We Are Two! Be Vigilant!

Guess what? We’re two! We began our blog on May 30, 2013 with much trepidation and doubt that it was an intelligent move on our part. Doubtful that anyone would find it useful, interesting or even read it, and trepidation at putting our thoughts out there in internet land. But we felt compelled to share what we know, what we have experienced, and our knowledge of the need to prepare for the demise of our country and society. Unfortunately, the call to prepare still needs to be sounded for as many as will listen, so we continue to share our lives, our thoughts and our preparations.

Frank’s first radio communications post was about rules and safety. From there he moved on to CB radios and regular family handheld, or GMRS and FRS radios. He has taught folks how to get their ham radio license, what equipment they need to meet certain communication goals, and how important radio communications will be to all of us when no other means of contact is available. We want to thank everyone that has asked questions and shared with us their success at obtaining a ham radio license. It is always great to hear that something we wrote helped them along the way.


Fern has shared goats, gardening and cheese making. Canning, cooking and insects. Even though she has shared many things in these categories, she has learned a great deal from the comments you have left. We enjoy the ‘conversations’ we are able to have with you through the comment section. The article is not finished or complete until we have had the opportunity to learn more, or be given food for thought, by you the reader. You see, even though we share many things here in hopes that it will be useful to someone, we have also learned a great deal from all you have shared with us. For that, we are truly grateful.

We have had the honor to be featured on several prominent blogs in the homestead/preparedness/survival areas. We would like to thank Patrice Lewis of Rural Revolution for tutoring us when we first began this blog. She took the time to answer many questions and give us pointers.

We would also like to thank James, Wesley Rawles of SurvivalBlog for featuring several of our articles on his blog. These folks have helped increase our readership and allowed us to share with many more people than we would have ever reached on our own. Every time you comment, you give us more to think about, research, and learn. We truly appreciate all that you teach us.

Besides radios, chickens, cheese and bugs, we all need to be astutely aware that our government is playing some serious games. Most of us are aware that the economy, not just of the United States, but of the entire planet, is in serious, serious disarray. We’ve all seen bugs and birds, fish and mammals do everything they can to survive. Our government is no different. It will do what is necessary to keep itself with it’s head above water at any cost. Just take a look at quantitative easing. It doesn’t work and hasn’t worked. 

 

Now is not the time to become complacent. Look at Baltimore, or Chicago. If we look very closely it would appear that our government is stirring the pot and turning up the heat. I know these are sad things to say, but if we look closely, it appears that the lines are being set for some type of civil insurrection. Just watch a cattleman herd his cattle. If he wants them to go a certain way, he doesn’t have to use lots of force, he just very gently coerces the animals in the direction he desires. This is what is happening in America. We’re all being led like the cattle, ultimately to the feed lot and slaughter house. Metaphorically speaking, of course. 

Summertime is coming. Lots of daylight and lots of heat. October is the traditional month for stock market problems, and some of our financial bubbles cannot continue to survive. You need to keep an eye on Greece, because if they go down the drain, that will be the end of the European Union. You need to pay attention to congress, also. This is unquestionably the highest concentration of corrupt, white collar criminals ever organized. They, like the government, will do anything to keep their heads above water. We do not have a representative type of government any longer. Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course, but they are few and far between. So, if our government will do anything to keep it’s head above water, and congress will do anything to keep it’s head above water, I don’t think that you and I, the common people, are really on anybody’s agenda. We are just slaves.



There are a few other topics to pay attention to. We have a serious immigration problem. Our borders are being flooded with unskilled criminals, not just from Mexico, but from other countries with which we have serious enemies. The Department of Human Services, or whatever your state calls it, has created a huge population that refuses to work, and our government has conveniently created a majority welfare subculture. The educational system, as I stated before, is a pathetic, cesspool pretending to be educating our children, while the children are actually being indoctrinated. Are there exceptions to this rule? Sure there are. 

Now is not the time to drop your vigilance. A lot of prominent individuals are predicting a serious disruption this fall, and some are saying earlier. Please pay attention and get prepared. If I am wrong, Hallelujah! If I am right, may God be with us all.

