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.
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.
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 happened. We had our first baby pigs born at the farm. When we first got our gilts, we knew that some of them were pregnant and that they were about two and a half months away from farrowing. In my mind, it would be this picture perfect plan where we would finish building their farrowing pen in the new rotational pasture system then move the gilts in there and they would magically all drop their litters in sync. That is not what happened. That’s not what happened at all! That’s actually the complete opposite of what happened. Here is the story of our first farrowing.
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.