"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, March 27, 2020

DQ10 - Shellfish and Salsa



                             Oysters 



I’ve been trying for the past twenty minutes to upload a short video of Homero and I dancing salsa in the kitchen. It seems that the new blogger platform does not support embedded video. More’s the pity - you all are missing out on watching my big bum sway to the salsa rhythm.   

Today was fun. I went to work in the morning - yes, I’m still working - and tried to go to Costco on my way home. The parking lot was less than half full, probably because they closed the border with Canada. Usually, about half the vehicles in the lot near Canadian plates. Nonetheless, there was a line about forty people long stretching out the front door, and this sign was prominently displayed:




I decided to try Fred Meyer instead. It was pretty well stocked, except for toilet paper, cleaning supplies, baking supplies and pet food. Those items were cleaned out. But the produce section looked entirely normal. There’s a rumor that Bellingham is going to temporarily ban all sales of alcohol and guns and ammo. We are fine on ammo, but I did pick up a few bottles of booze. 

Later in the afternoon, Homero got a call from a friend of his who harvests local oysters. He wanted to know did we want some? Homero never says no; he is a fool for fresh oysters. It was too cold out to build a fire and grill them as we usually do, so we simply broiled them in the oven until they cracked open and then ate them with lemon and Valentina sauce. 

Hope, who loves oysters and misses her ballroom dance class, blasted salsa on her speaker as we cracked and ate the oysters, and we all took turns dancing with Papa. Since I can’t seem to figure out how to upload the video, I’ll just give you this link to my favorite salsa song:

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

DQ8 - Hair Cuts and Hair Color


Rowan came over today. She brought hair dye. She is one of those lovely brave people who changes her hair all the time - once she even tried being bald - and I am one of those people who hasn’t changed their hair since high school. 

I let her give me a trim, though, just a badly-needed snip of the split ends. And then I let her color my hair with a color she chose for me. Red, but not too far off my own natural reddish-brown. I like it. Covers my grey streak and feels like the color my hair used to be in September, after a summer of sunshine. She dyed her own hair red too - but she opted for full-on fire engine engine, and henna freckles to match:



This past weekend, before the lockdown, we hired a guy to come prune our fruit trees. Most of them are the small trees we planted ourselves, and weren’t very difficult to do, but the hoary old Bartlett pear by the shed was long overdue. It took him entire day with an electric pruning saw, but he did an excellent job. The only trouble now is that the low hanging branches and all the blackberries are gone, you can see the mess that was previously hidden. 




Rowan also spent some time cleaning up the greenhouse for me, which was very kind of her. The rosemary bush had grown to fill about half the total greenhouse space, as it does every year. It’s in full flower and smells lovely. She cut it back enough so we have enough space for, you know, some actual greenhouse plants. I filled a brown paper shopping bag with branches to dry and reluctantly threw the rest on the compost. There was about a wheelbarrow full, more rosemary than anyone can really use, unless maybe you want to roast a baby goat on a bed of rosemary branches. Too bad I don’t have a baby goat to try it with. 



All in all, a really nice day. So far this quarantine thing is a cinch. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

DQ8 - Alone With the Chores

Since my last post, the governor has increased restrictions, banning all gatherings, public and private, including even weddings and funerals. He has told all non-essential businesses to close and all non-essential workers to stay home. 


The list of essential workers and businesses is long  - long enough to invite skepticism, as did his inclusion of retail marijuana shops and their workers. I don’t know if he included liquor stores. Both Homero and I are considered essential workers. Homero still had work, but all my appointments for the rest of the week have been cancelled. All routine visits and follow-ups have been suspended to save PPE and reduce strain on health care workers. I heard from a nurse at the clinic on my last day in that even cancer treatments have been suspended. I hope that’s not true. 

So I’m at home with no valid way to avoid chores. Today Paloma and I transplanted the snap peas and I tackled this mountain of laundry:






Sunday, March 22, 2020

DQ6 - Visit From Rowan


Our oldest daughter Rowan came by today. She’s been in isolation for ten days already, because she had a cough and a sore throat. No fever though. Chances are it’s her regular seasonal allergies and post-nasal drip, but nobody’s taking any chances these days. 

