Pig Infrastructure Wins!

We bought 8 or 9 tonnes of feed barley at the start of the year and stored it in one Farmer John’s spare silos. We thought this would be enough for the entire year, but didn’t bank on slowly increasing our breeding stock. Almost by accident, we’ve ended up with 4 gilts of breeding age and a couple that aren’t far off. Oops…

Anyway, we need more feed. Farmer John put us in touch with a local farmer who had some waste grain that he needed to get rid of. It was in some bulk bags, and half was covered by a tarp, it had been out in the open. We guessed there was about 6 tonnes, and the farmer was willing to let it go super-cheap just to get rid of it. As it turns out, some was actually ruined, and not even good for stock feed. Farmer John managed to score us all of it for free, and by the looks of it there should still be 4 or 5 tonnes of useable grain. Yay for Farmer John!

Farmer John!

Farmer John!

Loading the grain into bins.

Loading the grain into bins.

 

This is what 1.5 tonnes of free grain looks like.

This is what 1.5 tonnes of free grain looks like.

Farmer John has also put us onto some wheat screenings, which is the stuff that is too small to sell commercially. This is the perfect stock feed as it’s relatively high in protein. John is getting rid of most of his farm equipment, so we’ll buy a couple of silos, put them at our place, and hopefully fill them up with this cheap grain. With luck we’ll have near 20 tonnes of grain on hand, though if we expand the way we want, that will end up being a fraction of what we need.

As awesome as Farmer John is, we need to make these connections ourselves. Our options are either buying enough grain at harvest to last a year, which would require more storage than we could ever have; or we find the local people who have the grain throughout the year that we can buy. I *really* want to use grain rather than processed food, and I want it to all be local to reduce the carbon footprint. Right now, that looks to be achievable, and to also be quite economical. Fingers crossed…

In April we made some pig shelters using sleepers. This allowed us to make them super-solid and rugged. They can stand up to even a 300kg pig rubbing its fat arse for all it’s worth, and in fact won’t even budge. At the same time, our farrowing shed, a 3m x 3m garden shed, is a little flimsy for pigs. We have sleeper lean boards up, and have reinforced it, but they still beat the hell out of it. Now that we want to expand our operations and farrow our girls in pairs, we’ll need a larger and sturdier shed. We decided to expand the design of our shelters and use it for the new farrowing shed.

The start of a 2.4m x 4.8m farrowing shed.

The start of a 2.4m x 4.8m farrowing shed.

We prefabricated the sides, minus the tin.

We prefabricated the sides, minus the tin.

Dad helping Peyton.

Dad “helping” Peyton.

We decided to go 3 sleepers high. That’s 600mm, which is high enough for the gilts to rub on. They’ll end up maybe 200mm higher than that themselves when fully grown, but there’s not real need to go that high with the sleepers as the bits they like to rub are lower.

We also worked out a way to use the sleepers as uprights. The timber yard cut sleepers length-wise for us, giving us 75mm square bits and 50mm x 75mm bits. They’re perfect as uprights, and really inexpensive. Because we were using 2 sleeper lengths along the back, we even used a whole sleeper as an upright, as it gave us much more area to attach to.

That's my girl!

That’s my girl!

The sleeper part done. And yes, dad is dropping the drill.

The sleeper part done. And yes, dad is dropping the drill.

This is the lowest point. You can see how much higher the sleepers are than the ground level.

This is the lowest point. You can see how much higher the sleepers are than the ground level.

We were lucky enough to have some reclaimed tin from when we stripped the side from the small shed. We had more than enough to use to clad the farrowing shed, and they actually look pretty good.

The tin cladding is up.

The tin cladding is up.

We did the roof similar to how we did Clarisse’s milking shed. We used c-channel along the back and front, with the front standing higher to give us good fall towards the back. We put another across the middle to add some rigidity too.

Starting the roof.

Starting the roof.

All up!

All up!

Lastly, we ran power over from the other farrowing shed and put a power strip in. This shed will have two heat lamps and a flood light, so the power strip seemed a good idea.

Power attached.

Power attached.

All that’s left is the creep area, which we can do over the next month.

