Friday, June 28, 2013

Cow Sprouts: My System for Feeding Lucy and Belle

We are thinking about building a grass fodder system this fall. It's on our list which means it will be done eventually. You know how those lists go.

Until then I decided to switch my cows from their sweet grain to something organic and healthy. The cows eat grass and hay and the grain is just a supplement to occupy and reward them at milking time. They love sweet grain. LOVE IT! It has molasses so I can't blame them.

My husband would argue that the grain is such a tiny amount of their diet that it doesn't really matter, and I agree. We would give them 3 cups of grain along with some dried kelp, a dairy mineral salt and a couple of vitamin E tabs.

I wanted to go organic anyway. I wanted to see if I could afford it! Organic cow feed is very expensive and I can only get it shipped here. There is not a single local feed supplier with organic feed.

Here's where the fodder idea meets the organic grain idea.
I have a friend who introduced me to sprouted grains. Now, this is not a totally new concept for me. I have sprouted plenty for my family and I know the basics.
After 2 months of sprouting cow grains I can attest that they are affordable and my cows love them!

Here's my system to share so those of you who are thinking of an affordable organic route can see what I have been doing.

First I buy my certified organic grains! We happen to have a delivery route through Azure Standard and so I buy my grains from them. This is like a food coop and it is wonderful. You can go online and get their number to call and see if they deliver to your area OR you might be able to organize a delivery route for your area.

I buy the following:
Certified Organic Red Wheat (50lb) $19.15
Certified Organic Barley (50lb) $18.95
Certified Organic Dried Peas (25lbs) $12.25
Certified Organic Alfalfa Pellets (50lb) $21.80

The first thing is to get a 2 gallon bucket and drill holes in the bottom for drainage.

The grains must soak first so I place the drilled hole bucket inside a regular bucket and add my grains.
For two cows I use 2 C wheat, 2 C barley and 1 C peas. I let them soak in cool water for about 6 hours. Then I drain them and let them set to drain until evening.

Each evening I spray water onto the bucket, allowing it drain through. I will stack my buckets up, using shims to separate them. I keep about 5-6 buckets going at all times, staggering their start times.

After 3-4 days I will have sprouts ready for the cows. I will at this time add to that bucket 1 C alfalfa pellets then I will rinse it all and pull the clumps of sprouts apart. I let it drain until morning. The alfalfa will soak up extra water and by morning the bucket will be quite full!

I was worried the first time I used the sprouts that the cows would need some molasses to eat it but I was very wrong. In fact all of the animals (horse, sheep, goats, chickens) love these sprouts!

These bags of grains lasted me 2 months feeding 2 cows! I no longer buy sweet grain and so I think my feed bill is actually doing very well with the switch.

There was no change in milk supply from the cows either so I think that was good.
I would say the biggest challenge for me is space. You have to find a place or sink for all of the buckets and grains and such. Right now I use my laundry room sink and I have a small area next to my sewing table to keep draining buckets stacked. I have a storage box they sit in so water doesn't get on the floor. Every three days I empty the storage container of excess water and wipe it clean.

As far as time, it only takes about 15 minutes a night to maintain. Even though there are nights when I just don't want to do "another thing!" it really isn't a big deal and doesn't take up much time.

I know there are other grains that could be added for extra vitamins but right now this is my system and what I use.

Another weekend is here and another summer month is coming to an end. We will celebrate the 4th next week for sure, but we will likely be processing chickens next week as well. How's that for summer on the farm:-)

Tonight is another outdoor movie night! If you are local, stop by...I will pop some corn for you!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chattanooga Staycation

Well after many days of slaving over chickens, cows and gardens we decided to spend the afternoon in Chattanooga. Chattanooga is on the border of my town and it only takes us about 25 minutes to drive to the Tennessee Aquarium.

Willow had a birthday on the 22nd and she asked if we could go to the aquarium, and we obliged. Since we were not able to schedule the cow dry off period with  a summer beach vacation we decided to spend the entire afternoon and splurge on a dinner out too.
Believe me, when you have 7 kids you do not eat out often with those 7 kids. This was a real treat!

If you have never been to the Tennessee Aquarium, well it is HUGE! There is actually a river side and an ocean side. The boys really enjoyed the ocean side because you can pet rays, see penguins and watch the sharks!

After spending a few hours walking through both sides, we let the little ones cool off outside the aquarium in the streams and fountains they have outside.
It was a hot and humid summer day so the kids really enjoyed themselves.

After dinner we walked across the Walnut Street Bridge. This bridge goes across the Tennessee River and is really quite nice to walk across. The boys were able to run and expel the rest of their energy while we were able to walk off our huge dinners! There is also a nice little ice cream shop across the bridge. Of course we had to get a cone to eat on our way back across the bridge.

We have a rule that if we do not get at least one compliment on how great the children's behavior is while eating out then we will not take them out again. This challenge, along with the fact that eating out is a rare treat, helps keep the kids all on their best behavior.
Well a couple did stop as they were leaving and complimented us on how well the children were behaved. I guess that means we can take them all out again!