Frank’s favorite poster

 
God gave us the incentive to share our lives here, and in turn we have been greatly blessed. We thank you for reading our words and sharing your lives with us.


From the humble hearts of, 

Frank & Fern Feral

Homestead News, Volume 3

Even with historic rainfall, it seems we have managed to stay busy on our homestead. There are a number of projects that are either ongoing, getting started or waiting in the wings for next week to arrive. Here is a rundown of some of our recent events.

 

Frank has wanted to put another layer of gravel on the road going up to the barn. We had this road constructed when we bought our place, but it was time to increase the gravel depth and width. This should do for this road for years to come.

 

We also wanted a load of gravel placed in the backyard so Frank could spread it out in our parking areas and in a number of other places. Unfortunately, the dump truck got stuck before it could make it down the hill. This necessitated dumping the gravel by the chicken house, which means Frank will have to make many, many trips up and down this hill to place the gravel in the desired place.

The dewberries are ripening, so my friend Grace came over today and between rain showers, we picked a few berries. I hope to pick many more in the next few days. By the way, yesterday and last night we got another 1.4″ of rain, and then today we got another 0.4″. But! This is supposed to be the end of it. There is no rain in the near forecast. Hallelujah!

We have had some issues with the egg turner in our incubator this year and were afraid we would have a very poor hatch rate. Today, the day before our actual hatch date, we already have eleven, no make that sixteen, new baby chicks. We were surprised and pleased with this development. Frank will fill you in on the details in an upcoming chicken story.

Our house was built in 1983 on a stem wall with floor joists. Over time it has settled in the middle and needed to be jacked up and leveled. It was hard to find someone to do this kind of work, but today two of our friends arrived and began this project. After this job is completed, they will be helping us replace some of our 30 year old carpet with new flooring. We are really looking forward to that.

Next week the window company will be here to replace our windows. Many of them are clouded over on the inside, and one on the north side lets the cold air in if it is very windy. This is another project that has been on the drawing board for awhile.

The pigs are growing, and will be given more room sometime in the coming week when we let them out into the larger pig pen. First we need to add a few stock panels up against the barn. The last set of pigs really rooted out a lot of dirt under the edge of the slab the barn is sitting on. We don’t want to allow any more of this dirt to be removed. All of the pigs are becoming tame enough to pat and scratch while they are eating, and occasionally when they are not. They greet me each time they see me, especially if I have a bucket in my hand. 

Easter on top, Bo in the house

Tomorrow our last two kids will be separated from their mothers for weaning. Easter, our Easter Sunday doe, and Bo, our little bowlegged wether will be joining the adult wethers, the teenage wethers, and the billy goat. The teenage wethers and Patch, another young doe, have been separated from their mothers for eight weeks now. One Stripe is Patch’s mom, and she is no longer being milked, so Patch will be rejoining the doe herd tomorrow. I will be glad to have her back with the ‘girls’ so I can give her more attention. She is already a very sweet, tame doe and I look forward to adding her to the milking line up next year.
 

Patch


Tomorrow morning Faith, our friend that bought Penny to milk, is coming over for a cheese making lesson. We will be discussing how to make soft cheese and making a batch of mozzarella. Faith has been reading a lot, but learns best by watching and taking notes. She is just beginning to put together a list of needed equipment and ingredients. We will have a fun time talking goats, milk and cheese.

The garden is growing despite all of the rain. The zinnias we planted in and around some of the vegetables are starting to bloom. And they are beautiful. 

It seems we are busier than ever, with much to do on our plates. Once the few projects I mentioned are complete there are about a half dozen more waiting to be started right behind them. We’ll let you know what they are and how they go. Life on a homestead always gives you many things to do. Some planned. Some not. Either way, you learn, you work, you live. It’s a good life.

Until next time – Fern

Life’s Little Trials

There are times recently that we feel like we’ve been given the chance to practice the future. The future that doesn’t contain all of the wonderful modern conveniences we have grown so fond of and in some cases, dependent upon. There are skills we can practice now, some by choice and some by circumstance, that may increase our success and comfort when the chips are down for good. Here are just a few things we have had the opportunity to experience in the last few weeks and days.