The real challenge with this shed, and with everything we build here, is that the land slopes towards the south and west. With the shed, we started on the high part, dug in a little way, and made everything level with that. By the time we were at the opposite corner, we were significantly higher than the ground level. We ended up having to modify things a little to make sure we had enough post in the ground. We used a couple of lengths of the 50mm x 75mm along the back to fill in the gap down the bottom. We also reduced the overall height of the shed from the plan 2.1m to 1.8m. It ended up working well, and I actually think it’s a little better being a little lower.

The other good infrastructure project we managed was a pig feeder prototype. What we wanted was a good, solid, sturdy feeder that was still light enough that we could carry it and move it if required. We came up with a design that is 4 feet wide and a little shy of that high. It has a baffle that directs any feed we drop in to the front, and feeding trough area. It means that we’ll be able to load it with a lot of feed if necessary, and it will basically gravity feed out as the pigs eat.

Feeder in place!

Feeder in place!

Dad and the first test of the feeder.

Dad and the first test of the feeder.

This is the baffle that makes sure the grain gravity feeds into the trough.

This is the baffle that makes sure the grain gravity feeds into the trough.

This prototype is a little heavier than the mass-produced variety will be. I knocked apart a couple of hardwood pallets and used the wood to clad the feeder. This makes it a decent two-man lift. I think the next one, and the dozen or so after that that we’ll need, will be clad in tin. This will make them lighter, and also a bit quicker and easier to make. Either way, this one works perfectly, and proves the design and concept.

Bertha Brings Shame To The Family Name…

The same night I went to check on Ziggy, Bertha had her babies. I went out at 8, and she’d had 4. The creep was set up, but the light wasn’t on. The 4 babies were scattered around the shed and freezing. I got the lamp on and gathered the babies up, but one was knackered. We got some milk into him and warmed him up, but he was dead the next day.

The first 7 we saw, 5, 6, and 7 of which we watched born.  Number 8 came after this photo. The second-from-the-left was the sickly one that didn't make it. You can tell even here that he wasn't real well.

The first 7 we saw, 5, 6, and 7 of which we watched born. Number 8 came after this photo. The second-from-the-left was the sickly one that didn’t make it. You can tell even here that he wasn’t real well.

We’d picked her as being a week, or maybe 2, from dropping. We had the creep set up just-in-case, but the way her teats were developed made it look like there was time. We’re getting better at picking the litter times, and can obviously predict it accurately when we see the pigs mate. We just got it wrong this time. 😦

We saw her give birth to the last 4, making a total of 8. However, we found a dead one under her the next day. It looks like she’d been laying on him the entire time. That’s 9 born, at least 8 born alive, and 7 survivors. For a young gilt and an accidental pregnancy, I’m going to call that a win.

The babies are tiny, because she’s quite small to be giving birth. She seems to be doing a great job though, and has recovered quickly. I’m worried that she won’t have enough milk, but we’ll have to see. Seriously, the babies are super-tiny.

The creep, for the first time, is working perfectly, and I think it’s the heat lamp positioning. We put it down low in the middle of the creep. The babies are under it and Bertha is laying on the other side with her teats towards them. It’s working perfectly.

They instinctively good mums.

They are instinctively good mums.

Active piglets! They're all of a couple of hours old.

Active piglets! They’re all of a couple of hours old.

Hungry piglets are hungry.

Hungry piglets are hungry.

This shows the creep barrier working perfectly. Warm piglets on one side, giant mum on the other.

This shows the creep barrier working perfectly. Warm piglets on one side, giant mum on the other.

Counting back, this means she was pregnant in mid-February, which means she was 4 or 5 weeks pregnant when her brothers and sisters went to The Other Farm. This also means that some of her sisters were probably pregnant. There’s a big lesson in this…

Pig husbandry is the fun part of all of this, but it’s really the hard part. At times it seems more art than science, and much of it are things you need to learn the hard way. Still, if learning the hard way is having a littler of cute piglets to play with, then I can’t really complain. 🙂

A Sick Ziggy!

