In part 1 of this two-part article, I wrote about the theory behind the reason for preparing for chaos and provided and overview of the laws of supply and demand. Then, I moved from theory into practical matters. I began with alternative feed for chickens, as chickens are a means for sustaining us when the SHTF and our transportation system is not delivering feed, chicks, or supplies to our stores. We have looked at crabapples and how to provide them with various insects. Now, let’s look at sunflowers to use as chicken feed.
One of my neighbors grew some sunflowers one year and complained how much work it was to prepare the sunflowers for human consumption. My response was simple; grow them for the chickens and let them do all the work. Chickens will peck at a sunflower head until all the seeds are consumed.
My first challenge was to find some good sunflower seed. The local bulk seed store did not sell seeds for growing, but they had black oil sunflower seeds for bird feed. I just bought one 50 lb. bag, and the seeds had a 97% germination rate. So that’s what I planted.
A Modified Three Sisters Plant Strategy
I co-planted the sunflowers with an heirloom variety of large winter squash as a kind of modified three sisters plant strategy, with only two sisters. Sunflowers replaced the corn in the sister group, providing some shade for the squash as well as a grid for the squash plants to climb. By arrival of autumn, I had a few hundred sunflower heads (and a lot of squash). It is important to harvest the sunflowers before the wild birds eat too many of them. Also the sunflower seeds provide valuable fat and oils to the chickens, but they can make them fat and unhealthy if fed exclusively. It is also important to have a mouse-free bin to store the sunflower heads, since rodents like them, too.
Mobile Chicken Tractors
Mobile chicken tractors are another option. They can be used to contain poultry and allow the birds an element of free-range access to forage for natural plants and insects.
Summary of Section 2
Crabapples and sunflowers are relatively easily-produced sources of vegetable poultry feed. An earth-sheltered worm bin can be used to help worms survive cold climates and provide a good source of protein feed for poultry. The compost byproduct is also very useful in the garden. Maggots can also provide protein to the chickens, in a pinch.
References for Section 2: Pastured Poultry Profit$
Section 3 – Food Sources for Pigs
We always hear about the efficiencies of scale from large manufacturers and mega farms. However, there are also some benefits that are unique to small-scale, family-sized farms. It is important to use those advantages for the family farm.
Scraps do not scale up to large-scale farming, but they can make a good supplement, and almost a primary food source if you have a large enough group. Ideally, in TEOTWAWKI, wastage will be at a minimum, but there are plenty of things we don’t normally eat that pigs will consider a delicacy. These items include potato peels, squash rinds, watermelon rinds, outside cabbage leaves, liquid from yogurt, et cetera. Mix it all up, and put it in the slop bucket. If you have some food that has gone a little bad, the taste is ruined for humans, but heat it up to kill the bugs, and mix it in with all the other pig slop.
And you don’t have to wait for TEOTWAWKI to collect scraps for your pigs. Take a big bucket to the next church or company picnic. It is horrible how much food gets wasted, but your animals will appreciate the “repurposed” leftovers and wastage. Pigs are susceptible to many human diseases, so it is still a good idea to cook up scraps before giving them to your animals. There are Federal guidelines that specify the temperature and duration of the sterilization for slop feed. Although those guidelines are useful, it gets ridiculous when Federal law specifies that the slop has to be cooked in a government approved and monitored facility. Some of those laws many not be as critical for personal consumption in case of a real crisis.
Pigweed (Lamb’s Quarters/Amaranth)
In my part of the American Redoubt, any field that is cleared from grazing the previous year will just erupt in pigweed in the spring time. It is thick, so thick that you can’t walk in it without stepping on it. And it grows, well, like a weed and reseeds itself rapidly, especially when the ground is moist. While is it young, less that two feet in height, pigs will consume the entire plant. It is also much easier to just pull out the whole plant. When pigweed gets much taller than that, the stalk gets very tough, and the pigs will only eat the outside leaves.
