Results for tag "tamworth"

pig ponderings

Our pigs have been quite an adventure this year. We bumped it up from raising 3 piglets last winter, to 8 this spring.However, spring brought NO PIGLETS for sale ANYWHERE. It was a nightmare, but we finally located some south of our farm. We were about 4 months behind our planned piglet raising period, but finally we had our piglets and put them to work tilling in the center of our farm, where we’ll be gardening next year.We decided to keep one of the over-wintered piglets, named Rosie, as she is stellar in body type ( a real bacon type, fatty pig), a sweet, engaging personality and, yes, we just loved the idea of raising up our own piglets, especially since it was so hard to find piglets for sale this spring. Rosie had been the pig we were going to make into wedding bratwurst for our reception, but we changed the menu to Goat Curry, featuring our goat bucks, Cedar and Romeo.

Lance courting Rosie

Enter Lance, a Tamworth boar pig, who arrived in June to be Rosie’s boyfriend, and hopefully the father of her piglets. At first we were mighty concerned he was not able to get the job done properly, as he was quite a bit smaller than she. We saw attempts, but never witnessed what would count as success. They were joined in their big wooded pen over the summer.

Pigs’ gestation is funny- 3 months, three weeks and 3 days. If Lance got Rosie knocked up in June or July, that would have led to October or November piglets. November is not ideal, with out rustic farm set up (no barn, just a farrowing hut in the pasture.) After a couple months of blissful cohabitation, Lance was moved next to Rosie, but separate from her. No December babies, thank you.

Rosie........pregnant?

After realizing we really couldn’t keep him on the payroll all winter, and attempting to sell Lance for some time with no luck, he was humanely harvested on our farm. There’s alot of info out there about boars being unfit for human food, being “stanky” and the meat tasting like boar piss. We had some encouragement from a friend in Andalusia who said she’s harvested boars on their farm and never had problems with bad tasting meat, and she wholeheartedly agrees that animals who are not scared when they die do not pass on hormonal changes in their meat (making a bad taste). If we had trucked Lance to the butcher, even just 10 minutes away, it would have scared the crap out of him, and adrenaline most likely would have been surging through his muscles. Instead, he was being calmly talked to, adored and then he was gone.

look at the belly change-------Rosie!

We took his hams, several roasts and hocks and placed them in our charcuterie tub with a strong sea salt brine, in a fridge, for about a month. Most of this was cold smoked after the brining. Everything else from Lance went into our freezer and he tastes amazing, like a good pig does. He spent his last month eating organic apples, clover, oats, etc in company with the best lady pig ever. Good pigs are, unfortunately, delicious.

One of Lance's massive loin roasts, which was smoked after brining. We could have cut it into chops, if we were so inclined, but a nice big roast was so.........

After doing the numbers, we can’t really afford to raise pigs on the scale we did this year. Without machinery to do all the hauling of feed around for us, it has become back breaking to be hauling hundreds of pounds of grain all of the place, to keep up with their rooting frenzy and continually move them over and over and over…we love pigs, but we’re barely getting paid to do all the work it takes to raise them well. And we do raise them well, and love them up. Until we can figure out how to do it more efficiently, we decided the hassles and hauling are too much to continue next year.  Maybe………..

Farming small scale means you must choose your projects to suit your abilities and time frame. We’re focusing more energy on our ducks and their eggs, our CSA gardening, the goaties, as well as raising fantastic broiler chickens and the lovely turkeys.

That being said, after many nervous observation periods, we’re quite sure Rosie IS pregnant. The earliest she would be due with piglets is in about a week, but there’s no way that’s happening. Her body and appetite seem to be more in order with piglets due in a month. Oh boy, the dreaded November delivery. Our first too. What a crazy adventure. Pigs are amazing, wonderful creatures. They are recycling eating machines, and they till any turf you want tilled. And they are incredibly friendly, intelligent beings. It is a joy to play hide and seek with Rosie, watching her try to find you when you dart around the corner of the farrowing hut, or race through it, and she waits for you on the other side. I’d just say small equals better for anyone thinking about raising pigs, and don’t try breeding your own for a good long time.

Delicious things to make with Duck Eggs, & all the latest

Today I made custard for lunch with our ducks’ eggs. So fresh, so vibrant and lovely-the custard turned out not only a gorgeous color, but had a satin smooth texture. Yum! This dessert, made with eggs from happy happy ducks is actually good for you! Loaded with protein, calcium, B vitamins, healthy mono-unsaturated fats and some mineral rich maple syrup to boot.

duck eggs so fresh they nearly bring tears with their beauty!

i forgot to whisk the eggs before i added the the milk-

stirring over the low/medium heat

oh yeah- hot custard poured over frozen raspberries from a neighbor's farm

The basic recipe is as follows: Whisk 3 whole eggs in your pot, off the heat. Stir in 2 cups milk (we used fresh goats’ milk) and a 1/4 cup maple syrup, a 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and  apinch of salt. Then start to heat on low/medium, stirring for about 5 minutes until the mixture is thickened. Eat right away with fresh local berries, or pour into serving bowls and refrigerate until firm. You can also cool the custard and then freeze it in your ice cream maker for an out-of-control summer luscious treat. Absoutely divine. The richness of the duck eggs is what makes this very simple custard a knockout.

duck eggs also make the BEST homemade pasta!