The next day we had a family birthday party for Willow. She had cousins and a few friends come over too to celebrate. I opted to make the party easy on myself and ordered pizza to eat along with cut up fruit. I baked a simple chocolate chip cookie cake for Willow too.

It was a busy but fun couple of days and the cost for the aquarium was reasonable, especially for a large family. We bought a family membership so we can go again throughout the year. It might actually become a date night for me and Devin. We didn't exactly get to slow down and enjoy all the critters so we will plan to go again by ourselves.
It wasn't a beach vacation but it was still fun and much more budget friendly! The kids are already asking to go again!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer on a Farm

Oh my goodness! Where has the summer gone? It's already mid-June and we have yet to really start lazing around by the pool all day. We have yet to plan or take our big summer vacation and we have YET to sleep in!!!!!

Oh wait! We have milking cows. We have chickens and sheep. We have a horse and several dogs. We have lots of children too.
Our summer is not one of laying around all day or sleeping in or taking vacations.

In fact, we probably have more time to lay around and relax during the winter months when the garden and bees do not need frequent maintenance.


                                                   **Belle and Stella together**

The heifer calf Stella was brought up to the front paddocks to be with Lucy and Belle. She had, after all, been weaned a good three months and I really need to get her tamed some and halter trained while she is still small.
For three days she loved being with the big mamma cows and they loved her. Every time I looked out the back window I could see Lucy and Belle licking  little Stella madly. Everything was just as I had planned .

By day four my plans were demolished as Stella took to nursing on Lucy like a starved newborn calf, and BOTH cows decided to hold up milk from me at milking time. Sheesh, time for plan B.

Now Stella is close to the cows, but in her own fenced area. There is an occasional bellow from her and Lucy will try and escape to Stella every now and then, but overall things are better.

Belle is trying to dry up and she is way past due getting bred so I will spend the next month trying to set her up with a bull.


                           **The steer and Athena out loose, visiting the pasture chickens**

The pasture chickens are FINALLY gaining weight and they should be ready to process at the end of the month. I am planning to run them an extra week and some an extra 2 weeks. They just simply do not like their organic grain and in fact not even the horse likes the stuff. She was out loose last week and managed to knock my feed can over that has my chicken grain. Thankfully she didn't eat it, because I am never in the mood for a horse with colic! If a horse doesn't like a big bag of organic grains......then what does that tell you? I do keep bricks on the can lid now, however, just in case Athena changes her mind.


                                           **Willow, soon to be birthday girl!**

Baby number four turns 11 this weekend so we are planning a birthday party here with a few friends and family.
In addition, Willow has requested a trip to the Tennessee Aquarium. Devin and I are planning to load everyone up for a day in Chattanooga to see the aquarium and to eat dinner. Eating dinner out is a huge treat for his crew so I know the kids will have a great time. In fact, that counts as a staycation, right?


** Journee and Athena**

We might lack the late sleep in each summer morning, but there is really no use in being lazy. There are days we want to sell the animals off but the good days out number the bad days by far. We couldn't plan a beach vacation this summer due to dry off period timings with the cows, but we have local fun spots and weekend movie nights with friends. I never have been the type to run my kids around to a million summer activities like bible school or summer camps either. I much prefer homemade ice cream cones, afternoon card games and warm night lightening bug adventures.
The last few evenings the kids have spent hours in the woods catching toads and playing in the wooded trails. If it weren't for mosquitoes it would be perfect!


                                            **Fender, the great mouse killer**

Speaking of movie night!
The next movie night is Friday, June 28th. We are watching Oz the Great and Powerful'
If you are local, come on by! Movie starts at dusk. Bring a chair! I will have lots of popcorn popping!

Here's to enjoying the summer!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pictures From Here

We had a mystery here these last few days. The towels had all disappeared. There were no towels anywhere!
Come to find out my three young girls had been using them and not taking them to the laundry. They had a closet floor covered in towels.
Mystery solved. The washing machine has been busy washing towels this morning.

While I am catching up on house work and laundry, here are a few pictures I snapped yesterday.

I know they can be dangerous, but many, many hours are spent by the children jumping on the trampoline.
Yesterday Zeb and Fletcher got quite a bit of exercise!

Some of my hives look great and others look pathetic. It has been a trying bee year so far. I will be inspecting all of my hives on Wednesday if the rain holds off.

We will be getting a blueberry crop this year! It will be a small crop, but it will be a crop! Of course I need to figure out how to keep the chickens away from them!....the downside to free-range birds.

House Chicken (she needs a real name!) spends most of her days outside. She had a great time out yesterday with Journee.

Journee was kind enough to dig up a yummy snack or two for her!


Today Indiana starts a new guitar class, a School of Rock. She is excited to take her electric guitar and start learning how to play it! I will update later and let you all know how the class goes.

Until then.....

What would you name the House Chicken????
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