Our desire to keep our own sow for breeding piglets stemmed from our frustration trying to get quality piglets in the spring. Spring is the ideal time to get piglets for most, so they sell out quick and our expectations are admittedly high. Keeping a sow of our own would allow us to have control over the breed mix and experiment with crosses, save the hectic spring scramble, and save on the cost of buying piglets. Maybe, we could even make a little money on the side selling extra piglets!
When we first started scouring Craiglist for a gilt or sow, I admittedly at the time didn't know a thing about what to look for. I had no pig mentor, and the internet leaves a lot to be desired in terms of information (which has made me realize I need to blog more about my pig experiences to help others out there, but that's a different story). So I figured I would just kind of trust common sense and go with it. I knew to check that she moved soundly, had nice feet squarely under her body, and that her vulva didn't appear scarred or damaged.
When we went to look at Big Marie, I was flabbergasted and literally taken aback by her size. I didn't necessarily think she was overweight, because she is quite literally huge in stature. The people said that she was a year old and had never been bred, but had been in with a boar so she could potentially be pregnant.
There was nothing that screamed "don't get her" to us, so we loaded her up on the trailer and brought her home hoping that we may have some piglets on the way if she was already pregnant. It turned out that she wasn't, and now here we are five months later gearing up to artificially inseminate her. As it turns out, not only is she in fact overweight (and not just big) but she is also considered "old" to be getting bred for the first time. Without even having attempted AI yet, which I know will be a whole new experience, I have already had a crash course in pig breeding and learned some valuable lessons.
Milk. Glorious fresh, raw, creamy goats milk. It is quite possibly one of the things I am most proud of to be producing right here on our small farm. Our girls are fed an organic, non-gmo, soy free feed, with more browsing than they can eat. Their milk truly is as good as it gets and I get it fresh twice a day, everyday! With Karen and Audrey both in milk, I currently have way too much to drink. I can't keep up just drinking it alone! FYI, this is a very good problem to have. I love any and all dairy products, so my goal is to produce as many as I can with the milk that I have on hand.
Ricotta is one of the easiest and quickest cheeses that you can make with the simplest ingredients. It doesn't have to age and is ready to use within a half hour or so, nor is it as temperamental as mozzarella. Bonus! Basically, it's a great cheese to get your feet wet and isn't everything better with a little ricotta? Some make ricotta with leftover whey from other cheeses, which makes a skim/low fat ricotta. I however am a full fat/whole milk kind of girl, so I make my ricotta with milk not whey. Here's how to make it:
Read my recent article for Countryside Magazine on how to make a nipple waterer for pigs out of PVC pipe. This design allows them to have a constant supply of fresh water without dirtying it up or trying to wallow in it! The design can easily be adapted as well for different sized PVC piping, or if you choose to go with a single stack unit as opposed to a double.
We will certainly be on the lookout for larger sized PVC on the cheap on local Craigslist ads so we can make another one of these with larger capacity. For now, the 4" double stacked waterer works just fine and the 8 gallon capacity is sufficient for the smaller feeder pigs! Happy building!
Well, it finally happened! After 147 long days of waiting, Karen finally gave birth to a healthy, beautiful doeling on June 18th! The labor and delivery was textbook, and I couldn't have asked for it to go any better. She was showing signs of passive labor the whole day - her ligaments were gone, her udder was full and tight, and you could tell she was occasionally getting some contractions. She was however, being her typical self and pushing everyone else around, gorging on hay, and showing no signs of slowing down. I kept my eye on her and was popping in and checking on her every hour or so throughout the day without any signs of her progressing.
During my evening chores, when I was doing my feedings and milking Audrey I noticed a long, gloopy string dangling from her backside. This was right about the time that the skies were parting, a torrential downpour started, and lightening and thunder was cracking and shaking the barn. She was losing her plug which meant that it was time for me to hunker down because babies were on the way! She almost instantaneously started showing changes in behavior. She was clearly uncomfortable, bedding down, getting up, pawing at the ground, and occasionally pushing her head against the wall to brace herself during contractions. I didn't know how long it would it would take, but I was mentally and physically prepared to be there for the long haul and sleep in the barn if need be. In between the cracks of lightening and rumbles of thunder, she bedded down for the final time and started to push...
I have a problem...I tend to get a little overzealous and excited, want instant gratification and maaaaaayybe cut corners just so I can get something done. All so I can step back and marvel at my completed project. Sometimes my short cuts come back to bite me in the ass. This happened in the early stages of my Potager. I didn't necessarily do things "wrong". I was just so anxious to get my pea gravel and wood chips laid I didn't go through all the prep work that I could have done to prevent weeds from popping up. Live and learn.
Fact: you may think that several inches of pea gravel and/or wood chips will keep any grass or weeds from popping up, but sadly it does not! I laid my pretty gravel and woodchips, and within a matter of merely a week the grass and weeds crept their way through to say hello. I needed a solution to my problem. An organic way to kill the grass and weeds running rampant through my walkways and along the outside of my beds. Something that could kill some pretty thick and stubborn unwanted greenery, that wasn't Roundup. Once again, vinegar to the rescue!!! This incredibly easy and highly effective solution has completely eradicated anything and everything that I have sprayed it on with only one application. It is amazing, and I can't shut up about how fantastic it works. So please, ditch the Roundup, buy yourself some vinegar, and destroy those unwanted weeds and grass that are plaguing your beautiful garden the organic way. Read on.
Most Recently on Youtube:
Follow me on Instagram!