On June 9th we were lucky enough to score a half-tonne of seconds apples from The Apple Man (not his real name) in Gawler. The pigs get mostly grain, but we like to mix it up as much as we can, as well as their free-range forage of course. We’ve started to score some waste baked goods, and have asked around at the local fruit-and-veg stores. The only one we’ve been able to get anything meaningful from so far is The Apple Man. That half-tonne cost us $50, which makes it almost half the price of the bulk barley we currently have. Score!

Anyway, we got the apples and started feeding them out to the pigs. Their morning feed was grain, and most of the evening feed was apples.

On June 10th it looked like Ziggy was coming down ill. She was lethargic and off her food. She’s not the most active girl, coming from an intensively bred farm, but she was even more droopy than normal.

On the 11th I was sure she was sick. She was laying down along the fence between the runs and clearly didn’t want to get up. I couldn’t even get her to lay down in her new house out of the weather, I think because she liked laying there where the next-door pigs could chat to her. She wasn’t eating or drinking, and it was getting quite cold.

I was super-worried about her laying in the cold. I ended up getting a heap of straw, layering that over her, and then covering that with a couple of old quilts. No matter what dad will tell you, I definitely didn’t lay down next to her. I just knelt down and gave her some loves. Really, that’s all.

This is the pig equivalent of a sick bed.

This is the pig equivalent of a sick bed.

On the 12th she was even worse, so I called the vet. We had another pig get similarly ill about a year earlier. The vet came out and it turned out that she only had a cold. He gave her some antibiotics, but she would’ve gotten better on her own. I was hoping Ziggy would work out that way, but after a full day of no food or water, I wasn’t going to just wait and see. In addition to that, Stumpy, her sister, was starting to get lethargic.

We use the Production Vet from Roseworthy College, which is literally less than 10 minutes away. Dr. Mandi came out with two final-year students. They were awesome. Dr. Mandi thought it was the apples, and that the new girls, being intensively-bred, don’t have the stomach for them. The theory was that they had a huge belly ache. The problem is if they don’t eat every 24 hours, they start to develop gastric ulcers.

Ziggy’s temperature was 41.5, which is also bad. The vet gave her a big dose of antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory, both via injection. We gave Stumpy the same, just to head it off.

That was at around 11 am. I took Ziggy’s temp during the day, and it only started to drop around 4. It dropped to around 40.5 by 5, but by 8 was 38.3

I had managed to get a little food into her on the Wednesday afternoon – some green weeds and a few handfuls of barley. The following day she was still laying down, but I was able to get her up. She ate and drank (she was super thirsty), and made a full recovery. Stumpy was also fine.

I don’t think it was a stomach ache, as they never scoured. I think they had a cold/infection, and the drugs helped. Either way, the vet visit was well worth it, and literally cost us less than $200. I can’t remember the last time I took a dog to the vet for less than that, and this was a vet coming to us and dosing two pigs with drugs.

The truly valuable thing about the visit was we got to speak about the partnering/management relationships they offer. For about $100 a month we can get a quarterly visit where they help with the herd and breeding management. They also have a world-renowned pig expert, who actually as a PhD in pig breeding. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

We want to look at ramping up to a commercial venture. This vet deal will mean we can build a real relationship with our vet, and they will know all the ins-and-outs of us and our herd. Even if we don’t end up making this a commercial venture, I’ll probably do it just for our little breeding herd here.

 

Rainwater, Come At Us!

Our 2 x 23650 litre tanks were delivered and “installed” right at the start of June. That is, they were maneuvered into place and taps drilled in. The plumbing in part came the following weekend.

The tanks have arrived!

The tanks have arrived!

We had to have 3 of us there plus the driver. Up to this point, I'd been running back-and-forth trying to be helpful, but the driver had done everything. I took that opportunity to ham it up for Linhda.

We had to have 3 of us there plus the driver. Up to this point, I’d been running back-and-forth trying to be helpful, but the driver had done everything. I took that opportunity to ham it up for Linhda.

Going...

Going…

Going...

Going…

And over! This is what happens when you don't let go.

And over! This is what happens when you don’t let go.

Proof that they made me roll one of these 420kg beasts up the hill on my own.

Proof that they made me roll one of these 420kg beasts up the hill on my own.

The second tank going in.

The second tank going in.

