Barely Enough Milk

And it’s all our fault. Well, maybe partially our fault. We’ve been trying to have year round milk for several years now. This is the closest we’ve come so far, and if we make it this year, we will barely squeak by if we do. There are a number of factors that contribute to having year round milk, or not. Here is a run down of our situation this year.

We had four does in milk this year, starting in January, two experienced and in April two first fresheners. As a general rule a doe will not give full capacity milk the first year since her udder is developing. The second year will be a better indicator of full milk production for a particular animal.

Obviously, if you want to have year round milk, there have to be animals capable of producing at particular times of the year to meet your needs. We have tried to accomplish this by breeding at least two does in the summer to provide the ‘carry over’ milk during the winter. A lot of folks don’t like to milk in the winter. It’s cold, it requires more feed, and it means scheduled breeding and birthing twice a year instead of once. All of this has to be considered to see if it will fit the lifestyle you choose to live.

We attempted to breed two of our does in July. Yes, it’s hot then, but we’ve had animals breed then before, which resulted in surprise babies we weren’t planning. Our Nubian does originated in Africa and definitely prefer hot weather to cold, so summer breeding is not out of the question for them. Our July attempt didn’t work, so we tried again in August with success. One oldest doe, who is seven this year, bred and is due in January. We planned to breed a first freshener as well, but it didn’t take. We found this out three weeks later when she came back into heat. On a whim, we also bred our other older doe when she came into heat thinking we would have three does due in January and three due in April. What we ended up with is two experienced does pregnant, dried off and providing no milk, and two first fresheners not bred and providing very little milk.

These two first fresheners may be producing more milk than we are getting, though. The problem there is that they are still letting their seven month old kids nurse. Yes, I know, they should have been weaned months ago. The pasture we use to wean the kids has now turned into the pig pasture. The first set of kids we had in February were weaned there successfully. The second set of kids we had in April were there for one month, but then we had to get ready for the pigs and they took over the pasture. We crossed our fingers and put the kids in a pasture next to their mothers with an adjoining fence, but that didn’t work. The does let their kids nurse through the fence. We temporarily put the does in the pasture that now has the water storage tanks, but it wasn’t long enough to break that cycle of allowing the kids to nurse.

So, why are we getting barely enough milk? We ended up relying on two first fresheners that are still letting their kids nurse. Not a good choice on our part. We have already discussed successful weaning with the next kids that will be born in January. Now that we have become familiar with the pigs, the weaning kids will go back into that pasture with them. We will pen off the kids at night, with their own little barn and feed them there. In the mornings we will let them out to graze with the pigs. Training Liberty, our gilt, to go into a pen by herself to eat has worked out very well and gives me confidence that we can juggle pig and kid feeding just fine. I will feed the pigs first and get them situated, then feed the kids in their pen and close them off from the pigs. Then we won’t have to worry about competition for feed, housing or water between the kids and the pigs. That’s the theory for now anyway.

I hope to get these two first fresheners to provide enough milk to get us to about January 10th, which will be five days after the first doe is due to kid and the milk will be drinkable. The second doe’s milk will be ready for consumption around January 16th, which means we’ll have more than enough then. That may be perfect timing since we are guesstimating that Liberty may have piglets by then. Some of that extra milk, especially the first milk with colostrum, will be excellent food for Liberty and her babies. There are some things that work out just right.

There are always so many things to learn when raising livestock and trying to meet certain goals. Sometimes things work out just like you want them to, and sometimes they don’t. Speaking of barely enough, our 17 hens have been giving us around 5 eggs a day for a while now, which isn’t enough. We’ve had to buy eggs to fill in the gaps. Sometime this month our young hens should begin laying which will be great. After their production becomes enough to keep us in eggs, the older hens will fill up more jars on the shelf. It all usually works out in the end, one way or another.

Lessons learned, whether from successes or failures, are always valuable. The more we learn now while failure is still an option, the better off we will be. 

