September 3, 2012
Each year we look to expand the number of ways that we can use animals to convert things we don't want to eat‒like grass, bugs and acorns‒into things we do like to eat. Last year we took the step of adding guinnea hogs to our suite of sustainability critters by acquiring a breeding pair of this herloom breed. Since then, they've been happily consuming all sorts of kitchen scraps, thereby providing us with a way to recycle lots of non-edibles into food-on-the-hoof.
As we'd hoped, our mini-hogs have produced a nice litter of baby pigs. Among other things, that means that we need to ramp up our supply of edibles, especially since we're still a few weeks away from the start of the acorn harvest. One option was to pick up out-of-date bread from the local bakery distributor. They're the local outlet for bread that's reached its "pull date," but what ever they don't sell to people in a couple of days then gets sold to local farmers as animal feed.
The hogs decided that they like bread a lot, and the little pigletts were a delight to watch as they grabbed slices for themselves and trotted away to eat in private‒like most animals, they're not very good at sharing their food.
the piglets each grab their own slice
While the little pigs are enthusiastic eaters, there's a limit to how much they can eat without wasting a considerable portion of what they're given. There's also a limit to how long we can store the bread without it going mouldy. Since we're smack in the middle of Windward's dry season, with long days full of sunshine and low humidity, the easist solution is to dry the bread. While we already have a long history of using dehyrdation to preserve lots of things such as fruit and herbs, a pick-up truck load of bread is more than our dehydrators could begin to process.
spreading the bread on top of a shipping container
Looking around, we needed a good place to spread out the bread to dry. Fortunately, we had an excellent option right at hand‒the top of one of our shipping containers! They're metal so they adsorb the sun's heat nicely, they're corrugated so they offer better air circulation than a flat surface would, and they're up away from the sheep and fowl who, given free access, would eat themselves sick and poop on the rest of the bread.
crushing the dry bread underfoot
After three days exposure, the bread was dried out and ready to store. In order to compact it, we found that the easest way to turn it into bread crumbs was to rake the bread into piles and walk on it, sort of like the way that grapes have traditionally been walked to crush them. The small crumbs fall to the bottom, and the large crumbs rise to the top. We'd skim off the large pieces and add them to the next bit of bread to be crushed, and then scoup the small crumbs into a trash can lined with a garbage bag.
bagging up the bread crumbs
The bread lost a lot of weight drying out, but that's to be expected and there's no food value to water anyway. Even so, we wound up with more than a hundred pounds of crumbs. The plan is to add a scoup each day to the kitchen scraps. Dehydrating the bread worked so well, we're looking forward to bringing home more bread come the next trip to town.