Done!

Done!

The plumbing was a little tricky. We want to collect from all of the downpipes on our big shed, plus one that comes down right next to it from the veranda. That last one is particularly important as the veranda covers a large area and some of the house roof dumps onto it. We’re not exactly sure what area is collects, but it’s potentially more than the shed.

The real tricky part comes from the fact that it’s a “wet system”. That is, it runs along the ground to the tanks and then up to the inlets, which means that the pipes are always full of water. We also need to use in-line leaf catchers as the area is surrounded by huge gumtrees. This means the leaf catchers have to be above the level of the inlets, or water will come pouring out of the wrong end. We can work that out pretty easily from the side of the shed near the tanks, but the other side took some doing as the veranda is low and the tanks are tall. We thought we were okay, but only just.

Planulating the plumbing. This was Plan A, we ended up installing Plan D, and we've modified that once already.

Planulating the plumbing. This was Plan A, we ended up installing Plan D, and we’ve modified that once already.

As it turns out, our plan changed a couple of times, and then our implementation changed once after-the-fact. The veranda collection point was just a little low for the amount of flow. The level of water in the pipe was below the leaf catcher, but the flow from the veranda was so high that it still overflowed. We ended up having to T the veranda pipe in below the leaf catcher, which is completely counter-intuitive. To make sure we didn’t collect trash from that pipe we put some mesh in and along that gutter, and we’ll have to get up there and clean it every month or so over the wet times.

One of the two circuits. This is the easier of the two.

One of the two circuits. This is the easier of the two.

This side of the shed was easy, as it was clearly higher than the inlet and was straight runs.

This side of the shed was easy, as it was clearly higher than the inlet and was straight runs.

We installed this on a low point to allow us to flush out the system, but still keep the water we flush out.

We installed this on a low point to allow us to flush out the system, but still keep the water we flush out.

I used the duck shed to support part of this system, as they get quite heavy when full of water.

I used the duck shed to support part of this system, as they get quite heavy when full of water.

The new pump.

The new pump.

We teed into the system here, meaning we can isolate the shed, pig runs, and most of the poultry and run them entirely on rainwater.

We teed into the system here, meaning we can isolate the shed, pig runs, and most of the poultry and run them entirely on rainwater.

I’ve worked out that we have just under 500 square metres under roof area, and maybe 70 of that we’re not collecting yet (one downpipe). That means we can collect around 275k litres a year, but we’re collecting about 240k litres. That’s heaps more than we thought, and probably means we need more tanks. In fact, I think we could do with two more at the size we just got, which would be one more on either side of the house in the collection areas.

 

 

 

May 2014 Facebook Farm Statuses

  • Linhda bought an awesome automatic chicken plucker! It’s surprisingly large and heavy. My cold-drug addled mind came to the conclusion that it’s a big steel box with a couple of little people who do all the plucking for you. Ahhhh, little people….
  • I have the habit of putting things in my mouth while building/fixing fences – staples, nails, the bits of wire I use to tie mesh to star droppers. Today I found that fixing fencing in pig runs after an inch-and-a-half of rain is a good way to break yourself of that habit. We all, as a family, also tested our agility all day. It was like ballet-in-gumboots in there today.
  • So, there’s a slight chance our baconer, Bertha, is pregnant. This could be our first teenage pregnancy, and would also be our first real husbandry fail. Linhda has come across all mummy about, and is blaming the father. She says that he needs to step up and take responsibility. The problem is that if Bertha is pregnant then the dad is one of her brothers, all of whom are being eaten by people who can read this status. That’s a little awkward…
  • Tonight Linhda wants steak, chips, and egg for dinner. For some reason she sees that as the epitome of English cooking, and thinks it’s exotic food. I’m just happy that 2 of those 3 things came off of my property… In unrelated news, today I got to use an angle grinder, a chainsaw, and a welder. It was a good farm day.
  • We built a stand today for 2 giant rainwater tanks. Linhda was raking sand for the base when she said “I think having a Zen garden would make me really angry”. I had absolutely no idea what to say to that, and so just snuck away quietly…
  • Most people formulate a plan. On the farm we planulate. This morning we’re planulating how to easily level 8 tonnes of sand for two separate rainwater tanks across an area that slopes two ways. That’s actually the easy part. The hard part is going to be shovelling 8 tonnes of sand.
    I made this from scratch. "Scratch" being a pallet and a bit of twine to tie it upright.

