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December 19, 2013

You can’t grow everything you need.  Or at least we can’t or don’t want to.  So each winter we buy in some carbon for bedding materials.  It used to be here in the land of logging,  that shavings or sawdust was the most inexpensive way to bed your animals.  Now that almost every tree down to toothpick size is used, that type of bedding is a high dollar item, usually used by horse owners or folks with deep pockets.  Very high in carbon, it does make sense on one hand to use woody materials for bedding, but in a small farm composting operation like ours, straw makes more sense, dollar-wise and in quick breakdown sense too.  Like father like son, grain grows in one season, and breaks down in one season.  Trees grow for many years, and take as long to break down into soil food… .

Straw is the by-product of grain growing, namely at this farm, oats and barley.  As a part of our henpecked composting program, I use whole grains as scratch to encourage the hens to mix up the deep bedding.  Whole grains are good for chickens too, and with oats, whatever seeds they miss won’t become too much of a weed problem in the garden when I spread the finished product in the vegetable garden.  In a one-stop shopping mode I bought a bag of oats too.

Local whole oats

Local whole oats

While I was at J4 I tasted a sample of the barley and some golden flax.  Delicious!  I didn’t share any of that with the hens but they have given the oats a thumbs, wings? up.  They come running when they see me get in the oat barrel.  They aren’t label snobs, they just know a good thing when they peck it.

straw inspection team - east

straw inspection team – east

The funniest thing about these trips to get straw is the farm cats on each end.  Their cats are all over the truck and trailer inspecting and checking out the load.  It’s so bad that one time we got home and one of their cats had hitched a ride all the way to our house in the trailer.  We’re a little more careful these days,  making sure all the barn cats are accounted for before we head for home.  On our end it’s the same, as soon as we are parked the cats are all over the load carefully sniffing each bale and once they are done with that they take a nap on the straw.

I guess it is good bedding material after all.  Barn cat approved!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2013 12:11 pm

    Lovely cat photos! 🙂

  2. December 19, 2013 1:03 pm

    Our cats used to crawl the hay and straw too! Hubby said they could smell mouse in there, and they surely caught a few mice! Had one year 18 cats total – must have been a strong tom in the neighbor hood! never saw a mouse anywhere!

  3. December 19, 2013 1:36 pm

    A little off topic (but your points about wood based bedding got me thinking…), how do you feel about wood chip mulch in the garden? (not tilled in, but as a top dressing in fall, to be planted in come spring)?
    Thanks, Jaime

    • December 19, 2013 3:21 pm

      NFF, I think as long as it isn’t tilled in but allowed to stay on top it works okay, you may have to scratch down a bit to get to some workable soil to plant though…Back to Eden is a good video to watch if you’re interested in using heavy wood mulch for vegetable planting.

  4. December 20, 2013 1:20 pm

    Can’t grow everything. Nope. Pepper. Cinnamon. Coffee.

    Hardwood sawdust is easy to come by here…for now. Pellets are taking over the world though.

  5. M in NC permalink
    December 23, 2013 5:17 am

    Vanilla – the beans or the flavoring… Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardomon .. All those exotic spices that sent the explorers and fotune hunters out to discover new routes , sources and even new flavors. Citrus isn’t practical to grow either, though some folks do have the miniature trees in pots if they have a sunny room. Olive oil, cranberries …. the list goes on. Globalization of regional food products has certainly changed my palatte since I was a small child.

    M in NC


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