Community Philosphy Blog and Library

HOMEGROWN Life: What the Fodder?! The Latest in Cheap and Easy Livestock Feed



Have you seen the latest big craze in animal feed? Livestock fodder from grain seed takes only about a week to grow and increases your feed by up to six times in weight. (So far, I’ve seen five but I hear six is possible.) It’s highly nutritious and provides 20 percent protein by dry weight. You can feed it to poultry, rabbits, ruminants, horses—just about any grass-loving livestock around.

When my friend Brande first told me about it, I wasn’t so sure. I had heard great things about it but had only seen these huge, incredibly expensive setups for large livestock operations. I hadn’t even thought it was possible to do fodder without one of those setups.


Gathering round.

What in the hell was I thinking? Nowadays everything can be done DIY, so why not fodder? It would just require a bit more labor on my part.

There are really only three things you absolutely have to have: seed, water, and planting trays with drainage holes. There’s no need for soil or fertilizer. Because we have a mild climate, I’m just growing mine outside on a table. The best seed to use is barley, as it has the highest nutrition and protein of all the grain seeds. I can get an 80-pound bag of barley for just over $18. You can try to find hulled barley, but unhulled seems to work fine. When watering, I recapture the drainage water to reuse.


Cleaned barley with hulls intact (unhulled).

Before you start making your fodder, you need to soak the barley for six to eight hours in water. This degrades germination inhibitors in the seeds (also why you should soak peas and legumes before planting). You only want to put about half an inch of barley in your tray. It really does swell up, and I found that, with 3 pounds of barley, the tray was busting at the walls. You want to cover the barley with enough water so that it remains covered when it expands.

Soaking barley in a bucket.

Soaking barley in a bucket.

Once your barley is done soaking, pour the seed and water into your tray and rinse the seed. To help encourage germination, cover your tray so that it remains dark. I just use a burlap sack. The photo above shows the barley one day after soaking. Small root tips are beginning to show up at the ends of the seed.

Day 1: Just starting to germinate.

Day 1: Just starting to germinate.

Water your seed two to three times a day. You want to keep it from drying out too much. By the second day after soaking, you’ll start to see more of the roots.

Day 2: At this point, you’ll begin to see the seeds expand in size.

Day 2: At this point, you’ll begin to see the seeds expand in size.

The third day after soaking, small bits of green will poke their heads out of the layer of seeds and roots. This green stuff will soon be growing so fast you can almost see it lengthen. At this point, you’ll want to uncover your fodder to help the grass blades develop chlorophyll and energy.


Day 3: Time to uncover the seed so that it gets light.

On the fourth day after soaking, you’ll see the beginning of a nice little green carpet. It’s not much yet, but the following day you’ll be amazed.

Day 4: A nice green layer is beginning to form.

Day 4: A nice green layer is beginning to form.

Day 5, and it’s starting to look like turf. Keep watering at least twice a day.

Day 5: Day 5, and it’s starting to look like turf. Keep watering at least twice a day.

Day 5: Once it reaches this point, it grows quickly.

By day 6, you’re almost ready to feed it. Supposedly this is when the grass’s nutrition begins to peak.

Day 6: From day 6 to day 7, the fodder is at its most nutritious.

Day 6: From day 6 to day 7, the fodder is at its most nutritious.

On day 7, it’s time to feed your animals. You can see the awesome layers of roots, seed, and grass in the photo below. Poultry and ruminants will consume all of these parts. Rabbits generally only like the greens.

Roots, seed, and leaf in one tidy package.

Roots, seed, and leaf in one tidy package.

I started with 3 pounds of seed and produced nearly 15 pounds of fodder. It took my hens a couple of days to eat one tray’s worth. If you start a new tray every day or every couple of days, you’ll have a constant supply of fodder to feed your brood.

HOMEGROWN Life blog: Rachel, of Dog Island Farm

My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with my husband, I run Dog Island Farm, in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard, I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!


HOMEGROWN Life: Mairzy Doats, A Lambing Time Theme Song


How is it the song goes? “…Dozy doats and little lambzy divey.” At Bittersweet it’s become my theme song, as it’s lambing time.

Lambs are usually associated with spring when temperatures warm and bits of green start to appear. At Bittersweet, lambs arrive when the snows are still blanketing the ground and winds are whipping up the rocky Maine coast. In the dark of night when temperatures plummet into teens and sub zero ranges, babes arrive as steaming bundles of fur taking their first breaths in a cold winter world. Bits of fluff on wobbly legs, umbilical cords dangling from their newborn bellies, eagerly poke tiny noses into folds of legs, anxious for their first sip of milk. Moms grumble their individual voices to each, reaching around with their noses to tickle the newborn’s tails, encouraging them to keep trying to find their source of nourishment. She knows success can be the difference between life and death.


Being with my flock, mostly as an observer, but also as a midwife is very rewarding for a shepherdess. Knowing when to intervene and when to stand back and let nature take its course is the biggest challenge. Encouragement for both mom and babe sometimes comes in gentle pats or a tiny nudge to reassure that “you’re doing a great job, keep going, I know you can do it!”

