How to Sprout Grains for Animal Feed

The library is a wonderful thing. There, I found Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, and within, inspiration. I read about Parma ham and the special diet these pigs eat (including lots of acorns), that some say is the secret to the extra divine end product. I spent the next few hours researching everything from acorns to peanuts, looking for the perfect addition to our finishing ration. The perfect something to give our pork it’s own regional-specific je ne sais quoi . What I settled on was a mix of sprouted grains and sunflower seeds; the grains produced and sold locally here in the Arkansas Delta.

Here is a rough guide to doing what I have done here for the pigs. I’m not really sure how much they like the sprouts, but between the pigs and the chickens, they’ll all get eaten.

 

Materials:

Five gallon bucket

Grains and or seeds to sprout

Some sort of trays to keep your sprouting grains in

My makeshift sprouting set up.

My makeshift sprouting set up.

1. The first step is soaking the grains. Put the desired amount of grains in your bucket, add water to more than cover (the grains expand when they absorb water) and add a splash of hydrogen peroxide to help prevent mold. The first couple of times you might want to measure your grains into your sprouting container. The ideal is to have a layer a couple grains/seeds thick. Mine starts out typically about an inch thick. Soak seeds 8-12 hours. You can experiment with soak time to find the ideal for your specific grain and climate.

I mix everything together, but if you soaked and sprouted things separately you could have more control over how much foliage you get from the different components.

 

2. Pour your seeds in water into a perforated container in which they can sprout. I used metal pans (3 gallon?) from Tractor Supply.  I took the stack of six that I bought and drilled about 50 holes in the bottoms, all at once. Rinse them thoroughly with fresh water.

3. Store sprouting grains in an “ideal” location. Various internet sources would have me believe that you want relatively high humidity (around 75%), and air flow for good success. I leave mine on the porch where they can get some light.

4. Rinse sprouts a couple of times a day, roughly every 8-12 hours. This keeps them hydrated and clean.

5. Soak a new batch of seeds. If you want to have a batch of sprouts ready to go every 24 hours, start a new batch to soak that often.

Here are some pictures of the sprouts in various stages of development.

Sprouts just barley popping out. This is 24 hours after soaking.

Sprouts just bareley popping out. This is 24 hours after soaking.

You can clearly see the little sprouty. Two days after soaking

You can clearly see the little sprouties. Two days after soaking

3 days in.

3 days in.

Five days in and there is lots of green.

Five days in and there is lots of green.

DSC00351

Lots of green after six days. This is what the pigs and chickens will be eating for dinner from now on.

Close up of the roots and shoots

Close up of the roots and shoots

This is what our steps will look like for the foreseeable future.

This is what our steps will look like for the foreseeable future.

You can see a pretty solid root mat forms. Also, a good view of the drainage holes.

You can see a pretty solid root mat forms. Also, a good view of the drainage holes.

 

The pigs ate a good bit of it. They seem to favor the grainy bits, believe it or not. They sure had a good time tossing them around though. Given a little time and hunger, the pigs would eat anything.

The pigs ate a good bit of it. They seem to favor the grainy bits, believe it or not. They sure had a good time tossing them around though. Given a little time and hunger, the pigs would eat anything.

A few things to consider:

Mold can be an issue. Make sure you clean out your trays and bucket. I clean the bucket every few days with a bleach solution and do the same for the trays in between uses. Also, if you don’t have enough air flow or too much moisture, mold can take hold. I tried using some old flats for starting transplants. They had drainage and seemed sturdy enough, but I was too lazy to clean them out. The corn I had in these puppies got nasty. It was moldy, slimy, and eventually full of maggots. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Seed cleanliness (how clean it is in the bag) can also be an issue, but since I don’t have many options or any control over the matter, I don’t worry too much.

Mold can produce myotoxins which can be harmful to pigs (and probably other critters, but I haven’t done much internet research about them). Myotoxins can kill small pigs and reduce growth rate/feed conversion rates and cause other more serious health issues. Do some research. With my current system, all my sprouts have looked and smelled fresh enough for human consumption, though I wouldn’t recommend it.

Know that everything you buy will not sprout. Some grain is heat dried, which may cause it to not sprout. I had no luck with the Tractor Supply Oats, but great success with the sunflower seeds I bought there. Also, when selecteing grains/seeds, think about what season those things typically sprout. Some things like it warmer, like corn.

 

It has been a great experiment. It feels awesome to take more control over what we are feeding our animals. If you have any questions, post them in the comments or do some googling. There is plenty of info out on the net, but I would be happy to reply with a more personal touch.

Good luck, and happy sprouting!

