like so:

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I think dry seeds have been adding to my poor growth, so have been watering heavier on the bottom rows.  It has made a bit of difference, but I really think taking the peas out will make a bigger difference.  Going forward I will be changing those two things, and hopefully the straight down holes will help eliminate some of the  wet floor issues I’ve been having as well. 

Overall, I’m very happy with the fodder, these are just some tweaks I am making to my system.

-Fin

My First Seed Swap

I went to my very first seed swap last weekend.  I ment to go to this one last year,  however,  I didn’t have any seeds to trade,  even tho they say you don’t need to bring anything,  and somehow I missed it.  I think it didn’t end up on the calendar somehow.  I almost missed it this year too… Somehow I managed to run across  it on Facebook.   I made sure I signed up for the group running it this time so I don’t miss it again next year.

It was AWESOME.

It was set up in a medium sized room,  probably 50 x 20, with tables set up around the perimeter.  There were a couple of vendors there sharing information   but they weren’t there selling as far as i could tell,  everything at the swap was free. All the tables were covered with seeds,  broken loosely into categories.  Fate and I arrived around noon (it ran 11-2) and the place was packed. I probably should have snapped some pictures but there was so many people it just didn’t occur to me,  next swap I will bring my phone instead of my tablet.  I will also leave my purse in the car,  easier to maneuver that way.   There was no real rhyme or reason to the flow of people,  you basically had to float from table to table and wait for there to be room,  then slide in.

I brought:

Black krim tomatoes
Purple Cherokee tomatoes
genovese basil
Green shisho (perilla)
Green tomitillo
Blanket flower
Tall snapdragon mix colors
Bachelors button
Cardinal creeper
Black Eyed Susan vine
Raw milk kefir grains

I just took my seeds in the coin envelopes I bought,  labeled what they were,  and as I went around getting the seeds I wanted I dropped them off at the appropriate tables. Some of the seeds were in envelopes that people had labeled and put out. Basically you pulled out a few seeds and put them in one of the envelopes you brought, then labeled it. Some people had their seeds in little packets:

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The idea being that you took one of the packets, like so. Others just put them in bulk and I put them in my own envelopes:

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I got: Pie Cherry, rice, hairy verbane, golden rod, Joe pye weed, feverfew, toothache plant, milkweed, Grey headed coneflower, orange watermelon, butternut squash-rogosa violina gloia, parsnip, Malabar spinach, redbor kale, aunt molly’s ground cherry, radish-saxa 2, Turks turban squash, box car Willie tomato, chocolate poblano, massive lumpy tomato, chervil, Fruita bianca squash, hibiscus, zebra hollyhock, red hollyhock, dill, mustard, cayenne, choke cherry, Tuscan kale, lime basil, yellow current tomato, blocky Asian cucumber, wahoo, giant blue hyssop, big long thick wall spicy pepper, winterberry, cheyanne spirit echinacea, passion vine, Mexican sour gherkin, and good winter leek.

So, just a few.

All of those are how they were called and spelled on the envelopes I got them from. A few of them I am going to have to do some research on to see how to get them started. My brother brought over some 4 bulb florescent lights for me today, I need to get something set up with them so I can get some plants started over here. Mostly my flowers and the new peppers and tomatoes I picked up this weekend for now, but soon cole crops need to be going in.

I’m really looking forward to the next seed swap in a couple weeks. I have some more seeds to take with me to that one, and I’m excited to see what other people will be bringing.

-Fin

Feeding Chickens

I’ve been changing the way I’m feeding my chickens over the last couple months.  While I was doing my research on fodder systems for the rabbits I realized that I could feed my chickens fodder as well.  It was a bit of a revelation to me, I just hadn’t thought about it before.  The reading I’ve been doing seems to say that they like sprouted feed a bit more then actual fodder, so that’s what I’ve been doing for them.

My system looks like this:

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It’s just shoe boxes stacked on top of each other.  Each one has holes drilled into the bottom on one side.  I water the top one and the water trickles down to the bottom, empty, box.  I alternate the side the holes are on in each box so the water has to flow the length of the box on the way down.  The lids have a hole in them so the water can flow through:

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Each box has 1/4 cup wheat, 1/4 cup barley, and 1/4 cup peas.  I have eliminated the peas starting today, since they don’t eat them.  I’m not sure why they don’t seem to like them, but they’ve been picking around them for a month now, so I don’t think they are going to start eating them any time soon.  I am feeding 5 chickens right now, 3 hens and 2 “hens” that started crowing today.  I will be feeding 3 chickens very soon….