  • How to garden with too much water

 

 

       

      • Preparing to have the water shut off due to flooding or contamination of the public water supply (this ended up being rumor, but was good mental practice) 

       

        • Power outage involving a fire at a regional substation (found out a transformer blew; odd it didn’t happen during one of the major tornadic thunderstorms we had on Monday, it happened in calm weather; we found this strange)

        • The main ham radio repeater in our area was down due to a power outage. A generator that was donated to the radio club has not been installed, and there is limited battery backup to keep the repeater operational. This repeater is the main source of communication for our regional storm spotter and emergency communications hub.

        So, what does all of this teach us? Many, many things, which is good. Let’s start with the garden. We have had historic, record breaking rainfall amounts in this area for the month of May, with this came muddy soil conditions for planting which is far from ideal. A few years back we were in serious drought conditions and when we tilled the garden it was in a cloud of dust, literally. This year, it was really too muddy one time, but we knew our window of opportunity was very narrow, so we took it, and now, I’m glad we did. There are still folks waiting to plant or replant their gardens, and what they did get planted may or may not make it.

        Yesterday, in the beautiful, rare sunshine, we noticed a few of the squash plants were wilting, which immediately made us think of squash vine borers. We have applied two batches of green lacewing eggs and nematodes in hopes of combating the vine borers, among other insects, so we were very disappointed. But upon inspection, we could find no damage from vine borers, so we pulled one small squash plant. The only conclusion we could come to was that it rotted in the ground from all of the rain.

        Slugs. The slugs are proliferating at a phenomenal rate in all this moisture, and eating everything. We are in search of some iron phosphate which is supposed to be deadly for slugs. We are now finding tiny little new slugs everywhere. We have been putting out eggshells and coffee grounds, caffeine is supposed to be fatal to slugs as well, when we have them. We could also apply diatomaceous earth, but with daily rain, it would just wash away again and again. If we get a few days without rain, we will apply it everywhere. The cabbage worms have also showed up in mass, even with the lacewing applications. It has been a tough year for gardening.

        Along with our record rainfall this month there have been a number of days that we spent in very, very stormy weather with too many tornado warnings for comfort. We’ve had neighbors that have been flooded in for days, remember we live in hill country. There are some houses that when you have a heavy rain, you just can’t get out. As of May 20th, we had record rain for the month of May and it has been forecast everyday until the end of the month. Most of the folks we know that have been rained in, or conversely rained out, are doing fine, but not everybody has been so fortunate. We have lost a few rescue workers, and that’s really tough on a community. We’ve had people’s houses washed down rivers, thousands of acres of pasture land and cattle ranches are under water. There are still a handful of people that are unaccounted for. These are just some of the tragic stories. 

        As mentioned earlier, our local ham radio repeater, and every antenna tower on top of a mountain was without power for about two days. Most of the commercial towers had reliable backup power. Somebody made an intelligent decision to shut the repeater down. The reason being, it is the primary radio communications system involving severe weather, and since we have severe weather forecast almost daily, it can be turned back on if needed for severe weather use.


        Other types of communication needs. We were told by a reliable source that our local water treatment plant had been compromised with flood water. Then we started hearing the same thing, via the rumor mill, from multiple sources. The fact is, it never happened. We contacted our local water distributor the next day and they told us to listen to the local country stations for any announcements. Well, we don’t get AM radio where we live, and our main local little town, which is 25 miles away, had a 12 hour power failure. So, how are we supposed to know? 

        Next, we had a power failure in our area. As a general rule, during the worst weather, we seldom lose power, but it does happen. We called a couple of nearby neighbors. No power. We called some neighbors five miles down the road. No power. We called some friends 10 miles away. Get the picture here? This was not just a little power outage, the entire area was black. So, here come the rumors. The good news is, we could get rumors. The bad news is, they were also false. There was a fire at a local transfer station, not sure how it happened, it was not a hot day, there was no bad weather in the area. But we didn’t have a way to communicate, not effectively anyway.