She and her roommates are also putting in a bigger garden this year, and she called to ask if we had any fencing lying around she could use to keep the dogs out of the garden beds. As does any good farmstead, we have a few rolls of chicken wire kicking around, and I said she was welcome to come get some. 

When she arrived, Hope and I were in the garden laying down cardboard and anchoring it with rocks that Hope and Papa gathered in the pig pasture. That’s where all the rocks are, but we were afraid of the pigs and thought they would bite us if we went in there to gather the rocks. Papa said “I’ll go” and it turned out the pigs weren’t interested in trying to bite anybody. Ten minutes yielded enough rocks to hold down all the cardboard I had brought home from gleaners. Gleaners is a basically unlimited source of cardboard, and I ought to bring home a lot more. 

Rowan looked at the old strawberry bed, which is pretty much just lawn at this point, and suggested we dig up any strawberries we could find and transplant them into the second of the old claw foot bathtubs. We have two, and the first one was planted with spicy salad mix yesterday by Paloma and me. 




Eight clumps of strawberries were rescued and transplanted. There is room in the bathtub for another four or so; I may pick some up at the farm store tomorrow. We also cleaned up another raised bed and prepared it for transplanting our snap peas in a few days. The snap peas are currently germinating on the kitchen table in five egg cartons. As soon as we can prepare enough space, I have radish seeds and beet seeds ready to go. 

Today I also sent out a message over Facebook that if anyone was in need of eggs - I hear they are scarce in the grocery stores - I have five dozen I am happy to donate to families in need. We have thirteen laying hens and this time of year we are drowning in eggs. Three people messaged me and we made arrangement to meet up. 

It’s very odd to go to the grocery store and see empty shelves. That’s never happened in my lifetime. I’m so used to abundance and variety that it seems almost to be a natural American right. Shortages? Long lines? That only happens 
in other places - poor places, “socialist” places - not here. 
Not in AMERICA.  I was at Fred Meyer yesterday. The produce section looked unchanged, thank God, but there were long stretches of bare shelving in the toilet paper aisle, the cleaning products aisle, the pet food aisle, and the liquor aisle. American priorities, amiright? 







Saturday, March 21, 2020

QD5 - Spring Sting (Nettle Soup)




Stayed at home today - as we are all supposed to do - and having not much to do, decided to harvest some nettles and make avgolemeno soup with the remains of the chicken I roasted yesterday. 

Note to self: nitrile gloves are not proof against nettle stings. Right now, six hours later, three fingers on my left hand are still bitching and complaining. Nonetheless, I did manage to harvest half a brown paper shopping bag full of nettle tips. 

Avgolemeno soup is one of my favorite things, and I only make it once a year, just about now, when the nettles are ready. Avgolemeno means “egg and lemon.” It’s Greek. It refers to a delicious, tangy sauce that can be poured over vegetables, or used to thicken and bind broth. 

SPRING AVGOLEMENO SOUP:

take one chicken - or the remains of a roast chicken you ate  the night before - and simmer in plenty of water with salt to make broth. Let cool, and remove bones, reserving flesh.

To the broth, add two stalks chopped celery, two chopped carrots, a teaspoon fennel seed, a tablespoon salt, a couple
Cloves garlic, and a cup of white rice. Simmer gently.

While soup is simmering, go gather your nettles. Use gloves (not nitrile!). Rinse nettles in a colander to clean and remove any grass or extraneous vegetable matter. Add nettles to broth. 

When veggies are tender, make avgolemeno sauce: 

Crack three eggs into a bowl. Squeeze three large lemons and add juice to eggs. Beat well, until smooth. Then use a ladle to slowly add a cup of hot broth to egg mixture, beating all the while. This is called “tempering” the eggs. If you were to add the egg mixture directly to the soup, you’d have scrambled egg soup and it would be gross. Tempering the eggs with the lemon makeS a smooth, beautiful yellow tangy sauce which you can then add in a thin stream to the soup, stirring at the same time. 