Since I will be going down to 3 chickens in a couple days, I have started putting 1/4 cup wheat and 1/4 cup barley in to soak:

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I soak the grains anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, I haven’t noticed any difference in growth depending on time I’ve soaked them so I don’t worry about it too much.  I stick the grain in in the morning, and rinse it really well in a strainer in the evening:

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It rotates through the system and on day 7 it looks like this:

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This is when I feed it out to the chickens.  I have tried various days of sprouting up through fodder, and my chickens seem to eat day 7 sprouts the best. 

I also feed the chickens fermented feed:

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This is organic layer ration.  It is a mixed grain feed that I get from Thayer Feed and Seed.  I didn’t care for it too much when I was feeding it out dry to the chickens.  It seemed like it was ground too fine, and almost seemed to be dust to me.  Now that I am fermenting it it seems to work really well.

I started my fermented feed with kefir whey.   I have an ongoing milk kefir culture that I drink as well as feed to the animals so I strained out the whey and mixed it with some of the layer ration and water, then left it to ferment for two days.  Every day I feed out about 4 cups of the fermented feed, add 2 cups of dry layer ration, some water, and stir.  It seems that the two cups of layer ration I put in there turn into about 4 cups of fermented feed. 

The chickens really like the fermented feed.  They took right to it.  I have noticed a reduction in smell in the coop, not that it smelled to begin with, but it smells like nothing now.  They also get scraps from the house, occasional kefir, and alfalfa scraps from the rabbits.  They have a big area to free range in, as well as having access to the whole garden during the winter.  I’m not sure how much nutrition they are getting out of free ranging in the winter, but they sure do like to get out and scratch around.  I’m dumping all the rabbit cage stuff into the garden as well, and they like to pick out the grains and fallen alfalfa from there as well. 

I’ve been reading a thread on backyardchickens.com about feeding fermented feed to Cornish cross meat birds.  It is supposed to make them better able to absorb the nutrients in the feed and therefor grow better, move around better, and not sit around in a pile of their own poop, so there for reducing smell.  I am excited to try it, I refuse to ever again butcher meat chickens that smelled like our last batch of Cornish cross…..I couldn’t even eat them, I kept smelling that smell, even though no one else could.

After our dog died this year we got a female aussie.  She was fine with the chickens right up until she wasn’t…..she ended up killing all but three of my chickens.  We re-homed her,  I can’t have a dog that kills my stock.  Right now I have 2 Buckeye’s and 1 Black Marans…..as well as two “hens” we held back from our last heavy meat bird order, that turned out to be roosters.  I saw one of them crowing today.  So, today I ordered 5 female Buckeye’s and 10 Cornish cross meat birds, they will be delivered the week of March 17th, from Meyer Hatchery.  I will be raising my new girls in the house so I have pet laying birds, which I want, being just a backyard flock.  I like my super friendly birds, and I’m in love with the Buckeye’s.  The Cornish cross will be an experiment to see if I can raise them on fermented feed and get a better smelling free ranger with a heavy breast.  I don’t mind the Cornish cross as meat birds, but man I can’t stand the smell!!!!

-Fin

Lies, Damn Lies, and Marketing

Sprouts Logo

Many in the KC metro area might have noticed the press a new grocery store is getting. "Sprouts" recently opened a new store in Overland Park, right off 135th street. Reading the newspaper articles, description, and marketing, I was really excited to see this store go in. After all, Fin and I make an effort to buy local / organic produce when possible. I mean, look at their advertising materials:

Terms that might catch your eye:

  • independent
  • natural
  • farm-fresh
  • natural, organic
  • non-traditional
  • farmers market-type

Now, as this store bills itself directly as a "farmers market", it would stand to reason that they'd have local brands correct? No doubt, they'd have a heavy focus on organics? Wrong.

Sprouts largely stocks items from their own house brand. While marketing materials may indicate "grass fed" beef, or "organic", a significant amount of the produce and meat doesn't fit the advertised bill. True, they have large sections of organics. But, immediately under the HUGE stylized "Organic" and "Local" signs are conventionally grown products from your usual suspects of industrial agriculture. They DO have a large organic section, located in the middle of the store. Helpfully, every single piece of organic produce has a friendly "Organic" green sticker attached, thus advertising your concern for the environment, health, and reducing pollution. Just don't forget to throw it away… er.. recycle it before eating.

This store is located in a convenient location for me, so I wanted to check for a few key staples I'd expect at a "farmers market", namely, locally grown produce and brands. While it's possible they sold out, miss stocked, (or I flat out missed seeing them), I was unable to locate:

  • Shatto milk
  • Boulevard Beer
  • Good Natured Family Farms Meats

Really, what I saw out Sprouts was a minimal presence of local brands.

