Welcome to MY ADVENTURE OF DAILY LIFE. I have long since wanted and been encouraged to document the plethora of items I work on, learn, and in general tinker with. I travel and experience new things far and wide and love to share what I gain from them. Here I am sharing with you not just the amazing but the every day as well. They may not fall under the category of "daring adventure" but I am usually having a blast doing them. Enjoy!
I love free stuff, don't you?
We got a call a few months ago that the State of Kentucky was giving away free chicken tractors. You just had to be on the list, show up at the right spot at the right time, go thru a workshop that was catered, and haul it home. I unfortunately had to work but Mr. Brawny and his mother ran off to Cumberland Falls one fine morning and came back with everything we needed for two chicken tractors and full bellies.
For those of you in the dark, saying "What in the world is that?", a chicken tractor is a basic structure made from boards, wire cattle panels, and a tarp and totally open on the bottom. Depending on the size you can fit quite a few birds in them and they have lots to do with scratching the ground and cleaning up your grass of ticks and other yuckies. You move them each day or few days depending on how many you have in there and how active they have been with the ground. No need to wait until there isn't a blade of grass left, you can move them as often as you want!
One very very beneficial side effect of this is that you don't have to worry about the diseases that you have with conventional ways of raising chickens. This is because they aren't on their own feces that has sat and contaminated their surroundings for long and always have nice new clear area that the sun has sterilized. This results in not needing the antibiotics and other items you don't want in your meat and eggs. The other issue with chickens raised and kept inside, is the problems with the ammonia that builds up, again from the massive amounts of fecal matter that is left to sit. That's why you see huge fans in those buildings where most chickens are raised. They have to keep it flowing at all times to keep the ammonia from damaging their membranes and lungs. Chickens can produce an amazing amount of ammonia in short order, but moving them takes care of all of that!
Here is a picture of the basic structure before the tarp was added and the door built. Way cool right?
Growing your own food can be a huge savings. Especially when it comes to pork and beef, if you breed, raise, and harvest your own animals it be make a huge dent in your food expenditure. If you have the space for these animals, it's practically a no brainer to incorporate into your homesteading set up. Let's look at pigs today since I just so happen to have 8 piglets to grow.
Despite the food for the pig being a huge savings in the long run, it's still wise to look for ways to cut your costs when such opportunities are readily available. Our main food saver is our land. The pigs are fenced in an acre or two that they are busy tearing up, eating worms, roots, and other plant material. Last year we gave our two pigs very little corn and most of their weight came from the land. Although we have this years pigs on newly fenced in acreage, we have planted the other paddocks with soybeans and any left over seed from the garden. When we let the pigs into those this year they will harvest their food themselves. Everything from zucchini to okra, they will eat and relish. Part of raising your own food is to make sure the animal or plant is healthy for maximum nutrition for you as well. A pig eating organically grown fresh veggies makes them super healthy and tasty too. Pigs are naturally low in iron and today's industry gives them iron shots. This is not really a great way to make them healthier especially since they absorb and utilize much more from dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. Sound familiar? What is good for us is good for them too!
Another important money saving input available to us is a local restaurant. We get a call twice a week to come pick up a bucket of scraps and the pigs LOVE these offerings. This owner happens to be a friend of mine, but a savvy person could feed their pigs a lot of local scraps. I try to stay away from food that is not good for us either. I did not approach a local pizza joint. This restaurant is a vegetarian place so everything that goes into the pig is good for me too. I have not personally experienced a pig that has been feed everything and anything but I hear that the meat does not taste as good. Your small local grocery stores are also a good place to ask, as well as dairy farms who process the milk (you would be asking for whey and spoiled milk), and any bakery that wants to get rid of their old bread!
Sprouting grain is another way to increase the nutrition that you are already giving your pig. Although I really started doing this for the goats, the pigs love it too! Sprouting not only increases the chemical structure to contain more vitamins, minerals, and protein, but also the weight. With a 50lb bag of barley, you can make 300 lbs of food! Especially in the summer, all you need are some trays, newspaper, sunshine and water. Soak the grain over night, spread the newspaper out in the tray and then layer the soaked seeds into the tray on top, no more than an inch thick. Let the sunshine and and water do it's magic over a week or two depending on your temperature and voila! Much more than you started with. It's also more digestible so they get more from it per pound!
Buying in bulk is our next way to save on food. We not only shopped around for the cheapest place for the pig feed, but we asked how much would they charge us if we bought by the ton. Since we have so many, this makes sense to purchase a year's supply at once. Depending on your farm size, this may or may not work in your favor. You can get other foods a lot cheaper in bulk too. I have purchased large bags of dried beans for cheap. These soaked and cooked help add to the protein intake for our swine.
Gleaning is an age old tradition of free food. Our neighbors grow corn and have big gardens. They know we have pigs and we get more calls than you would think offering their harvested fields and over abundance of squash and beans. We spent a half a day picking up fully loaded corn cobs out of field and gained 12 bags feed. We toss a bunch in with the pigs each time we feed and it give them something to play with and adds to the total calories. Along our road, there are pear trees that people have forgotten about and nut trees that no one wants to deal with. Lots of berries too but they are usually too small to make the effort worthwhile. These all add up to make a big difference in your food bill.
The final trick that we use to lower our pig food cost is word of mouth. We make sure everyone knows we are growing pigs and if they have gardens, that we will come and clean them up for free. Many times at the end of the summer the produce will trail off leaving plants and missed and unpicked veggies that are past their point of desirability. The pigs love this stuff, so we take our truck to any garden who requests help, pull up the plants whole and give them to the pigs that way. You've never seen such happy pigs as when we brought in a truck load of beets! I'm surprised they didn't turn pink.
As they years progress I know more and more ways will reveal themselves but with entering into our second season of pigs, this is what we are doing to keep our costs as low as possible.
I have a confession to make.
I've never milked the nanny goat. I know, I know. Why haven't I? Well it's always easier to let a pro do anything for you. Mr Brawny has been milking cows since he was a kid, so I have been letting him handle all of it and I would assist. Things like hold her leg if she wants to kick. Save the bowl from her foot if she tries to stomp. I pat and talk to her and tell her what a good nanny goat she is.
Until last week when the husband drove to New York to pick up family.
I myself had just gotten back from a trip the same day he left. All of the mechanics had been explained to me but I couldn't really get a handle on the feel of milking. So just like everything else I do, I gave it a whirl.
Luckily for me my father-in-law, who also has milked cows since he was a kid was there for moral support and some general guidance. He did have to get the milk started for me. I have been told that she is a hard one to start but once you get the milk coming out, she will have a good flow. This being my first and only milking experience I have nothing to compare it to but it sounds like cows are easier.
Just like in this video where my husband is showing the nephew how to do it, you grab at the top of the teat, close your pointer finger around it and gently pinch the milk off by pressing it to your thumb. You then follow suit with the middle finger and then the ring finger and then the pinkie finger until you have made a fist and the milk has all been squeezed out of the teat. You then let go and allow milk to flow into the teat again and repeat. Once you have gotten a good squirt, something clicks in the brain and you are fine going forward.
This is harder work than it looks. If you are bent over doing this, the back starts to complain quickly. If you have little girly wrists like I do, then you will just not get as much milk before she runs out of feed. That's fine too and your muscles will develop quickly if you are milking every day. My father-in-law said that his aunt had milked so many cows that she could make a man drop to his knees with a handshake! Makes me wonder why you never heard of anyone with carpel tunnel issues if they milked livestock?