Until next time – Fern

On Feral Pond

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

A while back Fern received a question about our pond. Now, I didn’t want to do this post, but you see, being the loving husband that I am, and wanting to maintain harmony in the kingdom, here is my article about our pond.

When we moved here, we took our 10 acre pasture and divided it into four sections. Two of the sections had small ponds, one of them very small. We decided we needed water in one of the quarters that didn’t have a pond. You say, why didn’t we put a pond in the fourth pasture? We had other plans for it. Some day we hope it will provide feed for the animals, myself included. So it’s affectionate name is the garden pasture.

Back to the new pond pasture, which has evolved into a pig pasture, but this story is about the pond. Down the road from us, whom I will call a local man, is a local man that has assorted pieces of heavy machinery, construction type stuff. When he’s not doing a big job somewhere, he does local work for local folks at a reduced rate. I contacted him, he’s well known in the area, everybody uses him. I had used him earlier to do some fence row clearing for me and he seemed like a good, decent human being.

He brought out a backhoe, dug two five foot deep holes, maybe six feet long and two feet wide. He wanted to see what the composition of the soil and subsoil was. A few days later he came back, it was during the rainy season, and in his professional opinion, the land would support a good pond. A couple of days later he came back with a bulldozer, and I discovered that I should have put in bigger gates in our corral, because to get in the pasture he had to go through two 10 foot gates. It took him a good while to go through both of them. I have since learned that a 12 or 14 foot gate would have done a much better job. That is on my to-do list, way down the list.

Okay, back to the pond. He brought out his dozer, his surveying equipment, put a bunch of stakes in the ground, then he started scraping the topsoil off to one side. I didn’t know that topsoil was a valuable commodity, but at the end of the project, or right near it, he returned a portion of this topsoil back to where the empty pond now sits, so that vegetation and like would grow back. You ask, what’s like? Like is like. I’ll let you chew on that one for a while, not literally of course, but figuratively.

Well, I told this man that I wanted a deep pond. He asked why. I thought it was obvious. What I really wanted was more water, deeper and less surface area. But what I told him was I wanted to be able to hide a pick up truck in it if I needed to. Did you know there are people that don’t have a sense of humor? Oh well. It’s deep, it’s holds water, and it doesn’t take up much surface area. Now forget about the pickup truck, and what was the real purpose or purposes for the pond? The primary goal is for drinking water. Animals primarily, and humans if necessary. It’s also a secondary source of food for humans. That’s where the next part of the story becomes relevant. 

Well, we did some research about pond habitat, and we devised a plan. Stage one of this plan was to saturate the pond with minnows. But before we put the minnows in, we let the pond fill up with water. Yes, I’m a city boy, but I did know that the pond had to have water. Then we waited about six months, for various reasons, but the primary reason was because fish hatcheries only sell fish certain times of year. So, back to the minnows. Well, no, I’m going to go back to the pond. The real, real reason for waiting six months was to allow some type of natural vegetation to develop in the pond, that way the minnows would have something to eat. Actually, I expected most of the minnows to die, which would provide a natural decay and help start the natural cycle of the pond.

Now, a couple of months later, we stocked more minnows. You say, why minnows? Good question. They’re inexpensive, relatively speaking. In a good habitat they will reproduce quickly, and in stage two or three, wherever I am, that was the stage for introducing a couple of different varieties of fish, which needed something to eat. Wa-la! A breeding minnow population. You know that a minnow can get pretty big if you let it grow. Just imagine that the next time you’re eating a sardine packed in mustard, it’s just a minnow. You know, fish food.