Generally, this would be my default expectation in a modern grocery store. However, the fact that Sprouts advertises itself as a "neighorhood farmers market", the dirth of local brands and farmers borders on false advertising.

If you look carefully at the advertising materials and information provided by Sprouts, its very clear that their produce is no more gauranteed "Local" than buying the exact same thing at ANY grocer in the KC Metro.

Now, if you want to locate, actual local produce, it's not hard to drive a few blocks down to Hen House, where you can find "Good Natured Family Farms" products. While Fin and I keep shopping at traditional grocers down to a minimum, we've been fairly pleased in dealing with HyVee as another alternative. They might be a big chain (about the same size as Sprouts really), but they have both local and natural foods sections. The managers are also open to suggestions on carrying new local brands or organic products.

Yes, it's possible to put your dollar behind local and sustainable produce without shopping at the newest FAD super market.

If you really want a "neighborhood farmers market" experience, visit KC Food Circle to see what's going on locally. Even in the dead of winter, there IS farmers market activity going on.

I may still stop by Sprouts for picking up random odds and ends, but its definitely not "local" food, and doesn't rise to the selection of organic and natural products as Whole Foods. Sprouts is nothing more than a new grocery chain trying to move into our area… And so far, I'm NOT impressed.

— Fate

Feeding Meat Rabbits

I am attempting to feed my rabbits as naturaly and species specific as I can manage.  I am not a person that just feeds the “total nutrition pellets” of any kind that you can buy at your local store….for any of my animals.  My cats get a raw meat and bones diet, as do my dogs.  The chickens are fed as natural a diet as I can manage as well.  I will do a seperate post in the future on feeding chickens.

When we went to the mother earth news fair this fall I was excited to find a semi-local organic feed supplier, Thayer Feed and Seed.  They are out in Kansas about two hours from me, however, they deliver in the area.  I ordered a bag of their rabbit feed to try it out.  I wasn’t overly impressed, I have to admit.  It was alfalfa meal, peas, oats, barley, wheat, flax, a mineral mix, and molasses.  It smelled good, but it was more powdery then I cared for and the rabbits wasted tons of it digging through for things they liked.  They just didn’t seem to really eat much of the feed, or at least not as much as they dumped out.  So, I searched out another way to feed.  I figured now why don’t I just try to seperate things out and feed them those ingredients, but seperately?

Winter feeding is going to be a bit different then summer feeding for the rabbits.  This winter I am feeding:

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Good, green, leafy third cutting alfalfa hay, free choice.  The main component of comercial pellets (at least “top of the line” pelleted feed) and the organic feed I got is alfalfa, so the bulk of the rabbits diet is alfalfa hay.  I bought 10 bales about a month and a half ago and at this point I have only gone through one bale.  The chickens get the leaves that fall off the bale as I break off pieces for the rabbits.  The chickens love the alfalfa more then I figured they would.  The rabbits eat it eagerly as well.  I was giving them just decent grass mix hay before when I was feeding the organic rabbit feed and the pellets, it helps their digestion having the fibers to help move things through.   Rabbits are ruminents, similar to cows, and need the same kind of consideration when it comes to feeding.  I was trying to stay as natural and organic as I could with my feeding, however, I was not able to find organic alfalfa around the area, or even being willing to drive a ways to get it.  I was, however, able to find alfalfa that hadn’t been sprayed with any herbacides or pestacides.  They fertalized the field in the spring, but that was it.  I also made sure I wasn’t getting round up ready alfalfa, which, aparently is already in this area.  People were advertising it like it was a good thing! Ick.  I hope this isn’t a trend for this area….to go to all round up ready alfalfa. 

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They get a mix of grains (all organic.)  I include in the mix: 2 parts oats, 1 part barley, 1 part wheat, 1/2 part peas, 1/4 part flax seed.  I added the peas for more protien content, however, they don’t really eat them so when this bag is gone I won’t be ordering them again.  The rabbits get amounts ranging from free choice (nursing does, grow outs) to 1/4 cup (bucks, dry does, pregnant does) to none (fat does/bucks.)  Even for the ones that get nothing if the night is supposed to be really cold I will give them a tablespoon or so of the grain, just to help them produce heat.  I’m a softie when it comes to cold weather, I want them to be able to stay warm. 

