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Pastured Pig Ponderings

Greetings All, Farmer Jon here. I finally got around to building a livestock shelter, the other day. Here it is, this was meant for the hogs but I made it taller so that the sheep could use it as well. The only materials that I had to buy to make it were nails and screws. Everything else I scavenged for. I even added one of the patio doors I picked up as a source of solar heat. It may not be pretty but it works - like ME!

 I wanted to show some of the non-believers that you can graze pigs and they won't destroy everything. If you look at the picture below, you can see the green path that shows where I had the three boars grazing. I had them in a square pen made up of four hog panel sections and I tried to move the pen once a day or every other day. If I let it sit longer than that, there was a good chance they would start to root and make a mess. Also, you need to give them shade and, preferably, some sort of pool for them to cool off in (if you don't want to give them a wallow).

Another shot of the grass where the boars had grazed earlier this summer.

The boars' diets have consisted of mainly grass, weeds and a few alfalfa plants. Everything I read said that they needed more than that but they seemed to do fine. They didn't look like they lost any weight and they didn't act like they were starving to death (or at least not any more so than pigs normally do...). After they completed a rotation around the edge of the farmyard, I moved them to "the garden". Again, all they had to eat were weeds and the occasional scraps. And they did fine. As the amount of edible weeds has diminished, I have started bringing them a little bit of feed everyday. It should be noted that I would never try that with bred or lactating sows but with boars, their maintenance requirements are minimal.

I will be moving them off of the garden soon and back with the group for breeding. We are going to separate the boars and put two sows with each of them, so that we can register their offspring as purebred American Guinea Hogs. Jamie and I both agree that registered purebred animals don't really have a place in our long-term, holistic plan but I feel that we need to produce a least a couple registrable litters, since they are in the  "Critical" category according to the ALBC.


Homemade biscuits and gravy

Oh, how homemade gravy used to be the bane of my existence!  I could never make homemade gravy to save my life.  And for some reason I was determined not to use any cornstarch...to me that felt like cheating.  I wanted to be able to make gravy from flour and from scratch no less.

Well, I figured it out!  All it took was a Thanksgiving edition of Real Simple and Pioneer Woman Cooks.  Which if you haven't heard of Pioneer Woman, you must not be on the Internet very much!  Since last year's Thanksgiving, I have successfully made turkey gravy, chicken gravy and now homemade biscuits and gravy.  Oh boy...was it good...

Hot and steamy...perfect on a cold fall day.

And the best part was that I used our sausage from our boar that we butchered.  Let me tell you something...I am not a fan of sausage.  I've never really enjoyed the taste unless it was smothered with gravy and on biscuits.  But this stuff was delicious.  I don't know if it was the pork, which was voted on the Slow Food Ark of Taste, or the way our local processor spiced it, but man it was good! 
And for being a fatty or lard type of pig, there was hardly any fat on this sausage.  I had to add some butter to the roux, because there wasn't enough fat.  I"m actually excited to try more of this sausage since it was so darn good!


A day at the pumpkin patch

Yesterday, we celebrated our four year anniversary by going back to the place where we got engaged, Vala's Pumpkin Patch.  Jon proposed down in the big pumpkin patch by making me find the biggest pumpkin I could find.  This was after I had decided I wasn't going down to the big pumpkin patch, because I just knew we were going to get in trouble.  And I like to follow the rules!  It took probably half an hour of convincing before I would go down there and him pretending to talk to a worker who gave him the okay to go down there.

Down there was the scene!  I had no clue what was going on, because I found the big pumpkin that had my name on it and "Will you marry me?" and told Jon...."Oh look, someone got engaged here and they even the same name as me!"  Duh.....it was for me.  Told you I was clueless!

We hit up the pumpkin cannon and the goats.  It's seems so silly to me that my favorite part was the goats considering how many animals we have at home.  I love their goat tree house that they build, so the goats can wander up and down the ladders.

Another highlight was the pig races!  So cute and the best part was they used heritage breeds.  To our surprise, the first pigs up were Guinea hogs!  Just like ours!  The other two breeds were Red Wattle and Gloucestershire Old Spot

That last little lady had too many cookies that day and wasn't really interested in running around.

It was such a nice day out, just a little bit cold and breezy but just right in the sun.

This is how most of Farmer Jon's pictures turn out when I try to take pictures of him.

