Thursday, September 5:
And what are the pigs eating these days? It is a good question, since keeping down the feed bills is so much of what we are trying to research.
Garden trash, in good part. Corn stalks, corn cobs, and corn shucks. Green tomatoes the demmed chickens keep knocking off the vines. Tomato skins and seeds from the canning. Beet greens. Old bean plants with beetles on them.
And from the orchard, peach peels and peach pits with chunks of peach still on them, and the bruised bits from peaches we are canning or jamming, and the bits with worms on them (fortunately a very small part of the total). Windfall apples, and wormy ones. Sour ones picked too early (“I’m sorry, Mommy”) and the cores of good ones enjoyed standing under the tree. Apple peels, and cores, and buckets and buckets of mashed apple pomace left over from making apple cider.
Buttermilk. And whey. And the last few curds from the bottom of the cheese pot.
All carefully balanced with some “shell” (shelled) corn or pig mash.
And not too much of anything at one time.
This is, perhaps, one of the most important points. You can’t throw forty corn stalks into the pig pen and dust your hands and say, “There! Now I’ve fed the pigs for the day.” Partly because nutrients would be out of balance (I won’t go there), but even more because if you did this the pigs, after making a pleasant meal on the choicest parts, would proceed to trample the remainder, defecating on some, pushing some into the muck, and taking a nap on the rest, after which they would not see it as food.
And it would make the next mucking-out a terrible headache – ever try moving a stick in the mud with a pitchfork?
Or take the apple pomace. The pigs love it, and they will put away a good deal, but too much and they’ll end up with very loose stools, and when food passes through the gut that fast, not much of it is left behind to do any good.
One thing the small farm kitchen is unlikely ever to produce more of, at one time, than a pig can reasonably use, is whey. Or buttermilk. Or skim. These you can feed at will, and your worst problem will be deciding which, among the worthy, you will bestow this treat upon today.