        Before it got dark, we went around and gathered up lanterns. Fortunately, the day before I had charged up the rechargeable batteries and lanterns. By the way, all of our lanterns are battery operated. But the reason they were all charged is because the day before, on Memorial Day, we had four separate tornado warnings one right behind the other in our little neighborhood. Thank the Lord this happened during the daylight hours. But, all of our batteries were charged. 

        We have some interesting pictures for you, of some of our local flooding. This is the highest I have ever seen the water in this area. If it’s a low lying spot, it’s got water sitting in it.


        So, that’s what we’ve been dealing with for the last week. But the whole month has been a down pour almost everyday. We’ve learned a lot. Sometimes people can get a little edgy when they don’t get enough sunlight. In the northern climates they have a condition called SAD, seasonal affective disorder. When we lived in Barrow, Alaska they used a special type of fluorescent tube in the classrooms that provided kids and adults with a broader spectrum of light. We also had a special light in our home, for some people it worked and for some it didn’t. But there’s been a lot of folks in this area that have been a tad bit edgy lately. I guess that lack of natural vitamin D will do that to some folks. 

        We have some eggs in an incubator right now and they’re about four days away from hatching. We’ve had some incubator issues lately, which I’ll discuss more in a chicken post in a couple of days. But when you have eggs in an incubator, and your power goes off, you better act quickly. In this case we grabbed a bunch of blankets, wrapped up the incubator, and hoped for the best. Our power was only off for three or four hours, but if it had been like the little town close to us and it was off for about 12 hours, then that would have been a different story. More on that later.

        And to add to it, we went up to take a peek at how the livestock were doing, and discovered that the pigs were out. At first it was a serious concern, but like most animals that you feed, with a small can of feed, you can easily coax them where you want them to go. That was a great learning experience.


        Part of what we’re talking about here is how you deal with things. When life is great, and everything is going along well, then it’s easy to deal with life. But we all know it’s not like that everyday. We didn’t lose any animals to flooding. Nobody got hurt. Our chicken pen is in sad shape, but someday it will dry. Overall, we are doing pretty good. It’s easy to deal with things. But the last few days have been excellent practice. Today the power is back on, we don’t have any real issues with our drinking water, the stores are still open, my retirement checks are still coming to the bank, and the shelves are still full of items that people need and don’t need. But tomorrow that could all change. One of us could slip and break a leg. We still have severe weather just a hundred miles west of us and it’s got to go somewhere. So, take advantage of the good days, because someday, maybe someday soon, the days are not going to be good. Practice today while you can. Learn your weaknesses and your limitations. And if you’re of this persuasion, then thank God for what you have.

        We’ll talk more later, Frank

        In Memory

        On this day, we remember our fallen heroes, those who gave all that we might be free from tyranny. We pray for their families and loved ones, that they might be comforted.

        May God and Peace be with you.
        Frank & Fern

        Pictorial & Ponderings

        While we were visiting a 91 year old relative the other day, he made a comment that stuck with me. He is having some health issues that may end up being significant before long, but his take on the state of our country and our world was interesting to me, to say the least. 

        I don’t remember what we were talking about at the time but he said he just didn’t know if he wanted to stick around in this world too much longer. Considering the state of his health, that comment is not too unusual, but it was the reasons he gave that caught my attention. He talked about the rioting, our open borders and the unconstitutional state of our government. He said, “There is just no telling how all of this is going to turn out and I don’t know if I want to be here to see it.” It does make you stop and think.

        Carrots and green beans

        The mustard I planted last fall is blooming. I hope it spreads.

        With all of the rain we have been having there are many wild things on the move. We’ve seen many more snakes on the roads and have heard of people finding them on their porches. The bugs are trying to move indoors and find a dry place to be. The mice are trying to follow them in as well. Since the cats can’t find a dry place out in mother nature to use as a litter box, they’ve decided my dishpans full of seedlings is a great place. Somehow, I don’t agree. I planted our pepper seedlings out in the mud today because the cats had stirred them up like spaghetti. There are still a few tubs out there that we are going to cover with frost cloth in the evenings to see if we can discourage that practice.