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Fodder is the other thing I feed.  I grow it myself from a mix of barley, wheat and peas.  When the bag of peas is gone I will be using only the wheat and barley, it seems to grow the fastest with none of the mold issues I have had with the peas.  The rabbits LOVE their fodder.  Its the first thing they go for when I go out to feed them.  They are always excited when I put it in their cages.  I just feed it straight on the wire, I tried putting it in containers for them but they just drug it around and it seemed pointless, so I removed them.  I will be doing a whole post on growing fodder, so I won’t go into it here, but I will say that it cut my already low feed cost way down, even feeding all organic grains.

I spend less on feed for my rabbits, even with all my feed and growing grains being organic (I use the same grains to feed that I do to grow) then I did buying non organic comercial pellets.  I’m not sure how much less, I haven’t kept track, but I can see the over all feed consumption is way down.  They seem far more satisfied with what they are getting now then they did when I was feeding pellets.  I’m not sure how much my growth rate is different from feeding pellets, however, I recently compared growing does of the same age, from the same litter, that I got from a friend that feeds only pellets and they were the same size.  Even if the growth rate for the fryers is less on the natural feeding I am still happy to keep feeding them longer, since the feed cost is cheaper.  I would rather have quality natural and organic nutrition going into something I am going to feed my family then faster growth rate.

They also get free choice natural mineral salt rocks in every cage.  That way they can self regulate their mineral and salt intake.  I’m not using those mineral spools that are sold in the rabbit section of the local TSC, I actually bought the “Salty Buck” mineral salt rock sold over in the deer hunting secton.  They are cheaper, and from my research, better then the spools. 

This summer I am planning on pasturing my grow outs, and feeding my breeders from the garden and yard.  I will keep growing the fodder as long as I can as the weather warms up, however, the seeds need 60-70 degrees to sprout with no mold issues.  We keep the house in the 65 degree range in the winter, but tend toward the 80’s in the summer.  They will continue to get alfalfa hay and grain through out the summer.  I’m curious how long my 10 bales of hay will last, I’m hoping well into the summer. 

Disclaimer:  I’m not advocating this is how you should feed your rabbits.  You need to do your own research and decide for yourself.  This is just how I have decided to feed my rabbits at this time.  As I do more research, this may change,  however, as of now, this is my general feeding program.

-Fin

Seed Orders are Coming In

The seeds I ordered have started to come in!

First up:  Victory Seeds

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Great communication and Super Fast shipping.  They were the first seeds I got in by almost a week.  They also sent a very nice thank you for ordering email.  I’m excited to try their seeds, it’s the first time I’ve ordered from them.

Second:  Seeds from Italy

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Beautiful packaging and for the price the amount of seeds they give you is INSANE!  Hoping for good production on these, it’s my first time ordering from them as well. 

Third:  Baker Creek

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Love the art on the seed packets.  Baker Creek is one of the ones I either order from or pick up seeds locally every year.  They carry some of the more uncommon and fodder vegetables.  They sent me a free seed packet, you can see it in the picture (top right), however, it was completely empty.  Nice guesture, but kind of a fail on their part.  I sent an email about it, we will see what their response is.  Either way, it dosn’t matter, I’m just curious. 

Fourth:  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

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I also order from SESE every year, I love their catalog and selection.  I’ve had really good germination from their seeds every year, so I keep ordering. 

Every year I grow a different kind of corn.  This year it’s Daymon Morgan’s Kentucky Bloody Butcher:

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Isn’t that pretty?  I can’t wait to see what the ears look like!  I am looking to make my own Masa this year with the corn I grow. 

I recieved in the mail some seeds from someone on one of the email lists I am on:

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I’m excited to plant the Rosa Rugosa, the rabbits should LOVE it. 

I still have a couple orders left to come in from a couple new seed company’s I tried this year.  I just love to try new things. 

-Fin

Fodder Growing System

I’ve done a LOT of reading on growing fodder for about a year now.  I had intended on getting it set up to try just as the weather got cooler, however, life got in the way, as it often does.  We had some roofers put a new roof on my grandmothers house….which turned out to be a seriously frusterating experience.   Then a week later, my grandma died.  Its been a pretty rough fall.  I’ve been growing fodder for about two-three-ish months now, and I have to say, I am a convert. 

