Time is the thing that I'm always short of now. I'd like to become more time efficient....but....I don't want to do it by spending more money. The easiest way to cut down in time is to throw cash at the problem or task. Such as : cook with propane instead of wood, use a tractor or backhoe to get big jobs done instead of hand tools. Yes, I could do that, but I prefer the idea of doing things with small tools. Crazy....yes. Satisfying....Yes!
So I've been toying around with ideas and doing some experimenting. I recently discovered that I could use fermented banana trunk as as pig feed. So I wondered if I could cut down the prep time for the taro that I use for the chickens by fermenting it.
Why ferment taro?
...first of all, the chickens readily eat fermented foods. In fact they eat spoiled garbage with relish. Fresh pumpkins are ignored, but let them rot a bit and the hens greedily gobble them down. That's so nasty watching it that I have to walk away, otherwise I'd gag. Boy am I glad I'm not a chicken!
...fermented feed can be stored for weeks without refrigeration.
...fermenting taro significantly reduces the oxalate crystals, thus eliminating the need to cook the taro.
My original method.....
...chop up the taro and cook it
...send the cooked taro through the blender to mix with chicken mash
...send chopped up taro through the garbage disposal
...cook the ground up taro
...mix it with the slop & glop
...send the chopped up taro through the garbage disposal
...store the ground up taro in sealed air-free 5 gallon buckets
...ferment for 1 to 2 weeks (can be stored for at least a month, maybe more)
...mix uncooked fermented ground taro with the slop & glop
This newest method is working. What's nice is that I can work a taro patch, harvesting the trimmings for feed. Then I'll grind it all up and store it in buckets, giving me anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks worth of fermented taro to add to the chicken feed. So I'm not harvesting and cooking taro every day. Whew, what a relief!
So I've got a good working solution for taro. What about other crops? I looked to pipinola next.
Pipinola can be fed raw or cooked, though they get more out of the cooked stuff. Thus I've been cooking it. But I started wondering if I was really gaining enough nutrition and digestibility benefits to pay for the effort and time of cooking and grinding it. Although I found no statistics for pipinola specifically, I found information on other fermented foods for livestock. Fermenting definitely had its benefits over foods being fed raw. So I gave fermenting pipinola a try.
Just as with the taro, I coarsely chopped the pipinola and sent it through the garbage disposal. The resulting pulp sans the excess liquid was sealed in an airtight 5 gallon bucket. I let it ferment for a week and gave it a peek. Looked and smell just fine. Then I let the chickens and pigs give it a taste test. Yup, they ate it. Ah-ha, two thumbs up! I found a way to process and store the abundant pipinolas so that I wouldn't lose them to rot. The fermented pulp should last for at least a full month in the buckets without refrigeration, maybe longer. I presently have 3 week old fermented pipinola and it still looks and smells fine, and both the chickens and pigs willingly chow it down.
So far, I like this method. It is saving me time, I can process a month's worth at a one time if I need to, I'm not tossing excesses into the compost bins, I'm not burning up a lot of firewood, and I'm not using the refrigerator. That's all fine with me.