Instinct is a powerful force in a flock. Moms know best; I’ve learned that patience is the most important quality a shepherdess possesses. When even patience fails, or there’s not enough milk for two hungry twins, I’m blessed with bottle lambs. With them comes daily lamb cuddles, tiny hooves trailing on my heels, and lambs snuggling in my lap when their little bellies are full and they can barely keep their eyes open. In farming, success is measured in these moments.

BittersweetLamb2This year, play-yard in the room next to where I sleep holds two tiny girls at night. For me, it’s selfishly easier to feed a hungry lamb at 8 pm and again at 4 am without having to go back out to the barn. Ever snuggle with a newborn lamb in your jammies? A tiny voice whispering sweet content sounds in your ear as it slumbers on your shoulder. Trust me, it’s addictive.

Ireland is where I first fell in love with lambs. I would wake up to the sound of moms and babes calling to each other in their distinctive voices. They wander freely to the edges of the rocky cliffs and back up again where they are spotted as dots high on the mountainous landscape. Now, I wake up to my own lambs frolicking with their moms just outside my bedroom window on the rocky coast of Maine.

The first thing I pick up in the morning isn’t a cup of coffee, but the lambs. I carry them to the kitchen where they dance around my feet as I prepare their first bottle. Once their tiny bellies are full, they play together while I prepare my first cup of coffee, keeping an eye out for my whereabouts. Then we make our way to the barn together to begin our day.

Some people find winters long and weary, but for me, winter is the time for cuddling lambs.



HOMEGROWN-life-dyan-150x150Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.


HOMEGROWN Life: Let’s Talk Security

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREEN-150x150Security. It’s something I never really bring up but I think it’s important that I discuss it. This time I’m not talking about food security, biosecurity or keeping your hens safe from raccoons. Rather I want to discuss keeping an unwanted two legged animal off your property.

Over the past year it’s definitely been a concern and lately that concern has become even stronger with some events that have occurred in our neighborhood as well as some outside of our neighborhood. It’s caused us to push back some of our projects to take on new ones.

The old gate

The old gate

We first started thinking about security when we had to stop giving tours. We started making changes in how we presented our public persona including being very vigilant about never sharing any details about where we live.

When our next door neighbors sold their house it sat vacant waiting for escrow to close. We have been very vigilant but we can only do so much. In the weeks it’s been empty we’ve had squatters move in (fortunately our old neighbor showed up the day they moved in and kicked them out), people sleeping in the backyard, people kicking in doors and trying to break in anyway they can. We even caught another neighbor from down the street robbing the place. The cops got involved and stolen items were returned, but the offending neighbor wasn’t even cited and it left us feeling rather unsettled. We know who this neighbor is and they have been nothing but bad news.

On top of that, when we went to go talk to our neighbors across the street about the happenings next door to us they said they had recently seen some man come out of our backyard. We figured it was our milk delivery guy but she said he wasn’t carrying anything so we can’t really be sure.

Over the course of the past few years there have been issues with urban farming. Some urban farmers in Portland that were having a go with animal activists stealing their animals. One urban farmer had 23 animals stolen from him. One of the rabbits had just kindled and the thief left 9 newborn kits to die. The rabbits were dropped off with a rabbit rescue where they were later found by the owner. Granted this happened in Portland, Oregon, but the animal rights activists here are crazy enough to pull the same stunts. Hell, they’ve already tried to sabotage Kitty’s homestead once already (one of the reasons we stopped giving tours).

With all of happening at the same time we’ve decided that it’s time to increase our own security here. While the alarm system covers our house and the dogs are great guards, we want to ensure that no one can actually access the backyard without our (or our dogs’) permission. Our animals not only depend on us for food, water, shelter and love, but they also need us to make sure they are secure. Part of that security includes keeping unwanted people out of our yard.

The new gate, installed

The new gate, installed

The first order of business was our side gate. It kept the dogs from getting out, but that’s about all it did. It was flimsy and we had just put it up in a matter of hours when we first moved in because we didn’t have a gate. This time we hired our neighbor who is a retired contractor to build us the Fort Knox of gates. None of this flimsy wood panel thing we were using. We went with full on 2×6 and 2×8 pressure treated wood with 2×8 framing. Using a metal strut we tied it to a house stud. No one is kicking it in. You’ll also notice that there is no handle or latch on the outside. It also automatically closes so we can’t leave it open on accident.

Most recently we moved and replaced our driveway gates. When we first moved in, there wasn’t any fencing along our widest side yard, which is approximately 15′. Large enough to drive a vehicle behind our house. Again it was a quick job just throwing up a gate at the back of house to keep (or in Squeak’s case, attempt to keep) the dogs in. Unfortunately this left the huge blank wall of our house on that side exposed. One of the concerns I’ve always had was vandalism. The wall is easily visible to the street and having no windows on that side I’m surprised it never became a magnet for graffiti. We have now moved the gates towards the front of the house to protect that wall along with making them stronger.

In addition, we added an 8 camera security system that we can view on our phones. We had a 4 camera system, but it didn’t cover our backyard. After the fire, we realized we really needed to be able to see what was going on back there. I see and hear about all sorts of shenanigans going on in our neighborhood and I firmly believe that between the dogs, alarm system, gates and cameras, we’re pretty secure. Honestly, even if I lived in the country, I would make sure to have a security camera system.


Rachel on Vegetable VarietiesRachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!