Hit the soup with a teaspoon or so of fresh ground black pepper, maybe a bit of cayenne, and serve with crusty bread. 

Other lovely additions to chicken avgolemeno soup might be asparagus, spinach or other tender greens, or cubed cooked potatoes. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

DQ4 - Garden Notes




I haven’t bothered with a garden in years - beyond my perennials; rhubarb, raspberries, fruit trees - because I can get unlimited free produce from the gleaner’s pantry. This year, however, things are so very uncertain that it seems like it can’t be a bad idea to try to plant a few things. So far, gleaner’s is carrying on, but if the governor issues a shelter in place order, as so many others have, then I assume it will have to come to a halt. 

Our old garden space is a mess. The beds are entirely gone - just grass. Homero took a weed eater to the canary grass and Paloma clipped the blackberries. I hauled a few buckets full of compost and topped up one of the bathtubs. Then we planted a couple packs of spicy salad mix. 

A few days ago Paloma and I planted five egg cartons worth of snap peas, and they are germinating in the kitchen table. I’ll have to prepare a bed for them soon. Also sorted through some drawers and found seed packets of years past - most of the seeds will still sprout. I have cylindrical beets, radishes, and green beans. Also nasturtiums. No place to plant those though, until we do a lot more work. 

We have the time. Nothing but time. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

DQ3 - Fire on the Hill




Life ain’t so bad. Geese are honking overhead. Coyotes are singing in the copse to the west. Venus is burning like a white hot torch in the western sky. Beers are cold and fire is hot. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

State of the Farm: Pandemic Edition



The girls amuse themselves at home with Henna freckles 


DQ2 - day two of “quarantine.” We aren’t officially quarantined, of course, and not even prohibited from going out and visiting. The official prohibitions in Washington are (as of right now) no gatherings of over 50 people (or has it been changed to 10?) and smaller gatherings must abide by strict “social distancing” rules that keep people 6 feet apart. 

Schools are closed at least through 4/27. I started the DQ count from the first day that schools were closed, which was yesterday, hence today is DQ2. Restaurants are closed, though takeout and delivery is allowed. Bars are closed, as are any place where people habitually gather, such as bowling alleys, churches, movie theaters, museums, libraries, barber shops, etc. Grocery stores and pharmacies are open. 

Everyone who can work from home is being told to work from home. I am still working, working more than usual in fact. As a medical interpreter, I spend my days going from one doctor’s office to another, which I suppose makes me high risk for infection. Today, for the first time, there were nurses with thermometers stationed at the entrances of the clinics, taking everyone’s temperature before they were allowed in. I don’t have a fever. 

Homero is still working as well, but he works from home all the time anyway. People still need their cars fixed, even if they are being told to stay home, I guess. I worry a bit about him because he has a few different underlying health conditions (as do I) that could make him a higher risk for complications. At least he wears gloves all the time. 

The girls were initially thrilled about the prospect of a six week spring break, until it was made clear to them that they would not being spending much time hanging out with friends, or indeed outside the house at all. I have let them see a couple friends, one or two at a time, and I’m thinking of getting in touch with the parents of a few of their “best friends” and asking about creating a closed circle of friends so they can all hang out with each other without becoming vectors of disease. 

Nobody knows yet when school will resume. Teachers have been told not to send homework for the time being, since not every child has internet access at home and it wouldn’t be equitable. The district is working on a solution, at least for high schoolers, and I expect sometime in the next week or two that they will probably send home some fat packets. In the meantime, I told the girls this isn’t a vacation, and that they needed to write up a schedule for themselves. It doesn’t have to be a strict schedule, or overly specific, but it has to exist. Here’s what they came up with:




I especially like Paloma’s first line item: “get up by eleven (don’t come for me).” 