    I made this from scratch. “Scratch” being a pallet and a bit of twine to tie it upright.

    One of our good friends came bearing gifts! :)

    One of our good friends came bearing gifts! 🙂

 

 

 

So. MUCH. Work!

After around 2½ years in our little patch of farm paradise, I think May 2014 holds the record for the amount of productive work so far. Seriously, it was exhausting.

We managed a heap of infrastructure/building-type projects. First of all, we reinforced all of our pig runs with 3mm reinforcing mesh. This was prompted by the fact that Bertha, our baconer, busted through one of our fences.

The hole that Bertha made.

The hole that Bertha made.

To add insult to injury, Bertha was the pig we were planning on running our first Pig-In-A-Day workshop with, but ended up pregnant. Her brothers and sisters went to The Other Farm back in March, but one of the boys ended up doing unspeakable things with his sister, and Bertha is our first teenage pregnancy. While that certainly saved her bacon, pun fully intended, it has put a dent in my bacon futures.

Anyway, Bertha busted out between runs, and we decided to do something permanent about the fences. The reo-mesh is the perfect solution. If it can be used in the foundation of your home, it should be able to keep destructive pigs at bay.

Sheets of 3mm reo-mesh.

Sheets of 3mm reo-mesh.

It took pretty much an entire weekend, as we also took the opportunity to take out some wobbly posts and cement them in. We also squared up any wonky gates.

This is what it's like working around free-ranged pigs. They never leave you alone. Not ever.

This is what it’s like working around free-ranged pigs. They never leave you alone. Not ever.

Taking down the old to replace with the new. This is all about learning, and you learn the most from the things that go wrong. Unfortunately.

Taking down the old to replace with the new. This is all about learning, and you learn the most from the things that go wrong. Unfortunately.

Looking across the runs and the new sties towards Linhda.

Looking across the runs and the new sties towards Linhda.

That's a strong fence.

That’s a strong fence.

The race all done!

The race all done!

Our next building project was a milking shed for Clarisse. She’s not pregnant, so it’s not quite a milking shed just yet. However, the rain is close, and though she has lots of shelter under the giant pine trees, I wanted to get her a weather-proof shed.

We managed to score a heap of seconds shed panels and dad bought lengths of C-channel at the same time. We wanted a shed that we could access from our back garden, rather than having to traipse through any of the paddocks. With that in mind, we took down a few sheets of tin from the very end of the fence in the south-western corner of our garden.

Taking down some fence to give us easy access to the new cow shed.

Taking down some fence to give us easy access to the new cow shed.

The view back towards the back garden from where the shed will be.

The view back towards the back garden from where the shed will be.

This shows the panel with the door in it, and how we'll have our shed/garden access.

This shows the panel with the door in it, and how we’ll have our shed/garden access.

We had planned this out in some detail, and used a box-section that was there to support the gates as part of the structure. Basically, the front of the shed is where that box section cross-section was, extending the shed into the access area from the front of the property to the back of the property. It makes it a super-efficient use of the space, and doesn’t actually impinge on any of the useful land.

We pre-fabricated the side panels with uprights, and cemented them in as a unit.  Then put a frame between them.

We pre-fabricated the side panels with uprights, and cemented them in as a unit. Then put a frame between them.

Putting the roof sheets on.

Putting the roof sheets on.

Done!

Done!

The result is even better than we planned. We have easy access to the shed, and will put a barrier down the middle that will leave Clarisse on one side and us and the milking machine on the other.

Done!

Done!

Ironically, it’s a little tough getting Clarisse to use it, but come milking time it’ll be invaluable.

This is really the closest she gets.  Even in the rain she tends to stay out under the pine trees. Silly cow.

This is really the closest she gets. Even in the rain she tends to stay out under the pine trees. Silly cow.