What kind of fish did we introduce? Of course, channel catfish, along with hybrid bluegill and redear sun perch, whatever those are. You say, that’s it? Yes, that’s it. We fed these fish some dog food a few times. I know some people buy Purina floating fish food, but dog food floats, too. It’s cheaper than catfood for the catfish. How did all of those fish do? Not a clue. But, the following year, we put the same combination of fish in the pond again. Minnows, catfish, hybrid bluegill and redear sun perch. Now, I know there are fish in that pond, because a big, great egret visits it on a regular basis. Or it used to, anyway. Did you know it’s against the law in my state to shoot an egret that’s eating my fish? Things will change when I become king. Those fish sounds yummy, don’t they? No, I’m not talking about the minnows packed in mustard, I’m talking about fried catfish, and it does sound good, doesn’t it? Just today I had fried chicken with a sourdough batter and it was delicious. You say, this is a story about a pond, what does a chicken have to do with it? Well, it doesn’t, but I have not caught one fish out of that pond in five years. Not one. But this is a story about the pond. Forget the fish. We’ve had a real wet year, so it’s full. When we had goats in there the goats liked it. Now we have pigs in there and they really like it. I guess I would classify it as a good pond. It’s deep enough to put a pickup truck in. The local guy still doesn’t see humor in my stupidity, but he tolerates me since I pay him in cash.

Now, the person that asked about the pond? Here is your answer in detail. Tomorrow my wife will not ask me to do a pond story. No, honestly, I hope this answered some of the questions that you had. Our pond is a good investment, and provides water for the animals which is critical. And there are fish in the pond, because every now and then you’ll see one. Now I’ve checked one more thing off of my list of things to do. 

We’ll talk more later, Frank
 

Pig Tales, Volume 2

All the worry and dread about getting pigs has pretty much been laid to rest. Our pigs are doing very well. They are funny when they snort and squeal at us for their food. If you are walking around in the pasture with a bucket and don’t go directly to the feed pan, they follow behind and do this little squealing sound, especially Liberty, our gilt.

We told you about Liberty’s mother and the problems the breeder indicated happened to the litter. The sow had four piglets, but two of them were dead. Because of that we thought it would be wise to get a second gilt, just in case there are problems with Liberty’s genetics. We had a young gilt lined up that we were going to pick up around the 20th of June, but when I called to set up a day and time, the breeder indicated he needed them to be picked up right away. He had lowered his prices and advertised on Craigslist to move them out in a hurry. We had things lined up for several days and were not able to drop everything to make a fast trip that would take all day, so I called him back and declined. 

In some ways that really simplifies things. We already have these four pigs, and the new gilt would have been at least a month younger. We wondered if she would be able to get through the field fence that surrounds the pasture. Now we won’t have to worry about that. 

The pigs enjoy anything we bring them. They usually get some whey with a variety of other things. We are using up some of the older canned goods in our pantry as part of their feed. I appreciate being able to turn this older food into new food via the pigs’ stomachs. We fed them the dried corn and sunflowers we grew last summer, along with a variety of garden scraps. They get a little pasta, lentils or beans as well. 

 

The great thing about our pigs is that the vast majority of their feed comes from the pasture. They root around all over the place, even in some of the tall, overgrown areas. 

 

We keep a small water pan for them by the barn in the shade, but the pigs get most of their water from the pond. When I went down to the pond this afternoon to try and catch a catfish, the pigs followed me grunting and squealing. After they realized I was not there to feed them, they started rooting around for something to eat. Liberty took a nap and almost rolled into the pond. That was funny. They eventually wandered off to do what pigs do. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch any fish for supper, but I am not a fisherman either. I find it to be extremely boring and I am not a patient person. It probably would have helped if I had the right bait and hooks for the fish I wanted to catch, but that’s okay. We had this pond built after we moved here in 2008, then we stocked it with minnows, hybrid blue gill, sun perch and catfish. Neither Frank or I like to fish, so it’s something we really don’t do. But lately, fish has sounded really good, so I thought I would give it a try. Maybe next time.

We are very pleased with our pigs so far. They have been a great addition to our homestead. The next step will be to butcher one of the barrows when they get big enough. We are really looking forward to seeing how the meat tastes and the amount of lard we can get from one pig.