        You know, they are kind of cute, aren’t they?

        Easter and Bo, almost ready to wean

        Next Saturday is hatch day

        Cushaw squash

        Cushaw has beautiful leaves

        Flower pot on the porch

        German chamomile in the herb bed

        Wild yarrow by the barn, I hope to harvest these seeds

        We think Pearl likes her haircut.

        There are more and more people talking about things falling apart this fall. It makes me more anxious for this incessant rain to depart and give us some sunshine for the garden. I’m also finding the unusual amount of cloudy, rainy days difficult. If there is even just a little sunshine it makes a difference. The dewberries are turning, but there is little flavor, they need some sunshine to sweeten up. I hope we get some before they are past their prime.

        Muddy footprints

        Coming in from the garden

        Wild dewberries

        Beets

        Luffa squash in a pot on the porch

        Too wet to work on our new garden area in the pasture, it’s growing over

        Stinging nettle in the herb bed

        Stevia

        Frank is giving lots of thought to the radio class that will be coming up at the end of June. There are so many possibilities that can come out of it. We are excited and very hopeful. He has already heard of about 10 people that are interested. We pray for blessings and success with this class.

        The grass in the pasture is as tall as the goats.

        I think some of the parasitic wasps have already hatched.

        Grapes

        They have really grown in just one week.

        Elderberries in bloom

        We have rain forecast for the next seven days. Yippee! I can hardly wait. Sarcasm is in full bloom also, along with a little crankiness. It appears that congress has once again sold us down the river without a paddle with the new ‘secret’ trade deal and Patriot Act Part II. Keep your eyes open and watch your back. Hope all is well with you and yours.

        Until next time – Fern
         

        Are Insects Beneficial? They Can Be

        It’s time for me to share my latest bug adventure. This year I have imported bugs to our homestead. It’s not like we don’t have enough bugs here already. I know there are bugs that live in other places, but sometimes it seems like we have every bug known to man living on our homestead. One of the problems with that is that they want to eat our vegetables before we do. This year the bug battle is being fought in earnest.

        About a month ago, I ordered 1000 green lacewing and 600 praying mantid eggs, along with enough nematodes to cover all of the garden and herb bed area. This is the first time I have ever purchased bugs of any sort. I guess I get stranger as I get older. I have bug books and get bugs in the mail. Neat, huh? Even though the cabbage worms have appeared after the first batch of lacewings were applied, I received and applied another 1000 eggs last night. I just hope they hatch and latch onto a plant so they don’t get washed away in yet another bought of rain that is arriving for the 

        weekend. I won’t be able to see them when they hatch, according to the directions, even full grown they only reach 1/2″ to 3/4″ long. According to my bug book, The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, the lacewings are effective against corn earworms, cucumber beetles, corn rootworm, and thrips. Frank just asked me, “What?” And I said, “Thrip. There are actually different kinds of thrips, and some of them kill onion plants.” Yep. Stranger every day.

         
        The praying mantid eggs haven’t hatched yet. When I talked to the company to place the second order, they told me it could take up to six weeks. Praying mantis will eat any insect it can catch, beneficial or pest, including each other. My order came with three cases, which I would describe as cocoon type structures made from something that resembles the outside surface of a wasp nest. Two of these I placed out in the fork of a tree on the edge of the garden, the third I put in a jar with a paper towel and rubber band on top. It’s sitting in the kitchen window so we can watch them hatch.

         
         

        The nematodes I ordered are only viable here in the summer, since at 20* they will die. At first I wasn’t going to order any because I wanted something that I could get established in a way that would be sustainable. But when I found out they are effective against many pest

        insect larvae, as well as fire ant larvae and queens, I decided to give it a try. When I asked what nematodes actually are, I found the description to be rather interesting. They are a microscopic worm that parasitizes other soft bodied insects. Some of the insects nematodes are effective against are carrot rust fly, carrot weevil, cucumber beetles, cutworms, flea beetles, grasshoppers, grubs and June bugs, and strawberry root weevil.