Each schedule has to include a two hour block of time for school related work (their teachers can’t assign work that will be collected and graded, but they can post “suggestions” online) and a two hour block of “productive other” time. This second category can be anything from playing piano to drawing to exercising to working in the garden to reading a book. Other than those two categories, and one chore assigned by me or their papa each day, their time is their own. 

Some examples of the chores I intend to make them do, in no particular order:

- walk the pastures and pick up all the pieces of broken plastic, plastic baling twine, or plastic bags and assorted trash they can find. No matter how careful one is, small plastic detritus accumulates over the winter. 

- turn over some of the compost pile

- clean out a drawer or a cabinet 

- harvest nettles

- organize the canning jars (full ones by contents; empty ones by size)

- use the sewing machine to make patches for mending the quilts with holes in them (our dogs have a tendency to get overexcited and tug on the bedclothes)

- clean up the greenhouse 

Like everyone else, I am imagining all the great stuff we will all get done during this enforced down-time, and like everyone else I am probably fooling myself. It’s unlikely I will take up a musical instrument or learn a third language. A more realistic hope is that I will have time and energy to put in a small garden - something I haven’t done for a few years - and read a few extra books. Perhaps do some drawing. Within a month the goats will kid, and soon thereafter it will be cheese season again. 

A good chore for me would be to find, clean, and organize 
my cheese making equipment, and order new cultures and supplies. 

Another good chore for me would be to commit to keeping a blog diary of our lives during this time.  Nobody knows how this is going to play out. Things could stay bad for a long time. Many of my neighbors are elderly and frail and are really not supposed to go out at all. Tomorrow I will talk about local efforts to pull together and provide help and services for folks who are ACTUALLY quarantined, and for folks who have lost their jobs, and those negatively affected in all sorts of ways by this unprecedented situation. 

Stay healthy! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dedicated Cheese



Today I opened up a cheese from last spring, that had been resting, vacuum sealed, in the dedicated fridge in the store room. The “dedicated fridge” is a half-sized refrigerator that I bought last year to store cheese, smoked salmon, and various fermented products such as sauerkraut, kim chee, and so forth.

As of today, there were only three packages of cheese in the dedicated fridge, totaling  perhaps  four pounds. Most of the cheese had been either eaten or traded away months ago. It’s always a gamble opening up a sealed cheese. 

This gamble paid off. The cheese is strong but delightfully rather than offensively so; goaty but pleasantly so; herbal with the scent of caraway seed, but not overpoweringly. A handful of almonds and a few dried figs made a beautiful accompaniment.

Other likely partners include fresh apple slices, sourdough bread, olives, maybe roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts... basically it would be an enhancement to any mezze plate or antipasto plate. 

I’m inordinately proud. I mean seriously. How many people are there, in this day and age, who make their own cheese? And cheese made from the milk of goats who they raised and milked themselves, at that? the cheese I enjoyed tonight is a true artisan farmstead product that few people have the chance to taste.

More’s the pity. if you ever make it out here, there’s cheese in the dedicated fridge. Dedicated for you. 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Double Dog Update



It’s going so much better than we could have hoped. Looks like we have two dogs now. 










Friday, January 31, 2020

Welcome Mercy (On Taking a Chance)


                             Haku and Merced 


I am a sucker for beautiful dogs. I never even had a dog of my own until I was a grown up married lady. My first dog was the incomparable Ivory (http://newtofarmlife.blogspot.com/2011/05/ivory-dog-omy-heart.html?m=1) - a gorgeous white shepherd/whippet mix who was graceful, intelligent, affectionate, protective, and silly - everything a dog ought to be. Ivory became the mold and model that all subsequent dogs would have to live up to. 


                                   Ivory 


When Ivory died, at age 14, we were heartbroken and were not ready for a new dog for nearly six months.... a long time to be dogless, for dog lovers. We eventually found Haku - a white shepherd mixed with something  (maybe golden lab?) who had been given up twice before he was a year old for being too destructive and unmanageable. We had no particular reason to think we would be able to handle him better than anyone else - we are not dog trainers or experts of any sort - we just thought he was incredibly beautiful and we couldn’t live without him another day of our lives.

