It baffles me that I have the hardest time finding the time and resolution to post. I cook everyday and I take photos everyday. I post what we are eating and cooking on Facebook most days. So prehaps a push is what is needed. I see people still swing by my blog for recipes. That in itself is motivation.
So what’s new you ask? A lot. Most of it I should have shared last year all summer long. However, I do have a bit of an excuse there. I raised pigs for the first time ever. Me and two girlfriends. Hubby helped out too when he was up. Which also leads me to lack of time. When I moved up here to NW MI (Oct 2011), my soon to be hubby moved to Ann Arbor. Then we got married but continued to live apart. Just this last October in 2012 he was able to make the move up here 3/4 time. So we lived apart except for a few weekends a month, for over a year. That takes time. Weekends gone, weekends here and that was the beauty of pig partnerets. Everyone worked hard for a share of a pig.
Back to the pigs. I have wanted to raise my own pigs for a long long time. However I knew it was going to be not possible on my own. So my girlfriends stepped in and we raised 10 pigs from piglets of 25 pounds to hogs 350 pounds. I loved it! Yes it was hard, hot, wet and muddy work, but it was satisfying and now we all three have freezers full of pork. Not just any pork, but heritage breed, pasture raised, GMO free fed pigs. My brother built our pig shed in exchange for a pig and dragged it on skids out to his former organic cow pasture. We put up fencing, both electric and non electric. We learned how to install both fence types and how they worked. I ordered feed. We rebuilt the watering system 4 times, learning more every time. We changed how we fed them and learned every time. I did a lot of learning while those pigs were growing. I had never raised livestock before in my life. Backyard chickens do not count. They don’t compare to a 300 pound pig running up to you because you have a bushel of apple throw outs. You hope the pigs stops before you are thrown to the ground. Sometimes they win, sometimes you win.
We had a extremely hot summer and an extremely wet fall. We would go hose the pigs down on really hot days. They love to play in the water. They love to play period. Pigs have personalities and act a lot like dogs. Which didn’t make it any easier when it was time to slaughter them, but that’s another blog post. In the fall it rained and rained and rained and the 15 foot radius around the pig shed became a muck pool that was so slippery that it’s amazing we survived the daily feeding ritual intact. When grain gets wet it gets very slippery and pigs are messy eaters. Jostling for best position in the food barrel leads to a lot of grain everywhere and then it gets wet. And your boots stick in it and they nudge you while you are carrying a 50 pound grain bag. So we learned. We learned that we need a different feeding system next year.
One of the reasons I wanted to raise pigs was to utilize the farm waste. The cherry, apple and potato toss outs that the farm generates get composted. We didn’t have much of a cherry crop (bad weather) and what we did have was severely damaged. We would grade a lug of cherries and end up tossing 50% of the cherries because of splitting. The pigs got two 5 gallon buckets of damaged cherries every day for 2 or 3 weeks. They loved cherries. The apple crop was light this year too. Even the seconds were sold and the drops picked up, sold and used for juice (pasteurized). But there were always a few left for the pigs that couldn’t be sold. We picked the crab apples that were big and fat and sweet and tossed them to the pigs as treats. My dad raised an acre of organic squash for the schools and the Fall got too cold to let them all fully ripen so the pigs got bushel after bushel of organic slightly under ripe squash. They loved the seeds. Really except for the acorn squash, they only ate the seeds. We tossed them some tester potatoes. That was a no go. No interest in potatoes unless they were cooked. I didn’t have that much time on my hands. When we ran out of apples we went to a local winery and filled buckets with grape pressings. They loved those for a few days and then it was back to squash. Of course we feed them bags of GMO free feed everyday. They loved the farm treats but you do need to give them protein too.
The chickens didn’t suffer from lack of farm treats. They got my garden toss outs and plenty of cherries. Their large fenced in run has a sweet cherry tree in it. They ate the dropping cherries for weeks. They got apple leftover too and they too had no interest in raw potatoes. We have 28 chickens now. Eggs galore. For the first time ever we built a small farm stand by the side of the road to sell eggs and all the farm produce. A small fridge kept the eggs chilled and a shade tree kept everything else cool. After all the harvests were finished, the chicken yard gate is opened and all fall and winter they have the run of the orchards to hunt for bugs and any fallen fruit.
The learning curve has continued with the chickens. They all stopped laying eggs for 3 months when I added 16 chickens from a near by farm that was reducing their flock. Pecking orders were reestablished. Now they are almost one big happy family. They are sick of snow. They want to roam the orchards and yard but can’t with 3 feet of snow covering everything. Spring will be here all too soon though.
So all this rambling and no recipe? Yep. Just some awesome farm, pig and chicken pictures for now. Maybe a sunset too.