By the way, I have to tell on Frank. One evening while I was in the barn milking, Frank was just going into the pig pasture to feed. The pigs came over to meet him, and I heard the funniest sound. You remember when you were a kid and you tried to make that noise with your nose to sound like a pig? That is what Frank was doing. I laughed out loud so much the goats and dog were looking at me wondering what was wrong with me. When Frank came back in the barn, I asked him if he was snorting at the pigs. He said, “Yes. Don’t you do that?” I started laughing again and told him no, I had never done that. Now that was funny.

Until next time – 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
 

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

Getting Ready For Pigs

We spent part of today getting ready for the arrival of our American Guinea Hog piglets. The original plans included doing some of this work yesterday while the sun shined, but a relative’s unscheduled hospital stay, changed our plans. We were glad we had the opportunity to visit him for a while. So today before the rains arrived again, we rearranged some of the goats, brush hogged down some wet, wet, tall grass and weeds, and got ready for the pigs. Well, not really before it rained, because we got some light showers shortly before dawn. Thus, the grass was extra wet, but sometimes these things just can’t be helped, and you make do with the circumstances you’ve been given.

American Guinea Hogs. I had never heard of them until I read an article from Leigh at 5 Acres and a Dream last June. I had no idea a pig could grow so small. That is what captured my attention and started a slow,

gradual bit of research that has landed us in the current predicament, the adventure of becoming not only goat herders and chicken cluckers, but pig farmers as well. We can only pray it is not the misadventures of becoming pig farmers. If you have read here very long you have probably run across a statement from me saying something like this. “I hate pigs.” And I did. I just hope I don’t anymore. Part of that sentiment is because I am afraid of pigs. I think they will bite me. It’s kind of like being afraid of dogs. It’s just a fear that I have decided I want to get over, because the benefits of raising American Guinea Hogs can far outweigh this fear.

I am including a number of links throughout this article so you can see where my research has taken me. The first thing that captured my attention when reading Leigh’s description of her new pig was that they only grow to be about 200 to 250 pounds full grown, even the boars. I was very surprised. I had never seen anything about pigs being less than 800 to 1000 pounds or more full grown, and I didn’t want anything to do with animals that large. So I read the link she provided and thought it was very interesting that these pigs are naturally small. They aren’t miniatures, dwarfs or midgets of any sort, they are just naturally smaller than most commercial pigs.

Then I started looking up more articles, and found that another characteristic of these pigs is their docile, friendly nature. Well now, how is

a person that is afraid a pig is going to bite them going to handle a pig that wants to run over and be petted and scratched? I’ve decided I’m going to treat them like a dog. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But if a dog does something that is unacceptable they get corrected and trained to exhibit behavior that is acceptable. I plan, or hope, to do the same things with the pigs. I’ve read that they may try to jump up on you like a dog, but are easily trained not to, so their friendly personalities are another plus.

The next major plus from my perspective is that these pigs thrive on pasture and do poorly if they are confined and only fed grain, or fed too much grain. That’s great! We have been trying to produce more and more of our animal feed, and if these pigs are healthier and happier grazing in

a pasture, then wonderful, we have plenty of room for them to graze and grow. Another example Leigh has given me is that she feeds very little grain, and what she does feed, she sprinkles on the ground for the pigs to forage and root. I thought that was a great idea and will be doing the same. I will also now have another bucket to take to the barn at feeding time. The pigs will get whey from our cheese making projects as well as garden scraps and other kitchen waste. For instance. Today at lunch I emptied a jar of beets, and told Frank that after the pigs arrive the water from the beet jar will go into the pig bucket instead of down the drain. They will get all of the scraps that don’t go to the chickens or dog, and that will be great.