Haku tested us severely by destroying the playroom utterly, jumping every fence we could erect, and killing an entire sheep, but over the course of two years he finally settled down and became what you could call a good dog, if you aren’t too picky about dictionary definitions. Now we can’t imagine life without him. He makes us all feel very safe by scaring the living daylights out of anyone who ventures onto the front porch. 

Paloma has been pestering us for a second dog for many moons now. I have been the main holdout - everyone else in the family is persuadable (Homero doesn’t need persuading - he’d have a dozen dogs if I’d let him) but I have been the lone voice of reason. Who’s going to take care of two dogs when we go to Mexico? Who’s going to pick up twice as much dog poo? Sweep up twice as much dog hair? Buy twice as much dog food and pay twice the vet bills? Huh? Huh? 

Well call me a hypocrite, because a couple days ago a desperate plea floated through my internet space. A lovely young shepherd, named Merced, was being given up by her family because she had attacked a new puppy brought into the house, and when mom got in between them, she got bitten, badly enough to need to go to urgent care. The family has very reluctantly decided that Merced could not stay with them. The humane society declined to accept her. They didn’t know what to do, and issued a general plea for someone to foster her before she would have to be destroyed. 



Well I must have been a little tipsy, or hypnotized, because I forwarded her photo to my husband, knowing full well he would fall lock stock and barrel in love. 

Fast forward two days. We spoke to the owners; we spoke to their trainer; we spoke to the handler at the kennel where she was being boarded. We visited her and she was every bit as charming as we imagined she would be. We were warned from all quarters that she was a challenging dog who would need careful monitoring and ongoing training, but also that she was intelligent, obedient, loving, healthy, and eager to please. We said we’d take her, pending a successful introduction to Haku. 

The handler at the kennel, a big bear of a man named Adam, helped us with the meet and greet. He spent a good two hours of uncompensated time with us and the two dogs, doing everything he could to ensure they had a peaceful introduction. It went very very well indeed, and we took Merced home the same day - yesterday. 

Today, all has gone well so far, except for one short squabble that ensued when Haku got jealous that Merced was leaning on me and tried to push past her and get closer to me. She snarled, and he snapped. He got an ear in his teeth and made her YIKE, but there was no blood and it was over in less than five seconds. Since then, they’ve spent hours together with no further trouble. 

I have high hopes that within a month, Merced and Haku will be fast friends. My main worry is that they might bond  as a pack and go after my goats. Twice the German shepherds is like, six times the prey-drive. It’s a the-whole-is-more-than-the-sum-of-it’s-parts situation. The two of them could make a very efficient killing machine working in tandem. 

But we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it. In the meantime, I am very much enjoying making my daily rounds attended by two majestic white hounds. It makes me feel like Princess Mononoke. 





Saturday, January 18, 2020

Snow Week (Indoor Chores)


The past week has brought frigid temperatures and a fair amount of snow - nothing like last year’s two and a half feet of snow, but enough to close school since Wednesday. And Monday being a holiday, we have quite a long stretch of being mostly home bound.

The first couple of snow days are always exciting, with a feeling of playing hooky. We play cards, break out the board games, watch movies, and play in the snow. But as the week stretches on, boredom inevitably sets in. The girls are used to three hours of wrestling practice six days a week, and they get antsy and irritable without exercise. The snow goes from pristine sparkly white to dingy grey, and my husband leaves gritty puddles behind him wherever he treads. The house starts to feel stuffy and stale, and we’re out of fresh food and snacks. There’s nothing to do. 

Time to get on top of some indoor chores. My mom used to answer every complaint of “I’m bored” by telling me to go clean something, and I guess I must have internalized  it. 