Our other big infrastructure building project was a couple of tanks stands. We ordered 2 x 23,650 litre tanks, and they were due at the end of May. They recommend that you bed them on sand, at least 3 inches thick, and it obviously has to be level. Our block slopes a little, and though it’s gentle it can be a deceptively big step when you’re talking about a tank stand with a total length of 8 metres.

It took lots of planning, and a bit of change of plans in the middle, but we got it done like pros! The stands are super-securely contained, contain a total of 8½ tonnes of sand, and range from about 4 inches of sand up to 11 inches because of the slope.

Getting the tank stands started.

Getting the tank stands started.

Levelled on two levels.

Levelled on two levels.

A feat of engineering!

A feat of engineering!

We had another infrastructure job, but it was less building and farm work than it was restructuring for aesthetics. Linhda wanted us to remove the side of our little shed to open up into an entertaining area. We’re getting a pergola shortly to close in the area between that shed and the house, and this combined with the shed will give us an undercover area of over 100 square metres in which we can entertain. Oh, and have our wedding reception next April. 🙂

The shed wall that Linhda wants gone.

The shed wall that Linhda wants gone.

The gutter down.

The gutter down.

Taking the sheets of tin off.

Taking the sheets of tin off.

All off!

All off!

Tin off and the C-section cross members down.

Tin off and the C-section cross members down.

We also fixed up the farrowing shed with some extra lean boards (sleepers aka railway ties) and a modified and permanent creep barrier. We cemented the posts in this time, as the mumma pigs beat the hell out of them by scratching their giant butts against them. For some reason, I took no pictures of that project, which is entirely out of character.

It wasn’t all work though. We had 3 family birthdays in May, and decided to celebrate them all with a big spit-pig party! We bought 3 Large Black x Berkshire piglets in April , with the view of having the boy (George) as a spit-pig.

Georgie - the "before shot".

Georgie – the “before shot”.

Georgie - the "after shot".

Georgie – the “after shot”.

George was a little long, and so we took his head off so he’d fit better on the spit. In reality, he probably would’ve fit whole, as they shrink a fair bit in the cooking. However, we were quite keen to try and make brawn from the head, and so had decided to take it off anyway.

Taking the head off showed us just how good the meat was.  The marbling is perfect.

Taking the head off showed us just how good the meat was. The marbling is perfect.

Soon to become brawn.

Soon to become brawn.

The results were amazing, and George was by far our best spit-pig yet. I’m thinking it’s at least partly due to the breed of pig. The meat was definitely more marbled, and the fat seemed a slightly different consistency. The taste was amazing, and we’ll definitely experiment with these breeds in our breeding program.

A half-hour in with the flame up a little higher to start the crackling off.

A half-hour in with the flame up a little higher to start the crackling off.

All done and freaking delicious!

All done and freaking delicious!

Oh, and we also had a bonfire that night. 🙂

Now that's a nice bonfire.

Now that’s a nice bonfire.

The pate and brawn happened over the couple of days after the spit-pig. I’ve been keen to try these for a while, as they are a whole step-up in our aim to use the entire animal. The offal doesn’t go to waste here, as we make them into dog food. However, I’d much rather use at least some of it for human consumption if at all possible.

Jarred pate.  I added some spare aspic from the brawn.

Jarred pate. I added some spare aspic from the brawn.

Our first taste of our first pate. It was delicious!

Our first taste of our first pate. It was delicious!

With the brawn I was determined to use the heart, tongue, and ears. I’ve not really eaten those things myself, so it was all new territory in both the making and the eating.

George's head with ears and cheeks removed. I also scrubbed his ears out with a toothbrush.

George’s head with ears and cheeks removed. I also scrubbed his ears out with a toothbrush.

The head and tongue. I was determined to use every part of George that I could.

The head and tongue. I was determined to use every part of George that I could.

It all basically goes into a big pot, much like making stock.

All of the ingredients in one big pot.

All of the ingredients in one big pot.

After simmering for 4 or 5  hours.

After simmering for 4 or 5 hours.

The resultant fluid, after the solids are cooked and strained out, is further reduced and becomes the aspic.

The strained stock ready to be reduced down.

The strained stock ready to be reduced down.

The stock reduced down to make aspic.

The stock reduced down to make aspic.