A Continuous Supply
It’s not that difficult to keep a continuous supply of pigweed growing in a relatively small patch of dirt. I made a small path through the pigweed patch and just go through thinning the largest plants and those which are growing really close to each other. That small patch of dirt soon sprouted some replacement plants. Gathering large armful of plants twice a day, and three times on weekends, I fed five pigs on just pigweed for over a month in the spring. Later in the year, I would collect pigweed from the field, or even my neighbors’ fields and use it to supplement the other food. It became their favorite food. I knew because they would always eat the pigweed first.
Pigweed will still grow in the hot, dry summer, but the stalks become thick and tough to eat and harvest. In this weather, it will not reseed itself as easily. To keep a continuous supply going for longer, it requires some kind of irrigation when the weather gets hot and dry. It may seem silly to water weeds, but I don’t know of any other plant that just produces so much biomass so quickly with just a little bit of attention.
I might also mention that pigs will forage pigweed themselves if it is in their pen. But pigs lack the skills to keep a continuous supply growing and will quickly trample every living thing in their pen. However, through pen rotation, it is possible to use the empty fields created by the pigs as a place for pigweed to reseed itself the next spring. I have three pens that I rotate the pigs between, and the two “cleared” pens for planting people crops or fallow pigweed pastures.
Purslane is a remarkable weed. I have seen it growing on my land, in the frigid northwest U.S., and in the deserts of the Arabian peninsula. Supposedly, it contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. I have seen it for sale in the markets in the Middle East, and it is extremely drought tolerant.
Pigs don’t seem to like purslane as well as pigweed, but they will eat it when they are hungry (and pigs seem to be always hungry). It is relatively easy to pull up. It also seems to grow best in moist ground in the spring on clear dirt. Once you recognize it, you can use it to supplement other pig food. I don’t have any scientific data to prove it, but I do think that it probably helps keep the pigs healthy, just like the Omega-3’s help keep people healthy.
Once your pick your corn, don’t waste any time giving the corn stalks to the pigs. My pigs would strip down the leaves of corn stalks one layer at a time until nothing was left. Once the plants were drier, they were less interested in the plants or wouldn’t eat the whole stalk.
Changing Pig Food
In regards to changing pig food, pigs have the reputation for a willingness to eat anything. However, that skill is really with goats. Pigs can actually be quite picky. There is technique involved in getting them to eat new foods as the seasons and forage changes. I’ll give you a couple of stories.
Expensive, “Blue Ribbon” Pig Food the Pigs Never Touched
I had been feeding my five pigs mostly foraged food when one of them became ill. He would come out and sniff at the food, and then he’d just go lie down again. Like kids in grade school, they all got sick, one after the other. I didn’t want to lose these animals, so I went to my local farm supply store and bought the most expensive, “Blue Ribbon” pig food I could find. The pigs never touched that stuff, whether healthy or ill. They were not used to it. Eventually I had to mix it in with their other food, just to get rid of it. (The pigs eventually just got better and started eating again.)
Introducing Crabapples to My Pigs
When early autumn arrived, I tried introducing crabapples to my pigs. (How iconic is the apple in the pigs mouth, right?) They wouldn’t touch them. So I chopped them up into little pieces and mixed it in with their normal food. They would separate the apple bits with their snouts and not eat them. I almost gave up. Then I made them skip a meal, and the next meal I gave them only crabapples. Eventually they got the idea, and it became a favorite food. I’d bring a 5-gallon bucket down to them, and they would chase the apples all over the pen to get more than their siblings. They really are very similar to humans in that way. A PBJ is just wonderful, if I am really hungry.
Summary of Section 3
In summary, there are a variety of alternative food sources for pigs. Food scraps are a good source of food for pigs and represent an economy-of-small-scale that is not available on a commercial level. Pigweed is very prolific and seeds itself on bare land in wet weather. It can be watered in dry weather to keep a continuous supply of plants that pigs will relish. Purslane, corn stalks, and crabapples are also valuable plant sources to feed pigs during different seasons. Sometimes pigs need to experience a bit of hunger to be convinced to try new foods.
References for Section 3: The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part two of a two part entry for Round 76 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 76 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.