Here is my system setup:

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It’s set up in my laundry room, which is hard to take pictures in, due to the fact that there is a freezer sitting right where I should be standing for the best camera angle.  There is one more shelf on top there that you can’t see in the picture.  It has tomorrows fodder in it.  I take 11 days to gow out my fodder, some people take less time, but my house is fairly cold so it takes me 11 days.  Each shelf is tilted so the water runs into the shelf below, back and forth across the boxes.  There are holes in one side of the boxes for drainage, like so:

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I got these boxes from Home Depot for 97 cents each.  They are your basic shoebox sized boxes.  They are also sold at Big Lots and Lowes for within pennies of the same price.  I recommend getting all your boxes from the same place, since each store varies slightly on the box shape.  The ones that I got from Big Lots were a bit rounder then the ones from Home Depot.  The rack set up is just cobbled together from stuff I had laying around here at home.  I am seriously thinking about building a rack out of PVC, however, just to get all the dementions right and facilitate drainage.  The wire racks sometimes hit the holes that are drilled into the boxes just right so they don’t drain perfecty into the box below, making a mess.  There is a big tub I got from Wal-Mart to catch the water below.  I don’t recirculate the water in my system, the bottom bucket is for catching water only.  You can set up a system with a pump to water it for you on a timer, I just haven’t since I have great results just watering once a day.  I use two gallons of water daily in my system.  I dump the water outside, so its not wasted by pouring it down the drain. 

This is how I start:

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I do 2 boxes for the rabbits, and 1 box for the chickens.  The chickens system is set up slightly different then the rabbits, since I feed them more sprouts then fodder, and I will be discussing their system in my chicken feeding post.  The boxes contain 1/2 cup peas, 1/2 c wheat, 1/2 c barley.  I was sprouting each grain separately, however, I had a problem with the peas molding around day 9-10 as well as terribly slow growth, when I started doing them together the mold problem was eliminated,  however they still grow really slow compared to the wheat and barley.  I will be eliminating the peas when this bag is gone, the rabbits don’t like them dry, the chickens won’t eat them sprouted, and they mold too easily.  It’s just not worth the cost.  They are twice as expensive as the wheat and barley, and a much bigger pain in the ass.  I’m concerned they will lead to mold in my system again, so I am keeping a close eye on things.  I may try recirculating the water when I am out of peas and see how that works for me.  I probably won’t up the amount of wheat and barley to make up for the loss of the peas, they produce most of the mass of the fodder I am feeding out as it is. 

I put my grain in the box, fill it with water, and let it set soaking for anywhere from 4-10 hours.  It’s usually around 6 or so hours that it soaks, but I really don’t make a big deal about how long it is in there.  I set it up in the morning, and drain and rinse them in a strainer in the evening when I am feeding the rabbits.  I don’t use any bleach or vinegar in the soak water,  some people do,  but I haven’t seen a need.

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I make sure to rinse the grains really well at this stage.  It helps to prevent mold by getting rid of the chaff and dust that would cause thing to clog up.  The grains put off quite a bit of starch in this stage so rinsing it well helps the system to stay cleaner in the long run, also reducing your chances of mold.  From here they get put into one of the boxes with holes and then put in the bottom of my growing rack.  They move from the bottom to the top, over and up day by day. 

Here is day one (bottom right) two (bottom left), three (top right) and four (top left):

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Here is day five (bottom right), day six (bottom left), day seven (top right) and day eight (top left):

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Here is day nine (bottom right), day ten (bottom left) and day eleven (both top):

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You can see there is a very dramatic greening up in the last half of the growth cycle compared to the first half.  They spend several days growing roots, then they put out the green sprouts. These grow under one two bulb florescent light fixture in the ceiling of my laundry room, there isnt any other lighting, and no windows.  I’ve tried putting them outside on the days that its nice out, but it seems to make absolutuly no difference in growth so I’ve stopped doing that. 

Here is a picure of the mat of fodder taken out of the plastic shoe box:

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The mat of roots:

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The peas are kinda weird, they grow wildly through out the mass.  Some even down, as you can see. Here it is from the top, you can see the pea shoots look different from the wheat and barley, which look similar:

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I feed this amount, roughly, per rabbit (normal sized pack of playing cards for size reference):

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The dry weight of the grain I am putting into the each shoe box weighs 9.5 oz.  The fodder I am getting out weighs 3lbs 8 oz…..thats almost 6 times the weight of the dry grain!  I know there is alot of gain in moisture, however, there is a huge gain in avaliable nutrients as well.  This link is to a fodder thread on backyardchicken.com that has alot of growing information as well as nutrition information on fodder vs. dry grains as well.  Its geared toward chickens, but I put it to use for my rabbits. The current issue of Backwoods Home Magazine has a good article about growing fodder as well.  The author of that article has posted in the backyardchickens.com thread that I linked to.

