what the pigs are eating

Tuesday, October 1:

   Deer and turkeys are visiting the heirloom corn at night despite our poor little fence, and we walked the patch this evening pulling ears to save them for the pigs.  This corn is in the big garden at the monastery, where we have planted turnips, beets, and corn, as well as beans, for the pigs’ winter forage; now we are harvesting the ear corn prematurely, since we have competitors.  There is little to save; the patch was small and late, and the soil low in nitrogen; nevertheless, our small harvest means at least a few weeks’ feed for the pigs without dependence on purchased feeds.  The stalks we will pull and feed, ten or twelve a day per adult pig.  At this rate the stalks are eaten completely, whereas if too many are offered at once, the uneaten stalks get trodden and soiled on and go to waste.

   Deer are also grazing the tops of the bean plants, so we have doubled the hot wire fence and will see if it acts as any sort of deterrent.  In our experience that is unlikely, but it never hurts to try.  The turnips and beets are good-size now, and we hope this patch will provide for the eight young pigs from November through January.

   The parent pigs’ diet at the moment consists of the many extras and wastes from processing food for ourselves.  The cabbages have been harvested, and the fat green stalks and loose leaves are much appreciated by the pigs.  Unthreshed wheat and barley in the barn loft are getting low, but will probably last another week or two.  The late apples are red on the trees, and all the peels, cores, and windfall apples are fed at the rate of about a third of a bucket, or about a gallon and a half, a day.  Slops – boiled kitchen waste – are on their menu about four times a week, with a pound or two of corn added if the soup looks thin, and bakery waste wet with whey or buttermilk, a favorite pig meal, is featured on Wednesday and Thursday.   Shell corn and commercial feed for the two adult animals are consumed at a rate of about fifty pounds a week, or less than half of what they used to eat.

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