My New Year’s resolution was to clean out one cabinet or drawer per week. This old farmhouse has a truly absurd amount of storage; every room is lined with built in drawers and cabinets. Which is great, except that for the past thirteen years, whenever I find myself standing in the middle of a room with an object in my hand that has no designated location, I simply opened the nearest drawer and put it inside. Now every single one of my drawers and cabinets is basically a junk drawer, and all of my stuff is indiscriminately jumbled together and evenly distributed throughout aforementioned ridiculous amount of storage. 

So far I’ve cleaned out the silverware drawer and the spice drawer. It’s not as simple as removing extraneous stuff - kitchen drawers and cabinets somehow acquire a sticky layer of grime that needs to be scrubbed off. In the case of the spice drawer, there were enough spices embedded in that layer to make a medieval peasant rich for life. Today, I think I’ll tackle the beverage cabinet. That’s the place where I keep the coffee and coffee accoutrements, tea, chocolate, etc. 
Right now its cluttered with empty boxes, crumpled up coffee filters, dusty expired tea leaves, and random bits of kitchen equipment that I haven’t used in years. 

It’s also “tend to the ferments” day. Find the neglected jar of kefir in the back of the fridge, strain and wash the grains, scrub the jar and fill with fresh milk. Peel the crust off the sourdough starter, add some new flour and water, and set it in a warm place for a while. Sort through the jars of various fermented experiments that have gotten shoved to the back of the fridge and decide if any of them are worth keeping or if it’s time to give them all to the pigs. Start a few new jars with the vegetables that need to get used up. I found cabbage, carrots, and cilantro, ergo I’m making curtido. 

Also a good day to make slow food, so while I clean the cabinet I will be accompanied by the smell of beef bones roasting for the soup we will have for dinner later. My youngest child is keeping herself amused by teaching herself “Two Guitars” on the piano, and my other daughter is in her room attempting “Purple Rain” on her guitar. A homely cacophony as background noise. 

Snow days aren’t so bad. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Advent Calendar of Events (Day One)




Decorate the altar. 

This is year 5 of our annual advent calendar of events - a conceit I came up with to try to put the focus of the season more on activities and being together, and less on STUFF. 

While I can’t pretend it’s been wholly successful in its stated aim - STUFF is still high on everyone’s agenda for Christmas - it is a special project that has now become a permanent part of our family’s ritual year. Hope may be 16 and Paloma 14, but they still get excited about opening the paper doors and finding out what we can do tomorrow, if their busy high schools schedules allow. 




Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thankful for the Truth (Warning graphic photos)


I love Thanksgiving, especially in the years, like this one, that I get to host. I enjoy the process of writing a menu, shopping for ingredients, and setting a beautiful table. There are few things that make me happier than seeing people I love really digging in to food I’ve prepared for them. I’m happy when my adult daughter comes over, and I’m happy to see my mom. But there is something about Thanksgiving that make me feel uneasy. There is a whiff of - if not hypocrisy, then maybe willful blindness - that hangs around the Thanksgiving table. 

Thanksgiving is a day of delicious excess, a national fantasy of happy peaceful families and endless sweetness, but the truth is often unpalatable. Enjoying an abundance of good things and being thankful for what we have is, of course, wonderful, and in no way a bad thing. Indeed, we’d all be happier and the world would probably be a better place if we came together more often to share our abundance and to give thanks out loud and in the presence others. 

But it’s also important to acknowledge the realities that underlie the feast. These are manifold. Firstly, I acknowledge that to make this feast, a beautiful turkey had to die. 



I acknowledge the work that went into raising him - this bird was raised on pasture by a local farmer, so I thank my neighbor for her work and expense. But I also recognize the labor of the people - mostly immigrants - who toil in the vast and dangerous poultry processing industry; I acknowledge their worth and affirm their right to safe working conditions and just recompense. 

I thank my husband for the work he is doing right this minute - butchering the turkey out in the cold November wind. I acknowledge this is a disagreeable task and I thank him for being willing to develop the skill to do it well. 

The vegetables on the table - the potatoes, the Brussels sprouts, the salad greens - are produced by an unsustainable system that abuses workers and the earth in equal measure.  I am a witness, and I pledge to do what I can to avoid participating in those injustices and to mitigate the tremendous waste generated. 