Overall I am pleased with my fodder experiment.  I will be continuing to grow and feed out fodder to my rabbits in the future.  Just seeing how much they like it, and how good they look, is enough for me.  It dosn’t take me more then 10 minutes a day to do everything that needs to be done with my fodder system.  I’m sure I could figure out ways to automate it more and spend even less time on it.  There are some really awesome commercial systems out there for growing fodder, but they start over $1000 and just go up from there.  I have about $30 into my system right now, and that whole cost is from the boxes that I bought to grow in.  Everything else I had laying around the house.  I actually started my experiment in planter flats, like you see in commercial green houses, however, that just produced way more fodder then I needed.  It was taking me several days to get through one flat of feed.  Two of the shoe boxes seem to be perfect for my needs at this time. 

The barley seems to be harder to find for some people then the wheat does.  I can say that in my experience the wheat and the barley both seem to grow at the same rate, with the same ease, and are loved by the rabbits equally.  I haven’t tried oats, everything I’ve read seems to point to them being really hard to get to sprout, and easily mold.  I may do an experiement with them in the future, just to see for myself, but for now wheat and barley seem to be the way to go.

-Fin

Seeds for 2014

‘Tis the season for seeds!  I got my first seed catalog in the mail just last week:

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I am pretty sure that this is the same catalog I get first every year.  They seem to have the biggest variety of seeds from what I’ve seen and I always end up putting some kind of order in with them.  This year I ordered 4 different types of sweet potato slips for delivery this spring, some potato onions and perennial leeks for delivery this fall, and a few packets of seeds that I thought I needed. 

I really should learn to go through my seeds first before ordering new ones:

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Especially since it seems like I have a few seeds….

Today was go through your seeds day.  I tend to buy seeds that I find interesting all throughout the year, not just in the spring.  I haunt the seed sellers locally at the end of the year for their clearance sales, which is the reason I have so any different kinds of seeds.  I managed to get to Planters Seed and Feed as they put their seeds on clearance for $.50 a packet, then ended up at Habitat Restore several weeks later and found they had clearance seeds at $.25 a packet!  Of course I stocked up.  When seed packets run from $1.00 up to $5.00 a pack I just can’t see not stocking up when I get the chance.  I also ended up picking up some of the more unusual seeds from the Mother Earth News Fair this year,  mostly herbs.  There were quite a few seed companies there and they had their seeds priced under for various amounts under retail. 

I’ve been growing a garden long enough now to realize that seeds aren’t just good for the year that they’re sold in.  I have had excellent luck sprouting seeds that are many years old.  The only thing I buy fresh every year is Lettuce seeds.  I have had zero germination on lettuce that I’ve stored for more then one year. 

The order I put in for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange I ended up duplicating a few of the seeds I already had, both cucumbers.  I also put in a small order from Victory Seed Company, they give a discount to The Survival Podcast Members Support Brigade members, of which I am one.  I’ve been impressed so far with their communications and fast shipping, especially around the holiday season.  I will be ordering from them again, assuming their seeds have good germination….but I have no reason to believe they won’t.

I am sure I will be getting several more seed catalogs over the next month or so, and I’m sure I will put in at least one more order from one more company for seeds.  I just can’t help myself, I love to try new things.  It seems like every year there are a few more varieties on the market, some of which I just have to have!  I also realized as I was going through my seeds that I have only one kind of kale seed, Dinosaur Kale.  I want to pick up a few more kinds, and at least one that is super winter hardy.  I love having kale out in the garden all winter long to snack on.  I’m not exactly sure how I ended up with only one kind of kale, but you’d better belive I will be correcting that oversite!

I will be starting Tomato and Pepper seeds this week.  I have waited until the middle of February in the past and I just don’t feel like the peppers get a good enough start that late.  It seems like my peppers just aren’t quite getting ripe by the end of the season.  It could be that I am planting peppers that aren’t good for the region I’m in, however, I am going to try earlier seeding and see if that makes a difference.  I’m starting the tomatoes earlier as well because who dosn’t want earlier tomatoes??? 

We are going to be planting far more tomatoes then we ever have before because the tomatoes that we canned this year we’re So GOOD!!!  I just can’t get over the amazing flavor of the tomatoes.  I’ve used them in just about everything so far and haven’t come across anything that isn’t made better by the addition of home canned tomatoes.  My favorite so far is 1 qt tomatoes, 1/2 qt raw milk, in the crock pot.  Let it simmer on low most of the day then take a bit of fresh basil, I use about 2 fresh leaves (1/2 tsp or so dried), and mix it all until smooth with an immersion blender.  Amazing.  It looks a bit curdled before you whirl it together, but the flavor is amazing.  We’ve only canned tomatoes with salt this year, but if we have a bunch next year I want to try making some salsa and some rotel type tomatoes.  Maybe even some spaghetti sauce or ketchup.  It’s amazing what you can do with home canned tomatoes. 