Advice From a Not-Quite-Rookie Butcher

There’s a nip in the air today, bizarrely. At the football games these past two evenings, we’ve been grateful for the picnic quilt that’s always somehow left in the back seat. The cool night air got me to thinking of friends in Maine who are planning to butcher their own hogs for the first time very soon. We have to wait for colder nights before we tackle Levi and Sizzle, but it’s a good time to start mentally preparing.

This is the list of things we need to find, clean, sharpen and jury rig before the big day:

  1. A variety of knives
  2. A butcher’s saw
  3. A fairly level location with running water and something to hang the carcass from
  4. An indoor (bug and possum free) space to hang the halves
  5. A barrel and plenty of dry firewood
  6. A (working, ahem) vacuum sealer and plenty of bags
  7. Clean containers to sort sausage scraps and lard chunks into
  8. Trays for freezing or chilling chunks of meat and lard before grinding
  9. Plenty of freezer space
  10. A comealong
  11. A shovel
  12. Several heavy duty (200 lb+) zipties for hanging the hog.
  13. The gun

These are the things I wish we had known mistakes we made when butchering our hogs last fall. With a little preparation, this year will go much more smoothly.

  1. We usually always (we’re four for four on this) underestimate how long boiling water to scald the pig will take, especially since we use a metal barrel on an open fire, and there are a lot of variables there. It’s a lot of water, and it’s important early in the process, so give it a couple of hours. We haven’t successfully scalded and scraped either of the large hogs we’ve butchered (I suspect we haven’t gotten the water hot enough), but we’re going to try again. Sean has some particular cuts he’s hoping to get for charcuterie projects which will require that the skin be left on.
  2. I’ve twice found myself standing beside a wheelbarrow full of viscera, beating back exhaustion while chipping away at the ground with a shovel after dark. Dig a hole for unwanted guts and, if you aren’t scraping, the skin, well in advance of butchery. It’s awful doing this after dark, when you’re exhausted from manhandling a carcass, knowing that if you don’t take care of it, the coyotes will, and they’ll create a really truly disgusting mess, then eat your chickens.
  3. We once moved a 250-pound, mud-and-blood-covered hog into the pickup and then up a steep grassy hill, though our truck’s 4wd is questionable at best. If the hog is sizeable, shoot and stick it as near as possible to where you plan to hang it for evisceration.
  4. It’s hard to get the little bits of bark that inevitably fall from the tree off of the flesh and fat, so try to avoid hanging the carcass from a tree.
  5. When you halve the carcass, make sure you get a straight cut down the spine from the beginning. It’ll be hard to correct, and a botched cut will damage the loin (oh the pork chops!).
  6. Consider wearing a poncho or raincoat that can be soaped and rinsed with the hose to carry the halves to your workspace. They’re very heavy and awkward (Pinkie’s halves took three strapping farmers to shift) and you have to kind of hug them to your chest. You’ll get covered in lard, and it doesn’t wash out of winter work coats very well.
  7. I washed ground-in bits of raw fat out of the carpet once, and I hope to never do it again. If you’re butchering in your home, tape off a designated meat-free walkway through the room, and wear shoes that are easy to kick off and on for when you need to go grab the forgotten tool or hit the head or look something up on youtube. You will totally grease the area that you’re using, so plan ahead and avoid tracking chunks of flesh all over the house. Keeping the raw meat contamination zone contained did wonders for my stress level the second time we butchered.
  8. We made the mistake of packing soft chunks of lard that we couldn’t process right away into grocery bags for freezing, and that resulted in twenty-pound lardbergs that had to be thawed and refrozen before grating. As you process each half, set aside the leaf lard for pastries and cooking and the caul fat (my friend says this is delicious wrapped around cubes of liver, seasoned with herbs, and grilled, though I can’t speak to this myself), and use the rest for soap. You can grind and render it immediately or freeze it, then grate and render it later. If you freeze it, freeze smallish chunks on trays and bag them afterward.
  9. Sausage (scraps and odd bits) should be ground cold. We ground it straight off the carcass, by which point it was approaching room temperature. Grinding it at room temperature causes the fat to separate and escape during cooking, making a less-tasty, denser sausage.
  10. Don’t freak out. Everything is washable.

No matter what, in the end, you will have some of the best meat you’ve ever eaten. The process is forgiving, and even those funny-shaped raggedy cuts with a little dirt on one side are delicious. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on some chops as soon as the last bit of the last pig is in the freezer and grill them up right away. It’ll put a smile on your face.

Labor Day Week Photo Explosion!

According to Levi and Sizzy (who escaped today, to no one's surprise and everyone's exasperation) you haven't known true happiness until you've done this.

According to Levi and Sizzy (who escaped today, to no one’s surprise and everyone’s exasperation) you haven’t known true happiness until you’ve done this.

Mud is bliss.