        First application, May 3rd

        Nematodes live on the moisture barrier of soil particles. Interesting, huh? To ‘apply’ nematodes you need water. If you have one of those fertilizer sprayers that fit on the end of a garden hose, that would work. We don’t have any of those, but we do have a two gallon sprayer that worked just fine. It also allowed me to apply the nematodes in very specific areas as I

        May 21st

        walked through the garden and herb bed. Last night I applied nematodes in these areas for a second time. We have probably lost over an inch of topsoil in parts of our garden this spring due to some torrential rainfall, and I wanted to make sure we still had a good population of nematodes. 

         Yesterday we also received 250 assassin bug eggs. We already have some assassin bugs, but last year there were very few compared to the years before, so I ordered these to boost the population. I saw an assassin bug nymph a few days ago on the comfrey, and was glad to see they have survived and are starting to emerge. I hope the new additions will increase the overall population for years to come. Assassin bugs will eat many different kinds of insect pests, including flies and caterpillars. Even though they look pretty creepy, once I figured out what they were, I encourage their residence in our garden.

         

        And last, but not lest, I also received over 1000 parasitic wasp, or trichogramma eggs yesterday. A few years back I kept seeing these little, light golden wasps working over our corn crop. I couldn’t figure out why they were there. I didn’t think they harvested pollen, but I was stumped. Then one day I was looking in one of my bug books and ran across parasitic wasps. Wa-la! I was excited to know that the draw for the wasps was the corn earworms, of which we had few that year. Since then I haven’t seen near as many parasitic wasps, just like the assassin bugs, so I ordered these to boost the population. They are effective against Colorado potato beetles, corn earworms, European corn borer, gypsy moth, Japanese beetle, leaf hoppers, leaf miners (which we have actively working now), mealy bugs, Mexican bean beetle, stink bugs, tent caterpillars, tomato hornworms, fall webworms, and whiteflies.

         

         

         

        It will be very interesting to see if the introduction of these insects have an impact upon our food production in the garden this year. I will keep you updated and let you know whether this was worthwhile, or a waste of time, effort and money. I also wanted to let you know that another interesting development occurred this week. I discovered an all day class that is being offered in our area discussing beneficial insects. So I signed up. We talk about learning all the time here on the blog. This is an example of taking

        advantage of what is being offered around you, whether it is a class, the chance to work with or listen to an older person with experience in what you are trying to learn, or the good old school of hard knocks with hands on trial and error. It always helps if you find what you are trying to learn fascinating. Like Frank and radio communications. He has found his calling as we approach the edge of the precipice in civilization as we know it. Me? Food. I need to know how to produce, harvest and preserve food. This role has been given to me, and so has the fascination with fulfilling this role. It is varied and includes plants and animals, wild and domestic. Again, I urge you to learn something new and useful that your family will benefit from. You just never know when you will be called to put it to use in a most important way.

        Until next time – Fern

        Pig Tales, Volume 1

        Guess what? I think I like our pigs. Really. They’re funny and not one of them has tried to bite me or chew on my shoe or anything scary. You know what else? I’m a pig catcher. Yep. I can catch a little pig, but they are fast little buggers. I’ll tell you more of my pig catching story in a minute.


        We kept the pigs in the stock trailer in the barn for about three and a half days. That was a very good choice. They were enclosed, protected from the weather, and kind of in the middle of all of the barn activity. This gave them the opportunity to hear the other animals along with Frank and I when we were there doing chores. It also allowed us to observe them closely without worrying about escapees.


        By day two, I was scratching everyone on the back while they ate. The largest boar likes touch the least, but he is finally coming around as well. The gilt had been handled much more than the boars and she doesn’t mind being scratched at all. One of the smaller boars, which will probably be our breeder, is becoming quite friendly, too.

