As part of my long term planning, I can’t help but think about how I would feed my livestock during times of hardship. This is something that every responsible husbandman should do, but I tend to dwell a little longer on the subject because of my interests. I often wonder how my own ancestors kept their animals fed during the long months of the English winter. What about the lean years when the crop had gone bad? I was considering this aspect of my long terms plans when I came across the idea of “pulling fodder.”
“Pulling fodder” was a harvesting technique that provided the farmer with a source of feedstuff in an area that was often unfit for growing hay. “Depending on the season and the time of planting, the farmer went into his field around mid-August to “pull fodder,” which meant stripping the blades, while the ear, now fully grown and out of the milk, was left on the stalk. The blades were tied into bundles and saved for fodder, the only winter forage from his fields that the farmer had. Cured, the bundles of blades were usually stacked into piles, and covered with the corn tops that were cut next, while the ears were left on the now bare stalks until November or even later when “corn-gathering” began. Corn gathering meant taking shuck and all. Corn shucks were a valuable addition to the animal food supply; a hungry cow would take them along with her nubbins and be glad. Shucks were also used as mud-mats by the door, horse collars and now and then, a doll.”
While we have plenty of fertile, easily rolling land on which to grow hay, this is a very interesting idea that I will incorporate into our end of season task list. Once our own corn is finished, we are in the habit of pulling the stalks and using them in the chicken runs throughout the winter to keep the mud out of the coops. They do make an excellent mat and gives the chickens something to scratch in. With this new idea, however, it looks like we have an additional use that will provide another layer of security to our long term plan for self sufficiency.