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.
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.
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.
There comes a time in every farmer/homesteader’s lives where you fall victim to peer pressure and you break down and buy an incubator so that you can hatch your own chickens. It’s ok, you made the right decision. Hatching out your own eggs is the funnest! Hatching out your own eggs and watching that first baby chick pip through the shell is truly a farming/homesteading miracle. The first time can be intimidating, but don’t be nervous! I’m here to hold your hand through it. We’ll get through it together, and then you’ll be hooked. Here’s the first installment of our beginner’s guide to incubating eggs and hatching out your own baby chicks!