Mud is bliss.

We spent the weekend in Texas with Sean's family.

We spent the weekend in Texas with Sean’s family.

Sean taught his nephews some porcine wisdom about the joy of getting dirty

Sean taught his nephews some porcine wisdom about the joy of getting dirty

We came home and had a Wednesday cookout at the lake.

We came home and had a Wednesday cookout at the lake.

There was even some paddling, (not the kind we have in schools), and a swim and float with eyes full of the cottonball sky.

There was even some paddling, (not the kind we have in schools), and a swim and float with eyes full of the cottonball sky.

Our meat chicks arrived today, and, after spending the afternoon at school with Mr. P, immediately soaked themselves in their water and began to shiver. We don't have a hair dryer (they're not environmentally friendly or useful to people with little hair) so we toweled them off as best we could and stuck them under the lamp.

Our meat chicks arrived today, and, after spending the day at school with Mr. P, immediately soaked themselves in their water and began to shiver. We don’t have a hair dryer (they’re not environmentally friendly or useful to people with little hair) so we toweled them off as best we could and stuck them under the lamp.

They're all fluffy again, and adorable. No sign of spraddle or gunkybutts yet.

They’re all fluffy again, and adorable. No sign of spraddle or gunkybutts yet. These birds are destined for plates all over the scintillating metropolis of Marianna, AR. We ordered extras so we could sell to our friends, and people seem into it!

Boople and I adored them from afar. Neither of our cats has ever posed a threat to our chicks, but we'll leave the little critters in the spare room with the door shut, just in case.

Boople and I adored them from afar. Neither of our cats has ever posed a threat to our chicks, but we’ll leave the little critters in the spare room with the door shut, just in case.

Who could believe this cutie is a skilled killer?

Really though, who could believe this cutie is a seasoned killer?

Balance

I have thought a lot this summer about quitting my job. If I were to quit, I could stop slogging through variables and decimals amid the wails of the oppressed youth of America and do something that enchants me for a change. I could learn woodworking or go sailing or live abroad. Quitting wouldn’t cause any major financial hardship if I took on occasional substitute gigs and tutoring opportunities. I could lace up my boots and get my fingers all sticky and frown over art problems and remember what it feels like to be free.

We’re two weeks into this year, and already I can feel a growing knot of stress under my right shoulder blade. My stomach has stopped recognizing familiar foods and has turned gizzard on gravel over red onions and pineapple. School exhausts me: I come home tired, and I don’t sleep well. The emotional drain is a 72 inch pipe in the bottom of my reservoir, and my hundred and twenty kids are Dallas. I hate that even in a good week, I can only hope to fail well every day. In a bad week, the Sisyphean nature of teaching takes its toll and I get smashed flat as everything I’ve worked for unspools at the feet of a school system already so bewildered by bureaucratic inefficiency that it can offer up only the feeblest of support.

I haven’t quit yet, and the reasons why are all between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. This is hard, stressful, unsatisfactory, unsupported work, but it is a labor of tremendous love, and the kids make me smile, even on the worst days. Until recently, there could have been no question at all of my quitting.

For the past two years, my kids easily outweighed all of the hardship attendant with the job.

For the past two years, my kids easily outweighed all of the hardship attendant with the job.

Now, I’m teetering on the edge of a choice that I don’t want to make.

I'm not sure which weighs heavier on my heart.

I’m not sure which weighs heavier on my heart.

At what point do the personal consequences outweigh the value of the ethical work that I’m engaged in? At what point does self-sacrifice become needless and stupid? I love teaching kids, but I feel that I’m being asked to do it under untenable conditions, and that my willingness to go all-in is being abused. Kid-love is a variable, and some days it’s abundantly clear that it’s not enough. Other days, a sweet bit of graffiti blows the k-factor through the roof.modd

Scorcher

“Hey Ms. O, what was that?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing, Darlin’. Don’t you have something you need to be doing?” I looked pointedly at his project.
Suddenly there was a whoosh and a crackle. I could see flames shooting up just beyond the windows.
“Let’s get out of this room and move into the hallway for now, guys. No, just leave it. Let’s go.”
The lights flickered and died and my kids scattered. I didn’t think to encourage them to make for the front door, away from the fire. Fire drill protocol sends them out the back, so some had gone one way, knowing the rules, and others had used common sense. I heaved a sigh, went back into my room to grab the stack of homework and watched through the window as Coach hit the fire with an extinguisher from the cafeteria. I chased the kids down, one by one, to give them their homework (by this time, there’d been an all-call for students to head to the front of the building, though some of mine had escaped out the back door and were watching the drama) and I made it out back just in time to witness another small explosion and the spectacle of Coach lighting out for the hill country.

