This week we took our first pig into the processor. We’ve brought other pigs into the processor for friends of ours, but this week was the first time we brought in one of our own. Another big “first” for us at the farm. When we first got our pigs last fall, we got 11 gilts turned sows that will be our forever mommas. Then we also got some barrows to raise up as feeder pigs. I knew this day would come, pasture raised craft pork is why we got into this racquet. Because responsibly raised heritage pork is delicious and amazing. And our breed, the Iowa Swabian Hall, is extra special and succulent. Raising hogs has been a great journey/comedy/soap opera during sweeps week and also a workout that’s better than any Richard Simmons’ VHS. God bless you, Richard Simmons. But it has also drummed up some emotions that I had never experienced as a farmer or a regular person. When people come out to the farm or even ask us about the farm, we always get asked similar questions when it comes to raising up pigs for meat, and I thought I would answer some of those questions here. Hopefully it will shed a light onto our experiences as hog farmers, animal lovers and also meat eaters and how it’s possible to be all three at the same time.
Last weekend was a big one for us! We started milking our goats every morning and it was Dave’s birthday! Since Dave is a certified and qualified workaholic, getting him to relax and pull himself away from work is sometimes a battle. For his birthday weekend, I tried to equalize his fun:work ratio quadrant. And other.. math related.. stuff. And things. I don’t know. For a while now he has been wanting to build a chute around the goat barn to make our morning milking rodeo a little easier. And he has also wanted to make a pallet fence somewhere … Continued
This past weekend two amazing miracles happened. After months of anticipation and many nights of worrying that I would screw everything up; our goats finally had their babies. Judy’s due date was on Thursday the 14th and Liza’s was on Wednesday the 20th. The day before and the day of Judy’s due date, I checked her over a few times throughout the day. I had heard that first timers usually kid a few days late anyway so I wasn’t all that concerned. But then around 5pm I went to check on her and saw Liza in the corner with babies. Well, so much for first kiddings going a few days late! Liza was six days early. This was the beginning of a whirlwind weekend and our experience of our first kidding with our first fresheners.
A few years ago, I begged and begged Dave to let me get goats. Because 1) They’re adorable and 2) goat’s milk!! But not only that, but goat cheese, goat’s milk soap, ice cream, the works! Eventually he did let me get two yearlings (Judy and Liza) and then a few months later he surprised me with two 1-week old bottle babies. Jump forward to last December when Judy and Liza were ready to be bred. They got knocked up big time by our stud buck, Ridge Runner. And now… they’re a few weeks away from their first kidding. Every time I look at their growing udders I start salivating at just the thought of the wonderful goat’s milk we’ll be getting soon. And of course, beautiful, bouncing baby goats! But the closer that we get to their kidding due date, the more and more nervous I’m getting. What do I need? Are they going to have trouble? How are they going to behave on this milk stand when they don’t even like me touching their belly?! Are the babies going to be ok? Did I feed our does correctly during their pregnancy? How do I actually milk a goat? Am I going to screw all of this up? I’m not going to lie to you guys, I’m really nervous.
Two weeks ago, Dave, John and my dad undertook a bit of a daunting task. It was time to wrangle up and castrate all of the boys in our piglet group. To begin, we had to separate the mommas from the babies, which the mommas weren’t really a fan of. Then we had to round up each baby pig in their huts and castrate the boys, which they weren’t really a fan of. This involves a lot of squealing, biting and castrating, which we’re not really a fan of. It’s an all around great day full of sunshine and rainbows. Trust me, you don’t want to visit our farm on castration day. I don’t know why you would want to. While the guys worked efficiently like a professional pit crew, or the team that replaces Kim Kardashian’s plastic and robot parts when they go defective, I had the task of holding darling baby piglets after their castration. It’s a tough job. One of the last piglets we picked up was a girl that happened to have what looked like a large hernia. The boys handed her to me, while I held her close and transported her to a large dog crate until we could take further action.
Man, just when we had March figured out, it turns around and throws us for a loop. It’s brought us 75 degree days and 30 degree days all in one week. It’s brought us life and death, great opportunities and horrible mistakes. Basically, March just doesn’t give a fuck. Have you ever had one of those days or weekends where you look back on it and you have no idea what happened or what you did? Even though you actually were productive with your time? But for the life of you, you can’t recall what really happened? That’s what the entire month of March has been like. In addition to all of March’s shenanigans, our schedule has been incredibly hectic. Dave and the boys have been going up to Iowa, we have lots of construction/projects going on, and I have a house that is in the perpetual state of what seems to be a tornado disaster zone. Plus, we’re running low on our overwintered savings so money is real tight. So basically… Goodbye March! It’s been real weird. We’re ready for April.
By now you’ve selected your hatching eggs, you’ve set your eggs in your incubator, started picking out baby chick names (naming them all flowers would be really cute) and now comes the best part. Today we’re talking about the very last three days of incubation (called lockdown) and hatching. The actual hatching part. Also known as THE BEST PART!
Last year we were honored to be asked to host an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner! And now we’re thrilled to announce that we will be hosting our second farm dinner this fall! AND we’ll be working with chef Joshua Galliano of The Libertine! We love everyone at the Libertine and can’t wait to collaborate with this during this growing season. On October 11th, we’ll be opening up our farm once again to the wonderful crew of Outstanding in the Field and enthusiastic diners. But more than the food (which is excellent), more than the service (which is above and beyond), this event is all about the diners and community around the table. We can’t wait to see familiar faces and meet new ones! But first, to get you excited, here’s some more information about Outstanding in the Field and our farm dinner last year.
Alright friends, this is part two in our guide to incubating and hatching out your own eggs. Earlier we talked about collecting eggs for hatching and choosing your incubator. Now that you have your hatching eggs patiently waiting on standby, and your incubator cleaned and ready to go.. just sitting there, watching you. Whispering to you as you walk by. Taunting you. Begging to be plugged in, allowing you to bask in the soft glow of a dimly lit lightbulb. It’s time, kemosabe. Time to warm up that incubator and anxiously wait three weeks for a tiny crack in an egg. Part two in our beginner’s guide to incubating and hatching eggs is all about setting up your incubator, setting the eggs and things to do to help you pass the time so you don’t drive yourself crazy staring at a glowing styrofoam box.
Every year we try to improve our maple syrup operation. Last year we increased our taps from 30 to over 100 and built our own maple syrup pan. This year we’re increasing our taps from 100+ to 200 and building a new maple syrup evaporator (or cooker). The way we’re cooking off our maple sap right now works just fine but is rather inefficient. Our basic set-up is this: maple syrup pan on top of two metal saw horses inside of our fire pit with sheets of metal leaned up against the sides to try to keep heat in. It’s a super primitive way of cooking maple syrup.. like we’re some sort of animals! We’re losing a lot of heat through the metal sheeting and therefore going through a lot of wood in the process. And we’re also losing a lot of time. It’s all fine and dandy during the day but as soon as the sun goes down, Dave and I end up taking shifts throughout the night to tend to the fire and sap. Usually one of us ends up sitting down by the fire at 2am listening to the coyotes and owls and getting so delusionally tired that we start communicating with them. So… we had to make a more efficient maple syrup cooker this year.