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Archive for the ‘homestead pigs’ Category

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Cheese making has many permutations.  There are enough curds in a ten-gallon cheese that we can steal some for the chickens’ daily protein ration and never miss them.  Whey goes to the pigs, except the quart we’ve reserved to backslop the next cheese.  Now the cheese cabinet is nearly full, it’s time to buy in a couple of extra calves and take the burden of milk processing off the cheese makers.

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Pigs are how a farm stores surplus nutrients, and how non-human-grade nutrients are converted to forms of more value to the farm.  In plain language, farms need pigs to eat the garbage and turn it into bacon and piglets.  For us, this means we need at least one or two pigs all year ’round, and usually we have at least four going.  We feed them out until they get big — sometimes really big — or until we have a new set started — and then we butcher.  Summer and fall, of course, generate the most surplus, dropping off as winter closes in, but never really drying up; there are always whey and buttermilk, rinds and hulls and seeds of things, carrot tops and potato water and so on.  The summer hogs went into freezers — ours and the monastery’s — in September/October.  Four little guys are bunking in the sty in the big barn now.  With the late calves weaning and the consequent cheese and butter making, they are having a hard time keeping up with all the buttermilk and whey.  The garden is still furnishing us with some bean haulms and perennial weeds to add greens to the pigs’ diet, and the poorer-grade hay we toss down to them is acceptable food before they turn it into bedding.

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There are deep footprints through the plots of mangel-wurzels, oats and field peas, and Country Gentleman corn, where three cows got through the open lane gate while we were milking and did spring dances in the soft, wet earth.  They probably didn’t do much real damage, but beds aren’t as pretty any more.  Where the potatoes are just beginning to come up, weeds are threatening to get ahead of them, so we have to begin laying on the mulch trusting to our memories to tell us just where those seed potatoes are.  Ten beds, fifty by seventy-five, rotate between field corn, potatoes, mangels and squash, with a cycle of turnips and beans to follow the potatoes, and the squash and corn undersown with clover.   The beds of mangels and rows of corn alternate with paths we are slowly converting to Dutch while clover, the small-scale, low-tech version of contour plantings of corn and fallow.  The interplanting of clover should shade the soil, hold moisture, slow erosion (a serious issue on our sloping garden), foster beneficial insects and fix nitrogen.  It also makes work, since the paths must then be mowed or hand-harvested of their legume crop, but is this any worse than having to weed them?

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pig gestation

Porca’s seven piglets justified the pig farmer’s maxim for porcine gestation:  ‘three months, three weeks, three days and three o’clock in the morning’ — it was just about three o’clock Tuesday morning that we pulled our sore bones out of the shower — we’d been sitting in the pig pen since eleven — and climbed into bed.  Seven piglets, with one casualty, stepped on before we got there.  Beautiful, vigorous spotted babies anxious for nourishment.

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The last weeks of October are full and straining at the seams.  Apple cider and pie apples leave only sauce apples to process; when they are done it will be high time to get the cabbages out of the garden and start kraut.  There are still some bell peppers to freeze, and the green beans the frost hasn’t burned could still be harvested; we hope the field corn will dry and the ears drop before the deer get really determined about jumping the fence.

The animals are on a different cycle:  all the cows and heifers have been bred — some more than once — but it remains to be seen whether they settled; we watch the cows through the barn door while we milk, but no one seems frisky.  The heifers, who are at the back of the farm, are wearing heat stickers, which we hope will let us know if any one needs to be re-bred.  On All Saints’ the ram goes in with the ewes; the sow, God willing, will farrow in the next week or so.

What doesn’t kill us will make us strong —

 

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We have something less than half of the mangel-wurzels harvested.  They filled the back of the pickup.  We brought them home and topped them and put them in the root cellar between the rows of potato crates, and our muscles ache from the hauling, but they are money in the bank — piggy bank, actually, since they are a good part of our winter pig food.  Mangels, according to our sources, shouldn’t be fed until they have aged a few weeks; this is fine, since there are still quite a few sub-prime winter squash for the pigs to finish first.  Isn’t it nice that squash seeds are a natural wormer, just when we are going into the winter and want to make sure that everyone has his parasites under control?

We should have a litter of piglets soon; we were aiming for July, but the boar was a little slow off the mark . . .

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food

Baking day.  Sixteen pounds of dough for loaves, ditto for rolls, and crust for eight pizzas, means a substantial amount of bread, and should last us about a week and a half.  The last of the peaches were picked and frozen, and the garlic we set on screens in the summer kitchen to dry, are being tied in bunches and hung up high under the roof over the stone fireplace where we grill steaks.  In the woodshed, the onions from one of the three onion beds are drying on boards set across two sawhorses, four double rows of three-inch bulbs.  They will not be dry enough to braid before we harvest the other two onion beds, so we will have to overflow into the garage and dry onions there, too.  Food is everywhere; some, like the tomatoes, still growing; some, the late green beans, for instance, just getting their legs under them.  A great deal of food is running around in the back pasture, or grunting in the styes under the barn.  But the tide is beginning to come in.

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