Being on our restricted retirement financial budget, we're always trying to think of ways to reduce costs in any way we can. But perhaps even more than that, we're committed to the nutrition of the food we eat and the feed we provide for our chickens . . . which comes right back to our personal nutrition because their eggs and, eventually, their meat ends up on our table.
A day or so ago, I was noticing the beautiful stand of kale growing in the garden. We've been enjoying eating a lot of it lately because, like Swiss chard, kale becomes more lush and flavorful in the cooler fall temps. Next I started thinking of it as a possible supplement to the feed we have to buy for the chickens. Hmmmm, if the chickens had some of that lush, nutritious, green-ness to eat in the winter months . . .
So because I was looking for something to do with my time (insert hysterical laughter --- hubby did question my sanity), I took my old, beat up, giant colander out into the garden and piled it high with kale.
I cut the thick rib out of each leaf and then chop, chop, chopped it as finely as I could, and spread it out on trays from our dehydrator.
Our dehydrator has eight trays and by harvesting four heaping colanders full, I did two full batches with the chopped kale. (Truth to tell, I finished off the second dehydrator filling with chopped Swiss chard as I wanted to save some of the kale in the garden for us.)
It took about three hours for each batch of the greens to dry thoroughly. I dumped the finished product from the trays onto a sheet of newspaper which made it easy to funnel into glass jars for storage.
From the four huge pickings of kale (and a little Swiss chard) I got a smidge under a gallon and a half of dried, green goodness. You may detect some striations of red in the jars. That's the Swiss chard (Ruby Chard).
I'm thinking this is going to be much appreciated by our poultry during the many months of this coming winter when they're confined to their chicken house and solarium. (Even when we provide tiny little snowshoes for them, they do not like to go out in the snow.)
How will we feed these dried greens out? How long will it last? This first year will be an experiment, for sure. Papa Pea is thinking we will either mix it in with their laying mash or sprinkle it on the floor (we use the deep litter method). I have a feeling it certainly won't last all winter, but it will be interesting to see if we can tell if the chickens appreciate it, and if our egg yolks maintain more of an orange color as they do when the girls are out foraging on green grass all spring, summer and fall.
A Bitter Sweet Good Bye
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