The extra protein in our girls’ eggs make homemade pasta even more robust and rich. Give it a try. One thing we learned is that whole mixing on the counter top is not a good idea- just use a bowl to avoid making a giant mess. The ratio is so easy (this is for about two servings)- 2 eggs to 1 cup flour, a pinch of salt. Stir, knead add more flour if needed, then roll out vigorously with a rolling pin, flouring your board as needed. Cut into strips that are about the same size, and drop all at once into a pot of boiling water. Boil maybe 5 minutes, depending on how thin you got your pasta sheet. Just boil until the texture is to your liking. Dress with fresh greens, sauteed in a little olive oil, some garlic. So simple, yet fancy and delicious!

rhubarb from a friend, we've established our own giant patch now, for next year and beyond

some of our broiler chickens that we're raising for our chicken share customers

Life has been good out here. Our first CSA boxes in May did not have any of our own veggies, as April was snowy and nearly sunless, so nothing grew! Radishes sat in the soil, not growing like they would have. We found wild ramps to share, and padded the boxes with extra eggs, soaps and other farm made goods. The June boxes begin next week, and we are so excited for all the good stuff we get to share now! Fresh, tender Kale (soo good with duck eggs for breakfast! Just sautee for a few seconds in olive oil, crack an egg on top and flip after a minute. Greens enriched eggs the easy way!), sorrel, cauliflower and broccoli, fresh peppermint, lettuces, china choy, baby salad mix, radishes….it’s so exciting. The first tomatoes are being formed on the plants, and the summer squash are about to bloom and start producing mountains of zucchini and patty pan squash. Kohlrabi is doing well, parsley and beets are taking their time, carrots are beginning to be visible. Brussel sprouts are starting to reach for the sky, and cabbages thinking about starting heads. Some of our cauliflowers are forming tiny heads. The heat wave we all experienced of over 100 degrees really pulled a fast one on the brassicas, who thought, that’s it, time to make seed. So we have some tiny heads, and some of the plants burst into bloom when it suddenly was 45 at night. They thought winter was coming, so time to make seeds for the next generation!

The Green Beans and other beans are coming along nicely, but that’s another month away before we see beans to pick. We’re growing some for fresh pods, and some for the dried beans we’ll shell in the late fall, after the pods dry. For those of you who got to have some of our fabulous winter squash last year, and know the special method we have for seeding them (using the pigs), you’ll be happy to know the pigs did it again, and we have squash plants everywhere!! Even though the growing season is so short in this climate, the bounty is insane, when it all works out. So funny to be salivating over winter squash at the start of summer.

Trixie is a Bancha goat -half boer, half la mancha- my own creation! She's milking not too heavily this year, her first, but her milk is really really creamy. Excellent for cheesemaking. Note her tongue!

It’s also been challenging this spring. First we lost Metallika’s son, Prince, to something we don’t know what. We took his body to the WI State Veterinary lab for an autopsy, but haven’t heard anything. he died completely suddenly, no warning signs or anything. Being from a set of triplets, and being the smallest one, he may have had some kind of defect that prevented him from living a full life. It was heartwrenching to lose such a robust, handsome and friendly little guy, and not be able to do anything about it. So far, we’ve had no problems with his sisters or any of the other goats, so it must have just been a fluke.

Then we had a predator come. We’ve not had much trouble ever before, due to Little Blue and Javi’s protection of the farm. But this jerk-hole snuck into the side shed where the little fat broiler chicks were brooding for a week or two before we could move them outside. This predator came two nights in a row, we think it is a weasel based on what we found. We lost 12 chicks at about 2 weeks of age. So we moved them outside a bit too early, but we needed them out of the den of the beast. We camped in our tent next to them that first night, having nightmares of weasels chasing baby chicks. We had two nights of peace. Andrew built a weasel trap which we baited, but caught nothing yet. And then it got cold one night, and all the chicks piled together in one end of a box, and ended up suffocating 6 of their chick buddies. Man oh man. We really are trying, but this has been a frustrating struggle.