And finally, I acknowledge that I live on unceded land of the Lummi and Nooksack tribes. All of us settlers live on land that either was never ceded by the tribes, or which was ceded under deeply unequal conditions, in which one side held all the power. I acknowledge that uncomfortable truth. If you want to know on whose land you reside, visit this link: 
https://native-land.ca/. I pledge to work toward correcting the grave inequalities that resulted by upholding the efforts of local tribes to sustain their culture and supporting their businesses and candidates for office. 

None of this is meant to be a huge bummer.

It is possible to be grateful for our wealth while recognizing the problem of poverty. We can celebrate being together with family while knowing that some are lonely. We can give thanks for warm homes, abundant food, and all the good things in our lives without trying to shut out the knowledge of the many who lack those things. It’s not a sin to be warm, to be fed, to be loved. These are wonderful gifts.

My hope and my prayer is that naming our gifts and sharing them with our loved ones will inspire us to share them more widely, as well. I remind myself, as I bask in warmth and light, of the existence of cold and darkness not out of guilt, but so that I may be moved by gratitude and grace to expand the circle of warmth and light to include others. I remind myself, as I nourish my body with roast turkey, of the death of the animal I am eating not as some sort of penance, but to honor the truth that this act embodies the cycles of life and death on this beautiful planet, cycles we are all of us bound by. 

May you be abundantly blessed this Thanksgiving. May you have much to give thanks for, as much as I. 







Sunday, November 17, 2019

Paloma’s Pigs


Some years we raise a couple of pigs, and some years we don’t. The decision whether or not to get a pig in any given year is based on a number of factors - how much meat we have in the freezer, the price of local weaner piglets, whether or not our neighbors are raising pigs this year, etc. 

In general, I have more or less decided that it is as cheap to buy pork from our neighbors as it is to raise a pig of our own, and much less work. However I can be swayed. This year we were swayed by our youngest daughter’s need for an FFA project coinciding with the availability of some handsome well-grown weaners raised by a close neighbor and offered at an excellent price. 

Paloma, our youngest, swore up and down to us that she would be in charge of feeding the pigs. Of course, she doesn’t know what that actually entails. We get much of our pig food from the Gleaner’s Pantry, and she can’t participate in that. The truth is that I will be doing most of the sourcing of food for the piggies, and Paloma will only be in charge of doing her pig-related homework. 

The question she posed and will be trying to answer is “is it financially advantageous to raise your own pigs?” For those who are interested enough to follow the links, I’ve already done the math and answered this question to my own satisfaction:
 
For those who aren’t that interested, the answer is - you can get nearly free meat if you don’t put any value on your own labor. 

But of course labor counts. Here is Homero, after spending some twenty minutes chasing down a couple of well-grown piglets today. His face clearly shows that labor counts.  My neighbor told me we could choose our own pigs from her litter of fourteen, and there were a couple of standouts. In the end, however, we took whichever pigs Homero was able to catch. 



This handsome boy was the largest of the entire litter, and probably tipped the scales at sixty pounds. Homero was hard pressed to keep ahold of him all the way home. 



The second piglet he managed to catch was the smallest one of the litter, a little pink girl with curled back ears. They seem to be happy with their new digs - we have them in the sacrifice area which is about 100 x 100 feet. Their house is a round calf hutch stuffed with hay. 

Raising pigs over the winter has its challenges, and it obviously costs more than raising the same animals over the summer months, because mammals require many more calories to keep their body temperature up during the cold season. Also their natural rooting behavior causes more damage during the wet season. That’s why we have them confined to the sacrifice area, which is compacted and has a bad weed situation. Any rooting they do may actually be beneficial, and their manure will help fertilize the sandy poor soil. 

As in past years, the idea is to sell one pig (post-slaughter, in cuts) and use that money to offset the costs of raising the other pig, which we will keep for ourselves. Paloma will be keeping the books this year, and I’ll keep you all updated on her conclusions.