As much meat as possible is picked off of the skull, which is messy but also surprisingly fun. You keep the skin, and tear/cut it up as finely as you can. I also cut the ears into long strips, so I could layer them in the terrine.

The ears cut into thin strips and the cheeks ready to be cut/torn up.

The ears cut into thin strips and the cheeks ready to be cut/torn up.

Meat/skin on the left and bones on the right.

Meat/skin on the left and bones on the right.

I layered the heart and tongue around the edges, and then put in some of the meat/skin. I then layered the sliced ears in the middle, and topped it off with more meat/skin. The aspic is then poured in to the top. I then covered it, put a weight on top, and put it in the fridge overnight.

Layering the terrine.  The tongue and heart are around the sides and the bottom, which will become the top.  I laid the thinly cut ears in the middle.

Layering the terrine. The tongue and heart are around the sides and the bottom, which will become the top. I laid the thinly cut ears in the middle.

All assembled!

All assembled!

The next day I ran a knife around the outside and turned it out onto a plate.

The end result.

The end result.

The result was even better than expected. It was a little messy to slice, so I think next time I’ll cut the ingredients up a little more finely. The other lesson learned was that you should peel the tongue when it’s warm, as the skin comes away more easily.

We’ll tweak the recipes for both the pate and brawn a little, mostly the seasoning, but I was super-happy with the results.

Most of that is all very meat-related, as are much of our lives lately. However, we also managed to finish planting out most of The Patch. Yay! I feel the veggies are taking a bit of a back-seat lately, and I’m determined to keep them relevant.

Brassicas planted out.

Brassicas planted out.

Pea frames in and peas planted out.

Pea frames in and peas planted out.

We also managed to get a larger hothouse. Up to now we’ve been using a tiny thing we’ve owned for years. While it’s done us proud, it really was small and the plastic was almost beaten to death. This new one is actually large enough to walk in to, and will hopefully allow us to expand our plantings. I’m quite keen to make sure we grow all of our veggies from seed, and preferably seed we collect.

The new hothouse.

The new hothouse.

It's surprisingly large.  An adult can pretty easily stand in there and work.

It’s surprisingly large. An adult can pretty easily stand in there and work.

After all that, the rest of our progress for the month is all breeding related. We managed to find some Cobbs, the chicken breed we used to get as day-olds and then feed on as meat birds. However, this time we want to try and cross-breed them. The Australorps are great, but we want a bigger, plumper bird if possible. We plan on crossing the Cobbs with the Australorps, and also maybe another breed or two, just to see what happens.

We also had a couple of ducks hatch.

Ducklings!

Ducklings!

These are the first surviving ducklings from our Mammoth Muscovy drake, Ron Jeremy. We had one other lot hatch, but an owl took them all. I grabbed these two up on the first day and put them in a brooder. I like the mums raising them, and I like owls too, but I think I’d rather make sure I end up with fully-grown ducks.

Our breeding progress was finished with piggy lovings. In the middle of the month Honey was acting up. She was vocalising like she was upset, she was agitated, and was just generally out-of-sorts. I figured she might be in heat, and so put her in with Boris.

Honey in with Boris after about 30 seconds.

Honey in with Boris after about 30 seconds.

 

Turns out I was right.

Honey in with Boris after about 60 seconds.

Honey in with Boris after about 60 seconds.

A close up of true love. Boris looks like he has a huge grin on his face.

A close up of true love. Boris looks like he has a huge grin on his face.

A couple of weeks after this, Smoked started acting the same way. We weren’t sure if Smoked was pregnant before that. She’d been in with Boris about 6 weeks earlier, but she’s had a bad back leg for a while. She can walk, and even run, with no real problems, but she limps a little. We weren’t sure she could take Boris’ weight. She was definitely interested back when we put her in with the big man, and they definitely tried, but we just never saw them couple properly. Add to that the fact that Smoked is generally a little on the thick side, and we weren’t sure if she was pregnant. She can’t read this, so it’s cool if I call her “thick”.

Smoked coming into heat is pretty much the surest sign of her not being pregnant, so she also went in with Boris. The results were pretty much the same as with Honey.