When I realized how small these pigs grow, I like to think of them as small, even though a 200 pound animal isn’t really very small, I thought about having another source of meat on the hoof. That’s how I think of our

goat wethers. They are just meat walking around in the pasture waiting to make it into the freezer. Frank and I can handle butchering a 150 to 200 pound pig, and it would be another great source of meat. But not only that, Guinea Hogs are well known for the quality of their lard, like some old heritage breeds used to be. These hogs will not only provide us with meat and lard, they don’t require a lot of feed to do so. The lard will provide us with a natural cooking oil, and we hopefully will also be able to use it in our goat milk soap recipe. The smaller carcass of these pigs will mean less meat to preserve before spoilage if we live in a grid down situation, as well. Just like with our goats, I view a smaller carcass to be to our advantage.
 
The breeders in the area that I have talked to all agree that these pigs are healthy, friendly, easy to manage and very productive. They don’t require vaccinations or worming, even in our area that is known for wet years that are very conducive to the worm population, like this year. Guinea hogs will have litters of six to eight piglets about three times every two years on average, according to my research. This is yet another benefit to raising this small, heritage breed pig.

These are the reasons why we are embarking on the adventure of adding pigs to our homestead. These animals don’t grow very large, they thrive on pasture, they are naturally healthy, friendly and easy to manage, the meat and lard are well known to be of excellent quality and we will be able to butcher them ourselves. A concern I have, and will for a while, is if they will stay in their pasture. Our fencing should hold them just fine according to all I have read, but this is my biggest concern so far. We’ll see if more arise after their arrival.

Friday, if the weather cooperates, we will be bringing home two boars and one gilt. This is new vocabulary for us. I had this vague notion that a male pig was a boar because you hear of wild boars being hunted in these

parts, but that was about it for my pig vocabulary. One of these boars will become a barrow when we have it castrated to raise for meat. We will keep them both intact for a while until we decide which one we want to keep for a boar. The gilt, or young female, will become a sow when she has her first piglets. We have debated back and forth about whether to get one gilt or two, and actually thought we had been able to line up two boars and two gilts that we could pick up all in one trip from two different locations. Then when I called to make the arrangements, I found that one of the gilts had been injured, so there was only one available. I don’t know if you ever have these feelings, but I felt like that was an answer to our question. God answered our question by only having one available for us at this time. It’s interesting how things happen sometimes.

I hope to have a report for you Friday or Saturday, with pictures and hopefully no mishaps. I freely admit we are entering this adventure with a little trepidation and doubt, especially on Frank’s part, but entering it we are. Fear is a powerful thing. It can control nations, it can preclude success, it can tear down dreams. But only if you let it. There is a quote somewhere that says something like, courage is fear in action. Maybe that would be a good name for a pig…… I wonder what the goats and Pearl are going to think. That should be interesting.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 2

I don’t know where the time goes, but lately it has gone flying by. So much so, that I really have to think about everything we’ve been doing. I’m sure I’ll forget some things that I wanted to tell you, but here goes. News from the homestead.

Before

It’s easier to remember what happened today first. We started off by taking Pearl to the vet for a haircut. For the past few years, I have been giving her a haircut with scissors, and we were looking into some clippers when we discovered that the vet’s wife gives a ‘country cut’, or that’s what she likes to call it. So this morning Pearl was transformed. And all that hair only weighed two pounds! She will be much cooler with our hot, humid summer weather coming.

After

 

The next exciting thing that happened today is that Penny, her two boys, and Buttons moved to Faith’s house. Faith has long wanted to have goats, so today was a dream come true for her. She asked me when they were leaving if I was crying. She knows I have cried before when some of my adult does have left, but not this time. I was excited and happy for Faith. Besides that, we went over and visited them already this afternoon. Faith and her husband have a great place set up in their barn for the goats, as well as lots and lots of pasture/wooded area for them to graze once they get acclimated. That made this a very neat day.