        While they were in the stock trailer, the pigs were introduced to cabbage leaves, comfrey, carrot peels, green beans, goat milk and whey, canned okra and some old squash and tomato relish we need to replace from the garden this year. They weren’t really sure about the leafy fare at first, but now seem to enjoy it. They don’t attack it like they do the grain or whey, but 

        they are eating them. We have also been giving them the corn and sunflowers we grew and dried last summer. They are really enjoying chewing the corn off of the cob. One thing we have already noticed is how quickly they put on weight. We weren’t exactly sure how much to feed four little pigs, so we are cutting back on their portions. At first we    

        gave them more grain to help tame them down, but now we will be giving them a green bean can full each day and that is all. We don’t want them to be too fat, which can cause problems. I’ll be talking more about that in a minute. Even in the stock trailer, I sprinkled the grain around on the hay for them to root around for.

        By the end of day three, the stock trailer was getting rather stinky and the flies were getting thick, so it was time to move them into the pig pen. We have our doubts that our original pig pen will hold these small pigs. It is made of stock panels that have two rows of smaller openings, about 2″ by 6″, on the bottom rungs, but then it expands to 6″ by 6″ for the rest of the way. They can probably still squeeze through that third rung for now, so we chose to put together the other pig pen. You may be wondering why we have two pig pens, but no pigs. The original pen was built to house two feeder pigs about four years ago. They didn’t even get large enough to produce bacon before we took them to the butcher. I hated them. I was afraid of them. But this was their pen. We never considered letting them out to graze like we are these pigs. So that’s why we call this large pen the pig pen, even when we use it to wean baby goats.

         A number of years ago we bought a pig pen that was made by the students of one of the local agricultural programs. It is made of 2″ by 4″ heavy stock panels, welded to square metal tubing to create four panels, one of which has a gate on one end. Putting it together is kind of like a tinker toy puzzle. The puzzle is which ends fit together. Each end of each panel has a hinge of sorts that long metal rods fit through to hold them together and create a corner. The pictures will show you much better how this works than I can describe. After trying to put the first two panels together and realizing it was a little more complicated, Frank measured each end, had me write down the measurements, then we compared the numbers to determine which ends would fit together. The panels were a little heavy, but we maneuvered them into place without much trouble.


        After we had the pen constructed, we hitched up the trailer and pulled it out into the pasture by the pig pen. We’re glad we brush hogged the grass and weeds down by the pen, it is so thick and tall, it’s hard to walk through. So, now it’s time to catch the pigs in the trailer and move them into the pen.

        Remember, up until this time I had only caught one pig in my life, four days earlier. Since I had that experience, I now knew to carry them by their back feet. Well, one little boar was nice enough to just walk up to me. That one was fairly easy. Next, the gilt, she wasn’t difficult either. I had put a little feed in their pan to draw them together so I could grab a back leg. Of the two that were left, one of them kept trying to escape the pet carrier when we bought them. I wanted to try to catch him while he still had company, but they are fast little pigs and it took me a while. Frank recommended I catch the other boar first, since he 

        would have been much easier to grab, but I kept trying until I finally got the one I was after. I had to stop and laugh a couple of times at my efforts and their speed. If you had been able to watch, I’m sure it would have been quite comical. But now, I am a pig catcher, since I have caught all of five pigs in my life. One of Frank’s recommendations was to catch them by the front legs since they tended to face me to watch what I was doing. But that goes back to my fear of pigs. I was afraid they would try to bite me since I would be grabbing them. I opted to wait until a back leg presented itself.

         

         

        After the pigs were placed in their new home, Frank backed the trailer up to turn around, and so we could clean out the hay and ick it contained. That tall, wet grass and weeds? Yep, he was stuck. The tires kept spinning on all that vegetation.

          
        Now, out comes the tractor. We hadn’t had to do this before, but with Frank’s instructions and me behind the wheel of the truck, he had us out in no time. Ladies, this is one of those things I mentioned recently about having a good man by your side. Putting the pig pen together, I couldn’t picture in my mind what Frank was seeing, and how it would work, so I just followed his directions and it went great. The same thing happened with pulling out the truck. We tweaked a few things according to his directions and everything went fine. There is no substitute for having a good man. None. It’s the way God intended it.