So, he turned the camera on me and I gave my best Zoolander face...

Nah...that's not me!  This is me, complete with the crinkly nose from laughing too hard...

And one nice shot of us both.

This was our little girl's first trip to the pumpkin patch and Jon and I will be so excited to bring her next year when she can actually see everything! 

And because I know some family reads this blog and always want to know how the baby is doing...we are at 33 weeks and feeling pretty good!  Just getting excited to meet our little girl!


The pumpkin that started it all...

Who knew a 150 pound pumpkin would lead to four years of marriage? 

Happy anniversary, Farmer Jon!  May there be many more pumpkins and love in our future!


Bye roosters...

All those naughty roosters are gone.  I'm a little sad not to be woken up every morning to an overeager rooster.  We didn't process ourselves this time.  I didn't really have the energy and we were running short on time.  And Jon and I were both tired of feeding that many roosters.  Instead we took them to Mike Ostry's farm, where we get our organic feed.  If you are looking for a great price and service on organic feed, he is it!

Here they are all loaded up.  Poor buddies...they are so much more handsome than the hens.  They really had such great coloring.

I really wish that I would have got a picture of Jon chasing and rounding up the roosters.  It may have involved a large net and Jon chasing them through trees...

*Not really sure what's up with the grey stripe at the bottom of the pictures...these are from Jon's phone uploaded through Picasa.  The joys of technology...*


Just pictures....

Sometimes I don't have the energy for a full post, but I always have lots of pictures to share! 

Happy Friday everyone!


farming on a treadmill

I tell ya. There are just so many little things that pop up everyday, that it's hard to move forward. Monday, I tried to haul home a used, portable livestock shelter. It didn't work out but that didn't keep me from wasting the whole evening trying. Tuesday, the cattle got out into a different pasture. We have a cow that likes to jump over the fence and I think she missed this time because the fence had broke (can you say cull cow). That alone didn't take all evening but by the time we got them in, gave them a new paddock and did chores, the evening was all but over. Tonight we have our childbirth class which will take up all of Wednesday evening. With both of us working full-time it doesn't take much to quickly eat up what little time we have left to move the farm forward. And by moving the farm forward, I mean putting up new fences, building shelters, fixing this, building that... It's good for improving time management but at some point, there's no time left to manage. Not to mention the lack of resources to use with the little time that is available.

If there's one ray of sunshine in this overcast post, it's that next year will be a little easier. And the year after that, even more so. Every fence post we put in, every shelter that we build will hopefully be one less that we will need to worry about moving forward (at least until it needs repaired). That won't always be the case but I try really hard to take future plans into consideration when I am working on projects around the farm. Although that is another time consuming activity, sometimes known as paralysis by analysis. I like to take down as many birds with as a few a stones as possible but there are so many "birds" that you can go crazy trying to take them all into consideration. Who knew starting a farm meant so much time throwing rocks at birds! (as opposed to the game Angry Birds, where you throw birds at rocks...)


This is what $400 looks like...

A shaved leg on a dog!

Ignore the large sunspot as it was very difficult to get this dog to stay still tonight.  He was extremely focused on his ball...can you tell?

Anyways, Max's stomach issues are back again.  And this time they required IV fluids. 

It all started off last Wednesday night.  Max was being a pain in the rear and wanted to go out multiple times that time.  We couldn't figure out why, but we were so tired we just let him out.  The next night, he started in again at 1:00 in the AM.  And that was too much for me!  I refused to let him out, yelled at him to go to sleep and slammed the door in his face after multiple attempts by him.  And here is where the bad doggy mommy part comes in...he was vomiting downstairs and having bloody diarrhea.  He was trying to tell us that he needed to go out, but I was so mad about having my sleep interrupted that I wouldn't even listen.  I feel so guilty...

So, the next morning we found the spots and realized that he was not feeling well.  I took him in to the vet and we got our diagnosis.  Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis...basically the poor dog had so much bacteria in his stool, he was bleeding from the inside.  He was anemic as well from the blood loss, so he needed to stay all day at the vet to get some IV fluids.  Another shot in the heart for this bad doggy mom.

He's feeling much better now and is now two antibiotics.  I'm just glad that we realized what was going on, so we could help him.  As much as it hurts that I was so mean to him that night, I'm grateful we figured out he was sick before it got worse.  And as much as it hurts to pay for NINETY dollar for a 35 pound bag of dog food, I do it because I love that guy.

