For the past few months since I left my job, I've been trying to be creative about penny pinching. New York City, as pretty much everyone knows, is damned expensive. Even if you've managed to find "reasonable" rent in an outer borough, the cost of commuting and the undeniable lure of the nightlife here definitely takes it's toll on your finances.
One of the ways I've been saving money on feed for my chickens is by pilfering dumpsters outside of local breweries here in Brooklyn. Sixpoint Craft Ales has been kindly about offering up spent grain to local chickeners, as they no doubt undertstand the woes of having 50lb bags of feed shipped in from the south for their own chooks. It's quite expensive and not completely in line with my philosophy of keeping it local.
Brooklyn Brewery has also been incredibly generous with their spent grain. On a recent visit to fill up my 5 gallon bucket I was given a tour of the facilities, introduced to staff and also given a large bag of barley malt to give to the chickens. They were going to be disposing of it, since it was a little past prime and they didn't want to risk effecting the flavor of their beer so they were just going to offload it. This sort of thing doesn't happen often, so I felt really fortunate.
When I got home I immediately took a few scoops of the barley malt out to the girls. They gobbled up all the little rice shaped tidbits within seconds of them hitting the ground. As I looked down at the remaining grains in my hand I had a thought: I wonder what barley tea would taste like if I made it with this.
I filled up some cleaned pasta sauce jars with some of the barley and took it upstairs. I boiled some water, got my my favorite mug, my chinatown tea strainer and dumped a generous tablespoon of the grains into it. I poured boiling water over the strainer and let it steep for about 4 minutes.The result was a deep, toasty, robust cup of Mugicha. I have been drinking a cup every morning since.
This little discovery has gotten me hooked on finding delicious and practical new ways to tap into the "waste stream" (as my friend Bee says) in Brooklyn. So much stuff gets thrown out because businesses have no use for it, and many of them are receptive to making arrangements for picking up those things provided it doesn't disrupt their flow. So if a place near you disposes of something you think you can make use of, just ask! They may not go for it but if they do, you could conceivably save yourself a lot of money and have a lot of fun doing it!