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See that beauty right up there?  Yep, I took thirty seconds to create a new and more fitting logo to announce my pinch hitting here on Midwestern Bite.  I know… I know… you’re impressed by my graphic design skills.  I amaze myself as well. Bye bye overplayed Man Cave logo!

I’m stepping in today to talk about chicken feed.  Specifically, we’re going to walk through growing your own supplemental backyard livestock food via a very simple Barley Fodder System.

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 Why go through the (extremely minimal) effort?

1. Fodder is nutritious and healthy.  Chickens are natural foragers.  As true omnivores, they evolved eating plenty of protein (bugs and such) in addition to green plants. Just like us humans, they’re not designed to thrive on a grain based diet.  So when weather and other conditions permit I let the ladies free range inside our 100’x50′ fenced grassy garden area, pecking around to their hearts’ content.  The barley fodder I grow for them gives them something fresh and green for the times they have to stay secured in the (freaking awesome) coop and run I built… or when their lawn is covered in six inches of snow.

2. Fodder is cheap.  Chicken feed is expensive.  Chickens eat a lot of it.  Providing something nutritious like barley fodder helps stretch their primary feed and keeps a few more pennies in this guy’s pocket.  I’ll do some math later that really drives this point home.

3. Fodder is freakin’ fun!  Yeah, maybe not in the traditional way.  But hear me out.  What kind of a Gentleman Farmer doesn’t grow a crop for his livestock? Pssshhh, not this kind. Once in the morning on my way to work, and once more before bed, I don my large (freaking awesome) Homestead hat and tell the wife I’m “Off to do the Farm Chores!” of watering my tiny tubs of barley.  Yes, I do that every time.  Yes, that little routine annoys her every time.  See… fun!

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How easy is it?  I say stupidly easy, but you be the judge.  The below steps might seem a tad complicated, but reading it is a lot more complicated than doing it.  Growing fodder is a two-minute-per-day job.  Sixty seconds sometime in the AM.  Then sixty seconds sometime in the PM.

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I’ve loved every second since we moved to “the country” last year.  Caring for our livestock (What? Chickens are livestock), starting the garden, walking our woods, harvesting apples, mowing with the boy, feeding hand-split wood into our stove on a snowy day… it’s all been grand.

Of course, that’s me talking.  If you ask the Wife, she’d likely point to a few gripes.  Today’s post highlights one of those, just so you don’t think everything is Norman frickin’ Rockwell all the time over here.

Sigh…

Mice.

We’ve had mice.  Not an enormous infestation by any stretch, but in the last year we’ve caught several and have “detected” a couple others that have obviously gone to that great big cheese wheel in the sky.

After asking the neighbors what’s up, they chuckle, shrug, and say it’s part of the life and we better get used to a little scratching in the walls each year when the temperature drops. Of course that doesn’t make Joanna feel any better.

So out of love for my woman, and no desire to co-exist with Minnie long term, I cashed out bookoo bucks for an exterminator service to take a walk around and put us on a pest control program.  I then fixed some small issues like door weather stripping and set out a few commercial traps.  For months we thought our furry little friends had moved on to greener pastures.

Then a few nights ago, we heard it again.

Scratching.

Jo was not pleased.  I was not pleased.

This. Meant. War. 

I decided $#!t needed to get real. Only the heaviest duty, homemade, redneck looking mouse trap would do.  (Yes, I admit it, with darkness falling at 4:30 PM and the ground covered with snow, I’m sometimes looking for projects.)  Take this, Mousey!

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Our primary problem area is an outside water closet that houses the furnace, water softener, hot water heater, etc.  I’m betting it’s too easy for them to come in where the well pipes enter from underground and I’m not sure how to seal it off, so I wanted something that could catch multiple critters at once if needed. The beauty of this setup is it can keep on keeping on without needing to be reset after one little guy loses his battle with Mr. Snappy while his buds scurry away.

Plus it was free since we had all the materials needed, thanks in part to a perma-stocked mini fridge. Want a Midwestern Mouse Terminator of your own?  Read on.

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I know everyone has been waiting with bated breath to see chicken coop updates since you devoured my first Build report.  Well, prepare your gullets.  Here you go.