Smoked was in with Boris for maybe 2 minutes before this happened.

Smoked was in with Boris for maybe 2 minutes before this happened.

I'm not sure why, but I really like taking shots from this angle when they're doing this.

I’m not sure why, but I really like taking shots from this angle when they’re doing this.

This was actually a big relief for me. I’m quite attached to Honey and Smoked, but we really can’t afford to keep a gilt who can’t make babies. That’s true if you’re talking a commercial or just a hobby farm situation. Full grown pigs eat a heap and take up a lot of space, and our little 3 acres just can’t support unproductive pigs. I was resistant to the idea of making Smoked a “chopper”, which is what they call smallgoods pigs, but had almost talked myself into the idea. Smoked making bacon actually saved her bacon, and saved me from having to make a very hard decision. That pun was also fully intended.

Lastly, some random pig stuff, because I love pigs.

Nawwwwwwww.

Nawwwwwwww.

Honey and Smoked did this, the result of which was a run full of water...

Honey and Smoked did this, the result of which was a run full of water…

... and two giant pigs who were fairly happy with themselves.

… and two giant pigs who were fairly happy with themselves.

April 2014 Facebook Farm Statuses

  • Off to look at another couple of breeding sows. AND, we may go look later at some older breed black pigs too. Yay for pigs!!!!!!
  • We have two new sows! Stumpy and Ziggy are settling in. Though the pig farm they came from is better than most, these two girls have still never spent anytime outdoors and have only ever eaten processed food. They’ve had more human interaction that most intensively-farmed pigs, but they’re still not use to humans like us who want to pat them all the time.
    One thing we did notice about the farmed …pigs was that they smell more and there are way more flies. They eat super-expensive, super-processed foods, and then live in their own filth. The result is pretty smelly. A diet of fresh grain and greens, plus living out-of-doors, means much less smell. That makes lots of sense, but today is the first time we got to compare the two side-by-side and work it out for ourselves.
  • I introduced Ziggy and Stumpy (the new sows) to Boris (the boar) this morning. In literally under 30 seconds Boris was getting a piggy back ride. They didn’t even introduce themselves!
    And yes, I have pictures.
  • Just bought 3 new pigs.
    I might have a problem.
  • Farm/pig lessons from the past week-and-a-bit:
    1. Intensively reared pigs stink because of the processed food they eat and the fact that they live, quite literally, in their own filth. That may sound self-evident, but you need to live it to really understand the difference.
    2. Intensively reared pigs have no idea about the following subjects:
       * Open air.
       * Sun, and by extension, sun burn.
       * …Rain, and by extension puddles of water.
       * That they have to get up and walk to get food and water. Seriously, they’ll lay there and look at you, fully expecting you to bring them what they need.
    3. As clueless as intensively reared pigs are, they still instinctively know how to get their freak on when introduced to an eligible boar.
    4. “Free Ranged” to some people means they run wild through a couple of acres of trash (e.g. car bodies, piles of bricks, sheds etc.)
    5. In that context, those pigs have no idea how fences work, and will beat the living shit out of them.
    6. Despite how noobish we feel, our pigs are better looked after than any we’ve met yet.
  • Linhda just told me she’s freezing, it must be less than 5 degrees, and we should light the fire. My weather stations says it’s 18 degrees, I had to take my jumper off, and I’m pretty sure somebody is a pyromaniac.
  • Our house cow, Clarisse, hates dad, and lets him know by hitting him with her horns. Often. I know it must hurt. It sounds like it hurts. He acts like it *really* hurts. However, I can’t help but piss myself laughing every time. Seriously, she did it about a half-hour ago and I’m still giggling to myself.
    That might be a character flaw.
  • I just used Pythagoras Theory to square up our new pig sty. I want to go back in time and hive-five Grade 5 Neil, and let him know that learning this stuff will be useful one day…
  • Three-and-a-half days into our four day weekend and I have nothing else to do. My projects either need me to get stuff I can’t get today, or to wait for other stuff to happen. I’m not at all sure how to handle this situation, so I’m drinking beer.
    In summary: Beer!
  • Linhda got me a present!!!!!!!

    Linhda got me a present!!!!!!!