Pig Tales, Volume 3

Even though Frank and I are still a little cautious around the pigs, they have become a welcome addition to our homestead. I am very pleased with the demeanor of our American Guinea Hogs. They have some little quirks that we are slowly trying to shape more to our liking, though. Like taking the end of our shoes in their mouth when we enter the pasture. I still haven’t figured out if it is a greeting or a taste test. Either way, I really don’t like it. I keep picturing Lance, full grown at around 200 pounds wanting to ‘taste test’ my shoe. With my foot in it. I really don’t relish that idea at all.
 

Lance


Then there is Liberty. She like to run right behind me when I am walking to the feed pan, and bump my back foot as I pick it up to take the next step. I also picture her full grown around 180 pounds. She could easily trip me and make me fall. On the ground is somewhere I do not want to be in a pig pen.

Liberty


Then this evening when Frank went in the pasture to feed the pigs, one of the barrows bit the back of this leg. That didn’t go over too well, and he received a correction with a shoe. This is one behavior that will not be tolerated. We need to be able to go into the pasture without the risk or fear of being bit. We don’t want to raise pigs with unacceptable behavior due to our ignorance of normal pig behavior since we haven’t raised them before. There is still a lot to learn.

When I went to the pig pasture to take pictures for this article, the pigs were down at the pond. I was hoping they would be. The first one surprised me by coming up over the pond bank. One by one they all came over to see me expecting to be fed, even though I have never fed them in this location. It’s just that most of the time when they see me it is feeding time. It took them a while to figure out that there was no food forthcoming.

 

What the pigs showed me were the trails they have created through the tall grass and weeds around the pond. Some are right at the edge of the water and some are farther out into the vegetation.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of the trails took me right past these beautiful flowers. Does anyone know what this is? All I know is that it is a three foot tall weed that I truly enjoyed. It is as close to blue as any flower I’ve seen.

After I made it around the pond to the far side the pigs lost interest in following me. That’s when they showed me where their wallow is located. I don’t think I would have ever figured it out if they hadn’t shown me.

At first, the pigs would wallow on the west side of the pond closest to the barn, but there wasn’t any shade. Now they have found shade on the south side of the pond in the form of these tall, grassy weeds. Pretty smart if you ask me. The water is shallow there, and the grass provides the shade they need. 

The pigs are now 4 1/2 months old, and growing nicely. Most pigs would be much bigger than these by now, but since our pigs will only reach about 200 pounds, they are doing well. According to everything we’ve read and the folks we’ve talked to, Liberty should be coming into heat in about a month and a half. I hope they all get along during that time since we are not planning on separating them until she is ready to farrow.

Our biggest fear in getting the pigs was that they would get out. That hasn’t happened and they don’t seem inclined to even try as far as we know. They are comfortable with their territory and seem to get around quite well. I don’t think they will ever run out of things to eat. This pasture could hold many more pigs, but we don’t plan on having more than one breeding pair, with two to four barrows on the hoof awaiting the dinner table. There will be piglets around from time to time, but we will sell the extras when they are eight weeks old and ready to wean.

Liberty


Lance


Having piglets will be the next big step for us. If that goes well, I guess we will officially call ourselves pig farmers. And goat farmers. And chicken farmers. And vegetable farmers. I guess that makes us homesteaders. It’s who we are. There’s no place like home.

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