If you're not a dog lover, you probably don't understand why someone would spend so much money on a dog, especially their food.  If you are a dog lover...you get it!


another week blows by,

in every sense of the word. Thanks to all the beautiful wind we have not had to run the generator for 48 hours. Considering the fact that our batteries are almost shot, that is quite an accomplishment. This week also went by very quickly, just as the weeks before it. I definitely enjoy a fast work week but winter is quickly approaching and it pains me to think of all the things we still need to do to winterize the farm and house.

We still need to trench and bury water lines for the cattle and we need to dig up all the water outlets that were already here as they are just plastic pipe coming out of the ground and far from freeze proof. The owner told me that the pipe he had put in around the farm is only two feet deep! So let's all keep our fingers crossed that we don't have problems there. We need to come up with watering solutions for all the animals so the water doesn't freeze. Luckily, their water intake tends to drop quite a bit during the winter.

Then there's the issue of adequate shelter. We believe in raising animals that are tough and can survive with little or no assistance from us. Yet we also don't want to subject them to any unnecessary stress or pain. I think they could all survive without me building them shelters but I would need to allow them to find their own. I'd like to move the hogs to a new area, where they can graze on alfalfa but I have to put up fence and build sheds for them before I can do that. So we'll see if I can get that done before winter.

The owner has offered to put a new propane furnace in the house. So between the propane heat and small wood stove, we should have plenty of heat. The problem will be keeping the heat in and the cold out. I'm going to put plastic over the windows, which should help quite a bit. Then we'll just have to see how much insulation is in the walls. I'm sure it will still be drafty but hopefully not too bad.

I've also started working on installing the solar equipment. I have the racks up, you can barely see the four racks in the picture below on the granary roof. I'm not a big fan of heights and that is a fairly steep and slick roof so I had to run some ropes down to get up and down the roof. The company I ordered from neglected to send me all the necessary components so I'm at a stand still for now but hope to get the panels up by the end of next weekend. But that may quickly take a backseat to the winterizing projects.


Keith Jacobshagen

This may be completely off the topic of farming, but oh well!  I was reading the newspaper on Sunday, which is my favorite day and I came across an article about Keith Jacobshagen.  He is a Midwest artist who recently completed a year long study in landscape.  That alone doesn't sound very interesting until you see his paintings.

They are small about 3.5 by 5 inches, but they blow me away!  I am not one to get super excited about art even though I took a ton of art classes in college.  I was on the six year plan, which included stops at teaching, graphic design, fashion design and FINALLY nursing.  I do feel like I have an appreciation for the arts, but I'm not really into going to museums or buying art.

But his paintings just struck me. 

Here is one example:

He captured exactly how I feel about the sky in Nebraska.  If you have never been to the Midwest or Nebraska, you probably don't know what I'm talking about.  The sky out here is huge!  And that is one of the main reasons I told Jon that I wanted to move to the country...I missed the sky.  I grew up in a small town and saw the horizon many times, but living in the city you miss it.

Here is another one I like:

If I had an extra $1500 in my pocket, you bet I would be buying one of these!  Modern art really doesn't do it for me...but this....this I get completely.

Here is a link to the article in my local paper.


Here they are!!! Our sheep!!

Jon took a 12 hour ride down to Missouri yesterday to buy some sheep from Greg Judy.  If you have ever read any of his books Comeback Farms or No Risk Ranching, you would know our excitement.  He has managed to create a flock of hair sheep that does not need to be wormed and is very low input.  These are not sheep that will need to be sheared, they lose their hair in the spring just like cattle.

Jon met Greg in February in Junction City, Kansas at a speaking event.  Greg had mentioned he had a waiting list for sheep and Jon immediately used his cellphone to email him at the event and get us on the list.  And our number just came up!

This wasn't particularly good timing for us money or time wise.  But when an opportunity presents itself, sometimes you just gotta make it work. 

And here are the lovely ladies and gentleman:

One of our 100% St. Croix rams.

Poor buddy...he was tired.  Long trip!

 Our females.  They are an array of breeds, I think maybe some Dorper, Barbados, Katahdin and just a good mix of hair sheep. 

Aren't they gorgeous!

We got them situated just before it got dark, which was perfect timing.


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