        While Frank had the tractor out, and I was cleaning out the stock trailer, he brought several loads of dirt into the corral to place in a low area under the gate that leads to the pig pasture. We will be adding some rocks to fill this area in, which will prevent the pigs from coming into the corral once they have free rein of the pasture.

        Now, we have a pig pen within a pig pen. The pigs will stay in the smaller pen until the grass is gone, or we are comfortable letting them have access to the larger pen. We will eventually dismantle the interior pen, reassemble it next door to the original pen, and use it for farrowing when we have litters of piglets. This will prevent the boar from pestering the gilts when they birth. Well, that is the plan for now anyway.


        Speaking of the gilt, her name is Liberty, by the way. The man we bought Liberty from had two sows give birth this spring. Liberty’s mom had four piglets, but two of them were dead. The other sow had two piglets, but one of them was dead. The breeder has raised pigs most of his life, but didn’t know why this happened. He was also disappointed with the low number of

        piglets in the litter. This sounded a little odd to us, but we took him at his word. After we got home and had time to think about this and discuss it, we have come to the conclusion that we need another young gilt, just in case Liberty’s genetics don’t lend to becoming a healthy, productive sow. The vet was here this afternoon and we asked him what he thought about Liberty’s probability of being a good sow. He told us that if a pig has less than four fertile eggs developing, it will reabsorb these eggs and breed again. A sow will always have a minimum of four piglets. So we have some questions about the gentleman’s story. There is another breeder in a different area that we have been in contact with that has a litter of piglets that will be ready to wean around June 1st, so we will be adding one more piglet to our herd. By the way, I looked up the names for groups of pigs. When the pigs are grown, I can call them a passel of pigs. I like that one, it’s funny. I hope five pigs will constitute a passel, because that many adult pigs is more than enough for us.

        The vet and his wife work together which I think is great.



        While the vet was here, he cut the piglets teeth. Because we are keeping three boars, two to eat and one breeder, we have chosen to have their teeth cut to prevent injury if they chose to fight over food or the gilt at some point. It may not have been an issue, but we would rather prevent a problem at this point until we know more and have more experience as pig herders.

         

        This whole tooth came out. They are very small at this age.

         

        Of the three boars, we were planning to choose one of the two smaller ones to keep for a breeder. Lance, the largest boar that kept trying to escape the pet carrier when we were loading them up, was going to be the first to grace our dinner plates. But after we talked to the vet about growth rate for producing meat for the table, we chose to castrate the two smaller boars and kept Lance for our breeding boar. I will just have to work with him a little more to get him to be as tame as the others.

         

        For now, our pigs are doing quite well. Once they calm back down and quit running away from me again since we have moved them, then cut their teeth, and castrated two of them, I think they will work out fine. We’ll keep you updated with further tales from the pig pen. Now it’s your turn. Not necessarily to get pigs, per se, but to seek out a new experience that will benefit you and yours in whatever situation you find yourself. Be it homestead, city lot, apartment, where ever you are, you can learn and develop skills that will increase your chances of survival in the coming days, weeks, months and years. We would have never even considered getting pigs if we didn’t know that

        great changes are upon us and that we will probably have to fend for ourselves. Pigs have never been part of our equation until now. Are we comfortable with this new venture? No. Are we working at it diligently? Yes. That is why I said in the previous article that I have decided to like, and not be afraid of pigs. It is a conscious decision I have made to increase our food supply. The article I wrote about women and survival indicated my belief that one of my major responsibilities in a collapse scenario will be to keep food on the table. These pigs are part of my efforts in that direction. Frank supports me and helps me when I need it, with anything at all, but his role when the time comes will be different. He will be our protector, community

        communications leader, and will be working at making sure the infrastructure of our homestead is functioning well. All of these things will allow me to concentrate on food, clothing, and maintaining the hygiene we need to be healthy. We have been blessed with the natural inclinations of a man and a woman to perform those duties that will support a safe, productive home, and we chose to fulfill those roles. 

        Until next time – Fern