My classroom has a nice view of not much on a good day, but it was a front row seat for the drama of a transformer blowing out at high noon on a Monday. The initial fires suppressed, the area was roped off and the kids lost interest and stopped being a nuisance. Workmen showed up quickly and looked over the problem. They left, and we learned that they’d have to cut the power supply to the school to fix it, so they’d deal with it after the last bell. After lunch, the kids went back to class. My room was dark, lit only by the projector, and full of the smell of that smoking hole in the ground.

I taught a full 55 minute lesson in there, and I nearly slipped in a puddle of my own sweat about halfway through. The kids dragged, but they were wonderful, graceful seniors and they didn’t complain too much. I inquired in the office and learned that the a/c was out all through the building. For the last two classes of the day, I taught an abbreviated version of the lesson in the hot-tub of my classroom. The smell of the 25 ninth graders oozing began to replace the smoke smell. As quickly as possible, I moved the class into the little air-conditioned gym in the elementary school next door. The echo was bad, but it beat the heat.

It’s been unbearably hot and humid for a week or so. We’re actually under a heat advisory right now (who doesn’t cancel school under these conditions? No lights+no air+heat advisory=sendthemhomedangit).  Sean bravely goes out to the garden every day or two to harvest tomatoes and do the absolutely necessary chores. He planted potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips and beets yesterday like a freaking gladiator. There is no time of day or night when it’s cool outside. There is no “early enough” that I can get up to beat the heat and go for a run. Sunrise is sweltering. I hate sticking to the bedsheets. Our friends in town had balloons melt into their upstairs carpet over the summer. I burn myself on the metal fastener of my seat belt every afternoon, and I have to handle the steering wheel with care for the first ten minutes of my drive. Gladys (Carro’s a/c) whistles and groans to life after a while, but not before I’ve felt a few more brain cells explode like pop-cans all over the interior of my skull. The pigs lie in their wallow and squeal for fresh cool water. The cats don’t set foot outside the house. Bear creek is just a bathtub full of alligators and cottonmouths (at least in my imagination) and I bet they’re irritable from the heatwave too. Besides, the lake is as warm as the air, and getting wet is hardly worth it: evaporation can’t cool you when the air’s as wet as you are.

Wish me a cold front, folks.

Week 1: More silly faces and a look at the level tracker

If you’re not a math teacher, this probably won’t get you that excited, but if you are… BEHOLD! My brainchild!

Four kids on level two today! Hot-diggity-dog!

Four kids on level two today! Woo and yay!

The bulletin board behind me in the photo tracks students’ progress as they learn to simplify expressions with the order of operations and then, expressions mastered, to solve more and more challenging algebraic equations. It’s student-powered (they move their own stickies, which saves me work), it builds investment (overheard while waiting for the bus at summer school: “I’m on level three!” “Well I’ll beat you to level five!”), it differentiates assessments for me, and it provides me with useful data about which students and groups of students are where (The names on the sticky notes are color coded by class period).

Every few days at the beginning of school, then every week, I’ll give a level quiz. Each student knows his or her own level and asks for the appropriate quiz, which prevents a total organizational nightmare. As each student completes the quiz, I grade it. If the student answers three out of four problems correctly, he or she moves up a level immediately.

I’ve taught objectives that correspond to the levels for the last two days, so I’ve allowed students who have demonstrated mastery on their exit tickets to progress. Seventy-five of my students didn’t have a chance to take today’s level quiz/exit ticket, so the four kids who are on level two came from a sample of just twenty-five. All things considered, we’re doing well so far.

7th period was 45 minutes of the best class time of my life. During the lesson, I burst into happy laughter when a boy in the front row said “oh. Oooohhhhhh! I get it!” You can’t fake that lightbulb. It happened twice today! During practice, I had a girl stand up from her desk and shout “YES!” at the top of her lungs when she simplified an expression correctly. I got a bad case of the joy giggles, but my kids couldn’t hear me anyway over the roar of thirty 9th graders making purposeful MATH TALK. It felt like all I had to do was open the gate and let them stampede. They asked for time to work in groups to analyze their mistakes, so I let them. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA? I had volunteers explain their errors, and doled out star stickers for courage and helping others learn, (I had to move on without calling on all of my volunteers!) then just turned them loose on another problem. I hardly said a word after the first twenty minutes of class. It was un-friggin-believably awesome.

They're brilliant! They're wonderful! I did it! I taught them something and they liked it!

They’re brilliant! They’re wonderful! I did it! I taught them something and they liked it!

I'll never be able to keep it up.

I’ll never be able to keep it up.

Bonus Kid Joke, courtesy of W.

one fifth, two fifths, red fifth, blue fifth

one fifth, two fifths, red fifth, blue fifth