 

Penny and boys
Buttons

At their new home

The garden is really starting to grow well, and to my eyes gets more beautiful every day. I ran our Mantis tiller around the squash hills and here and there to knock down the weeds before this latest round of rainy weather hit. I also managed to replant the okra and some of the cow peas, cucumbers, carrots, spinach and beets that didn’t make it. The green beans that I replanted last week are doing great. It’s a new variety that we haven’t tried before. I’ll let you know if we like them.

 

The new section of the garden didn’t grow anything. I’m not sure if the seeds were old or got washed out by the heavy rain we had a few weeks ago. So far the only thing I have replanted there was more pinto beans along the trellis. The rest will have to wait for drier days again.

We have started eating turnip greens and salad fixings from the garden regularly. Tomorrow I am going to try my hand at freezing turnip greens like you do spinach. I have the directions in Stocking Up, and thought I would give it a try. We don’t expect the actual turnips to make since hot weather is coming, but are very happy to be able to enjoy the greens for now.

 

We moved the water tanks away from the barn so Frank could brush hog there. Our plan is to put down some heavy plastic, build a base with treated lumber, fill it with sand, allow that to settle in, put guttering on the barn, place the three 1550 gallon tanks on the pads, and run the guttering into the tanks. This will give us water for the animals, as well as the ‘animal feed’ garden we are going to plant in this pasture if it ever dries up enough to really work on the ground.

We’ve continued to make wheels of cheddar about two days a week and are up to 12 wheels aging in the frig, with 4 more drying on the cabinet. We will make two more wheels tomorrow and wax at least two of those that are drying. 

We have been saving eggs for the incubator which Frank will fire up tomorrow. This will give us some meat, but the concentration on this first batch will be replacement hens for our current flock. We have a Buff rooster which we like, and he will add some good qualities like size and demeanor, to our next flock of hens. We will probably hatch two more batches through the summer to resupply our freezer and some jars with meat.

This coming week we have another big event taking place. One week from today, if all goes according to plan, we will be bringing home three piglets, two boars and one gilt. We are beginning a whole new adventure raising American Guinea Hogs. One of the boars will be raised for meat, the other for breeding. We will share our adventures, which we hope will be mostly successful, as we go along. This is something we have never done before. We have fed out a few feeder pigs along the way, but never raised any to breed, so keep your fingers crossed for us. We have chosen this particular breed for very specific reasons, which we will discuss in more detail in another article dedicated specifically to the pigs.

We continue to make and consume sauerkraut almost everyday. The batch we started on April 22nd was removed from the crock yesterday. We used one whole head of cabbage and it made about a quart and a half of kraut. Instead of removing about a third of it and leaving the rest in the crock, this time I removed all of it and started another batch. The new batch consists of about one and two thirds head of cabbage and about two cups of shredded carrots. Since I have started shredding the cabbage there isn’t any issue with having enough natural juices to cover the vegetables in the crock. I continue to add a good amount of juice from the previous batch to boost the fermentation process. We have really begun to enjoy the kraut and are very glad we have been learning this process.

 

Each time we walk out the door, if the wind is not blowing too much, we are greeted with the wonderful aroma of honeysuckle. It is blooming in profusion.

There are also lots of wild privet blooming here and yon around the house and along the fence rows. It is more subtle than the honeysuckle, but smells wonderful all by itself.

The wild blackberries are growing by the bazillion. I really look forward to picking and picking and picking. Last year I did an article about free food for the picking. I wonder if anyone else around is eyeing all of this free food the way I am.

We are picking just enough strawberries to have some each morning with our breakfast. There is just no comparison to frozen and fresh. They are a welcome addition to our daily fare.

Now, it’s time to go feed and milk the goats, gather the eggs, put the chickens to bed, feed the dog and cats, and see if any of the goats laughed at Pearl’s haircut. She does look rather different. Then it’s time to fix supper, finish up this post and wait for the next round of storms to come through. Life is busy and blessed. 

Until next time – Fern