It is crazy to think that winter is over and spring is already here! Time flies when you are having fun. Today was a bitter sweet day. We took the 4 pigs to the processing facility. I really did get attached to their crazy little quirks. Every day when I went to feed them, I would lift the lid off of the barrel and start filling a bucket of feed. They would be on the far side of their pen and somehow hear me rustling around getting their food ready. I would here a big grunt, and they would all come sprinting in as fast as they could to see what I had for dinner! If you have never seen a pig run, you are missing out! It is hilarious to see such large bodies with stubby little legs running around. The pigs would wait at the gate for me all grunting and snorting till I finally went inside to fill their troughs. I would stand there for a few minutes and scratch them behind the ears, and their little piggy tails would wag like crazy. They would turn to me and see if I had any treats that I was somehow holding back from them (like Christmas cookies perhaps?). They loved it when I would scratch their snout and scratch under their chin. They were super smart, and they even would come to me when I would whistle! They each had a unique personality that I really enjoyed. They really were like dogs! When I loaded them onto the trailer, I did it without causing them any stress or harm...(normally they are loaded with electric cattle prods that they zap them to get them loaded onto the trailer). I just set the trailer up at the edge of the pen and started feeding them from inside the trailer. On the day we took them to the processor I just fed them in the trailer and closed the door. No stress involved there!
I unloaded them at the processing facility and they weighed them in at 320 pounds a pig! That is a big animal. It is a good thing that dogs don't get to 320 pounds in 6 months or I am sure we would be eating them too! Why do I keep referring to them as dogs? I guess I see all animals differently now. Horses, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats...there are laws in place that don't allow you to process dogs, cats, or horses. So how did the other animals get the short end of the stick? These animals have personalities too. Do I eat pork? Why yes I do, but I don't think I can look at a piece of bacon the same as I did when I thought it grew on trees. Believe it or not, there are people out there selling bacon plants. You put the bacon seed in the ground at up comes a bacon tree!
I had someone look at me like I was crazy when I said that we were going to take the pigs to the butcher. "Those are your pets! how can you eat your pets that you named?!" I would rather know that the animal I am raising has had an awesome life. That I made its time here a luxurious stay! They were fed well, got to have special visitors come to see them every weekend (our farm tourists!), and had nose scratches daily! They ran around on pasture and jumped around and played with each other. You can Google some pretty nasty images of how animals are raised commercially and that just makes me cringe. This person I talked to said they would much rather not know anything about the food they eat so they didn't have to feel bad about it. This is a pretty irresponsible way to live ones life don't you think?
On a lighter note, check out this fat pregnant goat! She is super clingy right now. She will waddle right up to you and expect snuggles. If you stop, she will nibble on you until you start petting her again. Ever since she has gotten close to popping she has gotten really super needy. Alicia goes in the pen and sits with her quite a bit to give her some snuggles. We expected her to be due in June, but we may have misjudged when the buck got to her! Stay tuned for baby goats, and we hope you will all come out and hold them!
Speaking of goats, here is a picture of Alicia sitting with the goats and having a snuggle fest. I still can't believe that people eat goat. They are even friendlier than some dogs, and they couldn't hurt a fly! If we get any baby bucks I think we will end up selling them to the sale barn or to people needing a buck, instead of having them butchered. We will see... there are A LOT of people wanting to eat any male goats we produce.. but aren't goats cute! I'm not sure we can do it!
We were awarded a grant recently from Slow Food STL to put in a Permaculture Orchard. We planted Apple, Pear, Plum, Peaches, and Persimmons. All trees chosen were varieties that are rare and not often seen in this area. We are excited to start producing this product for the chefs in St. Louis! We enlisted the help of a company known as Regenerative Landscaping to help us plan out and install some of the plants around our orchard. Around each tree we planted 3 comfrey plants to harvest minerals for the trees. Comfrey is a shrub plant that sends a deep tap root down over 10 feet to harvest minerals for the trees. It pulls up these minerals and makes them available to the shallow roots of the fruit tree. Comfrey is also a really good leafy green to feed to the goats! We are putting in mulch to keep grass from growing up around the trees and starving them of nutrition. The plan is to fence this area in so that we can keep deer and escaped goats out of this orchard. We wouldn't want anything to happen to these trees!
Now that the chickens are all out on the pasture we will be focusing on getting the greenhouse ready to plant in! We dug out some rows and brought in some of our compost to help get the plants started! I brought a few tractor loads of compost over and could not believe how many composting worms were in it! Every shovel full that I dug into had almost a hand full of worms! That is a sign of some healthy compost. We plan on using this wonderful compost to grow mostly tomatoes with some peppers mixed in. Since the greenhouse will be getting pretty warm this summer we need a crop that will do well in the excess heat. The composted bedding that the chickens lived in this past winter will help fertilize everything and keep things growing super well (or so we hope!). We planted over 200 tomato starts...that is a LOT of tomatoes to transplant! This year we will be focusing on selling at farmers markets so we will see how well this goes! One thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment around here!