I like to spend as much non-office time wrestling with the world’s strongest Toddler… so this project has taken way too long since it was mostly relegated to snippets of nap-time-construction-time and after-night-night-total-darkness-build-hours.  However, I finally declare this beeyotch 99% done and ready for occupants!

Who wants the grand tour?  Just ignore the ugly tall unfinished fence post that’s part of my ugly tall garden deer fence.  I wanted the coop in here so they could free range every now and then helping to clear the garden of weeds and bad bugs, while being protected from our friendly free range canine neighbors.

Feast your eyes on the prettiest little coop Joanna has ever co-owned.  Such is the life of a lucky Gentleman Farmer’s wife.

 

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Ahhh… Booze.

Sweet, sweet wonderful Booze.

Homemade Booze to boot.

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My wife’s Twitter feed tells me ’tis the season for every single food blog in the ‘sphere to be pushing spiced pumpkin things down my throat.  Allow me to slightly buck that autumn trend and tell the tale how Garden Patrick and I recently turned a metric ton of these picked from my small apple orchard:

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into almost fifteen gallons of Homemade Hard Apple Cider.

 

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I’m building a chicken coop.

Granted, Joanna is less than thrilled with my latest project, but I have a feeling she’ll come around.  Her icy demeanor seems to be melting a little bit already, thanks to new neighbors that moved in down the lane.  You see, in a very short time, they’ve amassed a wonderful little mini farm complete with over a dozen chickens, several turkeys, and their very own miniature donkey named Ruth.

The boy loves to visit.  So do I.  So does Joanna.  How could she object to just a few of her own hens in comparison?

I’m sure we’ll have lots to share with you as we embark on our livestock adventure.  Especially since like most things we have no idea what we’re doing.  For now I thought I’d show you the coop build thus far.

Just don’t look too closely.  I know as much about carpentry as I do animal husbandry.  (read: zilch).

Here’s the result from one of our many lumber trips.  The foreman approves.

As you can see, that dude is a stickler for safety gear.

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The very first of many frame sections cut and ready to assemble.  All necessary tools and supplies accounted for.

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Fear my multitude of Evil Minions!

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If you’re one of the millions (And MILLIONS!) of loyal fans who can’t wait for me to take the reins… err keyboard… away from Joanna here at Midwestern Bite, you’ll recall a previous post where I admit I *might* be a Compost-aholic.

I’m saddened to say things have gotten worse and those large pallet bins were apparently just a gateway.  Unfortunately for my skeeved out wife, I’ve progressed.  That means working smarter, not harder.  You see, I’ve outsourced additional composting to a few thousand slimy, spineless garbage eaters.

Hi, my name is Mike and I’m a Vermicomposter.

Yep.  We’re the proud parents of composting worms.  Indoor composting worms.

Joanna was thrilled.

Before I show you their de-luxe rubbermaid apartment and how to best care for your subterranean underlings, here are a few fun facts I learned about worms along this journey.

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“Healing the World One Bite at a Time.”

That is the tagline for Polyface Farms – a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm owned and operated by my personal foodie hero, Joel Salatin.

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Photo Credit to www.polyfacefarms.com

This is the Husband.  Thanks for letting me step in on one of Joanna’s off days to quickly introduce you to Joel, and more importantly his philosophy and practices.  This will not be an exhaustive review.  Merely a little something to hopefully whet your appetite so you’ll follow up with a few links below.

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Since Joanna started Midwestern Bite, I’ve regularly been following along with her new world.  I’ve seen some of her “internet friends” grow into real friends.  I’ve found a few blogs in this stereotypically girlie niche I enjoy reading every day.  I’ve also found plenty I like to make fun of around the dinner table.

If you were like me and stepped into this strange universe of Foodie-Healthy-Living-Move-Everyday-Look-At-My-Latest-Juice-Cleanse-Miracle-Cure-While-I-Instagram-My-Feet… or for that matter visited your local urban Hipster Market or smalltown suburbia Farmer’s Market… you’d see that eating Organic and/or Local is all the rage these days.

