Ok, so hear me out…I do not enjoy ham. You know, the classic brown sugar crusted ham that fills the house with that oh so familiar aroma. A scent that haunts you occasionally between one Thanksgiving and another. Even now, you’re counting how many months stand between you and that delicious slab of meat…toss it to the darn dog. That’s all it’s good for, but thanks to my smoker crazed brother-in-law, I have recently found out that I will relentlessly devour anything cut from a pig and stuck in a smoker for what always seems like forever.
With that being said, the price of pork is much higher than I have ever known. Thanks to what was once a disdain for swine based meats, I was blind to the entire commercial pork industry. It was time to do some digging and figure out if there is a better way to procure these delicious cuts of smokey heaven.
The short answers about my discoveries? Shit! I’ve been feeding that garbage to my family??? It was in my deep freeze. Right there!!! (please imagine me pointing to the next room).
“I feel like im talking myself into getting a couple of pigs”… that’s what I sent to our homestead group chat. They all wanted pigs. From the beginning I would hear pleas to find a spot for a couple hogs, but I was always the outlier. Pigs are destructive, they eat to much, they stink, they need some sort of special fencing, hams junk, etc. Anything I could throw back at them in debate. So, I didn’t have to twist many arms to get the ball rolling on the pig project.
Fast forward just a little. I’ve decided that the swine habitat is going to have to be next door to our ducks and our geese. Between the convenience of having water already ran there, the visibility from the house, and the connection to there future 1 acre pasture. It was an obvious choice. Although it could be said that its to close to the house, but once they are pastured entirely, it shouldn’t cause any harm. Plus this way they can start tilling that spot up for a big tomato plot next year…it simply made sense.
But how do I keep them in? Barb wire would tear them up, as the pig will inevitably want that dandelion growing just on the other side! (plus we need those for jelly) Welded wire? I’ve heard a lot of stories about the boar that lifted the fence with his snout to get to the sow it caught the scent of acres away. So unless I want to frame the whole fence with bricks and mortar, that probably wouldn’t work. I think back hard to when I was a kid and my parents spent a year or so raising a couple young hogs up to butcher weight. They used hog panels, a fence panel similar to a cattle panels but slightly shorter with a tighter mesh spacing, but how did they keep them from just plowing through them? Like he inherently knew I was in trouble, there was dad. “Hey, remember to bury that fence deep enough that they can’t worm their way out of it”. How did he know I was hitting my first speed bump? Oh well. Thanks Pop.
Next speed bump (I usually have many). I live on what amounts to a rock garden. You see the same aquifer that feeds my artesian wells that keep the chickens in clean water, has a very thick shell surrounding it. And we sit on a couple inches of dirt that resides on top of that shell. Meaning that what would take many an hour to dig could possibly take our team a day. I’m not excited to brake this news to the others.
So we decide on a 32×32 area to start with. Just for the first couple months of getting the pasture set up. That gives plenty of space for them to enjoy there lives and tear up as much ground as possible. All while fertilizing my future garden plot. That’s when the fun part started!
It…took…hours!! And then when we finally got done digging and we couldn’t manage to actuate our fingers well enough to drive t posts properly. So we were beaten. Just for now. It’s ok though because we had some time before our baby pigs were going to be ready to leave their mom.
After a small break for recovery and getting other projects caught up, it was time to put the finishing touches on the pig palace. With the small mountain of rocks we had already dug up digging a mere 6 inches into the ground we couldn’t bare the thought of going any further and with the rocks not in the ground there was nowhere near enough dirt. So with the help of Gunner, my 8 year old, we popped down to the local gravel yard and filled the back of the old dodge with some crushed up rocks. My hopes being that all the extra weight, once settled, would cause an anchoring affect on the fence…and boy did it ever! That thing is solid! It’s nice knowing that my future investment will be safe. We cut an extra panel down to install as a gate. Using staples across the vertical support to allow it to actuate like a hinge. Of course this gate will only need to open a few times a year since we can just step over our new fence. (After burying it, it’s only about 3 1/2 feet tall)
Wait…what do I feed them? You “slop” a pig right? So what the hell is “slop” exactly anyway?
Great. More research…and phone calls. So many phone calls. All my homesteading and farming friends, feed lots, co-ops, mills, damn bakery’s.
Everyone has a secret pig feed that makes there pig taste so much better than the other guy down the road who is secretly using that same feed. Because that’s right, Ol Dave down at the feed mill didn’t really give you the inside scoop on what his prized pigs eat. After it was all said and done, we decided on a balanced mixed of corn, soy beans, and a mixture of different vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy. Sounds expensive, but if you can find a mill that will mix it in 1000 lbs increments, you can cut back on a lot of overhead. Plus, the pigs love it. Gotta keep the bacon seeds happy!!!!!
By chance and with a little bartering we actually came across and acquired 3, 7 week old Yorkshire/ Durroc crosses. After 8 hours in a truck with our 5 person family. We arrived back home just in time to get the babies acquainted with there new home.
We haven’t officially named them yet. Except one..his name is Smokey 😉
Until then. I hope everyone is staying safe during these trying times. The folks at @ nerdyhomestead.com appreciate all of you taking your time to read about our days together.