Gardens are always a challenge, something is always hard. We’re starting with freshly tilled sod, and so despite cover cropping to hold back the weeds, we have had to go back and double dig some beds that got out of hand. Luckily the stream of baby plants needing transplanting never ends, so there is always something to put in the new beds. We’ve been totally on top of succession planting (yeah!), and now that the weather is kind of normal, we’re looking forward to lots of  veggies cascading into our lives and sharing that bounty with our CSA.

Rosie and her boyfriend Lance!

What else is going on out here? We decided we want to raise our own piglets instead of having to buy them from outside farms. And Rosie is such a magnificent pig were sure she’s gonna be an awesome mom. So we got her a suitor. Lance is a Tamworth boar, a heritage hog breed. He’s been hanging out next to her for 2 weeks, we’re all waiting for when she goes into heat in a couple days, and then hopefully piglets will be in the works. A huge thank you to Harvey from Carlena Farm, for raising such a nice boar and bringing him to us. Lance is so mellow and such a stunning guy, and he’s been singing Rosie sweet nothings pretty much all day long.

Rosie enjoying the sprinkler spa on the 100 degree day

spring is really, finally here!

Happy happy joy joy, we have warmth and sun, finally. The animals feel it, the plants, the soil…quite magnificent in the glorious turnaround. We’ve been busy busy busy planting seedlings, seeds, asparagus crowns (all 500 are planted now!) and setting up new paddocks for the growing turkeys, the meat chickens on the way and the new piglets.

blooming bush cherries, which the hummingbirds have adored!

The worst thing about this spring was that the plastic cover on the hoophouse came off- it was a terrible day May 9th. The gusts of wind coming right at it in the wrong direction caught a loose end and the continuing gusts just kept pulling harder until one side was nearly off and we tried in vain to hold down the plastic with our whole bodies. But two people trying to contain a 40×60 parachute that wanted to go with the wind, it was quite a sight, we’re sure. Then the huge plastic sheet went off and got impaled in a tree. Arrrrgh……..There was yelling, cussing, screaming and some dumbstruck tears. The day before we’d put out tomato plants in the raised beds in there, and now we had a convertible style hoophouse, with no cover, no shelter for the ducks or the plants. Right away we ordered a new plastic cover, but this could happen again. We’ve put in extra reinforcement baseboards, so the securing areas will be doubled. On a side note- the company we got this hoophouse from, Farmtek, was absolutely horrible in their dealings with us after this incident. Terrible customer service, no apologies or commiserating, nothing.

The ducks don’t mind the new skeleton hoophouse. Their routines are such that they just keep going out and in where they are used to. Such sweethearts! Now that spring/summer is upon us we may just leave the hoop up and cover it later in the season. Too much to do in the meantime.

We got our 4 piglets for the fall group of pigs. These are all sold already. We really like mixed breed pigs who are different colors since they seem to be more suited for the outdoor life, but we could only find Yorkshire piglets. These poor little guys never saw the sun before and immediately got sunburns, as they are pure pink! We’ve had to be on top of getting them extra shade, as well as stop worrying over them because pigs are really robust beings. As our friend Angelica says, as long as they are eating and pooping, they’ll most likely pull through anything. This year it was incredibly difficult to locate anyone with piglets for sale. So we’ve decided to try our hand at raising pigs on a very small scale. With some encouragement from our pig raising friends, we’re going to be keeping Rosie as our first gilt-turned-sow. A gilt is a young female pig, and a sow is a gilt who has had at least one litter of piglets. Details. Our friend Harvey at Carlena Farms is going to rent us one of his Tamworth boars for Rosie to have a boyfriend for a month or so. She should have piglets 3 months, three weeks and three days after their successful meeting (…Fingers Crossed.) Looks like September or so. Raising our own piglets will take self sufficiency to a new level, our own LTD blend too! The majestic heritage breed pigs out there are just completely enrapturing, we’d love to raise them all. But the prices for babies are too high for small scale farmers. Some day we’d love to get Large Black Hogs, an especially intriguing tall, huge, beautiful pig who’s very good at grazing. Some day…….but take a 1/2 Duroc gilt and a Tamworth and we’ll have some nice piglets. If everything goes ok with the farrowing (piglet birthing) which is the biggest variable with raising hogs. We’re going to do our best, as we always do, and see how it goes.

Rosie's the red hugey on the right, our future momma!

The greens are finally growing bigger, the radishes fattening, green beans sprouting, and the transplanted planties thriving in the new thick soil. Our summer turkeys are galloping around in their new pasture, foraging very well and loving the sun. Penny and Squeak are eating so much they leave leftovers after feeding time, so they are nice and fat and their time is coming up on Wednesday. They have been an absolute joy to raise and we’re honored to have had their beings here, living a good life with us, each other, and the land. The bounty of meat coming from these pigs will sustain 4 families for a LONG time.

arugula, china choy........