This summer has been hectic. I know that I say that almost every single blog post, but it’s true. The summer has been crazy. The farm has been crazy. It’s always crazy. It’s a farm. We’ve had some huge projects going on this summer including the expansion of our rotational grazing pig pastures, a big ribbon gutter concrete pour over our driveway and the installation of our energy free irrigation system, just to name a few. Alongside those projects, we’ve had the weirdest summer weather ever. It rained the entire first half of the year, leaving our garden wet and confused… like spectators at a Gallagher comedy show. We (well… I) said a tearful goodbye to a few animals on the farm that crossed the rainbow bridge before their time. That was the most awful part of the summer. I can start the garden over again next year but I won’t be able to get our beloved animals back. I cursed Mother Nature and the farm for my pain. I was mad. But again, that’s farming. After I dried my eyes, I realized that there was still a beacon of hope… rather, a bacon of hope. Last week, we had five sows deliver 48 beautiful baby piglets. One of those mommas was my good friend, Amy Swinehouse. So this blog post is an open letter of thanks and gratitude to her.
Last week we talked about whole hog butchering. The whole idea of whole animal butchery is using every part of the animal that you can and letting virtually nothing go to waste. The only part of our pig that we didn’t use was the skin (we skinned it instead of scalding it) and hooves. There are things you can do with the skin and hooves, namely cracklin’s and… I don’t know, pickled pig feet? For this first time around we didn’t use them. But something we were very excited about using was the head for head cheese and pork stock. Oh buddy! It’s a twofer! Head cheese is awesome and it often gets a bad rap because it’s a weird name. Much like the very popular AMC Gremlin or Hoobastank. We’ll talk about the name in a second. I know there’s something called “head cheese loaf” you can get in the grocery store but let me assure you, that stuff is weird. Real head cheese is a delicious, rich mixture of fat and muscle with endless spice options. So let’s get on this salty meaty train and learn how to make authentic head cheese at home.
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.
Gather round friends, this is a story for the ages. All of the pig adventures we’ve had all rolled into one still couldn’t top what happened last night. This is a story of small odds, hope, denial, living nightmares, disbelief, kindness and small victories that turn into great ones. Truth is truly stranger than fiction, friends. And pigs really do fly. This is the ballad of Boarzilla.
Dear Patron Saint of Heritage Hogs, give me strength. Let me start off by saying that I love pigs, I love them very much. More so than I thought that I would. When we were first talking about getting into pigs I wasn’t so thrilled about it. In fact, I was a little scared, especially since our breed is half wild boar. Months and months ago, I had told myself (and Dave) that I would not get in the pens with the adults and instead would play with the babies. Fast forward to yesterday when I climbed into the pasture … Continued
It’s been a month since we got our first installment of our heritage hog herd. 11 gilts (most of which are preggo, a few of which are super preggo), 4 young boars, 3 barrows (snipped boys) and one very adorable little Piggy Azalea (the pig formally known as Britney Spears). In the past month they’ve taught us a lot; how curious they are, how they can really make you appreciate a mid-day nap, and how quickly they can completely tear up an entire pasture within a few days. Luckily, it’s only a temporary pasture that’s buying us some time until their permanent home is finished. We’ve been sketching out ideas for their pasture for about a year now after talking with Carl Blake of Rustik Rooster Farm, researching the Joel Salatin method and bouncing off ideas with fellow farmers. I think we’ve finally come up with a great easy to manage intensive rotational grazing set-up for our pigs that will keep them well fed on open pasture and woodlands containing hickory nuts, acorns and persimmons.
About a year and a half ago, Farmer Dave had a plan. And that plan was to get pigs. Oh, and also to marry me. We got married on September 20th at the farm and it was absolutely beautiful (pictures to come). At the wedding, our buddy Carl Blake came and roasted a whole hog and also brought with him a little friend, a week old Mulefoot/Large Black cross. Because you can’t have a farm wedding without a baby pig running around, am I right?! Well that little lady pig wasn’t just there for the hell of it, she was our wedding gift! Little Britney Spears (as Dave named her) was the beginning of our pig herd but we had no idea what that was about to snowball into.