I saved as many seeds as I could this year.  It was one of my garden goals, and I managed to do pretty well.  I ordered some coin packets off amazon:

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Almost all of my saved seeds were put into those packets.  They work really well, you can even seal them if you want to.  I didn’t for most of the seeds, but I did a few because the seeds kept coming out, like okra.  I tried saving seeds in glass jars, but those are hard to store.  I tried plastic baggies, but like the glass jars, the seeds had a tendency to mold, even if I got them seemingly completely dry.  With these packets the seeds can breathe and I haven’t had any problems with mold, even when I put green nasturtium seeds in the packets.  I got something like 500 packets for $17, more then enough to last several years, though they are plenty sturdy to last several years each.

This year I tried a new labeling method out in the garden, with mixed results:

    
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Those are paint stirrer sticks like you get from the hardware store.  I took my wood burner and burned the names of everything I planted.  It went alot faster then I expected, however, when it came time to dig through the 100 or so labels I made it was a real pain in the ass to find what I was looking for.  Quite a few things didn’t get labeled because of it.  The other issue with this method was the fact that the black burned places faded in the sun, completely.   The etching part was still there, but it was really hard to read without the char.  I ended up using black crayons to write on the sticks as I was doing my fall planting this year, that was really awesome.  I just kept a black crayon in my seed box along with some blank sticks and wrote the name of whatever I was planting at the time.  Easy Peasy.  So far the crayon hasn’t faded, though it’s early to tell since the fall sun is so much gentler then the high summer sun.  I will update on the longevity of the crayon next fall, that’s how I plan on marking out my whole garden this year. 

The sticks seem to last a season in the dirt of the garden.  The do rot down, however, it’s easy to just break off the rotted part and stick the slightly shorter stick in the dirt.  I’d estimate that you would probably get several years of use out of each stick.  I got mine free from the hardware store….I just asked.  You could use the crayon to mark pretty much anything you would like to use as markers for your plantings.  I’ve thought about doing some really nice markers for my perennial herb plantings using some carved stakes made out of fallen branches.  I will wood burn the name of the plant into an area I’ve carved out, then go over it with crayon so it’s legible for, in theory, several years.  Maybe this winter while I’m stuck inside.

-Fin

Goals for 2014

Unlike Fate,  I don’t do New Years resolutions.

I am,  however,  going to set out some goals that I am going to strive towards this year. I will try to do posts every month,  or couple of months,  referencing these goals.  I want to try to track my progress and hold myself accountable.

1.  Greenhouse

I want to work on getting the greenhouse up and running this spring,  so as soon as the weather warms up enough I can move all of my seedlings out into it. My plan this fall was to get it set up and start growing year round lettuce and cold crops.  We missed our window of opportunity in the weather to set it up,  though,  when my grandma died.  You need between 50-70 degree days to stretch the plastic and we plunged into freezing temperatures really fast with very little return to warmth since then.

I want to be able to start all the he flowers I normally buy.  I just don’t have room in the house to start everything I want to plant.  Some things come up good from seed,  however,  a lot of the flowers I like I just haven’t had any luck with. I bought quite a few medicinal herb seeds I want to get started this year as well.

2.  Garage

The garage is currently packed full of things from the store that we shoved in there.  It’s been 2 years now since we closed the store and a full year since we closed the business,  it’s time this stuff went away.  We halfheartedly went through the stuff this fall,  sold a bit,  and then just quit.  I want to get everything store related out of my garage this year.  I want to be able to work on my projects in the garage,  store my tools where I can actually find the damn things,  and move my rabbits into the garage.  I want to be able to easily keep the rabbits cool,  as well as keeping the space above freezing in the winter so I don’t have to switch from water bottles to crocks in the winter.

Also,  I can’t do this until I have room in the garage:

3.  Quail

I really want to start raising quail for meat and eggs.  My plan is to house them with the rabbits,  however,  I can’t do that until I can house the rabbits in the garage,  I just have absolutely no where to put them and they need a more protected area then my 3 sided shed can give them in the winter.

4.  Hatching eggs

I want to start hatching out eggs,  both chicken and quail.  My friend kept back a rooster for her flock that should produce sex link chicks. Our intention is to hatch out our own meat birds, quail, replacement layers,  and whatever else we see that catches our fancy.  Maybe I can hatch out ducks and geese,  they sell for quite a premium.  I’m excited about this one,  I love raising baby poultry.