Mr. Salatin’s practices are a little different, and a lot revolutionary only because he’s a throwback to how things used to be done for hundreds of years, yet implementing those core agricultural truths with modern technology like lightweight portable electric fencing.  Farming was done very differently before cheap oil.  Before a chemical conglomerate could manufacture the perfect 10-10-10 “organic” fertilizer mixture that ultimately runs off polluting our drinking water.  Back when farmers understood nature and worked with it to be successful.  Perhaps only by coincidence… maybe not… back before widespread outbreaks of salmonella and mad cow disease. When organic truly meant organic.  Not like today where “Organic(TM)” is a government regulated label that is given away to the newest mad scientist finding a loophole in harmful chemical balancing.  When free range meant free range, not stuffing 5,000 “Free Range(TM)” chickens into a massive noxious barn with one 12″ x 6″ door in a corner they’re unable to find since they don’t have enough muscle or bone density to stand up.

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(This was originally published last year.  With all the news that has been reported, or under-reported, in the last 365 days… it might be even more important for every American to read our entire Declaration and ponder its associated list of Grievances against King George.)

Question of the Day: Do you think the brilliant and honorable men who approved the Declaration of Independence would be proud of their Republic today?  If not, who is at fault?  (Hint: It’s not a particular political party.)

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Today is Independence Day.  A national holiday.  A day of celebration.

More importantly, it is a day for reverence.  A day I spend extremely thankful for many reasons, one of which is a Tradition I hold dear.  A family Tradition you are now formally invited to join.

Before you and your loved ones dig in to your BBQ feast, beverages, and fireworks… after your prayer (if you’re so inclined)… I invite you to join us in reading the Declaration of Independence.  Yes, the whole thing.  If you’ll be blessed to be surrounded by friends and family, have everyone take a turn reading a small section aloud.  If you’ll be blessed to celebrate by yourself, I still recommend reading it out loud (I have!).

Read those words and give some thought to their meaning.  Don’t worry, I’ve included it below so it’s easy to print out.

It’s easy to forget their reasons and rationale for revolting against their own government and King.  Do any of today’s news articles relate to their list of grievances our Founders listed for us?

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I was going to go with a Milli Vanilli inspired title, but I guess the wife’s “Toddler Radio” Pandora station won out.  It’s been wearing me down… wearing me down in a glittery, high pitched, Sillies-Shaking-Out, psychological torture type of way.  Who knew psychological torture usually involved ukelele accompaniment?

But back on topic.  Yes, I’m here again to wow you with yet another of my Homestead Adventures.

I assembled a Rain Barrel.

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This project was completed start to finish during nap time, while the Wife was out shopping for yoga pants.  Not just any yoga pants.  A fancier type of yoga pants she wouldn’t feel weird wearing out of the house.  It is the official SAHM uniform and it’s time she dressed appropriately.  At least that’s how everything was explained to me.

Such is our exciting lives.

Wait… what was I talking about?  Oh yeah, back on topic…

I assembled a Rain Barrel.

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A buddy of mine had “a guy” that got him food grade 55-gallon drums dirt cheap last year.  I bought quite a few, moved them with us, and am finally getting around to installing them at the new house.

This particular barrel is assembled from a kit I received taking part in a workshop hosted by our local Parks Department.

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Hi.

My name is Mike.

And I’m a Compost-aholic.

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I never thought I had a problem.  Honestly.  It all started with a banana peel every now and then.  No big deal.

Then I tossed in a few egg shells on the weekend.  I eat cold cereal every weekday morning, then go off and work hard… so I deserve to live it up with scrambled eggs on the weekend…… right?  It wasn’t every day, so I was fine.

Then it progressed to coffee grounds.  And kitchen scraps.  And cardboard.

It didn’t seem weird to move the compost with us to our new house last November.  No, I’m not talking about the small plastic compost bin.  I mean, I moved *The Compost*.  Inside our SUV. Over twenty miles.

That felt normal……..

Before I knew it, I was yelling at the Wife if she didn’t peel the stickers off her empty avocado shells in our kitchen compost bowl… and I was asking new neighbors for their horses’ poo.

And building this monstrosity.

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Read on for details if you want to fall off the wagon yourself.

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