5. Earn enough money to take Geoff Lawton’s online Permaculture Design Course.

The more I learn about Permaculture the more I think it’s the way to go for the world.  I want to understand it better then I can just reading and researching all the free stuff out there,  where else to look but to the leading name in Permaculture Design work? I hope to be able to set aside enough money in 2014 to take his online course in 2015,  or as soon as I can earn enough and the class is offered. I’d love to go to a course in person,  but he’s out of Australia and I hate flying.  I’ve also heard that the online course is far more information rich just due to the amount of questions he is able to answer online vs in person due to the lack of time during a live course.

I have quite a few money making ideas,  I just need to get off my ass and do them.

6.  Get my horse trained and start riding.

I plan on this spring getting a trainer to put 30 days on him and then finishing him myself.  I’m just not comfortable getting him started,  which is why at 17 he’s still not trained.  I have no intention of riding him hard like a 3 year old,  I’d just like to be able to get out and ride some again.  It’s been a long time and I really miss it.

7.  Get the house shoveled out and ready to sell

We have too much stuff.  Tho,  I will say,  I’m not sure if the problem lies in too much stuff,  or too much extra stuff that’s not ours.  Either way,  this goal is a companion to goal #2.  The house needs to be shoveled out and cleaned/fixed up so we can sell it.  We are looking for a piece of property that has acerage,  but we are never going to be able to move if this place isn’t ready to sell. I’m not going to put a goal of finding somewhere to move to,  I think that will happen organically,  however,  getting the house ready for sale will not.  It’s gonna take work and lots of it.

8.  Consolidate and fix up fish tanks

My fish tanks have gotten pretty sad.  I want to consolidate down to 2-3 really nicely set up fish tanks with lights on timers.  I keep forgetting to turn on the lights and my plants are dying.  My favorite tank crashed (heater went out) and a couple projects failed so I kind of lost interest.  I need to get things back to awesome again,  only this time a bit more automated I think.

9.  Kick the back yard into high gear

I’ve fenced off an area for the chickens and need to fence off another area as well (the dogs need to be able to use part of the backyard too!) I have plans to replace the grass is those two areas with a mixture of food plants with both the chickens and rabbits in mind. I want to tractor grow out rabbits through the back yard as well as rotate chickens through.  I hope to be able to feed my breeder rabbits from the surplus as well.  I’m trying for more food security for my family,  however,  I’m not happy with feeding or treating what I eat with the same normal that you can buy at the supermarket.  I want my food to be as healthy and happy and as close to naturally fed as I can manage. If I wanted the same quality meat as I can get from the supermarket,  I’d just get it from the supermarket.  It’d be a hell of a lot easier!

There are also a couple of trees that need to come down. One is an elm tree that is starting to completely shade out my garden. The other is a peach tree that has been limping along for a couple years now. I will be surprised if it comes back at all in the spring,  it started weeping sap this fall. It’s never really produced,  I’ve just kept it around in the past because I hate to cut trees down and I keep hoping it will give me awesome peaches,  but no dice.  It’s going to go this year for sure though.  I will probably replace those two trees with several more in a Permaculture setup,  which will improve the back yard by leaps and bounds.

10.  This blog

We have big plans for this blog. It’s ebbed and flowed over the past few years since we set it up.  It’s had times of high posting and even more times of low to no posting. This year I have a couple of changes in mind for this blog and it’s broken down into two parts:

— My intention is to post two times a week this year,  Tuesday and Friday.  There may be more,  however,  I am going to try to at least hit those days,  even through the busy gardening and canning season.   Fate and Blazed Monkey will probably post as well, whenever they want to, this goal is just My goal. I’ve set up some redundant reminders for myself,  I tend to forget to post,  hopefully those reminders will help.  Unfortunately,  when it comes to this blog, if I don’t see it,  I forget about it, and there isn’t much to remind me about it in day to day life. Hopefully I’ve changed that,  but it remains to be seen.

—Podcast! Fate got some recording equipment so he could record the piano and it just so happens that the same equipment translates into podcasting equipment as well! We’ve been talking about starting a podcast for awhile now,  but haven’t had the equipment to be able to do it.  Our Podcasts will be posted on this blog as well.

There are quite a few other things I am planning for this year,  however,  most of them are just continuations of things I am already doing,  or things that I’ve got to get done that I don’t plan on focusing heavily on. Those things should find themselves on the blog eventually.

I’ve set my tablet up with a nice bluetooth keyboard these days so typing is a whole lot easier and amazingly faster.  I forget how fast I can type when I’m not just limited to my thumbs. Hopefully this will translate into more blogging.   Between my reminders setup,  the keyboard,  and podcasting this blog should be rocking this year!

There are 8760 hours in 2014, what are YOU planning on doing with them?

-Fin